TIME justice

Spike Lee Splices NYPD Chokehold Footage With Scenes From Do the Right Thing

The director seems to be noting similarities between the death of Eric Garner and the killing by police of a character in his 1989 film

Film director Spike Lee posted a short video on Tuesday, which mixes together footage of a black Staten Island man who died July 17 after a confrontation with the NYPD, with an eerily similar climactic scene from his 1989 movie Do the Right Thing.

Eric Garner was a father of six who died after being held down and put in a chokehold by New York City police last week. An asthmatic, Garner can be heard in the video saying he can’t breathe while officers restrain him before he passed out.

Video of the incident, recorded by Garner’s friend Ramsey Orta with a camera phone, has gone viral online. The police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen in the video putting Garner in a chokehold, which is strictly prohibited by the department, has been assigned to desk duty, while two EMT’s who failed to act to save Garner’s life have been suspended without pay.

Lee titled the video, which he posted to Instagram and YouTube, “Radio Raheem And The Gentle Giant,” after the name of the parallel character in Do the Right Thing, who dies as a result of a brutal police chokehold, and the nickname given to Garner by friends in some media reports.

TIME Opinion

Todd Akin Still Doesn’t Get What’s Wrong With Saying ‘Legitimate Rape’

Todd Akin
Then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)) address the media on September 24, 2012 in Kirkwood, Missouri. (Whitney Curtis--Getty Images) Whitney Curtis—Getty Images

He says it's a law enforcement term. It's not.

Former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin went on MSNBC Thursday morning to try to explain his much-maligned comments from 2012 in which he said abortions wouldn’t be necessary for rape victims. “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” he told a St. Louis TV station in 2012.

Akin was on MSNBC to promote his new book, Firing Back, but he also took it as an opportunity to explain his earlier flub. “Legitimate rape is a law enforcement term, it’s an abbreviation for ‘legitimate case of rape,'” he told Chuck Todd. “A woman calls a police station, the police investigate, she says ‘I’ve been raped,’ they investigate that. So before any of the facts are in, they call it a legitimate case of rape,” explained Aiken.

 

But is ‘”legitimate rape” really a law enforcement term? We asked some experts.

“I’ve taught police officers, and worked with police officers on every continent in the world, and that’s something I’ve never heard in my 50 years in law enforcement,” says Dr. James A. Williams, former Chief of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces for the U.S Department of Justice, who also worked in municipal law enforcement in New Jersey. “I’ve never heard of that. Never.”

Richard Lichten, a veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and expert on sexual assault investigations agrees:

“I have 30 years of experience, I’m qualified to testify in federal court on the way to investigate sexual assault crimes, and I’ve never heard of that,” said Lichten. “In all my life I’ve never heard of that.”

Nonetheless, Akin believes that everyone took what he said out of context. “This was intentionally misunderstood and twisted for political purposes. It doesn’t make any sense to say ‘a conservative is saying that rape is legitimate,’ that doesn’t even add up.”

But the real problem isn’t that people think conservatives are pro-rape, it’s that Akin’s comment sounds like victim-blaming. By calling some rapes “legitimate,” he is (perhaps unintentionally) implying that some aren’t. And that has lead his critics to say that Aikin wants to make sure that a woman’s claim of rape is “legitimate” and that they aren’t just making it up to get a free abortion or something.

Once the topic of abortion came up, the interview took an even more controversial turn. When asked point-blank whether rape victims should be allowed to have abortions if they get pregnant, Akin turned it around. “Should the child conceived in rape have the same right to live as a child conceived in love?” he said. “I had a number of people in my campaign that were children…who were conceived in rape.” That assertion was not immediately verifiable.

Chuck Todd (rightly) pointed out that if Akin had staffers who were conceived from rape, then wouldn’t that disprove his theory that women can “shut that whole thing down?” Yes, according to logic, but all Akin had to say was: “I believe that little children are special.”

