Thursday, July 31, 2008

Man Shot by Officers Critical

By Hailey Heinz, Journal Staff Writer

A man who initially called authorities to his home complaining of chest pain was in critical condition Wednesday after he refused treatment, said he had a gun, and was shot by officers.
Fire officials were called to the man's home on the 9700 block of Mesa Arriba NE and told the man they wanted to take him to the hospital for treatment, Albuquerque police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said. The man, who police said is in his 30s, then became agitated and told them he had a weapon.
Firefighters withdrew and called police, who arrived at the home and got the man's family out of the house. The man also left the house, and police saw that he had a handgun, Hamby said. She said the man ignored police commands and appeared to be walking toward a neighbor's house when the officers shot him. It was unclear Wednesday whether all three officers fired or who hit him, but all were considered "involved," Hamby said.
The three have been placed on paid administrative leave while the department investigates the incident.
The man was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital with gunshot wounds, where he was in critical condition Wednesday night. Hamby declined to say whether police had previously been called to the house or whether the man had a criminal record. She also declined to say whether the man drew his gun or whether officers were armed with less-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets or stun guns.
Bryan Andrada, a neighbor, was riding his bicycle past the man's home when the shooting happened about 6 p.m. Andrada said he had seen police cars in the neighborhood and went to get a closer look when an officer with a drawn gun warned him not to get any closer. He said he couldn't hear the words between the officers and the victim but saw police shoot and watched the man fall. He said five shots were fired.
"To see somebody just go limp like that, it's pretty disturbing," he said. Andrada said he didn't see the man draw his gun or point it at officers.
Neighbors clustered near the shooting scene said the neighborhood is usually quiet, and even close neighbors said they didn't know the victim, who was a renter.
"It's such a quiet neighborhood," said Karen Armstrong, who has lived there for 14 years. "We put in speed bumps because speeders were our biggest concern."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Court: Police Not Entitled To Immunity

Associated Press

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has upheld a lower court's ruling that Albuquerque police officers are not entitled to qualified immunity on claims they retaliated against protesters at an anti-war rally.
More than a dozen people who participated in the University of New Mexico campus rally in March 2003 sued the city of Albuquerque, Mayor Martin Chávez and several Albuquerque police officers, claiming their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and assembly were violated.
The protest drew between 500 and 1,000 people, who spilled onto city sidewalks and the crosswalks of adjacent streets.
The Albuquerque Police Department claimed protesters were blocking traffic and began tossing canisters of tear gas and using pepper spray after protesters failed repeated warnings to clear the streets.
Several protesters were arrested.
A U.S. District Court dismissed most of the plaintiffs' claims against the officers, but analyzed their First Amendment claims of retaliation and determined the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on the claim.
The court determined there was "no question" that protesting a war is a constitutionally protected activity and the use of tear gas, pepper spray and physical force to disperse plaintiffs and protesters "could have chilled a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to participate in the demonstration."
The officers conceded that the use of tear gas and pepper spray affected certain plaintiffs but said their actions, even "assuming an improper motive," could not have affected plaintiffs who did not witness the officers' actions.
The officers argued on appeal that, because the plaintiffs knew of the officers' aggressive actions at places along the route, "these plaintiffs were thus chilled." The officers contended they were entitled to qualified immunity with respect to those who did not witness or were not affected by their actions.
The appellate court, based in Denver, rejected the officers' arguments because they were not brought before the lower court. City Attorney Bob White said Monday he had not seen the ruling. "We'll have to review the decision and decide how we proceed in the case from here," he said.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Anabolic Steroid Use and Abuse by Police Officers: Policy & Prevention

By Commander Kim R. Humphrey, Professional Standards Bureau, Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department; Kathleen P. Decker, M.D., U.S. Air Force; Linn Goldberg, M.D., Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon; Harrison G. Pope Jr., M.D., Harvard Medical School; Joseph Gutman, M.D., Practicing Endocrinologist,Tempe, Arizona; and Gary Green, M.D., University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)

from Police Chief Magazine:

Although physical fitness is an essential part of policing, as described in the previous article, some officers go too far to ensure their strength—endangering not only themselves but also the public they are sworn to defend.
officer crashes a police car and seriously injures an innocent bystander. The investigation reveals that the officer was acting erratically, had bloodshot eyes, and slurred his speech. The officer’s supervisor is called, and the decision is made to test for alcohol consumption. The test results determine that the officer was in fact intoxicated. Disciplinary action is taken, resulting in the officer’s termination for drinking alcohol while driving on duty. Though exposed to liability, the department recognizes the dangers of alcohol abuse and appropriately responds when a dangerous situation presents itself. Another officer, involved in several shootings and use-of-force incidents, garners significant attention within his agency and the media. Investigations reveal that the unrelated incidents were questionable but lawful and, according to the officer, justified based on perceived threats. The agency’s use-of-force review reluctantly finds the officer within policy but awaits the next incident. How many police leaders would recognize that this of ficer could have a problem similar to the one in the first example? If the officer’s appearance indicated he was exceptionally muscular, would they consider the possible abuse of anabolic steroids? What would prompt them to believe that excessive use of force could be associated with “’roid rage,” a hyperaggressive, violent state of mind supposedly brought on by steroid use? When and how would they confirm that their suspicions are true? What if a defense or civil attorney proposed that an officer was a steroid abuser based on the officer’s appearance and witnessed behaviors? Compared with alcohol and other illicit drugs, anabolic steroids (also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, or AASs) are not easily detected. Supervisors typically are trained to look for inappropriate behaviors that might justify a “just cause” drug screen; however, with AASs the behaviors and other indicators might not be as easily recognized. Recently, accounts of major league baseball’s steroid era have come to light, Olympic athletes have admitted use, and many other major sporting icons have been stripped of their titles after being caught using performance-enhancing drugs such as AASs and human growth hormone (HGH). Unfortunately, growing evidence suggests a similar abuse of AASs and other performance-enhancing drugs by law enforcement professionals. Across the United States, several investigations associated with Internet pharmacies and “antiaging” clinics in association with unscrupulous physicians have revealed officers caught up in this web of illicit drug use. Although the traditional reason for the use of AASs is to improve athletic performance, AASs also appeal to officers wanting a tactical edge or an intimidating appearance. Unlike with other forms of drug abuse, steroid users do not take their drug recreationally; on the contrary, some state they need these drugs in order to do their job effectively or improve their “job performance.” From street officers who consider themselves vulnerable to bigger, more aggressive criminals to special-assignment officers who are regularly tested for their physical abilities, officers are turning to performance-enhancing drugs such as AASs and HGH as a shortcut to improved performance. This article will not delve into the abuse of HGH, which is not a controlled substance but is obtained by prescription only and has very limited use—none for normal adults. In addition to the normal health concerns, there is one further issue when discussing abuse of steroids by those in the law enforcement profession. Officers carry weapons, are authorized to use lethal force, and are often involved in physically controlling or restraining people. If the stories of ’roid rage are true, how often are the officers who use anabolic steroids involved in unnecessary use-offorce incidents that could become a major liability for their agencies? Considering the legal issues, health effects, and commensurate costs associated with inappropriate use, agencies should proactiv ly address this issue. Rather than look back on what could be an embarrassing “steroid era” of law enforcement—one in which the profession might be riddled with lawsuits, corruption, and claims of heavy-handedness—it is critical to address the current and future impact of this issue head-on. Over the past few decades, several stories have surfaced regarding law enforcement personnel involved with anabolic steroids. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently led Operation Raw Deal, considered the largest international steroid investigation to date. The operation discovered several links to current or former law enforcement officers. This was predicted almost 20 years ago by an article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin that stated, “Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country.”1 In addition, a story on the television program 60 Minutes in 1989 titled “Beefing up the Force” featured three police officers who admitted steroid use and claimed that their resulting aggression got them in serious trouble. In the past year, a book titled Falling Off the Thin Blue Line was written and published by former Texas police officer David Johnson, who describes his addiction to steroids and speaks about the prevalence of steroid abuse in the law enforcement community.2 Recently, investigations into illegal steroid purchases revealed the names of several officers on pharmacy distribution lists, garnering national media attention. Unfortunately, agencies looking for methods to confront steroid abuse find few examples of effective policies and practices. This article summarizes the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department’s experience in this area over the past several years and suggests policy and testing considerations for anabolic steroids in the law enforcement community. Problems with Testing In 2005, the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) investigated several incidents either directly or indirectly involving officers accused of abusing anabolic steroids. As a result, the city formed a committee to determine policy changes and address the issue with public safety agencies (that is, police and fire departments) as well as all other city employees. Due to the demands of the law enforcement profession and the legal precedent supporting random drug testing, policies are naturally more stringent for police than for other city departments. The police department, with support from its labor organization, added anabolic steroids to the random testing process for all officers and the preemployment screen. Research is clear that significant health risks result from nontherapeutic uses of anabolic steroids. 3 For this reason, the PPD’s focus on prevention revolved around a prevention video with questions and answers from a local endocrinologist who specializes in steroid abuse treatment. Regarding testing, the task seemed simple enough: contact a local laboratory and test officers for performance-enhancing substances. However, implementation proved less than simple. First, adding AASs to the PPD’s random test tripled its drug testing costs. Additionally, local laboratories were able to provide only an initial urine screen that tested for a handful of the growing number of AASs. Furthermore, compounding the difficulty of the task, testing for anabolic steroids goes beyond looking for the specific synthetic AAS; it also needs to detect compounds naturally created by the human body, such as testosterone. This entails an analysis of an individual’s ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (abbreviated T/E); when this value is found to be out of normal range, it may indicate the use of illegal substances. Additionally, as noted previously, HGH does not fall under the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, and currently there is no reliable test to detect it in the human body. Testing for performance-enhancing substances presents a myriad of challenges:
How can an agency test for “all” illegal AASs, and what does it do if a T/E ratio is not normal?

How can an agency prove that someone is illegally or inappropriately using anabolic steroids?
What if an officer who tests positive provides a prescription, and the prescribing physician indicates that the officer has a condition that necessitates the use of these drugs? Additionally, what constitutes abuse of prescribed drugs?
Do ’roid rage and other psychiatric disturbances claimed to result from steroid abuse actually exist, and do they present a liability to an abuser’s organization? Jumping into a testing policy before answering these questions will lead agencies to the realization that testing for these substances is not as straightforward as, say, discovering heroin in a drug screen. Officers might present a prescription or might have ordered something over the Internet in what they believe is a legal transaction. The DEA works regularly to shut down numerous unscrupulous doctors who seek to make money by connecting with pharmacies and engaging in illegal distribution, using the few very specific legitimate uses for AASs as cover for their operation. In these cases, ignorance is a common excuse from officers, who typically state that a doctor prescribed the drug, so it must be “okay.”

Illicit “Benefits” of AASs AASs can be taken orally, by injection, as a skin patch or cream, or sometimes by placing them between the cheek and gum. When combined with a high-protein diet and vigorous weightlifting, AASs “work.” That means that they stimulate the formation of muscle tissue and are known to cause enlargement of muscle fibers. It is widely understood that testosterone (the major natural male AAS hormone in normal, healthy men) stimulates an increase in fat-free muscle mass while at the same time decreasing fat. Doses of AASs that exceed the normal production rate of testosterone can amplify this effect, resulting in supernormal gains in lean muscle mass and strength.
Patterns of Illegitimate Use
Many users reported taking a weekly dose in excess of (the equivalent of) 1,000 mg of testosterone. For comparison, adult human testicles normally produce 5–10 mg of testosterone per day—generally less than 100 mg/week.
Most AAS users reported self-administering by injecting the drug directly into their muscles.
Some studies reveal that approximately 25 percent of those who inject AASs share needles or vials, increasing the risk of HIV infection, viral hepatitis, or other infections.
Over 95 percent of AAS users reported self-administering multiple substances, with 25 percent taking growth hormone and/or insulin in addition to AASs.
Users have been found to move on to illegal drugs other than athletic performance enhancers.
Nearly 100 percent of AAS users reported noticeable side effects—but most users claim that these effects are mild and do not deter them from continuing to use AASs.
Users often become fixated on their muscularity and are reluctant to stop using AASs for fear that they will get smaller again.
General Medical Effects of Use
Decreased sperm production
Abscess at the site of injection
Increased or even severe acne
Increased blood pressure
Increased “bad” (LDL) and lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol, with attendant increased risk of heart attack
Thickening of the wall of the heart (especiall y in the left ventricle)
Increased or decreased sex drive (libido)
Increased appetite
Liver disease, especially with AASs taken orally (infrequent)
Death from several causes, including suicide, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes), and cardiac complications
HIV and similar risk issues associated with the sharing of needles or the use of nonsterile needles
Psychological Effects Users of AASs can experience psychiatric symptoms during use, abuse, or withdrawal. Symptoms differ depending on the drug’s absence or presence in the body. Symptoms tend to correlate with the size of the weekly dose and can worsen with long-term use. Importantly, the psychiatric symptoms are idiosyncratic; some men taking=2 0a given dose of AASs may show no psychiatric effects at all, whereas a few men taking an identical dose might show extreme effects.6 The reasons for this variability are not known, but it is clear that reactions to AASs cannot be predicted on the basis of an individual’s baseline personality. In other words, even if a man has a mildmannered, gentle personality when not taking AASs, there is still a risk that he might develop a sudden personality change and become uncharacteristically aggressive and violent while taking AASs.7
Symptoms Associated with Use or Abuse:
Mania or hypomania (high energy levels associated with increased self-confidence, increased activity, impaired judgment, and reckless behavior)
Psychosis—loss of touch with reality (for example, paranoia or delusions of grandeur; infrequent)
Personality changes
Laws and Regulations Associated with AASs The use of AASs for per formance enhancement is banned by all major sports bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the Union of European Football Associations, and Fédération Internationale de Football Association. In the late 1980s, the U.S. Congress considered listing AASs in the Controlled Substances Act. Based on evidence of widespread abuse, AASs are now classified by the FDA and DEA as Schedule III controlled substances. The Crime Control Act of 1990, approved on November 29, 1990, includes provisions for control of these drugs and penalties for inappropriate trafficking in them. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 further amended this law to increase the number of AASs that were included and make it easier to add additional drugs.
The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse that is less than the drugs or other substances in Schedules I and II.
The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Too long to fit here... Read on !!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

