AlterNet.org: Aaron Cantú http://www.alternet.org/authors/aaron-cantu-0 en 10 Most Absurd Reasons We've Arrested Small Children http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-most-absurd-reasons-weve-arrested-small-children <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">From throwing Tootsie Rolls to burping, small children have been arrested for totally normal misbehavior. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-05-21_at_11.51.27_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">At this point, it's hard to be surprised by the extreme punitiveness of America's criminal justice system. One thing that can still shock, though, is how police manhandle actual children. Not only is treatment of children severe (police in Arizona recently mulled over the possibility of charging an 8-year-old as <a href="http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/9320428/8-year-old-charged-with-two-counts-of-first-degree-murder">an adult</a>), but our system is undiscerning; we can, and do, arrest kids for virtually anything, including completely normal childhood misbehavior. In fact, many youth, particularly people of color from low-income households, come into contact with their first handcuffs in school. Here are some of the stranger examples of this depressingly American practice. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Hustling ibuprofen. </strong>In 2010, an 11-year-old girl in Georgia was <a href="http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2010/12/14/1385239_mother-daughter-face-drug-charges.html?rh=1">arrested</a> for carrying ibuprofen to school. Her mother, who had given her the medication for menstrual cramps, was also arrested for giving the meds to her daughter. Georgia law classifies ibuprofen as a dangerous drug if it's over 200 milligrams; the girl's pills were 800. But it's possible her principal was just looking for an excuse to arrest her, considering he found the bottle while searching her purse for a knife.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Criminal burping. </strong>Albuquerque police aren't known for their <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/son-deceased">cool-headedness</a>, and predictably <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/student-arrested-for-burping-lawsuit-claims/">overreacted</a>—along with school staff—when one 13-year-old “audibly burped” in gym class. Police transported the boy to a juvenile detention center without notifying his parents, where he was given a risk assessment test on which he scored a 2 (with 10 being the highest on the scale). In a separate incident at the school, another student was forced to strip naked in front of five administrators when they discovered he was carrying $200 in cash and suspected him of selling cannabis.  </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Drawing while bored. </strong>Desks in school are a perfect canvas to doodle your way out of boredom. But one 12-year-old in a New York City middle school ended up in cuffs after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/05/desk-doodling-arrest-alex_n_450859.html">writing</a> provocative things on her desk like, “Lex was here,” “I love my friends Abby and Faith,” and a smiley face. The girl was taken to a police station and held for several hours until she was released. She had to perform eight hours of community service and write an essay on what she learned from the experience.</p><p><strong>4. DARE-ing to question. </strong>Drug education in many schools has not changed much since the Reagan era, which is to say, it's still ineffective and roundly mocked by 10-year-olds. One kid in Kansas, however, found out that there are <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/04/17/state-seizes-11-year-old-arrests-his-mother-after-he-defends-medical-marijuana-during-a-school-presentation/?tid=trending_strip_6">real consequences</a> for questioning his school's anti-pot wisdom. During a drug lecture in class, the 11-year-old son of cannabis activist Shona Banda took issue with some of the points made by the counselors, who called the police on him. After they arrested and detained him, they raided Banda's home. She now fears she may lose custody of her son.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Kicking a trashcan. </strong>The Center for Public Integrity recently <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-04-10/how-kicking-trash-can-became-criminal-6th-grader">investigated</a> the case of Kayleb Moon-Robinson, an autistic sixth-grader who was convicted of felony assault on a police officer after the cop tried wrestling him into submission. Kayleb had been asked to stay in class while his classmates filed out of the room—punishment for an earlier infraction he committed, kicking a trashcan. The Center's investigation also found that the definition of “disorderly conduct” is loose enough that police officers in Virginia are filing a record number of complaints. In another egregious case, a 12-year-old girl was charged with “obstruction of justice” when she clenched her fist at a school resource officer who had just intervened in a fight.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>6. “Hacking.” </strong>After eighth-grader Domanik Green figured out his teacher's computer password (the teacher's last name), Green <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/middle-school-student-charged-with-cyber-crime-in-holiday/2224827">changed</a> the teacher's computer desktop background to two men kissing. To the school, this was a malicious “hack into his school's secure computer network,” and Green was charged with “an offense against a computer system and unauthorized access, a felony,” according to the <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/middle-school-student-charged-with-cyber-crime-in-holiday/2224827">Tampa Bay Times</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Standing while black. </strong>Three high school athletes in Rochester, NY were waiting for a bus when a cop arrested them for essentially <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/three_black_students_arrested_while_waiting_for_school_bus_in_rochester.html">standing while black</a>. The officer later described in a report how the students criminally “Block[ed] pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk [and] prevent[ed] free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store.” When their coach, who had arranged for a bus to pick them up, arrived to mediate the situation, he was nearly arrested as well, and several more officers were called to needlessly escalate the situation.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>8. Candy assault. </strong>A seventh-grader in Florida was charged with misdemeanor battery when he struck his friend in the head...with a Tootsie Roll. The charge was dismissed, but an arrest for “criminal battery” will stay on his record forever. The anecdote was reported as part of an <a href="https://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/maps/map-florida-students-arrested-for-bad-behavior-not-criminal-behavior/">NPR project</a> that revealed many counties in Florida classify upwards of 100% of classroom arrests as misdemeanors. These arrests can be prompted by infractions as vague as “disorderly conduct,” which includes talking back to a teacher and being disrespectful.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>9. Spitting. </strong>A Google search of <a href="https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=student+arrested+in+school+spit">students arrested for spitting</a> yields thousands of results. In one particularly <a href="http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jun/21/student-faces-charges-spitting-out-bus/">bizarre case</a> out of Chula Vista, CA, a 12-year-old was expelled and charged with battery after his spit found its way from a school bus window to the sunroof of the car driving behind the school bus. When the spit landed inside the car, the driver was so upset he followed the bus and pressed criminal charges against the boy. The acting police captain of the Chula Vista police department later agreed that the offense was indeed battery. “I don’t think it’s excessive,” he told UT San Diego.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>10. Throwing nuts. </strong>School arrests were common enough in Mississippi for the ACLU to issue a <a href="http://b.3cdn.net/advancement/bd691fe41faa4ff809_u9m6bfb3v.pdf">report</a> about the practice in the state. The report found that in 2000, five students were charged with felony assault after they threw peanuts at each other on a bus and one accidentally struck the driver. The report also notes that farting and untucking one's shirt resulted in “automatic incarceration” for students who were on juvenile probation. Arrestable flatulence does not only occur in Mississippi: A 13-year-old was arrested for <a href="http://www.tcpalm.com/news/report-martin-county-student-arrested-passing-gas-">passing gas</a> a few years ago in Florida.</p> Thu, 21 May 2015 08:12:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1036678 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties children State Puts Innocent Man on Death Row for 30 Years, Admits Error, Then Refuses to Pay a Cent in Compensation http://www.alternet.org/state-puts-innocent-man-death-row-30-years-admits-error-then-refuses-pay-cent-compensation <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In many states, exonerated inmates face an uphill (or impossible) battle when seeking compensation. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-04-09_at_11.39.40_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Hours after Shreveport, Louisiana prosecutor Marty Stroud persuaded a jury to sentence Glenn Ford to death in 1984, he went out to celebrate, toasting his success with other revelers from his office. Ford, meanwhile, was about to be shipped off to prison for the next 30 years, many of them spent in solitary confinement. Three decades later, Ford was released following a 2003 DNA test confirming his innocence. But with only a few months to live because of lung cancer he developed in prison (which went undiagnosed until his release), Ford may as well have been sent to the gallows.</p><p dir="ltr">Ford gets by with meager benefits from the federal government, because the state of Louisiana has refused to provide him any restitution as his life draws to a close. This has weighed heavily on Marty Stroud, the prosecutor who has since become a vocal opponent of the death penalty. He wrote a letter to the <em>Shreveport Times </em><a href="http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/" target="_blank">strongly condemning</a> the death penalty, his arrogant younger self and the state, for its refusal to compensate Ford. “Glenn 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,” wrote Stroud. </p><p dir="ltr">Louisiana isn't the only state that fails to provide compensation for innocent people who spent years of their lives in prison. </p><p dir="ltr">Nationally, the system of restitution for exonerated inmates is a mess. At the end of 2014, 30 states had policies mandating payments for people wrongly convicted by the state; 20 states have no compensation laws, and exonerated inmates must either sue the state for money or lobby for an individual bill granting compensation. The states that do provide restitution vary widely in the amount of money they give, whether they offer other support (like job training) in addition to money, and the process of attaining the funds. Some states that offer compensation, including Florida, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, also prohibit exonerees from pursuing civil suits against the state. Where lawsuits do occur, they're typically directed against the state, municipalities, and/or police departments, and can result in settlements of over a million dollars. But they're very difficult to win, according to the Innocence Project, a non-profit dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted prisoners.</p><p dir="ltr">This patchwork system is mostly a result of how relatively new the concept of exonerations in the criminal justice system is. Waves of prisoners have been exonerated since crime labs began using DNA tests in the 1990s, and in recent years exonerations have progressed more rapidly: A record 125 defendants had their convictions overturned <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/27/report-criminal-defendants-being-exonerated-in-record-numbers.html" target="_blank">last year</a>, up one-third from 2012. The majority of 2014's exonerations did not result from DNA testing, but from a new type of oversight committee materializing in district attorney's offices across the country known as Conviction Integrity Units (CIU), which review old cases involving innocence claims by inmates.</p><p>Even with CIUs and DNA tests, it is still incredibly difficult to overturn convictions. That's because the process is designed to make convictions ironclad, says Gordon Rahn, who chairs the University of New Mexico School of Law’s Innocence and Justice Project.</p><p dir="ltr">“We tell our students that procedural and constitutional rules are for the benefit of the defendant, but once convicted, all the rules change,” he told AlterNet. “It's all about protecting the conviction, the burden completely shifts, and it is uphill the whole way.”</p><p dir="ltr">That battle continues as released prisoners fight a state loathe to admit any wrongdoing. Glenn Ford, who only wanted to leave his family with something after he's gone, <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/28/la-fights-pay-man-wrongfully-convicted-murder/24186215/" target="_blank">will likely not get a cent from the state of Lousiana. </a></p><p dir="ltr">Here's a snapshot of six states with no statutes for restitution.</p><p><strong>Georgia: </strong>In Georgia, exonerated former prisoners have to petition for individual bills granting compensation. Some have been successful; others have had to make do with non-monetary support (like job training) provided by groups like the Innocence Project. </p><p dir="ltr">Two men (Willie Williams and Clarence Harrison) have received around $1 million each in compensation for decades combined in prison. Often even this sum isn't enough to guarantee a viable life on the outside. As BuzzFeed <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/albertsamaha/exonerated-and-out-of-prison-and-thats-when-the-trouble-star#.xinJQ3am2W" target="_blank">reports</a>, after a freak roadside accident, Harrison had to pay steep medical bills on top of mortgage payments and back taxes to the IRS. His accident also forced him to close the profitable laundromat he ran after his release. Worst of all, he was hoodwinked into giving most of his money to a company promising fast cash in exchange for future payouts of his annual innocence payments. Even with over $1 million and a successful business, Harrison ended up flat broke in just a few years. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Michigan: </strong>Michigan had a record seven exonerations last year, one of the <a href="http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Exonerations_in_2014_report.pdf" target="_blank">highest</a> in the nation, but there are no restitution laws on the books. There are men in Michigan who claim to be wrongfully imprisoned because of corruption within the Detroit Police Department's homicide division. If proven true in court, their potential release coupled with the accelerating pace of exonerations across the country makes the issue of restitution more salient than ever for Michigan.</p><p dir="ltr">“Nobody has obtained compensation for wrongful imprisonment from the state of Michigan because there is no compensation law,” says Samuel Gross, a professor at the University of Michigan and editor of the National Registry of Exoneration. “Some exonerees have received funds as a result of law suits against particular police officers, or police departments, or counties and cities,” he added, but pursuing any of these routes do not guarantee success.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Oregon: </strong>Three people were exonerated in Oregon last year, tying it with five other states for 6th highest number of exonerations nationwide. One man convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison was released after nine years; another young woman had a manslaughter conviction struck from her record (she was only sentenced to 100 hours of community service, but the conviction hung heavy on her life in other ways).</p><p dir="ltr">Steve Wax, the director of Oregon's Innocence Project, isn't sure whether the state will adopt a law mandating restitution in the future. “There may well be a proposal for compensation and assistance legislation in the next legislative session (2017). [We] would likely be involved in any such proposal.”</p><p dir="ltr">But exoneration-legislation may be gaining strength in Oregon: A few weeks ago, an exonerated former inmate <a href="http://www.innocenceproject.org/news-events-exonerations/oregon-innocence-project-pushes-for-expansion-of-dna-access-bill" target="_blank">testified</a> before the state legislature for DNA testing for any relevant crime, not just murder and sex crimes.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Kentucky and New Mexico: </strong>When Gordon Rahn was director of the Innocence Project in Kentucky, state legislators told him it was unlikely that a law mandating restitution would ever pass in the conservative state. Yet during Rahn's 10 years there, he oversaw two multimillion-dollar payouts for two former prisoners, with the help of Innocence Project clinics outside the state.</p><p dir="ltr">He relocated to New Mexico, another state with no compensation laws, to direct the Innocence and Justice Program at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Rahn says he has not overseen any exonerations yet, and the state has not used DNA testing to set anybody free. He admits that until that bridge is crossed there probably will not be a statute: “Until we have an exoneration that we can kind of hang our hat on, trying to get some legislation passed in New Mexico won't happen. We're going to have to have an exoneration first.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Arizona: </strong>Fifteen people have been exonerated in Arizona over the last two decades, but none have received any sort of compensation from the state, according to Katie Puzauskas, executive director of the Arizona Justice Project. Some have filed successful civil suits for compensation.</p><p>Puzauskas couldn't say how likely it was the state would adopt compensation laws in the future—it is, after all, a red state that seems to be growing redder. “The AZ Justice Project worked on a bill several years ago that was not passed by the legislature,” she told AlterNet. “We have talked recently about trying again and we may look to do something next session.”</p><p>Regardless, Puzauskas says, her organization helps exonerees in other ways: “The Project tries to assist its clients upon release with housing, identification, benefits, donations, rides, looking for employment, [and] referrals to other organizations.”</p> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 09:19:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1034581 at http://www.alternet.org lousiana Crooked Narco Cops: 10 Outrageous Ways Police Have Enriched Themselves on the Drug Trade http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/crooked-narco-cops-10-outrageous-ways-police-have-enriched-themselves-drug-trade <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s not surprising that some cops who interact with the narco-world decide to go crooked. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-01-15_at_11.11.24_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The drug trade is a great place to make tons of money fast. In 2003, the UN estimated the total worth of the global drug trade at <a href="http://www.cicad.oas.org/drogas/elinforme/informeDrogas2013/laEconomicaNarcotrafico_ENG.pdf">$320 billion</a>, a figure that has certainly grown in the last 12 years.</p><p dir="ltr">So it's not surprising that some police officers, who interact frequently with the narco-world, decide to go crooked. But what makes these cases particularly egregious is that officers used the state's monopoly on violence to enrich themselves while persecuting others for the same crimes. Here are some recent examples. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. San Antonio</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Just last week, Officer Konrad Chatys in San Antonio was <a href="http://www.woai.com/articles/woai-local-news-sponsored-by-five-119078/sapd-officer-arrested-cash-drug-cash-13132929/">picked up</a> by police for stealing guns, marijuana and money from a couple's car while investigating a domestic violence call. Chatys didn't think the couple would report his theft to the police, but they did. Their complaint launched an investigation culminating in Chatys' arrest and placement on administrative leave. It's worth noting that the only thing Chatys did that was illegal was keeping the contraband for himself. If he'd turned it into his precinct, they could have kept it under civil asset forfeiture policy.</p><strong>2. Hidalgo County, Texas</strong><p dir="ltr">In a recent <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/americas-dirtiest-cops-cash-cocaine-texas-hidalgo-county-20150105">feature</a> in Rolling Stone, Josh Eells reported on a special police drug task force located on the Texas-Mexico border known as the Panama Unit, whose members became rich ripping off local drug gangs. The 11-person SWAT-trained unit was headed by Jonathon Trevino, the flunky son of the county sheriff, which made it easier for the team to rob drug dealers without detection. While the team did seize a lot of dope—Hidalgo is located within one of the hottest drug corridors in the country—Trevino himself estimates that they put as much as a fourth of what they recovered back onto the street through dirty deals.</p><p dir="ltr">As the Panama Unit's rips grew more brazen, members began taking gambling trips to New Orleans and Las Vegas and dropping tens of thousands of dollars at local strip clubs. They eventually got sloppy and had to turn themselves in to the feds. After they went down, agents began to examine Trevino's father, Lupe Trevino, for ties to drug money. They uncovered campaign contributions to Lupe from a well-known local trafficker, leading to the sheriff's arrest. In the end, all members of the Panama Unit were sentenced to prison (Jonathon Trevino got 17 years), and Sheriff Lupe Trevino, who had previously been a powerful political figure in the area, was sentenced to five years in prison.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Baltimore</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In 2005, Baltimore police officers William King and Antonio Murray were indicted for 33 counts related to “conspiring to rob and extort cocaine, heroin and marijuana—as well as drug-related proceeds— from suspects they met on city streets.” They also shook down addicts for money in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Baltimore, where people already had few avenues for recourse against vicious policing. The two former officers were sentenced to a total of <a href="http://baltimorecitypolicehistory.com/citypolice/city-police-insight/goodcop-badcop.html">454 years in prison</a>. More recently from Baltimore, rookie officer Ashley Roane was <a href="http://www.wbaltv.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/baltimore-police-officer-arrested-on-drug-charges/20377936">booked</a> on similar drug conspiracy charges. Roane agreed to steal people's information so that a tax preparer—whom she believed was just a heroin dealer but was also an FBI informant—could file false returns. Another time, Roane provided security in full uniform as the informant executed a heroin deal. In total she was only going to receive $6,000 for the two jobs, but instead is now <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bs-md-ci-officer-sentenced-20140206-story.html">serving</a> a five-year prison sentence.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Chicago</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In early 2013, three officers from Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/trio-charged-robbed-dealers-sold-cocaine-article-1.1241750">seized</a> tens of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana, heroin and cocaine while serving a search warrant and then proceeded to sell the drugs. After they were arrested in a federal sting, the court <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-29/news/chi-2nd-schaumburg-cop-pleads-guilty-20140429_1_matthew-hudak-terrance-o-brien-john-cichy">found</a> that the former cops “ran a freelance drug ring over a six-month period, forcing a drug dealer to sell narcotics that the officers confiscated in the line of duty, and then splitting money from the sales.” Their <a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20141017/news/141018344/">sentences</a> were stiff: One is serving a 24-year sentence, another is serving 26 years, and the third could face as much as 36 years behind bars.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>5. New York City</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Two NYPD officers were nabbed for drug conspiracy last month. First, officer Philip LeRoy was arrested for allegedly buying 10 ounces of cocaine with two other men in the Florida city of Sunrise. The story made headlines because LeRoy had been awarded “Cop of the Year” by his Queens precinct two years earlier for racking up a high number of arrests “for things like robbery and gun possession,” <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/12/03/former-cop-of-the-year-busted-on-coke-trafficking-charges/">reports</a> the New York Post. Since LeRoy had his off-duty weapon when he was arrested, he also caught a felony weapons possession charge.</p><p dir="ltr">Soon after news of LeRoy's arrest broke, eight-year veteran officer Merlin Alston was indicted for driving a heroin dealer around town, “offer[ing] to arrange a heroin sale,” and warning a separate cocaine trafficker about police presence, <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/5/nyc-police-officer-charged-with-aiding-drug-dealer/">according</a> to the Washington Post. In a separate suit, Alston is also accused of police brutality while on the beat: Bronx resident Juan Padovani is currently <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/charged-protecting-dealer-beat-man-duty-suit-article-1.2045271">suing</a> Alston for beating him up earlier in 2014. In total Alston was named in six separate lawsuits dating back to 2009.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Atlanta</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When federal agents asked an informant to put out a call in Atlanta for officers willing to watch over his drug deals for a cut, “he got a lot of takers from police officers all across town,” according to one US attorney. More than 10 officers from various divisions were indicted on drug conspiracy charges in 2013, including two who weren't even on the force anymore but had somehow kept their badges. Some were particularly brazen; one cop suggested an informant “shoot another drug purchaser if the deal went awry,” and another “suggested that future drug deals be conducted in the parking lot of a local high school so they could exchange backpacks there,” according to <a href="http://www.cbs46.com/story/21137660/us-attorney-dirty-cops-protected-drug-dealers">CBS 46</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Philadelphia</strong></p><p dir="ltr">From 2006 to at least 2012, six members of Philadelphia's narcotics unit <a href="http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/26148415/sources-6-former-philadelphia-narcotics-officers-under-arrest">stole</a> $500,000 worth of cash, property and drugs from suspected local drug dealers. They were indicted on 26 incidents in total, including robbing suspects' homes (sometimes while the suspects were in jail), stopping suspects on the road and beating them, dangling them from balconies, and even kidnapping them. Officers filed false reports to cover up their abuses. And they're not getting off easy: according to <a href="http://time.com/3069249/philadelphia-narcotics-cops-charged-with-stealing-drugs-money/">Time</a>, “Five of the officers could face life sentences if found guilty, while Officer Speiser could serve a maximum of 40 years.” The police commissioner declared after the indictments that the “malignancy” within the police department had been removed, yet just a few months later, another Philadelphia officer, Christopher Saravello, was arrested for “conspir[ing] with others to rob the dealers and buyers of cash and Oxycontin as well as other controlled substances,” according to <a href="http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2014/11/05/ex-philadelphia-police-officer-charged-with-participating-in-scheme-to-extort-money-drugs-from-dealers/">CBS Philly</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>8. Miami</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Cocaine has made many rich in Miami (whether they kept the money or lived to spend it is a different story), but one cop was willing to go down for only $1,900 last October. Miami police officer Jose Maldonado-Dick kept watch over drug deals at a local McDonalds for an informant, while his partner sat right next to him in his squad car. He was <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article3452719.html">arrested</a> after acting as a lookout on two separate occasions, and if he's convicted of all the counts against him, he could face a life sentence.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>9. Houston</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Like Maldonado-Dick, Marcos E. Carrion of Houston was busted for agreeing to provide cover to drug dealers moving loads of cocaine. According to Houston's <a href="http://www.click2houston.com/news/former-houston-police-officer-charged-in-drug-case/25619226">Local 2 Investigates</a>, “Carrion agreed to watch for police and run license plate numbers of other people in the area while the drug deal was taking place,” receiving $5,000 from an informant for his work. If convicted of his charges, he will face 10 years to life in prison and up to a $10 million fine.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>10. Bloomington</strong></p><p>Officer Robert M. Easterday Jr. tried <a href="http://www.wave3.com/story/4742121/former-nashville-police-officer-charged-with-drug-dealing">cutting out</a> the middleman and going into drug dealing himself, but was arrested for dealing crack cocaine and trying to sell psilocybin mushrooms. Easterday had been suspended a few months earlier after he reported his gun missing and then weirdly said he found it a day later—with the serial number filed off—in the possession of his neighbor. This neighbor also happened to be the person Easterday approached to find someone “interested in buying mushrooms.”