Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
OccupyForum

Forum Post: America's Homegrown Terror

Posted 5 months ago on April 11, 2014, 3:21 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

America's Homegrown Terror

Friday, 11 April 2014 10:31
By Emanuel Pastreich and John Feffer, Foreign Policy In Focus | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23035-americas-homegrown-terror

The U.S. security complex is up in arms about cyberhackers and foreign terrorists targeting America's vulnerable infrastructure. Think tank reports have highlighted the chinks in homeland security represented by unsecured ports, dams, and power plants. We've been bombarded by stories about outdated software that is subject to hacking and the vulnerability of our communities to bioterrorism. Reports such as the Heritage Foundation's "Microbes and Mass Casualties: Defending America Against Bioterrorism" describe a United States that could be brought to its knees by its adversaries unless significant investments are made in "hardening" these targets.

But the greatest dangers for the United States do not lurk in terrorist cells in the mountains surrounding Kandahar that are planning on assaults on American targets. Rather, our vulnerabilities are homegrown. The United States plays host to thousands of nuclear weapons, toxic chemical dumps, radioactive waste storage facilities, complex pipelines and refineries, offshore oil rigs, and many other potentially dangerous facilities that require constant maintenance and highly trained and motivated experts to keep them running safely.

The United States currently lacks safety protocols and effective inspection regimes for the dangerous materials it has amassed over the last 60 years. We don't have enough inspectors and regulators to engage in the work of assessing the safety and security of ports, bridges, pipelines, power plants, and railways. The rapid decline in the financial, educational, and institutional infrastructure of the United States represents the greatest threat to the safety of Americans today.

And it's getting worse. The current round of cutbacks in federal spending for low-visibility budgets for maintainence and inspection, combined with draconian cuts in public education, makes it even more difficult to find properly trained people and pay them the necessary wages to maintain infrastructure. As Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution points out, the 2015 budget fresh off the press includes a chart indicating that non-defense discretionary spending—including critical investments in infrastructure, education, and innovation—will continue to drop severely, from 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013 to just 2.2 percent in 2024. This decision has been made even though the average rate for the last 40 years has been 3.8 percent and the United States will require massive infrastructure upgrades over the next 50 years.

The recent cheating scandal involving employees of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex is emblematic of the problem. Nuclear officers charged with protecting and maintaining the thousands of U.S. nuclear weapons simply copied the answers for tests about how to employ the complex machinery related to nuclear missiles. The scandal is only the latest in a long series of accidents, mishaps, and miscommunications that have nearly caused nuclear explosions and tremendous loss of life. As Eric Schlosser has detailed in his new book Command and Control, we have avoided inflicting a Hiroshima-sized attack on ourselves only through sheer dumb luck.

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued its Report Card for America's Infrastructure, which painted a grim picture of America's infrastructure. The average grade for infrastructure—covering transportation, drinking water, energy, bridges, dams, and other critical infrastructure—was a D+. The failure to invest in infrastructure over the last 15 years, the report argues, bodes ill for the future and will guarantee further disasters. As political campaigns against "bureaucrats" render the federal government incapable of recruiting and motivating qualified people, these disasters appear almost unavoidable. The weakest link from the point of view of national security are the military and energy sectors.

Bad Chemistry

The problems begin with our weapons. Despite promises from 20 years ago that the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency would destroy chemical weapons stockpiles, we have finished only 50 percent of the job (whereas Russia has completed some 70 percent) according to Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The process of maintaining and removing dangerous weapons is tedious, labor-intensive, and inevitably involves community approval and the rawest forms of politics. The task suffers from an unhealthy combination of secrecy and apathy: the military wants to keep their weapons secret while the general population treats the matter with a striking lack of interest. Although many chemical weapons are stored relatively safely—binary substances are stored separately and are dangerous only when combined—many other chemicals related to fueling and other activities are hazardous. Because they are out of sight and out of mind, they are poorly managed.

Military waste is but a small part of the problem. The United States is peppered with all-but-forgotten chemical waste dumps, aging nuclear power plants, nuclear materials, oil rigs, oil pipelines, and mines (active and abandoned) that require an enormous investment in personnel and facilities to maintain safely.

