Thursday, June 5, 2008

BAGHDAD ON THE POTOMAC: CAPITAL CITY TO TREAT NEIGHBORHOOD AS OCCUPIED TERRITORY

ALLISON KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced a military-style checkpoint yesterday to stop cars this weekend in a Northeast Washington neighborhood inundated by gun violence, saying it will help keep criminals out of the area. Starting on Saturday, officers will check drivers' identification and ask whether they have a "legitimate purpose" to be in the Trinidad area, such as going to a doctor or church or visiting friends or relatives. If not, the drivers will be turned away.

The Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative is the latest crime-fighting attempt by Lanier and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who have been under pressure from residents to stop a recent surge in violence. Last weekend was especially bloody, with seven slayings, including three in the Trinidad area.

"In certain areas, we need to go beyond the normal methods of policing," Fenty (D) said at a news conference announcing the action. "We're going to go into an area and completely shut it down to prevent shootings and the sale of drugs."

The checkpoint will stop vehicles approaching the 1400 block of Montello Avenue NE, a section of the Trinidad neighborhood that has been plagued with homicides and other violence. Police will search cars if they suspect the presence of guns or drugs, and will arrest people who do not cooperate, under a charge of failure to obey a police officer, officials said. . .

The strategy, patterned after a similar effort conducted years ago in New York, is not airtight. There are many ways to get in and out of Trinidad, not just on the one-way Montello Avenue. And pedestrians will not be stopped, which is something critics say might render the program ineffective.

"I guess the plan is to hope criminals will not walk into neighborhoods," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large). "I also suppose the plan is to take the criminal's word for it when he or she gives the police a reason for driving into a neighborhood.". . .

Leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday that they will be watching what happens closely and that legal action is likely.

"My reaction is, welcome to Baghdad, D.C.," said Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the ACLU's Washington office. "I mean, this is craziness. In this country, you don't have to show identification or explain to the police why you want to travel down a public street."

Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said that his office reviewed the initiative and that similar efforts had survived court tests. "I don't anticipate us being sued," Nickles said. "But if you do want to sue us, the courts are open."

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor said that D.C. officials consulted his office about their plans and that prosecutors suggested some changes to try to ensure that any arrests would hold up in court. "We applaud the District's efforts to make neighborhoods safer," Taylor said. "Whatever we do has to be consistent with the Constitution."

New York police set up a nearly identical checkpoint in 1992 in a neighborhood of the Bronx that was plagued by drug dealing and drive-by shootings. Police ran the Watson Avenue Special Operation on a random basis, mostly in evening hours. Officers stopped drivers, but not pedestrians, coming into the area, to confirm that they had a legitimate reason to be there. . .

"I knew eventually we'd be a police state," said Wilhelmina Lawson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. "They don't talk to us, they're not community minded."

Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was concerned about public perception of the checkpoints and the potential that it could lead to more citizen complaints. He questioned Lanier's overall approach, saying, "There is no strategy and no mid-term and long-term planning.

WASHINGTON TIMES "It's not just pushing the envelope, it's carrying the envelope," said ACLU legislative counsel Steve Block. "We expect that once the first people are arrested or turned away, they're going to come knocking on our door and there will be a lawsuit."

This year lawmakers and civil rights groups have voiced strong concerns about a plan to consolidate the city's 5,200 closed-circuit cameras on a single network, issuing assault rifles to patrol officers, and an initiative by police to ask residents if they can search their homes for illegal weapons.

DC EXAMINER Peter Nickles, the city’s interim attorney general, said the quarantine would have "a narrow focus."

"This is a very targeted program that has been used in other cities," Nickles told The Examiner. I’m not worried about the constitutionality of it."

Others are. Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the D.C. police union and a former lawyer, called the checkpoint proposal "breathtaking."

Shelley Broderick, president of the D.C.-area American Civil Liberties Union and the dean of the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, said the plan was "cockamamie."

"I think they tried this in Russia and it failed," she said. "It’s just our experience in this city that we always end up targeting poor people and people of color, and we treat the kids coming home from choir practice the same as we treat those kids who are selling drugs."

BACK STORY

CITY PAPER'S LOOSE LIPS has come up with more on prospective police chief Lanier's role in the abuse of demonstrators than we had previously noted. Says LL: "Prior to the much-anticipated April 2000 IMF/World Bank demonstrations, Lanier, by now an experienced white shirt, was charged with preparing a plan for 'prisoner control,' according to a deposition she would later give in a civil case. Among the measures that Lanier & Co. developed during the planning exercise was a method of prisoner restraint known as 'hogtying,' in which the detainee's left wrist is cuffed to his right ankle.

"Lanier justified hogtying as a sound way to prevent arrestees from escaping, assaulting police officers, or assaulting other arrestees. The tactic, she said in a deposition, had 'met all of those goals.' . . . Then came the events at Pershing Park. In September 2002, another round of anti-globalization protests hit D.C. . . Ramsey and his top deputies panicked, ordering the arrest of everyone in the park without giving any warnings. The roundup netted not just protesters but also passersby, tourists, and others. They were hogtied, and some of them remained restrained for up to 18 hours. They would dispute Lanier's "not uncomfortable" assessment of hogtying, pointing out that the restraints hampered their circulation and left them numb in places. . .

"In January 2005, the city paid out $425,000 to seven Pershing Park victims, part of a settlement that also required a letter of apology from Ramsey to the plaintiffs."

LL adds: "The Pershing Park experience, though, didn't sour Lanier on mass arrests. During a march on the occasion of President George W. Bush's second inauguration, police officers under Lanier's supervision swept up roughly 70 protesters in Adams Morgan following a spasm of vandalism. Plaintiffs in a January 2006 federal lawsuit claim that the cops repeated the sins of Pershing Park in failing to issue orders to disperse. They claim they were arrested despite the fact that they were attempting to break from the protest and had not committed any of the alleged property crimes. In an affidavit on the Adams Morgan roundup, Lanier admitted that no orders were issued prior to the arrests. But she justified her actions by playing up the threat posed by the protesters: 'Members of the group were carrying pipes and torches.'

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW Adrian Fenty's selection of a new police chief, Cathy Lanier, seems more aimed at satisfying the city's business and political elite than its citizens. There is something distinctly odd about appointing a chief whose area of expertise is terrorism. Does Fenty feel that terrorists are the major criminals threatening DC? Are they the people who go around at night robbing and killing citizens? We always thought it was all more homegrown than that.

Some time ago, Sari Horwitz in the Washington Post explained how Lanier was trained by, among others, Israel security officials, those who have done such a fine job increasing the threat of terrorism by arresting Palestinian cabinet ministers and killing their constituents and so forth:

"Levy has been traveling across the United States with other Israeli security experts to share counterterrorism tactics with American law enforcement officials. . . Classes include the history of Islamic fundamentalism and how to spot a suicide bomber. . . State and local police officials across the country say the Israeli exchange is unique for them - and invaluable for the quantity and quality of information.

"Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. "No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel," said D.C. police Cmdr. Cathy Lanier, who heads the District's special operations division and oversees the bomb squad and the emergency response team. . .

"After returning from Israel, Gainer retrained his officers to shoot a potential suicide bomber in the head rather than aim for the chest, as they were originally taught, because shooting the chest could detonate a suicide vest. Ramsey ordered his officers to keep their red and blue roof lights flashing all the time to be more visible - something he picked up when he, Gainer and Wexler went on a ride-along with the Jerusalem police two years ago. . .

"Several of the Israel trips have been organized by the research forum, a Washington-based organization that works with police nationwide. Others are planned by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington think tank that focuses on defense and national security issues and promotes cooperation with Israel as vital to U.S. security interests."

Horwitz, in another article, further described Lanier's training in terrorism:

"Cathy Lanier had to think like a terrorist and come up with a way to kill a few thousand people at a picnic in San Luis Rey. The virtual town in California, repeatedly cursed with smallpox epidemics, explosions and attacks on its nuclear power plant, is part of her new education: The commander of special operations for D.C. police is earning a master's degree in the fast-growing field of homeland security. . .The federal government has pumped cash into this new fight, spending more than $12 billion for homeland security research and development over the past four budget years. . .

"She has read the 9/11 commission report, learned about budgeting, technology and civil liberties. She's studied the psychology of fear and terrorism. And she's learned about such critical links as banking, transportation, water and power supplies, down to the details of how fuel travels through pipelines and how power grids work."

So now we have someone trained to treat all Washington citizens as potential terrorists, to see the world through the paranoiac lens of those who made the world angry enough at the U.S. over the decades to result in 9/11 and who since have done nothing to make things better.

There are some other reasons to be leery of Lanier. Jim Ridgeway reported in the Village Voice following one of the police riots that occurred during demonstrations in the reign of Charles Ramsey, "Demonstrators brought a class-action suit in Federal District Court in D.C., claiming they were surrounded by cops, arrested, handcuffed, and held up to 13 hours on buses and then at the police academy gymnasium for up to 36 hours. While at the gym, the protesters say, they were handcuffed one wrist to the opposite ankle. During the course of the suit, the judge released documents from the Metropolitan Police Department's own internal investigation of the incident. According to one of the documents, Cathy Lanier, a Special Operations division commander, 'stated that the handcuff technique was used to prevent escape, protect the protesters from one another, and to prevent them from committing sexual acts with each other.'"


0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home