Rep. Maxine Waters calls for federal probe into alleged ‘Executioners’ gang in Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department

maxine waters
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, takes her mask off to speak during a signing ceremony for the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 266, after it passed the House on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Washington.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters is asking for a federal probe into the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
  • Waters called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the alleged “Executioners” gang.
  • The group was accused of celebrating police shootings by a whistleblower within the station.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday called for Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kirsten Clarke to conduct a federal probe into the alleged “Executioners” gang within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

According to the Los Angeles Times and whistleblower Deputy Austreberto “Art” Gonzalez, the “Executioners” are a group within the Compton station accused of having matching, offensive tattoos and celebrating police shootings.

A spokesperson for the LASD claimed the letter was made up of “unproven allegations which she is portraying as facts.”

The alleged groups were first reported on by the Los Angeles Times in 2018, after multiple deputies within the Compton station testified to having identifying tattoos, including one who had a tattoo of a skull with a rifle and military helmet, engulfed in flames.

“I ask that the DOJ take two immediate actions: launch an independent investigation into the existence of the ‘Executioners,’ both at the LASD Compton station and within the greater LASD community, and launch a pattern or practice investigation into the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for potential civil rights and constitutional violations,” Waters wrote in the letter.

Members of the alleged “Executioners” were also involved in the police killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, according to the testimony of a whistleblower deputy at the Compton station. Guardado was shot in the back five times by LASD deputies in an alleyway following a foot chase. The shooting was ruled a homicide by a Los Angeles County inquest.

“The gang allegedly sets illegal arrest quotas, threatens and harasses fellow deputies, and holds parties after shootings, called ‘998 parties,’ which are in part a celebration that a new deputy will be inked by the gang,” said Rep. Waters, citing Gonzalez’s whistleblower testimony.

“The killing of Andres Guardado is not the only example of the LASD’s excessive and brutal tactics in the Los Angeles community. On August 31, 2020, LASD deputies fatally shot Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles,” Rep. Waters added.

The LASD spokesperson pushed back on the assertion: “Additionally, the uses of deadly force Congresswoman Waters cites have been thoroughly investigated and turned over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Justice System Integrity Division for further investigation and review, along with monitoring by The California Office of the Attorney General and The Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Rep. Waters’ letter also called for a broader focus on the “pattern of police associating with militant groups nationwide.”

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The DOJ planned to arrest Derek Chauvin in court and charge him with civil-rights violations if he was acquitted of murder, report says

Derek Chauvin
A composite image of Derek Chauvin in his mugshot and being placed in handcuffs after he was found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd.

  • The DOJ has been building a police-brutality case against Derek Chauvin, the Star Tribune reports.
  • Feds reportedly planned to arrest Chauvin in court if he was not convicted of murder.
  • That case is still going forward and indictments are expected soon, the report said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Justice Department officials planned to arrest Derek Chauvin at the courthouse and charge him with civil-rights violations if he was found not guilty of George Floyd’s murder, or if there was a mistrial, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Andy Mannix reported Wednesday.

According to the report, federal prosecutors spent months building a police-brutality case against Chauvin and the three other former Minneapolis police officers charged in connection to Floyd’s death.

In an effort not to influence the outcome of the murder trial, the DOJ held off on pushing forward with a grand jury indictment, but had a plan in place in case Chauvin was acquitted in the murder case, according to the Star Tribune.

george floyd protest
Protesters hold signs honoring George Floyd outside Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 28, 2021.

Sources familiar with the discussions told the Star Tribune that the original DOJ plan was to arrest Chauvin in the courthouse if he was acquitted or if a mistrial was called, and charge him with federal police-brutality violations.

The Minnesota US Attorney’s Office would charge Chauvin by criminal complaint, so authorities could arrest him immediately, then seek a grand jury indictment afterward, the Star Tribune reported.

But that particular plan was never realized, as a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death last Tuesday. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious charge, second-degree murder, and his sentencing is scheduled to take place in June.

Federal prosecutors are still going forward with the case, but plan to do so by getting a grand jury indictment first, the Star Tribune reported, citing a source. The DOJ impaneled a federal grand jury in February, The New York Times reported at the time.

The source said indictments against Chauvin and the three other officers present for Floyd’s fatal arrest – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao – were expected soon.

The DOJ is separately opening a civil investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week.

Insider has contacted the Department of Justice and the Minnesota US Attorney’s Office for comment.

The three other officers who were present at George Floyd’s arrest, from left to right: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao.

According to the Star Tribune, federal prosecutors planned to charge Chauvin in connection to Floyd’s death and the violent arrest of a 14-year-old boy in 2017. ABC News previously reported that the DOJ was considering charges over the 2017 arrest.

That incident was described in court documents by prosecutors in Floyd’s murder case, who wanted to use it as evidence of a possible pattern of behavior by Chauvin.

In a court filing, prosecutors said Chauvin struck a Black teenager in the head with a flashlight and placed him in a prone position for 17 minutes, the Star Tribune reported. ABC News reported, also citing court documents, that Chauvin ignored complaints that the teen couldn’t breathe.

The Star Tribune reported that the three other officers would be charged only in connection to Floyd’s fatal arrest.

Kueng, Lane, and Thao are also set to stand trial together in August on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

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How America’s state police got military weapons

  • To date, the US has spent over $15.4 billion on the militarization of police.
  • All of these weapons, vehicles, and equipment are acquired by the police through a military program called 1033.
  • There are four major moments in history that enabled the creation of the 1033 Program: The Safe Streets Act of 1968, The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, The National Defense Authorization Act of 1990, and The Patriot Act of 2000.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, people protested in at least 140 cities across the nation. Here in Indiana, a protestor lost an eye from a tear gas container hitting him in the face.

In North Carolina, protesters were trapped by a cloud of tear gas on both ends of a street. In Kentucky, an officer attacked a newscaster and camera crew with pepper bullets.

And here in Detroit, police backed by armored vehicles marched down the streets. To date, the US has spent over $15 billion on the militarization of police.

All of these weapons, vehicles, and equipment are acquired by the police through a military program called 1033.

It’s like eBay for cops with leftover war equipment, except everything is free and you only pay for shipping and handling. Up until 2017, police couldn’t be in the program unless they used equipment within a year of receiving it.

So how did local police acquire all of these military weapons? And why do they even need them? To answer this question, we’re going to examine four moments in history.

Clip: From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Narrator: In the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress signed the Safe Streets Act into law in June of 1968.

Through that act, in an effort to crack down on organized crime and gun violence, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration was created.

LEAA guaranteed the distribution of federal money to fight organized crime. This funded what we know as SWAT, and it ensured SWAT received searchlights, emergency radios, bullhorns, nightsticks, body armor, face shields, and special weapons like M79 grenade launchers.

Prior to 1968, SWAT teams were used sparingly, only in volatile, high-risk situations like bank robberies or hostage situations. SWAT’s first test as a militarized front came when the LAPD used a tank on loan from the California National Guard on the Southern California Black Panther Party.

Clip: The intermittent warfare between the Black Panthers and police erupted today in Los Angeles. There, a group of them barricaded themselves in their headquarters and fought police with automatic weapons and hand grenades.

Narrator: The US Department of State granted the LAPD authorization to use tear gas and sniper rifles. With national coverage, SWAT grew in popularity across the US and with other local law enforcement, creating a demand for military equipment.

LEAA’s budget was a total of $7.5 billion, with a good portion going towards the militarization of US local law-enforcement agencies. After nearly a decade of extremely high budgets and spending, LEAA began to receive criticism because it had not shown success in decreasing crime rates.

On April 15, 1982, LEAA was abolished when Congress failed to fund it. But by that time, SWAT teams and their militaristic approach had already become the norm.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act expanded the use of no-knock or quick-knock warrants and assistance of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines in drug-related searches and seizures.

It allowed for members of SWAT to arrive at suspected locations of criminal activities and enter without knocking or announcing themselves, pointing guns at anyone inside.

