TIME Crime

Seattle Police May Shelve Plan to Equip Officers With Body Cameras

Seattle police may cancel a plan to give 1,000 police officers body cameras like the one shown here worn by a Las Vegas official on Nov. 12, 2014. John Locher—AP

Officials says excessive public-disclosure requests are to blame

Seattle may drop its plan to equip more than 1,000 police officers with body cameras by 2016 because of the volume of public-disclosure requests already seeking information from future recordings.

A six-month pilot program set to launch in a few weeks might be completely shelved, officials told the Seattle Times, thanks to public-disclosure requests by an anonymous citizen who was looking for daily updates that department officials say would be nearly impossible to fulfill. Officials said the requests — including all recordings from patrol-car and body cameras, as well as 9-1-1 dispatches and checks run on license plates and addresses — would be both too expensive and time-consuming for the department.

A number of cities have been experimenting with body cameras since the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August, which set off weeks of protests. The incident was not captured on video, and the facts of the shooting have been disputed. Police departments in Denver, Anaheim, Washington, D.C. and Ferguson have since announced plans to use the cameras.

[Seattle Times]

TIME Crime

Ferguson Grand Jury Nearing ‘End of the Road’

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Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., parents of teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, speak during a press conference about the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland on Nov. 12. Martial Trezzini—AP

Lawyers for Michael Brown's family call for restraint following a decision

The grand jury that will decide whether a white police officer will be charged in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown is close to wrapping up, lawyers for the Brown family said Thursday.

“We are probably reaching the end of the road as it relates to witnesses,” said Anthony Gray, one of the family lawyers, according to Reuters.

Gray and attorney Benjamin Crump also called for Ferguson residents to exercise restraint when a decision by the grand jury is announced, expected to be sometime this month. Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Nixon said that he would consider deploying the National Guard to quell potential violence in the wake of a grand jury decision.

Ferguson, which is predominantly black but overseen by a largely white police force, became a focal point for race relations in the U.S. this summer when officer Darren Wilson shot 18-year-old Brown. Witnesses have provided differing versions of the incident, with some describing a physical altercation between the two while others saying Wilson shot Brown as he had his hands up.

Pathologist Michael Baden was set to testify Thursday. According to an autopsy performed by Baden, Brown was shot at least six times, twice in the head.

Read next: Ferguson Braces for the Worst Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

TIME On Our Radar

Ride Along With America’s Marshal Officers

When he’s not shooting for publications around the world, photographer Brian Finke makes the time to work on long personal documentary projects. His most recent one, called U.S. Marshals, takes an intimate look into the lives of those serving in the U.S. Marshal service, the oldest law enforcement agency in the country.

Finke’s interest in the U.S. Marshals came from re-connecting in 2010 with Cameron Welch, a current Marshal and friend from high school. The encounter led him to spend the following three years on regular embeds with the U.S. Marshals in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

“It’s pretty amazing watching them do what they do,” says Finke. “It was kind of like my own version of the TV show ‘Cops,’ putting a bulletproof vest on and running in behind them as they go catch the bad guys.”

As part of a law enforcement agency, the Marshals are responsible for transporting criminals, protecting judges and witnesses, as well as tracking down some of the most dangerous fugitives in the country.

“I never felt like my life was in danger,” says Finke, despite the often-precarious situations he and his assistant found themselves in – his very first ride-along with the Marshals included a 120-MPH pursuit of an escaped convict in Texas.

Finke started his photographic career as a black-and-white shooter. Today, it is easy to spot the documentary photographer’s bright, saturated work in his color images, which he developed using an off-camera flash. “Flash exaggerates the color and makes it all come together for me,” he says.

Finke will continue to use his off-camera flash technique in his next in-depth project, which focuses on the women who star in hip hop music videos, he calls this body of work “Hip Hop Honeys.”

“I love the process of photography,” Fink says. “Being out in the world and experiencing things, I feel very fortunate to be able to do this.”


Brian Finke is documentary photographer based in N.Y. and his book US Marshals is published by powerHouse Books 

Adam Glanzman is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @glanzpiece 


TIME Crime

$2.5 Million Settlement for Hot Jail Cell Death on Rikers Island

The temperature in Jerome Murdough's cell on New York City's Rikers Island is said to have exceeded 100 degrees when he was found dead in February

The family of a New York City prisoner who died in an overheated jail cell will receive $2.5 million to settle a wrongful-death suit, the city comptroller’s office announced Friday.

