Trump Administration Says Deportable Immigrants Can’t Go to the Courts — Even if Their First Amendment Rights Are Violated

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/08/2018 - 9:00pm in



If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to silence its most vocal critics by singling them out for deportation among the nearly 1 million people in the United States with final orders of removal, is there any check or remedy for that abuse of power? Is there any court, or indeed, any authority at all outside the executive branch, with the power to protect those activists’ First Amendment rights?


That was the position articulated by Justice Department lawyers on Tuesday before a panel of judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. The hearing was meant to determine whether the court should issue a stay preventing ICE from deporting just such a figure, Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, before he has a chance to assert his constitutional claim in federal court.

Tuesday’s hearing in New York was only a small part of an already complex court battle: As The Intercept reported at the time, Ragbir is one of the plaintiffs — along with the New Sanctuary Coalition, four other immigrant rights groups, and some 79 friend-of-the-court supporters at last count — in a First Amendment lawsuit filed in February accusing ICE officials of targeting activists around the country for deportation, effectively prioritizing the expulsion of its political enemies.

“We are creating an agency that is unaccountable and is permitted to disappear those who are in the best position to educate the public about what this agency is actually doing.”

The stakes of the argument are high, and not only for undocumented people, said Alina Das, a professor at New York University Law School and one of Ragbir’s attorneys. “Saying there’s a group of people who can be literally banished from this country for any reason, even if it violates their constitutional rights, creates a vulnerable class, and when their rights aren’t respected, it hurts both them and society as a whole,” she said. “If ICE is given free reign to silence their critics, we are creating an agency that is unaccountable and is permitted to disappear those who are in the best position to educate the public about what this agency is actually doing. That should be a scary prospect for anyone living in this country.”

In May, Judge Kevin Castel ruled against Ragbir in a motion seeking preliminary injunction to prevent ICE from deporting him before the First Amendment lawsuit can be resolved. While the rest of the lawsuit is still pending in district court, Ragbir has appealed that ruling. The 2nd Circuit won’t get to the substance of that appeal for another month or more, but Tuesday’s hearing concerned Ragbir’s motion for an order preventing ICE from deporting him while the appeal is in process.

If all that makes it sound like Ragbir’s legal team is particularly preoccupied with getting some sort of guarantee that their client won’t be deported before he even has a chance to argue his case, it’s an anxiety that appears to have some foundation. For one thing, there’s the fact that when he presented himself for a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE officials in January, Ragbir was taken into custody and put on a plane in anticipation of deportation in a matter of hours, despite the fact that he had an open legal challenge still pending at the time. Government lawyers have explained that ICE assessed that Ragbir had a low chance of prevailing in his legal proceedings and cleared the way for him to be deported before they could be resolved.

The government’s own statements in court on Tuesday did nothing to quiet the fears of Ragbir’s lawyers. Early in the day’s arguments, the three-judge panel appeared interested in resolving the issue without having to decide the question of a stay. Ragbir is already protected by a stay of deportation ordered by a district court in New Jersey in a separate legal matter, they noted, and William Perdue, one of Ragbir’s lawyers, conceded that he was seeking this additional stay as a form of further “insurance.”

“You’re worried that if those stays are lifted, the government’s going to swoop in before you have a chance to come back here?” Judge Dennis Jacobs asked.

“Absolutely,” Perdue answered.

Jacobs was skeptical, noting that in a scorching opinion in January, Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that ICE had acted unconstitutionally and been “unnecessarily cruel” in subjecting Ragbir to “treatment we associate with regimes that are unjust.” ICE had raced to deport Ragbir in January, speeding him out of town with a New York Police Department escort and onto a plane bound for Florida in the few hours it took his lawyers to secure a restraining order from Forrest.

ICE “may not be quite so abrupt in view of the Judge Forrest’s ruling already cautioning them about abruptness,” Jacobs said. Perhaps, he suggested, the court needn’t issue a stay if the government simply promised that if the other stay in New Jersey were to be lifted, they’d give Ragbir and the 2nd Circuit a few days’ notice before deporting him, so that a stay could be considered then.

To the judges’ evident surprise, though, the government flatly refused to make such a commitment. Steven Kochevar, the U.S. Attorney’s Office lawyer arguing the motion, informed the judges that the government did not agree with Forrest’s ruling and is in the process of appealing it.

“You don’t accept her ruling that you can’t come in after someone has been here 11 years, you can’t change your mind and instantly remove him?” Jacobs asked, surprised.

“That’s correct,” Kochevar replied.

“I’d be much more sympathetic to your side if you would say to the court, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to take him in the dead of night.’”

“I need to know,” Newman asked, “if the New Jersey stay is dissolved, number one, are you going to take him immediately into custody?

“Subject to the applicable regulations, yes, I believe ICE intends to enforce this,” Kochevar answered.

Newman tried again: “I’d be much more sympathetic to your side if you would say to the court, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to take him in the dead of night.’” Kochevar again demurred.

“I’ll try one other time,” Newman pressed. “If the New Jersey stay is dissolved … and we for whatever reasons don’t grant one, can the government assure us you will not take him into custody and remove him for at least, let’s say, seven days?”

“We can’t,” Kochevar said.

“Can you even give him one day?”

“I am not in a position to make any representation as to the specific amount of time,” Kochevar said.

“You realize that doesn’t make your opposition to this stay more appealing?”

“Certainly, your honor,” Kochevar said. “But our position is that as a matter of law this court doesn’t have jurisdiction.”

The question of jurisdiction turns on a reading of a section of federal immigration law, Title 8, Section 1252 of the U.S. Code, designed to streamline and clarify when and which federal courts can provide judicial oversight over the deportation process, which is otherwise the purview of the executive branch.

The immigration courts of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, in which people press their claims for asylum or challenge their removal, are part of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch, and immigration judges there answer not to the Supreme Court, but to the attorney general. ICE, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, handles enforcement of those courts’ decisions.

“No court shall have jurisdiction to hear any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action by the Attorney General to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders against any alien under this chapter,” reads Title 8, Section 1252 (g) of the U.S. Code.

As the Trump administration’s escalating war on immigrants generates an increasing number of court challenges, the government is trying to head them off by asserting an expansive reading of executive authority on immigration that is exempted from judicial review. Immigrant advocates contend these cases aren’t so much about final orders of removal as they are about challenging other unlawful actions by ICE — improperly targeting immigrants or blocking their access to courts.

By the time the court receives such a notice, Ragbir might already be in handcuffs on a southbound plane.

On Thursday, the appeals panel appeared to dodge the question of its authority, issuing an order that did not include a ruling on the stay request, but rather directing the parties to notify it if Ragbir’s existing stay in New Jersey is lifted.

By the time the court receives such a notice, if ICE’s past actions and the Justice Department lawyer’s reluctance to promise otherwise are any indication, Ragbir might already be in handcuffs on a southbound plane, leaving his court case challenging ICE’s alleged practice of political-suppression-by-deportation behind him, unresolved.

Top photo: Ravi Ragbir, of the New Sanctuary Coalition, speaks at a press conference to spotlight the impact of the governments stalling tactics on immigrant families on July 11, 2018 in New York.

The post Trump Administration Says Deportable Immigrants Can’t Go to the Courts — Even if Their First Amendment Rights Are Violated appeared first on The Intercept.

When Will the Democratic Party Get Involved in Local and State Law Enforcement Races?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/08/2018 - 11:00pm in


Justice, Politics

 Protesters hold signs during a rally calling for criminal justice reform outside the U.S. Capitol July 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Demonstrators and members are calling for the passage of the First Steps Act. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Protesters hold signs during a rally calling for criminal justice reform outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2018.

Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

You’d struggle to find a single issue that resonates more with the base of the Democratic Party than criminal justice reform. An astounding 87 percent of Democrats say that they want to see America’s prison population decrease. Eighty percent of Democrats want to see the whole justice system reformed.

But when the rubber meets the road on actually making criminal justice reform happen, Democrats are ghosts. I’m not talking about the senators who are likely going to run for president. They have a lot to say about criminal justice reform. And I’m not throwing shade, but it’s easy to talk about bold reforms and game-changing policies when you aren’t in power — Republicans did it every year when Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. What I’m talking about is the Democratic Party machinery on the local, state, and federal level.

If the Democratic Party was smart, they would be out front leading and owning the effort to make criminal justice reform happen, but they aren’t.

Everyday Democrats want to see justice reform. And if the Democratic Party was smart, they would be out front leading and owning the effort to make this happen, but they aren’t. Instead, White House adviser Jared Kushner is convening people at the White House to talk about these reforms. We could all say it’s a sham — and maybe it is — but optics dominate politics. It’s a good political play: If President Donald Trump and Kushner can convince just a tiny percentage of Democrats for whom these issues matter that they’re serious, they can swipe a few votes out form under the Democratic Party’s nose — particularly in swing states where Trump either barely won or lost.

Most incarcerated people are arrested and convicted on the state and local level — therefore the most impactful criminal justice reform, as tedious as it may be, must happen on the state and local level, one city, county, and state at a time. Federal criminal justice reform isn’t a nothing burger, but it’s just a few steps above that. It can set the tone for what happens on the local and state level, but at the end of the day, cities and states have to do the hard work of reforming the laws and policies they enforce.

That’s why it broke my heart when so many people campaigned for reform-minded candidates all over California — from San Diego to Sacramento — in the land of Democratic power, only to be completely abandoned by state and national Democratic Parties. The party left courageous candidates pretty much hanging in counties that Hillary Clinton won by a landslide. What that means is that Clinton stomped Trump in San Diego and Sacramento, but each county now has conservative Republican district attorney and sheriff.

If Republicans are completely controlling the criminal justice system in California counties where Democrats run the show in every single presidential election, something’s seriously wrong. What that reveals is how Democrats have learned the talking points of justice reform, but the reality has not caught up with the rhetoric. And that’s dangerous, because anyone else — like Trump and Kushner — can play the rhetoric game as well.

Nowhere did this play out more than it did in Milwaukee. No single city and no single state in the country incarcerates black men at a higher rate than Milwaukee and Wisconsin. What I am about to say defies all comprehension. More than half of all black men in their 30s and early 40s in Milwaukee County have been incarcerated. It’s staggering.

And guess who helped lead the justice system there? None other than Trump cheerleader David Clarke — in a county where Democrats lead every mechanism of government.

Yet Clarke, one of the most cartoonishly right-wing men in America, oversaw the sheriff’s office there — and to devastating effect, with horrendous in-custody deaths.

Thankfully, his reign came to an end this past week. With Clarke now out on the conservative speaking circuit making the big bucks, he left behind a crater-sized hole in the local justice system with lawsuits and court cases all pending.

Enter Earnell Lucas — a progressive reformer determined to change the justice system in Milwaukee from the inside out. He was elected in a landslide on Tuesday against Clarke’s handpicked successor. Lucas prevailed mainly thanks to grassroots support and endorsements from groups like the Working Families Party. Again, in a race that was about as anti-Trump, and pro-criminal justice reform as an election could be, the local, state, and national Democratic Parties were MIA. Consequently, they can’t really claim the victory — which is a tremendous missed opportunity.

This isn’t unique. It’s happening all over the country. When progressive reformers win in law enforcement and criminal justice races, they are doing so in spite of the Democratic Party, not because of it. All of this would seem to be an easy fix, but it gets to the root of the matter. Does the Democratic Party really care about black people or do they just want our votes?

The post When Will the Democratic Party Get Involved in Local and State Law Enforcement Races? appeared first on The Intercept.

