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Police Brutality

Stanford Prof’s Book Explores U.S. Violence And The Law

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In “A Pattern of Violence,” David Alan Sklansky illuminates how the U.S. legal system’s overdependence on faulty understandings of violent crime has fueled some of today’s most pressing criminal and social justice issues.

The most important question of the virtual panel that Stanford Law School recently held to discuss professor David Alan Sklansky’s latest book, “A Pattern of Violence: How the Law Classifies Crimes and What It Means for Justice,” arrived about 40 minutes into the session.

“How are you defining violence there, David?” his colleague and panel moderator Dr. Rabia Belt asked.

The question was a crucial one, as much of the discussion to that point had dealt with how social movements, technology, racism and shifting politics shape a concept that the criminal justice system inconsistently defines. Sklansky, a former labor lawyer and assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, acknowledged that complexity in his answer.

“I feel like if we didn’t make so much of a distinction, it wouldn’t matter as much exactly how we define it, but I would define violence as the use of force against another person … or the threatened use of force against another person,” he said. “That would mean that there’s a lot of forms of … abuse that aren’t violent, and it’s wrong to think that anything that falls within the category of violence is going to be categorically worse than anything that falls outside of it.”

The question underscored a wide-ranging talk on April 12 about “A Pattern of Violence,” Sklansky’s book that Belknap Press published in March, and its exploration of how muddled legal understandings of violence enable miscarriages of justice. In his opening remarks, Sklansky highlighted two particular “tragedies” as examples: mass incarceration and the dissolution of police reform efforts.

“I started with this sense that, in criminal law, we often make too much of violence, and in regulation of the police, we often make too little of it,” he explained. “And I wanted to figure out why that was.”

Sklansky elaborated on this premise Wednesday, saying that his interest in how the law treats violent crime grew over the last decade.

“Before that, like most people, I tended to assume that violence was a pretty clear category, and that violent crimes were the worst kinds of crimes,” he explained to Law360. “Over the past 10 years, I noticed that both of the major events [mass incarceration and the collapse of police reform] that have taken place in American criminal justice over my career seem to have roots in how the legal system thinks about violence, and in how the legal system is inconsistent in how it thinks about violence.”

Sklansky’s professional history also informs his perspective on these issues. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles during the trials and unrest related to the videotaped beating of Rodney King. Although he wasn’t involved with any related lawsuit — his focus was on white collar fraud, he said — he later served as a special counsel for a blue-ribbon commission that investigated the Rampart scandal, in which an anti-gang unit of LAPD detectives were implicated in unprovoked violence against suspects, drug dealing, bank robbery and cover-ups.

In looking at this era, he believes that even reform efforts like the community policing movement did not prioritize police violence enough.

“It’s not as though people stopped thinking at all about police violence, but it wasn’t the focus of reform energy … I think, in part, because the extent of police violence wasn’t sufficiently appreciated,” he said. “And it wasn’t sufficiently appreciated because the Department of Justice didn’t keep statistics, good statistics, on police shootings and other forms of police violence.”

Sklansky added that this institutional disinterest coincided with both a widespread belief that policing was getting better and, in the background, the increased militarization of police departments. But, as he notes in “A Pattern of Violence,” legal institutions do not always understand police brutality as a kind of violence.

During the panel — presented by Stanford Law School with its constituent Criminal Justice Center, which Sklansky co-directs, and the university’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity — Belt and Sklansky drew on the experiences of their co-panelists to further illustrate how these inconsistent perceptions of violence are rooted in racism and sexism, as well as challenged by the social justice movements fighting oppression. For instance, political journalist Adam Serwer of The Atlantic brought up how the 21st-century introduction of cellphone cameras corresponded with a shifting public perception of police violence that Sklansky’s book addresses.

“It seems to me that one of the big shifts in this conversation that David is writing about is that the invention of cellphone cameras means that it’s much easier to capture these moments that occur outside, away from the eyes of a courtroom, and in this sort of nebulous world of what are the cops allowed to do before they actually try to convict you of a crime,” Serwer noted.

Fellow panelist sujatha baliga, a Bay Area attorney turned restorative justice practice leader, also spoke about the problem of reform-minded district attorneys and others relying too heavily on legal standards of violence. For instance, baliga discussed how those DAs struggle without a consensus around the data about diversionary programs’ effectiveness, compared to the hefty sentences that most prosecutors instead pursue.

“Sometimes, I think that, in trying to do these reform approaches [that are] too entangled with the system means that we’re dealing with, having to deal with all of these statutory definitions … It doesn’t really operate well, in the context of restorative justice, to have to also be juggling these things,” baliga said. “It both harms restorative justice and, I think, produces less good outcomes.”

California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, another panelist, noted the difficulty of measuring violence when so many legal and political processes affect how it is perceived.

“It feels to me like the challenge is: If somebody wants to say, ‘Well, the polluted river, that does violence to my community,’ there’s a sense in which we’d want society to say, ‘Yeah, we recognize that this is a form of violence,’ and at the same time, know the law should not treat it the same as somebody who stabbed you in the stomach,” Cuéllar noted earlier. “And it’s hard, I think that’s not easy, because I think the very point of expanding the category [of violence] motivates ballot initiatives, legislators to act, courts to struggle with this [and] jurors when they’re thinking about this, but we also want them to be technical and precise in an almost lawyerly way.”

Sklansky said Wednesday that he appreciated the insight the panelists brought to his work, which he plans to continue beyond “A Pattern of Violence.” He also highlighted one of Belt’s comments about how focusing on so-called “spectacular violence,” or where the violence holds the public eye because it is a “spectacle,” overshadows other kinds of abuse that could be defined as violence.

“The everyday violence of stop-and-frisk has been ignored,” he explained to Law360. “In fact, even the words ‘stop-and-frisk’ are, as the Supreme Court itself has recognized, euphemisms for what can be a quite violent interaction, particularly when the police are encountering minorities.”

Sklansky added that such inconsistent definitions have also affected women, who endure disproportionate sexual and intimate partner violence, and feminist activism. He observed that efforts to define these problems as violent crimes actually limited attention to the more subtle kinds of “sexual victimization and domination” that women experience in and out of relationships.

“More recently, reformers who work on issues of rape and issues of intimate partner violence have stressed the importance of seeing the connection between these forms of violence and things that we don’t generally tend to describe as violence, like coerced control inside of a relationship or the forms of sexual harassment that the Me Too movement has drawn attention to,” he said.

While he did not completely disregard the need to legally define violence, Sklansky said that legal systems and access to justice ideally should not rely on those definitions as unilateral, unbiased indictments of character.

“The problem comes when we treat the category of violence as a master category that we can use to distinguish people who are beyond the pale, incapable of redemption, undeserving of mercy, from people who deserve mercy, can be redeemed and should be treated as part of humanity,” he explained.

Have a story idea for Access to Justice? Reach us at accesstojustice@law360.com.

–Editing by Kelly Duncan.

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Police Brutality

Thousands Protest Against Alleged Police Brutality – The Berlin Spectator

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In Berlin, some 5,000 people rallied against claimed brutality and racism in the German police on Saturday. Some participants even demanded an abolition of the police as a whole.

Berlin, May 8th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — There were “too many isolated cases” of police brutality in Germany, a banner at one of today’s largest protests read. Organized by left-wing groups, participants said they wanted to abolish the police altogether. “All of Berlin hates the police”, people chanted while they marched through Kreuzberg. The accuracy of some of their claims did not seem to be too important.

Strong Presence, Low Profile

“Against racism and Nazis in the security authorities”, a big banner held by six protesters read. “You are the problem”, “Stop racial profiling”, “Stop police violence” and “Stop the Nazi networks in the police and the military” other signs said. Cops were accused of being fascists as well.

The very same police the protesters provoked with baseless allegations kept a low profile, probably in order to make sure they did not provide a target for the radicals among the many demonstrators. A total of 1,300 officers protected the city from them. The Berlin Police Department ordered a strong presence because they feared protesters would attack them again, as they did during a “Revolutionary May 1st Protest” a week ago, but the officers stayed in the background as much as possible. On May 1st, all policemen and policewomen on duty had come in full riot gear. This time, they did not.

Fireworks Lit on Roofs

The rally was peaceful as it moved through Berlin’s Kreuzberg borough towards the Neukölln district. At Hasenheide, a major street, the march stopped when police temporarily arrested a man who had scrawled something on construction site fences with a big marker. Once the officers let him go, the rally continued. During the event, a spokeslady for the police confirmed it had been peaceful. Some little incidents were reported. Unknown individuals lit illegal pyrotechnic articles from the roofs of buildings the rally passed.

Almost all protesters wore protective masks. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The reality is that there have been some police scandals in recent months, for instance about officers in the federal states of Hesse and Berlin who were caught exchanging racist views and Nazi propaganda in chat groups. But, especially in Berlin, the state government is putting a lot of effort into combatting racism and other forms of extremism in its police force. Last summer, Interior Senator Andreas Geisel and Police Chief Barbara Slowik even introduced an extremism prevention concept designed to filter out extremist individuals before they even become police officers.

There were dozens of protests in Berlin today. On this 76th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender, the victims of fascism were supposed to be commemorated at a big event in the German capital’s Alt-Treptow neighborhood.

