Tag: Attorney General Eric Holder

FBI To Finally Collect & Publish Info About Police-Involved Fatal Shootings

(Photo via Getty Images)
(Photo via Getty Images)

Responding to long running complaints about the lack of national data available for how often police resort to deadly force, the FBI on Monday announced plans to track and publish the statistics.

The Washington Post reports that FBI Director James B. Comey described the information as vital in the ongoing debate over policing in the United States.

Via the Washington Post:

Continuing “without comprehensive data only stalls meaningful conversation and fuels empty debates, both within law enforcement and in the communities we serve,” [Comey] wrote in a message accompanying the release of the FBI’s crime statistics for 2014.

This is not the first time Comey has criticized the lack of data available regarding how often police officers shoot and kill people. While the federal government does track some fatal police shootings, federal officials have acknowledged that this data is incomplete. Not all agencies in the United States participate in the voluntary reporting system, which had left a considerable gap in the ongoing public discussion.

Earlier this year, Comey joined former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., who called the lack of information about the shootings “unacceptable,” notes the report.

The criticism came after protests against police violence following several high-profile law enforcement-involved deaths of unarmed Blacks, including Eric Garner in New York City, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

article by Lynette Holloway via newsone.com

Justice Department Finds Pattern of Police Bias and Excessive Force in Ferguson

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Ferguson, Mo., police officers at a news conference in August. A Justice Department report will force Ferguson officials to either negotiate a settlement with the department or face being sued by it on charges of violating the Constitution. (WHITNEY CURTIS FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — Police officers in Ferguson, Mo., have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents, the Justice Department has concluded in a scathing report that accuses the officers of using excessive force and making unjustified traffic stops for years.

The Justice Department, which opened its investigation after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed a black teenager last summer, says the discrimination was fueled in part by racial stereotypes held by city officials. Investigators say the officials made racist jokes about blacks on their city email accounts.

Ferguson is a largely black city with a government and a police force that are mostly white. After the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, the city erupted in angry, sometimes violent protests and looting. Since then, Ferguson has been at the center of a national debate over race and policing that has drawn in President Obama, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey.

The report’s findings were summarized by a federal law enforcement official. The full report is expected to be released on Wednesday. A separate report is expected to clear the officer, Darren Wilson, of any civil rights violations in the shooting of Mr. Brown.

Ferguson officials now face the choice of either negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department or potentially being sued by it on charges of violating the Constitution.

In compiling the report, federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. They concluded that, over the past two years, African-Americans — who make up about two-thirds of the city’s population — accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 93 percent of arrests and 88 percent of cases in which the police used force.

Black motorists were twice as likely as whites to be searched but were less likely to be found in possession of contraband such as drugs or guns.

The findings reinforce what the city’s African-American residents have been saying publicly for the past year: that years of discrimination and mistrust created the volatile environment that erupted after Mr. Brown’s shooting.

article by Matt Apuzzo via nytimes.com

Loretta Lynch’s #DeltaSigmaTheta Sorority Sisters Came to Support Her Attorney General Confirmation Hearing

Loretta Lynch Howard Sorority Sisters
Congresswoman Alma S. Adams posted this photo on Jan. 28, 2014. “Supporting Greensboro native, Loretta Lynch, in her confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General. #NC12” Alma S. Adams (@RepAdams) via Twitter

Women of the storied African-American sorority Delta Sigma Theta flooded a Senate hearing room on Wednesday to support their fellow sorority sister and Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

Lynch, who is set to face a tough hearing for the post, started a chapter of the sorority at Harvard with current Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife, Sharon Malone. Though the connection was seen as controversial to members of the right-wing media, her sorority sisters proudly donned the organization’s signature colors—crimson and cream—in the hearing room.

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The sorority was founded in 1913 at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University on tenets of empowerment, justice, and community service. Several current and former members of Congress are members, including Reps. Joyce Beatty and Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Rep. Yvette Clark of New York, and former Congresswomen Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm.

Four Years After He Was Killed By Police, DJ Henry’s Memory Is Helping Kids

Angella and Dan Henry. Angella Henry said she works day and night to keep the memory of her son alive through the DJ Henry Dream Fund
Angella and Dan Henry. Angella Henry said she works day and night to keep the memory of her son alive through the DJ Henry Dream Fund (Credit: Phillip Martin / WGBH)

It’s been four years since a college student from Easton was shot to death by a New York police officer. Since then, Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer and Michael Brown was killed by a policeman. The controversial killings of these young black men have sparked community outrage and scrutiny of the behavior of law enforcement. For the family of Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr., they still wait for the legal process to play out — but they’re also finding ways to remember their son.

This Wednesday would have been DJ Henry’s 25th birthday. The Boston NAACP says that day they will send a letter to the organization’s national members asking them to press the Justice Department for a full and complete investigation into the Henry shooting.

For all the heartache, for all the lingering questions, this was a night to celebrate DJ Henry’s life, shaped by a love of sports.

“We just ask that you think about tonight, not as giving us money, but as helping children who would love to say yes say yes,” said DJ’s father, Dan Henry. “These young children, their biggest need is to remain children.”