“Forget Your Son”: Brazil Is Forcibly Taking Indigenous Children and Putting Them Up for Adoption

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/08/2018 - 9:30pm in


Brazil, Justice, World

I practiced my greetings in Guarani several times before approaching Élida Oliveira. Élida, who doesn’t speak Portuguese, had arrived that morning in the town of Amambai, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, deep in Brazil’s agricultural heartland and less than an hour’s drive from Paraguay. She was accompanied by officials from Funai, the federal agency responsible for indigenous affairs in Brazil. Élida had traveled there to explain how, three years earlier, local health agents and representatives of the municipal Guardianship Council in the city of Dourados, where she lives, had arrived to remove her newborn child from her custody.

“The child, they took him when he was only 8 days old. She asks that you not take away her children again.”

Two-hundred women listened in silence to Élida’s testimony, given in her native language Guarani, an indigenous language of central South America. A local named Wanda Kuña Rendy had volunteered to translate Élida’s words to Portuguese for the authorities in attendance, but she was only able to get through a few sentences before bursting into tears. “The child, they took him when he was only 8 days old,” Rendy said. “She asks that you not take away her children again.”

Élida smiled when I asked for an interview, but she was hesitant to allow her youngest child to leave her lap as we recorded. As a researcher, I had prepared to attend the sixth annual Kuñangue Aty, a large gathering of women from the Kaiowá and Guarani indigenous communities, to focus on the prayers and songs that marked the nights and days of the meeting, from the initial reception to the final debates. As an ethnographer or a reporter, however, I was compelled to pay attention to the issues afflicting the human beings involved. “Why has the number of indigenous children in institutional care increased so much in the last year?” I wondered. Janete Alegre, organizer of the Amambai meeting, asked, “Is there now a law that says indigenous children must be taken from their indigenous families and given to the whites?”

In the sprawling municipality of Dourados alone — with a population of some 200,000 people in an area twice the size of Los Angeles — 50 indigenous children were living in shelters at the end of 2017, according to a study by the Funai Regional Office. By July 2018, 34 remained separated from their families. I discovered the stories of Élida and other mothers in Dourados are just the tip of the iceberg. Uncountable communities suffer from the complex problems associated with the state taking indigenous children from their families. There are indications of even more serious irregularities in the processes where the children are taken, which have been monitored since 2010 by Funai, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Federal Public Ministry.

“The institution says that she is poor, that she lives in an unauthorized occupation,” shouts Jaqueline Gonçalves, a young member of the Kaiowá leadership. “Institutions need to respect us. This is the genocide of indigenous peoples!” Her words invoked the violence inflicted upon the Kaiowá and Guarani peoples in Brazil since the beginning of the 20th century. The local family court alleges mistreatment and neglect, as well as drug and alcohol problems, to justify the separation of children from their mothers.

“They claim that our children are dirty. But of course! We live off the land and cook over open fires,” a group of women wrote in a letter signed by participants of the Amambai meeting. Demanding that alternatives be found within the villages themselves, as mandated by the federal Statute for Children and Adolescents, these women want to have the right to follow the traditions of child care passed down from their ancestors. You should eat food from your place of origin and sing to newborn babies, they said.

The post “Forget Your Son”: Brazil Is Forcibly Taking Indigenous Children and Putting Them Up for Adoption appeared first on The Intercept.

Bad Chicago Cops Spread Their Misconduct Like a Disease

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 11:03pm in



From 1972 to 1991, a Chicago detective named Jon Burge led a group of police officers in torturing confessions out of suspects. They called themselves the “Midnight Crew,” and their behavior eventually resulted in the jailing of Burge and the creation of a reparations council to pay the victims. More recently, the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force was found to have planted evidence, assaulted innocent citizens, and committed overtime fraud.

Many of the most egregious examples of police misconduct arise from tightly knit groups of officers like these. That’s no accident. Recently released data from the Chicago police department shows that misconduct spreads from officer to officer like an infectious disease. And the same behavior that leads cops to violate the rules often predicts whether they will participate in a shooting.

In 2009, the Invisible Institute sued the city of Chicago to reveal in-depth information on the complaint histories of selected Chicago police officers. After a drawn-out legal battle, the Invisible Institute prevailed and acquired the complaint histories of all officers since 1988. They then processed, standardized, and augmented that data with information on police shootings, uses of force, and a complete duty roster of all officers. In total, the data covers more than 30,000 officers and almost 23,000 complaints between 2000 and 2018.

Because complaints can list multiple officers at once, it’s possible to determine that more than one cop was present at the scene at the same time. Complaints listing multiple officers link those cops together, and by assembling thousands of officers across tens of thousands of complaints, it’s possible to build a giant social network of police interactions.


Evolving social network of Officer Raymond Piwnicki.

Video: Invisible Institute/The Intercept

The illustration above visualizes such a social network. Dots represent officers, linked by lines of complaints. Most officers register few complaints and sit on the outside of the network. But a small portion of officers at the center of network behave differently than those on the outside.

About 1,300 of Chicago’s cops fall into clusters of linked police officers who together have been the subject of at least 100 citizen complaints against them. The list of police within this group reads like a Who’s Who of Chicago police misconduct: From Jerome Finnigan, who led a corrupt unit of cops and plotted to kill a fellow officer, to Raymond Piwnicki, who harassed black citizens using racist language. Officers within this group show not only higher rates of complaints, but also participate in more uses of force and even more shootings. On its own, such a pattern could simply mean that these particular officers are more likely to be street cops or assigned to high-crime divisions. But these central officers are also more than five times as likely to figure in an incident that results in a civil payout by the city for misconduct, according to data on lawsuits involving police officers gathered by the Chicago Reporter.

Within police departments, it’s often well-known that some cops break the rules. In the Chicago Police Department, it was an “open secret” that Burge and his crew extracted confessions using illegal means. Far less serious conduct, such as a reputation for pushing the boundaries, can also get around. Seth Stoughton, a former police officer turned college professor at the University of South Carolina, said “I learned that some, maybe one or two officers when I was [on the force], tended to do things right at the edge of what is acceptable procedure.”

Reputations like Stoughton’s colleagues in turn attract or repel other officers. For example, complaints tend to list officers with more similar use of force rates than if you were to pick officers at random from the department. That could be a result of cops seeking out assignments with others like them. Cops at the center of the Chicago network of 1,300 problem officers were about six times more likely than the department at large to work in one of Chicago’s gang units. Other cops who transferred to those units showed more use of force and greater total civil suit payouts than randomly selected officers. “It’s like magnets. And good officers don’t want to work with [bad ones], because they’ll get in trouble themselves,” said Sam Walker, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska and consultant to many police departments. Because high-complaint officers attract like-minded colleagues,  they tend to be surrounded within the network by others like them.

Officers prone to misconduct do more than draw in others like them. The data shows that they also may be teaching their colleagues bad habits. Using the Invisible Institute’s data I picked out all the more than 12,000 officers with low complaint rates before 2008 (the year the Independent Police Review Authority, a new police oversight board, became operational). Then I split those cops into two segments: the 863 who had been listed on a complaint with officers at the center of the network, and 12,815 who hadn’t. The officers who had been exposed to the contagious, misconduct-prone cops at the center of complaint networks went on to show complaint rates nine times higher over the next ten years than those who hadn’t.

Their behavior often escalates beyond complaints to more serious violence. The same cops who are exposed to other high complaint officers go on to be listed on four times as many uses of force per year in the next few years. They also commit shootings at rates more than five times higher than their colleagues who weren’t exposed to misbehaving officers.

Stoughton credited part of the infectious quality of misbehaving officers to the process of training young cops. While officers learn the rules of policing at the academy, the probationary period provides hands-on training in the first few months on the job. In that time, many of the procedures they were told to follow in the academy get discarded. “On their first day, every cop hears some variation of ‘Forget everything you learned at the academy’,” Stoughton said.

Bob Verry, a retired police chief and current internal affairs investigator in New Jersey, likened the process of learning misconduct to the “broken windows” theory of policing, in which small violations escalate to larger and larger crimes. “Officers start out with minor things — forgetting their tie clip — and then that becomes forgetting to shine their shoes. … They get away with one punch during an arrest and it just goes on from there,” Verry said.

The data is rich with examples of young officers whose trajectories bent toward misconduct after exposure to bad influences. One rookie cop joined the department in 2001 and was assigned to the 9th police district, on the South Side of the city, after training. In his first three years, he received two complaints; both times, he was exonerated.

In 2004, just after completing his third year on the job, that officer was accused of using excessive force. He was listed on the complaint with four other officers, two of whom had multiple other complaints to their names. From that point on, his complaint rate skyrocketed. Citizens filed several allegations against him over the next five years. His use-of-force rate increased as well, from less than two per year to six in 2014. That officer was Jason Van Dyke, who shot Laquan McDonald that same year and is now on trial for McDonald’s murder.

In theory, patterns of bad behavior like Van Dyke’s should be detected and corrected by supervisors. Complaints by civilians and other officers should trigger official investigations, and officers beset by numerous allegations should be sent to counseling or suspended. But the departmental investigation process is dysfunctional, and the vast majority of civilian complaints do not yield any discipline for the accused officer. When complaints are filed by other cops, discipline is much more likely, but according to data obtained by the Invisible Institute, officers at the center of the network are less likely than others to have complaints filed against them by other cops. The “blue wall of silence,” the tendency among cops to protect their own, appears to safeguard these officers more than others.

“We know that officers who are more in tune [with] or endorse the code of silence … are also more likely to use force, and less likely to use communication in interactions with the public,” said Scott Wolfe, a criminologist at Michigan State University, referring to published research. “They’re more likely to pull a gun and more likely to shoot a gun.”

Using the same data from the Invisible Institute, researchers at the University of Southern California, Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a working paper that networks of complaints and shootings can be used to tell that police violence is contagious. “Violence might spread when officers learn from each other scripts for trying to manage risky civilian encounters or encounters in which they lose control,” said Daria Roithmayr, a professor of law at USC and an author of the paper.

Previous results from two of the researchers had shown that violence behaved in a contagious fashion among citizens of Chicago. Without help or endorsement from those researchers, the Chicago police department used these results as the basis to build an algorithm that would predict which citizens were at higher risk of being involved in a shooting, and then contacted them to try to prevent that violence. The researchers believe that using the contagious nature of violence to target individuals — cops or citizens — is “extremely hard” and “just wouldn’t work well in practice.”

“Once we understand more about contagion, there might be implications for policymakers in terms of how police tasks are assigned or how police units are structured,” Roithmayr said. She cautioned, “There is much more to understand about contagion before we can begin meaningful policy prescription.” Currently, police departments do not formally take an officer’s social history into account when judging whether to reassign an officer or otherwise prevent them from engaging in misconduct. But Verry noted that internal affairs investigators typically look into the other officers on the scene of a complaint.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently filed the draft of a legally binding document that would lay out a series of reforms for the Chicago Police Department to implement in the next few years. In this draft consent decree, one of the required improvements is that the department create a system to pick up on bad behavior before it becomes more serious. A required element for that system is the capacity “to identify group- and unit-level patterns of activity.” The special attention paid to identifying misconduct among cliques within the department suggests that the architects of the consent decree may be aware of the social nature of misbehavior exhibited by groups like Burge’s Midnight Crew.

Top photo: Police officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. He plead not guilty in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

The post Bad Chicago Cops Spread Their Misconduct Like a Disease appeared first on The Intercept.

Chicago Police Are 14 Times More Likely to Use Force Against Young Black Men Than Against Whites

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 11:02pm in



Video footage of a police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald sparked citywide protests in November 2015 and ignited Chicago’s ongoing movement for police reform, but the Chicago Police Department’s records show the gaping racial disparities in everyday use of force that played a role in creating the deep distrust in the city’s police department among communities of color.

The data shows not only police shootings, but also thousands of regular police uses of force over more than a decade — involving an average of 10 people every day — documenting cases in which officers tackled, tased, or used other types of force on civilians, nearly 90 percent of whom were people of color. The data provides a more detailed look at the pattern of unconstitutional force discovered by the Justice Department investigation that opened shortly after the release of the McDonald video.


