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Oakland’s Not for Burning? Popular Fury at Yet Another Police Murder

http://counterpunch.org/maher01092009.html
BART Police are a notoriously problematic organization, existing in a gray area between public and private, funded by taxpayers but operating under a corporate structure which lacks all accountability and oversight. According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian: The structure of the BART police force is a recipe for disaster. BART’s general manager (who is not an elected official and has no expertise in law enforcement) hires the BART police chief… There is no police commission, no police review board, not even a committee of the elected BART board designated to handle complaints against and issues with the BART police… There is, in other words, no civilian oversight. And this “disaster” has been more than merely hypothetical: in 1992, a BART cop shot unarmed Jerrold Hall in the back of the head with a shotgun as he walked away, after firing a warning shot. In 2001, BART police shot a mentally ill man who was unarmed and naked. And according to Tim Redmond, writing in the same paper, “BART made a monumental effort to cover [the Hall slaying] up,” and in the end, “Nothing happened… BART called the shooting justified.” As of yesterday, BART hadn’t yet interviewed the officer, Johannes Mehserle, who insisted on invoking Fifth Amendment rights not to speak. And just when they claim to have compelled him to do so, he abruptly resigned, thereby ending any internal affairs investigation that may have taken place. There still remains, according to BART, a criminal investigation, but if the past is any indicator, this won’t get far. But let’s not fool ourselves. Even publicly-run organizations like the Oakland Police Department, which has all the ties in the world to elected power, operates with an informal shoot-to-kill policy for black teenagers. This was as clear in the 2007 murder of Gary King as it is with Oscar Grant today. And since the district attorney responsible for bringing charges against the police works closely with these same police on a daily basis and in a shared enterprise of delivering convictions, we should not be surprised that not a single police murder in recent years has even seen disciplinary action. “No one we talked with,” writes the Chronicle, “from the district attorney’s office to lawyers who work either side of police shootings – could remember a case in the last 20 years in which an on-duty officer had been charged in a fatal shooting in Alameda County.”

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January 10, 2009 - Posted by | Police State Brutality, Riot Watch

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