The American Bear


NY state senate passes bill making it a felony to 'annoy' the police | Privacy SOS

While you were feeling outraged about the NSA spying on Verizon (and, most likely, every other phone company’s) customers, you may have missed a very troubling bit of news from New York state.

From the NY state senate website:

Senate Passes Bill Making the Harassment of a Police Officer a Crime

The New York State Senate today passed a bill that creates the crime of aggravated harassment of a police or peace officer. The bill (S.2402), sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo (R-C-I, Rome) would make it a felony to harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.

Before you (justifiably) freak out, note that in order for this atrocious bill to become law, the New York state assembly would have to also pass it, and then the governor would have to sign it. It is not current law. But it is a frightening display of authoritarian impulse, coming at a very troubling time.

The relevant text of the bill reads:


While assaulting an officer is already a crime, this weaponization of the widely abused ‘resisting arrest’ charge would tack on an additional four years to any prison term per ‘harassment’ charge, as well as imprint the scarlet letter tattoo of a felony conviction on any person at the receiving end of it. It is, in other words, a very big deal.

Imagine you are at a protest in New York City, events that arguably ‘annoy’ the police in the extreme. Say the police approach you and ask you to stop filming them. Now imagine that you refuse, and an officer reaches out to grab your camera. If you make the slightest movement that disturbs the officer’s hand while saying ‘Get your hands off me!’, you could theoretically, if this bill becomes law, be charged with a felony and imprisoned for four years.

… Defending the bill, Senator Griffo said “We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty.”

Comply with racist stop and frisks, with a smile on your face, or else. And whatever you do, don’t ‘annoy’ the police.

NYPD stop-and-frisk trial ends as activists call for sweeping changes |

Civil rights attorneys called for sweeping changes to the New York City police department’s controversial street-stop practices in the closing arguments of a landmark federal trial.

US district court judge Shira Scheindlin will now determine if the nation’s largest police force is responsible for longstanding and widespread constitutional rights violations, including systemic search and seizure and racial profiling abuses.

If Scheindlin sides with the plaintiffs in the case, the department could find itself supervised by an outside monitor, a shift the mayor and the police commissioner have said will put the city at risk.

While the judge did not provide a timeframe on when she would issue her ruling, she described the case as a “timely and pressing matter”.

"It has to be done," she said. [++]

Using a zero tolerance approach to track domestic terrorists online is the only reasonable way to analyze online threats these days, especially after the Boston Marathon bombing and news that the suspects had subsequently planned to target Times Square in Manhattan, [Sgt.] Mullins [of the NYPD] says. The way law enforcement agencies approach online activity that appears sinister is this: ‘If you’re not a terrorist, if you’re not a threat, prove it,’ he says. ‘This is the price you pay to live in free society right now. It’s just the way it is,’ Mullins adds.

Teenagers, social media, and terrorism: a threat level hard to assess | (h/t vulgartrader)

"If you’re not a terrorist, if you’re not a threat, prove it."

The presumption of innocence is a bit quaint post-Boston isn’t it? Fuck that old-fashioned biz.

BTW, this is a “reasonable way to analyze online threats these days”:

In February, Jessica Winslow and Ti’jeanae Harris, two high school girls in Rapids Parish, La., were arrested and charged with 10 counts of terrorism each after they allegedly e-mailed threats to students and faculty “to see if they could get away with it,” detectives told a local television news station. “We take every threat in our schools as a credible threat, and I am happy to say we have made these arrests,” Sheriff William Earl Hilton told reporters.

Because “zero tolerance” is so reasonable, the good sheriff didn’t have to do a thing to prove “terrorism” either. They just are terrorists. They couldn’t prove they weren’t really going to do anything, after all, and that’s not a job the police should have to do anymore, post-Boston. You want to live in a free society don’t you? Prove it.

Or how about this:

The case of teenager Cameron Dambrosio might serve as an object lesson to young people everywhere about minding what you say online unless you are prepared to be arrested for terrorism.

The Methuen, Mass., high school student was arrested last week after posting online videos that show him rapping an original song that police say contained “disturbing verbiage” and reportedly mentioned the White House and the Boston Marathon bombing. He is charged with communicating terrorist threats, a state felony, and faces a potential 20 years in prison. Bail is set at $1 million.

An inarguably reasonable response.

"[A]nyone with a grudge or curiosity, or both, and an Internet connection" will now be considered a threat. And that’s "the price you pay to live in free society right now. It’s just the way it is,” post-Boston.

Where Were These Dems Asking about CIA-on-the-Hudson During Brennan’s Confirmation? | emptywheel

I have always been a huge fan of what Thomas Perez has done in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. But this sentence, from Adam Serwer’s query on what happened to DOJ’s review of the CIA-on-the-Hudson, ought to give pause.

Since taking office, the special litigation section of the civil rights division has investigated more local police departments for unconstitutional policing than ever before, but never on behalf of American Muslims profiled by law enforcement.

But the rest of Serwer’s piece barely touches a big missed opportunity — and, potentially, an explanation for why DOJ has slow-walked its investigation of the profiling of Muslims in NYC. Serwer notes that Brennan complimented the program, in contrast to Eric Holder’s stated concerns about it.

Although Holder referred to the reports of the NYPD’s actions as “disturbing,” that’s not the view of everyone in the Obama administration. CIA Director John Brennan, formerly a top White House counterterrorism adviser, praised the NYPD’s surveillance program in April 2012. “I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, and it’s something that again has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade,” Brennan said.

Brennan is not just the former White House counterterrorism [and homeland security] czar, but he’s also the guy who, when CIA-on-the-Hudson was being set up in the days after 9/11, was in charge of logistics and personnel at the CIA. Which means there’s a pretty decent chance he had a role in dual-hatting the CIA guy who operated domestically to help NYPD spy on Americans.

But Brennan’s role in finding a way to use CIA tactics domestically barely came up in his confirmation hearings. As I noted, he was asked whether he knew about the program (and acknowledged knowing about it), but he was not asked — at least not in any of the public materials — whether he had a role in setting it up.

Sort of a key question for the guy now in charge of the entire CIA, whether he thinks the CIA should find loopholes to get around prohibitions on CIA working domestically, don’t you think?

Serwer names several House Democrats — Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Judy Chu — who have been asking about this investigation. Obviously, they didn’t get a vote on Brennan’s nomination. But it seems the nomination period would have been a very good time to ask questions about how and why, at a time when Brennan played a key role in logistics and personnel at the agency, the government decided to set up this workaround. Asking at that time might have clarified why it is that the Administration seems uninterested in investigating this program.

As it is, we’re now left with a guy who publicly applauded such work-arounds — and CIA involvement through cooperation in fusion centers — in charge of the entire CIA.

NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly 'wanted to instil fear' in black and Latino men At stop-and-frisk trial, New York state senator and former police captain Eric Adams testifies about 2010 conversation with Kelly


State senator Eric Adams, who retired from the NYPD after rising to the rank of captain during a 22-year career, said commissioner Ray Kelly described his views on stop and frisk during a July 2010 meeting in the office of then-governor David Patterson.

Adams had traveled to Albany for a meeting on 10 July 2010 with the governor to give his support for a bill that would prohibit the NYPD from maintaining a database that would include the personal information of individuals stopped by the police but released without a charge or summons. In discussing the bill, which ultimately passed, Adams said he raised the issue of police stops disproportionately targeting young African American and Latino men.

“[Kelly] stated that he targeted and focused on that group because he wanted to instil fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police,” Adams testified.

“How else would we get rid of guns,” Adams said Kelly asked him.

Adams told the court he was stunned by the commissioner’s claim and immediately expressed his concerns. “I was amazed,” Adams testified. “I told him that was illegal.”

The words, they won’t come. Where I want words to be there is only anger and frustration.

(Source: latinosexuality, via absurdlakefront)

Spying on Muslims: A Q&A on the lasting damage of NYPD's surveillance |

"The long-term damage has yet to be seen. There are reasons surveillance tactics aren’t tolerated in free societies. You have an entire segment of the population withdrawing its voice from public conversations. That’s something that is in some ways immeasurable." — Diala Shamas

Across the Hudson, the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics are on trial, accused of systematically violating the rights of young men — mostly minorities — who were detained and searched with little or no cause.

Meanwhile, the NYPD’s insidious surveillance of Muslim communities — in New York, but also in Newark, Paterson and on college campuses — continues as it has since shortly after 9/11.

The mapping, photographing and infiltration of Muslims in New York and New Jersey was a secret program until the Associated Press unearthed documents proving its existence. In all that time, it has never produced a single terror-related lead.

Earlier this month, a coalition of Muslim watchdog groups released “Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims,” a 56-page report that catalogs the damage caused by the department’s spy ops.

Star-Ledger editorial writer Jim Namiotka spoke last week with Diala Shamas, a Liman Fellow at CUNY’s law school and one of the report’s co-authors. An edited transcript appears below.

Read on

NYPD stop-and-frisk memo revealed in civil rights court battle |

Attorneys challenging the New York City police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk practices say an internal NYPD memo amounts to an admission that the program is deeply flawed.

The memo, which the NYPD attempted to enter into evidence in a civil suit on Wednesday, was sent to commanding officers earlier this month and requires all police officers making a stop to give detailed reasons for their actions.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, the Center for Constitutional Rights, objected to the memo being recorded. Darius Charney, an attorney with the CCR, said city lawyers had only made the document available on Tuesday night.

“The memo literally says what we’ve been asking for for 10 years,” Charney told reporters outside the courthouse on Wednesday afternoon. “Now as we prepare to go to trial this memo magically appears.”

The bench trial, which began last week, is the result of a class-action lawsuit seeking to prove the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers on a widespread and systemic basis.

Under mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, New York police officers have stopped about 4.4 million people over the last decade, nearly nine out of 10 of whom were released without an arrest or a summons and roughly 86% were African American or Latino.

Charney challenged three documents on Wednesday including a memo signed by NYPD chief of patrol, James P Hall and addressed to “Commanding Officer, all Patrol Boroughs”.

Dated 5 March 2013, the memo sets out to standardize all paperwork relating to stops. It makes it mandatory for officers filling out UF250s – the forms that officers must complete after a stop – to include a narrative description.

According to Charney, CCR has been demanding the NYPD issue such a mandate for several years, and made it known in a brief laying out the plaintiffs’ request for remedy on 4 March, a day before Hall released the memo.

Johnathan Moore, a co-counsel in the suit, described the memo as a “startling admission”. He said outside court: “That’s an admission that they’ve been doing it wrong all these years,” Moore said.

Judge Shira Scheindlin declined the city’s request to enter the memo into evidence Wednesday, but said she would consider doing so if a witness who was involved in its creation was called to the stand. Hall is expected to testify as a witness for the city in coming weeks, raising the likelihood that the memo will be addressed.

Charney told reporters that in previous cases, post-litigation changes to a practices and policies being challenged in court are generally given little weight. He added that the NYPD has a practice of attempting to bat down legitimate challenges by disseminating memos and paperwork that often do not translate into reform. He suggested the memo is the department’s attempt to prove it can handle its perceived problems internally. Part of the remedy CCR seeks in the suit is a court-appointed monitor for the police department.

“I think it means the police department really doesn’t want federal oversight,” Charney said. “This is not a police department that is interested in working with the community.”

“It’s gamesmanship, pure and simple,” he added. [more]

Cop Testifies At Stop-And-Frisk Trial: “We Were Handcuffing Kids For No Reason”.


As the trial over the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy nears the end of its first week, two key cop whistleblowers testified yesterday that their superiors demanded stop-and-frisk quotas, saying they’d both been labeled “rats” when they complained.

Officer Adhyl Polanco, who was initially responsible for calling attention to the quotas via a series of secret recordings made back in 2009, told the court he’d been required to make five stop-and-frisks a month by union delegates and police supervisors. Polanco, who said fellow cops called him a rat after he went public with the recordings, testified officers often felt pressured to make unconstitutional stops in order to meet those quotas. “We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” he said. “I don’t want my kids to get shot by a cop who’s chasing them to write a ‘250.’”

A second officer, Pedro Serrano, also called attention to the quotas on the witness stand, testifying that he was pressured by his supervisors to make at least 20 summonses and one arrest per month, and that a certain number of stop-and-frisks were added to the count. Serrano, a 7-year veteran with the 40th Precinct in the South Bronx, said he was called out for not making any stop-and-frisks in a month where he topped that quota. He complained to Internal Affairs, and found stickers stuck to his stationhouse locker that calling him a rat. “I fear they’re going to set me up and get me fired,” he testified.

But while both Polanco and Serrano criticized the quotas, Polanco said he wasn’t against the practice in full. “It’s a great tool, and we need [stop-and-frisk],” he said. “Because I have no problem harassing criminals.” The trial continues today in federal court, exactly one week after the NYPD made its five-millionth stop-and-frisk since Mayor Bloomberg took office.

(via zeram-deactivated20130410)

NYPD Spent One Million Hours, 440,000 Arrests on 'Marijuana Crusade'


According to a shocking new report released Tuesday by the Drug Policy Alliance, in just over a decade the NYPD has used approximately 1,000,000 hours of police officer time to make 440,000 arrests for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession, in what critics are calling “a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century.”

The report titled One Million Police Hours and authored by Dr. Harry Levine, Professor of Sociology at Queens College, estimates that those detained in New York City for marijuana possession between 2002 and 2012 have spent roughly 5,000,000 hours in police custody.

The NYPD should be spending their time building communities, not tearing them down, said gabriel sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“For years, New Yorkers from across the state have organized and marched and rallied, demanding an end to these outrageous arrests. And now we learn that the police have squandered one million hours to make racially biased, costly, and unlawful marijuana possession arrests. This is scandalous,” sayegh stated.

As DPA states today, these arrests disproportionately affect black communities: “Even though young whites use marijuana at higher rates, over 85% of the people arrested and jailed for marijuana possession are black and Latino.”

sayegh continued:

I’m sure we can all think of more effective things for the police to spend their time on — imagine if NYPD committed one million hours to working with communities to stop gun violence or to pursue unsolved serious crimes. We stand with the Caucus and other leaders in Albany – both Democrats and Republicans – in demanding reform. The hour of change is upon us, and reform is long, long overdue.

Additionally, roughly 70% of those arrested for marijuana are younger than 30 years old, and over 50% are under 21 years old.

“These young people receive a permanent criminal arrest record which can be easily found on the internet by employers, banks, schools, landlords, and others,” DPA continued.

“We cannot afford to continue arresting tens of thousands of youth every year for low-level marijuana possession,” said Alfredo Carrasquillo, civil rights organizer with VOCAL-NY. “We can’t afford it in terms of the negative effect it has on the future prospects of our youth and we can’t afford in terms of police hours. It’s shocking that the same mayor who has been taking money away from youth programs and cutting other social services, is wasting tens of millions of dollars locking youth up through the NYPD’s marijuana arrests crusade. We need legislative action to fix this madness.”

“This report shows that people arrested for marijuana possession spend an average of 12-18 hours, just in police custody, and the vast majority of those arrested are young Black and Latino men from seven to ten neighborhoods in NYC,” said Chino Hardin, Field Coordinator and Trainer with the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. “This is not just a crisis, but a frontline civil rights issue facing urban communities of color in the 21st century. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to do the right thing, and exercise the moral and political will to address this injustice.”

The report arrives as New York State legislatures consider a drug reform law proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana in public.

New York City has made more marijuana possession arrests in recent years under Mayor Michael Bloomberg than under mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined.

(via randomactsofchaos)

NYPD Kill 16-Year-Old Black Kid

Two plainclothes police officers shot and killed a teenage boy late Saturday night on a Brooklyn street, after he pointed a handgun at the officers, the police said.

The police said the officers, patrolling in an unmarked car in East Flatbush, came upon the teenager, identified as Kimani Gray, 16, in a group of men just before 11:30 p.m. The teenager separated himself from the group and adjusted his waistband in what the police described as a suspicious manner.

As officers got out of the car to question him, Mr. Gray turned and pointed a .38-caliber Rohm revolver at them, the police said; two officers fired, hitting the teenager. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Kings County Hospital Center.

Mr. Gray did not fire the handgun, which was recovered at the scene. Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department, said the six-shot revolver was loaded with four live rounds.

“After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times,” Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Gray’s sister, Mahnefah Gray, 19, said that a witness to the shooting told her that her brother had been fixing his belt when he was shot. She, among others who knew Mr. Gray, said they had never known him to have a gun. Even if he had one on Saturday night, he would not have pointed it at police officers, Ms. Gray said.

“He has common sense,” she said.

A woman who lives across the street from the shooting scene said that after the shots were fired, she saw two men, whom she believed to be plainclothes officers, standing over Mr. Gray, who was prone on the sidewalk, clutching his stomach.

“He said, ‘Please don’t let me die,’ ” said the woman, 46, who gave her name only as Vanessa. One of the officers, she said, replied: “Stay down, or we’ll shoot you again.”

(Source: so-treu, via randomactsofchaos)

Towards a Police State in New York | Belén Fernández

Joseph Goldstein’s New York Times article of February 3 outlines a request from US civil rights lawyers to federal judge Charles S Haight Jr. for an independent evaluation of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism techniques.

Writes Goldstein: “The lawyers said the police’s tactics have placed Muslim communities under surveillance in violation of longstanding federal court guidelines.” Among these guidelines is a prohibition on the retention of information collected during surveillance operations unless it pertains “to potential unlawful or terrorist activity”.

As the Associated Press revealed in 2011, Muslim populations in the New York area had been targeted by a pervasive spying apparatus known as the Demographic Unit,the fruit of collaboration between the NYPD and the CIA.

The network, which has since been promoted to the more politically correct title “Zone Assessment Unit,” relies on undercover officers and informants to perform critical national security tasks such as – the AP notes – “gather[ing] intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.”

According to Goldstein, the civil rights lawyers who filed the motion with Haight based their allegations on over 1,200 pages of reports on Zone Assessment Unit monitoring activities at Muslim establishments, including shops and cafes, where invasive demographic details were allegedly compiled and retained despite the lack of “potential unlawful or terrorist activity”:

“The NYPD is continuing a massive, all-encompassing dragnet for intelligence concerning anything connected with Muslim activity through intrusive infiltration and record-keeping about all aspects of life, politics and worship”, the court filing stated. “The NYPD operates on a theory that conservative Muslim beliefs and participation in Muslim organisations are themselves bases for investigation.”

Of course, the absence of apparent “terrorist activity” is not always an obstacle for well-funded NYPD informants. The Egyptian informant Osama Eldawoody, for example, actively encouraged young Pakistani-American Shawahar Matin Siraj to undertake the bombing of a New York subway station – a plot for which Siraj was convicted despite his stipulation, recorded on tape, that he was against killing and that he would need to acquire his “mother’s permission” before signing on to the project.

These sorts of machinations lend a secondary, ironic layer of meaning to the so-called “homegrown threat” of Muslims “radicalized” in the West rather than abroad, a topic meriting especial hysteria from the NYPD. [continue]

Ramarley Graham's family sues NYPD on anniversary of teen's shooting death


After shooting dead an unarmed teenager in his bathroom, a New YorkCity police officer threatened to kill the boy’s distraught grandmother, a newly filed lawsuit alleges.

Filed Friday, a day before the one-year anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, the suit accuses the NYPD of improperly training its officers, disproportionately targeting minority youth through its controversial stop and frisk practices and covering up the facts surrounding the death.

The suit names police officer Richard Haste, the man responsible for shooting Graham, as well as NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and a number of other officers as defendants.

Haste was charged with first and second degree manslaughter in June. He is the first serving NYPD officer to face criminal charges for a fatal shooting since 2006. The four-year veteran of the force faces a maximum of sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Saturday, to mark the anniversary of Graham’s death, his parents and hundreds of supporters marched from the home where he died to the precinct where the officer who shot him was assigned.

As the crowd approached the building, Franclot Graham, Ramarley’s father, turned to a man organizing the march and said: “Tell them we’re going to tighten up and tell them we’re going to get loud.”

About a dozen NYPD community affairs officers and interlocking metal barricades separated the chanting demonstrators from the 47th precinct. “Last year, February 2, it was our son,” Graham told the officers by megaphone. “Next year, who’s next?”

At over 100 pages in length, the Graham family lawsuit paints a picture of a chaotic scene the afternoon Ramarley was killed. It alleges that after forcing his way into the Graham home, Haste shot the unarmed teenager in the chest in his bathroom, as his six-year-old brother and 58-year-old grandmother, Patricia Hartley, looked on.

“Why did you shoot him, why you killed him?” Hartley cried out after Haste fired, the suit claims. “Get the fuck away before I have to shoot you, too,” Haste is said to have replied as he shoved Graham’s 85-pound grandmother into a vase, the suit alleges.

According to the suit, NYPD officers twisted Hartley’s arm before taking her into custody for nearly seven hours where she was questioned, accused of covering up for her grandson and denied access to her attorney for over an hour and a half.

(via zeram-deactivated20130410)