MERRICK BOBB’S NEWEST REPORT ON THE LASD LOOKS AT PROBLEMS WITHIN THE CANINE PROGRAM
Civilian LASD watchdog Merrick Bobb released his semiannual report on the Sheriff’s Dept. on Monday. There’s a lot in the report, but one of the things that he focuses on as an area of high importance is the disproportionate amount of dog bites by LASD canines on blacks and Latinos. From January to June of this year, all canine bites were on African Americans and Latinos.
(We’ll have more on the whole official report tomorrow.)
Here’s a clip from the intro:
We have, in the past, recommended that the LASD focus on the stark disparities in the racial and ethnic mix of persons who are bitten by police dogs. In the first six months of this year, 100 percent of the dog bites were of Blacks and Latinos. While the number of annual bites of Anglos, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans has remained consistently low from 2004 through 2012, 89 percent of the total bites in the same time period were of Latinos or Blacks. This 89 percent is an increase from a still troublesome 85 percent in the 1990s.
…the number of Latinos being bitten by dogs increased 30 percent, from 30 bites in 2004 to 39 bites in 2012. Similarly, from 2004 to 2012, the number of Blacks being bitten by dogs increased 33 percent, from 9 in 2004 to 12 in 2012. This trend of minority populations disproportionately being bitten has held firm in recent years. In 2010, 90 percent of the bites were on Black or Hispanic suspects; in 2011, 89 percent; 2012, 90 percent; and during the first six months of 2013, 100 percent or all of the 17 bites were on Black or Hispanic suspects. Consideration might be given to a partial moratorium on the use of canines in all but the most critical circumstances involving armed suspects as practices are developed to curb the disproportionate impact.
And here is what the report recommends the department do about the disproportionate bite ratios:
…the fact that minorities are being bitten at a disproportionate rate – for many years – causes us great concern. The public is entitled to some explanation and understanding of why this is happening. We urge, again, that LASD conduct a study to determine the key factors driving this disparity. We also recommend that the Department collect data on all incidents that involve fleeing suspects who are involved in serious crimes. Such data will create a platform for analyzing whether or not race does in fact play a factor in the decision to call out the canine unit. If LASD continues to ignore the issues, we recommend that a partial moratorium be placed on the use of canines in all but the most critical circumstances involving armed suspects. Without the ability to conduct a meaningful, rigorous assessment, the LASD will demonstrate to the public that racial disparities in policing deserve only a shrug of the shoulder.
OVERINCARCERATION AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
In an excellent new article, the Atlantic’s Heather Ann Thompson highlights the significant political consequences of the nation’s track record of overincarceration. Thompson cites multiple wars on crime, “prison-gerrymandering,” and the disenfranchisement of people with criminal convictions as ways that America’s democratic process has been compromised. (In July of 2012, we pointed to a report by the Sentencing Project which found that approximately 5.85M Americans were disenfranchised as of 2010 due to a past felony conviction.)
Here are some clips from the lengthy article:
The answer, in part, stems from the fact that locking up unprecedented numbers of citizens over the last forty years has itself made the prison system highly resistant to reform through the democratic process. To an extent that few Americans have yet appreciated, record rates of incarceration have, in fact, undermined our American democracy, both by impacting who gets to vote and how votes are counted.
the very same year that Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he also signed another Act into law: the Law Enforcement Administration Act (LEAA), a piece of legislation that, well before crime rates across America hit record highs, created the bureaucracy and provided the funding that would enable a historically and internationally unparalleled war on crime.
So, at the very same moment that the American Civil Rights Movement had succeeded in newly empowering African Americans in the political sphere by securing passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, America’s white politicians decided to begin a massive new war on crime that would eventually undercut myriad gains of the Civil Rights Movement—particularly those promised by the Voting Rights Act itself.
Because of this new war on crime, national incarceration rates soared:
By the year 2007, 1 in every 31 U.S. residents lived under some form of correctional supervision. By 2010, more than 7.3 million Americans had become entangled in the criminal justice system and 2 million of them were actually locked up in state and federal prisons. By 2011, 39,709 people in Louisiana alone were living behind bars and 71,579 were either in jail, on probation, or on parole. And this was by no means a “southern” phenomenon. In Pennsylvania, 51,638 people were actually locked behind bars in 2011 and a full 346,268 lived under some form of correctional control by that year…
This nation’s incarceration rate was hardly color blind. Eventually one in nine young black men were locked up in America and, by 2010, black women and girls too were being locked up at a record rate.
In 1974, as the numbers of imprisoned Americans was rising precipitously and when states once again began to disfranchise individuals with criminal convictions, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked in a landmark case, Richardson v. Ramirez, to rule explicitly on the issue of whether it was constitutional under the 14th Amendment to disfranchise those serving, or who have served, time in prison. The court did the same thing that many southern states did after the Civil War—it interpreted Section A of the 14th amendment very, very differently than it was intended to be interpreted. It, too, decided that disenfranchisement would be permitted when a citizen was convicted of any crime, without regard to whether such crimes might be thought of as ideologically analogous to rebellion or were more likely to affect African Americans than others.
Disfranchising thousands of voters is only part of the story of how mass incarceration has distorted American democracy. Today, just as it did more than a hundred years earlier, the way the Census calculates resident population also plays a subtle but significant role. As ex-Confederates knew well, prisoners would be counted as residents of a given county, even if they could not themselves vote: High numbers of prisoners could easily translate to greater political power for those who put them behind bars.
ACLU CALLS ON AG HOLDER TO BAN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT OF YOUTHS
On Thursday, October 10th, the ACLU will deliver a petition to US Attorney General Eric Holder, in addition to the above video, calling for an end to solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.
Here’s a clip from the ACLU’s announcement:
The federal government has outlined concerns about locking kids in solitary, but it has fallen short of promising not to subject the kids in its care to this practice. Over the last several months, the ACLU has worked with over 40 advocacy groups to pressure Attorney General Eric Holder to ban solitary confinement for youth in federal custody – which would set an important precedent for states to follow suit. We received an initial response from decision-makers at the Department of Justice that signaled interest, but they still have not committed to a ban.
(Raw Story’s Travis Gettys also covered the story.)