Top 10 occupations more dangerous than law enforcement

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has found that 2013 saw the fewest officers killed since 1887.  2013 also had the lowest level of law enforcement fatalities in six decades.

It’s well known that police departments across the country have become increasingly militarized in the last few decades, and that this increase is connected to the War on Drugs.  What may not be as well known is that there are occupations more dangerous than law enforcement.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (number of deaths per 100,000):

Continue reading “Top 10 occupations more dangerous than law enforcement”

Top 10 occupations more dangerous than law enforcement
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The problem of police militarization and brutality

More Americans Killed By Police Than By Terrorists: With Crime Down, Why Is Police Aggression Up?

It may seem like crime is on the rise, but that’s an issue of perception. I tend to think it’s largely because we have unprecedented access to news today.  Whether it’s online blogs, news sites, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we can get our news almost as soon as it breaks. One of the results of that is we hear about a lot of newsworthy material more often, which makes it seem like-in the case of crime for instance-things are getting worse. Such thinking is faulty though.

Continue reading “The problem of police militarization and brutality”

The problem of police militarization and brutality

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Man sets a new world record by diving more than 1000 feet

Diving off the coast of Dahab, Egypt, Gabr reached a depth of 1,090 feet 4 inches (332.35 meters). The previous record holder for the deepest scuba dive, Nuno Gomes of South Africa, also dove off the coast of Dahab, in 2005, reaching a depth of 1,044 feet (318.21 m).

To put these depths into perspective, three American football fields laid end to end would measure 900 feet (274.32 m) long — less than the distance these divers reached underwater. Most recreational scuba divers only dive as deep as 130 feet (40 meters), according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

It took Gabr only about 12 minutes to reach the record depth, which he achieved with the help of a specially tagged rope that he pulled along with him from the surface, Guinness World Records officials said in a statement. However, the trip back up to the surface took much longer — about 15 hours. Returning too quickly from such depths is associated with a number of health risks, such as decompression sickness (also known as the bends) and nitrogen narcosis from excess nitrogen in the brain, which Gabr luckily avoided.

15 hours to return to the surface? I wonder if he got bored with all that waiting.

****

Paralyzed rats walk with spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord injury is one of the leading causes of paralysis in the US, and the outlook for the vast majority of patients is depressingly bleak. The spinal cord is essential for movement because it acts as a middle man between the brain and the rest of the body; when it is injured, the flow of information to other body parts can be disrupted, resulting in the inability to move some or all limbs. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment, so for many the paralysis is permanent.

But recently, there have been some encouraging developments in treatment as scientists figured out a way to mimic the brain signals required for movement by directly stimulating the spinal cord with electrical pulses. Remarkably, this experimental therapy allowed four paraplegic men to regain some voluntary movement in their hips, ankles and toes.

The problem with this technique, which is known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES), is that the amplitude and frequency of electrical pulses need to be constantly adjusted, which is difficult to achieve while an individual is attempting to walk. To overcome this limitation, EPFL researchers have developed algorithms that automatically adjust the pulses in real-time during locomotion, dramatically improving the control of movement.

For the study, the researchers used paralyzed rats whose spinal cords were completely severed. They surgically implanted electrodes into their spines and then placed them on a treadmill, supporting them with a robotic harness. After testing out different pulses and monitoring walking patterns, the researchers discovered that there was a relationship between how high the rat lifted its limbs and pulse frequency. Using this information, the researchers were able to develop an algorithm that constantly monitored the rats’ movement. This data was then fed back into the system which allowed automatic, rapid adjustments in the stimulation in real time, mimicking the way that neurons fire naturally.

The rats were able to walk 1,000 steps without failure and were even able to climb staircases. “We have complete control of the rat’s hind legs,” EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said in a news release. “The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking.”

If they can successfully adapt this for use on humans, this could benefit so many people.  Science-continuing to advance understanding and making lives better.

****

Bob Carroll of The Skeptic’s Dictionary asks a few questions in an entry on Political Skepticism

Most skeptics don’t do politics unless religion is involved. Some don’t do religion unless politics is involved. Most skeptics, however, whether they do politics or religion, claim to be involved in some sort of consumer protection. They have no problem with criticizing and debunking various so-called alternative health practices. People are risking their lives and wasting their money on treatments that provide false hope at worst and some sort of placebo effect at best. Most skeptics have no problem with criticizing and debunking pseudoscientific ideas such as perpetual motion machines, free energy claims, and junk science programs that promise to unleash all that potential you have in your brain, your heart, or your body. People are wasting their time and their money on programs and devices that have no plausible scientific support. Most skeptics have no problem criticizing and debunking people who claim to be psychic. People are being emotionally manipulated at great expense by those who claim to get messages from the dead or see into the future. So why–when people are being manipulated, robbed, or physically and emotionally abused by those cloaked in the authority of religion or the state–do some skeptics balk at going there to criticize and debunk? One answer is tradition: skeptics have traditionally focused on exposing psychic fraud, paranormal mischief, and pseudoscientific quackery. In any case, there are only a few prominent skeptics who stay away from anything to do with religion, but most still do not spend much time scrutinizing the political scene for deception, fraud, abuse, unethical extortion of money, and lies that do much more damage to us than all the psychics, supplement pushers, cancer quacks, detoxers, and promoters of brain-enhancing exercises put together.

