Archive for December, 2007

Just How Dangerous Is Police Work?

Friday, December 28th, 2007

The news wires buzzed yesterday with stories about an uptick in police fatalities last year. Most stories followed that lead with language about the dangers of police work. I won’t deny that police work is more dangerous than your average profession (it’s certainly more dangerous than journalism). I also don’t mean to belittle those cops who were killed in the line of duty. Nor will I argue with the fact that there are times when police officers really do put their lives on the line, and that those who do deserve our admiration and gratitude.

But it’s also important to get some perspective, here. Browse online police forums, and you’ll see cops defending all sorts of bad acts by other cops with lines like, “I’ll do whatever we have to do to make it home at night.” Letting statistics like those released yesterday go unchallenged with only the varnish applied by various professional police organizations exaggerates the real threat to police officers, and leads to the troubling trend toward militarization we’ve seen over the last 25 years. It also allows for police groups and advocates to dismiss aggressive behavior, excuse improper police shootings, and justify all of those taser videos we’ve seen over the last couple of years. We should do what we can to diminish the threat to police officers, but not at the expense of the rights and safety of everyone else. Striking the right balance requires a proper assessment of just what sorts of risks police officers actually face.

So just how dangerous is police work? Generally, police are about three times as likely to be killed on the job as the average American. It isn’t among the top ten most dangerous professions, falling well behind logging, fishing, driving a cab, trash collecting, farming, and truck driving. Moreover, about half of police killed on the job are killed in traffic accidents, and most of those are not while in pursuit of a criminal or rushing to the scene of a crime. I don’t point this out to diminish the tragedy of those cops killed in routine traffic accidents. My point is that the number of annual on-the-job police fatalities doesn’t justify giving cops bigger guns, military equipment, and allowing them to use more aggressive and increasingly militaristic tactics. A military-issue weapon isn’t going to prevent traffic accidents. In this context, then, it makes sense to remove from consideration deaths not directly attributable to the bad guys.

So take out traffic accidents and other non-violent deaths, and you’re left with 69 officers killed on the job by criminals last year. That’s out of about 850,000 officers nationwide. That breaks down to about 8 deaths per 100,000 officers, or less than twice the national average of on-the-job fatalities.

Now I suppose you could argue that on-the-job police fatalities are low because of the very things I’m arguing against—aggressive tactics, bigger guns and armor, military equipment, etc. But I’m not sure that’s backed by the numbers. On-the-job police fatalities peaked in 1974, at the height of Nixon’s war on drugs. They declined throughout the 1970s under Carter’s less aggressive drug war, then leveled off in the 1980s under Reagan. The next big drop came in the 1990s, coinciding with a dramatic overall drop in violent crime nationwide. Probably not coincidentally, the slight increase in police fatalities in 2007 also came during a year that saw a slight uptick in violent crime in general.

Twice the national average means police work certainly carries added risk. But is it the kind of risk that justifies, for example, a more than 1,000 percent increase in the use of SWAT teams over the last 25 years? Does it justify the fact that our cops that once looked like this now look like this? Your call, I guess.

Of course, if policymakers were really serious about protecting police officers, there’s one thing they could do that would have a dramatic, immediate impact on officer safety: They could end the drug war.

“Don’t suffer from PTSD, go out and cause it.”

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Yep, that’s an actual police academy class slogan.