Nuclear Headaches

The United States boasts the largest complex of storage facilities in the world related to civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs. This network contains a dozen Fukushimas in the making. The U.S. nuclear energy system has generated more than 65,000 tons of spent fuel, much of which is stored in highly insecure locations. "Even though they contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet, U.S. spent nuclear fuel pools are mostly contained in ordinary industrial structures designed to merely protect them against the elements," writes IPS nuclear expert Robert Alvarez. "Some [of the structures] are made from materials commonly used to house big-box stores and car dealerships." An accident involving any one of these storage facilities could produce damage 60 times greater than the Chernobyl disaster.

The Energy Department, without much regard for public safety, plans to unceremoniously dump in a landfill a ton of radioactive material produced in its nuclear weapons program. Such an approach has precedents. The West Lake municipal landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri harbors highly radioactive material from the weapons program of the 1940s and 1950s. That unsecured material could transform into a major public health risk due to fire or flooding. More recently, investigation of the Hanford nuclear waste complex in Washington State revealed that "significant construction flaws" exist in six of the 28 radioactive waste storage tanks. One of them has been leaking since 2012. The site dates back to the plutonium experiments of the 1950s, and those flawed storage tanks contain around 5 million gallons of radioactive material.

The Obama administration has pledged to reduce its nuclear weapons arsenal and envisions a nuclear-weapons-free future. But at the same it is pouring money into "nuclear modernization" through the development of a new generation of weapons and consequentially even more radioactive waste. Moreover, the administration continues to include nuclear energy as part of its carbon reduction plans, directing federal subsidies to the construction of two new nuclear plants in Georgia.

Despite the enthusiasm for nuclear weapons and power, the administration has turned a blind eye to the disposal of all the nuclear waste that both the military and the civilian side have generated.

8 Comments

8 Comments


Read the Rules
[-] 3 points by elf3 (2501) 5 months ago

If gangs aren't terrorists than you may be blind...they terrorize communities on a local level and nationally run crime rings that make Al Qaeda look like warm fuzzy bears

[-] 3 points by gnomunny (6587) from St Louis, MO 5 months ago

"Imagine, if you will, a number of climate events occurring in quick succession. A heat wave in the Midwest meets a class-four hurricane in the Gulf while the Southwest, as the Southwest does faithfully each summer, bursts into flame. All predictable events that become ever more frequent as climate change pumps more energy into the system.

"The heat wave makes the electrical grid go belly up at the same time Gulf refineries shut down, spiking energy costs. Issues with the electrical grid impact communications in the Southwest, and the wildfires start to get closer and closer to L.A., a vaguely important port city. Electrical failures at a Chicago waste treatment plant release raw sewage into Lake Michigan, and the automated messages that were intended to warn residents that an E. coli cocktail has entered the water supply are never sent due to communication failures.

"And then a few weeks later, while we're starting to recover, a few dozen tornados land in Oklahoma. All events that, in isolation, would be damaging but not catastrophic. But given the interdependence of the systems, each event is magnified, and each impacts our ability to deal with successive events. Things get worn down and then start to fall down . . .

"So here we are, waiting for the world to kill us in a simple, stupid, and utterly predictable way. If our infrastructure collapses because we couldn't be bothered to make the obvious fixes, it will be akin to having your car explode because you couldn't get around to getting the oil changed. But that, alas, is how America rolls. This is the way the world ends: not with fire, nor ice, nor a bang, nor a whimper, but with the sound of a whole bunch of things slowly falling over."

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/how-climate-change-will-kill-us-in-the-dumbest-possible-way

[Removed]

[Removed]

[Removed]

[Removed]

[Removed]

[Removed]

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5854) 5 months ago

Situation Normal: All Fracked Up

The coal industry continues to slice the peaks off mountains and replace them with vast expanses of barren land that cannot support life. That process fills rivers and lakes with toxic sludge, and regulation is all but nonexistent. From the 1990s on, coal companies have torn up West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee using new technologies that have already destroyed a patch of land larger than the state of Delaware. The run-off from these mining operations has buried 1,000 miles of streams.