Graphic: Moiz Syed

In late July, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced their plan to fix the Chicago Police Department. The 225-page draft document provides a detailed proposal for police reform, to be overseen by a federal judge.

As the Chicago Police Department confronts a potentially decade-long reform process, a new trove of data obtained by the Invisible Institute, and presented as part of the Citizens Police Data Project, provides the one of the most comprehensive looks at a big city police department’s use of force. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Invisible Institute obtained more than 67,000 “tactical response reports,” covering uses of force by Chicago police officers against adults between late January 2004 and April 2016.

Officers complete these reports after incidents in which an officer uses serious force, such as a firearm or Taser, to subdue civilians they perceive to be resisting arrest or threatening others, or when a civilian is injured or claims they were injured by officers. Less serious types of force, such as handcuffing a suspect, do not typically require a form.

A Stark Racial Disparity in Use of Force

The data shows the scope of the problem facing the Chicago Police Department as it pursues wide-ranging reforms under the oversight of a federal judge. Across Chicago, most victims of officer uses of force were African-American, even in several neighborhoods where the residents are predominately white. Young black men were about 14 times more likely to experience a CPD use of force than young white men.

The Invisible Institute’s analysis also suggests that Chicago’s use-of-force tracking — a central part of the proposed reform — is seriously incomplete. Both experts and the data provided by CPD suggest that police officers frequently underreport uses of force against civilians, a fact that could make it more difficult for the department to determine whether reform efforts are succeeding.

CPD’s data shows that reported force is applied unevenly across Chicago. African-Americans, Hispanics, and whites each make up about a third of the city’s population, but police report using force on these groups at sharply different rates. Between 2005 and 2015, roughly 72 percent of all CPD uses of force targeted African-Americans. A further 15 percent involved Hispanics, and 10 percent involved whites. Similar disparities exist in Taser uses and shootings, though most reports involve officers tackling, punching, or using open-hand strikes on civilians.

The racial disparities in reported uses of force are even more noticeable among younger people. African-American men between ages 20 and 34 experience police uses of force at a rate roughly 14 times their white peers. Black women in the same age range were about 10 times more likely to experience force than young white women and twice more likely to experience force than young white men.

The reported number of people who experienced force remained fairly steady between 2005 and 2015, rising from roughly 3,900 to about 4,200 in 2011 and declining to about 3,500 in 2015. The proportion of police force used against African-Americans remained steady even as black Chicagoans made up an increasingly smaller portion of the city’s population.

The racial disparities in the police department’s use-of-force reports exist across the city, including in largely white neighborhoods. The Jefferson Park police district on Chicago’s far northwest side is home to many city workers and includes some of the only precincts in the city to back Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Although African-Americans make up only 1 percent of the district’s population, they comprise 14 percent of the people who experienced police use of force.

In Chicago’s Near North Side community area, home to high-rise apartments and dozens of night spots, African-Americans make up just 9 percent of the population, but make up nearly 60 percent of those subject to use of force.

Demonstrators march down Clark Street towards Wrigley Field in a protest against gun violence in Chicago on August 2, 2018. Organizers of the march are calling for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and want to bring attention to gun violence and poverty on the South and West Sides of Chicago. (Photo by Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Demonstrators march down Clark Street towards Wrigley Field in a protest against gun violence in Chicago on August 2, 2018. Organizers of the march are calling for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and want to bring attention to gun violence and poverty on the South and West Sides of Chicago.

Photo: Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Violence Adds Up

These everyday uses of force add up. Researchers have pointed to daily police abuses and physical misconduct as a major element in creating community mistrust. Sam Walker, a policing expert at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, says that excessive force can have a huge impact on community relations, pointing out that “it doesn’t have to be serious uses of force, where some guy is hit with a billy club and there’s blood or something. I think it’s the little stuff, just shoving someone around, shoving some kid up against the wall, or throwing him to the ground, or up against a patrol car.”

David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in racial profiling, points out that force disparities can have corrosive effects on communities. “If you are a black person or a Hispanic person, you know you’re disproportionately likely to face a use of force, [and] you’re going to actually hesitate to call the police in the first place — and you need them — which of course makes the whole neighborhood, the whole area, more dangerous.”

Harris cautions that Chicago’s racial disparities in force reports do not prove police discrimination on their own, warning that “disparities by themselves do not necessarily equate to, or are not the same as, discrimination.”

The Justice Department investigation of the Chicago police placed racial disparities in use of force in the context of other problematic policing it uncovered in Chicago’s minority communities, declaring that “the impact of these widespread constitutional violations, combined with unaddressed abusive and racially discriminatory conduct, have undermined the legitimacy of CPD and police-community trust in these communities.”

The racial divides exposed in the police department’s own data are a major factor in efforts to reform the police department. Yet policing experts and an analysis of the data also suggest that the CPD’s own reports provide an incomplete picture of when officers use force.

Multiple Justice Department investigations have uncovered serious underreporting of use of force in departments around the country, including in Cleveland, Seattle, and Baltimore. The department’s review of the Newark Police Department found that officers did not fill out force reports in 30 percent of incidents in which they described themselves using force in another form.

Experts agree that underreporting force is a concern. Walker warned that “officers aren’t necessarily either filing reports at all, or are filing reports that seriously misrepresent what happened.” Philip Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, pointed out that uses of force involving arrests or serious injuries are harder to hide, since they usually require police to work alongside hospital or jail staff, but he added that when officers underreport or misrepresent their uses of force, “it’s not Taser stuff that I think is the stuff that they fudge, it’s just the run-of-the-mill, routine police violence.”

Chicago police officers nearly always arrest the people they use force on. Officers reported arresting a person after using force on them roughly 94 percent of the time.

Data from Chicago’s stop-and-frisk program raises questions about the reported rate of use of force in cases without arrests. A 2015 survey of 1,450 Chicagoans, conducted by Northwestern University professor Wesley Skogan, found that 14 percent of African-Americans and 20 percent of Hispanics who were stopped and frisked but not arrested by Chicago police officers went on to report experiencing force, including being shoved or pushed around. In 2014 alone, internal CPD records, obtained by the nonprofit Lucy Parsons Labs, show that the department stopped more than 445,000 African-Americans and more than 102,000 Hispanics who were not arrested. Projecting the rates from Skogan’s study onto the CPD’s data, that equates to roughly 62,000 stops involving African-Americans and 20,000 stops involving Hispanics where the police used some level of force. Although not all instances of shoving and pushing require an official use-of-force report, those figures are vastly higher than the CPD’s force records. In all of 2014, Chicago police officers reported using force on about 170 African-Americans and 50 Hispanics who they did not arrest.

The proposed reform agreement between Emanuel and Madigan outlines major changes in the department’s use-of-force reporting, requiring officers to report any force “that is reasonably expected to cause pain or an injury,” versus current rules that require reporting for clear injuries but not for causing pain. These changes would bring Chicago closer to other cities whose departments have undergone intensive reforms overseen by a judge.

The proposed reform plan also requires the department to audit its use-of-force reports for inaccuracies and to search for trends in the department’s force data. The plan does not explicitly require the department to search for underreporting or missing use-of-force reports, beyond asking officers to notify a supervisor if a fellow officer does not file one.

Harris argues that missing and inaccurate uses of force are a vital concern as Chicago tries to gauge the impact of a wide range of use-of-force reforms. “It should be top of mind, absolutely top of mind in any agreement, and any agreement should include consideration of how well the current system is or is not working,” Harris said.

The 2017 Justice Department report sharply criticized the Chicago police, calling out a “culture in which officers expect to use force and never be carefully scrutinized about the propriety of that use.” Now, as Chicago’s leaders prepare to confront that entrenched police culture, they face not only the challenge of tackling the gaping racial disparities in CPD’s reported use of force, but also the question of whether those reports even capture the true scope of force used by the department’s officers.

Top photo: This frame grab from police body cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department shows authorities trying to apprehend a suspect, center, who appeared to be armed, Saturday, July 14, 2018, in Chicago. The suspect was fatally shot by police during the confrontation.

The post Chicago Police Are 14 Times More Likely to Use Force Against Young Black Men Than Against Whites appeared first on The Intercept.

130 Chicago Officers Account for 29 Percent of Police Shootings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 11:01pm in



From Michael Brown to Laquan McDonald, the names of victims of police shootings have become rallying cries for police reform across America. Reporters have uncovered vital information about these victims — their educational, work, and criminal backgrounds, as well as their family circumstances and mental health — and those facts have shaped a debate about the significant racial discrepancies in police use of force that is still ongoing.

Yet there is little public data about most officers involved in fatal shootings, thanks in large part to the dedicated efforts of police unions. New data obtained by the Invisible Institute reveals that nearly a third — 29 percent — of Chicago’s shootings between January 2004 and March 2016 were committed by only 130 officers. Compared with a random sample of 1,000 CPD officers, these cops often exhibited troubling patterns of behavior before their shootings, including increasing counts of citizen complaints and uses of force. About 23 percent of those shootings could be predicted — and potentially prevented — by software widely used among police departments.

In 2009, the Invisible Institute sued the city of Chicago to obtain information on selected, high-complaint officers. After a long court battle in which the Fraternal Order of Police stepped in to raise objections, the court sided with the Invisible Institute, establishing a precedent that the data should be made publicly available. Subsequent requests acquired a complete duty roster of all officers in the department, their complaint histories, and use of force reports from January 2004 to March 2016.

Previous press reports from VICE News and the Washington Post have shown that police shootings are extremely rare for most officers. “If you have two in a 20- or 25-year career, you’re already an outlier,” said Mark Iris, a former member of Chicago’s civilian oversight board. In cities with lower rates of police shootings like New York, a roomful of officers might contain only one who had been involved in a shooting. But the Invisible Institute’s data reveals that for a handful of officers, shootings are all too common.


Graphic: Moiz Syed

According to the Invisible Institute data, while more than 95 percent of all Chicago police officers never fired their gun from 2004 to 2016, 130 officers have done it more than once. At the upper extreme, 24 cops have participated in three or more shootings.

“It is important to not equate officer-involved shootings … with misconduct,” wrote Scott Wolfe, a professor of criminology at Michigan State University. “The officer may be placed in assignments or called out to particular situations because his/her colleagues know he/she is capable of handling dangerous situations.” But a large number of shootings can be indicative of problematic conduct. “When we have officers that have a high number of OIS compared to their colleagues, it provides reason to look deeper at the behavior,” Wolfe said. Many of the officers involved in two or more shootings also show troubling indicators in other ways. The 130 officers in this group tended to have citizen complaints filed against them at about twice the rate of other cops. And while any individual complaint may not be indicative of misconduct, these officers were also the subject of civil lawsuits requiring payouts twice as high as other officers, according to data gathered by the Chicago Reporter.

Chicago police officer Gildardo Sierra leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in Champaign, Ill.  (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Chicago police officer Gildardo Sierra leaves the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 in Chicago, Ill.

Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

The most frequent shooter identified by the Invisible Institute’s data was a Chicago beat cop primarily assigned to the South Side 7th District named Gildardo Sierra. Sierra shot a record six people over the course of his 13 years in the department, a rate of fire almost 100 times higher than the departmental average. Two of those shootings attracted widespread media attention and later drew significant payouts from the city, totaling more than $7 million. In one case, Sierra admitted to drinking before his shift, during which he shot and killed an unarmed man named Flint Farmer. Sierra later resigned from the Chicago Police Department and subsequently took a job as a police officer in a nearby suburb’s parks department.

Sierra did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Cops like Sierra are often exonerated by oversight boards. The Chicago Police Department suspended Sierra for a grand total of six days for the 46 different allegations against him in seven separate complaints, finding that his actions conformed to departmental policy in every instance but two. Iris said that officers like Sierra can often skate by because the board could only consider each incident in isolation, without examining an officer’s past history, thanks to union and departmental regulations. Without that information, evaluators focused on a single instance may miss a troubling pattern of behavior. “In investigating police misconduct, the general pattern is to look at the tree, not the forest,” Iris said.

