News in Brief
Canada: A trial was underway in October 2020 for Calgary Constable Alex Dunn, who is accused of assault causing bodily harm during a 2017 arrest. “Dalia Kafi, who is Black and was 26 years old at the time, had been arrested on the accusation she breached a court-ordered curfew,” cbc.ca reports. She was out past curfew while at a friend’s home braiding hair. A pal offered to drive her home but police stopped the driver for an illegal turn. Kafi was arrested for breaching curfew and obstruction of justice. While having her arrest photo taken, Dunn tried to remove her hair scarf. One of the handcuffs, Dunn testified, had slid up toward Kafi’s elbow and she grabbed his hand. Video of Dunn throwing the handcuffed suspect face-first to the ground was released to the media, cbc.ca reports. Staff Sgt. Gordon Macdonald called it a “judo-style throw,” and he advised Dunn “that it was the worst use of force that I had seen.”
Florida: Detective James Suarez has resigned from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office after an investigation “concluded he took checks from a charity gutted by a fellow deputy who’s now in prison,” sheriff’s office documents reveal, palmbeachpost.com reports. Suarez served “on the board of Children of Wounded Warriors without PBSO permission,” according to palmbeachpost.com. He allegedly “solicited donations during an investigation, tipped off the disgraced ex-deputy, Robert Simeone, about a subpoena and contacted him hundreds of times after his arrest.” Simeone, it was earlier alleged, “steered about two-thirds of the donations [to the charity] to his personal or business accounts.”
Kentucky: Two dupont Manual High School student journalists in Louisville broke the story of a Kentucky State Police warrior-style training material. The article of October 30, 2020, on the Manual RedEye news site, shows that cadets in training were encouraged in a 33-page slideshow to use violence and were given quotes by Adolf Hitler and Confederate commander Robert E. Lee. According to manualredeye.com: “One slide, titled ‘Violence of Action,’ in addition to imploring officers to be ‘ruthless killer[s],’ instructs troopers to have ‘a mindset void of emotion’ and to ‘meet violence with greater violence.’” The slideshow drew “harsh condemnation from politicians, Jewish groups and Kentucky residents, but not from the Kentucky State Police department itself, which said only that the training materials were old.” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued this statement: “This is absolutely unacceptable. It is further unacceptable that I just learned about this through social media. We will collect all the facts and take immediate corrective action.”
Idaho: In the era of Black Lives Matter and calls to defund the police, the Boise interim police chief asked cops to not display the thin blue line police flag in public. Interim Chief Ron Winegar launched a new policy, according a June 25 email from Winegar to Boise Police Department staff obtained by the Idaho Press via a public records request. Winegar “said he would be banning the flag, stickers, face masks or anything else with the symbol on it from being displayed in public places. It would still be allowed to be displayed in BPD headquarters at City Hall West, which is closed to the public,” Idaho Press reports. “The request stems from a request by a Boise Public Schools administrator for a school resource officer to remove the flag from his office at a school.” The policy change was initiated at the same time as a ban on the use of the lateral vascular neck restraint, or “sleeper hold.”
Illinois: Expunging criminal records is a focal point in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Cook County, Illinois, for example, has been expunging 300 cannabis convictions each week, dailynorthwestern.com reports. In Michigan, those with low-level pot convictions will have their records expunged because of recently signed legislation, jurist.org reports. It is part of the Michigan Clean Slate initiative, which “will make criminal record expungement automatic for all people who are eligible,” the nonprofit Safe & Just Michigan reports.
Louisiana: Jeff Perilloux made headlines as the St. John the Baptist Parish judge convicted of fondling his daughters’ then-teenage friends in 2017. In October 2020, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to nola.com, he also was reprimanded by ad hoc Judge Dennis Waldron, who discussed Perilloux’s “grooming” of the girls as he hosted sleepovers and chaperoned them on beach trips and cruises. The girls were 14, 15, and 17 at the time. “Over a weeklong trial last month, [the] four accusers testified to Perilloux touching them inappropriately in various situations, whether applying sunscreen or vapor rub over their chests and bodies or, according to one victim, holding his hand over her breast during a back massage,” nola.com reports. Said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) after the sentencing: “Sex offenses against children are the most serious of crimes which cause permanent psychological harm. This trauma has been exacerbated by Mr. Perilloux’s continued refusal to admit and/or take responsibility for what he did to these young women, who were children when these crimes were committed. But I hope the sentence issued today will bring some comfort to the survivors and their families.”
