Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meditations on the Police Brutality Trial of the Decade (Caution: Endless)


UPDATE: Jury reaches unanimous NOT GUILY verdict on the charge of Malicious Prosecution. Judge declares Mistrial due to jury deadlock on charges of False Arrest and Excessive Force.

All we can do is learn from this, right? Well we can't learn if we don't discuss.

The Post-Gazette shuts down its new commenting function for anything Jordan Miles related (or Jerry Sandusky related). City leaders who use Twitter and Facebook to expound on everything from parking meters to economic development to sewer upgrades are maintaining radio silence. And I don't recall seeing any opinion pieces in print since the trial started, despite cases involving political chicanery or sexual misconduct producing truckloads.

This silence is surely part of the "dynamics that are at play," too.

##

That having been written, it should be clear that not only was I not present on Tioga Street two years ago to witness the incident, but I have not been in the courtroom every day to see and hear the totality of the evidence, nor been a juror who has received the benefit of every last of the judge's instructions. The eight citizens on the jury are the best and only qualified people to decide on the merits of Mr. Miles' claims and the police officers' liability.

Nonetheless, media accounts of the trial have given us a lot to reflect upon beyond even the specifics of the incident.

##

Although the judge spoke at length about weighing "objective" evidence, defense attorneys in particular raised the importance of evaluating the "credibility" of each witness providing such evidence. This has turned out to seem particularly important because accounts of the incident are so sharply divergent.

This one is easy. Credibility is a draw. A tie. A zero-zero tie.

Brave and decorated police officers, honor-student violists with visible facial injuries, politicians, bloggers -- they're all equally capable of being faithless and self-deluding liars. That is, extraordinarily capable. People, God love them, are scum.

That's why I don't believe either story entirely -- they both make their protagonists seem way too perfect.

Mr. Miles claims he was walking in the middle of the street from his mother's to his grandmother's house, that men raced up to him in a vehicle and poured out barking insanely about guns, drugs and money, that never did any of them say, "Police!" or flash a badge, that he had no way at all to intuit who they were and what they were about, that he spun around and fell helplessly, and that his assailants instantly tackled him, raining blows before, during, and after handcuffing him, all with no conceivable cause or provocation except blood lust and prejudice.

The police officers claim they observed somebody skulking at the wall of a residence, that despite being on an undercover mission in an unmarked vehicle in plainclothes they clearly identified themselves and asked him questions before he bolted, that there was an extended foot chase during which attempts at conversation still continued, that Miles broke one policeman's hold by spinning around and elbowing the officer in the head then broke another tackle with a rearward kick to an officer's knee, that he was clearly squirming to hide a gun and apparently somehow succeeded in ditching it during the melee, that three punches to the face and a knee strike to the neck were necessary to subdue him even after he was on the ground with two officers on his back, and that nothing violent or punitive occurred after he was handcuffed.

Bollocks.

If the stakes were not so high and such consequential principles on the line, both parties would be exchanging apologies at this point and admitting they "could have handled things better in retrospect."

Instead we have competing tales of saints on earth. That's not how life works.

##

I have an alternate theory to explain Miles' attempt to flee. I wouldn't wager very much on it but it might be useful to imagine.

We know the officers stopped Miles because they were looking for hardened drug-dealing criminals in the area, suspected Miles of being a menace to society connected to a menacing network bearing contraband which must be removed from "the streets" -- or at the very least of being a desperate burglar likely to sew serious chaos. It's possible that Miles did in fact attempt to flee out of fear and guilt, though over something wildly less serious.

Maybe he had stolen $20 from him mom's purse that morning. Maybe he "borrowed" his uncle's car to go on a date, and returned it, but now assumed the temporary theft had been reported. Maybe he just drank a beer, which being 18 years of age is a crime justifying a little paranoia. Maybe he had puffed a joint that afternoon, and was afraid it was still on his breath, discovery of which would threaten his college prospects. Maybe he knew somebody who was involved in something more serious weeks or months ago, and was afraid his silence alone could get him into trouble. Maybe it involved something embarrassing involving S-E-X.

Kid stuff. Guilty-conscience stuff. Maybe, and maybe not, but grant it just for the sake of argument.

Would that mean that upon turning and running, whatever misfortune followed he had coming to him? Would it mean he effectively waived his Constitutional rights not to be stopped without reasonable suspicion, or arrested without probable cause, or physically subdued without appropriate restraint?

"Well, he ran from the police. Never, ever run from the police."

That's outstandingly good advice. It is the advice I will be giving my children, and do give to anybody who seems to require it. It's the best way to stay safe and save yourself a world of hassle and expense.

