No Accountability

What do we know about the murder of Alton Sterling by Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?

We know that on July 5th he was peacefully and with permission on private property selling CDs as he had for years.

We are told by Police officials that he had a gun, which he was legally licensed to carry for personal protection since he often was in possession of large sums of cash and feared robbery.

We are told by those same officials that he was accosted by a homeless man who asked him for money and that he told him no and showed him the gun and the man left.

The Police officials say a Police Dispatcher received a 911 call and she told Officers Salamoni and Lake a man matching Alton Sterling’s description had pulled a gun on a 911 caller.

Eyewitnesses say Officers Salamoni and Lake talked with Sterling, they Tasered and tackled him and while he was on the ground shot him 6 times.

The entire incident was recorded on surveillance video from the Convenience Store he was working near. When Police Investigators arrived they asked for the video and were told by the owner that he refused to surrender it without a Warrant.

Without a warrant and without permission from the Store Owner, Police broke into the Store and seized the equipment.

Unfortunately for the Police there is another video record, taken by the Store Owner, Abdullah Muflahi, on his cell phone. That video is posted below. Warning, it is quite graphic.

(h/t The Daily Beast)

What happens when Police take your stuff without legal authority? You call your Lawyer. And there are lawsuits.

Store Owner Sues Baton Rouge Police For Seizing His CCTV Recording Of Alton Sterling Shooting
by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt
Tue, Jul 12th 2016

Following the shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers, Muflahi’s store was raided by law enforcement officers who took the hard drive containing the store’s surveillance camera footage of the altercation. So far, everyone involved has refused to discuss the illegal seizure of Muflahi’s recording equipment, deferring to the FBI and its investigation of the shooting — which would be something if the FBI would answer questions about the seizure and current location of the hard drive.. but it won’t talk about it either.

Cushing points us to a Buzzfeed article by Mike Hayes describing the circumstances of Abdullah Muflahi’s (remember, this guy is not only totally innocent of any crime he also owns the store and the equipment and has not been served with a Warrant even yet, eight days later) detention while the Police were breaking in and stealing his stuff-

28-year-old Abdullah Muflahi says that police at the scene placed him in a locked police car for four hours and denied him access to his cell phone, preventing him from contacting his family or an attorney.

Muflahi claims that he was only let out of the police car to use the bathroom. However, he says that he wasn’t allowed in the store and was forced to relieve himself on the side of the building in full view of the public.

After hours in custody, Muflahi says he was taken to the Louisiana State Police Headquarters where he was detained in a locked room for two hours before being questioned about the incident.

Nice guys, eh? Back to Tim-

The lawsuit, unfortunately, is a little thin when it comes to establishing anything that might overcome the immunity that shields individual officers from the consequences of their actions. While it does suggest the Baton Rouge Police Department’s training is inadequate, it really doesn’t go into detail as to why the court should be expected to believe this assertion. However, it does make an allegation that could be interesting if the court decides to explore it.

[Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie] has negotiated a contract with a union representing police officers that provides a blanket indemnification for police officers who are sued by the public from all claims no matter what the circumstances under which the claim arise and further provides that meritorious complaints about police officers are purged from employment files after only 18 months. Both contract provisions encourage aggressive conduct by police officers by minimizing consequences.

It’s common knowledge that police union contracts are generally constructed to shield officers from not only public scrutiny, but internal misconduct investigations as well. Most of these are complemented by a “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” that gives officers up to three days to ignore questions about alleged misconduct or excessive force. These “extra rights” are often granted in the face of police union pressure, and the unions themselves are heavily-involved in the drafting of department discipline policies. Unions also help fired officers regain their positions, making it even harder for law enforcement agencies to rid themselves of the “bad apples” continually spoiling the rest of the “bunch.”

Unfortunately it’s much worse that Tim suggests. Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie was head negotiator for the government of the Baton Rouge Police Contract, is a member of the Union he was negotiating with, AND replaced Dewayne White who, after attempts to bring accountability to the Department which has a repeated and extensive history of Police Violence, was forced to resign by the Union.

In short he has a conflict of interest and no demonstrated desire to reign in Baton Rouge’s Corrupt Outlaws in Blue.

The Officers Who Killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile May Not Be Punished. Here’s Why.
by Celisa Calacal, Think Progress
Jul 11, 2016 9:06 am

In looking at the Baton Rouge Police Department specifically, there are a number of policies and regulations outlined in the BRPD’s police union contract and Louisiana’s police bill of rights that make it difficult for a police officer to be held accountable for actions of misconduct or use of excessive force — even when it results in the death of another person.

The BRPD, which unionized last year, has four policies in place that protect its police officers, two of whom were involved in Sterling’s death. These are the outlined policies (note: over and above Louisiana’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights- ek), from Check the Police:

  • Restricts/delays interrogations: Officer interrogations are limited to a “reasonable amount of time,” and allows for officers to take breaks to address “personal needs.”
  • Gives officers unfair access to information: Any officer who has been interrogated in an investigation is entitled immediate access to a copy of the entire investigation record.
  • Requires cities pay for misconduct: The city must shoulder the costs of misconduct settlements as well as provide legal defense. The city is also expected to indemnify any officer who is “sued in connection with activities occurring during the course and scope of his employment.”
  • Erases misconduct records: “Sustained” complaints against an officer are erased after 18 months if no similar complaints are filed within that amount of time. Sustained violations are also expunged after five years. However, the removal of these complaints are subject to public records law.

Past reports from the BRPD further show how officers are often not held accountable for violent actions. According to 2014 data, there were 35 use of force complaints internally investigated by the BRPD. Within these complaints, 17 were not sustained, 12 were exonerated, one investigation was terminated, and five complaints were still pending. Not one investigation found that an officer had violated policy nor did any lead to charges against the officer.

In one example, a grand jury investigation spanning from 2011 from 2014 chose not to indict BRPD officer Christopher Magee for shooting and killing Carlos Harris. The shooting took place outside a nightclub, where police had handcuffed Harris’s friend and had asked Harris to move his friend’s car. At first, Harris objected, saying he was intoxicated, but police demanded he drive the car anyways. Harris proceeded to crash into several cars, leading Magee to fire bullets at the car and kill Harris.

The regulations in the BRPD’s union contract and the state’s police bill of rights may have already protected the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling. The two officers, who have been identified as Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni, have had four “use of force” complaints filed against them. According to internal affairs documents released Thursday, both officers were cleared in all complaints. The complaints came from three black men and a black juvenile, where one of the men was shot by police and the other three suffered injuries during arrests and in a vehicle during a police pursuit.

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