Tag Archives: police violence

Video Shows Man Being “Mauled” During Arrest for Smoking on Campus at Fullerton (CA) College

A video posted to Twitter and since shared widely on Facebook and other social media as well shows a young man identified on the video as a student at Fullerton Community College, in California, being violently arrested by “Safety Officers” working for the school. (In a statement, quoted below, Fullerton Community College Interim President Dr. Greg Schulz states that the person being arrested is actually not a student.)

The video begins with one Safety Officer demanding the man who was arrested identify himself and stating, “if I can’t verify who you are, I’ll just hook you up. I can do that.” as he reaches behind him for handcuffs. Soon after, he begins grabbing and pushing the man. Other students present gather around them and begin protesting that he hadn’t done anything to warrant being arrested for, as well as that the violent arrest is unnecessary because he “hasn’t even been in a fucking fist fight.”

As the man being arrested is pushed against a wall and then onto the ground another Security Officer soon appears to help. Both of them proceed to very roughly place the handcuffs on to the man as he complains about the amount of force they are using and asserts that he’s not resisting.

The video which “went viral” rather quickly has caused outrage among civil rights and anti-brutality activists and spawned yet another hashtag “#JusticeforLouisMunoz.” Based on that hashtag, the man who was arrested would obviously be named Louis Munoz, although nothing else about his identity has been released as of yet. According to the person who took the video his “crime” was smoking a cigarette on campus.

Neither Campus Safety Officer has been identified by name at this point. According to the statement released by the college, at least one (presumably the one who initiated the confrontation) has been placed on a leave of absence while the incident is being investigated.

Below is the statement from Interim President Dr. Greg Schulz released by the Fullerton Community College, via USA Today:

The president of Fullerton College said in a statement posted on the college’s website that it is investigating the incident and that the man involved is not a student.

Here is the president’s statement:

  • “Fullerton College is initiating an independent investigation into an incident that occurred on October 13, 2016 at approximately 2:45 p.m., between a campus safety officer and a man unaffiliated with Fullerton College.
  • The campus safety officer is being placed on a leave of absence while we work to answer all questions related to this incident.
  • Videos circulating on social media raise many questions. The videos are partial records of the incident and we are working to fully investigate the interaction. We cannot comment further on the incident because it is a personnel matter.
  • I am fully committed to the safety and well-being of all students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus, and it is my personal mission to make Fullerton College a welcoming and safe place. If that safety is ever challenged, we will take swift measures to restore security and investigate allegations.”

According to the Campus Safety Department website, campus officers generally provide services like rendering first aid, providing directions and escort services, and opening locked vehicles.

“The Campus Safety Department is committed to providing the highest standard of professionalism and service,” reads the department’s mission statement.

Original post on Twitter:

The Department of Justice has (Finally) Decided to Start Keeping Track of How Many People the Police Kill

As everyone knows, the FBI and Department of Justice keep track of everything from how many people die sticking a fork in the toaster to how many times I stubbed my toe last year. So, of course, their is data and statistics on every crime committed in every city and state, no matter how minor they might be.

Similarly, you can easily look up how many and in what manner everybody who died in any given year met their ultimate fate. Except the one giant, glaring exception to that is the complete lack of any information related to the use of force and killings of citizens by police. It’s almost like they don’t want you to know just how bad it is or to realize that it is progressively getting worse every year.

This obviously has led to some people questioning why they would compile statistics on every  minor crime reported in the entire country but would not keep track of fatalities caused by police at all. One thing that does have to be pointed out is that this is a bit of a trick question because for some time the FBI has been mandated to include police related deaths. Local police departments across the nation have simply refused to comply (which for anyone not wearing a Magical Suit will often get you killed) by providing those numbers. Meanwhile, instead of requiring them to do so the FBI instead just threw their hands up and declared it an impossible task.

Now, however, after much criticism the DOJ has announced that they will begin actively compiling stats related to police killings and other types of violence.

Via the Hampton Patch (NH):

Until now, there has been no official nationwide effort to monitor the rates of police violence and killings in the United States.

“Accurate and comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement is essential to an informed and productive discussion about community-police relations,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a press release.