[…]

Where are the skeptics questioning the long-term effects of creating a nationwide militarized network of local police departments that not only monitor our every move, but are prepared to turn against our own citizens? What kind of Homeland Security is that? Add to all this the federal government’s monitoring of phone conversations that have nothing to do with national security or terrorism and what do you have? A recipe for a very dark future, all begun under the guise of protecting us from foreign enemies–those terrorists who “hate our freedom.

****

Police Militarization Infographic

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Man sets a new world record by diving more than 1000 feet

Diving off the coast of Dahab, Egypt, Gabr reached a depth of 1,090 feet 4 inches (332.35 meters). The previous record holder for the deepest scuba dive, Nuno Gomes of South Africa, also dove off the coast of Dahab, in 2005, reaching a depth of 1,044 feet (318.21 m).

To put these depths into perspective, three American football fields laid end to end would measure 900 feet (274.32 m) long — less than the distance these divers reached underwater. Most recreational scuba divers only dive as deep as 130 feet (40 meters), according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

It took Gabr only about 12 minutes to reach the record depth, which he achieved with the help of a specially tagged rope that he pulled along with him from the surface, Guinness World Records officials said in a statement. However, the trip back up to the surface took much longer — about 15 hours. Returning too quickly from such depths is associated with a number of health risks, such as decompression sickness (also known as the bends) and nitrogen narcosis from excess nitrogen in the brain, which Gabr luckily avoided.

15 hours to return to the surface? I wonder if he got bored with all that waiting.

****

Paralyzed rats walk with spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord injury is one of the leading causes of paralysis in the US, and the outlook for the vast majority of patients is depressingly bleak. The spinal cord is essential for movement because it acts as a middle man between the brain and the rest of the body; when it is injured, the flow of information to other body parts can be disrupted, resulting in the inability to move some or all limbs. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment, so for many the paralysis is permanent.

But recently, there have been some encouraging developments in treatment as scientists figured out a way to mimic the brain signals required for movement by directly stimulating the spinal cord with electrical pulses. Remarkably, this experimental therapy allowed four paraplegic men to regain some voluntary movement in their hips, ankles and toes.

The problem with this technique, which is known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES), is that the amplitude and frequency of electrical pulses need to be constantly adjusted, which is difficult to achieve while an individual is attempting to walk. To overcome this limitation, EPFL researchers have developed algorithms that automatically adjust the pulses in real-time during locomotion, dramatically improving the control of movement.

For the study, the researchers used paralyzed rats whose spinal cords were completely severed. They surgically implanted electrodes into their spines and then placed them on a treadmill, supporting them with a robotic harness. After testing out different pulses and monitoring walking patterns, the researchers discovered that there was a relationship between how high the rat lifted its limbs and pulse frequency. Using this information, the researchers were able to develop an algorithm that constantly monitored the rats’ movement. This data was then fed back into the system which allowed automatic, rapid adjustments in the stimulation in real time, mimicking the way that neurons fire naturally.

The rats were able to walk 1,000 steps without failure and were even able to climb staircases. “We have complete control of the rat’s hind legs,” EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said in a news release. “The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking.”

If they can successfully adapt this for use on humans, this could benefit so many people.  Science-continuing to advance understanding and making lives better.

****

Bob Carroll of The Skeptic’s Dictionary asks a few questions in an entry on Political Skepticism

Most skeptics don’t do politics unless religion is involved. Some don’t do religion unless politics is involved. Most skeptics, however, whether they do politics or religion, claim to be involved in some sort of consumer protection. They have no problem with criticizing and debunking various so-called alternative health practices. People are risking their lives and wasting their money on treatments that provide false hope at worst and some sort of placebo effect at best. Most skeptics have no problem with criticizing and debunking pseudoscientific ideas such as perpetual motion machines, free energy claims, and junk science programs that promise to unleash all that potential you have in your brain, your heart, or your body. People are wasting their time and their money on programs and devices that have no plausible scientific support. Most skeptics have no problem criticizing and debunking people who claim to be psychic. People are being emotionally manipulated at great expense by those who claim to get messages from the dead or see into the future. So why–when people are being manipulated, robbed, or physically and emotionally abused by those cloaked in the authority of religion or the state–do some skeptics balk at going there to criticize and debunk? One answer is tradition: skeptics have traditionally focused on exposing psychic fraud, paranormal mischief, and pseudoscientific quackery. In any case, there are only a few prominent skeptics who stay away from anything to do with religion, but most still do not spend much time scrutinizing the political scene for deception, fraud, abuse, unethical extortion of money, and lies that do much more damage to us than all the psychics, supplement pushers, cancer quacks, detoxers, and promoters of brain-enhancing exercises put together.

