Death Of Paul Castaway Highlights Denver’s Overlooked Police Brutality Problem

Killer Cops on the Loose

Originally published at MintPress News.

DENVER — The death of a Rosebud Sioux man in Denver earlier this month is a painful reminder that police shootings are not limited to any one part of the United States, and certainly not just to places that received mainstream media attention after recent killings.

Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy Facebook.com
Paul Castaway, left, a citizen of the Lakota Nation, was shot and killed by police on July 12. Photo courtesy Facebook.com

On July 12, Lynn Eagle Feather called police for help with her schizophrenic son, Paul Castaway. Witnesses and police give conflicting accounts of an incident that quickly spiraled out of control. Officers shot Castaway multiple times while he held a knife to his own neck. He died the following day at an area hospital. Police say they shot in self-defense, but witnesses and Castaway’s family disagree.

As his family struggles for justice, a diverse coalition of protesters from the American Indian Movement to local groups like Denver Community Defense Committee are working with the families of the victims of Denver police brutality. They’re hoping to draw attention to a largely overlooked epidemic of police violence that rivals other cities like Baltimore or New York City for its ability to destroy lives. Now, police are targeting activists and journalists who support them with arrests and even violence.

 

‘What’s wrong with you guys?’: The death of Paul Castaway

In a conversation with MintPress News last week, Lynn Eagle Feather told MintPress that she wanted police to force her son to calm down and rethink his actions. She says she never intended to risk his life.

“Usually I can control him, and talk him down,” Eagle Feather said by phone last week. That night was different, though. Paul Castaway seemed especially haunted. Eagle Feather snuck out of her house and called 911, because, she said, “I thought if I filed charges, he’d understand that he can’t act like this.”

Not only did she inform the officers and 911 of his mental illness, but Eagle Feather also added that police in her district had encountered him before and should have been familiar with his condition. She also denied police claims that Castaway stabbed her. She said officers saw her neck that night, which didn’t require medical care and shows no sign of injury today.

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Cleveland Transit Cop Recklessly Pepper-Sprayed Crowd at Bus Stop After Movement for Black Lives Gathering

A transit police officer in Cleveland pepper-sprayed a group of people on July 26 at a bus stop across the street from Cleveland State University. It was about an hour after the Movement for Black Lives gathering concluded.

Video captured by Twitter user @KentaviousPrime shows the white officer in the street rushing into a crowd. He sprays the canister at everyone nearby until it is empty.

The Cleveland transit police apparently believed a 14-year-old black boy was “intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.” Officers slammed the boy to the ground, detained him, and angered the crowd, which included activists leaving the gathering. The boy was put into a police car, which the crowd surrounded to stop police from taking him.

According to activists at the scene, the boy had a Snapple drink. This was probably the open container the police seized upon as justification for making an arrest.

None of the witnesses at the scene corroborated the police claim that the boy was drunk.

A statement from the transit police declared, “A transit police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to push back the crowd, to no avail.”

Shooting a stream of pepper-spray, especially about an hour after a major conference of freedom fighters, could never be reasonably expected to contain or control a crowd. The one officer spraying is terribly reckless in his attempt to drive people away from the scene, and, as transit police seem to admit, the pepper-spray only inflamed the situation more.

As the local NBC affiliate, WKYC, reported:

 “I was told the police are pepper spraying people down the street, and I’m seeing people run for milk so they can be protected from pepper spray all because people are asking what happening to a young man,” said Rhonda Y. Williams, history professor at Case Western Reserve and member of the Cleveland Eight. “When we have an officer who comes out of nowhere and is pushing people and then takes out and just starts spraying with his pepper spray, that’s not deescalation.”

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Since 2010, Police Misconduct Has Cost US Taxpayers Over $1 Billion

Creative Commons Licensed Photo on Flickr by Chris Wieland

This post was originally published at MintPressNews.com.

As victims of police misconduct across the country file an increasing number of lawsuits, taxpayers are bearing the brunt of the financial burden.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the 10 U.S. cities with the largest police departments paid out over $248 million in settlements last year in cases related to police misconduct. That’s an increase of 48 percent from 2010, the first of five consecutive years for which the Journal obtained data through public records requests.

When totaled, the five years of police misconduct in 10 cities represented $1.02 billion in payouts to victims or their families, including “beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment.” If other forms of misconduct such as vehicle collisions and property damage are included, the total rises to $1.4 billion.

In their report last week, Zusha Elinson and Dan Frosch offer some insight into how that total breaks down:

“For most of the police departments surveyed by the Journal, the costliest claims were allegations of civil-rights violations and other misconduct, followed by payouts on car collisions involving the police. Misconduct cases were the costliest for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Baltimore. Car-crash cases were the most expensive for Houston, Phoenix and Miami-Dade, a county police department.”