Louisiana: Fair Wayne Bryant, who became a symbol for the heavy-handed “habitual offender” law, was paroled October 18, 2020, after being given a life sentence for taking a pair of hedge clippers in 1997, npr.org reports. He had served 23 years behind bars for four felonies, including armed robbery of a cab driver, forging a check for $150, and stealing from a homeowner. The hedge clipper theft focused attention on the unfairness of “three strikes” laws. “Despite multiple appeals, including Bryant’s failed bid this year to have the Louisiana Supreme Court review his sentence, Bryant remained behind bars” until October 18. Only Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, who dissented, readily made a connection between Bryant’s long sentence and the “Pig Laws” enacted after Reconstruction. “These laws, enacted by all-white Southern legislatures, imposed extremely harsh penal sentences on Black people for crimes of poverty such as petty theft,” noted Sister Helen Prejean. “It is imperative,” said Alanah Odoms, ACLU of Louisiana executive director, “that the Legislature repeal the habitual offender law that allows for these unfair sentences, and for district attorneys across the state to immediately stop seeking extreme penalties for minor offenses. “ A GoFundMe page is accepting donations to help ensure Bryant’s successful transition into society.
Maine: About 70 demonstrators turned out for a Black Lives Matter rally October 22, 2020, by the Portland police station, pressherald.com reports. The rally was part of “a national protest movement – the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation – that began 24 years ago. “ There was a chant in memory of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot in her in Louisville, Kentucky, home during a raid by police officers.
Minnesota: Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who captured 10 minutes of video of George Floyd “trying to fight for his life” while pinned under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee, will be honored with the PEN/Benenson Courage Award at a virtual gala in December, startribune.com reports. “With nothing more than a cell phone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement, the Associated Press reports. “Darnella Frazier took an enormous amount of flak in the wake of releasing the video. People were accusing her of being in it for the money, or for being famous, or were asking why she didn’t intervene. And it was just left this way. We wanted to go back and recognize and elevate this singular act.” Frazier will share the honor with Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine by the Trump administration.
Maine: Two Rockland officers who allegedly beat to death porcupines while on duty in early June were fired September 2, 2020, and face felony animal cruelty charges, according to the Bangor Daily News. “The Maine Warden Service on Friday charged Addison Cox, 27, and Mike Rolerson, 30, with aggravated cruelty to animals — a Class C felony — and night hunting, a misdemeanor. Cox was additionally charged with unlawful use or possession of implements or aids. Rolerson also faces a charge of illuminating wild animals or birds.” The district attorney expressed concern that the officers’ credibility could affect nearly 100 criminal cases, in the event the officers were the only witnesses in the cases. The charges follow a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office investigation. Meanwhile, Officer Kenneth Smith is accused of posting a video of a porcupine killing in a Snapchat group linked to night-shift cops. Smith had been on administrative leave in October. In 2017, Cox had been described by fellow officers as the department’s “resident raccoon whisperer” after helping a Rockland resident remove a young critter from a yard, according to WGME.
Maryland: A video of Anne Arundel police forcibly removing and arresting a Black Brooklyn Park man from a vehicle after stopping his girlfriend for allegedly speeding has had 22.5 million views on TikTok, capitalgazette.com reports October 24, 2020. “In several videos, officers ask Antoine Lee Wedington, 23, of Brooklyn Park, to get out of the car, saying they have warrants for his arrest. Wedington, the passenger, does not leave the car, and officers eventually remove him; throughout the videos, he asks the officers to let him leave the vehicle. When pressed against an SUV, he shouts at his partner [Heather Janney] to continue filming. Wedington was charged with resisting arrest.” Wedington kisses Janney as he is pulled from the vehicle and an infant carrier can through a back window. Wedington has two warrants: “a circuit court bench warrant for failure to appear in court on Oct. 5 and a retake warrant for violating conditions of parole and probation. Both warrants require officers to take the subject of the summons directly to a detention center, said police spokesman Lt. AJ Gardiner.”