They often used diversionary tactics like flash grenades, rendering their victims deaf and blind. In some cases, individuals believe they’re experiencing a home invasion, to which they grab a gun. Like Jose Guerena, a former US Marine who was suspected of selling marijuana. What you’re about to see and hear might upset you. He pulled a gun because he believed his home was being invaded, and the police shot him 60 times in seven seconds. No drugs were found.

In the early 1980s, there was on average about 3,000 recorded SWAT incidents per year. By the mid 1990s, that number grew to about 45,000 SWAT incidents per year. 75.9% were drug raids.

Of those raids, SWAT officers fired 342 times. They injured 61 and killed 139 citizens.

In 1989, George H. W. Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act.

This act allowed for surplus DOD equipment from the Cold War to be transferred to US law enforcement. Sections 1207 and 1208 allowed for the following: “the procurement of services and leasing of equipment” and the transfer to federal and state agencies personal property, “including small arms and ammunition.”

And from those two sections, eight years later, the 1033 program was born. Under Bill Clinton’s administration, the use of military surplus trade continued with the introduction of the Law Enforcement Support Office, LESO, which enacted US code title 10, section 2576a, also known as the 1033 program.

Much like National Defense Authorization Act 1208, the 1033 program expanded into other areas, including counterterrorism. This line states that surplus military equipment can be used for counter-drugs and counterterrorism efforts. This line states that surplus military equipment is free of charge minus shipping and handling.

Over $7.4 billion worth of property has been transferred since the program’s inception. More than 8,000 law-enforcement agencies have enrolled. Items shipped include boots, radios, shields, M16 assault rifles, tanks, and silencers.

For every one qualified officer, one M1911 pistol, M16 rifle, or M14 rifle is allocated. For every three officers, a department can get a Humvee, and every law-enforcement agency has the ability if they apply to receive one MRAP.

And then, three days after 9/11, George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act.

It created a gray zone where law-enforcement agencies were able to perform more searches and seizures with access to delayed warrants, wiretaps, email, and web search surveillance, all in the name of fighting terrorism. But in reality, the liberties given to police were often used in drug-related cases. Only 1% of sneak and peek searches in 2010 were terrorism related. 76% were drug related.

And the United States’ international actions also impacted law enforcement at home. As a result of an increase and then decrease of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, there’s been more military surplus equipment available to law enforcement, creating a spike in tactical items distributed by the 1033 program.

The Department of Defense does not provide training for law-enforcement agencies that receive military weapons. Instead, it’s left to recipients to certify their own training each year. Because there is no federal mandate that police agencies report on SWAT operations, there’s no real way to tell or quantify the effect of SWAT-related incidents.

In an effort to access the program’s productivity and safety protocols, the Government Accountability Office created a fake federal agency. After acquiring more than 100 items worth over $1.2 million, the office recommended a process to implement fraud prevention in addition to a website that can track the equipment and the agencies it was sent to.

Prior to the investigation, there was very little record keeping and tracking of weapons after transfer. There were several instances where the agencies did not report lost weapons or disposal of excess equipment.

Clip: And San Mateo and Napa counties were not the only departments in the nation to have lost equipment. About 200, in fact, have military equipment missing at this hour, and that includes, actually, some Humvees.

Narrator: 184 state and local police departments were suspended from the 1033 program. In 2014, sparked by the murder of Michael Brown, civil unrest rolled through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Americans watching from home were shocked to see what looked like an army descending on such a small town.

On January 16, 2015, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13688.

Barack Obama: You know, we’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.

Narrator: The order prohibited a list of equipment from being transferred to law enforcement through the 1033 program: tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, firearms of .50 caliber or higher, ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets, camouflage uniforms. That executive order did not last long before being revoked in 2017 by President Donald Trump.

Jeff Sessions: These restrictions that had been opposed went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.

Narrator: Today, in 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, protesters are being met with militarized police armed with 1033 program war surplus. No-knock warrants still result in the deaths of innocent citizens, like 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor.

