Tag Archives: criminalizing homelessness

San Diego Cop Who Committed Perjury Exposed by His Own Body Cam Video

San Diego Police Officer Perjury Body Camera Homeless Citation

San Diego Police Officer Colin Governski’s own body cam video exposed that he had committed perjury while testifying against a homeless man.

In August of 2015, Officer Colin Governski of the San Diego Police Department was in the process of harassing some homeless people who were camping near a beach. Shortly after, Governski saw another homeless man, Tony Diaz, come out of a nearby bathroom.

He then began accusing Diaz of living out of his truck and after initially indicating that he was warning him about doing so, he quickly decided instead to give him a citation. That citation was based on a San Diego law that prohibits people from living within a vehicle that is parked on public property.

In court, Officer Governski testified that he had caught Diaz sleeping inside the back of his truck. However, Diaz maintained that he was just using the bathroom prior to going fishing at the beach. He also stated that a friend allows him to park on their privately owned property overnight. In spite of his insistence that he had not been sleeping in his truck at the time, based on Governski’s testimony, Diaz was found guilty of “vehicle habitation” and fined $280.

Later, the lawyer representing Diaz filed an appeal of that conviction in order to challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance against living in a car. A similar law in Los Angeles had already been struck down as unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.

During the appeal process, it was discovered that Officer Governski had been wearing a body camera that day. (See video embedded below.) The unnecessary arrogance and mean spirited nature of the harassment shown on that video is appalling by itself. More importantly though, the body cam footage clearly showed Diaz was walking out of the bathroom and not sleeping in the back of his truck when Ofc. Governski first encountered him.

As a result of the contradiction between Governski’s testimony and what’s shown on the video, the conviction was reversed. However, Governski has yet to be charged with perjury. And it’s not because he doesn’t warrant such a charge. During the original trial, Governski had lied directly to the judge while under oath when he was specifically asked several times if Diaz was sleeping in the back of the truck when he found him. For anyone without one of those Magic Uniforms, that’s a felony.

This wasn’t even the first time he was caught lying and filing false charges to harass someone, either. In 2014, the taxpayers of San Diego were forced to pay $15,000 to another homeless person Governski had falsely arrested. On top of that, he had also violated SDPD policy by not noting on the citation that there was body camera footage available, which is why it wasn’t presented at the trial.

Nobody should hold their breath waiting for Officer Governski (or any other cop) to be charged with or in any meaningful way punished for perjury, regardless of how obvious and outrageous the lies they tell are. In fact, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office indicated that they had not even reported Governski’s conduct to internal affairs or his supervisor when asked by his attorney.

Of course, as Tony Diaz’ attorney, Coleen Cusack, pointed out, if they will lie about such a minor citation what won’t they lie about? For the sake of yourself and anyone else you see being harassed or abused by the police,  film the police.

 

San Antonio Cop Caught Trying to Feed Shit Sandwich to Homeless Man Fired (Again) for 2nd Feces Related Incident

In November, I posted about San Antonio Police Officer Mathew Luckhurst who had tried to feed a sandwich filled with dog poop to a homeless man:

Luckhurst had bragged to another cop that he had placed feces inside bread and put it in a styrofoam container next to a sleeping homeless man, hoping he would eat it. That unnamed officer fortunately had some decency and told Officer Luckhurst to go back and throw the shit sandwich away. He then reported the incident to the San Antonio Police Dept.’s Internal Affairs Bureau in July.

Subsequently, the suspension was recommended by both a civilian review board and a review board comprising sworn officers. in October. After a meeting with Officer Luckhurst, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus upheld the suspension. Earlier today, both he and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor released statements regarding Luckhurst’s behavior.

As I noted at the time, although it was reported that he had been fired, that was really a bit of a technicality because he actually has been “indefinitely suspended.” In reality, the intention is probably just to buy a little time until the publicity quiets down and then have the local police union play bad cop and file a dispute that ends up getting him his job back.

