Category Archives: Police corruption

In pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

In pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

In Mexico, a country home to powerful drug cartels, groups of armed vigilantes known as ‘fuerzas autodefensas’, or self-defence groups, have formed in the past year. In recent weeks, they have even taken over communities in the state of Michoacan; in one case surrounding a city thought to be a key stronghold for the Knights Templar cartel and taking over nearby towns after violent street clashes.

In these newly occupied towns the citizen militia have disarmed and detained local police, claiming that both police and government forces are corrupt and in league with the cartels. 

Mexico’s drug war has wreaked havoc on the country, bringing staggering levels of crime and violence. These civilians, armed with AK-47s, have been fighting back in what they see as a bid to liberate the country.”

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Human rights a third class passenger on Mexico’s train

Global Public Square

By Javier Zúñiga, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Javier Zúñiga is a special adviser for Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.

When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto came to power a year ago, he was the new face of the old Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the political machinery that dominated the country for more than 70 years. With his carefully built image of a dynamic young professional, Peña Nieto started his term in office by launching multiple reform initiatives, covering numerous aspects of daily life in the country. He claims that his policies will put Mexico on a promising train to modernity and prosperity. But a year on, what has he really achieved?

One of Peña Nieto’s early commitments was to end the cycle of human rights violations and violence that so characterised former President Felipe Calderon’s administration. Sadly, he has not delivered on that promise: On…

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Transnational Anti-Imperialism and Middle East Women’s Studies

Transnational Anti-Imperialism and Middle East Women’s Studies

“While teaching courses in US Women of Color Feminisms and American Studies on the one hand and Middle East Women’s Studies on the other, I have run up against the limitations of area-studies divisions that continue to predominate within Middle East Women’s Studies—such as the framing of American Studies (including US Women of Color and Native American Feminist Studies) and Middle East Studies (including Middle East Women’s Studies) as separate fields and the United States and the Middle East as geographically bounded regions. Such divisions obstruct the possibilities for engagement with important questions such as whether and to what extent racist/classist/heterosexist US prison structures have anything to do with the US war on terror. In fact, a particular strand of feminist scholarship that I will refer to here as Anti-Imperialist Transnational Feminist Studies (AITFS) has been asking such questions for decades, and these questions are now more imperative to Middle East Women’s Studies than ever before.”

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How to really end mass incarceration

How to really end mass incarceration

“But this is no time to rest. Those who seek a fairer criminal justice system, unclouded by racial bias, must at a minimum demand that the government eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which tie judges’ hands; rescind three-strikes laws, which often make no distinction between, say, armed assault and auto theft; amend “truth in sentencing” statutes, which prohibit early release for good behavior; and recalibrate drug policies, starting with decriminalization of marijuana possession and investment in substance-abuse prevention and treatment. Federal aid to state and local agencies, like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant and the Community Oriented Policing Services, must prioritize diversion and rehabilitation over arrest and incarceration.”

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Invisible women: The consequences of forgetting Sybrina Fulton

Invisible women: The consequences of forgetting Sybrina Fulton

“We talk often of the criminalization of black boys, and point to the school-to-prison pipeline as an example, but fail to mention the ways it affects black girls, as Monique W. Morris laid out in her report for African American Policy Forum in March of this year. According to Morris: ‘Black women and girls continue to be over-represented among those who are in contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Black girls continue to experience some of the highest rates of residential detention. Black girls represent the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population, and they have experienced the most dramatic rise in middle school suspension rates in recent years.’ Yet, the problem continues to be framed as a nearly exclusive to black men and boys.”

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Americans need to see the violence of war, police and torture

Americans need to see the violence of war, police and torture

“We constantly fail to acknowledge the atrocities of war, the real side of violence on our streets, and the grave human rights abuses that our own government is committing.”

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‘What am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?’: Stop-and-Frisk’s Racial Profiling

Floyd v. the City of New York is a class-action trial where witnesses and officers are arguing that the New York Police Department does use race as a basis for its stop-and-frisk program. The stop-and-frisk program is a program where officers can stop and question a person when they have reasonable suspicion a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Only after that can they frisk the stopped person for weapons. In his article for The Nation, Ryan Deveraux writes that lawyers are trying to prove that people being stopped ‘for no reason’ is being done department-wide by the NYPD and that this violates both the 4th (protection against unreasonable search and seizure) and 14th Amendment (the equal protection clause).

Attorneys are trying to convince the judge to reign in millions of stops that they believe are unconstitutional. Many believed the stops have to do with racial profiling because more than 86% of the people stopped by the police were black or Latino. Almost 90% of these stops resulted in not one ticket or arrest. Officers have been testifying that they were pushed to meet quotas of 5 stop and frisks, 20 summons and 1 arrest every month. Police have been doing such an outstanding job at meeting their quotas that more young black men were stopped than the total number of young black men in all of New York City.

