It is cleat from this trial that we have a looooooong way to go in training police.
Excerpts from the Article:
Onlookers grew increasingly angry as they begged Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin to take his knee off George Floyd’s neck, but Chauvin would not let up, and another officer forced back members of the crowd who tried to intervene, witnesses testified Tuesday at Chauvin’s murder trial.
WARNING: Video in this story may contain graphic content.
Witness after witness described how Chauvin was unmoved by their pleas, with the teenager who shot the harrowing video of the arrest that set off nationwide protests testifying that the police officer gave the crowd a “cold” and “heartless” stare.
“He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying,” said 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, one of several witnesses who testified through tears.
Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd while fellow Officer Tou Thao held the crowd of about 15 back, even when one of the onlookers identified herself as a firefighter and pleaded repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse, according to witnesses and bystander video.
“They definitely put their hands on the Mace, and we all pulled back,” Frazier told the jury.
The firefighter, Genevieve Hansen, wept on the witness stand as she recalled how she was not allowed to give any medical assistance or tell the police what to do, such as administering chest compressions.
“There was a man being killed,” said Hansen, who testified in her dress uniform and said she had emergency medical technician training. “I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that right.”
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter, accused of killing Floyd last May by pinning the 46-year-old handcuffed Black man to the pavement for what prosecutors said was 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd was arrested after being accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at the convenience store.
Floyd’s death, along with the bystander video of him pleading that he couldn’t breathe, triggered sometimes-violent protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality across the U.S.
The most serious charge against the now-fired white officer carries up to 40 years in prison.
The defense has argued that Chauvin did what his training told him to do and that Floyd’s death was not caused by the officer but by a combination of illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
On Tuesday, the prosecution asked multiple witnesses to describe their horror at what they saw, buttressing the testimony with multiple videos, some of which had never been seen before. Many testified about feelings of helplessness and guilt as Floyd gasped for air, pleaded for his life and finally fell limp and silent, his eyes rolling back in his head.
The testimony was apparently aimed at showing that Chauvin had multiple opportunities to think about what he doing and change course.
But Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson also sought to portray the onlookers as angry and agitated, in an apparent attempt to show that the crowd posed a potential threat to police that might have distracted them during their encounter with Floyd.
Hansen testified that the crowd was getting more upset and that the paramedics did a “load and go”— placing Floyd on a stretcher and quickly getting him away from the crowd so he could be treated elsewhere.
Donald Williams, one of the onlookers, testified that he called 911 after paramedics took Floyd away, “because I believed I witnessed a murder.” In a recording of the emergency call, Williams could be overheard yelling at the officers: “Y’all is murderers, bro!”
During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer pointed out that Williams seemed to grow increasingly angry at the police, taunting Chauvin with “tough guy,” “bum” and other names, then calling Chauvin expletives, which the defense lawyer repeated in court.
Williams, a professional mixed martial arts fighter, initially admitted he was getting angrier, but then backtracked and said he was controlled and professional and was pleading for Floyd’s life but wasn’t being heard.
Williams said he was stepping on and off the curb, and at one point, Thao, who was controlling the crowd, put his hand on Williams’ chest. Williams admitted under questioning that he told Thao he would beat the officers if Thao touched him again.
But witnesses also testified that no bystanders actually interfered with police.
When Frazier was asked by a prosecutor whether she saw violence anywhere on the scene, she replied: “Yes, from the cops. From Chauvin, and from officer Thao.”
Also Tuesday, prosecutors played cellphone video recorded by yet another bystander, 18-year-old Alyssa Funari, that showed onlookers shouting and screaming at Chauvin after Floyd stopped moving. The footage also showed the Minneapolis firefighter calmly walk up to Thao and offer to help, before he ordered her to get back on the sidewalk.
“I felt like there wasn’t really anything I could do as a bystander,” a tearful Funari said, adding that she felt she was failing Floyd. “Technically I could’ve did something, but I couldn’t really do anything physically … because the highest power was there at the time,” she said, referring to the police.
Frazier testified that she looks at her father and other Black men in her life and thinks of “how that could have been one of them.”
“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said, adding of Chauvin: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should’ve done, it’s what he should’ve done.”
