Nov 222011



By FindLaw

Police officers generally have broad powers to carry out their duties. The Constitution and other laws, however, place limits on how far police can go in trying to enforce the law. As the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King, in Los Angeles and several recent cases in New York have illustrated, police officers sometimes go too far, violating the rights of citizens. When this happens, the victim of the misconduct may have recourse through federal and state laws. A primary purpose of the nation’s civil rights laws is to protect citizens from abuses by government, including police misconduct. Civil rights laws allow attorney fees and compensatory and punitive damages as incentives for injured parties to enforce their rights.

Overcoming Immunity

Being stopped and questioned by police in connection with a crime is an unsettling experience for most anyone. As long as the officer is performing his job properly, however, there is no violation of a suspect’s rights. In fact, police are immune from suit for the performance of their jobs unless willful, unreasonable conduct is demonstrated. Mere negligence, the failure to exercise due care, is not enough to create liability. Immunity therefore means that in the typical police-suspect interaction, the suspect cannot sue the police. Civil rights remedies come into play for willful police conduct that violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

Civil Rights Laws and Police Misconduct

A statute known as Section 1983 is the primary civil rights law victims of police misconduct rely upon. This law was originally passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was intended to curb oppressive conduct by government and private individuals participating in vigilante groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is now called Section 1983 because that is where the law has been published, within Title 42, of the United States Code. Section 1983 makes it unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law. The most common claims brought against police officers are false arrest (or false imprisonment), malicious prosecution, and use of excessive or unreasonable force. …




By sosadmin

Demonstrators and press nationwide have been speculating for weeks about federal involvement in police crackdowns nationwide. An oft-cited article asserting DHS and DOJ organization of the police repression has been largely discredited, due to its citing of anonymous sources and the lack of credibility of that web site more generally.

But yesterday the San Fransciso Bay Guardian newspaper reported that a DHS affiliated organization, the non-profit organization Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), has played a key role in the national crackdown.

The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. The group has distributed a recently published guide on policing political events.

What is PERF?

PERF’s executive director is Chuck Wexler, a former operations assistant to the Police Commissioner in the City of Boston. Mr. Wexler currently serves on DHS’ Homeland Security Advisory Council alongside police officers, representatives from private corporations, university representatives, current and former governors and others, including Bonnie Michelman, a professor of criminal justice at Boston’s Northeastern University, and Ray Kelly, police commissioner of the NYPD.

A representative from war and security industry giant Lockheed Martin also serves on the council. (Among other contracts, Lockheed was awarded a nearly $1 billion agreement to design and implement the DOJ’s massive new biometrics database, “Next Generation Identification,” which aims to be the largest biometrics database in the world and will serve US federal and local law enforcement, providing information on millions of people including palm prints gathered from scenes of interest to police.)

What does PERF do, exactly? Their website defines their mission thusly:

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is a national membership organization of progressive police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies. PERF is dedicated to improving policing and advancing professionalism through research and involvement in public policy debate. Incorporated in 1977, PERF’s primary sources of operating revenues are government grants and contracts, and partnerships with private foundations and other organizations.

Since their involvement with occupy crackdowns was exposed, it appears as if the organization has attempted to remove its list of Board of Directors members from the internet. But Goggle cache remembers.

The Board consists of heads of police departments across the nation, namely, Commissioner Charles Ramsey of Philadelphia PD; Chief Charlie Deane of Prince William County PD; Chief William Landsdowne of San Diego PD; Chief Richard Myers of Colorado Springs PD; Chief Edward Flynn of Milwaukee PD; and Chief George Gascon of San Franscisco PD. The organization’s leadership extends outside the US as well. Chief Bill Blair of Toronto PD serves as “Member at Large,” while Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers of the UK, serves as “Ex-Officio Member.” (Screenshot of cached page below.) …




By Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW!

While the United States, Britain and Canada are planning to announce a coordinated set of sanctions against Iran’s oil and petrochemical industry today, longtime investigative journalist Seymour Hersh questions the growing consensus on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. International pressure has been mounting on Iran since the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency revealed in a report the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear activities, citing “credible” evidence that “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” In his latest article for The New Yorker blog, titled “Iran and the IAEA,” Hersh argues the recent report is a “political document,” not a scientific study. “They [JSOC] found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization,” Hersh says. “In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities to build the bomb. This is simply a fact.” [includes rush transcript] …




By Digby, Hullabaloo

Quite a few professional police officers and criminal justice academics are weighing in on this notion of “pain compliance” in the wake of that pepper spray assault at UC Davis.

As awful as these incidents have been, I can’t tell you heartened I am by the fact that people are finally speaking up on this subject. Indiscriminate tasering has been going on for years now, it’s clearly documented and rarely has anyone questioned the right of the police to inflict pain for mere non-compliance. (The tasering of the mentally ill is a separate subject.) YouTubes have gone viral and the comments to them suggest that many, many people find such violence hilarious and support it fully. I won’t even go into the way Hollywood uses it for cheap laughs.

Indeed, the most common arguments I hear on this topic is “if an officer tells you to do something, you don’t ask questions, you do it” and “the cops first obligation is to protect his own safety and the safety of other cops.” This means that a police officer essentially has the right to immediately taser/pepper spray anyone who doesn’t immediately respond in order to preserve his or her own safety. And the definition of “safety” is pretty malleable, as we saw this week-end:

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said officers used force out of concern for their own safety after they were surrounded by students. …




By Glenn Greenwald

The UC-Davis Chancellor responsible for the pepper-spraying of her students, Linda Katehi, today went on Good Morning America and explained why she should not resign or otherwise be held accountable: “we really need to start the healing process and move forward.” On a radio program in the afternoon, she expanded on this view by saying: “We need to move on.” So apparently — yet again — the only way everyone can begin to “heal” and “move forward” is if everyone agrees that those in power with the greatest responsibility be fully shielded from any consequences and that their bad acts be simply forgotten. I wonder where she learned that justifying rationale?

Speaking of that, Vice President Dick Cheney today gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s Terrorism War and foreign policy, and the interview appeared under this headline:


Dick Cheney on how the Obama administration has gotten some things right in the war on terror

The former Vice President heaped praise on President Obama for his policies of escalating drone attacks, military commissions, and indefinite detention — once known in Democratic circles as “shredding the Constitution” — and then added:

I was very upset when we had talk by the Justice Department about prosecuting the intelligence professionals who’d carried out our policies in the enhanced-interrogation area. They’ve backed off that since. That’s good. …




By Washington’s Blog

… The use of pepper spray in war is banned by the Geneva Convention.

It is also illegal in the circumstances it was used in Seattle and Davis. As Daily Kos notes:

Non-violent protesters may sue police and the municipality of county that employs them under this Federal law, 42 United States Code Section 1983if they have been pepper sprayed while peacefully protesting, whether or not the protesters were arrested.

Here’s the language of the law in question:

§ 1983. Civil action for deprivation of rights

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.


The use of pepper spay by law enforcement against non-violent protestors has been found to be a violation of of the 4th amendment rights of the protesters in the case of Lundberg v. Humboldt, which is the controlling precedent in the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over any cases brought against the police for their actions in Seattle and Oakland. In its 2001 opinion regarding the Lundberg case, the 9th Circuit held that non-violent protestors who did not present a threat to the safety of the public or to law enforcement officials, even though they had committed the misdemeanor offense of trespass, could sue the governmental authorities and law enforcement officials who had pepper sprayed them, reversing the trial court’s decision to dismiss the case on the basis that the authorities had “limited immunity” to violate the civil rights of individuals engaged in non-violent civil disobedience.


The use of pepper spray against non-violent protestors who pose no threat to police or to the public, has been deemed grounds for legal action against the police under Section 1983 for a violation of your 4th amendment rights.


I strongly suggest to anyone who was pepper sprayed, beaten with batons or otherwise assaulted by the police in Oakland and Seattle that you consult with a lawyer, either with the ACLU, National Layers’ Guild or a private attorney specializing in lawsuits based on civil rights violations and police abuse and use of excessive force. It seems clear to me that the 9th Circuit precedent would allow lawsuits against the authorities who used pepper spray and other “pain compliance techniques” used against OWS protesters and bystanders to proceed without any argument by the authorities of qualified immunity from litigation based on their brutal acts of unnecessary violence.


University of California Police are not authorized to use pepper spray except in circumstances in which it is necessary to prevent physical injury to themselves or others.

From the University of California’s Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures:

“Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”

… UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.

Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”




By Aljazeera

Activists in Egypt have called for a mass demonstration in Cairo, a day after the cabinet offered its resignation to the ruling military council following clashes that have left at least 33 people dead and hundreds injured.Groups including the Coalition of Revolution Youth and the April 6 movement, which spearheaded the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February, called for a “million-man march” on Tuesday afternoon in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to put pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to cede power to civilian leaders.Essam Sharaf, the interim prime minister, offered his cabinet’s resignation late on Monday, but a military official said the council was seeking agreement on a new prime minister before it would accept the resignation.Sources said SCAF had approached Mohamed ElBaradei, the presidential hopeful and opposition politician, to form a new interim government. However, ElBaradei was said to be hesitating over assurances regarding his authority to choose cabinet ministers.Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister of two decades and the head of SCAF, was scheduled to address the nation, according to Egypt’s state television. …




By Katharine Ainger, The Guardian, UK

… In the short term, the reality of a rightwing government may well dampen the mood of the indignados. But it is also setting the stage for a massive new wave of protest that will strengthen the movement. By next spring those made unemployed by the crisis will start running out of unemployment benefits. This, combined with stringent new austerity measures and angry unions – whose hands had been tied by their connections to the socialist government, but can now come out fighting – will usher in what looks to be an enormous and potent wave of direct action.

The indignados are playing the long game. Inspiring Occupy tactics in other countries, they have been taking over empty bank-owned properties across the country from Galicia to Andalucia and Madrid to Barcelona. The general assemblies of the encampments they held in the summer are now devolved to local neighbourhoods; the occupied buildings are being used to hold assemblies through the winter months and house those evicted through mortgage defaults. “The answer to the crisis is not apathy or cynicism,” says Kike Tudela, a historian and activist. “We have four years of struggle and resistance ahead, and the question is: what will we have after four years? Do we want the socialists back with more neoliberal policies, or something new?”

The indignados are now exploring ideas that go far beyond party politics or even changing electoral law, such as participatory budgets, referendums, election recalls and other forms of citizen-initiated legalisation. “It’s a debate we have to have within the movement, but perhaps we can create new political forms from below. We are interested in Latin American models,” Tudela says, referring to governments that have resisted the onslaught of neoliberalism in tandem with social movements that hold them to their promises.

This new form of politics that creates effective pathways between social movements and government is vastly ambitious. But as the indignados say: “We are going slowly, because we are going far.”


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