“The book, by the reporters Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg, pieces together the story of the 2017 Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) scandal, in which a federal investigation has so far led to the conviction of a dozen Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers on charges of robbery, extortion, racketeering, filing false reports, and lying to federal grand juries.
At the center of the story is Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the head of the GTTF. Jenkins was a hard-charging cop with a fat misconduct file and a talent for turning up illegal guns and drugs. His crew was filled with other bad apples, including one whose habit of excessive force and petty thievery was so well-known that he’s been name-dropped in local rap songs. In addition to committing massive overtime fraud, members of the GTTF padded their incomes by skimming seized cash and targeting drug dealers for robberies. As the book recounts in scenes recreated through court records, wiretap recordings, and interviews, the task force fabricated evidence, lied on search warrant affidavits, entered houses without warrants, and used GPS trackers to conduct illegal surveillance.”
“Woods and Soderberg show the bureaucratic and political incentives that allowed dirty cops to flourish within the Baltimore Police Department. Those incentives exist in many other cities, and it would be a mistake to take it on trust that departments elsewhere are immune to the temptations that let the Gun Trace Task Force fester.”
“Michigan voters Tuesday night had a message for police: Get a warrant. Yes, for their phones, too.
Voters overwhelmingly approved Michigan Proposal 2. The referendum, put to the ballot by lawmakers, amends the state constitution to add “electronic data and electronic communications” to the state’s search and seizure laws.”
“Myles Cosgrove, a Louisville, Kentucky, detective who participated in the fruitless and legally dubious drug raid that killed Breonna Taylor last March, told investigators the incident unfolded so quickly that he was not consciously aware of using his gun. That detail, which emerged from audio recordings of grand jury proceedings that were released on Friday, is alarming in light of the fact that Cosgrove fired 16 rounds—including the fatal bullet, according to the FBI’s ballistic analysis.”
“A third officer, Detective Brett Hankison, blindly fired 10 rounds from outside the apartment, an act of recklessness that led the grand jury to charge him with three counts of wanton endangerment. Some of Hankison’s rounds entered the unit behind Taylor’s, which was occupied by a man, a pregnant woman, and a child. Hankison is the only officer who faces criminal charges in connection with the raid. State prosecutors concluded that the other two officers legally used deadly force in self-defense.
Cosgrove’s description of the incident does not necessarily cast doubt on that conclusion, but it does underline the dangers inherent in the armed home invasions that police routinely use to enforce drug prohibition. Those dangers include not only the well-known risk that residents will mistake cops for robbers but the possibility that police will mistake their colleagues’ gunfire for an assault by their targets. In such chaotic circumstances, there is also a risk that police will be injured or killed by friendly fire.
The plainclothes officers were serving a warrant based on Taylor’s continued contact with an ex-boyfriend who was arrested for drug dealing the same night. They approached her apartment around 12:40 a.m. Although the warrant authorized the cops to break in without knocking or announcing themselves, they claim they did both. According to Cosgrove, they waited about 90 seconds before using a battering ram to force entry, beginning with “gentle knocking” and escalating to “forceful pounding,” eventually accompanied by cries of “Police!”
Cameron accepted this account. That was an important determination, since Kentucky’s law allowing the use of deadly force in defense of a dwelling makes an exception for armed resistance to a police officer who enters a home “in the performance of his or her official duties,” but only if “the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a peace officer.”
In an interview played for the grand jurors, Walker said he and Taylor were watching a movie in bed at the time of the raid. He said he was “scared to death” when he heard the pounding on the door, which by his reckoning lasted for 30 seconds or so. “Who is it?” he and Taylor yelled, according to his account; he said they heard no response. The New York Times reports that “11 of 12 witnesses on the scene that night said they never heard the police identify themselves,” while “one of them said he heard the group say ‘police’ just once.””
“it is completely plausible that Walker did not realize the armed men invading the apartment were police officers. He reported a break-in during phone calls that night, including a 911 call after the shooting in which a distraught Walker said, “I don’t know what’s happening. Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.” In these circumstances, it is not surprising that local prosecutors, who initially charged Walker with attempted murder of a police officer, dropped that charge in May.”
