In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Court Ju

The progress from Western colonial global expansion, and the construction of American wealth and industry on the backs of enslaved Blacks and Native peoples, followed by the abrupt "emancipation" of the slaves and their exodus from the South to the Northern cities, has led us to our current divided society. Divided by economic inequities and unequal access to social resources, the nation lives in a media dream of social harmony, or did until YouTube set its bed on fire. Now, it is common knowledge that our current system of brutal racist policing and punitive over-incarceration serves the dual purpose of maintaining racial prejudice and the inequities it justifies. Brief yourself on this late-breaking development in American history here.

In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Court Ju

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:42 am

In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Court Just Gave The Green Light To Racist Cops
by Aviva Shen
June 20, 2016

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can still arrest someone for an outstanding warrant even if they had no right to stop the person in the first place.

The opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, reverses a Utah Supreme Court order to suppress evidence discovered by a police officer during an illegal stop. After getting an anonymous tip about unspecified drug activity at a house, Officer Douglas Fackrell monitored the house for several days and ultimately decided to stop a random visitor to the house. That unlucky visitor turned out to be Edward Strieff. Fackrell had no reason to stop Strieff, yet he asked for identification and discovered a minor traffic violation on his record. Fackrell arrested him for the outstanding warrant and searched him, finding a bag of methamphetamine.

Thomas reasoned that even though the initial stop was unlawful, the discovery of the minor traffic warrant legitimized the search that produced the drugs.

Police protests have zeroed in on exactly this kind of discriminatory police practice in recent years, from the use of stop-and-frisk in New York to the shakedowns of poor people in Ferguson, Missouri, where virtually every family lives in fear of being thrown in jail due to an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine.

This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants


The ruling, according to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, is essentially giving the green light to police to continue stopping and arresting black and brown people for little to no reason beyond their race and class.

In a searing dissent joined in part by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sotomayor describes a police state that regards black and brown Americans in particular as “second-class citizens.” She issues a direct warning to those Americans whose profiling the court has sanctioned.

“This Court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you,” she writes. “This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants — so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, but it may factor in your ethnicity, where you live, what you were wearing, and how you behaved. The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction — even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous.”

Citing the many ways her fellow justices have expanded police powers and chipped away at basic rights within the criminal justice system, she paints a terrifying picture of what happens once you enter the hands of the police:

The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or “driving [your] pickup truck . . . with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter . . . without [your] seatbelt fastened.” Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 323-324 (2001). At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to “shower with a delousing agent” while you “lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U.S. ___, ___ - ___ (2012) (slip op., at 2-3); Maryland v. King, 569 U.S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 28). Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the “civil death” of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check. Chin, The New Civil Death, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1789, 1805 (2012); see J. Jacobs, The Enternal Criminal Record 33-51 (92015); Young & Petersilia, Keeping Track, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 1318, 1341-1357 (2016). And, of course, if you fail to pay bail or appear for court, a judge will issue a warrant to render you “arrestable on sight” in the future. A. Goffman, On the Run 196 (2014).


This is the fate that awaits a third of black men, who will face prison at some point in their lives. It’s also already happened to people like Natasha McKenna, who called the police for help, only to be arrested for an outstanding warrant and eventually killed while she was naked and strapped to a chair in jail. In places like Ferguson, which already throw people in jail for unpaid fines and fees like the one on Strieff’s record, this new ruling encourages police to openly and constantly harass anyone on the street.

In oral argument earlier this year, Sotomayor made clear that Ferguson was on her mind, warning, “If you have a town like Ferguson, where 80 percent of the residents have five minor traffic warrants out, there may be a very good incentive for just standing on the street corner in Ferguson and asking every citizen: Give me your ID. Let me see your name. And let me hope, because I have an 80 percent chance that you’re going to have a warrant.”

It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged


Simply acknowledging this reality for thousands of Americans of color is fairly radical. But Sotomayor’s dissent Monday goes even further. She argues that the decision enshrines racist double standards and betrays the very idea of an equal democracy.

“For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them,” she writes.

“By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double-consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights,” she says. “It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Finally, Sotomayor issues a subtle call to arms, invoking a certain refrain of the Black Lives Matter protests that helped call attention to exactly this kind of unlawful, racially discriminatory stop.

“We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated,’” she says. “They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.”
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Re: In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Cour

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:47 am

No Criminal Charges For Deputies Who Tased Shackled Woman With Four 50,000 Volt Shocks
by Carimah Townes
September 9, 2015

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When Natasha McKenna called 911, she did not expect to be thrown in jail for a prior warrant. But that is where the 37-year-old woman with schizophrenia was taken days after her emergency call, violently restrained, and tased with four 50,000-volt shocks that ultimately killed her.

On Tuesday, a chief prosecutor announced that no charges will be brought against the deputies involved in McKenna’s death. According to Raymond F. Morrogh of Fairfax County, Virginia, the officers acted within their rights when they tried to subdue the mentally ill woman.

The lethal encounter occurred last February, days after McKenna called 911 to report an assault. She was brought to a hospital for an examination, but subsequently taken to Fairfax County Jail for assaulting an Alexandria officer weeks before. Jail staff repeatedly tried to contact Alexandria authorities to pick her up because the Fairfax officials were not legally able to take McKenna, who became increasingly distressed behind bars, to a mental health facility. But when the Fairfax staff eventually tried to take McKenna to Alexandria themselves, she became more despondent and lashed out when authorities tried to restrain her.

