Friday, October 26, 2012

Embarrassing Punishments Hurt Kids, Experts Say

Embarrassing Punishments Hurt Kids, Experts Say

By: Rachael Rettner
Published: 05/15/2012 10:47 AM EDT on MyHealthNewsDaily
Parents and teachers who try to make their kids behave by subjecting them to humiliating punishments are taking the wrong approach to discipline, experts say.

Just this month, a Florida teacher was suspended for making tardy students wear a wide-brimmed dog collar dubbed the "cone of shame." And parents in Minnesota who were disappointed with their daughter's grades were arrested after they shaved the 12-year old girl's head and forced her to wear a diaper and run around outside.

While these cases are certainly extreme, experts say that any punishment that shames or embarrasses a child is not an effective way to discipline youngsters, and may cause long-term psychological damage.

"The research is pretty clear that it's never appropriate to shame a child, or to make a child feel degraded or diminished," said Andy Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan. Such punishments can lead to "all kinds of problems in the future," Grogan-Kaylor said, including increased anxiety, depression and aggression.

Malicious punishments can also damage a parent's relationship with their child, and lead to a cycle of bad behavior, experts say.

Instead, parents should use other discipline strategies, such as setting clear rules for kids and taking away privileges. Overall, parents should aim to create a supporting environment for their child.

"Positive things have a much more powerful effect on shaping behavior than any punishment," Grogan-Kaylor said.

Damaging punishments

Out-of-the norm punishments can have social repercussions for children, said Jennifer Lansford, a research professor at Duke Univesity's Center for Child and Family Policy. An odd punishment can make a child stand out, and provoke bullying, Lansford said.

In addition, children evaluate their own experiences in the context of what they see their peers experiencing, Lansford said. If children are disciplined in ways that are not condoned by society, "it can lead children to perceive they are personally rejected by their parents," Lansford said.

Humiliating punishments can also disconnect parents from their children, making kids less likely to want to behave and do what their parents say, said Katharine Kersey, a professor of early childhood education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and author of the upcoming book "101 Principles for Positive Guidance with Young Children" (Allyn & Bacon, August 2012).

"Each time we [embarrass children with a punishment] we pay a price, and we drive them away from us, and we lose our ability to be a role model for them," Kersey said.

"When you disconnect from a child, he no longer wants to please you, he no longer wants to be like you. You've lost your power of influence over him," Kersey said.

Children who are punished in these ways usually still commit the behavior, but do it behind their parents' backs, Kersey said.

Better ways to discipline

To properly discipline a child, experts recommend the following:

Focus on the positive — the behaviors you want to see more of — rather than the mistakes, Kersey said. "If a child is running, instead of saying stop running, you say use your walking feet," Kersey said.
Be proactive: establish rules you want your kids to follow, and be reasonable in your expectations, Lansford said.
Listen to your kids: Often times, bad behavior is a mistake, Grogan-Kaylor said. Parents should listen to why their children did something, and explain why the behavior is inappropriate.
Timeouts are appropriate for younger kids. For older kids, taking away privileges such as watching TV may be effective, Lansford said. In a classroom setting, teachers may consider rewarding kids for good behavior, Lansford said.
Parent should model the responsible behaviors they want children to repeat, Kersey said.
Pass it on:  Humiliating punishments don't work to discipline children, and may have long-term consequences.

Another innocent executed? - Death Penalty -

Another innocent executed? - Death Penalty -

The state of Texas killed Carlos DeLuna for a crime he appears not to have committed, according to a new report

