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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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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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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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:…

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”.

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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French Muslims fear surge of Islamophobia after Charlie Hebdo attack – January 8, 2015 5:00AM ET by Hakeem Muhammad

Hassen Chalghoumi, an imam at a mosque in Drancy, just north of Paris, arrives to speak at a press conference on Jan. 7, 2015, as police officers take security measures near the offices of Charlie Hebdo after an attack there killed 12. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

PARIS — She’s a 26-year-old mother of two who wears a hijab. And on Wednesday afternoon, picking up one of her daughters from swimming practice in the 19th arrondissement in the northeastern neighborhoods of Paris, she had a chilling experience.

Near the pool, other mothers were discussing the deadly shootings at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In loud voices, they despaired that Muslims go to France and “benefit from the system but now they’re killing us,’’ she said.

The young mother, who was too fearful to let her name be used when interviewed at a market in the 19th, said she felt dread when she heard the conversation. “They knew I was listening,’’ she recalled. “But I was alone, and I couldn’t do or say anything. So I left.”

Her fear is emblematic of the dread that is spreading across the Muslim community in Paris and beyond. Many said the attack, the bloodiest in 50 years in France, will feed an already simmering sentiment against Muslims there. French media reported a number of apparent reprisal incidents directed at Muslim-owned businesses and mosques after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Rashid Abdulrahim, a 22-year-old finance student, said at first he thought only of the victims and their families when he heard the news of the attack. But when he learned the three suspects were Muslim, he said he immediately felt scared.

“Things will be really bad for us now. Before the shootings, it was normal for us to be attacked by people who don’t like Muslims,” he said, “but now it will be much worse. There will be hate and discrimination and aggression. People will start saying it was right to hate Muslims because they’re apparently crazy.”

Samia Hathroubi, 29, a Paris-based human rights activist and member of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said that even though a lot of Muslim organizations are condemning the shooting, people will still single out the Muslim community. “The group that killed those 12 people justified their acts through Islam. No matter what we say, no matter how high we rise, we’re stuck,” she said.

The 5 million Muslims who live in France shouldn’t be put “in the same basket’’ as those who committed the attack, she said. “I’m French. I was raised here, and I went to school here,’’ she said. “We can also be the victims, like anybody else.”

Some give up hope

Nabil Ennasri, a writer with a Ph.D. in political science, has lost all optimism. He believes another 9/11 unfolded in France on Thursday, and the enormity of this event will deeply affect and divide French society. Without any doubt, he said, Islamophobia will increase in France.

“Muslim women wearing the hijab will be assaulted, and our mosques will be attacked,” he said in Arabic in a telephone interview. “We don’t know how things will go on from now, but fear is running high. I am not optimistic at all.”

Meriem Ziane, a 25-year-old teacher, said that people are already spreading false tales about Muslims and Islam in France, and after the events at Charlie Hebdo, things are bound to disintegrate. She said that she was having a hard time taking it all in and that while she feels grief for the dead, she is anxious about what it means for her people.

“This is exactly what we didn’t need at all,” she said.

Emilie Chak, 21, wears the hijab, as do her two sisters. Their mother advised them to wear a hat instead.

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Feds: Racial profiling is bad…except at airports and the border – Updated by Dara Lind on December 8, 2014, 3:57 p.m. ET

Welcome to O’Hare Airport! The federal government can racially profile you now. Scott Olson/Getty

  1. The Department of Justice released a new policy on December 8th on when federal agents are allowed to use profiling.
  2. Federal law enforcement agents will, in most cases, no longer be allowed to consider religion, national origin, gender and gender identity, or sexual orientation when deciding whether to investigate someone. (It was already illegal in most cases for agents to consider race.)
  3. Federal agents will still be allowed to profile people “in the vicinity of the border.” Under the old profiling policy, “the border” was defined as anywhere within 100 miles of a land or sea border — but it’s not clear whether the “vicinity of the border” applies to that whole area, or to a more limited part of it.
  4. Agents will also be allowed to profile as part of “protective, inspection, or screening activities” — which includes airport screenings.
  5. The new rules apply not just to the Department of Justice, but to immigration agents and other federal law enforcement as well.
  6. But they don’t apply to state and local police departments (unless they’re working as part of a federal task force).

1) Why does the federal government allow profiling at all?

The government’s justification for profiling has been that it’s more useful to law enforcement than it is harmful to individuals. That justification led the Supreme Court, in 1975, to issue a decision that (in the federal government’s interpretation) allows Border Patrol agents to use racial profiling in border enforcement. And it’s the same logic that federal law enforcement agents have used more recently to target Muslim Americans in terrorism investigations.

