The Daily Signal: Inside the Push to Make It Harder for Government to ‘Steal’ Property, Cash in America’s Heartland

Michelle Alexander discusses the problems with forfeiture laws or, in other words, when the police take property from the public. Indeed, “A report from the Institute for Justice found that from 2000 to 2014, state law enforcement agencies reported nearly $99 million in forfeiture proceeds, of which 72 percent came from cash seizures. Current state law allows agencies to keep up to 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds.” Melissa Quinn published this beautifully written article about ‘policing for profit’ to which I share with you but can be viewed in its entirety here. Enjoy. Continue reading

The Atlantic: Pleading for the Fourth

In her solo dissent from a case at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor chose to be blunt about the ruling’s implications. “By sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing, the Court renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow,” she wrote of her colleagues’ 8-1 decision in Mullenix v. Lena to shield a police officer from liability for shooting a man during a high-speed chase.

Mullenix is neither a high-profile case on the Court’s docket nor a landmark decision in its jurisprudence. But Sotomayor’s dissent from it adds to what has become an increasingly prominent theme of her tenure: the Fourth Amendment’s constraints on law enforcement, and a skepticism toward those who try to stretch them.

This particular case centered on the death of Israel Leija, Jr., who was shot and killed by Chadrin Mullenix, a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety, during a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 27 near Tulia, Texas, in 2010. The chase began when a local police officer attempted to arrest Leija on an outstanding warrant in Tulia. Leija fled, leading officers on an 18-minute, high-speed pursuit. During the chase, Leija called the local police dispatcher and, in what the dispatcher interpreted as a state of intoxication, warned that he had a gun and would shoot officers pursuing him….Read the rest of the article at The Atlantic

WATCH: Police Take Turns Beating Bronx Man After Search Turns Up Nothing

A Bronx man has accused a half-dozen NYPD officers of taking turns beating and kicking him after he asked an officer why he had been searched when she was responding to a noise complaint, according to  ABC7.

According to Santiago Hernandez, 23, he was standing in front of a home in the Melrose section of the Bronx on August 18th when a uniformed NYPD officer stopped and asked to frisk him.

“I turned around and put my hands up,” Hernandez explained, saying the officers told him they were investigating a noise complaint.

When the search turned up nothing, Hernandez asked why he had been searched. At that point the female officer grabbed his arm and slapped a handcuff on him.

“I’m like, ‘Miss what you doing? You are hurting my arm,’ ” Hernandez said. “She just was telling me to put my hands behind my back, but ‘I’m like trying to understand what are you are arresting me for. Can you please tell me?’.”

Moments after  refusing to comply to an order to  put both his hands behind his back, a half-dozen uniformed officers appeared and dog-piled on Hernandez, punching and kicking and dragging him onto the sidewalk.

Cellphone video backs up his account of the assault.

“They was taking turns on me. One kicks me, he steps back. Another one comes to punch me and he steps back,” Hernandez said. “And another one comes and grabs my arm and hits me like 10 times with the baton. Another one comes and pepper sprayed me, they were taking turns like a gang.”

The video shows a subdued Hernandez then being dragged to a waiting patrol car.

Photos show Hernandez covered in bruises and scrapes after the incident.

Hernandez was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, however the Bronx DA declined to prosecute the case.

Hernandez told Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett that he had reason to be concerned about being arrested since he is on parole following six years in prison for a conviction related to gang activity when he was fourteen.

Asked why he didn’t just comply and allow himself to handcuffed, Hernandez replied, “Because I’m a person to ask questions. If I didn’t do nothing wrong, I’m trying to understand the reason, what they are thinking of me, or what was the reason at all to arrest me.”

Jay Heinrich, Hernandez’s attorney, said, “Unfortunately, for young men like Santiago, I think this incident is all too common.”

Hernandez’s attorney said he would be filing a civil suit against the city.

The NYPD claims they are investigating the matter.

Watch the video below from ABC7:



I Went to Summons Court and Almost Everyone Was Black or Latino


“We’ve been begging the cops to ticket bicyclists who violate the law,” wrote New Yorker Ed Sublette in an email to me after reading a previous article I wrote mentioning the summons. “The present traffic environment [is one where] hordes of bicyclists do any damn thing they want, [and it] has made walking down the street a daily danger… for anyone whose head doesn’t spin around 360 degrees.”

Fair enough. Yet it’s impossible to deny that tickets for bike summonses in New York, along with the quota system undergirding it, creates a situation where nonwhites have more interaction with police than other types. This is on purpose. The NYPD is governed by a strategy that demands a high rate of contact between police and people in certain neighborhoods, in order to increase police’s chances of finding people with outstanding warrants for more serious offenses. This is called broken-windows policing.

“In order for police to maintain high rates of contact with suspects, they need a pretext,” says Bernard Harcourt, a scholar who has written extensively about broken-windows policing. “That reason can be marijuana in public view, minor disorder, or turnstile jumping.” Or riding a bike on a public sidewalk.

In theory, everybody should be suspect in the dragnet of broken windows. But its logic is only deployed in places where crime is mindlessly clear-cut. There may be hundreds of thieves in lower Manhattan who regularly plunder the global economy of billions of dollars, but they’re near impossible for a beat cop to identify. In contrast, a vagrant wanted for petty theft in Brooklyn is easy to happen upon, so long as police confront him when he falls asleep on the subway.

The truth is that, like high school, broken windows is all about appearances. So long as things in your neighborhood look pristine and orderly, police are more likely to let you go on your way, while concentrating their vigilance on places that look shabbier (which often means poorer).

These thoughts were spinning around in my mind after receiving my summons. So when I went to the courthouse a few weeks later, I decided to talk with people to see why they were there.

Nearly everyone in line at the courthouse on 346 Broadway was black or Latino, which made sense: A recent investigation by the New York Daily News found these two groups are six times as likely as whites to receive summonses for minor offenses….

The history of loitering summonses in New York is ugly. At three different intervals—in 1983, 1988 and 1992—both the New York Court of Appeals and a federal court have ruled the NYPD’s issuance of such citations unconstitutional. Over and over, they have been found to repeatedly target the poor. Those rulings apparently had little effect: in 2010, Judge Shira Scheindlin with the US District Court found that the city was still meting out tickets like a hedge funder raining dollar bills at a strip club…..





Sitting While Black in Minnesota: Cops Tase Man For Not Stating His Name

Video posted online on Tuesday depicts the arrest and Tasing of an unidentified Black man in St. Paul, Minnesota for seemingly little reason other than his refusal to state his name, the Twin Cities Daily Planet reported.

“Why am I going to jail?” the man can be heard saying toward the end of the nearly 6-minute long clip.

“It’ll be explained to you,” a male officer responds.

The video, which seemed to have been taken on a cell phone this past winter, begins with a female officer walking beside the man and asking for his name.

“Why do I have to let you know who I am?” the man asks. “I don’t have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws.”

Minnesota does not currently have a “stop and identify” statute in place. Those laws give police the right to arrest someone if they do not identify themselves

“I want to find out who you are, and what the problem was back there,” the first officer says. The Daily Planet reported that a store clerk called police after the man was sitting in front of his store.

“I do not have to let you know who I am if I haven’t broken any laws,” the man says, adding that he explained to the clerk that he sat near the store for 10 minutes before going to pick up his children at a nearby school, New Horizon Academy.

“He walked up to me a minute later and got irate with me,” the man says of the clerk. “That’s a public area, and if there’s no sign that [says], ‘This is a private area, you can’t sit here,’ no one can tell me I can’t sit there.”

“The problem was,” the officer begins to say, before the man cuts her off, saying, “The problem is, I’m Black.”

Seconds later, the male officer approaches, and the man asks, “Please don’t touch me.”

“You’re gonna go to jail, then,” the officer responds, before he and his colleague grab the man.

“Come on brother,” the man says, “This is assault.”

“I’m not your brother,” the second officer answers. “Put your hands behind your back otherwise it’s going to get ugly.”

At that point, the male officer orders him to put his hands behind his back. The argument continues for a few more seconds before the image goes black. But the man can be heard yelling for help. As some children are heard in the distance, the man says, “That’s my kids right there.”

“Put your hands behind your back,” the officer can be heard yelling, before threatening to use the Taser. The device can be heard flickering at the 2:17 mark, before the man yells for help again.

Later on, the female officer can be heard asking, “Did I not ask you to stop to talk to me?”


