Acclaimed Israeli writer and activist Miko Peled kicked off the fifth Witness Palestine Film Festival on Sept 15, 2016. He spoke about "Justice and Freedom: the Keys to Peace in Palestine" at the Historic German House, in Rochester, NY. The event was co-sponsored by the Rochester Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Miko Peled has written "The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine" and he has traveled extensively, giving talks across the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. More information at www.WitnessPalestineRochester.org
October 4, 2016, activist Judy Bello gave a presentation at Rochester's Downtown Presbyterian Church. About 50 people were in attendance. Bello has traveled extensively in the Middle East to observe the effects of US military and economic policy on the civilian population. Her latest journey was as part of a US Peace Council fact finding mission last July. This was her second time in Syria since 2014. She has paid similar visits to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. The 60 minute presentation was followed by an additional hour of questions and answers. The event left an entirely different perspective on the crisis than that presented by mainstream corporate media.
Judy Bello on Syria
Q & A
Related: What Islam means to the White Male- Through the lens of a Bullet Covered in Bacon Grease | Military Academy Report a Sham | Ryan Harvey on Europe's Refugee Crisis | Cornel West's "Connecting the Dots: Poverty, Racism, & Drones" | ROC Says "No" to hate and intolerance and "Yes" to refugees
In a statement that probably ruffled the feathers of police union president Michael Mazzeo, Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli invited the public to offer contract modification proposals to the department that they can use in their ongoing labor negotiations with the Rochester Police Locust Club, the sole bargaining agent for Rochester Police Department (RPD) officers.
“The period to present proposals is not closed,” said Chief Ciminelli. “And again, because we're in contract negotiations we would have to discuss this in executive session but if you would like to sit down with us and discuss specific ideas we're still in a position to take proposals.”
The committee meeting, usually held in executive session, was opened to the public after a video showing RPD officers brutalizing multiple people went viral. One individual, Lentorya Parker, was tackled from behind by an RPD officer as she was complying with police orders. The incident happened near Avenue A and Hollenbeck Street on September 15. A sole civilian video of the incident was posted online. The videographer, Clarence Thompson, was arrested for Obstruction of Governmental Administration and Disorderly Conduct even though he was more than 10 yards away from the police and not interfering with their activities.
Video courtesy of Clarence Thompson
The meeting was shut down by the public after City Councilmembers had questioned police for more than an hour, while no public input was allowed.
Watch the Democrat & Chronicle Facebook Live video of the Public Safety Committee Meeting (Rochester Indymedia has it's own footage with better audio–will update soon)
Since Mr. Thompson's video went viral, the police department, in conjunction with the District Attorney's office and the City, has released the Police Overt Digital Surveillance System (PODSS) camera footage as well as four body worn camera (BWC) videos. One of the videos has an officer comparing Ms. Parker to “an animal.” See the RPD blue light surveillance camera footage and the four BWC videos below:
Blue Light Surveillance Camera Video Footage
RPD body worn camera footage #1
RPD body worn camera footage #2
RPD body worn camera footage #3
RPD body worn camera footage #4
The most recent contract between the City of Rochester and the Rochester Police Locust Club expired on June 30, 2016. According to the contract, the agreement is automatically renewed “from year to year” unless either party notified the other of any “intention to change, alter, amend or terminate this contract.”
If the meeting that took place on September 21 is any indication, then one of the two signing parties is interested in changing the contract. One possible reason for the need to re-negotiate the contract is for the need to incorporate an article pertaining to the use of police BWCs and their associated procedures and protocols for the officers represented by the Club. There are several reserved sections in the BWC policy that have been explained by city officials as pertaining to ongoing negotiations between the department and the Club. Of course, one question to ask is, who is representing the public interest in these negotiations?
Breaking down the current contract
The expired 2016 contract contains 34 articles and two appendices, one on discipline guidelines and the other on hospital and surgical health benefits.
The Club represents all officers at the ranks of police officer, investigator, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain with minor exceptions. This represents the “bargaining unit.” The club is an agency shop, which means that all Club members must pay dues. If an officer decides not to be a member, then they are liable to pay a fee to the Club, “from time to time.”
Three of the most important articles, important for the public and democracy, are Article 20 Discipline, Article 21 Members Rights, and Article 30, Section 8: Defense and Indemnification of Police Officers.
Article 20, Section 1: Departmental Investigations and Bill of Rights pertains to any Professional Standards Section (PSS) (or similar entity) investigation of an officer accused of misconduct and the “rights” accorded to the accused police officer in those investigations.
Article 20, Section 1 lays out the specifics of an investigation that is targeting a Club member. The contract stipulates that any interview with the accused officer “shall be at a reasonable hour,” when the officer is “on duty,” unless the “exigency of the investigation dictates otherwise.” The contract does not indicate what counts as an exigency.
The interview, according to the agreement, will preferably be held at police headquarters and the officer in question is allowed to have the investigator's name, rank, and command, the name and rank of the investigator conducting the interview, and the identity of all people present during the interview.
