Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baltimore cop who arrested black 27-year-old who died in police custody of 'severed spine' is identified

Baltimore police who said a 25-year-old they arrested was taken into custody 'without incident' are facing questions about what happened to lead to his death from a severed spine.

Freddie Gray died Sunday after he 'had his spine 80 per cent severed at his neck' following his arrest by three bicycle officers for violation that's been kept 'secret' until today.

Official police documents filed Monday said that the man was arrested by Officer Garrett Miller for having a switchblade knife after being stopped because he 'fled unprovoked after noticing police presence'.

Gray, who was screaming in pain as he was taken to a police van, then lapsed into a coma and was taken to a University or Maryland trauma center where he struggled to stay alive for seven days before his death.

Police still have no answers about exactly what happened that led to the neck injury though Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, 'Whatever happened happened in the back of the van'.

Six officers have been suspended, but investigators say they still don’t know how it happened.

The mayor had vowed in the aftermath of the death to ensure the city held 'the right people accountable' after his early-morning death at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

She expressed frustration on Monday as authorities could not figure out the exact circumstances that led to Gray's neck injury and said that the description of events given in a police report may not have shown probable cause in his arrest.

'When Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset. And he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe,' Rodriguez said

The recent disclosure marks the first time authorities have given a reason for Gray's interaction with police.

Though his arrest was for the switchblade, officers said that his arrest in a 'hot spot' area of Baltimore known for narcotics was because he was running away after seeing police.

Rodriguez said Monday that the police involved believed that the 27-year-old was committing or had just committed a crime when they chased and subdued him.

The switchblade knife was found in his front right pants pocket, according to documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun. The knife was punishable by a year in prison and a $500 fine.

A timeline released by police said Gray was taken by a prisoner transport van from the 'crime' scene to the Western District station shortly before 9am.

He asked for his asthmatic inhaler while he was being arrested, and requested medical assistance at another unknown point in time, according to Rodriguez.

An officer pulled out his Taser for use during the incident, but an autopsy that came back Monday showed no Taser marks.

While he was in the van, Gray, who is 5'8'' and 145 pounds, was put in leg restraints after become 'irate'.

Thirty minutes after he was arrested, an ambulance was called to the police station to take Gray to the hospital after he had a 'medical emergency, according toNBC Baltimore.

The van made multiple stops, including stopping to pick up another suspect that could hear but not see gray because of a partition in the vehicle.

Gray suffered a broken vertebra and an injured voice box, according to his family.

Civilian video showed him being loaded into the van, but did not show the entire encounter.

During the video, a woman said: 'That boy's legs look broke.'

Attorneys said that he suffered three broken bones, according to CBS Baltimore.

However, the autopsy report said that Gray had no physical injuries beyond his spine. It concluded that no force was used, a claim echoed by officers.

An attorney retained by Gray's family, William 'Billy' Murphy, spoke out on Sunday and described the circumstances leading up to the young man's death, saying that police chased the man ;without any evidence he had committed a crime.'

'His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddie into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain.

Murphy also took issue with the police's previous silence about the issue for Gray's arrest. 'We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie's death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility.

The incident comes as relations between police and black communities have taken on new levels of tension following several incidents of alleged police brutality that received national headlines.

About 50 people marched from City Hall to police headquarters Monday, carrying signs reading 'Black lives matter" and 'Jobs, not police killings.' They unfurled a yellow banner reading 'Stop police terror.'

The police, an independent review board and the Baltimore prosecutor's office will investigate the case.

Rodriguez said that homicide investigators and the police training academy will be included in the task force that gives a report to the state attorney general's office by Friday, May 1.

He said that the investigation is particularly interested in deciding whether police waited to late to call paramedics and whether an officer placed a knee on Gray's back during the arrest.

Monday's press conference included CCTV footage of part of the incident, though it does not show the fatal spine injury.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that whatever injury occurred to Gray must have happened in the van, where cameras that allowed the driver to see the back of the vehicle do not record the footage.

Commissioner Batts, who has been a proponent of body cameras, said that he was looking into changing the cameras so they would record.

She said that she was 'frustrated' by Gray's death and the lack of immediate answers and said that the police department had been working to 'overcome decades of mistrust'.

The mayor added that the information about Gray running in the police report does not necessarily represent probable cause for an arrest and that authorities will 'provide the community with all the answers it deserves'.

The commissioners announced immediate changes to arrest policies on Monday, including immediately giving medical attention to suspects who ask for it.

Original report here

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Want to Record The Cops? Know Your Rights

There are some very disturbing videos circulating the Internet right now, depicting the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of trained, armed men. Many of these videos even show individuals being shot in the back, or as they try to flee.

These are videos of police officers in America killing unarmed black men like Oscar Grant and Eric Garner. And, as the most recent case shows, without these recordings, much of America might not have any idea exactly how much of a problem this is.

Citizen videos of law enforcement encounters are more valuable than ever. And for those who are wondering—it is legal to record the police.

The police don’t always seem aware of this. There have been incidents across the country of police telling people to stop filming, and sometimes seizing their camera or smartphone, or even arresting them, when they don’t comply.

In the most recent citizen-filmed incident to gain widespread media attention, on April 4, white police officer Michael Slager shot and killed 50-year-old black man Walter Scott in the back as he ran away in North Charleston, South Carolina. Bystander Feiden Santana filmed the encounter, which started with a traffic stop. After Santana’s video surfaced, the officer was arrested and charged with murder. Santana said that he is scared of what might happen to him. He also considered deleting the video, and doing nothing with it. And Santana is not the only person who may be intimidated by the prospect of filming the police, with good reason.

That’s why, in addition to EFF Attorney Sophia Cope's legal analysis highlighting some of the recent case law establishing the right to film police officers, we’re sharing some basic information cop watchers should know.