“A mother lost a son, the City lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough,” said city comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement, referring to the deceased inmate.

The Rikers Island prison complex, where Jerome Murdough was found dead this past February in a cell where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, has been the subject of frequent criticism for the poor treatment of prisoners in recent months. In this particular case, jail officials had received reports of high temperatures but had not fixed acted to solve the problem.

At the time of his death, the 56-year-old prisoner was awaiting trial for trespassing. Murdough, who is said to have suffered from mental illness, was arrested a week prior to his death as he sought shelter from the cold in a public housing building.

“This is a very awful thing I’m going through, and I hope that no one else will have to ever go through anything like this,” said the inmate’s mother Alma Murdough, at a Friday press conference.

TIME Crime

St. Louis Police Officer Fatally Shoots Black Man, Sparking Protests

Crowds confront police near the scene in in south St. Louis where a man was fatally shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer on Oct. 8, 2014. St. Louis.
Crowds confront police near the scene in south St. Louis where a man was fatally shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer on Oct. 8, 2014. David Carson—AP

"It’s like Michael Brown all over again."

Protests broke out in south St. Louis late Wednesday after a white police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old black man who police say opened fire during a chase, just after tensions in the area had largely cooled following a similar shooting in August.

The shooting happened just weeks after another police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the nearby suburb of Ferguson, triggering weeks of sometimes violent protests.

St. Louis Police Chief Col. Sam Dotson told reporters Thursday that an off-duty police officer was patrolling a neighborhood for a private security company Wednesday night when he saw three men run from him, according to the Associated Press. He gave chase, believing that one of the men had a weapon from the way he grabbed his waistband. That man then turned and approached the officer, and during an ensuing altercation fired at the officer, according to Dotson. The officer, a 6-year veteran of the police department who was not identified, responded by firing 17 shots, killing the man. It’s unclear why the officer fired that many rounds.

But relatives of the man shot by the officer said he had been unarmed, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.

“He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun,” Teyonna Myers, who said she was the man’s cousin, told the Dispatch. “It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”

A crowd of some 300 people gathered late Wednesday and into Thursday, though most people dispersed by Thursday morning. Several police cars were damaged, but Dotson said no arrests were made.

[AP]

TIME White House

Obama: Ferguson Exposed ‘Gulf of Mistrust’ Between Cops and Communities

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’'s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

Law enforcement targeting of blacks and other minorities "has a corrosive effect—not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America"

President Barack Obama said Saturday that the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. last month exposed the “gulf of mistrust” that exists between law enforcement and local residents in many communities.

Speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner, the President said that the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in the St Louis suburb “awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is, in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement.”

Statistically, the President noted, blacks in the United States are targeted at a substantially higher rate than whites in their cars and on the street, and more likely to get the death penalty. “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.”

“And that has a corrosive effect—not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America,” Obama continued.

To reverse the widening gap between minority communities and the people who police them, said Obama, “we need to help communities and law enforcement build trust, build understanding, so that our neighborhoods stay safe and our young people stay on track.”

Obama’s remarks Saturday came nearly two months after the shooting of Brown sparked a week of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and outrage around the country at the local police’s handling of the situation.

You can read the speech below:

TIME China

Chinese Firms Are Exporting ‘Torture Devices’ to Africa

China Tools of Torture
In this undated photo released by Amnesty International, Chinese made weighted leg cuffs are displayed at the Chengdu Jin'an Equipment’s booth at an exhibition at an undisclosed location AP

Amnesty International claims at least 130 Chinese firms are involved in the worrying trade

Chinese companies are increasingly getting into the business of selling torture instruments, such as restraint chairs and spiked batons, to police departments in countries with miserable human rights records, Amnesty International claimed in a report on Tuesday.

At least 130 Chinese companies are now selling or manufacturing such equipment, up from just 28 a decade ago, the rights group says.

