Friday, July 27, 2012

NYPD Fail - Report Finds Stop and Frisk Harms, Not Helps

New Yorkers protesting "stop and frisk" including NYC Comptroller John Liu
As a follow-on to an earlier CJB post this week regarding police brutality at Occupy Wall Street protests by the New York Police Department, a report from the Center for Constitutional Rights finds that New York's "stop and frisk" policy has been applied in a racially discriminatory manner, and has by and large, failed as a policy.  The CCR report indicates that more than 85% of New Yorkers stopped and frisked under its policy are minority.  Stunningly, the report finds that in the "stop and frisk" context, where police officers are supposed to be motivated by a reasonable suspicion before frisking, contraband or weapons are found only in 1.14% of the stops.  This is an abysmal statistic for such an intrusive policy.

The CCR report further details the terrible effect "stop and frisk" is having on the lives of New Yorkers:

Racial Discimination:  The NYPD "is conducting stops and frisks in record numbers – roughly 685,000 in 2011 and on track to reach over 700,000 this year. Black and Latino people are consistently and intentionally stopped at a hugely disproportionate rate: nearly 85 percent of all stops. These alarming statistics speak volumes on their own – the overwhelming racial disparity and the low rate of lawful arrests or discovery of contraband that result from stops and frisks raise serious questions about the purpose or usefulness of this practice." 

Failing as a Policy:  "The use of stops and frisks has grown at an astounding rate – a more than 600 percent increase over the past ten years. The number of stops in 2011 was the largest on record and 2012 is on track to be higher still, with over 203,500 stops in the first three months alone – an average of 2,200 stops per day. These numbers are all the more significant in light of evidence that an alarming number of these stops, frisks, and searches are illegal, in part because they are not based on the required level of suspicion of criminal activity. Despite the City’s attempts to justify the program as aimed at confiscating illegal weapons, a 2010 expert report by Professor Jeffrey Fagan that CCR submitted to the court in Floyd found that the weapons and contraband yield from stops and frisks hovered around only 1.14 percent – a rate no greater than would be found by chance at random check points."

(photo courtesy of Thomas Good via WikiMedia Commons)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Police Abuse and Occupy Wall Street

A report out today from NYU Law School and Fordham Law School documents lawless policing by the New York Police Department in connection with the Occupy Wall Street protests last year.  The report, "Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street" catalogs the repeated and systematic violations of constitutional and human rights of protesting United States citizens.  According to the Executive Summary of the 195-page report:

"Government responses to Occupy Wall Street in the United States have varied significantly, both within and across cities. Indeed, there have been examples of good practice . . .  But across the United States, abusive and unlawful protest regulation and policing practices have been and continue to be alarmingly evident. This report follows a review of thousands of news reports and hundreds of hours of video, extensive firsthand observation, and detailed witness interviews. In New York City, some of the worst practices documented include:

• Aggressive, unnecessary and excessive police force against peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers, and journalists

• Obstruction of press freedoms and independent legal monitoring

• Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity

• Violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments

• Unjustified closure of public space, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and kettling (corralling and trapping) of protesters

• Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests

• Failures to ensure transparency about applicable government policies

• Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses

These practices violate assembly and expression rights and breach the U.S. government’s international legal obligations to respect those rights. In New York City, protest policing concerns are extensive and exist against a backdrop of disproportionate and well-documented abusive policing practices in poor and minority communities outside of the protest context. . . .

For protesters who previously had little interaction with police, these abusive practices have
radically altered worldviews about the role of police in protecting citizens. For others who
had long experienced official discrimination and abuse, especially those from minority and
economically disadvantaged communities, protest experiences have simply reinforced
existing negative perceptions."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Pain in Spain. . . .Turns Violent

On 20 June 2012, I marched in a massive peaceful demonstration in Madrid. The vivid and clear gist of the demonstration: the megabanks were stealing from the public and no more cuts in social spending to feed the banks would be tolerated. The peaceful protesters marched along Paseo del Prado to Plaza de Cibeles to Puerta Del Sol. Those familiar with Madrid know that these landmarks constitute the heart of Madrid and the center of the tourist district.