[…]

Where are the skeptics questioning the long-term effects of creating a nationwide militarized network of local police departments that not only monitor our every move, but are prepared to turn against our own citizens? What kind of Homeland Security is that? Add to all this the federal government’s monitoring of phone conversations that have nothing to do with national security or terrorism and what do you have? A recipe for a very dark future, all begun under the guise of protecting us from foreign enemies–those terrorists who “hate our freedom.

****

Police Militarization Infographic

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Why does a school district need military equipment?

Police departments across the United States are not the only ones that have been receiving military equipment.  The Los Angeles Unified School District has some as well.  Yeah, you read that right: a school district has military equipment.::Shake my head::

Los Angeles Unified School District police officials are considering whether they need the armored vehicle and grenade launchers they received from the U.S. military.

The military hardware at the disposal of LAUSD police officers includes a 20-foot-long, 14-ton armored transport vehicles, much like the ones used to move Marines in Iraq combat zones. The armored vehicle is worth $733,000, and the school district’s police force got it from the government for free.

They’re “considering” the need for armored vehicles or grenade launchers. I can’t believe I even typed that sentence.  They should have considered whether they needed them BEFORE they got them. No, I don’t care that the armored vehicle was free to the school district.  Before a school district acquires military equipment, they ought to provide a valid justification for having it. “Just in case an extraordinary circumstance occurs” is insufficient reason. What, did they think World War 3 was going to break out in a school lunchroom?  If you cannot provide a well reasoned justification based on evidence for why your school district needs military grade equipment, you don’t need it.

How would LAUSD use such a vehicle?

“For us? That vehicle would be used for extraordinary circumstances,” LAUSD police Chief Steve Zipperman said.

Sure enough, they have it “just in case”.  Again, this isn’t a warzone we’re talking about people.

“It’s something that we believe is a life-saving vehicle,” Zipperman said. “And certainly we realize we need to take a look, is this the best alternative right now for us until we find something else that is more conducive to a police-type of rescue.”

This is stupid.  Yes, the vehicle is life saving-in the appropriate context.  In what context would it be appropriate to use the damn thing when we’re talking about schools, not a battlezone? It doesn’t sound like you’ve had much use for that armored vehicle.  Why have it?  “Because it’s cool and I want to play war” is not a valid reason.

“It’s a piece of equipment that’s not essential for our mission, so we will be disposing of those,” Zipperman said.

The armored vehicles and heavy artillery distributed to local agencies became a national issue in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Mo.

“I can’t allow whatever political ramifications or analysis in Ferguson suggest how I want to make a decision on how to best make sure we respond at the LAUSD,” Zipperman said.

The chief says the armored vehicle will stay but will only be deployed on his direct orders with the approval of the school superintendent.

“To suggest that it’s a threatening type of equipment or equipment for a show of force, that is not the case,” Zipperman said.

Well then, if you say so, I guess that’s the case. No reason to have any evidence or logic to support such a position.

::fatal eyeroll::

Why does a school district need military equipment?

Police Brutality, Knowing your Rights, & Ferguson

In Florida, Non-Submission to a Police Beating is “Attempted Murder”

 

The assault began when an officer named Ronald Cannella who had attempted to pull over a man named Livingston Manners for allegedly running a stop light dragged the driver from his vehicle and threw him to the ground in a gas station. It’s quite likely that Manners, in justifiable fear for his safety, sought a well-lit area for the encounter with the brigand.

Security camera video shows that Manners was compliant and non-aggressive as the officer tried to “build the stop” by searching his vehicle. The officer eventually reached into the vehicle and pulled Manners from it, and the victim does nothing to resist, holding his hands face-up and to the sides. Cannella can be seen putting a forearm on the face and the throat of his victim, and then punching him repeatedly. Although no audio is available, it’s certain that this attack was punctuated with the rapist’s refrain, “Stop resisting!”

Cannella eventually places the victim on his back and appears to be attempting to place a chokehold on him. Manners defends himself with a maneuver similar to the “guard” position from Jiu-Jitsu, trapping the uniformed assailant’s arms and holding him at bay for roughly 45 seconds until the aggressor’s comrades arrive.

At no point in the struggle is Manners seen making an aggressive move, or touching the throat of the assailant. It is possible that the victim applied a lapel choke – but if he did so this came after Cannella had already repeatedly struck him and, apparently, attacked his own throat first.