Another innocent executed?Carlos De Luna
Death-penalty abolitionists long believed that the execution of an innocent person would turn the public against capital punishment. But that conviction has recently been shaken. First, there was Cameron Todd Willingham, who, after his 2004 execution in Texas, was found to have been likely innocent of killing his three small daughters. Nearly a decade later, Georgia executed Troy Davis despite widespread doubts about his guilt.
A new investigative report by the Columbia Human Rights Law Review reveals that Carlos DeLuna, who was executed by the state of Texas in 1989, was likely innocent as well. The full report, titled “Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” can be viewed at CHRLR’s newly launched interactive website where readers can view all of the evidence cited in the article.
DeLuna, a poor Latino man described as having the intelligence of a child, was convicted of murdering Wanda Lopez, a 24-year-old single mother who was stabbed to death with a folding knife in 1983 while working behind the cash register at a gas station in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Lopez called 911 when her killer entered the store, leaving behind a recording of the encounter. She is heard answering a series of yes or no questions asked by the dispatcher about the creepy customer with the knife in his pocket and then whispering that he’s “standing right here at the counter” and “can’t talk,” followed by “Okay. This? Eighty-five,” in response to the customer. After more questions from the dispatcher, Lopez is heard pleading for her life and the line cuts off.
The only evidence against DeLuna was the shoddy eyewitness testimony of Kevin Baker, a car salesman who came face to face with Lopez’s killer as he fled the scene. Although DeLuna partly resembled the description given by Baker, upon further investigation it seems that DeLuna and the man Baker described were not the same person. For example, Baker told police that the culprit had a full mustache and so much facial hair that he looked like “he hadn’t shaved in, you know, ten days, a couple weeks.”
When police found DeLuna, he was lying half naked, shoeless and shirtless, underneath a pickup truck with little more than a day or two of stubble and no mustache. DeLuna testified that he was at the nightclub across the street from the crime scene trying to find a ride home when the sound of police sirens freaked him out because he was on parole at the time. So he ran, losing his shirt when he jumped a fence.
According to the CHRLR report, two decades after the murder, Baker admitted to a detective that he was only 70 percent certain that the half-naked man he saw in the back of the police car (DeLuna) and the man he saw stab Lopez were the same. Even family and friends had a hard time telling the difference between pictures of DeLuna and pictures of Hernandez.
From the time he was arrested to his subsequent execution in 1989, DeLuna maintained his innocence, repeating over and over again to his lawyers, family and the media, “I didn’t do it, but I know who did.” Nobody listened. At his trial DeLuna testified that “some other dude named Carlos” was the culprit, and still nobody listened.
DeLuna was referring to Carlos Hernandez, a Latino man whom the police were all too familiar with given his violent criminal history.
The night before his trial, DeLuna told his lawyer that an acquaintance had accompanied him to the nightclub the night of the murder. On the way there, DeLuna said the acquaintance stopped at the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes for 85 cents, the same amount Lopez was heard saying on the 911 recording.
Like most people in the neighborhood, DeLuna was terrified of Hernandez, which is why it took him several months to identify him by name. Hector De Peña, DeLuna’s first state-appointed lawyer, recalls him saying, “I’m dead whether I’m out [of jail] or in if I identify him.”
Just weeks after Lopez was murdered, Eddie Garza, a Corpus Christi detective, heard from his vast network of informants that Carlos Hernandez was bragging in the streets that he got away with killing Wanda Lopez. At one point, he was suspected of fatally stabbing another woman.
Despite the evidence implicating Hernandez as the possible culprit, police and prosecutors never passed the information on to DeLuna’s lawyer. Instead, the prosecution argued in court that Carlos Hernandez was nothing more than a figment of DeLuna’s twisted imagination, an accusation that was upheld during his appeal.
DeLuna’s identification of Hernandez wasn’t taken seriously until 16 years after his execution. In an in-depth investigation, the Chicago Tribune uncovered evidence showing Carlos Hernandez to be the likely killer. “Ending years of silence, Hernandez’s relatives and friends recounted how the violent felon repeatedly bragged that DeLuna went to death row for a murder Hernandez committed,” reported the Tribune. They didn’t feel safe sharing their knowledge of Hernandez’s crime until after he died of liver cirrhosis in 1999 while serving a prison sentence for assault with a knife.
Given the mishandling of the investigation, prosecutorial misconduct and an inadequate defense, the jury unanimously found DeLuna guilty and he was sentenced to death.
As DeLuna languished on death row, Hernandez managed to get arrested nine times, once for killing a woman and another time for stabbing a Hispanic woman nearly to death. Again, the police and district attorney failed to inform DeLuna’s lawyers and the judges overseeing his appeals. Meanwhile, the prosecution continued to argue that Carlos Hernandez did not exist outside of DeLuna’s mind.
Rev. Carroll Pickett, the death house chaplain who presided over nearly 95 executions, was struck by DeLuna’s claim of innocence until his very last breath. Pickett said that inmates would eventually confess before meeting their maker, which is why Pickett believes that DeLuna was indeed innocent. The chaplain became an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty as a result.
By chronicling the mistakes made by authorities at every stage of DeLuna’s case, the CHRLR report highlights the ease with which the criminal justice system can lead to wrongful conviction and, in capital cases, a deadly and irreversible outcome.
Cameron Todd Willingham, Troy Davis and Carlos DeLuna make up just a handful of people that have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt, which raises the question: How many more people will be strapped to a gurney and injected with poison before the death penalty is abandoned?