Is it law? Is it the end point of the law? Where I was raised, when you're 14 and drinking beer against the boiler cage at Frick Park near the ball field, in certain circles it was advised that if police discover you and shout, "Police! Right, what's all this then?" everybody is to run in different directions, instantly and without thinking, as swiftly as possible.

It's the wrong thing to do, yet some would argue it still doesn't merit multiple blows to the head and trumped-up charges. Even fools have civil rights.

##

Similarly, plaintiff's witness Monica Wooding gave testimony which conflicted with what police submitted in reports regarding her making "prowling" complaints and not recognizing Mr. Miles -- whereas on the stand she said Miles was a family friend she knew well, about whom she bore no complaint. Personally I find it difficult to believe that the three officers, even if they were villains, could have been foolish enough to invent witness testimony from whole cloth and then use it to prosecute someone knowing said witness would be summoned to corroborate the tale. So to remain consistent with my theory that "everybody is scum," and assuming for the sake of argument she did change her story, what does that indicate?

Maybe she witnessed the aftermath of an ugly fracas outside her window and simply wanted to avoid involvement: "I don't know him, no, he's not allowed to be here." "Sure, I'll say he was prowling, if that will get everybody off my property faster." Maybe she did know Miles, but not well; maybe at that moment surrounded by police officers Miles looked less like a wholesome friend of the family than he did in the daylight with his viola. Maybe it took daylight, and time, and Miles' family and community to arouse in Wooding a feeling that it is crucial the community hang together in this.

What does it mean that the one witness to a part of the incident came across as a little bit flaky? Only that the case gets still more difficult for the jury.

##

There have also been a set of apparent difficulties in the officers' defense. We'll only cover a portion of them.

First there is Mountain Dewgate.

It was claimed that during the melee, Jordan reached into his pocket for what officers suspected of being a gun, but turned out to be a bottle of soda. An unfortunate but supposedly reasonable error in perception during a tense, terrifying scrum.


As an observer, I feel as though when a Judge elects to crack wise at the expense of a Police Chief in such a manner, he may be trying to signal to the jury that there are serious problems with the portion of the narrative being presented.

Somehow that soda bottle has been the source of endless snares -- it was present, it was denied, it was discarded at the scene of the incident, it was fingerprinted and entered into evidence, it was not entered into evidence because it is considered "food" (which, remind me, if I ever need to murder someone, do it with a can of tuna. The perfect crime!)

However, let's assume the authorities botched the presentation of that bit of evidence. Mr. Miles is not on trial here, those charges were already dismissed. Does the fact of their scrambling to explain the absence of a bit of tangential evidence indicate that officers are guilty of false arrest, or excessive force, or malicious prosecution? No, maybe they're just guilty of making a mistake with a Mountain Dew bottle.

However, this is more troublesome:

"He probably did have a gun on him," Officer Saldutte said, prompting objections from Mr. Miles' legal team. No gun was ever found, despite a lengthy search of the snow. (P-G, Rich Lord)


At this late date -- after failing to find any weapon, after testifying that what they thought was a weapon turned out definitively to be something else, after failing to discover Mr. Miles having any criminal past or criminal connections, after the case against him was dismissed -- to continue to insist he probably had a gun strikes me as a gob smacking admission of a lack of objectivity.

##

So we have a case where neither side hit the ball out of the park, and where neither side emerged looking perfectly credible.

If you're seeking a prediction, I bet jury members will be motivated to signal their acknowledgment of the complexities, difficulties and seriousness of the case by "splitting the baby" -- guilty verdicts on some charges (perhaps just one), not guilty on others. They might even treat each officer differently.

In terms of end results, I confess it is hard not to root for the plaintiff. If the officers lose, the City both pays the damages on behalf of the individual officers and gets to blithely dismiss the results: "The Judge sucked. The jury was stupid. That trial was stupid." Nothing of consequence will change except Pittsburghers of a certain racial minority will be pleasantly shocked to learn that the system spit out a result in their favor. And so maybe some of them will grow to be more willing to engage with it, assist it, become lawyers or police officers. Contrariwise, widespread confirmation that the establishment stands reflexively against them and "insurrection" do not sound like a lot of fun.

Related to that, it is hard as a relatively powerless civilian myself not to be enthusiastic about "constitutional rights" being demonstrated to be strong, real, weighty, vibrant, multitudinous, something we can be absolutely clear that we possess and can count on as a practical matter. Even if they don't apply here, I just like to see it. That's my prejudice.

##

But let's back up. Are constitutional rights actually the most important thing in the world?

A lot of Pittsburghers will say no. Or they'll think no, and formulate a rationalization accordingly. The paramount, most important thing is that we remain mindful that we ask certain people to suit up as police officers, every single day for years, and send them into the most dangerous parts of the most dangerous neighborhoods, to infiltrate those areas under cover, seeking out conflict with the most violent and sociopathic persons that can exist in a city. Occasionally, they will find them. And we're asking their families to be okay with that.

A lot of Pittsburghers, maybe a majority, will say it's far more important as a practical and moral matter that we back up the police. If that means trusting them, or not obsessing over Mountain Dew bottles, or accepting that Constitutional rights are idealistic abstractions which cannot always remain perfectly inviolate, then it's a minuscule price to pay. We didn't make the world so imperfect, we're only trying to cope.

And there's something to that. Again, these officers are seeking out the worst of the worst. If an officer has a Jordan Miles guilty verdict in her mind, and that causes her to hesitate and consider whether that bulge in a jacket might be a Mountain Dew bottle, and it turns out to be a gun this time around, what then?

Which causes me to reflect -- why are we sending wave after wave of tiny groups of people, under cover, in unmarked cars and in plain clothes, into dangerous sections of dangerous neighborhoods to seek out dangerous people, in an environment where any rational person would be terrified, defensive and combative, night after night, in an endless struggle that would leave anybody jaded and a little twisted? Why are we making them do this? Where is all this danger coming from? Why are we at war?

##

Once upon a time, we thought about trying to ease up. We thought about attempting a very humane and rational deal: don't anybody dare pull any triggers or else consequences will be widespread and devastating, but so long as you keep it holstered, go ahead and buy, sell and possess whatever you want. Just keep it quiet and don't embarrass us. We'll stay out of it.

We'll stop sneaking around, at immense risk to ourselves and to everybody in the vicinity, hot and bothered to take money, drugs and guns off "the street" for its own sake, night after night after night. We won't go to Tioga St. unless somebody calls us there or shots ring out.

That facet of the proposed deal went under-reported for obvious reasons, but it was always part and parcel to it. It's been the linchpin of the deal in cities that have been successful in draining some of the murderous tension out of these neighborhoods.

That deal never got very far in Pittsburgh. It wasn't the community that rejected it, it wasn't the drug dealers, it wasn't the political leaders or even the criminal prosecutors who rejected it. The story of who rejected it has gone gravely under-reported as well.

We've got to cut it out. We've got to stop pitting our police officers against poor and desperate citizens in the dead of night for little or no good reason. We've got to stop making ourselves sick and crazy.

48 comments:

  1. Who hasn't run from the cops at least once when they were that age? No one I knew ever got beaten over it.

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  2. Bram, I don't have time to comment in depth until tomorrow at the earliest, but thanks for so honestly and forthrightly wrestling with such difficult, tangled questions.

    @TH and Bram

    Just a quick quote from the closing statements of one of the officers' attorneys, James Wymard, who stated that he personally believed that Miles was a "victim of circumstance" based on mutual confusion and fear and misunderstanding between all parties involved in the incident. (I'm sorry to be a tease - will post more court note details later as to Wymard's own speculative picture of what he thought happened.)

    But, Wymard said, "You know the consequences when you run from the police."

    That so many of us take such drastic consequences for granted...especially if they are brown, poor, from the wrong neighborhood...and aren't honor students with articulate mothers and grandmothers and teachers and principals...well that's worth a lengthy blog post of my own.

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  3. No Mt. Dew bottle?.. No case.

    This is, imho, a case where testorone-filled jagoffs crossed the line. Geez, don't these morons ever watch TV? Moron #1 "Yeah, Vinnie.. he had a Mt. Dew. That's what we'll say." Vinnie, "What's a Mt. Dew?" Moron #3 "Who cares? We're the coppers!"

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  4. Have you ever heard of selective amnesia Mr. Mountaineer?

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Beaten-Pa-student-s-friend-denies-picking-sides-3746010.php

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  5. Miles' friend Ryan Allen said Miles told him a couple days after his arrest that he had the soda bottle and that "the men mistook it for a gun," according to an FBI report. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to file federal civil rights charges against the officers, who were reinstated from suspensions last year after an internal probe failed to prove or disprove Miles' brutality claims.

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  6. Community and Problem-Oriented Policing

    http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/progTypesCommunityProblem.aspx

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  7. Excellent post, spot-on conclusion about The War™

    Minor quibble: I think there's a rational difference between how a white kid in the day and a black kid on Tioga St. view "trust the police".

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  8. Yes, we need to be looking at other, not-perfect-but-a-whole-lot-better models and practices for policing:

    http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&task=view_title&metaproductid=1394

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  9. Anon 11:37 -

    In regards to USDoJ's call and what it meant:

    "In order to prevail in court on a criminal civil rights charge, the government must prove that the law enforcement officer willfully deprived a person of a federally protected right. I have concluded that the evidence in this case will not support the heavy burden of a criminal charge against the officers... Any pending civil litigation brought by Mr. Miles is independent of this decision regarding criminal prosecution."