The recent contamination of the Elk River in West Virginia with the dangerous chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol used in coal mining left over 300,000 people without safe drinking water. Although the storage of the chemicals was the responsibility of the now bankrupt Freedom Industries, the responsibility for the accident does not stop there. In fact, federal officials never inspected the site, and neither Freedom Industries nor local government officials drew up an emergency response plan.

A few weeks later a pipe failure in Eden, North Carolina dumped 39,000 tons of arsenic-laced coal ash into the nearby Dan River, causing a similar crisis. The situation is growing more serious as state budgets for inspection and regulation are being slashed. Training and preparation for hazardous material disasters is underfunded, and the personnel are unprepared to do their job.

Coal and oil workers are dying in greater numbers as a result of a chronic inattention to safety concerns. So bad is the situation that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has only 95 inspectors to oversee safety rules for all Texas work sites, and few of them have training or experience in the energy sector.

If you like coal mining, you're going to love fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is latest weapon in the war on the environment. Fracking is a process for extracting natural gas and petroleum from subterranean rock formations by pushing water, sand, and a variety of toxic chemicals deep into the ground to fracture the rock and release the trapped oil or gas. The process leaves beneath the surface large amounts of toxic chemicals that have already been shown to contaminate drinking water. The chemicals are so toxic that the water cannot be cleaned in a treatment plant.

Fracking is gobbling up large swathes of the United States because sites are quickly exhausted and the driller must constantly move on, leaving behind toxic chemicals to seep into the water supply. The long-term consequences of leaving extremely toxic substances like benzoyl or formic acid underground for decades are unknown. Without extensive regulation, maintenance, and planning for future disasters, the fracking boom is a ticking bomb for U.S. security.

The peril is not just on land. The increasingly desperate search for energy is making extreme measures—like deep-water drilling for oil—profitable for energy companies. The Deep Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 resulted in 11 deaths, affected 16,000 miles of coastline, and will cost upwards of $40 billion. That accident didn't stop the U.S. government from granting Shell a permit to drill in the deep waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off the Alaskan coast, an effort that has already racked up its share of accidents.

Coming Up: Le Deluge

The unending demand for budget cuts is taking a toll on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for a large number of important regulatory activities, experienced cuts of more than 6 percent in both its budget and workforce: from a nearly $8.5-million budget in 2012 down to $7.9 million in 2013, and from 17,106 employees in 2012 down to 15,913 employees in 2013. This is happening at a time when environmental issues are growing more critical.

Cuts in budgets for maintenance, inspection, and regulation will all but guarantee further disasters and tens of billions of dollars in damages. The poor state of American infrastructure would be a problem in any case, but the challenge of climate change has thrown a monkey wrench in all predictions. The New York Panel on Climate Change concluded that rising sea levels will turn what was previously a once-in-100-years flood into something that happens once every 35 to 55 years by 2050 and once every 15 to 30 years by 2080. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused more than $108 billion in damages while Hurricane Sandy in 2012 cost more than $50 billion, according to the National Hurricane Center. Climate change combined with poor maintenance is a recipe for massive disaster. Although the costs of the next disaster will certainly exceed the 9/11 attacks in terms of damage, tragically we are cutting back on infrastructure investment at a time we should be increasing it dramatically.

Unfortunately, the constituencies concerned with such safety inspections do not hire the most expensive lobbyists and rarely show up in the press. Inspectors and experts cannot, and should not, be expected to defend themselves in Washington, D.C. The media-obsessed political culture that rules Washington today makes commitment to low-key support for maintenance and long-term safety the kiss of death for congressmen engaged in an unending struggle to raise funds for reelection.

The strategic foolhardiness of cutting back on low-profile programs has become politically smart. But a few more major industrial or infrastructural disasters in the United States will be enough to bring the country to its knees. The American superpower will topple from self-inflicted wounds without a political rival like China or Russia even having to say "boo!"

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 5 months ago

"Off With His Head:" Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill

Friday, 11 April 2014 11:17
By Anton Woronczuk, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23039-off-with-his-head-court-upholds-obamas-power-to-kill

More at The Real News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKGKL8whRqw&feature=player_embedded

TRANSCRIPT:

ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Ratner Report.

