Your Arrest Video Is Going Online. Who Will See It? – Jacob Siegel 09.11.14

The Daily Beast

Police departments are already outsourcing their video evidence to private companies, creating problems so knotty and new that even the ACLU doesn’t have answers for them. Among them:

• How long will evidence be stored, and how will police departments verify the information has actually been wiped after its supposed deletion date?

• Will federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies like the FBI and NSA need warrants and subpoenas to view the digital evidence in private companies’ cloud storage? And will they deal with local police departments or go directly to the private storage services?

• Will the public get to see the police footage, for example, when there is evidence of misconduct?

• What happens when a private company’s server is hacked and evidence is lost or compromised?

Think of it like this: The police will have moved their evidence into a private warehouse staffed by private security guards and administrators. These private guards can see the boxes the evidence is stored in, how many and when they come in, but they’re not supposed to look inside. And instead of only keeping evidence related to criminal matters, this private warehouse is storing a bottomless pit of routine interactions between cops and citizens. Going 50 in a 35? Got stopped because you fit the description, but quickly released once the cops realized you weren’t the person they were looking for? There’s going to be a video of you in a private corporation’s digital records.

This isn’t abstract. In Michael Brown’s case, outrage that the teenager’s fatal shooting wasn’t recorded was paired with a video released by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, showing the teen appear to push a clerk and leave a store with a box of unpaid-for cigars. It shortly emerged that the officer who shot him had no knowledge of that earlier crime, and many accused the police chief of releasing the video to smear a dead man. The same massive evidence trove body cameras create can, if used selectively, humiliate and indict average citizens.

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Justice Dept. to probe Ferguson police force – By Sari Horwitz, Carol D. Leonnig and Kimberly Kindy September 3 at 7:59 PM

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week will launch a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department, according to two federal law enforcement officials.

The investigation, which could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon, will be conducted by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and follow a process similar to that used to investigate complaints of profiling and the use of excessive force in other police departments across the country, the officials said.

The move follows the shooting last month of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American, by a white Ferguson police officer who claimed he acted in self-defense. Brown, who was unarmed, was shot at least six times on the afternoon of Aug. 9.

Holder’s decision will represent the Obama administration’s most aggressive step to address the Ferguson shooting, which set off days of often-violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets of the St. Louis suburb.

The federal officials said the probe will look not only at Ferguson but also at other police departments in St. Louis County. Some, like Ferguson, are predominantly white departments serving majority-African-American communities, and at least one department invited the Justice Department to look at its practices. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending inquiry.

The investigation is in addition to a Justice Department probe into whether Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, violated Brown’s civil rights. The new probe will look more broadly at whether the department employed policies and practices that resulted in a pattern of civil rights violations.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that five current and one former member of the Ferguson police force face pending federal lawsuits claiming they used excessive force. The lawsuits, as well as more than a half-dozen internal investigations, include claims that individual officers separately hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was checking his family mailbox, pistol-whipped children and used a stun gun on a mentally ill man who died as a result.

In addition to the investigations, a St. Louis County grand jury is hearing evidence that could lead to charges against Wilson.

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From Watts in 1965 to Ferguson today, lessons on race left unlearned – By Richard Leiby and Krissah Thompson August 14 at 8:01 PM

Barbara Arnwine was 14 when the police barricades went up around Watts and the National Guard tanks rolled in.

“I remember being horrified,” she says, “and trying to go home and being told you can’t enter this city. My people, my family, everybody I loved was there.”

The August 1965 riots were raging, incited by the arrest of a young black motorist by a white highway patrolman, and a violent clash between police and the community.

Today, as Arnwine, an attorney who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has watched escalating protests and police crackdowns in Ferguson, Mo., she has an overwhelming sense of history repeating itself.

“We’re in a time warp,” she says. “Watts was bad, but this is the worst thing I’ve seen.”

In Ferguson, Mo., where a police officer killed an unarmed young black manon Saturday, community anger has been stoked by a vacuum of information and the use of militarized police units. There are always specific conditions that lead to racial disturbances, but a broader question might be: Why do they keep happening? Are lessons ever learned?

Sometimes, but experts say enduring racial inequality and police failings practically guarantee more wrongful killings and civil disorder.

“It’s a darn shame,” Fred Harris says. “There’s too much of this going on — police shooting people.”

Harris, an 83-year-old former Democratic senator from Oklahoma, has a unique perspective on recurring racial tensions and police violence in America. He is one of the last living members of the Kerner Commission, which examined the social inequalities that led to rioting in black communities in Detroit, Newark and 21 other cities in 1967. It also made recommendations to reduce police overreaction to protests, build trust within communities and increase racial diversity of police forces.