    "“Proving ‘willfulness’ is a heavy burden and means that it must be proven that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids,” the Justice Department said in its statement. “Neither negligence, accident, mistake, fear, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish such a criminal violation."

    It appeared US Attorney Hickton was extremely clear that things like negligence or bad judgment could be sufficient to ensnare the officers in civil proceedings and establish liability. Lack of federal charges unfortunately for those three never approximated anything like "vindication".

    And 'internal probes' in general, well, often enough themselves lack the "willfulness" to be effective, I hope we can agree.

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  10. @Vannevar

    You wrote: "I think there's a rational difference between how a white kid in the day and a black kid on Tioga St. view 'trust the police'."

    That ain't no minor quibble - the history behind such a difference of trust or mistrust of police seems like a central crux to understanding the various versions of the incident, as well as the long-term impacts of this case on police-community relations.

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  11. Okay, I promised to post the speculative vision of what happened between all participants in the “incident” that was presented to the jury by David Sisak's defense attorney, James A. Wymard

    Here's direct quotes from my court notes - a teaser from a blog post that should be published today at justiceforjordan.com. Brackets indicate that I wrote down what I thought I heard but am not sure of.]

    "Night after night, these men go into the highest crime neighborhood in the city, where murder, rape...gun violations happen all the time... where Jordan Miles said in his FBI interview he heard gun shots every night...into a neighborhood that you and I wouldn't drive through because of fear...we would skirt it because we would have known what would happen...”

    “You ask yourself, 'What really happened?'” I propose this - he was walking along Tioga...after 11pm on a school night...much later than he usually goes home...it's cold out, lonely, he gets halfway up the block...senses a car coming up the street behind him. You've heard Jordan Miles testify that after he was arrested he said, 'I'm glad they were police, because if they were gangbangers, I'd be dead'...[he knows it's a high crime area, he's afraid, like any of us would be afraid...So Jordan thinks...] 'I'll duck into the side of this house until they go by and then I'll continue on my way to Grandma's house...He emerges, thinking that they've gone by...the police get out and ask 'What are you doing sneaking around that house?' He's scared...now he's really in a jam...He bolts back to Mom's house...He's panicked...first from fear of what he thought were gangbangers...now of the police.”
    Wymard pauses, considers the jury. “I understand... Jordan Miles was a victim of circumstances, but the police saw him [as a potential burglar, peeping Tom, violent perpetrator, wielder of gun...]

    Do you remember the testimony by Dr. Leathers, Jordan's psychiatrist? ...Most revealing...He said, “Jordan had the sense he did something wrong...that he made a mistake.' Yes, [when the police approached him] he should have stood there...but he ran....”
    Wymard pauses again.
    “...We know the consequences when you run from the police.”

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  12. Helen - Thanks. I think that does distill a lot.

    You also promised to get back to Rex regarding the possible unintended consequences of tying storm water regs to subsidies. http://is.gd/eUom7F I'm rooting for you.

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  13. Thanks, Bram.

    Rex, if you're out there somewhere, I'm going to be writing about the Jordan Miles trial and verdict like crazy this weekend, but will be turning my attention to all things storm-watery and sewery and green-infrastructury next week.

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  14. Certainly many of us ran from the police in our day. Maybe we ran from a beer party or pool hopping. However, I don't remember ever standing next to house late at night in one of the City's most depressed and targeted drug enforcement areas - which by the way the local community has begged and pleaded with the police to get tougher and clean up. I don't know if that means you deserve to get the beat down. I do think it is telling though that the pictures we all see of Mile's face were taken that day. He was pretty well healed up a week or so later. In reality, he wasn't "beaten," he just got beat up. It happens all the time. I'm just interested to see if we find Miles arrested in a couple years for something else. It never fails.

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  15. I certainly stood late at night next to my grandmother's house.

    I'm just interested to see if we find Miles arrested in a couple years for something else. It never fails.

    First, that's blatantly racist. Second, it is not even relevant as punishing people before they commit a crime isn't allowed. Third, it's very likely untrue as the odds of a first arrest for criminal activity are very low after the young adult years.

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  16. I thought it was fairly widely known that the standard response to making cops run in Pittsburgh was a beating. Every cop I ever knew openly bragged that this was the 'unofficial' policy.

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  17. Hey, Bram, I've written a post at the Justice For Jordan website partly in response to your commentary here at the Comet. http://www.justiceforjordanmiles.com/2012/08/05/theyre-heroes-members-of-the-jury/

    Thanks, Bram. You always make me want to be braver than I am.

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  18. Anonymous 2:04:

    The principal factor inclining your expectation concerning Jordan Miles' future is your bigotry. The documented shortcomings and failures of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police could be considered a lesser factor, but it seems unlikely your analysis is that comprehensive.

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  19. "The documented shortcomings and failures of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police could be considered a lesser factor, but it seems unlikely your analysis is that comprehensive."

    "Shortcomings and failures" is a subjective observation Infy. Simply put, All the positive work performed by the underpaid City of Pittsburgh police officers is undocumented. A true narrative will not sell "newspapers", produce positive TV ad revenue, or, as you know, drive web traffic.

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  20. You can't argue with TheTruth. Everybody paid less than $40k a year plus health insurance and plus a pension gets to kick the stuffing out of one unarmed minor a year, so long as the minor lives on a bad street.

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  21. Michelle Alexander on the Irrational Race Bias of the Criminal Justice and Prison Systems
    Wednesday, 01 August 2012 00:00
    By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview

    http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10629-truthout-interviews-michelle-alexander-on-the-irrational-race-bias-of-the-criminal-justice-and-prison-systems

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  22. re. Mountain Dew Bottle
    It was demonstrated at one of the rallies that, given the style of the jacket Jordan was wearing, a soda bottle would have protruded significantly from the pocket. So, lets just get it out of our heads that there ever was any such beverage container. I know from personal experience that police officers routinely lie on arrest reports and I don't doubt for a second that they wholly concocted this ridiculous explanation of why they beat the shit out of a 150 lb boy.

    The essential question, in my mind, is whether police had any right to stop him in the first place. Oftentimes, as in this case, police will accuse an arrestee of "lurking" which of course is a meaningless term and most surely a euphemism for 'walking while black.'

    The larger issue is the practice of deploying plain-clothed officers in certain neighborhoods in a manner which, over the past several decades, has resulted in the emergence of the term "jump out boys". And, of course, its the continued system of drug prohibition which results in the crime that, to some, justifies fascist police tactics.

    This indeed can serve as a teachable moment. Pigs: when you enter our neighborhoods do so in standard police uniforms and vehicles so that the populace can be fairly warned of the imminent threat posed to their children.

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  23. I just started Season 3 of BSG. Thanks, jerk.

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  24. I'm sorry. :( But, it's a lot more complicated than that.

    Starting to look like a hung jury situation, huh? Bad for the plaintiff.

    "Forcing a mistrial may seem of little benefit to either side, but in fact it can be a boon to the defense. The prosecution's shown their hand. At retrial the defense has all the tactical advantages and the statistical chances of an acquittal rise by twenty five percent." Trial Tactics and Strategies, p 273, Joseph Adama; BSG S3E20 (more spoilers)

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  25. Yes, I absolutely agree that *we* are absolutely part of the oppressive, extractive "enemy" participating in this New Jim Crow system (as I also hold We the People partly responsible for our never-ending, ever more brutally violent Wars on Abstractions such as Terror and Drugs - but no way Alcohol, bro, since of course we learned so much from Prohibition.) I address that collective responsibility at the Justice for Jordan site, with the sharpest emphasis on Pittsburghers, but not as extensively as I should have, or with enough evidence to back up some of the assertions I make there. I'll be going back to insert more links soon...and to write what I may be a Part II as we continue to wait for a verdict.

    You write: "...the majority of whom carry a great deal of fear of drug-dealing thugs, we who democratically demand that the police busy themselves cracking down on them, call the city everyday in fact and demand it."

    There's reams of evidence that drug-use and dealing are actually more white than black, controlling for socioeconomic factors. Just one such ream regarding proportionate substance abuse is presented by this National Survey on Drug Use and Health: for http://healthland.time.com/2011/11/07/study-whites-more-likely-to-abuse-drugs-than-blacks/.

    Here's an article on the disparity of legal response between black and white drug dealing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/algernon-austin/white-privilege-and-illic_b_804130.html

    And IF(?) you read the interview with Michelle Alexander( which I provided the link to in the comment above,) she, among many others, points out the far more widespread and pernicious damages of alcoholism compared to drug use, but despite the tenacious, vocal clamoring of many victim survivors, the disparity in avidity of the pursuit and attendant consequences of substance abuse of both drugs and alcohol remains, thanks to the toleration of the majority. Yes, that contrast is made possible only by grassroots racism, in partnership with elite greed and calculation.

