Archive for March, 2009

Draft Blog-Circulated Petition Against Traffic Stop Police Brutality

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
To the Civil Rights Division, US Justice Department:

We respectfully request that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice review events surrounding the epidemic of police brutality against Black drivers and passengers at traffic stops to identify and prosecute cases in which the civil rights of drivers and passengers have been violated.

Law abiding Black professionals including retired police officers and nationally recognized sports figures caring for family members in times of emergency have been taunted, harassed and humiliated. Black and pregnant women rushing to the hospital have been stopped and denied medical care, leading to miscarriages, with the offending police officers asking, "How is that my problem?"

Each of the abused is but one example of the the menace that Black motorists and passengers face throughout the United States, simply for driving while Black.

According to a 2007 US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics press release:
  • The most common reason for police contact in 2002 and 2005 was a driver in a traffic stop, accounting for about 40 percent of all contacts.
  • Blacks were almost three times as likely as whites to report that excessive force was used against them in contacts with law enforcement, while Latinos reported excessive force twice as often as whites.
  • Police searched three times as many Blacks and Hispanic drivers as white drivers.
We urge the US Justice Department to adopt a policy of vigorously investigating complaints of traffic stop police brutality in every state where it occurs.

We urge that Justice Department financial support for state and local police activities be conditioned upon findings that such police organizations vigorously screen, discipline and terminate police officials whose color-aroused and abusive behaviors, and tolerance of such behaviors, make all police activity seem suspect in minority communities.

We further urge that police make an effort to distinguish between law abiding Americans and others, rather than treating all Black Americans as guilty and inherently insusceptible of being proved innocent.

To underscore our determination that law-abiding Black drivers and passengers be perceived and treated as such, we hereby announce our intention to scrupulously observe each and every traffic law intended for the protection of the public, in every case, and we willingly accept as a group -- with patience, prayer and diligent meditation -- any traffic delays that may result from our determination to be perceived and treated as models of perfect traffic law obedience.

We urge all Americans to be patient with us as we demonstrate, through rigorously responsible driving behavior, that our greatest priority when driving, in addition to traffic safety, is that we be treated with the respect and consideration that all human beings deserve, regardless of how long it takes us to get there.


1. ____________________

2. ____________________

3. ____________________

Morning Links

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
  • There’s a real person whose job title is “baconographer.”
  • Alberto Gonzalez advises Mexican government to try drug cartels in public, because, “Doing things in private breeds corruption.”
  • Michigan judge sentences mother to 30 days in jail because she can’t afford to pay for her son’s sentence to a juvenile detention center.
  • Police raid a couple’s home looking for a drug suspect who sold an informant half an ounce of marijuana. Turns out, the suspect had already been in jail for the past three months. They did at least knock in this one.
  • Group of five 18-year-olds get the equivalent of a $9,000 fine for splitting a six-pack of beer.
  • Florida bill would make it easier for bad cops to return to their jobs. Bonus points: Article actually includes the phrase, “overzealous internal affairs investigators.”
  • Lawn darts are back! Sort of.
  • Sean Hannity: “I’ve been so pro-death penalty my whole life — but the Innocence Project, you know, by Barry Scheck, has kind of made me question, as a pro-life guy, that maybe that’s not a good idea. We’ve made too many mistakes.” I’m not kidding. Good for him.

  • Maryland House Passes SWAT Transparency Bill

    Monday, March 30th, 2009

    This is good news.

    Delegates adopted a bill, on a 126 to 9 vote, that would require law enforcement agencies to report every six months on their use of SWAT teams, including what kinds of warrants the teams serve and whether any animals are killed during raids. The bill was prompted by the case of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, whose two black Labrador retrievers were shot and killed during a botched raid by a Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team in July.

    The Maryland Senate has already passed a similar bill, and there don’t seem to be any foreseeable problems merging the two.

    Norm Stamper on Marijuana

    Sunday, March 29th, 2009

    Great piece from former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper on Obama’s derisive dismissal of the marijuana question last week:

    Having just returned from Minnesota whose state lawmakers are entertaining a conservative, highly restrictive medical marijuana law, I can tell you what’s not funny to Joni Whiting.

    Ms. Whiting told the House’s Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee of her 26-year-old daughter Stephanie’s two-year battle with facial melanoma that surfaced during the young woman’s third pregnancy. The packed hearing room was dead quiet as Ms. Whiting spoke of Stephanie’s face being cut off “one inch at a time, until there was nothing left to cut.” She spoke of her daughter’s severe nausea, her “continuous and uncontrollable pain.”

    Stephanie moved back to her family’s home and “bravely began to make plans for the ending of her life.” The tumors continued to grow, invading the inside and outside of her mouth, as well as her throat and chest. Nausea was a constant companion. Zofran and (significantly) Marinol, the synthetic pill version of THC, did nothing to abate the symptoms. Stephanie began wasting away. She lost all hope of relief.

    Joni’s other children approached their mother, begged her to let their sister use marijuana. But Ms. Whiting, a Vietnam veteran whose youngest son recently returned from 18 months in Iraq, was a law-abiding woman. And she was afraid of the authorities. There was no way she would allow the illicit substance in her house. As she held her ground, her grownup kids removed Stephanie from the family home.

    Three days later, wracked by guilt, Joni welcomed her daughter back. “I called a number of family members and friends…and asked if they knew of anywhere we could purchase marijuana. The next morning someone had placed a package of it on our doorstep. I have never known whom to thank for it but I remain grateful beyond belief.” The marijuana restored Stephanie’s appetite. It allowed her to eat three meals a day, and to keep the food down. She regained energy and, in the words of her mother, “looked better than I had seen her in months.”

    Stephanie survived another 89 days, celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family.

    Shortly after the holidays, Stephanie’s pain became “so severe that when she asked my husband and me to lie down on both sides of her and hold her, she couldn’t stand the pain of us touching her body.”

    Stephanie died on January 14, 2003 in the room she grew up in, holding her mother’s hand. A mother who, as she told the legislative committee, would “have no problem going to jail for acquiring medical marijuana for my suffering child.”

    This part was interesting, too:

    When I finished my testimony, a local police chief, a member of the committee, angrily accused me of disrespecting the police officers in the room–who’d shown up in force, in uniform, to oppose medical marijuana. Wearing a bright yellow tie with the lettering “Police Line, Do Not Cross,” the chief charged me with placing more stock in the opinions of doctors than of Minnesota’s cops. Guilty, as charged. Who are we, I asked him, to substitute our judgment for that of medical professionals and their patients?

    The hearing was about the law regarding the medical use of marijuana. You’re damned right we should put more stock in the opinions of doctors than of cops on that question. That the police chief and his cadre of uniformed officers would think otherwise, and that he would chastise a former cop for daring to suggest as much, shows an incredible amount of hubris.

    Sunday Links

    Sunday, March 29th, 2009
  • Spokane bans name-brand dishwasher detergent. Spokane residents create black market in Cascade.
  • The Sun-Sentinel newspaper publishes a photo series of high school girls wrestling in a pool of chocolate syrup. Just be sure none of those pictures wind up on your cell phone.
  • Otter cubs.
  • Interesting study on poker as a game of skill.
  • Jack Shafer on the looming death of newspapers.
  • Longtime police brutality reporter faces felony charges for taking photographs after a police chase ended in two fatalities. The police say she crossed a yellow tape barrier. She was initially charged with five felonies that could have put her in prison for 20 years. She still faces two, and a judge who already seems to believe she’s guilty. The police, incidentally, erased all of the photographs on her camera.
  • Pittsburgh’s City Paper looks back on the unfortunate career of U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan.

  • It doesn’t take much imagination.

    Saturday, March 28th, 2009

    Here is Ron Paul, speaking about an occupation.

    Imagine an Occupied America

    Imagine for a moment that somewhere in the middle of Texas there was a large foreign military base, say Chinese or Russian. Imagine that thousands of armed foreign troops were constantly patrolling American streets in military vehicles. Imagine they were here under the auspices of keeping us safe or promoting democracy or protecting their strategic interests.

    Imagine that they operated outside of U.S. law, and that the Constitution did not apply to them. Imagine that every now and then they made mistakes or acted on bad information and accidentally killed or terrorized innocent Americans, including women and children, most of the time with little to no repercussions or consequences. Imagine that they set up checkpoints on our soil and routinely searched and ransacked entire neighborhoods of homes. Imagine if Americans were fearful of these foreign troops and overwhelmingly thought America would be better off without their presence.

    Imagine if some Americans were so angry about them being in Texas that they actually joined together to fight them off, in defense of our soil and sovereignty, because leadership in government refused or were unable to do so. Imagine that those Americans were labeled terrorists or insurgents for their defensive actions, and routinely killed or captured and tortured by the foreign troops on our land. Imagine that the occupiers’ attitude was that if they just killed enough Americans, the resistance would stop, but instead, for every American killed, 10 more would take up arms against them, resulting in perpetual bloodshed. Imagine if most of the citizens of the foreign land also wanted these troops to return home. Imagine if they elected a leader who promised to bring them home and put an end to this horror.

    Imagine if that leader changed his mind once he took office.

    The reality is that our military presence on foreign soil is as offensive to the people that live there as armed Chinese troops would be if they were stationed in Texas. We would not stand for it here, but we have had a globe-straddling empire and a very intrusive foreign policy for decades that incites a lot of hatred and resentment toward us.

    Ron Paul, (2009-03-10): Imagine an Occupied America. Hyperlinks mine.

    That’s one reality. The other reality is all this imagining doesn’t actually take much imagination. The occupation is already here; the uniforms are different, but the practices are the same. The problem here is not us — it is U.S. And if us means you and me and our neighbors, then it’s important to keep in mind that, so long as I have no way of vetoing the acts or withdrawing my material support from projects done on my dime and supposedly in my name, all of us have much more in common with the other victims of Washingtonian command and control than we do with the commanders and controllers.

    See also:

    Saturday Links/Open Thread

    Saturday, March 28th, 2009
  • Another obstinate cop involved in a traffic stop: Police officer won’t let man continue on to hospital after pulling him over for expired plates, despite the fact that his mother had stopped breathing, and the hospital was less than a mile away. She died in the car.
  • I think they’re nuts, but you have to credit PETA people for their creativity.
  • Governments across the globe are secretly negotiating a pretty scary-sounding copyright treaty that according to leaked documents could criminalize peer-to-peer filesharing (as opposed to civil fines) and subject iPods and laptops to border searches for pirated material. Scarier still, the Obama administration has invoked state secrets in response to FOIA requests, claiming release the details of the treaty or the negotiations would compromise “national security.” More here and here.
  • Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) continues his stellar work on criminal justice and prison reform.
  • Daniel Larison has sensible thoughts on decriminalizing marijuana. The “drugs are horrible, but the drug war is worse” approach has never struck me as a particularly sensible approach when it comes to marijuana.
  • Dead pixel on Google Earth.
  • Here’s some good news, as a man in Washington is acquitted in a medical marijuana case. The police poisoning the family dogs during a drug raid is certainly a new one to me.
  • Here’s a trailer for the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie.
  • Dallas Police Officer Should Be Fired!

    Friday, March 27th, 2009

    As reported by the Associated Press, A Dallas police officer was put on desk duty after pulling over an NFL player rushing to see his dying mother-in-law in the hospital and holding him in the hospital parking lot as she died. Dallas Police Officer Robert Powell stopped Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats' SUV outside Baylor Regional Medical Center during the early hours of March 18 after Moats rolled through a red light.

    The Dallas Morning News provides an unedited Dallas police dashboard camera video shows traffic stop of NFL player Ryan Moats. The Dallas Morning News provides the nearly 17-minute video shows the entire incident involving Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats and Dallas police officer Robert Powell. Moats was rushing his wife and two of her family members to a hospital, where his mother-in-law lay dying. She died while Moats and his wife's grandfather waited outside the hospital for the officer to issue a ticket. Edited

    Moats and his family had gotten a call saying his mother-in-law was dying.
    Video from a dashboard camera inside the officer's vehicle, obtained by Dallas-Fort Worth station WFAA-TV, revealed an intense exchange in which the officer threatened to jail Moats.
    He ordered Moats' wife, Tamishia Moats, to get back in the SUV, but she ignored him and rushed inside the hospital to see her mother, Jonetta Collinsworth, 45, and was by her side when she died a short time later. She had breast cancer.

    "Get in there," said Powell, yelling at 27-year-old Tamishia Moats, as she exited the car. "Let me see your hands!"

    "Excuse me, my mom is dying," Tamishia Moats said. "Do you understand?"

    Moats explained that he waited until there was no traffic before proceeding through the red light and that his mother-in-law was dying, right then.

    Moats couldn't find his insurance paperwork, and was desperate to leave.
    "Listen, if I can't verify you have insurance...," Officer Powell said. "My mother-in-law is dying," Moats interrupted.

    As they argued, the officer got irritated. "Shut your mouth," the officer said. "You can either settle down and cooperate or I can just take you to jail for running a red light."
    By the time the 26-year-old NFL player received a ticket and a lecture from Powell, 25, at least 13 minutes had passed.

    When he and Collinsworth's father entered the hospital, they learned Collinsworth was dead, The Dallas Morning News reported in today's editions.
    The Moatses, who are black, said they can't help but think that race might have played a part in how Powell, who is white, treated them.

    "I think he should lose his job," said Ryan Moats, a Dallas native.

    Powell was placed on disptach duty pending an investigation. The ticket issued to Moats was dismissed, Lt. Andy Harvey told WFAA-TV.

    "There were some things that were said that were disturbing, to say the least," he told the Dallas Morning News.

    Powell told police officials he believed he was doing his job, said Dallas Police Assistant Chief Floyd Simpson.

    AAPP: What do you think should happen to this cops job? Should he be fired? Was he just doing his job?

    Morning Links

    Friday, March 27th, 2009
  • Cities trying to figure out what to do over increasing problem of squatters.
  • I frequently take advantage of the option to buy used goods on Amazon. But there are some products were it’s probably just not a very good idea.
  • Cop with 20-years of service and named cop-of-the-year in 2004 begins to discover some disturbing problems within his department. So he tries to do something about them. You can probably guess what happens next.
  • CNN edits medical marijuana segment out of D.L Hughley’s show, apparently due to “editorial standards.”
  • The New York Times has a round up of cases in New York City where video footage has directly contradicted the testimony or reports of police officers.
  • Lawsuits says man was improperly booted off of a grand jury. Money quote: “Back in 2001, fellow grand jurors quickly became irritated with Atherton, saying he was disruptive and was holding up the process with all of his questions about probable cause and burden of proof, according to court records.” The nerve!
  • Here’s a nice story about a young girl whose life was likely saved by press coverage of the Natasha Richardson tragedy.
  • Jim Backstrom, the Minnesota prosecutor I mentioned in my forensics piece this week, is being investigated by the state’s legal disciplinary committee. The people I’ve spoken with expect little more than a slap on the wrist, and even then, whatever the committee determines is unlikely to be made public.

  • The Lethality of Marijuana Prohibition

    Thursday, March 26th, 2009

    Andrew Sullivan chides Obama for his churlish response to questions about decriminalizing marijuana earlier today. Sullivan writes that the issue is “deadly serious.”

    James Poulous then mocks Sullivan for elevating pot prohibition to “deadly serious” status.

    I like Poulous. But his derision is misplaced. There have been 7,000 homicides in Mexico over the last two years, the vast majority directly related to black market drug trade. Seventy percent of Mexico’s black market drug rade is marijuana.

    If Poulous wants to stick closer to home, one of his commenters notes that had Cheye Calvo exercised his Second Amendment rights when Prince George’s County police wrongly raided his home last summer on the mistaken assumption he was dealing marijuana, he’d almost certainly be dead. Instead, he was merely terrorized, and his dogs were slaughtered. A couple of weeks ago, unarmed Grand Valley State student Derek Kopp was shot in the chest during a marijuana raid. He’s lucky to be alive.

    But we don’t need to single out “almost” cases. Det. Jarrod Shivers is dead and Ryan Frederick’s life is ruined over the prohibition of pot. Officer Ron Jones is dead, and Cory Maye, once sentenced to be executed, now faces a life sentence because of marijuana prohibition. Cheryl Lynn Noel is dead because of pot prohibition. So are Jose Colon, Tony Martinez, 13-year-old Alberto Sepulveda, Willie Heard, Christie Green, Pedro Navarro, Barry Hodge, Salvador Hernandez, Donald Scott, Kenneth Baulch, Dep. John Bananola, Officer Tony Patterson, Vincent Hodgkiss, Anthony Diotaiuto, Clayton Helriggle, Jeffery Robinson, Troy Davis, Alexander “Rusty” Windle, John Hirko, Scott Bryant, Robert Lee Peters, Manuel Ramirez, and Bruce Lavoie. Deputies James Moulson and Phillip Anderson and suspect George Timothy Williams were all killed in a single marijuana raid in Idaho in 2001. Officer Arthur Parga and Manuel Ramirez (a different one) killed one another in another marijuana raid after a family friend suspected of dealing marijuana had incorrectly given police Ramirez’s address as his own.

    These are just some of the deaths associated with marijuana raids (all summarized, with sources, here).  Then there is the domestic black market violence that comes with marijuana prohibition. And the unnecessary deaths of sick people (like Peter McWilliams) who might have lived if they’d had access to medical marijuana.

    So yeah. I think “deadly serious” is about right, actually.