 

 

TIME Law Enforcement

Patrol Head Says He’s Shocked By Video of Officer Beating Woman

Caree Harper, Robert Nobles
Attorney Caree Harper, far left, Robert Nobles who is husband to Maisha Allums, daughter of Marlene Pinnock who was seen on the videotape being repeatedly punched, take questions from the media outside the CHP offices in Culver City, Calif., Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Tami Abdollah—AP

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow vowed to complete a comprehensive investigation in weeks instead of the usual months.

(LOS ANGELES) — The head of the California Highway Patrol said he was shocked and the agency’s reputation is hurt by a video showing an officer repeatedly punching a woman he pinned on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow vowed to complete a comprehensive investigation in weeks instead of the usual months.

The CHP said the woman was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her. The woman had begun walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation occurred.

The now-viral video shot by a passing freeway driver shows Marlene Pinnock, 51, being repeatedly punched as she’s straddled by the officer on the shoulder of the freeway.

“This is one of the most significant events of my 34-year career that I’ve ever dealt with,” Farrow said. “We’ve never seen this before.”

Farrow spoke at a news conference Tuesday after a two-hour meeting with community and civil rights leaders, the second involving CHP officials since the July 1 incident occurred.

“I heard them loud and clear,” he said. “We put the issue right on the table in front of us. We’re dealing with it. We’re not going to run and hide.”

Farrow said state law prevents him from revealing the officer’s name. The officer has been with the department for a year and a half and has been assigned to desk duty pending the investigation’s completion.

Sgt. Denise Joslin said officials are working in conjunction with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on the investigation. Members of the Los Angeles Police Department were also present at Tuesday’s meeting and offered their support, she said.

The investigation will primarily focus on the video itself, Farrow said.

“The whole issue … comes down to what happened when the encounter got into a physical altercation,” Farrow said. “What was the cause for (the officer) to use force? And that’s where we are right now.”

No other video was taken. The in-car video didn’t capture the incident, which took place behind the highway patrol vehicle, Farrow said.

Rev. K.W. Tulloss, who heads the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, said he appreciated Farrow and other top CHP officials meeting with community activists but said they wouldn’t back down from pushing for more answers and an outside investigation.

“He’s a CHP officer not an MMA fighter. It was truly excessive, it was visible, and it was just devastating,” Tulloss said. “There’s no excuse. CHP officers are trained law enforcement officers. They should know how to deal with (all types of) individuals.”

The department implemented a new “crisis intervention” training program this year to help officers deal with mentally disabled individuals, Farrow said. All personnel were required to complete it by June 30.

Pinnock remains in the hospital under a psychiatric hold. Her family found her covered in bruises, ice packs and taking pain medication.

“I’m just so overwhelmed,” daughter Maisha Allums told reporters Tuesday. “I can’t believe a CHP officer that was supposed to protect my mom and help my mom beat her like a — I can’t even say like a dog because if it was a dog getting beat like that he would have been in jail.”

TIME intelligence

FBI Doesn’t Know How Many Americans It Spies On

John Brennan CIA Nomination Hearing
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., listens to U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism testify at his nomination hearing to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7, 2013. Chris Maddaloni—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Intel agencies dished on how many Americans get nabbed in the surveillance dragnet

New details emerged Monday on how many Americans are spied on by the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, in a letter that also revealed how few records on domestic surveillance are held by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

A letter to surveillance-reform hawk Sen. Ron Wyden (D—Ore.) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made public Monday revealed that the NSA approved searches of the content of communications of 198 “U.S. person identifiers”—a number associated with the phone, computer, etc. of an American citizen or legal immigrant — and 9,500 searches of meta-data for U.S. person identifiers. The Central Intelligence Agency conducted “fewer than 1900″ queries associated with U.S. person identifiers, according to the letter.

But the FBI could present no hard numbers on how many American citizens it spies on, according to the letter. “The FBI does not track how many queries it conducts using U.S. person identifiers,” the letter says. In fulfilling its mandate as a domestic law enforcement agency, the letter says, “the FBI does not distinguish between U.S. and non-U.S. persons for purposes of querying Section 702 collection.”

Wyden slammed what he termed a “huge gap in oversight” in surveillance of American citizens. “When the FBI says it conducts a substantial number of searches and it has no idea of what the number is, it shows how flawed this system is and the consequences of inadequate oversight,” Wyden said in a statement.

The letter from ODNI comes after a June 5 hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill to reform domestic surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others, in which Wyden pressed National Security Agency Deputy Director Rick Ledgett to say how many “warrantless searches for Americans’ communications have been conducted” under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Section 702 of FISA regulates the monitoring of foreign communications. Though the NSA is officially prohibited from targeting the communications of innocent Americans, due to the nature of global communication in the 21st century and the scale of the mass collection, American citizens’ communications can be swept up in the surveillance dragnet. Other intelligence and law enforcement agencies can query data collected by the NSA for information about their investigations.

As a vocal proponent of reform legislation to curtail the NSA’s surveillance of Americans, Wyden was displeased with the ODNI’s response to his request. “The findings transmitted to me raise questions about whether the FBI is exercising any internal controls over the use of backdoor searches including who and how many government employees can access the personal data of individual Americans,” Wyden’s statement said. “I intend to follow this up until it is fixed.”

TIME justice

Court: Warrantless Cell Location Tracking Is Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has for the first time said law enforcement can’t snoop on phone location records without a warrant

A federal appeals court has for the first time ruled that law enforcement must have a warrant in order to track a person’s location data from nearby cell phone towers.

“There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute,” the three judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a unanimous opinion Wednesday. “That information obtained by an invasion of privacy may not be entirely precise does not change the calculus as to whether obtaining it was in fact an invasion of privacy.”

The ruling is a landmark victory for privacy activists.

“This opinion puts police on notice that when they want to enlist people’s cell phones as tracking devices, they must get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler. “The court soundly repudiates the government’s argument that by merely using cell a phone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights.”

The case was originally brought in Miami by Quartavious Davis, who is serving more than 160 years in prison for several violent armed robberies. Davis appealed after phone location data was used as evidence in his case, but a judge declined to vacate his sentence, finding that the police acted in “good faith” in their investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling on the question of law enforcement access to suspect cell phone location data. However, in a 2012 opinion — upon which the 11th Circuit judges based their opinion delivered Wednesday — the court found that using a GPS tracking device to follow a suspect’s location does constitute a search and thus Fourth Amendment considerations apply.

TIME Drugs

DEA Launches Nationwide Raid on Synthetic Drug Dealers

Synthetic Marijuana DEA
Synthetic Drugs confiscated, held and photographed at the D.E.A. Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Dulles, Va. on Jan. 6, 2014. Jamie Chung for TIME

The DEA has entered the second phase of an ongoing federal crackdown on synthetic drugs, making hundreds of raids across 29 states Wednesday, resulting in more than 150 arrested suspects and at least $20 million in cash and assets seized

Federal agents raided hundreds of homes, warehouses and smoke shops early Wednesday as part of a nationwide crackdown on the synthetic drug trade.

Agents have fanned out across cities in 29 states, serving nearly 200 search warrants to synthetic drug makers and sellers. According to the DEA, they have arrested more than 150 suspects and seized hundreds of thousands of packets of designer drugs.

“Many who manufacture, distribute and sell these dangerous synthetic drugs found out first hand today that DEA will target, find and prosecute those who have committed these crimes,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

The DEA said it had also seized at least $20 million in cash and assets. Investigators say the proceeds from the trade often flow to countries in the Middle East, including Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The largest sting operation focused on Alabama, and included operations in Florida and New Mexico, according to the AP.

Wednesday’s raid marks the second phase of an ongoing federal crackdown on synthetic drugs, dubbed Project Synergy, which began in December, 2012 and resulted in 277 arrests.

Drug enforcement officials warn that the drugs, marketed as “bath salts,” “spice,” or “molly,” can be laced with illegal chemicals that cause symptoms such as paranoia, vomiting and organ damage. In 2013, poison centers reported 1,821 calls related to exposure to synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana is not listed as an illegal drug, so vendors can sell it without fear of legal repercussions, as TIME reported in an April cover story on the dramatic rise of synthetic pot’s popularity.

