Police Behaving Badly 10.16.15

From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the United states:

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Police Behaving Badly 10.16.15

Police Behaving Badly 9.24.15


At a recent presidential candidate forum, former Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker was asked about police brutality and racial inequities. Rather than address any of the numerous examples of excessive force used by police against unarmed civilians, or how racial prejudice may play into many such incidents, Walker decided instead to express his unequivocal support for police officers:

“Do we have an issue in this country that we have to deal with when it comes to race? Absolutely,”he said. “But we shouldn’t confuse that into somehow thinking that that means we shouldn’t treat our law enforcement professionals as the great men and women that they are.”

He continued, refusing to admit that any of the officers involved in the recent, high-profile deadly shootings may have made a mistake. Instead, he told the story of Deputy Darren H. Goforth, a police officer who was killed in Texas earlier this year.

“Every leader we have — at the local level, the state level, all the way up to the president of the United States, for that matter anyone in the clergy and business and anywhere else — needs to step up and say that is wrong,” he said. “The men and women who wear the badge are doing the right thing, every day. All the time. they protect us. We need to have their back. As president, I will have their back every single day.”

In the United States Scott Walker apparently lives in, all law enforcement officials are good, morally upstanding individuals with integrity and compassion and an unwavering devotion to upholding the law. To him, police officers are entitled to respect and obeisance on the basis of nothing more than their position, regardless of their actions. Such thinking marks Walker as a multiply-privileged, empathy-deficient, authoritarian out of touch with the lives of many of the U.S. citizens he once sought to preside over. Authoritarian, because blind obedience to law enforcement officials is a textbook example of authoritarianism. Empathy-deficient, because Walker does not live in a vacuum. As a political official, it strains belief to think he hasn’t heard of the multiple high profile cases of police officers shooting unarmed or fleeing suspects. No, he’s heard of them. He simply doesn’t care about the people that have been injured and killed by cops. And multiply-privileged because as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male politician, he is highly unlikely to ever be the victim of police brutality.

For those of us who do not live in Scott Walker’s USAmerica, the experience is quite a bit different. We are aware of the existence of law-abiding, ethical, law enforcement officials who live up to the responsibilities of their job and do not abuse their power. Unlike Scott Walker, however, we also know that law enforcement agencies across the country are infested with morally bankrupt, unethical, corrupt, tyrannical thugs. How do we know these things? Because we have gifts Walker does not. We have the superhuman ability [and desire] to pay attention to stories of police brutality and abuse of power. Stories like the following five:

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Police Behaving Badly 9.24.15

What advice do they have for us now?

Hey ya’ll. I have some news. You may want to sit down for this bc I suspect it will be shocking. In a case of mistaken ‘black guys all look the same, so we don’t have to double-check his identity before we introduce his face to the pavement‘ identity, some cops in New York roughed up 35-year-old former tennis player James Blake.

CHARLES KRUPA/AP James Blake, seen here during his match against Marcel Granollers at the 2012 U.S. Open, calls the incident ‘definitely scary and definitely crazy.’

Continue reading “What advice do they have for us now?”

What advice do they have for us now?

Police Behaving Badly 8.28.15

I began the ‘Police Behaving Badly’ series last year as a way of documenting the stories of police officers who engaged in questionable, unethical, immoral, or illegal behavior. At the time, I knew that there were cases of on-duty cops sexually assaulting women, that cops had been caught stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug suspects, that it was not uncommon for officers to use excessive force, and that police brutality and racism often go hand-in-hand. What I didn’t know was how often this shit occurred. I didn’t know how pervasive these problems were. Like many, I trusted law enforcement officials. As I read more and more stories of police officers behaving badly, I came to realize that these individual cases pointed to a more significant problem-rampant corruption within law enforcement across the country as well as departments filled with sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. Not just individual officers either, but entire police departments (the New York and Ferguson PDs immediately spring to mind). I learned that this shit happens all the time and as a result, this series will continue for a very, very long time (as long as I’m blogging most likely). Here are several recent examples of Police Behaving Badly:

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Police Behaving Badly 8.28.15

Police Behaving Badly 8.18.15


From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the nation:

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Police Behaving Badly 8.18.15

Another phrase that irks me

Yesterday I discussed how much I want to take a certain phrase out back, put a stake through its heart, chop its head off, and burn the body. Today I’m going to share another one that irritates the holy heck out of me. This time though, I’ll skip the guessing game and get down to it.

I hate reading or hearing “I don’t see race”


On the one year anniversary of the execution of Michael Brown, Jr. an article at CNN takes a look at the views of several residents of Ferguson, Missouri. The perspectives on display are intriguing, and I think the article is worth reading just to get inside the heads of Ferguson residents. But one of those residents was a police officer who said she “doesn’t see race”:

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Another phrase that irks me

Police Behaving Badly 7.13.15

You’d think with the increased scrutiny law enforcement officials face these days, they wouldn’t engage in despicable, unethical, immoral, and unconstitutional behavior. Or at least engage in less of that crap. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case, as it’s not hard for me to compile list after list after list of examples showing law enforcement officials behaving horribly. Here are five recent examples:

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Police Behaving Badly 7.13.15

Police Behaving Badly 6.21.15

From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending litany of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the United States:

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Police Behaving Badly 6.21.15

Police Behaving Badly 6.5.15

Can you imagine the U.S. as a country without aggressive, authoritarian police officers? Think of it-people who film cops wouldn’t be harassed by them for exercising their constitutional right, anti-racist protesters would be able to march in peace without cops arriving and fomenting chaos, people wouldn’t be expected to follow every command from a cop like they’re a dog, and handcuffed prisoners would not be pepper-sprayed for the shits n giggles of cops.

Video recorded in January of this year shows an Illinois police officer pepper spraying two handcuffed teens, apparently for no reason whatsoever.

Chemical agents, like pepper-spray, are meant to be used by police only when they are dealing with subjects who are resisting arrest or otherwise uncooperative. In this case, both of the teens were already in police custody. Their hands are in restraints. Both appear to sitting quietly in a holding cell.

The Alton police officer, who has since been identified as Vince Warlick, swings open the door and blasts the two young men with pepper-spray.

One of the teens can be seen writhing in pain. His hands are cuffed in front of him, rendering him helpless to defend against the unprovoked assault. A few seconds later, the officer spray the two teens again.


The story doesn’t end there. Although the incident took place in January, Alton Chief of Police Jason ‘Jake’ Simmons also came under fire for not responding to the incident until the video became public. Warlick remained on duty until May. Simmons says that he became aware of the alleged officer misconduct in March, but it took another two months for officers to write a report about the incident.

In mid May, after a lengthy community hearing, which was attended by hundreds of residents, the City Council voted in favor of replacing chief Simmons. Immediately after the vote, however, the town’s mayor, Brant Walker approached the podium. Walker told the gathered crowd:

“I hereby exercise my right as Mayor to retain Jake Simmons as Police Chief. I have no intention of removing him from office, nor do I have any intention of nominating anyone else for the position.”

I wonder if there was a contest between the Mayor and the Police Chief to see who could be the biggest apathetic asshole. Here’s the 42 second video:

 * * * *

Cop runs over bicyclist during high speed chase

Officials near the city of Philadelphia say they are investigating an officer who ran over a bicyclist during a high speed police chase.

Officials say they are trying to determine what happened, but local media sources have already begun spinning the story to favor the officer involved.

The local media has more information than the police have given out to everyone, but numerous sources have already begun conjecture about the collision happening “after” the police chase. We asked the Delaware Sheriff’s department and the Chester Police if they had made any such claim, and they told us they had not.

Right now, they say they have turned the investigation over to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office. They tell us that this is the normal procedure in any police related fatality case.

The community and the victim’s family say they want answers now. Specifically, they want to know how the officer could have possibly been justified in running over the suspect, identified as 24-year-old Sherman Byrd.