The Fraternal Order of Police insisted upon a provision in its most recent contract with the Chicago Police Department requiring the destruction of complaint records after five years to prevent their use in disciplinary hearings. Previous contracts have contained similar provisions. (The Invisible Institute prevailed in litigation requiring the department to turn over past complaint records despite those provisions.)

Like other repeat shooters, Sierra’s incidents occurred in a cluster. The two shootings for which successful civil suits were filed were separated by only five months. He was involved in a third shooting just three months before he killed Farmer.

Chicago police officers with the highest number of complaints. Graphic: Invisible Institute

Patterns like Sierra’s are common among police shooters. Prior to a shooting, officers typically register complaint rates about twice as high as their colleagues, according to the Invisible Institute data. They are three times more likely to have been involved in another shooting in the last year, and more likely to have been in an incident requiring a payout from the city because of a civil lawsuit.

Police supervisors are charged with detecting runs of bad behavior like this and taking the affected cops off the streets. Research from the University of Chicago has shown that an officer under pressure, be it familial, professional, or otherwise, may be at greater risk to use unnecessary force, including lethal force. “These are things that good supervision could find and try to correct,” said Sam Walker, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Nebraska and a frequent consultant to police departments.

Immediate supervisors are sometimes biased or lack the time to track officer behavior, so 73 percent of large police departments use computerized systems to flag officers with unusually high levels of complaints or use of force. If a cop exceeds some threshold defined by the system — for example, a certain number of complaints in a six-month span — he is flagged by the system and sent to have counseling, training, or a conversation with a supervisor. The number of departments using systems like these has rapidly increased in the last two decades, in part because the Department of Justice recommends them. “Most large and mid-sized cities have early intervention systems of some kind, but many departments do not use them well,” Walker said.

The most advanced early-warning systems use dozens of variables measuring each officer’s behavior. Police might be at greater risk for trouble if they suffer a rash of citizen complaints against them, or if they make arrests that are later dismissed in court. Indicators ranging from a cop’s personal life to their financial history can predict their behavior, and good departments take everything possible into account to develop accurate methods to predict misconduct.

But Chicago has a long and troubled history with these kinds of programs. An early effort to implement such a system was met with resistance from the police union and scrapped within two years because of due process concerns. Later on, the police department tried again, but according to a Justice Department investigation in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, the new early-warning procedure was riddled with flaws. In many cases, the system simply failed to flag problematic records. In 2007, a study cited by the DOJ investigation concluded that the algorithm failed to identify 90 percent of officers with multiple complaints. Sierra, despite his extensive record of previous shootings and complaints, never triggered one of Chicago’s early-warning algorithms, the “Behavioral Intervention System.”

Even when departments do receive warnings that an officer may be at risk, managers often fail to act on those warnings. A Department of Justice investigation concluded that Chicago’s “supervisors do not understand what they are supposed to do” when an officer is flagged by the early intervention system. Another supervisor characterized the system as “garbage going in so you got garbage going out.”

Even when an intervention system provides a supervisor with clear evidence of a pattern of misconduct, lieutenants and sergeants sometimes recommend no more than an in-person conversation with a supervisor, rather than a formal program of counseling or investigation into the officer’s fitness. Between the lack of accuracy in the system and the lack of action on the rare occasions it is triggered, it’s easy to see how repeat shooters might escape notice. “The system was designed not to work,” Walker said.

It’s impossible to know whether an automated system could have prevented the shootings these officers committed, but many cops displayed clear warning signs in advance. A relatively simple system, based on whether an officer had two or more complaints or three or more uses of force in the prior year, could have flagged about 23 percent of the officers as high risk before their shootings. Those officers could have been sent to counseling or otherwise prevented from being in a position to shoot.

Early intervention systems feature prominently in the draft consent decree released on July 27. The document gives the police department two years to implement an advanced early-warning system, one that considers indicators like complaints, uses of force, and prior shooting incidents. Given Chicago’s checkered history with such systems, it’s too soon to say whether the new reform effort will yield a functioning algorithm. The court will task an independent monitor with making sure the police department upholds the requirements of the decree. If that monitor can succeed in helping the Chicago Police Department build an effective early-warning system, it’s possible that hundreds of shootings could be prevented.

Top photo: Chicago police officers surround a police vehicle as they watch demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald December 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

The post 130 Chicago Officers Account for 29 Percent of Police Shootings appeared first on The Intercept.

Invisible Institute Relaunches the Citizens Police Data Project

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 11:00pm in



Today the Invisible Institute, in collaboration with The Intercept, releases the Citizens Police Data Project 2.0, a public database containing the disciplinary histories of Chicago police officers. The scale of CPDP is without parallel: It includes more than 240,000 allegations of misconduct involving more than 22,000 Chicago police officers over a 50-year period. The data set is complete for the period 2000 to 2016; substantially complete back to 1988, and includes some data going back as far as the late 1960s.

The decadelong effort to gain access to this information is an important thread in the history of the struggle for civil rights under law in Chicago. It is also the story of how a style of on-the-ground reporting that Studs Terkel once characterized as “guerrilla journalism” matured into the Invisible Institute, a journalism production company based on the South Side of Chicago that has assumed the function of curating this category of public information on behalf of the public.

During the final chapter of high-rise public housing in Chicago — from 1994 until the final demolition in 2007 — I was a daily presence at Stateway Gardens, a development centrally located in the massive concentration of public housing along a three-mile stretch of South State Street. I had several roles there. I created a program of “grassroots public works” aimed at providing alternatives for ex-offenders and members of street gangs. I served as an adviser to the resident council. And with two colleagues — David Eads and Patricia Evans — I published occasional human rights reports on conditions in public housing under the title “The View From the Ground.”

The name “Invisible Institute” was first uttered in jest. Working out of a vacant, five-bedroom unit in a doomed public housing high-rise with an open-air drug market outside the door, we announced in the first issue of The View that it was published under the auspices of something called the Invisible Institute.

The name stuck. It came to refer not to a formal organization, but a loose network of collaborators and a certain style of inquiry, exploration, and relationship-building. From the start, the Invisible Institute created capacity through collaboration. A prime example is our partnership over the last 18 years with civil rights attorney Craig Futterman and his students at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School. Over time, the Mandel Clinic brought six federal lawsuits on behalf of public housing residents abused by the police.


Diane Bond looks out from her eighth-floor apartment, over the Bridgeport neighborhood and the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, at the downtown skyline.

Photo: Patricia Evans

Among the major stories we published on The View was a 17-part series titled “Kicking the Pigeon” on the case of Diane Bond, a Stateway resident repeatedly assaulted — physically, sexually, emotionally — by a team of gang tactical officers known on the street as the “skullcap crew.”

By this point, we had been documenting individual instances of human rights abuse for several years. Having experienced in the most direct and visceral way what impunity looks like on the ground, a question formed: What sorts of institutional conditions would have to exist for the patterns of abuse we had documented to be the case? Thus began the ascent of an analytic ladder — from human rights reporting on the abuses inflicted on particular victims by particular officers to the systems that enable and shield such abuse.

In the case of Diane Bond, we pursued that question via litigation. Futterman and his students brought a civil rights suit in which the city of Chicago and the police superintendent, as well as the individual officers who committed the abuses, were named as defendants on the grounds that the city had a de facto policy of “failing to properly supervise, monitor, discipline, counsel, and otherwise control its officers” and that top police officials were aware that “these practices would result in preventable police abuse.”

This framing of the case enabled Bond’s lawyers, in the course of civil discovery, to request documents that would shed light on the Chicago Police Department’s systems for monitoring, investigating, and disciplining officers. These included not only the complaint histories of the defendant officers, but also lists of officers with more than 10 complaints over a five-year period. This information was provided under a protective order — a judicial order under which the parties can freely share information with each other, but not the public.

In 2007, as the Bond case moved toward settlement, I formally intervened before Judge Joan Lefkow and asked her to lift the protective order on the grounds that it withheld public information from the public. Two categories of documents were at issue:

  • Information about officers’ complaint histories — the nature of the complaint, co-accused officers, and the ultimate disposition of the complaint — derived from Chicago Police Department databases.
  • Investigative files — known as “complaint registers” or CRs — containing the full record of the investigations undertaken in response to complaints.

In an eloquent opinion, Lefkow ruled in my favor. “Without such information,” she wrote, “the public would be unable to supervise the individuals and institutions it has entrusted with the extraordinary authority to arrest and detain people against their will. With so much at stake, defendants simply cannot be allowed to operate in secrecy.”

The city immediately moved to stay her order pending appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. On appeal, my position was joined by a majority of the Chicago City Council and major media organizations.

In 2009, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit overruled Lefkow in a harshly anti-press decision. She had erred, they ruled, in allowing me to intervene at all. They did not, however, reach the merits of the argument regarding public access to police disciplinary files.

A footnote in the opinion stated that their decision did not bar me from seeking the same documents under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Represented by Loevy & Loevy, the People’s Law Office, as well as the Mandel Clinic, we took the court up on the invitation. Over seven years, we waged a legal campaign that culminated in the 2014 decision of the Illinois Court of Appeals in Kalven v. Chicago, holding that documents relating to allegations of police misconduct are public information in Illinois.

Heat map of Chicago police misconduct allegations. Map: Invisible Institute

Citizens Police Data Project

Following the decision in Kalven v. Chicago, the Invisible Institute incorporated as a nonprofit organization, engaged in sustained fundraising, and staffed up, in order to respond to the historic opportunity presented by the release of information long hidden behind a wall of official secrecy.

In contrast to many news organizations that would have treated such a trove of information as proprietary and harvested it for stories, our commitment from the start was to make the information universally available to the public. In one sense, we could have fulfilled that commitment by posting Excel spreadsheets, but that would have only served a small number of users.

The court had articulated a principle: Police disciplinary records belong to the public. That principle, however, was not self-executing. The Invisible Institute undertook the task of operationalizing transparency. For the last few years, a team of programmers, designers, and data scientists, coordinated by my Invisible Institute colleague Rajiv Sinclair, has been pursuing that objective. The result is the Citizens Police Data Project.

Soon after the Kalven decision came down, we were confronted with a legal counterattack by the police unions — the Fraternal Order of Police representing rank-and-file officers and several other unions representing supervisory personnel. They sought to block the city from releasing the police disciplinary documents on the grounds that such a release would violate their contracts, which provide that all files related to investigations of misconduct will be destroyed five years after the date of the complaint. A judge sympathetic to the union position imposed a temporary injunction limiting the city to releasing police disciplinary data for the previous four years.

Constrained by the injunction, we launched a limited preview of CPDP in 2015. Almost immediately, journalists, researchers, and lawyers made use of the data for their purposes. Beyond its utility to particular sets of users, CPDP served as a biopsy of the system, a statistical portrait of impunity, and a demonstration of how the Chicago Police Department goes about not connecting the dots about patterns of human rights abuse they have the means to identify.

Two weeks after the launch, the city released the video of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In the political firestorm that ensued, CPDP provided critical context in the political firestorm that ensued, demonstrating with the police department’s own data how deficient the systems for investigating misconduct complaints are.

The impact of CPDP was not a matter of “big data” that promises to yield an algorithm for curbing police abuse. Rather, it resided precisely in its publicness. It served to disable the rhetorical use of official secrecy (“If you knew what we know … ”) and create the conditions for the ongoing debate about police reform in Chicago to be conducted with reference to a common body of evidence.

After a two-year legal battle, we ultimately prevailed over the police unions. Although it delayed release of the data we are making public today, that legal controversy also served to consolidate the precedent of the Kalven decision. We recognize, though, that this will be an ongoing struggle. We do not take the level of transparency that has been achieved for granted. We expect renewed legal and legislative attacks.