TIME Crime

Philly Cops Shoot Pizza Delivery Man

Two officers who were out of uniform when they shot a 20-year-old pizza delivery man in the leg, neck and head claim they thought he was going to run them over in his Ford Taurus. The man was taken to a hospital where he remains in critical condition

Two non-uniformed Philadelphia police officers shot a pizza deliveryman in the head Tuesday night, officials confirmed Wednesday. Philippe Holland, 20, remains hospitalized in critical condition.

According to Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross, the plainclothes officers responded to the sound of gunshots, saw a man walking in a hoodie and ordered him to stop. He did not, perhaps, Ross guessed, because the police were out of uniform and he didn’t believe they were real police, NBC Philadelphia reports.

“We believe, unfortunately, that he is also of the belief that he is being robbed,” Ross said.

When Holland got into his Ford Taurus, Ross said, officers thought he was going to run them over. They opened fire, shooting him in the leg, neck and head.

[NBC Philadelphia]

TIME Crime

Ohio Jail Inmates Are Holding a Guard Hostage

The prisoners have barricaded themselves and the guard on the third floor of Trumbull County Jail in Warren

A hostage negotiator and a SWAT team have been dispatched to the Trumbull, Ohio, County Jail after three inmates took a guard hostage Wednesday.

The inmates, identified by told local TV news station WKBN as David Martin, Richard Ware, and Kevin Johns, have barricaded themselves and the hostage — whose name is not being released until it is known that his family has been notified — on the third floor of the jail.

The men have attached sheets to the door of the pod area where they are located and rigged them so that the door tightens if anyone tries to open it, Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office Major Thomas Stewart told WKBN. A hostage negotiator, U.S. Marshals, local police and fire crew are all at the jail. The FBI has also dispatched a tactical team.

Martin faces a murder charge and Johns was recently convicted of rape and kidnapping. Warren faces aggravated robbery charges.

[19 Action News] [WKBN]

TIME Surveillance

The New Cop on the Beat May Be a Bot

Knightscope K5 promises enhanced policing capabilities, courts controversy

+ READ ARTICLE

Have we as a species learned nothing from Robocop?

A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope is currently testing a prototype robot designed to detect and monitor criminal activity, much the way a police officer or a security guard would.

The Knightscope K5 is a five-foot-tall autonomous robot (one presumes that its resemblance to a Dalek is merely coincidental) that roams around your neighborhood, observing and gathering data and trying to predict where and when criminal activity will occur.

It carries no weaponry, but it has a pretty complete sensor package that includes thermal imaging, license plate reading and facial recognition.

This takes public surveillance a step beyond stationary cameras, and the challenges to personal privacy are clear. The K5 could do a whole lot of good by deterring crime, especially in neighborhoods that lack the resources to field an adequate police presence.

But where do you draw the line?

TIME justice

Holder Seeks $15 Million to Train Cops for Mass Shootings

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a press conference on April 1, 2014 in New York.
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at a press conference on April 1, 2014 in New York. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder has asked Congress to approve $15 million in special funds specifically to train law enforcement personnel for mass shooting situations in the wake of recent shootings at Fort Hood and the Jewish community center near Kansas City

Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress Tuesday to approve $15 million of special funds to help train law enforcement for mass shooting situations.

Holder’s request comes in the wake of recent shootings at Fort Hood in Texas and a Jewish Community Center in Kansas amid a growing sense that mass shootings are on the rise in the United States. Three people were killed in each shooting. Holder said active shooter incidents have tripled in frequency since 2009.

“Today, I am urging Congress to approve President Obama’s request for $15 million for active shooter training and other officer safety initiatives, “ Holder said in a recorded statement. “This critical funding would help the Justice Department ensure that America’s police officers have the tools and guidance they need to effectively respond to active shooter incidents whenever and wherever they arise.”

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