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 email@example.com , 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the most dangerous place in the world? Brazil, rife with gangs? Some pockets of America with crime everywhere, fueled by the failure of our “war on drugs”? Nope. The most dangerous is not actually a place at all; it is the internet!
The internet is full of people who are not who they claim to be, what they really look like, etc. … PREDATORS AND PERVERTS. VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE. The internet is ideal for such deception, and the “bad guys” – and girls – know it!
Nobody really know the number of murder victims who met their killer online, but READ THIS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_homicide = Internet Homicide.
Add to it the burglaries, kidnappings, rapes, thefts, identity thefts, and other crimes committed by internet predators!
Especially young attractive women – but EVERYONE – REMEMBER THAT UNLESS YOU KNOW THEM PERSONALLY THE PERSON ON LINE MAY NOT BE AT ALL WHAT IS PORTRAYED!
Some of these “dupesters” are very, very clever, so watch out what information you give out online!
I see innumerable problems with this bad idea!
Excerpts from the Article:
Top officials at the Michigan State Police have been using text messaging encryption devices that can put their internal communications out of the reach of the Freedom of Information Act and legal discovery, according to admissions the MSP made in a civil lawsuit.
Among those who have downloaded the “end-to-end” encryption applications onto their state-issued phones are a lieutenant-colonel, two majors and two first lieutenants, according to court records obtained by the Free Press.
The use by top MSP officials of the encryption devices — under which text messages, once deleted, can leave no record on either the phone or the state of Michigan server — was disclosed recently in a federal lawsuit brought against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Col. Joseph Gasper, who is the director of the department, and the MSP.
Earlier, the department also admitted that both Gasper, and the manager of the MSP records section, Lori Hinkley, who oversees FOIA requests, had also installed and used the technology on their state phones. But late on Thursday, after the Free Press made inquiries about the encryption apps, the MSP sent the plaintiffs a corrected filing, through the state Attorney General’s Office, which denied that Gasper and Hinkley had used the encryption app on their state phones, contrary to the earlier admission.
Top officials at the Michigan State Police have been using “end-to-end” encryption technology which can put their internal text messages out of the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests and legal discovery, the department has admitted in a lawsuit.
The use of such applications by government employees — not necessarily with official authorization — is a growing concern among advocates for government transparency. It appears to fly in the face of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, which says records of communications between public officials, outside of specific exceptions, are public record. It also appears to violate the spirit of a 2019 Whitmer executive directive, which related to emails, rather than text messages, but said emails “may not be disposed of by a state department or autonomous agency except in compliance with an applicable record retention schedule.”
Signal, which is a free-to-the-user app funded by grants and donations, says on its website: “We can’t read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either.”
Hahn said the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget should explicitly ban the use of end-to-end encryption applications by state employees, if it has not already.
“Every member of the Michigan State Police has had multiple training sessions on the importance of preserving government-related texts on devices owned by the people, and to not conduct government business on privately owned devices,” Hahn said.
“Col. Gasper and his executive level commanders have had this training many times and know better, yet here we are. What a fine example they’re setting for junior officers and the troopers. Is that transparency?”
“Any attempt to avoid transparency by those the taxpayers employ is unacceptable — even more so for police employees in an era where accountability and transparency has never been more important in gaining the public trust,” McGraw said.
Further, “law enforcement is already afforded a level of coverage that prevents access through the public’s inability to obtain body camera footage, personnel information and other records exempt from FOIA,” she said.
This is a huge problem, because jurors trust “scientists”.
Excerpts from the Article:
The District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences (“DFS”) is a $220 million facility built in 2012. Its construction was highly lauded and was expected to effectively process crime scene evidence. DFS is an independent agency analyzing forensic DNA, firearm, and fingerprint evidence for various law enforcement entities operating in the D.C. metro area.
However, as early as 2015, two audits revealed that DFS’ DNA procedures were inadequate. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) brought attention to numerous mistakes concerning DNA analysis conducted by DFS. DFS lost its national accreditation, and the DNA analysis mistakes called into question the validity of evidence in approximately 200 cases.