49 Headless Bodies - War On Drugs In Mexico Is A Failure

Whenever you label government action as a, "war", expect bodies. Unfortunately this type of war has no easily identifiable enemies so are we essentially fighting ourselves?

Over 2K Wrongful Convictions Since '89

This is not surprising  but should we be!? And the question that needs to be asked is when are we as a nation going to do something about it?

Deadly Officer-Involved Shootings Spark Anaheim Police Protests

911 Caller Outs NYPD Spying In NJ

Baltimore police delete personal videos at Preakness

Preakness 2010 excessive force

Wal-Mart Walkout: A Game-Changer?

Wal-Mart Walkout: A Game-Changer?

For the second time in five days -- and also the second time in Wal-Mart's five decades -- workers at multiple U.S. Wal-Mart stores are on strike, Salon reports. They say their walkout, spearheaded by a year-old organization called OUR Wal-Mart, is calling for improved staffing and benefits and an end to what they say is retaliation against their efforts to organize.
Salon's Josh Edilson predicts that the unprecedented demonstration will be a "game changer" for the retail giant:
This morning, workers walked off the job in Dallas, Texas and Laurel, Maryland; Walmart store workers in additional cities are expected to join the strike in the coming hours. No end date has been announced; some plan to remain on strike at least through tomorrow, when they'll join other Walmart workers for a demonstration outside the company's annual investor meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today's is the latest in a unprecedented wave of Walmart supply chain strikes: From shrimp workers in Louisiana, to warehouse workers in California and Illinois, to Walmart store employees in three states -- and counting ...
On Thursday, as first reported at Salon, southern California Walmart store workers staged a day-long walkout of their own. Organizers say over sixty workers from nine stores signed in as on strike. About thirty of them were from the same store in Pico Rivera, where strikers and supporters rallied with labor leaders, clergy, politicians. "I'm still thrilled about what happened," said Harris, who flew in for last week's walkout. "And it's given me a lot more energy and a lot more drive." Other workers were visiting from further away than Texas: When the striking workers returned to work Friday morning, international Walmart workers marched into their nine stores with them, carrying their own countries' flags.

The War On Drugs & Why We Aren't Winning!


Today, the United States along with many other countries across the globe are waging an assault on drugs. This assault has taken countless lives, cost billions of dollars but we seem to remain steady in our resolve to continue to wage this war on illegal drugs.  I will admit right now there are smarter people than me right now all over this great planet of ours, but till to this day no one has ever answered me this question, who is the enemy in this war, and are we winning? I believe that being able to answer these two questions are essential to finding a winning strategy in this war much of the globe is engaged in. Unfortunately, I am afraid that nobody has answered my question not because I haven't found the right person but rather that there are no true answers.

The term war is used very broadly especially inside of the United States. Wikipedia declares war as [an openly declared state of organized violent conflict,[1][2] typified by extreme aggression, societal disruption, and high mortality.[1] ] In reality there are quite a few ways that we as a society use the term war, for example during football season my Baltimore Ravens go to "war" with the much hated Pittsburgh Steelers twice during the season, and hopefully once more during the post season. Now that I live in Baltimore, it's hard for me to say that people living in the city do not see this sporting event as a war. Here's my point the term war has various meanings especially today. Yet, despite the various definitions there remains characteristics of war that remain. One being that there is an enemy and two there is a winner and a loser.

I would like to argue that the war on drugs has neither and that calling it a war is incorrect because it truly isn't a war with winners or an identifiable enemy. Though there are no winners there are plenty of losers, with that being U.S. the citizens. Whether you do illegal drugs or not, you pay the price for this war.

New study: Religion in decline in the U.S., atheism on the rise - Orlando liberal |

New study: Religion in decline in the U.S., atheism on the rise - Orlando liberal |

As the religious right continues to take over the Republican party, millions of Americans find themselves leaving the church.
With the election coming down to its final weeks, Mitt Romney and other Republicans continue to proclaim that the United States is a "Christian nation." Constant talk about "God over government" is often heard at Republican and Tea Party rallies, but many Americans seems to be moving away from religious ideology.According to a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, millions of Americans are leaving organized religion. Over the last five years, the number of Americans no longer affiliated with any religion increased by 25 percent. The study showed that 33 million Americans are now considered "unaffiliated" with any religious faction and 13 million people, about 19.7 percent, are identified as "atheist" or "agnostic."
It's important to point out that while many people are leaving the church, the majority still believe in "God" or a higher power. Nearly 70 percent of those listed a "unaffiliated" with religion say they believe in "God," while 37 percent say they are "spiritual." Falling below the 50 percent margin for the first time, only 48 percent of the American people are identified as Protestant.
The religious divide is clearly seen between political party lines. Of the 13 million people who call themselves atheist or agnostic, 73 percent are Democrats or lean toward Democratic policies, compared to only 16 percent who favor Republicans and conservative ideology. For those who are considered "unaffiliated," 63 percent side with Democrats and only 26 percent lean toward Republicans.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, notes that the decline in religion affiliation comes from a negative reaction to the religious right.
“We think it’s mostly a reaction to the religious right...The best predictor of which people have moved into this category over the last 20 years is how they feel about religion and politics” aligning, particularly conservative politics and opposition to gay civil rights."
With the Republican party often pushing a theocratic government over a secular democ

ACLU Releases "Police Tape" Android App

Homeless Former Crip Saves Officer in Fight (Video) - YouTube

Homeless Former Crip Saves Officer in Fight (Video) - YouTube

Pretty interesting video! Check it out!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poll: MTA audio recordings -

Poll: MTA audio recordings -
The Baltimore Sun is conducting a poll on whether the MTA is infringing on rider's Civil Rights by recording audio in addition to video of MTA riders.
I think so, but feel free to express your opinion by clicking on the link above.

MTA recording bus conversations to eavesdrop on trouble -

MTA recording bus conversations to eavesdrop on trouble -

Maryland Transit Administration decision to record the conversations of bus drivers and passengers to investigate crimes, accidents and poor customer service has come under attack from privacy advocates and state lawmakers who say it may go too far.

The first 10 buses — marked with signs to alert passengers to the open microphones — began service this week in Baltimore, and officials expect to expand that to 340 buses, about half the fleet, by next summer. Microphones are incorporated in the video surveillance system that has been in place for years.

"We want to make sure people feel safe, and this builds up our arsenal of tools to keep our patrons safe," said Ralign Wells, MTA administrator. "The audio completes the information package for investigators and responders."

Wells said the system was deemed legal by the state attorney general's office and letters were sent to the American Civil Liberties Union and the union representing bus drivers informing them of the initiative. A spokesman for the attorney general's office confirmed that transit officials were advised by their counsel that based on a 2000 appeals court decision, the audio recordings did not violate the state wiretapping law.

But an ACLU lawyer said he was "flabbergasted" that MTA officials would try to record people's conversations under the guise of a pilot program after a similar proposal was rejected in 2009 by the state's highest-ranking transportation official and by the General Assembly on three occasions.

"People don't want or need to have their private conversations recorded by MTA as a condition of riding a bus," said David Rocah, a staff attorney with the Maryland chapter of the ACLU. "A significant number of people have no viable alternative to riding a bus, and they should not be forced to give up their privacy rights."

Wells said a digital recorder similar to an aviation black box and capable of storing 30 days of audio and video information is locked in an equipment box on each MTA bus. In the event of an accident, an incident involving passengers or a complaint against a driver, investigators can remove the recorder and download the file for review.

The cost is negligible, Wells said, since the six cameras inside each bus are capable of recording audio and all new buses will have audio-video systems as standard equipment.

MTA police dispatchers receive 45 to 100 daily calls for assistance from bus drivers for everything from an unhappy rider to criminal activity, said Capt. Burna McCollum, commander of the MTA police technical services division.

Video is a critical tool for investigators sorting out the details of an incident, but when witnesses walk away, are reluctant to cooperate or give conflicting accounts, an audio recording can fill in missing information, McCollum said.

Surveillance policies in the region vary widely. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority use security cameras on their buses but draw the line at audio recordings of passengers. Montgomery County's 335-bus Ride On system is about to add audio surveillance to its video capability. Baltimore's nearly three-year-old Circulator buses record both video and audio.

Two members of the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee say the MTA's decision to record passengers without their consent is troubling.

"It's an end run and ripe for a court challenge," said Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat. "They have absolutely no grounds to do this. If we can't get them to listen and change their minds, we'll deal with this ... and make them defend what's indefensible."

Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and a constitutional law expert, said that while he understands the need to protect public transportation customers, "this sounds kind of Big Brotherish to me."

Raskin said bus patrons should have been consulted, and a clear policy on who has access to the recordings and how long they are kept should have been spelled out to the public before the program was initiated.

"This is such a giant step forward in dissolving the privacy expectations of people who ride the bus," he said. "Legislators are going to want to know what the compelling reason is for initiating this now."

In 2009, the acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation derailed a similar MTA proposal and asked for more review, calling privacy matters "the ultimate test of people's trust in government."

In each of the last three legislative sessions, bills filed on behalf of MTA to authorize recording devices and establish ground rules for their use were rejected in committee.

"When House and Senate committees individually look at a proposal and nearly unanimously reject it, you know it's bad public policy," Brochin said.

But one of the bills' sponsors, Del. Melvin Stukes, an MTA customer service investigator, said state officials have been "gun-shy" in dealing with the ACLU and unions. The intent of the legislation, he said, was to eliminate bad language that often sparks violence.

"This is not your bathroom. This is not your bedroom. Buses are public spaces and people are elbow to elbow," Stukes said. "I'm not trying to punish people. I'm just trying to clean up problems I hear about every day so that people realize that MTA is trying to provide a more congenial, more cordial ride."

The chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee predicts that the entire matter will have to be resolved by the legislature.

"If this is something that's necessary and useful, standards must be set for oversight and accountability," said Sen. Brian Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat. "The job of figuring this out definitely should not be left to the agency doing the listening."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

After police custody death, Baltimore activist Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon continues to build his profile -

After police custody death, Baltimore activist Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon continues to build his profile -

