Tag Archives: Ferguson

Breaking: St. Louis Prosecutor Says He Knew Multiple Witnesses Were Lying to Ferguson Grand Jury, Will Not Pursue Charges

St. Louis, MO- St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch made his first remarks about the allegations that multiple witnesses before the Ferguson grand jury perjured themselves when testifying about the confrontation between Darren Wilson and Mike Brown.

Friday, McCulloch spoke with KTRS 550 and said that “Clearly some were not telling the truth.” McCullough continued that he’s not planning to pursue charges against any lying witnesses.

In his first extensive interview since the grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, McCulloch said he had no regrets about letting grand jury members hear from non-credible witnesses.

“Early on I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury,” McCulloch said. He added that he would’ve been criticized no matter his decision.

While McCulloch is correct, it is curious that he will not pursue perjury charges for witnesses who were lying under oath. According the The Smoking Gun, the website that broke the story of “Witness 40” lying about even being at the scene of the shooting, there were witnesses who lied both for and against Officer Darren Wilson.

According to the American Bar Association it is much easier to file perjury charges against someone who is testifying before a grand jury than it is to file them against someone who lies during a conventional trial. In fact, Government attorneys have brought numerous prosecutions for perjury under the federal criminal law that prohibits lying to a grand jury.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1623, it is a crime to “knowingly make . . . any false material declaration” before the grand jury. “False,” for these purposes, merely means incorrect. In contrast, the statute governing perjury in proceedings other than a grand jury requires that the false statement be made willfully—a higher standard. See 18 U.S.C. § 1621.

During a conventional trial, simply giving incorrect information because of confusion or a faulty memory will rarely bring perjury charges. Especially when the standard is for “willfully” incorrect information. In a grand jury proceeding, giving any mistakenly wrong information is a crime, let alone, willfully incorrect information.

Ben Swann interviewed Adam Goldberg with The Smoking Gun about their investigation into “Witness 40”.

“Smoking Gun” Investigation Finds Multiple Witnesses on Both Sides Lied To Ferguson Grand Jury

Remarkable new details are emerging out of the grand jury testimony surrounding Mike Brown’s death.

A new investigation by the Smoking Gun claims that one of the witnesses who supported Darren Wilson’s account of being charged by Mike Brown may not have been at the scene. She may also have mental health issues and history of lying to police.

The witness in question was presented to the Grand Jury as “Witness 40”. The woman, who has now been identified as Sandra McElroy, reportedly claimed to have been on Canfield Drive at the same time that Officer Wilson and Mike Brown had their deadly confrontation.

McElroy claimed that she had written down notes of what happened in a journal and asked to read those before the grand jury. In those notes McElroy writes that she drove 30 miles away from her home down to Florissant because she “need to understand the black race better so I can stop calling blacks N—– and start calling them people.”

After that the journal entry goes into a long detailed, blow by blow account of the confrontation between Wilson and Brown.

In part, McElroy writes, “The cop was wobbling, the big kid turned around with his arms out with attitude. The cop just stood there. Dang. If that kid didn’t start running right at the cop like a football player. Head down. I heard 3 bangs but the big kid wouldn’t stop.”

Ben Swann interviewed Andrew Goldberg, managing editor with The Smoking Gun who explained that FBI investigators determined the day before she was put in front of the grand jury that McElroy was not telling the truth.

In addition, a woman who supported the story of Mike Brown putting his hands in the air, and claimed that she had recorded the video on her phone but accidentally dropped her phone in the toilet and then threw it away, was also allowed to testify before the grand jury.

Goldberg says that he would like to know which witnesses were not allowed in front of the grand jury because the prosecutor appears to have allowed anyone with any outlandish story to tell it to the grand jury.

Grand Jury Witness 40’s Claim That Michael Brown Charged “Like a Football Player” Falls Apart

In the debate over whether Officer Darren Wilson was justified or criminally culpable in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, the pro-Wilson narrative parrots an account that alleged that the physically larger Michael Brown charged at Officer Wilson “like a football player,” a claim that was made by grand jury Witness 40, whom St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch called in to testify. However, an exhaustive report on Witness 40, compiled by William Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, and Joseph Jesselli at The Smoking Gun, calls into question whether she was present on the day that the events occurred and what might have motivated her to fabricate her account. The above-embedded video, provided by Democracy Now!, includes an interview with William Bastone in which he goes into detail about his investigation into Witness 40’s testimony.

The report identified Witness 40 as 45-year-old St. Louis woman Sandra McElroy and paints her as a pathological liar with a criminal past. She reportedly made a variety of racist statements online, and her social media postings in the wake of Michael Brown’s death fit the pattern of an Officer Wilson supporter, rather than a witness to the shooting. McElroy, a fan of crime dramas, had previously offered herself as a witness to another criminal investigation which had generated significant media attention, though police assigned to that case dismissed her account as a “complete fabrication.”

McElroy waited until four weeks after the shooting to contact police. At the time at which she offered her testimony, Officer Wilson’s side of the story had been making its rounds in the media, and McElroy’s account mirrored the story detailed in those reports. She was interviewed first by St. Louis police and then by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were so skeptical of her account that they pointed out the fact that she could face criminal charges for fabricating her testimony. Despite these red flags, Prosecutor Robert McCulloch called her to testify before the grand jury that would later opt against charging Officer Wilson in Brown’s death.

When FBI agents asked the Caucasian McElroy why she was in Ferguson, 30 miles from her home, on that day, she claimed that she had gotten lost while visiting a friend in the area and had stopped at the scene to ask for directions. However, at a November 3 grand jury hearing, she changed her story, saying that she would routinely “go into all the African-American neighborhoods” in an effort to improve race relations, and that, on that day, she planned to “go in and have coffee and… strike up a conversation with an African-American” in an effort to improve her understanding of the African-American community such that she could, according to a journal entry she provided to the grand jury, learn to “stop calling blacks n****** and start calling them people.”

The Smoking Gun‘s report also notes that McElroy at one point ran an online fundraising campaign to support Officer Darren Wilson, which she has since taken down. It is as-yet unknown as to whether or not her short-lived fundraising campaign generated any donations and what might have happened to the proceeds. An additional report by The Huffington Post argues that investigators made several mistakes while collecting evidence for the case, including failures to collect evidence in a timely manner and omitting basic steps like testing Officer Wilson’s gun, which Michael Brown allegedly grabbed, for fingerprints.

Truth in Media: The Root of Police Militarization

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In the latest episode of Truth in Media, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann looks at the root of America’s current problem with the militarization of police.

“The militarization of America’s police forces has captured the nation’s attention, largely because of Ferguson, Missouri,” said Swann. “But what media has not told you, is how police forces got militarized in the first place, and why militarization is about a lot more than just military equipment.”

Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation in August. His death triggered protests, some of which led to rioting and looting.

Swann points out that what really “stunned the nation” was the way police responded to the protests. Rather than responding like a police force that intended to serve and protect, Ferguson police responded like a military unit, complete with armored vehicles and flash grenades. Swann said that for millions of Americans, “this was a stunning site on American streets.”

Swann said that while Benswann.com has been working to raise awareness about the militarization of police for over a year, “the rest of the media acted like they had no idea.”

The program ignored by the mainstream media is the 1033 program. Also called the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, this platform is used by police departments to obtain military equipment. Swann explains:

“It is a federal program that provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.”

While the 1033 program does provide armored vehicles and flash grenades, it also provides police departments with other emergency supplies that go beyond weaponry.

Larry Kirk, the Police Chief in Old Monroe, Missouri, which is just a few miles from Ferguson, said that he is against banning the 1033 program altogether, due to the fact that it gives smaller departments certain supplies they would not have been able to afford.

However, while Kirk is in favor of keeping the program, he is also one of the few police chiefs in the country who is opposed to departments receiving military weapons. Kirk explained that he is skeptical about the level is militarized weapons that he has seen come through the program recently.
“Being realistic, there is no reason I would ever need an MRAP,” said Kirk. “Most departments would never need one.”

Swann further described the “MRAP,” which is one of two armored vehicles that police departments are given by grant, through the 1033 program. The vehicles, which were originally made to fight in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, were kept by the Department of Defense after the wars cooled down, and are now being granted to local police departments.

According to a report from the New York Times, “about 500 planes, helicopters, and mine-resistant armored vehicles have been obtained, alongside 94,000 machine guns.”

Swann said that following the protests in Ferguson, Americans began to realize the size and scale of the military equipment that was available to local police, and they “began calling for police departments to do away with military vehicles.”

Swann also pointed out that while the mainstream media has covered the protests, it hasn’t worked to provide Americans with the keys to the root of the problem.

“What media has not helped the public understand is that the real problem with militarization is not military equipment,” said Swann. “It’s the use by police of military tactics.”

Swann gave three examples of incidents in which police used military tactics to serve warrants on drugs:

The first example occurred in Detroit, Michigan, when 7-year-old girl Aiyana Jones was awakened in the middle of the night by a stun grenade developed for wartime raids, called a “flash bang,” which was thrown by a SWAT team, and immediately set fire to her blanket. Following the release of the grenade, the SWAT team stormed into the house, and mistakenly shot Jones through the neck, killing her.

A second incident occurred in Tucson, Arizona, when a SWAT team attempted to serve a search warrant as part of a multi-house drug crackdown. Jose Guerena, an Iraq war veteran who lived in the house, instructed his family to hide while he got his gun, after his wife became alarmed at the sight of a shadowy figure standing in their front yard, holding a gun. Guerena retrieved his gun – leaving the safety on – and stepped into the living room. The SWAT team then entered the house and shot him 60 times.

Swann noted that the police “have still never said whether they found drugs” in Guerena’s home.

A third example occurred in Atlanta, Georgia, when a SWAT team visited a family’s home in search of a small amount of drugs they believed were in the possession of the family’s nephew. The parents, three daughters, and a 19-month-old baby boy were asleep in a converted garage when police opened the door and threw a stun grenade in. The grenade landed in the 19-month-old baby’s crib. It blew a hole in his chest, and resulted in such severe burns that the baby was placed in a medically induced coma.

Swann said that, according to author Radley Balkow, “The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.”

These raids have become increasingly frequent, with as many as 40,000 occurring every year. Swann pointed out that the raids are “needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers.”

“Despite what the media spin-doctors will tell you, militarization has nothing to do with the war on terror, and it has everything to do with perpetuating the war on drugs,” Swann said.

Kirk said that he believed the United States has created so many different wars, from the war on crime to the war on drugs, that it has left police officers in the perpetual state of needing to be a “warrior.”

“If you continue to tell people they are in a war, you are going to create warriors,” said Kirk. “You are going to create soldiers that you are now putting on the street.”

Swann traveled to Washington DC to investigate the root of militarization. He noted that although DC has military gear and uses military tactics, “it does not participate in the 1033 program.”

Swann spoke with Seema Sadanandam, the ACLU Director of the Nation’s Capital. Sadanandam explained that while the picture of tanks in the streets was the “most visceral and extreme example” that came out of Ferguson, there is more to the concept of police militarization.

Sadanandam said that the fact that DC does not utilize the 1033 program would be surprising to members of the black communities who have been “subjected to law enforcement’s militarized war on drugs.”

While DC does not participate in the program, it does use military tactics on a daily basis. One of the tactics used, is referred to as the “jump out car.

Sadanandam explained that a “jump out car” is an unmarked car containing four to six officers, dressed in tactical vests, who jump out of the car to ambush their target. “They literally jump out of the car and surprise people,” said Sadanandam, who went on to say that the main objective is to convince people to submit to a so-called “consent search.”

According to Sadanandam, the tactic of using jump out cars is only acceptable in black, brown, and indigent communities, and is not seen in all-white communities.

“In Dupont circle, for example, which is a largely white community and where we know that there is regular cocaine use and cocaine possession, you would never see jump out cars jumping out on a group of white men in business suits, and police saying they fit the description of regular cocaine users,” said Sadanandam. “That would be considered completely unacceptable.”

Swann attended a meeting in southeastern DC, where black residents gathered to express their frustration with militarized police. He noted that people living in these neighborhoods say militarization for them is “not about the idea that so many of us have been confronted with” in the last few months. Instead, it is something they have been dealing with their entire lives.

Orlando Bego, the Pastor of Centerpoint Baptist Church, said that in the midst of the events in Ferguson, the nation was watching the wrong problem, and that getting rid of the 1033 program will not solve the real problem.

“Ferguson is not new,” said Bego. “It may be new for the mass of people who watch it on media outlets, but for people who live in inner city, urban neighborhoods, that is a common tactic that is used.”

Bego believes that even if the 1033 program were eliminated, the military mindset instilled in police officers would still be present. He said he dreads the day that his 10-year-old son, who currently wants to grow up to be a police officer because he views officers as heroes who serve and protect, is “pulled over for driving while black,” or “stopped and harassed for making eye contact.”

Ben Swann maintains that while Americans should be outraged at the idea of militarization, it should not be just because police show up in tanks to a protest. It should be because of the tactics that have been used by police for years, such as using battering rams to knock down people’s doors, and throwing stun grenades through windows, all for the sake of serving drug warrants.

“The militarized mindset isn’t about gear, it’s about tactics,” said Swann. “When we talk about things like ‘no hesitation targets,’ where police are taught to shoot a child holding a gun, or shoot a pregnant woman holding a gun, at what point do we as a public tell police, ‘Stop. We want you to hesitate.’”

Swann noted that while there are still many men and women who become police officers to serve and protect their communities, the problem occurs in the militarized way they are being trained. “They’re being taught to kill or be killed, that every suspect they encounter could be their last encounter, and that every person walking the streets of every community, is a threat, when in fact, it’s simply not true,” Swann said.

“Militarization takes good cops and teaches them to act like they’re in a warzone,” said Swann. “But the streets of the United States of America are not a warzone, and it’s up to us, the public, to keep it that way.”

Law school students can ask for final exams to be postponed

Columbia Law School is allowing students to ask for their final exams to be postponed if the student says they felt traumatized or disturbed by the decisions not to indict police officers in Missouri and New York for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Robert E. Scott, the interim dean for Columbia Law School, sent an email on Saturday saying, according to Buzzfeed, “Students who feel that their performance on examinations will be sufficiently impaired due to the effect of these recent events may petition Dean Alice Rigas to have an examinations reschedule.”

The email also says, “For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.”

Yahoo News is also reporting a trauma specialist and several faculty members are holding special office hours for any student who wants to discuss the decisions or needs support.

The decision to allow students to postpone their exams comes after a student organization called for the exams to be put on hold.  According to FOX News, an email sent to the school board says many of the same legal principles the students had learned about were being used to “deny justice to so many black and brown bodies.”

The letter the group wrote was posted online and part of it reads, “We sit to study with the knowledge that our brothers and sisters are regularly killed with impunity on borders and streets; we sit to study with the understanding that our brothers and sisters are marching to have our humanity recognized and valued by a system that has continually failed us.”

While many students disagree with the postponement of their fellow student’s exams for these reasons, a spokeswoman told the NY Post, students have been allowed to postpone their exams over “extenuating conditions, including illness, religious observance, bereavement and other exceptional and documented circumstances.”

Report Finds Police Departments Making Their Own Rules, Not Reporting Hundreds of Homicides to The FBI

A recent analysis found that the killings of hundreds of individuals by law enforcement officers have not been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The study, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, stated that after looking at records from 105 of the nation’s largest police forces, there was a gap of 583 homicides that were not included in the FBI’s records from 2007 to 2012.

The analysis found that the departments recorded 1, 825 officer-involved killings over the five-year period, which was 45 percent higher than the tally of 1,242 that had been reported to the FBI.

According to Yahoo News, this massive gap “makes it nearly impossible to figure out how many people cops kill – justifiably or not – every year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that local police departments are not required to provide the FBI with either statistics or detailed records on how many individuals are killed by police officers.

According to CBS News, police departments have “developed their own policies that generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm,” which ultimately gives officers “the benefit of the doubt by prosecutors,” and makes and grand jurors “reluctant to second-guess their decisions.”

This is evidenced in the case of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9. The Grand Jury chose not to indict Wilson on murder charges, sparking riots and protests throughout the country.

Another instance that recently ignited protests from the American public is the case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City, on July 17. The Grand Jury chose not to indict Pantaleo, despite the fact that unlike in Wilson’s case, Pantaleo’s actions were caught on video.

In addition to the freedom local police departments are given regarding their policies for use of force, they are also given a great amount of freedom when deciding how to use the military equipment they obtain with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As previously reported, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is in charge of providing grants for military equipment, does not have a system in place to determine the extent to which police departments use the equipment, and as a result the grant program “exists with little oversight.”

In the newest episode of the Truth in Media Project, which will be released on December 10, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann looks at the root of Police militarization, and the effect it is having on society. Watch the trailer below:

LOTFI: Rand Paul delivered the most incredibly bold Eric Garner statement

By Michael Lotfi Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

NEW YORK, December 3, 2014– On Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who was caught on video placing Eric Garner in a choke hold in July following accusations against Garner over alleged sales of loose cigarettes. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R- Ky.), the leading 2016 White House GOP contender, delivered a statement that transcends party politics and cuts straight to the meat of why Eric Garner died. Paul is blaming his colleagues (rightfully so), and he’s the only one bold enough to do it. 

Not even liberals at Huffington Post can resist the conservatarian Paul right now. Many of them are even saying they’d vote for the Tea Party-centric Senator over Hillary Clinton.

Follow Michael Lotfi: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Michael Brown’s stepfather may face criminal charges

Police and investigators are currently considering charging Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, for attempting to incite a riot after it was announced Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting death of Brown.

After the announcement against indictment came late on Nov. 24, various videos taken near protests in Ferguson show Head shouting “burn this bitch down.”

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told Sean Hannity, “We are pursuing (an investigation into) those comments, and there is a lot of discussion going on about that right now… But I really can’t get into that…”

Head is also not being singled out, according to CNN.  Ferguson spokesman Jeff Small said Head is one of many people currently being investigated for their part in the lead up to the riots, looting, and the various arson cases following the announcement.

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing Brown and his family, has called Head’s rants prior to the rioting inappropriate at the time.  However, Crump also said, according to USA Today, he does not condemn Head’s reaction to the announcement because of the large amount of emotional stress the family was under at the time.

Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, also told CNN she does not think her husband’s words or actions incited a riot, but said the emotions in the area were building up since her son was shot on Aug. 9.

Since the investigation has started, Head has come forth and said he apologizes for his comments after the announcement.  According to ABC News, Head said, “Something came over me as I watched and listened to my wife, the mother of Michael Brown Jr., react to the gut-wrenching news that the cop who killed her son wouldn’t be charged with a crime… My emotions admittedly got the best of me.”

Ben Swann reported from Ferguson this week and talked about the importance of understanding the proximity of Brown’s stepfather to the buildings that actually burned. In the video below, Swann explains why it would be very difficult to claim that the stepfather was “inciting a riot.”

Truth in Media Project Exposes The Root of Police Militarization

Cincinnati, OH- Wednesday, December 10, 2014 Ben Swann and the Truth in Media Project will release their latest crowdfunded investigation. This story will expose the root of police militarization and why even if the Department of Defense 1033 program comes to an end, militarization will not.

Sign up below to have the episode sent directly to your inbox on December 10th.

Exclusive Interview: Oath Keepers Surrounded by 50 Police Told To Stop Defending Building in Ferguson From Fires

Ferguson, Mo- You might have seen them on the news. The people protecting Ferguson businesses from the arsonists and looters ransacking Ferguson, Mo. But here is the real story about the organization protecting those businesses. They’re called Oath Keepers, and they have ex-police and ex-military keeping guard of four Ferguson businesses since late Monday night, Nov. 24, at the permission of the business owners.

Ben Swann traveled to Ferguson and sat down with Sam Andrews, the head of the Ferguson Oath Keeper operation about what the group is doing, how police have responded to them, and why 50 armed police officers surrounded a building where the Oath Keepers were protecting businesses and told them to either leave the buildings rooftop or they would be arrested.

Benswann.com’s Joshua Cook first broke the story over the weekend.

The Oath Keepers have been shown in the media before, but the report was incorrect, according to Stewart Rhodes, national founder of president of the Oath Keepers, who stressed that the group is not just business owners.

“We are not. We are military and police veterans who are volunteer security for local businesses. We have Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets in the rooftops, along with retired cops, guarding the shops,” he said.

The four businesses include Natalie’s Cakes and More, a bakery that was featured on Fox News, a beauty supply store, a dentist’s office and a Chinese restaurant.

In addition to their work keeping businesses safe, and the people living there, the group has also seen some totally bizarre interactions by the federal government and the state highway patrol.

Read the rest of Joshua’s story here

Darren Wilson Resigns from Ferguson Police, Will Not Receive Severance Pay

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown during a confrontation on August 9, announced that he was resigning from the police force in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday.

Wilson’s resignation letter stated that he was leaving the force, due to the fact that he had been told his employment would put both the residents and the police officers of Ferguson at risk:

I, Darren Wilson, hereby resign my commission as a police officer with the City of Ferguson effective immediately. I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow. For obvious reasons, I wanted to wait until the grand jury made their decision before I officially made my decision to resign. It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal. I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process.”

Last week, the Grand Jury announced that they would not indict Wilson for Brown’s murder, sparking outrage in the city of Ferguson, which went beyond the protests that were held following Brown’s death in August.

According to NBC News, although Wilson resigned because of “credible threats” to both the department and its officers, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson “didn’t press Wilson to resign.

Yahoo News reported that prior to the threats, the city of Ferguson was “already discussing an exit strategy,” and had acknowledged that Wilson “staying on as an officer there would be impossible.

Following Wilson’s resignation, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announced that Wilson will not receive any further pay or benefits, and that he has “severed ties” with the city.

According to ABC News, although Wilson was “cleared of criminal charges by the Grand Jury,” the Justice Department is “conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting as well as a separate probe of police department practices.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Wilson’s wife, Barbara Spradling, a 12-year-veteran of the Ferguson police force who he married on October 24, has been asked by the department to also resign, but “she has so far declined to do so.

Nashville Police Chief Refuses to Crack Down on Ferguson Protesters, No Violence Ensues

“In Nashville, if you want to come to a public forum and express your thoughts, even if they’re against the government, you’re going to get your First Amendment protection, and you’re going to be treated fairly by the police officers involved. That’s what we do here in Nashville,” said Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson in comments to WKRN-TV 2, reflecting on his department’s response to Ferguson protests last Tuesday.

Chief Steve Anderson, who made news in October when his department refused to cooperate with Secret Service agents who asked Nashville police to falsify a warrant so that they could search the home of an Obama critic, is making headlines again for his unique approach to dealing with protesters angry about a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, MO Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown. Rather than confronting protesters with militarized hardware, tear gas, and rubber bullets, Nashville police treated the protest more like a parade or community event, essentially providing security while protesters made their statement.

Incidentally, the protests, though they were emotionally-charged and attended by 450 people, did not descend into the type of violence, rioting, and looting that has been seen in other cities. Said Chief Anderson, “We had people that took to the streets, took to the forums to express their thoughts, their ideas, and they were extremely well-behaved. We had no incidents of any vandalism of any violence of any type. What I noted [is] that people were even picking up the trash that they had left behind at the scene.”

On Monday, prior to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Police Chief Steve Anderson and newly-elected District Attorney Glenn Funk, who won his election in a campaign that promised a focus on hardened criminals rather than good kids who make mistakes with drugs, scrambled to meet with clergy leaders in the African-American community, listening to concerns and creating relationships with those who would become leaders in the following day’s protest.

Chief Anderson’s police force met protesters with hot chocolate and bottled water, rather than tear gas, marched alongside them, and ran the type of security that one might expect in a civic parade, communicating on an ongoing basis with protest leaders. At one point, protesters charged up an on-ramp and took over Interstate 24 over the objections of Nashville police. Chief Anderson made a controversial real-time decision, opting not to arrest protesters, and ordered officers to shut down I-24 temporarily, allowing demonstrators to make their statement by lying down on the roadway while drivers waited. Consequently, protesters were cleared off the roadway within twenty to twenty-five minutes. Anderson acknowledged that the incident did inconvenience Nashville drivers, but no more so than a car accident or other situation in which police sometimes block the roadway to protect citizens’ safety.

“We could have moved in and made arrests, but to do that you have to do that one by one in a very careful manner… We would have been there two to three hours,” said Chief Anderson, explaining his decision not to arrest protesters for taking over I-24 in comments to WKRN-TV 2. “Last night’s event went very well and I hope that all of Nashville is proud of not only the law enforcement response, but the response of the citizens involved and that we have set an example for the nation.”

Chief Anderson’s comments about Nashville’s Ferguson protests can be seen in the above-embedded video player, provided by Nashville News.

Russia and North Korea Accuse the U.S. of Human Rights Violations in Ferguson

An outbreak of protests were reignited on Monday, after the Grand Jury announced its decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Those protests, which in some cases led to rioting and looting, were met by a militarized police force in the city of Ferguson.

The United States’ response to the protests has drawn criticism from countries like Russia and North Korea, which have been previously criticized by the U.S. for human rights violations.

The Guardian reported that both officials in Moscow and pro-Kremlin bloggers are comparing the recent events in Ferguson to “the Maidan protests in Kiev which began a year ago and ended in February with the overthrow of the Ukrainian president,” and claiming that there is a “double standard in Washington supporting the protesters in Kiev but clamping down on them at home.”

A statement from the human rights commissioner for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Konstantin Dolgov, criticized the United States for using “military methods against peaceful civilians,” which are only “likely to further inflame the situation.

Such a massive explosion of public indignation and the disproportionate reaction of law enforcement bodies confirm again that this is no isolated incident but a systemic flaw in American democracy, which has failed to overcome a deep racial split, discrimination and inequality.

Dolgov went on to say that the United States should focus more on the problems it has in its own country, before criticizing other countries:

The recent events in Ferguson are the latest and most worrying sign yet to American authorities that it is finally time for them to focus on the serious internal problems they have with human rights, using the recommendations of international human rights organizations, rather than using their efforts on pointless and fruitless lectures and propagandistic moralizing with regards to other countries.

A spokesman for the North Korea Foreign Ministry also released a statement criticizing the United States for its inconsistent human rights standards:

This is clear proof of the real picture of the U.S. as a tundra of human rights, where extreme racial discrimination acts are openly practiced,” said the spokesman. “The great irony is that the U.S. tries to measure other countries with its wrong human rights standard, though it is a typical human rights abuser.

Yahoo News reported that North Korea’s criticism came just a week after the United Nations “adopted a landmark resolution urging the Security Council to refer North Korea’s leaders to the International Criminal Court for possible indictment on crimes against humanity.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, released a statement urging the United States to practice “restraint,” and to find a “determined effort to root out institutionalized discrimination.”

It is clear that, at least among some sectors of the population, there is a deep and festering lack of confidence in the fairness of the justice and law enforcement systems,” said Zeid. “I urge the U.S. authorities to conduct in-depth examinations into how race-related issues are affecting law enforcement and the administration of justice, both at the federal and state levels.”

Ben Swann: The Problem of Policing for Profit in Out-of-Touch Municipalities

On Monday, Investigative Journalist Ben Swann joined Jerry Doyle on the Jerry Doyle Show to discuss the current events in Ferguson, Missouri, as the country prepared to hear the verdict of whether or not Officer Darren Wilson would be indicted for shooting and killing Michael Brown.

They began by discussing the Grand Jury, and the fact that this case was different than most. Swann explained that in this case, the prosecuting attorney was not only presenting the evidence that might have led to Wilson being indicted, but he was also presenting the defense.

He’s actually arguing both sides,” said Swann. “He’s arguing defense for the officer, and he’s questioning whether or not there is evidence. That would never happen with you or I, and I think that’s part of the problem with this particular situation.”

Swann said that in this case, the most appropriate thing to do would have been for “the St. Louis County prosecutor to recuse himself, and bring in a separate prosecutor,” which did not happen.

When visiting Ferguson two weeks ago, Swann found that the people were not able to identify with the police officers in their community, due to the fact that the majority of the officers do not live in Ferguson.

While most of the media is focused on the results of the Grand Jury’s verdict, Swann pointed out that they are not talking about the issues that have led up to this point.

There is a single incident, yes, but that single incident does not stand alone,” said Swann. “It’s woven into the fabric of all of the issues surrounding this.”

Swann explained that as people are watching coverage of the events in communities like Ferguson, Missouri, they will see the media highlight the events as those where it is “black vs. white,” when in reality, it is an issue of a “municipality that does not respect its people.”

Police officers are not trained to see people as their employers,” said Swann. “They are trained to see citizens as a way of deriving revenue.”

Swann said that one major issue plaguing Ferguson was not the way people were reacting, as much as it was the police’s response to the people’s reaction.

What blew Ferguson up the last time was not the protests, it was how police responded to the protests,” said Swann, who went on to explain that while there were “legitimate criminal acts” occurring that required a response from police, the police weren’t using tanks, tear gas, and rubber bullets to combat the rioters and looters, they were using them against the protestors.

Another issue Swann found evident, not only in this case, but also in communities across the country, was the issue of “policing for profit.”

“Ferguson is an especially egregious community when it comes to officers who write citations,” said Swann, who explained policing for profit as a “form of fining people with tickets for as many infractions as possible.”

As a result, the city of Ferguson profited $3.2 million from traffic fines in the year 2013.

Due to the growing epidemic of policing for profit, Swann said that the community of Ferguson does not feel like the police force is there “to serve or to protect,” as much are they are there “to derive revenue from people.”

It’s not a black vs. white issue. It’s a citizen vs. municipality issue.”

 

Ben Swann: Ferguson Clashes 30 Years in the Making

Racial issues have long simmered in Ferguson, Missouri and many residents are not surprised at the recent unrest.

Long before Mike Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson, there were decades of tensions. Many of the issues that existed thirty years ago continue today, and it was only a matter of time before people became fed up, they claim.

Ben Swann reports from Ferguson.

Was Grand Jury in Ferguson Case Led To Their Decision By Prosecutor?

Legal experts are questioning why the grand jury that decided to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson took a number of unusual steps.

From hearing first-hand testimony from Wilson himself to using potentially leading terminology to perhaps downplay the significance of the officer’s actions, many things make the proceedings different from most.

Attorney Patrice Sulton spoke to Ben Swann to provide insight.

Post-Shooting Darren Wilson Photos, Grand Jury Documents Released

Photos of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, reportedly taken shortly after he fatally shot Michael Brown, have been released to the public by the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office.

In addition to the photos, numerous documents and pieces of evidence that were presented to the Grand Jury have also been released to the public, available to read here.

 

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St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office/CBS
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St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office/CBS
St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/CBS
St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office/CBS
St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/CBS
St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office/CBS

As Grand Jury Decision Looms, Officer Darren Wilson Negotiates Potential Resignation

On August 9, unarmed Ferguson, MO teen Michael Brown was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, an incident that was seen as the tipping point that pushed tensions between the local community and police over the edge. Now, the grand jury assigned to the case is closing in on making a decision about whether to indict Wilson for the shooting and could do so at any moment.

Considering the intensity of the spontaneous protests that broke out following Brown’s death, city and state officials fear that, if the grand jury declines to charge Officer Wilson, civil unrest could follow. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has activated a 30-day state of emergency and readied the National Guard in advance of the grand jury’s announcement. If the decision were to come today, prosecutors would likely delay publicizing the announcement for 48 hours in order to give law enforcement officials time to make preparations. During that time, prosecutors also plan to remain in contact with attorneys representing Michael Brown’s family.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting on sources close to the case that say that city officials and Officer Darren Wilson are negotiating his potential resignation, a move that could be aimed at dimming tensions in the event that Wilson does not face charges. Wilson reportedly told associates that he might be willing to resign to calm hostilities between the local community and police, but fears that doing so prior to a grand jury announcement could give the impression that he is admitting fault in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Officer Wilson continues to maintain his innocence.

Eff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association told FOX 2 St. Louis that he “doesn’t think” the grand jury will charge Officer Wilson. Chief Tom Jackson of the Ferguson Police Department, who has said that Wilson could come back to work if the grand jury does not hand down an indictment, claimed that he was unaware of any talks regarding Wilson’s potential resignation. Mayor James Knowles said of the rumored negotiations, “Nothing has been decided.”

According to CNN‘s sources, the resignation negotiations could break down at any time, especially if the grand jury were to bring charges against Wilson.

The City of Ferguson has announced that its mayor and police chief will not be conducting any further interviews about the case until the grand jury makes its decision. Officer Wilson is currently on paid administrative leave and, if he were to continue working with the Ferguson Police Department, would have to face two rounds of psychological evaluation.

On Thursday, Michael Brown’s father called for supporters to remain calm in the event that the grand jury does not indict Wilson. He said, “My family and I are hurting. Our whole region is hurting. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation, but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer… No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change — positive change — change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told CNN, “We’ve had three months to prepare [for the grand jury’s announcement]. … Acts of violence will not be tolerated. Our intelligence is good. Our tactics are good. We can protect lawful people and at the same time arrest criminals.”

Ben Swann reported live from Ferguson on RT last week. Check out his coverage in the below-embedded video player.

Breaking: Missouri Governor Declares State Of Emergency in Ferguson

Ferguson, MO- KFVS12 is reporting that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and has activated the National Guard in advance of the announcement of the Grand Jury’s decision of whether Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the August shooting of Michael Brown. The state of emergency will last 30 days.

Nixon said that the National Guard will assist local and state police. In his executive order, he cited “possibility of expanded unrest.” Nixon acknowledged that people have the right to peacefully protest, but said the state must protect businesses and citizens from harm.

There has been no time or date provided for the Grand Jury’s announcement.

Ben Swann recently reported from Ferguson. Watch Swann’s report below.