This litigation history has implications for efforts to achieve comparable transparency elsewhere, notably New York. For decades, the city of Chicago, the police department, and the police unions argued that various horrible consequences would ensue if officer names were made public — officers would be targeted, their families harassed, the security of police operations undermined, etc. In the three years since we made the first limited release of police disciplinary information, nothing of that nature has been reported.

The greatly expanded data set we release today powerfully corroborates three major patterns that emerged from the more limited data we released in 2015:

First, the data reveals a system pervaded by racial bias. Virtually anywhere you enter the data, you encounter sharp racial disparities. For example, those filing complaints are predominantly black, yet black people are dramatically underrepresented in cases of proven abuse. Perhaps most telling, racial disparities in the use of force have significantly increased over the last decade, even as Chicago’s black population has declined.

Second, excessive force complaints rarely result in discipline. Out of more than 8,700 excessive force claims from January 2007 to June 2016, investigators sustained only 1.5 percent of complaints. Nearly 74 percent of these complaints were filed by African-Americans.

Finally, it’s important to note that police abuse is a highly patterned phenomenon. Among officers who served at least a year between 2000 and 2016, 57 percent have fewer than five complaints, and 78 percent have fewer than 10. The 22 percent of officers who have 10 or more complaints account for 64 percent of all complaints during that period. Yet officers with the most complaints are less likely to be disciplined.

Articles by Rob Arthur and Andrew Fan published today describe other takeaways from the data. In the coming weeks, we will publish stories on individual officers and groups of officers that will demonstrate the power and utility of CPDP in the service of investigative reporting.

The expanded data set allows for new forms of analysis. It makes it possible to follow individual officers and cohorts of officers through their entire careers and do network analysis. In our excitement about these possibilities, it’s critically important to also recognize the limitations of the data — as the forensic statistician Patrick Ball puts it, “the silences in the data.” There is a large ghost phenomenon of individuals who feel they have had an abusive encounter with the police, but do not file a formal complaint. Recognizing the necessarily fragmentary nature of the data is the key to making effective use of it and developing strategies for investigating that which it does not reveal.

Central to the practice of the Invisible Institute is attention to the human context of the data. The patterns that emerge from the aggregate data are most illuminating when joined to other knowledge acquired through on-the-ground reporting. CPDP is thus best understood not only as a database but as a human rights archive — a collection of stories that Chicago residents, mostly from marginalized communities, told government officials in seeking redress for what they felt to be abuses of power. Every data point is a story.

Top photo: An interactive map showing police misconducts in Chicago.

The post Invisible Institute Relaunches the Citizens Police Data Project appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump Isn’t Just Slashing the Refugee Quota, He’s Dismantling the Entire Resettlement System

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 4:14am in


Justice, World

It has been four years since Deborah Jane was attacked by a gang of men led by her abusive ex-husband. The men scalded the then-39-year-old mother of four with acid as punishment for speaking out about the domestic abuse suffered by many women in her rural Ugandan community. Maimed and fearing for her life, Jane fled to Nairobi, Kenya, where, after a lengthy process, she won a coveted spot on the list of refugees to be resettled in the United States. She arrived alone in Columbus, Ohio, in January 2016, and immediately applied to have her children — the youngest of whom was 4 years old — to join her in the U.S. A year later, around the same time Donald Trump assumed the presidency, her paperwork was approved. “We just needed the children to do interviews, medical — a few things, and then they’d be able to come,” Jane told The Intercept, “But since then, there has been only silence.”

Jane’s soft voice is weary. Now 43, she works as a home-care nurse by day and pulls overnight shifts at a local bakery while also attending business school, but her fight to reunite with her children has become a full-time job of its own. She has lobbied numerous times at the offices of both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — and has sought legal help from refugee advocacy groups and local churches, but feels no closer to an answer. “No one can tell me what the real problem is — only that their cases are not moving. I think the current administration just doesn’t want refugees like me to come here. I don’t know why,” she said. “But I don’t believe God wants me to be separated from my children forever. I will keep praying. I will never give up.”

“I think the current administration just doesn’t want refugees like me to come here. I don’t know why.”

The roadblocks Jane faces are part of what advocates describe as an apparently concerted effort by the Trump White House to systematically dismantle the nation’s refugee resettlement program. Some of this onslaught has been explicit: As the world’s already-unprecedented refugee population continues to climb, the Trump administration is considering slashing the annual refugee cap to 25,000 for the 2019 fiscal year, down from this year’s historic low of 45,000, the New York Times reported earlier this month. The administration last year suspended all refugee resettlement for 120 days and diverted resources and personnel away from refugee processing, further weakening an already-backlogged system. These disruptions have caused a cascade of delays and interagency confusion, while a lack of transparency leaves refugees and advocates alike at the mercy of an increasingly antagonistic system. Sources familiar with the program describe chaos amid shifting security protocols, with particular detriment to refugees from the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries.

The president is expected to announce his recommended refugee quota in September, ahead of the October 1 start of the fiscal year. Regardless of what he decides, however, advocates report that the refugee quota is no longer a reliable indicator of actual refugee admissions. At the current pace, the administration is on track to settle about 20,000 refugees — out of a global population of roughly 25 million — by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. In 2017, the U.S. admitted only 33,000 refugees, marking the first time that the country resettled fewer refugees than the rest of the world. “In the past, refugee numbers fluctuated at times, but it was always understood to be temporary, with the goal to return to the normal numbers around 95,000,” said Adam Bates, policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, “but this is different. It seems as if the administration is trying to rewrite the status quo — a status quo that is very hostile to refugees, and immigrants in general.”

A refugee ceiling of 25,000 would be the lowest since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, and it would follow the hard-line approach to all types of immigration touted by White House adviser Stephen Miller. Last year, Miller pushed for even more aggressive cuts to the refugee resettlement program — suggesting a cap of 15,000 — but faced pushback from other administration officials, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. With Tillerson’s and Duke’s departures earlier this year, refugee advocates fear that Miller may prevail this time around. “We don’t get any insider information. We just hear what the government chooses to announce to the public, and then we have to adjust accordingly,” said Adam Clark, director of World Relief Durham, which has a State Department contract to resettle refugees. When Trump set a cap of 45,000 last year, Clark said, roughly 60,000 already-vetted refugees were left in limbo. “Since Trump took office, we’ve learned to prepare for the worst. More cuts would be tragic, but they wouldn’t surprise us.”

Demonstrators gather in solidarity against President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. and suspending the nation’s refugee program Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, outside City Hall in Cincinnati. In addition, earlier in the day Mayor John Cranley declared Cincinnati a "sanctuary city," meaning city will not enforce federal immigration laws against people who are here illegally, in keeping with current policy. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Demonstrators gather on Jan. 30, 2017, in solidarity against President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. and suspending the nation’s refugee program, outside City Hall in Cincinnati.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Trump’s war on refugees started on the campaign trail, where he warned audiences to “lock their doors” to refugees, casting them as criminals and extremists, and he wasted no time in codifying this hostility upon reaching the White House. He imposed a 120-day moratorium on all refugee admissions with the same pen stroke he used to sign the now-infamous travel ban. “The current administration has politicized refugees in a way we’ve never seen, even after September 11,” said Bates. “The signals we’re getting from the White House now is that this is not a temporary response to any particular event. It seems to be a permanent, blanket stance that is anti-refugee.”

The 120-day ban on refugee admissions expired last October, but the resettlement system has struggled to recover. The administration has burdened the program with new “extreme vetting” measures and additional procedures, drastically slowing a sprawling interagency process that already takes an average of two years to complete. The FBI is one of the agencies that runs background checks on refugees, and as the Daily Beast recently reported, its turnover for those cases has dropped from hundreds a week to the single digits. Approximately 100 officers from the Refugee Affairs Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as USCIS, are now handling domestic asylum cases, according to an agency official. As a result, there are fewer personnel available to process refugee cases abroad. Other sources close to the issue estimate that the backlog of applications includes over 200,000 refugees abroad who are awaiting interviews by U.S. officials, with about only 30 refugee officers available to conduct these assessments worldwide. As a result, applicant interviews — a prerequisite to resettlement — have been suspended or delayed, often causing medical clearances and other elements of their applications to expire.

It is likely that the refugee program will have to be rebuilt if a future U.S. administration moves toward welcoming more refugees.

The government does not publicize the precise timing or locations of circuit rides — the trips USCIS officials make abroad to conduct interviews and decide on applications — citing security concerns. USCIS spokesperson Michael Bars told The Intercept that while “USCIS is committed to adjudicating all petitions fairly, efficiently, and effectively on a case-by-case basis,” the government began in early 2017 to reassign some refugee officers to the Asylum Division. “Ultimately, this diversion of resources compromises the ability for officers to conduct interviews abroad for individuals legitimately seeking refugee status.”

The result has been the reduction of the overall refugee flow to a bare trickle. “The pipeline has dried up,” said Clark of World Relief. “When there aren’t enough people abroad to interview and process the cases, there is no way to keep the stream of vetted refugees coming.” In the past year, Clark said, his Durham office has seen only about one-third of its usual number of cases. “In 10 years of this work, I’ve seen numbers fluctuate somewhat, but the changes under the Trump administration have been by far the most drastic,” he said. “This feels like a different kind of change.”

The drastic decrease in refugee admissions has led to the weakening of decades-old systems that help refugees transition to life in their new home, making it likely that the program will have to be rebuilt if a future U.S. administration moves toward welcoming more refugees. Many refugee centers have shut down, while many others have been forced to cut staff, said Clark. “What made matters worse was, at the beginning of the fiscal year 2016, when [President Barack Obama] was pushing to take more refugees, many of us were told to beef up our staff in order to be able to accept 85,000 to 100,000. Then, after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the number was slashed to 45,000. Several hundred staff members lost their jobs.”

The institutional slow-down is just one element of Trump’s multipronged overhaul of the system. A closer look at refugee arrival data suggests the administration is also driving the program toward specific ethnic and demographic trends. Last month, the Refugee Council USA, an umbrella organization of resettlement programs contracted to work with the State Department, issued a damning report card on the administration’s performance in the first 10 months of the fiscal year. The report highlighted the disparity in nations of origin: As of July, the U.S. had settled fewer than a third of the number of Middle Eastern refugees expected, and barely half of those expected from Africa. In contrast, the country has welcomed roughly 75 percent of expected East Asian refugees, and all but fulfilled its projected number for Europeans.

“We’re getting fewer Afghans, no Syrians — the pattern seems clear.”

The Middle East, which hosts some of the world’s largest refugee populations, has been particularly neglected in terms of circuit rides, according to recent media reports that indicate that refugee processing in the region has essentially been halted. Indeed, as of July 31, the U.S. had admitted only 221 refugees from the Middle East, according to State Department data. Bars, the USCIS spokesperson, declined to comment on these allegations, but said the agency works with the State Department to determine the routes for those interviews. (The State Department did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.) On the ground, resettlement workers are noticing the difference. “We’ve definitely seen a shift in the nationalities of our clients since Trump,” said Clark. “We’re getting fewer Afghans, no Syrians — the pattern seems clear.”

Sirine Shebaya, senior staff attorney at the national civil rights and legal organization Muslim Advocates, said the religious makeup of the incoming refugee pool is striking as well. “Despite the fact that over half of the world’s refugees come from three Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan — admissions of Muslim-identifying refugees fell by 94 percent between January and November 2017,” she said. As of May, only about 2,000 Muslim refugees had been admitted this fiscal year, down from 38,900 in fiscal year 2016. Syria, Iraq, and Somalia are no longer among the top five countries of origin for refugees, reversing a trend that had taken shape in recent years. Shebaya blames a combination of burdensome vetting measures, Trump’s myriad bans, and an overall anti-Muslim sentiment for the reversal. “It seems that the government is intent on making it as difficult as possible for Muslims to come to the United States, whether as refugees or immigrants.”

