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FBI investigates LA Sheriff Dept. abuses, Kansas judge rules ‘two-step’ unconstitutional
LASD officers are under investigation for punching a Black woman holding a newborn baby in the face.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department
The FBI has opened criminal investigations into several violent encounters involving Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, the LA Times reported last month. So far, it is only known that federal authorities are looking into two specific cases: one in which a deputy punched a Black mother in her face while she was holding her newborn baby, and another in which a deputy threw a Black woman to the ground by her neck after she started recording an arrest with her cellphone.
The internal county email obtained by The Times said that “federal criminal investigations have been opened concerning the recent incidents” in Palmdale and Lancaster.
“The FBI has already been to headquarters to obtain department documents on both incidents,” the email said, adding that the U.S. Justice Department “will not be publicly commenting on the investigations.”
The email also mentions that the California Attorney General’s office is opening an investigation into the 2020 fatal shooting of Andres Guardado, a case allegedly involving LASD gangs and destroyed surveillance video that could have disproven the officers’ account of events.
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Relatedly, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Office of Inspector General’s investigation of deputy gangs in the LA Sheriff’s Department. The police union argued that interview requests and requirements to show investigators potential gang tattoos would violate state labor law.
News of the FBI probe comes as surveillance footage of another violent arrest by the LASD was made public. Emmett Brock, a 23-year-old transgender man, was followed to a 7-Eleven in Whittier, California, by Deputy Joseph Benza after “casually” flipping the officer off:
Brock said the incident began when he was driving and observed the deputy "just acting in a very domineering, abusive way towards this woman on the street."
After making the gesture to the deputy, Brock said the same deputy hopped in his car and began following him. Brock said he proceeded to deviate from his route to see if the deputy would keep following him.
Brock said he called 911 and claims he was told "If he doesn't have lights or sirens on, he's not pulling you over. If he hasn't pulled you over, he hasn't pulled you over. Continue to your destination."
Brock pulled into a 7-Eleven parking lot when the deputy's car pulled in behind him and turned his lights on before Brock got out of the car, which can also be seen in the surveillance footage.
Benza confronted Brock as he got out of his car, telling him, “I stopped you.” When Brock replied that the officer did not stop him, Benza slammed him to the pavement and repeatedly punched him in the head.
The pair exchanged a few words while the deputy pinned Brock to the ground.
"I told you to stop. You walked away," the deputy said. "You have a weapon on you?"
Brock told the deputy he did not have a weapon on him, while using expletives, shortly before shouting "I can't breathe" and "you're going to kill me."
Brock was placed under arrest for mayhem, resisting arrest, obstruction, and failure to obey a police officer. According to Benza’s arrest report, he stopped Brock for a vehicle code violation because he saw an air freshener hanging from the car’s rearview mirror.
“I punched S/Brock face and head, using both of my fists, approximately 8 times in rapid succession,” Benza wrote in a report following the incident. The report was shared by Brock’s attorney, along with medical records showing the deputy broke a bone in his hand during the altercation.
Benza also reported that Brock repeatedly tried to bite him, which was also noted in the medical report, with a comment following the exam that “there is no bite marks at this time.” Brock, who can be heard yelling throughout the encounter, told CNN he didn’t bite Benza.
After allegedly facing gender discrimination and harassment while being booked into jail, Brock lost his teaching job due to the charges filed against him.
A federal judge ruled last month that Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) must cease the search and seizure of motorist vehicles due only to the fact that surrounding states have legalized marijuana.
The ACLU brought the lawsuit challenging the practice known as the “Kansas Two-Step,” wherein troopers pull over a vehicle, issue a ticket or warning, but then attempt to keep motorists talking in order to develop “reasonable suspicion” that drugs are in the car. This practice is most often employed on federal highway I-70, connecting Colorado to the west with Missouri to the east. Both states have legalized marijuana; Kansas has not. KHP troopers, therefore, consider the very fact that a person is driving on I-70 as suspicious, particularly if the vehicle has a Colorado or Missouri license plate.
Typically, at the beginning of the initial traffic stop, a trooper does not have reasonable suspicion to search the vehicle or the driver. Therefore, his job is to “develop” reasonable suspicion to do so. A trooper without reasonable suspicion is a trooper engaged in a fishing expedition for evidence of drug crimes. Fortunately for troopers, the law provides convenient, easy-to-use, virtually fool-proof tools to do so: (1) after the traffic stop is concluded, the trooper can try to keep the driver talking until he or she says something which a trooper considers suspicious; or (2) the trooper can elicit the driver’s consent to a search…
Even though the law requires that consent be knowing, intelligent and voluntary, troopers don’t generally let such niceties stand in their way. For drivers who are not initially forthcoming with consent, troopers are trained to conclude the traffic stop, somehow signal that the driver is free to go, then immediately re-engage the driver in friendly, casual conversation to keep the driver at the scene and enable the trooper to develop reasonable suspicion or take another stab at getting consent—a maneuver colloquially known as the “Kansas Two-Step.” If the driver persists in refusing to consent, the trooper has a fallback position: search the vehicle anyway and claim that he had reasonable suspicion all along.
In sum, KHP trains its officers to unconstitutionally extend traffic stops in the hopes of finding an excuse to detain the driver and search the vehicle. Suspicion can be claimed based on inconsistent statements, body language, nervousness—or, as is especially applicable in Kansas, travel plans.
