Tag Archives: police officers

Police Union Calls Officer Drug, Alcohol Testing ‘Illegal Search and Seizure’

A police officers’ union has filed a complaint against the City of Pittsburgh, Pa. for requiring officers to submit to drug and alcohol tests that allegedly violate their employment contracts and the U.S. Constitution.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay has made it department policy to perform drug and alcohol tests on officers involved in a car chase ending in a crash even when the officer in question does not specifically make impact with another vehicle. Pittsburgh police officers’ employment contracts call for testing whenever they discharge a weapon, are involved in a crash, or are suspected of being under the influence at work.

The complaint was filed on behalf of officers who were ordered to submit to testing after participating in car chases ending in crashes in which they themselves did not make impact with a vehicle.

[RELATED: Chicago Police Union Stands By Officer Charged with First Degree Murder]

Pittsburgh police union attorney Bryan Campbell told WPXI-TV, “I don’t know why the city suddenly changed the policy on this, and it’s our position that this is an illegal search and seizure.

Chief Cameron McLay argued, “Regardless of whether or not they were a collision vehicle, the reality is I consider us to have been involved. We are going to interpret that policy as I believe it was intended and protect the officers, as well as the community, by verifying that the officer wasn’t impaired.

[Officers] don’t forfeit their constitutional rights to protect the city from a civil liability,” said Campbell, implying that Chief McLay’s motive in ordering the tests is to protect the city from potential lawsuits.

[RELATED: Reality Check: Is Justice Blind To Charging Police Officers?]

Pursuant to the complaint, Pittsburgh’s Department of Law is set to review Chief McLay’s interpretation of the policy. If Campbell’s interpretation of the wording of the employment contract prevails, Pittsburgh will be forced to stop testing officers unless they’re directly involved in a collision impact. Otherwise, the dispute will move forward in an arbitration process.

Over 130 Top Law Enforcement Officials Form Coalition Against Mass Incarceration

Over 130 police chiefs, prosecutors, attorneys general, and sheriffs have formed a new organization dedicated to calling for criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing U.S. prison populations. The group, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, is set to meet with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

The organization’s website states, “We believe the country can reduce incarceration while keeping down crime. We believe unnecessary incarceration does not work to reduce crime, wastes taxpayer dollars, damages families and divides communities. We aim to build a smarter, stronger, and fairer criminal justice system by replacing ineffective policies with new solutions that reduce both crime and incarceration.

Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration reportedly plans to lobby for alternatives to arrest for individuals with mental health or drug addiction issues, the repeal of criminal laws that waste officers’ time without providing public safety benefits, and the unwinding of zero-tolerance policies like mandatory minimum sentences.

Ronal Serpas, co-chair of the organization and former Nashville police chief and New Orleans police superintendent, told NPR, “Our experience has been, and in some ways it’s counterintuitive, that you really can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time… Our officers are losing all day long on arrest reports and at lockups dropping off prisoners — it’s for low-level offenders who pose no threat to the community, are posing very little to no threat for recidivism, and overwhelmingly are just folks who have mental health or drug addiction problems that there’s no place else for them to go.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: 46 Non-Violent Drug Inmates Freed, Thousands Upon Thousands Still Incarcerated]

Chicago Police Department superintendent Garry McCarthy, another of the group’s co-chairs, told The New York Times, “After all the years I’ve been doing this work, I ask myself, ‘What is a crime, and what does the community want? When we’re arresting people for low-level offenses — narcotics — I’m not sure we’re achieving what we’ve set out to do. The system of criminal justice is not supporting what the community wants. It’s very obvious what needs to be done, and we feel the obligation as police chiefs to do this.

New York police chief William J. Bratton and Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck are among the law enforcement leaders who have joined the group.

The organization’s website pointed out, “Imprisoning people at today’s exorbitant levels has little crime control benefit, especially for nonviolent offenders. Research shows incarceration can increase future crime in some cases, as prison often acts as a ‘crime school.’ And laws that require prison for low-level offenses interfere with our work, taking time and vital resources away from us preventing serious and violent crimes.

Watch Truth in Media’s Consider This video, embedded below, which puts the scope of the mass incarceration of non-violent offenders under the U.S. War on Drugs into perspective.


Report: Police Brutality Protests Led To Reform Measures In 24 States

Nearly one year after Michael Brown was shot and killed by former police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a series of protests against police brutality have led to 40 new police reform measures being passed in 24 states, which is just a fraction of all of the measures that have been proposed.

An analysis conducted by the Associated Press found that while “legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public,” the measures that have been passed address issues such as the body cameras officers wear, how officers are trained concerning racial bias, independent investigations into police use of force and military equipment used by local police departments.

In addition to protests in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown in Aug. 2014, which were met with a militarized police force, protests have erupted over police brutality in several cities such as New York where Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer, and Baltimore where Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody.

The Associated Press reported that despite the measures that have passed, “far more proposals have stalled or failed,” and only a few states have changed laws concerning “when police are justified to use deadly force.”

The most popular measures, which surround the use of body cameras worn by police officers, were passed in sixteen states according to the analysis. Body cameras have played a vital part in revealing the accurate set of events in cases such as the recent shooting of Samuel DuBose, in which the body camera former officer Ray Tensing was wearing revealed that he was lying about only shooting DuBose after he was “dragged” down the street by DuBose’s car.

[RELATED: Obama’s New $263 Million Proposal Is Not Just About Body Cameras]

The report noted that Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois were the only three states to pass “comprehensive packages of legislation encouraging body cameras, boosting police training on such things as racial biases and requiring independent investigations when police shoot people,” and that Colorado and Connecticut were among several states that “bolstered citizen rights to take videos of police.”

Investigative journalist Ben Swann addressed the root of police militarization in an episode of Truth in Media in Dec. 2014. Swann noted that while local police departments having access to military equipment was a problem, a larger problem existed surrounding the use of military tactics by police officers.


Waco Police Deny Public Access To Information On Deadly “Biker Brawl”

After a fight that broke out between rival biker gangs at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas on May 17, Waco Police have yet to release information regarding the exact details that left nine dead, 18 injured, and over 170 arrested for “participating in organized crime.” 

Yahoo News requested information on the shooting, as is allowed by the Texas Public Records Act, but noted that the documents it received “appear to be haphazardously redacted.”

The documents obtained by Yahoo News ommitted the names of arresting officers, while leaving the “identities, addresses and other contact information of suspects’ next of kin,” and they did not give any information regarding “where each victim was killed and by whom.”

Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said that the department suspected there would be issues at the Twin Peaks location prior to the shooting, and as a result they were prepared with officers on the scene.

While the details have not been released regarding how many of the nine deceased and 18 injured were wounded by the officers on the scene, Swanton claimed that “there were multiple people on the scene firing weapons at each other,” before the bikers began shooting at police, and the officers returned gunfire, “wounding and possibly killing several.”

After Yahoo News submitted its original request for information on May 19, the Waco city attorney’s office sent a letter to the Texas attorney general on Wednesday, requesting permission to “withhold the records from Yahoo News and other media outlets that have made similar requests.”

In the letter, assistant city attorney Judith Benton cited a “need to withhold the information pertaining to an open and pending case in order to deal with the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of a crime is a compelling reason for nondisclosure.”

Although Waco did release 19 pages of documents to media outlets that requested information, Yahoo News noted that “other than a few dispatch call logs about the first shots fired, none of the pages pertain to the homicide reports” that had been requested.

In addition to refusing to release crucial information from the shooting, some of the details the Waco Police department has released, have contained major errors.

Following the incident, police claimed that as many as 1,000 weapons were recovered from the scene. However, they later admitted that 1,000 was an exaggerated estimate, and the actual number of weapons found was 318. Out of those weapons, only 118 handguns – the rest were knives, clubs, brass knuckles and chains with padlocks attached to them. Police also claimed that they found 1 Ak-47 accompanied by body armor in the parking lot.

Although Swanton claimed that the nine individuals killed were all part of criminal motorcycle gangs, the family of 65-year-old Jesus Delgado Rodriguez, one of the men killed, claimed that he was not involved in an outlaw motorcycle gang and did not lead a life of violence.

The Associated Press reported that not only did Rodriguez not have a criminal record in Texas, he was an active-duty Marine from 1969 to 1973, and he received several awards including a Purple Heart and a Navy commendation medal.

As previously reported, 170 individuals were arrested, charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, and held on $1 million bonds following the shooting. The AP noted that according to records kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety, four of the nine men killed and 117 of the 170 suspects have no previous criminal record in the state of Texas.

USA Today reported that one of the individuals arrested, Matthew Clendennen of Hewitt, Texas, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Waco, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, and the individual officers on the scene of the shooting.

Clendennen is a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, and while he was present at the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17, his lawsuit claims that he “did not encourage or solicit any criminal activity at Twin Peaks that day.”

While police have yet to release the video footage from the surveillance cameras at Twin Peaks, they did push the narrative that all of the of bikers present were engaging in the “brawl,” and fighting one another.

In contrast, when the New York Daily News obtained footage from the security cameras, it noted that “most of the leather-clad patrons ran away from the shooting or ducked under tables to dodge violence,” while some of the bikers “tried to direct other people to safety.”

The Associated Press also noted that while police claim the fighting started in the bathroom of the Twin Peaks, escalated into the bar area, and was then carried out in the parking lot, where the officers present became involved, representatives from the franchise told the AP that the “fighting began outside the restaurant, not inside as police have previously said.”

After Killing of Two Officers, NYPD Union Declares Itself a “Wartime” Police Department

Following the shooting that killed two New York police officers, the NYPD’s union has issued a statement announcing that in response, it has become a “wartime” police department.

As previously reported, Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, after he who ambushed and shot them both, in an alleged attempt to avenge the death of Eric Garner. Brinsley’s ambush of the two officers occurred shortly after he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, and then posted his plans to strike back at the police to her Instagram account.

According to the New York Post, Liu and Ramos were “working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill in Bedford-Stuyvesant,” when they were “shot point-blank in the head” by Brinsley.

Newsmax reported that the NYPD’s union, the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, issued a statement regarding the way the department is responding to this incident, and the way it is working to prevent future threats:

Starting IMMEDIATELY: At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the opinion of the patrol supervisor happens to be.”

The statement went on to say that from this point forward, there would be no unnecessary arrests by New York police officers:

IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest.”

The statement noted that these precautions were ones that had been taken in the 1970s, when “police officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis.

The union concluded its statement by criticizing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and blaming him for the fact that the NYPD has become a “wartime” police department:

The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”