Massachusetts: A Boston Globe investigation revealed that the “Massachusetts State Police has allowed dozens of officers to remain on active duty after internal investigations found they had broken the law.” In-house “investigators had found ‘29 sustained charges for assault and battery; 19 alcohol and drug violations, including four OUIs; 17 charges for harassment, including three for sexual harassment; [and] another 17 for improperly using the state’s criminal background check system’ against active troopers.” In turn, the “Massachusetts attorney general’s spokesperson told the Globe that ‘the State Police had shared none of those details with the office.’”
Michigan: Barry County residents in October 2020 were calling for the resignation of Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf after he took the stage in May with William “Bill” Null and other members of the Michigan Liberty Militia during an American Patriot Rally-Sheriffs speak out event against statewide stay-at-home orders, mlive.com reports. Leaf compared Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to being held unlawfully under house arrest. Now a right wing militia group is under arrest as part of an alleged terrorism plot to kidnap Whitmer from her vacation cottage and take her to Wisconsin for a fake trial. FBI also arrested seven right-wing extremists who were in contact with the six men arrested by the FBI. In April, when Trump tweeted Liberate Michigan, “extremists took that as a call to arms,” MSNBC.com reports. “Armed anti-COVID extremists even showed up at the state capitol” to demand “lawmakers lift the lockdown.”
North Carolina: A racially diverse get-out-the-vote rally of adults and children were sprayed with a “pepper-based vapor” by Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and Graham police officers October 31, 2020. At least eight people were arrested. According to npr.org: “Participants and organizers say they had proper permits for Saturday’s [“I Am Change”] event, which marched from Wayman’s Chapel AME Church to a rally at the city’s Court Square. Following the rally, organizers had then planned to lead about 200 marchers to a nearby polling place.” Following a moment of silence in memory of George Floyd led by the Rev. Greg Drumwright, marchers were ordered to stay on the sidewalk, and cops say they didn’t have permission to block traffic. “We are fed up with this kind of treatment in Alamance County and in Graham City,” Drumwright said in a Facebook live video. “Both of those law entities … colluded to suppress peaceful organizers, who were here not only to vote today, but to call an end to system oppression and racial disparages.” Drumwright was among those arrested.
Pennsylvania: Two West Philadelphia police officers who fired at Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man brandishing a knife, were taken off street duty. The fatal shooting took place October 26, 2020, npr.org reports. Wallace was on his home porch but ran away. His mother tried to shield him. She tried to tell police he was her son. “I’m yelling, ‘Put down the gun, put down the gun,’ and everyone is saying, ‘Don’t shoot him, he’s gonna put it down, we know him,’” said bystander Maurice Holloway, 35. The man’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., said his son had mental health issues and asked why police did not use a Taser. “Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he watched bystander video, which shows parts of the altercation. He called it a ‘tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered.’” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said questions about “what led to shooting” will be part of a full investigation. Skirmishes between police and demonstrat0ors also injured a cop, who was in the hospital in stable condition, inquirer.com reported October 27. “About 29 other officers suffered mostly minor injuries from being struck by rocks, bricks, and other projectiles, police said in a preliminary report.” Police arrested about 20 linked to looting at retail stores.
South Korea: A wrongful conviction and torture case with apologizes is rare. On November 2, 2020, prisoner Lee Chun-jae told a South Korean court that he killed 14 women and girls three decades ago and apologized to a man wrongfully imprisoned for one of his crimes. The man, Yoon, spent “20 years in prison for the 1988 rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl,” cnn.com reports. “That murder is one of 10 killings that took place between 1986 and 1991, which are known as the Hwaseong murders after the area in which they took place.” A breakthrough came in 2019 when improvements in DNA evidence identified Lee as a suspect in at least three of the murders. Yoon, meanwhile, said police used torture on him to extract a confession in 1989; four others who were investigated in the 1990s took their lives. The conviction was the subject of a 2003 film, Memories of Murder. Whether Yoon’s conviction is overturned will be decided in a retrial. Police chief Bae Yong-ju apologized: “I bow my head down and offer apologies to the victims of Lee Chun-jae’s crimes, the surviving families and everyone who suffered damage due to the police investigation, including Mr Yoon,” scmp.com reported.