At least since 2014, when Colorado legalized the recreational cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana, KHP troopers have routinely considered a driver’s travel plans (out-of-state travel origin and destination) as factors contributing to reasonable suspicion of drug possession or drug trafficking, and they have routinely detained out-of-state drivers for traffic stops and canine sniffs at disproportionately high rates compared to drivers who are Kansas residents…
KHP troopers are far more likely to stop out-of-state drivers than Kansas drivers. From January of 2018 to November of 2020, KHP troopers stopped 70 per cent more out-of-state drivers than would be expected if KHP troopers stopped in-state and out-of-state drivers at the same rate. The 70 per cent discrepancy represents roughly 50,000 traffic stops…Once a motorist has been pulled over for a traffic stop, out-of-state motorists are much more likely than in-state motorists to be subjected to canine sniffs of their vehicles. [Princeton University professor Jonathan] Mummolo analyzed 430 canine deployment reports and found that 399 (more than 90 per cent) were conducted on out-of-state motorists, even though out-of-state drivers represented only about 35 per cent of the drivers on the road at the measured times and locations.
Senior District Judge Kathryn Vratil, a George W. Bush appointee, called this practice a “war on motorists.”
Now, every driver on I-70 in Kansas is traveling away from a “drug source” state and towards a “drug source” state. Accordingly, the fact that a driver is traveling on I-70 in Kansas gives KHP troopers no indication that a particular driver is engaged in illegal activity. In Vasquez, the Tenth Circuit held that KHP troopers cannot develop reasonable suspicion based on factors that “would justify the search and seizure of the citizens of more than half of the states in our country.” 834 F.3d at 1138. That logic now dictates that when law enforcement officers in Kansas develop reasonable suspicion with regard to traffic on I-70, they must give no weight to the fact that a driver is traveling (1) away from a “drug source” state, (2) towards a “drug source” state, or (3) on a drug corridor; doing so would justify the search and seizure of every single driver traveling on I-70 in Kansas. The Court will grant declaratory relief to that effect.
Judge Vratil proposed, but has not yet issued, an injunction requiring additional training for troopers and imposing more protections for motorists.
A small-town Ohio police department is in the national spotlight after a K-9 officer released a dog on a Black man who had already surrendered to police.
23-year-old Jadarrius Rose was driving a semi-truck through Ohio, when an inspector attempted to pull him over for a missing mud flap. Rose did not immediately stop, leading the inspector to call for police backup. After a pursuit in which troopers deployed tire deflation sticks, Rose eventually pulled over.
Rose told CNN that he first called his mother from the truck. “She told me if I know I didn’t do anything wrong, to pull over, so that’s what I did,” he said. Looking in his rearview mirror, he saw responding police officers “had guns pointed at me, so I didn’t feel safe at all.”
He then called 911 to ask what he should do. “I was just trying to figure out if they could help me,” he said. “I was scared, I didn't understand why they had guns pointed at me, I didn’t know the reason for them pulling me over at the time.”
“Right now I’m being chased by like 20 police officers and they all got their guns pointed directly to my truck,” a man police believed to be Jadarrius Rose told a Pickaway County dispatcher during a 2-minute call released Monday. “So now I’m trying to figure out why they got their guns all pointed to me and they’re all white people.” [...]
The 911 caller, who didn't identify himself but is believed to be Rose, also says that the troopers "exploded" the tires on his truck, which he was driving to a delivery point. (He was referring to tire-deflating devices called "stop sticks" that troopers deployed in an attempt to stop Rose's truck.)
"And it's not even my truck, I'm just driving to my delivery point," he said. "All of them got their guns pointed directly to me."
When asked for a second 911 call Rose made to Ross County, a spokesperson provided audio in which the caller says: "I don’t know why they’re trying to kill me."
"I do not feel safe with stopping, I don’t know why they’re throwing stuff on the ground trying to get me in an accident," the caller said.
Rose ultimately exited the truck with his hands raised. Body camera footage shows Ohio State Highway Patrol officers giving Rose orders as Circleville police officer Ryan Speakerman approaches with his K-9. “Do not release the dog with his hands up!” a trooper yells multiple times.
Speakerman instructed the dog to attack Rose anyway, who was on his knees with his hands up. The K-9 took Rose to the ground by his arm and had to be wrestled off of him by Speakerman. Rose was charged with failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer and has hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent him in any legal proceedings that may come.
As for Speakerman, a use of force review board determined that the officer’s deployment of his K-9 was “within departmental policy regarding the use of force and canine operating policies.” He was fired shortly after—but not for siccing his dog on an unarmed, surrendering person. The Circleville Police Department fired Speakerman almost a full month after the incident with Rose for allegedly sharing sensitive details about the case with family and friends.
The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association intends to challenge his termination.
“Small Kansas newspaper says co-owner, 98, collapsed and died after police raid,” CBS
“Arkansas deputy shoots at Pomeranian but hits woman standing on porch instead,” KATV
“Court strikes down limits on filming of police in Arizona,” AP
“Colorado officer who put suspect in car hit by train found guilty of reckless endangerment,” AP
“Louisiana trooper acquitted of federal charge in beating of a Black man with a flashlight,” CNN
“Former Mississippi officers plead guilty to state charges for torturing Black men,” The Guardian
“Body camera footage shows Black family held at gunpoint after police typo IDs car as stolen,” NBC News
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