In past times, the only evidence was in the hands and minds of the police themselves as they 'investigated' one of their 'fellow brothers-in-blue'. Even in circumstances when there were multiple witnesses to the event, the contradicting word of the police officer was often accepted by the 'justice system' and the statements of civilians who were on the scene were excluded and/or ignored.
Today, due to improvements in technology, we have better evidence with which to look at these types of situations. Video cameras are being used more widely and offer an excellent opportunity to get at the truth. Proper determinations can be made regarding actions of a police officer and conclusions can be drawn as to guilt or innocence.
If it is determined that a police officer murdered a person, it is only reasonable to expect that the police officer will be punished as any other murderer would be punished.
To chose to hide valuable evidence from the public is itself proof of the malicious intentions of the system. The real reality is that 'justice' does not exist in this country, and that's the truth !!!
Charlotte Shooting Shows Why Video Transparency Is Vital
from Common Dreams by Jay Stanley
"Are police and prosecutors playing it straight, ready to let the chips fall where they may when it comes to investigating a potentially criminal police action and bringing justice? Or are they circling the wagons to protect one of their own? When Americans suspect they’re seeing the latter, that’s when they’re likely to hit the streets."
The shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tuesday is a case study in why it’s important for police departments to have good policies surrounding body cameras—in particular around the release of video to the public.
We have called for most video recorded by police body cameras to be kept from the public because of the serious privacy issues that the devices raise, and the fact that the vast majority of video that is recorded is of no public importance. However, where there is a use of force or a complaint against an officer, we think it’s vital that video be available to the public. The public’s interest in monitoring how its police officers are using force is overwhelming. That is doubly so in cases of deadly force—and why we are calling for Charlotte police to immediately release what they have in this incident. As my colleague Gilles Bissonnette of the ACLU of New Hampshire has put it, a video of police use of force
directly illuminates how police operate, helps identify potential misconduct by individual officers and poor policies or training by agencies, and allows the public to hold civic leaders accountable for problems. On multiple occasions, videos of police shootings have not only shed light on how and when police elect to use force, but also on police misconduct.
Protests and/or unrest after a shooting happens when a community a) suspects that an injustice has been done and b) lacks confidence that justice will be achieved by the institutions that are supposed to provide it. Both of those suspicions are all too often well-founded. A police chief can get up and assert that a shooting victim “exited his vehicle armed with a handgun as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it,” but in this day and age everyone has heard such stories before only to have them revealed later to be complete lies. A police chief may have nothing to go on except the word of his officers, and be compelled to support them—but unfortunately we have all learned we cannot trust that word. And, even where a police shooting is legal, that is not the same thing as a police shooting being necessary, due to the unfortunate state of the law in this area.
Release of the video does at least two things:
It is within this frame that people are likely to view police refusal to release video of a critical incident. Are police and prosecutors playing it straight, ready to let the chips fall where they may when it comes to investigating a potentially criminal police action and bringing justice? Or are they circling the wagons to protect one of their own? When Americans suspect they’re seeing the latter, that’s when they’re likely to hit the streets.
Unlike in Charlotte, the police chief in Tulsa at least made a start toward conveying the former stance this week by speedily releasing the video he had of the shooting of Terence Crutcher even though it did not look great for his department. Police often claim that they can’t release video due to an “active investigation,” but as I have argued elsewhere, the purposes behind that exception to transparency are rarely served in the case of police shooting video for more than a short period of time.
As the ACLU of North Carolina points out, an unfortunate new North Carolina law will actually block police from releasing body camera video without a judge’s order—but that law doesn’t take effect until October 1. In the meantime, the Charlotte police should release whatever video and audio recordings they have of this incident.
Obviously release of video is not a magic solution. A particular incident is often just the spark that ignites a dry underbrush of grievances that has grown up for many years. Some communities have many reasons to start protesting—grievances that run deep and involve many problems besides shootings. At the same time, transparency is a big part of the problem, and in today’s world release of video is a crucial part of that transparency.
Jay Stanley is Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, where he researches, writes and speaks about technology-related privacy and civil liberties issues and their future. He is the Editor of the ACLU's "Free Future" blog and has authored and co-authored a variety of influential ACLU reports on privacy and technology topics.