Tear gas is still legal for domestic use on protesters but has been banned for use in war since 1993. And studies on rubber bullets, like the ones used here, show that 3% of those injured by rubber bullets died as a result of their injuries. 15.5% suffered permanent disabilities like eye loss, and nearly 50% of those who were struck on the head or neck were killed.

In the US, law enforcement kills over 900 people a year. Compare that to Norway, where there have been only four police-related killing since 2002.

Norway credits these numbers to its face-to-face community-building approach and believes it has created more trust between citizens and their police department. And we’ve seen similar changes stateside.

In 2001, a Cincinnati police officer shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas after he resisted arrest over minor crimes. After riots and protests, in fear of more unrest, the city began to reform its police department in collaboration with the Department of Justice.

They standardized procedures, making civilian-officer interactions more transparent. They also created a training program focused on mental health.

The reforms were met with pushback from city officials and a hostile police union, but the result was a 50% decrease in use of force from 2001 to 2007.

Data shows that building trust within the community may be a better solution to saving lives than using military weapons against them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2020.

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2 GOP-led states are attempting to bar protesters convicted of crimes from receiving student loans and jobless aid

  • The Minnesota Legislature introduced a bill to prevent protestors convicted of crimes from getting student loans.
  • This comes at a time when students are protesting the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
  • A bill in Indiana also prevents people convicted of protest-related crimes from getting jobless aid.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the 11 months since the Black Lives Matter movement emerged across the country, scores of Republican-led states are attempting to crack down on protests by introducing what they call “anti-riot” legislation, The New York Times reported.

GOP lawmakers in two of those states – Minnesota and Indiana – want to step up penalties for protesters, seeking to bar people convicted of crimes during a protest from receiving student loans and unemployment aid.

On April 8, the Minnesota Legislature, led by Republican Sen. David Osmek, introduced a bill that would make anyone convicted of a protest-linked crime ineligible to receive student loans, mortgage assistance, and many other forms of state aid.

According to the bill text, a person convicted of a crime at any protest or civil rally “is ineligible for any type of state loan, grant, or assistance, including but not limited to college student loans and grants, rent and mortgage assistance, supplemental nutrition assistance, unemployment benefits and other employment assistance, Minnesota supplemental aid programs, business grants, medical assistance, general assistance, and energy assistance.”

This bill is particularly significant given the recent instances of police brutality in Minnesota, and the protests that have emerged around them. On Tuesday, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. His killing last May touched off a wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the nation.

As the Minnesota Daily reported, thousands of college students participated in protests in the state after Floyd’s death, and some University of Minnesota students are still awaiting their court date after being arrested for protesting in November.

And last Sunday, a Brooklyn Center police officer killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, prompting further protests and arrests of students in the area.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke out against the bill shortly after it was introduced, saying that protesting is fundamental to the nature of this country.

“This particular provision (the bill) is created because, whether you want to say it or not, it’s created because there is a particular annoyance we have with a particular group of people who have decided to organize themselves because they are tired of being invisible and tired of being ignored,” Omar said.

The bill in Indiana mirrors the one Republican lawmakers put forward in Minnesota. It would prevent people convicted of protest-related crimes from tapping into unemployment benefits, student loans, public health insurance, and public housing.

It would bar those convicted of being part of an unlawful assembly from holding a state or local government job as well.

Other states are following with their own anti-protest bills. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed what he called an “anti-riot” bill into law which grants civil immunity to drivers who hit protesters and shields police departments from budget cuts

Civil rights advocates say that laws are already in the books to stave off riots and that Black Lives Matter demonstrations rarely turn violent. A report late last year from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit group, indicated that the vast majority (93%) of racial justice protests were peaceful.

The Washington Post analyzed 7,305 demonstrations last year, and found that 96% of them did not lead to destruction of property or violence against police officers.

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We went inside the Baltimore Police Department to see what de-escalation training looks like – and how it could help fix policing

  • Police departments across the country are looking for ways to reform following the police killing of George Floyd and other incidents.
  • In Baltimore, new police officers undergo 16 hours of de-escalation training. The training was implemented after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.
  • This training could be a key to restoring community trust in the police department, but there’s a lot of work to be done.
  • We visited the Baltimore Police Department to see what de-escalation training is really like, and what it will take for it to actually make a difference.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

Baltimore Police Department’s Lieutenant Scott Swenson starts off the training session with a video of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Swenson pauses the video at the moment Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee on George Floyd’s neck.

“8 minutes, 46 seconds. Time to intervene there?” Swenson asks the class.

“Yes,” the new trainees respond in unison. One soon-to-be officer says he would grab Chauvin and “take him off.”

“You sure?” Swenson asks the class, turning to face the group. He reminds the students that the officers accompanying Chauvin had only been on the force for four days, like they themselves would be soon.

“It’s easy to sit here in this room and say you’ll intervene, but will you?” he said. “Make your mind up.”

This is the beginning of Baltimore Police Department sixteen hour de-escalation course – one of several police departments across the nation implementing de-escalation training.

Back in June, Business Insider Today visited the department to see what the training looks like. And while it’s not clear whether de-escalation training is effective, it very well may be one step forward for police departments to regain the trust of their skeptical communities.

“Kill me! Kill me!”

baltimore police
The Baltimore Police Department is one of many departments across the US implementing de-escalation training for officers.

In the first de-escalation scenario, officers are dispatched to a makeshift home where they have limited information about the unfolding scene. One of the role players acts as the suspect’s family member.

“So my cousin’s in there. He’s got the knife, he’s off his meds. He’s in there by himself right now,” the role player says.

The officers-to-be make their way to the door.

“Officer Coleman, BPD,” the trainee yells from behind the door. “This is not worth it. There’s always other options, sir.”

Novice officers go through a rigorous course in Baltimore where they must stop a suspect without applying heavy-handed force. Officers are paired with a partner and enter a room where someone is holding a knife.

During the first scenario, Officer Savannah Porter chooses to protect herself and her partner by deploying a taser instead of finding less lethal options, like closing the door.

“Getting tunnel vision is probably the hardest part. It’s realizing that there is an entire world happening outside of what’s going on,” Porter said.

The training program was created by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit for policing that trains departments in de-escalation techniques. New officers are taught to create distance between themselves and a suspect. It also encourages them to find cover to protect themselves, instead of reaching for their weapons.

The second and third scenarios are called “Fluid Knife” and “Static Knife.” Trainees enter a room backwards and are told to turn around to begin the scene. In the “Static Knife” scenario, role player and BPD detective Tony Cabezas walks determinedly toward novice officer Savannah Porter.

“Kill me, kill me!” Cabezas yells.

“Put the knife down!” Savannah shouts back. After realizing the approaching suspect will not drop his knife, Savannah deploys her replica stun gun – “Taser, taser, taser!” she shouts. (New officers don’t carry real weapons during training.)

“Not every situation can be de-escalated. When de-escalation training first came out, there was a lot of concern from officers. ‘Does this mean that my safety has to be compromised?’ ‘Does this mean that I have to be hurt or for this to be effective?’ And the answer is no,” Swenson said.

To get a better understanding of what the new officers go through, I gave the “Static Knife” scenario a try. Swenson, as my partner, entered the room with me. When we turned around, we were facing a man holding a prop knife close to his wrist.

“My life is over,” Calbezas said.

Soon-to-be officers began the training by watching the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

I timidly asked if he’d mind putting it down so we could talk as the knife hovered over his wrist. We went back and forth for about 15 minutes before he began to calm down, eventually dropping the knife altogether.

Now, in full instructor mode, Calbezas admits he was taken aback by my constant questioning. Swenson, who’s back to being an instructor and no longer my partner, chimes in.

“So how do we get officers to talk like you and hit all those points,” he said, “while still keeping themselves – everybody around them – safe?”

The old way of policing isn’t working.

“De-escalation, for the most part, was when a suspect stops resisting, you stop using force,” Swenson said.

It’s a different type of training, one that most officers who’ve been on the force for a long time never went through.

That goes for Angel Villaronga, a former Baltimore police officer who de-escalated a standoff in 2017 with a man who was holding a knife and threatening to kill himself or goad the responding officers into shooting him.

The footage shows Villaronga speaking calmly to the suspect, even when the suspect begins yelling and walking down the street, expanding the responding officers’ perimeter. After some back and forth, the suspect succumbs to Villaronga’s pleas and gives him the knife.

“At the end of the day, I do have a uniform. I do have a job to do. But killing you? That’s not a part of my job,” Villaronga said.

Many of the new officers we spoke with said they come to Baltimore because they see the city is viewed as a tough policing assignment. One officer who is a Baltimore native, Keona Holley, says most new officers in her cohort aren’t from Baltimore, and the community suffers because of it.

“The community needs Baltimore city police officers that are here because they care,” she said. “And people that’s not born and raised in Baltimore, they don’t understand how I feel. This is my home. The community is hurting.”

Black residents in Baltimore are no stranger to police brutality and uses of excessive police force.

Black residents are used to witnessing police brutality.

A recent survey of Baltimore residents found more than 60% of respondents were not satisfied with their police department. More than half said they witnessed police using excessive force.

Seasoned community organizer Ray Kelly says he’s seen it all firsthand.

“That’s the American way – to use force. That’s how America became America,” Kelly said.

Kelly leads the Citizens Policing Project and is the lead community liaison for the Consent Decree Monitoring Team. He also helped organize The People’s Decree Summit, where almost 100 residents, 13 organizations, and 11 representatives from the Department of Justice gathered to look over recommendations for how the city’s neighborhoods should be policed.

Those recommendations were later reflected in the department’s consent decree.

“My subject matter, expertise, doesn’t come from any years of college,” Kelly said. “I’m from the streets. I’ve been arrested. I’ve been mistreated by police.”

Born just a couple of years after the Baltimore Riots, Kelly has witnessed what he says is disfranchisement.

“This community’s been so disinvested over the past few decades that we’ve learned to take care of our own,” he said.

Experts hope de-escalation training is a key to gaining back the community’s trust in police.

When it comes to policing, Black people in the city are used to seeing problems with policing in their backyard – most memorably when Freddie Gray was arrested in 2015. Multiple video accounts from the arrest showed the 25-year-old Black man struggling and screaming while officers dragged him into a van in his neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. He sustained a neck and spinal injury that led to his death a week later.

Thousands of people took to the streets to protest police brutality. The incident sent shockwaves across the nation. Inside the Baltimore Police Department, Swenson remembers training some of the officers involved.

“They would have went through the typical 80 hours of defensive tactics, 16 hours of the baton,” he shared. “They wouldn’t have gotten the de-escalation training program as you saw it today. We knew we had to make some changes.”

The Department of Justice launched an investigation that eventually led to the department’s consent decree, which mandated training like de-escalation.

Still, it’s not clear if de-escalation training actually works.

There’s no comprehensive list that shows how many police departments train in de-escalation.

But a recent CBS survey of 155 large police departments found that the majority had some sort of de-escalation training. Still, that represents only a fraction of the almost 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

On top of that, research shows de-escalation training has not been systematically evaluated. Of the trainings that have been reviewed, there have only been moderate benefits of improvement for officers and their communities.

One way to measure the success of a de-escalation program is through a reduction in use-of-force incidents. A recently released study found the implementation of the Police Executive Research Forum’s de-escalation training model in the Louisville Police Department helped reduce use-of-force incidents by 28%, citizen injuries by 26%, and officer injuries by 36%.

Business Insider Today producer Marisa Palmer, center, participated in Baltimore’s de-escalation training.

After I asked Swenson if he thought it took something like a Freddie Gray incident for police departments to change, he paused for a few seconds.

“Unfortunately I’d say a lot of changes are often written in mistakes of the past,” he admitted. “Sometimes it takes a catalyst to force you into looking at what you’re doing and making the necessary changes.”

Some, like Villaronga, say it takes empathy to de-escalate situations.

“Sometimes that’s just not taught. It’s just grown into you,” he said.

Meanwhile, many community members simply hope for sustained reform.

“As Black people, we’ve been watching these types of actions for over 50 years,” Kelly said. “The hope is that one day we won’t have to deal with another Freddie Gray incident, George Floyd.”

“If we can eliminate the killing of unarmed Black men by the police, then that’ll rejuvenate nationwide hope that things can change around the country.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in December 2020.

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Video shows Virginia cops holding a Black Army officer in uniform at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him during a traffic stop

virginiai cops
Caron Nazatio gets pulled over by police during a traffic stop on December 5, 2020 in Windsor, Virginia.

  • A Black Army lieutenant is suing Virginia police officers for assaulting him during a traffic stop last year.
  • Bodycam footage shows two officers holding the lieutenant at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him.
  • The lieutenant’s lawyer said his client is “definitely not doing too well” after the incident.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Army lieutenant is suing two Virginia police officers for holding him at gunpoint, pepper-spraying him, and throwing him to the ground during an illegal traffic stop that took place last year.

Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino man who is a second lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps, was driving home from his duty station on December 5, 2020, when police pulled him over, attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press on Friday.

The officers, identified as Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, later claimed they pulled Nazario over because he had tinted windows and was missing a rear license plate.

Read more: Derek Chauvin’s trial is testing the stress levels of Black Americans. Here’s what leaders and allies can do to help.

According to a report included in the lawsuit, Crocker radioed in that the driver was “eluding police” and that it was considered a “high-risk traffic stop,” the Washington Post reported.

Nazario had attempted to explain at the time that he wasn’t trying to elude the officer but wanted to stop in a well-lit area “for officer safety and out of respect for the officers,” Arthur said, according to AP.

The lawsuit says by the time the two officers reached his SUV, the license plate was visible.

Body camera footage of the incident shows the officers shouting at Nazario to get out of the car. The Army lieutenant, who is seen holding his hands in the air, says: “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”

One of the officers, holding a gun to Nazario’s face, responds: “Yeah, you should be!”

At one point, Gutierrez threatened the Virginia university graduate that he was “fixin’ to ride the lightning.” AP reported that this is a reference to the electric chair which was also a line from the movie “The Green Mile,” a film about a Black man facing execution.

“I don’t even want to reach for my seatbelt, can you please?” Nazario says, his hands shaking. “My hands are out, can you please – look, this is really messed up.”

In the lawsuit, filed earlier this month, the police officers were said to have “approached with guns pointed at the car, gave opposing instructions to a uniformed soldier behind the wheel, and then pepper-sprayed him – all while threatening him with different charges and levels of violence for non-compliance,” Complex reported.

Watch the moment below:

Nazario has sued Gutierrez and Crocker, claiming violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and First Amendments. Asked about Nazario’s condition after the incident, Arthur told AP: “He’s definitely not doing too well.”

The lawsuit says: “These cameras captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially-biased, dangerous and sometimes deadly abuses of authority …”

Both Gutierrez and Crocker filed reports with “near-identical” misstatements, the lawsuit said according to the Washington Post.

Their reports of the incident claimed that Nazario refused to show his hands and slapped theirs away when they tried to get him out.

Crocker and Gutierrez still work for the department, according to AP.

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Portland police officers used force more than 6,000 times against protesters last year

portland protests
A demonstrator is pepper sprayed shortly before being arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Portland, Ore.

  • Portland police used force 6,000 times against protesters last year, according to DOJ attorneys.
  • These incidents at times violated department policies and top brass didn’t question it, they said.
  • Portland became a flashpoint for protest activity and police response after George Floyd’s death.
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In late May, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, erupted as a hotbed for protest activity, with demonstrators taking to the streets for more than 100 consecutive days.

It also became a flashpoint for clashes between police and protesters. Demonstrators were at many times peaceful but in some instances engaged in violence and vandalism, while federal and local law enforcement repeatedly used aggressive tactics in response to the protests.

But legal documents filed by attorneys for the Department of Justice last month have started to paint a picture of just how frequently officers turned to force.

Portland Police Bureau officers used force “more than 6,000 times” during “crowd-control events” between May 29 and November 15 – an average of 35 times per day – the attorneys said, summarizing the DOJ’s review of PPB officers’ conduct as part of a previous settlement agreement.

“PPB has failed to maintain substantial compliance with the Agreement’s force-policy requirements,” they said.

PPB did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this story.

“Some of this force deviated from force policy, and supervisors frequently validated individual uses of force with little or no discussion of reasonableness of the force used,” the DOJ attorneys said. “Many [after-action reviews] did not include any witness interviews or officer interviews. Many [reviews] contained similar or identical, i.e., cut-and-paste, language.”

The DOJ’s review also found that commands from top brass often didn’t translate effectively to front-line officers, leading to the agency to conclude that in some cases, those officers’ “movements were chaotic and could have been executed better.”

The review also determined that PPB improperly justified its use of force by claiming all members of a protest were engaged in “active aggression” simply by being part of a crowd where some people were being aggressive. In one example, according to the document, an officer justified firing a “less-lethal impact munition” at an individual because they “engaged in ‘furtive conversation’ and ran away.”

The DOJ did acknowledge, however, that officers in Portland faced “substantial challenges” stemming from the wave of protests, which it said often included a “criminal element,” as well as a rise in violent crime across the city and budget cuts that hindered training.

Portland faced a particularly complex blend of protest activity last year, some of which has continued into 2021.

Many of the demonstrators, particularly in the early months, protested police brutality and systemic racism, and drew from a diverse crowd ranging from BLM activists to suburban moms, veterans, and doctors. But Portland’s Black police chief also called out a small subset of violent protesters, and there is an emerging schism between the city’s progressive groups – with some continuing to engage in vandalism.

Portland has also seen a surge in far-right activity, with Proud Boys and other white supremacist militia groups clashing with protesters, anti-lockdown protesters violently storming the state capitol, and election conspiracy theorists rallying at the capitol in January.

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A grand jury refused to indict the 2 buffalo police officers who shoved and injured a 75-year-old man at a BLM protest

buffalo police shove
Riot police in Buffalo shove Martin Gugino during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd.

  • A Buffalo grand jury dismissed felony assault charges against two Buffalo police officers.
  • In June, the two officers shoved 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground, fracturing his skull.
  • Erie County DA John Flynn said he believed the officers committed a crime, but not at the felony level.
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Erie County District Attorney John Flynn shared that a grand jury dismissed charges against two Buffalo police officers who shoved and injured an elderly man during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020.

Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were charged with felony assault and suspended without pay after the incident. The altercation, caught on video, showed Martin Gugino, 75, peacefully walking towards officers and then being forcefully pushed to the ground. 

In the graphic and now-viral clip, Gugino lays unconscious as his head starts bleeding. Gugino suffered a fractured skull and brain injury as a result of the incident, his attorney said over the summer. (Viewer discretion is advised for the clip below.)


At the time, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, the push “was disgusting, and I think, illegal.” 

At a press conference on Thursday, Flynn said, “I still believe a crime was committed. I don’t believe a felony was.” Flynn argued that by attending a protest past curfew, Gugino broke the law.

Flynn denied claims that he “sandbagged” the case. “The grand jury did their job. I apologize for nothing,” Flynn said. Flynn also tried to defend Gugino in one instance from a conspiracy Trump once spread, saying, “He’s not antifa, OK?” 

Gugino told WKBW Buffalo that he believes his constitutional right to protest superseded him breaking a curfew. “Even if I were breaking the law, you can’t just hit me. Where is that in the training manual?” Gugino said.

John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, issued a statement following the case’s dismissal.

“The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association is extremely pleased with today’s decision by a grand jury to dismiss charges against Buffalo Police Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski,” the statement said. 

The statement added that the two officers “were simply following departmental procedures and the directives of their superiors to clear Niagara Square despite working under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo told WKBW that the two officers remain suspended pending an internal investigation.

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