Community Calls for Freedom for Liberty City 7

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
Press Release Sunday, December 23, 2007 Community Activists Demand Freedom For the Liberty City 7 for immediate release CopWatch and other community organizations, led by CopWatch, are calling for the Justice Department to drop all charges against the Liberty City 7 and to release all seven men so they can spend the holiday with their loved ones. The press conference will be held on Monday, December 24, 2007 at 10:00AM in front of the warehouse used by the group on NW 15th Ave. at 63rd St. Following the highly publicized arrests in the summer of 2006, including a press conference by then Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, community members and legal experts raised questions about the quality of those arrests, given the dubious charges and claims by prosecutors that seven impoverished and unarmed black men concocted a viable plan to overthrow the United States government. Days after the arrests, CopWatch organized a press conference raising questions about the political nature of the charges, rhetoric and timing of the raid, set to coincide with an appearance of the FBI director on the Larry King show. At the time, the New York Times was set to release a story about the Bush Administration spying on the financial transactions of millions of American citizens. Subsequent media coverage of seven "home grown terrorists" easily outpaced that of stories recounting government spying on US citizens. Since then, the Justice Department has been hammered with accuasations of politically motivated investigations and arrests, ultimately resulting in the resignation of Attorney General Gonzalez. Since then, the seven men faced prosecutors and a jury which could not find six of the men guilty, but did acquit one defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin, outright. In spite of his acquittal, Lemorin remains in the custody of federal immigration officials and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, even though he is a legal resident found guilty of no crimes. Community organizations argue that the arrests were motivated by political considerations, not national security. The men are no threat to anyone, and, therefore, all charges should be dropped. "In this political climate, the fact that a jury refused to convict a group of men charged with terrorism speaks volumes about the weakness of the case against them," says Max Rameau of CopWatch. "The US government is using the 'war on terror' to advance a domestic political agenda. In addition to costing time and money, in addition to ruining the lives of these men and their families, this is not making anyone safer." The groups are calling on the Justice Department to drop all charges and cancel the upcoming new trial set for January 7, 2008. Community organizations and individuals will speak at the event. Contact: Max Rameau, CopWatch afrimax@gmail.com

Law and Orders #5: Daytona Beach cop takes control at Best Buy by shocking an unarmed, “retreating” woman

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Attention, holiday shoppers: here’s some Christmas cheer, brought to you courtesy of officer Claudia Wright and the Daytona Beach police department. But first, let’s review.

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies. In order to get control of situations that they forced their way into, they routinely hurt people, use force first and ask questions later, and pass off even the most egregious violence against harmless or helpless people as self-defense or as the necessary means to accomplish a completely unnecessary goal. In order to to coerce compliance with their arbitrary commands, they have no trouble electrifying small children, 82 year old women on a care check, alleged salad-bar thieves, pregnant women, or an already prone and helpless student who may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to end an argument by pepper spraying lawyers who ask inconvenient questions or by beating up teenaged girls who don’t clean up enough spilled birthday cake or walk home too late at night. They are willing to shock you and leave you lying on the side of the highway in order to make sure they can serve you with a dubious traffic ticket. It hardly matters if you cannot obey their commands because you are sound asleep in your own home. It hardly matters if you can’t move due to a medical condition, or can’t hear their bellowed orders because you’re deaf. What a cop can always count on is that, no matter how aggressively he escalates the use of violence and no matter how obviously innocent or helpless his victims are, he can count on his bosses to repeat any lie and make any excuse in order to find that Official Procedures were followed. As long as Official Procedures were followed, of course, any form of brutality or violence is therefore passed off as OK by the boss cops, and the judgment will be dutifully repeated by cop enablers in the newsmedia and the legal system.

One increasingly popular means for domineering cops to force you to follow their bellowed orders is by using high-voltage electric shocks in order to inflict pain. Tasers were originally introduced for police use as an alternative to using lethal force; the hope was that, in many situations where cops might otherwise feel forced to go for their guns, they might be able to use the taser instead, to immobilize a person who posed a threat to them or to others, without killing anybody in the process. But in practice, police culture being what it is, any notion of limiting tasers to those situations very quickly went out the window. Cops armed with tasers now freely use them to end arguments by intimidation or actual violence, to coerce people who pose no real threat to anyone into complying with their instructions, and to hurt uppity civilians who dare to give them lip. Among civilized people, deliberately inflicting severe pain in order to extort compliance from your victim is called torture; among cops it is called pain compliance and is considered business as usual. So shock-happy Peace Officers can now go around using their tasers as high-voltage human prods in just about any situation, with more or less complete impunity. In those rare cases where media criticism, mass riots, or a lawsuit does force some minimal accountability on the police force, the handful of low-level cops who face punishment are portrayed as bad seeds by the same high-level officials who, until then, had been covering up or excusing their actions, any systematic criticism of the procedures or legal privileges or internal culture of the whole police force is promptly dismissed, and the whole thing is written off as yet another isolated incident.

In Daytona Beach, Florida, Elizabeth Beeland, a young mother trying to buy a CD player at a local Best Buy, got an upsetting call about her child while she was checking out. She stepped outside to take the call, and she was upset enough that she left her credit card behind at the counter. Perplexed by the sudden exit, the clerk thought that Beeland might have left suddenly because the card was stolen, and called over Claudia Wright, a cop who was in the store. Here’s how this Peace Officer took control of an uncertain and emotionally-charged situation from there:

When police officer Claudia Wright approached, she said Beeland became verbally profane and abusive.

Wright said she warned Beeland to calm down or face arrest. The officer hit Beeland in the stomach with the Taser darts and arrested her on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

In a video, the customer is seen backing away, then crumpling to the ground after being tasered.

MSNBC (2007-12-21): Officer uses Taser to tame [sic! —R.G.] Best Buy customer

So a distraught mother is blasted with a 50,000-volt electric shock because she dared to yell at a trained professional police officer, and failed to calm down quickly enough to satisfy the store’s pig-in-residence. Of course, she was backing away from the cop at the time, had her hands raised and visible, did nothing that could even remotely be construed as threatening, and provided no reasonable basis for the cop to presumptively treat her as in any way criminal. (The credit card was, as it happens, not stolen, and at the time Claudia Wright had only the clerk’s unsubstantiated suspicions on which to act as if it were.) But pursuant to the Daytona Beach cops’ policy, she was noncompliant, and therefore could be subdued, i.e., tortured into submission for failing to obey a cop’s bellowed order, even if she posed no credible threat to anyone else’s safety.

Of course, there will be an Official Investigation of the Incident, right? Sure:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A police officer used a stun gun to subdue a woman who yelled at her in a crowded electronics store, and prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against the customer.

Associated Press (2007-12-22): Fla. Officer Shocks Woman Yelling at Her

Let’s review.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A police officer used a stun gun to subdue a woman who yelled at her in a crowded electronics store, and prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against the customer.

Associated Press (2007-12-22): Fla. Officer Shocks Woman Yelling at Her

Charges for what? Ah, yes:

Police later verified that Beeland was using her own credit card, but she was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer without violence. She has since pleaded not guilty.

MSNBC (2007-12-21): Officer uses Taser to tame [sic] Best Buy customer

In other words, one incredibly vague and immeasurably trivial crime directly produced by the cop’s incompetent and insensitive handling of the situation, and another crime which consists in absolutely nothing other than non-violently defying a cop’s arrogant sense of entitlement to shove other people around. Of course, in real life, outside of statist power-trip la-la land, yelling at a police officer is not a crime, much less one that it would be appropriate to respond to by deliberately inflicting extreme and immobilizing pain.

But, hey, let’s make sure we hear both sides of this story, which the news media will insist on noncommittally presenting, as if the two were obviously equivalent in accuracy and honesty:

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood defended the officer’s actions, which he said avoided use of other weapons.

Even if you look at the video, when the officer stepped toward her after announcing she’s under arrest, she’s flailing her arms and retreating from the officer, Chitwood said. Police work isn’t pretty. It doesn’t look pretty, but from where we sit, interviewing civilian witnesses and people may or may not agree, but she followed our policy, she followed FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) guidelines.

MSNBC (2007-12-21): Officer uses Taser to tame [sic] Best Buy customer

As long as she followed Official Procedures, of course, any level of aggression and violence against an unarmed and retreating civilian (!) is perfectly O.K. for the paramilitary cadres occupying Florida cities. Hell, she’s lucky she didn’t get bludgeoned or shot by other weapons! For the record, here’s what those Official Guidelines say:

Police department policy states an officer can deploy his or her TASER for the purpose of subduing a violent, noncompliant or combative subject.

Central Florida News 13: Woman TASED At Best Buy

Please note that since Beeland was not in any way violent, the claim must be that either she was (1) noncompliant or (2) combative (without being violent), or both. If you happen to be in Florida, please note that, even if you in no way threaten the rights or the physical safety of anybody, a professional Peace Officer will still feel professionally entitled to hit you with an excruciatingly painful 50,000-volt electric shock if you (1) don’t ask how high? when they shout jump, or (2) dare to give them lip.

Civil liberties and human rights groups may see the incident in a different way:

Cop Watch’s George Crosley sees the incident in a different way. His group polices police actions. He said he is stunned by the store surveillance video.

This is wrong, this shouldn’t have happened that way, Crosley said. When the officer starts toward her, you don’t see her threatening the officer, you see her backing off with her hands up, he said. If she couldn’t figure out how to handle it, she should have called for back up. The truth of the matter is, people have died as a result of being tased.

MSNBC (2007-12-21): Officer uses Taser to tame [sic] Best Buy customer

Not that it would matter much even if she died, as far as the Authorities are concerned, so long as those guidelines got followed.

The ACLU and Amnesty International also have Beeland’s back. Her own lawyer is reviewing the incident. I would like to hope that she sues the pigs personally and takes them for everything they’ve got. Unfortunately, if a suit is filed, what will probably happen is that the city government will settle the case out of court, have the police department send Beeland an Oops, our bad along with some petty cash, and then—public servants that they are—send the bill to a bunch of innocent taxpayers, who had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, precisely nothing will happen to authoritarian shock-happy thug Claudia Wright, who will go right on serving and protecting the hell out of civilians in Daytona Beach, whether they want anything to do with it or not.

If you’re baffled that cops could feel free to indulge in this kind of outrage, and that numerous fellow cops, prosecutors, and other government officials would rush to defend it, well, that’s just about why, right there. The State will never police itself; the government will never make a serious effort to protect you from your supposed protectors.

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Rapists on patrol

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I’m in San Antonio, visiting family for the holidays. This is not the sort of story that I had hoped would greet me on the local news.

2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

SAN ANTONIO — Two San Antonio police officers were charged Thursday with official oppression in connection with an incident involving a woman.

Victor Hugo Gonzalez, 36, a six-year veteran of the force, was also charged with promotion of prostitution and sexual assault.

Police Chief William McManus said that Gonzalez propositioned and sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman while on patrol at a park near Riverside Golf Course in June.

McManus also said that woman was forced to commit a sex act for a friend of Gonzalez.

Also charged with official oppression was Michael Anthony Munoz, 33, a five-year veteran of the force.

McManus said that Munoz groped the woman and stood watch for Gonzalez.

KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-20): 2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

Wanted SAPD Officer Surrenders To Police

SAN ANTONIO — A third San Antonio police officer charged with sexually assaulting of a woman turned himself in to authorities early Friday morning.

Raymond Ramos, 28, turned himself in Friday morning on charges of sexual assault, civil rights violations and official oppression in a Nov. 11 incident involving a 28-year-old woman.

Police investigating Ramos’ incident came across information that led to the Thursday arrests of two other officers in a separate incident.

All three officers – now out on bond – worked overnight patrol out of the Southside substation.

KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-21): Wanted SAPD Officer Surrenders To Police

To their credit, the police department and the D.A. are, for the most part, treating these as serious crimes; that’s better than you can say for some police departments. The cops believed the complainants enough to charge the officers, the arrested cops have been taken off of patrol duty while the indictment is pending (although they have only been transferred to desk jobs; why not just put them on leave entirely?), and the D.A. says that she plans to seek indictments from a grand jury by next month. On the other hand, the boss cops still insist on talking about these rapists in terms of Yet Another Couple of Isolated Incidents — a way of talking about it that takes these particular crimes seriously while also guaranteeing that crimes just like these will keep on happening over and over:

Wednesday’s arrests bring the total of police officers arrested in 2007 to five, four of whom worked out of the Southside Substation on the 700 block of West Mayfield Boulevard.

McManus called Thursday’s allegations disturbing, but he also said that all officers should not fall under the umbrella of a few who might have broken the law.

McManus said an officer at the substation was the one who brought the allegations to his attention after a woman complained to him about an officer assaulting her.

These types of incidents are not only embarrassing, but frustrating, and they do make you angry, McManus said. By no means are we going to tolerate it, by no means are we going to soft step it.

KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-20): 2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

More Isolated Incidents:

Tales of a Dallas Poker Raid, II

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Here’s another firsthand account of one of those Dallas SWAT poker raids. Highlights:

There was a tournament and two cash games in process at the time of the raid. I was at a table with two grandmothers and a school teacher.

The SWAT team busted out the window with a sledge hammer and came charging in the room with MP5 machine pistols shouldered.

When I heard the window being pounded, I thought it was a shotgun in the parking lot. Everyone inside dove to the floor and scrambled away from the window. About 20 police officers came in and told everyone to sit down. Two undercover officers identified the dealers and the sweep, who were taken away, charged with running a gambling room (a potential felony in Texas) and questioned by the IRS. The rest of us got gambling citations, which is a class C misdemeanor in Texas - the same as a speeding ticket.

[…]

None of the people accused of operating any of the rooms have been prosecuted and all of the contested gambling citations have been dismissed.

[…]

In my case the state announced [they had insufficient evidence to go to trial] and my case was dismissed.