This all happened at around 8:30 Wednesday night, after a 55-year-old woman reported having her cell phone stolen.

Sheriff’s deputies were nearby. They said they saw a suspect on bike who looked like the man the victim had reported.

They claim they are confident Byrd was the culprit, but they have no other evidence than their hunch and the fact that he had a weapon. Byrd’s family say it is ridiculous to imagine he would have robbed anyone.

For many cops, evidenceless suspicion is all they need to go after someone.  The bar should be higher than that.  I wonder…what is Byrd’s race?

He was in fact only in town visiting his 6-year-old daughter and to attend his sister’s high school graduation. To suggest that he would have taken a “robbery break” during his visit is not only out of character, but also just strange, according to friends and family.

My heart goes out to that family. Byrd was there in part to celebrate his sister graduating high school. This should be a joyous time for his family, but because of authoritarian, aggressive thugs-the police-instead of celebrating, this family is grieving. Over a fucking suspicion.

In fact, his family says he had only taken a quick trip to the store in the middle of a family gathering. To suggest that he needed to run out to steal a cell phone made little sense to anyone who knew him.

To add insult to injury, the Upland Police Department has charged Byrd’s father and another relative with assault for getting aggressive with a police officer at the hospital when and where Byrd died.

No need for any police investigation. I’m pretty sure the results will exonerate the officers involved and rather than answers, the family will get hollow condolences from the police department.

* * * *

Cop found not guilty after kicking handcuffed woman in chest

In Kentucky, a Louisville Metro Police officer was placed on paid leave after being caught on a cruiser dashcam kicking a handcuffed woman in the chest.

A six-year department veteran, Officer Jennifer Knopf, 32, handed in her badge and gun pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, according to Sgt. Phil Russell.

The woman was seated and compliant. But that didn’t stop officer Knopf from verbally and physically assaulting the woman.

When the officer found the victim with her hands cuffed behind her back from an officer already on the scene, the two engaged each other verbally.

Then Officer Knopf called the victim a bitch and told those nearby she “was familiar” with the victim.

Officer Knopf put her foot on the victim’s chest, then kicked her, rolled her on her stomach and continuously mocked her according to a complaint filed.

The local Courier Journal says that this is the second officer in a week to be criminally charged from the same department in a matter of weeks.

By February, officer Knopf had her day in court. She was facing two charges: official misconduct and harassment with physical contact.

Go ahead and guess what the verdict was. That cops continue to get away with brutalizing civilians is a travesty of justice.

* * * *

New York cops electrocute former Marine because he ‘clenched his fists’

It is now apparently a crime, punishable by immediate death sentence, to clench your fists in the presence of police officers. This is all we can surmise after a former marine who crashed in an upstate New York neighborhood was fatally shot by police.

The Rochester police officers used a Taser on Richard Gregory Davis, 50, a former Marine, who friends and family say had done nothing wrong aside from his driving.

Police say that he “charged” at them. But as you might anticipate, Davis had not actually taken a swing at any officer, nor harmed them in any way. Still, the police are doubling down on their preemptive execution of the man who had just crashed his red pickup truck.

It is likely that Davis was in some state of shock after the car accident. As is common for people in a state of shock, he attempted to leave the scene on foot. This is not at all unusual after an accident when a crash victim is not thinking clearly.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle says that police arrived on the scene around 9 am on Sunday morning. Davis was disoriented and returned to the vehicle after police told him not to.

That’s when he crashed it again, knocking over a gas meter and hitting a fence, as well as a house. Many who have turned out rallies in support of the slain man say that this is evidence of how disoriented he was following the initial accident.

After wrecking again, Davis locked himself inside the truck.

Finally, after around five minutes, he did. But officer say that he “charged them” and had his “fists clenched.”

While his behavior was indeed erratic, witnesses only say that he advanced towards the officers. There was not further corroboration with the official police version of the events, beyond that.

The Rochester Police Department and the district attorney’s office say they are conducting an investigation into the incident.

I’m sure this will be yet another investigation that exonerates the police officers and finds their use of deadly force justified.

* * * *

If you are a dog lover or just love pets in general, this next story will probably anger you more than the typical police brutality stories.

Family raided by SWAT and their dog shot, for being unable to pay utility bill

Nothing says Police State USA quite like a SWAT team raiding a family home and killing their dog because they are unable to pay their natural gas bill.

The woman whose dog was killed and home destroyed by SWAT officers is Angela Zorich, and her story about her police state experience will shock the conscious.

According to a federal lawsuit filed this month, Zorich was the victim of a massive military-style raid and subsequent puppycide. The raid was carried out because police said they needed “to check if her home had electricity and natural gas service.”

“This is an example of police overreaching and using excessive force to get a family out of their house,” said Kenneth Chackes to the Riverfront Times, the attorney who represents Zorich.

According to the lawsuit, on April 25, 2014, St. Louis County Police officers came to her house. Her son cussed at them. They inspected the home’s exterior and placed a “Problem Properties” sticker on the front window.

Days after being publicly shamed and labeled by the St. Louis Police Department as a “Problem,” on April 28, Zorich called them to follow up. She was told by police that she was being investigated for failing to have natural gas or electric service; two violations against city code.

Zorich admitted to the police that she did not have gas, but said that she did have electricity. Zorich asked for another inspection to prove that she had the utilities. The officer told her that was fine, but that the investigation would continue.

The next day, on April 29, 2014, the home of Angela Zorich was raided by multiple officers from the St. Louis County Police Tactical Response Unit.

The Riverfront Times outlines the details of the lawsuit:

Zorich was at home with several family members and her pit bull, Kiya, when a St. Louis County Police Tactical Response Unit burst through the door without knocking, according to her suit. The unit had at least five officers with M-4 rifles, supported by at least eight uniformed officers.

The officers entered so quickly, Zorich’s suit alleges, that Kiya didn’t even have time to bark. A tactical officer fired three shots into the dog, and the dog’s “bladder and bowels released and she fell to the floor.” The dog “was laying on the floor in her own waste and blood struggling to breathe. She had a gaping hole in her chest.”

Zorich claims the officers kept trying to talk to her about the natural gas, but she was focused on her dog, whom she’d raised as a puppy and who (she says) had “never shown agression to any person.”

At one point in the raid, Zorich alleges, an officer pointed his firearm at her son’s head and said “One word, motherfucker, and I’ll put three in you.”

Zorich was subsequently taken into custody at the police station. When she was finally let go and allowed to return to her home, she found to be completely trashed. Beds had been overturned, and items that were once on shelves had been thrown to the floor.

The citations issued to Zorich, which had allegedly justified the heavily militarized raid on her home, were for substandard siding, guard rail, screens, window glass and deck.

This military mentality where cops see themselves at war has got to stop. Even if I were to agree that unpaid bills warrant a visit from the police, the most that should happen is a citation. But a SWAT team?! Zorich is a civilian, not a wartime combatant. She wasn’t in the middle of committing a crime that necessitated a special response team. She just had an unpaid bill. And now, thanks to overzealous thugs, her son’s life was threatened, her dog  was killed, and her house has been ransacked.  This is one of the most outrageous examples of police using excessive force I’ve read in a long time. I’m almost scared to see how the police chief or cop apologists will try to spin this.

Police Behaving Badly 6.5.15

Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California

A woman in Barstow, California found herself wrestled to the ground and arrested in the wake of a traffic dispute. The dispute involved an unidentified white woman and Charlena Michelle Cooks, an African-American woman who was pregnant at the time of the incident. Here’s the video:

In police body camera video obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), an officer is responding to an apparent traffic dispute between Charlena Michelle Cooks, who is 8 months pregnant and black, and an unidentified white woman.

The officer first talks to the white woman, who accuses Cooks of acting “all crazy.”

“I don’t see a crime that has been committed,” the officer admits after examining the woman’s car. After promising the woman a police report, the officer heads over to talk to Cooks.