Taxpayers, not police departments, end up paying for police misconduct, the reporters continue:

“Cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia are self-insured, meaning any payouts come out of city funds. Others have insurance that kicks in at a certain payment level in each case. Smaller municipalities often pool risk with others, but the cost of premiums can increase after incidents occur, much like car insurance. It is almost unheard of that officers pay out of their own pockets, according to a 2014 study on police liability by Joanna Schwartz, a UCLA law professor.”

Experts interviewed by the Journal suggest that the availability of video recording is a major factor in the rise of successful lawsuits, a theory supported by two recent multimillion dollar settlements against police. On July 13, the City of New York and Eric Garner’s relatives agreed to a $5.9 million dollar settlement. Garner died a little over a year ago after NYPD officers put the 43-year-old black man in a chokehold. A video recorded by a bystander and widely circulated online shows Garner repeatedly crying out, “I can’t breathe,” as police pin him to the ground. (more…)

Video Shows Iowa Cops Falsely Claimed Black Man Posed Threat When Shot Him 5 Times

securityvideowaterloo
Officer chases after Webb while firing his weapon

After Waterloo police shot Jovan Webb while he was driving his car, officers from the police department in Iowa claimed he struck a police officer with his car. This allegedly led two officers to shoot at Webb’s vehicle multiple times. However, security video shows no officer was ever in danger and one police officer, who shot at Webb, chased after Webb’s car while firing his weapon.

Webb, who is a black man, was severely injured after being shot by police on April 5. Bullets from one or more officers hit Webb “twice in his arm, once in his chest, and twice in [his] abdomen.” He had surgery, but there are two bullets that remain inside him because they could not be removed. Webb suffered a “painful collapsed lung and he still has a breathing machine.” Doctors had to remove part of his intestine.

According to his lawyers, who have filed a lawsuit [PDF], he drove himself to the hospital. Although police did not charge him with a crime, he was handcuffed on arrival. Medical personnel later requested the handcuffs be removed so he could have his injuries treated.

Webb’s lawyers allege he was targeted with deadly force because of his race.

At 1:30 am, police responded to reports of a fight at a bar. Webb was at the business. He came out to watch the fight but did not know anyone involved and did not participate. When police arrived, the fighting had stopped. (more…)

Chicago Police Investigator Fired for Resisting Orders to Change Findings Against Officers

CPD officer

The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) in Chicago, which is supposed to investigate complaints of brutality and misconduct against police , fired one of its investigators after he refused to change findings that suggested multiple police shootings were “unjustified.”

WBEZ reported, “Scott M. Ando, chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, informed its staff in a July 9 email that the agency no longer employed supervising investigator Lorenzo Davis, 65, a former Chicago police commander.”

“Davis’s termination came less than two weeks after top IPRA officials, evaluating Davis’s job performance, accused him of ‘a clear bias against the police,'” WBEZ additionally reported. The top IPRA officials “called him ‘the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to OIS,’ as officer-involved shootings are known in the agency.”

Over 19 months, Davis’ “performance evaluation” reportedly concluded that he displayed a “complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.” (During Davis’ career, he served as the head of multiple detective units, a district police station, and the public housing unit.)

Davis told WBEZ, “I did not like the direction the police department had taken. It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.”

Several of his performance evaluations since being hired in 2008 show he was seen as an “effective team player.” If his team exonerated officers, top officials would be pleased. It was when he challenged shootings as being unjustified in six particular cases that he experienced pushback.

“They have shot people dead when they did not have to shoot. They were not in reasonable fear for their lives. The evidence shows that the officer knew, or should have known, that the person who they shot was not armed or did not pose a threat to them or could have been apprehended by means short of deadly force,” Davis stated.

Sarah Macaraeg, a journalist based in Chicago, has spent the past months investigating and exposing the IPRA’s role in protecting police officers from prosecution and punishment for violence and other crimes committed.

Since 2010, the IPRA has “conducted 272 investigations of officer-involved shootings over the last five years.” One case has been deemed unjustified.

Macaraeg’s investigation found, “At least 21 Chicago police officers are currently serving on the force, some with honors, after shooting citizens under highly questionable circumstances, resulting in at least $30.2 million in taxpayer-funded City of Chicago settlements thus far.” (more…)

Philadelphia Police Attempt to Justify Beating of Black Man by Claiming Had Crack & Bit Officers

The Philadelphia Police have attempted to justify brutality by officers, who punched, kicked, and threatened to use a Taser on a twenty-two year-old black man on April 3, by claiming the man bit officers multiple times and was also in possession of crack cocaine.

The claims are part of a statement put out in response to a video, which shows more than twenty officers—mostly white cops—violently arresting Tyree Carroll in the Germantown area of Philadelphia.

