Monday, July 30, 2012

Police Shootings Echo Nationwide: Aurora Gets the Attention, But Guns Are Going Off Everywhere

Welcome to the abattoir -- a nation where a man can walk into a store and buy an assault rifle, a shotgun, a couple of Glocks; where in the comfort of his darkened living room, windows blocked from the sunlight, he can rig a series of bombs unperturbed and buy thousands of rounds of ammo on the Internet; where a movie theater can turn into a killing floor at the midnight hour.

We know about all of this. We know because the weekend of July 20th became all-Aurora-all-the-time, a round-the-clock engorgement of TV news reports, replete with massacre theme music, an endless loop of victims, their loved ones, eyewitness accounts, cell-phone video, police briefings, informal memorials, and “healing,” all washed down with a presidential visit and hour upon hour of anchor and “expert” speculation. We know this because within a few days a Google search for “Aurora movie shootings” produced over 200 million hits referencing the massacre that left 70-plus casualties, including 12 fatalities.

We know a lot less about Anaheim and the killing of Manuel Angel Diaz, shot in the back and in the head by that city’s police just a few short hours after the awful Aurora murders.

But to the people living near La Palma Avenue and North Anna Drive, the shooting of Manuel Diaz was all too familiar: it was the sixth, seventh, or eighth police shooting in Anaheim, California, since the beginning of 2012. (No one seems quite sure of the exact count, though the Orange County District Attorney’s office claims six shootings, five fatalities.)

Diaz, 25, and as far as police are concerned, a “documented gang member,” was unarmed. He was apparently running when he was shot in the back and left to lie on the ground bleeding to death as police moved witnesses away from the scene. “He’s alive, man, call a cop!” a man shouted at the police. “Why would you guys shoot him in the head?” a woman demanded.

“Get back,” officers repeatedly said, pushing mothers and youngsters away from the scene, which they surrounded with yellow crime-scene tape.

Neighborhood residents gathered on lawns along the street, upset at what had happened near their homes, upset at what has been occurring repeatedly in Anaheim.  Then, police, seeking to disperse the crowd, began firing what appeared to be rubber bullets and bean bag rounds directly at those women and children, among others. Screaming chaos ensued. A police dog was unleashed and lunged for a toddler in a stroller. A mother and father, seeking to protect their child, were themselves attacked by the dog.

We know this because a local CBS affiliate, KCAL, broadcast footage of the attack. We know it because cell phone video, which police at the scene sought to buy, according to KCAL, showed it in all its stark and sudden brutality. We know it also because neighbors immediately began to organize. On Sunday they demonstrated at police headquarters, demanding answers. “No justice, no peace,” they chanted.

Who Is Being Killed and in What Numbers?

This is daily life in less suburban, less white America. On Sunday, when the first of growing daily protests took place, Anaheim police shot and killed another man running away, Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21. Acevedo was armed and opened fired, police maintained -- yet another suspected gang member.

It is not hyperbole to say this is virtually a daily routine in America. It’s considered so humdrum, so much background noise, that it is rarely reported beyond local newscasts and metro briefs. In the days bracketing the Aurora massacre, San Francisco police shot and killed mentally ill Pralith Pralourng; Tampa police shot and killed Javon Neal, 16; an off-duty cop shot Pierre Davis, 20, of Chicago; Miami-Dade police shot and killed an unidentified “stalking suspect”; an off-duty FBI agent shot an unnamed man in Queens; Kansas City police shot and killed 58-year-old Danny L. Walsh; Lynn police and a Massachusetts state trooper shot and killed Brandon Payne, 23, a father of three; Henderson police shot and killed Andy Puente Soto, 42, out in the desert wastes near Las Vegas.
These are some of the anonymous dead.  Their names are occasionally afloat on seas of Internet data or in local news reports. Many are young, even very young; many are people of color; many are wanted by the police for one thing or another; some are crazy; some are armed; some, like Manuel Diaz, are not.

In the end, though, we know remarkably little about these victims of police action. The FBI, which annually tracks every two-bit break-in, car theft, and felony, keeps no comprehensive records of incidents involving police use of deadly force, nor are there comprehensive national records that track what police officers do with their guns. Because of that we have no sense of whether such killings are waxing or waning, whether different cities present different threats, whether increased use of private security guards poses a greater or lesser danger to the public, whether neighborhood watch groups are a blessing or a bane to their neighborhoods. The Trayvon Martins of the world, who could perhaps speak to that last point, are mute.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report does include a more limited category of “Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, Law Enforcement,” defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” That figure has hovered around 400 annually for the last several years. (In 2010, it was 387, down from 414 in 2009; in 2006, it was 386.)

Would Manuel Diaz fall into that category? Was he a felon? Can running fit the bill for “justifiable homicide”? The FBI does list all police officers killed while on duty, whether they are gunned down deliberately by violent suspects or hit accidentally by a car.  (In 2010, the FBI reported, 56 officers died “feloniously,” while 72 were killed “accidentally.”) But the Manuel Diazes of America are not included in the FBI data sets.

Ramarley Graham, 18, followed and shot by New York City police last February, is of little interest to FBI statisticians. But the Graham killing, which has resulted in manslaughter charges against a member of the NYPD, stirred numerous protests in that city. Luther Brown Jr., killed by Stockton, California, police in April, and James Rivera, killed by Stockton police two years ago, stirred community protest as well. Would their names make the FBI list of “justifiable homicide”? Who makes that judgment and on what basis?