However, yesterday some new information emerged showing that this was not the only time that Officer Luckhurst’s feces fetish has gotten him into hot water with the SAPD. In fact, he seems to have been building on that as his go to prop for workplace pranks. And this time he even enlisted a sidekick.

Via MySanAntonio.com:

In June, just a month after the incident with the sandwich, police say Luckhurst defecated in the women’s bathroom stall at SAPD’s Bike Patrol Office and spread a brown substance with the consistency of tapioca on the toilet seat, giving the appearance that there was feces on the seat.

Officer Steve Albart was also involved in the prank, according to the records. He was originally given an indefinite suspension, but Chief William McManus reduced it to 30 days without pay. Albart finished serving that suspension Jan. 19.
Unlike Officer Albart, Luckhurst’s suspension was not reduced and he received a second indefinite suspension. So, now Officer Luckhurst has been “fired” twice (although he’s apparently still officially on the roster and in the process of appealing both suspensions). Expect him back out there protecting and serving (shit) at some point in the near future.

Days Before Christmas, the LVMPD Conducted Raids on Homeless People Stealing Blankets and Winter Shelter

The following post was written by Jonas Rand, a UNLV student and member of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas. It was originally posted at “The World as seen by Jazoof,” a blog maintained by Jason Nellis under the title “‘Take What You Need and Leave Right Now’: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment.

It details one of the sweeps that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department conducted against homeless people at a local park that members of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas hold one of their weekly picnics, in which they share food with hungry people, including those who do not currently have permanent housing.

During this sweep, the people within the park were given only given one minute to gather their belongings before police threw them away. In particular, officers from the LVMPD stole blankets, tents, and other cold weather necessities from those people. In addition, at least one person, an elderly disabled woman, had her pet dog and sole companion stolen from her.

This raid was carried out just before Christmas and during a time when Las Vegas is experiencing record low temperatures. Instead of allowing people a reasonable amount of time to remove their belongings or storing them for 30 days, as the law stipulates, those possessions were simply thrown in a dumpster, without regard for the hardship it would create for those who were then without shelter from the cold.

This sort of raid, as well as other types of harassment against and bullying of homeless and poor people by law enforcement in Las Vegas, is not an isolated or even unusual occurrence. Essentially, they seem to operate under the assumption that if they make life difficult for homeless people within the city they will just go away. However, they obviously have nowhere to go or they wouldn’t be homeless in the first place.

“Take What You Need and Leave Right Now”: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment

According to several witnesses and former inhabitants, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, a raid by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) two weeks ago forcibly drove out a group of people camped in a local park consisting of over two dozen individuals, dispersing them and discarding their belongings.

For those who had been residing in East Las Vegas’ Molasky Family Park, located near the UNLV campus, December 8 seemed not unlike any other day. With little to shelter them from the windy winter weather, the park’s street-dwelling residents fell asleep as night descended, expecting nothing new the next day.

That all changed in the early hours of the following morning, when several witnesses say they were awakened to the sound of Metro officers raiding the park to forcibly disperse the park’s homeless population. Perhaps as many as 40 people had been present in the park the previous night.

Park residents report waking to a chaotic scene. They recalled having to move heavy loads of their belongings quickly, after being given only 60 seconds to remove their belongings, with those who failed to comply in time receiving citations.

Those present in the park at the time of the Dec 9 raid said on Tuesday that the unanticipated police action involved the officers arriving while they were asleep/ The police seized many of their personal belongings, including tents and blankets, which were seen being thrown in a dumpster, according to witnesses.

“We woke up and […] the police, the park maintenance people, they were driving around. They came in with the dumpsters, and they were taking everybody’s stuff, throwing it in the dumpster, telling them ‘take what you need and leave right now’”, one witness stated on Tuesday. “They were taking everything there and throwing it in the trash.”