</p> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 10:59:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1030336 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties police drugs 30,000 March in New York City to Demand End to Racist, Violent Policing (Photos) http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/30000-march-new-york-city-demand-end-racist-violent-policing-photos <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some protesters were mocked by groups of drunken white hecklers in Santa outfits.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/b4xipamcuaazd-v.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Saturday, about 30,000 people poured into the streets of Manhattan to protest unaccountable, racist police violence. The march was organized by a group called Millions March. Prominent figures like the rapper Nas, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, showed up to a rally <a href="http://media.wix.com/ugd/881d51_f661433c06414ac0b0b34ea8c5f5d461.pdf">organized by grassroots activists</a>, making it the scrappy counterpart to a glossier march happening the same day in Washington, DC, which was organized by Al Sharpton's National Action Network.</p><p>By 2pm there were already thousands of people in Washington Square Park, including college students, families from the outer boroughs, old-school peace activists, black-clad anarchists, even busloads of students from high schools and middle schools from across the Northeast. At about 2:10, members of the Justice League, a nonprofit organization with <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/11/city-hall-s-favorite-protesters.html">deep connections to City Hall</a>, made their arrival known with a banner and a loud proclamation of “No justice, no peace.” As thousands prepared to march down 5th Avenue, two members of Justice League spoke through a PA system, leading the crowd with chants of “Whose streets? Our streets,” and "Black lives matter."</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/photo_1_5.jpg" /></div><p><em>Middle school students from New Jersey.</em></p><p>There were so many people that even an hour after the first few waves began marching, hundreds were still in the park.</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/photo_1_copy_7.jpg" /></div><p>“The streets have not been given to us,” one Justice League member said. “We have taken it from them. Shut it down!”</p><p>The streets had in fact been given to marchers: The route through Manhattan was planned in advance with the city in order for people of various ability and ages to show up, according to the organizers. While people began to swarm the streets, which were barricaded on the sides, Nicholas Hayward Sr. stood stone-faced in sunglasses and a black baseball cap near the arches. On his shirt and cap were buttons with images of his young son, Nicholas Hayward Jr. </p><p>Hayward said his son had been shot and killed by an NYPD officer in 1994 after the officer saw him playing with a toy gun. “I am outraged at the fact that the man who murdered Eric Garner has not been indicted,” Hayward said. "I am outraged [for] the 367 innocent people killed in NYC since my son's death in 1994. That tells me there are 367 police out here still roaming the street that killed innocent lives.”</p><p>Despite his righteous anger, Hayward said he was encouraged by Saturday's massive turnout. “I've been protesting and rallying for the last 20 years, since my son was murdered. And I have never seen an outpouring of people coming together saying, No more: enough is enough. I am honored to be here today. I really am.”</p><p>A woman named Karen Fludd had a picture of a fit young man flexing his biceps underneath the text “#EverythingforDeion,” pinned on the back of her shirt. She believed her son was also a victim of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140411/brownsville/nypd-accused-of-excessive-force-arrest-that-left-teen-quadriplegic">police brutality</a>. She explained that while the city claimed a moving train had struck her son and broken his neck, the evidence didn't add up. She and her family and their attorney claim Deion's murder was a police coverup.</p><p>Fludd was also encouraged by the gathering of people. “It gives attention to brutality of the police, which is a good thing.”</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/photo_1_copy_3_2.jpg" /></div><p><em>Karen Fludd was there for her son, Deion.</em></p><p>Eventually those at the back of the park began to march down Fifth Avenue. The demonstration spanned over 11 city blocks. People wore clothing scrawled with the names of victims of police brutality, and some held posters calling attention to the 43 missing teaching students in Mexico, drawing parallels between unaccountable police violence in the two countries. Some marched with chains around their bodies or nooses around their necks, a pointed reference to the historic oppression of African Americans.</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/photo_1_copy_2.jpg" /></div><p><em>Anarchists lighting flares.</em></p><p>But not everybody was in solidarity with victims of the state. Groups of drunken white hecklers clad in Santa outfits mocked some protesters, pretending to choke themselves while proclaiming, “I can't breathe”—Eric Garner's last words as Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked him to death. Some of the Santas hurled insults at protesters, igniting heated exchanges. The Santas were participating in an annual event called “SantaCon,” which the New York Times called “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/opinion/ban-santacon.html">a parasite.</a>”</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RPP3UgQ92y4" width="560"></iframe></p><p>The marchers traveled north from the park to 32nd Street, where they took a planned right turn back south. Some were not happy that the march had been planned with the NYPD in advance.</p><p>“There are many good-hearted people out here coming out because they're fed up with inequality of police killings of black men unarmed, but they don't understand this a police-permitted parade, not a rally for justice,” a member of Bronxites for NYPD Accountability told me. “We feel that that is wrong, and people need to know about it.”</p><p>A group of about 50 people were the first to break through the permitted route. They opened the barricade at 32nd Street and continued east instead of the permitted route south. Clothed completely in black, some placed trashcans in the road and sparked flares while walking against traffic. Somebody shattered the back passenger window of an NYPD vehicle, which drove away as others hurled trash cans at it. This caught the attention of the police, and as the sound of approaching sirens grew louder, the group dispersed throughout the narrow streets.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/b4xipamcuaazd-v.jpg" /></div><p><em>Credit: Twitter user @jesswarriner</em></p><p>Meanwhile, the planned march made it to Foley Square in front of One Police Plaza, where a spirited group of tens of thousands congregated for a few hours. This marked the end of the day's planned event, but thousands of people, mostly youth, continued their own impromptu march through Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood, eventually reaching the Brooklyn Bridge. After a tense standoff with police, thousands of protesters skirted around the wall of blue and onto the bridge.They took over both sides of the bridge, placing traffic cones and barrels in the road to further stall traffic. Many of the waiting drivers rolled down their windows to high-five protesters and honked in solidarity, while others appeared exasperated as they waited, trapped in their vehicles.</p><p style="font-size: 11.80555534362793px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/photo_2_1.jpg" /></div><p><em>Marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge.</em></p><p>At some point, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-marchers-call-daniel-pantaleo-fired-nypd-article-1.2044465">NYPD reports indicate</a>, two police lieutenants tried to arrest somebody on the bridge who was throwing a garbage can at other officers below. During the arrest, protesters “de-arrested” the person by attacking officers, allowing the person to escape. The NYPD says two lieutenants were subsequently taken to the hospital and treated for injuries.</p><p>After protesters exited the bridge, hundreds marched through various Brooklyn neighborhoods while police followed. The protests grew as people from the streets, mostly young black men and women, joined the throng. By midnight, the youth led the march to the Pink Houses housing projects in East New York, where unarmed Akai Gurley was shot and killed by NYPD officer Peter Liang last month. This marked the end of the roughly 30-mile demonstration.</p> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 10:38:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1028666 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties News & Politics eric garner police brutality nypd racism michael brown new york city Video: NYPD Uses Military-Grade Sonic Weapon on Eric Garner Protesters http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/video-nypd-uses-military-grade-sonic-weapon-eric-garner-protesters <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Long range acoustic devices (LRADs) have been previously implemented by police at protests throughout the world. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/nypd_pepper_spray-lrad-eric_garner_protest.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Last night at about <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_2126053636" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ">1am</span></span>, at the intersection of 57 East and Madison Avenue in Manhattan—a populated area about four blocks from Columbus Circle—the NYPD used a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to disperse about 100 protesters who were on the streets.</p><p>Footage captured by YouTube user James C shows the weapon in use beginning at the <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_2126053637" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ">1:58</span></span> mark. Protesters scattered in response to the sound, and either a live officer over a PA system or an automated voice intermittently told protesters between sound blasts that they could not interfere with “vehicular traffic” without risking arrest. The LRAD is deployed multiple times throughout the <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_2126053638" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ">5:00</span></span> minute video clip.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/OErp0lRkndY" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist who was on the scene, posted on the internet that “The NYPD began using it after glass bottles were thrown at them when they made several violent arrests when a march tried to cross Madison Ave.”</p><p>One person who was present at the scene, Moth Dust, a photographer, said people became aggravated after the LRAD was used and began throwing trash and rocks in the direction of police. She said she was affected by the sound waves.</p><p>“<span style="font-style:normal">I thought I was fine until I realized I was getting dizzy and migraine was spreading to all over my face,” she said.</span></p><p>LRADs were used in the first days of unrest in Ferguson Missouri, and have been used by police at protests throughout the world. They were developed by the US military after an insurgent attack on the US.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, and were used by the NYPD against Occupy Wall Street protesters.</p><p>According to <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/explainer-lrad-sound-cannon/24927845.html" target="_blank">Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty</a>,</p><p>"The LRAD can reach decibel levels as high as 162. For comparison, a normal conversation is usually 60 decibels, while a lawn mower can reach to 90 decibels. A level of 130 decibels is typically considered the average pain threshold for most humans.”</p><p>Furthermore, Informed Health Online <a href="http://www.informedhealthonline.org/normal-hearing-and-impaired-hearing.2609.en.html?part=ursachen-rx" target="_blank">notes</a> that a jet engine registers at about 140 decibels. Anything at or above this range, IHO explains, “is called acoustic trauma. Depending on how long the ears are exposed to the sound and how intense it is, it may damage the eardrum, the middle ear and/or the inner ear. Damage like this is usually temporary, but some hearing loss may remain.”</p><p>The head investor and media relations for the LRAD Corporation in San Diego, California, told Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty that the weapon is so precise that those “standing behind or next to” the device can hardly hear it. However, the YouTube footage shows dozens of people scurrying away from the sound blasts, which can be heard clearly on film.</p><p>No coverage of the LRAD use was reported in the mainstream media. Earlier in the night, around <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_2126053639" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ">11 PM</span></span>, CNN correspondent Brooke Baldwin praised the behavior of protesters and the NYPD's response to the protests, remarking on live television, “This is exactly how it's supposed to be.”</p><p>Noel Leader, a former 20 year sergeant of the NYPD and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, was incredulous about the possibility that an LRAD had been used.</p><p>"I haven't heard anything about that,” he told <i>AlterNet. </i><span style="font-style:normal">“I'd be surprised if that was the case, because most of the</span><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="text-decoration:none"><span style="font-weight:normal">protesters have been nonviolent and peaceful, even though they have been disruptive.</span></span></span></p><p>In total, police arrested 219 people at the protests last night, <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/12/8557970/bratton-expects-protests-peter-out-their-own" target="_blank">according to Capital New York</a>.</p> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 11:15:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1028221 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Activism Civil Liberties News & Politics eric garner protest nypd militarization How Police Use Military Tactics to Quash Dissent http://www.alternet.org/how-police-use-military-tactics-quash-dissent <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Police have militarized from boots to brainstem. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/4050d8dc7fd00f8ef6dd1dbbd5a4eaa581d1bdfc.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">As we wait for the grand jury verdict on whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, schools in Ferguson are preparing to close, the police are stocked up on riot weapons and <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail/386042.html">white supremacists are pledging to kill</a>. A sand-colored, mine-resistant military vehicle was seen <a href="http://thefreethoughtproject.com/armored-vehicles-military-choppers-spotted-ferguson-prior-grand-jury-decision/" target="_blank">parked</a> in front a local Dairy Queen. Protesters are organized and eschewing violence for <a href="https://twitter.com/aaronmiguel_/status/521531332334075904" target="_blank">clever forms</a> of civil disobedience, but know they will likely face violence: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/17/us-usa-missouri-shooting-idUSKCN0J11Q020141117" target="_blank">state of emergency</a> in Ferguson.</p><p dir="ltr">Armored trucks in the street and a fear of mayhem are more common <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/america-still-has-hundreds-military-bases-worldwide-have-they-made-us-any-safer" target="_blank">abroad</a>, but Ferguson shows they now have a place in the suburbs of America. Police have militarized from boots to brainstem. </p><p dir="ltr">Police antagonized Ferguson residents from the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/ferguson-st-louis-police-tactics-dogs-michael-brown" target="_blank">very beginning</a> and the world watched when they later teargassed and shot rubber bullets at people indiscriminately. Out of view of the cameras, there's also widespread surveillance and secret harassment of activists. Last month, Daily Kos' Shaun King posted a <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/20/1337083/-Echoes-of-COINTELPRO-in-Ferguson" target="_blank">lengthy round-up</a> of the behind-the-scense trampling of protestors' rights. Protest leaders are receiving hangup calls from unknown numbers; police are jotting down license plates. A Palestinian-American activist named Bassem Masri was arrested on October 15 with others, but was held for longer than any of them. Police threatened to hold him for a long period of time if he didn't spill the beans on other protesters, which he says he did not.</p><p dir="ltr">King draws a parallel to the FBI's COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) of the 1960s that targeted leaders like Malcolm X, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson. But police today are much more adept at intelligence operations than they were in the '60s, and all over the country, they're the first line of defense in spying on alleged threats. They're assisted by the Department of Homeland Security, which has spent <a href="http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/02/14187433-homeland-security-fusion-centers-spy-on-citizens-produce-shoddy-work-report-says" target="_blank">over a billion dollars</a> to create intelligence-sharing platforms (called fusion centers) connecting police departments to federal agencies (especially the FBI).</p><p dir="ltr">What's happening in Ferguson and St. Louis is more than counterintelligence, it's counterinsurgency. Secretive intelligence-gathering is just one tactic that, alongside cops in Desert Storm camouflage, no-fly zones, curfews and military checkpoints form the basis of a unified and militarized suppression of dissent. Police use of counterinsurgency strategy in Missouri and beyond is a critical component of the militarization of the police.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Making a Counter-insurgency</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The Army Field Manual <a href="https://rdl.train.army.mil/catalog-ws/view/100.ATSC/41449AB4-E8E0-46C4-8443-E4276B6F0481-1274576841878/3-24/chap1.htm" target="_blank">defines</a> an insurgency as an “organized, protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government...increasing insurgent control.” A counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) includes the use of “military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions” to defeat the insurgency. Everything from spying to media-messaging to smoke bombing counts as a COIN tactic when it is used to undermine what the military calls an insurgency.</p><p dir="ltr">The Army <a href="http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/531/comparing-counterinsurgency-tactics-in-iraq-and-vietnam" target="_blank">first used COIN</a> as a coordinated strategy in the middle of the Vietnam War in an attempt to undermine popular support for the Vietcong. The effort failed, but COIN returned again on a grand scale several decades later in Iraq. George W. Bush brought in General Petraeus, the Army's leading COIN strategist, to clean up the mess America made after ousting Saddam Hussein. COIN failed in Iraq (and Afghanistan) and has generally <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138459/fred-kaplan/the-end-of-the-age-of-petraeus" target="_blank">fallen out of favor</a> in military circles.</p><p dir="ltr">By contrast, American police have moved in the direction of COIN for decades. Not only did the Pentagon begin giving away military gear in the 1990s, but the paradigm shift to “community policing” made intelligence-gathering processes more sophisticated. The latter was field-tested in New York City, where the NYPD began using a strategy of frequent interactions with low-level offenders (called “broken windows” policing) to build a massive <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CompStat" target="_blank">database</a> of persons of interest. This took place concurrently with another Clinton-backed initiative called <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Oriented_Policing_Services" target="_blank">COPS</a> (community-oriented policing services), which provided federal funds for more officers. COPS money also pays for <a href="http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=232" target="_blank">resources</a> to build neighborhood bonds and partnerships with nonprofits, private organizations, and community services. The more inroads police have into a community, the thinking goes, the more likely they are to intercept valuable tips about <a href="http://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-p299-pub.pdf" target="_blank">criminals and extremists</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Community policing sounds benign and even progressive on the surface, but after 9/11, heightened contact between police and citizens became an important intelligence-gathering strategy. This information is filed in one of <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/fusion-center-locations-and-contact-information" target="_blank">nearly 100 fusion center databases</a> shared by police, the FBI, and other federal agencies. Building a massive database with information culled from a population is <a href="http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/dr_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm3_24x2.pdf" target="_blank">foundational to COIN operations</a>, which aim to quash a nascent insurgency before it gains popular support.</p><p dir="ltr">Ironically, this “prevention” strategy was developed by domestic police, not the military, because in the places where America implemented large-scale COIN operations—Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan—an insurgency was already well-established. As Kristian Williams notes, “police innovations that COIN theorists recommend for military use are: the Neighborhood Watch, embedded video, computerized intelligence files, and statistical analysis.” Sometimes soldiers are literally the pupils of police. In 2010, 70 Marines on the eve of deployment to Afghanistan accompanied Los Angeles police officers on shifts. The Marines watched as the officers queried Angelenos for tips on gang members, a tactic they later <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/world/asia/24reconcile.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">used in Afghanistan</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Using the Army's definition of COIN—a coordinated effort to neutralize a group the state perceives as a threat—it's difficult to isolate just one example. Threats, after all, are very loosely defined: New Jersey's Homeland Security Director Charles McKenna lumped together “Jihad, Crips, [and] extreme animal-rights activists” as “people trying to damage the system.” The recent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/05/nyregion/dozens-of-suspected-gang-members-arrested-in-raid-of-2-harlem-housing-projects.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Harlem raids</a> in New York, in which 1 flak-jacketed officers arrested dozens of young alleged gang members after the NYPD monitored their social media use for months, bears many of the hallmarks of COIN, including secret surveillance and strategic use of overwhelming force. But Ferguson stands out as an example of what the domestic COIN toolkit looks like in full force.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Baghdad, USA</strong></p><p dir="ltr">That was the headline on the Huffington Post on August 14, the day after Ferguson really <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/ferguson-photos_n_5677066.html" target="_blank">exploded</a>. Beyond visual allusions to warfare, police and other coordinating agencies used softer COIN tactics to control land space and partition protesters into separate groups.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://edgecitycollective.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/counterinsurgency-and-the-policing-of-space-in-ferguson-2/" target="_blank">Edge City observed</a> that the police, state troopers and the National Guard exerted “total spatial dominance” over the town's streets. This included setting up a command center in a strip mall overlooking streets where officers and protesters frequently clashed. From this central position, police established multi-layered checkpoints to keep protesters from coalescing. The no-fly zone was established for two COIN tactical ends: to keep <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/03/us/police-targeted-media-with-no-fly-zone-over-ferguson-tapes-show.html" target="_blank">media out</a> (in order to <a href="http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/uscoin/3pillars_of_counterinsurgency.pdf" target="_blank">control the public narrative</a>) and to provide an unimpeded aerial view of the land.</p><p dir="ltr">Buttressing control of space was the use of “strategic incapacitation” to separate “good” protesters from “bad” ones. This tactic also utilized geography: The areas that police deemed permissible for protest  featured members of the clergy, local politicians, and other “moderate” activists who set up tents and served food. These groups <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26043-between-the-peacekeepers-and-the-protesters-in-ferguson" target="_blank">actively negotiated and planned with police</a> to keep popular anger from coalescing into a more radical movement (a tactic used by the Army in <a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/09/counterinsurgency_in.php" target="_blank">Baghdad</a>). As George Ciccariello-Maher notes, the US Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual emphasizes “a focus on the local population rather than the enemy, and the ideological winning of the hearts and minds of the uncommitted middle.” In Ferguson, moderates were used to coax youth into respecting the state-imposed curfew and channeling their frustrations in less destructive ways.</p><p dir="ltr">The true extent to which activists have been surveilled is unknown. In addition to the actions compiled by Daily Kos, eyewitnesses (including me) have seen police follow vehicles for miles with their sirens off. Vans have been broken into and ransacked for laptops and cameras, though there is no hard evidence that police have broken into vehicles. Activists report having <a href="https://twitter.com/KWRose/status/531635486381854720" target="_blank">email accounts attacked</a> and being approached by people <a href="https://twitter.com/KWRose/status/532207180435689472" target="_blank">urging them to make molotov cocktails</a>. If a coordinated attempt by police and federal agents to identify protest leaders is discovered, it should be understood as a tactic of counterinsurgency for two reasons: The targeting of leaders early in the movement, and an ongoing effort to separate protesters by building police ties with community leaders nearer to the establishment.</p><p dir="ltr">Nobody knows what will happen once the grand jury decision is announced, but we can speculate. Michael Brown's family may be disappointed. Darren Wilson may feel relief. St. Louis may or may not explode. The police may or may not act in a way that elicits global condemnation. We can, however, be sure that counterinsurgency tactics in the streets will complement clandestine intelligence-gathering that is almost certainly happening now, and after the smoke clears, journalists, activists and citizens will hopefully work to uncover a counterinsurgency campaign in action. </p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 08:05:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1027360 at http://www.alternet.org ferguson michael brown counterinsurgency militarized police 7 Cities That Are Playgrounds for the Rich and Terrors for the Poor http://www.alternet.org/7-cities-are-playgrounds-rich-and-terrors-poor <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Where housing booms for ultra rich meet rising homelessness. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-10-23_at_1.06.59_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Seven years after Wall Street’s near total collapse, housing markets in the world’s major cities <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/global-house-prices">are surging</a> once again, driven by megadevelopers and superrich individuals flush with cash. Financial Times <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/6ad45ffe-48ac-11e4-9d04-00144feab7de.html#axzz3FNRbhpPh">reports</a> that investors spent $1.2 trillion on “high-end commercial properties in 2013,” an 80 percent increase from 2010. The seeds of the buying boom was planted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates and pumped commercial banks with cash in exchange for toxic assets (known as quantitative easing), relieving affluent buyers of risk in global property markets.</p><p dir="ltr">In many of the world’s major metropolitan areas, private capital investment in real estate has become a central component of urban planning, and following market logic, these cities compete with each other for developers’ money. That means that urban planners in a global capitalist hub, like New York, will bend over backwards to accommodate developers and investors so that their money doesn't go to London instead.</p><p dir="ltr">This jousting for capital in real estate is having an increasingly obvious side effect: Diverting attention from the growing ranks of the desperately poor. Ironically, in nearly all global cities where housing markets are booming, there is also a concurrent rise or entrenchment of homelessness.</p><p dir="ltr">Using a recent survey from Knight Frank on global property markets, we can glimpse at this grotesque urban duality. If anything, it captures the essence of our gilded age. Here’s a list of just 7 cities in the US and abroad that best illustrate this phenomenon.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. New York City</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There are about 3,357 unsheltered people living on New York’s streets, a 6% rise from 2013 to 2014, continuing a trend that began a few years ago. But the vast majority of New York’s homeless live in shelters across the city, and at 53,615, there are more people living in shelters than ever before.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, overall property values rose 10.4% across New York, continuing a now familiar, decades-long trend. The <a href="http://nydailynews.com/life-style/real-estate/wave-new-new-york-city-condos-ranges-affordable-astronomical-article-1.1936804">luxury condos</a> cropping up in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn show no signs of abating, but their presence has another effect: bringing in more rich people.