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has been compiling data on deaths of suspects following arrests, but the information covers just 40 states and only includes arrest fatalities. From January 2003 through December 2009, bureau statistics show 4,813 deaths occurred during “an arrest or restraint process.” Of those, 61% (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel, 11% (541) as suicides, 11% (525) as due to intoxication, 6% (272) as accidental injuries, and 5% (244) were attributed to natural causes. About 42% of the dead were white, 32% were black, and 20% were Hispanic.

Total gun deaths nationwide in 2010? 11,493, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Who Is At Risk?

The lack of authoritative and comprehensive national data on police shootings and the reluctance of local law enforcement departments to release information on the use of deadly force has sent researchers onto the Internet searching for stories and anecdotal evidence. Newspapers looking into the issue must painstakingly gather information and documents from multiple agencies and courts to determine who is being killed and why. One major recent independent effort by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2011 -- undertaken in the wake of community protests over two police shootings in 2010 -- confirmed anecdotal evidence drawn from virtually all major metropolitan areas. If you are a young man, a person of color, and live in a poor urban area, you are far more likely to become a victim of police gunfire than if you are none of those things.

The newspaper, which analyzed court cases, police data, and other documents, determined that there had been 378 victims of police gunfire in the Las Vegas area since January 1990; 142 of the shootings were fatal.  And deaths from police gunfire, the paper found, had risen from two in 1990 to 31 in 2010.

Over the entire period of the study, the paper found that “blacks, less than 10 percent of Clark County's population, account for about 30 percent of Las Vegas police shooting subjects. Moreover, 18 percent of blacks shot at by police were unarmed.”

A joint study carried out by the Chicago Reporter and the online news site Colorlines in 2007 determined that “about 9,500 people nationally were killed by police during the years 1980 to 2005 -- an average of nearly one fatal shooting per day.” African-Americans “were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city” investigated (the nation’s 10 largest).

African-Americans would not be surprised by this finding; nor would it come as a surprise to Hispanics to learn that they are increasingly at risk of police gunfire. Bureau of Justice statistics show that 949 Hispanics suffered arrest-related deaths from 2003 to 2009 (out of the total of 4,813 such deaths noted above). The numbers have bounced around over the years, but are trending up from 109 in 2003 to 130 in 2009.

Certainly, the Latino community of Anaheim is familiar with this territory. Orange County and Anaheim authorities have promised investigations of the two recent police shootings. The FBI is reviewing the shootings and the U.S. Attorney’s office has agreed to conduct an investigation at the request of Anaheim’s civilian authorities. Those authorities -- the mayor and five-member city council -- are all Anglo, while Hispanics constitute about 52% of that city's 336,000 residents. There is no civilian complaint review board in place to conduct any probe of police actions, no independent group gathering information over time. The family of Manuel Diaz has filed a federal civil rights suit in the case and called for community calm as protestors become increasingly restive.

“There is a racial and economic component to this shooting,” said Dana Douglas, a Diaz family attorney. “Police don’t roust white kids in affluent neighborhoods who are just having a conversation. And those kids have no reason to fear police. But young men with brown skin in poor neighborhoods do. They are targeted by police.”

Post-9/11 Money Is No Help

The last decade, of course, has seen an enormous flow of federal counterterrorism money to local police and law enforcement agencies. Since 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security has allocated $30 to $40 billion to local police for all manner of training programs and equipment upgrades. Other federal funding has also been freely dispensed.

Yet for all the beefing up of post-9/11 visual surveillance, communications, and Internet-monitoring capabilities, for all the easing of laws governing searches and wiretaps, law enforcement authorities failed to pick up on the multiple weapons purchases, the massive Internet ammo buys, and the numerous package deliveries to the dark apartment in the building on Paris Street where preparations for the Aurora massacre took place for months.

Orange County, where Manuel Diaz lived, now has a fleet of seven armored vehicles. SWAT officers turn out in 30 to 40 pounds of gear, including ballistic helmets, safety goggles, radio headsets with microphones, bulletproof vests, flash bangs, smoke canisters, and loads of ammunition. The Anaheim police and other area departments are networked by countywide Wi-Fi. They run their own intelligence collection and dissemination center. They are linked to surveillance helicopters. 

The feds have also anted up for extensive police training for Anaheim officers. In fact, Anaheim and Orange County have received about $100 million from the federal government since 2002 to bring operations up to twenty-first century speed in the age of terror. Yet for all that money, training, and equipment, police still managed to shoot and kill a running unarmed man in the back, just as NYPD officers shot unarmed Liberian-born Amadou Diallo after chasing him up his Bronx apartment building steps in February of 1999.

Diallo was infamously shot 41 times after pulling his wallet from his pocket, apparently to show identification. Police thought it was a gun. The shooting precipitated national protests and acquittals in a subsequent trial of the police officers involved. The year Diallo was killed was also the year of the Columbine massacre, 20 miles from Aurora. It seems like only last week.

Since that time the nation as a whole has become poorer and less white, while police departments everywhere are building up their capabilities and firepower with 9/11-related funding. Gun ownership of almost any sort has been cemented into our American world as a constitutional right and a partial ban on purchases of assault weapons lapsed in 2004, thanks to congressional inaction. This combination of trends should make everyone uneasy.