Park Police and LVMPD officers were in the park on Tuesday from approximately 10am to 12pm, when one person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, and confirmed that an action to move on those who had taken up residence in the park was planned as early as December 1. According to Metro’s Sergeant Ryan Cook, the park was singled out for action at a meeting that day of the County Multi-Agency Response Team (CMART), a local police unit which includes multiple county agencies.

LVMPD Sgt. Ryan Cook

Sgt. Cook stated that the action was in response to “people who take up residence in the park and diminish the quality of the park for everyone else who […] would like to utilize this park”. The goal of the action, he said, was to “link the individuals […] who are utilizing the park as their home, to Help of Southern Nevada”, a local charitable organization which provides services for Las Vegas residents affected by homelessness or housing instability, to provide them with services, including housing in shelters or apartments, which he said had been prepared for at least some of the displaced individuals.

Disappointment, conflicting narratives remain

Meanwhile, individuals who were awakened to the raid and who were also approached by police Tuesday reported that volunteers with Help of Southern Nevada were not present at the park at the time they were announced to be coming.

“A couple more police came[…]. They said Help of Southern Nevada would be on their way, that they were going to be there, within 10 minutes, right where we were at. Then I went to the other side of the park, I came back and then they told us “oh, they’re going to be on the opposite side of the park, in 20 minutes”, a previously quoted witness to the raid who was in the park at the time, said later on Tuesday. “We went back to the other side [to meet with them], and they never showed up, we waited [about] an hour. They never came”, he said.

That witness, alongside another witness to the raid who was also present for the police visit on Tuesday, also said that the police were there to inform them of a sweep planned for the next day by the Park Police, to clear out remaining residents. The former camp resident reported that one policewoman’s comments on Tuesday to those who had returned to the park brought up families visiting for the holidays as the reason that he and others had to leave, describing returning individuals as “a deterrent”.

It was not immediately clear whether such a sweep happened; however, sources present the following morning saw no presence of police nor evidence of action to clear the park.

While multiple former residents of the encampment had reported that there were several previous visits by police, none seemed to indicate that there was warning the previous day of what was to come. There were perhaps 5 prior visits, the witness previously quoted said, and that each time, people were told to leave. One head police officer was reported to have repeatedly said “Not on my watch”.

One day before the raid, police came by and awakened everyone, according to another witness, who had lived in the park for approximately 2 years. She said that she had also been given misinformation, namely that the raid would occur on the 16th, a week after the raid, and that Park Police had raided two weeks ago.

But at no time did they announce that they were intending to clear the encampment that Friday, and there was no indication that property would be seized. Sources also reported citations given to individuals who did not leave with their property fast enough, including a deaf resident whose belongings were seized and discarded.

“There’s lots of people in that park that really need help, and they’re not getting it. A lot of us, we’re having hard times right now. Trying to get back on our feet”, said one of the witnesses interviewed Tuesday.

The same witness also reported that he knew of no one who was housed by Help of Southern Nevada as of yet, and that many would refuse to go to shelters. According to the former park resident, the group had only sent one representative once, to inform residents about their housing services. Among the reasons people have not been willing to accept housing options offered by Help of Southern Nevada are the presence of bedbugs in shelters as well as restrictions on pet ownership in available housing options.

Police remain positive

Sgt. Cook expressed an unapologetically positive attitude about the police action.

Cook, who works in the community-oriented policing section of Metro, commented that “when we have individuals that utilize the playground equipment for sleeping places, and kids can’t enjoy the slides, and things like that, is when park police and us get called, to try to help resolve the situation and get people to where they need to be”. He brought up the services that Help of Southern Nevada provides, including a new triage center.

Asked how he felt about the action, he said, “I think it’s positive. I think it’s positive that the park is being used for what it was actually initially designed for, which is recreation and entertainment for all the residents. Not private living facilities.”

Still, however, not everyone is pleased. An additional onlooker who witnessed the raid, noting that displaced camp residents would simply re-locate, said Monday, “They’re not fixing the problem, they’re just avoiding the problem.”