My friend, Kathy Jennings, our AG, continues to do a great job. As she says here: “Police have a difficult job, but at a bare minimum we expect honesty,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Police who break the law commit two injustices: the crime itself, and damage to the public trust that lingers long after a trial. These cases deserve the highest level of scrutiny and independence, and are precisely why we established and expanded the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust. We cannot, do not, and will not tolerate this kind of conduct from anyone – let alone those we trust to enforce the law.”
Excerpts from the Article:
Attorney General Kathy Jennings and the DOJ’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust announced Tuesday that a grand jury has indicted James MacColl, formerly a corporal of the Wilmington Police Department, on two felonies and one misdemeanor.
MacColl, 39, is charged with Providing a False Statement to Law Enforcement, Tampering with Physical Evidence, and Official Misconduct for his actions in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting on February 2, 2019.
“Police have a difficult job, but at a bare minimum we expect honesty,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Police who break the law commit two injustices: the crime itself, and damage to the public trust that lingers long after a trial. These cases deserve the highest level of scrutiny and independence, and are precisely why we established and expanded the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust. We cannot, do not, and will not tolerate this kind of conduct from anyone – let alone those we trust to enforce the law.”
In February 2019, MacColl responded to a 911 call reporting an armed carjacking, pursuing and ultimately shooting Yahim Harris, of Wilmington. During an ensuing use of force investigation by the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust1, DOJ investigators became aware of a ballistics analysis that revealed discrepancies between the bullets fired from MacColl’s service weapon and the barrel of his gun. At the time, MacColl – who had previously been the subject of a use of force investigation following the 2015 shooting of Jeremy McDole – denied changing the barrel on his weapon.
The ballistics discrepancy did not affect DCRPT’s conclusion as to the legality of MacColl’s use of force, since it was undisputed that MacColl had fired his weapon at Harris. However, DCRPT disclosed the discrepancy in a public report issued in November 2019.
DOJ later learned of an interview in which MacColl admitted that he had switched the standard issue five-twist barrel on his service weapon with an aftermarket six-twist barrel in 2017. MacColl claimed that he had not changed his barrel when he shot Yahim Harris, but did not explain how the barrel of his weapon would have changed prior to its analysis. It was the first time that the DOJ became aware of any such admission.
MacColl’s total lack of candor during DOJ’s investigation forced prosecutors to drop then-pending charges against Harris for the alleged carjacking, as the State detailed in a memo filed in Superior Court on March 3, 2020.
As DCRPT describes in a Rule 9 Warrant, the State alleges that MacColl – who would have known from his prior involvement in the McDole use of force investigation that his firearm would be seized and would be produced in an official proceeding – knowingly and unlawfully attempted to conceal the use of an aftermarket barrel by swapping out his weapon’s barrel. MacColl’s alleged conduct not only misled investigators in the DOJ and in Wilmington Police Department, but derailed and terminated the prosecution of an alleged violent crime.
If convicted, MacColl will face a maximum of five years in prison. The DOJ reminds the press and public that an indictment is a formal accusation and that MacColl is presumed innocent until his is convicted at a trial, at which the State will bear the burden of proof.
1 At the time of the use of force investigation, the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust was still organized as the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust.
PA should enact a law to compensate the victims of such injustice! Nothing is worse than prosecutor/police misconduct as seen here.
Excerpts from the Article:
Donald Outlaw had already spent 15 years in prison for murder when he found out the man he was convicted of killing had told police with his dying breath that someone else named “Shank” had shot him.
Outlaw filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Philadelphia and the two detectives who investigated the killing of Jamal Kelly in 2000. The lawsuit is just the latest example of justice now being sought over faulty or crooked police investigations and prosecutions in the city from decades before.
Outlaw’s attorneys allege the city and its police department turned a blind eye to unconstitutional practices by homicide detectives — withholding evidence that indicated someone else’s guilt and intimidating and paying witnesses to provide false statements — that hampered Outlaw’s ability to get a fair trial and violated his civil and constitutional rights.
“Mr. Outlaw’s wrongful incarceration was the direct result of egregious misconduct by Defendants,” his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“Defendants improperly used their power and position to coerce witnesses into making false statements and identifications, and to offer sworn testimony that they knew to be false,” the attorneys wrote. “Defendants also withheld exculpatory evidence that would have demonstrated Mr. Outlaw’s innocence and deliberately disregarded information and evidence that would have demonstrated flaws in the case against him.”
At Outlaw’s trial in 2004 — four years after Kelly was killed — the victim’s dying declaration that “Shank” did it was never disclosed. Statements from four witnesses who had recanted or said they signed but never read the officers’ written statement were still read to jurors, with prosecutors claiming Outlaw had intimidated them out of testifying, Outlaw’s attorneys said.
In addition to the city, the lawsuit names the two detectives, Jeffrey Piree and Howard Peterman. Outlaw’s attorneys say Piree investigated the cases of three other men exonerated in recent years by the conviction integrity unit of the Philadelphia prosecutor’s office.
A city spokesperson said city officials had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, but confirmed that both detectives were “not current city employees.” A phone call to a listing for Piree went unanswered, and a message left at a listing for Peterman was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Twenty-one people have been exonerated in Philadelphia since the end of 2016, 18 of whom were released after investigations by the conviction integrity unit since 2018, when District Attorney Larry Krasner took office.
Several other exonerated men have filed claims of withheld exculpatory evidence, coercion of witnesses and intimidation that led to false statements.
After years of appeals, Outlaw’s attorneys with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project persuaded the court to open a file that included the dying declaration and a letter from a witness saying he had hoped to be released from incarceration in exchange for his testimony.
Outlaw’s wife, Monique Solomon-Outlaw, also posted fliers asking anyone with information to come forward. That was more than 15 years after the shooting, but a witness did come forward saying she saw someone else fire the fatal shots.
That new witness testified in 2019 with another witness from the first trial, who recanted his testimony and described how detectives had helped him concoct the story against Outlaw. A judge freed him on bail.
At first, prosecutors planned to retry Outlaw. But other prosecutors in the integrity unit decided there was not enough evidence, and the case was dropped.
Outlaw, who declined to be interviewed about the lawsuit, has been working with the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, said his attorney Josh Van Naarden, a founding partner at VSCP Law.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the time spent in jail — the missed chance at educational, personal and life experiences. Pennsylvania is one of about 15 states that don’t have formalized compensation programs for people exonerated and freed from prison.
Philadelphia has also seen more civil lawsuits over wrongful incarceration. At the end of last year, the city had paid out more than $35 million over three years, including a $9.8 million settlement with a man freed after spending more than three decades behind bars for a murder he did not commit.
Excerpts from the Article:
How is it possible that a mayor can’t fire a bad cop in Wisconsin? No, this time it isn’t about the police union, which can’t actually stop a cop from being fired per se, but can take the case to binding arbitration where the cop can be reinstated with back pay for not being significantly worse than the cops who haven’t been fired for being as bad.
This time, it’s because a very progressive idea came to fruition. It was meant to deal with one problem, which it did very well. It created another problem, but our concern now wasn’t the same as their concern then. Something had to be done and it was.
A state law passed in 1885 gives volunteer citizen boards authority to hire and fire police and fire chiefs. These police and fire commissions are also tasked with disciplining members of police and fire departments when issues arise.
That means when people call for the removal of a police officer or chief, the mayor or city council can’t step in.
The reason for this law was sound, as far as it went. “It wasn’t that unusual for a new political party to come into city hall and literally fire everyone on the police department and bring in new people,” Kennedy said. “Obviously this made for disastrous favors, laws were enforced badly, or they weren’t enforced at all, and over decades, many measures were put in place to try to stop this.”
Kennedy said over the last 120 years, the setup has insulated police from oversight if there is corruption within their own department.
“This is a singular, structural, legal creation that essentially assures that lack of accountability,” Kennedy said.
The problem at hand was that police were seen as the muscle for whoever was in office. When the old regime was voted out, the police went with them. New leadership, loyal to the new regime, was installed, and cop jobs with guns and shields were handed out to loyal soldiers as payback. That’s a very serious problem, and the solution was to take the power to fire cops out of the hands of the machine and put it into the hands of citizens.
The flip side of the problem is that it removes authority from the elected civilian officials, not to mention the police chief, to deal with problems. And that includes the hiring and firing of police chiefs as well, so when issues arose with the handling of protests and riots, mayors were blamed by outraged activists even though they have no power to do anything about it.
Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride has come up against the law firsthand. Members of the community called on McBride to make bold changes after an officer killed three people of color in five years. But McBride said his hands were tied. “People insisted over and over again that I fire Joseph Mensah, and that I fire the police chief, and I would insist over and over again that I don’t have the authority under Wisconsin law,” McBride said. Because of McBride’s “failure” to fire Mensah, McBride came under fire for his perceived failure to deal with this bad cop. The problem is that he has no more power to deal with it than any other citizen. McBride said he was assured by Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber that an internal investigation would be done and the officers responsible will be disciplined. But as mayor, he can’t call for disciplinary action. Instead, he can file charges with the police and fire commission.
“Any member of the community who feels that he or she has been mistreated by any police department can file charges,” McBride said.
Of course, that’s not a sufficient answer from a mayor, who is expected to be in charge of such things, even though the law precludes him and the police chief from firing a cop. The question of what, and whether, to further tweak the system in light of the moment’s passions is a fair one. After all, what use is civilian control over the police if it can’t address serious problems that demand action.
But then, every “fix” has its unintended consequences, a lesson that few seem capable or willing to learn. The problem being “fixed” today might not reflect the problem as perceived years later, and it’s often hard to foresee the consequences reform that made sense at the time will have when circumstances change.
Courts should not need to OK this. Every state should have laws requiring that such records are public information! Demand transparency.
Excerpts from the Article:
Many New York City police discipline records can be made public over the objections of unions, an appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision praised by the city and civil rights lawyers as likely to improve the ability of the public to police its police department.
The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a decision last year by Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
Unions had opposed a new state transparency law on the grounds that it would unfairly taint the reputations of police officers, endangering them and affecting their future employment.
In a summary order, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit agreed with the lower-court judge, finding no evidence that job prospects for officers were harmed in numerous other states where similar records are available publicly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, had promised to post a database of misconduct complaints online.
In a statement, the mayor said the city looks forward to releasing the data and will seek clarity from the court regarding when the records can be unveiled. “For the past seven years, we’ve fundamentally changed how we police our city, strengthening the bonds between communities and the officers who serve them. Now, we can go even further to restore accountability and trust to the disciplinary process,” he said.
As to the law that blocked the release of the information previously, de Blasio said: “Good riddance.”
Molly Biklen, deputy legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, praised the ruling as “really tremendous,” particularly because “we’ve seen that the police department is unwilling or unable to police themselves and hold themselves accountable.”
She said the public will now be able to see what the police department does with complaints and how the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a watchdog agency, operates.
“New York historically has kept records incredibly secret and so I think the decision is a really important step for making things public,” Biklen said.
Attorney Tiffany Wright, who submitted arguments on behalf of Communities United for Police Reform, called the decision “a huge win for transparency and for the communities across New York who bear the brunt of police violence and misconduct. Those communities have a right to know the misconduct and disciplinary histories of those policing their streets.”
The controversy arose after New York lawmakers, reacting in part to protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police misconduct, repealed a law last year that for decades blocked the public disclosure of disciplinary records for police officers, as well as firefighters and correctional officers.
Gov. Wolf wants people wrongly convicted paid $50k for every year spent in prison PENNSYLVANIA Pennsylvania is currently just one of 15 states that do not provide any financial justice to the victims of wrongful convictions
It’s only fair, although no amount of money can make up for years of lost freedom.
Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his 2021-2022 budget plan last week with many talking points. Tucked away in his plan is a proposal to pay $50,000 to those wrongly convicted of a crime for each year they spent behind bars.
Pennsylvania is currently just one of 15 states that do not provide any financial justice to the victims of wrongful convictions. Others provide at least $50,000 per year. A national average of nine years in prison before being proven innocent would equate to $450,000 in compensation. Societal punishment and trouble finding work are two factors in the need for these payments.
In the proposal, Wolf points out that Pennsylvania exonerees actually spend an average of 14 years in prison. Exonerees often have little access to money, housing, transportation, health services, or insurance, the budget reads.
According to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations, innocent African Americans are about seven times more like to be convicted than innocent white people.
The proposal is part of Wolf’s “Keeping Pennsylvanians Safe through Criminal Justice Reforms” that includes providing fair funding for police coverage, probation reform and the “Clean Slate” legislation among other items.