    ALEC and all that corporate/elite ilk do seem far more conscious than their "law enforcement" "harvesters" of their labor, far more aware of the commercial uses of prejudice. There's a very long history of such use of labor, summarized here, "Slavery by Another Name: Locking Down an American Workforce in the Prison-Corporate Complex" - http://www.ucimc.org/content/slavery-another-name-locking-down-american-workforce-prison-corporate-complex

    Indeed, consciously or not, such profiteers depend on and encourage majority denial of their own racism as it allows them to get away with using and abusing and exploiting stereotyped minorities. For more on ALEC's role in promoting tough sentencing laws and private prisons for profit, here's this Nation article: The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor
    http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2508%3Athe-hidden-history-of-alec-and-prison-labor

    So, right, I don't think that "harvesting" was on the forefront of the minds of Saldutte, Sisak and Ewing, or their commanders - just as only a very few of my fellow soldiers in Iraq would say out loud to themselves and to others "just take their oil to pay for the war" (yes, a direct quote.) Self-blinding is a crucial root of any racist regime, imperial conquest, or slave-based economic bonanza.

    But I'm sure you don't doubt that if police targeted white drug dealers as they do young black males in Homewood, if three police officers beat up a young white Jordan Miles, white Burghers would be up in arms, and pitchforks would prod a very different response from Zappalas and Harpers and OMIs, etc.

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  26. If you're wondering what Helen at 9:51 is responding to, it is to a comment I wrote in a parallel conversation being hosted at http://facebook.com/PGHComet, which has veered into the topic of how useful it is to talk about those officers being out there to "target and capture sources of highly profitable labor for a swiftly exploding prison industrial complex."

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  27. The severe failures and shortcomings of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police have been documented by consent decree, by court proceedings and rulings, in financial terms (from settlements associated with police misconduct), in newspapers, even by a blogger or two.

    Many police officers perform admirably. The average and better officers are underpaid. As an organization, however, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has been demonstrably substandard for many years.

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  28. To be fair, the police seem to be doing a much better job relative to what I've seen in other cities than the water and sewer people, to pick a random example.

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  29. Wow, MH - yes, I'm crazy busy right now putting together a press conference tomorrow about the flooding that once more overwhelmed our sewer system this past Sunday.

    I would agree that our uniformed police have a relatively decent record - but the 99 cars of plainclothes jumpout squads are a different story - and the overall whitening of our police force doesn't help one bit.

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  30. Bram and all, sorry for my hasty sloppiness in cutting and pasting my response to the FB post without tailoring and specifically responding to other comments here.

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  31. Helen, thx for the Wymard replay. certainly gives vivid insight into all parties thinking there. Why Wymard gets the big bucks! Throughout this issue, I have thought that the police acted overly aggressive. I'm surprised at the jury's decision based only on the visual evidence of a servers beaten Jordan. Yesterday I spoke with a police officer in my neighborhood. He's a good guy and a good neighborhood asset . He told me he knows the three officers. That they are stand up guys, good cops. He stated that Jordan gave 6 different stories about what he was doing. Last night I spoke with a woman whose grand kids went to CAPA school with Jordan. She said he was a great kid. He would often spend time at her home. Btw, she is a white woman living in a predominantly white community. She said he was the epitome of a young gentleman. mannered polite, soft spoken. I like and expect both of my sources.
    Both are advocates for the perosn(s) they know. Both hold different opinions of the incident.

    Getting back to the Wymard statement, it appears to me that both parties reacted based on their beliefs, mind sets, real life experience. These divergent systems provided us with an outcome that seems not worthy of either parties. the kid got his ass hammered and the cops have been dragged threw an experience that the DA REFUSED TO PROSECUTE AND A CIVIL JURY was deadlocked.

    The culture of law enforcement and the culture inherent in many urban communities seem to be on a collision course. How can we as a community prevent more Jordan Miles like travesties?

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  32. I'd be surprised if by Sunday we're not treated to a four-click treatise on "jump out" tactics. When Rich says we're going to learn I take him at his word.

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  33. I wonder if MH and Infi can make coherent arguments that aren't based on simply calling people bigots or other names. Nah, much easier to just blame everything on the police, Luke Ravenstahl and Mitt Romney. I couldn't possibly be the case that Mr. Miles was out on illegal activity when he got busted. Nope, not possible at all and completely "racist" and "bigoted" to even suggest it as a possibility. He is an honor student and all his classmates love him. On the other hand, please don't mention that the officers are "decorated" or "well respected" or "highly trained," because that would be completely irrelevant and perhaps even racist or bigoted.

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  34. Anonymous 9:04

    A working hypothesis is that you are a bigot and a dope. If you express something that constitutes evidence to the contrary, it will be noted.

    Your speculation concerning Jordan Miles' unlawful conduct is roughly as persuasive as that fanciful Mountain Dew bottle, because there is no credible evidence underlying it.

    Two of the relevant officers have fine reputations. That is part of what makes this incident particularly inexplicable.

    Nobody was exonerated this week. The toughest-to-prove count was bounced. Contrary to the blowhard assertions of some second-rate lawyers, the jury did not buy the officers' story, despite the likelihood that the officers' story would get substantial benefit of the doubt from that jury.