</p><p dir="ltr">Between 2003 and 2013, the number of inhabitants with a net-worth of over 30 million dollars (known in wealthy circles as “ultra high net worth individuals,” or UHNWI) rose higher in New York than any other city in the world besides Singapore and Hong Kong, and their population is expected to grow 31% over the next decade.</p><p><strong>2. Los Angeles</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Overall homelessness—including sheltered and otherwise—across Los Angeles County <a href="http://usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/2013/1210-report-HH.pdf">rose last year by nearly 8,000 people</a>, bringing the total to 57,737. Concurrently, the price of luxury properties in the city rose 14%, and it’s population of UHNWI is expected to rise by the same percentage point by 2023.</p><p dir="ltr">The sharp rise in LA homelessness was due in part to a sequester-related cut of nearly $10 million to programs that provided support for the homeless, including a program that <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/6-degrees-sequestration/sequester-could-push-some-renters-out-section-8">gave rent vouchers</a> to families earning less than $13,000 a year. While the city left the hole unfilled, it has gone to great lengths to attract rich developers to pour capital into the area, sometimes offering tax incentives. For example, after Korea Air proposed building a skyscraper and luxury hotel in Downtown LA, the city offered the developer <a href="http://www.ladowntownnews.com/news/wilshire-grand-plan-proceeds/article_399508ff-c6b2-5410-93c3-e2523725f2ab.html">a reduced tax rate</a> for the billion-dollar project.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. San Francisco</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The overall number of homeless in the tiny urban area was roughly 7,000 in 2013, representing a <a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/archive/item/A-decade-of-homelessness-Thousands-in-S-F-30431.php">3% increase since 2005</a>. Meanwhile, the ranks of UHNWI’s are expected to rise 11% by 2023.</p><p dir="ltr">Like New York, the price of luxury property rose 10.4% last year, and is expected to rise. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is above $3,000 a month. Between April and June, homes and condos sold for over $1 million accounted for one quarter of all property sales in the Bay Area—which may partially explain why <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/us/as-housing-costs-soar-san-francisco-seeks-ballot-solution.html">evictions are at their highest level</a> in more than a decade. That isn’t to imply that most people evicted end up on the street, but it is a revealing nonetheless.</p><p dir="ltr">But this is trend is not strictly American; we can observe it in “globalized” cities across the globe, where, as one newspaper in Dublin put it, “Housing boom[s] fuel [a] surge in homelessness.”</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Dublin</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There has been little construction of new homes in Dublin since 2008. Austerity has ravaged public housing programs. As a result, many of the city’s properties are being <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/business-27877029">bought up by private investors</a> from around the globe, igniting a real estate boom even as the number of homeless reaches its <a href="http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/1203/490576-homeless/">highest point since the city began surveying</a>.  </p><p dir="ltr">According to the Wealth Report, Dublin experienced one of the world’s highest increases in property values in 2013. As with the aforementioned American cities, much of the investment is coming from abroad. The Wealth Report describes this growth in property markets as a “rebound,” but as the Guardian noted, housing prices are rising so quickly in Dublin that there is likely a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/aug/24/ireland-house-prices-property-bubble-debt">housing bubble forming</a> in the market. That has happened before: in the 90’s and 2000’s, parts of Dublin constituted some of the most expensive real estate in the world. And like the last bubble, the people who will likely be most hurt following the pop will be the city’s most vulnerable, after the social programs they depend on are eviscerated by austerity.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>5. London</strong></p><p dir="ltr">London is a lot like New York City: a playground for the rich and a terror for the poor.</p><p dir="ltr">There were 57,350 Londoners without homes in 2013, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/13/homeless-numbers-increase-three-years-england">an astounding 60% increase</a> since 2011. At the same time, Knight Frank forecasts that 5,000 people worth over 30 million dollars will live in London by 2023.</p><p dir="ltr">One reason London has become so attractive for the world’s rich is because former tax havens, like Swiss bank accounts, are no longer as safe from regulators as they were in the past. Like New York, London is a place for investors to park their money because they know that real estate will remain profitable for them as values continue to rise in the future. Knight Frank notes that London was the most popular city for the elite of China, Russia, and much of Europe to park their assets.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Nairobi</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Inequality is more extreme in real estate powerhouses outside of the Western world, where vast swaths of people live in unincorporated slums. The line between housed, slum dweller, and homeless is much more porous in Nairobi, Kenya than it is in most parts of the United States and Europe.</p><p dir="ltr">Half of the residents in Nairobi live in slums, and <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR32/005/2013/en">they’re being forcibly removed</a> to make way for construction efforts ignited by a white-hot property market and a corresponding influx of rich residents, tourists and business people. Luxury real estate prices rose higher there than anywhere else in Africa, and swanky hotels and bars are <a href="http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/article/2000137179/how-nairobi-is-getting-stupidly-expensive-and-there-is-little-we-can-do-about-it">proliferating</a> like mad. Knight Frank expects a 77% increase in the number of UHNWI in Nairobi by 2023.</p><p dir="ltr">To clear the way for these developments, the poor are being evicted at an unprecedented rate, with developers even <a href="http://nairobinews.nation.co.ke/forced-evictions-have-become-citys-quiet-war/">burning decades-old slums</a> to force out residents. Thousands are descending from semi-homelessness literally having nothing but the clothes on their back—all for the sake of property prices.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Jakarta</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Real estate prices rose higher in Jakarta than anywhere else in the last two years, and the number of UHNWI will soar over the next decade. At the same time, 40 percent of the country’s 250 million people still <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/07/indonesia-jarring-wealth-gap-2014728101920261316.html">live on less than 2 dollars a day</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For over a decade, the state has <a href="http://www.cfr.org/indonesia/hrw-condemned-communities-forced-evictions-jakarta/p11639">forcibly evicted slum dwellers</a> out of places with potential for real-estate development. The <a href="http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/08/16/eviction-street-vendors-squatters-sparks-strong-protest.html">clearing campaigns</a> are even more salient today, as the gulf between rich and poor is deeper and wider in Indonesia than it has ever been. And with the specter of climate change on the horizon—50,000 Indonesians were rendered homeless by flooding in 2013—it’s likely that social tensions will rupture more deeply in the future.</p> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 09:55:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1024329 at http://www.alternet.org housing homelessness I Went to Summons Court and Saw "Broken-Windows" at Work: How Cops Racially Profile for Trivial Arrests http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/i-went-summons-court-and-saw-broken-windows-work-how-cops-racially-profile-trivial <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Minorities who commit minor offenses are more likely than whites to be targeted for summonses.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/summons_court_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On the same day I bought a new bike off Craigslist, the NYPD wrote me a summons for riding said bike on a sidewalk in my neighborhood. I was on the sidewalk for less than 10 seconds before a cruiser let out a single burst of its siren and accelerated onto the sidewalk behind me.</p><p>I knew full well it was against the rules to ride my bike on the sidewalk. I also knew that police prowl for sidewalk bikers in my neighborhood. I’d previously done research that was included in a report on the racially disparate issuance of summonses in New York City. My neighborhood Ocean Hill, which is predominately black, was high up on the list.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="348" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="348" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/story_images/bicycle_on_sidewalk_criminal_court_summones_by_nypd_precinct.jpg" /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --><div class="field field-name-field-caption field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bicycle on Sidewalk Criminal Court Summonses by NYPD Precinct.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-image-source field-type-text field-label-inline clearfix"><div class="field-label">Photo Credit: </div><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Harry G. Levine, Queens College, Marijuana Arrest Research Project</div></div></div> </div><p> </p><p>“We've been begging the cops to ticket bicyclists who violate the law,” wrote New Yorker Ed Sublette in an email to me after reading a <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/police-brutality-is-bringing-people-together-819">previous article</a> I wrote mentioning the summons. “The present traffic environment [is one where] hordes of bicyclists do any damn thing they want, [and it] has made walking down the street a daily danger… for anyone whose head doesn't spin around 360 degrees.”</p><p>Fair enough. Yet it’s impossible to deny that tickets for bike summonses in New York, along with the <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/173397/audio-new-yorks-police-union-worked-nypd-set-arrest-and-summons-quotas">quota system</a> undergirding it, creates a situation where nonwhites have more interaction with police than other types. This is on purpose. The NYPD is governed by a strategy that demands a high rate of contact between police and people in certain neighborhoods, in order to increase police’s chances of finding people with outstanding warrants for more serious offenses. This is called broken-windows policing.</p><p>“In order for police to maintain high rates of contact with suspects, they need a pretext,” says Bernard Harcourt, a scholar who has written extensively about broken-windows policing. “That reason can be marijuana in public view, minor disorder, or turnstile jumping.” Or riding a bike on a public sidewalk.</p><p>In theory, everybody should be suspect in the dragnet of broken windows. But its logic is only deployed in places where crime is mindlessly clear-cut. There may be hundreds of thieves in lower Manhattan who regularly plunder the global economy of billions of dollars, but they’re near impossible for a beat cop to identify. In contrast, a vagrant wanted for petty theft in Brooklyn is easy to happen upon, so long as police <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/watch-dozing-after-work-while-black-now-illegal-nyc-subway-trains">confront him when he falls asleep on the subway</a>.</p><p>The truth is that, like high school, broken windows is all about appearances. So long as things in your neighborhood look pristine and orderly, police are more likely to let you go on your way, while concentrating their vigilance on places that look shabbier (which often means poorer).</p><p>These thoughts were spinning around in my mind after receiving my summons. So when I went to the courthouse a few weeks later, I decided to talk with people to see why they were there.</p><p>Nearly everyone in line at the courthouse on 346 Broadway was black or Latino, which made sense: A recent <a href="http://marijuana-arrests.com/docs/Beyond-Broken--NYDailyNews-cover-story-NYPD-Aug4-2014.pdf">investigation by the New York Daily News</a> found these two groups are six times as likely as whites to receive summonses for minor offenses.</p><p>I began taking photos, which irritated the officers standing guard nearby. One of them walked over and forced me to delete the pictures I had taken with my phone. Here’s one I managed to keep:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="359"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="480" width="359" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/story_images/summons_court_0.jpg" /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --><div class="field field-name-field-caption field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">NYC summons court. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-image-source field-type-text field-label-inline clearfix"><div class="field-label">Photo Credit: </div><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Aaron Cantu</div></div></div> </div><p>I got into line and began speaking with a disabled middle-aged Latino man from Harlem who received a summons because his muffler was too noisy. An official <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/pdf/noise_pamphlet.pdf">city pamphlet</a> explains how, and why, one can get a citation for loud exhaust:</p><blockquote><p>“The Noise Code prohibits excessive sound from muffler or exhaust of vehicles operating on public streets. Unacceptable sound [from a vehicle] is defined as sound which is plainly audible from…150 ft.”</p></blockquote><p>The pamphlet also notes that “while noise can often be annoying or frustrating, it is not always a violation of the City’s Noise Code. Indeed, some noise is an acceptable part of city life.” </p><p>A black man from Brooklyn told me he was ticketed at a park. "Right at 1am, when they close, they gave me a ticket,” he said.</p><p>The history of loitering summonses in New York is ugly. At three different intervals—in 1983, 1988 and 1992—both the New York Court of Appeals and a federal court have ruled the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/nyregion/27contempt.html?_r=0">NYPD’s issuance of such citations unconstitutional</a>. Over and over, they have been found to repeatedly target the poor. Those rulings apparently had little effect: in 2010, Judge Shira Scheindlin with the US District Court found that the city was still meting out tickets like a hedge funder raining dollar bills at a strip club.</p><p>After speaking with a few more people—a black man who was cited for public urination and a Latino man who was cited for drinking a beer under the Manhattan bridge—I approached the window. I handed the representative my citation, which he quickly glanced over.</p><p>“October 27,” he gruffed.</p><p>I was confused. The officer who cited me said I could take care of the ticket whenever I wanted before October 27. I explained as much to man behind the glass.</p><p>“You need to come back on October 27,” he said.</p><p>OK, whatever. I turned around to see a slight man in line trying to get my attention. He stood out because he was white. He told me he was there because they had found weed in his backpack when he tried getting into a shelter for the night. </p><p>“For one and a half grams of marijuana, I have to be here,” he said, exasperated. “It was with my painkillers in my backpack. I have spinal and sciatic nerve problems.”</p><p>The lowly possession of marijuana is one of the <a href="https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/war-marijuana-black-and-white-report">most frequently committed offenses</a> resulting in citation or arrest—which, for decades, has been a <a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-government-bribes-police-arrest-people-smoking-pot">financial boon to police</a> around the country. I wasn’t surprised this man had been picked up through the shelter system, which even has its own <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_Department_of_Homeless_Services_Police">law enforcement agency</a>. Both the NYPD and the homeless police have worked together in recent months to <a href="http://www.legal-aid.org/en/mediaandpublicinformation/inthenews/policeraidsonhomelesssheltersarecounterproductive,legalaidsays.aspx">conduct arrest raids</a> on shelters that have rounded up dozens of the most desperate souls in the city, all with outstanding warrants. The police have remained tight-lipped about whether these raids targeted low-level offenders.</p><p>As we were speaking, the officer again demanded that I stop using my phone recorder. He explained that I needed written permission from a judge in order to use a recording device on the premises. I put my phone away, thanked the man in line, and walked out of the building.</p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 09:47:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1017850 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties summons court new york broken windows race Shocking Videos of Police Brutality Put Bratton and NYPD on Defensive http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/shocking-videos-police-brutality-put-bratton-and-nypd-defensive <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> Can digital media help put a stop to NYPD&#039;s broken-windows policing?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-08-06_at_11.00.10_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div dir="ltr"><p>We’ve come to know the horror of the Israeli government’s campaign in Gaza through digital media over traditional news. Digital exchange also allows us to bypass the PR spin of law enforcement and bear witness to the brutality of American policing.</p><p>New York City is an extreme but emblematic example of a nationwide trend. Days after Staten Island resident Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, footage emerged of an NYPD officer <a href="http://reason.com/blog/2014/07/28/nypd-cops-put-pregnant-woman-in-a-choke" target="_blank">choking a pregnant woman</a> because of a barbeque grill improperly placed on a sidewalk. The day after a medical examiner declared Garner’s death a homicide, someone uploaded video of a dozen NYPD officers dragging a naked woman out of her apartment, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/nypd-officers-drag-naked-brooklyn-woman-apartment-video-article-1.1889292?utm_content=buffer66496&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=NYDailyNewsTw" target="_blank">amid screams</a> from her family and neighbors, for allegedly hitting her 12-year-old daughter.</p><p>The current spike in NYPD abuse is not new, but our ability to record and expose it is. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton now confronts a media landscape that is considerably more complex and decentralized than the one he mastered in the '90s. How he guides the NYPD through the current round of scandals will have important implications for how police everywhere try to control the narrative of police violence in the digital age. Bratton would have us believe that recent cases were the work of a few bad-apple cops in a barrel of good ones, but the repeated occurrence of brutality this summer reveals a systemic problem rooted in a race- and class-based approach to policing.  </p><p><strong>Broken Windows 1994</strong></p><p>Back in the early 1990s, New York City’s murder rates were the highest in recorded history. For all the fire breathing of tough-on-crime conservatives, draconian measures like mandatory minimum sentencing and supposed “three-strikes” laws weren’t having the deterrent effect promised.</p><p>Conditions were ripe to try something new: “<a href="http://campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/1885/Braga_Broken_Windows_Title.pdf" target="_blank">broken windows</a>” policing, a crime reduction strategy predicated on cracking down on small crimes—panhandling, drinking in public, skipping on train fares—rather than harsh sentencing. Also known as community policing and quality-of-life policing, the strategy moved from theory to practice when Bratton took the reins of the NYPD under Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1994. </p><div><p>At the time, broken windows was seen as a “liberal response to crime,” according to criminologist Bernard Harcourt. “The argument [of broken windows proponents] was, ‘We don’t need to impose long sentences…instead we can just clean up the city and get rid of minor disorder.’ It was Clintonesque kind of policy.”  </p></div><p>Broken windows appealed to a wide spectrum of political convictions within the white middle-class majority who learned about the policing strategy from the nightly news. But Commissioner Bratton wanted to quash any dissent over his methods before it bubbled up in print or television, so he leveraged his instincts for showmanship to curry media favor.</p><p>“Always reaching for just the right symbol, [Bratton] physically removed a panhandler from a subway car in his first week in office, and in the presence of news photographers, took away the badges of officers accused of corruption in the 30th Precinct in Harlem,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/19/nyregion/bratton-builds-his-image-as-he-rebuilds-the-police.html" target="_blank">reported</a> the New York Times in November 1994. The commissioner even brought on a former television reporter named John Miller to be his deputy commissioner, who advised his boss to open up the NYPD to cop-based reality shows for the first time.</p><p>By 1996, New York’s top cop was gracing the cover of Time magazine, buoyed by a nationwide drop in violent crime. While the causes of the crime drop are <a href="http://thesocietypages.org/papers/crime-drop/" target="_blank">still contested</a>, the commissioner claimed victory for his methods in New York City, and the media mostly went along with his proclamations.</p><p>But underneath the media fervor were untold stories of harassment and police violence in the low-income communities—the invisible casualities of the broken windows crusade. Quality-of-life policing was exclusively enforced in the poorest areas of the city, as it still is today, and its targets ranged from impoverished vagrants to working-class people. Even if you weren’t poor, if you were dark-skinned, you were likely to be hassled: in 1996 a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1996/03/06/nyregion/crackdown-is-intensified-in-quality-of-life-crimes.html" target="_blank">black executive for the Wall Street Journal and his mother</a> were arrested for allegedly trying to beat a subway fare, attracting media attention. But that sort of thing didn’t happen too often, and the Bratton-media PR parade continued without a hitch until he left his post that year.</p><p>It would be almost 20 years before the commissioner returned to the NYPD. That was enough time for a revolution in media to undermine everything he knew about winning a narrative.</p><p><strong>Broken Windows 2014</strong></p><p>The biggest catalyst to ending stop-and-frisk in New York City wasn’t meticulous record-keeping by the ACLU, but a recording made by a teenaged kid named Alvin as two members of the NYPD roughed him up without provocation. “Dude, I’m gonna break your fuckin’ arm, then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face,” one officer is heard snarling.</p><p>After the recording was <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/170413/stopped-and-frisked-being-fking-mutt-video" target="_blank">published in the Nation</a>, stop-and-frisk shot to the fore of national consciousness, culminating in <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23639-why-do-police-unions-in-new-york-want-to-repeal-the-end-discriminatory-profiling-act" target="_blank">new municipal legislation</a> barring the NYPD from making indiscriminate stops. Had the encounter happened even five years before, Alvin would have had few means of broadcasting his story.</p><p>Bratton stepped back into his role as police commissioner on the heels of the stop-and-frisk pushback. As media-conscious as ever, he <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/03/31/bratton-raps-kelly-and-bloomberg-on-stop-and-frisk/" target="_blank">told</a> the New York Post in February that stop-and-frisk was “one of the tools used…too extensively,” despite having <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/brattons-endorsement-of-stop-and-frisk" target="_blank">endorsed it</a> in the past. Yet for all his TV-savvy, the commissioner’s handling of new media has shown he’s having trouble obfuscating the systemic police harassment in low-income communities he instigated a decade ago.</p><p>It took less than an hour for the Twitter hashtag #myNYPD to transform from a clueless cop campaign into a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/nyregion/new-york-police-reach-out-on-twitter-but-receive-a-slap-in-the-face.html" target="_blank">referendum on the NYPD as an institution</a>. But even that fiasco didn’t portend Bratton’s current summer of disaster, as videos of police choking, punching and <a href="http://pix11.com/2014/07/25/video-shows-nypd-officer-allegedly-stomping-on-drug-suspects-head/" target="_blank">stomping</a> black New Yorkers flow onto social networks and coalesce into an indictment against his brand of policing.</p><p>In the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death, the commissioner has tried to quell the firestorm with a scattershot of methods: <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/william-bratton-on-being-new-yorks-policeman-and-a-new-controversy-1406929086" target="_blank">promising to retrain</a> the entire NYPD force; appearing alongside another relic from the past, Al Sharpton; and <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/sharpton-faces-off-with-de-blasio-bratton-on-nypd-practices-1.8937564" target="_blank">dismissing activists</a> calling for his resignation as “the usual cast of characters.”</p><p>This usual cast of characters now has the tools to transmit the experiences of broken windows’ victims—experiences wealthier, whiter constituents would never tolerate. New Yorkers Against Bratton has spearheaded direct actions against the NYPD this summer, also sending its members to speak with people hassled and hurt by police. Closely related groups like People’s Justice maintain active cop-watch patrols around the city, and organizations like the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), composed of veterans of the criminal justice system, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/opinion/a-chokehold-and-a-pattern.html?src=twr" target="_blank">have the ears of some influential platforms</a>. (Full disclosure: I have consulted for PROP and volunteered with People’s Justice.)</p><p>Already, guerrilla coverage of broken window excess has unraveled the bedrock of support the commissioner enjoyed from old media. Following the Garner video, the New York Times rescinded its support for broken windows, and soon after the New York Daily News published a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/summons-broken-windows-racial-disparity-garner-article-1.1890567" target="_blank">critical analysis</a> of the city’s court summonses that revealed quality-of-life policing targets blacks and Hispanics at a rate 6 times higher than whites. </p><p><strong>Broken Windows 2024?</strong></p><p>As a consequence of social media ubiquity, America’s police commissioners and chiefs have much less ability to filter the unflattering realities of their squads through news-ready sound bites and photo ops. </p></div><p>How will they adapt? At least one recent maneuver, tweeted by the NYPD, provides a clue: Two weeks after Eric Garner’s death, police and community leaders organized an <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2709162/NYPD-tries-calm-rising-tensions-chokehold-death-impromptu-basketball-dunk-squad-car-tournament.html" target="_blank">impromptu memorial for Garner</a> that momentarily cooled tensions between cops and community. But improvised stunts are not substitutes for actual change. </p><p>More recently and distressingly, it seems NYPD officers are using social media to double down in defense of a culture of impunity. Vocative <a href="http://www.vocativ.com/underworld/crime/nypd-chokehold/" target="_blank">reports</a>:</p><blockquote><p>In the latest twist, to show solidarity, officers (and their friends) are being asked to change their Facebook profile picture to an upside-down and backward NYPD flag—a flag that was first introduced to the department in 1919. An upside-down flag is a signal of distress…the idea actually seems to be catching on, though it’s tough to gauge how pervasive the “United We Stand for NYPD” movement is just yet.</p></blockquote><p>The officers and their supporters also plan to hold a rally on September 6 outside the Staten Island precinct to “protest the ‘unfair’ choke hold judgement" that ruled Garner's death a homicide. </p><p>Such blatant and obtuse denialism will only alienate an alien police force even further from the communities it patrols. Regardless of the NYPD's next move, the victims of broken windows policing will continue documenting and broadcasting every abuse until something finally gives.</p> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 07:18:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1014404 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties police nypd Imagine What We Could Buy If We Didn't Have to Spend Billions on Police Brutality Cases http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/imagine-what-we-could-buy-if-we-didnt-have-spend-billions-police-brutality-cases <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The numbers are shocking. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-07-16_at_1.41.47_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">Every few weeks, a newspaper somewhere in America reports on a million-dollar settlement paid out in a case of police abuse. Sometimes the figures are jarring. In 2012, Chicago gave Christina Eilman $22.5 million after police released the bipolar woman into a violent neighborhood, where she was beaten and raped. Earlier this year, the NYPD agreed to pay out $18 million to various defendants roughed up at the RNC convention in 2004.