Sunday, March 29, 2015

Last Call For Cop Cameras Can Work Both Ways

A gentle reminder that while cop cameras are definitely a tool to record obvious police brutality in action...

Fighting back tears, a Detroit man and longtime auto worker with no criminal history, described how Inkster police officers dragged him from his car one night in January, choked him, beat him and Tasered him during a traffic stop that was caught on patrol car video.

"He was beating me upside the head," Floyd Dent, 57, told a horde of reporters and TV crews during a press conference at his attorney's office Wednesday afternoon, as tears trickled his cheeks. "I was trying to protect my face with my right arm. I heard one of them say, 'tase the M...F. '"

The Jan. 28 incident was caught on police video cameras and is making national news. It shows Inkster police pulling over Dent in his 2011 tan Cadillac near South River Park Drive and Inkster Drive shortly before 10 p.m. The two officers approach with their guns drawn. As Dent opens the door, they pull him out and shove him to the ground. Dent does not appear in the video to be resisting arrest. can also record incidents where police are not engaged in harming civil rights and are in fact doing their jobs correctly.

Taraji P. Henson was roundly applauded on social media this week over actions she took after having claimed that police in Glendale, Calif., racially profiled her son, Marcell, during a traffic stop.

In a recent interview with Uptown magazine, she said she was sending her son to Howard University after he was profiled on the campus of the University of Southern California.

Turns out the Empire star says she overreacted, according to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained a 40-minute video of an officer’s encounter with her 20-year-old son. She apologized to police Friday in an Instagram message with the hashtag #TurningANegativeIntoAPositive #LoveTarajiPHenson.

“I would like to publicly apologize to the officer and the Glendale Police Department,” she wrote. “A mother’s job is not easy and neither is a police officer’s. Sometimes as humans WE overreact without gathering all the facts. As a mother in this case, I overreacted and for that I apologize. Thank you to that officer for being kind to my son.”

In the lengthy video recording of the traffic stop, Marcell, whose last name is Johnson, is shown running a yellow light at a crosswalk where a pedestrian is attempting to cross. The officer then pulls him over.

After a series of questions from the officer, including if he’s ever been arrested, Johnson tells the officer he has marijuana in his backpack.

“I appreciate you being honest with me about the weed,” the officer says. “I do appreciate that because I do smell weed.”

Johnson complies with the officer’s request to step out of the car and wait on the sidewalk. After running checks and searching his car, the officer, who was joined by several others, issued Johnson a citation for possession of marijuana, but let him go for running the yellow light.

“I’m gonna give you a citation for the marijuana,” the officer says in the video. “Listen, I’m not gonna give you a citation for running that yellow, because that’ll actually put a moving violation on your driver’s license, and you’re gonna have to do traffic school and all that stuff. So I’m helping you out by not giving you a violation on that. All I’m gonna do is take the weed.”

Evidence is evidence, it's neither good nor bad, but a record of what actually happened.  It's by no means a panacea for controlling police brutality, any more than having police is a panacea for stopping all crime.  But police departments should be embracing cop camera and dash cams as much as the public should be demanding them for precisely that reason.

Sunday Afternoon Long Read

Today's long read comes from San Francisco Magazine, a story about how even in arguably the most liberal large city in America, there's problems with wage theft for service workers.  The good news is that these workers banded together and fought back to the tune of $4 million.

Even after Zhen Li leads a rousing chant—“Workers organize, everybody wins!”—no one else wants to step up to the microphone. Tiny and bespectacled, her hair in a jet-black bob, Li has the look of a Chinatown matron, one of those tenacious hagglers who elbows her way through the crowds on Stockton Street to purchase jade-green gai lan and silvery carp. Wearing jeans, sturdy black shoes, and a puffy striped jacket, she exhorts her fellow proletariats to join her up front and holds out the mic to a nearby woman. The woman tries to beg off, pleading, “I’m sick—my throat hurts,” but cheers draw her to her feet, and she sheepishly echoes Li’s rallying cry.

