Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vallejo Police Officer who murdered Mario Romero has been identified

2012-09-30 "OFFICER INVOLVED IN RECENT POLICE FATALITY IDENTIFIED"press release from "Justice for Mario Romero and Joseph Johnson Movement":
Vallejo, CA –
 Officer involved in Romero death had a long history of unlawful and abusive behavior.
 On September 2, 2012, Mario Romero was approached and gunned down while sitting in his parked car in front of his home by a Vallejo Police Officer, identified by multiple witnesses as Officer Dustin B. Joseph (age 32).
 Public and Court Records indicate a series of multiple complaints that detail a history of unlawful abusive and questionable, to say the least, behavior of Officer Dustin Joseph.
 Reports detail claims, that Vallejo Officer Dustin Joseph, and another officer, physically assaulted Anthony Trapps in Kaiser Hospital Vallejo. Trapps said he was angry, that his son had been Tased multiple times during an alleged break up of a fight at Vallejo High School. Mr. Trapps felt Officer Joseph used excessive force with a disregard for the life of his minor son, in light of a recent Taser Related Death involving Vallejo Police Department.
 Trapps admitted to cursing at the officer out of frustration when Officer Joseph refused him access to his son, preventing Mr. Trapps ability to ensure the wellbeing of his hospitalized son. Trapps had no idea what would follow... when he turned around to exit the hospital, Trapps was attacked from behind, beaten, and then arrested.
 Another report states Officer Dustin Joseph deployed his pepper spray recklessly on a group of students, as well as other adults with their small children, while eating at a Jack in the Box restaurant. Officer Dustin Joseph unloaded the entire contents of his canister, an Action most people believe is reserved for extreme situations. The report describes the Restaurant having to be evacuated. Vallejo Fire Department 911 Emergency Services were summoned for immediate use of their industrial blowers to restore safety and financial Productivity .
 In another report, Officer Dustin Joseph is accused of an unlawful search and arrest of a Female Minor, where a subsequent or secondary search interestingly produced 13 Ecstasy Pills. Officer Dustin Joseph claimed the minor “told” him she planned to sell the drugs. In another similar report, a complaint of inappropriate physical contact filed at Vallejo High School on behalf of a female minor attending Vallejo High school in the 2008-2009 school year claims Officer Dustin Joseph (a male Officer) performed a physical body search on the female minor. The minor stated she asked Officer Joseph not to touch her. The minor said that the Officer immediately grabbed her arm twisted the arm turning her around placed her in handcuffs that cut into her skin, then moved his hands all over her body smiling and laughing. He then placed her in his patrol car. The minor was not charged with any crime, she dropped out of High School fearful of Officer Dustin Joseph. She stated “He is a Bully and uses his big Size and job to violate us".
The Murder of Mario Romero, a man sitting in his car in front of his home, unknown to the officers at the time of the shooting, suspected of nothing except being an American exercising his right to just exist, minding his own business, murdered by this non-upstanding Police Officer "on Steroids"... the once 300 Pound menace lost a hundred pounds and decided to practice his new agility by spraying Mario full of bullets! Then, like a homicidal Rambo, he jumped on the hood of the car and emptied the next clip like the first into Mario Romero’s windshield at close range. Officer Dustin Joseph could not see him, the officer never used the loudspeaker nor did he identify himself. He ran up to the vehicle like a common thug, Murder under Color of the Law.
Officer Joseph did not want the neighborhood to witness his ongoing premeditated abuse of power. His name was not released early for good reason... He has a lot to hide! Murder, Excessive Force, brandishing firearms on people is not a new behavior for this officer, “He was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode”.
 # # # #
We ask that anyone who has had an encounter with this monster to to please leave details in comment area. Thank you.

L.B.: Thats the same ass hole that slammed a girl on her neck 2009 at bethal what are they waiting for they clearly have proof action must be tookn into consideration this is straight bull shit... they sure did shit when that officer capoot was gun down this has everything to do with race!
D.K.: i used to get harassed daily by him at vallejo high. we called him officer d joseph. i believe he was the one that tasered this girl when i went there n 2007. she started havin seizures and had to go to the hospital. it was horrible. that man loved pickin on people that wasnt white or if u looked like u was affiliated. he tried to say i was a gang member for wearing red. but guess what. it was Friday which was spirit day. vhs colors. red. i got kicked out of school on the last day. i wasnt able to go to my graduation cuz it said i was a danger to the school and myself. omg. my mom was so mad. and they had to let me come back. i had to do a half semester cuz i failed my last two finals for not bein there. thank u officer fuck head. he tased hella people. i wanna say atleaat three cuz kids kept going to the hospital. thats what really opened my eyes to how vpd brutalizes people. he had a partner too his name officer huff. two big white assholes.
C.M.: Yes, D.K. this is true. I was passing through VALLEJO high when this took place. My god son who now R.I.P Kevin Morgan was also taken from school while attending Bethel in 2003- ? And taken to Richmond by officer huff n his police car. For what aparent reason it is still unclear to me.
B.B.: I went through the same thing the young lady did at Vallejo high he used alot/too much force wen arresting me caused me to bleed cause the cuffs were too tight, tried to brake my arm wen putting it behind my back, searched me knowing a female officer was suppose to made me sit in the car wit a big ass puff coat on windows rolled up w the heater on & the list could go on . Everybody has a damn story bout this man.. I was arrested by both D joseph & Huff.
L.H.: man i know that dirty ass cop cus i went to da high he dipped the fuck outtda me put his knee all up n a bitch neck fuk him i hope they see what type of dirty ass cop he realy is so he can b stripped of his rights as a cop n thrown n jail forever!
L.A.: Im not sure if this is the same officer but about a year ago me and two african american men were at the park on fair grounds minding our business which is legal & two vallejo police men drove threw the grass coming from fairgrounds dr going toward whitney the side of the park we were on they got out drew there guns & demanded all three of us to get face down on the ground mind u im 17 at the time the only female & we are all guilty of no crime ... they run our names & pat us down while face down in the dirt If im remembering correctly male officers are not to touch females so I remind them that I am a minor one of the officers kneels down & whispers to me "i dont give a fuck what you are" they handcuff one of the young men I was with but made no arrest after they realized they had nithing they let us go about our business .... This is harrasment & I agree that something needs to be done about the VPD they should not be getting away with this bullshit any longer
L.M.: I wasn't assaulted by d Joseph N officer huff while i attended Jesse bethel high school, I was harassed an treated daily an one day iwas caught by these same officers off campus and was beaten an arrested on false charges that where later droped. I remember Joseph laughing an sayin I told yu I'd catch yu
My name I wish to withhold...
I am the uncle of the person whose Facebook this belongs to []. I lived in Vallejo but moved out because of police encounters...I too encountered officer D. and the mother of my child in south Vallejo at the motel 6 where I was brutally beaten and my pocket knife I held in my right front pocket was pulled from my pocket and placed to my throat by officer Joseph with him threatening to cut my throat and using racial slurs...he and his partner whose name I can't remember pulled my dreadlocks and continued to kick me repeatedly in my face because I was not wanted on the property of motel 6 by the owner...I didn't have a stay away...nor did I possess any drugs or weapons except for a four inch pocket knife...he told me not to show my face in south Vallejo any more...I obeyed...I attempted to make a police report only to have my report discarded...I never persisted after that...I just left Vallejo...
A.L.: D. Joseph had a Long history of threatning My brothers life(rest in peace) hed told him repeatedly ” im going to get you. Ur Granny wont always be able to save you”. Hes partly responsible for my brothers reputation being tarnished & him being killed.
S.W.: Well shit since ur talking about it dont forget the 6 yr old child that was having a temper tantrum over crayons that he snatched out of the moms car put him in the back of his patrol car against his mothers will only for this child to have a panic attack, then placed him on a 51/50 hold take him to the hospital have the doctor give him a tranquilizer and ship him off to St. Helena mental at 6yrs old. Vallejo filed bankruptcy after the family filed a lawsuit. Oh and dont forget the civil rights violation lawsuit filed on 2/29/12, this lunatic is out of control