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s true that most cases result in far smaller payouts, but they can add up to nearly a billion dollars a year for <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-04/nyc-police-abuse-joins-pothole-settlements-costing-735-million.html">just one city</a>. That’s eye-popping when you consider that state governments collectively spend roughly $10 billion on public assistance programs for the poor. When more money is spent consoling victims of brutality than providing assistance for low-income people, that’s both a fiscal and humanitarian crisis. And while police brutality cases are paid by cities, not states, these numbers place a dollar value on the tremendous breadth and depth of systemic police brutality. </p><p dir="ltr">Consider New York City. In 2012, taxpayers <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/2013_Claims-Report.pdf">paid</a> $152 million in claims involving the NYPD. That same year, Mayor Bloomberg voted to cut $175 million from childcare and afterschool programs, affecting 47,000 kids. Child programs not only provide relief to working families with maxed-out schedules, they are the best tools the city has to foster an equal society in the long term. Instead the city is spending money settling cases like the one last month involving Officer Eugene Donnelly, who <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/drunken-nypd-attacked-woman-bed-source-article-1.1845905">drunkenly barged</a> into a woman’s home one night and “beat the hell out of her.”</p><p dir="ltr">The NYPD forecasts it will spend even more on such cases by 2016. With recent stories like the wasted cop who shot a random man six times in April, it seems like the department is on track to do so. To make things worse, the NYPD doesn’t track individual officers who have complaints filed against them, which means troubled cops can go right back into the line of duty.</p><p dir="ltr">New York’s policing problems are part of an entrenched culture of cop-warriorism nationwide. In 2007, USA Today found that instances of brutality had surged between 2001 and 2007. While there isn’t a definitive report clarifying whether they’ve risen since, given the suppression of Occupy, a nationwide crackdown on homelessness, and rising settlement costs, it's possible that the violence hasn’t abated. On the whole, cities and the mainstream media are writing off escalating costs as a natural expense of policing, rather than asking why we pay so much for it.</p><p dir="ltr">In Los Angeles, where an LAPD officer was recently filmed straddling a homeless woman and punching her face, the city paid out $54 million to rectify officers’ shenanigans in 2011. This was around the time Mayor Eric Garcetti tried closing a $242 million shortfall in part by forcing city employees to forego raises for at least three years. Ironically, the austere budget also sacked overtime pay for police officers, forcing thousands of cops to take off from work every month in lieu of cash. But the LAPD has made a concerted effort to keep officers unaccountable for their antics: last year the city’s Inspector General <a href="http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/07/03/59051.htm">found</a> that the department systematically “destroys case files, keeps inaccurate and incomplete information on lawsuits, and has no system to learn from workplace liability claims.”</p><p>A <a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/bad-cop-7-cities-where-shocking-police-abuses-cost-taxpayers-millions">cursory look</a> at other cities reveals the same trend of elevating costs for police settlements. Those figures take renewed urgency when considered in the context of lost public services. A few years ago, Oakland cut $28 million from educative non-profits while paying out nearly half that amount in misconduct-related legal costs. In a slightly different case related to poor oversight and inept internal affairs management, New Jersey taxpayers paid out $50 million this year for lawsuits filed against various police departments filed by civilians and cops themselves, all while labor-hater Governor Chris Christie cut $887 million from pension contributions.</p><p dir="ltr">The problem comes down to a few different causes. First, virtually all departments around the nation police themselves internally and have little to no civilian oversight. Within some departments, this means officers adopt a “blue code of silence” where officer misbehavior is hardly ever recorded or reprimanded. As demonstrated by the NYPD and LAPD, departments do a poor job tracking problem officers and sometimes even destroy their litigation files.</p><p>Prosecutors have an extreme reluctance to pick up cases of police abuse. Federal prosecutors decline around <a href="http://www.theamericanconservative.com/seven-reasons-police-brutality-is-systematic-not-anecdotal/">95 percent</a> of such cases for two main reasons: juries are mostly conditioned to side with the police, and various <a href="http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2079&amp;context=ulj">impediments</a> are in place to make prosecution more difficult (federal attorneys cannot argue that an officer acted recklessly or criminal negligence). On the state level, legal quirks like “transactional immunity” in New York make it enormously difficult for prosecutors to use incriminating testimony against officers.  </p><p>Some say plaintiffs ask for too much money. Yet as crude a mechanism it is, the threat of litigation is one of the <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23639-why-do-police-unions-in-new-york-want-to-repeal-the-end-discriminatory-profiling-act">few shields</a> citizens have against police abuse. The problem isn’t high settlement and the solution isn’t tort reform. The problem is police brutality and the solution is less of it. It’s an ugly cost that means so much more when states are spending less than ever on good, generative public services.</p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:28:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1011570 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties brutality police The Feds Have Turned America Into a War Zone: 4 Disturbing Facts About Police Militarization http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why do even small towns now deploy paramilitary forces?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_178633394-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of “militarization.” They've upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and inculcated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces.</p><p>But beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a new report called <em>War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing</em>.</p><p>“Our investigation is the first to conduct an analysis using raw data received directly from police departments, by looking directly at incident reports themselves,” says Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice and the primary author of the report. The ACLU sent public records requests to 260 law enforcement agencies in 25 states plus Washington D.C., asking for records of all SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012. Below are some of its most significant findings.</p><p><strong>1. The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization.</strong></p><p>Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with a search warrant—usually for drugs.</p><p>These deployments are usually violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking flash bang grenades into homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos, including Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU found that 46 people were injured as a result of paramilitary deployment.</p><p>For decades, the federal government—in its quixotic quest to eliminate drug use— has abetted these aggressive tactics with programs that create incentives for militarization. One is called the 1033 program, which was launched in the 1980’s to create a pipeline for military equipment between the Department of Defense and local law enforcement.</p><p>From the ACLU report:</p><blockquote><p>“There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program.... In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt.”</p></blockquote><p>Equally to blame is the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, another 80’s artifact that gives local police forces incentives to seek out low-level drug offenders in exchange for grant money.</p><p>From the ACLU report:</p><blockquote><p>“Between April 2012 and March 2013, JAG grantees spent 64 percent of their JAG funding on law enforcement…state and local agencies used JAG funds to purchase hundreds of lethal and less-lethal weapons, tactical vests, and body armor.”</p></blockquote><p>Kara Dansky says this complex for funneling federal money to paramilitary drug policing undermines potential reforms to the criminal justice system that US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for.</p><p>“Holder has been outspoken about the need to ensure that the police have the trust of the community, [and] it has the potential to do some really good work,” she said. “But we are concerned that if justice department continues to grant money to local police departments, money they use to engage in paramilitary weapons and tactics, the Attorney Generals’ great work will be undermined.”</p><p><strong>2. Militarization is occurring with “almost no oversight.”</strong></p><p>The ACLU found that there is no federal agency that keeps an accurate record of information related to SWAT proliferation. Where records are kept, the ACLU found their formats varied wildly across the country. “The records that were produced revealed an extremely troubling trend: that data collecting and reporting in the context of SWAT was at best sporadic and at worst virtually nonexistent,” according to the report.</p><p>Relatedly, there is virtually no oversight for SWAT deployment at the state level, meaning no agency or governing body tracks how, and for what purposes, SWAT teams are dispatched. There are few exceptions. Maryland passed a law mandating the state to track SWAT deployment after the mayor of a small municipality had his home raided, but that law is unlikely to be renewed this year. The Utah state legislature recently agreed on a bill to track SWAT deployment and is currently going forward with implementing the law. Local agencies usually engaged in after-action reports of SWAT use, but the ACLU found these reports were “woefully incomplete.”</p><p>The ACLU also discovered there are no uniform standards for deploying SWAT teams. Discretion ultimately rests with police officers themselves. On that point, the report notes that police were often wrong in estimating the danger of a particular mission: “SWAT teams found weapons in just over one-third of the incidents in which they predicted finding them, which suggests police are not particularly good at forecasting the presence of weapons.”</p><p>But overestimating danger may not be so surprising, given the degree of warrior indoctrination among SWAT teams. One SWAT training PowerPoint presentation uncovered by the ACLU illustrates this perfectly: The slides “urge trainees to ‘Steel Your Battlemind’ and defines ‘battlemind’ as ‘a warrior’s inner strength to face fear and adversity during combat with courage. It is the will to persevere and win. It is resilience.’”</p><p><strong>3. Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments.</strong></p><p>It should come as no surprise that the people most persecuted by police in their communities are also more likely to have their front doors bashed down by a police battering ram.</p><p>Many of the SWAT teams examined by the ACLU “either do not record race information or record it unsystematically.” Nevertheless, the report found that for all people affected by a SWAT deployment, 37 percent were Black, 12 percent were Latino, 19 were white, and race was unknown for the rest of the people impacted.</p><p>Racial disparities were even more pronounced when examining the purpose for SWAT deployment. When SWAT was dispatched for drug raids, 68 percent of the time their targets were Blacks or Latinos, while targets were white only 38 percent of the time. Similarly, when SWAT was dispatched with warrants to search homes, non-whites were affected to a greater degree than whites. In contrast, nearly half of those affected when SWAT was deployed for emergency situations (hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios) were white, while only 23% were non-white.</p><p>Basically, non-whites were not only more likely to come into contact with paramilitary police forces, but their contact was usually prompted by drug searches rather than the sort of emergencies where you may actually want police to show up.</p><p><strong>4. Police are secretive about their use of SWAT</strong></p><p>Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use.</p><p>Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.</p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 06:04:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1006576 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties swat policing aclu militarization Police Can Just Take Your Money, Car and Other Property — and Good Luck Getting It Back http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/police-can-just-take-your-money-car-and-other-property-and-good-luck-getting-it-back <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Asset forfeiture provides insidious incentives for police to apprehend people. Here are 4 states with some of the greediest police forces. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_5193886-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Alda Gentile was driving back home to New York from Florida, after having viewed condos with her son and grandson ahead of a potential move. She had $11,000 in cash with her, which she brought in order to make a deposit on her new place. As she drove through Georgia, she was stopped for speeding, and upon hearing that she was carrying such a large sum of cash (which is legal, by the way), state troopers questioned her on the side of the road for a total of six hours. In the end she was sent on her way—without the cash, which the officers kept.</p><p>Gentile’s case is an extreme example, but such occurrences happen on a smaller, broader scale across the country every year. Civil asset forfeiture is one of those arcane statutes you never hear about until it screws you. It’s a legal fiction spun up hundreds of years ago to give the state the power to convict a person’s property of a crime, or at least, implicate its involvement in the committing of a crime. When that happened, the property was to be legally seized by the state.</p><p>That made sense in the 18th century, when the government invoked the law to legally claim loot left behind by pirates who escaped into the blue horizon of the Atlantic. Today, however, the police are the ones who confiscate property, and they’re usually the ones who end up keeping it. The most ridiculous thing about civil asset forfeiture’s modern form is that police use it to confiscate a person’s things even if that person is never convicted of, or even charged with, a crime.</p><p>The statute is portrayed by law enforcement as a way of crippling the narcotics trade by letting agencies keep pieces of the infrastructure of large-scale drug operations — and sometimes, civil asset forfeiture does that. But more often than not, it’s used by law enforcement to take from ordinary people who’ve committed no crime. The results are precincts made richer by hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, and insidious incentives for police to apprehend people not in the interest of public welfare but out of something like the profit motive.</p><p>No matter one’s political inclinations, most can agree that civil asset forfeiture is basically practiced unfairly. Its fiercest and most vocal opponents are libertarians and other limited government advocates, who string it up as a sinister example of a tyrannical state voraciously plundering its people. This author is less conspiratorial; civil asset forfeiture is simply a dumb, archaic policy that’s still around because not enough people have called for its end. Dick Carpenter, director of strategic research at the Institute for Justice, explains that “special interest theory” may explain civil asset forfeitures’ staying power. The idea is that those who stand to benefit from forfeiture—law enforcement—are a concentrated interest, and those who don’t are a diffuse interest.</p><p>“Concentrated interest always has greater power than diffused interest,” he said. “The diffused interest is the public, you me everyone else, we don’t have power like the concentrated interest that organizes and lobbies on its own behalf.”</p><p>Civil asset forfeiture laws differ from state to state in three ways. First, they vary on how much of what local agencies seize they can keep—some places can keep up to 100 percent of what they seize, while in other states law enforcement can only keep a fraction. Second, proof of culpability required for forfeiture is much more stringent in certain states, while in others its quite low. Last is the difference in owner-burden to prove innocence: some states assume the owner of property is guilty when charged, making it much harder for the owner to retrieve forfeited property, while other states presume innocence, making the process of retrieving stuff easier.</p><p>Taking a cross section of these three different measures, the Institute for Justice ranked states where civil asset forfeiture is the most lucrative for law enforcement, and most threatening for everybody else. This is not a list of places where agencies were most enriched through forfeitures—those are generally always the bigger, richer states—but rather, it’s a list of places where you should try to avoid getting arrested unless you want your PlayStation commandeered, cashed in, and used to pay a prosecutor’s mortgage.</p><p><strong>1. West Virginia</strong></p><p>Total assets seized in 2013: $2,846,593</p><p>In West Virginia, the standard of proof for seizing property is very low: the state merely has to “demonstrate that property is related to a crime,” an extremely loose standard. Say a man and woman co-own a car and the man gets popped while soliciting an undercover posing as a prostitute (this is an <a href="http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Publications/e1108-Asset-Forfeiture.pdf">extremely popular way</a> among cops for taking cars). The car is seized because it was “related to a crime,” even though the man’s wife had equal claim to it.</p><p>Conversely, an owner’s burden to prove their innocence to get stuff back is extremely high in West Virginia. A completely <a href="http://www.register-herald.com/x519109378/Drug-war-strategy-Hit-em-in-their-wallets/print">uncritical report</a> from West Virginia’s Register Herald notes that police obtained $65,000 in cash and six different vehicles. Some of the cash was used to purchase a $10,000 K-9 dog.</p><p>While a good deal of the assets seized by West Virginia law enforcement may well have been from high-level drug runners, it will never be known just how much was taken from low-level offenders or even from people who were never charged with a crime. If total assets seized are under $1,000, it can be more costly for a person to pursue a legal case to prove their innocence. In those instances, agencies usually wind up keeping whatever they took.</p><p><strong>2. Virginia</strong></p><p>Total assets seized in 2013: $18,640,557</p><p>Like its neighbor to the west, Virginia puts all the onus of proving innocence on the person who had their stuff taken by the police, while at the same time, the state’s burden to prove the relation of seized property to crime is extremely low. The state keeps 100 percent of everything it takes through civil asset forfeiture: “90 percent of the receipts go directly to law enforcement agencies that participated in a forfeiture, and thereafter, 10 percent goes to the Department of Criminal Justice Services to be used to promote law enforcement activities,” <a href="http://www.ij.org/asset-forfeiture-report-virginia">explains</a> the Institute for Justice.</p><p>Hampton Roads <a href="http://hamptonroads.com/2014/05/law-enforcement-agencies-get-millions-seizures">describes</a> one egregious example of forfeiture used on the innocent: Two men were pulled over for a routine traffic stop in 2011, when they were on their way to purchase land and a trailer for two separate churches in El Salvador and Atlanta. They had $28,500 in cash—all of which, in the end, the state tried to pocket. After a lengthy legal battle in which the Latino men even had to prove their citizenship, they eventually contested the seizure successfully, but not before incurring exorbitant legal costs for themselves (and the state for taxpayers).</p><p><strong>3. Texas</strong></p><p>Total assets seized in 2013: $106,927,691</p><p>The Lone Star state, that free-market paradise where government is anathema to basic civic values, actually shakes down average people of millions of dollars in assets with relative impunity and ease.</p><p>The Institute for Justice found that the ten Texas agencies that used civil asset forfeiture the most “take in about 37 percent of their budgets in forfeiture funds.” Their report also found that rural (read: poor) agencies were some of the most brazen looters, even as the state claimed the large number of seizures was due to urban agencies apprehending large-scale drug traffickers.</p><p><strong>4. Michigan</strong></p><p>Total assets seized in 2013: $16,225,273</p><p>In Michigan, “law enforcement receives all proceeds of civil forfeiture to enhance law enforcement efforts,” according to the Institute for Justice’s ranking. That’s millions of dollars that can be put toward bullets, cars, and ballistic vests—which is especially critical at a time when the Michigan State Police has cut its force by 61 percent due to budget cuts.</p><p>The Compassion Chronicles <a href="http://thecompassionchronicles.com/2013/02/26/michigans-civil-asset-forfeiture-laws-encourage-policing-for-profit/">describes</a> how one medical marijuana patient in Michigan was utterly pillaged by police:</p><blockquote><p>“On April 15, 2010, [Ed] Boyke stepped outside of his Saginaw Township home and was surrounded by Saginaw County Sheriff’s deputies and U.S. DEA Agents. With weapons drawn, they served Boyke with a federal warrant to search his residence, based on confidential information that he had violated marijuana laws…[they] “started tearing the place apart”…When they left, they took: two lawn mowers, a leaf blower, an air compressor and generator from his garage, his 2008 Chevy Impala, $62 from his wallet, his marijuana plants, hunting rifles and ammo, five jars of harvested marijuana, Boyke’s medical marijuana card and paperwork, a generator, a paint sprayer, a dehumidifier, growing apparatuses, scales and a 42-inch Panasonic TV.”</p></blockquote><p>In the end, Boyke forked over $5,000 to get everything back but his TV and rifles, which the deputies kept.</p><p>Despite the aforementioned examples, at least one state is setting the precedent for bucking against civil asset forfeiture: Minnesota. Before May 2014, law enforcement was raking in millions every year, raising forfeiture revenue 75 percent between 2003 and 2010. Sometimes this happened through <a href="http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2014/05/five-years-after-gang-strike-force-scandal-more-civil-forfeiture-reform">brutally aggressive police raids</a>. But just last month, the state’s government passed a law declaring that assets could not be seized unless a person is convicted of a criminal offense. It’s also harder now for the state to keep a person’s stuff without presenting a compelling case. The law will take effect in August.</p><p> </p> Wed, 18 Jun 2014 11:34:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1004219 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties forfeiture police civil asset How US Private Prisons Are Making Millions by Jailing Migrants in Deplorable Conditions http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-us-private-prisons-are-making-millions-jailing-migrants-deplorable-conditions <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Undocumented migrants have become easy cash cows for private prison companies. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-06-11_at_1.52.00_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">As states move for the first time in decades to address<a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights-criminal-law-reform/anonymous-exposes-uss-biggest-private-prison-company-bad"> swollen prisoner populations</a>, federal immigration detention centers are the new front in private prison corporations’ business strategy, and undocumented migrants their easy cash cows.</p><p dir="ltr">Around the country there are 13 Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons, which are managed by private companies contracted by the federal Bureau of Prisons to house a total of 25,000 prisoners convicted of living in the United States without proper documentation. In the pursuit of profits, private prison corporations have created utterly fetid and psychologically frying conditions within these CARs, making even the most squalid prisons for citizens look better by comparison. The vulnerability of an inmate population without recognized citizenship, combined with aggressive immigration policy and legal statutes allowing for-profit detention centers to operate with lax oversight, have created conditions under which carceral corporations can operate legal gulags with an endless supply of incoming prisoners.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the last four years, the American Civil Liberties Union investigated five CARs in Texas that together house a total of 14,000 inmates, and on Tuesday released its findings in the report <a href="https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/060614-aclu-car-reportonline.pdf">Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped Our Shadow Private Prison System</a>. Shockingly, they found that all of five CARs were serviced with contracts from the Bureau of Federal Prisons that include provisions requiring the CARs have a 10% “isolation cell” quota, which is double the rate at publicly federal managed prisons. With perverse incentives to send prisoners to solitary confinement—a measure <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40097">the UN has condemned as torture</a>—inmates have reportedly been thrown into isolated cells for complaining about food and medical care or pursuing legal grievances. The profit motive has rendered the CARs nearly absent all drug and medical treatment, along with opportunities for inmates’ self-development. In one facility in Raymondville, Texas, near the Mexican border, the center is so overcrowded that inmates live in cramped, vermin-infested Kevlar tents.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>The Money Stream</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The three largest and richest private prison corporations manage all 13 CARs across the country: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation (MTC). Together they took in $4 billion in revenue in 2012, and executives at CCA and the GEO Group received roughly $19 million in compensation that year.  </p><p dir="ltr">CARs house migrants who’ve been convicted of “illegal entry into the United States,” says Carl Takei, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project and one of the report’s lead authors.</p><p dir="ltr">“If you’re convicted [by the US government] of illegal entry, you go to a CAR prison, then you’re moved over to ICE civil enforcement system where you’re held pending the outcome of immigration case,” he told AlterNet.</p><p>CARs thus act as a middle-arena that wouldn’t exist if the federal government simply conducted immigrant enforcement through the civil system, which is what used to happen. But in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice jointly instituted a program called “Operation Streamline” that mandated migrants be prosecuted by the US government in addition to being processed for deportation. There’s little reason to criminally prosecute migrants in addition to processing them for deportation except to send a message.</p><p dir="ltr">Operation Streamline is a critical reason why there’s been a 145% increase in prisoners entering the federal prison system for immigration offenses between 1998 and 2012, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. Feeding the CARs has been the job of the Customs and Border Patrol, which was formed in 2003 and now receives more money than all other federal agencies combined. The agency’s unprecedented pursuit of immigration offenses culminated in a tipping point in 2009, when the number of people serving time in federal prisons for mere immigration offenses outpaced those convicted for “violent, weapons and property offenses combined,” according to the ACLU report. The gap has grown wider since then as more immigrants are caught in the Department of Homeland’s dragnet every year.</p><p dir="ltr">The superfluous presence of privately managed CARs to incarcerate migrants before they’re moved to the civil system—a process abetted by Operation Streamline—has placed a greater burden on taxpayers to fund a hybrid criminal/civil immigration system. While citizens pay high costs for a bloated immigrant detention complex, private prison employees and investors have reaped great rewards, as the ACLU cites from comments made by a CCA executive:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Let me just make a brief comment on Operation Streamline…. Before <span style="font-size: 12px;">this initiative was put in place, only a small percentage of [il]legal persons crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were prosecuted....We are now experiencing significant numbers to further be in place in custody as a result of Operation Streamline…We believe that the Federal Bureau of Prisons…will continue to provide a meaningful opportunity for the industry for the foreseeable future.”</span></p></blockquote><p><strong>The Face of Opportunity</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Inside the five Texas CARs the ACLU studied, prisoner revolts were a common occurrence, as desperate men protested the overuse of solitary confinement, overcrowding, putrid living conditions, and lack of edible food and proper medical treatment. Like all CARs, the Texas facilities have low security requirements because the majority of inmates are imprisoned solely because of their legal status, not because they are a threat to public safety.  </p><p dir="ltr">The most terrifying facility investigated by the ACLU was the 3,000-inmate Willacy County Detention Center, managed by the prison corporation MTC in Raymondville, Texas, known as “Ritmo” for its oppressive conditions similar to prisons at Guantanamo Bay.  </p><p dir="ltr">Prison staff reportedly sends new arrivals and dissident inmates at Ritmo to solitary cells for days or weeks at a time because there isn’t enough space in the Kevlar tents to house the steady influx of people. The facility’s fondness for banishing inmates to isolated cages is hardly an accident: In all the Bureau of Federal Prison contracts for CARs that the ACLU examined, private prison companies were encouraged to “place excessive numbers of prisoners in isolation.” In this way the government is complicit in prisoner torture, especially at the Willacy County center: the Bureau of Federal Prisons insisted on a 10% quota for solitary cells at Willacy even though some private prison bidders asked if the quota could be reduced.</p><p dir="ltr">At Ritmo, men whose minds aren’t melting in isolation must keep their sanity in an area so cramped it isn’t hyperbole to compare them to Stalin’s gulags. The tents at the Willacy Center are bursting with 200 inmates at a time, and are dirty, foul sumps of monotony where inmates must pass their days without any sort of programming or distraction from their conditions.</p><p dir="ltr">“It’s like walking through minefields,” said one Ritmo prisoner to the ACLU. “You never know when someone is going to explode, because everyone is frustrated.”</p><p dir="ltr">Conditions at the Willacy center were so bad they were featured in a PBS Frontline documentary in 2011, the same year Immigrations and Customs Enforcement was forced to cancel its contract with the prison corporation MTC following a Capitol Hill briefing. However, shortly after, MTC picked up a new contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to operate the Willacy center as a CAR instead of an immigration detention facility. Besides the contractor, little else has changed at Ritmo.</p><p dir="ltr">In addition to the torture of solitary and tent prison camps, MTC prison officials regularly deny inmates access to medical treatment in order to cut costs. The only dental treatment offered is crude tooth extraction, and inmates suffering serious ailments are merely given ibuprofen by medical staff. Similar treatment was found uniformly across all five Texas CARs.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Changing the System</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The ACLU offers a wide-ranging list of recommendations for state and federal governments to address the inhumanity of the 13 privately managed CARs.</p><p dir="ltr">Among them, they suggest the federal Bureau of Prisons stop entering into contracts with prison corporations that have histories of mismanagement and scandal (which could apply to all of them) and cease facilitating cruelty with requirements like the 10% solitary rule.</p><p dir="ltr">The ACLU also suggests that the Department of Homeland Security bring Operation Streamline to an end, and that Congress open an investigation into the CARs while also closing legal loopholes that shield privately managed prisons from public disclosure requests. It goes without saying that any or all of these recommendations would seriously threaten the “meaningful opportunity” that migrant incarceration creates for the private prison industry, and perhaps that’s what the ACLU is ultimately after.</p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:43:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 1001795 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties migrant How the Government Bribes Police to Arrest People For Smoking Pot http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-government-bribes-police-arrest-people-smoking-pot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Police use the number of low-level drug arrests to sustain critical law enforcement funding from the federal government.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_122688160-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Activists have long claimed that cops have quotas for ticketing and arresting people, but evidence to support those claims varies from state to state. However, newly obtained documents reveal that local police agencies have indeed used the number of low-level drug arrests to sustain critical law enforcement funding from the federal government under a program called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.</p><p>You may have heard of the Byrne Grant program from Michelle Alexander’s book <em>The New Jim Crowe.</em> Alexander writes,</p><blockquote><p>“The Byrne program was designed to encourage every federal grant recipient to help fight the War on Drugs. Millions of dollars in federal aid have been offered to state and local law enforcement agencies willing to wage the war.”</p></blockquote><p>Scholars say the program has had a major impact on the precipitous rise of low-level drug arrests over the last twenty years.</p><p>“This money has helped reshape policing strategies and policies in major cities and a lot of rural areas throughout the United States,” says Harry Levine, a sociologist at Queens College, CUNY, who has studied drug policy for decades. “Although the government claims [Byrne grant money] goes toward apprehending high level traffickers, it’s often very low level people who get arrested. It targets low-income people and people of color much more than anyone understands.”</p><p>Nationwide, reforming our bloated prison system—the largest in the world—and the drug laws that fed its growth is coming into vogue, after decades of either willful ignorance or complicity by political and media establishments. Yet little attention is being given to pieces of the apparatus that sustain racist and class-based patterns of arrests and prosecutions. The Byrne grant program may well be at the heart of this arrangement.</p><p>Launched in 1988, the Byrne grant program was most recently invigorated in 2009 with $2 billion from President Obama’s signature recovery act. Here’s how it works: At the beginning of every fiscal year, states participating in the program receive a certain amount of funds from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance. The money first goes to the highest criminal justice agency in a given state (for example, the State Division Criminal Justice Services in New York), which then doles out the money to local precincts based on a competitive application process. At the end of the fiscal year, a state’s criminal justice agency must submit a “state annual report” to the federal government indicating how the Byrne funds were spent, using certain “performance measures” to show productivity and qualify for renewed funding.</p><p>These performance measures are universal across all states, and have not changed in the program’s 26-year existence. And here’s what they are, taken directly from one of the reports:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="407" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="407" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/performance_measures.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Tennessee 2004 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>The Marijuana Arrest Research Project obtained a total of 20 state annual reports from 10 states and territories. The documents span from fiscal year 2000 to 2013. Across all the reports, we found similar trends. Below are some of our most significant findings.</p><p><strong>1. Marijuana related arrests and seizures are, by far, the most common “productivity measure” across states</strong></p><p>In the reports we examined, states listed the raw volume of drugs seized to show productivity. In nearly all of the reports, the amount of cannabis seized significantly dwarfs all other drugs. Here's a typical example from Missouri's state annual report showing total volume of drugs seized:</p> <div alt="" class="media-image" height="150" style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" width="477"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="150" style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" width="477" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/screen_shot_2014-06-10_at_4.26.42_pm_0.png" /></div><p> </p><p>We also discovered that the simple possession of marijuana is, overall among all states examined, the most frequent arrest and conviction cited as a productivity measure. Here's a chart showing top drug arrests and prosecutions in Arizona in 2013:</p><p> </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="265" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="265" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/arrests_by_drug_type.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="84" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="84" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/prosecution_activity.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Arizona 2013 Edge Report (its version of Byrne Annual Reports)</em></p><p>Culling together data from Byrne grant state annual reports and a 2013 ACLU report called “Marijuana Arrests in Black and White” reveals an ugly reality about the war on drugs: through the promise of Byrne grant funding, the federal government is using tax dollars that incentivize local police forces to arrest non-criminal young men of color.</p><p>The ACLU report reveals that nationwide, the number of marijuana-related arrests rose 18% between 2001 and 2010, and of those, 7 million (out of 8 million) were for simple possession. In 2010, over half (52%) of all drug arrests were for marijuana, and of those, 88% were for simple possession.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="259" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="259" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/number_of_arrests_for_marijuana_possession.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: ACLU</em></p><p>Even more startling, the ACLU report notes that <strong>blacks are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession</strong> (data on Latino marijuana arrests is inconclusive due to outdated modes of categorizing arrestees by race). Furthermore, 71% of all marijuana possession arrestees were between the ages of 16 and 29, and 6% were 15 or younger.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="316" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="316" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/breakdown_of_marijuana_possession_arrests.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: ACLU</em></p><p>The state annual reports do not usually break down arrests by any sort of personal identifies—race, age, etc.—but a cross comparison with the ACLU’s data, along with a trip to any probation office or jailhouse in the country, more than affirms the assertion that Byrne dollars create motives to arrest black and brown youth, saddling them with all the baggage that comes with an arrest and possible criminal conviction. But no matter to the police: they get paid to haul in people for low-level drug crimes, and for some officers, their jobs literally depend on making those arrests.</p><p><strong>2. Police used Byrne grant funds for officer payroll</strong></p><p>Byrne grant money is officially meant for special narcotics squads called multijurisdictional task forces, but the money can also be allotted to prosecutors and police officers, especially in the service of drug crime. Although Byrne money can be put toward non-enforcement endeavors like drug treatment, courts, and crime prevention, <a href="https://www.bja.gov/Publications/JAG_Spending_Report_03-13.pdf">the vast majority</a> of Byrne money is spent on “law enforcement.”</p><p>Some of the state annual reports are surprisingly candid about how necessary the Byrne money is for sustaining certain law enforcement operations. This is from Missouri’s 2013 report:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="111" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="111" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/missouri_2013_byrne_annual_report.jpg" /></div><p>Source: Missouri 2013 Byrne Annual Report</p><p>Similar language is found in Iowa’s 2006 report:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="98" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="98" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/iowa_2006_byrne_annual_report.jpg" /></div><p> </p><p><em>Source: Iowa 2006 Byrne Annual Report 2013</em></p><p>New York’s 2013 report notes that a whole investigative unit was supported with Byrne money. Although many would agree that violent crimes should be investigated, keep in mind how often states use low-level possession arrests to keep the spigot of salary-sustaining federal money flowing.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="62" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="62" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/ny_2013_byrne_report.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: New York 2013 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>Louisiana’s 2013 state annual report shows that federal funds were used to subsidize<em>thousands</em> of overtime hours for dozens of officers in a twelve-month period, and officers themselves noted how invaluable those hours were to the livelihoods of their officers:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="241" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="241" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/louisiana_byrne_report.jpg" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="57" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="57" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/louisiana_byrne_report_2.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Louisiana 2013 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more low-level drug arrests cops make, the more assured their federal funds will be, and the more stable the salaries of officers will remain.</p><p>But it isn’t only overtime hours that Byrne money pays for: local police have also used federal dollars to buy virtually any kind of equipment they need, rendering the funds even more sacrosanct.</p><p><strong>3. Cash-starved precincts use Byrne funds to seize and buy anything they need</strong></p><p>As states have cut funding to virtually all public services in the last few years, subsidies from Washington have become even more critical to police, according to the reports we examined.</p><p>“With Byrne grant money,” says Harry Levine, “the police can buy all kinds of stuff - police cars, bullet proof vests, computers, bullets - buy whatever they want.” The state annual reports confirm just that.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="203" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="203" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/lleg_program.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Missouri 2013 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>Many of the firearms obtained through Byrne grant funding aren’t directly purchased with the funds; rather, the federal dollars pay for programs that enable cops to <em>seize</em> weapons from people they apprehend. Even if those arrested are acquitted on all charges, police can still keep anything they confiscate in the course of making an arrest, under an overarching policy called civil asset forfeiture.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="155" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="155" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/asset_seizures.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Arizona 2013 Edge Report (its version of Byrne Annual Reports)</em></p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="70" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="70" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/ny_2013_byrne_annual_report.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: New York 2013 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>Budget tightening has made federal dollars even more precious. Missouri’s 2013 state annual report explicitly makes that point:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="82" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="82" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/kansas_city_police_department.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Missouri 2013 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>In rural communities, where funds for law enforcement are slim, Byrne money is even more critical than for urban places:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="71" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="71" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/idaho_2003_byrne_annual_report_.jpg" /></div><p><em>Source: Idaho 2003 Byrne Annual Report</em></p><p>To summarize: states can only renew their Byrne grant funding if they impress the government with their state annual reports. States show they’re putting funds to good use by touting the number of drug arrests made and prosecutions opened, along with the volume of assets and drugs seized. This funding lifeline has shifted policing tactics to focus heavily on the apprehension of low-level drug offenders, especially on those in possession of the most benign and abundant illegal drug: marijuana.</p><p>Data from the ACLU shows that the overwhelming majority of those arrested for minor marijuana possession are non-white youth. These young people are the cash cows that police apprehend in order to fatten arrest statistics submitted in state annual reports. Without these arrests, police in cash-strapped states could not sustain federal funding for vital priorities: overtime salaries, vehicles, ballistic vests, and so on.</p><p>Any program that pegs law enforcement funding to a raw volume of arrests and prosecutions, without acknowledging systemic racial and class-based biases in policing, will inevitably exacerbate and perpetuate the racial disparities that exist at every level of our criminal justice system. The Byrne grant program not only demands the arrest and prosecution of low-level offenders, but also ties the livelihoods of dozens of police precincts across the country to those numbers. If we are ready to undo the harm wrought by decades of aggressive policing and incarceration, then we must decide to finally kill the Byrne grant program.</p><p> </p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 15:31:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 999891 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties race arrests quotas law enforcement Activists Rally as Brooklyn DA Throws A Wrench in Bratton's Racial "Broken Windows" Policing http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/activists-rally-brooklyn-da-throws-wrench-brattons-racial-broken-windows-policing <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana arrests. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-04-25_at_4.10.41_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Friday morning, the Drug Policy Alliance of New York gathered a group of elected officials, public defenders, activists and press in front of Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn. The rally was convened to support Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s decision to no longer prosecute low-level marijuana arrests.</p><p>New York DPA Director Gabriel Sayegh opened the event by explaining the significance of Thompson's decision. </p><p>“This is a big deal for a few reasons,” he said. “Number one, Brooklyn has more marijuana arrests than any other borough in the city. [And] number two, Brooklyn has amongst the highest racial disparities of these arrests than anywhere else in the country.”</p><p>The latest figures from the ACLU corroborate Sayegh’s remarks: 20,000 people in Kings County (Brooklyn) were arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, the second highest in the nation. Of those, 61.5 percent were black, and only 7 percent were white. Numerous government studies show that marijuana use is roughly the same across all racial groups.</p><p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also spoke, acknowledging that the NYPD frequently circumvents the law when they arrest for possession. Under a state law passed in 1977, minor pot possession is not a misdemeanor unless it is in public view, yet marijuana arrests soared in subsequent decades because police began forcing people to brandish their stash out in the open.</p><p>“If you walk through any community in Brooklyn, you can smell marijuana,” Adams said to the audience. “Yet the only place this was enforced was in the black and brown parts of Brooklyn...this was an action that was not enforced across the entire borough.”</p><p>The decision has created a rift between Thompson’s office and the NYPD, which follows an aggressive policy of arresting for minor possession. Assembly Member Walter Mosley said the NYPD should be mindful of its jurisdictional boundaries.</p><p>“We don’t tell [Police Commissioner William Bratton] how to police, so he should show respect for how the DA prosecutes,” he said to AlterNet.</p><p>Yet that will be a tough sell for Bratton, mastermind of the “broken windows” theory of policing. The idea is that arresting people for low-level offenses, like graffiti, public intoxication and marijuana possession, will prevent more serious crimes on a grander scale. The theory was whipped up by white criminologists in the 80’s and then put into practice by Bratton in the early 90’s, during his first stint as Police Commissioner of the NYPD, and over time his style of “proactive policing” has spread throughout the country.</p><p>After leaving the NYPD and serving as Chief of Police for the LAPD, Bratton was brought back to his former post earlier this year. Since then, the city has experienced a spike in arrests for low-level crimes like panhandling and dancing on the subway. And while the overall number of marijuana arrests in New York City has fallen in recent months, thanks to the end of the longstanding “stop and frisk” police policy, the number arrested for minor possession is still <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/18/new-york-city-marijuana-arrests_n_5171657.html" target="_blank">drastically higher than it was twenty years ago</a>.</p><p>Although Thompson’s decision will have a significant impact on the adult court system, it’s unknown whether it will have any effect on its juvenile counterpart. Lauren Katzman from Legal Aid’s Juvenile Rights Division described to AlterNet how the majority of children she sees charged with possession are young men of color. The white youth, on the other hand, are almost always taken in for more egregious crimes like theft and arson.</p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 12:56:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 985784 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties brooklyn nypd marijuana 4 Disturbing Reasons the Private Prison Industry Is So Powerful http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/4-disturbing-reasons-private-prison-industry-so-powerful <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A major cause of the industry’s staying power is how deeply it has entrenched itself in public institutions and channels.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-05-01_at_7.34.49_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Since the early 1980’s, incoming revenue for private prison corporations has steadily grown, even through times of deep recession. As long as lawmakers were passing punitive laws to keep mostly young men locked in cages indefinitely, it seemed like the party would never end.</p><p>However, there’s been something of an awakening in the last few years. Today over 2.3 million people are locked away in prisons, a number so extreme that lawmakers are now actually considering piecemeal changes to the system of mass incarceration. And just last week, three major corporations (Scopia Capital Management, DSM North America, and Amica Mutual Insurance) announced that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/investment-corporations-divest-60-million-private-prison-cca-geo-group" target="_blank">they were divesting $60 million</a> from the two largest prison corporations in the nation thanks to a Color of Change campaign urging companies to drop their private prison investments: Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, worth $3.2 billion in total. As a consequence of all this movement, some have portended the eventual demise of the private prison industry. </p><p>This idea overlooks just how dynamic and resilient the private prison industry actually is. It has survived public vitriol, lawsuits from shareholders, poor press for prisoner abuse and, over the last few years, shaky revenue flows. The prospect of renewed demand for detention centers (especially if Congress <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/173120/how-private-prisons-game-immigration-system" target="_blank">passes immigration reform</a>) is another reason not to presume the industry’s end just yet.  </p><p dir="ltr">A major cause of the industry’s staying power is how deeply it has woven itself into the fabric of our public institutions and channels. What follows are some of the most invisible yet effective ways that the incarceration business embeds itself in our society like a splinter under the skin. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Bankrolling Small Towns</strong></p><p>Eloy, Arizona is a town of 10,500 whose financial health and civic culture basically revolve around the private prison system. It’s home to four CCA facilities, all migrant detention centers, and was paid a total $9 million in construction fees by CCA to build them. That revenue went to updating the city’s waterlines, purchasing more police cars and building a new playground, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/07/private-prisons-immigration-federal-law-enforcement_n_1569219.html">according to</a> the Huffington Post.</p><p dir="ltr">"Let me put it in perspective for you," said Rick Miller, Eloy's community development director, to HuffPo’s Chris Kirkham, “if CCA were to close today, that would represent about 20 percent of our operating budget."</p><p dir="ltr">The deal’s impact trickled down from the corridors of the state legislature to the county sheriff’s office. In 2009, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu signed an agreement with Immigrants and Customs Enforcement to enforce federal immigration law in his own jurisdiction, and since then the number of migrants funneled from Pinal County jails to its federal detention centers shot up from 33 in 2008 to about 120 annually. It is now one of the top incarcerators of undocumented people in the nation. Notably, writes Kirkham, “Only a quarter of those arrested and identified as undocumented in Pinal County jails last year were apprehended for serious crimes.”</p><p dir="ltr">Eloy is hardly the first town private prisons have hijacked. Over 10 years ago, CCA tried to turn Youngstown, Ohio into a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2000/05/steel-town-lockdown">penal mecca</a> with a bill that would have flooded the town with so many inmates that one of every 50 Youngstownians would have been an out-of-state prisoner. The deal fell through, to the chagrin of some elected leaders, but <a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/02/are-americas-prison-towns-doomed/1177/">a number of small towns</a> across the US have also been sweet-talked into funding the construction of multimillion-dollar prison facilities by promises of revenue and jobs. Sometimes it leads to disaster.</p><p dir="ltr">Officials in Hardin, Montana (pop 3,600) were promised that a new state-of-the-art private prison would yield a bounty of jobs and surplus dollars for city projects. Instead, when no prisoners came, Hardin defaulted on the $27 million in revenue bonds it used to finance its construction, and citizens were left with an abandoned, looming dungeon whose expansive razor wire fencing now slices through the heart of the town.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><span style="font-size: 12px;">2. Installing Friends in High Places</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">It takes some effort to wend through Ohio Governor John Kasich’s <a href="http://www.recovery.org/learn/addiction-and-americas-private-prison-dilemma/#.U1GAduZdXmU">sinuous ties to the prison industry</a>, but once you do, it makes sense why he wanted to sell five of Ohio’s 26 prisons to private corporations—a completely unprecedented move.</p><p dir="ltr">After Kaisch retired from the House of Representatives in 2000, he took a managing level position at Lehman Brothers, which was the go-to financial institution for prison firms before it went kaput in 2008. The same year that Kaisch showed up at Lehman, the firm was putting together a deal that helped CCA avoid bankruptcy, and in 2003 the bank arranged a $785 million refinancing package for the firm. That same year, Lehman also advised Wackenhut Corporation on a million-dollar deal that spun their corrections divisions into what is now the GEO Group.</p><p dir="ltr">Kasich won the Ohio governorship in 2010 by crusading for the privatization of all social services. Selling off the state’s penal system was a central part of his agenda, and he bolstered CCA’s business prospects by naming one of its employees, Gary Mohr, as the director of the Ohio Department of Corrections. In the end, Kasich only managed to sell one prison to CCA, and tellingly, that facility <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/04/10/1843291/over-18-months-nations-first-privately-owned-state-prison-has-declined-rapidly/">descended into filth and violence</a> shortly after the deal.</p><p>The revolving door between public and private correctional institutions allots the punishment industry an untold degree of influence in public policy without requiring the disclosure of public-private ties. Three former directors of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Harley Lappin, Michael Quinlan and Norman Carlson) all went on to chair senior level positions in either CCA or the GEO Group. John Hurley, a former high level official in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is currently senior vice-president and president of the GEO Group, a post he has served since 2000.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Receiving Secret Subsidies</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In the construction and maintenance of their facilities, private prison firms have shrewdly secured the spoils of public money normally put aside for civic development projects.</p><p dir="ltr">A 2001 study conducted by Good Jobs First found that 73 percent of CCA and GEO Group facilities in 17 (of 19 examined) states were subsidized with development funds. Of these facilities, 37% received a total of $628 million through tax-free government bonds, 38% received property tax abatements or other tax exemptions or reductions, and 23% received infrastructure subsidies, such as water, sewer or utility hook-ups. Citizens had virtually no say in the financing processes of the facilities because lease-backed securities do not require public referenda.