Friday, September 3, 2010

Who polices the police...?

The following is an excerpt from a Christian Science Monitor article by Mark Guarino.

Gangs vs. Chicago police: an open feud over blame for street violence

(“You don’t torture people for decades and get away with it and have the consent of silence within the police and not expect it to have an effect,” says Mr. Hagedorn. “This accountability thing should cut two ways.”

Burge's first trial in 1989 on police brutality charges resulted in a hung jury, and he was not retried before the statute of limitations expired. He was subsequently charged in 2008 with perjury and obstruction of justice related to the brutality case. That federal trial, prosecuted by the office led by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, described hundreds of cases of abuse in the 1970s and '80s that cost the city $19.8 million in settlement claims. It resulted in the state pardoning four men serving time on death row.

Burge’s perjury conviction continues to resonate in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where attitudes about it among people are “raw,” says University of Illinois's Hagedorn.

“It’s there at a conscious and a subconscious level within the community. You’ve got one guy convicted of perjury and that’s just one guy. What about all the other people who were there who knew it? This is not being talked about by anybody,” he says.) (excerpt)

Here's one (excerpted) by Marc Lacey from New York Times concerning Arizona and "America's Toughest Sheriff":

Justice Dept. Sues Sheriff Over Bias Investigation

(The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County for not cooperating with an investigation into whether his department was systematically violating the rights of Hispanics.

“It is ironic that the very sheriff who regularly demands that others turn over their papers has refused to turn over his papers,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which has been critical of Sheriff Arpaio.) (excerpt)

There is also the New Year's Day 2009 BART execution of a face-down handcuffed man named Oscar Grant in Oakland, California; which was caught on cellphone video cameras by several onlookers from multiple viewpoints and is easy to find on youtube.

PBS Frontline News has a site dedicated to police abuses and cover-ups in the US ( focusing on New Orleans Police Department ), which I found when looking into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Check out the video report, it is really powerful stuff. ( I spent time as a primary member on a S.W.A.T. unit and this stuff makes me nuts, these are supposed to be the best officers available...)

I won't even go into detail about the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq by US Army Military Police and various intelligence operators along with civilian contractors. [ I was a member of US Air Force Security Police ( later renamed Security Forces ) for my first military gig, but cannot imagine a situation in which this would make sense or seem justified to me or any of my friends at the time...] I cannot conceive of a quicker more effective way to undermine trust and legitimacy.

Reuters posted this article on Monday August 30th (4 days ago). 
Mexico fires thousands of police to combat corruption  

Mexico just fired 10% of their Federal Police in an effort to begin dealing with widespread corruption within the ranks of the government.


I want to clarify that I know some very good cops and these incidents do not represent the majority, but it does go a long way toward explaining many Americans' fear of the people sworn to serve and protect them. ( Not just America has this problem of course, it is nearly universal that some people will abuse any powers they obtain. )

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