Welcoming Charges, Family of Terence Crutcher Vows to 'Break Chains' of Impunity
"We must not assume the conversation and the move towards desperately needed criminal justice and policing reforms ends today."
from Common Dreams by Lauren McCauley
The family of Terence Crutcher claimed a "small victory" late Thursday after the Tulsa County district attorney charged police officer Betty Shelby with manslaughter in the first degree for killing the unarmed father of four.
"While we are pleased to learn that the officer who senselessly killed by my beloved twin brother will face criminal charges for her senseless act, we understand that nothing will bring him back," said Terence's sister, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, during a press conference following the announcement.
But, she cautioned, "we know the history of these cases," referring to the countless other incidents where police officers were let off after killing a black civilian. "We know she gets charged but we get no convictions."
Crutcher said the family would be "vigilant" in following this case, and called for "transparency and accountability."
"The chain breaks here," Crutcher vowed. "We are gonna break the chains of injustice, the chains of police brutality. The chain breaks here right in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'm challenging everyone from all walks of life to join with us as we move forward."
This is a "small victory...but we know we got to get ready to fight this war. Join arms, lock arms with us as we go out and make everyone aware that today we can change this nation."
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma, echoed those remarks. In a press statement, he called the charges "welcome and appropriate," but said the group continues to "remain concerned for Tulsa's communities of color and for Black Americans across this nation."
"The officers who callously failed to render immediate aid when Terence was shot and bleeding to death and the officer in the helicopter who referred to Terence Crutcher as 'one bad dude' are evidence of a dehumanizing culture we see all too often," Kiesel said.
"As we continue to grapple with an epidemic of police brutality and killings that disproportionately affect people of color, we must not assume the conversation and the move towards desperately needed criminal justice and policing reforms ends today," he concluded.
The police are trained to shoot and to shoot again... survivors are then charged with a crime and we pretend that this is justice.
'Release the Tapes!':
Demand for Transparency Grows in Charlotte and Beyond
" The public owns this video."
from Common Dreams by Lauren McCauley
Protesters shout for the videos of the shooting from the steps of the police station during another night of protests over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As protests in Charlotte continued peacefully for a third night on Thursday, the call for the city government and police to release the footage of Keith Lamont Scott being shot has reached fever pitch.
Despite a midnight curfew, hundreds took the streets again, this time marching to the police station where they rallied and demanded the release of the police tapes.
On Thursday, Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney said officials had no plans to release existing video footage of the shooting, despite conflicting claims about whether Scott was armed and posed any threat to the officers. His family has said that he did not possess a gun.
One of the family's attorneys, Justin Bamberg, who viewed the footage along with the family, told Reuters Friday that, "There’s nothing in that video that shows him acting aggressively, threatening or maybe dangerous," adding that it is "impossible to discern" what, if anything, he is holding in his hand.
The Scott family said they have "more questions than answers" after viewing the tapes and joined others demanding their public release.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP have asked for the footage to be made public.
Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement, told Democracy Now! on Friday that Gov. Pat McCrory "wants to suppress the public's video," adding, "The public owns this video."
Corine Mack, president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch, said that it is particularly important in this climate of heightened racial tensions for police and other city officials to remain transparent.
"I think it's important, because of the climate we're in, the distrust of the police department and law enforcement, that that video or those videos be shown to the entire citizenry of Charlotte-Mecklenburg," Mack said Thursday.
Moreover, she noted that North Carolina "spent millions of dollars to ensure that each police officer had on a body cam, and there were several cops on the day of this incident who did not. And this is not something that has happened once or twice; it's happened far too often. Either they don't have on a body cam, or they cut off their body cam. That's a problem for us."
Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, explained in a column why the public release of police videos is such a "crucial" component of transparency.
"Police today often complain that a pall of suspicion has fallen upon their whole profession," Stanley notes. "But all too often it looks like 'the fix is in'—that the problems are cultural or systemic, that the police get special treatment with regards to justice, that the police cannot police themselves, and that nobody else is doing so."