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012-09-20 "No charges for pepper-spraying UC cops"

 by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
UC Davis police Lt. John Pike uses pepper spray on protesters during an Occupy demonstration in November 2011. Photo: Wayne Tilcock, Associated Press

The image of UC Davis police calmly coating seated protesters with pepper spray in November was shocking to the millions who saw it on videos gone viral - but it wasn't a criminal act, the Yolo County district attorney has concluded.
At issue was whether officers broke the law on Nov. 18 by using the chemical irritant on 21 students during a protest over rising tuition.
In a 12-page report issued this week, the district attorney's office describes UC police trying to remove a group of arrested students while surrounded by protesters chanting, "Set them free!" A smaller group then linked arms and sat down across the walkway, blocking the officers' exit route.
In the videos, Lt. John Pike of the campus police is seen slowly and deliberately spraying the students, pausing to shake the can before continuing. At least one other officer, Alexander Lee, is also seen spraying.
By linking arms, the seated protesters engaged in "active" rather than "passive" resistance, according to the district attorney's report, which relied not only on the officers' accounts but on University of California-commissioned studies of the incident, on experts in the use of force, and on UC policy.
Officers may use pepper spray when they encounter active resistance, the report says.
But whether the officers used the chemical in an unlawful manner - 11 students were treated for the effects of pepper spray and two were taken to the hospital - could not be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt," says the report.
"Lt. Pike's pepper spraying of the seated protesters has been seen by and has outraged millions of viewers throughout the world," the report says, but adds that the decision about whether to prosecute considered a broader context, including the officers' belief, discredited in hindsight, that they were surrounded by a hostile mob.
There were between 200 and 250 protesters, said Mike Cabral, assistant chief deputy of the district attorney's office.
Pike and Lee, who had been on paid leave, left their jobs in July. Pike's attorneys did not return calls for comment. But Pike told the Sacramento Bee that he was relieved that he would not be charged. After the incident, Pike had been deluged with harassing phone calls, e-mails and visits to his home.
UC officials declined to comment, as did several students who were pepper-sprayed.
The 21 are in the process of settling their civil lawsuit against UC, which the regents approved Sept. 13. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the students, expects to file the settlement in federal court in Sacramento next week. The terms will then become public, said spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer.
This incident and the forceful use of batons on students by UC Berkeley police in November prompted UC officials to examine their response to protests across the 10-campus system. UC spent nearly $1 million on two studies, outside attorneys and insurance, said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman.
-- To see the video, go to:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012-09-19 "The People's Police Department: Why federal consent decrees are working in Detroit, but not in Oakland"