Advocates are concerned “that the administration may use the shortfall in resettlements as an argument for lowering the ceiling,” Bates said. “It’s a strategic as well as moral failure to cut refugee resettlement at any time, but especially as we’re facing the worst crisis since World War II.” As it is, fewer than 1 percent of the worldwide refugee population can expect to be resettled, and Bates is worried that Trump’s race to the bottom will set a hostile example for other host countries. “Since Trump took office, we’ve seen many other nations start resettling fewer refugees, too. It’s a desperate time. And what happens next is really anyone’s guess.”

Top photo: Man Sing Sutam, a 48-year-old refugee from Bhutan, practices writing in English during a U.S. citizenship class in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 23, 2018. Columbus has the largest Bhutanese population in the United States.

The post Donald Trump Isn’t Just Slashing the Refugee Quota, He’s Dismantling the Entire Resettlement System appeared first on The Intercept.

As Tennessee Restarts Executions, 40 Years of Data Expose Its Death Penalty as a “Cruel Lottery”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 1:15am in



As Tennessee prepared to kill Billy Ray Irick on the evening of August 9, a procession of cars drove toward a field just up the road from Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. One by one, they rolled down their windows at a security checkpoint, where Tennessee Department of Correction personnel asked passengers which side they were on: protesting the execution or supporting it. Protesters got a piece of orange tape stuck on their windshield. Supporters got green.

There were some 50 people there to oppose Irick’s execution. After parking and a pat-down, they entered the designated area, enclosed by a fence. “We Remember the Victims: But Not With More Killing,” read a large white banner brought from Ohio, courtesy of the abolitionist group Death Penalty Action. But most of the demonstrators were local. Unlike the far-flung prisons that house most death chambers across the country, Riverbend is a short drive from downtown Nashville. The proximity makes visitation easier than at most maximum-security prisons. Among the demonstrators that night were some 20 regular visitors to Tennessee’s death row.

Perhaps the most familiar was Rev. Joe Ingle, a well-known death row minister who has lived in Nashville since 1974. “What brings me here is I know Billy Irick,” Ingle said. In his decades visiting Riverbend, Ingle had come to know Irick as well-liked and trusted by others on the row, and particularly admired for his paintings, three of which he gave to Ingle before he died. “For Billy, his art was the way he expressed himself and dealt with a lot of his demons,” Ingle said.

“If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism.”

Irick was convicted of raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl named Paula Dyer in Knoxville in 1985. The horrific crime was undoubtedly intertwined with his severe mental illness, symptoms of which revealed themselves when he was just a child. The little girl’s family would later tell an investigator that Irick had been hearing voices and “talking to the devil” before the murder, but that evidence only came out after he’d been sent to death row. “Billy was abandoned by the state,” Ingle said. Today, he explained, Tennessee has a program called ACEs, which stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and seeks to support kids with trauma and mental health issues. But no such program existed when Irick was growing up. “If they’d have done that for Billy, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” Ingle said.

Billy Ray Irick, on death row for raping and killing a 7-year-old girl in 1985, appears in a Knox County criminal courtroom Monday, Aug. 16, 2010, in Knoxville, Tenn., arguing that he's too mentally ill to be executed by the state. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Michael Patrick)

Billy Ray Irick appears in a Knox County criminal courtroom on Aug. 16, 2010, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Photo: Michael Patrick/The Knoxville News Sentinel via AP

Irick’s mental illness was just one aspect of the execution that had raised controversy. There was also real concern that Tennessee was about to torture him to death. The state’s new lethal injection protocol adopting midazolam — a sedative linked to botched executions — had been the subject of a trial in Davidson County Chancery Court mere weeks before, over a lawsuit brought by attorneys for Irick and 32 other condemned men. Witnesses from all over the country gave disturbing testimony about executions carried out using midazolam; medical experts explained in detail why it was insufficient to provide anesthesia. Particularly revealing was new evidence culled from the autopsies of people executed using midazolam in other states, which showed how high doses of the drug led to pulmonary edema — fluid in the lungs that would cause a sense of drowning.

Nevertheless, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims, and the Tennessee Supreme Court declined to intervene. When the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution hours before Irick was set to die, Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent. “If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that Irick may well experience,” she wrote, “then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism.”

As 7 p.m. approached, the crowd outside grew quiet. Any minute, according to the protocol, Irick would be strapped onto the gurney, the IVs secured, and his hands taped down. At 7:10, he was supposed to give his last statement. The protesters formed a large circle, held candles, and sang “Amazing Grace,” while a handful of people in the pro-death penalty area blasted “Hells Bells” by AC/DC in their direction. One woman, Brenda Tindall, was incredulous that there were so many people there to oppose the execution. Irick “had no sorrow in his face,” she said. “Did you notice that on TV? Zero. I can read people very well.” As a Christian, she said, she was certain God wanted people like Irick to die. “It’s in the Bible.”

But most of the people gathered outside the prison felt the opposite way. David Bass first visited a man on death row four years ago. He expected to meet a monster, he said, but instead found a human being who struck him as kind. “It started messing with my brain,” he said. Over time he started coming once a week. Like Irick, the man he visits has been on death row for more than 30 years. “He’s seen six of these,” Bass said.

Dan Mann, who came with his daughters, was emotional as he talked about a different man, who he has visited for eight years. He tends to call Mann’s wife while the family makes dinner and she puts him on speaker phone. Years ago, they would apologize “for living life in front of him,” Mann said, “to which he replied, ‘I live vicariously through you. This is my life as well.’”

“These are real friends,” Mann said. “We know what some of them did was heinous. But the nature of my faith is that it’s for redemption,” he said. “I’m here because nobody needs to die alone.”

By 7:30 p.m. there was no report from the prison. Anxiety grew the more time passed. The chancery court’s decision had been partly based on the assumption that the execution — and the duration of any pain associated with midazolam — would be relatively short. As the sky darkened, people started to leave. But just before 8 p.m., The Tennessean sent a news alert. The execution was complete.

News stories followed quickly. The execution began late and took longer than average; there was evidence that Irick might well have been conscious and experiencing pain, just as attorneys had warned. Dave Boucher, who witnessed for The Tennessean, described snoring, one possible sign that the midazolam had not worked as intended. Steven Hale of the Nashville Scene described how two minutes after the consciousness check, “Irick jolted and produced what sounded like a cough or a choking noise. He moved his head slightly and appeared to briefly strain his forearms against the restraints. Around 7:37, the color in Irick’s face changed to almost purple.” The curtains were closed after he appeared to stop breathing, Hale wrote. Then the warden spoke over the loudspeaker. “That concludes the execution of Billy Ray Irick. Time of death, 7:48 p.m. Please exit now.”


Protesters gather outside the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution on Aug. 9, 2018.

Photo: Liliana Segura/The Intercept

Irick’s execution was the first in Tennessee in almost nine years. With the state rushing to kill two more men at Riverbend by the end of 2018, the fight over the death penalty is not going away. Yet, in a major election year — and for all the recent coverage and controversy — the topic has been conspicuously absent from Tennessee’s electoral debates. In such a conservative state, critiquing capital punishment is not likely to be a winning tactic. Yet the restarting of the death machinery in Nashville runs against a well-documented trend both in Tennessee and the rest of the country. Executions are declining year after year — and new death sentences have become vanishingly rare.

The state of Tennessee’s death penalty was documented in a comprehensive report published last month in the summer issue of the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy. Somewhat lost amid the frenzy over Irick’s execution, it was co-authored by Bradley MacLean, a veteran capital defense attorney who represents Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman, the named plaintiff in the lethal injection lawsuit. The 97-page article draws from years of research assessing capital punishment as applied over four decades in Tennessee. It reveals a staggering rate of death sentences reversed or vacated by the courts due to issues such as ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and innocence.

“We tend to forget the reason behind Tennessee’s current capital sentencing scheme,” the authors write. It goes back to the landmark 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which declared death sentences unconstitutional nationwide. At the heart of the decision was evidence that the death penalty was being “freakishly” applied to “a capriciously selected random handful,” who ended up on death row less because of the nature of their crime and more because of factors like race and geography. “These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being stuck by lightening is cruel and unusual,” Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote in Furman.

“It is impossible to conceive how Tennessee’s death penalty system is serving any legitimate penological purpose.”

States set about passing new death penalty laws, and in 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia, the court upheld a new model of death penalty statutes, designed to ensure that sentences were less arbitrarily imposed. Tennessee’s law was revised accordingly. Yet more than 40 years later, its death penalty is emblematic of the very problems identified in Furman. MacLean’s co-author, H.E. Miller Jr., examined every death sentence handed down in Tennessee since its law was enacted. Of 2,514 people found guilty of first-degree murder in Tennessee between 1977 and June 30, 2017, he found, 192 were sentenced to die. Of those, more than half — 106 people — had seen their sentences or convictions vacated. Of the remaining 86, only six had been executed. Irick was the seventh. By comparison, the study found, in the same 40-year period, “24 condemned defendants died of natural causes on death row.”

Tennessee’s death penalty today is “a cruel lottery, entrenching the very problems that the court sought to eradicate,” the report concluded. The lottery is not entirely random; as in the cases that led to Furman, there is evidence of racism — African-Americans represent 14 percent of Tennessee’s population and 44 percent of its death row, the study found. The evidence is particularly stark in the most recent sentences, most of which come out of Shelby County, home to Memphis. Among nine trials in which new death sentences were imposed between July 2007 and June 2017, all but one defendant was African-American.

The decline of capital punishment in Tennessee comes even as lawmakers and the state Supreme Court have “gradually expanded the class of death-eligible defendants.” Despite Gregg’s directive that the death penalty must be narrowly imposed, the general assembly has added to the list of aggravating factors that can send a person to die, while the court has broadened their interpretation. Today there are 17 such aggravating factors. That death sentences continue to decline in spite of this suggests the policy is mostly useless, the authors write. “At this level of infrequency, it is impossible to conceive how Tennessee’s death penalty system is serving any legitimate penological purpose.”

The findings of the Tennessee report paint a familiar portrait of a failed policy that exists in some version or another across death penalty states. In a number of them, the very architects of the death penalty statutes passed after Furman have expressed dismay at what followed. In California, an attorney named Don Heller wrote a 1978 ballot initiative that expanded the “special circumstances” that would make defendants eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors rushed to file capital charges. “Everyone was trying to put a notch on their gun,” Heller told me in 2016. Even as California’s condemned population has grown to become the largest in the country, only 13 executions have been carried out since Furman. One of the executed men, Heller believes, was innocent.

In Arizona, the death penalty has been similarly expanded — so much so that the state’s sentencing statute was recently challenged in a petition filed before the U.S. Supreme Court by Neal Katyal, former solicitor general for the Obama administration. The brief in Hidalgo v. Arizona called on the court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, using Arizona as “an exemplar of the arbitrariness in the imposition of the death penalty in the United States.” Among those who signed an amicus brief was Rudy Gerber, the man who authored Arizona’s new death penalty law after Furman.

“I thought, well, having a new death penalty law is like having a new tax code,” Gerber told me last year, as Hidalgo was pending before the court. But as he saw his law take effect in Arizona, he was unnerved. He had not predicted that prosecutors would be so eager to use it, nor had he expected the law would be amended to make more and more defendants eligible for death. Whereas he wrote the original law to include six aggravating factors, today there are 14 that can send a person to death row in Arizona. Ironically, the very mechanism that was supposed to fix the death penalty “has put us right back into the arbitrariness and caprice that was condemned in Furman,” Gerber says.

“No medieval torture could be more bizarre.”