“gratuitous risks that all of the officers took that night. The Times notes that Hankison “had not anticipated a firefight” because he “expected one unarmed woman, who had no criminal record, to be home alone.” In a saner world, that expectation would have cast doubt on the tactics that police decided to use, even leaving aside the weak excuse of a search warrant that was built entirely on guilt by association.
Based on scant evidence and the immoral logic of the war on drugs, these officers created the situation in which Cosgrove found himself reflexively firing 16 rounds down a dark hallway. When a terrified man had the temerity to defend himself against a bewildering home invasion, Cosgrove and his colleagues responded with overwhelming force, firing a total of 32 bullets. The legal determination that 22 of those rounds were justified should not blind us to the fact that whole operation was a travesty from beginning to end.”
““I was surprised and was overwhelmed by it,” Cunningham said. “A big lesson learned for me was to be mindful of the language and words we used and how it can be interpreted.”
Within days, President Donald Trump and Republicans had found a new favorite talking point to try to win over suburban voters: Democrats wanted to abolish the police. Never mind that prominent party figures like Biden had joined the mayor in rejecting such proposals, making clear that the actions of the councilors had no purchase in the Democratic establishment.
In reality, their actions barely had support within their own civic body.”
“As the commission weighed its options, evidence mounted that the public wanted police reform but did not support the actions of councilors or share the aims of influential activists. A poll from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that a plurality of residents, including 50% of Black people, opposed reducing the size of the police department. Councilors said they repeatedly heard criticism from business owners and residents in more affluent areas of their wards who feared for their safety, as misinformation spread that the end of the police department was imminent.”
“At least 50 journalists in the US have been arrested during Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the US, while dozens of others have also been injured by rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas.
The US Press Freedom Tracker has collected nearly 500 incidents from 382 reports, from the unrest in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing by police in late May, to demonstrations in more than 70 cities across 35 states since.
At least 46 journalists were arrested between the end of May and the beginning of June, according to data collected by the organisation. Dozens of others reported injuries from law enforcement, firing “less lethal” projectiles, tear gas canisters and other weapons into crowds or directly at reporters during demonstrations, even when they had identified themselves and shown credentials, the organisation reports.
Two reporters have suffered permanent eye injuries.”
“When innocent people are falsely convicted of crimes and later freed, in more than half of the cases, misconduct by police and prosecutors played a contributing role.
That’s the primary theme of a new report, “Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent,” released today by the National Registry of Exonerations, which has been tracking all known exonerations in the United States for the past 30 years.”
“what happens when a person is ultimately exonerated and the truth of police and prosecutorial misconduct is revealed? Are the police officers or prosecutors disciplined for their behavior? Often the answer is no. The report analyzed what happened to cops and prosecutors who engaged in misconduct and found that some sort of discipline was imposed in only 17 percent of these cases. Prosecutors are hardly ever punished for misconduct, even though the report notes that they are equally culpable as cops. In only four percent of cases did they find prosecutors disciplined in any way for misconduct. Just two have been fired, three disbarred, and only two have ever themselves been criminally prosecuted and found guilty of misconduct.
Police officers, on the other hand, were disciplined in some fashion in 19 percent of all exoneration cases involving police misconduct. That’s still remarkably low, but police are far more likely than prosecutors to be criminally charged with misconduct in these cases. At least 30 officers have been convicted. That number may seem low, but the report notes that a single police officer may actually be responsible for several false convictions (most notably in Chicago, which has seen mass exonerations over police misconduct).”
” The final quarter of the report is devoted to recommendations: record police interrogations; have forensic crime labs operate independently of police departments to reduce the pressure to fudge results; create special units in prosecutors’ offices to revisit old cases and look for errors; implement open-file discovery and better information-sharing practices with public defenders; and, obviously, institute actual consequences for officers and prosecutors who engage in misconduct that leads to the innocent being convicted.”
“The Virginia Senate last week passed a comprehensive police reform package that would prohibit the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds in the majority of cases and make it easier for departments to decertify rogue cops. One thing was noticeably absent, though: a ban on qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity makes it exceedingly difficult to sue public officials when they violate your rights, as it requires that any alleged misconduct be outlined almost identically in a previous court precedent. The doctrine has come under fire from all sides of the political spectrum. In June, Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.), joined by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) and several other Democratic members of Congress, introduced a bill in the U.S. House that would have abolished qualified immunity (though it has not received a vote and will likely die without one).”