Even though her hands and feet were cuffed and shackled, six officers in biohazard masks were brought in to subdue her. One of them used a Taser to deliver the four deadly shocks that stopped McKenna’s heart within minutes. Medics were able to revive her that day, but McKenna died several days later — leaving behind a 7-year-old daughter.

A medical examiner later concluded that she died of excited delirium, a dubious condition the medical community does not officially recognize but is nevertheless used as the cause of death for many victims of police tasing. Legal experts claim the term is used to downplay officers’ deadly use of stun guns and physical force.

“Ms. McKenna’s recent combative behavior included biting, scratching, spitting, kicking, and punching,” Morrogh wrote in an official report that characterized McKenna as a 5’4, 181-pound woman with “superhuman strength.”

“There is no evidence that any of the deputies acted maliciously, sadistically or with the intent to punish or cause harm to Ms. McKenna at any point in the struggle,” the report concluded. “To the contrary, they did their best, under very difficult circumstances, to restrain, control and prevent Ms. McKenna from injuring herself or others.”

While tragic, McKenna’s treatment was no anomaly. From beginning to end, her death mirrored the plight of hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system today.

A 2012 study determined that half of all people killed by police have a mental illness, even though cops are regularly called to help deescalate those in crisis. These tragedies are attributed to a deadly combination of poor training in how to deal with mentally ill people, as well as standard police tactics — like yelling commands — that actually exacerbate individuals’ symptoms. Co-responder teams, which pair officers and mental health professionals in the field, are ideal for interacting with people who have a mental illness, but most police departments do not require the collaboration.

But the problems do not stop for people with mental illness, like McKenna, who wind up behind bars. Drastic cuts to hospitals’ mental health budgets means people in need of special psychiatric care are, instead, criminalized and diverted to correctional facilities, where staff are ill-equipped to handle their specific needs.

In addition to having little to no access to psychiatric care behind bars, people with mental illness are routinely abused by corrections officers. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report detailed rampant abuse in the form of beating inmates bloody, breaking their body parts, and using stun guns and chemical sprays on them. Some officials beat inmates to death, while others kill inmates out of sheer neglect. Many people are thrown in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, which has negative impacts on individuals’ physical and psychological health.

“The violence can traumatize already vulnerable men and women, aggravating their symptoms and making future mental health treatment more difficult,” says the HRW report. “In some cases, including several documented in this report, the use of force has caused or contributed to prisoners’ deaths.”
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Re: In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Cour

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:55 am

If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs
by Nicole Flatow
December 10, 2014

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Iman Hadieh was standing outside a bar smoking with some new friends on the evening of October 6 when the police cars came. It was about eight young black men, and her, a woman of Palestinian origin who describes herself as white.

“I can’t tell you how many vehicles descended upon us because it all happened so fast,” she said. The cars were unmarked. But she knew it was the cops when they jumped out in black vests and hats, some with their guns drawn, she said. Some she didn’t see jump from their cars, but they appeared instead to come out of nowhere. She estimates there were 10 or 12 officers in all. Two witnesses who live on the block confirmed seeing a group of about 8 people lined up against a wall and frisked. They did not see the initial jump-out and could not confirm whether officers had their guns drawn.

Before Hadieh could take in what had happened, the officers were in their faces, touching and prodding the young men she was standing with near the corner of 14th Street NW and Parkwood Place in Washington, D.C. The men fell into line, signaling that it wasn’t their first time the police had jumped out at them. But as a light-skinned woman, it was hers.

“I knew they were ‘police’ per se, but they weren’t moving, talking or behaving in any way like police usually do,” Hadieh said. “It was highly tactical and organized, very militarized.”

The police never asked if they could search any of them, but “one by one they were searched and their pockets emptied,” Hadieh said. One of them, a 15-year-old, was in handcuffs before she even knew what had happened.

She said she asked repeatedly why the police were there and was told only that it was a “drug call.” The details of that night are fuzzy for Hadieh, who says she has had trouble sleeping since. But one question stuck in her mind, when the female officer said to her: “Do you realize that you are guilty by association right now?”

What Hadieh described is what many Washington, D.C. residents call a jump-out, so named because of the element of shock and surprise when multiple officers unexpectedly jump out of an unmarked car toward pedestrians. The tactic has gotten very little public attention, but it is for many black residents the mark of policing problems in the nation’s capital: militaristic, seemingly arbitrary, and reeking of racial disparity.

As protests erupt around the country, the “jump-out” has been the focal point of local advocacy for the group known as DC Ferguson. The group held a rally to protest the tactic on the week of the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, circulating a petition calling on the D.C. Council to immediately take a stand against the tactic.

Just what is a jump-out? It depends who you ask. It is typically described as multiple officers patrolling in an unmarked car, who at some point see something suspicious, and jump out of the car at once on unsuspecting pedestrians, with the intent of catching them off guard. Overwhelmingly, the jump-outs that have been reported involve at least one black male. DC Ferguson describes it as a “paramilitary tactic in which unmarked police vehicles carry 3 or more officers not wearing the standard police uniform. Their objective is to stop and intimidate ordinary citizens into submitting to interrogation or an unwarranted search.”

In some of the most egregious descriptions, cops are alleged to have drawn their weapons to do so. In others, they will allegedly manhandle, shove, or slam the suspects, frisk the suspects, or aggressively question the suspects in a manner that makes it seem as if they have no choice but to answer.

“We realized that it’s pretty much our stop and frisk,” said Kenny Nero, a co-founder of DC Ferguson.

The D.C. Police Department hardly acknowledges the term at all. When asked about jump-outs by ThinkProgress, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said, “Oh god, the fantasy jump-out squads,” explaining that “jump-outs” are a now-defunct police tactic used in the 1980s and 1990s to conduct undercover drug stings. But during a police oversight hearing following the interview, Lanier qualified her comments, acknowledging that officers do occasionally jump out of unmarked cars in drug cases, although qualifying that it’s very rare, and that she wouldn’t call it a “jump-out.”

With regard to Hadieh’s jump-out, the police department says it is investigating after Hadieh revealed many of the details during a public hearing. But police officials declined to provide any other details to ThinkProgress, and directed ThinkProgress to complete a Freedom of Information Act request when asked for documentation. That request is still pending.

‘They check the boys. They don’t check the girls.’

Get off the metro at the 7th Street exit of the Shaw/Howard University station, and you’ll see a community in rapid transition. In the 1960s, the neighborhood at the center of what was once the blackest city in America dubbed “Chocolate City” went up in flames during massive riots over the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Since then, Shaw has remained mostly residential, with white flight relegating many to the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, and few store-fronts aimed at the young Hill staffers of Washington. In 2011, the city for the first time lost its black majority, and over the course of a few years, posh bars with oyster-themed menus and ironic hipster names like Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich have popped up one after the next in between gleaming new luxury apartments, overflowing with new visitors to the neighborhood who came looking for the next best thing.

Ask these newcomers to define the term “jump-out,” and they’re likely to have never heard the term.

Walk a block south and a block west from Eat the Rich, near the other exit to that same metro stop, and you’ll find African American residents who say jump-outs are just as much a part of life as running to catch the bus.

Outside a row of nondescript brick buildings that stopped offering subsidized housing to new residents last year, several different groups of black high-school teens congregate on a warm November Tuesday evening, each around a different parked car. “Is this your car?” they ask worriedly as a ThinkProgress reporter approaches. Other than leaning against somebody else’s car, though, they aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re standing, laughing, talking.

Have they seen jump-outs? Multiple times a week, they say. A group of about eight kids nod in agreement.

“They just mess with people just to mess with them,” says one girl, braiding her long brown hair between her fingers as she explains. She qualifies that “they check the boys. They don’t check the girls.” She says she’s 16.

Do they jump out of the car? “Yeah with their guns out,” says another boy in the group, adding that they’ll grab you by the shoulder, or “hop out on you and take you off your moped.” They say the unmarked cars regularly sit in a parking lot on the corner and wait.

“I was like 11 when they first jumped out on me,” says one 17-year-old.

They used to hang out at a community center, they say, but it closed. The only other spot to hang out at the library across the street. But some of their friends are not quiet enough, and they always get kicked out.

“We used to be in there reading to the little kids. All that, man. They pushing us on the street.”

This block of 8th Street between R and S is known for jump-outs. Especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And the reports of these kids are the norm, not the anomaly.

Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law has interviewed hundreds of residents in “heavily policed areas.” “I always ask them how many times have you been stopped and frisked by MPD,” Karakatsanis said. “Young people often don’t know how to answer that question. They often say, do you mean this week?”

Karakatsanis said when he asks the question in certain public high schools, nearly every student raises their hands. He asks if they understand that being stopped and frisked without suspicion that they committed a crime is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In one classroom, a kid raised his hand and corrected him, Karakatsanis recalled. “No you don’t understand,” the kid said. “These are jump-outs. They are allowed to do that.”

Karakatsanis testified during a recent oversight hearing of the Metropolitan Police Department that this is happening “every day without justification.”

‘Any casually dressed black man in the vicinity’

While Chief Lanier doesn’t acknowledge the term “jump-out” as defining any current practice of the MPD, she explained at a recent D.C. Council hearing what she believes people are often referring to when they use the term: the “Vice Unit” and the “Crime Suppression Unit.” The Vice Unit, she concedes, is a drug squad and oftentimes operates in unmarked cars or outfits its officers in plainclothes. She says they may wait on a block and “jump out of a car” in sets of four to six officers to arrest those suspected of being in the drug trade. But she says the tactic is “rarely used anymore.”

The “Crime Suppression Unit” deals with things like burglaries and robberies and may also operate in unmarked cars with their own set of tactics. They will “go to the immediate area” of the crime and look for suspects. “If the crime suppression team comes across a person in close proximity that matches the physical description,” they will stop that person. She said they’re supposed to be in full uniform and marked police cars, but some do operate wearing exterior vests. This comes from what they call a “look-out.”

According to testimony at a recent oversight hearing, and a 2007 federal appeals court case on a jump-out involving a “look-out,” typical descriptions can be as vague as black man, black jacket, jeans, with general height and weight parameters. “Apparently, a ‘lookout’ broadcast encompassing virtually any casually dressed black man in the vicinity made all black males fair game,” the dissenting judge remarked in that case.

On multiple occasions when asked about jump-outs, Lanier emphasized that there are more than 20 different law enforcement authorities policing the city, including the capitol police, park police, metro police, and federal authorities, and that she cannot account for tactics they may use that resemble a jump-out.

Seema Sadanandan, policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, has balked at Lanier’s claim that the tactics she described are “rarely used” by MPD. “The Chief’s assertions are directly contradicted by the experiences of hundreds of District residents who have interacted with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Vice Unit officers, who are often traveling in unmarked cars and utilize a ‘jump-out’ tactic to initiate the contact,” she told ThinkProgress. Sadanandan said she has heard “hundreds of anecdotal stories” over the past few years during community meetings and trainings.

If they don’t find nothing, then they go back in the car and drive away and don’t document anything.


Former D.C. Police Officer Ron Hampton also disputed this contention. “She’s sitting there at the council saying they don’t do jump-outs. They do do jump-outs,” insisted Hampton, who was until recently the Executive Director of the National Black Police Association.

Hampton says officers will often “stand them up against the wall,” likely frisking and/or searching them. This is the sort of thing MPD officers are supposed to document. But Hampton says “if they don’t find nothing, then they go back in the car and drive away and don’t document anything and they just conducted a whole bunch of illegal searches. That’s what they do.”

No public data is available on what residents describe as jump-outs. In fact, it’s not even clear that the department is documenting these incidents as “stops,” thanks in part to a 2007 court decision that found that a “look-out” involving a jump-out in D.C. was not considered a “stop.”

Lanier testified before the D.C. Council that she could only provide data on “stop-and-frisks” and not other stops, because mere “stops” may have not involved criminal activity and thus are not public record. The police department did tell ThinkProgress that there are 5 to 10 unmarked cars “assigned to the patrol districts for use in vice and crime suppression activities,” and quantified the total number of recorded “stops or contacts” and “stop-and-frisks” in 2013 at 7,542. These counts exclude any stops that lead to “further enforcement,” such as an arrest.

Hampton hasn’t been a D.C. police officer for 20 years, but he’s been heavily involved in the police community as a leading figure in a number of police organizations including the National Black Police Association. He says he’s seen officers do jump-outs on the streets, and he knows it’s MPD that’s responsible for these interactions, and not one of the host of other agencies that police the city. How does he know they don’t report it as a stop? For one thing, he doesn’t see them do any paperwork before they drive away. For another, he knows the culture of the police.

Jump-Outs 101

When Hampton was a police officer, Washington was knee-deep on a War-on-Drugs program known as “Operation Clean Sweep.” Washington, D.C. was dubbed the “murder capital” in the late 1980s, a title that continued as the murder rate hit its peak in the early 1990s. That murder rate was associated with the crack epidemic, in which hundreds of open-air markets operated in the city. And so one of the primary goals was to shut the drug trade down, lending to tactics like the jump-out.

But Hampton remembers that operation as justifying widespread police targeting of African Americans rather than just targeting drug dealers. At that time, he said, more than 53,000 people were arrested under the guise of a subversive police drug operation, but more than three-quarters of them had nothing to do with crack or drugs. They had “all to do with evidence of black folks being caught up in road blocks and traps” because they wanted to be able to “say they were doing something about the crack epidemic.”

While the word “jump-out” has been hardly uttered by officials over the past 15 years, it was a frequently used term during that period, according to a search of Washington Post archives.

A manual on Operation Clean Sweep, for example, contained “specific instructions, such as how many uniformed officers should be present as a backup and how many officers should be used in a ‘jump-out’ squad,” according to a 1986 Washington Post article.

“We did many things like create the jump-out squads or at least implement them,” recalls councilman Tommy Wells. “And these are things that we’re still doing. We still have a culture that comes out of that time.”

A task force … found in a 1996 report that judges were remarking on the prevalence of “jump-out squads” that “burst[] out, rounding up blacks, forcing them to ‘spread-eagle’ against the wall.”


”Several reports linked the tactic to steep spikes in the jail population, which were occurring around the country during that period as part of the War on Drugs. In 1989, the Virginia suburb of Fairfax County reported that it had seen a 40 percent spike in drug arrests over the previous year, and attributed much of that to the jump-out tactic.

At the time, these high arrest rates were a point of pride. But they began to come under scrutiny. The Post reported also in 1986 that “Assistant Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. began an investigation of the ‘jump-out’ tactic, which was being used by police to search large groups of people without probable cause.”

Ten years later, a task force assessing race and ethnicity bias in D.C. federal court found in a 1996 report that judges were remarking on the prevalence of “jump-out squads” that “burst[] out, rounding up blacks, forcing them to “spread-eagle’ against the wall.”

By the late 1990s, the culture of policing in Washington, D.C. was starting to change. Both Lanier and her predecessor scaled back the Clean Sweep tactics, and purported to incorporate resident input into their police practices in what is known as “community policing.”

Lanier has made it a public priority to improve the adversarial relationship between some communities and police, putting forth the image of bridge-builder in stops to public housing developments and displays of empathy toward even those who have interacted with the criminal system. Lanier said recently at an Urban Institute panel discussion, “you have to use police tactics that are reflective of what your community values are,” adding, “really the community sets the standard as to what’s allowable in a community or not.”

And she has garnered kudos for this reputation. Tracie L. Keesee, cofounder of the Center for Policing Equity, recently said to Lanier, “If we were to replicate you and put you in all the departments in the United States, we’d be on.”

But while many longtime members of the community concede that some tactics have gotten better for at least some people, they don’t think Lanier’s department is reflecting their values, and they’re determined not to pass this tradition of police hostility on to another generation.

Four times in one year

Chioma Iwuoha lived in the Shaw neighborhood for much of her life, and she grew up watching her dad stopped by police. Her house was raided as guns were pointed at their heads, she said. She was with her dad on multiple occasions during police stops. “There’s always been this idea like the police are not there to serve and protect.”

Now she is a young professional with a daughter. And if one year in Shaw was in any indication, Iwuoha’s daughter may see this tradition continue with her own father, Damian Bascom. Bascom, now a 32-year-old entrepreneur who has been recognized by Washington Life Magazine as a “passionate and productive leader,” says he has been stopped at least four times on the block where Iwuoha was living with her parents in the course of one year, all in what he calls jump-outs.

“They’re driving by; you don’t realize that it’s police,” he said. “Then they come out of the car, jump out at you. Man, it’s like they’re about to attack me and arrest me. They pull up, zoom, and just like immediately come out.”

In one incident, he was leaving Iwuoha’s house after watching the 2012 State of the Union, when police officers jumped out of an unmarked car at him as he crossed the street, he said. “They asked me what I was doing in the neighborhood,” he said. “And then I asked them, why are you approaching me like this, officers?”

One officer said “he saw me slow-dragging across the street and I looked suspicious. … I was just walking across the street. I wasn’t drunk or intoxicated or anything. … I don’t know what slow-dragging is.”

He said the officer began to become more aggressive, asking to see his ID until Iwuoha came out of the house with some other friends that had been visiting, demanding to know why they were harassing Bascom. The cops halted their questioning, he said, while telling Iwuoha she had blown the situation out of proportion. But two blocks later, the same cops pulled them over after they got into their car. They realized their mistake after they saw their faces and walked away, Iwuoha said.

Another of the times Bascom was jumped out at, he was sitting in his car on the phone when similar unmarked cars pulled up around him. Iwuoha was six months pregnant, and she came out of the house, livid she was now witnessing police stop Bascom on her block for the third time. As she moved off of the sidewalk toward the other side of the street, she said one officer “put his hand on his gun and told me to get back on the sidewalk.” Her reaction: “I’m unarmed. I’m pregnant. And he feels the need to let me know that if I come closer that he could potentially like shoot me.”

“I want to feel like a citizen,” said Bascom. “You should feel secure when you see police. You shouldn’t feel like you’re about to be attacked or be harassed.”

At a packed D.C. Council hearing on the police department where Iwuoha recently recounted some of these stories, witness after witness came to the podium for three hours to report incidents of racial profiling, jump-outs, stops of young black men. The white individuals who did testify only spoke on their proximity to African Americans, or their experience as professionals working on police harassment. One white male, Tom Bishop, even testified to contrast his positive interactions with police.

The audience at a Howard University auditorium intermittently chanted, cheered, and booed, as Councilman Wells repeatedly urged the crowd to remember that the event was not a rally. But the crowd fell dead silent as Morgan Butler, a recent high school graduate and member of the D.C. slam poetry team, interjected to make a personal plea to Wells.

“I just wanted to just like, let y’all know,” she said, “that even though you say that we’re young because we’re 17 and 18, my brothers are only 11 and 12 and they don’t know how to deal with the police.” She recounted a recent incident in which her brothers were starting to ride the Metro to school. Their mom instructed them on how to be safe on the trains, and to hide their electronics. But the kids had a different concern: “My brothers who, like I said are very sheltered, their main concern was how to deal with the police. What happens in the train if they get stopped by police.”

She swallowed hard, putting her hand to her heart. “I don’t wanna come home and see my brothers’ names are hashtags on twitter. I would just appreciate it if y’all do something and change this.” She paused to hold back tears. “I’m gonna cry now. Thanks.”

What now?

For a few years now, the D.C. Council has started to take on the issue of dramatic racial disparities in D.C. policing. In July, Washington, D.C. responded to alarming data that blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana by passing a decriminalization law. The law was a major step. But it was then that one of the foremost and earliest critics of jump-outs, the ACLU’s Sadanandan pointed out that no single law or modification is going to change a culture of policing that discriminates against blacks.

In October, residents went a step further by passing a ballot initiative to legalize pot in what was also largely a conversation about race. In fact, it was a leader of Washington, D.C.’s movement to oppose the pot legalization ballot initiative that passed in November, a young black man named William Jones, who called legalizing marijuana the “easy answer” that doesn’t “address the police and the system that has been unfairly targeting us.”

Even Lanier committed during recent D.C. Council testimony to “roll out a new drug enforcement strategy” for 2015. She did not elaborate at all on what that would look like, except to say “it will look significantly different.”

And Councilman Wells, in an assessment of his priorities as he completes his final term in office, determined even before Ferguson magnified public awareness of racist policing, to focus on Washington, D.C.’s police problem. He convened the recent series of police oversight hearings to start that process. At this point, though, it’s hard to know what will come of it.

To Sadanandan, “There is no one recommendation, no one policy, no one implementation of body camera or otherwise that will cure what we are seeing in our society. We believe this is a process that will take time and deep introspection.”

Others had more tangible asks.

Karakatsanis, the lawyer from Equal Justice Under Law, had broad requests that included a review of every criminal law on the books and a re-allocation of funding away from such police activities. He also called for meaningful police accountability laws.

Kymone Freeman, an activist who started “We Act” radio in D.C., called for a citizen review board with the power to actually indict officers. Washington has a citizen review board, but is perceived as under-staffed, and with only the toothless power to make recommendations on police discipline. Freeman is part of DC Ferguson, and that group, which has grown over the past few months, has articulated similar asks. It has also asked the D.C. Council to pass a resolution against jump-out squads.

Councilman Grosso set his sights on better collection of data, and for good reason. In New York, it was data on stops and frisks that eventually compelled outrage and reform in New York.

While documentation of racial disparities in arrests by both the ACLU and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights propelled lawmakers to change some marijuana laws, no similar data is available on stops and other police interactions. Older research of pedestrian stops, however, found that in several majority-white neighborhoods, recorded MPD stops revealed “targeting” of African Americans.

The bystander effect

Kanya Bennett was on maternity leave when she saw her first jump-out. She had seen the unmarked cars in her neighborhood of Deanwood, an overwhelmingly African American community in the section of the city east of the Anacostia River. But she never knew how they operated until she was driving around the block one afternoon to put her baby to sleep.

Even if I’m not the subject of a jump-out, witnessing a jump-out is detrimental.


As she circled one day in the fall of 2013, a car without police markings stopped short in front of her on 58th Street NE and several individuals jumped out. Her immediate reaction was fear. There had been reports of car-jackings in the neighborhood and she believed she was about to be a victim, “which of course as a new mother who is just trying to put her baby to sleep, that is a very terrifying thought,” she said.

But rather than going toward her car, the men in bullet-proof vests ran across the street to an apartment building toward two black male kids, whom she estimated were no older than 13 to 15. At that point, Bennett, who works on national criminal justice policy for the ACLU, realized they were cops, and this was a jump-out.

They “jumped on them,” she said. Not like a tackling to the ground, but an immediate pat-down and frisk. Before touching the kids, she said, the cops never said a word.

“Just watching the kids reaction to law enforcement, I mean they truly did seem shocked that they were being targeted.”

In that neighborhood, she said, crime is a concern and neighbors know one another. There have been demands for more police presence, she said, but also police attention to the right things. Community members call for faster response times to car-jackings and car fires (which have been a problem in the area). And they want police patrols. When she walked home from the metro late at night, she said, she would have liked to see more marked police cars that signal police protection. But the undercover ones jumping out at youth, that has an adverse effect on her feelings of safety.

“Even if I’m not the subject of a jump-out,” she said, “witnessing a jump-out is detrimental not only to those who were harassed, but those folks who are living there and don’t want to see that dynamic between the community and the police.”
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Re: In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Cour

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 1:58 am

Ferguson Averages 3 Warrants Per Household, New Report Shows
by Emily Thomas
08/22/2014

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Michael Brown’s death is currently one of the main sources of tension between police and civilians in Ferguson, Missouri. But a new report may give the city’s residents even more cause to be angry; it suggests Ferguson’s municipal courts are targeting lower-income African-American residents to turn a profit.

The report from ArchCity Defenders — a legal group that “works to break the cycle of ‘revolving door justice’ in the St. Louis metropolitan area” — reveals that in 2013, “the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.”

In Ferguson, the “majority (67%) of [the city’s 21,203] residents are African-American” and “22% of residents live below the poverty level,” the report mentions before going on to say:

Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400 [...] According to a court employee, the docket for an average court session may include as many as 1,500 cases. Assuming an 80% conviction rate, the average fine in a case resulting in a guilty verdict would be $275.

In addition to such heavy legal prosecution, Ferguson and other municipal courts engage in a number of operational procedures that make it even more difficult for defendants to navigate the courts. For example, a Ferguson court employee reported that the bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour, a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.


The group set out to examine how the court system in St. Louis County treated its clients after some complained of harassment, mistreatment and jail time for failure to pay fines. While ArchCity Defenders acknowledged that a majority of the 60 municipal courts analyzed treated clients well, it found Ferguson was among the “chronic offenders.”

Ferguson is the site of racial tension and civilian clashes with police, following the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown on Aug. 9 by police officer Darren Wilson. Data from ArchCity Defenders suggest Ferguson officials and police may have more explaining to do relating to the city municipal courts’ hefty caseload and the racial implications tied to it.

According to the report, in Ferguson, 86 percent of traffic stops involved a black motorist; by comparison white motorists comprised 12.7 percent of vehicle stops. What’s more “after being stopped in Ferguson, blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be searched (12.1% vs. 6.9%) and twice as likely to be arrested,” the report states.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on in the mind of a police officer but, in the mind of my clients, they’re being pulled over because they’re black,” Thomas Harvey, executive director and co-founder of ArchCity Defenders, told Vox. “They’re being pulled over so the city can generate revenue.”

An unnamed defendant in ArchCity Defender’s report echoed that sentiment: “In Dellwood, Ferguson, basically in North County, if you’re black they’re going to stop you.”

Alex Tabarrok, a professor of economics at George Mason University, says ArchCity’s findings are the result of the city police’s tendency to make “bullshit arrests.”

In a blog for Marginal Revolution he writes, in part: “You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant ‘low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.’”

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum asks a question about the system that has yet to be answered: “Why?”

“Why are police departments allowed to fund themselves with ticket revenue in the first place? Or red light camera revenue,” writes Drum. “Or civil asset forfeiture revenue. Or any other kind of revenue that provides them with an incentive to be as hardass as possible.”
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Re: In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Cour

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 2:00 am

1 In 3 Black Males Will Go To Prison In Their Lifetime, Report Warns
by Saki Knafo
10/04/2013

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One in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males, if current incarceration trends continue.

These are among the many pieces of evidence cited by the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for prison reform, in a report on the staggering racial disparities that permeate the American criminal justice system.

The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee this week in advance of the U.N.’s review of American compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights later this month. It argues that racial disparity pervades “every stage of the United States criminal justice system, from arrest to trial to sentencing.”

“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested,” the report explains. “Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”

The report’s findings lead its authors to conclude that the U.S. is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that all citizens must be treated equally under the law. The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1992.

Central to the report’s argument is the simple fact that African-American and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic men, are more likely to spend time behind bars than their white counterparts, according to recent data from the U.S. government.

The reasons for this discrepancy are widely debated, but the report discourages readers from blaming either the higher-than-average crime rate among blacks and Latinos in the U.S. or the presence of deliberate racism in the criminal justice system.

While those factors may contribute to the problem, the reasons go much deeper, the report contends.

The problem begins with police activity. According to Justice Department data cited in the report, police arrested black youth for drug crimes at more than twice the rate of white youth between 1980 and 2010, nationwide. Yet a 2012 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that white high-school students were slightly more likely to have abused illegal drugs within the past month than black students of the same age.

Blacks are also far more likely than whites to be stopped by the police while driving. The Sentencing Project report largely attributes the racial disparities in both traffic and drug arrests to “implicit racial bias” on the part of the police.

“Since the nature of law enforcement frequently requires police officers to make snap judgments about the danger posed by suspects and the criminal nature of their activity, subconscious racial associations influence the way officers perform their jobs,” the report contends.

The disparities don’t end with arrests. Because blacks and Latinos are generally poorer than whites, they are more likely to rely on court-appointed public defenders, who tend to work for agencies that are underfunded and understaffed. In 2012, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more than 70 percent of public defender offices reported that they were struggling to come up with the funding needed to provide adequate defense services to poor people. By last March, the problem was so bad that Attorney General Eric Holder declared the public defense system to be in a “state of crisis.”

Racial disparities within the justice system have been exacerbated by the war on drugs, the report argues. The drug war led the country’s population of incarcerated drug offenders to soar from 42,000 in 1980 to nearly half a million in 2007. From 1999 to 2005, African Americans constituted about 13 percent of drug users, but they made up about 46 percent of those convicted for drug offenses, the report points out.

Marc Mauer, director of the Sentencing Project and an author of the report, said he’s optimistic that the country’s criminal justice policies are starting to change. “There’s much that needs to be done, but we haven’t seen this much progress around these issues in quite some time,” he said.

He mentioned the Justice Department’s recent decision to scale back the war on drugs and a series of bipartisan state laws aimed at reducing harsh prison sentences for low-level drug offenders.

The report offers 10 specific steps that the U.S. could take to cut down on such disparities, including fully funding the country’s public defenders, prohibiting law-enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling and establishing a commission to develop recommendations for “systemic reform” of the country’s police bureaus and courts.

Whether the U.N. review could contribute to these changes isn’t clear. Even if the U.N. finds the U.S. to be in violation of the treaty, the range of repercussions is essentially limited to scolding.

Still, Mauer said, “It’s a question of making a moral statement.”
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Re: In Scathing Dissent, Justice Sotomayor Says Supreme Cour

Postby admin » Sat Jun 25, 2016 2:08 am

The First Day of the New Supreme Court: Without Antonin Scalia on the bench, the court’s liberals spoke up and won out.
by Mark Joseph Stern
February 23, 2016

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What happens when a police officer breaks the law? The cynical answer is, usually nothing. But since at least 1963, the legal answer has been very specific: Any evidence an officer collects by breaking the law must be excluded from the courtroom. This “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine is a component of the beloved, despised exclusionary rule, which typically bars evidence gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Although conservative Supreme Court justices have chipped away at the exclusionary rule for decades, it remains a cornerstone of search-and-seizure jurisprudence. Law enforcement officers don’t get to enforce the law by breaking it.

Pondering how far the fruit has to be from the tree to cease being poisonous can be an amusing philosophical exercise. But, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor demonstrated during oral arguments in Utah v. Strieff on Monday, in impoverished minority communities like Ferguson, Missouri, the continued vitality of the exclusionary rule is no mere academic matter.

On first blush, you might expect Strieff to be an easy case. Detective Douglas Fackrell violated the Fourth Amendment when he stopped Edward Strieff; Fackrell, Strieff, and Utah all agree on that point. The detective had heard an anonymous tip that a house in South Salt Lake might be involved in “narcotics activity,” and over the course of sporadic surveillance, he noticed visitors entering and exiting quickly. When he saw Strieff leave the house on Dec. 21, 2006, he detained him and demanded identification. Fackrell ran a warrants check and discovered that Strieff had an outstanding warrant for a minor traffic violation. So he arrested and searched him, discovering methamphetamine in Strieff’s pockets.

One problem: The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Fackrell’s search of Strieff’s pockets was probably legal. (To ensure their own safety, officers can generally search arrestees.) But Fackrell’s initial detainment of Strieff—in constitutional lingo, a “seizure of a person”—was not. At a minimum, officers must have individualized reasonable suspicion to stop and question somebody, even briefly. All parties agree that Fackrell did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Strieff after merely seeing him leave a house that might contain drugs. The seizure led to the search; the search led to the drug discovery. Under the exclusionary rule, then Strieff gets to suppress the evidence and walk free. Right?

Not quite, because the Supreme Court has created an “attenuation” exception to the rule. Under attenuation doctrine, evidence discovered through police misconduct is still admissible if the link between the police illegality and the evidence itself has been sufficiently weakened, usually by time or interceding events. But the court has failed to explain how much time must pass, or which events must occur, before illegally obtained evidence becomes legal once again. In 1975, the justices focused on the “temporal proximity” between the police illegality and the discovery of the evidence (how much proximity?); the presence of “intervening circumstances” (which ones?); and the “flagrancy” of the official misconduct (a curveball with no relation to the other two factors). More recently, the court has switched tacks and decided that attenuation kicks in—and evidence becomes admissible—if suppressing the evidence would fail to serve any deterrent purpose.

Some courts have interpreted these factors quite generously—including the Utah Supreme Court, which sided with Strieff and suppressed the evidence against him. When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that decision, court-watchers assumed that the conservative bloc would continue its campaign against the exclusionary rule by broadening the attenuation doctrine. It could do so here by ruling that the discovery of evidence was sufficiently attenuated from the illegal seizure because of the intervening discovery of an arrest warrant. But that was back when Justice Antonin Scalia, noted exclusionary rule skeptic, was still on the bench. (Scalia once asked, “Why don’t we just abolish the exclusionary rule?” It wasn’t clear that he was kidding.) Following his death last Saturday, the justices appear to be deadlocked, 4-to-4, on Strieff’s case and maybe the exclusionary rule itself.

Arguments begin with a bang, as Tyler Green, representing Utah, attempts to persuade the court that there was a clear attenuating circumstance here: Fackrell discovered an arrest warrant for Strieff, thereby breaking the chain of causation between his illegal conduct and his discovery of the evidence. Green wants the court to adopt a general rule that once an officer has discovered an outstanding arrest warrant, the “taint” of his initial illegality dissipates. Sotomayor jumps in.

“If we announce your rule,” she asks Green, “what stops us from becoming a police state and just having the police stand on the corner down here and stop every person, ask them for identification, put it through—and if a warrant comes up, searching them?”

Green answers weakly that “an officer can never count on finding a warrant, so there is no incentive to make that stop.” Sotomayor hits right back.

“If you have a town like Ferguson,” the justice says, referring to the Missouri city with a documented history of predatory policing, “where 80 percent of the residents have five minor traffic warrants out, there may be a very good incentive for just standing on the street corner in Ferguson and asking every citizen: Give me your ID. Let me see your name. And let me hope, because I have an 80 percent chance that you’re going to have a warrant.”

Everyone in the courtroom, including Green, looks a little stunned that Sotomayor went there. (Green, at least, should’ve seen it coming: Strieff’s brief heavily cites the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.) Justice Elena Kagan leans forward with a mischievous grin to hammer home Sotomayor’s point.

“If you’re policing a community where there is some significant percentage of people who have arrest warrants out on them,” she tells Green, “it really does increase your incentive to make that stop on the chance that there will be a warrant that will allow you to search and admit whatever evidence you gained in that search.”

Kagan and Sotomayor make a compelling argument: If officers can justify an illegal seizure whenever the individual they detain turns out to have an arrest warrant, then there’s little stopping them from detaining whomever they want. Deterring police from engaging in this kind of unlawful activity is a fundamental justification for the exclusionary rule itself. So shouldn’t the court rule that an outstanding arrest warrant can’t justify an illegal seizure?

Predictably, Justice Samuel Alito hops in to defend Utah, pointing out that most communities aren’t like Ferguson, and most people don’t have outstanding arrest warrants. Kagan pushes back, noting that the police are more likely to stop individuals in high-crime neighborhoods. When Joan Watt approaches the bench to defend Strieff, it seems as though she is inserting herself into a late-night dorm-room debate between Kagan, Sotomayor, and Alito. Watt reiterates the point that Utah’s proposed rule would encourage officers to detain anybody, even without an iota of suspicion.

“There is a downside,” Alito insists. “If the officer makes an illegal stop, the officer exposes himself or herself to all sorts of consequences!” You can sense Sotomayor struggling not to roll her eyes. Police rarely face consequences when they shoot innocent civilians. Does Alito really think they’ll get in big trouble for detaining somebody unlawfully for a few minutes?

Chief Justice John Roberts wades in with a nettled grimace to point out that most Americans don’t have arrest warrants, so the police don’t have an incentive to go on what Watt calls a “fishing expedition.” (Roberts seems increasingly irritated throughout the morning. Perhaps it finally dawned on him that his 5-4 majority against the exclusionary rule has gone up in smoke.) Watt, projecting an aura of stoic patience, calmly explains that officers “can still target communities that may have a greater incidence of warrants.” (She means minority communities.) Roberts has no good response.

By this point, the battle lines are clear. The court’s liberals think that Utah’s rule would give officers a new reason to stop anybody and run a warrant check: If a warrant turns up, the illegality of the initial stop will be dissolved, and the officer can search his arrestee. Thus, to deter this behavior, the court should refuse to extend the attenuation doctrine. The conservatives, on the other hand, doubt that officers target communities where people have lots of arrest warrants, and doubt that applying the exclusionary rule here would deter police misconduct.

This dispute leads to the most searing and uncomfortable moment of the morning. Alito attempts to ridicule Watt’s deterrence arguments by asking, “Do you think the judges in traffic courts are going to start issuing lots of warrants because they want to provide a basis for randomly stopping people?”

Watt starts to answer, but Sotomayor cuts in with a brutal joust.

“I’m very surprised,” she says acidly, “that Justice Alito doesn’t know that most of these warrants are automatic. If you don’t pay your fine within a certain amount of days, they’re issued virtually automatically.”

It is one of those knockout moments so ruthless that you aren’t sure whether to cringe or cheer. Sotomayor is essentially calling out Alito’s privilege—why would he know about corrupt, scammy, racist policing?—and Alito doesn’t even attempt to respond. Instead, he wears an embarrassed smirk throughout the remainder of arguments, appearing appropriately shamed.

By the time the justices file off the bench around noon, it seems probable the court will indeed divide 4-to-4, liberals against conservatives, on Strieff. That will leave the Utah Supreme Court’s pro-exclusion ruling in place, but fail to establish any nationwide rule. It would also represent one small conservative revolution thwarted.

When Scalia died, court-watchers noted that his absence would forestall impending victories against unions, affirmative action, and voting rights. Less commented upon was the fact that the justice’s death also granted a reprieve to the Warren Court’s biggest contributions to defendants’ rights. The era of conservatives merrily hacking away at Fourth Amendment safeguards appears to be over. And Sotomayor’s aggressiveness on Monday suggests that, in the long run, she believes her side has the winning hand.
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