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Oakland's massive new surveillance machine doesn't care about crime, it cares about protesters

Sure, the surveillance device was sold to the public as answer to the out-of-control murders, shootings, and robberies plaguing my fair city, but any look at the actual documents involved in the commissioning of the spy machine reveals that the folks behind it really want to track and bust ordinary protesters. It's not about crime; it's about Occupy. The Real Purpose of Oakland's Surveillance Center | Feature | Oakland, Berkeley & Bay Area News & Arts Coverage
Oakland's citywide surveillance system, the Domain Awareness Center, or DAC, gained national notoriety earlier this year when some city residents voiced strong concerns about the project's privacy and civil rights implications. City officials and supporters of the DAC have responded by contending that objections over privacy and civil rights issues are overblown and that the true purpose of the surveillance center is to help Oakland finally deal with its violent crime problem. But thousands of pages of emails, meeting minutes, and other public documents show that, behind closed doors, city staffers have not been focusing on how the DAC can lower Oakland's violent crime rate. So what is the real purpose of the massive $10.9 million surveillance system? The records we examined show that the DAC is an open-ended project that would create a surveillance system that could watch the entire city and is designed to easily incorporate new high-tech features in the future. And one of the uses that has piqued the interest of city staffers is the deployment of the DAC to track political protesters and monitor large demonstrations. Linda Lye, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, was alarmed when we showed her emails that revealed that the Oakland Police Department has already started using the DAC to keep tabs on people engaged in First Amendment activity. "The fact that the focus so far has been on political protests, rather than the violent crime that's impacting Oakland residents, is troubling, and telling about how the city plans to use the DAC," she said. "Information is always fundamentally about control," she added. Once it's fully operational, the DAC will give Oakland officials an unprecedented ability to monitor peoples' movements, associations, and activities. The Domain Awareness Center is being built in stages and will merge OPD's existing license-plate scanners and gunshot detectors with video feeds from hundreds of surveillance cameras — many already in place and some to be installed in the future by several different agencies throughout the city — into a central hub. Oakland police will monitor this "flood of data," as one DAC project presentation called it. Originally limited to monitoring the Port of Oakland, the DAC has since expanded to encompass the entire city. . . .

December 10, 2013

18 cops indicted for violently beating basically everyone

It's not surprising that the officers would beat and main and disfigure the inmates--it's horrible, but not surprising. What is surprising is that they would also attack visitors to the jail. Even foreign diplomats. 18 Cops At Abusive Sheriff's Department Charged With Brutally Beating Inmates And Jail Visitors | ThinkProgress
More than a dozen officers at the nation’s largest sheriff’s department were indicted Monday for allegedly widespread abuse of inmates at Los Angeles County jails. After years of complaints and a lengthy FBI investigation into brutality and corruption at the jails, the four grand jury indictments amount to the most dramatic statement against the notorious Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department yet. The indictments accuse deputies of beating inmates and then falsifying records to cover up the attacks. Officers even allegedly assaulted and arrested visitors to the jail, including the Austrian consul general. Another indictment charges top jail officials with hiding and changing the name of an inmate who was collaborating with the FBI, so agents could not reach him. Reports of brutality have been trickling out of LA county jails, considered some of the most violent in the nation, for years. A 2012 report by the independent Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence placed the blame squarely on Sheriff Lee Baca for allowing high-level perpetrators of violence against inmates to go unpunished and ignoring the problem. Baca is now denying the U.S. Attorney’s charge that this misconduct was an institutionalized problem. Evidence suggests that, absent pressure from above, a culture of violence festered in the jails. According to one high-level officer, deputies were encouraged to beat inmates, but warned to avoid their faces, where the abuse would be too obviously on display. A harrowing ACLU report from last year suggests even this advice was ignored, as witnesses, former inmates, and current inmates recounted how deputies would routinely stomp on inmates’ heads, even after handcuffing them. “They have bashed inmates’ faces into concrete walls. They have fractured inmates’ facial bones — noses, jaws, cheekbones or eye sockets,” the report reads. In one high profile incident, a man who was simply visiting his brother at the jail was handcuffed and brutally beaten by five officers.