On Tuesday, federal Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the city of Gardena to release two disturbing videos of Gardena police officers shooting an unarmed man named Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, whose brother’s bicycle had been stolen, causing someone to call the police. As they waited for police to come, Diaz Zeferino and two friends went out to look for the bike but ran into the police instead, who assumed that the three were the bike thieves. The encounter ended with a volley of gunfire that killed Diaz Zeferino and badly injured one of his friends.
The tragedy may have been in part set in motion when the police dispatcher wrongly described the called-in theft as a robbery, suggesting that it involved force.
The June 2, 2013 encounter between the three men and the police was captured by two patrol car-mounted video cameras.
City officials and the Gardena police department have been battling for two years to keep the videos from public view, even though the city had already settled with Diaz Zeferino’s family and others for $4.7 million.
In making his ruling, Judge Wilson was responding to a collective request from the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Bloomberg, which challenged a blanket protective order by 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, that had prohibited the release of the videos and other evidence in the court case.
LA Times reporters Richard Winton and Joel Rueben have more details.
Here’s a clip:
In unsealing the videos, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said the public had an interest in seeing the recordings, especially after the city settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million. Wilson rejected last ditch efforts by Gardena attorneys, who argued the city had paid the settlement money in the belief that the videos would remain under seal.
The “defendants’ argument backfires here — the fact that they spent the city’s money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos,” Wilson wrote. “Moreover, while the videos are potentially upsetting and disturbing because of the events they depict, they are not overly gory or graphic in a way that would make them a vehicle for improper purposes.”
Wilson’s decision comes as law enforcement agencies nationwide increasingly have embraced the use of cameras worn by officers and placed in patrol cars to record police interactions with civilians. But few agencies have made their videos public, spurring a debate over the need to balance the privacy of those captured on the recordings and transparency in policing.
IN A MAJOR ADDRESS PRESIDENT OBAMA CALLS FOR SWEEPING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AND A REEXAMINATION OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
On Tuesday, President Barak Obama gave what turned out to be a serious policy speech when he addressed the annual conference of the NAACP in Philadelphia. The speech, which was also broadcast, had criminal justice reform advocates madly tweeting to each other: “Is anybody watching this?!!”
The enthusiasm was for good reason.
Among the topics @POTUS tackled was the controversy over solitary confinement-—but there was lots more.
The BBC has more. Here’s a clip:
President Barack Obama has called for sweeping reforms to the US criminal justice system including curbing the use of solitary confinement and voting rights for felons.
He said lengthy mandatory minimum sentences should be reduced - or thrown out entirely.
“Mass incarceration makes our entire country worse off, and we need to do something about it,” he said.
Mr Obama urged Congress to pass a sentencing reform bill by year’s end.
On Thursday, Mr Obama will be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison - part of week long focus by the White House on the criminal justice system.
Speaking to a gathering of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Philadelphia, Mr Obama discussed investments in education, alternatives to trials and prison job training programs.
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch has been tasked with reviewing the overuse of solitary confinement, Mr Obama said.
“Do we think it makes sense to lock people up in tiny cells for 23 hours a day? It won’t make us safer and stronger.”
The country should not be tolerating overcrowding in prisons, gang activity or rape, which Mr Obama called “unacceptable”.
DOES THE TREATMENT OF LAUSD’S RAFE ESQUITH SUGGEST THAT BUREAUCRATS ARE WRECKING EDUCATION?
Robby Soave writing for the Daily Beast argues that “when the feelings of students are prized above all else,” talented teachers like Rafe Esquith “looking to inject a little personality into the classroom are the first to suffer.”
Here’s a clip about Esquith’s case, but read on for other examples:
Teachers with unusual, engaging methods are often mistreated by the education system—even, like Buchanan, when they win awards. Rafe Esquith, an elementary school teacher at Hobart Boulevard in Los Angeles who won numerous teaching distinctions and was dubbed the world’s most famous teacher by The Washington Post, earned a suspension this year for a familiar reason: he told a joke.
Whereas Buchanan said some mildly provocative things to a bunch of full-grown adults, Esquith made a completely inoffensive remark to a bunch of children. He runs his own nonprofit, puts on productions of Shakespeare plays, and takes his low-income LA students on educational field trips—relying on private donations to fund his activities. In March, Esquith joked with his students that unless he was able to raise more money, they would have to perform the play naked. He made this remark after reading a relevant passage from Huckleberry Finn that concerns a king “prancing out on all fours, naked.”
The joke was essentially harmless. But another teacher overheard it, divined some sinister intention, and reported it to school authorities. Esquith had to cancel his production and sit in a rubber room while administrators interrogated his students about his behavior. A California credentialing committee ruled that Esquith did nothing wrong, but the district still hasn’t let him return to teaching.
Last month, Esquith’s attorneys announced that they were filing a class action suit in behalf of “thousands of well-respected teachers deprived of their rights by the Los Angeles Unified School District.”