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a TomDispatch regular.  His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.  To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Salisbury discusses the lack of good numbers on police shootings and why they are so poorly covered, click here or download it to your iPod here.

[Note: Bureau of Justice Statistics data on the demographics of arrest-related deaths can be found by clicking here.]

Family of man who was killed by Chandler cops during arrest speaks out

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The family of the man who died while being arrested by Chandler Police has spoken out.

Ralph Gamboa’s sister, Lisa Gambo, told 3TV that her brother was healthy and not using drugs during Friday’s confrontation. She also said the police have provided little answers to the family.

“I don’t think they did the right thing holding him down and doing what they did to him. He fought I understand that. They should have did something else,” said Lisa Gamboa.

Chandler Police attempted to arrest Ralph Gamboa on Friday for a felony warrant. Officers and Gamboa eventually got into a physical confrontation, which included the use of a Taser.

Gamboa became unresponsive during the altercation and was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Gamboa’s family has alleged that the police used excessive force.

“We did not use excessive force at all. In fact, this textbook per our policy,” said Chandler Police detective Seth Tyler.

All of the officers who were a part of the physical confrontation were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Did Tempe cop Aaaron Smith steal from you?

If you were pulled over by a Tempe cop you might recognize this cop's mug shot, officer Aaron Smith resigned today after being caught in a sting after police property went missing. He also took cash off an undercover detective who set him up.

From the AZ Repulsive:
A Tempe police officer has resigned after more than seven years with the department after admitting to having stolen police property and cash, according to the Tempe Police Department.

Former patrol officer Aaron Smith was taken into custody Saturday morning near Dobson Road and Southern Avenue after a month-long internal investigation, according to Tempe Police spokesman Lt. Mike Horn. He faces charges of theft, burglary and tampering with physical evidence, Horn said.

Police supervisors had begun receiving reports of missing items -- including two police bicycles, an equipment case, and money -- in early July. On July 20, about $750 reportedly disappeared from a petty-cash lock box. Smith had access to the areas where the property disappeared, and his swing-shift hours matched up with when the items went missing, Horn said.

On July 26, an undercover detective gave a purse with $142 in it to Smith, describing it as "found property." By the end of the workweek, Smith still hadn't impounded or processed the money, Horn said. Tempe detectives found the stolen bikes and purse when they served search warrants at Smith's home, vehicles and work locker Saturday.

Following the arrest, Smith admitted to stealing the property and the roughly $1,000 in cash, saying he was under extreme financial hardship, according to Horn.

He had reportedly given the bicycles to his children as gifts. Police believe Smith acted alone.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's campaign signs burned and knocked down across Phoenix

PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's re-election campaign is feeling the heat, literally.
Someone torched one of his campaign signs.

“Sadly our political opponents out there that don't agree with Sheriff Joe's policies are resorting to vandalism,” said Arpaio’s campaign manager, Chad Willems.

Across the Valley 3TV found signs knocked over and ripped out of the ground.

This week Willem’s got a surprise visit from Tempe police officers.

“They brought six signs that a gentleman found behind his house that were just dumped there,” said Willems.

Someone also got creative with another sign and spray painted blue profanity all over it

“What we do know is it's not our supporters. So we don't know who is exactly out there doing it, but it's not our people,” said Willems.

Stacy Pearson is the spokesperson for Paul Penzone’s campaign.

Penzone is one of Arpaio’s political opponents.

Pearson said their camp is not behind the vandalism.

“Penzone's campaign has 400 volunteers committed to restoring integrity to the office. Destroying signs isn't a part of the game plan, we strongly discourage it,” said Pearson.

According to Pearson, Penzone's signs are disappearing too.

However, Pearson isn't surprised Arpaio's signs are being vandalized.

“I think when it comes to Arpaio it's a symptom of people being very frustrated with his administration,” said Pearson.

Willems said Arpaio’s signs aren't cheap, with each one costing $17.00.

According to Phoenix police, defacing a political sign falls under a class 3 misdemeanor and someone can be charged with a felony depending on the circumstances and the amount of the damage.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cruelty on the border: A hidden camera shows Border Patrol agents destroying water jugs left for migrants, and the abuse just gets worse

A hidden camera set up by the group No More Deaths shows Border Patrol agents destroying water left in the desert for migrants to drink. The video will be broadcast tonight on the PBS show "Need to Know." 
The bodies have been turning up for years, thousands of them, scattered across the borderlands in the American Southwest. Ever-stricter border enforcement has encouraged migrants to avoid cities like San Diego and El Paso and take their chances at remote desert crossings instead. As they trek across the vast, unfamiliar and scorching terrain, many get disoriented and run out of water, with devastating consequences. So far this year, 94 bodies have been recovered in Arizona alone.

Since 2004, a faith-based coalition called No More Deaths has been leaving gallon jugs of water near common migration routes in a desperate bid to save lives. But in May of this year, just as temperatures in the harsh Sonoran Desert climbed above 100 degrees, the group’s volunteers began to notice that their water bottles were being slashed, destroyed or emptied. With violence from ranchers and vigilantes a constant threat, No More Deaths installed hidden cameras. They were surprised at what they found: Border Patrol agents were purposely, even gleefully, destroying the life-saving jugs of water.

Visible on the tape, which will be broadcast for the first time tonight on the PBS show “Need to Know,” are three Border Patrol agents, two men and a woman, walking along a migrant trail and approaching half a dozen one-gallon jugs of water. The female agent stops in front of the containers and begins to kick them, with force, down a ravine. The bottles crash against rocks, bursting open. She’s smiling. One of the agents watching her smiles as well, seeming to take real pleasure in the spectacle. He says something under his breath, and the word “tonk” is clearly audible. “Tonk,” it turns out, is a bit of derogatory slang used by some Border Patrol agents to refer to undocumented immigrants. One agent told me it’s derived from the sound a flashlight makes when you hit someone over the head — tonk. After destroying the entire water supply, the three agents continue along the path.

(In response to specific questions about these events, Border Patrol officials replied only with a general statement emphasizing that misconduct would not be tolerated and that agents were trained to treat migrants with dignity and respect.)

The event was not an anomaly. A volunteer with No More Deaths had complained several months earlier to Lisa Reed, community liaison for the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, that water was being destroyed by agents. Reed responded then with an email saying, “I am preparing a memo from the Chief to all the agents directing them to leave water alone.” The agents on the tape apparently either never got the memo — or simply ignored it.

This attitude extends into the Border Patrol’s holding facilities.

I met Demetrio, a migrant in his early 20s from Veracruz, Mexico, after he was apprehended by the Border Patrol. At the time of his capture, he’d been lost in the Arizona desert without food or water for three days. When he arrived at the Border Patrol custody facility outside Tucson, he told agents he felt sick and was running a fever. “I asked to see a doctor … and they said no,” Demetrio said. “One of them said, ‘Put him in there and let him die.’” They shoved him into an overcrowded cell. He was vomiting blood and felt so faint he could barely stand. Yet, according to Demetrio, he was not given any food or water for at least six to seven hours.

Border Patrol protocol requires agents to provide detainees with food, drinking water and emergency medical services, to hold them under humane conditions, and to refrain from making degrading remarks, but this is rarely honored in practice, say human rights advocates. Over the past 15 years, reports documenting human rights abuses at the hands of Border Patrol agents have been published by Amnesty International, the ACLU, No More Deaths, even the United Nations. Contrary to their own protocols, Border Patrol agents have been accused of systematically denying food and water to migrants in custody, forcing them into overcrowded cells, stealing their money, confiscating medications, and denying them medical treatment. Migrants have described agents hurling verbal abuse, racial slurs and curses, and inflicting sexual assault, physical violence, even death. At least 14 migrants and border residents have died at the hands of Border Patrol agents over the past two years. These practices appear to be systemic, amounting to what No More Deaths calls “a culture of cruelty.”

The Department of Homeland Security claims that only three complaints were lodged against Border Patrol detention conditions for the entirety of 2010 (the most current data), a year when agents apprehended more than 463,000 individuals. Only 10 complaints were filed for “abuse of authority” that year and 13 for “discrimination.” A request to see a log of those complaints, as well as a record of any disciplinary actions taken by the Border Patrol, was denied; a Freedom of Information Act request filed last month has yet to elicit a response.

So I took a trip to Nogales, Mexico, to visit the Kino Border Initiative, a faith-based migrant-care facility. Sean Carroll, a Jesuit priest, heads the organization and oversees a shelter, a medical clinic and a soup kitchen that feeds up to 100 people each day. “Abuses are happening,” Carroll says. “It’s not every agent. But institutionally, there are problems. Migrants are being abused verbally, physically, sexually. And it violates their human dignity.”

In Nogales, we polled a group of about 75 migrants, almost all recent deportees, who had gathered for the 9 a.m. meal. I asked whether any of them had been denied food or water or had been forced into overcrowded cells. Were they physically or verbally abused? Had any of them been denied medical care? In each case, more than 50 people raised their hands. In a single morning, in one town along the border, there seemed to be more instances of abuse than in an entire year of complaints compiled by Homeland Security.

Doctors of the World and the International Red Cross each maintain facilities at strategic locations along the Mexican side of the border to provide medical assistance to deportees. Both organizations confirm that migrants are routinely denied medical attention while in the custody of the Border Patrol. They say migrants also have their prescription medication confiscated without any medical evaluation.

According to Norma Quijada Ibarra, a registered nurse with the Kino Border Initiative, “Every day we have someone that has been abused by the Border Patrol. I just saw a patient with a fracture detained for a few days. They didn’t give him any food, or medicine for the pain.”
In two days in Nogales, I heard firsthand accounts of young women being slapped on the rear as they were being searched. Other women said they were kicked and called whores or told they smelled worse than dogs. I listened to accounts of men being crammed into cells so overcrowded no one could sit or lie down. The only way to fit in the cell was to stand, shoulder to shoulder — for three days straight.

If the migrants complained of overcrowding, several of the men told me, the Border Patrol would add more people to the cell. If a migrant complained the cell was too cold, agents would crank up the AC; if detainees complained it was too hot, agents would turn up the heat. I heard numerous accounts of migrants having their personal belongings confiscated and never returned. Migrants told of being deported to Mexico without their cellphones or backpacks — without even their belts and shoelaces. I spoke to three men who told me they each had over $100 in cash and Mexican identification documents among their confiscated personal belongings. Their ID cards were destroyed and their money was never returned. When the men asked for their money back, the agents said, “It’s ours now.” All of these accounts, if true, would constitute serious violations of Border Patrol protocol and of international human rights standards.

