A Guardian series examines Kern County, California, where police have killed more people per capita than anywhere else in the US this year
Bill Maher and “The Hateful Eight” filmmaker Quentin Tarantino discuss his recent efforts to call attention to those killed in police shootings in this clip from November 6, 2015.
Atlanta Hawks wingman Thabo Sefolosha made news on April 18 when he was arrested along with his teammate Pero Antic at 1 Oak, a nightclub in New York, and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of governmental administration.
From afar, it’s a wild story: Milwaukee Bucks forward Chris Copeland was there separately that night, and got stabbed shortly as the club let out around 4:00 a.m. It sparked a series events that ended with Sefolosha getting arrested, breaking his leg, and missing the playoffs altogether. The first-seed Atlanta Hawks, without Sefolosha, went on to get swept in the Eastern Conference finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Oct. 9, Sefolosha was exonerated of all three charges by a jury in New York. A week ago, he sued the NYPD for $50 million. We didn’t know a whole lot else about the incident until today, when our friends over at GQ dropped a piece in which Sefolosha explains in his own words what transpired over the last six months.
New Jersey governor and Republican candidate says movement is creating an environment that puts officers at risk
The Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said on Sunday the Black Lives Matter protest movement was creating an environment that could put police officers at risk.
Speaking on CBS, he said: “I don’t believe that movement should be justified when they are calling for the murder of police officers.”
He also accused President Obama of supporting the movement and encouraging “lawlessness” while not backing up law enforcement.
Protests under the Black Lives Matter banner have coalesced around a number of deaths of African American people, most often unarmed, at the hands of police officers.
The movement first organized after the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader who was later acquitted of charges regarding Martin’s death.
Other high-profile deaths have included those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, in New York City. No officer was charged over the deaths of Brown and Garner, leading to protests and – in Ferguson – extensive civil unrest.
In September, Black Lives Matter said in a statement that conservatives were trying to turn the movement into a danger to officers.
“We’re targeting the brutal system of policing, not individual police,” the movement said on its Facebook page. “The Black Lives Matter Network seeks to end the system of policing that allows for unchecked violence against black people.”
Christie, the governor of New Jersey and a former US attorney, presents himself as a tough voice on law and order issues. He is nonetheless well down in polls regarding the 15-strong Republican presidential field.
On Sunday he said Black Lives Matter was “creating” an environment, as, he said, some of its supporters had chanted for the death of police.
Obama last week defended Black Lives Matter, urging the nation to take police treatment of black Americans seriously.
“We, as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously,” Obama said.
The video also demonstrates another fact some Americans might not be aware of: In many cases, police actually know that the test doesn’t really detect if a suspect is lying — but use it anyway to trick suspects into (sometimes false) confessions.
“If the examiner does the theater well, and tricks the subject into believing that his or her lies can be detected, they might confess,” Leonard Saxe, a psychologist at Brandeis University who’s conducted research into polygraphs, previously toldVox.
So how accurate are polygraphs? The American Polygraph Association claims that the tests are around 90 percent accurate, but this group doesn’t exactly have an interest in being honest about the tests if they are terribly inaccurate, since it advocates for the use of the polygraph.
“There is no evidence that any pattern of physiological reactions is unique to deception”
Other experts and research are much more skeptical of the polygraph’s validity, since the test really measures physiological indicators of anxiety, not honesty. As the American Psychological Association notes, “There is no evidence that any pattern of physiological reactions is unique to deception. An honest person may be nervous when answering truthfully and a dishonest person may be non-anxious. Also, there are few good studies that validate the ability of polygraph procedures to detect deception.”
In the criminal justice system, the goal is to see if a suspect is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But since there’s a very good possibility that someone was simply nervous when the test deemed him a liar or abnormally calm when the test deemed him honest, and there’s no scientific evidence that the tests are valid, there’s a very strong case for reasonably doubting any polygraph results. Polygraphs are, in other words, not very useful at actually doing what they seek to do.
The good news is you’re never required to actually take a polygraph during a criminal investigation. So if police ask you to take the test, or even try to trick you into thinking it’s mandatory, it might be a good idea to refuse — to avoid self-incriminating yourself. (But don’t take my word for it — consult a lawyer on this.)
Still, polygraphs continue being used not just in criminal justice settings, but also by some government employers. About 70,000 people a year undergo such tests while seeking security clearances and jobs with the federal government, even though a 1988 law bans private employers from putting their job applicants through the same process. Maybe it’s time to just dump these machines.
Watch: The psychology of police sketches
Activists opposed to permanent appointment of Baltimore’s interim police commissioner left early Thursday
Activists opposed to the permanent appointment of Baltimore’s interim police commissioner occupied City Hall on Wednesday night and told police they wouldn’t leave until the commissioner and mayor agreed to a list of their demands, including changes to police tactics and significant investment in education and social services.
Police officers have converged on Baltimore’s City Hall early Thursday morning, and least six protesters could be seen being led away to vans and vehicles.
At least 25 officers lined up outside City Hall and more police stood out back as protesters were led iff, several with hands behind their backs. Protest sympathizers outside chanted: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, we have nothing to lose but our shame!”
One of the organizers of protesters occupying Baltimore City Hall, Kwame Rose, left the building about 3:30 a.m. on Thursday before the police arrived. He was in tears, saying several police officers had arrived and that activists still remaining inside were now facing a threat of possible arrest. It is unclear if anyone was arrested.
On Wednesday night, members of the Baltimore Uprising coalition, which includes both high school and community activists, had begun shouting from the upper gallery of City Council chambers as a Council subcommittee prepared to vote for Kevin Davis as permanent commissioner. The full council will vote on the appointment Monday.
“All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray!” the activists chanted amid calls to postpone the vote. “No justice, no peace!”
Freddie Gray, a black man, died in April from injuries received while in police custody. His death sparked unrest and rioting in the city. The first trial in the case against six Baltimore police officers charged in Grey’s arrest and death is scheduled to be held Nov. 30.
Rice was throwing snowballs and playing with a toy pellet gun in a Cleveland park on November 22, 2014, when a police car rolled into the snowy field. Within two seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed the 12-year-old. The officer has claimed he thought the pellet gun was a real firearm.
Nearly a year later, on October 10, officials released two independent investigations from a Colorado prosecutor and an FBI supervisory agent that concluded that the shooting was justified, arguing that any reasonable officer placed in the same scenario could have concluded deadly force was necessary. But this is based on a very loose legal standard: The question is not whether the situation could have been avoided, but rather if it was reasonable for Loehmann to perceive a threat once the squad car parked right in front of Rice and saw the boy with a gun that officers thought was an actual firearm.
But critics, including Rice’s family, have blasted the reports, arguing that it’s absurd that an officer would have to resort to force within two seconds of detecting someone with a toy gun — especially in a state where it’s legal to openly carry real guns. They argue the situation could have been handled more calmly and carefully — perhaps by parking the car in another location and approaching Rice more slowly. From this point of view, the argument isn’t so much whether Loehmann’s actions were legally justified once he was right in front of Rice, but whether the scenario could have been avoided with better tactics, training, and protocol.
Whether Loehmann was in the right will be a matter of legal and public debate in the next few months and perhaps years. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty will present evidence on the case to a grand jury. The jurors will then decide whether to file charges against Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, who drove the squad car during the shooting.
On Friday, Atlanta Hawks player Thabo Sefolosha was acquitted of charges that led police to forcefully arrest him — in a case that could lead to yet more litigation over racial disparities in how police use force in America.
On April 8, New York City police officers told Sefolosha, who is black, to leave an area around a club where another NBA player, Chris Copeland, had been stabbed, ESPN reported. Police said Sefolosha disobeyed orders, forcing them to take him into custody. But Sefolosha said he had moved off the block after being ordered out by a vulgar police officer, and was trying to give $20 to a beggar before he was taken to the ground by cops.
The cops’ use of force fractured Sefolosha’s right leg — a very, very bad injury for a professional basketball player, and one that ended the season early for him. Sefolosha said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he will sue the city for the takedown and injury — but if other cases are any indication, a lawsuit could cost taxpayers millions of dollars, especially if a jury considers the potential impact of a season-ending injury for a basketball player.
But more than being potentially damaging to Sefolosha’s career, the case highlights yet another instance of police using force against an unarmed black man. With this issue getting more attention in the year after the Ferguson, Missouri, protests, any potential litigation could become part of a much broader national conversation on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Police officers said Sefolosha was disobeying orders, so they took him to the groun
Sefolosha was departing from a nightclub in New York City when police took him to the ground, allegedly for taking too long to leave the area of a crime scene in which two women and Indiana Pacers player Chris Copeland were stabbed.
Police said Sefolosha wasn’t involved in the stabbing incident, but he was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest after allegedly disobeying police orders to leave the scene.
A video showed police grabbing Sefolosha by the neck and taking him to the ground
Prior to the takedown, Sefolosha had said that he challenged the tone of an aggressive officer who told him to leave the area, according to ESPN. Sefolosha, who is 6-foot-6, said he called the 5-foot-7 officer “a midget.”
A video, released by TMZ Sports, showed police grabbing Sefolosha by the neck and taking him to the ground. One officer brandished a baton in the video. But it’s not clear in the footage what caused Sefolosha’s injury, although he’s shown seemingly limping away.
Prosecutors offered Sefolosha a plea deal to dismiss the charges in exchange for one day of community service, but he said he wanted to set the record straight. The jury took roughly 30 minutes to deliberate, according to CNN, finding Sefolosha not guilty.
Sefolosha’s leg injury required surgery. He’s now been cleared to play, but only after the injury ended the previous season early for him, including the playoffs.
Beyond hurting Sefolosha’s leg and potentially his career, though, the case reveals a startling fact about criminal justice: Black people are much more likely to have police use force against them.
Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, was unarmed, facing away from the police officer, and haphazardly attempting to flee — but that didn’t stop Michael Slager, a white North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer at the time, from firing his gun at least eight times at the fleeing man, killing him.
On October 8, North Charleston officials announced the city would pay a $6.5 million settlement to Scott’s family, the Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery reported. “It’s historic,” Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family, told Lowery. “It sets a good precedent for a city not tolerating this sort of behavior from police officers.”
Previously, on June 8, prosecutors announced that a grand jury indicted Slager, who’s no longer with the police force, on murder charges, according to CNN‘s Shawn Nottingham. The case is proceeding to trial. If Slager is convicted, prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said he could serve 30 years to life in prison with no chance of parole.
The shooting was recorded on film by a bystander, who turned over the video footage to authorities. The video has been widely credited with leading to charges of murder against Slager, the officer’s firing from the police force, and now the indictment.
The case was the first time murder charges were brought against a police officer in a high-profile case after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to nationwide protests over racial disparities in police use of force. But the fact that it took nearly a year for a high-profile police killing to result in murder charges shows just how rare prosecutions are against police officers involved in shootings, due to the wide latitude they’re given to use force, and to the several unique factors in the Scott case, not least of which is that it was all caught on video.