Cooks explains that the argument occurred because the woman disagreed with the way she was driving in the parking lot. Cooks also said that the woman frightened her daughter, who was in second grade.

“She called the police for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Cooks says. “Should I feel threatened by her because she’s white? Because she’s white and she’s making threats to me?”

At that point the officer asks for Cooks’ name, but she insists that she does not have to tell him.

“I actually do have the right to ask you for your name,” the officer replies.

I wonder-did the officer ask the white woman to identify herself, or was this request made only of Cooks?

“Let me make sure,” Cooks says as she makes a phone call to someone.

The officer says he will give Cooks two minutes to verify his right to ask for her identification. But less than 20 seconds later, the officer and a colleague are performing a painful wristlock takedown on Cooks. The pregnant woman screams as she is forced belly first into the ground.

Translation: “I know I said I’d give her 2 minutes to verify, but my life was threatened by a pregnant black woman talking on the phone. Do you hear me?! My life was threatened! No, I don’t have to justify my fear. I’m a cop. We don’t have to do that.”

“Why are you resisting?” the officer demands.

Oh, I don’t know, maybe she was resisting because she was in a painful wristlock and was forced belly first onto the ground, which isn’t something many pregnant women are likely to be comfortable with. Y’know, given the actions of this cop, the forced birthers should be out in droves supporting Cooks. After all, assaulting her could have harmed the fetus.  And we know how concerned they are for fetuses.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Adrienna Wong pointed out that Cooks had a right to refuse to show her ID.

“It would be a wrongful arrest, but it would be an arrest,” she noted. “Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California, unlike some other states, he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason.”

Interesting. At least one cop in Barstow is unaware of a law that he ought to be knowledgeable of.

ACLU SoCal staff attorney Jessica Price observed that Cooks, who is black, was handled very differently than the white woman.

Happens quite a bit in this country. Why, it’s almost like the lives of black people aren’t valued as much as the lives of white people.

“Imagine getting wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in front of your child’s elementary school,” Price remarked. “Imagine interacting with other parents afterwards. Imagine what kids who saw the incident tell your child. And if you think the whole incident happened because of your race, how does that impact your view of police?”

Oooh, I know!

It might cause you to distrust the police more than you already do.

The charges of resisting arrest against Cooks were also dropped, but the city insisted that it acted properly in that case.

“The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved,” the city said in a statement.

“This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU,” the statement said. “Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.”

It’s proper to detain a citizen for no apparent reason, demand they identify themselves for no apparent reason, use a painful takedown maneuver on them for no apparent reason, and then wrestle them to the ground for no apparent reason?  If that’s proper and not racially motivated, why was the white woman treated differently?

To make matters worse, Cooks was banned from her daughter’s school until the charges were dismissed. She said that she has not decided whether or not she wants to sue the city. But ultimately, her goal is to move out of Barstow as soon as possible.

“I’m still trying to process everything and get in a good state of mind,” she told the Desert Dispatch. “I’m in a very fearful state of mind. Barstow is so small and I used to be comfortable living here. Not anymore. I really felt like after all that happened I had some of my everyday freedoms taken from me.”

Sadly, that’s what happened. Your freedom to move about in the public was infringed upon by the state for absolutely no fucking reason.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that terrified in my life,” Cooks continued. “I never saw that coming. I told him I was pregnant so he could proceed with caution. That didn’t happen and the first thing I thought was I didn’t want to fall to the ground. I felt the pressure on my stomach from falling and I was calling for help. But those guys are supposed to help me. But who is supposed to help me when they are attacking me?”

And that’s one of the scariest things for many African-Americans terrorized by law enforcement officials. There’s nowhere for them to turn to. No one to help them. And that includes the courts. Sure, victims of police brutality and harassment can sue the city. They often win such cases too, but that doesn’t ensure that they’re safe from police harassment and brutality in the future.

Btw, if the Barstow PD thinks that is protecting and serving their residents, they have a warped view of what it means to serve and protect. Or maybe they devalue the lives of black people. Or both.

Black lives are devalued in Barstow, California