Although Cannella claimed in his report that he feared for his life (the default emotional state of police officers, who are trained to see the public as enemy combatants rather than fellow citizens), and that during the ninety-second scuffle Manners choked him into unconsciousness, the cop is still on top and apparently in control when other officers arrived to beat and tase Manners into submission.

Cannella claimed that Manners “locked his legs around my body preventing my escape” while he “forcefully grabbed my throat and strangled me.” Yet in the video, Cannella displays no difficulty extricating himself and standing up once a fellow costumed enforcer arrived on the scene. Any breathing difficulty he experienced was most likely a reflection of his panic and poor cardiovascular conditioning, rather than actions taken by his victim.

In addition to the peculiar offense called “resisting without violence,” the charges against Manners include “attempted murder” for allegedly placing his hands on the throat of the armed and violent stranger who had him pinned to the ground, beating and attempting to choke him.

I become more and more disgusted with law enforcement as the days go by.  I had some idea that police brutality was bad, but I had not idea it was this bad.

 


 

 

Ferguson Aftermath: California City Tells Cops to Get Rid of Police MRAP

 

The Davis City Council adopted a resolution this week that orders the city to come up with a plan to drop the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected), originally developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and acquired by the city through a government surplus program. The armored vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies, especially after the wars wound down and the Pentagon’s budget was reduced.

A large crowd largely opposed to the city’s MRAP gathered at the city council meeting for the resolution vote. A petition had circulated around town calling for Davis officials to get rid of or repurpose the MRAP.

“I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it. I demand it!” announced a man attending the meeting wearing a “Tank The Tank” t-shirt, according to the local CBS affiliate.

Many in Davis are concerned that the military vehicle could be used against political demonstrations or protests, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed teenager with what many saw as a heavy-handed, militarized posture.

 


 

Commander Shoves Gun in Suspects Mouth, Taser in his Groin- Released Without Bond

 

Commander Glenn Evans of the Chicago Police Department, and 28-year department veteran, was released without having to post bond on Wednesday, despite being charged with two felonies.

Evans is charged with official misconduct and aggravated battery after prosecutors allege he put a gun deep in a suspect’s mouth as he was restrained, held a taser to his groin, and threatened to kill him.  The incident occured on Jan. 30, 2013, yet the officer was just stripped of hid badge and gun on Wednesday morning.

Evans is now working desk duty at police headquarters, and a dozen officers reportedly stood in during his bail hearing.

Police reports indicate the incident began when Evans saw his alleged victim, Rickey J. Williams, holding a handgun in the street. No weapon was recovered.  Williams was arrested for reckless conduct, but the charges were later dropped, according to the Sun Times.

The Sun Times also reports that dozens of citizen complaints have been filed against Evans over the past two decades, yet only two complaints have resulted in discipline.

The Chicago Tribune reports that at least nine excessive-force complaints were filed against Evans between 2001 and 2008 alone, and while he cost the city tens of thousands in payouts, he was not disciplined for any.

 


A Half Dozen Cops Beat This Homeless Man to a Pulp Then Attempt to Steal Witness Phones

In a horrifying 2 minute long video shared to Facebook on August 5, a mob of Antioch Police are seen violently attacking a handcuffed homeless man on the corner of L St. & Buchanan. The man was tased, hit with batons, bit in the face by a K9- twice, and rendered unconscious, according to witnesses.


 

What You Need to Know About Filming & Photographing the Police


 

Ferguson Man Forms an Inspiring Team with Cop Watchers to Hold Police Accountable

Amidst the infighting between Americans and polarizing coverage by the mainstream media over the justification of Michael Brown’s death, there lies a story unfolding in Ferguson that is less focused on the future outcome of the undoubtedly lengthy road to justice ahead of the community, and more focused on an immediate, practical solution
for the citizens of Ferguson. Among the perceived heroes and villains that have played their part in the neighborhood, a true leader is emerging. Thirty-four year old, father of three, David Whitt has taken it upon himself to step into the roll of peacemaker, communicator and innovator.

David lives about 500 feet from ground zero, where the Michael Brown and Darren Wilson confrontation began and ended. In his modest apartment, changing diapers and taking care of his family, it seems that David would be an unlikely candidate for the shoes which he has filled in his community since the watershed moment of Michael Brown’s death and the events that have transpired. However, don’t tell him that. David clearly states that he believes that it is his duty to take action and not stand by while his community scrambles for answers. He is providing an answer.

In a true act of fate, during the aftermath of the Brown slaying, David met a couple of activists that are helping his vision come to fruition. In his own words, David said, “God sent me two angels”. Showing his true character,  David invited these activists into his home where they lived with his family for the greater part of the past two weeks. Together they formed a plan to arm the citizens in David’s community. Not with guns or ammunition, but with cameras. Since the group initially had the idea, a couple of weeks ago, they have collectively raised over three thousand dollars to equip the community of Ferguson with 40 plus cameras.

