Saturday, June 13, 2015

Good News in the Fight Against Police Brutality

This week, there has been some good news regarding the fight against police brutality in Ohio, South Carolina and Texas.

The Guardian reports that:
A judge in Ohio said on Thursday he had found probable cause to charge a police officer with murder for the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year.

Judge Ronald Adrine of the Cleveland municipal court said there were grounds to prosecute officer Timothy Loehmann with murder, manslaughter, reckless homicide and negligent homicide.

Adrine also found there was probable cause for a charge of negligent homicide against officer Frank Garmback, Loehmann’s partner, who was present when Tamir was shot at a park on 22 November while holding a pellet gun.

The judge’s recommendation, however, was brushed aside by Timothy McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, who pledged to proceed as planned with having a grand jury decide on whether the officers should be charged.

“This case, as with all other fatal use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers, will go to the grand jury,” McGinty said in a statement. “That has been the policy of this office since I was elected. Ultimately, the grand jury decides whether police officers are charged or not charged.”

In a 10-page order, Judge Adrine wrote that after viewing surveillance video, which shows Tamir being shot dead within two seconds of Loehmann’s arrival, he was “still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly”.

The judge said Tamir was given “little if any time” to respond to any commands from the officers, that his arms were not raised, and that he made no “furtive movement”. Adrine wrote: “Literally, the entire encounter is over in an instant.”

In South Carolina, WYFF reports that:
Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill Wednesday requiring all law enforcement officers in South Carolina to wear body cameras.

A bill that would require all South Carolina law enforcement officers to wear body cameras is gaining momentum after an officer-involved shooting in North Charleston, according to the bill's co-author.

The bill, which was passed by the General Assembly on June 4, will do the following:

Amend the Code of Laws of South Carolina by adding a section to define the term "body-worn camera."

Require all state and local law enforcement officers to implement the use of body-worn cameras.

Require all state and local law enforcement agencies to submit policies and procedures related to the use of body-worn cameras to the law enforcement training council.

Establish a "body-worn camera fund."

Make data recorded by a body-worn camera not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Despite first being introduced in December 2014, Bill S.47 was fast-tracked following the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer.
The South Carolina body camera law is a step in the right direction. However, the goal of the law is undermined by provisions stating that body camera video footage is not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, as illustrated in the Eric Garner case, video footage of police brutality is no guarantee of a conviction. Nonetheless, that law is a sign of some progress.

Finally, in McKinney, Texas, Officer Eric Casebolt resigned and apologized for harassing and humiliating a 14 year-old African American girl and other black youth. Yahoo reports that:
Cpl. Eric Casebolt was captured on video Friday evening wrestling a teenage girl to the ground and pointing his gun at two other teens while answering a disturbance call at an unruly party at a neighborhood pool in suburban Dallas.

“He never intended to mistreat anyone,” his attorney, Jane Bishkin, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “He apologizes to all who were offended.”

Bishkin said Casebolt had worked one suicide and one attempted suicide in the hour prior to being dispatched to the pool party that reportedly involved teens fighting.

“The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Bishkin said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Casebolt's apology is an empty gesture. It is insufficient. Charges should be brought against him and the McKinney Police Department should be investigated for discriminatory patterns and practices.

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