In California, the police have been quite successful at brutalizing prisoners. Various California papers, including the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times, along with the Center for Investigative Reporting, have shown that almost 150 female inmates were coerced into undergoing sterilization in the form of a tubal ligation. The doctors responsible have something of a cavalier attitude about the episode that recalls that halcyon days when California’s eugenics program was the envy of Nazi Germany: one prison doctor referred to the sterilization effort as “an important service to poor women,” noting that the cost of the sterilization was negligible “compared to what you save in welfare paying for the unwanted children.”
30,000 other inmates went on strike in California’s prisons over the solitary confinement program, with 7,600 prisoners still on strike. 4,500 inmates are held in solitary, with the average inmate in isolation for over seven years. In some cases, solitary confinement is merited; in other cases, solitary confinement is doled out because your possession of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” qualifies you as a gang member.
Merited or not, what goes on in Segregated Housing Unit is never justified: Mike Wallace of CBS News investigated Corcoran State prison and found that guards staged inmate fights in SHU so they could bet on the fights, and if the fights got out of hand, the guards would shoot the inmates. Eight inmates have died in these fights. Wallace returned to Corcoran to find that things had changed a bit; instead of wagering on fights, guards were encouraging inmate-on-inmate rape.
In San Antonio, Texas, Officer Daniel Alvarado pursued 14-year-old Derek Lopez after he punched a fellow student upon exiting the school bus. Lopez fled, disregarding Alvarado’s commands, and Alvarado pursued him into a shed at a nearby home. Alvarado’s supervisor had instructed him to stay with the victim and get information, but Alvarado instead placed the victim in the back of his squad car in order to pursue Lopez.
As a school officer, Alvarado was bound by Northside Independent School District protocol, which forbade drawing his weapon upon exiting his car. Alvarado drew his gun, rushed into the back yard where Lopez was hiding in a shed, and within seconds, he shot and killed an unarmed 14-year-old boy. In the four-year period leading up to Alvarado shooting Lopez, he had been reprimanded 16 times, including 7 times for insubordination. He was suspended without pay 5 times, and in 2008 his supervisor recommended that he be terminated.
Alvarado received remedial training instead, and a little over two years later, on November 12, 2010, Alvarado killed 14-year-old Derek Lopez, who was unarmed and hiding in a shed. The Northside Independent School District where Alvarado worked is the same district that caused a national controversy last year for tracking students with chip-embedded ID badges. The program has since been abandoned.
The forensic evidence did not bolster Alvarado’s contention that he had shot Lopez after being hit in the face by the shed door when Lopez tried to exit the shed. No witnesses saw any injury on Alvarado’s face, and there was no gunpowder on Lopez’s shirt. The autopsy report stated, “[t]here is no evidence of close range firing of the wound,” and the paramedic who lived next door to the scene of the shooting rushed to treat Lopez claimed that Alvarado looked dazed and distant. The victim said that Alvarado told another officer he had “panicked” and shot Lopez.
A police officer in New York managed to kill a Andrea Rebello, a 21-year-old Hofstra University student, when firing at 30-year-old Dalton Smith, who had taken Rebello hostage during a home invasion. In the early hours of Friday, May 17, 2013, the officer who responded to the scene fired eight bullets, hitting Smith seven times and Rebello once. The Nassau County police officer was said to be “inconsolable” after the shooting.
In hostage situations, Nassau County protocol dictates that officers immediately call for backup and avoid entering the location before backup arrives. The radio transmissions mentioned hostages, but Officer Nikolas Budimlic, 42, entered the house anyway and became separated from his partner when the front door closed behind him. Despite Budimlic’s violation of procedure, and his firing of eight bullets to take down Smith while Smith held Rebello in a headlock, the police department defended Budimlic’s actions.
Three Cal State San Bernardino police officers struggled with an unarmed graduate student for seven minutes before shooting him. Bartholomew Williams, a 38-year-old graduate student with bipolar disorder who had stopped taking his medication, allegedly demonstrated “super-human strength” and resisted the officers’ attempts to arrest him. Just one of the officers was treated for minor injuries at the hospital after the incident, during which the other two officers on the scene fired at and killed Williams after he took the third officer down.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, police officers shot and killed 72-year-old Jerry Waller when he noticed bright lights outside his bedroom window at 1 a.m. and went outside his house to investigate. Waller grabbed his .38 caliber handgun and went outside, only to be shot by two Fort Worth police officers responding to a burglary call. Fort Worth police spokesperson Cpl. Tracey Knight refused to say whether Waller had raised his weapon or if he had refused an order to drop the pistol.
Waller’s wife of 46 years, Kathy, says that she was told her husband had been shot six times in the chest by police.
In Frederick, Maryland, 18-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor was out watching the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Upon exiting the theater, Saylor became violent because he wanted to go back inside and watch the movie again. Three off-duty cops working as security guards approached, and Saylor’s aide explained to them that he had Down’s Syndrome and that she could handle it. She also warned the officers that Saylor would “freak out” of they attempted to touch.
The officers then threatened to arrest him, causing him to panic and call out for his mother, at which point the police officers attempted to restrain Saylor over the objections of his aide. The three officers fell on a ramp with Saylor, and put three sets of handcuffs on him. Witnesses say one of the officers put a knee on Saylor’s back.
Saylor then went limp, and an autopsy later revealed he had died of asphyxia, due to damage to his larynx. A grand jury then refused to indict the officers, and the Saylor family had to wait three months before the evidence presented to the grand jury was released so the police could complete their internal affairs investigation. The Saylor family met with the Justice Department and called on Maryland to open an investigation, and their attorney says they are looking to file a civil suit as well.
Organized fights in solitary confinement, and arranged inmate rapes. Coerced sterilizations. Eight dead inmates in one California prison alone. Out of control police officers with 16 reprimands and four suspensions in one four-year period, and a dead 14-year-old boy. A 21-year-old college student dead after a police officer violated procedure for a hostage situation, and a mentally ill man shot to death by two police officers who couldn’t bother to use less than lethal force even though they outnumbered the suspect three to one. A dead man with Down’s syndrome, whose aide warned police of his condition and his tendency to become fearful, and a grieving family. A 72-year-old grandfather investigating suspicious activity outside his home, shot dead by officers whose department refuses to release information about the shooting.
The police are not your friends.
Related story: Profiles in Police Resistance highlighting Police officers who defend the US Constitution.
Jay Batman is a graduate of the Texas Tech University School of Law, where he attained his J.D. in May 2013. He completed a B.A. in English with a minor in Political Science at the University of Montevallo in 2002. He is employed with Dustin Stockton Political Strategies, LLC, and presently resides in West Texas with his dog and co-author, Buddy Love