Now, my larger point. The foregoing means that the city attorney could get the arresting officer to trial, but there was still insufficient evidence to go to trial. So the Dallas PD managed to bring a camera crew, have perhaps twenty officers on the scene, have the SWAT team bust through the window, destroy thousands of dollars in property, and risk injury to officers and everyone in the room, but they could not gather enough evidence to prosecute the offense which was the ostensible reason for the raid. They risked the lives of the officers and the people in the room, but did not even try to gather evidence to be used in a trial.

So the stated reasons for the raid are an obvious sham and some bureaucrat was willing to risk lives and destroy property when no one had any intention of actually going to trial. Who is the degenerate gambler in this story?

Excellent question.

Another firsthand account of a Dallas SWAT poker raid here.

Good Start

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

The Minneapolis chief of police has apologized to the Kang family.

That’s certainly a better gesture than the posture the department was taking the first two days after the raid.

More on the Vang Khang Raid

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I’m quoted at length in this piece by St. Paul Pioneer-Press columnist Ruben Rosario on botched SWAT raids.

The piece itself is great, but the comments are pretty sad. Lots of stuff along the lines of, “if this guy had learned English, he’d have known they were cops.” Jesus. They wrongly invaded his home. Also, I’m pretty sure Kathryn Johnston spoke English. Pretty sure, in fact, that most people on the raid map later determined to have been innocent who mistook raiding cops for criminal home invaders also spoke English. Khang’s wife says she heard no announcement of any kind, foreign language or otherwise.

As for the Khang raid itself, the police are in prime CYA form:

Minneapolis police say they are not to blame for a mistake that sent a SWAT team into the wrong house over the weekend.

[…]

“It was bad information that came on the informants end, not on the police end,” said Jesse Garcia, a Minneapolis Police spokesman.

Garcia said after the informant gave police three addresses they did their homework.

“Like I said, this is a long-term investigation that involved surveillance, looking at background of this whole situation to find out exactly what’s going on,” said Garcia.

In addition, a judge reviewed the information from police. The judge OK’d the three search warrants.

“The first two addresses were very good, a lot of information, numerous guns were recovered,” said Garcia.

[…]

WCCO-TV asked police if they would make police changes to prevent a mistake.

“I don’t think it was a mistake on our part, you know, we did everything correctly. We did everything in good faith, we followed the search warrant, we did everything correctly. It turns out some of the information that was given on the front end from the informant, just wasn’t right,” said Garcia.

But the informant works for the police. Informants aren’t sworn public servants. They aren’t trained to become police officers. They aren’t accountable to the public. Most, in fact, are pretty shady characters. The police ought to be independently coroborrating every informant’s tip before they go kicking down doors. Even a reliable informant could inadvertently transpose numbers, or get a street name wrong.

So don’t blame this on the informant. It’s the job of the officers he’s working with to corroborate the information he gives them. If his information is wrong, and they act on it, it’s their fault, not his. The fact that they shot up the wrong house by itself indicates that the police made a mistake, here.

Here’s more from Minneapolis police:

“This house was part of a package of very credible information that resulted in other successful enforcement actions,” she said. “This was the end of a chain of things, and there was no reason to question the credibility of the information.”

Except that, quite obviously, the information wasn’t credible. Or they wouldn’t have nearly killed an innocent family.

The police apparently knocked out six windows in the Khang home, some of them before the shooting began. The fired 22 rounds, spraying the Khang home with shotgun blasts.

One local media outlet is reporting that the police were investigating a black street gang. Had they taken the two minutes to type the address into the local property records website, they’d have seen the name “Vang Khang” pop up, which should have at least hinted at the possibility that the address might bewrong, and that it would probably be worth the time to do a bit more investigation before heading out to play soldier.

The fact that the police didn’t even take this small, not particularly labor intensive step by itself puts the lie to the statement that they “did everything correctly.”

International apartheid in Roswell

Monday, December 17th, 2007

According to the ruling elite and the rank-and-file of bellowing Know-Nothing busybodies, all the people of the world must be segregated according to their nationality. If they won’t stay in their place voluntarily, then the government had better make them stay there through paramilitary lockdowns at national borders and rigid enforcement of a state-imposed passbook (visa, passport) system to control where people can live and work, which is to say a system of government permission slips for existing, which provides a mechanism for the state to track and control those who go through official channels, and a mechanism for detecting, arresting, jailing, and exiling peaceful residents from the communities that they now call home when they cannot meet some presumptuous government official’s demand for Ihre Papiere, bitte. Those who stand up for this despicable system of coercion and control — some of whom embrace it whole-heartedly out of unapologetic race hatred or inquisitorial theo-nationalism, and some of whom do the same damage by making half-hearted Sensible Liberal excuses based on an illusory need for control or the chauvinistic ideal of assimilation — are all promoting a government-imposed system of discrimination and rigid segregation in housing, employment, education, and civic life, supported by government surveillance, enforced through government violence, all in the name of an illusory national unity or integrity that depends, at the bottom, on having the government presumptively treat outsiders (even those outsiders who have been living and working inside for years) as more dangerous, more likely to be criminal, more unsanitary, less deserving of security in their persons and effects, less worthy of a happy life, and less deserving of simply being left in peace than the native-born, solely on the basis of their nationality. That is to say, treating them as if their lives and homes and livelihoods were worth less than nothing—just so much foul-smelling garbage to be removed at the first opportunity.

It’s precisely this sort of immorality — the elevation of state control or belligerent nationalism over common decency towards peaceful people — that has been put on display recently in Roswell, New Mexico, with the arrest, jailing, expulsion and exile of Karina Acosta, a pregnant high schooler who was ready to graduate in the spring, because the immigration law, which is nothing but Jim Crow imposed at the level of nationality, forbids her from attending an Estadounidense school, and Student Resource Officer Charlie Corn, the pig-in-residence at Roswell High School, decided to take the opportunity of a minor traffic violation pull her out of class, arrest her, and then snitch on her to La Migra, so that they could jail her and force her out of her home, away from her family, and back into her place.

U.S. immigration officials deported a pregnant Roswell High School senior after she was pulled from class Wednesday by a local police officer regarding a traffic ticket issued days before.

According to Roswell Police Chief John Balderston, Karina Acosta, 18, was given several days to provide proper identification after being cited for a parking violation and driving without a license on Nov. 29 but failed to do so.

RHS Student Resource Officer Charlie Corn, a 10-year RPD veteran, removed Acosta from class Dec. 5 regarding the traffic violation and detained her at the school before notifying U.S. immigration officials of her illegal status, according to Balderston.

Acosta, who is five months pregnant, was transported to the Chaves County Detention Center, put on hold by the INS and later deported to Mexico, according to Balderston.

In the course of an investigation, if we determine that someone is not here legally, we will contact INS and tell them what their status is, he said.

Worried about the deportation of the girl and the future security of other illegal immigrant students at RHS, Acosta’s mother and nearly 50 members of the Hispanic community gathered at the RHS Little Theater, and later the Roswell Police Department, to voice their concerns.

The kids are scared now because this thing happened, so we need your help, said Maria Rodriguez to Balderston during a meeting in an RPD conference room Friday afternoon.

At the meeting, Balderston listened to complaints about Corn, including allegations he targets Hispanics. Balderston agreed to meet further with representatives from the Hispanic community and Corn in an effort to ease relations and eliminate any problems or misconceptions that might exist.

If you don’t trust us then we need to do some more work here, said Balderston, who will retire Jan. 4.

Roswell Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Kakuska said the RISD has officially protested Acosta’s arrest with the INS and the Mexican Consulate.

We are very, very concerned as a public school as to what happened the other day, said Kakuska, addressing a group of about 50 parents who gathered at RHS Friday morning. The police officer, without our knowledge, had this young lady brought into his office here at school and the detain orders were issued through him, not the Roswell schools.

— Richard Jacques, Roswell Daily Record (2007-12-08): RHS senior deported; parents concerned

The good news is that Charlie Corn and all the other pigs-in-residence have been removed from Roswell city schools. The bad news is that Karina Acosta is still stuck in Mexico, away from her family, her home, and her school. And the Roswell cops will do it again, by God, just as soon as they get the chance:

In the lengthy open meeting that lasted more than one hour, Kakuska and other school officials, including RHS Principal Brian Shea, answered questions and notified those in attendance that Corn has been removed as an SRO.

The Roswell Independent School system did not support the decision of this officer to have this young lady arrested, said Kakuska.

In a joint decision by the RPD and RISD, all SROs have been removed from RISD schools. Both Balderston and Kakuska maintain that despite the incident, no contention exists between the RISD and the RPD.

We’re going to work through this and I wish I can say that it’s not going to happen again, but I can’t. The officers are going to enforce the law, said Balderston.

School officials said Acosta was on course to graduate in the spring.

— Richard Jacques, Roswell Daily Record (2007-12-08): RHS senior deported; parents concerned

Just remember: it doesn’t matter to these people how good a student you are, or how hard you’ve worked, or what a decent and productive member of your community you are, let alone — ha, ha — the mere fact that you are an individual, irreplaceable human being who has the right to expect a certain level of dignity, decent treatment, and basic humanity from your neighbors and from your brothers and sisters in other communities. What matters is The Law, and the coerced integrity of a segregated nation, and the power of the world’s governments to each keep their own herd properly corralled and branded. To hell with that idiot notion. Smash international apartheid, now and forever.

(Story thanks to brownfemipower 2007-12-11.)

Another Isolated Incident

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

The headline says, "Two Officers Are Saved by Bullet-Proof Vests." It could just as easily have read, "Police Screw-Up Terrorizes, Nearly Kills Couple and Their Six Children."

The Police Department’s SWAT team was attempting to search a house in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N., at 12:46 a.m. as part of an investigation by the Violent Offender Task Force. But police said that they learned later that the wrong information led them to that house.

"It was found out that this particular address was not part of that long-term investigation," police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia III told KSTP-TV on Sunday. He told KMSP-TV that it was a "bad situation. It could have been much worse."

Garcia said it was not so much a mistake by Minneapolis police but a mistake in the information that was given to them.

That last line translates to, "Admit nothing. Cover your ass in case of a lawsuit."

Come on. You nearly killed innocent people because you wrongly raided a home based on bad information. I don’t care how or where that information went bad, it’s pretty clearly a "mistake."

Here’s another version of the same story:

Police believe they received some bad information and executed a search warrant on the wrong house early Sunday when two officers were shot at and hit, but were protected by bulletproof vests and helmets, a police spokesman said.

“It was some bad information that was received on the front end and it’s unfortunate because we have officers that were hit by gunfire and this truly, truly could have been a much worse situation," said Sgt. Jesse Garcia.

[…]

Family members living in the house said they were upstairs when they heard someone bust through their back door. They said Vang Khang grabbed his hunting gun to protect himself, his wife and his six children.

"He thought they were gang members and he was scared," Vang’s brother, Dao Khang, told KARE-TV. Dao Khang said Vang fired a warning shot, and then two more shots through his closed bedroom door. The bullets hit two officers, but they weren’t injured.

Several officers returned fire but no one in the house was injured, the department said. The man suspected of firing the shots was taken into custody, police said. He was later released.

Note where the police department spokesman’s concern lies. No apology to the victims. No regret for nearly killing a man, or for spraying bullets all over the home where an innocent family lay sleeping. No, this incident is "unfortunate" because "we have officers that were hit by gunfire."

Note too that police claim they announced themselves, but no one in the house apparently heard them. Mr. Khang did nothing wrong, and isn’t being charged. He isn’t a criminal, and has no reason to lie.

So why is it that in so many of these cases, police claim they announced, but no one inside or outside seems to hear them? Retired cops have told me it’s because the "announcement" often comes as the door is coming down, if it comes at all. Of course, even if there is an announcement, it doesn’t do much good if it comes in the middle of the night, while the people inside are asleep in a back room or on the second floor. Such scenarios effectively erase any real difference between a "knock-and-announce" and a "no-knock" raid.

When Mario Paz was killed in a SWAT raid in El Monte, California a few years ago, the town’s assistant police chief told the L.A. Times:

“We do bang on the door and make an announcement—‘It’s the police’—but it kind of runs together. If you’re sitting on the couch, it would be difficult to get to the door before they knock it down.”

Now imagine you’re asleep when all of this is happening. The whole purpose of the middle-of-the-night raid is to catch the suspect off-guard. Why would police make a clear, full-throated announcement if the intent is surprise?

The catch-22 comes when the suspect, like Mr. Khang, or like Cory Maye, or like Cheryl Lynn Noel, justifiably feels threatened and acts in self-defense. Then "we need the element of surprise," dubiously morphs into, "They should have known we were the police."

It can’t be both, as evidenced by the accumulating pile of bodies resulting from these unfortunate tactics.