The man who wrote Tennessee’s death penalty law, David Raybin, is now a defense attorney in private practice. He was still a student at the University of Tennessee College of Law when Furman passed in 1972. “I was dealing with getting on law review and that kind of thing,” he told me in an interview last month. He recalls Furman as important, but not earth shattering; after all, it came amid “the so-called criminal law revolution of the late ’60s in the early ’70s,” bringing landmark rulings such as Miranda v. Arizona, which enshrined the right of defendants to be informed of their constitutional rights. “Every time you turned around, there was another decision coming out that had to do with the criminal justice system.”

Nevertheless, just a few years later, while working in the state attorney general’s office, Raybin found himself drafting Tennessee’s new death penalty law. Like several other states, its initial attempt at a constitutional death penalty statute had been rejected by the courts. “The legislature said, ‘We want a new death penalty statute.’ So they go to the attorney general and the attorney general comes to me and says, ‘Kid, come here.’ He says, ‘Write me a death penalty statute.’ So, I said, ‘OK.’”

Raybin drafted Tennessee’s 1977 law based on what had passed constitutional muster in Gregg — a model “we perceived to be state-of-the-art,” he said. As he recalls, prosecutors were somewhat leery of capital prosecutions at first, but many soon embraced them. The death penalty proved particularly useful for its “coercive effect” — a tool to get guilty pleas to first-degree murder. “That’s why it’s so near and dear to prosecutors’ hearts,” Raybin said.

As new death sentences peaked between the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number of problems became clear. There was the failure by the state to fund capital defense, which led to poor representation. Some death sentences imposed in felony murder cases were also troubling to Raybin — “How do you distinguish one 7-Eleven killing from another?” In the Tennessee study, the authors contrast one such robbery-murder that led to a death sentence to a brutal case involving multiple victims including a pregnant woman and a 16-month-old infant. The defendants in the latter case were sentenced to life.

Raybin worked as a prosecutor for 10 years. Although he is not opposed to the death penalty, he has written extensively about its many flaws in the decades since he left the attorney general’s office. Among those he has represented as a defense attorney was Daryl Holton, a man on death row who gave up his appeals and was executed in 2007. Holton chose to die in the electric chair, with Raybin as a witness. In a detailed account, he called the execution “barbaric in the extreme. No medieval torture could be more bizarre.” But he’s also critical of lethal injection, a method of execution once “perceived as a benign way to do this,” he told me, but which has “just turned into chaos. … It’s just an absolute disaster.”

“To me it detracts from the purpose of even having a death penalty,” Raybin said. “And it dehumanizes people and everybody who’s associated with it.”

Candles are lit during a vigil at Fisk University to protest the execution of Billy Ray Irick Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee carried out the execution of Irick, condemned for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, marking the first time the state has applied the death penalty since 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Candles are lit during a vigil at Fisk University to protest the execution of Billy Ray Irick on Aug. 9, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

As protesters stood outside the prison last week, a vigil took place at Fisk Memorial Chapel, organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The group also held a vigil at a church in Memphis and another one in Knoxville “to oppose the execution of Billy Ray Irick and to remember all victims of violence, particularly Paula Dyer.”

Earlier in the week, TADP had held a rally at Nashville’s Legislative Plaza. Among the speakers was Ray Krone, who addressed the crowd from a podium next to a banner that read “Mental Illness: Treat the Illness, Don’t Kill the Person.” Krone was twice convicted in Arizona of a murder he did not commit, a prosecution based on junk science. Today he lives in East Tennessee. “We moved here six years ago, and we love it,” he told me at the rally in Nashville. As a resident, he said, it is especially important to speak out against “something that is a personal heartache and hardship for me.”

Krone addressed the crowd, telling his story and describing the toll it took on his family. Afterward, he carried a box of petitions across the street to the state Capitol, containing more than 62,000 signatures. An aide to Gov. Bill Haslam was there to receive them, but it felt like an empty gesture. The governor had already released a statement saying he would not intervene.

Stacy Rector, the head of TADP, introduced Krone to the aide, urging him to consider the implications of restarting executions in the state. “I’m more than willing to have a discussion about that,” Krone added. The aide shook his hand politely, then turned with the box and walked away.

Top photo: People gather outside the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution to protest the execution of Billy Ray Irick in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 9, 2018.

The post As Tennessee Restarts Executions, 40 Years of Data Expose Its Death Penalty as a “Cruel Lottery” appeared first on The Intercept.

Chicago Faces a Defining Moment in Police Reform and Civil Order

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/08/2018 - 10:00pm in


Justice, Politics

Several months after the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on the streets of Chicago, and nine months before release of video footage of the incident precipitated a political implosion that continues to reverberate, I observed that the fate of McDonald had become entwined with that of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Three-and-a-half years later, this formulation is even more apt, as several processes set in motion during those turbulent days converge to create a fateful moment for the city of Chicago and its mayor.

The trial of Officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of McDonald is scheduled to begin September 5 and promises to be a major media spectacle. It is all but certain that the city will await the verdict in the same state of collective tension that attended release of the video and with the same uncertainty about the consequences.

Concurrently, a consent decree negotiated by the Illinois attorney general and the Emanuel administration — a blueprint for police reform to be overseen by a federal judge — is moving toward being entered this fall. A draft of the decree was released on July 27. Although the period for public comment runs only until August 17, various provisions are destined to be debated for years.

A number of provisions in the consent decree were conditional on changes in the contract of the Fraternal Order of Police, which expired over a year ago. Under the terms of the decree, the city is to “use its best efforts” to negotiate changes in the collective bargaining agreement. The union is seeking to block implementation of the consent decree, which its president has characterized as “legally invalid” and “politically motivated.” So the prospects for constructive negotiations seem dim at best.

The next mayoral election is not until February 26, 2019 (and in the likely event of a run-off, April 2), but the campaign is fast gathering momentum. Among those challenging Emanuel are Garry McCarthy, his former police superintendent, and Lori Lightfoot, whom he appointed as chair of the police board and later, head of his Police Accountability Task Force. Given the presence of these two candidates in the field, policing and public safety issues will be central throughout the campaign.

Taken together, these developments ensure an extended period during which fundamental issues of racial justice will be intensely debated in multiple forums. A great deal turns on the quality of those debates. Will civil society and government voices sustain the public arguments necessary to realize the historic opportunity for fundamental change at hand? Or will the blood sport of the mayor’s race, the media circus of the Van Dyke trial, the complexity of the consent decree, and the intransigence of FOP yield a bruising, confusing public discourse that ultimately leaves Chicagoans more polarized, entrenched, and demoralized than they currently are?

In this Aug. 5, 2018 photo, police investigate the scene where multiple people were shot in Chicago. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson plans to discuss the violence during a Monday news conference. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

On Aug. 5, 2018, police investigate the scene where multiple people were shot in Chicago.

Photo: Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

A City Defined by a Killing

The city where these parallel processes are unfolding is on edge. Over the weekend of August 3, 74 people were shot in the city, 12 of them fatally. And several weeks earlier, community members and police clashed in a South Side neighborhood following the fatal police shooting of a resident, prompting anxious speculation about what will happen if Jason Van Dyke is acquitted.

The spasm of violence in early August dramatized the fundamental tension that shapes the discourse about police reform in Chicago. Over the several years that the city has been focused on curbing police abuse, there has been a spike in homicides and shootings in particular low-income black and brown neighborhoods, giving rise to an ongoing argument between those who claim reform measures impede the police and those who argue that accountability is a necessary condition for the police to be effective.

All of this is playing out against the backdrop of the narrative that now frames Chicago’s civic life: the police killing of Laquan McDonald. The centrality of that story is in some respects a mystery. Why this particular incident? This particular victim? A partial explanation is that the horror of the incident was compounded by the institutional response to it — by the knowledge that the city knew what happened and withheld that information from the public for over a year, while maintaining a patently false official account of the shooting that ultimately collapsed, exposing the machinery of the code of silence.

Whatever the reasons, the public narrative of McDonald now bears comparison to that of another child of Chicago, Emmett Till. The footage of McDonald curled in fetal position on the ground as Van Dyke fires again and again and again — 16 times — is akin to Till’s open casket: a portal through which the mutilated body of a child becomes the focal point for perceptions of underlying systemic pathologies.

The public narrative of Laquan McDonald now bears comparison to that of another child of Chicago, Emmett Till.

The cascade of events that followed the McDonald revelations — the firing of the police superintendent and the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, the mayor’s appointment of a task force on police accountability, the electoral defeat of the state’s attorney, and the intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice — was animated by the widely shared recognition that what had been exposed was intolerable and that fundamental reform was imperative.

On December 9, 2015, at the height of the political firestorm following the video’s release, Emanuel gave a speech to a special session of the Chicago City Council. It was arguably his finest moment as mayor. Visibly traumatized, he spoke with emotion and moral urgency. Chicago, he said, faces “a defining moment on the issues of crime and policing and even the larger issues of truth, justice, and race.” He acknowledged that a code of silence exists within the Chicago Police Department. And he committed his administration to a sustained process of reform, asking, in effect, that Chicagoans — and history — judge him by that single measure.

Addressing a shaken city, the mayor evoked a crisis of the civil order that demands we break with business as usual. What is required, he declared, is that we embark on a process of becoming a different kind of society — one, as he put it, in which a black child would be treated no differently by the police than his own children.

 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson before they spoke at a news conference to address reporters about Chicago's weekend of gun violence, Monday, August 6, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago experienced one of it's most violent weekends of the year, after more then 70 people were shot, with 12 fatalities. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson before they spoke at a news conference to address Chicago’s weekend of gun violence on Aug. 6, 2018 in Chicago.

Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Chicago’s Path to a Consent Decree

The mayor has not consistently projected the sort of leadership he showed that day. Frequent wobbles and pivots have left him looking reactive and defensive. More often than not, he has appeared intensely tactical in the absence of a strategy. As a result, he has not told the story of reform in such a way that the public can clearly see particular measures as elements of a coherent larger plan.

At each successive stage in the reform process, the mayor’s first impulse, his political instinct, has been to balk. Then, as political pressure builds, he ultimately moves forward. This is not inspiring leadership, but it is a reasonably predictable political dynamic that advances the process, so long as sustained public pressure is applied.

Substantial progress has been made over the last three years. Among other things, a new agency — the Civilian Office of Police Accountability — has been established to investigate police shootings and allegations of excessive force, and the Inspector General of Chicago has been empowered to monitor the police department. Yet the reform process has often seemed becalmed and adrift, making it hard to assess progress. There are no firm coordinates. The sensation is akin to swimming across a large body of water and not being able to see either shore.

That will almost surely change now that the draft consent decree has been released. The complex, 233-page document includes provisions dealing with use of force, crisis intervention, supervision, accountability, transparency, hiring and promotion, and officer wellness. (According to the parties, the one outstanding issue they have not yet been able to resolve is whether officers will be required to file a report when they point a gun at someone.)

In order to grasp both the promise of the consent decree process and the challenges it faces, it is important to understand its history.

After Donald Trump was elected, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice pushed to finalize the report on its investigation of the Chicago Police Department, releasing it a week before the inauguration. Once the new administration assumed office, it quickly became apparent that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had no intention of negotiating a consent decree on the basis of the report. He condemned such decrees as “politically expedient” measures “that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals” and declared that Department of Justice would no longer enter into them.

Soon after the inauguration, Emanuel reached out to Sessions and sought to negotiate a nonbinding memorandum of agreement to govern police reform in Chicago. When word of the MOA negotiations leaked, it was widely derided as toothless, and the process ran aground.

The Chicago Police Department engages in an unconstitutional pattern and practice of excessive force, including deadly force, primarily against people of color.

In light of the new realities, civil rights lawyers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University law schools developed a community-driven legal strategy for rebooting the consent decree process. In June 2017, they filed a class-action suit — Campbell v. City of Chicagoon behalf of a group of individual and organizational plaintiffs extending across the spectrum, from Black Lives Matter organizations to the NAACP and Urban League. They argued that their clients were at high risk of having their constitutional rights violated by the police and sought widespread injunctive relief and police oversight under the supervision of a federal judge. (Colleagues at the Invisible Institute provided statistical analysis for the Campbell lawsuit.)