Police Brutality, Knowing your Rights, & Ferguson

Police Brutality, Knowing your Rights, & Ferguson

In Florida, Non-Submission to a Police Beating is “Attempted Murder”

 

The assault began when an officer named Ronald Cannella who had attempted to pull over a man named Livingston Manners for allegedly running a stop light dragged the driver from his vehicle and threw him to the ground in a gas station. It’s quite likely that Manners, in justifiable fear for his safety, sought a well-lit area for the encounter with the brigand.

Security camera video shows that Manners was compliant and non-aggressive as the officer tried to “build the stop” by searching his vehicle. The officer eventually reached into the vehicle and pulled Manners from it, and the victim does nothing to resist, holding his hands face-up and to the sides. Cannella can be seen putting a forearm on the face and the throat of his victim, and then punching him repeatedly. Although no audio is available, it’s certain that this attack was punctuated with the rapist’s refrain, “Stop resisting!”

Cannella eventually places the victim on his back and appears to be attempting to place a chokehold on him. Manners defends himself with a maneuver similar to the “guard” position from Jiu-Jitsu, trapping the uniformed assailant’s arms and holding him at bay for roughly 45 seconds until the aggressor’s comrades arrive.

At no point in the struggle is Manners seen making an aggressive move, or touching the throat of the assailant. It is possible that the victim applied a lapel choke – but if he did so this came after Cannella had already repeatedly struck him and, apparently, attacked his own throat first.

Although Cannella claimed in his report that he feared for his life (the default emotional state of police officers, who are trained to see the public as enemy combatants rather than fellow citizens), and that during the ninety-second scuffle Manners choked him into unconsciousness, the cop is still on top and apparently in control when other officers arrived to beat and tase Manners into submission.

Cannella claimed that Manners “locked his legs around my body preventing my escape” while he “forcefully grabbed my throat and strangled me.” Yet in the video, Cannella displays no difficulty extricating himself and standing up once a fellow costumed enforcer arrived on the scene. Any breathing difficulty he experienced was most likely a reflection of his panic and poor cardiovascular conditioning, rather than actions taken by his victim.

In addition to the peculiar offense called “resisting without violence,” the charges against Manners include “attempted murder” for allegedly placing his hands on the throat of the armed and violent stranger who had him pinned to the ground, beating and attempting to choke him.

I become more and more disgusted with law enforcement as the days go by.  I had some idea that police brutality was bad, but I had not idea it was this bad.

 


 

 

Ferguson Aftermath: California City Tells Cops to Get Rid of Police MRAP

 

The Davis City Council adopted a resolution this week that orders the city to come up with a plan to drop the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected), originally developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and acquired by the city through a government surplus program. The armored vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies, especially after the wars wound down and the Pentagon’s budget was reduced.

A large crowd largely opposed to the city’s MRAP gathered at the city council meeting for the resolution vote. A petition had circulated around town calling for Davis officials to get rid of or repurpose the MRAP.

“I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it. I demand it!” announced a man attending the meeting wearing a “Tank The Tank” t-shirt, according to the local CBS affiliate.

Many in Davis are concerned that the military vehicle could be used against political demonstrations or protests, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed teenager with what many saw as a heavy-handed, militarized posture.

 


 

Commander Shoves Gun in Suspects Mouth, Taser in his Groin- Released Without Bond

 

Commander Glenn Evans of the Chicago Police Department, and 28-year department veteran, was released without having to post bond on Wednesday, despite being charged with two felonies.

Evans is charged with official misconduct and aggravated battery after prosecutors allege he put a gun deep in a suspect’s mouth as he was restrained, held a taser to his groin, and threatened to kill him.  The incident occured on Jan. 30, 2013, yet the officer was just stripped of hid badge and gun on Wednesday morning.

Evans is now working desk duty at police headquarters, and a dozen officers reportedly stood in during his bail hearing.

Police reports indicate the incident began when Evans saw his alleged victim, Rickey J. Williams, holding a handgun in the street. No weapon was recovered.  Williams was arrested for reckless conduct, but the charges were later dropped, according to the Sun Times.

The Sun Times also reports that dozens of citizen complaints have been filed against Evans over the past two decades, yet only two complaints have resulted in discipline.

The Chicago Tribune reports that at least nine excessive-force complaints were filed against Evans between 2001 and 2008 alone, and while he cost the city tens of thousands in payouts, he was not disciplined for any.

 


A Half Dozen Cops Beat This Homeless Man to a Pulp Then Attempt to Steal Witness Phones

In a horrifying 2 minute long video shared to Facebook on August 5, a mob of Antioch Police are seen violently attacking a handcuffed homeless man on the corner of L St. & Buchanan. The man was tased, hit with batons, bit in the face by a K9- twice, and rendered unconscious, according to witnesses.


 

What You Need to Know About Filming & Photographing the Police


 

Ferguson Man Forms an Inspiring Team with Cop Watchers to Hold Police Accountable

Amidst the infighting between Americans and polarizing coverage by the mainstream media over the justification of Michael Brown’s death, there lies a story unfolding in Ferguson that is less focused on the future outcome of the undoubtedly lengthy road to justice ahead of the community, and more focused on an immediate, practical solution
for the citizens of Ferguson. Among the perceived heroes and villains that have played their part in the neighborhood, a true leader is emerging. Thirty-four year old, father of three, David Whitt has taken it upon himself to step into the roll of peacemaker, communicator and innovator.

David lives about 500 feet from ground zero, where the Michael Brown and Darren Wilson confrontation began and ended. In his modest apartment, changing diapers and taking care of his family, it seems that David would be an unlikely candidate for the shoes which he has filled in his community since the watershed moment of Michael Brown’s death and the events that have transpired. However, don’t tell him that. David clearly states that he believes that it is his duty to take action and not stand by while his community scrambles for answers. He is providing an answer.

In a true act of fate, during the aftermath of the Brown slaying, David met a couple of activists that are helping his vision come to fruition. In his own words, David said, “God sent me two angels”. Showing his true character,  David invited these activists into his home where they lived with his family for the greater part of the past two weeks. Together they formed a plan to arm the citizens in David’s community. Not with guns or ammunition, but with cameras. Since the group initially had the idea, a couple of weeks ago, they have collectively raised over three thousand dollars to equip the community of Ferguson with 40 plus cameras.

Police Brutality, Knowing your Rights, & Ferguson

Militarization of American law enforcement

One of the problems people have cited about the situation in Ferguson is the militarized police.  Why are they decked out in military gear when they’re police officers? Why are they using tear gas?  What about those armored vehicles?  Why are they using a sound cannon?  Police officers shouldn’t be using weapons and paraphernalia of war.  The police are not at war with the citizens of the United States. We should not be treated like we are ‘the enemy’.   Our streets should not be treated like a warzone.  Unfortunately more and more, law enforcement in the United States is treating the streets like a warzone and citizens as enemy combatants, especially when it comes to the War on Drugs:

The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.
The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart's basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart's father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.
Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.
The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.
The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to "clear" a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.

You can read the rest here.

It’s scary to think that getting stoned can get you threatened, shot at, and even killed. Something as harmless as smoking weed has become something the government has deemed such an extreme problem that military tactics must be deployed to solve the problem.

But are they solving problems or making things worse?  And how did we get to the point where the police treat the citizenry like criminals at best and enemy combatants at worst?

The cancer of militarized policing has long been metastasizing in the body politic. It has been growing ever stronger since the first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams were born in the 1960s in response to that decade's turbulent mix of riots, disturbances, and senseless violence like Charles Whitman's infamous clock-tower rampage in Austin, Texas.
While SWAT isn't the only indicator that the militarization of American policing is increasing, it is the most recognizable. The proliferation of SWAT teams across the country and their paramilitary tactics have spread a violent form of policing designed for the extraordinary but in these years made ordinary. When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide. Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.
Nearly a half-century later, that's no longer true.
In 1984, according to Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it's still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.
As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.
Upping the Racial Profiling Ante
In a recently released report, "War Comes Home," the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.
Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.
On the other side of that broken-down door, more often than not, are blacks and Latinos. When the ACLU could identify the race of the person or people whose home was being broken into, 68% of the SWAT raids against minorities were for the purpose of executing a warrant in search of drugs. When it came to whites, that figure dropped to 38%, despite the well-known fact that blacks, whites, and Latinos all use drugs at roughly the same rates. SWAT teams, it seems, have a disturbing record of disproportionately applying their specialized skill set within communities of color.
Think of this as racial profiling on steroids in which the humiliation of stop and frisk is raised to a terrifying new level.
Everyday Militarization
Don't think, however, that the military mentality and equipment associated with SWAT operations are confined to those elite units. Increasingly, they're permeating all forms of policing.
As Karl Bickel, a senior policy analyst with the Justice Department's Community Policing Services office, observes, police across America are being trained in a way that emphasizes force and aggression. He notes that recruit training favors a stress-based regimen that's modeled on military boot camp rather than on the more relaxed academic setting a minority of police departments still employ. The result, he suggests, is young officers who believe policing is about kicking ass rather than working with the community to make neighborhoods safer. Or as comedian Bill Maher reminded officers recently: "The words on your car, ‘protect and serve,' refer to us, not you."
This authoritarian streak runs counter to the core philosophy that supposedly dominates twenty-first-century American thinking:community policing. Its emphasis is on a mission of "keeping the peace" by creating and maintaining partnerships of trust with and in the communities served. Under the community model, which happens to be the official policing philosophy of the US government, officers are protectors but also problem solvers who are supposed to care, first and foremost, about how their communities see them. They don't command respect, the theory goes: they earn it. Fear isn't supposed to be their currency. Trust is.
Nevertheless, police recruiting videos, as in those from California's Newport Beach Police Department and New Mexico's Hobbs Police Department, actively play up not the community angle but militarization as a way of attracting young men with the promise of Army-style adventure and high-tech toys. Policing, according to recruiting videos like these, isn't about calmly solving problems; it's about you and your boys breaking down doors in the middle of the night.
SWAT's influence reaches well beyond that. Take the increasing adoption of battle-dress uniforms (BDUs) for patrol officers. These militaristic, often black, jumpsuits, Bickel fears, make them less approachable and possibly also more aggressive in their interactions with the citizens they're supposed to protect.
A small project at Johns Hopkins University seemed to bear this out. People were shown pictures of police officers in their traditional uniforms and in BDUs. Respondents, the survey indicated, would much rather have a police officer show up in traditional dress blues. Summarizing its findings, Bickel writes, "The more militaristic look of the BDUs, much like what is seen in news stories of our military in war zones, gives rise to the notion of our police being an occupying force in some inner city neighborhoods, instead of trusted community protectors."