On 04-03-15 at approximately 11:44pm plainclothes officers assigned to the 14th district attempted to stop the defendant for a narcotics violation. As the officers stopped the defendant, he began to fight with the officers, biting one of the officers a total of three times (thigh, hand and arm). The defendant also bit another officer on the forearm during this arrest. Other responding officers arrived on location and were finally able to get the male into custody. 5.3 grams of crack cocaine was recovered from the defendant. The officers injured during this incident were transported to the hospital for the bleeding bite wounds that they sustained during the incident. The male was also transported to the hospital after intentionally striking his own head against the protective shield located in the police vehicle. Both the officers and the defendant were treated and released from the hospital without being admitted.

The video released by Tyree Carroll’s family severely undermines the Philadelphia Police Department’s justification for the amount of force used.

Carroll, who had a bicycle, can be seen on the ground with three officers wrestling and punching him. One officer can clearly be heard shouting, “Stop resisting!”, as he is being pummeled.

“Hey, Grandma! Grandma!” Carroll can be heard wailing, as he cries for help.

The young black man’s body is now still. Officers are crouched around him, and then officers push his body around some more. An officer strikes him with additional punches and stands up to kick him. That same officer then pounds him some more with his fist.

Two additional cops show up. One of the officers yells, “Got the fucking Taser, here I come! You’re getting the fucking Taser!” An officer can be heard saying, “Tase that motherfucker!” Six cops are on top and around Carroll.

The kicking and punching resumes with newfound ferocity after officers try to twist his body around. More police officers arrive at the scene. Carroll can be heard crying and occasionally managing to call out for his grandmother. (more…)

If Only Chicago Police Treated All Marijuana Smokers As If They Were Deadheads

Tens of thousands of fans of the Grateful Dead traveled to Chicago for the final three reunion concerts, which the band’s “core four” musicians will likely ever perform. Police knew numerous fans would smoke marijuana. However, police only made one arrest for cannabis possession in violation of the city’s ordinance against public weed consumption.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Chicago Police officers made only one arrest for possession of cannabis on Friday and wrote only two possession of cannabis tickets Sunday in connection with the concerts.”

“While in most cases cannabis possession is a ticketable offense, as residents would expect CPD’s primary focus was on fighting violent crime and addressing the illegal guns that threaten our communities,” Chicago Police Department communications director Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement emailed to the Sun-Times.

This could be considered common sense policing if it were not for the fact that the Deadheads in attendance were primarily white. Tickets for the “Fare Thee Well” concerts at Soldier Field were not necessarily cheap and ranged from $59.50-$199.50. So, many of the fans were from the middle and upper class.

In March, the Sun-Times reported that blacks were “busted 16 times more than whites for small amounts of pot in 2014—including tickets and arrests. And four every white Chicagoan busted for marijuana, four Hispanics were busted, according to police statistics. Those stats come despite the fact that white Chicagoans outnumber both black and Hispanic Chicagoans by a ratio of approximately 3-to-2.”

Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100 told the Sun-Times, “It’s hyper-surveillance and harassment for what shouldn’t even be an offense. No one should be arrested for having 15 grams of marijuana or less. Even the cost of a ticket could throw someone into a very difficult situation.”

Citations can range from $250 to $500.

The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy put out a report in May 2014 that showed all of the neighborhoods in the top 20 percent for marijuana arrests, except for one, was “majority black.”

According to the FBI, Cook County, where Chicago is located, had the “biggest racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests among the 25 most populous counties in the nation in 2010.” (more…)

Drug Money Laundered by Two Florida Police Agencies, And Stark Corruption at All Levels of Government

Screen shot of Miami Herald's page for "License to Launder" series
Screen shot of Miami Herald’s page for “License to Launder” series

Nearly two weeks ago, the Miami Herald published a major investigative journalism series on two small Florida police agencies, which engaged in undercover money laundering operations with criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking so officers and the police departments themselves could claim millions of dollars as their own.

The series, “License to Launder: Cash, Cops & the Cartels,” has not received much media attention at all. Whether that is because the essence of the corruption was already known is unclear, however, the corruption detailed at all levels of government is staggering—from the money laundering itself to the coverup by federal investigators seemingly unwilling to investigate anyone in the task force who committed crimes.

It is a stark example of how the War on Drugs is more about how police departments and officers can profit than stopping the flow of drug money. Indeed, officers in this case needed money to keep flowing in order to continue living as high rollers.

Bal Harbour is a small community of around 2,500 people with “oceanfront condominiums” and “elegant boutiques.” It had one reported violent crime in 2012 – an aggravated assault. But, beginning in 2010, the department partnered with the police department in Glades County, one of the poorest counties in Florida.

The police agencies formed the Tri-County Task Force, a state task force, to conduct undercover operations. They took place all over the United States but it would be difficult to believe they were carried out by officers interested in bringing drug traffickers to justice.

