font-family: 'Arizonia', cursive; Michael Stichauf - "As I understand it now...'til it changes"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

 A Simple Answer to 
Police Malfeasance & Brutality

In Chicago, a Chicago-area couple sued a local drug task force on December 28, charging that members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG) illegally detained them without cause and ransacked their vehicle and home for drugs, but, not finding any drugs, instead stole thousands of dollars worth of items, including money orders, which have been cashed by the MEG. MEG has denied stealing the other items, including a flat screen TV.*

The family of slain teen, Fong Lee, have filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis police and the officer who killed him. The family has compiled a review of police reports, witness statements and other evidence that support the theory that Fong Lee was unarmed when he was shot by police eight times in 2006 and the gun found near his body was planted there by police. The gun that the officers claim to have found near Fong Lee's body had been recovered by police from a burglary and was kept as evidence. The family also alleges in court documents that Minneapolis police "may have tried to deliberately alter history by writing new reports indicating the gun recovered near Fong Lee's body was not the same gun" that had been recovered after the burglary. The evidence suggests that Minnesota police planted the gun to cover themselves after killing Fong Lee in the street. Police reports indicate that no fingerprints or DNA was found on the weapon.
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* Stories courtesy of www.brainz.org

Every week I have a couple of websites that I checkout to get the latest update on a terrible problem that’s simply running rampant in American society.  I refer to this problem as, “ ‘Copper’ Malfeasance and Brutality”. I don’t use the word “Police” because, as far as I’m concerned, “Police” is a word that should be reserved for good, honest Police Officers! Believe me, I know the difference between the two. I have a few individuals that I’m friends with who are good, honest police officers.

Rarely do we see the day when the news reports the story of a copper or coppers who’ve been sentenced to jail time for the crimes that they’ve committed against the public/citizens. All too often we read or hear that, “after further investigation,  Officer So and So was found to have committed no criminal act AND is not RESPONSIBLE for Mr./Ms. Anonymous’ death.”  The prosecutor’s office or the Police Chief from whatever department the copper or coppers happen to be from has decided that, after further review of the evidence and the statements (from fellow coppers) of witnesses, there’s no evidence of wrongdoing! In fact, even when these coppers DO go to trial, all too often, the judge (usually no jury trial) states that he simply found the witness testimony (the public at large) not to be credible! The coppers, who’ve been accused of the particular crime, are MORE BELIEVABLE in their testimonies than the actual public witnesses who witnessed the crime. Think about that for a minute... when have you EVER heard a judge or jury say that the person accused of a crime is more BELIEVABLE than the police officers who arrested him. It’s one-in-a-million! An accused person has every motive to lie. Yet, when it comes to coppers getting on the stand to tell the judge or jury that they didn’t commit the crime they were accused of, they’re simply taken AT THEIR WORD! Why... they have the uniform! Even with ALL the stories of malfeasance and brutality that flood the news and the “etherworld”, people STILL believe that coppers DO NO WRONG! Even the ridiculous theory that just about EVERY person in the world seems to believe; “He must be guilty, otherwise he wouldn’t have been arrested”, goes out the window when it comes to coppers!

So, it seems to me that we have a problem here that needs to be solved. Information received by a third party, after the fact, from individuals involved in an adversarial situation, is SIMPLY NOT RELIABLE INFORMATION! I don’t believe that we can afford to rely on the public, who most certainly have a motive to lie about what they’ve just witnessed a copper do, to tell the truth when they have to testify. I also don’t believe that we can trust the coppers to tell the truth when they are accused of doing something wrong either. It’s just not smart justice. I know that for a long time though, it’s the only way we had! Well, times have changed! We now have the technology to FIX THIS PROBLEM!

Over the years, people have always resisted change. Resistance to the change in technology has been no different. Take, for example, the tapping of phones. Elliot Ness used this technical innovation in order to tap the phones of Al Capone’s men to find out information about where they stored their liquor, when they were making shipments and all sorts of information that would help him “fight the war on alcohol”. Because it was a new and novel idea, people weren’t quite sure whether it was ethical or legal.  The one thing that they WERE SURE OF was that it was a great way to get information.

In the early 1960s, when Bobby Kennedy took over the Justice Department as Attorney General, he issued an order that he wanted the F.B.I. to start “taking down the Organized Crime groups” in the country. He told the F.B.I.’s, J. Edgar Hoover, to use whatever means necessary to start getting him convictions. Hoover setup the “Top Hoodlum Program” in all the cities that he decided had Organized Crime (O.C. from here on). Aside from around the clock surveillance and other means to collect information, the F.B.I. tapped the phones of important O.C figures around the country. This was done, of course, illegally. The F.B.I. NEVER intended to use the information from their “illegal taps” in a court of law. Hoover NEVER let the law get in the way of getting what he wanted. Hoover also used wiretaps to gain information on the “Anti-War Movement” and Martin Luther King. If it wasn’t for the Church Commission, the public would have NEVER found out about these illegal activities committed, NOT BY YOUR AVERAGE CRIMINAL but by your HIGHLY REGARDED F.B.I. AGENT!

Bill Roemer was an F.B.I. agent throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. He was one of the first agents selected to participate in the Top Hoodlum Program (T.H.P.) when it was instituted. After Roemer retired, he wrote many books about his exploits trying to gain information in the early years of the T.H.P., while the tapping of phones and the planting of “bugs” (recording devices) were still illegal. Roemer wrote that when his bosses came to the men of the T.H.P. in order to install “bugs”, they referred to them as “black bag” jobs. This was because they would have to break into the house or office of the O.C. targets that they needed to “bug”. They were also told that they wanted ONLY “volunteers” for these jobs because they were, of course, illegal. They were also told that if they were caught in the process of breaking into these locations, they would be “hung out to dry” by the F.B.I. This meant that, if they were caught, the F.B.I. would be issuing a statement saying that these “were rouge agents and the F.B.I. would never O.K. a situation such as “breaking and entering” in order to gain information”.  As I said, Hoover NEVER let the law stand in his way of getting what he wanted.

Another technological innovation that law enforcement used whole-heartedly was video tape. Although photography has been used to document illegal transactions for years, the 70’s really brought to the fore the benefits of using home video cameras to document illegal meetings of criminals by law enforcement. Recently, I’ve seen on documentaries the early usage of movie cameras to film police officers receiving bribes in 1930/1940 New York City. There’s also footage of law enforcement filming the “open air” drug markets in Harlem in the late 1960s. The F.B.I. started videotaping O.C. figures in their everyday routines around the end of the 60s and into the 70s. It was of tremendous help to them in acquiring convictions in some of the biggest O.C. cases in history.

Cameras have also been a tremendous help in setting up security surveillance for homes and businesses. So many times the police have been able to solve crimes from burglary and armed robbery to battery and even murder because of surveillance camera positioned in such a way as to catch these criminals in the act. The interesting thing about these particular situations is the fact that, in so many of these cases, the cameras that have caught these criminals in the act weren’t necessarily set-up to record the areas that they ACTUALLY recorded. Whenever a crime is committed, one of the first things that law enforcement does is look around to see if there are any surveillance cameras that may have recorded the crime in question. In many instances, there was a camera set-up across the street to monitor a business but, because of the direction it was pointed, it actually was able to record a crime that had nothing to do with the business. These are they unintended consequences that occur once you start to utilize “technology.

Cell phones are now the “weapon of choice” for people who want to record “spur of the moment” incidents. Law enforcement can’t stand these things! Recently, I’ve seen numerous cell phone recordings, from average citizens, who have captured coppers committing all forms of malfeasance and brutality. Sometimes the individuals get away with recording these “incidents” without the coppers knowing that they’ve been recorded. Other times, though, they are caught by the coppers and you get a glimpse of just how far a copper is willing to go in order to not have his/her actions documented. Usually the cell phone is destroyed and the video is lost but in the few instances, where the individual has been able to pass the phone off, you see the brutal actions of the coppers as they take it out on the person who was doing the recording. In some instances, the person who recorded the copper is beaten worse than the initial case that the citizen was filming! Right now, I know of three organizations that use recordings (cell phones in most cases) to catch coppers in the act of malfeasance and brutality. “Cop Watchers Lake Tahoe” (on Facebook), “Copblock.org” and “Police the Police ACP” (also on Facebook) are doing a terrific job of catching coppers at their worst. Check out these three groups to get a better idea of just how bad this problem has become in American society today. Bravo, guys, bravo!

Now, I’ve just explained to you the problem that copper malfeasance and brutality has become in America today. I’ve also explained to you how law enforcement has, over the years, embraced the advances in technology in order to get a leg up on crime and criminals. I’ve also explained just what law enforcement is willing to do (break the law in the past) to GET WHAT THEY WANT! Now I want to tell you what I think is the answer to this problem.

There is a simple solution to this problem, equip all police officers with miniature cameras! It’s that simple! I know of one community police force that’s been doing this since February of 2012, Rialto, California. A few months ago, “Police the Police ACP” shared a photo on their Facebook page of a police officer wearing one of these cameras. According to statistics, since Rialto officers started wearing these cameras, the number of complaints filed against the Rialto Police Dept. DROPPED 88%! Can you imagine that! 88%! ALSO, the number of instances of Rialto police officers using “force” DROPPED 60%! UNBELIEVABLE! After seeing these statistics one has to ask the question, “Just what are ALL these other police forces WAITING FOR?!?!”  I’ll tell you what they are waiting for; a way to figure out how they can say that these cameras violate their officers’ constitutional rights. I have to tell you, I really admire the Police Chief from Rialto, Chief William Farrar. I’m sure he got some heavy pushback from his officers on this issue. Maybe I’m wrong but I find it hard to believe that there weren’t a few of his officers who were really against this situation. You see, equipping police officers with these cameras means that the bad coppers have to DO WHAT’S RIGHT in order to perform their job and bad coppers aren’t willing to do that. Let’s face it; most bad coppers joined the force so they could take out their frustrations on “the scum of the world”. I’m sure that most of my readers will agree with me on this point. Remember, I’m not talking about good, honest police officers here, I’m talking about bad, disgusting coppers! Of course they don’t want a camera on them every time they confront a citizen, that would “cramp their style”. Yet, those are EXACTLY the officers that we need to start monitoring with these cameras. I understand that this IS a touchy subject in terms of constitutional rights but the fact that the Department in Rialto has been using these cameras for two years now, with the results that they’ve achieved, should put to rest the whole  “officers’ rights” issue. What about the peoples’ rights? What about the rights of a guy named Rodney King? Thank God for the person who video tapped that fiasco! Yet, those officers still weren’t convicted! What these cameras are going to do is protect, not only the public, they will protect the officer as well. The officer will be protected from a public that is fed-up with copper brutality and is willing to lie NO MATTER WHAT just to get back at the police! Yes, folks, this is the BEST way to protect everyone. Just imagine what your average African-American goes through when he gets pulled over on the west side of Chicago. I know a few of these folks. They’re scared to death that, at any moment, they could be pulled over and the coppers could plant drugs in their cars while they were conducting a “search” of that car. It was only 12 -15 years ago that a whole “Special Operations Unit” of the Chicago Police Dept. was dis-banded and many of the officers convicted (a rare event) because of this very type of thing. Many of these folks are worried about being beat up if they get mad when one of these coppers refer to them as “nigger”. Folks, this is just the next step that innovations in technology allows for us to make as a society. What does it say about America, as a whole, if we allow this kind of copper malfeasance and brutality to continue when we have the solution to that very problem already in existence? It would say that America cares nothing of its vulnerable public. It would say that our willingness to prop up and continue to grow our prison system means more to us as a society than compassion for our disadvantaged population. It’s the disadvantaged people of our society who suffer the brunt of this abuse because they simply can’t afford to defend themselves with expensive attorney’s. It’s the disadvantaged who are the ones who are picked on because they maybe live in the streets because society has passed them over. Whatever the case may be, equipping our police officers with miniature cameras is what’s right to do for American society.

And that’s “As I Understand It Now... ‘til it changes”. Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you think. I ALWAYS appreciate the feedback.
Michael K. Stichauf