3 Horrific Incidents of NYPD Abuse since Eric Garner was choked to death

Late last month, father-of-six Eric Garner was choked to death by an NYPD officer on a hot Staten Island street corner while his hands were cuffed behind his back. In the moments before his death, Garner, who was stopped by the police for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe!” but the illegal chokehold continued. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office recently ruled his death a homicide. Though the horrifying story understandably caused a media firestorm, the physical abuse of people held in police custody is far from an isolated incident. Here are three instances of police brutality that have been reported since Garner’s July 17th murder:

1. Just days after Garner’s death, video emerged of a man being forced into a chokehold and punched in the face by NYPD officers in an East Harlem subway station. As DNA Info reported, the man, Ronald Johns, had been stopped for entering the station through an exit gate instead of paying the fare.

The effort to crack down on turnstile-jumpers is part of a broader policing strategy promoted by police commissioner Bill Bratton—and endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio—to go after so-called qualify of life issues as a deterrent to more serious forms of crime. Opponents argue that arresting massive numbers of individuals for minor infractions unfairly subjects poor and minority New Yorkers to harassment. The attack on Ronald Johns certainly makes the case for the second argument; a 22-year-old African American man was pepper sprayed, choked and punched repeatedly for the nonviolent “crime” of not paying a $2.50 Metrocard fare.

2. Rosan Miller, a seven-months-pregnant woman, was placed in a chokehold while being arrested for disorderly conduct at her East New York home. Officers initially came to the house because Miller was grilling on a public sidewalk in violation of local law. But the altercation quickly escalated, and ended with Miller, her husband and her brother all being led away in handcuffs—in front of her 7-year-old daughter.

The use of chokeholds by local police officers has been banned by New York City for over 20 years. Yet as these recent incidents—and the 1,000 others mentioned in complaints filed against the city since 2009 alone—reveal, the practice is still widely used. The NYPD claims it is reviewing the chokehold complaints and reviewing its use of force practices more broadly, but these sorts of toothless statements don’t inspire much confidence that the officers involved will be disciplined or that institutional change will actually be implemented.

3. As the New York Daily News reported on Monday night, two emergency medical technicians from the New York Fire Department recently had to stop four police officers who were beating a handcuffed patient. After the patient, who is emotionally disturbed, spit and cursed at an officer at the 67th street station in East Flatbush, four cops punched the man in the face repeatedly and only stopped beating him when the EMTs physically intervened. The man was shackled to a stretcher with his wrists bound at the time of the incident.

All three cases occurred in low-income neighborhoods with poor records of police-community relations. The crimes involved were minor, nonviolent offenses that usually result in a ticket, not jail time. All of the individuals were injured by cops after they had already been physically restrained and could cause no physical harm to the officers arresting them. Excessive use of force does not even begin to describe these profound abuses of power.

46k Drugs Prisoners Could Get Reduced Sentences

The underlying drug guidelines amendment was approved by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress for review in April. Provided Congress takes no action to disapprove of the drug guidelines amendment before November 1, 2014, it will take effect on that date and courts may then begin considering petitions from incarcerated individuals for sentence reductions. Today’s vote allows the drug guidelines amendment to apply retroactively. The U.S. Sentencing Commission ruled that no one who benefits from this reform may be released from prison before November 1, 2015.

Today’s decision reflects efforts underway in Congress and by the Obama administration to reform federal drug sentencing laws, as well as a broader effort to adapt federal policy to overwhelming public support for reforming drug laws, ending marijuana prohibition, and reducing collateral consequences of a drug conviction. In 2010 Congress unanimously passed legislation reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Bipartisan legislation reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, the Smarter Sentencing Act, has already passed out of committee this year and is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate. Attorney General Eric Holder has made numerous changes this year, including directing U.S. Attorneys to charge certain drug offenders in a way that ensures they won’t be subject to punitive mandatory minimum sentencing.

In just the past two months, the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending federal funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws and state hemp cultivation laws, and voted on Wednesday to allow banking institutions to accept deposits from marijuana stores and dispensaries in states that regulate marijuana. On Monday, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that expressed strong opposition to a House Republican amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. The statement calls marijuana reform a “states’ rights” issue, a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take.

Man dies after NYPD applies chokehold

NYPD officials say that Garner was arrested several times for selling untaxed cigarettes and officers were observing him in the act of doing so yesterday, when they approached him. Garner told the police he was only trying to break up a fight, and then pulled away as officers tried to handcuff him. At that point, police attempted to subdue him and one officer approached him from behind and applied a choke hold with his forearm.