40% of Wrongful Convictions Involve Police Investigative Misconduct Targeting Black Male Defendants. Police Chiefs Urged to Drop ‘Victim-Centered’ Program
My friend, Ed Bartlett, who runs the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) in D C, sent me this article.
WASHINGTON / February 19, 2021 – A review of recent wrongful convictions reveals 40.3% involved investigative misconduct by police officers that was directed against Black male defendants. The analysis is based on publicly available data compiled by the National Registry of Exonerations for the years 2018 to 2020 (1).
Following are the year-by-year numbers:
2018: 39.5% (2)
2019: 37.5% (3)
2020: 43.3% (4)
The wrongful convictions arose from five types of police investigative misconduct: concealment of evidence, fabrication of evidence, witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, or making false statements at trial (5).
A recent article in the New York Times recounts how investigators used deceptive methods to coerce a false confession from Huwe Burton. After Burton’s mother had been fatally stabbed, the 16-year-old Black boy was subjected to a lengthy interrogation. “Two hours into the roughly six-hour interrogation, Detective Viggiano started to bluff the teenager, pretending there was evidence that he was the killer,” the NYT article reports (6). In 1991, Huwe Burton was convicted of murder and received a 15-year-to-life sentence. He was exonerated in 2019 (7).
Ethics codes admonish police officers to conduct investigations that are impartial, fair, and honest (8). In a recent New York appellate decision, Judge Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald issued a rebuke of guilt-presuming investigative methods: “An impartial investigation performed by bias-free investigators is the substantive foundation” of a legal proceeding (9).
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is calling on the International Association of Chiefs of Police to suspend an upcoming program designed to promote “victim-centered” investigations (10). Such guilt-presuming “victim-centered” methods worsen the problem of wrongful convictions and have disparate effects on Black male defendants.
Interested persons should contact Vincent Talucci, Executive Director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, at firstname.lastname@example.org , or telephone: 703-836-6767.
68 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 172 total exonerations = 39.5%
59 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 152 total exonerations = 38.8%
52 Black male exonerees harmed by police misconduct divided by 120 total exonerations = 43.3%
You know this got my attention, with all the bitching I hear (and do!) about awful lawyers! 🙂
I continue to call for state Bar Associations to disbar all lawyers (including those in politics – can you say: Lindsey Graham?!) who blatantly LIE to courts or to Congress or to the public!
Excerpts from the Article:
My Great Uncle Dave was kind enough to move my admission into the bar of the United States Supreme Court. Uncle Dave was my idea of a lawyer growing up. He was the kind of guy who would wear a three-piece suit to mow the lawn, because he believed he was a lawyer all the time, not just when he was in court or sitting in his corner office at Broad Street in Newark.
Uncle Dave “hired” me to “clerk” for him while I was still in college so I could see what lawyers did, who lawyers were. I wasn’t really a clerk, but the kid who fetched coffee for the lawyers in his office, sat in the library (that was a place where he kept all the law books) and looked up things for him and, mostly, listened to him as he explained why he did what he did.
He taught me about zealous representation. He taught me about the virtue of hard work. He taught me about honor and integrity. Uncle Dave would fight right up to the line of propriety, but he would never cross it. This wasn’t because he feared being disbarred. This was because he believed that honor mattered.
Lawyers have not had a good run over the past few years. Lawyers in the service of Trump have been disgraceful, often outrageously dishonorable. Between Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, one might get the impression that being a lawyer and mental health are incompatible. As for former Attorney General Bill Barr, there’s no explanation, even if he finally reached a line he wouldn’t cross with the rigged election scam.
Lawyers in the service against Trump haven’t been a lot better, whether throwing Molotov cocktails at police cars or manufacturing TrumpLaw, gross distortions of law to condemn Trump’s bad, but not necessarily unlawful, actions. And as the Trump impeachment defense team twists law its way, others twist it the other way.
Watching the news, Dr. SJ often turned to me and asked, “Can they do that? Can they say that?” Lawyers aren’t supposed to lie to courts. Lawyers aren’t supposed to bring frivolous litigation. She’s thinks lawyers are supposed to be honorable. I may have given her the wrong impression. No, they can’t do that, and yes, they can and do, all the time.
The appalling conduct of the lawyers at the highest levels of government who behaved so shamelessly in seeking to maintain Trump in office was not an aberration, but a continuation. Throughout Trump’s presidency, lawyers were centrally involved in perpetuating some of its most repugnant excesses.
Just as the president, members of Congress, and insurrectionists must be held accountable for their actions, the legal profession must urgently take collective stock of why so many prominent legal institutions and leaders were embroiled in supporting one of the most corrupt and destructive presidencies in our history.
This is the lead in to her point, that we should create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was done in South Africa for apartheid, for lawyers who supported this “corrupt and destructive” regime.
This begins with a recognition that in a world in which raw power has come to transcend the unspoken code of civility and integrity among political lawyers, more is needed than the mere expectation that lawyers in government will behave honorably.
Dick the Butcher would support this idea, rid us of those lawyers who would defend the side we hate, and then there will be no one to oppose us. Yes, we need to be far more honorable in refusing to cross the line, and it needs to be enforced. No, it is not dishonorable to be the lawyer for those clients and ideas deemed unworthy in the eyes of Ifill’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Maybe we were never all that honorable as a profession, but only as to those individual lawyers who believed that honor was their personal duty.
How many of us, when kids, did things that may get us arrested today?! My hand is raised! It is astonishing that cops need to be trained that kids are kids!
Excerpts from the Article:
Last week, police officers in Rochester, N.Y., responded to a call of “family trouble.” The source of the trouble was a Black girl, who had said she wanted to kill herself and her mother. The officers on the scene handcuffed the girl and put her in a squad car. Screaming, the girl begged not to be pepper-sprayed and refused to swing her feet into the vehicle. “You’re acting like a child,” the officers told her — to which she responded, “I am a child.” Reaching an impasse, the police pepper-sprayed her and slammed the car door shut. “Unbelievable,” one of them said. The girl was 9 years old.
For an officer to look at a 9-year-old girl and fail to see her as a child is, sadly, consistent with our research, which has shown that adults view Black girls as young as age 5 as less innocent and more like adults than White girls of the same age, and needing less protection and nurturing. Scholars and researchers say the perspective is based in stereotypes of Black women as threatening and aggressive, which are projected onto Black girls. This difference in perception, this blindness to the innocence of a Black child, is not just unfeeling. It is rooted in dehumanization.
The consequences of such adultification biases are profound. Rather than showing Black girls leniency or compassion in keeping with their age, authorities punish them in ways that are wholly out of proportion to their developmental stage. This occurs in many of our public systems, including schools, where young people spend the majority of their time. Our analysis of data from the U.S. Education Department, conducted in partnership with researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, showed that, accounting for their enrollment, in the 2017-2018 school year Black girls ran more than twice the risk as White girls of being placed in physical restraints; they had three times the risk of being referred to law enforcement by their schools; and 3.66 times the risk of being arrested in school.
“There have been too many incidents of school-based harm that criminalize normal adolescent behavior,” Aishatu Yusuf of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute told us. “Instead of seeing Black girls and other girls of color as children, schools and justice systems see them as threats.” Examples are not hard to find. Just last week, a video surfaced of a sheriff’s deputy in a Florida high school breaking up a fight between students by body-slamming Taylor Bracey, a 16-year-old Black girl, to the floor, knocking her unconscious, and handcuffing her.
The Rochester police union’s president, Mike Mazzeo, defended the use of pepper spray, saying it resulted in “no injury” to the 9-year-old child. The statement was revealing in its wrongheadedness. Pepper-spray injuries may not be permanent, but they are often acute — especially for children, whose bodies are still developing. And the harm, of course, is not only physical. The mental health effects “cannot be overstated,” Rohini Haar, a physician who specializes in health and human rights, told a reporter last November after police in Graham, N.C., pepper-sprayed participants in a voting rights march — including young children. Harm at the hands of law enforcement hurts the community as a whole, as Haar noted; it further corrodes the relationship between people of color and government authorities. The incident in Rochester is yet another destructive breach of trust.
The interim Rochester police chief has promised to “do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.” All public systems have that same responsibility toward the children they are entrusted to serve. Here are two steps to start:
First, policymakers and community leaders should increase police and teacher training to guard against racial and gender bias that dehumanizes Black children. These trainings should specifically include education to combat adultification bias against Black girls.
