Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Behind Baltimore

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  • Tom Semmens,

    It is only with slight hyperbole that I can say that in my observation a young policeman at a US music festivals is like an isolated and dangerous island, that the crowd carefully parts to avoid. Whereas in this country usually the main danger to a young policeman at music festivals is getting kissed by to many *ahem* "exuberant" young women.

    Compliance vs. community policing, I guess.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Whereas in this country usually the main danger to a young policeman at music festivals is getting kissed by to many *ahem* "exuberant" young women.

    The forbearance of young policemen in these situations is often a heartwarming spectacle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Compliance vs. community policing, I guess.

    More to do with incentives, I’d say.

    As pointed out in the documentary, the structure of pay in the US Police Force is such that officers receive performance pay based on the number of arrests they make. So they persecute poor neighbourhoods to boost their own take home pay. In other words, it PAYS to be doing drug enforcement as you can make multiple arrests in a day – whereas investigative/detective type work (i.e., solving crime) doesn’t pay.

    Watch the doco – they lead the world in respect of state sanctioned persecution based on race.

    We as a nation should be placing economic sanctions on them - not negotiating an FTA.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • fraser munro,

    apologies if linked already (quick skimming this from work

    the house i live in - http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/tuesday-festival-documentaries/S01E001/house-i-live

    played on maori tv a couple of days back - highly recommended

    ranui • Since Nov 2014 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • fraser munro, in reply to Russell Brown,

    was at leigh sawmill several new years back - at midnight a parade of loved up punters, (mostly young women), kept hugging (and kissing) the two police men present, you could tell they were quite happy with their evenings assignment :-)

    ranui • Since Nov 2014 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • fraser munro, in reply to fraser munro,

    aaand - thats what you get for not reading to the bottom - doh

    ranui • Since Nov 2014 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to fraser munro,

    aaand – thats what you get for not reading to the bottom – doh

    The thought is appreciated :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    As pointed out in the documentary, the structure of pay in the US Police Force is such that officers receive performance pay based on the number of arrests they make. So they persecute poor neighbourhoods to boost their own take home pay. In other words, it PAYS to be doing drug enforcement as you can make multiple arrests in a day – whereas investigative/detective type work (i.e., solving crime) doesn’t pay.

    That's one of the most compelling parts of the film, I think.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    Recently , a US Border guard shot and killed a mexican boy who was standing across the Rio Grande on the mexican side..There isnt any legal redress.
    This wasnt a one off but part of a recent pattern

    You can even see US courts action with regard Kim Dotcom, calling him a 'fugitive from justice', when he is in fact complying with all court actions and is on court approved bail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    We interviewed "the real Omar" a while back. In his words “Until we come together as a people and say enough is enough, everything that’s happening is going to continue.”

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 169 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That's one of the most compelling parts of the film, I think.

    Compelling? Not the word I'd use .. abhorrent is more appropriate. I was very taken aback by the stats regards rates of imprisonment which compared Russia, China and the US. How could the land of liberty have come to this? And I think the documentary answered that: crony capitalism begets corruption begets violence against ones own citizenry and wrongful imprisonment. There are so many historical examples of the rise and rise of despotic regimes - what is really telling is the fact that the judiciary has been co-opted against their will/moral judgement. That signals the complete breakdown of democracy/democratic principles.

    There is no reason to my mind why a black person/family living in the inner city/projects should not be able to claim refugee status under UN Convention.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Goody,

    Personally think David Simon is way off in his commentary. While the arguments for decriminalizing drugs are persuasive overall, to suggest that ending the war on drugs and getting back to 'real policing' will somehow provide the antidote to the poverty, racism and police brutality in Baltimore doesn't really address the deep seeded anger in the community.

    His initial commentary on the protest and telling people to go home was also groan inducing.

    Lanre Bakare's response to him in the Guardian is a good read.

    Toronto • Since Mar 2015 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    The Divide by Matt Tabibi, is an interesting look at the two-gear law enforcement system in the US at present – one law for the rich (and mostly white) and another for the poor.

    Number of people criminally prosecuted for GFC- precipitating shenanigans – 0. Number of people being prosecuted every year for welfare fraud – thousands. He tells a story of a woman denied welfare because she owned sexy undies. Yes, if you’re poor and asking for assistance in the US, welfare officials can and do go through your drawers.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    As pointed out in the documentary, the structure of pay in the US Police Force is such that officers receive performance pay based on the number of arrests they make.

    That's a bat-shit crazy KPI ! Surely you don't want more people arrested - you want less crime. The KPI should be a reduction in crimes committed in their area. (Which of course leads to cops actively discouraging victims of crime from reporting it ...).

    I don't think incentive pay for the police is a public good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Goody,

    Personally think David Simon is way off in his commentary.

    I did think he got lost in describing "The Code" in this week's interview. But in the film he makes the point that in Baltimore the arrest rate for drug offences has doubled over time and the arrest for murder and serious violent offences has halved. That's a pretty stark figure

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    This doesn't help either:

    Former Philly Cop, Jeffrey Walker, held little back Tuesday as he confessed to the jurors about his disgraceful past. He let them know about how he and his fellow officers set people up, planted drugs, stole money, lied on reports, and violently assaulted people — too many times to count.

    http://shareverything.com/2015/04/29/ex-drug-cop-says-he-fellow-cops-lied-planted-drugs-and-stole-money-too-many-times-to-count/

    and this is the kind of thinking at Government level that gets them to this place where the police are a military force unto themselves:
    http://www.thedailysheeple.com/abusive-cia-manager-removed-for-creating-hostile-work-environment-now-promoted-to-lead-role-in-drone-program_042015

    at least the unions are fighting back:

    This Friday, the Port of Oakland‘s rumbling cranes will stand silent as workers rally against recent police shootings and violence.
    Local longshoremen are helping organize the extremely busy port’s day-long shutdown, which will last from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In an unusual sign of solidarity, shipping and terminal owners are supporting the protest, reports the San Francisco Business Times:

    http://govtslaves.info/the-port-of-oakland-will-shut-down-friday-to-protest-police-violence/

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander theorises that the War on Drugs is "the New Jim Crow".

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Howard Edwards, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    As pointed out in the documentary, the structure of pay in the US Police Force is such that officers receive performance pay based on the number of arrests they make

    I didn't see the documentary (thanks for the pointers to where I can get it online) but I thought that every district or city has its own police force, i.e. there is no US Police Force (other than the FBI of course). Would they all use the same KPI?

    There was an article in the NZ Herald recently (which I can't find online - searching for "police" or "US police" produces 100s of results) which made this point. As a result it is virtually impossible to find any national US police statistics as there is no nationwide requirement to either gather or report data such as number of deaths while in custody etc. So no-one actually knows what the levels of police misconduct and brutality are like in the USA.

    Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Howard Edwards,

    there is no US Police Force

    As I understand it, you are right there - and each local police force is funded by property taxes in the main, I believe. So, terms of employment are likely to differ - but the sentencing regime is determined federally - hence the judiciary is co-opted on a nationwide basis.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara,

    This interview about Johann Hari's book was fascinating. Racism is at the root of the "war on drugs".

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/20171890/the-war-on-drugs-johann-hari

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 115 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Goody,

    Personally think David Simon is way off in his commentary. While the arguments for decriminalizing drugs are persuasive overall, to suggest that ending the war on drugs and getting back to ‘real policing’ will somehow provide the antidote to the poverty, racism and police brutality in Baltimore doesn’t really address the deep seeded anger in the community.

    It still seems to me that the drug war is the major component of all the American judicial gimmickry – mandatory minimums, no-parole law – that has wrecked black communities. The conservative American Bar Association has been banging this drum for years now:

    The American Bar Association, represented at the hearing by Tampa, Fla., lawyer James E. Felman, also opposed mandatory minimums. “The United States now imprisons its citizens at a rate roughly five to eight times higher than the countries of Western Europe and 12 times higher than Japan. Roughly one-quarter of all persons imprisoned in the entire world are behind bars here in the United States. In the 25 years since the advent of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and the adoption of the Sentencing Guidelines, the average federal sentence has roughly tripled in length… The time has come to reverse the course of over-incarceration,” Felman said. “Sentencing by mandatory minimums is the antithesis of rational sentencing policy.”

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • James W,

    Mic.com has a good explainer article up here, including this passage which punched me in the gut:

    A 43-year-old man was arrested for public urination…

    He was handcuffed and placed in a transport van in good health. He emerged a quadriplegic.

    Before he died, he complained to his doctor that he was not buckled into his seat when the police van "made a sharp turn," sending him "face first" into the interior of the van, court records state. He was "violently thrown around the back of the vehicle as [police officers] drove in an aggressive fashion, taking turns so as to injure [Johnson], who was helplessly cuffed," the lawsuit stated.

    Johnson, who suffered a fractured neck, died two weeks later of pneumonia caused by his paralysis. His family sued, and a jury agreed that three officers were negligent in the way they treated Johnson. The initial $7.4 million award, however, was eventually reduced to $219,000 by Maryland's Court of Special Appeals because state law caps such payouts.

    Since Jul 2008 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    As I understand it, you are right there – and each local police force is funded by property taxes in the main, I believe.

    Crazily, the revenue gap is increasingly being filled by police use of civil forfeiture. Police forces can basically stop people and take their money and possessions – and keep them without ever laying a charge. The film touches on it, but the New Yorker's staggering 2013 story is the go-to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Goody, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It still seems to me that the drug war is the major component of all the American judicial gimmickry

    For certain. Also essential in fostering a situation where African Americans cannot find work, are deprived of education and are totally barred from participating in the political system.

    Key stats about Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighbourhood:

    https://twitter.com/_cingraham/status/592884827952652288

    And also the staggering income disparity between sections of Baltimore:

    http://blogs-images.forbes.com/dandiamond/files/2015/04/Two.Baltimores.2.png

    Toronto • Since Mar 2015 • 24 posts Report Reply

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