I fully supported the main message of the demonstrations: that it is morally and economically reprehensible to allow the megabanks to consume all the resources of the state and to crowd out all other more productive spending such as education, health care and public welfare. We marched with teachers, nurses, firefighters, and union members in support of this message.

This was a middle class protest, with only a very small fringe of apparent extremists (anarchists, communists, etc.). While the demonstration attained only scanty media coverage worldwide, I advise governing political and economic elites to take note, and modify their relentless aggregation of massive wealth at the very tip top of the western economic order. These middle class peaceful protests will turn ugly as the economic reality worsens for the vast majority of world citizens. As I have emphasized in the recent past, and as more and more economists note, Europe is headed for a massive economic crash. Extremism will follow almost as certainly as night follows day.

This reality is readily apparent throughout European history. And, history also shows that extremism leads to mass death, bloodshed, pain and misery, and, almost by definition, the destruction of individual rights (property rights included).

Frankly, the worldwide credit crunch is rooted in North America and the US policy of massive financial deregulation. Further, the US was the primary architect of the reigning model of globalization, with its highly deflationary bias stemming from its goal of endless cheap labor as well as its structural compulsion for developing nations to hoard currency reserves and subsidize developed world debt. The global debt crisis results from globalization's pro-debt and anti-middle class construction.

Certainly, the Eurozone too has erred. Specifically, it too has favored its banks too much and neglected the need to foster growth through unified fiscal policy and middle class development.

But once one considers the prospects of political extremism in Europe, fault is irrelevant. All that matters is that governing elites realize that the cost-benefit calculus for allowing an economic collapse in Europe is deeply, almost infinitely, negative.

Spain, once again, foretells an historic storm. And, these images and reports of recent violence in Spain do not bode well for governing elites as the monster of their creation--a bank centric and cheap labor version of globalization--spins out of control.

Yesterday, Spanish debt yields soared to Euro era records. Despite the rhetoric of Eurozone leaders the storm churns on and gains more destructive power. Spain is sinking fast and may be beyond rescue, and that implies a  major Eurozone crack-up.

(All photos and videos courtesy of Professor Mary K. Ramirez)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yahoo Tabs Marissa Mayer as CEO

The Corporate Justice Blog has long advocated for diversity amongst corporate leadership.  The recent naming of Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo has sparked significant attention and debate.  Mayer's gender (female), relative youth (37 years old), current pregnancy (six months pregnant), and announced pay package (estimated at somewhere between $71 and $100 million over five years) have each separately garnered praise and criticism.  Still, after many years leading and innovating at Google, Mayer seems poised to bring exciting leadership and stability to struggling Yahoo.

Mayer's appointment as CEO of Yahoo makes her the 19th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and the first ever pregnant CEO of a Fortune 500. Mayer will have the unique opportunity to start a family and lead a Fortune 500 company at the same time. Although, one should ask why this is particularly newsworthy. Certainly there have been hundreds of male CEOs of Fortune 500 companies that have become fathers, some for the first time, while simultaneously leading a Fortune 500. That this is news personifies the double standard that attaches to females when they become important leaders in corporate America.

From ThinkProgress: "Board members at Yahoo were aware that Mayer was expecting during the hiring process, and treated her pregnancy with a respect and deference very few women get to enjoy in the workplace. According to Mashable, an anonymous source said, 'It was not part of the consideration. …Like every other professional woman, she has to weigh all the factors in doing her job and having a family':  Mayer also expressed that she was pleased the Yahoo board was not concerned, telling Fortune their actions 'showed their evolved thinking.'  And as far as maternity leave goes, don’t expect Mayer to be out of the office for long. The new CEO plans to return to the office after a few short weeks and will be working throughout her time off. Yahoo’s scheduled September board meeting will be in Sunnyvale, Calif., rather than New York, to accommodate for the expecting mother-to-be."

(photo courtesy of wikimedia)