What Courts Have Said

Courts across the country have held that there is a First Amendment right to openly record the police. Courts have also held, however, that individuals cannot interfere with police operations, and that wiretapping statutes that prohibit secretly recording may apply to recording the police. But underlying these decisions is the understanding that recording the police is constitutionally protected.

Know Your Rights and Be Safe

While it has been established that individuals have the right to record the police, what happens on the street frequently does not match the law. Also, if you’re thinking about filming the police, it’s likely you’ll have more police encounters than you otherwise would.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is a bar association that does police accountability work. The National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer program is focused on watching the police at protests. CopBlock and Cop Watch are loosely organized groups that have chapters across the country, and provide resources on filming the police everyday.

Here are the most essential things to keep in mind:

Stay calm and courteous, even though the situation may be stressful. Remember—if you get arrested or get into an altercation with the police, you won’t be able to keep filming them!

Be sure that you are not interfering with police operations, and stand at a safe distance from any encounter you film.

Your right to record audio surreptitiously of police carrying out their duties in public may vary from state to state. You should check your state law to know the fullest extent of your rights, but the lowest risk way to record is to hold your device in plain view of the officers.

Do not lie to police officers. If they ask whether you are recording, answer honestly.

If the police start interacting with you, treat the encounter as you would any encounter with law enforcement—in fact, you may want to be extra careful, since as the repeated incidents of police seizing cameras and smartphones demonstrate, it may make you more of a target.

If you are at a demonstration, police will often issue a dispersal order—in general, they will declare a protest an unlawful assembly and tell people to leave. Unless you are granted permission to stay, that order applies to you, too. If you do not comply, you should expect to be arrested.

While it is not legal for an officer to order you to move because you are recording, they may still order you to move. If you do not comply you could be arrested. If you do want to comply, consider complying with the smallest movement possible, and verbally confirming that you are complying with their orders. For example, if you are standing five feet from an officer, and they say "You need to move back," you might want to consider calmly saying "yes, officer, I am moving back" while taking a few steps back.

Below are some helpful resources and tips related to interacting with and filming the police from these groups and EFF:

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) "Know Your Rights" pamphlet (available in multiple languages) provides basic information you should know for interacting with the police.

The NLG Legal Observer Program training manual has tips for filming the police at protests, many of which are useful for filming any encounter.

EFF’s Know Your Rights guide provides information on what you need to know if the police want to search your electronic devices.

Why Focus on Citizen Recording When Departments Are Implementing Bodycams?

As the conversation about police accountability continues to take place across the country, body cameras are often proposed as a solution, and they are getting a lot of attention in the news right now. "Bodycam" recordings have made a difference in some cases.

But many transparency and accountability advocates including EFF, have expressed reasonable doubts about their efficacy. States are trying to grapple with the many privacy issues they raise, mostly by considering exempting the footage from public records act requests. And while "bodycams" may be a contentious subject, there’s little doubt that it is citizen footage of law enforcement encounters that has really fueled the current debate about police accountability.

Keep Taping

As North Charleston Pastor Nelson Rivers said: "If not for the video, we would still be following the narrative from the officer. If not for this video, the story would be entirely different."

Scott’s family agrees. After watching the video, his brother stated: "I think that if that man never showed the video we would not be at the point that we’re at right now." And North Charleston Councilwoman Dorothy Williams had this to say: "I'm asking all the citizens of North Charleston to continue taping."

You don’t have to live in North Charleston to know why that’s a good idea.

Original report here

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Zealand: Teina Pora confirms compo bid for 'wrongful conviction, imprisonment'

The NZ government is being very tight-assed about it though

Teina Pora has formally notified the Government of his intention to claim compensation for "wrongful conviction and imprisonment".

Justice Minister Amy Adams has today received a letter from the lawyers for Teina Pora of the news.

Mr Pora spent more than 21 years in prison for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett, before his conviction was quashed by the Privy Council in March 2015. The Privy Council did not order a retrial.

Ms Adams said that as no retrial was ordered by the Privy Council, Mr Pora's application will be treated as being within Cabinet Guidelines.

"Now that Mr Pora's application has been received, I will be seeking preliminary advice from my Justice officials on the next steps," says Ms Adams.

"Officials will assess whether the claim merits further consideration and, if so, provide me with advice on appointing a QC or retired judge to determine whether the applicant can prove they are innocent on the balance of probabilities."

Ms Adams has also ordered a new inquiry into whether or not David Bain should be awarded compensation after he was acquitted, at a retrial, of murdering five members of his family in Dunedin in 1994.

Retired Canadian Judge, Justice Ian Binnie, reported to then Justice Minister Judith Collins that he thought Mr Bain was entitled to compensation.

Ms Collins ordered a peer review of Justice Binnies report which found the retired judges findings were flawed and in February Ms Adams declared the Bain compensation claim process would start again.

Original report here

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

THREE convicted gang rapists have been sentenced to 15 years jail — after their original punishment sparked outrage

In 2013, six men attacked, bashed and gang raped a 16-year-old girl — known by the pseudonym Liz — as she returned from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia County, Western Kenya.

The gang dumped her, bleeding and unconscious, in a deep sewage ditch. Liz suffered a broken back, caused either by the beating or by being hurled down into the pit, as well as serious internal injuries from the rape.

The case made global headlines after it emerged that three of the alleged rapists were ordered by police to cut grass around the police station as punishment.

Worldwide outrage over the punishment prompted more than 1.8 million people to sign an online petition demanding justice.

On Monday, three of Liz’s assailants were sentenced to 15 years jail. "Today’s sentencing is sure to have a ripple effect across the nation, and hopefully the region at large," said lawyer Kimberly Brown, from the campaign group Equality Now, which supported the schoolgirl.