“The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” she continued. “In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our local, state, tribal and federal partners to ensure that we put in place a system to collect data that is comprehensive, useful and responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.”

One of the biggest struggles in creating such a database is bound to be the localized nature of law enforcement, which gives a lot of administrative duties and day-to-day decision-making power to individual departments.

Prior to the Justice Department’s announcement, some news outlets have tried to provide as much data as they could on national police violence. By tracking local reports of police killings around the country, the Guardian, for instance, has found 847 incidents of civilians dying at the hands of cops in this year alone, in its database called “The Counted.”

It remains to be seen if the police will actually bother to report the amount of people they kill or if they will just ignore it again. Plus, the DOJ may once again respond by proclaiming it an impossible task instead of saying pretty please with sugar on top to see if that gets them to do it. Of course, the fact that it is so hard to keep a count of just how many people are killed by the police each year is pretty telling in and of itself.

Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “More Prisons is Not Reform.” 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.)

This post relates to recent riots within the United States prison system and specifically two riots at Holman Prison in Alabama, which took place in March of this year. Nick makes the point that it’s the underlying problems and abuses within the prison system itself and not just the singular symptom of overcrowding that caused those riots. Building even more prisons (which inevitably will also be filled to beyond capacity) is not the answer to those issues.

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

More Prisons is Not Reform

Holman Prison in Alabama is home to death row and many there have little to lose should something go wrong. Given the degrading conditions of prisons and their lack of security for prisoners, it should come as no surprise that riots took place on March 11th and 14th.

The first riot happened when a prison guard was stabbed during a fight between two inmates. A prison fire was subsequently started by inmates so they could get access to another part of the prison. The riot included 100 inmates and went from Friday night into Saturday morning before control was re-established and the prison put on lockdown.

An inmate who was interviewed by WHNT 19 News over the phone explained, “What [the officer] did was not professional. They teach them not to do what he did. He went in swinging his stick and throwing inmates around. You know, if you try being in prison for 20 years, people get tired of seeing their fellow convicts get treated that way.”

On Monday while Holman was still on lockdown, an estimated 70 inmates barricaded themselves in a dormitory room after the stabbing of another inmate. WKRG News was able to get a phone call with an inmate there who “said inmates are fed up with deteriorating conditions and overcrowding within the prison system, something even Governor Robert Bentley has acknowledged is a serious issue in Alabama.”

Unfortunately the answer by both Bentley and media like Alabama.com has been to build more prisons.

Bentley and others agree that the riots are symptomatic of a system that isn’t working. But instead of trying to reduce sentences, challenge discriminatory practices or expand alternatives we’re given the choice to expand prisons.

Then again it shouldn’t be surprising that the response from the people in power to necessary and radical action on the part of inmates is milquetoast at best. Yes, the riots were necessary, despite perhaps being inadvisable. Prison riots are acts of desperation that will more naturally occur under such brutal and repressive systems. There’s no need for moral condemnation of the inmates; desperate people act desperately in an attempt to become empowered.

The proposed expansion of prisons from Bentley includes, “merg[ing] the state’s maximum security prisons — about 14 in all — into six prisons, four of them new.” But suspiciously Bentley has also pushed for a one-time exemption for letting a single company build these new prisons. The inevitability of sweetheart deals is much too great to be surmounted by well-meaning liberals.

Governor Bentley thinks focusing on older prisons and merging some will help save money. As true as this may be it still won’t bring back all of the casualties that the Alabama system has caused.

One casualty was death row inmate Timothy Jason Jones. Jones committed suicide in 2006 before he could be sentenced to death for a murder conviction. Jones was a drug user, aggressive, and shied away from his responsibilities by fleeing the scene.

But instead of trying to understand him, prosecutors called him a “monster” and confined him in a locked cell where he eventually killed himself. My point isn’t that Jones was a good person but that instead of giving him the chance to prove he could’ve been the state decided he’d be better off rotting in a cell.

There are are other ways to deal with justice.