</p><p dir="ltr">Poor and rural regions were the most aggressive in doling out dollars to private prisons, even though there is scant (if any) evidence of their developmental value. In fact, one study spanning four decades found that <a href="http://privateci.org/private_pics/HooksStudy.pdf">the impact of carceral expansion</a> on communities “has impeded economic growth in rural counties that have been growing at a slow pace.”</p><p dir="ltr">The most disturbing feature of private prison subsidization is how much it matches geographical legacies of racism. A study in the International Journal of Public Administration found states that subsidize private prisons are more likely to be in the South, have a higher percentage of disenfranchised black males (10 vs. 7 percent), and have a higher percentage of black residents overall (12 vs. 9 percent).</p><p dir="ltr">Tellingly, the state that funneled the most development monies to private prisons was Mississippi, the same place where the White Knights murdered Emmett Till and led one of the fiercest campaigns of resistance to desegregation in the 1960s. Half a century later, a new cadre of white knights is funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to the construction of private prisons that subsist on the caging of mostly black bodies.  </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Using Loopholes to Avoid Taxes</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Last year, both the GEO Group and CCA were granted permission by the IRS to restructure themselves into REITs (real estate investment trusts), a designation that lets them escape corporate income taxes. Companies qualify as REITs when most of their assets are in the form of real estate holdings.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead of paying a corporate income tax, REITs dish out at least 90 percent of their taxable income to individual investors in the form of dividends. Investors then have to pay ordinary income taxes on those dividends, or at least that’s what is supposed to happen.</p><p>Out of fear that the real estate industry had too little actual cash on hand to pay investors, the federal government has permitted REITs to pay their investors in dubiously valued stock rather than cash since 2009. Similar to cash-strapped real estate companies, CCA and the GEO Group have had poor revenue streams in recent years, which means that as REITs they have more incentive to issue bogus shares to investors than actual cash.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s a sly trick that takes advantage of post-mortgage crisis financial rules. CCA knows firsthand how hard it can be to maintain an REIT when you have to pay back investors in actual dollars: the company previously converted to an REIT in 1997, but backpedaled a few years later after it defaulted on its debt and had to face the wrath of shareholders.</p><p>Christopher Petrella <a href="http://truth-out.org/news/item/9499-how-americas-largest-private-prison-operator-plans-to-beat-corporate-income-tax">described the consequences</a> in Truthout before the IRS approved the REIT conversion: “An REIT conversion would reduce CCA's federal income tax liability to zero, ensure that it retains enough cash on hand for future acquisitions and allow CCA to grow steadily without rewarding its shareholders.”</p> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 08:24:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 984727 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties private prison Inside the Private Prison Industry's Alarming Spread Across America http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/inside-private-prison-industrys-alarming-spread-across-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">For-profit companies like Geo-Group are buying up any politician they can find to expand their share of the &quot;market.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_165898916.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">On a recent Friday afternoon, with budget negotiations winding down, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh was racing against the clock. His position as House Appropriations Chairman afforded him the opportunity to stuff whatever minor extra provisions he wanted into the budget before it went to a vote the following Monday, and he only had a few hours left to do it.</p><p dir="ltr">What was Kavanagh frantically trying to accomplish for his constituents at the last minute? Extra funding for education, since Arizona spends less on educating its children than all but three states? No, Rep. John Kavanagh was trying to secure an extra $900,000 gift for the GEO Group, the billion-dollar private prison corporation whose state lobbyists came to him at the last second begging with upturned hats. The $45 million already earmarked for the maintenance of low- and medium-security facilities wasn’t enough, they said.</p><p dir="ltr">The Arizona Department of Corrections didn’t ask for the extra money, nor did anybody push for the prison funds to be included in the Senate budget.</p><p dir="ltr">"This came out of nowhere — I mean that,” Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell told the Arizona Republic. “No one said a word about it. It wasn't in the Senate budget, it didn't come as a request from DOC. There's something really shady here.”</p><p dir="ltr">For Kavanagh, there was nothing shady about sweetening the deal with nearly a million extra dollars. On the contrary, he says, it was a moral imperative.</p><p dir="ltr">“If somebody cuts you a smoking deal and helps you when you’re down, and you get more money back, I think you morally have a responsibility to increase the payments,” Kavanagh told the Arizona Republic in a taped interview the following Monday.</p><p>Kavanagh is referring to the lowered rate-per-bed the GEO Group offered Arizona as the national economy cratered in 2008. The rate applied to emergency “temporary” beds  at two of its facilities to house an overflow of prisoners. In exchange for the discount, the state agreed to meet a 100% occupancy rate for all non-emergency beds at both prisons.</p><p dir="ltr">And thank goodness. If it weren’t for the flexibility of the GEO Group, how else could Arizona’s correction officials reach their <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20131204arizona-private-prisons-growing-cost.html">forecasted benchmark</a> of 43,000 prisoners—a 9.3 percent increase from current levels—by 2016?</p><p dir="ltr">In the end, however, the state legislature may nullify Kavanagh’s act of kindness to the private prison industry. Even though the House approved a version of the budget with the extra prison dollars, the Senate Appropriations Committee nixed them, and the two chambers are in the midst of reconciling their different spending plans.</p><p>Kavanagh later told the Arizona Republic he would try to retain his gift to the GEO Group unless others found it to be “a deal breaker.”</p><p dir="ltr">Baffling, abhorrent, hopelessly out of touch: All criticisms that have been lobbed in the representative’s direction since his frenzied fourth quarter Hail Mary for the GEO Group. But his gaffe makes a lot more sense in consideration of how much influence the prison industry has in his state.</p><p dir="ltr">Arizona is one of four states (along with Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisiana) in which state governments are bound to contracts guaranteeing a 95%-100% occupancy in facilities leased by private prisons. Of the four, Arizona’s quotas are the most extreme: as part of the aforementioned “deal” in 2008, prison officials must keep a 100% occupancy rate in the two GEO Group facilities and another facility leased to the state by Management and Training Corporation, according to a 2013 report by In the Public Interest. Paradoxically, this may be costing the state more money: An August 2013 analysis from the Tucson Citizen shows that the “per-prisoner, per-day rates” for those particular facilities have increased by an average of 14% since 2008.</p><p dir="ltr">The $45 million allocated for the GEO Group in the state’s new budget not only suggests that lawmakers expect an increase in their prison population, but it also indicates that they have little intention of abandoning policies that casually criminalize its citizens. Since these are low- and medium-security facilities, they will likely be places to house petty drug offenders, who make up <a href="http://www.azauditor.gov/Reports/State_Agencies/Agencies/Corrections_Department_of/Performance/10-08/10-08.pdf">20.5% of the state’s entire inmate population</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">There are also close linkages between the prison industry and Arizona’s elected officials. The largest and richest prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America, has 22 lobbyists registered in Arizona; the GEO Group, the second largest, has seven. Both companies have given $35,000 and $39,000, respectively, to a number of high-ranking state officials, including Governor Jan Brewer and Representative Kavanagh. And a number of former high-ranking employees in both companies are now <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20110904arizona-prison-business-politics.html">positioned in the upper echelons</a> of state political power.</p><p>It’s easy to pick on Arizona, and it may be tempting to dismiss its deep ties to the punishment industry as yet another unflattering feature of a backwards political culture. But Arizona is just one card up the industry’s 50-state deck.</p><p dir="ltr">While the total prison population in the country grew 16% between 2000 and 2011, the state private prison population grew 106%. Yet despite this astronomical growth, not a single independent study has ever corroborated the incarceration industry’s claim that its services save taxpayers’ money. So why has it grown so powerful?</p><p dir="ltr">Christopher Petrella, a researcher at UC Berkeley who works on issues of race and incarceration, told AlterNet that there are two reasons for this astronomical growth: Official lobbying and revolving door politics.</p><p dir="ltr">Nationally, CCA has spent $13,990,000 in lobbying over the last eight years, and fanned 178 lobbyists out across 32 states. Similarly, the GEO Group spent $3,110,000 in national lobbying efforts and has dispatched 68 lobbyists to 16 states in the same period.</p><p dir="ltr">Petrella says those figures only tell part of the story. “Official lobbying—the type that requires documentation, oversight and transparency—almost becomes unnecessary with a revolving door between public and private corrections sectors.”</p><p dir="ltr">Among some of the bigger players he cites are three former directors of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Harley Lappin, Michael Quinlan and Norman Carlson), all of who went on to chair senior level positions in either CCA or the GEO Group.</p><p dir="ltr">With no inherent financial benefit and a pernicious public profile, the industry’s only strength is its buying power.</p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 08:32:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 979708 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace private prison Pot Progress: NJ Prosecutors Reverse Age-old Position and Now Support Marijuana Legalization http://www.alternet.org/drugs/pot-progress-nj-prosecutors-reverse-age-old-position-and-now-support-marijuana-legalization <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The majority of municipal prosecutors in the state want to nix marijuana prohibition.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_169338329.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Huge strides were made in the struggle for marijuana legalization on Tuesday: The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association said they support legalizing the possession of pot. This is significant because the association leads the prosecution of all marijuana related charges in the state. </p><p>“Each week, New Jersey police officers arrest hundreds of citizens for the disorderly persons offense of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana,” said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the board of trustees of the Municipal Prosecutors Association, <a href="http://www.app.com/article/20140331/NJNEWS/303310017/NJ-pot?gcheck=1&amp;nclick_check=1">to the Ashby Park Press</a>. </p><p>The paper reported that Barr's other reasons for backing marijuana legalization include: </p><div>• Requests by prosecutors to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the state’s drug-testing laboratories, sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials;</div><div> </div><div>• Studies show that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine or caffeine;</div><div> </div><div>• Marijuana is easier for high school students to obtain than alcohol because the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated;</div><div> </div><div><div>• Very few of the thousands of DWI cases prosecuted annually are for driving under the influence of marijuana;</div><div> </div><div>• Statistics show that African-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, but there is no evidence to show there is disproportionately more marijuana use in minority communities;</div><div> </div><div>• The state loses money by not collecting sales tax on marijuana, while drug dealers profit.</div><div> </div><div>“The time has come to understand that this particular offense makes about as much sense as prohibition of alcohol did,” Barr said. “It is time to stop the insanity.”</div><div> </div><div>Although the majority of the prosecutors backed legalization, there were others in the state who still take issue with the idea.</div><div> </div><div>Bonnie Peterson, another municipal prosecutor, disagrees with legalization, citing the potential for intoxicated driving that opponents so often cite.</div><div> </div><div>"As municipal prosecutors, we’re so concerned with people driving while intoxicated and trying to keep the roadways safe,” Peterson said to the Ashby Park Press. “It’s not clear to me (marijuana) has no effect on people’s ability to drive.”</div><div> </div><div>Still, other prosecutors note the absurd effects that prohibition has on their job. </div><div> </div><div><div>“I would no longer have to prosecute a bunch of 18-year-olds who went to a frat party,” said municipal prosecutor Steve Rubin. </div><div> </div><div>The Marijuana Policy Project <a href="http://blog.mpp.org/prohibition/new-jersey-marijuana-prosecutors-reverse-course-say-its-time-to-legalize/04012014/#sthash.kDBHK6qN.dpuf">notes</a> that this support comes at a critical time for cannabis legislation in the state. Two bills have recently been introduced; one bill permits citizens to carry an ounce or less of marijuana, while the other sets up a tax-and-regulate system. </div></div></div><p> </p> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 10:06:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 977892 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics marijuana prohibition new jersey South Carolina Lawmaker to 8-year-old: God Should Get Credit for the New State Fossil http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/south-carolina-lawmaker-8-year-old-god-should-get-credit-new-state-fossil <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Because woolly mammoths were &quot;created on the sixth day with the beasts of the field,&quot; of course.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_91486709.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>South Carolina state Senator Kevin Bryant will not be comfortable designating woolly mammoth bone as the state fossil unless God gets a mention. </p><p>The idea for a state fossil was initiated by 8-year-old Olivia McConnell, who wrote a letter to state lawmakers after she found out the state did not have one. South Carolina democratic Representative Robert Ridgeway came up with the legislation, which mostly received bipartisan support.</p><p>Except from Bryant. He tried to insert an amendment to remind everybody that the existence of a mammoth contradicts neither the existence of God nor the idea that the Almighty created the Earth in seven days. </p><p>The first amendment he drafted up for the fossil legislation, which was eventually nixed, quoted Genesis directly: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so." </p><p>His new one possesses slightly tempered language: The fossil will be acknowledged "as created on the sixth day with the beasts of the field."</p><p>"I just had a notion that we ought to consider acknowledging the creator as we acknowledge one of his creations," Bryant <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/us-southcarolina-fossil-idUSBREA2U1JU20140331?feedType=RSS&amp;feedName=oddlyEnoughNews">said</a> to Reuters.</p><p>Some South Carolina residents have taken issue with the amendment on social media. </p><p>"Please stop making our state look like backwards hillbillies who believe in fairy tales," Alex Davis commented on Bryant's website. "Keep your religious views out of the government."</p><p> </p> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 08:45:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 977820 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Belief News & Politics The Right Wing gop fossil lawmakers creationists south carolina woolly mammoth Straight From the NSA's Mouth: We Searched You Without a Warrant http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/straight-nsas-mouth-we-searched-you-without-warrant <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Clapper finally admits to senators that the NSA performed warrantless searches. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_159888116.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, NSA Director James Clapper finally admitted what had already been revealed in secret documents: the NSA has spied on Americans without first securing search warrants. </p><p>"There have been queries, using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence by targeting non US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the US," Clapper said in the letter. </p><p>Those Americans whose communications were searched without a warrant were targeted as part of a program aimed at foreign "persons of interest." That program was authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. </p><p>Under that section, individual warrants are not needed to spy on Americans believed to be connected to certain foreign people if their communications are swept up as part of "lawful" bulk data collection. The program is currently facing challenges in federal court, and two senators are proposing legislation that would require the government to secure a warrant before searching the communiations of any American whose correspondence is sucked into the 702 database. </p><p>At least one official has said that the NSA is spying on so many people in the 702 database that a requirement to obtain a warrant would be highly impractical, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-searched-americans-communications-without-a-warrant-intelligence-director-says/2014/04/01/2fdb5b6e-b9c3-11e3-a397-6debf9e66e65_story.html?wprss=rss_AllWPStoriesandBlogs&amp;Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost">according to</a> <em>The Washington Post. </em></p><p>“The number of times that we query the 702 database for information is considerably larger” than the number of times queries are made of the NSA’s telephone records database assembled under a program to search for clues to terrorist networks, Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent watchdog.</p><p> </p> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 06:34:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 977730 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Civil Liberties News & Politics nsa spying clapper Despite 800 Spills in 10 Years, Oil Company Tries to Convince Town to Vote for a New Pipeline http://www.alternet.org/environment/despite-800-spills-10-years-oil-company-tries-convince-town-vote-new-pipeline <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Enridge Inc. wants residents in Kitimat, British Columbia to make a bone-headed decision.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_110500661.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Political campaigns aren't the only ones where vast sums of money are spent to sway people.</p><p>In Kitimat, British Columbia, where one of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines would end and supply a half million barrels of oil a day, Enridge has poured money into an advertising campaign to convince residents to vote on April 12 in favor of the pipeline.</p><p>It is not clear just how much has been spent, but Enridge has enlisted the help of dozens of out-of-town volunteers to put up signs and take up air time voicing support for the pipeline. Kitimat has no rules barring out-of-towners from swooping in and monopolizing ad space (digital and physical).</p><p>Enridge has also hosted "community events" ostensibly meant to educate the public on the pipeline, but that inevitably play it up as overwhelmingly beneficial. This despite the fact that there have been 800 Enridge oil spills between 1999 and 2000. </p><p>“They are infiltrating [my] life – they’re on the TV, radio, Internet, phoning you, and now just showing up at your door," said resident Manny Arruda <a href="http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/surreal-enbridge-political-campaign-underway-sway-kitimat-vote-yes-oil-pipeline">to the <em>Vancouver Observer</em></a>. "I know they’ve been phoning everyone.  So to me, that tells me that the numbers are not there for them, and they’ve got to go and blitz it.”</p><p>At a recent Kitimat council meeting, citizens complained that temporary workers who were there to work on the pipeline had an equal say in voting for the pipeline, even though they were less likely to endure its negative effects long after they leave. </p><p>“The construction camp for Rio Tinto Alcan is easily more than 1,000 workers.  It’s within the District of Kitimat.  Are there are going to be bus loads of people coming from a construction camp to influence what’s going to happen here for generations to come?” Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch said to the <em>Vancouver Observer.</em></p><p>Fortunately, Kitimat Deputy Clerk Shirley Boudreault said that temporary workers will not be eligible to vote for the project. However, the advertising blitz by Enridge continues. </p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 10:06:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 976074 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment News & Politics pipeline oil petrol kitimat canada Louisiana Lawmakers Want to Increase Mandatory Minimums for Heroin Possession http://www.alternet.org/drugs/louisiana-lawmakers-want-increase-mandatory-minimums-heroin-possession <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Because incarcerating people is just what Louisiana does.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_168433697.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Lawmakers in Louisiana want to double mandatory minimum sentences for heroin-related crimes in response to rising rates of use in the state. The bill passed its first round of votes without dissent and is now on its way for a full House vote, where it is likely to receive bi-partisan support. </p><p>The bill would increase the mandatory minimum sentences for heroin manufacture, production, and distribution from 5 years to 10. More disconcerting, however, is the bill's guarantee of a two-year prison sentence for anybody found to be in possession of heroin. There are currently no mandatory minimum sentences for heroin possession in Louisiana. </p><p>The "need" for the policy change is mostly being confirmed by law enforcement figures, who testified in front of lawmakers before they made a decision on the bill.</p><p>"Make it severe. Make people understand, 'You do heroin, you're going to do time,'" said Louisiana Sheriff Association Executive Director Michael Ranatza, as <a href="http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/03/heroin_mandatory_minimum_louisiana.html">reported</a>by <em>Times Picayune.</em></p><p>Even some Democrats lined up to support the measure: "I've got to support this bill and the reason I've got to support it is I think it's a preventative measure," said state Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, during the hearing.</p><p>Those opposing the bill also testified, citing the mountains of evidence that indicate harsher sentences do not curb drug consumption.</p><div><div>"Possession of heroin, to increase the penalties, which is contained in this bill, I believe is taking Louisiana back...This is a public health issue. We shouldn't be making criminals of people who have gone from oxycontin to heroin," said Robert Toale, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as reported by the <em>Times Picayune.</em></div><div> </div><div>Currently, Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration in the nation. </div></div><p> </p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 08:33:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 976034 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics heroin louisiana mandatory minimums high rates of incarceration Colbert Report Tweet Sparks Campaign to Reexamine Casual Racism on Twitter http://www.alternet.org/media/colbert-report-tweet-sparks-campaign-reexamine-casual-racism-twitter <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Anti-racism activists aren&#039;t letting the joke slide, despite its context.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/colbert-1024x810.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A tweet from the Colbert Report’s official account has ignited a campaign to reexamine casual racism against Asian Americans—at least on Twitter. </p><p>On Wednesday night's show, Colbert made fun of NFL coach Dan Snyder’s launching of the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation,” a thing meant to paper over the offensiveness of his team’s name.</p><p>Colbert satirized the foundation with the following: </p><p><em>But I’m willing to show the Asian community that I care by introducing the Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitive to Orientals or Whatever….I owe all this sensitivity to Redskins owner Dan Snyder. So Asians, send your thank-you letters to him, not me.”</em></p><p>The joke later resurfaced in a decontextualized tweet, from the official account not run by Colbert himself:</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="160" width="480"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="160" width="480" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/large/public/colbert29n-1-web_1.jpg" /></div><p>Soon after, crusading anti-racism activist Suey Park and her network of advocates who propelled #NotYourAsianSidekick began #CancelColbert to call awareness to the casual racism against Asian Americans that such jokes can engender.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>O hell, Colbert decided to "satirize" genocidal America w/the R*dskins by using the word Orientals to Asian people? <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a></p>— Lauren Chief Elk (@ChiefElk) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChiefElk/statuses/449370339420557312">March 28, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a> because white liberals are just as complicit in making Asian Americans into punchlines and we aren't amused.</p>— Suey Park (@suey_park) <a href="https://twitter.com/suey_park/statuses/449334404410638337">March 27, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>POC deal with racism every day and the real life DEADLY effects. &amp; this clown profits off joking about POC pain. <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a> Yes, please.</p>— William C. Anderson (@williamcander) <a href="https://twitter.com/williamcander/statuses/449350346461421568">March 28, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Others thought that the campaign misdirected anger from where it should go: toward "Redskins" owner Dany Snyder.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>The <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a> campaign is absurd, and damages the credibility of APA activism. Let's please fight real enemies. <a href="http://t.co/Uv6rEXpbEv">http://t.co/Uv6rEXpbEv</a></p>— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) <a href="https://twitter.com/originalspin/statuses/449414621082836992">March 28, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The Suey Park Army regularly initiates viral Twitter campaigns against perceived slights to the Asian American community and other aggrieved minority groups. It’s a powerful network that usually gets the attention of whoever is the target of their ire, including Colbert himself, who tweeted his response from his official account:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a> - I agree! Just saw <a href="https://twitter.com/ColbertReport">@ColbertReport</a> tweet. I share your rage. Who is that, though? I'm <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenAtHome">@StephenAtHome</a> <a href="http://t.co/e0Pqz7U7i9">http://t.co/e0Pqz7U7i9</a></p>— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenAtHome/statuses/449396208533270529">March 28, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The official Colbert Report account was quick to delete the offending tweet (though it was screen captured prior) and absolve Colbert of responsibility:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p>For the record <a href="https://twitter.com/ColbertReport">@ColbertReport</a> is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is <a href="https://twitter.com/StephenAtHome">@StephenAtHome</a> Sorry for the confusion <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CancelColbert&amp;src=hash">#CancelColbert</a></p>— The Colbert Report (@ColbertReport) <a href="https://twitter.com/ColbertReport/statuses/449395265251078144">March 28, 2014</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 06:55:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 975950 at http://www.alternet.org Media Civil Liberties Culture Media News & Politics racism colbert report asian american John Boehner: States That Give Food Aid to Neediest Are 'Cheating' http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/john-boehner-states-give-food-aid-neediest-are-cheating <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Eight states have found a way around $8.5 billion cuts in food stamps, and Republicans are livid. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/boehner_0.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>When the farm bill passed through Congress earlier this year, Republicans were sure it would lead to savings by slashing $8.5 billion to food and heat assistance for the nation's most vulnerable--low income families, children, the elderly, and the disabled.</p><p>Now, at least eight states have found a loophole that allows them to continue providing help to their citizens--and Republicans are livid. </p><p>To understand the loophole, you first need to understand the nature of the cuts. Before the passage of the farm bill, states participated in a heat-and-eat program whereby the amount of food stamp aid was increased if recipients also received state heating assistance. The amount in dollars of heating assistance did not have any bearing on whether one was entitled to increased food stamp aid; so long as states provided at least $1 in heating assistance to a recipient, that person was entitled to extra food stamp benefits.</p><p>Republicans thought they found a way to close that loophole by raising the minimum amount of heat assistance states must provide to $20. They have been dismayed to find, however, that there do exist some elected officials who possess a modicum of compassion for their constituents.  </p><p>State governments in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, Montana and Pennsylvania have all pledged to increase heat assistance to $20 amid a brutal winter, so that the extra food benefits could still be doled out to the neediest. House Speaker John Boehner called the actions by state governors "cheating" and "fraud."</p><p>“Governors who choose to undermine the bipartisan reforms in the farm bill are putting those who depend on the home heating program at risk, and taking money out of every American taxpayer’s pocket,” Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman told <em>The Washington Post</em>.  </p><p>Without the change, tens of thousands of families of four stand to lose about $36 every month. It is unlikely that the extra heating assistance will cost the states much more money, because their money comes in the form of yearly federal block grants that usually leave most states with extra money anyway. </p><p>If all the states participated in the loophole, all $8.5 billion in intended savings would likely evaporate, and lawmakers would have to find another part of the beast from which to cut fat. Perhaps they could start by limiting the <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/new-report-fortune-100-companies-have-received-whopping-12-trillion-corporate">billions in subsidies, loans and grants handed out to military contractors, oil corporations and banks</a>. </p><p> </p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:58:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 975059 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Hard Times USA News & Politics snap food stamps boehner 4 Shocking Examples of Police Militarization in America's Small Towns http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/4-shocking-examples-police-militarization-americas-small-towns <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Police departments are militarizing even far from urban centers.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-03-26_at_12.44.45_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p dir="ltr">For nearly half a century, the general trend within America’s police precincts has been toward greater militarization, a transformation initiated by the culture wars of the 1960s and facilitated by the war on drugs, fear of inner-city crime, and anxieties over the threat of terrorism.</p><p dir="ltr">Fear of drugs, crime and terrorism have been used to justify the expansion of SWAT programs and the acquisition of military grade weaponry and vehicles in America’s smaller towns. Citing previous work, investigative journalist Radley Balko <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/aclu-police-militarization-swat_n_2813334.html">writes</a> that the number of SWAT teams in municipalities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 “increased by more than 300 percent between 1984 and 1995,” and that 75% of all of these towns had their own SWAT teams by the year 2000. Small precincts acquired wartime weaponry and a warrior culture was engendered among community police.</p><p dir="ltr">The ACLU is currently working on a <a href="https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/aclu-launches-nationwide-investigation-police-use-military-technology-tactics">major investigation</a> to illuminate the extent of militarization across America. Here are four shocking examples of militarized police in America's small towns. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Keene, New Hampshire</strong></p><p dir="ltr">A town with a murder count of two since 2009, Keene’s city officials surreptitiously accepted a $285,933 grant from the Department of Defense in 2012 to purchase a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or BearCat.</p><p dir="ltr">The grant was offered through the 1033 program, which was signed into law in 1997 and created a pipeline for the DOD to pass surplus military gear to local police precincts. It may seem preposterous that a sleepy New England town would need to commandeer a tank intended to withstand IED attacks, but in the post-9/11 era, nearly any degree of militarization can be justified with the threat of terrorism.</p><p>“We don't know what the terrorists are thinking,” warned Jim Massery, sales manager for the creator of the Bearcat, Lencor Armored Vehicles, to investigative journalist Radley Balko, before questioning whether residents who took issue with the BearCat “just don’t think police officers’ lives are worth saving.”</p><p dir="ltr">A series of town meetings led by city councilor Terry Clark revealed a sizable number of city residents opposed the local SWAT’s acquisition of a BearCat. “This is an agreement between the government and arms dealers, essentially,” noted Clark after a representative for Lencor revealed that the transfers of military equipment allow them to tap into the DOD’s $34 billion terrorism budget.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite resistance, the Keene police department put the BearCat to use, starting in the fall of 2012, and it was used 21 times as of summer 2013: 19 times for training exercises, once in response to a barricaded person and once in response to a person threatening suicide.</p><p dir="ltr">Surrounding cities have signed pacts with Keene to borrow the BearCat when needed, and support throughout the state for similar vehicles remains strong: A state bill to halt the purchase of military equipment by New Hampshire police departments was shot down in late March, making it likely that more departments will seek BearCats from the DOD, in addition to the 11 that already have them.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Ogden, Utah</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Ogden, a medium-sized Utah town flanked by the Wasatch mountain range and the Great Salt Lake, was for a long time little more than a junction point for railroads crisscrossing the country. These days, it’s ground zero for the debate over the use of SWAT in Utah, which has pitted fervent proponents of aggressive paramilitarism against those who want alternatives to the hyper-violent police confrontations that have roiled the state in recent years.</p><p>The flashpoint for the debate came in January 2011, when members of Ogden SWAT battered down the front door of Matthew David Stewart’s home. When the army veteran awoke to the sound of shouting voices and shuffling boots, he grabbed his bathrobe and Beretta and began exchanging fire with the officers, killing one and wounding seven while sustaining multiple gunshot wounds himself.</p><p dir="ltr">This disastrous account of law enforcement excess was bookended by death, starting with the raid fatality and ending with Stewart’s own suicide in his prison cell shortly after a judge threw out his self-defense claim. However, the questions raised about the use of military tactics have endured, imbued with urgency by a steady drip of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/utah-police-reform_n_4150625.html">fatal statewide SWAT encounters</a> in the last two years.</p><p dir="ltr">Although some in the state advocate more diplomatic means of apprehending drug and other types of offenders, the zeal for Ogden SWAT remains stronger than ever as the institution burrows itself deep into the <a href="http://www.swatsoccer.com/">community’s cultural DNA</a> and <a href="http://www.standard.net/stories/2014/03/10/north-ogden-hopes-get-officer-ogden-metro-swat">swells into nearby</a>jurisdictions. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/03/14/utah-is-a-hotbed-of-police-reform/">Three separate bills</a> in the Utah legislature would limit the ability of SWAT to serve “no-knock” raids (the deadly kind in which officers barge in the door while bellowing “Search warrant!”) and increase the standard of transparency that SWAT-equipped precincts must meet.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Columbia, South Carolina</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Richland County, where Columbia is located, caught the attention of some activists in 2008 when its sheriff purchased an armored personnel carrier from the DOD. Police in the area continued buying military-grade vehicles unchallenged. Most recently, the Columbia Police Department purchased a mine-resistant war truck from the DOD in the fall of 2013.</p><p>Unlike Keene’s BearCat, Columbia’s “U.N. blue” has a turret that can be armed with a 50-caliber machine gun. It’s also built to withstand any mine blasts it may trigger in the streets of the "Capital of Southern Hospitality.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) is valued at $658,000, but was handed off virtually free to the Columbia Police Department under the 1033 program. The Nerve <a href="http://thenerve.org/news/2014/02/26/military-vehicles/">found</a> that the only costs incurred by the Columbia police for obtaining the vehicle in September 2013 came to about $2,800: a $2,000 annual fee for participating in the 1033 program, and $800 to actually transport the vehicle from a military base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.</p><p dir="ltr">Under the conditions of the 1033 program, the DOD technically retains ownership of the military equipment it loans out, and recipients must use the equipment for at least one year before it is returned. However, the national ACLU confirmed with AlterNet that they’ve never heard of a department returning equipment to the DOD.</p><p dir="ltr">Unsurprisingly, drugs and terrorism were used to justify the presence of the vehicle. The Columbia Police Department’s application for the MRAP explained that the armored vehicle was needed to “protect our officers and the public during high risk counter drug and counter terrorism operations within the city of Columbia and the state of South Carolina.”</p><p dir="ltr">Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU-South Carolina, noted that local news outlets failed to commit significant time to covering militarization in Columbia. “There has been a huge distraction,” she wrote to AlterNet in an email, “[with the] search for a new police chief, turf issues with Richland County Sheriff department, [and] city administration problems.”</p><p dir="ltr">Documents reviewed by AlterNet reveal that the ACLU-South Carolina sent a FOIA request to the Richland County Sheriff’s office in March 2013, demanding the disclosure of “all 1033 programs inventories created and maintained” by county police departments. The sheriff’s office responded with a warning that fulfilling the ACLU’s request “may result in a charge of several thousand dollars,” which the ACLU immediately countered with another letter.</p><p dir="ltr">To date, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has not complied with the ACLU affiliate’s FOIA request.</p><p dir="ltr">4.<strong> Paragould, Arkansas</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The Paragould police chief attempted to turn a rising crime rate into a carte blanche for sending fully outfitted SWAT teams into communities to ask every single person in public for identification. The population of the town is 27,000. </p><p dir="ltr">"To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” said police chief Todd Stovall at a town hall meeting in December 2012. "Well, I've got statistical reasons that say I've got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you're doing out.”</p><p dir="ltr">The mayor stood by his police chief. "They may not be doing anything but walking their dog, but they're going to have to prove it,” he added to Stovall’s remarks.</p><p>The policy of de-facto martial law captured national attention and inspired an immediate response from the Arkansas ACLU. Stovall <a href="http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2012/12/21/the-problem-with-trained-armed-officers-see-paragould">issued a statement</a> justifying police-state tactics as features of “proactive police philosophy dedicated to managing problems before they become unmanageable,” and gave limited lip service to the Constitution and rule of law in general.</p><p dir="ltr">The public outrage forced city officials to back away from the Orwellian initiative.</p><div> </div> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:23:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 974990 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties town military Insane New Gun Law in Georgia Will Allow Guns in Bars, Schools, Churches—Just About Anywhere http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/insane-new-gun-law-georgia-will-allow-guns-bars-schools-churches-just-about <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The NRA calls it &quot;a historic victory for the Second Amendment.” </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_130121309_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>Straight out of Georgia comes one of the most far-reaching gun laws to ever surface in a legislative body. The bill passed both the state House and Senate last week, and Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign it into law soon.</div><div> </div><div>The law allows those with a weapons permit to carry a firearm virtually everywhere: airports, schools (for staff members) and even bars, so long as gun-carriers abide by the curious condition that they not drink while patronizing a drinking establishment. </div><div> </div><div>While the NRA, which pushed for the bill, called the law a "major victory for the Second Amendment," others thought the pro-gun lobby might have over-reached. Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based <a href="http://smartgunlaws.org/" title="The group’s website">Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence</a> told the New York Times that the bill is “so extreme and people do have such a strong reaction to it. I don’t think over all it’s a victory for them.”</div><div> </div><div>Originally the law also allowed for the carrying of guns on college campuses, but that part of the bill was removed; the bill also sanctioned the presence of weapons in churches, but that was amended to apply only to churches that allowed their congregation to tote guns during worship. An Atlanta-Journal Constitution poll which found that more than 70% of voters opposed those two measures. </div><div> </div><div>The law was fiercely opposed by a broad coalition in the state, not just gun-control advocates, but also police unions, church congregations, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A number of polls indicated the majority of Georgians also opposed the bill. </div><div> </div><div>The New York Times reports that the bill may be the climax of the wave of pro-gun legislation that has washed over 21 states in response to the push for stricter gun control following a spate of mass shootings cluminating in the tragedy at Sandy Hook.</div><div> </div><div>From the New York Times: </div><div> </div><blockquote><div>In the past year alone, 21 states have passed laws expanding the rights of gun owners, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Three allow guns in churches, two allow them on college campuses, four in bars and eight in schools.</div><div>...</div><div>There was a flurry of gun-control legislation after 26 children and educators were shot to death in Newtown, Conn., by a well-armed, mentally disturbed 20-year-old. But in the 12 months immediately afterward, states passed 39 laws to tighten gun restrictions and 70 to loosen them.</div></blockquote><div> </div><div>The NYTimes also reported that on the day the bill was passed, shots were fired during a fight at a listless bar in an Atlanta suburb, wounding one innocent bystander.</div><div> </div><div>Read more <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/us/amid-wave-of-pro-gun-legislation-georgia-proposes-sweeping-law.html?referrer=">here.</a></div><div> </div> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 08:22:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 974985 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Civil Liberties News & Politics guns Gun law georgia nra Disturbing New Report: Air Pollution Killed 7 Million People in 2012—Or About 1 in 8 Premature Deaths http://www.alternet.org/environment/disturbing-new-report-air-pollution-killed-7-million-people-2012-or-about-1-8-premature <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The World Health Organization calls for major policy changes to counter the trend.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_130778315.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>About 7 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2012, according to new estimates released by the World Health Organization. This more than doubles the figure from 2011.</p><p>The WHO estimates that approximately 3.7 million premature deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution, and another 4.3 million are atrributable to indoor air pollution. Both kinds of pollution tend to affect more people in poor and developing countries, especially in Asia. While outdoor air pollution tends to be an urban phenomenon, indoor air pollution affects more women and children in rural areas, where women are forced to cook with solid fuels like coal, dung and agricultural byproducts.</p><p>In total, most deaths-by-atmosphere in 2012 were the results of stroke: 2,296,900. A close second was coronary artery disease, followed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections. Nine percent of those killed were children, while the rest was about split even between men and women.</p><p>"Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe," said Dr. Maria Neira in a WHO press release.</p><p>By far the regions most at risk were located in South East Asia and the Western Pacific, which is perpetually blanketed by a haze of filth (the Southeast Haze) due to pollution from massive land-clearing fires mostly initiated by big palm oil companies.</p><p>The WHO says the figures are their most accurate yet due to advancements in atmospheric measurement technology. Distressingly, the number of deaths attributable to air pollution in 2012, doubled the estimate in 2011. Representatives from the organization said major policy changes are needed to counter the problem.</p><p>"Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains,” said Dr. Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, in a press release.</p><p> </p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 07:06:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 974947 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment News & Politics pollution who indoor air pollution lung disease respiratory infections Uruguay to Accept Five Prisoners From Guantanamo http://www.alternet.org/uruguay-accept-five-prisoners-guantanamo <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Uruguayan present, who himself was a political prisoner in the 1970s, says Uruguay &quot;would not be their jailer.&quot; </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_140869273.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Yesterday, President José Mujica of Uruguay announced to Uruguayan press that he would accept a request from President Obama to receive five inmates from Guantánamo Bay. </p><p>“It’s a human rights issue,” said President Mujica. “There are 120 guys who have been prisoners 13 years that haven’t seen a judge, prosecutor, anybody. The president of the U.S. wants to get rid of this problem.” The weekly Uruguayan magazine <em>Busqueda</em> reported that under the conditions of the agreement, the former prisoners would have to remain within the South American country for two years.</p><p>US ambassador to Uruguay Julissa Reynoso denied to Montevideo's "El Espectador" radio show that the deal was done, stating, "That's not correct. We're consulting and in conversation, but there is no deal to make a process like this in Uruguay." She described the five detainees as “non dangerous for the Uruguayan society."</p><p>Since Obama took office, the United States has resettled 43 detainees in 17 countries and released 38 to their homelands. Still, 154 remain imprisoned at the facility. </p><div>Mujica's imprisonment of 13 years in the 1970s and 80s may make him a sympathetic recipient of the prisoners. "...If inmates of Guantanamo want to make their nests in Uruguay, they can do it," he said, adding that he "would not be their jailer."</div><div> </div> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:21:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 973171 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics uruguay jose mujica guantanámo It Starts Early: Black Preschoolers Suspended at Much Higher Rate Than Whites http://www.alternet.org/it-starts-early-black-preschoolers-suspended-much-higher-rate-whites <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The same gap seen in incarceration and graduation rates also appears at the preschool level.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-03-21_at_10.47.20_am_1.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Across institutions, economic indicators and rates of crime, racial gaps abound. Now, new data from the US Department of Education reveals that unequal treatment can begin as early as preschool. </p><p>Of the 8,000 toddlers suspended from preschool in 2011--a surreal figure in and of itself--roughly 45 percent of them were black and 26 percent were white, even though rates of enrollment were nearly the reverse. Latino children were also suspended at a higher rate to whites relative to their enrollment.</p><p>This sort of pattern continues later on in school. Across all K-12 schools, black students represented 16 percent of the student population but 42 percent were suspended more than once during the 2011-2012 school year. </p><p>The Office for Civil Rights Data Collection report also reveals a number of long standing disparities within the education system, including unequal access to experienced educators and advanced courses in schools that serve students of color. It can be read in full <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1094421/crdc-college-and-career-readiness-snapshot.pdf">here</a>.</p><p> </p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 07:23:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 973105 at http://www.alternet.org Education News & Politics education racism disparity Deadly Influence: Powerful Oil Companies Force EPA to Undercount Methane Emissions http://www.alternet.org/environment/deadly-influence-powerful-oil-companies-force-epa-undercount-methane-emissions <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New study shows EPA has missed as much as 50 percent because it must get permission from the very companies that pollute. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_165542000.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A new study published in <em>Science</em> magazine reveals that the Environmental Protection Agency has been drastically undercounting the amount of global temperature-boosting methane gas in the air by as much as 50%--the amount equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 252 coal power plants over a 20-year time period. </p><p>The new <a href="http://www.novim.org/images/pdf/ScienceMethane.02.14.14.pdf">study</a> uses top-down and bottom-up methods to measure the amount of methane emissions in the air, meaning they not only measure the exact amount of methane in the air (top-down), they can accurately trace the sources of the gas from the ground (bottom-up).</p><p>But the EPA normally uses a bottom-up approach in its estimates of methane in the air. A major limitation of their methodology is that researchers must obtain permission to survey natural-gas operations, which is oftentimes denied by companies in the fossil fuel industry. Those that do offer permission are likely the companies that emit the least gas, and when the EPA uses their emissions data to extrapolate for the whole industry, they likely understate the actual degree of methane in the air.</p><p>Fortunately, new technologies under development allow researchers to measure the amount of methane and other gases in the air from a distance, nullifying the requirement of permission to enter private facilities. These include stationary detectors as well as car-mounted devices that can sample the air and locate gas leaks from a considerable distance.</p><p>Nevertheless, the pace of innovation for regulators still lags far behind the evolving technologies that have facilitated the fracking boom within the oil and gas industry. As companies break ground and zip petrol across the country at a dizzying pace, the need for a more robust toolkit is becoming more apparent, as the vexing revelation about lowballed methane estimates reveals. </p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:08:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 972174 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment Fracking News & Politics methane environment epa global warming fossil fuel companies New Report: Fortune 100 Companies Have Received a Whopping $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare Recently http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/new-report-fortune-100-companies-have-received-whopping-12-trillion-corporate <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Military contractors, oil companies and banks are the biggest &#039;welfare queens&#039; around.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_130862018.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Most of us are aware that the government gives mountains of cash to powerful corporations in the form of tax breaks, grants, loans and subsidies--what some have called "corporate welfare." However, little has been revealed about exactly how much money Washington is forking over to mega businesses.</p><p>Until now.</p><p>A new venture called Open the Books, based in Illinois, was founded with a mission to bring transparency to how the federal budget is spent. And what they found is shocking: between 2000 and 2012, the top Fortune 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the government. That doesn't include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for wind turbine makers. </p><p>What Open the Book's <a href="http://www.openthebooks.com/">forthcoming report</a> does reveal is that the most valuable contracts between the government and private firms were for military procrument deals, including Lockheed Martin ($392 billion), General Dynamics ($170 billion), and United Technologies ($73 billion). </p><p>After military contractors, $21.8 billion was granted out to corporate recipients in the form of direct subsidies; literally transfers of cash from the pockets of Americans to major corporations. The biggest winners were General Electric (GE) ($380 million), followed by General Motors (GM) ($370 million), Boeing (BA) ($264 million), ADM ($174 million) and United Technologies ($160 million). </p><div>$8.5 billion in federally subsidized loans were also doled out to giant oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobile, and $1 billion went directly to massive agri-business Archer Daniels Midland. </div><div> </div><div>Of course, the banks also got their piece of the pie: $10 billion in federal insurance went to Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, not including any of the 2008 bailout money. Walmart enjoyed its share of federal insurance backing as well. </div><div> </div><div>Thanks to Open the Books, the curtain has been lifted and the whole country can now witness the great suckling of corporate America. As Open the Books founder Adam Andrzejewski put it: "Mitt Romney had it wrong: When it comes to the Fortune 100, it's 99%, not 47%, on some form of the government's gravy train." </div><div> </div> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 08:18:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 972139 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace News & Politics corporate welfare banks military contractors open the books School District Censors Gay Teen's Coming-Out Story in Yearbook http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/school-district-censors-gay-teens-coming-out-story-yearbook <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Arkansas school administrators said the censorship was &quot;consistent with their mission.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_117978211_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Declaring that they wouldn't "make decisions based on the demands of any special interest group," Superintendent Dr. Brenda Haynes of the Sheradin school district in Arkansas has signed off an a decision by a local high school to censor the "coming out" profile of a gay student in the school's yearbook.</p><p>Unfortunately for district officials, the president of the national Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, is also a Sheradin native, and he is using the weight of his organization to force a reversal of the school's decision. </p><p>Griffin wrote a letter to the school's superintended and principal: </p><blockquote><div>As an Arkansas native and a former elementary school student in Sheridan, I was taught the Golden Rule— about treating others as we would like to be treated. Whatever you may say about your intentions, it does not change the fact that you have failed to uphold these values that all fair-minded Arkansans share. Addressing bullying requires stopping bullies, not muzzling harmless free expression.</div></blockquote><p>The school answered responded with the aforementioned "special interests" rebuttal, as well as the claim that they were merely "mak[ing] decisions which are consistent with the mission of [the] school." </p><p>The A<a href="http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/law_library.asp?id=5">rkansas Student Publications Act of 1995</a> said that students ultimately have the final say in what is and isn't published in campus publications, so long as material isn't obscene or libelous. The short profile of Taylor Ellis is clearly neither, unless one believes that being gay is inherently an obsecenity: </p><blockquote><p>“I use [sic] to be scared to say that I'm gay. It's not fun keeping secrets; after I told everyone, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.” He also said, "Some guys are more reserved around me now. But not a lot of people have been mean about it, thank God. I'm actually in a good situation. I'm very lucky.”</p></blockquote><p>The Human Rights Campaign and the Northwest Center for Equality are now lobbying state Governor Mike Bebee to intervene in the school's decision, but his office has so far been reluctant to do so. </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 07:27:00 -0700 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 972125 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Education News & Politics gay homophobia arkansas censorship Judge Rules Chevron Will Not Have To Pay Billions For Environmental Destruction http://www.alternet.org/judge-rules-chevron-will-not-have-pay-billions-environmental-destruction <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A federal U.S. court has dampened the possibility that Chevron will pay $9.5 billion in compensation payments to Ecuadorean farmers and fishermen. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_93947302.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>After securing the largest award in the history of environmental litigation, a ruling this week in a federal U.S. court has severely dampened possibility that Chevron will pay $9.5 billion in compensation to Ecuadoran farmers and fishermen most affected by twenty years of unrestrained ecological desecration in the Amazon rainforest.</p><p>United States District Judge Lewis Kaplan said that the U.S. oil company was able to prove that the 2011 Ecuadoran ruling for indigenous peoples living in the forrested northeastern corner of the country was secured through fraud. The judgement is a blow to those who have been at the mercy of Chevron's massive oil-producing efforts for decades.</p><p>After striking oil in the northeast corner of Ecuador in 1967, Texaco (which merged into Chevron in 2001) struck a partnership with Petroecuador that would eventually lead to 220,000 barrel-a-day production between 1972 and 1992 in an area dubbed "Lago Agrio." As Texaco sucked and slurped up petrol from the ground at a maddening pace, it left an unparalleled trail of degredation deep inside the Amazonian rainforest, home to one of the world's most diverse, and fragile, biospheres.</p><p>In its twenty year reign of ecological destruction, Texaco spilled 16 million gallons of crude into the Amazon river--over three times as much spilled by BP into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010--and left "hundreds of toxic waste pits...and an estimated 18 billion gallons of waste, or 'produced,' water, which some tests have shown to contain possibly cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at levels many times higher than those permitted in the US," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/20/opinion/op-feige20">according to the LA Times</a>. The water sources contaminated by oil production were also those used by local indigeous groups for drinking, bathing and fishing. </p><p>In 1993, a group of lawyers representing Lago Agrio indigenous groups most affected by the pollution brought litigation against the oil conglomerate. The suit was kicked around federal trial and appeals courts in the U.S. for ten years before being sent back to an Ecuadoran court, where, in 2011, a judge ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion to the farmers and fishermen represented on the plaintiff side. </p><p>Kaplan's new ruling, the result of a countersuit filed by Chevron against the Amazon dwellers in the wake of the 2011 verdict, rests on allegations brought by Chevron that the lead attorney for the the plaintiff engaged in "repeated acts of fraud, bribery [and] money laundering" (a laughable charge coming from the second largest oil company in the United States) sends a message to those whose livelihoods have been uprooted by coporate malfeasance: Money and influence will always enable the rich and powerful to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. </p><p>Han Shan, a U.S. spokesman for the plaintiffs, issued the following statement on Kaplan's judgement:</p><blockquote><p>While the Ecuadorans respect the rule of law in all countries, they do not accept this court’s jurisdiction nor this ruling. The affected communities long ago gave up hope that a U.S. court would provide them relief from Chevron’s contamination, which has taken their loved ones, poisoned their lands, and imperiled their cultures.</p></blockquote><p>However, there remains hope for successful verdicts for the Ecuadoran plaintiffs in other litigation pending against Chevron in Brazil, Argentina and Canada. A Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in December that "the 47 villagers have the right to pursue Chevron’s Canada assets," <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-04/ecuador-judgment-against-chevron-ruled-a-fraud-by-u-s-.html">according to Bloomberg News</a>. The other cases are pending.</p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 08:00:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 967369 at http://www.alternet.org Environment chevron oil petroleum indigenous ecuador Lago Agrio Apartheid Wall in Arizona? Israeli Company Contracted to Build U.S.-Mexico Border Fence http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/apartheid-wall-arizona-israeli-company-contracted-build-us-mexico-border-fence <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The company behind the West Bank separation wall was awarded a $145 million contract to further militarize the border.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_151338593.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This week, the Israeli company Elbit Systems Ltd. announced that its subsidiary won a contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection to produce and install surveillance systems along the U.S.-Mexico border. The company is famous for providing "intrusion detection systems” and other infastructure support for the Israeli West Bank barrier.</p><p>The subsidiary was awarded a $145 million contract for a project called the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT), which is to be built on the Mexico-Arizona border over the next year. The contract also guarantees eight years of infrastructure support from Elbit Systems.</p><p>The project outlines the construction of an undisclosed number of observation towers at the border by Nogales, Arizona, a town about an hour south of Tucson. Additional towers could be built at five other areas along the state’s border. </p><p>Elbit Systems, founded in 1967, is the largest supplier of military technology, unmanned combat air vehicles (aka drones), and surveillance infrastructure to the Israeli military. Its attack drones, which the company’s website <a href="http://www.elbitsystems.com/elbitmain/uas">boasts</a> are “the backbone of the Israel Defense Forces UAS [unmanned aerial system] force,” have been used in lethal attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.</p><p>If the House passes the immigration bill currently sitting in Congress, the terms of the Elbit-CBP contract could expand to a $1 billion deal. </p><p>According to Homeland Security News Wire, Elbit also <a href="http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20140306-cbp-awards-145-million-border-towers-contract-to-elbit" style="font-size: 12px;">recommended</a> that the Department of Homeland Security "adopt a more complete border security system, which combines radar and electro-optical sensors, unattended ground sensors, unmanned air systems, and manned or unmanned ground vehicles to enhance agents’ flexibility and responsiveness.”</p> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:50:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 967306 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties News & Politics World Israel dhs mexico Elbit Systems Oh No! Chipotle Might Stop Serving Guacamole Because of Climate Change http://www.alternet.org/food/oh-no-chipotle-might-stop-serving-guacamole-because-climate-change <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Your favorite burrito may be one ingredient short!</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_167737076.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Citing "increasing weather volatility" and "other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change," Chipotle has announced that it may be forced to suspend the sale of guacamole and some of its salsas in the future. </p><p>The popular fast-food chain goes through 35.4 million pounds of avocadoes every year, but scientists anticipate that climate change will induce a drier climate that will negatively impact avocado crops. In California alone, where Chipotle buys much of its avocadoes, one study predicts that higher temperatures will cause a <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-12/dlnl-ric120406.php">40 percent drop</a> in avocado production. </p><p>As extreme weather due to climate change hurts crops, the shortage of avocadoes and hence guac will drive up prices, which Chipotle would then pass on to consumers. ThinkProgress <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/04/3360731/chipotle-guacamole-crisis/">notes</a> that the restaurant's commitment to local and organically sourced ingredients make it more susceptible to the threat of climate change, because the markets from where it buys its food "are generally smaller and more concentrated than the markets for commodity food products." These farmers are not able to weather the effects of climate change without raising their prices, and Chipotle would rather not pay them.</p><p>Chipotle also said that if drought conditions in California exacerbated by climate change continue to worsen, that could drive up the prices of other ingredients as well. The restaurant would then be forced to prioritize its primary ingredients over less central ones like guacamole. </p><p> </p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 10:05:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 966345 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food News & Politics chipotle climate change DC City Council Votes Overwhelmingly to Reform Racist Pot Laws in Nation's Capital http://www.alternet.org/drugs/dc-city-council-votes-overwhelmingly-reform-racist-pot-laws-nations-capital <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The bill now heads to the desk of Mayor Vincent Gray, who has previously pledged support for such legislation.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_135959468.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On Tuesday,  the DC City Council voted 10 to 1 to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in the nation's capital, and the bill now heads to the desk of Mayor Vincent Gray, who has previously pledged support for such legislation.</p><p>Possession and sale of medical marijuana is currently legal in DC, but the penalty for possession of recreational pot is up to six months and jail and a $1,000 fine - not to mention a criminal record, which can have <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/177017/boxed-how-criminal-record-keeps-you-unemployed-life">damning effects</a> on a person's ability to apply for a job, find housing and build credit. Under the new measure, those found in possession of up to an ounce would be ticketed for $25. </p><p>The vote was motivated in large part by the racist nature of marijuana-related arrests. Across the country, blacks are nearly 4x as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. This disparity is even worse in DC, where blacks are over<a href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu-thewaronmarijuana-rel2.pdf">8x more likely</a> to be arrested for possession than whites—the largest disparity of any comparable jurisdiction in the country except Iowa. </p><p>Council member Tommy Wells, the lead sponsor of the bill, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-council-eliminates-jail-time-for-marijuana-possession-stepping-to-national-forefront/2014/03/04/df6fd98c-a32b-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html">commented</a> to the Washington Post on the unjust nature of marijuana laws in DC: </p><blockquote><p>"In D.C., there are more than 5,000 arrests per year for marijuana; 90 percent are African American. One drug charge can change a life forever. Our action . . . does not repeal all negative impacts caused by criminalization of marijuana, but it moves us in the right direction."</p></blockquote><p>The vote in DC is important for the overall thrust of change in drug laws because of how many people DC police arrest for possession. The rate of arrest for simple possession is <a href="https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu-thewaronmarijuana-rel2.pdf">higher</a> in DC than any other comparable jurisdiction in the country. The District also saw a 62% increase in marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010, behind only four other states. </p><p>The most interesting dimension of the DC vote will be how federal law plays out against the district's right to self-governance. Although the Obama administration has chosen not to directy confront pot legalization in Washington and Colorado, there are more than two dozen federal law enforcement agencies in DC that could easily enforce the dictates of federal law over pot-holding Washingtonians. </p><p>Some doubt that half measures like decriminalization will even do much to stem the rate of arrests for pot. The lone dissenter of the measure, Council member Yvette Alexander, suggested to the Washington Post that the city should either endorse outright legalization or no change at all, since the current measure would do nothing to decriminalize the consumption of pot:</p><blockquote><p>"There will not be any reduction in the amount of arrests because . . . there will still be arrests when someone is smoking marijuana on the corner, or when someone is selling marijuana on the corner,” Alexander said. “If you’re the lucky one who happens to possess it, then you’re off the hook.”</p></blockquote><p>Currently, activists are waiting to hear back from the DC Board of Elections on whether they can begin to gather signatures for a November ballot measure that would fully legalize pot in the nation's capital. </p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 07:49:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 966255 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics marijuana pot decriminalization washington dc racism racist New Report Says Rich Are Richer And Spending More Than Ever http://www.alternet.org/new-report-says-rich-are-richer-and-spending-more-ever <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">5,000 new individuals were added to the roster of the &quot;ultra-wealthy&quot; in the last year alone. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_152105888.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Surprise, plebians: The rich are getting richer. </p><p>A new <a href="http://www.thewealthreport.net/#sthash.qJDEQ68w.dpbs">report</a>released this week by the elitist property management firm Knight Frank confirms the ranks of the rich are expanding, and they're spending their money with the gilded abandon so characteristic of our era. </p><p>The report notes the number of "ultra-wealthy" individuals (those earning over $30 million) across the globe rose by 59% over the last decade, and the number of billionaires increased by 80%. 5,000 new individuals were added to the roster of the "ultra-wealthy" in the last year alone. </p><p>75 percent of wealthy respondents surveyed by Knight Frank said their assets increased in the last year, while less than 5 percent said their personal wealth had declined. </p><p>The report optimistically forecasts an increase in the population of billionaires across the globe. From the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/business/for-rich-13-was-good-for-making-and-spending-money.html">New York Times</a> summary of the report: </p><blockquote><p>While the United States, Japan and Germany are still home to more millionaires and billionaires than other countries, wealth is growing rapidly in the Middle East, Latin America, Australasia and Africa. By 2023, China is expected to have 322 billionaires, more than Britain, Russia, France and Switzerland combined, according to the report. The United States is forecast to have 503 billionaires in 2023, up from the current 417, according to the report.</p></blockquote><p>What effect will the rising fortunes of the wealthy have on American society? The right claims that a rising economy rises in unison, but as the rich have emerged from the financial crisis even wealthier than before, <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/a-decade-of-flat-wages-the-key-barrier-to-shared-prosperity-and-a-rising-middle-class/">wages have stagnated</a> for everyone else and the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-joseph/the-war-on-poverty-is-back_b_4866216.html">ranks of the poor have grown</a>. </p><p>It will take more than newly-minted millionaires to build a society that is fair and just for all. </p><p> </p><p> </p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 06:41:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 966229 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics rich wealthy 99% 1% inequality Algorithms and Future Crimes: Welcome to the Racial Profiling of the Future http://www.alternet.org/algorithms-and-future-crimes-welcome-racial-profiling-future <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">More and more police departments are turning to &quot;predictive policing,&quot; which has proven unmistakably racist.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_163084580.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Across the country, large police departments have been developing their ability to track where crime will happen next using predictive software. Known as “predictive policing,” the practice has made waves in the media over the last few years, capturing the imagination of futurists and tough-on-crime zealots, while offending the sensibilities of basically everyone else.</p><p>Proponents describe the program in techno-pragmatist terms, arguing that it uses data to make smart inferences about the future in much the same way meterologists do. Opponents compare the idea to hellishly dystopian stories like <em>The Minority Report, </em>where innocent people are rounded up because a computer said there was a chance they would break the law in the future.</p><p>There is one major feature of predictive policing that the libertarian critique often glosses over: it's unmistakably racist. </p><p>Any attempt to predict future criminality will be based on the crime rates of the past. <a href="http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/">It's well known</a> that blacks and Hispanics are arrested at a higher rate than whites and comprise the majority of the prison population. If that's the reality that is supposed to inform who we criminalize in the future, won't initiatives like predictive policing just perpetuate the racist criminal justice policies and practices of the present?</p><p><em>The Verge</em> <a href="http://http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/19/5419854/the-minority-report-this-computer-predicts-crime-but-is-it-racist">took these questions to Chicago</a> to examine the most developed and well-financed iteration of predictive policing in the country. The Chicago Police Department users data on past crimes, information about disturbance calls and calls regarding suspicious persons to create a crime map that "highlights neighborhoods of the city that might soon be at risk of an uptick in crime."</p><p>Keeping with the dry data-babbling sell, the predictive analyst behind Chicago's program, Dr. Miles Wernick, compares it to his previous work in weather forecasting. "The recommendations of the mapping system will not replace the expertise of police officers, but instead [will] highlight potential concerns so police can take them into account," he says.</p><p>CPD has also created a "heat list" comprised of around 400 Chicagoans who are "most likely to be involved in violent crime." Police have already visited the homes of 60 people on the list, warning them like a schoolteacher warns a class clown that if they screw up, the law will be watching, and there will be serious consequences. </p><p>Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, summed up concerns about CPD's use of predictive policing:</p><blockquote><p>Are people ending up on this list simply because they live in a crappy part of town and know people who have been troublemakers? How many people of color are on this heat list? Is the list all black kids? Is this list all kids from Chicago’s South Side? If so, are we just closing ourselves off to this small subset of people?</p></blockquote><p>For the moment, those questions cannot be answered because the CPD blocked an attempt by <em>The Verge</em> to access the heat list through a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act. </p><p>Wernick insists, delusionally, that predictive policing "evaluates the risk of violence in an unbiased, quantitative way," reaching for a smoking analogy to justify his claim:</p><blockquote><p>[It is] similar manner to how the medical field has identified statistically that smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. Of course, everybody who smokes doesn't get lung cancer, but it demonstrably increases the risk dramatically. The same is true of violent crime.</p></blockquote><p>Wernick and the CPD want to put already blighted communities in their crosshairs for enhanced police presence. Imagine that if instead of targeting them for more patrolling, they were targeted for more schools, social workers, and community-building resources.</p><p>Surely, that too would have an impact on the future of crime.</p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 08:47:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 964359 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics predictive policing racist police chicago police department Teaching Hate: Border Patrol Community Event Reveals A Violent Mindset http://www.alternet.org/immigration/teaching-hate-border-patrol-community-event-reveals-violent-mindset <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Dehumanization is one step in numbing others to violence against certain groups of people. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/borderpatrol7.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>On the eve of World War II, the Nazis began to describe the European Jews as “Untermenschen.” The word literally means “subhumans”—a creature that resembles a person, but is nevertheless a bestial humanoid aberration.</div><div> </div><div>This was a way to dehumanize them in preparation for a statewide programm of mass extermination. Since the Holocaust, scholars have recognized the process of dehumanization as a central part of genocidal campaigns, one that erases the moral dilemmas normally associated with hurting others by sanding down innate empathic capacities.</div><div> </div><div>In any campaign of hatred, dehumanization is not the final endpoint; rather, it is a milestone that must be reached in order to enable a desired degree of violence. Dehumanization doesn’t always end in ethnic cleansing. It can take other forms, which, while they may be less extreme, are equally sordid, like teaching children how to shoot at effigies of people who are different from them.</div><div> </div><div>At a community event to honor fallen agents in San Diego last year, the local Customs and Border Patrol outfit facilitated an activity in which children were given less-than-lethal rifles and shotguns and instructed by agents on how to fire at cut-out targets resembling adolescent migrants. One of the targets is even wearing a “Tapout” t-shirt, a common article of clothing donned by young people on either side of the border. In one of the images, a youth seems to be aiming his gun at the target’s head.</div><div> </div><div>For its part, CBP San Diego absurdly justified the event as a part of a community-wide expo meant to “build relationships and increase awareness about law enforcement.” The agency has reportedly claimed that they will continue to host the event in the future, but will use neutral targets to assuage public outrage.</div><div> </div><div>It’s bad enough that the CBP fails to connect the dots between its showy display of mock violence and the renewed controversy in the media over its agents’ slaying of migrants. But even worse, the fact that CBP defended the activity as a community-building event indicates they see an aggressive disdain for migrants as a way to strengthen communal bonds. United in dehumanization we stand.</div><div> </div><div>Activist Pedro Ríos of the American Friends Service Committee said that the incident is indicative of how border communities have become areas of low intensity conflict, where the specter of violence is something expected and even sanctioned. “When violence becomes normalized to the extent that civil society stops questioning it, you stop seeing how wrong it is,” he said. He mentions how the Border Patrol in San Diego possess a coveted space as leaders in the community, even visiting elementary schools to hand out good citizenship awards. “Could be that one day, a Border Patrol agent gives out a [citizenship] certificate to a kid, while next day he might be involved in a beating?”</div><div> </div><div>Since 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled, and with such a rapid expansion the quality of recruits has suffered. Agents with less training are more likely to employ crude means of handling people they view as problematic. At least twenty unarmed have been shot and killed along the border by the Border Patrol since 2010, some of them in the back. None of the agents implicated in the murders have faced any form of retribution.</div><div> </div><div>Green shirts are even allowed to fire on migrants who throw rocks at them, whereas such excessive retaliation would be completely reprehensible if committed by a domestic law enforcement group. There is a reason for this discrepancy: Migrants are viewed as less than human. Instead, they are imagined as desperate, free-moving hordes infiltrating from a strange land, shouting and chattering in foreign tongues; subhumans, Untermenschen.</div><div> </div><div>Agents operate in a broader society that automatically presumes the criminality of undocumented people. Their most doltish opponents freely call them “aliens,” but even mainstream sources describe them with the slippery term “illegal.” As if all of that didn’t make it difficult enough to attain value in the eyes of society, undocumented people are mostly relegated to bottom rung jobs with low pay and respectability. Although Americans value hard work, we don’t necessarily value the work of the lower class. We are a nation of aspirers, holding up the livelihoods of the super rich as ideals for which to strive, while giving little consideration—let alone respect—to the men and women who package our food and stich together our clothes.</div><div> </div><div>The subhuman characterization of undocumented people becomes even more dangerous as the prospect of a hyper-militarized border grows inevitable. The immigration bill sitting in Congress would nearly double the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—the size of Serbia’s entire army—and create “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” as Senator John McCain boasted last year. Even if the bill doesn’t end up passing, defense and surveillance corporations have such a vested interest in a dumping their war technology from overseas onto the southern border that any future iteration of the bill will likely look much the same.</div><div> </div><div>It’s in the context of enhanced militarization and an already dehumanized perception of Latin American migrants that the San Diego’s obtuseness about their “community event” is so worrisome. It doesn’t matter their intention; history has shown, again and again, what happens when you simultaneously strip a person of their humanity and promote fatalistic solutions to social problems.</div><div> </div><div>It’s unfortunate that any armed, aggressive agency can rise to such prominent civic stature in a community, but at the very least, the Border Patrol in San Diego and everywhere else could avoid teaching children how to violently dispense with people who are different from them.</div><div> </div><div>Even that might be too much to ask for. Just last week, another unarmed migrant was shot dead across the border from San Diego.</div><div> </div> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 08:01:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, Latino Rebels 964291 at http://www.alternet.org Immigration Immigration immigration Ruling: Police Can Enter Home without Warrant Even if One Person Objects http://www.alternet.org/ruling-police-can-enter-home-without-warrant-even-if-one-person-objects <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Police gain new unprecedented power to enter homes without warrants.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/police_officer_behind_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Earlier this week, the Supreme Court gave the police more power to enter a person's home without a warrant: if two people are inside a home, and one person denies police entry while the other allows it, the police can enter based on one party's consent.</p><p>This overturned a previous ruling in 2006 in which justices concluded that when two people disagree over a search, the police must listen to the objecting party. </p><p>The ruling was in regards to a case involving a domestic abuse. A woman believed to have been physically assaulted by another occupant, a man, answered the door for police. The man objected to the police entering his home, but was arrested anyway shortly after they did. </p><p>The Court's verdict seems to favor victims of domestic violence (who are often women). Interestingly, however, all three justices who dissented the ruling were women: Justices Ginsberg, Kagan and Sotomayor. </p><p>"Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement, today's decision tells the police they may dodge it," Ginsburg <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-scotus-lapd-search-20140226,0,3720623.story">wrote</a> in her dissent. </p><p>Officially, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution bars representatives of the state from entering a home without a warrant, probable cause, or pursuant to an arrest. However, multiple rulings of the last few decades--usually related to drug arrests--have steadily eroded the standards to which law enforcement must adhere before entering a home.</p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 07:32:00 -0800 Aaron Cantú, AlterNet 964292 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties News & Politics search and seizure fourth amendment police entering constitution