When Repression Rains, It Pours

Submitted by Elliott

Something has lit a fire in my gut lately, and it's not the tangy gazpacho chilling in my fridge. It's not the body bags piling up in Iraq, or the precipitous decline of our planet's wild systems, or any of the other train wrecks concocted by elites in the Global North. For the last three weeks, I've been spitting barbs because so many people I know have been getting targeted, terrorized and thrown in jail by the police.

The number of folks in my field of vision who've been rounded up since mid-June is startling, and I feel compelled to write about them here. Though they might appear in the news as a series of disparate, isolated incidents, I think my friends' stories indicate a broader pattern of police repression that's all too common--particularly against activists of color.


Following the April 26th acquittal of four cops who killed Sean Bell and wounded two others in a hail of 50 bullets, NYC saw a surge of social movement calling for police accountability and community power. Rallies, marches, and a near-riot popped off around the city, while Al Sharpton's "slowdown" blockades on May 8th captured national media attention. Since that time, actions specific to the Bell case have largely subsided, and much of the public energy and outrage has dissipated (or, at least, been brought to a simmer.)

At the same time, a few sustained projects have taken root in the wake of the NYPD's most brazen murder yet of an unarmed person of color. Among these is a series of citywide copwatch trainings being promoted by the People's Justice Coalition and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, coupled with a growing interest in community alternatives to policing generally.

Caught in this climate is Rebel Diaz. A conscious hip hop crew comprised of three MCs--Chilean brothers RodStarz and G1, and Afro-Boricua rapper Lah Tere--Rebel Diaz is well known in both activist circles and hip hop scenes in NYC. In the crowd I run with, they're public figures you can count on to be outspoken about imperialism, racism, gentrification and police brutality. So it's not surprising that they were singled out for special treatment by New York's Finest.

On June 18th, Rodstarz and G1 stopped to observe several police officers harassing a street vendor in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. Knowing a sense of public accountability can deter police abuses, the two MCs asked for the badge numbers of the cops in question. But this time the strategy backfired: the police snapped, dragged the two men to the ground, beat them up a little, and hauled them off to the 41st precinct. They were later charged with "obstruction of justice" and "resisting arrest."

Within hours of RodStarz and G1's arrest, a citywide call went out for folks to demonstrate at the building where the brothers were being held, and to barrage the precinct with calls in protest. (In Michigan at the time, I was hit with a stream of text messages about the situation.) The emergency actions drew a big response, and both brothers were released the following morning; their court cases are pending.

If the story ended there, I'd take it as a sign that cops are touchy about public confrontations following the Bell trial, but that prompt action on our part can keep their abuses in check. Unfortunately, there's more to tell. A week after the brothers' arrest, in the early hours of June 25th, unidentified police officers burst into G1's apartment in Harlem with guns drawn. According to G1's official statement

The uniformed police officers did not knock, nor announce themselves, nor verbally identify themselves before or during their entry into my apartment.

They pointed their guns at us the whole time as they verbally barraged [my roommate DW, my friend] MM and I with questions as to who we were and what we were doing there.

As I lay on the ground with my hands up, I replied loudly and clearly that I lived there, and that everyone in the house was supposed to be there.

They replied incredulously, repeatedly yelling their questions as to who we were, with threats as to what would happen to us if I was found to be lying.

After various other taunts and threats, including accusing us of harboring a fugitive criminal suspect, they departed just as quickly as they had arrived, down a side stairway adjacent to my apartment.

They did not stay to search me or my roommates, or the apartment for any signs of the supposed fugitive they were looking for.

G1 did get the badge numbers of two officers involved in the raid--by running into the middle of the street and flagging down a police vehicle that was peeling away from the scene. But even with that information, the incursion remains a mystery: "Both the 25th and 23rd NYPD precinct, which patrol my block, have denied that the officers involved are from their command."

Two weeks ago, this news filled me with a sense of dread. I asked myself: where did the officers who raided G1's apartment come from? Is this a police scare tactic, considering the high profile of the Rebel Diaz crew? Are police officers in New York veering into the realm of paramilitary-style violence against activists of color?

There's still only sketchy information available at this point, but alongside other recent cases of police abuse, a formula seems to be emerging. The sequence of events goes like this: first a high-profile case of police brutality evokes public outrage and disgust; then, a few modest grassroots projects emerge to curtail police violence; finally, the cops execute targeted crackdowns on activists who're bringing them scrutiny. By late June I had a feeling that the events in NYC contained an inner logic. My hunch was confirmed when I heard about a recent house raid in Philadelphia.


In the city of brotherly love, the same formula was repeated almost verbatim. First there was a case of police brutality: on May 5th, 12 to 14 Philadelphia cops were caught on camera by a Fox News helicopter as they dragged three shooting suspects from a vehicle and took turns kicking and beating them en masse. Much like the Bell case, footage of a rampaging mob of Philly police also prompted a broad public response. In fact, just a day after protesting the acquittal of Sean Bell's killers, Al Sharpton announced his intention to travel to Philadelphia to address the situation. But beyond public speakers and movement figureheads, action was also a-brewin' at the grassroots.

Some movement crystallized in the Francisville area of Philly, where a multiracial collective house started circulating petitions to address growing police harassment. Like many soon-to-be gentrifying neighborhoods, Francisville has endured aggressive policing as cops patrol on behalf of wealthy landlords and residents from encroaching developments. The house's petition confronted the climate of fear and intimidation by calling on Philadelphia's Mayor and Police Commissioner to attend community meetings on police brutality, surveillance cameras, and "stop and frisk" policies.

The response was fast and flagrant: on June 13th, the Francisville house was raided by plainclothes police officers. As in New York, the cops entered without a warrant, and in this case the housemates were detained for 12 hours without charge. The pretext used by police to enter the house still isn't clear (officers on the scene called the housemates a "hate group," alleging they found "literature about killing cops" and "propaganda against the government" on the premises) but it is known that the Department of Homeland Security, the Housing Authority and the Department of Licensing all conducted tours of the property within hours.

When the residents eventually returned home, they found their building closed by the city for code violations, and it became clear later that the property had been thoroughly searched. Daniel Moffat, a resident of the Francisville house, found that

My computer was gone. I was informed that the Department of State had taken my computer for evidence. I couldn't find my phone list that was posted on the wall. I couldn't find a notepad with a bunch of my notes in it. I couldn't find this little book with a lot of phone numbers in it.

News of the raid in Philly reached me just a few days after the arrests of RodStarz and G1, and it shook me up. Not only was it troubling that a measly petition could draw the ire of the power structure, but two of my friends had stayed in the Francisville house just weeks before it was raided, and thus narrowly escaped being detained themselves.

Right now the folks in Philadelphia have regained access to their house, but continue to fight a legal battle over the building's alleged code violations. Investigation also continues into why the house was targeted by local and federal agencies in the first place, and much like in New York, many questions remain. I'm troubled by events in Philly and the implications they could have for us in NYC--but at the same time, I'm preoccupied with yet another case of repression that recently exploded on the west coast.


After the Rodney King beating and the 1992 riots, the LAPD may be most famous for its crackdown on the Los Angeles May Day rally in 2007. As a huge, peaceful rally of community organizations and migrant groups came to a close in MacArthur Park that spring, the LAPD waded into the crowd, firing rubber bullets at families and elders and clubbing those who didn't disperse fast enough. Police helicopters hovering above the scene declared the rally closed, while below a phalanx of cops in riot gear chased people into the surrounding blocks.

Outcry over police brutality at the May Day rally received sympathetic coverage on national news networks, mostly because members of the corporate media were shoved, clubbed and beaten along with rally-goers as police swept through the park. At the same time, the LAPD's actions further solidified the work of Copwatch LA, an organization that documented the police attack on the rally and had been active for several months beforehand.

To my knowledge, Copwatch LA is the most active group of its kind in the United States. After gaining big public attention from a police brutality case early in its existence (a video they publicized of officers beating a man while suffocating him made the front page of Yahoo News), the group has built a large network of volunteers to document police activity around the city. Their website even features live feeds of copwatch photos from cellphones around LA, which is an impressive techy feat for a non-funded, grassroots group. Yet the early successes of the Copwatch LA have also put a powerful spotlight on the group's organizers--particularly a young man named Joaquin Cienfuegos.

Joaquin is a Latino anarchist from South Central LA, who came to New York this summer to meet folks struggling on the East coast, and share an almost-finished documentary on the 2007 attacks. He crashed in my apartment in June after a raucous evening in lower Manhattan, and we emailed a little afterward. Just a few days ago, I received word that he had been arrested and was being held on $40,000 bail.

Fearing a repeat of NYC and Philly, I emailed for more info, and found the situation even higher-stakes. On June 27th, police officers pulled over Joaquin and a friend on their way home from a fundraiser for Copwatch LA and an Anarchist People of Color regional gathering. The anonymous friend put out a public statement a few days ago:

Joaquin said "they're pulling us over" as we were turning down my block (La Mirada Avenue). I told Joaquin not to stop until we got in front of my house, because if they were going to kill us or beat our asses, it was going to happen on my block and in front of my house where people could see.

The police approached the car, and found Joaquin didn't have his license on him (it had been stolen a few weeks earlier.) This was reason enough to cuff Joaquin immediately, at which poin I also told them Joaquin needed to get my wheelchair out of his trunk so I can get out of his car. The pig came to the driver's side of the car and popped the trunk, went to the back and put the wheelchair together. At that point the pig saw a machete in the trunk and asked Joaquin "what was he doing with a machete?" Joaquin said that "he does gardening work from time to time and it shouldn't be 'illegal' to have a machete in his trunk."

As I exited the car. they told me I could go home. So I crossed the street and observed them from in front of my home. From afar, I hear the pig ask Joaquin, "what's in this case?"

In the case was a gun owned by Joaquin, which resulted in a felony charge of "possession of a concealed firearm."

I can't comment on the prevalence of guns in Los Angeles activist circles, never having worked on the streets of South Central. But I do know that the LAPD has proven itself at least as dangerous with loaded firearms as activists on the left, and at the same time, I know that the LAPD has a habit of throwing arms charges at activists they see as a threat.

In fact, the same thing happened recently to members of the Black Riders Liberation Party, a political formation made up of former gang members and black youth from around Los Angeles modeled on the Black Panther Party. Last fall, most of the Riders' leadership was rounded up in a statewide sweep, charged with "conspiracy to purchase a concealed weapon," and held on $500,000 bail. Joaquin had been working closely with members of the BRLP to document their legal struggle, and Riders were in attendance at the fundraiser the night of Joaquin's arrest. These connections, one imagines, would've been enough for the police to put Joaquin in their sights.


As of this post, Joaquin has just been released from jail, where he was held on lockdown for most of his time inside. He now faces a lengthy legal battle, along with a fundraising effort to cover the loans needed to bail him out. And after the house raid in Philly, the attack on G1 in NYC, and this new arrest in Los Angeles, I'm struck by the brazenness of police attacks on activists of color in the U.S.

Three times in the last six weeks, the same formula came into play: after an incident of police brutality evoked public outcry and was met with a modest grassroots response, the power structure went to extreme lengths to target and eliminate activists working against cop impunity. This pattern suggests activists working for accountability and community power can expect repressive responses from local authorities, often without regard to public oversight or legal constraints and with the backing of federal agencies. Yikes.

At the same time, these acts of repression remind us of the scope of our struggles, and of the hurdles any movement that wishes to fundamentally transform our world must inevitably face. It's a frightening prospect, sure, but it's also an arena that can shape our tactics and strategies beyond theory and booklearnin'. To face these challenges, I've heard, you need to have a fire in your gut.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

APD Must 'fess Up, Revise Interrogation Procedures

from the Albuquerque Journal

By Jeff Buckels, New Mexico Public Defender Department

Journal readers can't have missed Saturday's front-page story about how DNA evidence cleared my client Robert Gonzales of murder after two and a half years in jail. And you can't have missed that Robert confessed to the murder at the time.
It was a false confession, and it's not that rare. Nearly a fourth of 218 DNA exonerations documented by the national Innocence Project have involved false confessions.
Police use sophisticated techniques to get confessions. They start by putting the suspect off-guard with friendly chitchat, visiting about the suspect's school, family, favorite TV shows.
Having established that they are the suspect's pal, interrogators put the confession machinery in gear. They accuse the suspect of the crime and refuse to credit his denials. To make resistance seem pointless, they exaggerate or simply lie about the evidence they already have (“You were seen with the victim!”). In virtually every case of false confession involving compliant suspects, the interrogators minimize the suspect's blameworthiness (“I'd have done the same thing!”) and offer face-saving excuses which seem to promise leniency (“We know you were provoked!”). If the suspect still resists, they tell him that confessing is the only way to make the interrogation ordeal come to an end (“You've got to help us if you want to get this over with!”). If he still resists, the interrogators say he's wrong, and insist again and again that the only way to make the ordeal end is to get it right.
These techniques and others are mixed and repeated over and over, for hours if necessary. Every one was used on Robert Gonzales, who stopped resisting and confessed to a murder he didn't commit.
I expect this reaction from many readers: “If I were accused of a crime I didn't commit, nothing, except maybe torture, would make me confess.” I don't doubt it. But while you are enjoying your morning coffee and newspaper, consider whether you are not different from Robert Gonzales in at least two important ways.
First, you are not unusually vulnerable to manipulation and suggestion. Even persons of normal and high intelligence have succumbed to the interrogator's bag of tricks. Retarded and youthful suspects are like putty in a trained interrogator's hands.
Second, you have not been arrested, shackled and stuffed in the back seat of a police car. You are not surrounded by armed police in an interrogation room. Your mug shot will not be on the six o'clock news. You are not scared out of your wits. You are not easy pickings.
Robert Gonzales was. And it took a double-whammy of DNA evidence to stop what interrogation procedure and a false confession started.
More than two years ago, the police learned that scores of scientific tests — DNA evidence, fingerprints, hair samples, fiber evidence — had failed to place Robert at the scene of the crime or connect him to the victim in any way. The DNA pointed consistently to a single unknown person — not Robert. But in the teeth of the scientific evidence, the prosecution pushed on, relying on Robert's “confession” alone.
Two weeks ago, the other shoe fell. The DNA taken from the victim matched a prisoner at the federal lockdown outside Estancia. Then and only then did the prosecution throw in the towel.
I am not writing to vent or to celebrate (“All's well that ends well!”). I am writing to call attention to police policy and training — or rather the lack of it.
The two senior APD officers who interrogated Robert Gonzales knew they were dealing with a suspect who was young and probably retarded in some degree. He told them he was in special education classes in school. Yet they admitted in pretrial interviews and under oath at a hearing that they didn't even consider handling Robert's interrogation differently than any other. The fact is, APD had provided them with no training in interrogating developmentally disabled suspects.
Such training and policies exist and are in effect in other police departments. This specialized training helps officers recognize suspects who are retarded and requires them to make sure the suspects really do understand Miranda warnings. They are to curtail the usual tricks to elicit confessions, treat confessions skeptically, and do double duty corroborating such confessions before committing to prosecution.
Maybe if procedures like this had been in place at APD when Robert Gonzales was arrested, Robert wouldn't have given a false confession or maybe the police wouldn't have believed it. Failing that, maybe they would have gotten the message when the DNA evidence came in over two years ago and pointed to somebody else. This would have saved the prosecuting authorities, the court system and the taxpayers a lot of time, trouble and money.
And it would have saved a vulnerable young man from serving thirty-two months in jail for a horrific crime he did not commit.
Jeff Buckels is the supervising attorney of the Capital Crimes Unit of the Public Defender Department.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cameraman's Charges Dropped

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger And T.J. Wilham, Journal Staff Writer

The attorney for veteran KOB-TV cameraman Rick Foley claims police illegally searched his client’s news vehicle and failed to read him his Miranda rights before cuffing him, throwing him in the back of a police car and charging him with refusing to obey an officer.
Charges against Foley were dropped Tuesday.
APD officials said Tuesday they were trying to determine if a search had occurred. A police spokesman said it’s common for officers to do an “inventory” during someone’s arrest.
Foley was covering a police standoff near Copper and Charleston NE on May 29 when rookie officer Daniel Guzman told Foley to move to a different location, according to a police report. A video captured by Foley’s camera shows the officer lunging at him. Foley was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and cited.
Guzman was placed on administrative leave last weekend pending a disciplinary hearing scheduled for next week.
The refusing to obey charge was dismissed Tuesday after Metro Court Judge Benjamin Chavez ruled that Guzman had not provided sufficient facts, or probable cause, to support the allegation.
Chavez said Guzman had incorrectly used a traffic citation form and not a criminal complaint when citing Foley and that he had only repeated the charge and not the circumstances of the case on the citation.
Chavez dismissed the charge without prejudice, meaning that police can refile the charges at a later date.
“I think this case is dead,” Foley’s attorney, Matthew Coyte, said afterward. “It was dead from the beginning.”
Foley said after Tuesday’s hearing that police never read him his rights before charging him.
In a statement released to the Journal through Coyte, Foley said he watched in “amazement” as police searched his news vehicle without a warrant.
According to legal experts, the law allows police to search vehicles if the driver is in the process of being arrested. If the car is being towed, police can take an “inventory” of the vehicle to make sure valuables don’t come up missing.
Foley was not taken to jail.
APD spokesman John Walsh said officers routinely search the vehicle of someone who is being arrested and taken to jail.
In Foley’s case, Walsh said an officer might have taken inventory anticipating that Foley was going to be taken to jail — if his vehicle was searched at all.
Walsh also noted that neither Foley nor KOB-TV has filed a complaint with the department alleging an illegal search.

Officer on Leave After Attack

By T.J. Wilham, Journal Staff Writer

An Albuquerque police officer who was captured on video attacking a KOB-TV news photographer has been placed on leave.
Officer Daniel Guzman, who had been working with another officer since the May 29 incident, is to appear at a disciplinary hearing next week. Afterward, Police Chief Ray Schultz will decide what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken against the officer.
Veteran KOB photographer Rick Foley was covering a police standoff near Copper and Charleston NE when Guzman, a rookie, told Foley to move to a different location, according to a police report. Foley was some distance from the police cars blocking the street and outside an area that had been blocked by officers.
Shortly after Guzman told Foley to move, the two argued, and Foley asked Guzman for his name and badge number.
A video captured by Foley's camera shows the officer lunging at him. Foley was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and cited for refusing to obey an officer.
Foley has a court appearance today in Metropolitan Court. In a statement released through his attorney, Foley on Monday called for Guzman to seek dismissal of the charges.
“In my 27 years covering the news, I have never interfered in officers performing their difficult jobs, nor would I,” the statement said. “My father was a career police officer, and I have been brought up with the greatest respect for the job they do. Yet one officer found time to grab me on a public street, handcuff me, place me in a police car and prevent me from doing mine.
“I hope the officer will do the correct thing and dismiss this criminal case.”
Shortly after the incident, Schultz asked the city's independent review officer to conduct the investigation.
Schultz said he made the decision to place Guzman on leave after reading the independent review officer's report, which he received Friday.
He declined to comment further.
“There is very little I can say until the disciplinary hearing is conducted,” Schultz said. “I can say the reason he is on leave is related to the incident.”
Schultz has acknowledged that “mistakes” were made during the incident, and he has drafted a new policy on how to deal with onlookers.
He has met with members of the local news media to discuss the new policy.