The New York Daily News obtained exclusive video of the incident, which shows Staten Island man Eric Garner, 43, begging officers to let him breathe as he lies on the ground helpless.

Now, his family is demanding accountability from the NYPD.

Police said Garner, who was a married father of six children, died of a heart attack during the arrest, according to The Associated Press. The NYPD said Garner had been seen selling untaxed cigarettes, and that he had been arrested before for the same offense.

In the video, Garner denied the allegations and asked a plainclothes officer why he was stopped.

As Garner is being held down, he can be heard telling police that he “can’t breathe.” Eventually when officers realize he is not responsive, they called in an ambulance, which took Garner to a hospital where he died a short time later.

The apparent violence of the arrest led to outrage and the internal investigation. On line, numerous people tweeted #JusticeforEricGarner, calling attention to the deadly incident.

Policeman’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, questioned by ABC News about what constitutes an appropriate use of force, said the public should not rush to judge before the official investigation is concluded.

“At times, when officers are required to make an arrest, they must employ the use of force in order to get compliance from an individual who NYPD policy requires must be rear-cuffed for transport to a precinct,” Lynch said. “Force, by its very nature, is an ugly thing to witness. Taken out of the context of what is happening, necessary force can be misinterpreted to be excessive by those who are not trained in law enforcement procedures.”


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As of July 1, the CCRB had received 58 chokehold complaints against the NYPD this year, but had only substantiated one of them.

Out of the 1,022 chokehold allegations reported between 2009 and 2013, only 462 of the complaints were investigated. Out of that number, just nine were substantiated, according to the CCRB.

There wasn’t enough evidence to prove a chokehold was used in 206 of the cases investigated, officials said.

Visit the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris

Imagine what we could buy if we did not have to spend billions on police brutality cases

It’s true that most cases result in far smaller payouts, but they can add up to nearly a billion dollars a year for just one city. That’s eye-popping when you consider that state governments collectively spend roughly $10 billion on public assistance programs for the poor. When more money is spent consoling victims of brutality than providing assistance for low-income people, that’s both a fiscal and humanitarian crisis. And while police brutality cases are paid by cities, not states, these numbers place a dollar value on the tremendous breadth and depth of systemic police brutality. 

Consider New York City. In 2012, taxpayers paid $152 million in claims involving the NYPD. That same year, Mayor Bloomberg voted to cut $175 million from childcare and afterschool programs, affecting 47,000 kids. Child programs not only provide relief to working families with maxed-out schedules, they are the best tools the city has to foster an equal society in the long term. Instead the city is spending money settling cases like the one last month involving Officer Eugene Donnelly, who drunkenly barged into a woman’s home one night and “beat the hell out of her.”…

Prosecutors have an extreme reluctance to pick up cases of police abuse. Federal prosecutors decline around 95 percent of such cases for two main reasons: juries are mostly conditioned to side with the police, and various impediments are in place to make prosecution more difficult (federal attorneys cannot argue that an officer acted recklessly or criminal negligence). On the state level, legal quirks like “transactional immunity” in New York make it enormously difficult for prosecutors to use incriminating testimony against officers.  

Some say plaintiffs ask for too much money. Yet as crude a mechanism it is, the threat of litigation is one of the few shields citizens have against police abuse. The problem isn’t high settlement and the solution isn’t tort reform. The problem is police brutality and the solution is less of it. It’s an ugly cost that means so much more when states are spending less than ever on good, generative public services.

U.S. Spied on 5 American Muslims, a Report Says…

Civil rights leaders claim the alleged surveillance is part of a pattern by law enforcement and intelligence agencies that targets people based on religion or political activity. Recently, the New York Police Department was accused of widespread surveillance on Muslim student groups, businesses and houses of worship as part of counter-terrorism work in New York and New Jersey, including Paterson, Newark and Rutgers University.

“As the NSA has said, the use of racial or ethnic stereotypes, slurs, or other similar language by employees is both unacceptable and inconsistent with the country’s core values,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “The administration takes all such allegations extremely seriously, and upon learning of this matter, the White House immediately requested that the director of National Intelligence undertake an assessment of Intelligence Community policies, training standards or directives that promote diversity and tolerance, and as necessary, make any recommendations changes or additional reforms.”