In this image from video provided by WBFO, a Buffalo police officer appears to shove a man who walked up to police Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. Video from WBFO shows the man appearing to hit his head on the pavement, with blood leaking out as officers walk past to clear Niagara Square. Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported, but Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station that an internal affairs investigation was opened. Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended two officers late Thursday, the mayor’s statement said. (Mike Desmond | WBFO via AP)

In this image from video provided by WBFO, a Buffalo police officer appears to shove a man who walked up to police Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. Video from WBFO shows the man appearing to hit his head on the pavement, with blood leaking out as officers walk past to clear Niagara Square. Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported, but Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station that an internal affairs investigation was opened. Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended two officers late Thursday, the mayor’s statement said. (Mike Desmond | WBFO via AP)

Opinion: The real conspiracies involving police misconduct

There are questions that need to be asked about Buffalo.

  • Monday, June 15, 2020 10:26pm
  • Opinion

“There are questions that need to be asked” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said about the incident in which 75-year-old Martin Gugino was injured after two Buffalo police officers pushed him. “In every case, we can’t jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play.”

McEnany was defending a tweet by President Donald Trump in which he suggested Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur.”

When it comes to new conspiracy theories, Trump is like a toddler who can’t wait to try out a new toy. But I want to follow McEnany’s lead to a few real conspiracies.

First, even if Gugino was involved with antifa, he posed no threat to the officers. And if he said something hoping to provoke a violent reaction from them, they shouldn’t have taken the bait.

But let’s imagine that the stress of all the protests caused a few officers to literally push back. That doesn’t explain the false statement issued by the Buffalo Police Department shortly afterwards. It claimed that during a “skirmish involving protesters, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”

Now, look at the one released by the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd was killed.

“Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

It’s not necessary to repeat what really happened because by now everyone knows the truth.

In Minnesota, it’s a crime for any public officer or employee to file an official report “having knowledge it is false in any material respect.” It’s also a crime when a person “conspires with another to commit a crime.”

These are not isolated incidents where police officers agree to unlawfully conceal the truth.

In 2014, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The department initially claimed Van Dyke fired at McDonald because he was approaching with a knife. And that he died in the hospital.

The police car dashcam video made public a year later showed McDonald walking away from officers. Van Dyke fired and hit him 16 times. He died on the street. A subsequent investigation revealed at least 11 officers, including a deputy chief, conspired to produce the final false report. None of them were charged with a crime.

Also in 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report about the unjustified use of force by the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico. They found that it was “not isolated or sporadic” and stemmed from “systemic deficiencies” that included the department often endorsing “questionable and sometimes unlawful conduct by officers.”

There’s nothing questionable about the conduct of the Minnesota police officers who slashed tires of cars parked in the vicinity of protests last weekend. They broke the law.

The sheriff of Anoka County, which covers parts of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington, admitted his deputies followed orders from the Multiagency Command Center. A spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol claimed it was done “to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters” or because the parked cars “contained items used to cause harm during violent protests.”

Neither explanation makes sense. So let me suggest the possibility the orders were given to further the narrative that antifa activists were destroying property. And those justifications came after videos revealed it was done by police officers.

But a conspiracy theory like that isn’t necessary to argue for dismissal of the officials who gave the orders and the officers who followed them. Nor to recognize that their agreement to destroy private property was a conspiracy to commit that crime.

And what about those who stood by and watched? The blue wall of silence itself is another type of conspiracy. Because any officer who witnesses but chooses not to report police misconduct is abiding by a secret agreement that violates the spirit of the laws they swore to uphold.

Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.

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