We have a request: The Berlin Spectator has been online for 28 months. We deliver the most relevant news from Germany along with features about Berlin, culture, people, tourist magnets and other subjects, and we garnish the whole thing with entertainment and other extras. The Berlin Spectator thanks the thousands of readers we have every day.
But we also need support. Would you consider supporting The Berlin Spectator? You can do so directly via Paypal or you can go to our Donation Page first. Thank you so much. We would really appreciate your support.

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Police Brutality

Almagro condemns vandalism and police brutality in Colombia — MercoPress

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Almagro condemns vandalism and police brutality in Colombia

Saturday, May 8th 2021 – 08:41 UTC

“The OAS General Secretariat recognizes peaceful protest as a fundamental basic right that must be protected by democratic institutions,” Almagro said.
“The OAS General Secretariat recognizes peaceful protest as a fundamental basic right that must be protected by democratic institutions,” Almagro said.

Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro Friday condemned “the cases of torture and murders committed by the forces of order” in Colombia where unrest reigns supreme since April 28.

 

Multiple protests have taken place in Colombia since President Iván Duque submitted to Congress a tax reform bill which was going to be easy on the wealthiest and harsh on the middle class in contrast to the world’s current trend of shifting the burden towards those who can afford it, as it has already been the case in Argentina and Bolivia and which is encouraged by world leaders such as US President Joseph Biden or United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

 

These demonstrations have been crushed by police forces with unprecedented brutality which the world was able to witness through homemade videos that went viral over social media. Colombia has so far recorded 37 violent deaths this year according to the NGO Tremors.

“The OAS General Secretariat recognizes peaceful protest as a fundamental basic right that must be protected by democratic institutions,” Almagro said.

He added that “ the right to protest is a right of individuals and society and must be highly valued as a form of political participation”, he added.

Almagro underlined as well that those who do not protest also have rights and these cannot be violated when fundamental rights of the population such as health, work, education and free movement are affected. “In this sense, the cessation of the blockades is urged when these fundamental rights of the people are violated and a broader social peace is supported within the framework of the demands that they want to make,” said Almagro about road blockades that have affected the normal supply of food and medicines to various cities nationwide.

But he also regretted state-endorsed violence: “We especially condemn the cases of torture and murder committed by the forces of order,“ he said.

”We value the report sent by the Ombudsman’s Office to the Attorney General’s Office regarding the prosecution of criminal responsibility by those members of the public force who have exceeded themselves and who have committed a crime violating fundamental rights of citizenship,“ Almagro went on, as he called for the prosecution of those who have committed actions of a terrorist nature against the institutions and authorities of the State.

”The OAS General Secretariat demands that external and internal actors who induce violence and destabilization of the country stop these actions and calls on organized violent groups to stop their criminal actions,“ Almagro pointed out.

The Organization of American States supports the conversation process led by the national government and calls for all social and political forces to work together towards this goal.

The United Nations have also called for a stop to criminal actions in Colombia and opposed the ”loss of life, incidents of violence and the disproportionate use of the force during protests.” The UN stood in favour of “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to protest to be guaranteed, and [insisted] that any action by the public force must fully observe the protection and respect for human rights.”

“The Peace Agreement signed in 2016 offers elements to regulate these guarantees and strengthen citizen participation,” the UN said. It also condemned any form of violence, such as vandalism against infrastructure, serious cases of sexual violence and actions that violate human rights, which is why it urged the national government to accelerate the process of ”investigation, prosecution and punishment” of those responsible.

 

 

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Police Brutality

Protests held in Bolivia against Colombia police brutality

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La Paz, May 7 (EFE).- Dozens of people held a demonstration near the Colombian embassy in La Paz to demand an end to the alleged brutal repression of protesters in Colombia, resisting a controversial fiscal reform by President Ivan Duque.

Activists and some Colombian residents had organized the demonstration, blending music with harsh slogans against the Duque government.

The protesters marched to the embassy complex in the Calacoto neighborhood, accompanied by a group of drummers.

“Down with Duque. No to repression,” and “Long live the rebellion,” read some of the banners carried by the demonstrators.

When the march reached the embassy gates, a group of Bolivian riot police came out to guard the complex.

David Guillermo Caicedo, a protester from Bogotá, who has lived in Bolivia for more than five years, told EFE that they decided to demonstrate “in a peaceful and artistic way, raising their voices against the abuses in Colombia.”

He wondered how could the Colombian government impose new “tax reforms that will further impoverish the people amid the pandemic.”

He said the armed forces must stop killing people and join the protesters instead of supporting “the corrupt, lying and mafia political class that kills their own people.”

Colombia has seen a wave of protests since Apr.28 against the reforms.

At least 24 people have died in clashes between police and against anti-government demonstrators, an official count said.

But nonprofit Temblores indicate that 37 people have died.

The Colombian president has called politicians across the spectrum for dialog to find a solution. EFE

gb/ssk

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