We have a new website! Please check out streamsofjustice.wordpress.com
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Sunday, February 3, 2013
By MICHELLE ALEXANDER
Published: February 2, 2013
But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.
That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”
The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”
Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.
Mr. Keane, in his Chronicle article, offered two major reasons the police lie so much. First, because they can. Police officers “know that in a swearing match between a drug defendant and a police officer, the judge always rules in favor of the officer.” At worst, the case will be dismissed, but the officer is free to continue business as usual. Second, criminal defendants are typically poor and uneducated, often belong to a racial minority, and often have a criminal record. “Police know that no one cares about these people,” Mr. Keane explained.
All true, but there is more to the story than that.
Police departments have been rewarded in recent years for the sheer numbers of stops, searches and arrests. In the war on drugs, federal grant programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program have encouraged state and local law enforcement agencies to boost drug arrests in order to compete for millions of dollars in funding. Agencies receive cash rewards for arresting high numbers of people for drug offenses, no matter how minor the offenses or how weak the evidence. Law enforcement has increasingly become a numbers game. And as it has, police officers’ tendency to regard procedural rules as optional and to lie and distort the facts has grown as well. Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.
THE pressure to boost arrest numbers is not limited to drug law enforcement. Even where no clear financial incentives exist, the “get tough” movement has warped police culture to such a degree that police chiefs and individual officers feel pressured to meet stop-and-frisk or arrest quotas in order to prove their “productivity.”
For the record, the New York City police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, denies that his department has arrest quotas. Such denials are mandatory, given that quotas are illegal under state law. But as the Urban Justice Center’s Police Reform Organizing Project has documented, numerous officers have contradicted Mr. Kelly. In 2010, a New York City police officer named Adil Polanco told a local ABC News reporter that “our primary job is not to help anybody, our primary job is not to assist anybody, our primary job is to get those numbers and come back with them.” He continued: “At the end of the night you have to come back with something. You have to write somebody, you have to arrest somebody, even if the crime is not committed, the number’s there. So our choice is to come up with the number.”
Exposing police lying is difficult largely because it is rare for the police to admit their own lies or to acknowledge the lies of other officers. This reluctance derives partly from the code of silence that governs police practice and from the ways in which the system of mass incarceration is structured to reward dishonesty. But it’s also because police officers are human.
Research shows that ordinary human beings lie a lot — multiple times a day — even when there’s no clear benefit to lying. Generally, humans lie about relatively minor things like “I lost your phone number; that’s why I didn’t call” or “No, really, you don’t look fat.” But humans can also be persuaded to lie about far more important matters, especially if the lie will enhance or protect their reputation or standing in a group.
The natural tendency to lie makes quota systems and financial incentives that reward the police for the sheer numbers of people stopped, frisked or arrested especially dangerous. One lie can destroy a life, resulting in the loss of employment, a prison term and relegation to permanent second-class status. The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.
And, no, I’m not crazy for thinking so.
Friday, February 1, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
January 16, 2013
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Facing the housing crisis in BC
Vancouver Public Library, Alice McKay meeting room
Public FB link: https://www.facebook.com/events/151302958355184/
- please forward widely -
* LIVESTREAM: www.livestream.com/occupyvan
* VIDEOS of panel will be available after Jan 29th here:
Idle? Know more! A public panel on Indigenous issues
Tuesday Jan 22 at 5:30 pm
Alice MacKay Room
Vancouver Public Library (Georgia and Hamilton)
Unceded Coast Salish Territories
This panel is open to the public. All are welcome to attend, especially
non-Natives to understand the long history of racism and colonialism in
Canada against Indigenous people that has given rise to the current Idle
No More movement, to highlight and lift the voices of Indigenous peoples
resisting across these lands, and to think through how to be more informed
and responsible allies.
Please spread the word - encourage your friends, your family, your
co-workers, your faith group, your community/student group to attend.
* Territorial opening by Cease Wyss: T’Uy’Tanat-Cease Wyss is
Skwxw’u7mesh ethnobotanist, media artist, educator, and food security
activist. She has stood up with other Indigenous Peoples to fight for
native peoples’ rights to hunt, gather, and fish in their traditional
* Arthur Manuel: Art is a spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on
Economies and Trade and Defenders of the Land network. Former
chairperson of the Interior Alliance of BC First Nations, Manuel has been
a leading voice of opposition to the Canadian government’s agenda to
“extinguish” Aboriginal and Treaty rights and assimilate Indigenous
peoples into the Canadian body politic. Active locally in Secwepemc land
struggles, and at the national level, he has also taken the
struggle international at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,
following in the path of his father, the late George Manuel, President of
the National Indian Brotherhood and founder of the World Council of
* Darla Goodwin: Singing Thunderbird Child-Twice Standing Woman is a
Cree Ojibwa from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is a
knowledge keeper, carrier of the Sacred Correction Pipe for the
Desecration of the female side of life, starting with our mother the
Earth. She is a ceremonial First Nations woman and an organizer for Idle
* Glen Coulthard: Dr. Glen Coulthard is a member of the Yellowknives
Dene and a scholar of contemporary Indigenous politics. He is an
Assistant Professor in First Nations Studies and the Department of
Political Science at UBC. He is a founding member of the Camas Books &
Infoshop in Victoria and the Dechinta Center for Research and Learning in
Yellowknives Dene territory.
* Jerilynn Webster: Jerrilyn is a Vancouver based female hip hop
artist, beat-boxer, performing artist, aboriginal youth educator,
single mother, award-winning actor, and member of the Nuxalk and
Cayauga Nations who is "using [her] words to go upwards/not
backwards." She is an Idle No More organizer.
* Khelsilem Rivers: Khelsilem is a community organizer and language
revitalization activist. Influenced heavily by his grandmother, he always
believed in the importance of being Indigenous, despite
encroachment of a foreign culture, society, and civilization. In this
regard, Khelsilem has pursued avenues where he can strengthen all
aspects of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw ways. He is an Idle No More
* Lisa Yellow-Quill: Lisa Yellow-Quill is Nehiyaw, Nekaway, Dakota
from Treaty 1: Long Plains, Manitoba. She has many years of experience
providing advocacy, support and counseling to women and families
living with multiple-barriers, oppressions, and experiences of
violence both in crisis situations and in complex long-term processes.
This foundation has supported her ability to be a noted spokesperson on
behalf of Turtle Island’s Murdered and Missing Girls and Women. Lisa is a
Pipe Carrier, Sundancer, and Keeper of several Ceremonies.
For more information contact Harsha Walia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Martin recalled the young assistant asking the president for permission to speak. “Mr. Martin, I went to McGill University,” the African aide said. “I spent two summers up north and I can take you to communities that are much worse than anything you will see in this country.’”
The Third World is right in our own back yard.
The hunger strike by Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence could go in any number of directions, and the Idle No More movement (in which Spence’s hunger strike is embedded) may turn out to be a flash in the pan. Or the movement may become a beacon for a generation of younger First Nations people navigating the dual rocks of self-victimization and state paternalism.
Idle No More was galvanized by the Conservative omnibus budget Bill C-45, which critics say terminates federal oversight of waterways and abrogates treaty rights by assisting the sale of reserve land without consultation.
With its official statements about preserving and protecting Mother Earth, Idle No More is reminiscent of a recent movement from further south. You have to go back to November of 2001, when the U.S. firm Bechtel sued Bolivia for $25 million for cancelling a contract to manage the water system of Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia. Incredibly, the new restrictions had barred the collection of rainwater from rooftops to permit holders only.
For years, the World Bank had pressured Bolivia to privatize its state enterprises. The transnational Bechtel was one beneficiary of this strong-arming, until huge price hikes for water access inflamed protests across the country. The dark-skinned socialist Evo Morales, who led the massive protests, took office after the white-skinned, U.S.-endorsed presidential candidate hightailed it to Washington, D.C. (Morales joined the growing list of Latin American leaders with indigenous roots. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was the first and most notable.)
Bechtel dropped its suit in 2006. In 2010, Bolivia passed “The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth” (Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra). Translated from Spanish, the Bolivian law states: “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings and their self-organization.”
Bolivia was inspired by the example of its neighbour Ecuador, two years earlier. “Nature has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution,” the Ecuadorian constitutional amendment states. The government must take “precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.”
If the above is news to you, you’re not alone. Project Censored deemed the Ecuadorian story number 18 in its Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009.
“It’s going to have huge resonance around the world,” Canadian activist Maude Barlow said when Bolivia tabled the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth before the UN in 2011. “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tar sands in Alberta,” she told Postmedia.
Harper may be reaping the whirlwind. The interests of average Canadians now appear to be in closer alignment with those of aboriginal people, as indicted by the ethnically diverse protests against Northern Gateway. As for the notion of legal rights for Mother Earth, this isn’t just racial grievance or hippie boilerplate retooled for ambulance chasers. It could turn out to be the cross-cultural equivalent of open-source software: the biggest environmental/legal app of the new millennium, led by cultures that preceded colonizers by thousands of years.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Monday, January 7, 2013
by Jorge Rivas, Monday, January 7 2013.
- More than 4 million non-citizens, primarily unauthorized immigrants, have been deported from the United States since 1990, with removals rising from 30,039 in FY 1990 to 391,953 in FY 2011.
- Fewer than half of the non-citizens deported from the United States are removed pursuant to a formal hearing before an immigration judge, with the majority removed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) via its administrative authority.
- The nearly 430,000 non-citizens detained in the immigration detention system in FY 2011 exceeded the number serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for all other federal crimes.
- Immigration enforcement spending has totaled nearly $187 billion in the 26 years since IRCA ($219 billion in 2012 dollars).
- Spending on CBP, ICE and DHS’s primary immigration enforcement technology initiative, the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, reached $17.9 billion in FY 2012. In comparison, total spending for all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies (the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) stood at $14.4 billion in FY 2012.
“With shrinking budgets and increasingly rampant civil rights violations in the name of ‘immigration enforcement’, today’s study is a wake up call to our legislators. That the US spent almost $18 billion last year to detain immigrants and separate families for violating immigration laws that are widely recognized as outdated and impractical shows just how far anti-immigrant fervor has gone in spawning backwards priorities in Congress. 2013 should be the year that the administration invests in public safety and family unity by disinvesting from dead-end programs like Secure Communities.”