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Articles by Kevin Bliss

Hip-Hop Police Bust Careers, Not Crime

Review Board Has No Power Over NYPD

by Kevin Bliss

The New York Police Department (“NYPD”) has consistently hindered police misconduct allegation investigations, withholding documentation and body-camera footage, as well as advising its police not to cooperate with interviews.

That’s according to an August 2020 article in ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization investigating abuses of power. With the assistance of THE CITY, WNYC/Gothamist and The Marshall Project, it investigated the NYPD and its historical lack of cooperation with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (“CCRB”), leading to a lack of discipline for misconduct and a large number of cases resolved as “inconclusive.”

The CCRB in New York was created in the 1950s in response to a coalition of advocacy groups in the city that wanted accountability in “police misconduct in their relations with Puerto Ricans and Negros specifically.” Relations between the two have been strained since the beginning.

Sometime in the 1990s, New York’s first Black mayor, David Dinkins, made the review board independent from the NYPD and gave it subpoena powers. These powers allowed the CCRB to “compel the attendance of witnesses and require the production of such records and other material as are necessary for the investigation of complaints.”

Activists say the problem is ...

Thirty-Fourth Conviction Based on Bite Mark Forensics Overturned

by Kevin Bliss

Eddie Lee Howard, Jr. was the thirty-fourth prisoner whose case has been overturned because of the debunked pseudo-science of bite mark forensics. After 30 years in prison, the district attorney now has the choice whether to retry Howard or drop the charges.

Howard, a Black man, was arrested in 1992 in Columbus, Mississippi, for the murder of an elderly White woman. Dr. Steven Hayne performed the autopsies where he testified the second was required because there “was some question that there could be injuries inflicted by teeth.” After the second autopsy, he referred the case to Dr. Michael West, who used his patented method of exposing the body to ultraviolet light while wearing special glasses where he found bite marks he testified matched Howard’s teeth on the victim’s neck, arm, and breast. Howard was convicted and sentenced to death.

Represented by the Mississippi Innocence Project, Howard was granted in 2010 the right to have DNA analysis conducted on the evidence. Results excluded Howard from every piece of evidence tested. More importantly, DNA analysis found no saliva or male DNA on the victim’s nightgown where the underlying bite marks were said to have been found.

“The DNA testing ...

For-Profit Lexipol Takes Over Writing Departmental Policy for Public Safety

by Kevin Bliss

Lexipol, a privately owned company that drafts policies for over 8,100 police departments, fire, EMS, correctional services, and other public safety agencies nationwide is being criticized by reform activists as doing the bare minimum required by law to keep from being sued. They argue that the company is only concerned about its bottom line and hinders transparency at a time when reform measures are trying to hold police to a higher standard.

Started in 2003 by two retired police officers who later become lawyers, Lexipol charges the city, county, or state a fee to evaluate current departmental policies and rewrite them to comply with changing laws. The company brochure boasts: “a cost-effective solution that provides comprehensive policies and policy updates, Daily Training Bulletins to help officers apply policies, and reporting features to track policy acknowledgment.”

One of the ultimate goals of Lexipol is to limit liability for those public safety services they serve. Their material is advertised as what is necessary for “legally defensive content,” protecting agencies from lawsuits.

A senior staff attorney at the ACLU, Carl Takei, said, “The entire policy philosophy of Lexipol is based on the idea that if the policies just describe the ...

DOJ Report: Massachusetts Narcotics Bureau Relied on Excessive Use of Force

That’s according to a report by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Massachusetts District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) published July 8, 2020.

The NB in Springfield is a small plainclothes department of 29 when fully staffed and covers the state’s third largest city. It came under public scrutiny after several use of force incidents, culminating in a report of abuse by a sergeant on two juveniles under arrest in 2016.

On April 13, 2018, the DOJ and the USAO began their investigation, reviewing over 114,000 pages of documents, interviewing NB and SPD staff and officials, and speaking with community members and victims. Their conclusion: The narcotics team engaged in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force violating the public’s Fourth Amendment rights.

“Specifically, our investigation identified evidence that Narcotics Bureau officers repeatedly punch individuals in the face unnecessarily, in part because they escalate encounters with civilians too quickly, and resort to unreasonable takedown maneuvers that, like ...

Government Treats Protesting Cities as Enemies of the State

On June 2, thousands of protestors took to the streets in major cities across the U.S. to call for an end to police brutality. In response, cities such as Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas, Nevada, sent police out for crowd control. And, after an armed protestor was shot in Las Vegas, the police were joined by the National Guard.

A review of unfiltered flight data examined by Motherboard on ADS-B Exchange showed police in Washington, D.C., employed several RC-26Bs carrying infrared and electro-optical cameras used in counter-narcotic and military combat missions. A letter from Congress to the House Armed Services Committee about these craft reads: “The aircraft is uniquely qualified as the only fixed-winged aircraft to have Title 32 authority to conduct domestic surveillance while maintaining the ability to conduct Title 10 missions abroad.”

Security researcher John Scott-Railton discovered the same craft over Las Vegas as well as aircraft flown by the Texas Department of Public Safety over Houston and California Highway Patrol aircraft being flown over Oakland. In ...

Policing and Racial Bias

Researchers Rebecca Hetey and Jennifer Eberhardt reported in 2018 that evidence is sufficient to establish that racial bias exists in the criminal justice system. Blacks are more apt to be arrested, convicted and sentenced to more time than Whites.

The Association for Psychological Science (“APS”) July/August Observer reports that Heather Kleider-Offutt, Alesha Bond, and Shanna Hagerty went further to say that this racial bias is even more pronounced if the person’s features are more Afrocentric, i.e. darker skin, wide nose, big lips, etc. They report these racial responses may be more automatic than conscious and therefore completely unavoidable.

Writing in Current Directions in Psychological Science, APS Fellow Keith Payne found that if a subject were to make a decision about potential firearms in conjunction ...

Risk Assessment Tools Perpetuate Inherent Biases and Prejudices

Most states view Kentucky as the best example of utilization of RA tools in the U.S. In 2011, it was the first state to implement the use of RA in deciding bail. According to a 2018 study, the number of people released pending trial at that time increased by 13%.

By 2016, more than half that gain disappeared. Laws changed and judges were given more leeway to ignore recommendations. No oversight existed on the use or rejection of RAs. Kentucky Center for Economic Policy research director Ashley Spalding said judges tended to ignore the results. “They’re overriding the findings of the risk assessment tool,” she said. “In practice, we’re seeing that it is often disregarded.”

A 2019 study showed that judges were more apt to ignore the recommendation for release of Blacks in the moderate risk category than Whites. “Judges see the moderate risk label, and for white defendants, moderate risk was interpreted as low risk, and for Black defendants, it was ...

Minneapolis: Use of Force Against Blacks 7 Times Higher Than That for Whites

Floyd was being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store when one of the arresting police officers, Derek Chauvin, applied a controversial body pin by placing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd’s air passage was constricted from the technique, and Floyd died as a result. Chauvin was fired and charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree murder. Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson said, “In my experience, applying pressure to somebody’s neck in that fashion is always understood to be the application of deadly force.”

Stinson was also concerned that the three other police officers surrounding Chauvin did not attempt to intervene even though they knew they were being filmed, indicating that they had no problem with the excessive use of ...

New York Police Act With Impunity During Protests

Government watchdog organization Broadcastify, which allows citizens to listen in on police and emergency band radio broadcasts, aired police transmissions as protestors moved June 1 into the 77th Precinct of Brooklyn. A police officer can be heard yelling, “Shoot the motherfuckers.”

While another responded with, “Don’t put that over the air.” Human rights activists said this is just another example of a long pattern of violence without fear of repercussion that is prevalent in law enforcement. While being called to protect and serve the public, police are instead engaging in combat with protesters.

A group of New York public defenders issued this statement June 2: “The disturbing videos and reports of the violent attacks by NYPD on protestors and the media, while traumatizing to watch, are all too familiar to us. They mirror the stories we ...



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