But as more Chinese companies enter the business, Beijing has not upped protocols to ensure that the exports do not end up in the wrong hands. Instead, most of the equipment is going to African countries where the rule of law is poor and where the potential for abuse is high, according to the respected human-rights watchdog.

Some of the Chinese-made equipment, such as handcuffs and projectile stun guns, is standard police issue that “can have a legitimate use in law enforcement if used correctly and in line with international standards for law enforcement,” says Amnesty.

However, other instruments are described by Amnesty as “inherently abusive” and include weighted cuffs, neck cuffs, electric shock batons and spiked batons, among others.

The report is a collaboration between Amnesty and the Omega Research Foundation, a British group that studies the international use and distribution of law-enforcement equipment. Liberia, Uganda and Madagascar are among the countries that have imported such equipment from China.

The use of torture to extract confessions is ubiquitous in China, although the government has pledged to crack down on the practice. This week, three police officers and four security personnel from the Chinese city of Harbin were convicted of torturing seven suspects to get confessions, according to Xinhua, China’s state news outlet. One of the tortured suspects died of his injuries, Xinhua said.

TIME National Security

New FBI Software Can Process Up to 52 Million Facial Images

And that's got civil-liberties groups worried

The FBI launched a new facial-recognition program on Wednesday, causing controversy among civil rights groups who say its huge processing power poses a threat to the privacy of citizens with no criminal record.

The program, known as the Interstate Photo System (IPS), is one of the final components of the FBI’s enhanced biometric system known as Next Generation Identification, the law-enforcement agency announced in a statement.

“The IPS facial-recognition service will provide the nation’s law-enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities,” the statement said.

However, al-Jazeera America reported that the rollout has upset civil-liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the foundation in April revealed that the system could process up to 52 million facial images, including millions of pictures taken for noncriminal purposes.

[AJAM]

TIME feminism

Campus Rape: The Problem With ‘Yes Means Yes’

New students at San Diego State University watch a video on sexual consent during an orientation meeting, Aug. 1, 2014, in San Diego.
New students at San Diego State University watch a video on sexual consent during an orientation meeting, Aug. 1, 2014, in San Diego. Gregory Bull—AP

Having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is a terrible idea

The campus crusade against rape has achieved a major victory in California with the passage of a so-called “Yes means yes” law. Unanimously approved by the state Senate yesterday after a 52-16 vote in the assembly on Monday, SB967 requires colleges and universities to evaluate disciplinary charges of sexual assault under an “affirmative consent” standard as a condition of qualifying for state funds. The bill’s supporters praise it as an important step in preventing sexual violence on campus. In fact, it is very unlikely to deter predators or protect victims. Instead, its effect will be to codify vague and capricious rules governing student conduct, to shift the burden of proof to (usually male) students accused of sexual offenses, and to create a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex.

No sane person would quarrel with the principle that sex without consent is rape and should be severely punished. But while sexual consent is widely defined as the absence of a “no” (except in cases of incapacitation), anti-rape activists and many feminists have long argued that this definition needs to shift toward an active “yes.” Or, as the California bill puts it:

“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. … Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.

The law’s defenders, such as feminist writer Amanda Hess, dismiss as hyperbole claims that it would turn people into unwitting rapists every time they have sex without obtaining an explicit “yes” (or, better yet, a notarized signature) from their partner. Hess points out that consent can include nonverbal cues such as body language. Indeed, the warning that “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding,” included in the initial draft of the bill, was dropped from later versions. Yet even after those revisions, one of the bill’s co-authors, Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the affirmative consent standard means a person “must say ‘yes.’ ”

Nonverbal cues indicating consent are almost certainly present in most consensual sexual encounters. But as a legal standard, nonverbal affirmative consent leaves campus tribunals in the position of trying to answer murky and confusing questions — for instance, whether a passionate response to a kiss was just a kiss, or an expression of “voluntary agreement” to have sexual intercourse. Faced with such ambiguities, administrators are likely to err on the side of caution and treat only explicit verbal agreement as sufficient proof of consent. In fact, many affirmative-consent-based student codes of sexual conduct today either discourage reliance on nonverbal communication as leaving too much room for mistakes (among them California’s Occidental College and North Carolina’s Duke University) or explicitly require asking for and obtaining verbal consent (the University of Houston). At Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, nonverbal communication is allowed but a verbal request for consent absolutely requires a verbal response: If you ask, “Do you want this?”, you may not infer consent from the mere fact that your partner pulls you down on the bed and moves to take off your clothes.