The Campbell suit received immediate public support. It was endorsed by editorials in both Chicago newspapers and the New York Times and by various institutional players such as Chicago’s Inspector General. The American Civil Liberties Union subsequently filed a parallel suit seeking a consent decree on behalf of people with disabilities.

The Emanuel administration, however, declined the invitation to negotiate and sought to have the suit dismissed. It argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that a consent decree was unnecessary because the city was in the process of implementing the desired reforms.

That was the context in which, two months after the filing of the Campbell suit, Lisa Madigan, the state attorney general, sued the city seeking a consent decree on the basis of the patterns of unconstitutional policing documented in the DOJ report. And that was the context in which Emanuel took a step he had initially resisted and agreed to negotiate.

At that point, the process ceased to be public and became a matter of lawyers brokering an agreement behind closed doors. The Campbell and ACLU attorneys were not at the table, and so did not participate in crafting the decree. They did, however, succeed in securing a memorandum of agreement with the city and the attorney general under which their clients have a significant role in enforcing the terms of the decree.

The consent decree is a dense document. In assessing its provisions, it’s important not to allow the complexity of the prescription to obscure the stark simplicity of the diagnosis: The Chicago Police Department engages in an unconstitutional pattern and practice of excessive force, including deadly force, primarily against people of color. These patterns of unconstitutional police violence are enabled and shielded by systemic deficiencies in supervision, accountability, and training, and by the code of silence within the department.

That is the heart of the matter, the core problem that the array of reforms is designed to address. The sheer number of discreet measures invites a checklist approach that sees police reform as a matter of ticking off boxes on a long list. Such an approach fails to comprehend that some reforms have priority because they are foundational and must be securely in place for other measures to be credible and effective.

These patterns of unconstitutional police violence are enabled and shielded by systemic deficiencies in supervision, accountability, and training, and by the code of silence within the department.

One such area is use of force policy. Defining appropriate and excessive uses of force provides the basis for developing training, supervisory, and disciplinary systems. The section of the draft on use of force is a significant improvement over past policy and provides a sound foundation on which to build.

Equally fundamental to the operation of the decree is transparency with respect to the disciplinary process. Here the draft disappoints. Significant progress has been made in this area in recent years. The draft embodies those advances, but it misses an opportunity to go beyond them and build proactive transparency into the architecture, the DNA, of the reform process. The internal systems for managing disciplinary information are significantly improved. There is, however, no affirmative commitment to make that information publicly available. The public will be given aggregate numbers but not access to the underlying data.

This information is public under current law and can be accessed under the Freedom of Information Act. Why not then make it universally available? Against the background of the catastrophic suppression of public information in connection with the Laquan McDonald incident, a robust transparency regime of this nature would represent a dramatic institutional commitment to community participation in the reform process.

It is important to remember how we got here. The struggle for police reform has at every stage been driven by civil society energies moving against the undertow of official resistance. Central to that struggle has been the fight for access to information.

Just as information control is a tool of power, transparency is a way of redistributing power and so enabling community members to monitor the reform process and engage in joint problem-solving. To put the point another way, a measure of democratic renewal is essential, if we are to realize this historic opportunity. Only a process that exemplifies the qualities it seeks to institutionalize will establish true accountability and restore institutional legitimacy. In that sense, process is reform.

 Bystanders watch as Chicago Police officers and detectives investigate a shooting where multiple people were shot on Sunday, August 5, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. In the last 24 hours over 30 people have been shot and at least 2 killed across Chicago including five mass shootings, where four or more victims were shot at one location. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Bystanders watch as Chicago police officers and detectives investigate a shooting where multiple people were shot on Aug. 5, 2018, in Chicago.

Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The Promise and Challenge of the Consent Decree

Whatever its strengths and limitations, the consent decree is a watershed. Christy Lopez, the lawyer in the Civil Rights Division who led the investigation of the Chicago Police Department (as well as the police departments in Ferguson, New Orleans, and a number of other jurisdictions), has hailed it as “a police reform milestone of unprecedented promise for Chicago” and “a beacon for people across the country who care about police reform and are discouraged by the federal government’s current refusal to protect people from abuse.”

If this promise is to be fully realized, both the public and police must engage with and invest in the effort over a period of years. The process thus hinges on two great questions.

What is the role of the public — especially the communities most affected by patterns of abuse — in police reform?

It is critically important that the institutionalization of reform via the consent decree not sideline participation of civil society, that the bureaucratic process not derail the political process. If Chicago can be said to be in the midst of a prolonged crisis of the civil order — reflected in the loss of legitimacy of key institutions, public distrust of civil authority, an intolerably high homicide rate, and an abysmally low police clearance rate in homicides and shootings — then the consent decree is best seen as an opportunity to reconstitute the relationship of Chicago residents to their government and its agents.

From one perspective, the document reflects this aspiration. Its central theme is “community policing.” Yet it is relatively silent on two critical conditions for effective community involvement in the process.

First, it affirms the need for some form of civilian oversight, but provides no parameters on what a civilian oversight board might look like and how it would be selected. This is a vexing issue that has divided activists. More guidance would have been welcome.

Second, to return to a theme touched on above, robust transparency is a necessary condition for community members to participate fully in the process. The consent decree draft falls short in this respect and so misses an opportunity for a paradigm shift in the stewardship of public information.

The years since the Laquan McDonald implosion have seen a remarkable upsurge of civic engagement with fundamental issues of racial justice in Chicago. Civil society — community groups across the spectrum, civic and religious organizations, philanthropy, and, of course, the civil rights bar — has mobilized on multiple fronts. It’s sometimes hard to see this in proper perspective, because engagement takes the form of challenging and criticizing each other, as well as the embattled Emanuel administration, which is precisely the point in a democratic polity.

There is now an opportunity for these energies to cohere around the consent decree process — for necessary arguments to advance within the framework it provides. If, however, the process does not make good on the promise of community inclusion, it will only deepen alienation in the neighborhoods most affected by both police abuse and violent crime, while inducing other concerned and mobilized Chicagoans to disengage. Moving forward on the long slough of reform under the consent decree, civic morale is a precious and highly perishable resource.

What impact will the stance of the Fraternal Order of Police have on the reform process?

It is essential that police reform, if it is to be effective, have buy-in from the police. Yet the FOP’s posture is one of blanket opposition to accountability measures as impediments to effective law enforcement.

In an effort to derail the consent decree process, the FOP has filed a motion to intervene in the case and a second motion challenging the role of the Illinois attorney general. Offered a memorandum of agreement granting enforcement powers such as the Campbell plaintiffs and the ACLU entered into, the union declined. When the attorney general’s office, in the course of developing the consent decree, reached out to officers to take part in focus groups, FOP discouraged them from participating.

Assuming the FOP is unable to legally block the consent decree process, it retains power to veto the implementation of certain provisions. The collective bargaining agreement — to use an unnerving verb in this context — trumps the consent decree. A number of desirable reforms in the draft decree can only be implemented if the FOP agrees to changes in the relevant provisions of its contract.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about the FOP’s scorched-earth approach is that it denies the process the benefit of the perspectives, insights, and suggestions of the rank-and-file officers the union purports to represent. The effort to institute realistic, workable reforms would be greatly enriched, if those voices were audible, but they are largely displaced by the megaphone wielded by FOP’s leadership.

The public voice of the union is on a rhetorical offensive — demonizing Black Lives Matter groups, attacking the civil rights bar as the “wrongful conviction industry,” and assailing the press as purveyors of “fake news.” It is utterly uncompromising and projects an air of confidence that it’s on the right side of history. In May, Trump, for whom Chicago has long been a favorite target, tweeted support for a demonstration against Emanuel organized by FOP:

In view of Session’s open hostility to police reform, it’s not inconceivable that the Department of Justice will intervene in the consent decree case on behalf of the union. Whether or not that happens, the terms of engagement have been set. The argument is not over how best to address an acknowledged problem; it’s over whether a problem exists at all. Considered in light of massive documentation by the Obama DOJ and others of grave constitutional harms, the position the FOP — and the Trump administration — are pressing, though they wouldn’t phrase it quite this way, is that the only form of effective policing is unconstitutional policing.

That is the charged setting in which the trial of Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald will take place. In the protracted run-up to the trial, we have seen previews of the defense team’s strategy, which will be to portray the murder charge against Van Dyke as the result not of his actions, but of an anti-police media campaign. (I figured in one of those previews, when the defense served me with a subpoena in an effort to compel me to reveal a key source for my reporting on the incident.) Thus, for a period of weeks, the FOP worldview will be presented by the defense and amplified by media coverage intent on maximizing the melodrama of the trial.

It’s all but certain that tension and polarization will build in the city as the trial proceeds toward a verdict. For many, the only true measure of progress in police accountability will be a guilty verdict. If that verdict is not forthcoming, the city will face a test under the pressure of the centrifugal forces released by an acquittal or a hung jury. Will the center hold, as it did after the release of the video in 2015, when activists channeled outrage into inspired Black Friday demonstrations in the Michigan Avenue shopping district, and the police protected the exercise of their First Amendment rights?

Aldo Reyes joins a rally and march organized by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression in Chicago on Monday, July 16, 2018, in the South Shore neighborhood near the site where Harith Augustus was fatally shot Saturday by Chicago police. (James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Aldo Reyes joins a rally and march organized by the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression in Chicago on July 16, 2018, in the South Shore neighborhood near the site where Harith Augustus was fatally shot by Chicago police.

Photo: James Foster/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Claiming the Society We Need

As I have tried to bring the state of the city at this fateful moment into focus, my mind has returned again and again to a scene described to me by a friend.

On July 15, a police officer shot and killed Harith Augustus, a neighborhood barber, on 71st Street, a major commercial street in the South Shore neighborhood. The officer who shot him was on foot patrol with other officers in response to neighborhood concerns about gun violence. According to a CPD spokesperson, they observed a man “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person” and questioned him, at which point — note the passive tense — “a confrontation ensues and he is shot.”

Almost immediately, alerts went out via social media, and protesters appeared at the scene. My friend, a young African-American woman who grew up on the South Side, was alerted to the shooting by a text message from the Black Youth Project 100, an organization of which she is a member, and immediately went to the site of the shooting.

She described a tense scene, as demonstrators faced off with police. Standing opposite a cordon of officers, many of them black, she and others shouted out questions. “Why are you all doing this?” “What’s the name of the officer who did this?” “Shame on you. We don’t want you here. Why don’t you leave?”

She noticed two officers, both black, standing side by side. One was pumped up, handling his baton with keen anticipation like a batter in the on-deck circle. He would later strike a female protester. The other had tears streaking his face.

For me, this scene encapsulates the promise and peril of the current moment in Chicago. The officers on foot patrol to prevent gun violence who ended up committing gun violence — perhaps justified, perhaps not. The demonstrators who mobilized in a matter of minutes to bear witness. The police on the scene to preserve order, but also to protect the First Amendment rights of the protesters. The officer for whom what couldn’t be expressed issued as tears. The razor’s edge between violent disorder and civic dialogue.

The situation on 71st Street, a close observer of the South Side later remarked to me, was “one thrown bottle away from a riot.” No doubt. Such an outcome is all too easy to imagine. Can we also imagine a society in which those frozen in this tableau could sustain a conversation with each other, could argue with each other and learn from each other, a society in which their exchanges could enrich the larger discourse? It’s up to us, at this defining moment, to claim full citizenship in that society.

Top photo: People gather in front of the Chicago Police Department on Oct. 20, 2017, to protest the shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot and killed by police officers in 2014.

The post Chicago Faces a Defining Moment in Police Reform and Civil Order appeared first on The Intercept.