The task force made no arrests and engaged in no effort to have the Florida State’s Attorney prosecute any cases. What the officers wanted was money, plain and simple, and they took advantage of the federal government’s Equitable Sharing program to claim drug cash as their own.

When it comes to the War on Drugs, agencies operate under the presumption that undercover units have to typically “seize far more money from criminal groups than what a task force launders and returns to the streets.” That is why one of the most shocking details is that the task force “passed tips that led to federal agents seizing nearly $30 million.” Yet, during the same period, the task force laundered $50 million.

Based on “confidential records of the undercover investigation” and “thousands of records including cash pickup reports, emails, DEA reports, bank statements, and wire transfers for millions of dollars,” the Miami Herald uncovered the following:

—The Justice Department Officer of Inspector General found the task force had laundered over $56 million dollars “without adequate written policies or procedures, prosecutorial oversight, or audits of the undercover bank accounts.” The amount, however, was actually closer to $83 million.

—Officers made cash deposits at a SunTrust Bank about a block from the Bal Harbour police station, which totaled $28 million. None of the deposits appear in records created by the police.

—At least 30 times, police deposited funds into banks and storefront businesses to “conceal drug cash for criminal groups,” but they never documented their actions. The total amount of money distributed was around $20 million. (more…)

Obama Signed Bill to Help Protect Police From Threats, However, Police Are Not Under Attack in America

Obama signs "Blue Alert" system bill

President Barack Obama signed legislation that creates a “Blue Alert” system for law enforcement in the United States. It establishes a network for alerting police expeditiously when there are “active threats” against police. However, police are not under attack and have not been under attack in the US, despite recent tragic deaths of officers.

The passage of this legislation is the product of the continued exploitation of the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed by a mentally ill black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, on December 20. It provided a sensational example of an ambush killing that local and national police associations could seize upon to undercut the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has been drawing attention to police violence directed at black Americans.

It also is one of the first recommended “action items” by Obama’s appointed police “task force” to be implemented. In contrast to many of the policy suggestions, this does nothing to reform police but rather reinforces the false presumption that police face some kind of threat because of increased opposition to police conduct.

“Leveraging the current Amber Alert program used to locate abducted children, the Blue Alert would enlist the help of the public in finding suspects after a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty,” the report recently released by the “task force” indicates. “Some similar state systems do exist, but there are large gaps, a national system is needed. In addition to aiding the apprehension of suspects, it would send a message about the importance of protecting law enforcement from undue harm.”

Except, there is no debate in the United States. Just about all citizens agree that law enforcement should not face “undue harm.” Far fewer, unfortunately, agree that strong measures should be taken to protect people of color from “undue harm” from law enforcement.

The bipartisan legislation, named after Ramos and Liu, establishes that a system will send out alerts when an officer is seriously injured or killed. The system will send out an alert when an officer is missing. “At the time of receipt of death,” the suspect should be “wanted by a law enforcement agency.” The suspect should not have already been apprehended. There should be “sufficient descriptive information of the suspect involved and any relevant vehicle and tag numbers.”

More problematic is the fact that an alert will go out when there is an “imminent and credible threat” that “an individual intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.”

The criteria for sending out this type of “blue alert” includes “confirmation” that a threat is “imminent and credible.” How threats are to be confirmed is not outlined in the legislation.

Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millennial Activists United and an activist who was part of protests in the immediately after Mike Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, declared, “I am absolutely disheartened and honestly terrified,” by the “Blue Alert” bill President Obama signed. Yates worries it could be used by police to suppress protest.

She fears that the system will “encourage vigilantes and place possibly innocent ‘suspects’ in serious danger” because “you only need to be suspected to get blasted out via this system. There is a grave potential for mistaken identity and false accusations.” (Yates shared this harrowing story of 23-year-old Cornell McKay, who was falsely accused by St. Louis police of being involved in a robbery that ended in a murder. Authorities insisted he was responsible, even as it became evident there was evidence McKay was never involved in the robbery.)

The “Amber Alert” system is now capable of sending alerts to millions of cell phone users. It has a page on Facebook, which makes it possible for users to share alerts about missing children. Will the “Blue Alert” system harness technology in this same manner? And what information about suspects will be in any public alerts?

How will citizens be certain that this system will not be manipulated to undermine protests explicitly directed at police departments by hyping threats (as happened in Baltimore when police wrongly attributed violence to a flier urging teens to take part in a “purge”).

What if someone sends an angry tweet that police construe as a “threat” against police? How might that be put into the “Blue Alert” system and what might the effect on freedom of expression be?

More significantly, as writer Ryan Dalton stated, “Police are not being systematically targeted and murdered in America. Black people are.”

No statistics come close to supporting the notion that police are under attack and in need of urgent protection. (more…)