Dan Henry told an audience of 400 at the fourth annual DJ Henry Dream Fund that he could not think of a better way to remember his son than by helping others succeed.

One of those helped is Quincy Omari Picket.

“My mom heard about it and she went and signed up, and I got a scholarship,” said the 10-year old from Brockton. “I was happy. I was surprised. I lost 30 pounds. I lost all that weight. I tried on my suit and didn’t have to buy a new one.”

As DJ’s life was remembered at the annual fundraiser, his death is still hard to reconcile. Henry played football for Pace University in New York. After a homecoming game on Oct. 16, 2010, he and several friends went to a bar to celebrate. DJ was the designated driver. So when the bar closed, he went to get the car.

Idling in a fire lane, he was told by a cop to move on, according to witnesses. He did. What happened next is as unsettling today as it was four years ago.

Continue reading “Four Years After He Was Killed By Police, DJ Henry’s Memory Is Helping Kids”

Cleveland Police Cited for Abuse by U.S. Department of Justice

A memorial for Tamir Rice, shot by the Cleveland police. (TY WRIGHT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

CLEVELAND — The Justice Department announced on Thursday that a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the Cleveland Police Department had found a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” that resulted in dangerous and reckless behavior by officers, pointing out the kinds of problems that have angered black residents here and touched off demonstrations across the country in recent weeks.

The abuses cited in the report included excessive use of force by the police involving not just firearms, but also less-than-lethal weapons like Tasers, chemical spray and fists, which were sometimes used for retaliation. The report also said the police had used excessive force against mentally ill people and employed tactics that escalated potentially nonviolent encounters into dangerous confrontations.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a sign of the Obama administration’s growing concern about contentious police shootings and other use of force — and with demonstrations in New York; Ferguson, Mo.; and elsewhere — traveled to Cleveland on Thursday to announce the findings himself. The city has been roiled by the fatal shooting last month of a 12-year-old African-American boy by a rookie police officer.

“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments,” Mr. Holder said, “and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve.”

Continue reading “Cleveland Police Cited for Abuse by U.S. Department of Justice”

Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Inspires Massive NY Protest, Feds To Investigate

NEW YORK (AP) — A grand jury cleared a white police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of an unarmed black man accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, triggering protests in the streets by thousands  of New Yorkers who likened the case to the deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Protest in Philadelphia and other cities nationwide mirrored the response after the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. 

As the demonstrations mounted, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities would conduct a civil rights investigation into the July 17 death of Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said the grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to bring charges, but unlike the chief prosecutor in the Ferguson case, he gave no details on how the panel arrived at its decision. The grand jury could have considered a range of charges, from reckless endangerment to murder.

Protesters gathered in Times Square and converged on the heavily secured area around the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting with a combination of professional-looking signs and hand-scrawled placards reading, “Black lives matter” and “Fellow white people, wake up.” And in the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner died, people reacted with angry disbelief and chanted, “I can’t breathe!” and “Hands up — don’t choke!”

Continue reading “Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Inspires Massive NY Protest, Feds To Investigate”

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Plan To End Racial Profiling “Once And For All”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gestures as he speaks to members of the community during an interfaith service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dec. 1 in Atlanta. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Addressing the state of race and policing relations, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that he plans to introduce new policies that will end racial profiling “once and for all.”

Speaking to a capacity crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a preacher, Holder said he’d lay out specific policy changes in the coming days, but acknowledged that the events in Ferguson, Missouri, had laid bare significant issues regarding policing and race relations.

“The issues raised in Missouri are not unique to that state or small city,” he said.

Tackling those issues would require systemic changes and a commitment at the federal, state, and local levels to change how law enforcement interacts with the public.  “Our police officers cannot be, or be viewed as, an occupying force, disconnected to the communities they serve,” Holder said. “Bonds that have been broken must be restored; bonds that never existed must be created.”

Part of that effort, he added, would be “rigorous new standards and robust safeguards to help end racial profiling once and for all.”

Continue reading “Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Plan To End Racial Profiling “Once And For All””

Brooklyn Prosecutor Loretta Lynch to be Nominated U.S. Attorney General

President Obama on Saturday will name Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, to replace Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., according to a source familiar with the process. Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official.  She would follow Holder, the first African-American attorney general. Holder has said he will stay on until his successor is confirmed.

Lynch, 55, is a longtime federal prosecutor who has the unusual distinction of serving in her current job twice: She was U.S. attorney for two years under President Clinton, and was disappointed that she was not reappointed by President George W. Bush. Obama reappointed her in 2010.

In contrast to other U.S. attorneys in New York, Lynch has shunned the limelight, rarely giving news conferences or interviews.

For that reason she is a relative unknown outside her district. But she came to prominence in New York in the late 1990s as the supervisor of the team that successfully prosecuted two police officers for the sexual assault with a broomstick of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. Three other officers were acquitted.

Lynch grew up in Greensboro, N.C., the daughter of a Baptist minister and a school librarian. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.  Lynch has solid liberal credentials, having been associated with the Legal Aid Society in New York and the Brennan Center for Justice, named for former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., a liberal lion.