    It is going to get tougher and tougher for bigots and dopes in our society, so here's hoping you get some help.

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  35. A working hypothesis is that you are a bigot and a dope.

    Yes. I wonder if he's the guy who got kicked off the Bike Pittsburgh boards for a crazy theory about Giant Eagle?

    I get that the officers were well trained. That's what bothers me. Three well trained, armed men can't subdue a single teen without breaking his face? That, plus their officers' lawyer saying "That's what you get when you run from the cops" makes me concerned the point of the exercise (stopping people without obvious cause) was to prevent crime through extra-judicial punishment.

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  36. Anon 9:04 - First off, I'm genuinely curious what Mitt Romney has to do with any of this? I don't recall MH ever mentioning him and with Infi you have to go way back to 2009.

    In the absence of any form of evidence that a person is up to no good, I think it's only fair to give people the benefit of the doubt that they're not up to no good. Even if you grant that Jordan appeared to be "acting suspiciously" in that he was standing near a residence that was not his own at night, I don't think it can be argued that no evidence has ever been presented that Jordan was in fact up to no good. And even if you grant the officers' lawyers' contentions that Jordan fled and fought upon being detained and that his family is just out for a big payday, I still don't see how anybody can assume he was, from the outset, up to no good unless they're relying on prejudices about the neighborhood, his age, his gender, his race, et cetera. If there's more to the story than has gotten out there, you're anonymous, I don't use tricky software, let's have it.

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  37. @Bram - your use of "no" and "not" in the comment above was slightly confusing to me at a couple of points.

    @Anonymous August 9, 2012 9:04 PM

    You write: "On the other hand, please don't mention that the officers are "decorated" or "well respected" or "highly trained," because that would be completely irrelevant and perhaps even racist or bigoted."

    In fact, the law was extraordinarily generous to the three officers.

    As quoted in a January 2012 City Paper story by Chris Young,
    Pittsburgh Police Commander Rashall Brackney, former supervisor has stated that Ewing, Saldutte, and Sisak, "had a history of lying and taking action when not rising to [the] level of reasonable suspicion."

    Her professional testimony seems crucially relevant when jurors were trying to determine the truthfulness and/or accuracy of competing accounts, as well as whether the three officers acted in accord with law and bureau policy, and yet it was not even "mentioned" in court.

    It was quite a risk for that woman to break ranks to report such past patterns. I and many others are bitterly disappointed that her testimony was not allowed to be heard.

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  38. There is no reason to "get" that these officers, or any others associated with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, have been "well trained."

    Pittsburgh's officers have been poorly trained, poorly equipped, and poorly supervised for many years.

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  39. Used to Respect Your OpinionAugust 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    Your speculation concerning Jordan Miles' unlawful conduct is roughly as persuasive as that fanciful Mountain Dew bottle, because there is no credible evidence underlying it

    You are slipping Infin.

    Miles' friend Ryan Allen said Miles told him a couple days after his arrest that he had the soda bottle and that "the men mistook it for a gun," according to an FBI report. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to file federal civil rights charges against the officers, who were reinstated from suspensions last year after an internal probe failed to prove or disprove Miles' brutality claims.

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  40. U2RYO reminds us again -

    "Miles' friend Ryan Allen said Miles told him a couple days after his arrest that he had the soda bottle and that "the men mistook it for a gun," according to an FBI report."

    That is a fact that certainly deserves to be up there on the Big Board. Now, I've long been thinking that the Dew Affair is a bit overblown in terms of its importance and more certainly to "learning," but in terms of the music of the incident -- sure. Guy was alongside a house in a bad neighborhood with a BULGE in his pocket. That can speak to the false arrest charge. It can also speak to training, the unfortunateness of profiling and tactics.

    The rest of that particular comment, well, though accurate I don't see how any of it pertains either to allegations of false arrest and excessive force or to civil and literal liability.

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  41. "Literal liability" just about means "justice."

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  42. Seems that it also speaks to Miles credibility. He changed his story and later, on the stand, claimed there was no dew bottle. How many other elements of his story has he adjusted for the civil case?

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  43. Once again you guys just aren't getting it. Mitt Romney has nothing to do with it, but was just a silly throw away to make a point. The point is that people like Infi and MH incriminated the police as soon as it happened. They will twist and turn every fact and argument to maintain that position and defend Miles at all costs. Bram, you suggest that I am incriminating Miles and "assuming" he was up to no good. I'm not "assuming" he was up to no good. I am just suggesting that "being up to no good" is certainly one possibility. Another possibility is that he was doing nothing wrong. The point is that people like Infi and MH completely dismiss the first possibility. Instead, because Miles "was an honor student at CAPA," their logic is to accept out of hand that he was doing nothing wrong. However, they then, again out of hand, accept that the officers are bad and racist and simply wanted to beat down a black kid that night. What I am suggesting is that when you are out on patrol in one of the highest crime areas in the City and see someone sneaking around a house they don't live in that it is reasonable suspicion for the police to make a stop. If the person then runs the suspicion rises to another level. There are lots of scenarios that could play out and only a few people know exactly what happened that night. All that we can do is view it in hindsight and attempt to draw some objective conclusions. I prefer to look at the events and consider all of the possibilities rather than just call people names to score cheap points. The one fact that seems to not have been debated in trial (or perhaps I missed it) is some evidence from medical professionals. Let me explain. If in fact the damage to Miles face was tertiary and really didn't involve broken bones or deep tissue damage, then I might be swayed more towards the officers version of events. That would seem to fit more with bruising and swelling that would result from being slammed down on the ground and an elbow to the face in a struggle/tackle. If there were severe deep tissue wounds or fractures that were caused by multiple direct blows to the face, that could sway me more towards Miles that in fact the officers decided to "teach him a lesson." I'm not really interested in just the pictures - bruises to the face always look bad because there isn't a lot of fat - I am interested in medical testimony on this issue. I think this is important because if you believe that Miles was out late at night and ran from the cops, then being tackled is a completely acceptable outcome. The same thing would happen to a white kid running from a field party.

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  44. @Anonymous August 12, 2012 9:26 AM

    Key testimony regarding the long term neurological impacts that Jordan has suffered was provided by Dr. Maria Twichell, Clinical Director of Treatment and Rehabilitation for UPMC’s Sports Concussion program, who also practices physiatry (a specialization in the rehabilitation of neurophysiological systems, often confused with the very distinct practice of “psychiatry”) She also serves as physiatrist for the University of Pittsburgh Physicians Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

    Dr. Twichell noted objective measures of physical dysfunctions characteristic of nerve damage and post-concussive symptoms. Numbness in the face indicated permanent damage to the maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve, as well as damages to proprioception and the vestibular systems of balance, as measured by the Romberg Test. She also consulted with Dr. Gorski, who administered an in-depth, four-hour neuropsychological exam designed to fully evaluate the functioning of various subsets of patient cognition, neurophysiological health and integration of information.

    Both during direct and cross examination, Dr. Twichell emphasized that such exams are meant to detect and counter false or exaggerated subjective reporting by patients with objective measures of neurological and physiological functioning. She stated that the symptoms reported by Jordan Miles regarding impaired cognition, memory, and integration of vision and physical balance systems were corroborated by all objective validity measures. She also stated that such damages clearly could have been caused by a hard impact to the right side of the head, such as the blow described by Jordan Miles during his testimony.

    Dr. Twichell saw Jordan Miles again in March of 2012. Review of symptoms indicated that Jordan had made improvement or showed slight typical fluctuation of performance and symptoms in some areas, but, by objective measures, he was still suffering from problems with memory, balance, proprioception, eye-focus, and integration of sensory systems.

    When Jordan’s attorney, Kerrington asked about ongoing needs for costly medical care and future impacts of these damages on the ability to complete further education, as well as on his future earnings power, Dr. Twichell replied: “We see the most improvement in the first month [after a concussive injury], then usually more slow improvement over about two years…further improvement is much slower…I would anticipate that Jordan would need ongoing psychological and psychiatric care, [as well as] vestibular and cognitive therapies…assistance with classes…job coach. [Continued experience of post concussive symptoms would] tend to be rather static given the point we are now in the trajectory of his recovery. [In the] typical course, where Jordan is now is what we can expect to see going forward.”

    I've taken this information from my post of court notes at http://www.justiceforjordanmiles.com/2012/07/23/jordan-miles-civil-trial-day-5-court-blog-23-july-2012/ Links to information on various medical terms are provided at the site.

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  45. The point is that people like Infi and MH incriminated the police as soon as it happened.

    You know less about me than you do about how hard you have to hit somebody to cause that kind of swelling. My relatives are mostly lawyers and those in criminal law are prosecutors (not in PA). I know many police officers and don't doubt them without reason.

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  46. Yippee for you MH. Some of my best friends are lawyers.

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  47. Funny how the Pittsburgh Comet covered this story not in the courtroom, but from the comfort of his own living room ripping off other journalists' reports.

    Lazy!

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  48. Let the record show that the screen cap I used of KDKA's quote from Chief Harper was taken from a screen cap taken from KDKA and used by the sensational work of Justice for Jordan Miles.

    "Lazy" would hurt a lot less if I had posted since then. Ugh.

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