NBA player Thabo Sefolosha’s trial is just the latest case in excessive police use of force – Updated by German Lopez on October 9, 2015, 3:20 p.m. ET


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.

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http://www.vox.com/2015/10/9/9488877/thabo-sefolosha-police-video

 

It’s not just Ahmed Mohamed: anti-Muslim bigotry in America is out of control – Updated by Max Fisher on September 16, 2015, 4:50 p.m. ET


Ninth-grader Ahmed Mohamed being arrested in school. Prajwol/R

The arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who was treated as a threat by his own school and police for bringing in an electronic clock he’d made as an engineering project, was not an isolated event. This was completely in line with a problem that has been growing over the past year: Islamophobia, which is the fear-based hatred of Muslims, is out of control in American society.

To understand why a Texas school would arrest a 14-year-old student for bringing in a homemade clock, it helps to understand what came before: the TV news hosts who declare Muslims “unusually barbaric,” the politicians who gin up fear of Islam, the blockbuster film that depicts even Muslim children as dangerous threats, and the wave of hatred against Muslims that has culminated several times in violence so severe that what happened to Mohamed, while terrible, appears unsurprising and almost normal within the context of ever-worsening American Islamophobia.

Many Americans might be totally unaware this is happening, even though they are surrounded by Islamophobia: on TV, at airport security, in our pop culture and our politics, and inevitably in our schools. Perhaps, then, Mohamed’s arrest will be a wake-up call.

Even just in greater Dallas, 2015 has been a year of Islamophobia

American Islamophobia has grown so severe that, even looking just at the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Mohamed’s Dallas suburb, one can see, in broad daylight, the climate of hostility and fear America’s 2.6 million Muslims have been made to live in.

The trouble began in January, when American Muslim families did what is increasingly expected of them, what American media and politicians demand of Muslims every time there is a terrorist attack: They gathered to formally condemn violent extremism and to cultivate positive ties with their local communities. They did this by organizing an event in the suburb of Garland called “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate,” to raise money for a center dedicated to promoting tolerance.

In response, thousands of protesters mobbed the event, waving anti-Muslim signs and American flags for hours, forcing local Muslim families who attended to endure a gauntlet of hate. “We don’t want them here,” a woman at the protests told a local TV reporter. One man explained, “We’re here to stand up for the American way of life from a faction of people who are trying to destroy us.” They were not grateful that local Muslim-Americans had taken it upon themselves to combat extremism, but rather outraged that Muslims-Americans would dare to gather publicly at all.

A few weeks later, in early March, an Iraqi man who had just fled the Middle East to join his wife in Dallas stood outside their apartment photographing the first snow he’d ever seen when two men walked up and shot him to death. Police later ruled out the possibility that it had been a hate crime, but the murder drove home the fear among many Muslim-American families that they were unsafe.

 

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http://www.vox.com/2015/9/16/9336967/ahmed-mohamed-islamophobia

Shooters Quicker To Pull Trigger When Target Is Black, Study Finds – NPR STAFF AUGUST 29, 2015 6:37 PM ET


Shown a realistic human target — not just a silhouette like this one — shooters were more likely to pull the trigger if the target was black, according to an analysis of 42 studies. "Even if you think that you're not prejudiced," says researcher Yara Mekawi, "that doesn't necessarily mean that that's true in terms of split-second decisions that you might make in the real world."

Shown a realistic human target — not just a silhouette like this one — shooters were more likely to pull the trigger if the target was black, according to an analysis of 42 studies. “Even if you think that you’re not prejudiced,” says researcher Yara Mekawi, “that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s true in terms of split-second decisions that you might make in the real world.” Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Are most people more likely to pull the trigger of a gun if the person they’re shooting at is black?

A new meta-analysis set out to answer that question. Yara Mekawi of the University of Illinois and her co-author, Konrad Bresin, drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.

“What we found is that it does,” Mekawi tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And … people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets.”

That is, shooters weren’t just faster to fire at black targets; they were also more likely to fire at a black target.


Interview Highlights

On the kinds of studies they were analyzing

Our inclusion criteria was pretty much that they used what’s called a first-person shooter task. … Participants are generally told that police officers are often put in high-stress situations where they have to make very quick shooting decisions.

And so they are presented with images of targets from various races that either have a gun or have some kind of neutral object. So, sometimes it’s a soda can; other times it’s a cellphone. And what they’re told is, to make the decision to shoot when they see a target with a gun.

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http://www.npr.org/2015/08/29/435833251/shooters-quicker-to-pull-trigger-when-target-is-black-study-finds

 

On Martha’s Vineyard, black elites ponder the past year – By SARAH WHEATON 8/22/15 8:02 AM EDT


As Obama vacations on the island, an upper-class gathering grapples with a year of unrest.

US President Barack Obama (2nd L) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd R) walk from Marine One upon arrival on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, August 7, 2015. The Obama family is starting a 2-week vacation. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

EDGARTOWN, Mass. – For America’s black elite, this year’s seasonal sojourn to Martha’s Vineyard turned into a soul-searching retreat.

