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More from the Guardian on Homan Square

For several months, the Guardian (US) has been running an exposé of Homan Square, a virtual domestic “black site” in Chicago. People who have been detained and interrogated there allege improper conditions, illegal treatment, and unconstitutional denial of defense counsel. Today’s installment, by Spencer Ackerman and Zach Stafford, uncovers a dramatic racial disparity in those brought into this facility:

At least 3,500 Americans have been detained inside a Chicago police warehouse described by some of its arrestees as a secretive interrogation facility, newly uncovered records reveal.

Of the thousands held in the facility known as Homan Square over a decade, 82% were black. Only three received documented visits from an attorney, according to a cache of documents obtained when the Guardian sued the police.

Despite repeated denials from the Chicago police department that the warehouse is a secretive, off-the-books anomaly, the Homan Square files begin to show how the city’s most vulnerable people get lost in its criminal justice system.

The Chicago police department has maintained – even as the Guardian reported stories of people being shackled and held for hours or even days, all without legal access – that the warehouse is not a secret facility so much as an undercover police base operating in plain sight.

The numbers, if true, indicate that the lack of access to counsel is standard practice:

Despite the quadruple-digit number of arrestees held at Homan Square, the Chicago police proffered only three arrestees receiving visits from lawyers between 3 September 2004 and 1 July 2015. Two of them occurred on the same day in January 2013.

Unless approximately 3,500 people in custody waived their right to counsel, the revelation complicates – if not contradicts – the police’s March statement that “any individual who wishes to consult a lawyer will not be interrogated until they have an opportunity to do so”.

The piece is well worth reading in full here. Past installments can be found at the Guardian website here.


Points for “Some” Honesty

Countless reports on this website include stories of police officers refusing to enforce the law against family or colleagues when they have committed a crime. Sometimes the offense is a DUI, other times it is drug dealing. Covering up a crime is not only a rules violation but sometimes a crime in itself. Either way, it is police misconduct. Except, apparently, in Methuen, Massachusetts.

The Boston Globe reports that applicants to the Methuen police department were awarded points for saying they would not arrest a family member or fellow officer for DUI. When called to testify about the practice, the officers responsible for reviewing the applications were surprisingly forthcoming.  According to the Globe:

“I’m looking for some bearing, some honesty, and how quickly the person can think on their feet,” Police Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo testified.

But Pappalardo also said he wouldn’t believe anyone who claimed they would arrest their family and friends. And when candidates said they wouldn’t arrest family or fellow officers, the hiring panel noted the person “knows discretion.”

While police officers are granted considerable discretion in how strictly to enforce the laws–such as issuing a verbal warning for speeding instead of issuing a ticket or putting someone in a cab who is drunk instead of booking them for public intoxication–favoritism is an ethical breach of that discretion. Such “professional courtesy” effectively insulates police officers and their families from the law. Put another way, favoritism places them above the law.

Unfortunately, the practice is quite common. The Globe story recounts the findings of a 2008 Civil Service Commission report:

“Every police officer who testified before the commission testified that the routine and customary practice when a stop is made on a fellow police officer, is to show professional courtesy and not call in the stop,” the report said.

Police officers should have more than “some” honesty to maintain the public trust. Read the whole thing here.


The Pool Party in McKinney, Texas


The video has gone viral.  Most of the talk seems to be about the way in which the officer took the teenage girl to the ground to handcuff her, but it is when he brandishes his handgun (deadly force) that is most disturbing.

More here from the Washington Post:

A police officer slams an unarmed 15-year-old girl in a bikini to the ground, pulls his gun and kneels on her as teens on either side of him shout and, of course, record the encounter. Within hours, millions watch the video: Some see a defenseless black teen being manhandled by an out-of-control white cop; others see a lone, scared officer in the crowded, chaotic aftermath of a fight he doesn’t yet understand….Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank, called the Texas video “appalling,” adding: “The people were in bathing suits. In this case, there isn’t anything that would justify taking out a gun.”

Washington Post Tracking Police Shooting Fatalities

On Sunday, the Washington Post ran a lengthy story about police shootings in the USA thus far this year.  Fatalities are now 385, about twice a day–and those are only the fatalities (if someone is shot and is crippled or is on life support, that’s not part of this tally).


The most troubling ­cases began with a cry for help.

About half the shootings occurred after family members, neighbors or strangers sought help from police because someone was suicidal, behaving erratically or threatening violence.

Take Shane Watkins, a 39-year-old white man, who died in his mother’s driveway in Moulton, Ala.

Watkins had never been violent, and family members were not afraid for their safety when they called Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies in March. But Watkins, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was off his medication. Days earlier, he had declared himself the “god of the fifth element” and demanded whiskey and beer so he could “cleanse the earth with it,” said his sister, Yvonne Cote.

Then he started threatening to shoot himself and his dog, Slayer. His mother called Cote, who called 911. Cote got back on the phone with her mother, who watched Watkins walk onto the driveway holding a box cutter to his chest. A patrol car pulled up, and Cote heard her mother yell: “Don’t shoot! He doesn’t have a gun!”

“Then I heard the gunshots,” Cote said.

Lawrence County sheriff’s officials declined to comment and have refused to release documents related to the case.

Read the whole thing.  Excellent reporting.

Note that it’s a private institution that’s gathered this important information together, not the government itself.

The Jermaine McBean Case

From the New York Times:

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. — The witnesses who saw a Broward County deputy sheriff kill a man who had strolled through his apartment complex with an unloaded air rifle propped on his shoulders agreed: Just before he was gunned down, Jermaine McBean had ignored the officers who stood behind him shouting for him to drop his weapon.

Nothing, the officer swore under oath, prevented Mr. McBean from hearing the screaming officers.

Newly obtained photographic evidence in the July 2013 shooting of Mr. McBean, a 33-year-old computer-networking engineer, shows that contrary to repeated assertions by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, he was wearing earbuds when he was shot, suggesting that he was listening to music and did not hear the officers. The earphones somehow wound up in the dead man’s pocket, records show.

Repeat: Somehow those earphones wound up in Mr. McBean’s pocket.


Police Lies About Misconduct Exposed

From the New York Daily News:

Cop watchers armed with smartphones are not only catching police misconduct — they’re catching cops lying about the misconduct, officials said Thursday.

More and more cops are giving false statements in official documents or when questioned about their misbehavior, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board said….

In one incident, a cop accused of misconduct during a stop-and-frisk claimed he never rifled through a man’s pockets, but video surveillance inside the building showed he did.

But even when confronted with the video, the cop denied the allegation.

“(The civilian) can say whatever he wants, that’s not what happened,” the officer said at the time.

Dept of Justice to Investigate Baltimore

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has just announced a federal “pattern and practice” investigation of the Baltimore Police Department.   This is a mistake.  We already know serious problems exist there.  A report is unnecessary.  Baltimore’s elected officials should be taking bold steps right now to overhaul the police department.  Governor Hogan should also be more engaged to propose and move on necessary reforms.  A federal investigation will result in unnecessary delay.  More here later…

Minneapolis Paid $10.7 Million in Lawsuits


When allegations of police misconduct move from the street to the courtroom — more often than not, Minneapolis has to pay.

KARE 11 requested numbers from the City of Minneapolis and found since January 2010, Minneapolis has dealt with 141 “Officer Conduct lawsuits.” The city won 51 of them — either at trial or when a judge dismissed the case.

But the city had to pay money in 90 of those cases — settling 86 times — and losing four trials.

In that time — Minneapolis has paid $10.7 million for officer conduct lawsuits. That includes two years — 2011 and 2013 — when the city had to pay more than $4 million each year….

In 2011, Minneapolis paid nearly $2.2 million to he family of Dominic Felder, who died in 2006 — shot seven times by two officers.

And in 2010, David Smith died after police used a Taser and held him down outside the downtown Minneapolis YMCA. Minneapolis settled with his family in 2013 for nearly $3.1 million.

A key point here:

David Harris said in his research, one alarming thing he’s found is the lawsuits don’t always lead to a change in police department policies.

Police Unions Lobby for Special Legal Protections

From the New York Times:

As Justice Department officials began meeting with community leaders in Baltimore this week in the early stages of their civil rights inquiry into the death of Freddie Gray, they heard repeated complaints about a state law that gives special legal protections to police officers suspected of abusing their power.

The law is similar to at least a dozen across the country, commonly known as police officers’ bills of rights. But Maryland’s, enacted in the early 1970s, was the first and goes the furthest in offering layers of legal protection to police officers. Among its provisions is one that gives officers 10 days before they have to talk to investigators….

The United States Supreme Court in 1967 determined that because police officers had in some instances been deprived of their constitutional right against self-incrimination, officers could not be compelled to give evidence against themselves, including as part of administrative investigations.

Since then, the extra layer of legal protection for officers has expanded, in large part because of the power of police unions, which have had similar rules inserted in union contracts and have frequently paid for television advertisements that label politicians who disagree with them as antipolice. In Maryland, law enforcement unions have donated tens of thousands of dollars to state and local elected officials, including to Ms. Rawlings-Blake.