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A Night To Remember

Articles by Michael Fortino, Ph.D

COVID-19 Has Profound Effect on Breadth and Scope of Law Enforcement Agencies

 

by Michael Fortino, Ph.D.

With a global pandemic affecting nearly every aspect of traditional government operations, Syracuse University, in late spring of 2020, set out to evaluate the impact COVID-19 has had on the manpower and operations of our most active law enforcement agencies.

Much of this change seemed to follow the Trump administration’s March 15, 2020, decision to adopt a new “work from home” initiative for most federal agencies. Criminal referrals in the first half of March 2020 averaged about 4,500 per week, prior to the onset of the novel coronavirus and the “work from home” mandate. Shortly thereafter, communities experienced a reduction in both crimes and arrests, according to the data. By the end of March 2020, agency arrest referrals landing on U.S. Attorneys’ desks dropped to 1,800 per week, a dramatic decrease by more than half.

Following a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for Department of Justice (“DOJ”) records, Syracuse University utilized the “Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse” (“TRAC”) to obtain agency production numbers, which produced surprising results. The numbers led law enforcement analysts to grow concerned that the virus may have resulted in a paradigm shift in both the quantity of criminal referrals as ...

Shielding Police Identities: A Law That Cuts Both Ways

 

by Michael Fortino, Ph.D.

Marsy’s Law, also known as the “crime victim bill of rights” designed to protect victims from their attackers when the latter are no longer incarcerated, is used by Florida police as a shield to hide an officer’s identity from public access after a violent encounter with a suspect. 

Responding to a call about a fatal stabbing, police chased down a man on the south side of Tallahassee. Natosha “Tony” McDade, a Black transgender man, pulled out a gun when cornered by police and was subsequently shot dead by the pursuing officer on May 27, 2020. The Tallahassee Police Department, citing Marsy’s Law, refused to release the identity of the officer involved in the incident, claiming him “the victim of a crime ... his identity should therefore be protected” as reported by motherjones.com.

Immediately after the shooting, according to the Florida Police Benevolent Association (“PBA”), the officer “was threatened by a person at the scene, and there has been ongoing animosity expressed against him on social media since he was forced to defend his own life.” The PBA also cited the current toxic anti-police sentiment being expressed nationally and globally as a result of various ...

The 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment Showing Authoritarian Abuse Still Relevant Today

The experiment was the brainchild of Stanford University psychology professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who provided unequivocal proof that, under the right conditions, power and authority often blur the lines of right and wrong and corrupt the psyche to perform unthinkable acts, including the abuse of our fellow human.

The 1971 study recruited 24 students to participate in a roleplay experiment in which nine would be assigned as “jailers” or “prison guards” and 15 would be assigned as captives. The experiment took place in the basement of one of the Stanford buildings, which was converted into a makeshift jail, complete with impenetrable jail cells. The structure was designed to assure that the “imprisoned” students could not casually discontinue the experiment at ...

Blue Lives Matter More: Georgia Introduces Hate Crime Bill Designed to Protect the Cops

by Michael Fortino, Ph.D.

In the summer of 2020, a summer of discontent, a summer rife with pandemic lockdowns and street protests, the Georgia Legislature chose not to address the unrest and concerns of protesters but rather to double down on the side of law enforcement. They decided to give police and first responders more legalized protections and powers, including immunity from nearly any civil action brought against them. On August 12, 2020, Georgia passed, by a thin margin, the controversial bill HB-838/AP, under a vote that was split down the conservative/liberal party line.

Law enforcement has always enjoyed various protections that relate to this unique and dangerous line of work, but in recent years, states such as Georgia have begun to expand such protections leaving the public with a “David and Goliath” disadvantage. Law enforcement has enjoyed “qualified immunity,” a nearly impenetrable legal shield that provides an officer with immunity from nearly any civil lawsuit. This one-sided protection has successfully provided them the ability to act with impunity in almost any scenario short of acts involving premeditated criminal intent or outright murder. 