“But Virginia Democrats’ decision to punt on the issue puts them more in line with moderates in the Republican Party—a testament to the power of the law enforcement lobby.”
“DeBoard might gain new perspective on that if she were to talk to the mother of the 10-year-old boy who was shot in Georgia by sheriff’s deputy Matthew Vickers, who received qualified immunity. Or the parents of the 15-year-old boy on his way to school who was shot in Los Angeles by Officer Michael Gutierrez, who received qualified immunity. Or the man who had a police canine sicced on him—after he had surrendered—by two cops who both received qualified immunity. Or the men who allegedly had $225,000 stolen from them by two officers, executing a search warrant, who both received qualified immunity.
The latter case epitomizes the mental contortions required by the legal doctrine. A unanimous panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit wrote that “although the City Officers ought to have recognized that the alleged theft was morally wrong, they did not have clear notice that it violated the Fourth Amendment.” In other words, officers need case law text to tell them stealing is bad.
Advocates like DeBoard present an apocalyptic vision of a world without qualified immunity, one in which officers go bankrupt from frivolous civil suits and leave the force in droves. That’s not a vision based in reality. For one, losing qualified immunity is not equivalent to losing a lawsuit. It simply provides someone with the right to bring such a suit in front of a jury—a right the American public is technically still guaranteed under federal law. And in the case that a public servant does lose a suit, the municipality nearly always foots the bill.”
“poverty and crime are big predictors, but in all the cities we’ve ever looked at, they aren’t sufficient to explain the racial disparities. Crime and poverty matter, but there are still disparities after that. There’s evidence that there’s still bias after that. In some cities, crime and poverty predict about 80 percent of the disparity; in other cities, crime and poverty rates are about 20 percent. And that means there’s a real difference in how much police behavior and policy is a driver of inequality in policing and therefore in criminal justice outcomes.”
“The recent protests against police brutality are some of the largest and most widespread in American history. An estimated 15 million to 26 million Americans have taken to the streets to protest police violence and advocate for Black lives.
The remarkable size and scope of these demonstrations has translated into real policy gains, too. Dozens of state and local police reforms have been enacted since the protests started. And at the federal level, President Trump signed an executive order that outlines his administration’s priorities for police reform, including creating a national database that catalogues police misconduct. The House of Representatives passed an even more ambitious piece of legislation that proposes a series of reforms, like tying federal funding to bans on chokeholds and setting up a task force to address excessive police force, but the GOP-controlled Senate hasn’t taken it up.
Arguably, though, the protests’ impact on public opinion has been even more immediate and wide-ranging. Unfavorable views of the police, acknowledgement of widespread discrimination against African Americans and support for Black Lives Matter all jumped up by at least 10 percentage points, according to tracking polls conducted shortly before and after the protests by both Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape and Civiqs.
These changes in public opinion are being driven in large part by white Americans, who for years have been much less likely than Black Americans to acknowledge that racial inequality remains a real problem. Since the first wave of large-scale Black Lives Matter protests in 2014, white Americans’ racial attitudes have gradually become more liberalized while Black Americans’ views have remained relatively steady.
Trump’s many offensive statements may be contributing to this trend, as they seem to be driving Democrats, particularly white Democrats, to adopt more liberal views on race in response. That’s one reason so many white Democrats showed up at the most recent protests.
But the protests’ impact on public opinion appears to be fading — particularly among white Americans”
“unfavorable views of the police are trending back down toward their pre-protest levels among white Americans and have dipped among Black Americans. White respondents are also becoming somewhat less likely to say that African Americans face “a lot” or “a great deal” of discrimination, though those numbers remain higher than they were before before George Floyd was killed in May. Black Americans’ views on the discrimination they face have remained essentially unchanged.”
“This decline in public opinion is consistent with a long line of political science research that tells us that the effects of events on public opinion tend to last only for as long as they are at the forefront of the country’s — or, in this case, one group’s — collective consciousness. That also means that without prolonged activism and sustained media attention, the impact of this year’s protests on white public opinion could evaporate entirely.”