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.

 

Leave a comment

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.
Leave a comment

Las Vegas Metro Police Department Conducted Raid on Homeless Camp Just Before Christmas

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Arkady Bukh, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. In addition, Bukh has previously submitted several posts. Those earlier submissions can be found here, here, and here.

The current submission discusses a raid that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department conducted at a local park where homeless people had attempted to seek shelter from an unusually cold Las Vegas winter. During this raid, which took place in mid-December, the police demanded that those homeless persons gather all of their belongings within an (intentionally) insufficiently short period of time.

They then proceeded to steal tents and blankets that were being used by their owners for shelter from the freezing temperatures, as well as other personal belongings. As is noted in the commentary submitted below, this tactic is not an unusual one for the LVMPD, and likely not a rare instance elsewhere, either.

(Note: previously this same raid was the subject of another post submission that I also published on December 31st. That post can be found here. Although there are slight differences in the details included within the two stories, the basics are pretty consistent within both versions.)

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

In a pre-Christmas raid, Las Vegas Police swept homeless people from a neighborhood park. During the eviction, the persons inside the square were allowed only 60-seconds to collect their possessions before they were tossed away by police. Officers from LVMPD took blankets, tents.

Las Vegas was enduring historical low temperatures when the raid was conducted. Ignoring laws which allow a reasonable length of time for persons to gather their possessions, or store them for day days, the possessions were thrown into dumpsters.

The type of raid is not isolated or unusual. LVMPD operates following the premise that if life can be made hard for displaced persons they will vanish.

According to witnesses, LVMPD found over 40 individuals in the park during the early morning raid. The homeless were given one minute to gather their possessions. Anyone failing to comply received citations.

One individual, who asked for anonymity said, “We woke, as the cops and maintenance crew showed up with dumpsters as they told the homeless to ‘grab what you want and go.'”

According to Metro’s Sergeant Ryan Cook, the square was selected for the operation on December 1 during a County Multi-Agency Response Team. Cook said the move was in reply to “persons taking up residency in the park.”

According to a study released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Las Vegas has 50 homeless persons per 10,000 residents. That’s over twice the national average of 21 homeless persons per 10,000 residents. Researchers estimate that almost 9,500 homeless people stays in Las Vegas, the country’s 12 largest homeless population despite the metro area being the 30th most populous in America.

Raids like the one conducted in Las Vegas’ Molasky Family Park, located near the UNLV campus are counterproductive according to o the Legal Aid Society.

Taylor Barton, CEO of one of Las Vegas’ bail bonds agencies, 24/7 Bail Bonds, said, “policies would be more sensible if the city staff helped people find out if the cops hold warrants and handle them instead of shocking persons in the thick of the night.”

The LVMPD took 22 people into custody in the raid. Homeless advocates believe these tactics discourage individuals from seeking help.

The Legal Aid Society said it discovered in preceding shelter raids; most persons were detained for trivial quality-of-life offenses and not significant violations. Area homeless advocates said they would continue to attempt to cooperate with the LVMPD.

“There’s no justification for the raids,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the region’s American Civil Liberties Union. “Being displaced is not a reason for surmising a person has a bench warrant. This raid runs counter what decency stands.”

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment