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Archive for July 13th, 2014

More things for which cops are not held accountable

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We’ve seen that beating people is okay in many (most?) instances, as is shooting people—for example, SWAT teams crashing into the wrong house in the middle of the night and shooting those who protest. Police seem to have immunity for bad behavior because if you call the cops to report it, the blue wall of silence comes down to protect the perpetrators.

And it’s not that they simply will not arrest or charge one of their own: they also go after the person filing the report and try to ruin his life.

Read this Washington Post report by Tom Jackman of life in the US today, under the corporate police state:

Dallas Northington spent nearly eight years working for Target in loss prevention, roaming the stores and scanning the surveillance cameras. In an episode at the Leesburg Target store in May that he said was typical, a man was allegedly captured twice on video shoplifting, and Northington responded as he said he always did: He called the Leesburg police, made a report and provided them the videos of the two incidents.

But the man in the video may have been a Fairfax County sheriff’s deputy, Northington said he soon learned. And within days, two things happened: The deputy retired from the sheriff’s office and Target fired Northington, 29, a married father of two with a third child on the way.

Northington said Target officials told him that he had violated procedure by not filling out the proper paperwork before contacting the police, though he said his office had operated the same way for years. He said he also was told that he had been insubordinate for not seeking approval before calling police, though he said the standard practice was for him to act as needed.

But the man Northington said he and his supervisors identified as a deputy has not yet been charged with a crime though Northington said he had provided the man’s name and two color videos of him in action, his face clearly visible, to Leesburg police on May 27, the date of the second incident.

A Leesburg police spokesman said investigators were still trying to confirm the suspect’s identity. Northington said Leesburg police typically filed similar cases against shoplifters within a few days. He also said a Leesburg police sergeant investigating the case said while watching the surveillance video on May 27 that he recognized the man from a local gym where the two worked out. Store supervisors also knew the man, Northington said.

Northington said he is considering his legal options. “I’m confused and don’t understand why,” Northington said. “I’ve been there for eight years, no issues. I’m just trying to provide for my family, and I just really want to get back to work.”

Molly Snyder, a corporate spokeswoman for Target, said in an e-mail that she would not discuss the details of the case for privacy reasons. But in Northington’s case, she said, “we have conducted a full investigation and don’t believe there is any merit to this individual’s claims.”

Declan Leonard, Northington’s attorney, said he typically represents employers in such disputes, but “when we heard how he was treated by Target, we decided to step in.”

Leonard said Northington “intends to fight Target on this for as long as it takes.”

Northington said that in his role as an assets-protection specialist for Target, he had summoned the Leesburg police numerous times in recent years to investigate shoplifters and had done so without filling out any paperwork or seeking permission from a supervisor.

In the first alleged shoplifting, on May 16, Northington said, he arrived at work and his supervisor said he had noticed the man stick a tube of toothpaste into a bag after already paying for other items. He said the supervisor “didn’t feel comfortable” confronting the man, who the supervisor “thought was some sort of law enforcement.”

Northington said the store manager was contacted and the manager said he knew the man because they had participated in an NCAA March Madness pool together. The staff watched the surveillance video and decided, as they often did, Northington said, to wait for the man to return.

The man who Northington said appeared to be the deputy did not return a call seeking comment. The Washington Post is withholding his name because he has not been charged.

Northington said that when he clocked in on May 27, the supervisor told him the man had returned. That time, according to Northington, video appeared to show the man with a cart full of items at the pharmacy register inside the store but paying just for about half of them while concealing the cart from the cashier. After checking out, Northington said, the man wheeled away and stashed the rest of his merchandise, which Northington could not see, into the bags of purchased items and left.

Again, Northington said, the supervisor said he “didn’t feel comfortable” confronting the man, so the supervisor called Leesburg police and Northington went to the police station to file a report. A Leesburg sergeant then returned to the store, watched the video and said, “I know who that is,” Northington said. He said the sergeant also told him, “This is pretty serious” because the man was allegedly in law enforcement. Leesburg police confirmed that Northington had filed a police report on May 27. The Post did not independently review the video.

Soon after, Northington said, the supervisor told him the man’s full name. Northington said he phoned it in to the Leesburg police. It is unclear how the supervisor knew the man’s name.

On May 30, Northington said, he was called into the store’s personnel office and suspended for two days. The next week, he said, he was terminated for “gross misconduct.” He said he was told he had violated a policy on confidentiality by contacting police without approval, providing the surveillance video to police and not filling out internal paperwork before doing so . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2014 at 10:18 am

Colleges and sexual predators

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Colleges seem to think that they possess investigative and prosecutorial skills—or, perhaps, they’re merely want to cover up any hint of scandal, particularly scandals that have financial implications (as in collegiate sports, which for many colleges seems to be their main focus). Tara Culp-Ressler writes in ThinkProgess of a survey that reveals that colleges are failing at every level to address the problem of sexual assault:

Many schools are still failing to take the necessary steps to prevent and respond to cases of sexual assault, according to the results from a national survey that collected data from hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. The first-of-its-kind survey was commissioned by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and will help inform the lawmaker’s efforts to draft legislation aimed at fixing the campus sexual assault crisis, which has garnered national attention over the past several months.

More than 200 colleges and universities provided responses to McCaskill’s survey. The responses indicate that, from campus police to university staff, few people are doing enough to ensure that rape allegations are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. The senator is referring to her findings as a “wake up call.”