Read the rest here.

Surely if law enforcement agencies in the US are engaged in such extreme tactics, they have produced positive results, no?  Not so much.  The ‘War on Drugs’ has been an abysmal failure:

The global "war on drugs" has been a catastrophic failure and world leaders must rethink their approach, a group including five Nobel prize-winning economists, Britain's deputy prime minister and a former US secretary of state has said.
An academic report published on Tuesday by the London School of Economics (LSE), called Ending the Drug Wars, pointed to violence in Afghanistan, Latin America and other regions as evidence of the need for a new approach.
"It is time to end the 'war on drugs' and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies undered by rigorous economic analysis," the authors said in a foreword to the report.
"The pursuit of a militarised and enforcement-led global 'war on drugs' strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage."
Citing mass drug-related incarceration in the US, corruption and violence in developing countries and an HIV epidemic in Russia, the group urged the UN to drop its "repressive, one-size-fits-all approach" to tackling drugs, which, according to the report, has created a $300bn black market.
The UN is due to hold a drug policy summit in 2016. Debate on the merits of drugs liberalisation is already growing, Reuters news agency reported.
The report said "rigorously monitored" experiments with legalisation and a focus on public health, minimising the impact of the illegal drug trade, were key ways of tackling the problem instead.
It was signed by George Shultz, the US secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and former NATO and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Nobel Economics prize winners Kenneth Arrow (1972), Christopher Pissarides (2010), Thomas Schelling (2005) Vernon Smith (2002) and Oliver Williamson (2009) also signed the reports.

Global drugs war a ‘billion-dollar failure’

I guess the US government hasn’t gotten that memorandum yet.  They’re still busy fighting a losing war.

But what about police departments in the US?  Since they’re tasked with fighting this ‘War on Drugs’, surely they’re all taking advantage of all this wonderful military grade weaponry and supplies, no?  Not all of them:

Seattle
Between May 2010 and March 2014, the Seattle Police Department received a laundry list of equipment from the Defense Department through its controversial 1033 grant program, gear that Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the agency's spokesman, accurately labeled "very boring."
The department has posted the list, complete with pictures, on its SPD Blotter website. It includes floatation vests and binoculars, signage and gloves, pistol holders, a radiation detector and rifle sights "used by the approximately 130 officers who have passed the department's rifle-certification program."
"We have equipment that we feel is necessary for a city of our size," Whitcomb told The Times. "The equipment we have serves a police purpose. Our No. 1 priorities are protecting people's lives and looking after their well-being. Our second most important is looking after possessions and property.
The department’s SWAT team does use a BearCat - an armored truck for situations where there may be gunfire, Whitcomb said, but such a vehicle is standard operating procedure for modern police departments.
"It's used to get our personnel in and out safely, so we can rescue people and evacuate if necessary," Whitcomb said. "You cannot do that in a sedan. Though we have put some armored plating on the doors in our cars. We also have purchased ballistic shields. It all goes back to the problem of gun violence in our country. ... But ultimately we are a police service. We are not the military."
On using BearCats, he said: "If you’ve got a potential for gun violence at a school, university, business complex, mall and you don't have one of these, you’re not providing adequate police services. ... In a post-Columbine era, you are not doing your job if you don't have one."
Seattle police vehicles no longer automatically carry shotguns. Instead, shotguns and rifles are assigned to officers trained in their use.
"Being more strategic with our equipment," Whitcomb said, is "an absolute good thing."
The department's tactics have evolved through the years, from the 1999 protests surrounding the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle, in which police response was vilified internationally as heavy-handed and what then-Chief Norm Stamper has described as "the worst mistake of my career."
The Seattle Police Department is currently operating under a federal consent decree designed to ensure constitutional policing in Seattle. The Justice Department began investigating the department in 2011, and reached a settlement with the city in 2012, which led to the federal oversight.
Whitcomb declined to comment on the situation in Ferguson, but he did talk about one measure his police department employs that was sorely lacking during most of the week in the small, troubled Missouri town – transparency.
“We promise to be open and transparent and share information with the public as these things unfold,” Whitcomb said. “So not only are we going to provide the public safety services and respond to these critical incidents, we will explain to you what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
--Maria L. La Ganga
[...]
Nashville, Tenn.
The police department in Nashville has been closely following developments in Ferguson, said Don Aaron, the department’s public affairs manager.
What stands out, he said, is the "lack of communication to the community and, conversely, to the rest of the country" by police officials in Ferguson.
Unlike police involved in the Ferguson unrest, the Nashville force has never used its SWAT team for crowd control, Aaron said. The department generally uses its horse-mounted police officers for that purpose.
Nor has the department deployed either of its two armored vehicles - it calls them rescue vehicles - for crowd control, Aaron said. The vehicles are used to rescue civilians or police officers threatened by gunfire.
"You never say never, but we have not used an armored vehicle in a crowd-control situation," he said. "It’s just not the type of situation where you would use that type of vehicle."
Aaron said the department did not rely on military weapons or equipment, with only a relative handful of items provided by the military.
One armored vehicle was provided by the Air Force years ago. A more modern vehicle, a civilian-made model called a BearCat, was provided about 10 years ago through a Department of Homeland Security grant, Aaron said.
The department’s SWAT team, which is issued semiautomatic rifles, is deployed primarily in dangerous situations such as hostage rescue, barricaded suspects or an active shooter, Aaron said. A Special Response Team within the SWAT unit carries semiautomatic rifles to serve outstanding felony arrest warrants, often against people wanted for violent crimes.
The department received eight military OH-58 observation helicopters around 1997, Aaron said. Four were repainted and used for police work, and four have been used for spare parts. The force also has 10 boats it received from the military that Aaron said were crucial in helping rescue people stranded during devastating floods in Nashville in 2010.
In January 2013, the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department began allowing officers who undergo training and pass certification tests to carry privately-owned semiautomatic rifles as backup weapons while on patrol. The weapons are not to be used for routine patrol work, Aaron said.
"Deadly events across the United States over the past few years ... demonstrate the high-powered weapons with which criminals are arming themselves,’’ a department news release said at the time. "It has become increasingly clear that a pistol and a shotgun may not be enough for an officer to stop a threat to innocent civilians."
The rifles are not intended for crowd control. "Officers are to retrieve their rifles only when it is clear that a tactical advantage over a criminal suspect is warranted," the release said.
--David Zucchino
New York City
Alex S. Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College and a senior policy advisor to the Police Reform Organizing Project, looked at police response to Occupy protests, and said that it was frequently small and mid-sized departments that often deployed military equipment.
“Boston, New York, Los Angeles, most of the big cities, did not have the militarized response” to Occupy protesters, he said. “It was the medium and small cities that were in some ways worst offenders.”
Denver, for instance, deployed military equipment it received during the 2008 Democratic National Convention to break up Occupy protests; Tampa, Fla., police used a tank to break up similar protests.
Because much of the equipment comes from Homeland Security grants, he said, the equipment is spread over nearly every congressional district, city and state.
“You’ve got towns with 100,000 people that have as much hardware as New York City,” he said.
For the police departments, it makes sense to get the equipment - after all, it’s free, and is good for officer morale. But it serves “almost no considerable law enforcement purpose,” he said.
But surprisingly, big cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia seem to be much less likely to use the military gear, he said. Vitale has written a book about the New York Police Department, “City of Unrest,” but says the NYPD generally uses the equipment only when there’s a legitimate need for it. When the U.N. General Assembly is in session, for instance, a few armored jeeps will be deployed by the U.N. Counter-terrorism officers have assault weapons, but don’t usually parade them around the streets.
Sometimes, though, the department can't seem to help itself: During a recent demonstration near the Israeli Consulate, the NYPD stationed two officers to keep the peace with AR-15s.
--Alana Semuels

Police departments weigh in on use of military-type gear and guns

So larger cities in the United States do not necessarily feel the need to acquire military grade weaponry and some of them even feel it is the duty of the police to protect the citizenry.  Moreover, some of them even feel that communicating with the people in a community is hugely important in doing their job.

Well then, Ferguson, what the fuck is your problem?

 

Militarization of American law enforcement