 

The shooting of a young, unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., last year did little to disrupt the annual idyll of upper-class blacks on this island 1,200 miles away. Photos showed President Barack Obama dancing at a soiree for political power couple Vernon and Ann Jordan as Ferguson burned. The next afternoon he delivered an anodyne statement urging calm without mentioning race.

Obama returned this year for his sixth summer in office on Martha’s Vineyard, the island off the Massachusetts coast that has been a vacation destination for upwardly mobile African Americans for more than a century. But this year, many of the black doctors, lawyers, executives, professors and politicians who gather here to enjoy the sunshine, surf and cultural events are grappling with the realization that there may not be quite as much to celebrate as they once hoped.

Yes, the country has been led by a black president for nearly seven years. But images from body cameras and smart phones that have splashed police killings of unarmed black men across televisions and the Internet over the past year have forced the black elite to recognize — along with the rest of America — that their highest tide has left some boats sinking faster than ever.

“Middle-class African-Americans, the upper echelon, need to be cognizant of that,” said Linda D. Gaines, a regular summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard. “We cannot go back to our comfortable abodes and forget the struggle even though we don’t live next-door to less fortunate communities.”

The strides African Americans have taken in the American political establishment are on full display here each year. While Martha’s Vineyard has played host to black leaders for generations – Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X vacationed here – the top figures no longer lead protests. They lead the government.

 

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Chris Rock: “Driving While Black” Repeat Offender – Published Apr 2015


That’s the message Chris Rock paired with a selfie on Monday, capturing what is apparently the third time in just seven weeks the comedian has been pulled over by police. It’s not known why police stopped Rock during these three separate incidents, but the succinct caption alone sums up what’s clearly a routine event for him as a black man in America driving what we can assume is a nice car.

Rock has long been a vocal critic of racial profiling. In a December interview with New York magazine, Rock talked candidly about the everyday racism he encounters with his family, despite being one of the most well-known and respected comedians in the country. “I mean, I almost cry every day,” he told Frank Rich. “I drop my kids off and watch them in the school with all these mostly white kids, and I got to tell you, I drill them every day: Did anything happen today? Did anybody say anything? They look at me like I am crazy.”

Read more here: http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-medi…

Ferguson city manager John Shaw resigns – BBC News 10 March 2015 Last updated at 23:02 ET


The chief executive of the US city of Ferguson, Missouri has resigned after a federal report alleged widespread racial bias in the city police department and court system.

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

John Shaw (centre) has been city manager of Ferguson since 2007

As Ferguson’s city manager, John Shaw, 39, held the legal power to make personnel and policy changes in the police department.

The city council voted unanimously to accept his resignation on Tuesday.

The city’s municipal judge has also resigned as a result of the report.

The city came under investigation after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August, sparking weeks of unrest.

A St Louis County grand jury and the US Justice Department found that Officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defence when he shot Brown.

But a US Department of Justice investigation found overwhelming racial bias in the town’s policing practices. The report, released last week, detailed how Ferguson officials used the city’s police and court system to generate revenue.

Mayor James KnowlesFerguson Mayor James Knowles has been the public face of the city government

After Brown’s death, Mayor James Knowles has been the public face and voice of Ferguson’s city government.

But Mr Knowles is a part-time employee while Mr Shaw ran day-to-day operations of the city full-time.

“I believe that the city of Ferguson has the resolve to overcome the challenges it faces in the coming months and emerge as a stronger community for it,” Mr Shaw said in a statement.

The Justice Department report repeatedly cited Mr Shaw’s role in encouraging his police force to aggressively ticket motorists as a means to generate revenue.

Mr Shaw said in a statement on Tuesday that his office “never instructed the police department to target African Americans, nor falsify charges to administer fines, nor heap abuses on the backs of the poor”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31827253

Ferguson police racially biased says US Justice Department – BBC News 3 March 2015 Last updated at 17:04 ET


The US Justice Department has found evidence of racial bias at Ferguson police in Missouri, US media report.`

Ferguson protests
The Ferguson shooting sparked nationwide protests

The agency is expected to accuse the department of conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and making arrests without probable cause.

It began a civil rights investigation following the August shooting of Michael Brown.

A white police officer killed the unarmed black 18-year-old, sparking protests in Ferguson and nationwide.

A separate report is expected to clear the officer, Darren Wilson, of any civil rights violations in the shooting of Mr Brown.

Officials announced the findings of the investigation into the police department by speaking anonymously to various US media.

An official announcement is expected on Wednesday.

Ferguson traffic statistics

Black people are disproportionately stopped by police, even allowing for their greater numbers

Attempts to seek comment from the police department and city government were not successful.

A spokesman for the Missouri governor said: “We haven’t seen the report to be able to comment on it.”

It is believed the report will accuse the police of using excessive force against blacks and present evidence that black motorists are stopped and searched without reason.

While African Americans make up 67% of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93% of arrests between 2012 and 2014, according to the Washington Post.

The report will also present evidence that the courts also engage in racial bias – blacks are 68% less likely to have their cases dismissed by a judge.

Investigators also found that officials used money from fines to help balance the city’s budget, the New York Times reported.

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