After the 2015 audits, then-director Max Houck resigned. While the chief scientist and senior manager for DNA testing were both fired, Jenifer Smith proceeded to take over as the agency’s new director. Eliminating past practices and policies allowed the lab to again meet the necessary industry standards by 2018. Due to Smith’s changes, DFS was able to clear two audits from accreditation agencies while also improving communication with law enforcement. But the beneficial effects of the restructuring didn’t last.
By October 2019, the U.S. Justice Department was asking DFS to hand over documents pertaining to firearm evidence analysis policies. Also requested were any analysis reviews or indications of analysis verification errors. January 2020 found the FBI investigating a DFS firearms analyst for falsely certifying evidence analysis records as having been secondarily reviewed and confirmed by a colleague as per agency policy. These two investigations have reignited distrust among DFS, USAO, and defense attorneys. While the investigations did not reveal any criminal wrongdoing, a February 2020 report did recommend that the D.C. inspector general review “mismanagement, poor judgment, and failures of communications” within DFS. The investigations also launched renewed agency auditing. The auditing set out to examine 60 cases being prosecuted in D.C. Superior Court. Discrepancies were noted in a dozen of those cases.
The audit also confirmed that independent forensic examiners reached a wholly contradictory conclusion as those of the DFS examiners in at least six of the cases. The conclusion found by the audit examiners included not only false matches by DFS analysts but the matching of cartridge casings and bullets that the DFS analysts had been unable to match.
The investigations that led to these latest audits began when ballistic evidence in two 2015 shootings in the D.C. area were found to have been incorrectly confirmed as matching. Two men, 29-year-old Antwan Baker and Amari Jenkins, 21, were both fatally shot, and police had gathered ballistic evidence from the crime scenes. That evidence was entered into the National Ballistic Integrated Information Network (“NBIIN”). NBIIN is an automated database that stores and compares images of forensic ballistic evidence. DFS was alerted by NBIIN that the ballistic evidence in the 2015 shootings may be linked. This is the evidence that was then falsely and inaccurately confirmed as matching and verified as such by the DFS analyst. Based in part on this questionable ballistic evidence, Rondell McLeod and Joseph Brown were charged in 2017 with both of the 2015 killings. Almost four years after the original evidence was supposedly matched by NBIIN, prosecutors were preparing for the trial of McLeod when the problem with the original analysis was discovered, WTOPnews reports.
Prosecutors requested that Travis Spinder, a ballistic expert from Montana, review the evidence to confirm that it did actually link the two 2015 shootings. Spinder concluded that the 10mm shell casings did not come from the same gun. Spinder’s conclusion was then confirmed by four other independent experts.
“In other words, his conclusion is that the same 10mm gun was not used in both murders,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Spence in an email to McLeod’s attorneys, concluding, “Needless to say, this is a different conclusion than the one reached by the initial DFS examiner.”
Government attorneys are now busy trying to protect the integrity of their prosecutions. The findings are impacting defense attorney preparations, too. McLeod’s attorney moved to completely dismiss the murder indictment because the killings were only “linked together by ballistics testimony that has subsequently been debunked and proven to be false.”
An attorney also called it a “complete and intentional fraud” intended to mislead the grand jury. DFS has continued to deny any errors on its part. DFS also refuses to actively cooperate with the audit’s examiners and has not willingly turned over needed documents.
The USAO is now proceeding with a lawsuit against DFS to receive access to these documents. The documents would allow for completion of the audits. The USAO stated it does not want to appear complicit in any DFS denials of evidentiary problems. Public Defender Service (“PDS”) director Avis Buchanan believes prosecutors are too cozy with the audit team, arguing that PDS and other “non-prosecution” stakeholders should have more input into any of the audit team compositions. As of now, the full findings of this latest audit have not been provided to the public. There appears to be enough information now available to create grave concerns with evidentiary examinations and confirmations that were made by DFS analysts.
BULLSHIT! The shooter should have been charged, and let a jury decide. That is WHY God created juries! Expect more protests and more calls for justice … rightly so!