Joining us now is Michael Ratner. Michael is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the attorney for Julian Assange, and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He's also a board member for The Real News.

Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with The Real News again.

WORONCZUK: So what do you have for us this week?

RATNER: Well, you know, I think about drone killings a lot. And I think I have a new name for Obama. You know, you remember all those Shakespeare plays you read, and then you remember Alice of Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts always saying, "Off with your head" or Queen Margaret in, I think, Henry VIII, off with your head. The name for Obama should be, Off With Your Head, and then Person Gets Droned to Death. That's apparently what it takes now or all it takes now is to get an American citizen killed when he is overseas or she is overseas

And the case that brings that to mind is one that my office, the Center for Constitutional Rights, brought together with the ACLU. And it was dismissed by the judge on April 4. And it was a case brought on behalf of three American citizens who were killed in drone attacks in Yemen in 2011. It was a damage case brought by the father of one (same man) and the grandfather of one, his son and his grandson were both killed. And it was brought against the heads of the CIA, JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, and various other officials in the United States government.

The three people killed, three Americans, were the well-known Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was living in Yemen. Samir Khan, who was a editor of a online magazine called Inspire, also living in Yemen, he was, quote, collateral damage when they droned Anwar al-Awlaki to death. Samir Khan was in the car or in the place with him. And then, a few weeks later, somehow Abdulrahman, the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, was also killed in a drone attack, although the government also claims in his case that it was, quote, collateral damage, although we don't know what they were really trying to do. He's this beautiful 16-year-old boy who was out looking for his father.

As I said, the case was brought on their behalf by the family of Samir Khan, as well as by the grandfather of Abdulrahman, as well as the father of Anwar al-Awlaki.

There's some history to that case. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU had actually gone to court earlier to try and stop the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama had let it be leaked that Anwar al-Awlaki was on the kill list. We represented the father, Nasser al-Awlaki in court, in an American court, and said the president has no right to kill an American citizen--or anybody else, for that matter--without going to court who is overseas and outside of a war zone.

Unfortunately--and really unfortunately--the court used a technical argument to get rid of the case. It said that the father could not represent the son, that he didn't have enough interest in the outcome and therefore couldn't represent the son--a complete BS ruling. You know, I have represented fathers on behalf of their children all the time. I did that in Guantanamo cases. I represent the parents of people at Guantanamo because we couldn't get access. But in any case, that case was dismissed.

A few weeks after that first case was dismissed, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone attack, along with Samir Khan, who he was with. And as I said, a few weeks later Anwar's son Abdulrahman was killed.

So we go and we bring the second case, which is this damage case, after the deaths. Our contention was pretty straightforward and simple. You can't assassinate, you can't kill an American--really, anybody, but in this case we had U.S. Constitution strongly on our side because it applied to U.S. citizens--you can't kill them outside a war zone as alleged terrorists without due process of law. And due process, which is a vague word to many out there, but it's not to lawyers, due process means a court has to decide whether there's--process is fair in which you're taking someone's life or their property or anything else. So when we said a court has to decide before a person is killed and the fact that a court didn't decide before these drone attacks were used against Americans means that this family ought to get a declaration that these people were killed unlawfully, and they ought to get damages.

Otherwise, look at the situation you have. The president, on his own word, can simply say, I want that person killed in Yemen, I want this person killed in the United Kingdom, I want that person killed in Ohio. They do it by drones, they do it by Joint Special Operations Command, on the president's word alone, seemingly, in my view, something that should be completely unheard of. There was obviously no due process here. The president simply put Anwar al-Awlaki on the kill lists. The others, who knows? They were collateral murder, collateral damage. But they also, of course, should have had due process and the right to be protected. So think about that. The president alone decides who to kill anywhere in the world and what this country has become.

In a chilling ruling this federal judge in this federal district court dismissed the case. And the key language from that opinion is: the government must be trusted. I want to repeat that: the judge said the government must be trusted. And here's the exact quote: "Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. It's a really outrageous ruling. The president kills whom he pleases, just so Congress is given broad authority for the president to determine who the enemy is.