Demetrio recounted one devastating incident he witnessed while he was in custody, the details of which were corroborated by another detainee. He saw a young migrant pulled from the cell where they were being held for failing to understand an order shouted at him in English. He was then forced to kneel on bottle caps with his arms extended. “They forced him to stay like that for more than three hours,” Demetrio said. If he lowered his arms from fatigue, agents shouted at him and prodded him to keep them up. Both witnesses say that agents covered surveillance cameras with cracker boxes during the incident — and uncovered them again once they returned the young man to his cell.

One former Border Patrol agent, Ephraim Cruz, also witnessed forms of abuse that he saw as tantamount to torture. Cruz describes agents, at the direction of their commanding officers, forcing detainees to remain in half-squat or “stress positions” until they could no longer stand. He says agents were trying to teach the migrants, “I’m the authority. Get in line. When I say move, you move.”

In his nine years working the border near Tucson, Ariz., and earning the rank of senior agent, Cruz says he frequently saw agents physically abusing detainees and denying food and water to those who were in obvious need. He also saw “individuals being crammed into cells twice beyond the posted capacity. Standing room only. I mean, you couldn’t even lie down on the floor.” This was done, he says, even when empty cells were available nearby. In 2003, he began warning his supervisors of this pattern of abuse. When his spoken complaints didn’t elicit a response, he began to write letters. “I started at the unit level,” Cruz says. “I went to the sector chief, office of inspector general — via phone calls and faxes of those memorandums. Went on to the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, who’s over the U.S. Border Patrol Agency. And then felt the need to move on to Congress.” Cruz left the force in 2007 without ever hearing a response.

We contacted Richard A. Barlow, sector chief for the Tucson Border Patrol, for a response to allegations of agent misconduct. He declined to be interviewed, instead issuing this response: “Border Patrol agents are required to treat all those they encounter with respect and dignity. This requirement is consistently addressed in training and consistently reinforced throughout an agent’s career. On a daily basis, agents make every effort to ensure that people in our custody are given food, water, and medical attention as needed. Mistreatment or agent misconduct will not be tolerated in any way. Any agent within our ranks who does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct will be identified and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

Customs and Border Patrol in Washington responded in even more general terms: “CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission,” an agency spokesperson said by email. “We do not tolerate abuse within our ranks, and … we are fully committed to protecting the health, safety and human rights of all individuals with whom we interact.”

The right policies are evidently in place — if they were only enforced. We traveled to a rural mountain village high in the Sierra Madre in Sonora, Mexico, to track down one of the rare deportees who tried to file a formal complaint against the Border Patrol, which she did under the name Jane Doe. Doe, 27, was caught by the Border Patrol in 2009 when she was on a passenger bus that was stopped at a checkpoint near Las Cruces, N.M. Doe could produce only false residency documents and was escorted off the bus to a holding cell. That’s where Doe says she was sexually assaulted.
As Doe recalls, she was in the cell by herself when a Border Patrol agent entered and said he would have to search her. “This is when he put his hands under my blouse,” she says, her voice trembling.

As she describes it, the agent grabbed her from behind, pushed her up against a wall, and aggressively groped her chest. “He had me — my back was facing him, and he…”  She begins to weep. “So he was hugging me, and he had his hands under my blouse.” As he grabbed her violently from head to toe, he whispered words in English she couldn’t understand except one word, “Baby,” which he said over and over. She thought she was about to get raped. Photos taken shortly after the attack show long, deep scratches and red abrasions across her chest.

After the incident, Doe was deported to Juarez. But the sexual assault haunted her. She fell into a deep depression and sought counseling. Her therapist urged her to file a complaint against the agent, to help her recovery, and she eventually returned to a Border Patrol facility in El Paso, Texas, to look at a photo lineup and file the necessary paperwork. According to Tania Chozet, her ACLU attorney at the time, Doe was taken into a private room by two female Border Patrol agents wearing reflective sunglasses who harshly interrogated about the reason for her visit. They asked her the same questions again and again, warned her not to lie, patted her down, and searched her clothing and shoes. “When Ms. Doe finally emerged,” Chozet says, “tears were streaming down her face.”

By then, Jane Doe was too upset to proceed. She briefly looked at the photo lineup but couldn’t even focus on the faces. She failed to recognize her assailant and decided not to proceed with charges. “I can’t think of any other reason why they would have been so menacing, if they weren’t trying to intimidate her,” Chozet says. “My guess is that they were hoping that she would feel threatened enough to drop her complaint.”

Edward Rheinheimer is an Arizona Republican, an elected attorney in one of the most conservative counties in the United States. When, in 2007, he asked the federal government for help prosecuting an agent for killing a migrant, he learned just how difficult it can be to achieve accountability when it comes to Border Patrol abuse. Rheinheimer strongly suspected that the agent in question was lying to investigators, as his testimony openly contradicted the forensic evidence. “I called the U.S. attorney in Tucson and asked for assistance in helping us prosecute the case,” says Rheinheimer.

The U.S. attorney got back to him about a week later, Rheinheimer recalls: “These were his exact words: ‘Are you out of your mind?’” Months earlier, the Department of Justice had successfully prosecuted two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, for shooting a marijuana smuggler in the back. But the political backlash was significant, souring relations between the Department of Justice and the Border Patrol. “At no time did anyone from the U.S. attorney’s office ever indicate to me that the reason they didn’t get involved was because they didn’t think this was an appropriate prosecution,” Rheinheimer says. DOJ, he was told, simply could not afford to prosecute another Border Patrol killing.

But the DOJ did order a U.S. attorney to prosecute another Border Patrol agent in 2005 — Ephraim Cruz.

“I found myself on the receiving end of felony charges being brought against me,” says Cruz, the Border Patrol whistle-blower, “accused of smuggling an illegal into the country.”

Just months after he filed the complaints regarding detainee abuse by fellow agents, Cruz gave the girlfriend of a fellow agent a ride across the border. “I was driving my vehicle. I had another agent in the car with me,” he recalls. “We saw her, we recognized her, offered her a ride. Came through the port of entry. Legally inspected, legally admitted.” When it was later discovered that the woman was an undocumented immigrant, Cruz was suspended without pay and prosecuted. He was ultimately exonerated, and during the course of his trial agents testified under oath that he had been targeted for retribution.

Cruz went two years without pay. He was labeled a traitor, asked repeatedly, “What side are you on?” and told he would never get his job back. He finally resigned in 2007, never having been questioned by Border Patrol authorities about the abuses he reported.

Just last week, news broke that a federal grand jury had been convened in the case of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, who was killed by Border Patrol agents in 2010. The agents involved in that killing, too, enjoyed impunity until surreptitious video of the event was broadcast on PBS’s “Need to Know” in April, showing that Hernandez had been beaten and shot with a stun gun while handcuffed and prone on the ground. The Border Patrol is the largest police force in the United States. But it lacks oversight, transparency and accountability.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Testimony of fear, anger at racial-profiling trial

Two citizens who believe Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies pulled them over because they are Hispanic gave the most emotional testimony so far in the 2-day-old trial involving allegations that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's agency engages in racial profiling.

Daniel Magos, 67, and Velia Meraz were stopped more than 18 months apart by sheriff's deputies, and neither have been pulled over since then. But both believe they remain targets of the Sheriff's Office because of their race

Attorneys for the Sheriff's Office have asked the same question of all the alleged profiling victims as they end their testimony: Have sheriff's deputies pulled you over since the traffic stop that led to the profiling allegation? The answer is universally "no," but Meraz, who was a passenger in an SUV that was pulled over in March 2008, said her fear remains.

blog Dana: 2008 video contradicts Arpaio testimony

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps saying it on national TV that he's going to continue what he's doing and that means these sweeps, these stops," Meraz told the court. "I believe it could happen again."
The case alleges that the Sheriff's immigration-enforcement priorities have resulted in discrimination against Latinos residents. Over the past six years, Arpaio has made immigration enforcement his trademark, but those efforts have been also met by accusations -- by citizens, activists and the U.S. Justice Department -- that his agency has engaged in racial profiling and discrimination.

Deputy Michael Kikes, the sheriff's deputy who pulled over the SUV Meraz was riding in with her brother, Manuel Nieto, took the witness stand earlier Wednesday. Attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed out contradictions between deposition testimony that Kikes gave earlier and his statements in court on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow picked up on several of those apparent contradictions, questioning Kikes about his involvement with the Sheriff's saturation patrols and the instructions he might have been given before the operations began.

Kikes initially told the court that he recalled an instruction sheet for the March 2008 operation in the north Valley that included a specific warning against racial profiling.

"In bold letters, I remember," said Kikes, who was serving as a motorcycle officer during the operation.

Snow later had Kikes look at the instruction sheet, on which the deputy could find no such admonition. Kikes also claimed he was in a briefing before the operation began, but his name was not reflected on an attendance sheet that other deputies signed.

The contradictions in Kikes' testimony became more significant as Meraz and Nieto gave accounts of their stop and detention. Their recollections directly conflicted with Kikes' statements. Kikes claimed he never used force with Nieto after stopping the siblings' SUV at the request of another deputy. Kikes also said he never drew his weapon during the stop, but Meraz and Nieto testified that some deputies had their guns drawn.

Nieto and Meraz were stopped after they encountered a sheriff's deputy who had two men detained at a gas station in the north Valley during one of Arpaio's saturation patrols. The siblings claim they were about to enter the gas station when a sheriff's deputy ordered them to leave and threatened them with arrest for disorderly conduct. On their way out of the gas station, Meraz admitted to telling the detained men not to sign anything they did not understand.

Nieto admitted he initially refused to pull over when Kikes pulled behind his SUV, but said he was afraid of the sheriff's deputy and was on the phone with 911 operators expressing his concerns.
Nieto and Meraz were eventually released without receiving a citation.

Tim Casey, an attorney for the Sheriff's Office, asked Nieto if he had ever been pulled over again by Arpaio's deputies after that March 2008 stop.

"I have not," Nieto said. "But I do have fear."

Similar testimony emerged from a maintenance worker who was pulled over in south Phoenix in December 2009. He had been stopped because his work trailer obscured the license plate, according to the deputy who stopped Magos and his wife in a Ford pickup loaded up with landscaping equipment.

Magos, who has been a U.S. citizen for more than 45 years, was not cited for any violations. He believes the sheriff's deputy pulled his truck over for an entirely different reason.

"It made me feel angry ... worthless ... defenseless," Magos said, holding back tears on the witness stand as he described the stop. "After (the deputy's) apology (for the stop) he told me that stop had nothing to do with racial profiling. I told him that was exactly what it was."

Magos said he tried to report the incident to the Sheriff's Office, but never received a return call after family members left several messages. He said the complaint he filed with the American Civil Liberties Union was the first time anyone responded to his concerns. Magos said he has since spoken with investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice, which earlier this year filed a separate civil-rights lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office.

With no jury in the case, Snow will decide whether the Sheriff's Office participated in widespread discrimination against Latino residents, as the plaintiffs claim.

The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages. Instead, the plaintiffs want the kind of injunctive relief that the Sheriff's Office has resisted in the past -- a declaration that spells out what deputies may or may not do when stopping potential suspects, and a court-appointed monitor to make sure the agency lives by those rules.

The trial is scheduled to end on Aug. 2.

Bumbling Sheriff's Office volunteers mistake children's toy for bomb.

Suspicious device was a toy  
Suspicious device was a toy
FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ (CBS5) - A suspicious device found late Wednesday afternoon at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's posse office in Fountain Hills turned out to be a toy, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said.

MCSO initially said the object looked like a possible explosive device made of nails and batteries.

A children's playhouse is located next door and investigators determined it was a toy made by some of the kids, sheriff's deputies said.

The investigation at 16833 Saguaro Blvd. prompted the closure of the nearby intersection.

Some Phoenix police officers upset with new chief's decision about uniforms


PHOENIX -- Change is coming to the Phoenix Police Department, and some officers aren’t embracing it.

The change has to do with one of their uniforms.

The new Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia is axing the polo shirts and cargo pants.
Starting this fall the utilitarian uniform is no longer allowed on the job.

“Emotions ran the gamut, from anger to disappointment to people saying why is this being done,” said Ken Crane, V.P. of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association or PLEA.

Crane disagrees with the chief's decision.

The top brass wants to cut down on officer impersonation.

Something the chief said has been a problem in the past.

“We kind of see that as frankly a bit as a straw-man argument. All of officers took a little offense to that,” said Crane.

Crane said all of the uniforms can be impersonated, even the traditional uniform preferred by the chief.

The chief wouldn't go on camera with 3TV, but a department spokesman did.

Sergeant Trent Crump said the department made it too easy for people to impersonate the uniform with the black cargo pants and black t-shirt.

Crump said the traditional uniform unites the department and the polyester blend look is easier for community members to identify.

“As you know Arizona is known for its hot summers and when you're out there pounding a beat for 10 hours in 110-115 heat, personal comfort becomes a big deal,” argued Crane.

Crump said Phoenix police officers have worn the traditional uniform for decades and most of the officers at the South precinct chose to wear the uniform daily.

“I can't say that's an argument that's going to change his (the chief’s) decision on this,” said Crump.
The utilitarian uniform has been around for 15 years.

Crane said the cargo pants and the polo top offer comfort on the job.

“We have guys that part of their job is to chase bad guys down alleys, jump fences, sometimes get in fights with suspects, that's probably a better uniform to do that in,” said Crane.

According to Crump, uniformity is meant to boost morale.

“They're saying the morale is already been kind of low and this puts it even lower,” argued Crane.

The new uniform policy goes into affect beginning this October.

Union leaders hope the chief will change his decision and sit down with them to discuss different options.

Peoria officer suspended for using slur disciplined 10 years ago

The Peoria police officer who was suspended for two weeks without pay for using a racial slur, had not been seriously disciplined during the past seven years, city records show.

But Sgt. Patrick Kief was disciplined twice a decade ago for verbal abuse.

Kief began his two-week suspension on July 7 after an internal investigation concluded he used a "racially derogatory term" to describe his frustration over the shoddy construction of a podium. The term is considered to be offensive to African-Americans.

Kief, who has been a police officer for 19 years, told a supervisor that he did not mean to harm anyone and had used the racial term growing up, according to the personnel files released Monday.
Kief was demoted from sergeant to officer. He had been promoted to sergeant in 2008.

Peoria City Manager Carl Swenson said in a statement that Kief's actions will not be tolerated.

Police Chief Roy Minter said Kief's conduct was against city policy, which states; "All employees shall conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner and exhibit only that conduct which would exemplify the Peoria Police Department to both the community and other law enforcement organizations."

In 2002, Kief was suspended for a combined 10 hours for two separate incidents of verbal abuse. Once incident was acting out against fellow employee and the other was disrespecting individuals involved in a sexual assault case, the records show. He was reprimanded in 2001 for running over a stop sign.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peoria police officer suspended, demoted after using racial slur

A Peoria police officer was suspended and demoted on Monday after using a racial slur during a shift briefing in April, officials from the Peoria Police Department said.

A supervisor reported that Sgt. Patrick Kief used a "derogatory racial term" to describe his frustration with a podium he was using during the meeting, Chief Roy Minter said in a statement. Kief had been assigned as a patrol sergeant and remained on restricted duty during the investigation, Minter said.

Minter said the investigation resulted in an 80-hour unpaid suspension and a demotion from sergeant to officer for Kief. Peoria City Manager Carl Swenson agreed with Minter's handling of the situation and condemned Kief's actions.

"The statement of Officer Patrick Kief was reprehensible and is something that will not be tolerated from any one of our city employees," Swenson said.

Minter said he disciplined Kief is in accordance with the department's Code of Conduct which states, "All employees shall conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner and exhibit only that conduct which would exemplify the Peoria Police Department to both the community and other law enforcement organizations."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DPS officer "forgets" K-9 in hot patrol car

An Arizona Department of Public Safety K-9 was taken to a vet in life-threatening condition after his handler left the dog in his car for more than an hour on Wednesday when the officer responded to an emergency call.

The officer was distraught and immediately placed on administrative leave, according to a DPS spokesman.

The incident unfolded at the DPS headquarters near Tucson about noon on Wednesday when an officer was transferring gear from one patrol car to another, said Officer Carrick Cook, a DPS spokesman. As the officer was moving his gear, a call went over the radio about a serious accident on Interstate 19 in Tucson, Cook said, and the officer responded.

It wasn't until the officer was en route to the crash that he realized his K-9 partner, Jeg, was in the car, Cook said, and he immediately returned to the parking lot to tend to the animal.

The Tucson Fire Department took Jeg, a Malinois, to a vet, Cook said.

"We are extremely concerned about the dog and the officer," Cook said. "These K9s are an integral part of our agency and what we accomplish with our interdiction. We look at them as other officers; they are family members in our agency."

It is unclear how hot it was inside the patrol car, or if it was parked in the direct sun. The Tucson area had triple-digit temperatures Wednesday.

The agency's last K-9 death came in 2007 when a dog ran into Interstate 10 during a pursuit and was struck and killed by a semi.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Scottsdale police spend $1.87 million on secret new police facility

Scottsdale taxpayers have a new $1.87 million police building, but the city has refused to disclose where it's located.
The Scottsdale City Council last week approved the purchase of an office-warehouse building for the Scottsdale Police Department's Investigative Service Bureau from an entity listed only as JKD.

The council, without discussion, voted on the real-estate deal as part of its consent agenda that included 25 other items authorized in a single 7-0 vote.

Scottsdale police spokesman David Pubins said the city is keeping the building location secret to protect undercover officers who use the facility.

"Our attorney said this is privileged information," Pubins said. "We don't want to put lives in jeopardy."

Scottsdale's council routinely approves dozens of items on its consent agenda with little discussion, but the purchase agreement for the 17,827-square-foot police building was unusual in that the city rarely executes $2 million real-estate purchases.

In addition, the staff report to the council omitted the name of the seller and the location of the building.

Another Scottsdale real-estate deal led to a legal challenge in April 2011 that was later dropped.
In that deal, Scottsdale Healthcare paid $1.5 million to the city for four buildings totaling 20,578 square feet on a 1.7-acre downtown site.

The Arizona Republic filed a public-records request for the city to release detailed information on the police building, including the location and the seller's identity, plus the current location of the leased building in use by the Investigative Service Bureau.

Arizona's Public Records Law requires government agencies to make documents available to public inspection, with some exceptions.

Dan Barr, an attorney representing the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, said using the new city building for undercover police work does not give Scottsdale an exemption from disclosing public records.

The sale will generate a public record in the Maricopa County Recorder's Office when it closes, he said.
The city released a March 26 appraisal on the 1-acre property, but the location was blacked out.
Based on that appraisal and property listings, it appears the building is in the Scottsdale Airpark northeast of Greenway-Hayden Loop and Scottsdale Road and that the seller is James K. Dobbs III.
The Airpark area is known for its high concentration of commercial buildings and is one of the Valley's largest employment centers.

Mayor Jim Lane did not return calls about the building purchase.

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven said she voted to buy the building based on the staff report and did not have any additional information about the property.

Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky said she does not know where the building is located but added that the city should disclose that information.

"I guess from their perspective, (police officials) are hesitant to give the location because they're worried about criminals finding out about it."

The appraisal said the police building, built in 1995, includes 5,576 square feet of second-floor offices in a total of 17,827 square feet.

The sale price of $1.87 million is $104.90 per square foot. The original asking price was $2.49 million.

The appraisal listed these comparable sales for Scottsdale office buildings:
A 32,404-square-foot office, built in 1999, that sold in December 2010 for $2.4 million, or $74.06 per square foot.

A 31,000-square-foot office, built in 1986, that sold in April 2011 for $3.8 million, or $123.86 per square foot.

Jim Keeley, a Scottsdale Airpark broker with Colliers International, said the city got a fair price on the building.

Office-warehouse buildings are selling for between $100 and $110 per square foot, he said.
Colliers International recently closed a deal near WestWorld on a 12,000-square-foot office warehouse that sold for $102 per square foot, Keeley said.

Cassidy Turley reported that it recently sold a 21,088-square-foot office-warehouse building in the Scottsdale Airpark for $2 million or $94.84 per square foot.

Scottsdale is currently leasing a 13,000-square-foot building for the Investigative Service Bureau at a cost of $430,000.

That lease expires in April 2013.

Scottsdale is buying the new building using funds from a federal program known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO.

The U.S. Department of Justice approved Scottsdale's expenditure.