Other suspects are on the run, with the public prosecutor ordering they be "apprehended and brought to justice without further delay."

Sentencing had been set for last Friday but was delayed after one of the men skipped bail and failed to turn up, but police arrested him over the weekend.

Rape is a serious problem in Kenya but is seldom taken seriously by the police, rights groups say. "The sheer scale of sexual violence in schools, communities and its general acceptability in society is astounding," Ms Brown added.

Original report here

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Dashcam video shows police car slam into suspect

Sounds like the cops did a mad guy a favor. An armed confrontation would probably have got him shot dead. Police officer Michael Rapiejko will not be charged

Extraordinary dashcam video has emerged of the moment a police car rams into a man walking along a footpath in Arizona.

The video was taken from a dashcam video of another police car that was following Mario Valencia after he had fired a shot into the air from an allegedly stolen rifle.

The vision shows the second police car speeding past the first and slamming into the Mr Valencia, throwing him into the air in a shower of dust and debris. Mr Valencia survived the incident.

Police have said the police action probably saved Mr Valencia's life, but it has sparked fierce debate about the level of forced used, CNN reports.

The video shows officers in the first car staying a distance from Mr Valencia, reporting his movements by radio and that he had fired one shot into the air.

It is moments after the shot is fired that the second police car races past.

"Everything in the video seems to point towards an obvious excessive use of force. It is miraculous that my client isn't dead," Mr Valencia's lawyer told CNN.

The incident happened on February 19.

Police Chief Terry Rozema told CNN: "If we're going to choose between maybe we'll let him go a little bit farther and see what happens, or we're going to take him out now and eliminate any opportunity he has to hurt somebody, you're going to err on the side of, in favor of the innocent people. Without a doubt."

Police say Mr Valencia was involved in a convenience store robbery, set fire to a church and stole a car and a gun on the day. He is facing up to 15 charges.

Original report here

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Another Innocent Black Man on Death Row?

The case of Rodney Reed

Reed, who is black, was convicted in Texas by an all-white jury in the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.

Reed has been on Texas' death row since 1998. Just last week, after nearly two decades in prison and with a March 5th execution date looming, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution based on new evidence that his attorneys at the Innocence Project say could exonerate him.

Reed's case is a classic textbook example of how innocent people wind up on death row: bad lawyering, the failure of the police to investigate other leads, possible prosecutorial misconduct, junk forensic science and, perhaps most significantly, the taint of racial bias.

On its face, the prosecution's case against Reed was simple. Reed's DNA was found inside Stites' murdered body. Therefore, he must have killed her.

Reed's semen was the only physical evidence that linked him to the crime. His fingerprints were not on Stites' truck, nor were they on the belt used by the perpetrator to strangle her. There were no hairs, no other biological evidence, and no witnesses who'd seen them together. Just the DNA. DNA, which Reed explained, was not from the day of her death, but from a sexual encounter with Stites from the day before her murder.

Reed consistently claimed that he had been sexually involved with Stites for months before her death, and that he had nothing whatsoever to do with her murder. Yet, at trial, Reed's lawyers did very little to establish Reed's relationship with Stites, even though there were multiple witnesses who could have attested to that relationship.

There also was another clear suspect: a white police officer and Stites' fiance, Jimmy Fennell. As one witness, Mary Blackwell, told the court, Fennell once said during a police academy class that he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if she cheated on him. Stites was strangled to death with a belt.

Fennell was later convicted in an unrelated kidnapping and sexual assault case of a twenty-year old woman.

But the police focused on Reed as their suspect. They never searched the apartment shared by Fennell and Stites. They returned the truck to Fennell six days after the murder and before full forensic testing was complete. Fennell promptly sold the truck and any potential evidence that went with it.

And the police pursued the case against Reed.

The lack of physical evidence against Reed in this death penalty case is deeply troubling. But so is the racial bias that pervaded every aspect of this case. That bias started with the taboo of an inter-racial relationship between a black man and a white woman in a small-town in Texas. It was compounded by an all-white jury. And it was consistent with the disturbing pattern of racial disparity found in so many capital cases involving a black-defendant and a white victim.

Maybe Reed will get lucky. Twelve innocent people have been exonerated and released from Texas' death row. 150 people have been exonerated from death row nationally - sometimes within weeks - or even hours - of their scheduled execution. 78 of the exonerated were black.

But innocent men appear to also have been executed.

Cameron Todd Willingham, who proclaimed his innocence until his last breath, was executed in Texas for the arson-murder of his three children. The evidence against Willingham was junk science - experts now say the fire was accidental. Carlos DeLuna was executed in Texas for a murder that now seems fairly certain to have been committed by another convicted murderer named Carlos Herrera.

Reed should not become another Texas tragedy. Reed's death sentence - and nineteen long years of deprivation on death row -- is far too severe a penalty for a man who appears guilty of nothing more than taking part in a consensual interracial sexual relationship.

Original report here

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Firing of Officer Who Shot Unarmed Suspect Shows Benefits of Non-Unionized Police Departments

Americans were stunned last week by graphic video of North Charleston, S.C. Police Officer Michael T. Slager shooting an unarmed suspect in the back after a routine traffic stop.

The video led to Slager both being charged with murder and fired from the North Charleston Police Department.

Slager’s quick dismissal from the department stands in stark contrast to similar incidents in other cities which, unlike North Charleston, have unionized police departments.

Often police unions prevent officers from being dismissed without a lengthy arbitration process—even when they have flagrantly abused their power. An article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf recounts numerous cases where officers used excessive force and were reinstated after union arbitration.

In 2007, for example, Oakland Police Officer Hector Jimenez shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old and was reinstated thanks to the police union’s protection. Seven months later, Jimenez shot another unarmed man in the back as he fled arrest. Shockingly, the arbitrators again ordered the police department to reinstate Jimenez, even though they had lost confidence in his ability to serve and protect.

Often police unions prevent officers from being dismissed without a lengthy arbitration process—even when they have flagrantly abused their power.

Such a last minute reinstatement seems unlikely for Slager, however, as the North Charleston Police Department (NCPD) is not unionized. In South Carolina collective bargaining is optional for cities and North Charleston has chosen not to do so.

Consequently the NCPD can fire any employee who is abusing his power without going through a lengthy union-designed arbitration process.

Elected officials should not have to bargain over whom to trust with deadly force. They—not government unions—answer to the public and should have the authority to take a dangerous cop off the streets.

Because municipal collective bargaining is optional in South Carolina, that is exactly what happened in North Charleston. Other states should take note.

Original report here

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How ‘recovered memories’ fuelled the paedo panic

The UK justice system needs to face facts: 'recovered memories' simply aren't credible

Last month, the psychology department of Goldsmiths College in London hosted a lecture by Professor Elizabeth Loftus on memory research, and what it tells us about the value of human recollection, entitled ‘The memory factory’. Loftus is an American cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine. She has spent the past 40 years conducting trials on how memory works (or doesn’t work), as well as presenting expert witness testimony in several high-profile court cases.

It is a tribute to Loftus’ exceptional determination and expertise that she was not derailed in her work by the bitter ‘memory wars’ of the 1990s, which arose as a result of US feminist campaigners and trauma therapists insisting on the veracity of ‘recovered memories’ of abuse. This notion of recovered memory remains hotly contested. As recently as 2012, Loftus convinced a court that the theory of recovered memory is outwith medical orthodoxy (1). Nevertheless, Loftus has been the subject of professional complaints and has received death threats.

Dangerous work

As one commentator notes, to work in this field you need ‘skin as thick as permafrost and caller ID on the phone’. Loftus is not the only academic to be pilloried for her work in this field. Susan Clancy, a young cognitive psychologist working at Harvard in the mid-1990s, was viciously attacked after she began laboratory research into how people might be prone to false memories. Part of the cohort of subjects who presented at Harvard’s Memory Laboratory claimed to have been the victim of childhood abuse, even though they had no actual memory of being abused! This was intriguing research terrain (2).

But Clancy received bags of hate mail, was shunned by her graduate students, and even found herself giving guest lectures to empty halls. Harvard encouraged her and her mentor, Professor Richard J McNally, to switch the focus of their research on to people who believed they were abducted by aliens: a less politically sensitive class of victim. Clancy accepted a visiting professorship in Nicaragua, where she still works in the field of consumer behaviour, though she did succeed in publishing her own original work in the field of recovered memory: Abducted (2005) and The Trauma Myth (2010).

Loftus, by contrast, was not run out of town so outrageously: as an older woman, she had been involved in research going back to the 1970s, and had thus built up a solid string of publications by the time things turned ugly in the 1990s. One of her earliest studies of memory paradigms examined how misinformation, provided after an event is witnessed, can cause the witness to recall the event differently. Memory is reconstructive, and people can all-too-easily process new information after the fact, and then re-attribute this new information to their original experience. Memory, her research shows, can be rewritten.

Tell ’em what to say

Similar findings have been replicated in studies up to the present. In her talk, Loftus cited a 2013 study by psychiatrist Dr Charles Morgan from the Yale Medical School of a crack troop of US soldiers undergoing survival-school training. This entailed a real-life, high-stress exercise of being hunted, captured and then aggressively interrogated by ‘enemy’ combatants, after which they were ‘rescued’ by friendly survival-school staff.

In the debrief interviews, some soldiers were given false information about their interrogator’s appearance; were asked leading questions such as ‘describe the weapon/uniform worn by your interrogator’, and were shown a doctored video which (incorrectly) showed the survival-school staff, whom the soldiers knew, as carrying automatic weapons when, in fact, they did not. The results were dramatic. In the cohort which was given the misinformation:

– 84 per cent misidentified their interrogator;

– 27 per cent wrongly said their interrogator had a weapon;

– 85 per cent wrongly stated their interrogator wore uniform;

– Over 50 per cent wrongly stated that school staff carried automatic weapons.

Another memory paradigm, which Loftus discussed in her lecture, is one where people claim to remember events that are wholly imaginary. In her classic ‘Lost in the Mall’ study, in which people were given a description of a child lost in a mall, about a quarter of participants came to believe that this experience had happened to them. And at (arguably) a more harmless level, she and her team have successfully planted false memories in people relating to food. Some people have been persuaded to avoid strawberry ice cream, believing it once made them sick as a child; others have been impelled to avoid imbibing vodka. Potentially, this kind of research may provide a way to cure addictions and obesity.

Memory and law

But memory is far more problematic, when deployed in a forensic context. Who is more believable, and who decides? A person’s liberty, or a child’s future, may depend on this. According to Loftus, there is no way to distinguish a false memory from a true one. A false memory can be detailed, it can be recounted convincingly, and it can carry the same emotional charge as an accurate depiction of real experience. Loftus’ take-home message is that human memory is unreliable, unless supported by independent corroborating evidence. This message is diametrically opposed to the increasingly victim-centric approach of the UK justice system, currently in thrall to the politically correct ‘I believe her’ camp.

Wisely, Loftus steered clear of volunteering any observations about the implications of her work for the UK’s mounting obsession with historic abuse allegations. However, it is disturbing that the numerous authors of the growing piles of reports into Savile et al, abjectly fail to confront the problems of memory, or the lessons of memory research. This is a serious flaw in their approach. The unprecedented media frenzy over Savile, succeeded by wild accusations about VIP paedo-murder ‘rings’, should have flagged up to any intelligent person the obvious dangers of accepting tales of woe from long ago, uncritically. But this has not happened.

Instead, most journalists have shown an almost willful ignorance of modern memory science, in their stampede to propagate sensational stories that sell. Even more reprehensibly, Britain’s courts have been remiss in their refusal to face up to this problem, while simultaneously refusing to subject the constant special pleading from the victim lobby, which now includes the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to proper analytical scrutiny. The outcome has been a serious unbalancing of the UK’s justice system towards a presumption of guilt, and a cynical willingness to risk innocent people’s liberty.

Original report here

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Chief constable retires on full pension while facing bullying probe

A chief constable facing a bullying probe for her alleged Alex Ferguson-style 'hair dryer treatment' of colleagues is to retire with full pension after 30 years of service.

Sue Sim, who came to national prominence five years ago as Northumbria Police dealt with the Raoul Moat manhunt, said she was 'sad' to leave the force but was retiring to spend more time with her family.

It was announced last month that Ms Sim was to be investigated by her Police and Crime Commissioner's office for alleged misconduct. Although she was not suspended after the accusations were made against her, it was reported those below her were walking on 'eggshells' such was the manner in which she delivered her assessments.

Her style has been compared to her predecessor Sir John Stevens, who delivered what have been described as legendary 'b**********' to the officers under his command.

A Northumbria Police spokesman today confirmed she will retire with full pension despite being the subject of an investigation.

Ms Sim said: 'After careful consideration I have decided to retire when I reach my 30 years service on June 3. 'My family have made many sacrifices to enable me to have such a fantastic career and it is now time to spend more time with them.

'I am obviously sad to leave but it is the right time and I am confident I have left a legacy of high performance that will continue.

'I have been extremely fortunate to have had a marvellous career and I am as committed to serving the public as I was when I first joined Merseyside Police in 1985.'

Chief Constable Sim came to public prominence during the hunt for crazed killer Raoul Moat in 2010 when she held her position in a temporary capacity. She described the search for Moat following the murder of Christopher Brown and shooting of one of her own officers, PC David Rathband, as 'one of the most challenging times' of her career.

During this time she fronted public appeals to locate the killer and became the face of the police response, during which officers were warned they were targets.

She said: 'That was one of the most challenging times of my career and the largest manhunt the country has seen for 44 years.

'I am immensely proud of my officers and staff who went about their roles fully aware of the threats against them, but determined to support the public.'

Vera Baird, police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, said she would miss working with Ms Sim.

Ms Baird said: 'Chief Constable Sue Sim gave me formal notice of her decision to retire on Wednesday April 8 and she will leave the force on June 3 when she has completed 30 years of public service in policing.

Last month, Ms Baird announced that she had appointed a judge to lead an inquiry into allegations that Ms Sim might have 'fallen short of her duty as a police officer to treat colleagues with respect and courtesy'.

She said: 'Over the past few days, I have sought clarification about the issues raised by some officers. 'I am now clear that they wish to make complaints against the chief constable of Northumbria Police which merit investigation.'

Ms Sim said she would co-operate with the inquiry.

Original report here

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ten California deputies put on leave after shocking helicopter footage shows them 'punching and kicking horse thief as he lay on the ground with hands behind his back'

Ten deputies have been placed on leave after a shocking video emerged showing them punching and kicking an alleged horse thief for two minutes following a chase through the California desert.

In the video, captured by an NBC helicopter, Francis Pusok, 30, is seen falling off the horse he was suspected of stealing after being pursued several miles by the San Bernardino County officers.

Seconds later, two deputies catch up to Pusok and stun him with their Tasers. They then stun him again, and again, as lies splayed face-down on the ground, with his arms placed behind his back.

As the camera keeps rolling, the officers apparently kick the suspect in the head and crotch, before other deputies arrive on the scene. One clearly draws back his leg and swings it at Pusok's head.

Chillingly, after the beating, a deputy whispered in the suspect's ear: 'This isn't over,' according to Pusok's attorney Jim Terrell, who said the man was left 'scared to death for himself and his family'.

Now, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon has placed 10 deputies on paid administrative leave for their alleged roles in the graphic footage, which he said had 'disturbed and troubled him'.

McMahon said the video, captured on Thursday, appeared to show an excessive use of force. He added that he was launching an internal investigation into the actions of the unidentified officers.

'I'm not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect,' he told NBC. 'It appears there was in the early parts of the video. What happens afterwards, I'm not sure of, but we will investigate it thoroughly.'

In a tweet via the San Bernardino Sheriff's Office, McMahon said: 'We have identified 10 deputies involved in the use of force during the arrest & they have been placed on paid admin leave.'

Earlier on Thursday, Pusok had allegedly fled by car after deputies had tried to serve a search warrant in an identity-theft investigation. He later dumped the vehicle in the Hesperia area, it is said.

The suspect, dressed in bright red clothing, then reportedly stole a horse and made his way across the desert near the town of Apple Valley, east of LA, before being tracked down by deputies.

In the video, Pusok can be seen falling from the horse as a deputy runs up and uses a stun gun on him. McMahon said the stun gun was believed to be ineffective because of the man's loose clothing.

The suspect then falls face down with his arms and legs outstretched and put his hands behind his back. The video shows two deputies appearing to come up and kick him in the head and crotch.

As more officers join in, the men huddle in a pack over Pusok, continuing to pummel their fists and feet into his back and head. Meanwhile, one deputy stands calmly holding the horse by the saddle.

Following the incident, two deputies were taken to a nearby hospital for injuries, including abrasions, a twisted knee and a back injury from being struck by the horse, the sheriff's office said.