It's an utter abdication by the court. It gives up on the so-called checks and balances we all learned as schoolchildren. It ends, actually, a key principle of the Magna Carta, which is the American and British charter of liberties, which was actually ratified or signed by King John in the year 1215. We're coming up to the 800th anniversary. So what this court ruling does, what the president's action does do is overturn 800 years of constitutional history.

Courts are supposed to be a buffer between what was the absolute power of kings and the people. We no longer have the rule of law; we have the rule of the king. In other words, we have the syndrome of "off with his head".

It also brings into focus, as I conclude this section, the larger picture of the role of courts post-9/11. One could easily say they're worthless. They haven't stopped any of the, quote, excesses post-9/11. But in fact they're worse than that. The courts have given us the illusion that all of these extreme post-9/11 measures have been tested in the courts and that these measures have been found to be legal, or at least not illegal, and therefore they're carried out legally.

And if I look at four of the primary ones, four of the primary excesses of 9/11, we can see how that happens, and then two others as well. Torture, despite Guantanamo, despite Abu Ghraib, despite Bagram, we have not had one successful case for damages with regard to torture of our clients, not at Guantanamo, not Maher Arar, who was taken out of the United States and tortured in Syria, nobody, nobody we have been able to successfully sue [incompr.] or to get damages. One.

Think about indefinite detention, secondly. As we speak, there's 155 people at Guantanamo being indefinitely detained for 12 years, many of them even cleared for release. The courts, while they said we can go to court about it, that's totally an illusion. No, the court has yet--has yet to have ordered the release, in the upper courts, of those people at Guantanamo.

So torture, indefinite detention.

Third, rendition: never a successful test of the U.S. rendering people to other countries for torture. Again, the Maher Arar case is the most clear one: Canadian citizen taken off a plane at JFK, sent to Syria for torture. Court says, can't get relief.

Fourth, the one we've just talked about today: killing by drones. Again here we had the court saying, trust us, trust us.

I could go on. The war in Libya. Couldn't get a court test. The war in Iraq. No court test. Surveillance by the NSA--courts wouldn't touch it.

So our courts have basically become a handmaiden not only to these extreme measures, but to really a rogue state and a terrorist state, which is what the U.S. has unfortunately become.

WORONCZUK: Michael, thank you so much for that report.

RATNER: Thank you for having me again on The Real News.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by cicero33 (12) from Sands Point, NY 5 months ago

Good post Leo. Bush and Obama have turned the judiciary into a joke. The potential consequences to us though are no laughing matter.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 5 months ago

Watching the Watchmen: Are Police Officers' Body-Worn Cameras a Win for Accountability?

Saturday, 12 April 2014 09:14
By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23045-watching-the-watchmen-are-police-officers-body-worn-cameras-a-win-for-accountability

We wouldn't know that James Boyd was turning away from three Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers when they decided to fatally shoot him March 16 in the Sandia foothills just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, if it wasn't for the body-worn cameras embedded in the officers' helmets that captured the gruesome events.

But the presence of the officers' helmet cameras certainly didn't prevent the officers from taking Boyd's life, even though the officers were reportedly carrying nonlethal Tasers in addition to their guns.

Boyd, who was homeless and had a history of struggling with mental health issues, was confronted by the APD officers for camping in an unauthorized area near Albuquerque city limits. After the officers' woke him, a three-hour stand-off followed until Boyd offered to go with the officers. But as Boyd gathered his belongings, a flash grenade was fired, and he dropped his items and, reportedly, revealed a pair of knives. He then turned away as two of the officers shot six live rounds, using assault rifles, into his back. The FBI is now investigating the shooting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAPb04HGwYA&feature=player_embedded

The incident, along with a spate of other fatal shootings, sparked intense clashes between citizens of Albuquerque and the APD, as demonstrators flooded into downtown Albuquerque in the weeks after Boyd's killing, calling for reforms and protesting a long history of police violence by a department with one of the highest records of police shootings per capita in the nation. According to The New York Times, APD officers have been involved in at least 37 shootings, 23 of them fatal, since 2010, and many of the shootings have involved people struggling with mental health.