On this rainy evening in early December at the Chinese Cultural Center, Li and dozens of workers—mostly women, mostly middle-aged and older— are celebrating with greasy takeout, cake, a slideshow, and speeches. While some are clearly shy about speaking in public, they are no longer scared. They’ve already achieved the impossible: Their solidarity has won them an astonishing sum—$4 million—from a powerful employer that had systematically undercut their wages, pocketed their tips, and forced them to work under brutal conditions. And it wasn’t just any business that Li and her comrades had taken on: It was Yank Sing, San Francisco’s most lucrative and popular purveyor of dim sum, those small plates of har gow, siu mai, and other doll-size delicacies that the restaurant serves to more than 1,200 customers a day (and that’s a slow day).

The journey to restitution for Li and her coworkers began two years ago, when Li discovered that she wasn’t alone in feeling abused and underpaid. Her official work hours were 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but often, she says, her bosses forced her to stay, unpaid, an hour or two longer to prepare food and take care of her station. Unbeknownst to Li, a few coworkers had been meeting with the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA)—a scrappy and strategic advocacy group that’s been organizing low-income laborers for decades—in an effort to bring change to Yank Sing. One of her coworkers approached her, saying, “We need your help.” When Li discussed the idea with her husband, he tried to stop her from joining the nascent campaign. “What if you don’t win? What if you lose your job?” he asked. “Your employer is so wealthy, so powerful.”

Despite his resistance, Li persisted. “I was pretty scared. It was just a few of us going to meetings,” she tells me, speaking in Cantonese through a translator. “But with all the support and encouragement, I started to have more courage.” Before long, she would prove her mettle, becoming one of the insurgent group’s most stalwart leaders.

While you read Zhen Li's story, think about how the vast majority of America views organized labor in 2015: as an economic disease that must be eradicated, and that poor working conditions, low wages, and wage theft are 100% the fault of the people who choose to work these service jobs.  If you wanted a better job, a better life, you would be a good enough person to earn a better job.  The fact you're working for minimum wage in a kitchen, the argument goes, is proof you are unskilled, lazy, stupid, uneducated, and most of all, undeserving of dignity.

Organized labor upsets this natural balance of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market.  It gives these "undeserving" people hope that they matter, that they are worth something more than the wage they get per hour where in America your sole measure of worth is your paycheck.  These people, the story goes, get more than they deserve by stealing from the rest of us when they form those evil unions.  Most of all they force our most precious resource, Business Owners, to spend money on greedy union workers when they could be hiring more of us for cheaper wages instead.  Unions cost jobs, you see.

Never mind that the mythical American middle class doesn't get paid enough these days to be able to afford to buy products we make or sell, and business owners are sitting on billions in profits in cash used to prop up share prices through stock repurchase plans and trillions in offshore profits that never get taxed in the US.

Funny how businesses are making the greatest profits in American history, but somehow can't afford to pay taxes or raise wages.

Surely that's the fault of kitchen workers in San Francisco.

Sunday Right-Wing Conspiracy

Scott wrote here about Harry Reid’s announcement that he will not run for re-election, a decision which, Reid was quick to say, was not the result of his “elastic exercise band” accident. In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.

Oh it gets more hysterical.

When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.
Wait for it....

A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

Says a lot about Assrocket's "friends" doesn't it.  Then again, they don't believe in evolution or climate change or basic macroeconomics, so of course "Harry Reid was really beaten into retirement by mobsters."

Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.

What happened to Reid is not just a matter of curiosity. Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal. Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid’s face in front of them.

The deliberate blindness of Democratic Party reporters hasn’t stopped people from speculating about what really happened to Harry Reid, but so far, at least, it has prevented the story from exploding into a major scandal.

"Everyone knows" Harry Reid is "involved with mobsters" and yet nobody has reported on it especially nobody on the right.

Weird how that works. It's almost like Assrocket has no actual evidence and is full of shit as usual.
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