Pusok was treated at the hospital for abrasions and bruising. He was then released to be booked on suspicion of felony evading, theft of a horse, possession of stolen property and reckless driving.

After the video was broadcast by NBC, it sparked outrage on the Internet, with many users noting that Pusok was lying on the ground in a 'surrender' position when he was beaten by the officers.

On Friday, Mr Terrell told KABC that the attack seemed never-ending. 'This is as bad, if not worse, than what they did to Rodney King. This was terrible. It kept going and going and going,' he said.

Rodney King, who died in 2012, rose to national fame after he was captured on video being beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers following a high-speed car chase in March 1991.

Although four officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force, they were later acquitted in a series of verdicts that are thought to have caused the 1992 LA riots.

Also Friday, McMahon said an internal investigation is underway into the deputies' actions in the arrest of Pusok. A criminal inquiry into the actions of the suspect is also being carried out, he said.

However, he said that the department will not release the names of deputies - which apparently include a sergeant and a detective - until they are sure that multiple threats made are not valid.

'I'm asking for some patience while we complete a thorough and fair investigation,' McMahon said.

'I am disturbed and troubled by what I see in the video. It does not appear to be in line with our policies and procedures.

'I assure you, if there is criminal doing on the part of any of our deputy sheriffs or any policy violations we will take action.'

The deputies were wearing audio recorders, but McMahon said he had not listened to them and the recordings will be part of the investigation.

Attorneys for Pusok told KNBC-TV Friday as they left the jail that their client has a badly swollen eye, marks from the beating over his face and body, and is in pain.

'He remembers being beat, and he remembers that he wasn't resisting, that he laid still, he complied immediately. He says that he didn't even move a muscle because he didn't want to be continuously beat, yet it still happened,' said attorney Sharon Brunner.

Ken Cooper, a use of force expert, said the deputies were clearly frustrated and appeared to take that out on the suspect. One, he said, appeared to be striking Pusok with the Taser.

'It doesn't look good. It looks like his hands are behind his back even when they're doing the blows,' Cooper said.

'The justification for using force is to gain compliance from the suspect, and the suspect seems to be complying. So what this looks like is those blows are not justified, they're not necessary and they're not professional.'

Cooper said the officers should be disciplined, retrained to deal with stress especially, and the video should be used for department-wide training.

He said the officers allowed their emotions and adrenaline to overtake their professionalism. But training helps 'inoculate' officers from responding improperly during high-stress situations.

'When chasing a fleeing suspect, in high stress, you have to control that. It's your obligation as a professional. You can lose it sometimes,' Cooper said.

McMahon said deputies had previously been called to Pusok's home in Apple Valley, where he had allegedly made threats to kill a deputy and shot a puppy in front of family members.

Pusok's beating came as recent violent episodes by officers dealing with suspects have hit the headlines, including the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, last weekend.

Pusok's girlfriend of 13 years, Jolene Bindner, said her long-term boyfriend has had several run-ins with the law. However, she insisted that he is a great father who did not deserve the brutal beating.

'I'm not going to stand here and say that he's perfect, because who is?' she said. 'I couldn't believe it,' Bindner said after seeing the video. 'The first thing I said was 'they cannot do that.''

The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement saying it is 'deeply troubled by the video images' and applauding McMahon's call for an investigation.

Original report here

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Boost in wrongful conviction compensation sought

A key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday he will introduce a bill to increase by tenfold the amount of compensation Wisconsin pays to the wrongfully convicted.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield said he will re-introduce a proposal that has failed to make it through the previous two legislative sessions that would pay $50,000 a year for each year an innocent person spends behind bars. The bill would call for no maximum payout, he said, and would provide additional services such as housing, transportation and health care.

Kooyenga was speaking during a break in a presentation by the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the state Capitol. Innocence Project co-director Keith Findley said the UW-Madison Law School project has led to freedom for 22 people wrongfully convicted, 19 of them in Wisconsin, since it was founded in 1998.

The state’s current compensation for the wrongfully convicted is $5,000 per year for a maximum payout of $25,000. Any amount above that must be introduced as separate legislation.

Last year, the state paid Robert Lee Stinson $90,000 after faulty bite-mark evidence put him behind bars for 23 years for a murder he did not commit. DNA evidence cleared Stinson and implicated another man, Moses Price, who confessed to the crime.

And late last month, the city of Milwaukee agreed to pay $6.5 million for its role in convicting Chaunte Ott of a murder later found to be the work of a serial killer linked to nine Milwaukee murders. Ott had spent 13 years in prison.

Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said he plans to co-sponsor the legislation. Hebl said the strong support from Kooyenga is "huge" because of his leading role in the Republican Party, which controls both houses of the Legislature.

Kooyenga said no amount of money can pay a person back for losing liberty. But he said the state must increase compensation to help innocent people get back on their feet after they leave prison.

A former military intelligence officer, Kooyenga said he also would support laws that would improve how evidence is analyzed and collected to avoid future wrongful convictions. He said he’s open to ideas on how the state can "make sure the justice system works better."

Findley said while Wisconsin has improved the reliability of eyewitness testimony and boosted the number of police interrogations that are tape-recorded, there are still gains to be made in other areas. He mentioned problems with the accuracy and reliability of forensic science and false testimony from "jailhouse snitches."

"Those are complicated problems that really need some serious thought and some legislative efforts," Findley said. "Nothing has been done here but it’s been done in other states."

Original report here

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Killer cop’s history of 'excessive force' revealed - as questions pile up over how many colleagues helped him cover up fatally shooting unarmed father in the back

The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder for shooting an unarmed black man in the back was allowed to stay on the force despite a previous complaint about excessive force, it has been revealed.

The previous incident

North Charleston resident Mario Givens says Officer Michael Slager burst into his home and then Tasered him in the stomach, even though he was not resisting in September 2013.

The revelation adds to growing questions about the conduct of the North Charleston police force, and how Officer Slager was able to escape probing questions from his colleagues after he fatally shot unarmed Walter Scott in the back as he fled last week.

Yesterday local authorities refused to say whether other police officers will be charged over the shooting of Scott. Seven other officers arrived at the scene immediately after the shooting.

Now Givens has come forward to recount how he was awakened before dawn one morning in September 2013 by loud banging on the front door of his family's North Charleston home.

On his front porch was Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager.

Givens, who is also black, said he cracked open his door and asked the officer what he wanted. At the time, Givens was clad only in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, he recalled.

'He said he wanted to come in, but didn't say why,' said Givens, now 33. 'He never said who he was looking for.' Then, without warning, Slager pushed in the door, he said.

"Come outside or I'll tase you," he recalled the officer saying as he burst in. 'I didn't want that to happen to me, so I raised my arms over my head, and when I did, he tased me in my stomach anyway.'

He said the pain from the stun gun was so intense that he dropped to the floor and began calling for his mother, who was also in the home.

At that point, he said another police officer came into the house and they dragged him outside and threw him to the ground. He was handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car.

Though initially accused of resisting the officers, Givens was later released without charge.

'It was very devastating,' said Bessie Givens, 57, who was awaked by her son's piercing screams.

'You watch your son like that, he's so vulnerable. You don't know what's going to happen. I was so scared.'

After Officer Michael Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and terminated from the North Charleston Police on Wednesday, the department released his personnel file.

Also included in the document dump was the judgments on complaints lodged against Officer Slager.

One complaint, filed in 2013 by Mario Givens, revealed that he had a violaton in code of conduct sustained but was exonerated for use of force.

The report stated that Slager and another officer 'got into a struggle' with the suspect and 'Slager was forced to use his Taser then drive stun to gain compliance'.

Givens said that he had been tased for no reason after exiting the home when the officers asked.

It turned out that the police officers had gone to the family's home at the behest of his brother's ex-girlfriend, who earlier reported awakening in her nearby house to find Matthew Givens in her bedroom, uninvited. She said he left when she began screaming, and she dialed 911.

That woman, Maleah Kiara Brown, said on Wednesday that she and a friend had followed the police officers over to the Givens home and were sitting outside as Slager knocked on the door. The second officer had gone around to the back of the house.

She had provided the officers with a detailed description of Matthew Givens, who is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Mario Givens stands well over 6 feet.

'He looked nothing like the description I gave the officers,' Brown said, referring to Mario Givens.

'He asked the officer why he was at the house. He did it nicely. The police officer said he wanted him to step outside. Then he asked, "Why, why do you want me to step outside?" Then the officer barged inside and grabbed him.'

Moments later, she saw the police officers drag Givens out of the house and throw him in the dirt. Brown said she kept yelling to the officers they had the wrong man, but they wouldn't listen. Though Givens was offering no resistance, she said she saw Slager use the stun gun on him again.

'He was screaming, in pain,' she said. 'He said, "You tased me. You tased me. Why?" It was awful. Terrible. I asked the officer why he tased him and he told me to get back.'

She said she later told a female police supervisor what she had seen. 'He was cocky,' she said of Slager. 'It looked like he wanted to hurt him. There was no need to tase him. No reason. He was no threat — and we told him he had the wrong man.'

Angered by what happened, Mario Givens went downtown to police headquarters the following day and filed a formal complaint. He and his mother say several neighbors who witnessed what happened on the family's front lawn also contacted the police, though they say officers refused to take their statements.

The incident report from that night filed by Slager and the other officer, Maurice Huggins, provides a very different version of events. In the report, obtained by the AP through a public records request, Slager wrote that he could not see one of Givens' hands and feared he might be holding a weapon.

He wrote that he observed sweat on Givens' shirt, which he perceived as evidence he may have just run from Brown's home, and then ordered him to exit several times.

When Givens didn't comply, Slager said he entered the home to prevent him from fleeing, and was then forced to use his stun gun when Givens struggled against him. According to the officers' report, the two Givens brothers are described as looking 'just alike.'

Back to the recent incident

Police officer Michael Slager said in a statement earlier this week that his encounter with Walter Scott began at around 9.30am on Saturday.

He said he pulled Scott's Mercedes over as a routine traffic stop for a broken brake light.

He said Scott then ran away into a vacant grassy lot where, at some point during the chase, the victim confronts Slager.

The officer then tried to use his Taser to subdue Scott, but claims the suspect grabbed the stun gun during the struggle, according to the statement.

According to police reports, Slager fired the stun gun, but it did not stop Scott.

At that point, the officer fired at Scott several times because he 'felt threatened,' Slager's statement said.

He added that his actions were in line with procedure.

Police then said Slager reported on his radio moments after the struggle: 'Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.'

Slager's account has been called into question after the video appears to show him shooting Scott in the back.

The footage begins in the vacant lot apparently moments after Slager fires his Taser. Wires which administer the electrical current appear to be extending from Scott's body.

As Scott turns to run, Slager draws his pistol and, only when he is 15 to 20 feet away, starts to fire the first of the eight shots at his back.

The video shows Slager handcuffing Scott's lifeless body.

Footage then appears to show Slager jogging back to the point where the Taser fell to the ground, bringing it over to Scott's body around 30 feet away and dropping it next to him.

It is only after two-and-a-half minutes that Slager is seen placing his hand on Scott's neck in an apparent attempt to check his pulse.

A black colleague then arrives and puts on blue medical gloves before handling the body, but is not seen performing first aid.

They are joined by a third officer, who also does not appear to tend to the victim.

Original report here

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Former Prosecutor Apologizes For His Part In Wrongful Conviction of Released Death Row Inmate

Sixty-five-year-old Glenn Ford served 30 years on death row for murder but was released in March 2014 upon the State’s motion. The Caddo District Attorney asked that the man’s conviction and sentence be set-aside. The lead prosecutor who helped secure his conviction told the media "This case is another example of the arbitrariness of the death penalty. I now realize, all too painfully, that as a young 33-year-old prosecutor, I was not capable of making a decision that could have led to the killing of another human being." He called the process "state-assisted revenge."

Glenn Ford was released when the District Attorney presented new evidence about the actual gunman after an investigation in another homicide. Legal teams from the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, law enforcement, and the District Attorney’s Office, worked together to uncover the facts. Ford was not present during commission of the crime.

Ford has always maintained he was innocent in the 1983 armed robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport, Louisiana jewelry store owner. Three men were involved but Ford was the only defendant who was tried. Ford is a black man who was convicted by an all-white jury. The case went to trial in 1984.

Attorney A.M. "Marty" Stroud III of Shreveport, Louisiana, was the prosecutor in the 1984 murder trial. To his credit, he gave the Shreveport Times an interview (below) and said his failure was "that I didn’t follow up, that I should have done more, that I had an obligation to do more, that we as prosecutors represent the state … we are there to ensure the fairness of the process."

Stroud questioned how anyone could give credit to a verdict where the lawyers, although good lawyers, had never tried a death penalty case or even a criminal case or a jury trial. He said "that in and of itself should have put a signal through my dense brain that it was wrong." Ford was indigent and the judge appointed counsel to represent him.

The former prosecutor said that the atmosphere was to "win at every cost." He said he "was caught up in that insanity" of win-loss percentages when he was in his early thirties. Stroud said "the ends justified the means and that we did not try people who were innocent and if anyone claimed they were innocent that was bogus." He said that was the wrong philosophy and both sides should make sure there is a fair trial.

Making an analogy, Stroud said "the government is responsible for patching potholes, and they’re not very good at it." He questions how the government can design a system that is "fair, impartial, and nonarbitrary." Quoting United States Supreme Court Justice Blackmun in a dissenting opinion many years ago, he told the Shreveport Times "I don’t think a human being, we humans have the capacity, to tinker with the machinery of death." On that basis, he believes the death penalty should be abolished. "Bottomline it is state-assisted revenge and that’s not justice." While he believes the realities of politics in Louisiana are such that the death penalty will not be abolished soon, he believes that it eventually will but not in his lifetime. He believes the public needs to be made aware of the realities of this situation and the lives that can be destroyed.

Ford, who is suffering from late-stage cancer, sought reimbursement under a statute that provides for compensating individuals for wrongful conviction where they have served time and meet the statutory criteria. The Attorney General fought Ford’s recovering under the statute.

Stroud said that Ford "should be completely compensated to every extent possible because of the flaws of a system that effectively destroyed his life. The audacity of the state’s effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling." A judge recently held that Ford was not eligible for compensation because he knew about the crime but did nothing to stop it, and he tried to sell the murder weapon, and sold proceeds from the crime.

Kristen Wenstrom, of the Innocence Project in New Orleans, told the Shreveport Times "We are disappointed with the court’s decision today denying Glenn Ford compensation for the 30 years he spent on death row for a crime the state of Louisiana agrees he did not commit. In its denial, the court adopted the state’s argument opposing compensation. The ruling inflated the fact that Mr. Ford knew the people who committed the crime and insinuated that Mr. Ford was more involved in the crime than the facts in the record indicate. This is the latest in a series of great injustices that Mr. Ford has suffered over the last 30 years."

The former prosecutor who helped send Ford to death row said he was not going to write a book, or go on any speaking tours. He just wanted to set the record straight. He said what he has been through should be shared with others.

Original report here

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Cop is charged with black man's murder after opening fire eight times and shooting him in the back as he ran away

Patrolman Michael Slager, 33, opened fire on Walter Scott, 50, as he ran from him in North Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday morning.

The killing comes at a time of mounting unrest over police use of force - particularly against black men - became a national issue with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer.

Officer Slager - who had previously said he was only sticking to procedure - was charged with murdering Scott on Tuesday afternoon after the incendiary footage emerged, and has been booked into jail.

The fatal encounter reportedly began after Slager pulled over Scott on account of a busted tail light.

Scott ran, it was claimed, at which point Slager tried to Taser him. The officer claims that Scott managed to wrest the weapon away - at which point he drew his pistol.

Footage of the the deadly encounter, acquired by the Charleston Post and Courier, begins as Scott is fleeing.

He gets a few feet away before Scott opens fire - seven shots in quick succession, then an eighth.

Scott crumples and falls face-down on a patch of grass. Slager then walks over, shouts at him to put his hands behind his back, then handcuffs him. As soon as paramedics arrived, Scott was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities arrested Slager today, within hours of the footage emerging.

Yesterday, an attorney for Slager issued a statement saying that Slager opened fire because he felt threatened. The statement, reported by local station WCIV-TV, added that: 'Officer Slager believes he followed all the proper procedures and policies of the North Charleston Police Department'.

A statement initially issued by Slager said that he turned to his gun after Scott wrested the Taser away from him. Slager said he shot Scott because he 'felt threatened' by him.

Under South Carolina law, Slager could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Scott's brother, Anthony, spoke after his brother's death. He said Walter had a fiancée, two siblings and children - though he did not specify how many.

He told WCIV: 'My brother is a kind and sweet person. He talked to everybody, knew all our family members by name, anybody that came in touch with Walter loved him.'

'He loved the [Dallas] Cowboys. We had planned to go to go see them play but I guess that won't happen now.'

Original report here

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