Sgt. Ryan Cook gets a little creepy while talking about a traffic stop

San Antonio Police Officer Matthew Luckhurst Fired for Trying to Feed Shit Sandwich to Homeless Man

Officer Matthew Luckhurst of the San Antonio Police Department has been placed on indefinite suspension as the result of an incident in May. Luckhurst had bragged to another cop that he had placed feces inside bread and put it in a styrofoam container next to a sleeping homeless man, hoping he would eat it. That unnamed officer fortunately had some decency and told Officer Luckhurst to go back and throw the shit sandwich away. He then reported the incident to the San Antonio Police Dept.’s Internal Affairs Bureau in July.

Subsequently, the suspension was recommended by both a civilian review board and a review board comprising sworn officers. in October. After a meeting with Officer Luckhurst, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus upheld the suspension. Earlier today, both he and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor released statements regarding Luckhurst’s behavior.

Via KVUE.com, the local ABC affiliate:

“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of “treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect’,” said Chief McManus. “The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor also released a statement Friday regarding the incident. “Firing this officer was the right thing to do,” Mayor Taylor said. “His actions were a betrayal of every value we have in our community, and he is not representative of our great police force.”

It’s not entirely clear from the news reports of the “indefinite suspension” equates to an actual firing or if that is still in the process of happening. According to MySanAntonio.com, Officer Luckhurst is planning to appeal the suspension/firing. Although Luckhurst declined to comment to the media, his lawyer, Ben Sifuentes, it was all just a joke that “spiraled out of control.”

Homeless people are frequently the targets of bullying and police are often some of the biggest bullies around. The stigma attached to being homeless and the criminalization of  homelessness are huge issues within most, if not all, cities throughout the country. Having worked with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas and personally witnessed the abusive manner that a good majority of police officers behave toward homeless people, I have very little doubt that it happened, even though he likely did consider it a joke. (And it certainly did spiral out of control for him.)

I also don’t have a lot of doubt that he will win his appeal and be reinstated. When you have free rein to murder people, trying to serve someone a shit sandwich is small potatoes. And if all else fails, he can always just move to the next police department over and continue as if nothing ever happened.

Harassment by Police for Using a Public Park in King City Oregon

The following post and the video included with it were shared with the CopBlock Network by Theodore Pojman, via the CopBlock Submissions Page.

The video shows Officer Hyson of the King City Police Department extorting them for being in a public park, presumably because they are homeless and live in their truck.

According to Officer Hyson, this constitutes “illegal camping” (he eventually decides to extort them for criminal trespassing instead), even though they’ve done nothing except sleep in their truck.

Criminalization of homelessness is not a new thing. Many cities have passed laws that go so far as barring people from voluntarily sharing food with other people in public.

Oregon in particular has passed these “camping” bans which are explicitly intended to target and allow police harassment of homeless people.

Should someone’s economic situation really preclude people from using public spaces when their only “crime” is having nowhere else to go?

Date of Incident: July 1, 2016
Officer Involved: Officer Hyson Badge# 26709, Deputy Fletcher
Department Involved: King City (Oregon) Police Department
Facebook Page: King City – Oregon Police Department
File a Complaint: Online Complaint Form
Department Phone No.: (503) 620-8851

My friends and I were at King City Park at 8 in the morning when we were approached by a rude policeman named Officer Hyson.

He woke me up from a nap and demanded identification from us. I refused to present my license, because I was too tired to look for it, and instead gave verbal identification. He asked me for my social security number which I refused to give.

He seemed offended, called me “junior lawyer” and threatened to cite us for criminal trespass if we weren’t gone in one hour. It was during the park’s open hours. Fifty-five minutes later, after I had finished eating breakfast and was starting the van about to leave, officer friendly pulled up behind me to write me a ticket.