by Joaquin Palomino from "Eastbay Express"
In January of 2011, 38-year-old Lamar Deshea Moore walked into the Detroit Police Department's sixth precinct and opened fire. Two officers were hit in the head with shrapnel, a commander was shot in the back, and a fourth officer was shot in the chest, although a bulletproof vest saved her from serious injury. "As you can imagine, utter chaos and pandemonium took place," Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said at the time. "Through it all, our officers maintained courageous calm. ... They returned fire, they took cover, they did all the things we train them to do under pressure."
Miraculously, no cop was fatally wounded. The shooter, though, was killed in a barrage of police bullets. While the horrific details of the incident drew national attention, one aspect of it flew under the radar. Moore was the first and last person to be killed by Detroit police officers in all of 2011. As of earlier this month, only one civilian had been killed by police fire in 2012.
The low number of officer-involved slayings in Detroit represents a stark contrast to years past. Between 1990 and 1998, Detroit PD was the deadliest police force in the nation, averaging ten shooting deaths per year. Autopsies showed that many of the civilians were shot in the back, and yet the majority of the officers involved were never punished. Given such statistics, how has Detroit PD made such progress on reducing civilian casualties in recent years? 
Much of the department's success stems from a 2003 federal lawsuit that accused Detroit PD of system-wide misconduct. In order to avoid a potential federal takeover, the department agreed to two legally binding agreements known as consent decrees. The decrees systematically overhauled the department's policies to ensure accountability and "best-practices" policing.
If this sounds familiar, it's because the Oakland Police Department is under a remarkably similar consent decree that the City of Oakland signed in 2003. Both police departments also are under the oversight of the same independent court monitoring team led by Robert Warshaw, former police chief of Rochester, New York.
But in recent years, while Detroit has made significant progress in implementing the reforms required in its federal consent decrees, the Oakland Police Department has made little to none. In fact, by year's end, Detroit PD could emerge completely from federal oversight, while Oakland could become the first police department in the country to be put in federal receivership.
Detroit PD's turnaround began in earnest three years ago when Chief Godbee took the helm of the department in 2009, and instead of making excuses, used the consent decree as a roadmap for creating a new police culture. As a result, over the past two years citizen complaints have dropped 41 percent, according to a recent monitoring report by Warshaw and his team. In addition, Detroit cops now rarely draw and point their firearms while on duty and taxpayers' payouts from police misconduct cases have dropped, according to the department's oversight division.
"Chief Godbee appeals to the best in people in the department and is really giving people who will perform in the public interest an opportunity to shine," said longtime Detroit City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel. Godbee and his executive team are "change agents," she continued. "They're willing to take risks — risks that will succeed and sometimes risks that will fail. But they're willing to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go back to the table to do it again."
These "risks" come in the form of a number of innovative programs that have turned Detroit PD into a sort of People's Police Department. Detroit PD, for example, now has public accountability meetings in which police command staff must justify their actions and results to city residents. The department also supports a highly productive Civil Rights Integrity Bureau that conducts routine audits and investigations of police accountability. There's also a project that encourages police officers to buy homes in the inner city.
According to interviews and public documents, the department's innovative programs, paired with Godbee's strong leadership, have fundamentally changed Detroit PD. And for many in the community, the transformation was long overdue.
For one week in the summer of 1967, tens of thousands of Detroit residents looted and pillaged. Forty-three people died, 7,200 were arrested, and 2,000 buildings were burned to the ground. Many cite racially exclusionary housing policies and employment discrimination as the root causes of the violence, but Cockrel said the riots were a reflection of stewing tension between police and black residents. "It was all about police violence, police misconduct," she said, "the way police operated in the city in relationship to African-American people."   The 1967 riots set in motion demands for the Detroit Police Department to improve its practices — in particular, to have the city's police force better reflect the growing number of African-American residents. By 1973, this demand was answered. Detroit elected its first black Mayor, Coleman Young (since then, every mayor of Detroit has been African American), and one of Young's campaign pledges was to integrate the city's largely white police department and curb corruption on the force.
By the 1990s, part of his vision had become reality; a majority of officers in Detroit PD were African-American. However, integrating the police force did little to improve police-community relations. "The city was majority African-American, the police department was majority African-American, and the police officer whose particular behavior sparked public outrage was an African-American officer who shot and killed three other black men in a very short window of time — all under the color of law," Cockrel said.
That officer's name was Eugene Brown. Between 1991 and 2003, he cost the City of Detroit $7.5 million in lawsuits. Most of that money stemmed from nine shootings he was involved in, three of which were fatal. Despite his frequent use of lethal force, Brown was cleared of wrongdoing by internal police investigations in all instances.
David Robinson, a former Detroit cop who's now an attorney, said the department's protection of Brown was not out of the ordinary. "The average investigator would never throw an officer to the wolves unless there was some impartial evidence," he said. "Police investigators have always seen things through blue spectacles."
By 2000, community frustration with police had boiled over again. Police watchdog groups formed, activists staged strikes, and there was strong pressure to remove then-Police Chief Benny Napoleon, who regularly defended the department's "shoot to kill" policy.
Eventually, the US Department of Justice conducted what's known as a "pattern or practice" investigation of Detroit police. The DOJ found Detroit PD to be in violation of numerous laws. Most shocking was the state of the city's holding cells.
Between 1990 and 2000, numerous inmates died of drug withdrawals, heart attacks, diabetic comas, and myriad other health issues. In many instances, inmate bodies were found in a full state of rigor mortis — meaning they had been dead for at least four to six hours before being discovered. "For years and years," Robinson said, "Detroit's lock-up was tantamount to a torture chamber."
The sheer ineptitude of Detroit PD forced the Department of Justice to write two separate federal consent decrees. These legal agreements, signed by the City of Detroit, deal with police use-of-force issues and address the deadly conditions in the city's holding cells. Much like Oakland, federal monitors and a federal judge oversee Detroit PD's progress in implementing the reforms. The decrees themselves promised to make "a significant impact on the way business is conducted."
But it would be a long time before tangible impacts emerged.
When Detroit signed its two federal consent decrees in 2004, the city was led by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The city had a projected $389 million budget shortfall over three years, and Kilpatrick promised to "lead Detroit out of the desert."
But while many saw hope in his leadership, Kilpatrick turned out to be a far cry from the city's savior. Only one year into his term, Time magazine named him one of the three worst mayors in the nation.
In 2008, Kilpatrick was charged with numerous felonies for assaulting and obstructing a police officer and lying under oath about an affair he had with Sheryl Robinson Wood, who was the then-head monitor overseeing Detroit PD's reforms. After pleading guilty to perjury, Kilpatrick was forced to resign. In 2010, he was also indicted on 31 counts of criminal racketeering. It was revealed that he and two top aides had run a crime ring built on bribery, extortion, and fraud.
During Kilpatrick's corrupt and incompetent tenure as mayor, Detroit PD made dismal progress on the consent decrees — even worse than Oakland. By 2010 — seven years and one extension into the process — Detroit had only completed 29 percent of the tasks outlined in the decrees.
The police force also continued to cost the city. Lawsuit payouts stemming from police misconduct between July 2006 and June 2009 totaled $19.1 million.
However, after Kilpatrick's resignation, things took an unexpected turn. In 2009, Detroit PD was put under the guidance of a new monitoring team, Police Performance Solutions, with Warshaw as the primary overseer.
Along with new federal monitors came an entirely new administration. NBA Hall of Famer Dave Bing was elected mayor and Godbee became police chief. Godbee immediately brought a fresh outlook on crime and policing in the Motor City, refusing to bow down to pressures to "get tough on crime." Instead, he's focused much of his energy on building a new type of police culture and fully embraced the consent-decree reforms.
Detroit PD, as a result, has made enormous progress. Today, the department is 85 percent compliant — an increase of 56 percentage points in just two and a half years. The department is also expected to emerge from the federal oversight process before the end of this year. 
In an April 2012 report, Warshaw attributed Detroit PD's rapid improvement to Godbee's success in not only recording technical compliance with the reforms, but "understanding the substantive meaning behind those requirements and by embracing the opportunities they present for improving the quality of policing in Detroit."
Godbee, in essence, viewed the consent decrees not as a hindrance or a big list of things to do, but as an opportunity to create a more effective police department — one that was much more responsive to the community and thus was better at fighting crime.
From 1995 to 2000, Oakland averaged just under 7,000 violent crimes a year, making it one of the most dangerous cities in the country — although not as dangerous as Detroit. When he took office in 1999, then-Mayor Jerry Brown promised to reduce violent crime by 20 percent.  Shortly thereafter, Brown named Richard Word, an inexperienced police captain, to be the department's police chief. Some longtime police observers in Oakland say that Brown and then-City Manager Robert Bobb instructed Word to take an aggressive, no-holds barred approach to crime, which came as a relief to many residents who felt besieged by violence.
"The community was desperate and they really wanted a police department to do something," said civil rights attorney Jim Chanin. The OPD adopted what some viewed as a "by-any-means-necessary" approach to policing. "And this behavior took care of crime, so people just let it go down," Chanin said.
It was in this atmosphere that four OPD narcotics officers — Francisco Vasquez, Jude Siapno, Matthew Hornung, and Clarence Mabanag — thrived. They called themselves "The Riders."
These rogue officers were notorious for beating and framing countless drug suspects in West Oakland. By 2000, 129 people had accused The Riders of crimes that included assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. In total, these people had served forty years behind bars for crimes they likely had never committed.
As the criminal charges against The Riders mushroomed, other civil rights lawsuits emerged, and at least twenty other officers were implicated in similar abuses. Civil rights attorney John Burris, who co-represented with Chanin the people victimized by "The Riders," said it became clear that the situation wasn't the product of a few bad apples. "There was a culture of brutality, a culture of lawlessness that existed," Burris said. "But most troubling was an unwillingness within the department to hold officers accountable for their conduct." 
In 2003, in an effort to avoid crippling taxpayer payouts, the City of Oakland agreed to a federal consent decree, also known as the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). Written as a 5-year, 51-point plan, the decree aimed to make the department more accountable.
And today, OPD has partially met that goal. Deputy Chief Sean Whent, who has worked on the force for sixteen years, including stints in the department's internal affairs division, said that the changes the department has made as a result of the consent decrees have enabled it to be more responsible and forward-thinking. "Every complaint is investigated now, whereas in the past some were just filed," he said. "We also do much better investigations of uses of force, even low-level uses of force. We report out and track the statistics on that a lot more." Substantial improvements have also been made to internal affairs and how complaints are handled.
But despite these positive changes, OPD remains a hotbed of misconduct. Over the past decade the department accrued an astonishing number of complaints and misconduct payouts, totaling roughly $60 million since 2003. This is evidence that while OPD has changed its policies, it hasn't fully changed its practices.
A big reason for this discrepancy has been an often-hostile attitude toward the decree — not just from rank-and-file officers, but also from the department's top brass. In short, there has been no Ralph Godbee in Oakland. This lack of a strong and consistent leader is key to understanding why the department has had such a tumultuous decade under the consent decree.
When the decree was signed in 2003, Richard Word was chief, and for two years "there was virtually no movement at all on the reforms," noted Rashidah Grinage, director of PUEBLO, a police watchdog group. "He was very popular among the rank-and-file, but he didn't get anything done on the NSA." 
This indifference traveled down the chain of command, and in their fourth report in 2004, federal monitors observed: "Commanders [had] an open disdain of Settlement Agreement training ... which [was] undermining reform efforts."
In 2005, federal Judge Thelton Henderson, who oversees the department's progress, took notice, saying that he had "never seen anything like this in 25 years [as a judge.] This is contemptuous. I'm so angry at the slap in the face, the ignoring of this decree."
The same year that Henderson issued his condemnation, Mayor Brown replaced Chief Word with Wayne Tucker. A veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, Tucker made reforming the department his priority. Two years later, in their eighth quarterly report, the court monitors commended Tucker for giving the department the "momentum" to "achieve significant compliance with the agreement."
By 2009, OPD had successfully implemented a number of system-wide reforms. Each officer was assigned a clearly defined, single supervisor. Early identification and intervention systems were set up to catch problem officers, misconduct investigations became more thorough and timely, and use-of-force investigations improved. These improvements set the foundation for "a strong culture of effective, responsive, and accountable policing," federal monitors stated.
If Tucker had remained chief, the Oakland Police Department may very well be in full compliance with the NSA today. But in 2009 he retired, after a public feud with the city council — which was on the verge of approving a no-confidence vote in him as crime worsened in the city. Tucker responded by contending that the council had only paid lip service to the reforms and public safety.
Then-Mayor Ron Dellums hired Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts to replace Tucker. Batts often talked publicly of the importance of implementing the NSA reforms, but, in reality, showed little to no interest in actually doing so. "When he first became chief he told me that for too long, the consent decree has been more important than fighting crime," Chanin said. "And he came in and said: 'I'm going to reverse that.'"
In the two years that followed, the federal court monitors expressed "serious concern" with the department's progress, saying that change had been "marginal" under Batts' command. Judge Henderson began threatening receivership, meaning that if the OPD didn't make reforms quickly, the department would be taken over by the federal government. The court monitors also expressed alarm about the number of times police officers were drawing and pointing their firearms — not only at suspects, but also at witnesses and innocent bystanders. Then, just days after the release of another monitor's report strongly criticizing his command, Batts abruptly quit.
Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana appointed Assistant Chief Howard Jordan to take over the department, and he immediately promised to make the NSA a top priority. In an interview earlier this summer, Jordan told me: "We take the judge's orders and everything having to do with the settlement agreement very seriously."
The federal monitors, civil rights attorneys, community activists, and police representatives also have all expressed hope in Jordan's ability to turnaround the department. Yet under his leadership, progress on the decree has stagnated. Jordan also oversaw OPD's heavy-handed response to Occupy Oakland protests. Henderson has criticized the department for its reluctance to punish officers involved in fatal shootings. And a recent audit revealed that the department has squandered millions of dollars on faulty technology.
Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland police union, said the focus shouldn't be on the department's difficulty complying with the NSA, but on its financial constraints. Despite an increase in crime, the size of the police force shrank from 837 officers in 2009 to about 650 today. "Officers are struggling to just keep up with the calls for services," he said. "Many of them would like to take individual interests in portions of their beat but they find themselves rushing from call to call."
It's not uncommon for police representatives and others to cite external factors for the difficulties in complying with consent decrees, including uncooperative politicians, overzealous plaintiffs' attorneys, rampant crime, and massive cuts to the force.
However, a look at Detroit shows that these factors do not have to block police reforms.
Since the 1960s, the decline of Detroit's auto industry has substantially eroded the city's tax base. Counting bonds and pension obligations, Detroit's total debt stood at about $20 billion at the start of 2012. The State of Michigan has proposed placing the entire city under state control in order to better manage the books.
This grim economic situation has depleted the Detroit PD's resources in a number of ways. In 2005, half of the city's police precincts were closed for budgetary reasons. A few years later, the crime lab shut its doors due to poor management. The department also has experienced massive layoffs: Between 2001 and 2011, 1,400 Detroit police positions were eliminated, and the projected city budget for 2012-13 shows an additional 18 percent reduction in the force — or the elimination of 300 more positions.
In an effort to save $100 million a year to avoid state receivership, Mayor Bing also has proposed cutting cops' salaries by 10 percent. If that happens, Detroit police officers would become the 48th worst-paid cops among 50 major American cities (with Oakland being the third highest-paying department on that list, according to data compiled by the Detroit police union). And for this dismal pay, Detroit cops work under incredibly difficult circumstances: The city consistently ranks in the top three most dangerous places in the country — worse than Oakland. Because of all this, Detroit police officers contend that they have arguably the most difficult working conditions of any police force in the country.
With a shell of a police department remaining, Godbee decided to pursue new avenues for crime fighting. "With [this] backdrop, for us to continue to try to do police work the same way, under the same methodology, with fewer resources is simply ludicrous," Godbee said in an April interview with the Michigan Daily (Godbee declined requests for interview for this story).
Godbee and Mayor Bing's policing strategy rests largely on improving community-police relations and accountability through a number of projects and programs — all of which are absent or seriously underutilized in Oakland.
In 1999, a law that required Detroit police officers to live within the city limits was lifted. What followed was a mass exodus to the suburbs, with roughly 50 percent of officers leaving over the past decade.
In 2011, Mayor Bing addressed the issue through Project 14. Named after police code 14 — signifying a return to normal operations — this program encourages Detroit police officers to purchase homes within the city through a number of federal subsidies and grants. "Project 14 is one approach that my administration is deploying to take two challenges facing Detroit, public safety and vacant homes, and turn them into an opportunity for neighborhood revitalization," Bing stated in a 2011 press release.
Today, 29 police officers either have moved, or are in the process of moving to the city. Two hundred others have expressed interest in the program, according to the mayor's office. In Oakland, about 90 percent of police officers live outside the city (see "The High Costs of Outsourcing Police," 8/8). 
Another groundbreaking step made by the Detroit PD has been the creation of the command accountability meetings. These meetings are conducted internally twice a month, and publicly every quarter. In them the department brass, along with a number of officers, discuss matters pertaining to the consent decree. "We notify the command officers that we have a problem, a global problem, department-wide problem with this particular issue, but then we drill down to the actual officer who is causing the violation at the same time," explained one commander at a 2011 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners hearing.
These meetings increase transparency and make officer misconduct public. Eric Lambert, professor of criminal justice at Wayne State University, told me that they have been a game-changer for community-police relations. "They are showing [officers] how and why these reforms work, that they are actually improving their image in the community," Lambert said, "which then improves their ability to interact with civilians. And everyone knows that the best crime control is when citizens are involved and they become the ears and eyes of the police department."
Another cornerstone of Detroit PD's recent success is its Civil Rights Integrity Bureau (CRIB), an internal unit of the Detroit PD in charge of auditing and investigating the department's practices. CRIB is required to conduct 26 audits a year. However, in an effort to give individual commands more specific information, CRIB conducts far more than that. In 2011, it carried out a total of 135 audits and did roughly sixty inspections.
Commander Jeff Romeo, who heads the division, told me this diligent oversight is central to the department's rapid improvement. "You can't just put out a policy and expect people to follow it," he said. "Some people will and some people won't. You need to inspect it, audit it, and wake people up to the new procedures in place. Let them know that this is how we do business now."
The Oakland Police Department has a similar unit, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), but it has been much less active than CRIB. In 2010, OIG conducted seven audits and investigations; in 2011, it did twelve; and so far this year, it's done five, according to Steven Tull, who heads the division. Tull said he hopes to do more than the bare minimum in the future.
How exactly that will be done, however, is unclear. Mayor Quan is looking into civilianizing the inspector general's office, although it's uncertain whether the department will have the necessary funding to do so.
Detroit PD also has a fully functioning computerized system for tracking police officer conduct — the Management Awareness System (MAS). MAS issues a red flag when an officer accumulates three or more complaints in six months. It is then policy for the officer's supervisor to set up a meeting, and, if necessary, intervene.
This system has become an integral part at ensuring that officers are held accountable for their actions. "Now we know the officers that may be involved in behaviors that put the city more at risk," said Godbee in an April interview with the Michigan Citizen. "And there are intervention strategies that have to be documented to show what we did to address the officer's behavior."
Oakland has a similar tracking system, the Internal Personnel Assessment System (I-PAS), which was born out of the NSA. However, I-PAS has been either nonfunctional or partially functional for years. Only in the latest monitor's report in July was I-PAS deemed up to speed, although serious technical problems remain (the department has circumvented these problems temporarily by requiring arrest data to be entered by hand into the system). OPD hopes to have the system fully functional in the next few months, but the monitors have expressed doubts that it will be used to its full potential.
Detroit PD's efforts to ensure accountability also have led to clear results. (When looking at all of the numbers below, bear in mind that Detroit's population is more than twice as large as Oakland's, and the city has roughly four times as many police officers. It has more officers because it pays each one a much lower salary on average than Oakland does.)
In Detroit, citizen complaints are down 41 percent from two years ago, and in all of 2011, the department counted just over 500 complaints. Meanwhile, OPD's internal affairs department classified 1,039 misconduct complaints related to Occupy Oakland alone.
In Detroit, use of force reports are also down. In 2010, the department recorded 1,479 uses of force. Over the past six months that number has fallen to 635, suggesting a considerable annual decline this year. In Oakland, these figures are on the rise. In the last three months alone there were 1,116 documented use-of-force incidents (which is equal to the projected number for all of 2012 in Detroit). That's an increase of 8 percent from the previous quarter.
In Detroit, officers are also much more hesitant to draw and point their firearms. In 2011, there were 261 such instances. During the same year, OPD counted 3,623 incidents of officers pointing their firearms (roughly ten a day). So far this year, OPD officers have continued to draw and point their guns at alarming rates, counting 925 incidents in the first three months alone.
At first glance, there appears to be one outlier to the statistics above. While Oakland PD has reported only nine officer-involved shootings since 2011, Detroit reported 29 cases last year alone. However, this data also suggests that Detroit cops use their weapons much more discriminately than Oakland's — and that they don't shoot to kill.
In sum, Detroit PD may not be a perfect department, but there's no doubt that residents are benefitting from the reforms made in recent years. Meanwhile, OPD's struggles have exacted a huge financial and social toll on the city.
"Our resources have been frittered away — $58 million in lawsuits, millions and millions in monitors and consultants fees, not to mention the $8 million in overtime," noted Grinage of PUEBLO. "I mean, it's a miracle that there is any money left in this city for anything else, and the question is: What are we getting in return? We are not safer, we are not a better police department, we are still not compliant, we still have police shootings, we still have officers drawing their weapons at an alarming rate, so where is the gain from all of this? What could Oakland have done with all of that money? How many jobs could have been created, how many schools could have been repaired, how many mentors could we have had for kids? When you think about the resources that have been wasted, it is outrageous."
OPD's future is precarious. The seemingly most plausible outcome is federal receivership, meaning that the US government would step in and take control of the department. No other police force has been federalized, so it's uncertain exactly what this would look like, but most agree that it could cost the city a lot of money. Earlier this year, Jim Chanin told me that the idea of incurring more debt for Oakland was the only thing preventing him from requesting federal receivership.
Lord knows they deserve it," he said of the police department. "But what libraries are going to close? What recreation centers are going to close — because of the money for the receiver? It's just a matter of balancing the equities and trying to figure out what the right thing to do is."
When I spoke to Chanin again this summer, he had decided to write a motion in support of a federal takeover. In his view, the department can't be trusted to reform itself. It's an ineptitude that continues to baffle Chanin and many Oakland residents.
"We are not asking for much," he said. "We are not asking for these police to like everyone in Oakland, we're just asking them to follow the United States Constitution and treat people equally. When they go home to their families they can say anything they want. Hopefully, we can get officers who actually go home to Oakland and say, 'What a great city this is.' Because it is."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vallejo's Human Rights abuse has lead to "Our own Civil War"

2012-09-17 "Our own Civil War" by James D. Davis
Note: All opinions expressed in the "Primal Scream" column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.
This is the first town I’ve lived in where there is a civil war between a part of the community and the police. 
A part of the community thinks it is disrespected, mistreated, and murdered by the police. 
The police think they are disrespected, mistreated, and murdered by this part of the community (these are people with dark-colored skin, whether you call them negro, colored, black, African-American or something else, I leave to you; the only thing they have in common is that they are dark).
This community is not able to visit a dying son in the hospital, without great disturbance; or attend meetings to discuss the death of the son, without great disturbance. 
They come as a gang of relatives and interested onlookers, not singly or as a small group of grieving family members; they shout and scream, rudely disrupting city officials, calling their relative’s death at the hands of officers “murder.” 
They don’t set the stage for useful discussion. 
They fairly beg to be ignored.
The police, on the other hand, slough off accountability. 
The mother could not see the body. The chief told her it was out of his hands. 
Whether she can see the body is the business of the coroner, not the chief. 
And the coroner? 
He’s unavailable. 
The police have not explained why officers thought it necessary to fire more than thirty times at a young man with a replica gun. 
What was so scary for the police about this encounter?
The police have not taken the statement of the mother. 
She’s welcome to come down to the station any time. 
The police have not met with the mother. 
(It’s not likely she has any useful information, but it might make her feel better to talk about it (or shout, if she chooses).
I’ve encountered this lack of government responsibility throughout my years in Vallejo. 
I was told plainly by a council member that whether or not the chief busts marijuana dispensaries, wasting police resources, is none of the member’s business; it is out of the member’s hands. 
When I tried to investigate the officer-killing of another man (Guy Jarreau, Jr.), a few years ago, I was told the police and DA were doing an investigation. 
They weren’t sure when it would be done; I was not going to be given a copy of the report anyway. 
No one was going to be given a copy. 
It was police business.
I don’t blame the complaining community.  
They are overcome with emotion, resentment, and victimhood. 
They generally lack the sophistication and maturity to deal with the government. 
I blame the police department and an incompetent council and city manager. 
They should have been on top of this; that is why we have a government. 
They are supposed to be the adults in the room, but they are helpless.
This civil war has to stop. 
It feeds on itself. 
There are ways to stop it. 
This should be at the top of the agenda for the newly created Public Safety Committee. 
Our city-manager form of government is not working. 
The council has no jurisdiction over anyone. 
The mayor stays out of it (he “prays”). 
And the city manager? 
He leaves it up to the police. 
No one is in charge.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012-09-14 "Vallejo police fire shot at end of high-speed chase; Two arrested after Vallejo to Pleasant Hill pursuit"

 by "Vallejo Times-Herald Staff" and "Bay City News Service"
PLEASANT HILL - A high-speed chase from Vallejo to Pleasant Hill ended Thursday night in front of an elementary school where Vallejo police fired at a suspect, according to reports.
Two men, who were apparently wanted on weapons and drug charges were arrested.
The chase began about 7:45 p.m. at Lincoln Road East and Magazine Street when officers attempted to pull over a truck containing two men that detectives identified as part of an investigation, Sgt. Kelly Schroeder said.
During the pursuit, speeds in excess of 100 mph were reached as drivers flew over the Benicia Martinez Bridge and on and off I-680.
Vallejo Police Lt. Joel Salinas said a local law enforcement task force asked officers to track down and detain the suspects, an action which apparently triggered the chase.
The driver sped off, Schroeder said, and pulled onto Interstate 780. The suspects may have discarded evidence later found to be drugs along I-780 and also along surface streets in Concord when the vehicle briefly left the freeway there, Schroeder said.
Police continued pursuing the suspects after the vehicle got back onto I-680 and exited again at Monument Boulevard.
The driver then turned onto Lisa Lane, which dead-ends at a roundabout in front of Pleasant Hill's Fair Oaks Elementary School. There, the chase ended about 8:20 p.m. when the suspects crashed into protective poles.
The driver fled and made a gesture that caused police to think he had a gun, so an officer fired one shot that did not hit the suspect, Schroeder said.
Contra Costa County police officials, reportedly helping with the pursuit, took two suspects into custody at gunpoint.
Suspect names, ages and cities of residence weren't immediately available.
Police had not discovered a gun as of around 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Militerized occupation of Bayview/Hunter's Point

2012-09-12 photograph by a communitarian showing propaganda in place at Bayview/Hunter's Point, on Broadway & Sansome: "Blatant militarization of the police and occupation & colonization of the black community of Bayview!"

Saturday, September 8, 2012


"How DC police use citizens as spies: Al Jazeera investigates shadowy surveillance technology revealed in correspondence between law enforcement and TrapWire"
2013-12-17 by Jason Leopold for "Al Jazeera" []:
Read the entire set of more than 2,000 pages from the Metropolitan Police Department: Part 1 [] | Part 2 [].
Of the dozens of private intelligence corporations that have emerged in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, one firm has been singled out for particular scrutiny: TrapWire [].
The Virginia-based spy outfit founded by several former CIA employees a decade ago developed, it says, surveillance software that can root out terrorist attacks while they are in the planning stage.
The company, formerly known as Abraxas Corp., markets its technology to local law enforcement, federal agencies and private corporations. TrapWire has been installed in 65 locations around the United States, according to the company’s website, including Washington, D.C., where it is being used by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
But TrapWire has become a lightning rod for civil libertarian groups and other critics who see its technology — and law enforcement’s hunger for it — as a symptom of a creeping surveillance state in the age of the so-called war on terrorism. That feeling has only been strengthened in the wake of the leaks by Edward Snowden, the former contractor with the National Security Agency who revealed details of mass data trawling by U.S. spy agencies and those of other countries.
Now Al Jazeera has obtained more than 2,000 pages of documents from the MPD in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the department that casts a rare spotlight into how TrapWire’s technology has been used by law enforcement (read the original contract []) and the sorts of activities that are being picked up by the system.
The revelations are likely to reinforce many critics’ concerns that it represents an encroachment on civil liberties. Though most of the documents simply show a log of reports about possibly suspicious activities — like “probing” — some emails in the haul of MPD documents give details on which pieces of information were deemed worthy of follow-up.
In Washington, TrapWire processes so-called suspicious activity reports filed by members of the community and adds them to its massive national counterterrorism database, attempting to identify threat patterns. However, some observers say much of the behavior can be explained as ordinary members of the public — or tourists with cameras — simply going about their business in a busy major city.

Insulting ‘our intelligence’ -
In one D.C. case, a TrapWire report dubbed “slightly suspicious” and processed from a member of the community contained information about a 56- to 60-year-old male taking photographs with his cellphone camera. Another report submitted read, “Both my girlfriend’s and I’s phone received a weird call.”
“These programs are not only wasteful and harmful, they are insulting to our intelligence,” said Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, who reviewed the MPD’s TrapWire documents obtained by Al Jazeera.
“Americans aren’t stupid. If we see someone with a gun or a knife, we will call the police,” Crockford said. “The notion that we should report to the police people taking photographs and notes or ‘acting suspicious’ runs contrary to every democratic value this nation claims to defend.
“It’s a waste of public resources, and it promotes a culture of fear, which is corrosive to democracy and an open society.”
There also seemed, in some reports, to be an element of racial profiling (read the original documents []). For example, on Sept. 8, 2011, TrapWire processed a report that read, “Mrs. (redacted), a concerned citizen reports that a Middle Eastern male was walking back and forth on the train looking out the doors and checking his watch. He exited at Arlington Metro station (blue line). That male was described as 5'4", med 20s, 170 lbs, medium complexion last seen wearing a blue long sleeve shirt, black pants and glasses carrying a olive back pack with black stripes.”
On Sept. 9, 2011, a “moderately suspicious” report (read the original documents []) that also led to further investigation was submitted in which a citizen described “two males who appear to be of Arab decent on the tressel bridge near New York and Florida Avenue and near the train tracks taking photographs in the direction of the capital.”
A citizen reported on Sept. 8, 2011, that a taxi driver at Union Station was “wearing a white (Middle Eastern-style gown) which was unusual for this type of weather” and his “demeanor seem to be unusual.”
TrapWire says it uses complicated mathematical algorithms that allow digital surveillance systems to detect suspicious patterns of behavior, possibly linking multiple reports to identify serious threats. But some critics have questioned its effectiveness. TrapWire detected only one threat pattern in the thousands of pages of suspicious-activity reports from 2011 to 2013 obtained by Al Jazeera. A person was taking pictures at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and two people separately reported the incident as suspicious.
Michael Price, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program who reviewed the same MPD TrapWire documents, agrees that the system may not be effective.
“The concerning part to me is the suspicious-activity reporting itself,” he said. “There is a lot of useless, innocuous information in these suspicious-activity reports that has little to do with terrorism. The idea that this is all being done through a private company that analyzes and keeps copies of this data and doing God knows what with it is troubling. Distributing personally identifiable information to a private company is something that is usually forbidden. This raises all sorts of civil-liberties, First Amendment and legal concerns.”
Price noted that Washington is a tourist destination and people naturally will photograph landmarks and talk about how the government works. But now acting like a tourist could be considered suspicious behavior and could land someone in a terrorism database. But it is not just behavior in public that can bring people to the attention of TrapWire and D.C. police.
One video gamer ended up in TrapWire (original documents posted after this article) and the FBI’s terrorism database after apparent threats he made while he was playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” that a member of the community reported.
In one email — dated last January and obtained by Al Jazeera — Sgt. James Black of the MPD’s Homeland Security Bureau described how five “large members” of the department’s Robbery Intervention Program (RIP) and “(his) own online game expert” showed up at the home of a gamer whose name is redacted in the documents. The gamer had apparently been reported by a member of the public after making some sort of threat while playing on his computer.
The gamer “was shaking, sweating, and looking like a deer in headlights the whole time we had our interview,” Black wrote in a Jan. 18, 2013, email shared with FBI agents.
He described the family of the man as “devoutly, overtly Christian” and went on to detail the impact of the visit.
“When I explained why we were here and about the threats, his mother and sister nearly swooned and he was shaking pretty badly,” he wrote.
The nature of the alleged threats made by the gamer was redacted from Black’s summary of the incident. In his email Black eventually said the individual posed “ZERO” threat. However, Washington police personnel were instructed to add Black’s report to TrapWire.
Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said the department continues to use TrapWire’s technology. But at one point, it seemed the department was ready to give up on TrapWire because of its poor analytic capabilities, which one department official described in an April 4, 2012, email obtained by Al Jazeera as “pretty bad.”
However, Crump did not provide responses to specific questions about racial profiling.
TrapWire did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment about the information in the suspicious-activity reports it has collected.

Nerd Rage Incident -
Below, read the Jan. 28, 2013, email, written by Sgt. James Black of the MPD's Homeland Security Bureau and shared with FBI agents, detailing how a video gamer ended up in the TrapWire and the FBI terrorism database because of apparent threats he made while playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.” Black concluded that the gamer did not pose a threat, but he was still added to the terrorism database.

"FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America"
2012-09-08 []:
Birthmarks, be damned: the FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document ( that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America .
“The NGI Program is a compilation of initiatives that will either improve or expand existing biometric identification services,” its administrator explained to the Department of Justice at the time, adding that  the project, “will accommodate increased information processing and sharing demands in support of anti-terrorism.”
“The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.”
The agency insists, “As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners.” In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids' stuff.
According to their 2006 report, the NGI program utilizes “specialized requirements in the Latent Services, Facial Recognition and Multi-modal Biometrics areas” that “will allow the FnewBI to establish a terrorist fingerprint identification system that is compatible with other systems; increase the accessibility and number of the IAFIS terrorist fingerprint records; and provide latent palm print search capabilities.”
Is that just all, though? During a 2010 presentation ( made by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Intelligence, the agency identified why facial recognition technology needs to be embraced. Specifically, the FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” meaning NGI is more than just a database of mug shots mixed up with fingerprints — the FBI has admitted that this their intent with the technology surpasses just searching for criminals but includes spectacular surveillance capabilities. Together, it’s a system unheard of outside of science fiction.
New Scientist reports that a 2010 study found technology used by NGI to be accurate in picking out suspects from a pool of 1.6 million mug shots 92 percent of the time. The system was tested on a trial basis in the state of Michigan earlier this year, and has already been cleared for pilot runs in Washington, Florida and North Carolina. Now according to this week’s New Scientist report, the full rollout of the program has begun and the FBI expects its intelligence infrastructure to be in place across the United States by 2014.
In 2008, the FBI announced that it awarded Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions, one of the Defense Department’s most favored contractors, with the authorization to design, develop, test and deploy the NGI System. Thomas E. Bush III, the former FBI agent who helped develop the NGI's system requirements, tells, "The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics." With those items being collected without much oversight being admitted, though, putting the personal facts pertaining to millions of Americans into the hands of some playful Pentagon staffers only begins to open up civil liberties issues.
Jim Harper, director of information policy at the Cato Institute, adds to NextGov that investigators pair facial recognition technology with publically available social networks in order to build bigger profiles. Facial recognition "is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots," he says. When these files are then fed to law enforcement agencies on local, federal and international levels, intelligence databases that include everything from close-ups of eyeballs and irises to online interests could be shared among offices.
The FBI expects the NGI system to include as many as 14 million photographs by the time the project is in full swing in only two years, but the pace of technology and the new connections constantly created by law enforcement agencies could allow for a database that dwarfs that estimate. As RT reported earlier this week [], the city of Los Angeles now considers photography in public space “suspicious,” and authorizes LAPD officers to file reports if they have reason to believe a suspect is up to no good. Those reports, which may not necessarily involve any arrests, crimes, charges or even interviews with the suspect, can then be filed, analyzed, stored and shared with federal and local agencies connected across the country to massive data fusion centers. Similarly, live video transmissions from thousands of surveillance cameras across the country are believed to be sent to the same fusion centers as part of TrapWire, a global eye-in-the-sky endeavor that RT first exposed earlier this year.
“Facial recognition creates acute privacy concerns that fingerprints do not,” US Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law earlier this year. “Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online.”
In his own testimony, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Alessandro Acquisti said to Sen. Franken, “the convergence of face recognition, online social networks and data mining has made it possible to use publicly available data and inexpensive technologies to produce sensitive inferences merely starting from an anonymous face.”
“Face recognition, like other information technologies, can be source of both benefits and costs to society and its individual members,” Prof. Acquisti added. “However, the combination of face recognition, social networks data and data mining can significant undermine our current notions and expectations of privacy and anonymity.”
With the latest report suggesting the NGI program is now a reality in America, though, it might be too late to try and keep the FBI from interfering with seemingly every aspect of life in the US, both private and public. As of July 18, 2012, the FBI reports, “The NGI program … is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed.”

"TrapWire: The Surveillance State Continues; Documents released by Wikileaks show use of surveillance system in release of emails from Stratfor"
2012-08-14 from "Common Dreams" []:
Documents released by Wikileaks last week showing the use of a surveillance system TrapWire from a company started by ex-CIA agents underscores the ubiquity of surveillance systems in use in the post-9/11 state.
As Scott Shane explains in the New York Times, [] "TrapWire is discussed in dozens of e-mails from Stratfor Global Intelligence, a private security firm in Austin, Tex., that were posted online last week by WikiLeaks. The e-mails were part of a large cache captured late last year and early this year by hackers associated with the loose-knit international collective called Anonymous, which gave the e-mails to WikiLeaks."
Yet unlike the National Security Agency's (NSA's) "pernicious, persistent and permanent" database collected from domestic spying [], details of "TrapWireTM: Pre-Attack Terrorist Detection System for Protecting Critical Infrastructure" have been publicly available since 2005, the ACLU points out (pdf []). This software uses data gleaned from CCTV cameras, license plate readers and open source databases, which the company says it provides to its partners in private and public security and the military.
On its own website, the company describes its system []: "TrapWire is a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns indicative of terrorist attacks or criminal operations. Utilizing a proprietary, rules-based engine, TrapWire detects, analyzes and alerts on suspicious events as they are collected over periods of time and across multiple locations. Through the systematic capture of these pre-attack indicators, terrorist or criminal surveillance and pre-attack planning operations can be identified -- and appropriate law enforcement counter measures employed ahead of the attack. As such, our clients are provided with the ability to prevent the terrorist or criminal event, rather than simply mitigate damage or loss of life. "
The ACLU's Privacy SOS blog notes that while some of the claims about TrapWire's surveillance abilities have been overstated in some media reports, there is cause for concern []:
[begin excerpt]
The Wikileaked Stratfor emails that revealed the existence of this shadowy surveillance network to the world contain at least 189 references to Trapwire. They reveal much more about what the program is used for than does the Trapwire public website.
Among the most disturbing emails in the Wikileaks GIF files is this one, written by a Stratfor analyst to the head of the firm. It gives us a troubling taste of how these private security companies view their role as intermediary between the government and the people: "Regarding SF landmarks of interest--they need something like Trapwire more for threats from activists than from terror threats. Both are useful, but the activists are ever present around here."

"WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network"
2012-08-10 by David Seaman [] []:
The U.S. cable networks won't be covering this one tonight (not accurately, anyway), but Trapwire is making the rounds on social media today—it reportedly became a Trending hashtag on Twitter earlier in the day.
Trapwire is the name of a program revealed in the latest Wikileaks bonanza—it is the mother of all leaks, by the way. Trapwire would make something like disclosure of UFO contact or imminent failure of a major U.S. bank fairly boring news by comparison.
And someone out there seems to be quite disappointed that word is getting out so swiftly; the Wikileaks web site is reportedly sustaining 10GB worth of DDoS attacks each second, which is massive.
Anyway, here's what Trapwire is, according to Russian-state owned media network RT (apologies for citing "foreign media"... if we had a free press, I'd be citing something published here by an American media conglomerate): "Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology—and have installed it across the U.S. under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.
Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community.
The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation's ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented. The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited. But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing."
So: those spooky new "circular" dark globe cameras installed in your neighborhood park, town, or city—they aren't just passively monitoring. They're plugged into Trapwire and they are potentially monitoring every single person via facial recognition.
In related news, the Obama administration is fighting in federal court this week for the ability to imprison American citizens under NDAA's indefinite detention provisions—and anyone else—without charge or trial, on suspicion alone.
So we have a widespread network of surveillance cameras across America monitoring us and reporting suspicious activity back to a centralized analysis center, mixed in with the ability to imprison people via military force on the basis of suspicious activity alone. I don't see how that could possibly go wrong. Nope, not at all. We all know the government, and algorithmic computer programs, never make mistakes.
Here's what is also so disturbing about this whole NDAA business, according to Tangerine Bolen's piece in the Guardian: "This past week's hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama's attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA's section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the U.S. government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest's injunction. In other words, they were telling a U.S. federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama's government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them. To this, Judge Forrest responded that if the provision had indeed been applied, the United States government would be in contempt of court."
If none of this bothers you, please don't follow me on Twitter, because nothing I report on will be of interest to you. Go back to watching the television news network of your choice, where you will hear about Romney's latest campaign ads, and whether Obamacare will increase the cost of delivery pizza by 14 to 16 cents.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012-09-04 "Private tech companies pitch Web surveillance tools to police"

by G.W. Schulz from "California Watch"
Private tech firms have found a new market for their sophisticated software capable of analyzing vast segments of the Internet – local police departments looking for ways to pre-empt the next mass shooting or other headline-grabbing event.
Twitter, Facebook and other popular sites are 24-hour fire hoses of raw information that need an automated tool for deciding what’s important and what is not. So technology companies are pushing products at law enforcement conferences, in trade publications and through white papers that promise to help police filter the deluge for terrorists, traffickers, pedophiles and rioters.
In the process, privacy advocates and other critics fear these tools – once reserved for corporate branding – could ensnare Internet users who happen to be at the wrong cyberspace destination at the wrong time.
Some 400 million tweets now flow across the Web every day, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in June. Facebook today reportedly boasts more than 900 million users, each pumping out a ceaseless stream of family photos, relationship updates, political manifestos, impulsive reactions to celebrity news and even criminal confessions.
It’s increasingly clear that random keyword searches for “burn,” “collapse,” “public health” and “cloud” – among dozens of terms the Department of Homeland Security considers worth monitoring – won’t produce actionable intelligence when hunted on crude and readily available tools like TweetDeck. “Cocaine” as a search term will net more tweets about Charlie Sheen than plans for the Sinaloa cartel’s next illicit shipment.
“Twitter’s, like, 90 percent noise – bots that are producing erroneous or extraneous tweets,” said Tim Gasper, product manager for Infochimps, which helps companies produce meaning from extremely large sets of data. “So you’d be scrolling through all of that just to see if anything caught your eye. Obviously, that’s not a very efficient use of people.”
Now that greater surveillance capabilities exist, some law enforcement agencies have become eager for the prestige of having their own intelligence arm with no clear target in mind, raising sticky questions about who or what they want to spy on en masse and why.
“I follow lots of people on Twitter that I don’t agree with at all,” said Ginger McCall, open government program director for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “ … I follow a lot of accounts of people who are potentially breaking various U.S. laws. Does that association necessarily mean that I am?”
Many sites make their basic architecture open to all, which is why you can share Flickr photos on Facebook with a single click. It’s also why anyone can turn your public status updates or tweets into data points and combine them with billions of others to better understand consumer habits – or produce government intelligence.
One company, SAS Institute Inc. of North Carolina, teaches police that they can scrape and analyze massive volumes of data from the backsides of Facebook and Twitter – something not everyone even knows is possible.
Your data, now just a drop of ocean water, can be processed for keywords and geographic locations that reveal “patterns of interest” to police in real time. Relying on the SAS Institute’s Text Miner tool, police can single out both words and phrases and determine if a word is being used as a noun, verb or adjective. “Bomb,” for instance, can be all three.
“Unlike their commercial counterparts who monitor the Twitter stream for any mention of a product, law enforcement clients don’t necessarily know what they need to monitor on Twitter,” the institute wrote in a white paper [] earlier this year titled, “Twitter and Facebook Analysis: It’s Not Just for Marketing Anymore.”
With just one suspect’s name, they can do more: Draw in his or her followers from Twitter or read Facebook wall posts and status updates of their “friends.” Using the company’s social network analysis tool, police can visualize the connections among these individuals and see what was said among them.
The result “speeds investigation and creates a story line that can be crucial for investigators who want to harness the information available in social media,” the company writes. “This information around conversations is rarely available anywhere else to investigators.”
The company would not make anyone available for an interview, but spokesman Trent Smith offered a brief email statement.
“If it’s not publicly available data, then law enforcement officers must adhere to usual due process,” Smith wrote. “Also, human investigators should analyze what the technology produces, with no actions taken without a person validating the results.”
SAS, which specializes in corporate intelligence and business analytics, was founded more than 30 years ago by statisticians at North Carolina State University.
Two years ago, SAS made its pursuit of law enforcement customers official by acquiring the British firm Memex [], which converts disparate pieces of data like fingerprints and mug shots into intelligence by making it more easily available for sharing and analysis. Memex aggressively marketed itself to the dozens of intelligence “fusion centers” created after Sept. 11 that allow local, state and federal police to swap digital tips in a command center-like setting.

Other tech tools -
Then there’s 3i-MIND, a Swiss company that last year prominently showcased Web surveillance products at a law enforcement conference in San Diego. There, it pitched OpenMIND, developed specifically for intelligence and law enforcement agencies, which “automatically finds suspicious patterns and behaviors” across the Internet. It digs not just within social media, but also through blogs, online forums and the “deep Web,” where many chat rooms exist.
“OpenMIND helps analysts to find insights they were not even looking for, about entities they had not previously queried,” boasts the company’s product literature []. “It also helps to pinpoint specific websites not regularly monitored that may be relevant to research being performed.”
The company claims it can analyze text “according to its semantic meaning” and show whether “C4” is referring to explosives or something else.
While 3i-MIND says it has more than 500 clients [], it did not respond to calls and emails seeking to determine who those clients are and how many are taxpayer-funded. The SAS Institute also declined a request for names of its government customers.
Other examples of tech tools include TACTrend, which can monitor social media within a geographic area determined by the customer. West Virginia maker HMS Technologies Inc. says [] it was developed by former law enforcement and special operations personnel and is being used by federal, state and local agencies. The company in March tipped North Carolina police to a tweet by a student threatening his teacher.
An investment arm of the CIA called In-Q-Tel raised eyebrows in 2009 when it pumped money into a social media monitoring firm called Visible Technologies based in Massachusetts []. In-Q-Tel also has reportedly invested in a company called Attensity that offers text and semantic analysis. Elsewhere, the British company CrowdControlHQ offers its products to both police and business executives [] and created a Twitter feed dedicated to the intersection of public safety and social media.

Information distribution and other uses -
Law enforcement officials have embraced social media for simpler purposes, like notifying the public of disaster procedures, distributing information about crime trends and arrests, and receiving feedback from taxpayers about new initiatives.
Police in Michigan reportedly used social media to nab a serial burglar and motorcyclist who boasted online about racing from the cops. A sheriff’s office in Louisiana posts suspect information on its own social media sites first before turning to TV stations and newspapers. The Colorado Office of Emergency Management used Twitter for updates on recent wildfires, and the Aurora Police Department tweeted critical updates following the theater shooting there in July.
Some argue that online surveillance shouldn’t matter if we freely make so many of our tweets and status updates available to all on the Internet. One site developed by a British teenager compiles examples of Internet users openly describing their own misconduct, confessing to being hungover at work and threatening their bosses.
However, public notification is different from intelligence gathering. Dallas-area Internet lawyer Benjamin Wright said courts are sending mixed signals when it comes to using social media as evidence. But, he said, there’s one concurring opinion worth noting from the Supreme Court’s landmark January privacy case known as United States v. Jones. Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that it may be time to reconsider the assumption that any reasonable expectation of privacy is lost when we hand over personal information to third parties.
“This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks,” she wrote [].
More troubling, Wright said, is deceptively “friending” people online for surveillance purposes. A college campus police investigator in Boston recently told Security Management magazine [] that he created fake identities to watch people and used a profile image his targets might “consider attractive.” Interns at a New Jersey prosecutor’s office were instructed to monitor as many alleged gang members as possible. Tax collectors have been using the Web for years, Wright said, and they view it as no different than reading newspapers for tips.
“It’s one thing for the IRS or a police officer to read the newspaper,” Wright said. “But it’s a completely different ballgame when that very same officer now is using some automated tool to track me around the Internet and read thousands of blog posts and tweets and filter it all through some kind of artificial intelligence software. People just start getting creeped out.”