Most recently, after hundreds of residents packed into Albuquerque City Hall for a town meeting Monday night to express concerns about police violence, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released Thursday the findings of its investigation into claims of human rights abuses and excessive use of force by the APD, which the agency has been conducting for more than a year.

The DOJ released a 46-page letter, in which it found the APD "engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force," violating constitutional rights of those shot or harmed by APD officers. In its review of 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque police between 2009 and 2013, the report found that a majority of the APD's victims did not pose a substantial threat to the officers or surrounding public.

The DOJ indicated it is still deciding whether to seek a monitor to oversee changes in the APD, depending on how willing the department is to make changes on its own. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has requested federal monitoring of the city's police force and announced plans to train city field officers in handling people with mental illness in the aftermath of the uproar over recent fatal shootings at the hands of the APD.

But many Albuquerque residents have little faith in their public officials, including Mayor Berry and Police Chief Gordon Eden, who initially said that the two APD officers' actions in shooting Boyd were justified and that the officers who used tear gas and riot gear against protesters showed "remarkable restraint."

"It's not that [James Boyd's] case is unique, but it's unique in the sense that people actually got to see it, and it was not OK," Dinah Vargas, a community organizer working to end police brutality in Albuquerque, told Truthout. "There's no way anybody could call that justified."

Vargas has worked with groups such as the Albuquerque Task Force on Public Safety, the Community Forum on the APD Crisis and family members of shooting victims to draft a list of demands in regard to ongoing police violence in Albuquerque.

Among the groups' demands of city officials are the firing of Chief Eden and Mayor Berry; the demilitarization of the APD, involving the reduction of the force's military-grade equipment; an end to racial profiling; a police oversight commission with subpoena power and the authority to hire, fire and discipline; a dismissal of all charges against protesters; an indictment of all officers involved in shootings; a non-police emergency response team of trained mental health professionals to be present in all possible deadly force encounters; and the mandatory use of body-worn cameras on officers; among many others.

Vargas pointed to a long history of what she called "failed leadership" within the APD and alleged conflicts of interest. She also said that disciplinary action was previously taken against one member of the Police Oversight Commission who failed to take adequate action against APD officers found of wrongdoing.

The APD was one of the first departments in the country to implement the use of body-worn cameras on its officers in 2012, amid a mandate from the DOJ at the peak of its investigation of complaints of civil rights abuses, according to Vargas.

But Vargas said the video released of the James Boyd shooting is unique because the APD has never released video footage of a shooting in its entirety. She added that activists are still waiting on footage from another camera worn by one of the officers involved in the Boyd shooting to be released. Typically, Vargas said, the process of requesting footage is bureaucratically difficult.

"Video wasn't always released or only portions of it were released, and equally important are the consequences of not having it roll or [the cameras] being not tamper-proof," Vargas said. "As far as the [APD] wearing cameras, it's obvious it has done nothing to decrease the shootings or accountability."

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 5 months ago

Body-Worn Cameras Hailed as Success, But Are They Enough?

Like the APD, thousands of police departments around the nation are beginning to implement the use of portable cameras worn on officers' lapels, helmets or sunglasses, which record their interactions with citizens even when outside of the view of their mounted dashboard cameras, which have been in use for decades on patrol cars. Nearly one in every six police departments are actively patrolling with body-worn cameras, according to one expert on the matter.

These body-worn cameras are already being hailed as a success in terms of police accountability, with the force in Rialto, California, serving as the poster-child for the cameras. Rialto was one of the first cities to implement the use of the cameras in February 2012, but more importantly, one of the first places where the cameras' impacts were studied.

A yearlong University of Cambridge study found that the number of complaints against officers fell by 88 percent in the months after body-worn cameras were implemented, and that use of force dropped 60 percent.

Police officers around the nation have had mixed reactions to the cameras' growing use, which is expected to become the standard as thousands of departments have adopted their use in the last five years. According to The New York Times, the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association called the technology "an encumbrance," and many officers have raised privacy concerns.

"All of the media coverage focuses on this little town of Rialto. Now, it's a very small city, very small department, so we still need to see more evidence on this," said Samuel Walker, professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "The jury is still out on this."

Police accountability experts and civil liberties advocates point to a lack of guidelines governing the cameras' use and weak accountability in cases where the cameras do catch legitimate wrongdoing as a problematic policy gap during a time when police and citizens are increasingly filming each other.

Some preliminary guidelines are being drafted by a nonprofit police research and policy organization at the request of the DOJ to address how and when the cameras can be turned on and off and other issues of privacy.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's kind of the ultimate accountability tool because, as far as I know, those cameras can also be turned off," said Brigitt Keller, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild's National Police Accountability Project. "While I think it is probably a good idea, it really depends how it's used and whether or not police officers are disciplined ... Are there consequences if the recordings show that a police officer violated policy or a police officer used excessive force?"

Keller also said the viewpoint at which many body-worn cameras are worn may not necessarily show significant details, such as whether an officer is holding a gun or not.

"I'm not overly optimistic [body-worn cameras] will lead to any change because we hear about video recordings, and we see the most egregious forms of police misconduct already, and in so many cases police officers are not held accountable," Keller said.

Are Accountability Policies Worsening With Cameras?

But reactionary policies which help to shield officers from accountability as well as evidence of widespread tampering of tracking equipment, point to a sort of backlash of increased surveillance both of the cops and by the cops.

In November 2013, a secret policy was instituted by Dallas Police Chief David Brown that would allow officers to remain silent for 72 hours after a police shooting to review any evidence against them before making an official statement. The policy was instituted after a Dallas officer shot a man suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The officers' report that the man, Bobby Gerald Bennett, moved in a threatening manner, was contradicted by a home surveillance camera.

Accountability experts say 72-hour review policies gives officers time to cover for one another by getting their stories straight, and allow officers to wait for any video footage of the incident to be released so their statements don't contradict video evidence.

Police departments around the nation are justifying similar policies using the research of behavioral specialists including, Dr. Alexis Artwohl, who is also a consultant for police departments. She has studied psychological conditions during tense situations involving the use of force and writes that officers must be aware of many factors simultaneously, such as bystanders and overall public safety concerns. Other researchers point to how the stress of tense encounters can have psychological and physiological effects on officers.

In response to this research, police departments across the country have created policies that allow review periods claiming to be in the interest of officers' psychological needs in the aftermath of a shooting. Departments in Denver, Colorado; Spokane, Washington; and Oregon have implemented policies including 72-hour review policies for officers involved in shootings. Some of these policies have since been eliminated, according to Walker, but it could still be a sign of a worrying trend for police accountability on the horizon.

"If it was a civilian who shot someone, [police officers] wouldn't give them 72 hours," said Ron Hampton, former executive director of the National Black Police Association and a former police officer. "So why would we give a police officer 72 hours to get his or her story together so that they can sit and talk to someone and have all of their 'I's' dotted and their 'T's' crossed? That does a disservice to transparency."

As a former officer, Hampton expressed doubts about the claim that officers need time to cope with the psychological trauma of a shooting before their memories become clear. Instead, he said, officers should be interviewed immediately while their memories are still fresh.

"The officers are going to lawyer-up, there's no question in my mind, they're going to lawyer-up in that process, in that time. If they think they made some mistake then how do we know that what they are going to say to you 72 hours later is accurate?"

Hampton doesn't believe body-worn cameras are a fool-proof solution, either, telling Truthout that what is really needed is better training and education for officers in the field, as well as stronger disciplinary action.

According to Walker and Hampton, most of these review period provisions are typically included in police union contracts. "But [police officers] don't work for the union and they don't work for the police department. Ultimately, they work for the citizens," Hampton said.

In cases where specific policies and provisions are not in place, police officers have been caught tampering with devices that record them. This week, an inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators found nearly half of an estimated 80 patrol cars in one South Los Angeles' division were missing antennas, which record the officers' voices while on duty.

Hampton, though, was ultimately thankful that the helmet cameras the APD officers wore captured what happened when James Boyd was shot.

"Can you imagine what would've happened if we hadn't seen the film?" he asked.

Copyright, Truthout.