I explained to him that we weren’t committing a crime by being in the park, and that he had no evidence that we were “camping” overnight. He demanded that I present ID, I refused. He demanded that we step out of the vehicle. We refused. He then stuck his hand in the window uncomfortably close to me. I told him to retract his hand from my vehicle/home, he refused at first, but eventually backed off. I asked for his badge number. He said that it would be on the citation.

Around this time, Deputy Fletcher pulled up and talked to Officer Hyson and myself to see what was going on. He chatted with us for a while until officer hyson finished with the citation. Al three of us were cited for criminal trespass 2.

All in all it could have been worse, but I feel like my rights have been disrespected. I was in the public park during daylight hours and yet was cited for trespassing. I believe we were profiled for having Florida plates, being homeless and exercising my right to verbally identify.

I intend to fight the citation in a trial by jury on August 1st, 2016 and none of the three of us can afford to pay the fines. This will likely turn into a warrant if not taken care of. Legal help would be appreciated.

This is not the first time the police have harrassed me for sleeping. Sleeping outside has been criminalized in many places and even where it’s acceptable to sleep, I have been woken up and told to identify myself. I’m tired of this criminal harassment and would Like to see some consequences for these bullies who have nothing better to do than harass the homeless for the crime of existing.

– Theodore Pojman

“Justice” For The Wealthy, Law Enforcement For The Poor

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “America’s Divided Justice System.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

The post consists of a book review of “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gapby Matt Taibbi. That book relates to what is effectively two different “justice” systems faced by the wealthy and the poor, minorities, and immigrants. The latter group is the target of enforcement policies such as “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” that emphasize cracking down on even the most minor of crimes, often times consisting of victimless crimes. In contrast, the former group benefits from policies that have come to be referred to as “too be to fail” or “too big to jail” that effectively allow fraud and other financial crimes when committed by wealthy people.

Obviously, the disparity between the ability of wealthy people and poor people to hire lawyers, expend time, and utilize personal connections within that system in order to fight any charges they may face exacerbate those differing experiences with the judicial system even further.

America’s Divided Justice System

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi (2014).

One does not often find it a pleasant surprise to receive unpleasant information, but this is a reaction many readers will get from Matt Taibbi’s 2014 book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. While the book has largely been billed as a piece on the evils of growing economic inequality in the US, a more accurate description would be that it documents the discrepancy in how the American legal system treats wealthy offenders as opposed to poor ones. Taibbi’s thesis is that America’s legal system lets the wealthy get away with massive injustices, while the poor, racial minorities and immigrants are faced with draconian punishments (not to mention nightmarish bureaucracy) for minor violations and even unsubstantiated allegations. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one, but the author’s storytelling ability and grasp of the subject matter make for a surprisingly enjoyable read.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

Matt Taibbi is best known as a generally left-of-center columnist for Rolling Stone, for which he is arguably the star political writer. He has also written for The Nation, Playboy and New York Press as well as several books of his own. While Taibbi is clearly in the liberal or social democratic camp, The Divide offers much that is of interest to libertarians, especially where it criticizes the excesses of bureaucracy and the prosecution of victim-less crimes. Left libertarians especially will appreciate that the book strongly echoes their concerns that the state actively takes actions that make the poor even worse off. While Taibbi uses statistics to make his case, the real driving force of the book is his depictions of specific examples of injustices. In these anecdotes the human consequences of plutocracy are vividly illustrated.

Taibbi alternates between stories of white collar criminal activity going unpunished and mean-spirited state aggression leveled at poor people. This does well to illustrate Taibbi’s point that the rich and poor in America live in two different worlds when it comes to treatment by law enforcement. However it may be the book’s biggest weakness for some readers who will find the back and fourth changes in setting distracting. To his credit, Taibbi ultimately ties his narratives together, asserting that lax treatment for the rich and overly harsh punishment of the poor combine to form a dystopian reality.