ithin an hour after an East Baltimore man died while in police custody, Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon got an urgent phone call from someone with connections to the family, asking for his help.
The next day, Witherspoon, a 30-year-old clergyman and single father, walked the streets conducting what he calls a "community investigation." Though police said Anthony Anderson had died from choking on drugs, people who said they saw the arrest described an assault.
Anderson's death has since been ruled a homicide, and Witherspoon and his bullhorn have been at the center of rallies calling attention to the issue. His early involvement in such a high-profile case is no coincidence — a gifted speaker who has forged unlikely ties with activists such as the Occupy movement, Witherspoon has been emerging as an omnipresent agitator.
"I walked into a distraught house," he said, recalling the aftermath of Anderson's death. "I walked into a house that was a family unit that was strong, and very connected, but was distraught by what they had encountered. I could tell in their eyes that what they were saying was accurate."
The Park Heights resident, who plans to protest Police CommissionerAnthony Batts' confirmation hearing Wednesday, uses rhetoric that is often biting — some say overly inflammatory. In August, he was arrested after refusing to leave City Hall while trying to deliver a letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake regarding alleged police brutality.
Witherspoon makes no apologies. At recent anti-police rallies, supporters have accused officers of murder and held signs that read, "Jail killer police." In an interview at an office space he shares with a socialist group, Witherspoon said such comments "accurately capture the sentiments of the community, who really do feel terrorized.
"It is in the best interest of the citizenry and the entire process for these types of officers to be removed from the force," he said as his 3-year-old son played in the background. "It casts a dark cloud of the hearts and minds of average, everyday working people, and serves as a deterrent for them to be more engaged. I want people to be more engaged, but I understand why they are not."
Robert F. Cherry, president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge, calls Witherspoon an "extremist" who is "stirring the pot and looking to build a name for himself." Cherry said police have made strides in recent years, not only cutting violent crime but also reducing arrests and citizen complaints.
"They talk about jailing killer cops, but not killer thugs, who are the real predators in those communities, and it hurts the good relationships we have been forging for years," Cherry said.
Twenty-eight people have been killed this year in street violence in the city's Eastern Police district where Anderson died, the most in the city. Attorneys for the officers involved, one of whom is a decorated officer who was previously shot in the line of duty, said they will be cleared of wrongdoing.
Witherspoon said he is an advocate for civil rights, an interest instilled in him by his mother, who raised him and his fraternal twin, Corey, as they moved around West Baltimore and southwest Baltimore County. She was involved in charitable work, and he remembers at a young age wrapping gifts for underprivileged children and visiting the homeless.
He attended Arbutus Middle School, where he said he was a student activist who pushed for greater recognition of black history and formed a black awareness club. He continued such activities at Catonsville High School, where he also played football.
By age 21, Witherspoon believed he was ready for politics, filing to run for the Baltimore City Council in 2003 against stalwart Agnes Welch. People told him he didn't have a chance. He got just 128 votes — 2 percent of the ballots cast.
"I was hard-headed," he said. "A hard head makes a soft behind, and I developed a thick skin."
He served as a president of the Young Democrats and interned with Democratic state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, but these days he works outside the political process. His only employment is an occasional guest preaching appearance, making him a professional activist of sorts.
He often dresses in traditional African garb, and though his medium height does not make him a physically intimidating presence, his speaking voice has the cadence of a fiery preacher. He never seems at a loss for words.
Though his rallies against police have gained media attention, he said that's only part of his outreach work, which has included pushing for greater enforcement of the law against the sale of banned synthetic drugs, lobbying to reinstate an EMS program at Baltimore City Community College, and helping a towing company owner become the only black license holder in the city.
He has also marched with those pushing for more jobs related to the East Baltimore Development Inc. project nearJohns Hopkins Hospital and supported efforts to preserve the historic Read's Drug Store on the West Side of downtown.
"He's really big on doing things to help people, and he does it not for money and not for notoriety," said Janice Grant, 79, a civil rights leader who lives in Harford County and considers Witherspoon a "son." "I think it's in his heart. It's the kind of person he is."
Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, the former Baltimore chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, recalls that Witherspoon first got involved in activism as a teenager, but seemed to aspire to leadership without "paying his dues."
"You have to understand the mission. A lot of people want to wear the crown without wearing the cross," said Cheatham, 62.
Cheatham and Witherspoon now speak often. "I'm encouraged to see him pick up the gauntlet, especially when so many other civil rights groups seem to be void of activism," Cheatham said.
Witherspoon has been working to reactivate a local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group whose first president was Martin Luther King Jr. In the meantime, he has been building what he acknowledges are unlikely alliances with the All People's Congress, a socialist group, and the Occupy movement. Though those groups' members are more likely to be white, organizers said they share common goals.
Beth Emmerling, a member of Occupy Baltimore, said Witherspoon attended early meetings and was involved with a working group called Jobs for Justice. She said the partnership was a "natural evolution."
"He has more knowledge in the area of civil rights, and a lot of the African-American poor communities, that we just don't have," Emmerling said. "He also understands our outrage. When we're outraged, we're outraged together."
Witherspoon said some of his black colleagues told him to distance himself from the Occupy movement. But in speeches at rallies, he is just as likely to talk about issues important to Baltimore's black community as he is to voice support for the gay community or other minority groups — not always to the same applause.
"I really believe there's more that unites us than divides us," Witherspoon said. "The level of activity that this [Occupy] group is doing, I have probably not seen in a concentrated, consistent way in my entire life. Some of the issues we face are issues of race, but we face issues of class and economic discrimination that can affect anybody."
An alliance with the All People's Congress solidified after they both protested in 2011 the beating of a black teenager by brothers associated with an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch group. Rallies attracted a smattering of various interests, and some of the remarks focused on the religion of the suspects.
Andy Alperstein, an attorney who represented the brothers, said Witherspoon was disruptive in court and the rallies were unproductive.
"I think the issues he's talking about are really important; I don't think anybody would disagree with that. But some of the comments in the process of the trial were incendiary, and they caused heightened tensions in the community for all of the folks involved," Alperstein said.
Witherspoon continues to work with the All People's Congress, specifically with one of its leaders, Sharon Black, who has appeared with him at events and was arrested with him at City Hall. Emmerling said the two often send out group emails into the early morning, and Black said they are increasingly being contacted by those alleging police abuse.
Even with the collective resources of several groups, Witherspoon acknowledges that getting support for a cause in Baltimore is difficult. Thousands marched through downtown streets for a rally organized by Witherspoon and others after the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, but only a fraction took part in a rally for Anderson, the local man whose death during a Sept. 21 arrest has been ruled a homicide.
After hearing of Anderson's case, Witherspoon was concerned but cautious. He went door to door, talking to as many people as he could to vouch for the information he was hearing. He said he found 10 to 15 people, separate from the family, who consistently described an assault by police. He decided Anderson's was a cause worth taking up.
"I firmly believe there is a movement occurring," Witherspoon said. "It's slow, and you have to be patient. But there is something happening in this city."
Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon
Age: 30
Family: Son, 3
Education: Attended Soujourner-Douglass College