Adding to the controversy is the death of Kimani Gray, who was killed by two police officers in plain clothes. According the Patricia J. Williams in her article, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”, Mr. Gray was shot at eleven times, and was hit by 7. Witnesses say Gray pleaded for his life. The police that shot him were decorated for bravery, but also have cost the department more than $215,000 in payout for alleged civil rights violations. The officers maintained that the teenager had pointed a gun at them; however, witnesses strongly contradict the NYPD’s story. Many in the community are outraged and took to the streets where dozens were arrested. The stop-and-frisk program which is targeting men of color is done using brutal and even deadly force. There is an estimated 4.4 million people that have been stopped.

Many who are stopped by the NYPD feel degradation and humiliation. One 24 year-old African American stated he was stopped five times without cause, one was even at gunpoint. Some police officers have stated that there are internal incentives that motivate them. An officer testified that supervisors put a premium on stop-and frisk numbers, arrests and summons, but care little for anything else. These quotas are called “productivity”. One officer who gave testimony, officer Polanco, stated that supervisors don’t care about the quality, or how they were gotten, but the quantity. Polanco played a recording where senior officers (two sergeants, an inspector, a lieutenant and three police union delegates) give officers quotas. The punishments for not achieving their quotas were losing a longtime partner, low evaluation scores, retraining and denial of days off or overtime requests. According to Deveraux’s article, “Polanco testified that in 2009 he was asked more than twenty times to write a 250 attesting to an incident he did not observe.” Polanco stated that he had no discretion, that sometimes the superior officers would just tell him to 250 [stop-and-frisk], summons or arrest someone. Officer Polanco stated, ‘We were handcuffing kids for no reason.’

Another officer, officer Serrano, was told that because of the violence in his precinct carrying out too little stop and frisks, or 250s, and not meeting his quotas was ‘not fair to the public.’ He responded ‘What am I supposed to do? Is it stop every black and Hispanic?’ The superior officer responded, ‘ I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male black 14 to 20, 21.’ Officer Serrano started to become emotional during his testimony, regretting the targeting of individuals based on their age, race and geographic location.

If you think 14 to 21 is young, one officer admitted to mocking a 13-year-old boy by telling him “stop crying like a little girl.” While the officer conceded that the taunt was wrong he claimed it was a lawful frisk because he was jaywalking and ‘yelling and making a scene’ when the officers tried to frisk him. Police were also sued in December for arresting a 7-year-old boy for stealing $5 from a classmate. Last year alone, $22 million was paid out for police misconduct.

According to Patricia Williams, although Bloomberg has praised the program for lowering the crime rate, criminologists and the New York Civil Liberties Union, dispute any causal connection since crime has gone down all over the US and in cities without such an antagonistic policy. Bloomberg and Kelley have admitted that abuses of power need to be addressed, but believe that the program is making NY streets safer. Interestingly though, Christie Thompson points out, “ . . . a gun was recovered in roughly .001% of the 685,724 stops conducted in 2011.”

In January a court ruling found that police stops conducted in front of several thousand private residential buildings in the Bronx were unconstitutional violating the fourth amendment–protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Although property managers asked police to patrol their building and to arrest trespassers, Judge Scheindlin said officers were routinely stopping people outside their buildings without reasonable suspicion that they were trespassing. Police need reasonable suspicion before stopping and questioning. The judge ruled that it is not enough to stop someone just because the building is in a high crime area and regardless of the time of day, or even because the person moved sneakily.

Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner believed the ruling gave the residents of the Bronx safety and that the landlords requested protection. He stated that the ruling interferes with efforts to use all necessary tools to fight crime.

What stop-and-frisk is doing is marginalizing young people of color. How is looking for black and Latino boys 14-20, 21 not racial profiling? By specifically targeting these people what police are saying is that if you live in poverty, are black and Latino you must be guilty of something. (Still think we live in a post-racial society?) This undermines our democratic principle of innocent until proven guilty. What stop-and-frisk is doing is creating a double standard, where if you’re white and affluent you have 4th and 14th Amendment rights, but if you’re poor, black and Latino you don’t. Police are supposed to serve and protect, not harass and antagonize. Just because these young men live in neighborhoods where there is crime, does not mean that they are criminals. As pointed out before, people’s skin color and geographic location is not what makes them criminals. As Kevin Powell writes, “In essence, we are demonizing and criminalizing an entire generation of black and latino teen boys and young men—many of them already mired in poverty, sub-par schools, and limited employment possibilities—for the rest of their lives. And before they even know what hit them.” To target such young boys–kids in poor neighborhoods, is to give them another impediment to success. Tacitly we’re saying then, that if you’re poor, black and Latino it is okay for police to harass you. Imagine if they were rich and white and being harassed this way? There’d be an uproar. This program allows officers to humiliate people and treat them like criminals before they’ve been found guilty. I understand the desire to prevent and stop crime, but it needs to be done justly and within the law, if not, then our police officers are criminals who are breaking the law too.

-Marina Espinoza

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Above the law: Police brutality in America

A person’s perception of police officers and their rights and responsibilities is different depending on what part of the country or what part of the city they grew up in. It is important to keep in mind that race, immigration status and having had prior convictions is also a factor in people’s view and interactions with police officers. Growing up in inner city Los Angeles I was able to observe the many reactions that the presence of law enforcement officers had on people. For the most part they were feelings of fear and anger.  Very few people ever expressed feelings of relief or safety when they encountered police officers. How can people portray feelings of fear and anger against individuals whose work motto is “To Serve and Protect”?  It’s written on the very vehicles they drive. So, if police officers are hired “To Serve and Protect” communities from danger then why do people living in certain communities not feel relief when the police are around? Is it because they are all criminals? Are they guilty of something? Or is it because those who have taken the oath “To Serve and Protect” them are performing their employment undertakings in an unfit or discrepant manner?  Maybe they don’t quite fully understand the extent of their work and authority? Or they have an inaccurate perception or prejudices against the very people they are trying to serve and protect, and instead they believe that they are serving and protecting not the community they are working in, but the ones outside of their jurisdiction by containing the people living in the communities they police?  The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) alone has been previously accused of scandalous behavior ranging from shootings, beatings, framing innocent people, bank robbery, and drug dealing.  Way “To Serve and Protect” LAPD! Most of these cases did not occur in affluent communities of course, but in the inner city. Could it be that the intense pressure of working in such ‘dangerous’ communities, where mostly working class people of color reside, has a negative effect on a police officer’s psyche (because, you know those poor people and their skewed morals)? I DON’T FUCKING THINK SO! It’s more a common case of systemic corruption and officers’ perceptions that they are somehow above the law because they get to enforce it.

Just read about the Rampart Division Scandal of the late 1990s.  How was this scandal resolved? How are any scandals involving police officers resolved? Reform.  But let’s be honest here, reform, to an organization with corruption at every level is more of a “We pinky swear we won’t do it again” type of change.  The measures they took to “reform” the LAPD were the same measures taken by the Vatican to protect their raping pedophile priests.  I mean seriously.  This is a case where everyone in some position of power had to act in accordance with some code of the “iron clad brotherhood”, because in situations like these, individuals in positions of power have knowledge of the happenings in their department and act to protect the reputation of their department rather than take measures to ensure that things like this aren’t common occurrences.  They, the police themselves, are after all the ones in charge and given any accusations of police brutality, decide whether officer’s tactics were justified or not.  If you pay attention to how things like unnecessary use of force (by this I mean illegal shootings) were evaluated by the then Chief of Police, most of the time they were considered to have been carried out “in policy”. As in, they acted by the book.  After the Rampart case blew up the LAPD pinky swore they would “reform”. But like a dieter or relocated pedophile priest, bad habits are hard to break.  Just recently, 23 year old Kennedy Garcia was shot by police officers who “presumed” he was armed.  By presumed they mean looked like he could have had a gun. Having learned absolutely nothing from the Rampart case or how to handle such cases, and forgetting about their pinky promise to stop being corrupt, the department released a statement which “withheld important and potentially unfavorable information from the public in cases involving serious uses of force by officers” (Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times). I mean where’s the accountability?

Let’s not forget about the two Hispanic women, Emma Hernandez, 71 and Margie Carranza, 41, who were recently shot by LAPD officers while sitting inside their truck. LAPD’s explanation of the incident of course was that they opened fire on the unsuspecting women because their truck ‘resembled’ that of former police officer Christopher Dorner, whom the LAPD was on a manhunt for, and police officers on the scene felt compelled to open fire without first identifying the driver (Mike Adams. Natural News).  Because you know, black, brown, male, female, vehicles, they all look the same: police officers don’t want to be taking any chances. It seems as if every time something like this happens it’s decided that the police officer “acted lawfully” in shooting a ‘presumed suspect’. I wonder how many people get slack for shooting someone who they ‘presumed’ was armed.  If police officers “act lawfully” when killing people (because most of the time that’s what happens when you shoot someone) for presumably having weapons or resembling someone they are looking for, it’s no wonder people are scared shitless when they encounter their local police officers.  It must be terrifying to know that your local police department can commit atrocities and their wrongdoings will go ignored and unpunished.

Joel Rubin. October 2012.


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