Taibbi begins with Eric Holder, the Clinton administration official who would become Attorney General under Barack Obama. In the late nineties Holder authored a memo which made explicit the concept of “Collateral Consequences.” Holder argued that courts could consider the indirect negative economic consequences of subjecting large companies to legal penalties if a court ruled against them. This idea would later become known as “too big to fail” and by extension “too big to jail.”  Between his time with the Clinton and Obama administrations, Holder worked with Covington and Burling, a law firm that pioneered the use of “Collateral Consequences” to keep major companies from facing legal penalties. Taibbi largely credits the Clinton administration for passing laws which  exacerbated the disparity in legal punishment between the rich and the poor. Specifically he notes that Clinton’s presidency marked a time of agreement between democrats and republicans on “getting tough on crime,” specifically crime committed by poor people. leading to the escalated war on drugs and increased prison population (specifically the black prison population) during Clinton’s presidency. This was coupled with an increased leniency towards crimes committed in the financial sector. Taibbi claims it is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs was among the biggest contributors to both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns (not to mention Hillary Clinton’s current campaign).

All of this occurred during a sharp decrease in overall crime, which continued through the 2000’s. Taibbi notes that as crime decreased police officers whose performance and promotion potential was evaluated on numbers of arrests were forced to chase increasingly pettier offenses. Police adopted a wide net strategy, comparable to fishing with dynamite, in which large numbers of ostensibly “suspicious” poor or working class people would be searched, arrested, ticketed, or issued summons for minor violations which they may or may not have committed. These offenders almost certainly did not have the time or money to fight the allegations in court. Arrests for marijuana and violations like “blocking pedestrian traffic” sky-rocketed. Taibbi discusses one instance where the accused chose to fight this particular allegation due to the fact that the supposed offense took place on a morning when there was no pedestrian traffic. His own defender and the judge had little knowledge of how to handle this as the entire system is set up to encourage guilty pleas for such offenses. In another instance cops accuse a young man of drawing graffiti in black ink with a pink highlighter. Unsurprisingly police cruelty, dishonesty and downright stupidity are often on full display in this book.

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Taibbi gives a great deal of attention to Howard Safir, the Giuliani-appointed New York Police Commissioner, who expanded the “Broken Windows” and “Zero Tolerance” policies of his more well known predecessor Bill Bratton, with an even greater focus on arresting and fining people for petty offenses. Under Safir, arrests for marijuana sky rocketed. Taibbi notes that the accused faced hours on end at court hearings, in which large numbers of cases are reviewed by judges who themselves would rather be anywhere else. The court appearances and other bureaucratic red tape often forced the accused to take time off from work or seek child care that they otherwise would not have to. Taibbi discusses many of the violations reviewed as “administrative crimes” which while technically illegal do not cause demonstrable harm to anyone. While crime with actual victims had gone down, police focused on violations of arbitrary statutes. Illegal immigration is one example. Taibbi relates this to occurrences of police setting up “drunk driving” checkpoints at the roads going in and out of immigrant neighborhoods during times when people would come and go to work. He notes that the increased deportations that occurred under the Obama administration enabled a massive kidnapping industry in Latin America, in which kidnappers would locate deportees while seeking ransoms from their remaining relatives in the US.

Elsewhere Taibbi discusses the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its secret backroom deal with the English firm Barclays that ripped off millions from smaller creditors around the world. This section is an excellent primer on the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. As is the chapter on JPMorgan Chase, which committed massive fraud involving fake credit card judgement. He notes that the business of collecting delinquent credit card debt itself relies on fraud, as it would be uneconomical for collection agencies to review the actual records of the alleged debtors. Often they instead employ “robo-signing” (the practice of having entry level staffers sign as many documents as possible, without actually reading them) and “gutter service” where a server may or may not deliver a summons to an accused who may or may not show up to contest the allegation. In all cases discussed, real people are genuinely harmed and the perpetrators are never given more than negligible fines. He also contrasts the treatment of crimes committed by HSBC (a firm that has worked with murderous drug cartels and Islamist terrorists) to the disproportionately worse treatment of small time drug users.

In one of the more interesting stories of the book, a gang of well-funded hedge fund managers attempt to bully the owner of a smaller insurance firm, Fairfax Financial Holdings, into going out of business through an elaborate campaign of harassment, threats, late-night phone calls, and phony accusations of a criminal activity. This may be of interest to libertarians looking for a starting point to a discussion of what forms of malicious activity do and do not violate the non-aggression principle. Similarly, Taibbi’s discussion of welfare recipients who largely forgo their right to freedom from government search and seizure without probable cause is a potential starting point for conversation. Such people are often subject to inspectors rooting through their underwear drawers and bathrooms looking for evidence of unreported income. While Taibbi’s sympathy for people on welfare may rub some mainstream libertarians the wrong way, he argues that regardless whether one opposes the welfare state or not, one should find this excessive, especially when such zeal for fraud prevention is not matched when it comes to white-collar criminals committing the same crimes on a larger scale.

Banner - Tunnel1Overall Taibbi finds that the poor are subject to bureaucracy while the rich are able to become bureaucracies in and of themselves by hiring lawyers capable of generating decades of red tape for anyone who makes any accusation against them. He feels that America has such love for and fear of people with power and money and disdain for those who lack it, that its people allow two divergent class-based legal systems to govern. The book is an engaging and often entertaining read that will likely find a sympathetic ear from anyone who values justice.

Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links were added within the text.)

This post relates to the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable members of society by law enforcement and the court system. Oftentimes, people of lower economic classes and especially minorities within that demographic end up in jail and/or prison simply because they don’t have the means to defend themselves from allegations made against them. This also makes it that much more likely innocent people will accept plea deals just to avoid serving more jail time while awaiting trial and/or to avoid the risk of more severe punishment should they lose.

A significant percentage of those “crimes” they are prosecuted for are victimless crimes in the first place and many are actually predicated on conditions created by poverty. In addition, minor crimes of that nature often lead to more harsh punishments for future transgressions by creating a long criminal record that is used to justify tougher sentences, even though that record consists of things more affluent people would never be arrested or prosecuted for. In many cases, building a criminal record based on such minor offenses is an intentional strategy used by law enforcement against the poor for that very reason.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Prisons Don’t Bail Out the Poor

The New York Times recently reported that on March 13th, Jeffery Pendleton was found dead in his jail cell. Pendleton was a homeless man who lived in New Hampshire and had been arrested on March 8th for outstanding fines and possession of small amounts of marijuana. His set bail of $100 was prohibitively costly for him and he was left to languish in his cell until trial, over a month later.

According to New Hampshire’s state experts, there were no sign of foul play.

Pendleton’s family disagrees, saying on a GoFundMe campaign that aims to bring Pendleton’s body home: “His body has been viewed by a second source and we have found that we were lied to by the medical examiner in New Hampshire as well as the jail. … The second report completed in Arkansas states there are clear indications that Jeffery was harmed prior to his death and likely that harmed caused his death.”

Pendleton’s death, whether a freak accident or something more, reflects a disturbing trend of individuals, particularly lower-income and people of color, dying in jail cells. Another high-profile victim, a black woman named Sandra Bland, died after only three days in jail in 2013. Her death was ruled a suicide but her family, like Pendleton’s, disagreed.

Prison Profits Poor PeopleIn practice, jails tend to work as places where lower-income people must be processed and held until they can be processed again. As Gilles Bissonnette, a director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said of Pendleton’s case, “at that point, he would have effectively served his sentence before he ever had an opportunity to contest the charge — an outcome that only a poor person would be confronted with.”

The issue of prohibitively high bail is serious enough that the Department of Justice (DoJ) released an official statement around the time of Pendleton’s death. Such statements don’t have the force of law, but they can influence shifts in policy by making the federal government’s position clear on a given issue.

At one point the statement says “[b]ail that is set without regard to defendants’ financial capacity can result in the incarceration of individuals not because they pose a threat to public safety or a flight risk, but rather because they cannot afford the assigned bail amount.”

As such, jails are often used as pre-detention centers that skirt around Constitutional requirements of “fair and equal treatment” under the law. If poor people are regularly locked up and have bail set without regard to their ability to pay then equality under the law seems like an unlikely outcome.

But even if we tried to make bail set partly on the basis of financial stability and well-being, this would not be enough. Whether it comes to police and civil forfeiture, the criminal justice system and plea deals, or the prison industrial complex, the state’s profit motive leads them to seek monopoly profits to the disadvantage of the accused and convicted.

As the New York Times notes, this report by the DoJ, “…echoes the conclusions of the Justice Department’s investigation of the Police Department and court in Ferguson, Mo. Investigators there concluded that the court was a moneymaking venture, not an independent branch of government.”

But “independence” is a meaningless term when the government has created and reinforced perverse incentives that treat individuals as a stream of revenue. Fixing that isn’t going to be accomplished by sending letters to courts and politely asking them to change. In fact, the way to affect change isn’t to ask nicely for the government to play by its own rules. We’ve been doing that for too long to no avail.

It’s time we made up our own rules and played by them ourselves in peaceful and creative ways. This means building alternative forms of dealing with crime that don’t rely on punishment being the focus of rehabilitation. It also means not treating money as the sole way that people can help atone for their offenses.

But of course, Pendleton didn’t do anything wrong.

Well, besides being poor.

Department of Homeland Security in Portland Harasses and Violates the Rights of Homeless

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by MikeBlueHair of ‘Film The Police Portland” (also known as “FTP PDX”), via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

This post involves the (mis)treatment of homeless people in Portland by federal agents working for the Department of Homeland Security. In this particular instance the DHS agents have been witnessed conducting illegal searches and demanding ID from those homeless people living within the city. Homeless people are often bullied and targeted by law enforcement on all levels of government.

This is, of course, not limited to the city of Portland. Also, while it is not as prevalent or as extreme it also isn’t limited to homeless, either. As is mentioned within the post, that (along with the sense of decency that you hopefully have) is a reason that even those who are not homeless should oppose such acts by government agents.

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Published By Arran Edmonstone on September 16, 2013

For several months, homeless people have been camped out in front of Portland City Hall and across the street, at the federally-owned Terry Schrunk Plaza and subject to routine searches by the Department of Homeland Security. Some of the homeless rights advocates have pointed out the searches are in violation of civil liberties and waging a court battle at Portland City Hall.

This film contains footage from one of those raids with the DHS agents “just following orders”, in addition to a cop watching patrol with FTP Portland’s Mike Bluehair.

A message from a fellow Cop Watcher:

“I wish in my heart of heart that when the least of our society are oppressed, we the people would react as if the system were trampling our own rights. Because the harsh truth is this. If we do nothing when the state attacks the right of others they are in essence violating the rights of us all. Don’t tread on me be damned! DON’T TREAD ON US! Much Love!”

– MikeBlueHair

Here’s the link for part 1:


Here’s the link for part 2:

Published By Arran Edmonstone on Sep 17, 2013

Here is more footage of the Department of Homeland Security performing a routine search on the belongings of homeless people camped out at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, between Portland City Hall and the newly constructed “green” and “sustainable” Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building.

Throughout the video, one of the activists present there, who is also a livestreamer and paralegal, lets the DHS know they are violating a 1983 Supreme Court ruling, Kolender v. Lawson. According to Wikipedia’s page, it concerns “the constitutionality of laws that allow police to demand that ‘loiterers’ and ‘wanderers’ provide identification.”

It’s also worth noting that moments before I began filming one the DHS agents, the tallest of all of them promptly grabbed the papers from the hands of the Livestreamer with the Supreme Court ruling printed on them and threw them on the ground.

Here is the link to Wikipedia’s page with more information:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolender_v._Lawson

 

– MikeBlueHair (AKA MikeSmith)