Second, those with authority over children’s lives must learn more about youth development and age-appropriate responses. According to “Gender Injustice,” a report on girls in the justice system, it is crucial to recognize children’s “limited culpability given their age and stage of development, and their capacity for change.” Developmentally appropriate practices can help build relationships, rather than causing further damage.
Adults’ dehumanization of Black girls deprives them of the care and nurturing that should be the inalienable rights of all children. It contradicts the core principle that children should be held less culpable for their actions according to their social and psychological development. It is not enough to express shock or even to suspend individual wrongdoers. We must take meaningful, systemic action to stop the onslaught of needless injury to Black youths and their communities. “Acting like a child” is not, and should never be, a crime.
Rebecca Epstein is executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown Law and the head of the center’s Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity. Toella Pliakas, a senior at Georgetown University, is an intern at the initiative.
I have posted articles like this b4, but this problem is serious, and the situation continues. Bad cops routinely manage to hide prior complaints. All police agencies should keep and make public a record of all complaints against an officer, and the status of what was done about it. i.e. “investigated and dismissed as without merit”, or “investigated and officer was terminated”, etc.
Even when fired for misconduct – abuse – officers often “hop over” to another police agency. This too must end. Abusive officers have no business being in law enforcement.
As for Ms. LaToya Holley:
Excerpts from the Article:
Two years ago, my 19-year-old brother, Anton, was killed by a former Dover police officer. After his death, it was revealed that the officer had 29 use-of-force reports filed against him.
In June, Delaware lawmakers created the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force (LEATF) to recommend policing reforms, and it recently released an interim report. A key measure was missing that could have saved my brother’s life: public access to police misconduct records.
Delaware is one of the few states in the nation where officer disciplinary records are only known by police internal affair units. That secrecy enabled Thomas Webster to continue abusing Dover residents during the decade he spent on the force. In 2015, he finally resigned after facing criminal charges for kicking a Black man in the face and breaking his jaw during an arrest.
Webster simply moved across state lines and was hired as an officer in Greensboro, Maryland. That is where the fatal encounter with my brother occurred. Webster responded to a 911 call claiming that Anton kidnapped a 12-year-old boy, who was actually a cousin. Within an hour of crossing paths with Webster and other officers who were handling the call, my brother was dead.
My family was shocked and the tight-knit community of Greensboro was devastated. Anton was known as a star athlete who won the state championship for track his senior year of high school. He was the baby in my family with a sweet and gentle personality that made everyone love him. Anton had his whole life ahead of him and it was brutality taken away.
In this Jan. 28, 2019, photo, pictures of Anton Black decorate a collage in his family’s home in Greensboro, Md. Black, 19, died after a struggle with three officers and a civilian outside the home in September 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Webster never should have gotten a badge in Maryland. His certification would have been denied had the state police training commission known about his history in Dover. Last year, the former Greensboro police chief pleaded guilty to covering up Webster’s record on his application. It would have been much harder to hide this information if Delaware made it public in the first place.
My home state should shine a light on police misconduct, as other states have done. New York just repealed a similar law, joining Alabama, Florida, Ohio and other states that allow full access to complaints filed against officers and how departments resolved them. Most other states require at least some degree of transparency around these files.
Anton’s death is among the many terrible consequences of secrecy. It undermines trust within police departments. Officers do not know whether discipline is administered fairly and consistently across the department. Innocent people are at risk of wrongful conviction because judges and juries do not know if an officer who built a case has a history of lying or fabricating evidence.
As a citizen, I’m left wondering about the police in my neighborhood. Are they among the majority of professional and ethical officers? Or do they have a record of brutality and misconduct? If I file a complaint, will the department take it seriously or sweep it under the rug?
This change has to be the first step for other reforms to be effective. Changing use of force policies doesn’t do much unless there are consequences for violations. Civilian review boards cannot properly evaluate complaints without access to an officer’s disciplinary history.
The Delaware General Assembly should pass legislation removing secrecy of police misconduct files. Personal information like addresses and medical history should be redacted to address privacy concerns. There should also be a statewide database for departments to access this information before hiring an officer.
Transparent policing is more than a talking point, it is a matter of life and death. I pray that no other family in Delaware has to go through what mine did. Real change can start now by ending secrecy around police misconduct in Delaware.
LaToya Holley is the sister of Anton Black, who was killed by police in Greensboro, Maryland. She currently resides in Delaware. She can be reached via email: email@example.com.