“With all that’s happening in Ferguson, I’m hoping we can go back to recommendations we had on the Kerner Commission,” Harris, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, said Thursday.

But across the country, experts say, many police forces have yet to adopt some of the most basic techniques to curb the possibility of police brutality and subsequent unrest. These strategies include having police live in the communities where they enforce the law and building connections with the residents.

“The only way to stop these situations is before they happen, not after they happen,” said Chuck Wexler, a law-enforcement expert who has studied federal civil rights investigations of local police departments.

The response by law enforcement to protesters in Ferguson, Mo., is being criticized for its level of force and use of military-style equipment. We’ve labeled the weapons and gear being used by police in these photos from Ferguson. (Tom LeGro and Thomas Gibbons-Neff/The Washington Post)

“It’s particularly important to establish credibility with the community, and particularly with the black community, because there isn’t a built-up reservoir of trust.”

He recalled what an aide to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan once told him: “Make friends before you need them.”

“The default is to have this strained relationship between the police and communities of color. That emanates from our history,” says Lorie A. Fridell, a criminology professor and chief executive of Fair and Impartial Policing, which trains police to address implicit racial bias. “Where there is trust and confidence, that’s been produced with a lot of hard work on the part of the police and law enforcement.”

Among the trust-building tactics: putting out information quickly and owning up to mistakes, which, protesters point out, has not happened in Ferguson.

With 18,000 police departments in the United States, achieving a conformity in training and community relations is impossible.


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Other Cities Poach Police From Detroit’s Low-Wage Force – by QUINN KLINEFELTER July 22, 2014 4:44 AM ET

Officer Michael Crowder says his roots are too deep to leave Detroit, but he knows younger officers who were lured away by better pay.

Officer Michael Crowder says his roots are too deep to leave Detroit, but he knows younger officers who were lured away by better pay.

Quinn Klinefelter/Detroit Public Radio

In a Detroit police squad car, Officer Michael Crowder cruises through one of the city’s more well-to-do neighborhoods.

Crowder says he loves his current assignment — concentrating on a specific neighborhood community. But he notes that these are tough economic times in Detroit, and that’s effecting everyone here — including the police.

“We’ve had food drives where the community comes up to the precinct,” he says. “They’ll give us baskets of food. Two, three years now, we’ve had officers depend on Goodfellow packages.”

For years, police in the city of Detroit have dealt with low wages, a lack of new equipment and one of the nation’s highest crime rates. Now, as the city moves through bankruptcy, there’s talk of eventually raising police officers’ pay.

But police departments outside of the city are increasingly trying to recruit Detroit’s finest to come work for them instead.

Crowder has more than 16 years on the force, and his ties here are too deep to let him think of leaving Detroit. But he says for other, younger officers who are contemplating a future in a city struggling to climb out of bankruptcy, loyalty takes a back seat to finding higher wages.

“I have a couple friends that have left, that have gone to different cities to work, because of the pay, the benefits. … A lot of our officers are working secondary employment, believe it or not,” Crowder says.

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How Did the FBI Miss Over 1 Million Rapes? – Soraya Chemaly June 27, 2014

FBI badge

Earlier this month, a 911 dispatcher in Ohio was recorded telling a 20-year-old woman who had just been raped to “quit crying.” After she provided a description of her assailant, the caller went on to say, “They’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.” This incident had its viral moment, sparking outrage at the dispatcher’s lack of empathy. But it also speaks to the larger issue of how we are counting rapes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of police departments surveyed in 2012 said that dispatchers like this one, often with little training, are authorized to do the initial coding of sexual assault crimes.

That’s important, because miscoding of such crimes is masking the high incidence of rape in the United States. We don’t have an overestimation of rape; we have a gross underestimation. A thorough analysis of federal datapublished earlier this year by Corey Rayburn Yung, associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, concludes that between 1995 and 2012, police departments across the country systematically undercounted and underreported sexual assaults.

Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.

That’s more than 1 million rapes.

The estimates are conservative for two reasons. First, in order to consistently analyze the data over time, Yung looked only at cases defined by the FBI’s pre-2012 definition of rape (one established in 1927): “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” This definition did not include anal or oral rape, cases involving drugging or alcohol, or the rape of boys and men. The Federal Criminal Code was recently broadened to include these categories. Second, the FBI and crime experts estimate that anywhere from 60 percent to80 percent of rapes are never reported to the police.

Yung’s analysis, which focused on cities with populations of more than 100,000, found that 22 percent of the 210 studied police departments demonstrated “substantial statistical irregularities in their rape data.”

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