Excerpts from the Article:
The top prosecutor in Kenosha, Wis., declined to bring charges against the police officer who shot and gravely wounded Jacob Blake outside an apartment building in August, an episode that sparked protests and rioting and made the city an instant flash point in a summer of unrest that began with the killing of George Floyd.
The decision not to file charges against the officer, Rusten Sheskey, was announced on Tuesday afternoon by Michael Graveley, the Kenosha County district attorney. He said that investigators had reviewed 40 hours of video and hundreds of pages of police reports before making the decision.
The prosecutor said a case against the officer would have been very hard to prove, in part because it would be difficult to overcome an argument that the officer was protecting himself. He said Mr. Blake had admitted to holding a knife — even describing switching it from one hand to another as he moved to open a car door — and that statements from officers and other witnesses indicated that Mr. Blake had turned toward an officer with the knife immediately before he was shot.
The case involved a white officer shooting a Black man, circumstances which the prosecutor said made it especially difficult. “I feel in many ways completely inadequate for this moment,” said Mr. Graveley, who is white. “I have never in my life had a moment where I had to contend with explicit or implicit bias based on my race.”
Michael Graveley, the Kenosha County district attorney, said on Tuesday that his office would not bring charges against Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Jacob Blake outside an apartment building in August.
Mr. Blake’s family expressed anguish at the decision not to charge the officer, saying that video from the scene made it clear that Officer Sheskey had acannounced. “This is bigger, greater than little Jake. This is about all the little Jakes. That’s why the people keep coming out and supporting us. You know why? Because it could have been them.” “It’s a gut-wrenching experience,” Justin Blake, Mr. Blake’s uncle, said.
The case came during a year of protests over police shootings of Black people in cities across the country. It drew the attention of President Trump, who voiced support for a white teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three protesters on the streets of Kenosha, two of them fatally, as part of an armed group that sought to confront protesters.
Even before revealing his decision to forgo charges against the officer, Mr. Graveley pleaded with the community — and the country — to keep the peace.
“Rather than burning things down, can moments of tragedy like this be an opportunity to build things?” he asked.
Mr. Graveley said that shortly before announcing his decision he spoke by phone to Mr. Blake, who was hospitalized for weeks after the shooting. Mr. Blake was partially paralyzed; his family said he would probably never walk again.
Advocates for Mr. Blake, who is 29, have been holding regular demonstrations in Kenosha, and had called upon Mr. Graveley to file charges against the officer.
“This decision does nothing but shore up that message that Black people are not safe in the United States of America in 2021,” Corey Prince, chair of the criminal justice committee of the N.A.A.C.P. in neighboring Racine, said Tuesday. “They continue to devalue Black lives, Black humanity, Black freedom, even when we’re with our kids.”
Dominique Pritchett, a community activist and mental wellness clinician in Kenosha, said the news was difficult to hear. “It’s re-traumatizing,” she said. “It regurgitates every unjustified Black death and shooting that has happened in history.”
B’Ivory LaMarr, a lawyer representing Mr. Blake’s family, said they would probably sue. “We will be looking at bringing a civil action in the near future to seek justice for Jacob,” he said.
Officer Sheskey’s lawyer, Brendan P. Matthews, said that the officers who responded to the call about Mr. Blake “did an outstanding job under challenging circumstances.”
“At the end of the day, Officer Sheskey was presented with a difficult and dangerous situation and he acted appropriately and in accordance with his training,” Mr. Matthews said in a statement. “The video remains difficult to view but that does not change what actually occurred.”
The Kenosha police union on Tuesday called the decision vindication for the officers. Officer Sheskey, who has been employed by the Kenosha Police Department for seven years, was placed on administrative leave after the shooting.
The case incited emotions in large part because of the gruesome scene captured by a cellphone video: A Black man being shot in the back multiple times as he moved away from the officer. Even those arguing that the officers acted appropriately conceded that law enforcement needed to figure out how to reach better outcomes in such situations.
Noble Wray, the former police chief of Madison, Wis., who analyzed the shooting for the district attorney’s office, said that he, too, was initially pained by the video. “I would totally concur with how this came across,” he said after a reporter from a German news outlet said that many Europeans saw the video as an example of police abuse. “I felt that way. But the flip side of that, is that it is not necessarily true that in a use-of-force situation, that it would only take one shot to stop a threat.”
In a statement following Mr. Graveley’s announcement, Gov. Tony Evers said that the state and the country had failed to deliver on promises of justice, equity and peace for Black people. “Today’s decision is further evidence that our work is not done — we must work each day in earnest toward a more just, more fair, and more equitable state and country, and to combat the racism experienced by Black Wisconsinites,” he said.
But he stopped short of criticizing the district attorney, instead blasting lawmakers for failing to provide “meaningful, common-sense reform to enhance accountability and promote transparency in policing in our state.”
The community simmered with tension before the announcement, as residents and officials anxiously sought to prevent the unrest that unfolded after the shooting last summer. On Tuesday evening, a crowd of a few dozen people marched through the streets, shouting through megaphones and bundled in heavy coats as the temperature dropped below freezing.
Many businesses in Kenosha were boarded up Tuesday in anticipation of the charging decision, and some streets were closed. National Guard members stood near the Kenosha County Courthouse, which was surrounded by an iron fence. At a Subway sandwich shop two blocks from the courthouse, fresh plywood was installed Tuesday, as it had been during the summer unrest. “If the decision goes in the cop’s favor, we’re thinking it’s going to turn how it was before,” an employee, Tyler Blazek, said.
The City Council unanimously passed an emergency declaration Monday that would allow the mayor to implement a curfew once the charging decision was made public. The sheriff for Kenosha County also declared a state of emergency that he said would allow him to change the schedules of his deputies.
The shooting, on Aug. 23, unfolded after three officers arrived at an apartment complex in Kenosha in response to a domestic complaint.
As the officers attempted to take Mr. Blake into custody, he walked along the passenger side of a four-door S.U.V., away from the officers, as three of his children waited in the back seat of the vehicle. The officers used a Taser in an effort to subdue Mr. Blake. Officer Sheskey then grabbed Mr. Blake’s shirt and fired his gun several times into Mr. Blake’s back.
Two other officers were pointing their guns at Mr. Blake during the incident.
For several days in August, protests and destruction erupted on the streets of Kenosha, as rioters burned buildings, cars and garbage trucks, smashed streetlamps and spray-painted graffiti on schools and businesses. Hundreds of National Guardsmen were summoned to the city in an attempt to restore order, using tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue protesters.
Two days after the shooting of Mr. Blake, Mr. Rittenhouse, who was then 17, shot and killed two men on a downtown street in what his lawyer has described as an act of self-defense. He was charged with six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.
On Tuesday, Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, pleaded not guilty to the charges during a brief arraignment that was done via videoconference. His case is scheduled to proceed in March.
Outside the courthouse on Tuesday afternoon, two protesters said they were there to support Mr. Rittenhouse.
“Self -defense is not a crime,” said Tim Conrad, 34, who drove 90 minutes from Joliet, Ill., to be in Kenosha.
His friend, Emily Cahill, 32, from Plainfield, Ill., carried a poster that read “IGY6 Kyle” meaning “I got your back, Kyle,” she said.
The state Department of Justice and its Division of Criminal Investigation led the investigation into the shooting of Mr. Blake. The Justice Department has opened a separate civil rights investigation into the case.
At the time of the shooting, Mr. Blake was facing charges stemming from a July incident. On Nov. 6, prosecutors in Kenosha County Circuit Court dropped one count of third-degree sexual assault and agreed to drop one count of criminal trespass if Mr. Blake pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct, according to court records and Mr. Blake’s lawyer, Patrick Cafferty.
Mr. Blake pleaded guilty to the two disorderly conduct charges and was sentenced to two years of probation.
The Walworth County district attorney, Zeke Wiedenfeld, who had prosecuted the case, said the sexual assault charge had been dropped in part because the woman who had accused Mr. Blake declined to cooperate with the prosecutors. Mr. Blake had maintained that he did not commit sexual assault.