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Tag: civil rights

Baltimore Mayor Asks for Full-Scale Civil Rights Investigation of Police Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In an unusual move for a city, Baltimore’s mayor is asking for a full-scale civil rights investigation into alleged abuse within the police department following a riot over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray and other black suspects.

“We all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, reports the Baltimore Sun. ”I’m willing to do what it takes to reform my department.”

Spokeswoman Dena Iverson said Attorney General Loretta Lynch “is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore.”

The Justice Department has conducted investigations of police departments in 20 cities, including Cleveland and New Orleans.

The investigations typically take 18 to 24 months.

Los Angeles County Reaches Civil Rights Agreement with Justice Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Less than two years after prosecutors discovered a pattern of racial discrimination, the nation’s largest sheriff’s department reached a sweeping agreement Tuesday with the Justice Department to restore civil rights.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the deal 4-1 after patterns of abuse were found, including unlawful stops and seizures and excessive force, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

In addition, the Justice Department claims that Los Angeles sheriff’ deputies harassed and intimidated minorities in public housing.

The agreement means the sheriff’s department admitted no wrongdoing but will be overseen by three outside experts.

 

AG Loretta Lynch Tested with Baltimore Riot, Releases Plan of Action

Loretta Lynch

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

New Attorney General Loretta Lynch received her first big test after riots broke out in Baltimore this week.

Lynch, the first black female attorney general, released a statement soon after violence broke out, examining what happened and “going beyond the criminal civil right investigations” launched last week by her predecessor Eric Holder into the death of Freddie Gray, The National Journal reports.

Read Lynch’s statement:

“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore.  Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful.  The Civil Rights Division and the FBI have an ongoing, independent criminal civil rights investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Gray.  We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks.  The department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has also been fully engaged in a collaborative review of the Baltimore City Police Department.  The department’s Community Relations Service has already been on the ground, and they are sending additional resources as they continue to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote the safety of the community.  And in the coming days, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will be traveling to Baltimore to meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials.

“As our investigative process continues, I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents.  And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”

New AG Loretta Lynch to Work on Improving Relations Between Police, DOJ

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

New Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, the first black woman to take the helm, plans to improve the Justice Department’s reputation with police after her predecessor was criticized for too quickly and harshly criticizing officers over lethal force.

Aides to Lynch told the New York Times that Lynch hopes to boost police morale and improve relations between officers and minority communities.

“Loretta’s confirmation ensures that we are better positioned to keep our communities safe, keep our nation secure, and ensure that every American experiences justice under the law,” Mr. Obama said.

The Justice Department said Lynch is expected to be sworn in Monday.

 

 

Justice Department Opens Civil Rights Investigation over Baltimore Death

 
By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Freddie Gray was seen walking and talking when he was placed into a Baltimore police van.

But when he emerged, Gray “could not talk, he could not breathe,” Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said in a story in the Washington Post.

Gray died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

Six Baltimore police officers were suspended while there is an investigation.

The Justice Department plans to turn over results of the investigation to prosecutors by May 1.

Protests have broken out over the death.

FBI Finds No Civil Rights Violations in Deputy Shooting of Black Man in Texas

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A white sheriff’s reserve deputy who killed a black man in Tulsa, Okla., did not commit civil rights violations, the FBI has found following an investigation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Tulsa County sheriff’s office held a news conference to announce the FBI findings.

“They found no wrongdoing,” Sheriff Stanley Glanz said at a news conference.

The FBI said it is open to “re-evaluating the matter should new information or evidence come to the surface.”

The shooting was captured by a camera worn by a deputy. After a shot rings out, the reserve deputy, 73-year-old Robert Bates, is heard saying, “I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Bates is already charged with second-degree manslaughter.

Why South Carolina Cop Got Caught Killing Unarmed Walter Scott

Michael Slager

By Scott Lemieux
The Week

He probably would have gotten away with it.

That’s the sobering reality of the video of South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shooting Walter L. Scott as he ran away, not posing the slightest threat to the officer. The utter indifference to human life evident in the video, shot by Feidin Santana, is horrifying. As Scott’s father put it, “The way he was shooting that gun, it looked like he was trying to kill a deer.” After Scott was felled by at least one of eight shots, Slager occupied himself with handcuffing Scott and possibly trying to plant evidence rather than making any immediateattempt to save his life. The phrase “cold-blooded killing” could have been invented for this shooting.

After the video surfaced, the relevant local authorities, to their credit, actedpromptly and justly. Slager was fired by the police department and charged with Scott’s murder by the district attorney. The killing was denounced by South Carolina’s Republican governor and its two Republican senators. In this case, clear video evidence pierced the thin blue line.

And yet, if it wasn’t for the pure chance of Slager’s actions being videotaped, he probably would have gotten off scot-free. Without videotaped evidence, stories of officers fearing for their lives before using deadly force can be difficult to dispute, and local police departments have little incentive to conduct extensive, critical investigations of the self-justifications of officers who kill. Even worse, they do have incentives to cover up even the most serious police misconduct.

“Americans are bombarded with evidence that police officers who use excessive or fatal force will go to great lengths to protect themselves and make sure they face no legal repercussions,” says Heather Ann Thompson, a professor of history at Temple University who specializes in issues of criminal justice. “From the state police’s bloody retaking of Attica in 1971, to the recent police officer killing of a citizen in South Carolina, cover-up is the first line of defense.”

This tendency to cover up represents a very serious systematic problem. A great deal of the criminal justice system depends on the honesty of law enforcement officials. Many criminal prosecutions depend on police testimony, and we often must rely on the investigations of local police when potential cases of misconduct arise. Pervasive dishonesty both lets individual bad actors escape punishment and undermines essential law enforcement activities.

Justice Department Blasts Ferguson Police for Discrimination, Abuse of Power

Michael Brown

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A long-awaited report on Ferguson found numerous constitutional violations that called for new oversight, retraining of employees and abandoning the current approach to policing.

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department criticized Ferguson police for routinely making unlawful searches, hurling racial insults and treating anyone as a criminal for questioning the tactics.

While a separate report found no civil rights abuses against the white officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, the Justice Department described a discriminatory environment that led to months of protests.

“Seen in this context — amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices — it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,” Mr. Holder said.

The report means Ferguson must make changes or face a federal civil rights lawsuit.