But critics aren’t sure the logic holds up in 2014. For example, they question whether it’s all that useful for Border Patrol agents to profile Latinos along the US/Mexico border — where most US citizens are Latino themselves. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) has asked, “How can race help a Border Patrol agent or customs officer do a better job in a city like El Paso, where 85 percent of the people are Hispanic?”

And Cecilia Wang of the ACLU points out that when the Supreme Court made its 1975 ruling, it might have underestimated just how much of a burden it was placing on Latino citizens. The Court, she said, argued that “the intrusion on the individual is so brief, Border Patrol testified that these stops take only a minute or two.”

This, she said, ignores the reality, which is “that for people who live in these border communities, you’re going to get stopped all the time. It’s not a minimal intrusion to have Border Patrol stopping you constantly, when you’re trying to drop your kids off at the pool, or go to work, or go to the grocery store, or whatnot.”

border checkpoint

This can be a pain if you have to go through it just to get to the grocery store. (Scott Olson/Getty)

2) What were the old federal standards for racial profiling?

Until today, the federal government has been using a policy that was put out by the Bush administration in 2003. (Before 2003, the federal government didn’t have any policy banning profiling.) That policy explicitly banned profiling on the basis of race — but didn’t say anything about profiling based on other characteristics. That left federal law enforcement free to single out Muslims in terrorism investigations, for example, or people of Mexican descent in immigration investigations. (Just because it was allowed doesn’t mean it happened frequently — but it wasn’t explicitly prohibited by federal policy.)

The 2003 policy included exceptions on racial profiling: it was allowed when “preventing threats to national security,” which explicitly included potential threats at airports, or when “protecting the integrity of our nation’s borders.”

In California and Arizona, racial profiling by Border Patrol agents was already banned — thanks to a 2000 decision in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. So profiling was allowed along parts of the US/Mexico border, but not all of it.

In general, though, when it comes to immigration enforcement, the government’s definition of the border stretches 100 miles into the United States — not just from the land borders with Canada and Mexico, but into the coasts as well:

ACLU map border


This created a pretty broad profiling exception. And there’s evidence that the Department of Homeland Security has taken advantage of it — having border patrol agents board public transportation in upstate New York, for example, and asking certain passengers to show proof that they’re in the United States legally.

3) What has changed under the new standards?

The biggest change in the new standards is that racial profiling is no longer the only kind of profiling that’s banned. In any case where federal agents weren’t allowed to consider race before, they’re now not allowed to consider race, religion, national origin, gender and gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The other change is that one of the big loopholes in the old policy is a little smaller, and another has been totally eliminated. There’s no longer an exemption for “national security.” In fact, the new policy is very clear that the government expects law enforcement officers to be able to keep the country safe “without invidious profiling.” Press reports have indicated that, for example, the FBI will still be allowed to map neighborhoods for demographic information — but they won’t be allowed to directly target Muslim Americans in terrorism investigations.

The new policy keeps the loophole for Border Patrol agents — but clarifies they’re only allowed to use profiling “in the vicinity of the border.” It’s not clear whether that covers the entire 100-mile zone, or a smaller area. And it makes it clear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who are responsible for immigration enforcement in the interior of the country, don’t get to take advantage of that loophole to profile in standard immigration enforcement.

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Eric Garner death: Police take to internet in defence of Daniel Pantaleo – By Anthony Zurcher Editor, Echo Chambers `4 December 2014 Last updated at 13:59 ET

After a New York City grand jury did not indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for causing the death of Eric Garner, protesters headed to the streets, city officials went before the cameras and at least some police officers took to the internet.

New York City police watch protestors following the announcement that Daniel Pantaleo will not be indicted.\

On websites catering to the law enforcement community, the mood was largely angry and defensive – reflecting a community that sees itself as under siege by an unappreciative public.

On Thee Rant, a message board for New York Police Department officers, many posters expressed relief at the grand jury’s decision and concern for backlash against fellow cops.

Although the users are anonymous, the site attempts to limit its membership to verified law enforcement personnel.

“Start Quote

This is our jury system, and it’s not a lynch mob, it’s a democratic process”

“Officer Joe Bolton”Thee Rant

“I was afraid this was going to be payback for Ferguson,” writes one. “Thankfully that wasn’t the case.”

“To all the active cops working, be alert,” says another. “Put your cellphones away, and watch each other’s backs.”

The grand jury’s decision proved that the system works, writes “Officer Joe Bolton”.

“You can hook up every cop in the nation with body cams, but the system, which is comprised of everyday citizens, ultimately decide the fate of all,” he says. “This is our jury system, and it’s not a lynch mob, it’s a democratic process.”

Posters on PoliceOne, a national law enforcement website with restricted membership, echoed these sentiments.

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