“We think it’s really important that this information be used aggressively to inform colleges and universities that they are falling short,” McCaskill told reporters on Wednesday.

In many cases, schools that lack adequate policies in this area are in direct violation of federal law, which requires higher education institutions to take some concrete steps to investigate rape reports and implement sexual assault training. Nonetheless, the survey identified major failings among all of the groups that are involved in creating a campus culture around issues of sexual assault:

University faculty and staff: About 20 percent of the schools that participated in the survey don’t provide any sexual assault response training for their faculty and staff to teach them how to respond to students who disclose they’ve been raped. On top of that, many university administrators simply aren’t taking sexual assault reports seriously enough. Despite the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, more than 40 percent of the surveyed schools said they haven’t conducted a single sexual assault investigation within the past five years.

College students: A third of schools said that they don’t provide any sexual assault training for students, even though that’s one of the prevention tactics that’s regularly recommended by experts in the field. That number rises to 53 percent among schools with fewer than 1,000 students and 72 percent among private for-profit institutions. Schools aren’t ensuring this training reaches the populations that are most likely to commit assaults, either; just 22 people of respondents said they provide sexual violence training targeted at the Greek system, and just 37 percent provide training targeted at student athletes.

People who oversee sexual assault cases: It’s particularly concerning that this lack of training extends to the people who are specifically charged with adjudicating rape cases. More than 30 percent of surveyed schools don’t train those people about common “rape myths,” like the notion that sexual assaults never occur among people who are casually dating. Plus, some schools give inappropriate amounts of power to groups that shouldn’t necessarily be involved in these proceedings. More than 40 percent of the country’s largest public schools allow students to help adjudicate sexual assault cases, and more than 20 percent of schools allow their athletic department to have oversight of cases involving student athletes.

Law enforcement: At a third of the schools that participated in the survey, the law enforcement officials charged with handling rape reports don’t actually receive any training on how to respond to sexual violence. And more than 70 percent of institutions don’t have effective guidelines about how local law enforcement should coordinate with college officials to work together on responding to sexual assault.

McCaskill is particularly troubled by the fact that some schools are letting athletic departments oversee rape investigations, . . .

Continue reading.

That’s the general situation, but consider just this one specific case, assuming that it is your own daughter involved. Walt Bogdanich writes a long and absorbing report of a college rape and its aftermath for the NY Times:

GENEVA, N.Y. — She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.
Continue reading the main story
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Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.” The student said she could not recall the pool table encounter, but did remember being raped earlier in a fraternity-house bedroom.

The football player at the pool table had also been at the fraternity house — in both places with his pants down — but denied raping her, saying he was too tired after a football game to get an erection. Two other players, also accused of sexually assaulting the woman, denied the charge as well. Even so, tests later found sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear.

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

A New York Times examination of the case, based in part on hundreds of pages of disciplinary proceedings — usually confidential under federal privacy laws — offers a rare look inside one school’s adjudication of a rape complaint amid a roiling national debate over how best to stop sexual assaults on campuses.

Whatever precisely happened that September night, the internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual-assault experts and college officials, depict a school ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence. As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.

One panelist did not appear to know what a rape exam entails or why it might be unpleasant. Another asked whether the football player’s penis had been “inside of you” or had he been “having sex with you.” And when the football player violated an order not to contact the accuser, administrators took five months to find him responsible, then declined to tell her if he had been punished.

Hobart and William Smith officials said they have “no tolerance for sexual assault” and treat all complaints seriously, offering emotional support, counseling and, when necessary, extra security and no-contact orders. They said the school’s procedures offer students a fair hearing and were followed in this case. But they cited privacy laws in declining to answer specific questions.

“Campuses are really frustrated by knowing so much about a given case and how reasonable they were and they can’t tell this story,” said Brett A. Sokolow, a legal adviser to the school. “It’s easy to paint them as the bad guy because they are in a position where they can’t defend themselves.” [This is utter bullshit. It’s quite clear that in this case the college is indeed the bad actor: mean-spirited ill-will, incompetence, and a desire to cover up any scandal makes for a bad mix. – LG]

Yet privacy laws did not stop Hobart and William Smith from disclosing the name of the woman — a possible rape victim — in letters to dozens of students. “I’m surprised they didn’t attach my picture,” she said.

After that disclosure, the woman spoke with her parents and agreed to have The Times use her first name, Anna, as well as her photograph. [The article at the link here has a video of Anna – LG]

The school said it was legally obligated to identify Anna to students who might have been called to testify in a possible criminal proceeding. The district attorney who was assessing the case disagreed, calling the identification “unnecessarily specific and, in my mind, a poor exercise of judgment.”

A second female student at Hobart and William Smith, who was sexually assaulted at a fraternity party in October 2012, told The Times that one of her two assailants had had his punishment reduced on appeal because of poor questioning by the school’s disciplinary panel. Like Anna, the student said friends of the accused had retaliated against her for reporting the assault.

Colleges nationwide are . . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more and the entire article is worth reading and pondering.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2014 at 9:58 am

The Mindy Project: Mining faux pas for humor

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I have realized that The Mindy Project relies heavily on really horrible faux pas as the source of humor: langhing from embarrassment.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2014 at 8:23 am

Posted in Movies & TV

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