Sunday, October 7, 2012



April 30, 2012

CONTACT: David Rocah, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555;

BALTIMORE, MD - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is sharply criticizing the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) for failing to comply, in multiple critical respects, with a 2010 settlement in the ACLU's lawsuit challenging a pattern of improper arrests by the department. The First Status Report of Independent Auditor Charles Wellford, released today, reveals that BPD officers did not or could not justify arrests for quality of life offenses in at least 35 percent of the cases examined; that the BPD is almost one and half years late in creating a database to allow it to effectively monitor officer and supervisor behavior; and that the BPD is improperly refusing to give the auditor records of arrests that resulted in persons being released without charge, the very arrests most likely to be improper, and the ones that led to the lawsuit in the first place.

"The ACLU insisted on an independent auditor because we worried that the Baltimore Police Department would not live up to its settlement obligations in the absence of oversight," said David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. "This First Status Report shows that our skepticism was well placed, and demonstrates a police department that is not making a good faith or effective effort to correct its wrongdoing."

The comprehensive settlement provides for significant reforms of the BPD's arrest and monitoring practices. The suit, which was filed in 2006, and amended in 2007, was brought on behalf of 13 individual plaintiffs as well as the Maryland State Conference and Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP. As part of the settlement, the BPD committed to new policies and training to ensure officers knew the limits of their authority, and would address low level offenses with actions short of arrest whenever possible.  The agreement also required the BPD to implement a new system of comprehensive data collection and monitoring, which would be overseen by an independent auditor. The job of the auditor was to ensure not only that the data is being kept and appropriately used and analyzed, but also to review probable cause statements to verify that officers had sufficient cause for an arrest, and that supervisors are adequately monitoring officers' actions, and intervening as necessary.

The Auditor reviewed a random sample of 1,113 arrests for Quality of Life Offenses, and found that in 35 percent of the cases examined officers failed to articulate probable cause, or failed to justify making an arrest (as opposed to the lower levels of intervention such as a citation or warning) as the Settlement Agreement requires. That percentage does not include cases where officers made an arrest for some other non-Quality of Life offense.

The Report also points out that the City artificially lowered its rate of non-compliance in this report by refusing to turn over to the Auditor records related to arrests that resulted in the person being released without charge (RWOC'd).  There were 231 such cases in the sample, fully 21% of the cases randomly selected for review. 

The ACLU believes the City's refusal to turn over these records violates the Settlement Agreement. It was the extraordinarily high numbers of arrests that were not prosecuted that, in part, led to the lawsuit in the first place.  And arrests that are not prosecuted are the ones most likely to be lacking in probable cause, or to have been appropriately handled by some other intervention besides arrest, such as warning or citation.  Furthermore, the BPD's claim that it cannot provide records related to those arrests, because the arrests are automatically expunged when the individual is RWOC'd, pursuant to legislation passed in 2007, is flatly inconsistent with the law.  The expungement law, which the ACLU drafted and supported, provides, at the specific request of the BPD, that the Department is prohibited from destroying any police recordsrelated to such arrests until three years after the expungement.  The law also makes clear that expungement means the information about a specific arrest cannot be released to the general public, not that it has to be destroyed or deleted from the Department's own files.  Thus the City is legally required to keep the records of expunged arrests, and the Settlement agreement requires supervisors to review them, so there is no justification for refusing to make them available to the Auditor.

Finally, the Report reveals that the City has not yet created a tracking database required by the Settlement Agreement, which was supposed to be operational by October 27, 2010. The BPD committed to create a database to track each arrest for a quality of life offense, by officer, as well as track all citizen complaints by officer, among many other items. Supervisors were to be required to review each probable cause statement for each arrest involving a quality of life offense to verify that probable cause in fact existed, and that the officer adequately articulated why an arrest, as opposed to other intervention, was necessary. In addition, the database was to have trigger points that would alert supervisors to officers whose arrest or complaint history is out of the norm for other comparable officers. Supervisors were to meaningfully review those officers' actions and intervene as necessary.