Meanwhile, workshops and other activities promoting the idea that one must “ask first and ask often” and that sex without verbal agreement is rape have proliferated on college campuses.

The consent evangelists often admit that discussing consent is widely seen as awkward and likely to kill the mood — though they seem to assume that the problem can be resolved if you just keep repeating that such verbal exchanges can be “hot,” “cool,” and “creative.” It’s not that talk during a sexual encounter is inherently a turn-off — far from it. But there’s a big difference between sexy banter or endearments, and mandatory checks to confirm you aren’t assaulting your partner (especially when you’re told that such checks must be conducted “in an ongoing manner”). Most people prefer spontaneous give-and-take and even some mystery, however old-fashioned that may sound; sex therapists will also tell you that good sex requires “letting go” of self-consciousness. When ThinkProgress.com columnist Tara Culp-Ressler writes approvingly that under affirmative consent “both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having,” it sounds more like a prescription for overthinking.

Of course anyone who believes that verbal communication about consent is essential to healthy sexual relationships can preach that message to others. The problem is that advocates of affirmative consent don’t rely simply on persuasion but on guilt-tripping (one handout stresses that verbal communication is “worth the risk of embarrassment or awkwardness” since the alternative is the risk of sexual assault) and, more importantly, on the threat of sanctions.

Until now, these sanctions have been voluntarily adopted by colleges; SB-967 gives them the backing of a government mandate. In addition to creating a vaguely and subjectively defined offense of nonconsensual sex, the bill also explicitly places the burden of proof on the accused, who must demonstrate that he (or she) took “reasonable steps … to ascertain whether the complainant affirmatively consented.” When the San Gabriel Valley Tribune asked Lowenthal how an innocent person could prove consent under such a standard, her reply was, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Meanwhile, Culp-Ressler reassures her readers that passionate trysts without explicit agreement “aren’t necessarily breaches of an affirmative consent standard,” since, “if both partners were enthusiastic about the sexual encounter, there will be no reason for anyone to report a rape later.” But it’s not always that simple. One of the partners could start feeling ambivalent about an encounter after the fact and reinterpret it as coerced — especially after repeatedly hearing the message that only a clear “yes” constitutes real consent. In essence, advocates of affirmative consent are admitting that they’re not sure what constitutes a violation; they are asking people to trust that the system won’t be abused. This is not how the rule of law works.

This is not a matter of criminal trials, and suspension or even expulsion from college is not the same as going to prison. Nonetheless, having the government codify a standard that may implicitly criminalize most human sexual interaction is a very bad idea.

Such rules are unlikely to protect anyone from sexual assault. The activists often cite a scenario in which a woman submits without saying no because she is paralyzed by fear. Yet the perpetrator in such a case is very likely to be a sexual predator, not a clueless guy making an innocent mistake — and there is nothing to stop him from lying and claiming that he obtained explicit consent. As for sex with an incapacitated victim, it is already not only a violation of college codes of conduct but a felony.

Many feminists say that affirmative consent is not about getting permission but about making sure sexual encounters are based on mutual desire and enthusiasm. No one could oppose such a goal. But having the government dictate how people should behave in sexual encounters is hardly the way to go about it.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

TIME Law Enforcement

How Electroshock Gun Maker Taser Is Profiting From Crisis in Ferguson

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Taser sean boggs—Getty Images

But at least one analyst says the stun gun manufacturer’s market rally may be overdone

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Ben Greier

Shares of electroshock gun maker Taser are up 28 percent over the past week amid speculation that the events in Ferguson, Mo., could boost demand for the company’s cameras.

Investors are speculating that following the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, the body cameras produced by Taser will soon be de rigueur for police departments nationwide, creating a profit boom for the company.

Not so fast, says one analyst.

“I don’t see that there is going to be a massive deployment everywhere of this,” said Brian Ruttenberg, an analyst and managing director with CRT Capital Group. “And it’s not going to be quick.”

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

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