Organizations like Common Justice and Community Works West both specialize in alternative forms of justice and specifically transformative and restorative justice. These organizations help inmates feel they can still successfully contribute meaningful things for themselves and their communities. They involve prisoners in their local communities and try to encourage meditation as ways to address underlying issues of crime. As organizations they may not deal with death row inmates specifically but their promise is great.

The success of these models helps release pressure from the overcrowded and bloated prison systems that the inmates expressly used as one of their underlying motivators. If we can help build alternatives to prisons that use positive collaboration instead of fear and dread, perhaps we can begin to more meaningfully address overcrowding.

Instead of expanding prisons, let’s work to expand alternatives.

Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Tutwiler Prison Will Live On.” 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.)

This post relates to the impending closure of Julia Tutwiler State Women’s Prison, a facility located in Montgomery, Alabama that is notorius for rampant sexual abuse and other types of abuse, as well. Much like the clamoring for the closure of the detention center located at Guantanamo Bay, the perception is that simply shifting its residents to an alternate location will somehow eliminate those abuses, even though in reality the only real change will be geographical.

Tutwiler Prison Will Live On

Content Warning: Discussions of rape and sexual abuse

After over two decades of abuse, Julia Tutwiler Prison, located in Montgomery Alabama, will close. After almost two decades of prison guards sexually assaulting, abusing and raping inmates, Tutwiler prison will be closed. After nearly two decades of investigations, reformist legislature, promises on the part of the prison to improve, Tutwiler prison will close.

But Tutwiler prison will live on.

The governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, has said in a speech that Tutwiler prison will be closed so that Alabama may have a “complete transformation of the state’s prison system.” But adds that “These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities.”

And so Tutwiler prison will live on.

Tutwiler prison maintained its rampant sexual abuse even after a 2004 bill, advocated for by Amnesty International and the C4SS’s own Charles Johnson, had been passed. The bill was aimed at terminating and prosecuting abusive guards. But within the span of 2009-2013 only 18 cases of sexual abuse were reported in a prison well known for its widespread abuse.

As Charles Johnson notes, “the first basic obstacle is no matter how unambiguously written and strongly worded the law is, it is always nearly impossible ever to safely try to get a[n abusive guard] prosecuted from inside your cell. … The same overwhelming, full-spectrum life-and-death domination that facilitates the endemic, repeated rape also makes it impossible to defend yourself from them through legal processes.”

Removing this dynamic from prisons would mean prison abolition. And since we can safely presume Governor Bentley doesn’t believe in prison abolition, it’s safe to say that Tutwiler will live on.

Last year the US Department of Justice reported that Tutwiler had a population of women living in constant fear. They were in a highly-sexualized environment where abuse was so rampant that the prison was found to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

But all prisons are cruel and unusual.

Because of the aforementioned dynamics between prison guards and prisoners there will always be abuse and a reluctance to prosecute the abuse. In Tutwiler, reports from victims were discouraged by perceived or actual retaliation from prison guards. Guards at Tutwiler were often allowed to resign instead of being terminated. And thus were able to easily reintegrate themselves into another prison.

In this way too, Tutwiler Prison shall live on.

To make matters worse, the claims by victims of sexual abuse were frequently dismissed as the rantings of mentally ill patients. Polygraphs, known for their unreliability, were used as primary means to determine the validity of an accusation. Most insultingly, if the prisoners said it was consensual, then it was treated as such. And all of this only happened if an investigation actually occurred after an accusation, which it more often than not didn’t.

Treating accusations like this is not uncommon in prisons. A place where the abusers hold supreme power and have he legal system backing them engenders little accountability. Abusive prison guards are akin to police officers accused of murder in that they’re rarely indicted for, let alone convicted of crimes.

So, as you might expect, Tutwiler will live on.

ABC 33/40 recently reported that the Lovelady Center in Birmingham will take more than 100 inmates from Tutwiler. Lovelady is a rehabilitation facility for female convicts. But it’s also “faith-based treatment for women” and aims at converting the female convicts to Christianity.  Anyone who is either non-religious or isn’t interested in being proselytized is likely to feel excluded.

