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August 31, 2012

"I will always remember the first time a cop lied to me."

New York City, unlike other American cities, hires kids with no training to investigate complaints against police. This is one guy's story. The Thin Blue Lie – The New Inquiry
I will always remember the first time a cop lied to me. Or rather, the first time that I knew beyond a doubt that a cop was lying to me, sitting right there in the interview room with a tape recorder in front of him. It was early in my tenure as an investigator at the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city agency established in 1993 to investigate allegations of misconduct against NYPD officers. The case was a fairly straightforward stop-and-frisk incident near the massive New York City Housing Authority complexes along Avenue D in Manhattan. The complainant, a man in his early 20s, alleged that a plainclothes cop had stopped, frisked, and searched him after he stepped out of a bodega. He’d given a guy a cigarette, and before he knew it, the cop came up from behind him, grabbed him by the coat, and after a quick scuffle, pushed him against a wall. I’d already interviewed the cop’s unusually forthcoming partner, whose testimony matched the complainant’s. That’s how I knew the cop was making stuff up. Lots of stuff. The experience was exhilarating: Not every 22-year-old has a chance to interrogate an armed member of the country’s largest police force. But there I was. And this cop had not only illegally stopped, frisked, and searched a citizen but had also lied about it, and I suddenly found myself in a position to hold him accountable. I closed the case as “substantiated,” meaning the complaint was legitimate. The Board handed the case over to the police department with a recommendation of disciplinary measures. But within a few months, the police department had dismissed the case. As usual, they did not explain why. From then on, being lied to by police officers became so common that the excitement—of not only catching them in the act but making an official record of it—gave way to anesthetized indifference. I would see many legitimate complaints fall by the wayside, ignored by the police department or lost in the CCRB’s bureaucratic labyrinth. . . .

August 30, 2012

Pawns in the War on Drugs: the unregulated, immoral, and dangerous world of the snitch

In exchange for leniency, kids are thrown into dangerous situations with no training and very little help. Pawns in the War on Drugs : The New Yorker
By the evening of her death, Rachel Hoffman had been working for the police department for almost three weeks. In bureaucratic terms, she was Confidential Informant No. 1129, or C.I. Hoffman. In legal parlance, she was a “cooperator,” one of thousands of people who, each year, help the police build cases against others, often in exchange for a promise of leniency in the criminal-justice system. Informants are the foot soldiers in the government’s war on drugs. By some estimates, up to eighty per cent of all drug cases in America involve them, often in active roles like Hoffman’s. For police departments facing budget woes, untrained C.I.s provide an inexpensive way to outsource the work of undercover officers. “The system makes it cheap and easy to use informants, as opposed to other, less risky but more cumbersome approaches,” says Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a leading expert on informants. “There are fewer procedures in place and fewer institutional checks on their use.” Often, deploying informants involves no paperwork and no institutional oversight, let alone lawyers, judges, or public scrutiny; their use is necessarily shrouded in secrecy. “They can get us into the places we can’t go,” says Brian Sallee, a police officer who is the president of B.B.S. Narcotics Enforcement Training and Consulting, a firm that instructs officers around the country in drug-bust procedures. “Without them, narcotics operations would practically cease to function.” Every day, offenders are sent out to perform high-risk police operations with few legal protections. Some are juveniles, occasionally as young as fourteen or fifteen. Some operate through the haze of addiction; others, like Hoffman, are enrolled in state-mandated treatment programs that prohibit their association with illegal drugs of any kind. Many have been given false assurances by the police, used without regard for their safety, and treated as disposable pawns of the criminal-justice system. . . .

August 29, 2012

South African officials charge striking miners with murder after the police gunned down their co-workers

See, forcing the police to kill your friends by protesting for higher wages totally makes sense. I mean, they guys running away from the cops who were shot in their backs wouldn't have been shot if they hadn't gone on strike in the first place, right? Miners face murder rap - Times LIVE
Frank Lesenyego, the NPA's regional spokesman, yesterday confirmed that the miners had been charged with murder and not public violence as previously stated. Asked to clarify the confusion - after police commissioner Riah Phiyega had earlier confirmed that the miners died after police shot at them with live ammunition - Lesenyego said: "It's technical but, in legal [terms], when people attack or confront [the police] and a shooting takes place which results in fatalities ... suspects arrested, irrespective of whether they shot police members or the police shot them, are charged with murder." On August 16, police shot dead 34 striking mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana mine in North West. On the same day, the 259 workers were arrested for public violence. Another 78 were admitted to hospital. . . .