I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been looking in the right places or because there’s so much more of it around or because Barack Obama’s election made people – especially reporters and editors – braver about reporting this shit but there has been a mini-explosion of stories this week about racist cops, all of them ugly and all but one in the state of the union which I really wish we had let secede – Texas. Here are but three of them.
1. Take That, Granpaw
From The Field Negro comes a brutal and bewildering story out of Louisiana. You remember Louisiana, right? Jena? The nooses? The right-wing dismissing them as a “joke” or claiming racism doesn’t exist and it was all getting blown out of proportion? Well, this story from Homer may help put things in perspective.
HOMER, La.—On the last afternoon of his life, Bernard Monroe was hosting a cookout for family and friends in front of his dilapidated home on Adams Street in this small northern Louisiana town.
Throat cancer had robbed the 73-year-old retired electric utility worker of his voice years ago, but family members said Monroe was clearly enjoying the commotion of a dozen of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren cavorting around him in the dusty, grassless yard.
Then the Homer police showed up, two white officers whose arrival caused the participants at the black family gathering to quickly fall silent.
Within moments, Monroe lay dead, shot by one of the officers as his family looked on.
[W]itnesses said…the elder Monroe had started walking toward the front door, carrying only his drink bottle, to try to intervene. When Monroe got to the first step on the front porch, the witnesses said, Cox opened fire, striking him several times as adults and children stood nearby.
“He just shot him through the screen door,” said Denise Nicholson, a family friend who said she was standing a few feet from Monroe. “After [Monroe] was on the ground, we kept asking the officer to call an ambulance, but all he did was get on his radio and say, ‘Officer in distress.’ ”
As Monroe lay dying, the witnesses said, the second police officer, who has not been publicly identified, picked up a handgun that Monroe, an avid hunter, always kept in plain sight on the porch for protection. Using a police-issue blue latex glove, the officer grasped the gun by its handle, the witnesses said, and then ordered everyone to back away from the scene. The next thing they said they saw was the gun on the ground next to Monroe’s body.
“I saw him pick up the gun off the porch,” said Marcus Frazier, another witness. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ The cop told me, ‘Shut the hell up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ ”
The Homer police maintain that Monroe was holding a loaded gun when he was shot…
The oldest trick in the book, done blatantly right in front of the family and friends, so hoary a cliche that a 6 year old child could see through it but it’s good enough for the Homer police. Only this time it isn’t being completely ignored.
Now the Louisiana State Police, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are swarming over this impoverished lumber town of 3,800, drawn by the allegations of numerous witnesses that police killed an unarmed, elderly black man without justification—and then moved a gun to make it look like the man had been holding it.”We are closely monitoring the events in Homer,” said Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. “I understand that a number of allegations are being made that, if true, would be serious enough for us to follow up on very quickly.”
In fairness, ChiTrib reporter Howard Witt makes it painfully clear that Louisiana is hardly alone.
[T]he Feb. 20 Homer incident was not an isolated case. Across the nation, in four cases in recent months, white police officers have been accused of unprovoked shootings of African Americans in what civil rights leaders say are illustrations of the potentially deadly consequences of racial profiling by police.
In the mostly white Houston suburb of Bellaire, a 23-year-old black man sitting in his own SUV in the driveway of his parents’ home was shot and wounded on New Year’s Eve by police who mistakenly believed he had stolen the vehicle. The case is under investigation.
In Oakland, a transit police officer has been charged with murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed black man in the back while he was restrained and lying face down on a train platform on New Year’s Day.
In New Orleans, nine police officers are under investigation in the New Year’s Day death of a 22-year-old black man who was struck by 14 bullets after an undercover team stopped his car. The police say the man raised a gun and fired at them, but the man’s family disputes that.
“All the anecdotal information demonstrates that African Americans are the most frequent victims of zealous, inappropriate police activity that often winds up in a shooting,” said Reggie Shuford, a senior attorney with the racial justice program at the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a shoot first, ask questions later approach to policing.”
The evidence is not merely anecdotal. The most recent national analysis from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that blacks and Hispanics were nearly three times as likely as whites to be searched by police—and blacks were almost four times as likely as whites to be subjected to the use of force.
Which is bad enough but pales next to the scrawny, mean, capricious, pernicious and pervasive racism in the state George W Bush was so proud to be Gov of.
2. Cops and Are Robbers
Howard Witt again, this time reporting from Tenaha, TX that police are stopping cars with blacks in them (not a DWB crime since, as you will see, they don’t have to be driving, just in the car) and extorting money with threats of…well, you won’t believe me so read it for yourself. (Via Harry Homeless)
TENAHA, Texas— You can drive into this dusty fleck of a town near the Texas-Louisiana border if you’re African-American, but you might not be able to drive out of it—at least not with your car, your cash, your jewelry or other valuables.
That’s because the police here allegedly have found a way to strip motorists, many of them black, of their property without ever charging them with a crime. Instead they offer out-of-towners a grim choice: voluntarily sign over your belongings to the town, or face felony charges of money laundering or other serious crimes.
More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with any crime.
In some cases, police used the fact that motorists were carrying large amounts of cash as evidence that they must have been involved in laundering drug money, even though Guillory said each of the drivers he contacted could account for where the money had come from and why they were carrying it—such as for a gambling trip to Shreveport, La., or to purchase a used car from a private seller.
Once the motorists were detained, the police and the local Shelby County district attorney quickly drew up legal papers presenting them with an option: waive their rights to their cash and property or face felony charges for crimes such as money laundering—and the prospect of having to hire a lawyer and return to Shelby County multiple times to attend court sessions to contest the charges.
The process apparently is so routine in Tenaha that Guillory discovered pre-signed and pre-notarized police affidavits with blank spaces left for an officer to describe the property being seized.
Jennifer Boatright, her husband and two young children—a mixed-race family—were traveling from Houston to visit relatives in east Texas in April 2007 when Tenaha police pulled them over, alleging that they were driving in a left-turn lane.
After searching the car, the officers discovered what Boatright said was a gift for her sister: a small, unused glass pipe made for smoking marijuana. Although they found no drugs or other contraband, the police seized $6,037 that Boatright said the family was carrying to purchase a used car—and then threatened to turn their children, ages 10 and 1, over to Child Protective Services if the couple didn’t agree to sign over their right to their cash.
“It was give them the money or they were taking our kids,” Boatright said. “They suggested that we never bring it up again. We figured we better give them our cash and get the hell out of there.”
Local “law enforcement” claims it’s trying to stop a plague of drugs and because they’ve got a law to back up the theft, it’s all good.
Officials in Tenaha, situated along a heavily traveled highway connecting Houston with popular gambling destinations in Louisiana, say they are engaged in a battle against drug trafficking and call the search-and-seizure practice a legitimate use of the state’s asset-forfeiture law. That law permits local police agencies to keep drug money and other property used in the commission of a crime and add the proceeds to their budgets.
The problem with the whole RICO idea, good as it sounds to civilians, was always the danger it posed that unscrupulous cops would bring down people with phony evidence just to get their hands on the money. The Federal statutes solved that problem by putting the money from sales of impounded property, after offering much of it at public auction, straight into the Treasury, but at the state level that’s hardly a protective device since Texas’ incredibly crooked lege and equally corrupt local govt gets to split the take.
There are, of course, a raft of lawsuits, which is the Good News. The Bad News is that those lawsuits will in the beginning be heard by the same local Texas courts who are involved in the scheme. “Justice” in Texas tends to be a closed loop.
3. “The Snitch Says The Black People Did It”
In Tulia, TX 10 years ago (just in case you thought this all just started under Bush), a so-called “drug sting” rounded up 46 supposed users and sellers. 40 of them were, just by pure co-incidence I’m sure, black.
In 1999, a drug sting operation in the small town of Tulia, Texas resulted in the arrest of 46 people, 40 of who were black. The remaining six individuals were either latinos or whites dating blacks. The drug bust incarcerated almost 15% of the black population and has been denounced as a form of “racial profiling” by the NAACP and the ACLU. Those organizations filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and four years later, in 2003, the testimony of the key witness was deemed not credible and prosecutors agreed not to go to retrial.
All of the evidence presented against those arrested came from the uncorroborated testimony of Tom Coleman, a private informant hired by the Sheriff of Tulia to conduct the sting operation. Coleman supposedly sought to buy powder cocaine and other drugs from area residents. In choosing his sting targets, he used a list of 60 “known drug dealers” that the Sheriff had previously compiled during a racially motivated local drug scare. Agent Coleman worked alone and did not wear a wire during any of the alleged transactions.
Seven of those arrested were convicted and sentenced to prison terms, one for 99 years. Fourteen defendants took pleas and were sentenced to prison. Others were sentenced to probation. Most of the prison sentences were increased because the drugs were allegedly sold within 1000 feet of a school, yet most of the defendants lived in trailer parks miles away from the nearest school. Coleman neither remembers, nor has records of any of the exact locations of the individual drug transactions.
Slowly, as suspicions rose around the credibility of Coleman’s evidence, cracks began to show. For a lucky few, cases were dismissed – one defendant was cleared when his employer showed time cards proving he was at work at the time of the alleged buy; another defendant had bank records proving that she was out of state.
More sterling work by our law enforcement geniuses.
Every single one of these cases is the result of racial profiling, a wicked but pervasive racist tool in police departments all over the country though, as usual, Texas and the rest of the South seem to glory in it. Sometimes, as in the Troy Davis case, it’s sheer “they all look alike to me and they’re all guilty of something so what difference does it make which one goes to jail?” laziness and stupidity. But in most cases it’s behaviour they wouldn’t get away with for 5 seconds if they pulled it on whites.
All of this is, it goes without saying, appalling, and what we really ought to do is drum Texas out of the Union and force it to go it alone, see where that gets it. Let the inmates run the asylum and then quarantine it. We really don’t need this shit and if we made an example of the worst offender maybe the rest would shape up.
Isn’t that Texas’ excuse for its liberal use of the death penalty?