The rest of the women who will not be taken into those relatively merciful hands teeming with religious indoctrination will suffer in other ways. They may end up another number in recidivism statistics, or if they are freed, deal with the social isolation that comes with being a convict. Given that some will have their votes taken away, their job opportunities diminished and incredible social stigma, do you think they’ll stay out of prison for long?

Through these aftereffects, Tutwiler will live on.

And it will continue to live on until we abolish prisons.

If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Ferguson, Accept No Substitutes: Abolish the Police!” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: some links have been inserted, although no edits to the original text were made.)

Back in August 2014 a man named Michael Brown was shot by a police officer, Darren Wilson. Brown was unarmed and found himself in the hostile climate that exists between people of color and the police. His resulting death was the spark that lit the fire. Protests for #BlackLivesMatter began in earnest, people rallied for justice for Brown (Wilson was eventually acquitted of any wrong-doing) and in general, folks were deeply upset with the city of Ferguson.

Whether Brown’s actions warranted the almost 10 shots he received by officer Wilson, the background context of the event couldn’t be denied. Even the Department of Justice (DoJ) noted, to quote CBS, “a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed on First Amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.”

The DoJ also remarked on a broad pattern of discrimination by the Ferguson police, particularly towards people of color.

What has changed in over a year and a half?

In September, CBS reported that, “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended the consolidation of police departments and municipal courts in the St. Louis area, and decreasing the use of police force.”

But more recently and perhaps more promisingly to some, there has been a proposed agreement between the DoJ and the City of Ferguson. If approved, this agreement would postpone any sort of federal lawsuit and make changes to local policies concerning the police. CBS reported that the proposal was even brought before the public for “feedback” before its approval.

Policy changes could include mandatory body cameras and microphones for police and their cruisers. In addition, there could be more thorough training of police and possible revisions of municipal codes that allow the City of Ferguson to jail people who can’t afford fines.

All of these things, if actually implemented, might sound like decent reforms.

But as fellow C4SS writer Thomas L. Knapp wrote back in December of 2014, when it comes to body cameras and the like, “Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. … Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.”

Why would we want the police to regulate themselves on how well they’re doing? A recent example of Chicago police officers tampering with their dash cams is just the tip of the iceberg. Somehow police often “mysteriously” can’t find evidence against themselves. It seems unlikely that it’d be any different in Ferguson.

Likewise, though there’d be more thorough training of the police, who would it be by? Other police? That’s likely the end result of this supposed “thorough” training that may teach “tolerance” for the disabled and marginalized. But acceptance is a lot more meaningful than tolerance, and how can we expect either to be taught to the police in any case?

They operate in an institution founded on “I was just taking orders” as a legitimate defense to wrong-doing. They operate in an institution that, if it really only had “a few bad apples”, would’ve done something more drastic than putting murdering cops on paid vacations. They operate in an institution that lacks any sort of communal competition in many areas, giving them de facto monopoly provision of defense. This monopoly leads not only to a lack of accountability but also violence on the part of the police.

Lastly, it seems unlikely that the city would, for some reason, stop imprisoning less fortunate citizens. If they’re able to make money off of these prisoners, why would they stop it? It seems akin to asking cops to stop profiting from traffic stops.

It’s a nice gesture to let the public “look” at the document before it’s actually passed.

But that’s all it is, a gesture.

Real change won’t come from the fox guarding the hen house. Real change will come from communities coming together and modeling their efforts less on busy-body neighborhood watches and more like the Black Panthers.

Further, community involvement shouldn’t aid prisons and punishment but rather should entice restitution and resolve.

To do that, my advice is simple: Abolish the police!

Six Baltimore Cops Indicted in Freddie Gray Murder to be Tried Separately Starting in October

bpd-gang-members-killed-freddie-gray-copblockAmid protests, a First Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday that Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, William Porter, Caesar Goodson, Lt. Brian Rice, and Sgt. Alicia White; the six Baltimore police officers indicted for the in custody killing of Freddie Gray ; will be tried separately when the cases go to trial starting in October. In addition, Judge Barry G. Williams ruled against defense motions requesting that the charges be dismissed because of claims of prosecutorial misconduct and another motion seeking to force Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby to recuse herself from the cases.

It was a motion by the defense that had requested separate trials for the officers. The prosecution was seeking to have Goodson, Nero, and White tried together. The defense motions to dismiss charges or force Mosby’s recusal were based on a contention by the defense that Mosby had issued orders for police to crack down on the area where Freddie Gray was arrested and that his arrest was a result of those orders.

Defense attorneys have also claimed in court filings that BPD investigators had information that Freddie Gray had been involved in insurance fraud schemes, in which he would intentionally injure himself in order to collect settlements. However, they provided no actual proof of that allegation.

Freddie Gray Baltimore ProtestOutside the courtroom, dozens of protesters (per USA Today‘s estimates) demonstrated against racism and police violence, as well as advocating for convictions against the officers accused of causing Freddie Gray’s death. Signs being displayed outside the courthouse included, “Stop racism now.” There were also chants of “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell” and “Tell the truth and stop the lies, Freddie Gray didn’t have to die.”

The Baltimore Police Department announced, via Twitter, that one person had been arrested during the protests. in anticipation of further protests during the trial, leave for Baltimore police officers has been cancelled by the department.

The officers are facing various charges ranging from reckless endangerment to second degree murder. According to NBC News:

Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, William Porter and Caesar Goodson, and Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White — were arrested on reckless endangerment charges. Rice, Porter, and White are additionally facing manslaughter, while Goodson has also been charged with second-degree murder.

None of the officers personally attended the hearing. All six of them have pled not guilty to the charges.

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Las Vegas, NV Police (and Security/BLM) Brutality Video Compilation #2 (Update)

0This is an update (sequel?) to a previous police brutality compilation video that Jason Nellis submitted to CopBlock.org (by way of Nevada Cop Block) about a year ago. This version is almost twice as long (because the hits just keep coming) and also includes some incidents involving Las Vegas area security, as well as local actions by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who are employed by the Federal Government.

In the description to the video, on YouTube, Jason writes (links added):

(This is) A 2nd video compiling clips of excessive force and sometimes killing by law enforcement and security in and around Las Vegas. Mostly Metro (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) but also multiple abuses by hotel security guards, especially on Fremont Street downtown, and by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) outside of the city.

 

Last year I made the first part (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgg3C…) in “preparation” for the More Cops Tax vote at the County Commission, which was defeated. That was attempted to be brought back in the past couple months by the new Sheriff (former Sheriff Doug Gillespie announced he wouldn’t run for reelection after the loss), but now it appears indefinitely detained. We need to keep an eye out for that to be brought back though and I’ll update this as we get word.

 

And over the past year such huge national attention has been brought to police brutality and people in general are recording the police more than ever, consistently, and law enforcement agencies across the country are taking notice, and some are even taking responsible steps in the right direction. We keep this up and they’ll remember we the people are who they have to answer to. The problem is still rampant and out here there appears to be a growing problem in our recently revitalized and hyped-up yet gentrified Fremont East district of the Downtown corridor; awareness and pressure are the keys right now against tyranny, and social media is the primary avenue.

 

A recent Facebook (page) to keep track of all the officer-involved shootings in Nevada (why not make a page for your state?): http://facebook.com/ShotByPoliceNV/

 

Keep updated on police abuses and keeping police and the local government accountable at:
http://www.nvcopblock.org

http://www.snwatchdog.org
and more, website submissions welcome. Remain vigilant.

 

Clip sources (all from the past two years):
Police using excesive force on defenseless african american girl (Aug 19, 2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EZc0…

 

Police put man in chokehold (April 6, 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1Vn9…

 

Security from Insert Coins (Fremont Street, Las Vegas) Attack a Man Dancing on the Sidewalk (Feb. 12, 2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkb53…

 

Cop Sexually Assaults Woman Then Arrests Her & Judge Turns Her Back (July 3, 2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtRxZ…

 

Las Vegas Police assaulting rapper for NO REASON (March 31, 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SBD3…

 

I-Team: Man claims police overreacted, used ‘choke hold’ – 8 News Now (Jan. 29, 2015): http://www.8newsnow.com/ story/ 27977459/ i-team-man-claims-police-overreacted-use­d-choke-hold

 

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Beat a Man Because He Didn’t Move Fast Enough (Aug. 8, 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfs3Y…

 

Protesters Fight Police Security On Fremont Street (Dec. 17, 2014- I was there to see the arrests afterward, happened to be on a movie shoot right there): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ntUE…

 

Last moments of man killed by police at Red Rock (Feb. 14, 2014… just before we held a Constitutional protest): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qArk6…

 

Ranch Riot!! Bundy Ranch Protesters Tasered by Federal Agents and Attacked by K9’s (Apr. 9, 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhJ6H…

Watch the video below:

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: The LVMPD’s Killer Reputation

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments' Pathetic History of "Accountability"

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments’ Pathetic History of “Accountability”

A Community in Fear

Not too long ago I attended a meeting of the Clark County Commissioners concerning a vote over the process that would be adopted to address shootings by Las Vegas area police. Prior to the vote that eventually happened (after all the important stuff like giving a certificate to a group from a retirement home whose most lauded act was alerting neighbors if they forgot to close their garage door), members of the community were allowed to address the commissioners regarding the issue.

One speaker after another stepped to the microphone and it wasn’t long at all before a common theme began to develop. Statements such as, “I’m afraid of what will happen if I call the police,” “I would never call the police even if I was in real danger because I’m scared more of them,” and “I don’t trust them not to kill someone if I call them for help” were recited over and over again throughout the session. These fears were often accompanied by personal examples of negative experiences resulting from interactions with Las Vegas area police, including several from the families of people that actually had been killed by the police.

Note: If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

Legitimate Reasons to be Afraid

When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY "punishment" is paid leave.

When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY “punishment” is paid leave.

Obviously, every time the police respond to a call they don’t kill or otherwise abuse the people they encounter, even in Las Vegas. However, it happens often enough to instill the sort of fear and hatred toward them that was on public display during the commissioners’ meeting that day. The problem is that people within the community know that should something happen to them or one of their loved ones at the hands of a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department they have very little hope of that cop ever being held accountable for their actions. They don’t know that the cop responding wants to kill them, but they do know that if they do they will get away with it.

The bigger problem is that members of Las Vegas area police departments also know this. Jesus Arevalo told his then-wife that he wanted to shoot someone so that he could get free time off, based on the policy of placing cops on paid leave during investigations. Within a couple of months after that statement, Stanley Gibson, an unarmed, disabled Persian Gulf veteran suffering from a PTSD induced panic attack and in no way representing a threat to anyone was murdered by Jesus Arevalo. Those seven unnecessary shots fired from Ofc. Arevalo’s AR-15 were the ticket to what is fast approaching two full years of the paid vacation that he had indicated he was hoping for. No charges were ever brought against him for his actions, which even other police on the scene characterized as unexplainable in their official statement to the detectives subsequently going through the motions of an investigation. At worst, Arevalo might possibly be punished by being fired.

A Long History of Corruption and Violence

The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas

The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas

Throughout their history, the LVMPD has consistently rated among the highest statistically nationwide (even when compared against cities with much higher populations) in times they have shot at people while on duty and in the level of fatalities resulting from those shootings. Stanley Gibson was just one of the latest names in the laundry list of the victims of Las Vegas police that includes Erik Scott (whose murderers were later given an award for bravery while gunning down someone from behind and then unloading their guns on him as he lay already dying on the ground), Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, Tanner ChamberlainDeshira Selimaj, and Henry Rowe, among the 150+ shootings just since 1990.

Yet, not one singular time in the close to forty year history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has a Las Vegas area police officer ever been charged for shooting someone, regardless of whether the person shot was unarmed or even completely innocent of having committed any actual crime. One rather telling fact is that the reason the old Las Vegas city police was originally merged with the Clark County Sheriff department to create “Metro” was in response to an uproar after a very questionable shooting that was ruled justifiable. Yet, no matter how questionable the many shootings by Metro have been, the justifications have continued unabated.

An Absolute Refusal to Hold ANYONE Accountable

Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice.

Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice, but will it actually matter?

A recent incident has shined a very public spotlight on the reasons why it is so impossible to hold anyone  within the LVMPD accountable for their actions. In one of the most questionable shootings ever Officer Jacquar Roston claimed to have confused a hat Lawrence Gordon was wearing for a gun and shot him in the leg as he sat in a car. As would be expected of anybody with even half a brain, Metro’s internal Use of Force Review Board didn’t really accept that excuse and recommended that Roston be fired  as a result.

The fact that this recommendation was hailed as an “unprecedented” act by the board tells you a lot about the past history of the Las Vegas police in relation to officer involved shootings. The fact that Sheriff Gillespie promptly disregarded that recommendation in favor of a one week unpaid suspension (after Roston had already spent 8 months on paid vacation during the investigation) tells you a lot about the prospects for any sort of accountability for them in the near future.

However, in one glimmer of hope for some sort of prospect for justice, seven members of the board did actually have the integrity to stand up and resign in disgust after Gillespie’s disgraceful action. One former member of the board, Glenn Rinehimer, stated that previously the board had been “stacked” with retired police officers from other parts of the country designated as civilians. According to Rinehimer, they didn’t seem in any hurry to actually investigate whether shootings were justified. “The retired police just didn’t seem interested,” Rinehimer said. “They didn’t ask a lot of questions. They voted quickly for it to be justified.”

Robert Martinez, a co-chair of the board who also resigned, had previously expressed hope that this sort of rubber stamping had ended once former police employees and their family members were banned from being appointed as civilians on the board last year. He believed that Metro truly desired a fair and transparent process. That is until Gillespie essentially exonerated Roston despite the board’s unanimous recommendation. “I was thoroughly fooled,” Martinez said. “I thought it was going to change and it isn’t.” Within his resignation letter Martinez characterized the process as a flawed one that undermined the Use of Force Review Board.

Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston's 8 month vacation will be unpaid.

Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston’s 8 month vacation will be unpaid.

Former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who submitted for retirement in response to this case, agreed that Gillespie was undermining the credibility of the board even as Metro faces increasing scrutiny over questionable shootings and other scandals that are becoming hard to even keep up with lately. Las Vegas police officers will not have the public’s trust until the department has a credible process for reviewing its own shootings, Moody stated. And that process must be stable, impartial, unbiased and free from political interference. “Anything short of that is going to fuel further suspicion and mistrust and is just begging for the imposition of externally imposed oversight,” he said. “Nobody wants that. We can be better than that.”

Rinehimer went even further in his assessment of the problems with a system that is in practice designed to ensure no cop is ever held accountable. Rinehimer said the sheriff’s decision to overturn the Use of Force Review Board’s recommendation doesn’t set a good precedent, especially for officers who find themselves in similar situations in the future. “At the end of the day, the officer might be sitting there smiling, knowing the sheriff might not fire him anyway,” Rinehimer said. “It’s a farce.”

A Lack of Accountability that is Not Good for Anyone, Even the Police Themselves

The inevitable backlash

The inevitable backlash

There’s an obvious incentive for members of the community to demand accountability for the heavily armed band patrolling through the streets that they live and work. If those individuals are permitted to act as an occupying force with the impunity to do as they please to those within that community, those among their ranks that have an unscrupulous tendency will take advantage of that to commit criminal and violent acts.

However, there are reasons why even those within the local police departments should want to see accountability for those “bad apples” that we are always being told are just exceptions to the rules. Fear eventually gives rise to hostility and working within the bounds of a hostile environment makes someone’s job just that much harder to do. People within communities don’t feel real obligated to help with the investigation of crimes when the person doing the investigation is perceived as being as bad or worse than the people being investigated.

Having to deal with indifference or even active retaliation in the process only serves to make the job of the police more difficult and frustrating, which in turn makes them more bitter and cynical and leads to even more abuses. At some point, that downward spiral needs to be put to an end and the only way to do that is to create real accountability, rather than a hollow, toothless sham that does nothing but draw attention to the lack of it.  And as Sheriff Gillespie recently found out, people are a lot less accepting of having their taxes increased in order to supplement the LVMPD’s budget during an almost daily barrage of news about yet another police scandal.

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