Before an interview occurs, the officer is granted access to all of their own submitted reports that relate to the investigation. Also, before any interview is conducted, the officer “shall be informed of the nature of the investigation” and “sufficient information,” shall be provided to the officer prior to any interview conducted. The contract doesn't define “sufficient information” or tell us what information specifically will be shared with the accused officer.
The accused officer “shall be given 48 hours advance notice of any interview,” unless the nature of the investigation “requires immediate attention.” Immediate attention is not defined.
Article 20, Section 1 tells us that the accused officer may hire their own attorney, use a Club attorney, or may be represented by a designated Club member as long as the representative is not named, as a target of or a witness to, the investigation. The accused officer has the right, spelled out in the contract, to waive the above right of representation and may instead represent themselves and make a statement at the conclusion of the interview.
This statement and any subsequent statements made during the investigation can be obtained by the accused officer, free of charge, within 30 days of the interview. A copy may be released to a Club representative as designated by the accused officer.
The City agrees that it will not to interrogate members of the Club regarding any conversations had with the accused officer. The Club also acknowledges that its representative will not delay or impede the police department's investigation.
The accused officer may “electronically or otherwise record” all statements he gives to the police department pertaining to the investigation. Interestingly, civilians who file complaints against officers with PSS also have the right to video or audio record any statement given during the interview. PSS does not make it a point to inform complainants that they have this right when filing complaints against officers.
In the case that the accused officer refuses to comply with the interview, the contract states that department can not offer any incentives or punishments to induce the accused officer into cooperating. There is no legally binding rule that says officers have to comply with the investigation. Furthermore, the contract states that the accused officer “shall not be subject to any offensive language” for refusing to comply with the interview.
The accused officer cannot be “ordered or requested” to take a lie detector or polygraph test.
Article 20, Section 1 continues that before any charges are filed against the officer, they “shall be afforded an opportunity to be heard.” Should the complaint against the officer be sustained, a warning or memorandum may be entered into their personnel file. If the officer feels that such a warning or memorandum was “not justified,” then the officer may respond in writing and have that written statement amended to their personnel file. It is also noted in Section 1 that “such warnings and memorandum are not discipline.”
And just to make sure the contract terms are understood on matters of discipline, the accused officer “shall suffer no reprisals, directly or indirectly, for exercising his rights under the article.” Whether or not a civilian making a complaint has the same rights as the accused officer with regards to reprisals (what civilians call retaliation), is not of interest to the Club, it's members, or officers.
In the event that a complaint against an officer is sustained and discipline is deemed appropriate by the police chief, then the officer would go before a Hearing Board. Forty-eight hours before the hearing, the City and the Club swap lists of potential witnesses and their statements; neither side may contact the other side's witnesses prior to the hearing.
There are three options for the accused officer to choose from in determining the composition of the Hearing Board that would determine any discipline, according to the contract.
The first option is that the Appointing Authority gives the accused officer a list of three command officers above the rank of lieutenant from which the accused officer selects two. The officer in question then gives the Appointing Authority a list of three Club members at rank higher than the officer to be disciplined from which the Appointing Authority selects one. This constitutes the Hearing Board: two command officers and a potentially sympathetic officer. And, according to Article 75 of Civil Service Law, the burden of proof is on the department to prove that the officer committed misconduct.
A second option that the accused officer can choose is the same as option one except that the officer can choose to have a civilian serve on the Hearing Board. In this case, one of the command officers chosen by the Appointing Authority would be replaced by the civilian. The Hearing Board would be composed of one command officer, one potentially sympathetic Club member, and one potentially sympathetic civilian. Police policing police is codified into the policy and procedure for disciplinary hearings within the contract and Civil Service Law.
A third option for the accused officer is to have a one person Hearing Board. In this case a “professional neutral” would be selected from a rotating list of three people agreed upon by the City and the Club. In the event that the accused officer selects the third option, the City (taxpayers) would foot the bill for the use of the arbiter.
Regardless of which option the accused officer selects, should they lose the hearing, they can appeal the decision under Article 76 of Civil Service Law.
There is no statute of limitations for bringing a complaint against an officer to PSS. However, there is a timeframe when it comes to disciplining officers for misconduct. According to Article 20, Section 1 of the contract, “No removal or disciplinary proceeding shall be commenced more than eighteen (18) months after the occurrence of the alleged incompetence or misconduct complained of in the disciplinary charges.” It's worth repeating. No disciplinary hearing against an accused officer can start if 18 months have elapsed from the time of the incident. The exception granted in the contract is that the 18 months doesn't apply if the misconduct in question can be proven in court to “constitute a crime.”
For “minor violations of the Rules & Regulations and General Orders of the Department,” Article 20, Section 2: Command Discipline gives command officers “holding the rank of Major or higher” the power to impose command discipline.
Command discipline constitutes one of the following: “a Letter of reprimand; suspension without pay for a maximum of three (3) days; requirement to work up to three “R-Days” without additional pay; reimbursement up to $100 of the value of property which is intentionally or negligently damaged or lost...; successful completion of a driver training program; or transfer.”
With regards to command discipline, there are three options for the accused officer. They can accept the command findings and punishment; accept the findings but appeal the punishment at something called the Command Discipline Appeal Board (the board consists of two command officers appointed by the police chief and the Club president or some designee of the Club president for a three member board) where the outcome is final; or reject the findings and punishment and elect to have a disciplinary proceeding according to Section 75 of Civil Service Law.
In the case of command discipline, there is also a timeframe for disciplinary action. According to Article 20, Section 2, no disciplinary proceeding can start “more than 90 days after the occurrence of the alleged misconduct.” If the officer can keep their nose clean for a year and not rack up any other command discipline, then the record of discipline “shall be removed” from the officer's personnel file. Once it's removed, the record cannot be used in any way against the officer. In fact, the officer may request that such records are destroyed or returned to the officer.
Article 21, Member Rights isn't any better. It gives complete control of the officer's personnel record to the officer. It explicitly counteracts any attempt at transparency and accountability.
Under Article 21, Section 1, officers can review their personnel file, after writing to the chief, in the presence of an appropriate official. Only complainant names, addresses, and reference sources “shall be deleted from said file” when “it is so deemed necessary.” What the criteria is for necessity is not laid out. The request must be honored in 15 days.
Under Section 2 of the same article, the City agrees that police identification photographs won't be released to the press unless it receives permission from the officer.
Under Section 3, the public can request employment records and any disciplinary proceedings where a current or former officer plead guilty or was found guilty of charges and had a chance to be heard, as according to Section 75 of Civil Service Law.
The City may also disclose, to a requesting party, records of disciplinary charges if the officer has resigned or retired with disciplinary charges still pending. The scrutinized officer does have the right to write a letter addressing the charges and have that letter included whenever a request is made.
Finally, officers, current or former, have the opportunity to review their own history record maintained by PSS. “History record” is not defined within the contract. The only stated stipulation to this part of the contract is that the officer cannot review anything in the record related to an ongoing investigation or one where the officer has been named at the time of the review of their history record.
Aside from Article 20 and 21, Article 30, Section 8: Defense and Indemnification of Police Officers is necessary reading for the public. This article is essentially laying out the terms for the City to legally defend any police officer that is accused of misconduct, which leads to criminal charges or civil suits. This information must be paired with the fact that as of 2015, 93.3 percent of RPD officers lived outside of the City (In 2013 it was 93 percent and in 2010 it was 87 percent). In 2016, the City's Freedom Of Information Law office (FOIL) stated that, "The City/Non-City resident status in not available in the current database; therefore, that item could not be added to the spreadsheet." An appeal is pending. If the people of the City are footing the bill for the misconduct of officers–a supermajority of whom don't even live within the City–then one must wonder why the City doesn't push back in these negotiations and demand that officers get their own insurance.
Article 30, Section 8 states that the City is responsible for paying “reasonable and necessary” attorney's fees, disbursements, and litigation expenses arising out of any alleged activities that occurred while the officer was exercising or performing their duty. According to the contract, the responsibility of the City to pay for the defense of a police officer in a criminal proceeding arises “only upon the complete acquittal of a police officer, the dismissal of all criminal charges against him, or a no-bill by a Grand Jury investigating an on-duty use of a weapon.”
This section notes that the City is responsible for providing a defense for a police officer involved “in any civil action or proceeding before any state or federal court or administrative agency arising out of any alleged act or omission” while the officer was performing their duty. The exception here is that if an action or proceeding is “brought by or at the behest of the City itself,” then the City is not responsible for paying for the legal defense of a police officer. However, this is reversed should the officer prevail in such a civil action or proceeding.
Article 30, Section 8 also provides that the City's attorney, Corporation Counsel, must defend the officer or “may employ special counsel to defend” the officer in “any civil action or proceeding unless the Corporation Counsel determines that a conflict of interest exists.” In the case of a conflict of interest, the agreement states that the officer would be entitled to a private attorney of their choice where the City is required to pick up the bill for the private attorney. What constitutes a "conflict of interest" is apparently at the discretion of Corporation Counsel.
In the case that an officer loses a civil suit, Article 30, Section 8 states that the City “shall indemnify and save harmless [another way of saying that the City is responsible for any losses or liabilities] a police officer in the amount of any judgement obtained against the police officer in a state or federal court or administrative agency, or in the amount of any settlement or a claim, provided that the act or omission occurred while the police officer was exercising or performing or in good faith purporting to exercise or perform his powers and duties.” However, the City is not responsible for losses or liabilities when the officer intentionally commits wrongdoing or if a claim is settled or a judgement obtained as a result of a proceeding brought by the City.
Finally, one last important piece to Article 30, Section 8 is that the City is under no obligation to defend or indemnify an officer if the officer does not cooperate fully with Corporation Counsel and fails to deliver any paperwork, summonses, notices, complaints, or any other legal proceedings within five business days of the officer receiving such notice.
Aside from the three articles noted above, the contract presents other information like salaries. After about two and half years, assuming an officer has completed their training and has been serving for a full year, they can reach step two on the pay scale. Base pay, at step two, means that officers receive $51,798 per year (Article 3, Section 3). After three years of service, the officer gets longevity pay, which amounts to $100 per year for 22 additional years (Article 3, Section 4). They also get a pension, covered by the city, through the New York State Policemen's and Firemen's Pension System (Article 3, Section 5), up to “six calendar months of continual sick leave for any illness or injury not sustained in the line of duty (Article 8, Section 5),” medical and surgical benefits (Article 11), vacation days (Article 10), and educational allowances in police related fields of study (Article 14). Club members also get time and half pay for any court or internal procedure related to the performance of their official duties (Article 15, Section 3) as well as full pay and a leave of absence when called for jury duty or jury service (Article 33). The City agreed as well to provide all weapons, ammo, equipment, leather goods, and the replacement or repair of lost or damaged weapons and equipment (Article 12, Section 6). All this and overtime pay (Article 15).
The police like to believe their own myths when they tell the public they have the most dangerous job out there. The benefits they receive certainly make it seem as if that were true. Except that, according to the United States Department of Labor statistics, the profession of police officer doesn't even make it into the top 10 most dangerous jobs.
You can read the whole contract here.
Why police “unions” are not unions
There are some who would say that police officers are a part of the 99%. And perhaps by some metrics, such as income, they are economically in the realm of the 99%. However, their interests and actions are not aligned with the labor movement. Nor are their actions aligned with other movements that represent the 99%, such as the civil rights movement or the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Police are the guardians of capital and have been doing their jobs effectively for hundreds of years.
Kristian Williams, in his book Fire The Cops! asks us not to consider percentages, such at the 99%, but rather to consider class identity. In his essay “Cops and the 99%,” he points out that the wealthiest top 1 percent of the population controls 34.6 percent of the country's wealth. He expands the percentage to the top 10 percent, who control 73.1 percent of wealth. The point isn't the numbers. The 99% was clever in that it created a kind of commonality for use by vast numbers of people. And that's really what it represents. According to Williams, “It is just another way of saying 'the people' or 'the masses'.”
In the pyramid scheme that is our economic system, Williams tells us that a small minority of people are at the top. These are the capitalists who are “cultivating vast quantities of wealth.” In other words, profit. This wealth is allocated according to the desires of the capitalists. Some of it goes back to making productive wealth–or capital. The rest of us are forced to sell our time to bosses in order to make a set wage that we can use to live on. The wage represents a fraction of the actual wealth produced.
According to Williams, if the capitalists are making money and we are getting something, then things are good for the capitalists. However, if the capitalists start losing money, well then you've got job cuts, plant closures, and wage theft. (Sometimes, Williams notes, the government will actually bail out the capitalists by giving them handsome amounts of wealth.) If you're thinking that this is an “enormous scam,” Williams agrees. It's called capitalism. How do you keep the racket going?
The role of police, at its most basic, is to keep this system of extortion in place, and in particular, to keep it in place by using surveillance and violence to control those portions of the population most likely to cause it trouble. In other words, to control workers and poor people and–since the U.S. is stratified by race as well as class–people of color in particular.
So even though cops might come from working class families, where they work for wages, “have low social status, and are organized into unions,” Williams observes that the cops are left in a bit of an “ambivalent class position.” In Rochester's case, the rank of police officer is the lowest rung of the police hierarchy. However, when looking at the institution in relationship to the City or even society, Williams argues that cops–even the ones at the bottom of the hierarchy–are “a part of the managerial apparatus of capitalism.”
Williams notes that the modern police force came out of slave patrols where “militia-based groups” were charged with “keeping slaves on plantations, and just as importantly, preventing revolts.” This history gives a good understanding about police motives: the institution's “dual social function–preserving racial and class inequality–is a much better indicator of what the police are going to do than either the law or concerns about public safety.”
It is no surprise, then, that collective action intended to address these social inequalities is met with police repression. The cops, historically, have been the enemies of both the labor movement and the civil rights movement. They've attacked picket lines, broken up demonstrations, raided offices, tapped phones, opened mail, sent informants and agent provocateurs into organizations, jailed organizers, and assassinated leaders. That's the job. That's what they do. Why should we expect any different?
So, if society is going to have an armed and dangerous group of people that are tasked with maintaining race and class inequality, then the last thing the elites of society want is to have that group mingle with the labor movement and social justice movements. To prevent this from happening, beginning back in the early 20th century, “cops began to show an interest in collective bargaining.” As they watched other workers and municipal employees gain the right to organize, “police commanders very cannily opened an avenue that would simultaneously allow for negotiation and avoid the dangers of police joining a broader labor alliance.”
With regards to the Locust Club and its origins, Charles Clottin wrote a paper titled “The Evolution of the Rochester Police Department Locust Club.” The Club formed on April 17, 1904 with its primary concern being the promotion of the “social, physical welfare and the material improvements of members of the Rochester Police Department.” (I'm not sure who Clottin is, but his paper is linked on the Locust Club website.)
Clottin tells us that there was a coal strike in March of 1904 that may have been an impetus for the creation of the Club in April: “The coal strike caused officers to work picket lines to ensure the safety of the strikers and to keep the peace. The strike may have inspired officers to organize to improve their own working conditions.” Clottin does not elaborate on the strike, how well officers ensured the safety of the strikers, or how effective they were at keeping the peace.
Going back to Williams, he offers some reasons, from the perspective of local authorities, as to why police-specific unions are a good thing:
They institutionalized negotiations, which allowed conflict within the police department to be resolved through legalistic, routinized means. Further, separate unions meant that the police could be always treated as a special case during budget planning and contract talks, granting them pay, benefits, and pensions far better than those of other government workers. Police unions organized the cops as cops rather than as workers, encouraging an identification with the police institution as a whole and cementing a kind of vertical solidarity. And for all these reasons, police unions allowed local governments to keep the police in reserve, away from the main body of the labor movement, and ready to act against striking workers.
Contract negotiations between command officers (the department), civil authorities (the City), and the rank and file officers (the union) become, as cited by Williams, “as sociologist Margaret Levi puts it, an exercise in 'collusive bargaining'–taking the outward appearance of conflict, while actually operating in terms of a union/management consensus.” These entities bargain away the interests of the public and simultaneously extend the power and control of the department and the police union. Williams notes that this collusive bargaining process is used to “insulate the police from meaningful oversight and accountability.” This is accomplished through plausible deniability between commanders and the rank and file beat cop who may be engaging in severe misconduct. While the policies and procedures of the department protect the command officers, the union comes out and vehemently defends the rank and file officer from any kind of discipline or even negative judgement.
Michael Mazzeo, the Locust Club president, will occasionally stand before the press and blatantly lie about incidents and defend egregious officer conduct. One instance of this is seen in the arrest of Emily Good who videotaped a racially motivated traffic stop and was arrested ostensibly for videotaping, and more recently, Lentorya Parker, who Mazzeo claims struck an officer, which led to her being brutalized and the civilian videographer, Clarence Thompson, to be arrested.
Williams notes in Our Enemies In Blue, page 228, that “This arrangement allows for the formal appearance of rigorous command and control while maintaining maximum discretion at the lowest levels of the organization.”
This kind of collusive bargaining tosses democracy and the public interest to the curb. Williams argues in Our Enemies, page 236, that “as institutions of violence become more autonomous, they isolate themselves from democratic control.” As police departments “gain influence over policy and social priorities, they inhibit the representative aspects of other parts of the government.” In short, “Blue Power reduces the possibility of democracy.”
Stop the cops and fund Black futures
"We must focus on structural changes," states Charlene Carruthers in the Forward to the Agenda to Build Black Futures released by Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) in February of 2016. "The 'American Dream' of meritocracy has never guaranteed prosperity for Black people in America."
BYP100 and other people of color/Black-led activist organizations around the country have called for the defunding of punitive and carceral systems such as police and prisons and to instead prioritize the funding of Black futures–essentially creating Black economic stability and sustainability in communities across the nation.
Locally, Building Leadership And Community Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) is engaged in projects to develop Black sustainability as well as showcasing Black businesses around Rochester.
Cause N'FX garden, organized by one of B.L.A.C.K.'s founders, Tonya Noel, has three primary goals. According to Ms. Noel, the garden is meant to "1. Provide healthy affordable food options by creating green spaces in area that are otherwise food deserts; 2.Educate the public on how to produce and prepare their own healthy food. Moving us towards a more sustainable and self sufficient system; and 3.Encourage local restaurants to invest in the communities they serve by buying local produce."
Recently, at the corner where the garden is, the RPD put up a surveillance camera. The camera was installed shortly after the arrests of 73 during a Black Lives Matter protest demanding justice for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, India Cummings, and "all those who have lost their lives to police brutality and misconduct." The protest was held on July 8, 2016.
B.L.A.C.K. has also had two successful Black Business Marketplaces (and is planning their third). The Marketplaces showcase Black businesses in Rochester and allow people to connect with the owners and their products and services. Black businesses are also promoted by the organization through its social media channels.
Ms. Carruthers continues in the Forward to the Agenda: "Our communities deserve reparations for systemic violence and harm, good jobs, stabilizing development in our communities, support for the women who hold our households together, and support and protections for queer and trans* folks."
In Rochester, the proposed 2016 - 2017 budget for the police department is about $92.7 million. Aside from the undistributed expense line in the budget, the Rochester City School District is the only institution that receives more dollars (hundreds of millions) than the RPD.
Looking at the salaries of the police department in 2015, we find that the top five commanding officers (the Chief, two deputy chiefs, and two police captains), combined, make a total of $526,340.36. That's the sum of their base salaries without benefits or overtime. Consider what half a million dollars could do to fund Black futures, or, for that matter, what $92.7 million could do.
The Agenda lays out several recommendations to build Black futures: reparations for slavery; honoring Black worker rights and supporting a living wage for all Black workers; divestment from "local, state, and federal policing and prisons;" an end to all fines for "minor crimes, misdemeanors, and administrative fees for probationers and parolees;" valuing Black women's work through universal childcare and access to full reproductive healthcare; support and protection for Black trans* people; and lastly, promoting the "economic sustainability" of Black communities, while eliminating the displacement of people of color from their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.
In her lectures regarding the abolition of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), Angela Davis is very clear that without economic freedom, there can be no Black liberation. "Freedom is still more expansive than civil rights," she said at a speech she gave at Davidson College on February 12, 2013. "In the sixties there were some of us who insisted that it was not simply a question of acquiring the formal rights to fully participate in a society, but rather it was also about the forty acres and the mule that was dropped from the abolitionist agenda in the nineteenth century." The Davidson College speech can be found in a new book of hers, Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.
Part of the struggle is to understand how the systems around us work so that we may find those points of weakness to pressure for more freedom. The police union has a lot of power in Rochester and, as stated above by Chief Ciminelli, there is still time to push back against the police contract currently being negotiated. It's a contract that makes opaque what should be transparent and loots the public of its money, while kicking democracy and police accountability to the curb.
Enough is enough.
Make a police union contract modification proposal!
Feel free to send your modification proposal via email to Police Chief Michael Ciminelli and City Councilmember Adam McFadden! If you like, you can also post it on the Office of the Mayor Facebook page, Adam McFadden's Facebook page, and/or the Rochester Police Department's Facebook page.
If you feel compelled to post your contract negotiation proposal to social media, please include the hashtags #RochesterIndymedia and #MyContractChanges.
Related: The People’s New Black Panther Party (Interview from What's Hot) | Policing doesn’t need reforming. It needs to be abolished and created anew. | Inside the City's Negotiations with the Police Union | How Union Contracts Shield Police Departments from DOJ Reforms | The Problem with Police Union Contracts | When Police Unions Impede Justice | Forced reforms, Mixed results | World of Inquiry #58 Soccer Team Protests National Anthem | Coleman and wife brutalized by officer Brian Cala | Garden Under Surveillance By Rochester Police Department | B.L.A.C.K. addresses community after 73 protesters arrested | How to Help Black Lives Matter (and Other Causes) While Dealing with Mental Health Issues | A Jury of One's Fears
original article can be found at: https://janitorqueer.com/2016/09/14/new-app-lgbtq-health-care-info-reviews/
I recently connected with Nic and Cat, a duo based in Philadelphia, who have been working super hard for about a year, creating an app for anyone who is LGBTQ+ and is looking for a health care provider. It will be simple, straightforward, user-based, and reliable. A beta version will be available soon, and Nic says, “the more the merrier, because once we’re beta testing we want to have as many reviews on there as possible–that’s what’s gonna make the app useful.”
I already signed up. You can too! At: https://qspacesapp.com/qreview/
I definitely will have a lot to add, from
The first primary care doctor who proscribed me T,
The terrible consultation I had for top surgery in my area,
and, yeah, there will be much more. I have thoughts on my current doctor. Thoughts about the surgeon who did do my top surgery. Thoughts about my sometimes therapist and my psychiatrist (refreshingly, those two are all positive.)
I asked Nic a few questions to get a better sense of who they are and what their project is all about…
K: I’m curious, do you and Cat have experience in web design? Or, what are your backgrounds?
K: Was there a specific moment or incident where you said, “We need an app to fill in this void of information.”
Some 150 local concerned citizens held a rally at Washington Square Park to show solidarity with those in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. The event was sponsored by Mothers Out Front, a climate awareness group, the Green Party of Monroe County and a newly formed group Project Connection. While the Dakota pipeline is thousands of miles away it has local implications including explosion- prone oil trains running through our city, a gas pipeline near schools and a nuclear power plant, and dangerous gas compressor stations in neighborhoods. The groups also stressed the importance of moving away from carbon emitting fossil fuels. Continuing to build massive fossil infrastructure like the Dakota pipeline will delay that transition while continuing to fuel climate change. Presentations included mayoral and council candidates Mary Lupien and Alex White. There was a performance by Rochester's Raging Grannies.
One important matter absent from this event was the need to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP. The TPP is not simply a trade agreement as its supporters claim. It would give corporations "rights" to ignore laws passed to protect the environment, consumers and workers. Some of its most egregious provisions would enable corporations to sue governments for "lost profits" resulting from such laws.
Following the rally a large number of the protesters staged a 10 minute action in the street. Police arrived to direct traffic around the rally but did not engage the protesters. It remained peaceful.
Imagine a magic bullet that only needs to be used a few times to treat otherwise treatment-resistant conditions. A bullet that could erase the need for medication. It might sound like science fiction, but such a miracle drug might have been accidentally discovered more than 30 years ago and brushed under the rug by our government.
Alicia Danforth, a psychologist and researcher at LA BioMed, is testing the safety of using 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in conjunction with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to help people with treatment-resistant social anxiety learn how to overcome their social anxiety. The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelics Studies better known as MAPS (www.maps.org) is providing the funding needed to conduct this study.
Dr. Danforth made it clear that she was “not attempting to treat autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, but was rather looking at the benefits of using MDMA to treat social anxiety which is only one symptom that affects some people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spectrum.”
She chose to study people who fell on the ASD spectrum because they were less likely than people in the general population to be helped by more traditional therapies. According to a report on the MAPS website, treatments that work very well for neurotypical people often fail to provide benefits for people on the ASD spectrum because they have a much harder time than their neurotypical peers in forming a rapport with therapists.
The study, which currently features ten patients, is observing how safe it is to use MDMA, and not the long-term benefits of MDMA. To my knowledge, this is the only study being conducted to test the use of MDMA in helping autistic people overcome social anxiety. Two more subjects are currently being evaluated to see if they can participate in the study. The long-term effects of MDMA are speculative and unsubstantiated at this time. Hopefully, this study will help determine if MDMA will provide long-term benefits to autistic people suffering from social anxiety.
According to Dr. Danforth, the benefits observed in autistic people who have completed the study has lasted many months. The benefits of the study are calculated by Christopher Struble, MD who uses the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale to measure how the subjects improve.
Dr. Struble only measures the results of the MDMA therapy and does not engage in any other parts of the study to minimize the risk of bias tainting the study. Dr. Danforth hypothesizes that the benefits from the study occur because the subjects experience “an altered state of consciousness from the MDMA and not as a direct result of the pharmaceutical action of the MDMA.”
One of the major problems people on the ASD spectrum face is called alexithymia, or the inability to verbalize their emotional states, said Dr. Danforth.
Dr. Danforth advises people against self-medicating with MDMA because people cannot be assured about the purity or dosage of MDMA bought off the streets. She also had a medical team on standby in case life support was needed. Because the subjects were carefully selected and monitored, none of the patients involved in the study needed any medical interventions.
One of the main benefits of MDMA-assisted therapy is the limited number of times that the medication needs to be used to get lasting results. “Two applications of MDMA have lasting effects to people on the ASD spectrum who suffer from social anxiety, and the maximum of three applications has been shown to benefit veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD,” Dr. Danforth said.
Her inspiration for this line of research stemmed from Gary Fisher’s research conducted in the 1960s. He a psychologist who worked at a hospital in Sothern California and tested LSD on autistic children who were unable to communicate. While not every patient was helped, a few patients who society had given up on, were able to attend a public school as a result of Dr. Fisher’s therapy. It would currently be impossible to conduct such research because institutional review boards would not allow doctors to conduct medical research without the informed consent of subjects.
Amy Thompson (note: the name was changed to protect her privacy), an autistic person from Canada, is using Cannabis Sativa to help overcome her social anxiety so that she can work. She is using Cannabis Indica to help quiet her overactive mind so she can sleep at night. Mrs. Thompson has a medical marijuana card in Canada so she can legally access cannabis.
She said, “legal cannabis costs much more than buying cannabis from dealers” and that “she would start buying cannabis from street dealers again if her card was not renewed.” She also told me that since autism is not a qualifying condition for getting cannabis in Canada many doctors are giving cannabis to autistic people for neuroleptic pain or other co-morbid conditions but are being pressured by the Canadian Ministry of Health to stop this practice.
Mrs. Thompson said that she “will need to travel to another province the next time she wants to get her card renewed.” Her current doctor was pressured by the Canadian Ministry of Health not to renew medical marijuana cards for autistic patients who are using the marijuana to help them deal with social anxiety. Going to another doctor to get medication your main doctor refuses to provide to you is known as doctor shopping.
To help support this research, you can donate to MAPS (www.maps.org) or to the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (www.mdma-autism.org). MAPS is also investigating the use of MDMA and Ayahuasca (a very powerful hallucinogenic drug that results in total ego loss) to help veterans with PTSD, and the use of Ibogaine (an LSD-like drug that has psychedelic effects that last for two or three days) to help heroin addicts stop using heroin without going through withdrawal. MAPS is a non-profit group which investigates the medicinal uses of psychedelics.
If anyone on the ASD spectrum who is over 21, and suffers from social anxiety lives close to Los Angeles and wants to participate in the study, they should either call (310) 222-1664 or go to www.mdma-autism.org for more information. Anyone who is interested in taking part in the study needs to be in good health, have no blood pressure issues. They also cannot have used MDMA in the past.
Related: How to Help Black Lives Matter (and Other Causes) While Dealing with Mental Health Issues | Why some therapists are risking arrest to heal trauma using psychedelics | Finding from a Study on the MDMA Experiences of Adults on the Autism Spectrum (YouTube Video) | Can Ecstacy Ease Symptoms of Autism? (The author also talks about how Psilocybin and Ayahuasca can help people.)
Above in a video interview with Kerry Coleman talking about the police brutality he and his wife experienced at the hands of RPD officer Brian Cala.
On the afternoon of January 19, 2009, Kerry Coleman had called for the Mobile Crisis Team (MCT) for his wife. Instead of the MCT showing up, 10 Rochester Police Department (RPD) cruisers came to his home. Upon opening the door, RPD officer Brian Cala barged past Mr. Coleman into the house.
According to his complaint to Professional Standards Section (PSS), Mr. Coleman informed the officer that he had called for the MCT and not patrol officers. Officer Cala responded, "What the fuck do you want me to do? Take her to the hospital or take your fucking ass to jail?" Mrs. Coleman told the officer Cala to leave her home to which he replied "Shut the fuck up!"
Mr. Coleman's Professional Standards Section Complaint
In the interview at the top of the article, Mr. Coleman explains that the RPD had a warrant for his arrest based on an issue with the Rochester City School District (RCSD), and that that's why the police were there, not because of his call asking for help from the MCT.
Mr. Coleman's complaint then states that officer Cala maced his wife and proceeded to punch her in the face. While lying face down on the bed after being punched, officer Cala proceeded to "punch her in the face about 9 - 10 times." At this point, another officer came into the house and maced Mr. Coleman.
Officer Cala was eventually secreted away by officers in another squad car after irate family members started demanding to know who beat up Mr. Coleman's wife. Before getting in the car, officer Cala smugly yelled, "I fucking did it!"
Mr. Coleman was arrested, charged with criminal contempt in the first degree over a dispute with the RCSD and menacing, and then taken to jail. Mrs. Coleman went to the hospital for injuries sustained by officer Cala. Mr. Coleman was eventually tried and convicted of criminal contempt in the first degree and given probation for five years. He was arrested again over another RCSD issue and charged with violating his probation and sentenced to two years in state prison with one year of parole.
On March 15, 2013, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department released their decision in an appeal made by Mr. Coleman, stating that, "It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from is unanimously reversed on the law, the plea is vacated and the matter is remitted to Monroe County Court for further proceedings on the superior court information."
Read the Appellate Court decision in PDF format above
Mr. Coleman was railroaded by the system in which a network of corrupt individuals worked to force him into positions he never wanted. One such position was taking a plea deal and accepting a guilty verdict that, technically, he should not have been allowed to take. The Appellate Court saw this and reversed the conviction telling the lower court to retry the case.
After the decision, he was released from probation (after two years of prison and eight months of probation) and his case was to be retried with the original criminal contempt in the first degree. Because the case was shoddy to begin with, the district attorney's office offered him plea deals. He refused and demanded either a new trial or that the charges be dropped. Eventually, seeing they had no case, the DA's office dropped the charges.
Aside from having his conviction vacated and the charges dropped, the DA has not sought to prosecute officer Cala for police misconduct and the department, according to Mr. Coleman, has refused to administer discipline. Officer Cala, as of 2015, was still employed by the RPD and still on active duty.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Enough Is Enough!
Related: B.L.A.C.K. addresses community after 73 protesters arrested | A Jury of One's Fears | NYS is a no SWAT zone! Reject SWAT conferences & police militarization | "Racism Lives Here": a student response to the UR's "We're Better Than That" campaign | Joey Lipari on Syracuse's Citizen Review Board | Student athlete, who settled false arrest suit with City, racially profiled & falsely arrested for shoplifting | Mental Health: A juxtaposition of Rochester police tactics | Rochester Police Department demographics, 2015
A Rochester Police surveillance camera was recently placed on the corner of
Flint and Jefferson, which happens to be where the organization Building Leadership And Community Knowledge, B.L.A.C.K., garden happens to be. This follows a march organized by B.L.A.C.K that took place on July 8 of this year in which police violently arrested 74 protesters. Tonya Noel, Director of Cause N'FX and organizer for B.L.A.C.K. was intervewed regarding the new RPD blue Light camera.
Questions have arisen if this is an attempt by the police to harass or
keep under surveillance an organization who has been challenging the status quo. This is not the first time that the police have started surveillance in places that activist groups meet or gather following incidents with police.
Video: Police Harrassment and surveillance at meeting to discuss police brutality after anti war march turns into police riot.
Kent Handy, the author of "The Dark Secrets of Woodruff County," told Rochester Indymedia the story of how five children in his extended family were murdered by racist sheriff's deputies in Woodruff County, Arkansas on the night of March 1 and into the early morning hours of March 2, 1984.
His book is not only about the story of how Ku Klux Klan members by night and cops by day murdered five innocent children, but it's also about the conspiracy of a pathologist, the fire marshal, and the county coroner to cover up the murders.
Kent has been seeking justice for his family since.
In 1992, Kent moved to Rochester, NY where he wrote the book and now lives.
The interview was conducted on March 5, 2016 at Java's Cafe in Rochester, NY.
Related: "Racism Lives Here": a student response to the UR's "We're Better Than That" campaign | Ferguson Revolutionary Community Organizers Speak! | A Jury of One's Fears | #SayHerName #JusticeForIndia