But she has establishment credentials as well, including serving on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Her low profile should make her potential confirmation easier than for some other candidates for the job, such as Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who drew repeated criticism from Republicans when he ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

article by Timothy M. Phelps and Michael A. Memoli via latimes.com

Black Lawyers to Challenge Police Brutality in 25 Cities

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an effort to combat police brutality in the Black community, the National Bar Association (NBA) recently announced plans to file open records requests in 25 cities to study allegations of police misconduct.

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National Bar Association President Pamela J. Meanes

Pamela Meanes, president of the Black lawyers and judges group, said the NBA had already been making plans for a nationwide campaign to fight police brutality when Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer following a controversial midday confrontation in a Ferguson, Mo.

Meanes called police brutality the new civil rights issue of this era, an issue that disproportionately impacts the Black community.

“If we don’t see this issue and if we don’t at the National Bar Association do the legal things that are necessary to bring this issue to the forefront, then we are not carrying out our mission, which is to protect the civil and political entities of all,” said Meanes.

The NBA, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges,” selected the 25 cities based on their African-American populations and reported incidents of police brutality.

The lawyers group will file open records requests in Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix; Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif., Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore, Md.; Detroit; Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; Memphis, Tenn., Philadelphia; Dallas; Houston; San Antonio, Texas, and Milwaukee, Wis.

In a press release about the open records requests, the group said it will not only seek information about “the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody, but also comprehensive data from crime scenes, including “video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees,” as well as background information on officers involved in the incidents.

Not only will the NBA present their findings to the public, but the group also plans to compile its research and forward the data over to the attorney general’s office.

Meanes said the group’s ultimate goal is to have a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder and to ask, and in some cases, demand he seize police departments or take over or run concurrent investigations.

Meanes said federal law prohibits the Justice Department from going into a police department unless a pattern or history of abuse has been identified.

“The problem is that the information needed for that action is not readily available in a comprehensive way on a consistent basis with the goal of eradicating that abuse,” said Meanes, adding that the open records request is the best way to get that information.

Meanes said that the NBA was concerned that the trust had already brrn broken between the police force and the residents of Ferguson and that the rebellion and the protests would continue.

“We don’t think St. Louis County should investigate this. We don’t think the prosecutor should investigate this. There should be an independent third-party investigating this and that is the federal government,” said Meanes.

Phillip Agnew, executive director of the Dream Defenders, a civil rights group established by young people of color in the aftermath of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager in Sanford, Fla., said law enforcement officials taunted, antagonized and disrespected peaceful protesters who took to the streets of Ferguson and at times incited the violence they attempted to stamp out in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“An occupying force came into the community, they killed someone from the community, and instead of being transparent and doing everything they could do to make sure the community felt whole again, they brought in more police to suppress folks who were exercising their constitutional rights,” said Agnew.“If your protocol results in greater violence, greater anger, and greater disenchantment of the people, you have to chart a different course.”

On the heels of the NBA announcement, Attorney General Holder launched two initiatives designed to calm anxiety and frustration expressed by Ferguson’s Black residents towards the local police department over allegations of misconduct, harassment and discrimination.

The Justice Department also introduced a “Collaborative Reform Initiative” to tackle similar concerns with the St. Louis County Police Department and to improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve.

Continue reading “Black Lawyers to Challenge Police Brutality in 25 Cities”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Offers Law Enforcement Help For Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

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#BringBackOurGirls Protest in Nigeria 5/2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is offering law enforcement assistance to help rescue more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, a senior Justice Department source told The Huffington Post on Monday.

Holder has also ordered an intelligence assessment of Boko Haram, which the United States designated as a terrorist organization in November 2013. The group, whose name means “Western education is sin,” receives training from al Qaeda and its affiliates.

“Let me be clear,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday during a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes.”

On April 14, members of Boko Haram invaded a boarding school in Nigeria, pulled 276 girls from their beds and packed them into trucks. At least 53 girls have escaped, while the rest are allegedly being sold as brides to local militants for $12, according to the girls’ relatives.

Abubakar Shekau, a man claiming to be the leader of Boko Haram, took credit for the kidnapping in a video obtained Monday by Agence France-Press and said he is selling the girls as wives to prevent them from receiving a Western education.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Shekau said, according to a CNN translation. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.”

Shekau added, “Girls, you should go and get married.”

The Nigerian government claims to be handling the situation, but weeks after the kidnapping, Nigerian officials appear to be no closer to finding the missing girls. The government’s perceived ineptitude has inspired international protests and the globally trending Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

“Access to education is a basic right & an unconscionable reason to target innocent girls,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote Sunday on Twitter. “We must stand up to terrorism. #BringBackOurGirls.”

The State Department’s annual report on global terrorism, released last week, found that Boko Haram “receives the bulk of its funding from bank robberies and related criminal activities, including extortion and kidnapping for ransoms.” The group has killed thousands of people in Nigeria since 2009, according to the report.

It is unclear whether Nigeria will accept Holder’s offer of help. CNN reported that Nigeria has not yet asked for help from the United States in finding the girls, possibly because they do not want “visible American forces in their country.”

article by Laura Bassett via huffingtonpost.com

 

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