Tag Archives: harassing the homeless

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.

 

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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.
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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.

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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

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“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.

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