Police have also enjoyed safety behind the iron curtain of labor unions. Beyond these protections, law ...

After a Decade of Fighting, The Last Resort Exoneration Project Finally Frees Two Wrongfully Convicted of Murder

The Last Resort Exoneration Project, headed by Lesley C. Risinger and her husband, D. Michael Risinger, worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to attack the credibility of the evidence, utilizing every resource available, including investigators, ballistic analysts, forensic pathologists, and a host of other experts.

Lesley Risinger had previously won the exoneration of two men in two previous cases without the luxury of faulty DNA analysis, and she did so prior to attending law school. Her husband, John J. Gibbons Professor of Law Emeritus at Seaton Hall University School of Law, is considered one of the foremost evidence scholars in the United States. Together, they make up The Last Resort Exoneration Project. Leslie, who understands the complexity of exoneration where no DNA exists, stated, “[w]ithout DNA evidence the road to justice and freedom is uphill—and it’s a very big hill. But if the DNA exonerations have ...

Police State: From Social Justice to Social Dominance

Just when we thought things could not get any worse, somehow they did. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic collapse, mass unemployment, and racial divide, we were exposed to a dark truth about police brutality—a truth we could not unsee because the weight of its evidence pressed down squarely on our neck.

Chances are that by the time you read these lines the world will have already changed again. No one now can possibly keep up with the seismic transformations taking place globally, a paradigm shift triggered at the surface level by violent events perceived as reactions that point to racism throughout the nation and the world—implicit and obvious but actually resulting from a deeper groundswell of longstanding social frustration.

We now live in a country where factions of our citizenry believe police have moved from revered to racist, from guardian to warrior, from peacekeeper to punisher, and from public servant to public enemy number one.

Fortunately or unfortunately, video footage shot in real-time does not lie, but neither do the numbers. The difference is where we choose to look. What we are failing to see is a paradigm shift that has moved the ...

Fulton County Prosecutor in Georgia to Expunge MLK and Other Civil Rights Leaders’ Records, But not Everyone Agrees

On October 19, 1960, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested while taking part in the Atlanta Student Movement’s campaign of boycotts and sit-ins, in which he and others attempted to seek service at a whites-only dining room in the Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta, Georgia. Sixty years later, that arrest record could be expunged, but Dr. King himself, if he were still alive, might have objected.

Fulton County Solicitor General Keith Gammage said, “I always had in my mind, what effect would it have if we expunged the record for arrests of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other civil rights protesters, and called those arrests what they were—unconstitutional and biased arrests.”

Gammage, 48, born after King’s death, is on the board of trustees at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

“There is a gap between social justice-related protests and activism and a true criminal offense,” he said. “And what the protesters and activists were fighting for, remains a barrier for other citizens today.”

Gammage’s announcement of the proposed expungement came on the eve of the anniversary of King’s April 4, 1968 assassination. Not everyone attending agreed.

Gammage has said he’s had positive conversations with ...

COVID-19 Creates Opportunity for Big Brother in the Sky

Now that COVID-19 has brought about new public enforcement policies, a dystopian world where government agencies watch our every move may not be as far in the future as we might think. With the intent of observing crowd activities in public places (and private ones as ...

Joint State-Federal Task Forces Practice Rogue Justice Under Protection of Qualified Immunity

Hundreds of rogue joint state-federal task forces—accountable to no one, and acting as units of vigilante justice—continually violate the constitutional rights of individuals while hiding behind the aegis of “qualified immunity.”

The concept of the “joint task force” was first initiated by President Richard Nixon in ...

Aggressive NYPD Police Tactics Spreading COVID-19

Like a scene out of Will Smith’s movie, Legend, one of the most iconic visual images during the New York City lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 is a photo of a lone policeman on horseback patrolling a deserted downtown street. Juxtaposed to that image ...

 

 

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