It is within this frame that people are likely to view police refusal to release video of a critical incident. Are police and prosecutors playing it straight, ready to let the chips fall where they may when it comes to investigating a potentially criminal police action and bringing justice? Or are they circling the wagons to protect one of their own? When Americans suspect they're seeing the latter, that's when they're likely to hit the streets.
Many observers are comparing the Charlotte police department's refusal to release its footage to the case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police in recent days.
There, the police department did release the disturbing footage and on Thursday the city's District Attorneys office filed charges against the shooting officer.
"By contrast," wrote the New York Times editorial board on Thursday, "the Police Department in Charlotte, N.C., has responded in exactly the wrong way to a police officer's killing on Tuesday of another black man, Keith Scott. It has opted for stonewalling."
Stanley, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Times editorial board all noted that the lack of transparency in North Carolina has been buoyed by McCrory and the state's Republican-led legislature, which recently passed a "disgraceful" law that prevents law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage without a court order. That law takes effect on October 1.
In Charlotte, National Guard Descends on Community
Seeking Justice and Answers - Demonstrators in Charlotte, NC confront riot police for a second night after the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott
from Common Dreams by Lauren McCauley
The National Guard and State Highway Patrol were deployed Thursday morning in uptown Charlotte after another night of demonstrations captured the community's grief and outrage over the recent police killing of Keith Lamont Scott.
Scott's family said they are seeking answers as well as justice and on Thursday they are expecting to watch a video depicting his shooting death. Both the ACLU and the local chapter of the NAACP asked for that footage to be made public after police claimed the 43-year-old, father of seven was armed and "posed an imminent deadly threat" while he waited at his child's bus stop—directly contradicting the family, who said he did not possess a gun.
"After listening to remarks made by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Putney...we have more questions than answers about Keith's death," read a statement put forth by Scott's wife, Rakeiya Scott, Wednesday evening. "Rest assured, we will work diligently to get answers to our questions as quickly as possible."
"As a family," Scott continued, "we respect the rights of those who wish to protest, but we ask that people protest peacefully. Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that do not belong to you in the name of protesting."
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, echoed those concerns. In a statement Wednesday, Barber called for the "full release of all facts available" and asked that the city "be transparent with any video and any additional information...that can bring light in the tragic death of Mr. Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of a Charlotte police officer."
"We support those who exercise the right to peacefully protest, and encourage the first amendment right to call for redress of wrongs," he added. "We stand against efforts that undermine the legitimate calls for justice with unjust, random or purposeless acts of violence."
Following the Tuesday afternoon shooting, the city of Charlotte exploded with demonstrators clashing with police in riot gear. The protests continued Wednesday evening, intensifying after one of the demonstrators was severely injured in the melee.
Though police reported the incident was "civilian on civilian," the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, whose members witnessed the protests, issued a statement saying "we believe he was shot by police. We would like to see surveillance video from the surrounding area that may have captured the shooting to determine who was responsible for the shooting," according to the Charlotte Observer.
Police in riot gear reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the demonstrators. North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, called a State of Emergency late Wednesday and, the Observer reported, the National Guard began to patrol streets around 8am on Thursday. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told Good Morning America on Thursday that the city is also talking about implementing a curfew.
But while those aggressive measures may temper protests, the frustration felt in the black community only continues to grow.
"This is a rebellion, because people just can't take it anymore," said labor and community activist Dhruv Pathak, who took part in the protests.
"I'm angry and I am upset," another protester told reporters, "but this is not the end. I'm outraged at the simple fact that this community and society and nation can sit comfortably in their homes while this is taking place."
"This has been going on for the last 50 years and the only reason it's heard now in 2015 is because social media is bringing it right to the front door," added demonstrator Calvin Howell, referring to the police killing of black people. Now, he said, "everybody is seeing it and everybody is tired of it."
"We play the police's salary," Howell continued, "we are paying for service and protection and we are being killed by the people we are paying to protect us. ...[W]e gotta do better than this. The police gotta do better."
The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) confirmed to reporters that its Community Relations Service will be sending staffers to Charlotte. The DOJ has also launched an investigation into the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday.