Category Archives: guns

Fans On Colin Kaepernick’s Statement That Modern Police Forces Derive from Slave Patrols: He’s Right!

Amid news that a Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter in the killing of Philando Castile, actor Michael B. Jordan and free-agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have weighed in — and the latter has made a damning declaration.

Jordan posted on Instagram a list of several Black men and women who have been killed at the hands of police without a conviction.

“They want us to feel helpless & right now I feel it,” he wrote Saturday, June 17, before posting a list of questions wondering how to tackle the issue. “I know I’m going to be a part of the change, and not just today, every day until we see real change … I am Philando Castile.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVddgPNBosX/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=7&wp=640#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A1346.63%7D

Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath of Officer Jeronimo Yanez shooting the motorist after he reached to show Yanez his gun registration. Castile bled out in front of his girlfriend and her daughter and outrage poured in from around the nation.

Kaepernick looked at the historical implications of yet another police officer being acquitted over the killing of a Black person, comparing present-day cops to the slave patrols first developed in Carolina colony in 1704, according to Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D. professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety.

View image on Twitter

A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!

I think @Kaepernick7 has done a lot of good. Comparing cops to the slave patrol is where he loses me. No better than wearing the pig socks.

More from A Moore/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ex-Seattle Police Chief Condemns Systemic Police Racism Dating Back to Slave Patrols

On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas. While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year. We speak to former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, author of the new book “To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the police—fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The roots of the problems we saw this week date back not just decades, date back centuries. There are cultural issues, and there are issues of race in this country, and poverty and a whole range of problems that will not be solved overnight. But what we can do is to set up the kinds of respectful conversations that we’ve had here, not just in Washington, but around the country, so that we institutionalize a process of continually getting better.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year.

AMY GOODMAN: After Wednesday’s summit, President Obama said the nation is “not even close” to resolving issues between police and the communities they serve.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re going to have to do more work together in thinking about how we can build confidence that after police officers have used force, and particularly deadly force, that there is confidence in how the investigation takes place and that justice is done.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, our next guest writes, quote, “American policing is in crisis. … Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are two of the most recent casualties in what has become a deadly epidemic.” It may surprise you to learn who wrote those words—not a Black Lives Matter activist, but a former big city police chief. Norm Stamper is the former police chief of Seattle, Washington. He joins us now from Los Angeles, California. His new book, To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. He recently wrote an article for Time magazine called “Police Forces Belong to the People.” His previous book headlined Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

Norm Stamper, welcome back to Democracy Now! As you look at what happened in the last week alone, not to mention what has happened in the years since you were the chief of police in Seattle, what are your comments about how police are trained to deal with communities of color?

NORM STAMPER: You know, the training of police officers is a very prominent theme in the conversation about police reform, and it’s, of course, very, very important. But there are much deeper and important issues, as far as I’m concerned, namely those associated with the institution itself, the structure of the organization, the culture that arises out of that structure. It’s paramilitary. It’s bureaucratic. It insulates and isolates police officers from the communities that they are here to serve.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So what would you say, Norm Stamper, are some of the systemic problems of police violence? And what do you think has led to—you referred to the paramilitary nature of the police forces now. What do you think accounts for that?

NORM STAMPER: I think what accounts for it—there are several factors, one of which is that in 1971 Richard Nixon famously proclaimed drugs public enemy number one—drug abuse—and declared all-out war on drugs, which was really a declaration of war against his own people. And overwhelmingly, young people, poor people, people of color suffered, and have continued to suffer over the decades as a result of a decision to put America’s front-line police officers on the front lines of the drug war as foot soldiers. And then we wonder why there’s such a strain in the relationship between police and community, and particularly those communities that are entrenched in poverty and other economic disadvantage, communities that historically have been neglected or abused or oppressed by their own police departments. So we really intensified and escalated the country’s war against poor people with that drug war. And we have spent $1.3 trillion prosecuting that war since the 1970s, incarcerated literally tens of millions. Please hear that figure: tens of millions of disproportionately young people and poor people and people of color. What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s time for us to end that drug war. That began the militarization of policing, without a doubt.

9/11 is another milestone, for obvious reasons. The federal government began throwing military surplus at local law enforcement agencies, such that, in terms of how they look, in terms of how they’re equipped, in terms of how they are weaponized, America’s police forces look more like the military than domestic peacekeepers.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to remarks made by the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who was speaking Sunday on Face the Nation.

COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON: Police officers come from the community. We don’t bring them in from Mars; they come from the communities they police. And over the years, increasingly, we’ve had much more diversity in policing—Muslim officers, increasing numbers of African-American officers, Latino officers. And that’s a good thing, because the community wants to see that. And that’s part of the way we bridge the divide that currently exists between police and community, a divide that has been closing and a divide that we hope, over time—and certainly here in New York, I can speak for our efforts here the last several years, myself and Mayor de Blasio—to not only bridge the divide, but to close it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Your response?

NORM STAMPER: Our police officers do, in fact, come from the community. As Bill Bratton said, they don’t come from Mars. They are of us. They live among us. They are motivated by a variety of different interests in becoming a police officer. It’s not that—that the candidates that we’re selecting, necessarily, are poor candidates. It is what happens to them when they get acculturated by this law enforcement structure that makes it clear to them that they are on the front lines of a war against their own people. And so you get police officers heading out to put in a shift who are feeling that the people are the enemy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to turn to Republican Senator Tim Scott, who spoke on the floor of the Senate Wednesday about being the victim of racial profiling. Scott is one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate.

SEN. TIM SCOTT: In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers—not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year—as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Republican Senator Tim Scott speaking Wednesday. So, Norm Stamper, can you respond to what he said, and also whether you think the police is plagued with systemic racism?

NORM STAMPER: Well, let me start with that question. The short answer is yes. I can also cite another example closer to home for me. A former King County executive, Ron Sims, African-American man, man of the cloth, spoke to a reporter recently and said, “I have been stopped eight times by the police. And invariably the question seems to be ‘What are you doing here?'” Do white members of our community get that kind of treatment? In blunt terms, it is racist. It’s a racist action on the part of an officer, if he or she does not have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. That’s what the law says. And yet that law is systematically defied by police across this country in unlawful search-and-seizure, stop-and-frisk situations.

But there’s also systemic racism. It goes back as far as the institution. And I know President Obama made reference to the long history, the centuries-old history, of the relations between police and community, and particularly communities of color. Policing in this country has its origins in the slave patrols. And from decade to decade, generation to generation, there are still police officers in this country who act with superiority, who act in a very authoritarian, very dominant way. Part of that is their training, and only some of that, by the way, takes place in the academy. Most of it takes place in the locker room or in the front seat of a police car, when the senior officer tells the junior officer, “Forget what they taught you in the academy. You’re in the real world now.”

From DemocracyNow

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Virginia Shooting and America’s Creeping National Disease

Congressional baseball is a quaint throwback of a sport, not just for the aging players who take the field but for the country they have been elected to represent. It is anchored in the unfashionable idea that political leaders serve a single American public, one united more by its pastimes than divided by its politics. Democrats and Republicans play for the fun of it.

Since the first pitch in 1909, the scrimmage had evolved and expanded into its current form, as a fundraiser for local causes played at the stadium used by the Washington Nationals. For months, without public notice or fanfare, Democrats and Republicans take the fields to practice as often as three days a week, as early as 6:30 a.m. They’re not particularly good, but that’s not the point.

So when a deranged gunman opened fire on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va., June 14, he was taking aim at more than the GOP members of Congress who had risen at dawn to practice on the far side of the Potomac River. He targeted the notion that the country could still be more than the political furies that increasingly define it, and that had allegedly come to consume him.

On that score, at least, his attack was a failure. He wounded five and briefly unified the nation’s political leaders. When Democrats, at their own practice, learned of the shooting, they gathered together in prayer for their colleagues.

“We may have our differences,” President Trump told the country, in a hastily arranged statement that set aside the belligerent tone of his tenure. “But we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.”

In the U.S. Congress, members from both sides of the aisle gave a standing ovation when House Speaker Paul Ryan declared, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi then rose, for the first time ever, she said, to associate herself with Ryan’s remarks.

The alleged shooter, James Hodgkinson, 66, a home inspector from Belleville, Ill., was killed by the returned fire of law enforcement. Two Capitol Police officers were wounded trying to bring him down, along with a congressional staffer and a lobbyist. House majority whip Steve Scalise, who was playing second base when the shots started, took a bullet in the hip, crawled into the outfield and was airlifted to a hospital by helicopter.

South Carolina Representative Jeff Duncan said afterward that he believes he had exchanged a few words with the gunman minutes before the shooting started. The man asked who was playing and from what political party. “I told them they were Republican,” Duncan remembered. “He said, ‘’K., thanks.’” Then the man walked away

Hodgkinson was known in his hometown as a political activist, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said his name appeared in the volunteer rolls of his presidential campaign. Hodgkinson had a history of violent behavior, and his social feed was a dark parody of the dismal state of the nation’s political discourse, where disagreement is personal and anger is visceral. He had joined groups called Terminate the Republican Party and The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans.

In this way, Hodgkinson was just another symptom of a creeping national disease. Rarely a week goes by these days without new evidence that the debate over ideas and policy is giving way to violence. Opposing protesters attack one another from the streets of St. Paul or Berkeley. A soon- to-be elected Congressman in Montana body-slammed a reporter for asking an unwelcome question the day before the election. Vile comments once considered unfit for public discourse are common currency online.

Most days, partisans benefit by stoking the political outrage. But few in Washington now doubt that anger has gone too far, crossing from passion to danger, from appropriate to irrational. “This has to stop,” said Illinois Republican Rodney Davis, still dressed in his baseball uniform and cleats, when he returned to the U.S. Capitol. “And it has to stop today.”

By Michael Scherer/Time

Posted by The NON-Conformist

How Insurance Companies Can Force Bad Cops Off the Job

In exchange for coverage, insurers can demand that police departments implement new policies and training, and dismiss problem officers.

When Anthony Miranda was sworn in as police chief of Irwindale, California, four years ago, the department in this small gravel-mining city about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles was in the midst of a downward spiral. Three officers had recently been accused of serious crimes. One had embezzled $250,000 of his 89-year-old father’s life savings, another had sexually assaulted a woman delivering newspapers on a side street at dawn, and the third had molested minors under his supervision in an “explorer scout” program. There were 14 internal investigations underway.

The problems with the police force were not just troubling—they were existential. In August 2013, the city’s insurer, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, had threatened to revoke Irwindale’s liability insurance unless City Hall and the police department took substantive steps to tackle internal corruption, the likes of which had led to nearly $2 million in settlements paid out over a five-year period.

Loss of insurance would have been the death knell for the local police force: In recent years, cities in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Louisiana, and elsewhere in California have had to disband their police departments after losing  coverage. A big claim—like the $2.75 million settlement later awarded to the victim in the “explorer scout” case—could bankrupt a municipality with a small budget and tax base, like Irwindale. The city has only 1,400 people.

“I told them if we didn’t get our house in order, we would lose it,” Miranda told me. He had watched in 2010 as police officers in nearby Maywood turned in their badges and radios in a small ceremony after that city’s liability coverage was withdrawn by CJPIA, due in part to the excessive number of claims against the police. “It was pretty sobering,” he said. Yet the company’s threat, and the “performance improvement plan” it required officials to follow, finally set Irwindale on a path toward overhauling its dysfunctional department.

While much attention has been paid to the issue of police misconduct —with 14 cities pursuing consent decrees with the Department of Justice—what is less well known is how liability insurers can put a private-sector spin on reform, by demanding structural changes in the police departments that they cover. In April, a paper by the University of Chicago law professor John Rappaport detailed the effects these companies have had on police forces across America.

In Wisconsin, for instance, an insurer in 2002 recommended new training and supervision of SWAT teams in the Lake Winnebago area in the aftermath of two botched drug raids. In 2010, a police chief in Rutledge, Tennessee, was fired to appease the town’s liability insurer after assault allegations were leveled against him. In many other states, police forces have been asked to adopt new policies regarding body cameras, strip searches, and use of force.

Although an outside company exerting influence on local police may not seem compatible with good governance, there are hidden advantages to insurers’ monitoring police departments and suggesting improvements. For one, insurance companies are apolitical. “I think the debates about policing have become so fraught and so inflammatory,” Rappaport told me. “To have this big, well-heeled institution saying, ‘We’re not interested in that debate, we just want to get those numbers down’—it can make reform more palatable because it takes the electricity out.”

Cash-strapped cities, meanwhile, can benefit from the services offered by liability insurers, from police training sessions and applicant screening to data-driven insights gleaned from the insurer’s work with other municipalities. In Irwindale, there were biweekly meetings with an outside risk manager; hundreds of hours of training sessions for police officers on topics like sexual harassment and use of force; and outside reviews of all internal-affairs investigations. The department had 18 months to clean up its act in order to keep its coverage. “I’ve never seen such a thing in my whole career,” Miranda said. “I’m going on 27 years.”

The possibility of private-sector police regulation is of heightened interest under a Trump administration that intends to minimize the Department of Justice’s role in police oversight. Earlier this spring, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the police consent decree in Baltimore. “Insurers have a much bigger role to play in a world where the DOJ is not going to be aggressive, and we’re going to have to rely on private plaintiffs to bring lawsuits and seek money damages,” Rappaport said. (Last month, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill in Congress that would make it nearly impossible to sue the police in the first place, including in brutality cases).

At the moment, companies’ influence is primarily felt in small and midsize cities, because major cities have large enough tax bases and budgets to absorb high damages from lawsuits. They generally “self-insure,” which renders them relatively impervious to market forces. But there are signs the dynamic may be shifting. William Murphy Jr., a Baltimore trial attorney specializing in criminal and catastrophic injury cases, who represented Freddie Gray’s family in their police-brutality lawsuit there, is fine-tuning a new bill on behalf of the Baltimore city council that would require the city to purchase liability insurance. Murphy, who played himself on The Wire, became intrigued by the idea after reading Rappaport’s paper. He was particularly interested in the risk-management techniques used by insurers—like sending updates on legal developments affecting law-enforcement agencies—to prevent misconduct from happening in the first place.

According to Murphy, Baltimore can acquire liability insurance from a Maryland risk-sharing pool created for local governments. “Our city can’t complain it’s too expensive, because God knows what they’ve been doing in the past has been expensive, without even giving fair settlements to injured people,” he noted. Maryland, like many states, has caps on the monetary damages that can be awarded in lawsuits against local governments. In 2011 an $11.5 million jury award in a police-brutality suit in Prince George’s County was reduced to just $400,000. Major cities electing to purchase liability coverage, Murphy said, will benefit both communities and police departments. “People will be able to get the settlements juries award, with this additional protection of insurers insisting on proper training and identifying bad actors,” he said.

Threatening to revoke a city’s insurance coverage can spur or speed reforms, but it’s not a perfect tool, said Norman Lefmann, assistant executive officer of CJPIA, the risk-sharing pool that insures Irwindale and some 120 other municipalities in California. “We have no ultimate enforcement ability, so it still does require the city and police department to have the wherewithal to make the changes that need to be made,” he pointed out. “We have no control over them.”

Police Chief Miranda describes the year and a half his officers in Irwindale spent under their insurer’s performance-improvement plan as “the biggest significant emotional event for this department.”

Before the threat of losing their insurance materialized, the city had failed to invest in adequate training for police officers, citing budgetary concerns. The two-dozen members of the department only had about 300 hours of training in three years. But fearful that their force could be disbanded without sufficient reform, the city dedicated money from asset forfeitures—a practice that itself is under scrutiny—and used it on training sessions for officers. Members of the police department participated in around 1,000 hours of training in a single year after CJPIA got involved.

As the trials of the three policemen accused of wrongdoing moved through the courts, Miranda reviewed spreadsheets with the city’s risk manager and regularly sent status reports for ongoing investigations. “It was pretty tough but long overdue,” he said. Eventually, the three officers went to prison for their crimes, and Irwindale kept its liability insurance and police force.

Lefmann said Irwindale’s claims have gone down since the performance improvement plan was completed, but was quick to note that “when there are systemic issues, it doesn’t change overnight.” And, because of the recent multimillion-dollar settlement in the “explorer scout” case, Irwindale is still exposing other members of the risk pool to claims that far outpace the small city’s contributions.

Nevertheless, “now we’re in a much better place,” Miranda said. His remaining police officers were able to “change their morale and attitude and get right,” he said. “At the end of the day this very negative thing was a very positive thing for our city.”

By RACHEL B. DOYLE/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US Army lost track of $1 billion worth of arms & equipment in Iraq, Kuwait

A newly released declassified audit from the US Department of Defense shows that negligent accounting by the military has resulted in the Pentagon not knowing what happened to more than $1 billion in arms and equipment meant for the Iraqi Army.

The Office of Inspector General for the Pentagon’s findings from September 2016 was made public Wednesday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from human rights group Amnesty International.

Over $1 billion worth of arms and military equipment designated under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and meant to assist the Iraqi government in combatting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), was not accounted for, the DOD audit found.

READ MORE: US to switch from free military grants to loans for Ukraine & others

The Army’s 1st Theater Sustainment Command “did not have effective controls to maintain complete visibility and accountability of ITEF equipment in Kuwait and Iraq prior to transfer to the Government of Iraq,” the audit said.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said in the announcement on the group’s website.

“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.”

The ITEF began as a $1.6 billion program, but last year, Congress appropriated $715 million more to it.

The transfers included, according to Amnesty, “tens of thousands of assault rifles worth $28 million, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles” to the Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

While the Pentagon promises to do better, that means little to Amnesty, which noted that the same sentiments were expressed to Congress in 2007 when similar concerns arose.

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep re-occurring. This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls. Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless,” Amnesty’s Wilcken said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Palestinian Rights Not a Topic of Discussion During Trump’s Visit

Palestinians See Trump’s Talk of Peace as Empty Promises

President Donald Trump’s visits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas come with a lot of expectations, at least from Trump’s perspective, that he can make some progress in advancing the peace process between the two sides.

There are a lot of topics that are off limit, however, and perhaps none more glaringly so, at least on this leg of the visit, than the subject of basic Palestinian rights, which Trump is eager to avoid bringing up, knowing the implications that even a tacit recognition of such rights would have for Israel’s far-right government.

Trump styles himself the greatest deal-maker in the world, and has embraced the idea of making a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians since taking office, but also remains determined to protect his status as a “pro-Israel” president, with a collection of aides to match.

That has done much to temper Palestinian excitement about Trump’s talk of peace, as they see the talk of peace, with no plan, and a US Ambassador to Israel that is openly supporting settlements in occupied Palestine, and conclude the talk of peace is as empty as ever.

As Israel celebrates 50 years of military occupation of the Palestinians, it’s impossible not to figure that the moment the peace process becomes inconvenient to US-Israeli relations, it will again be cast off, to wait for another administration’s half-hearted efforts.

by Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

White House Close to Finalizing Over $100 Billion in Arms Sales to Saudis

White House Close to Finalizing Over $100 Billion in Arms Sales to Saudis

Earlier this month, US officials said the US was seeking to reach “billions” of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia as part of Trump’s visit to Riyadh. With a week left before the visit, officials now say the White House is very close to the deal, and that it will amount to over $100 billion in sales.

Details are still emerging, but the plan is for this to set out a series of growing deals over the next decade that will involve more than $300 billion going to arms dealers, not just to arm the Saudis, but in extra aid to Israel to ensure their “qualitative military edge” over the Saudis.

White House officials said the move would be good for the economy, and insisted that building Saudi Arabia’s already substantial military was “essential” because of regional problems. Saudi Arabia, of course, spends much of its military budget invading Yemen and trying to reinstall former President Hadi in power.

Given Saudi Arabia’s Yemen-centric foreign policy, US sales are likely to be heavily on warplanes and bombs to drop on northern Yemen, as the conflict has lasted far longer than the Saudis anticipated, and there is little sign they are interested iin extricating themselves from the conflict anytime soon.

How much this means Israel will get greatly depends on the sort of weapons the US is giving Saudi Arabia, and particularly if there is anything “new” in the shipments, or just more of the same old stuff. The US commitment to ensuring Israel has an advantage over the rest of the Middle East militarily, while at the same time selling large amounts of arms to the rest of the Middle East, has been icing on the cake for US arms makers, who end up supplying all sides of this arms race.

by Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist