At the time of Michelle Cusseaux’s death, she was 50, lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. On August 14, 2014, Cusseaux grew agitated when a cab didn’t show up to take her to the hospital; just a week earlier, she’d filed a grievance on previous transportation failures. Cusseaux called a Southwest Network health facility, and Office Manager Jamey Helms found her comments to be threatening. Due to House Bill 2105, passed in April of that year, neither Helms nor anyone else affiliated with Southwest Network—which claims to be “one of the largest community behavioral health providers in the U.S.”—have to check in on patients personally. Instead, Helms called the police to make what is formally known as a mental health petition. (Police are frequently first-responders in calls like this, which in ideal situations end in a psychiatric care facility; the actual trip itself is referred to as a mental-health pickup.)
A handful of New York City cops have contended for the dubious crown of most corrupt ever in the 170-year history of the NYPD. There was Charles H. Becker, who met the electric chair in 1915 after he successfully ordered a hit on a gambler who had threatened to expose him as crooked. Or Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who served as detectives while secretly doing the bidding of the Lucchese crime family. And then there was Michael Dowd.
Black culture and the role racism plays in black American history are discussed at length in the national dialogue around race relations. We regularly debate use of the “n-word,” for example, and the impact of historical racism on outcomes for black Americans. In fact, black culture comes up in conversations about everything from mental health and homophobia to how parents discipline their kids. On the other hand, the role that white culture plays in our society often goes without remark.
In an interview with CNN Wednesday at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Morocco, former President Bill Clinton renounced in part his approval of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the 1994 bill whose “three strikes” provision has long been maligned as the root cause of over-incarcerations (and prison overcrowding) in the U.S.
A Rikers Island corrections officer assigned to prisoners accused of serious violent crimes claims she was sexually assaulted by an inmate and was threatened with termination for fighting off his advances. “He violated me,” Rikers corrections officer Samantha Moscoso told ABC New York. “And I screamed and I screamed for him to let go, for him to get off, for him to let go, for him to stop.”
Did you know that police officers lie under oath—or talk about doing so—often enough that the practice has its own slangy portmanteau? (It’s called “ testilying.”) What happens when an otherwise good officer is really bad with his gun? Do cops give a shit if you protest that you’re being arrested unfairly? Once again, Gawker’s anonymous cop is here to answer all your law enforcement questions.
Violence, inflicted by guards and among prisoners, is simply part of the fabric of daily life at Rikers Island. Thanks to tireless reporting by the likes of Michael Winerip and Michael Schwartz at the New York Times, we know this, but we know it in an abstract sense—told through broad statistics and quoted anecdotes. Here’s what it actually looks like.
Late Tuesday, news broke that yet another unarmed American, a black man named Walter Scott, was killed by a white police officer. As with Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Rodney King nearly 25 years ago, the brutality was captured on video for the world to see. The New York Times put the damning evidence at the very top of its homepage and it quickly spread throughout social media networks provoking outrage, disgust, horror, grief. These reactions have come most vocally from black Americans. The silence from white activists, elected officials, public figures, and citizens has been deafening.
The last tweet Anthony Hill sent read, “Never say never.” Two hours later, around 2 p.m. on March 9, he was shot dead. Reports and video footage, captured moments before his death, spotlight Hill’s erratic behavior: the 26-year-old Air Force veteran had been wandering The Heights apartment complex naked, crawling on the ground, knocking on doors, and hanging from a balcony. When approached by Dekalb County police officer Robert Olsen, Hill charged the officer despite Olsen’s pleas for him to stop. Though Olsen, who is a seven-year veteran of the police force, was equipped with a taser, he fatally shot an unarmed Hill twice.
On December 3, the Wikipedia article on the death of Eric Garner read in part: "Garner raised both his arms in the air and was then put in a chokehold from behind by officer Daniel Pantaleo." Later that day, it changed almost imperceptibly: Garner didn't just raise his arms, he flailed them, and Pantaleo's takedown may have been a headlock, not a chokehold. The subtly pro-cop edits didn't come from some impartial third party, but an IP address registered to the NYPD. They weren't the only ones.
On Tuesday evening, 69-year-old William Groomes, a retired corrections officer, was riding a Brooklyn-bound 4 train when he got into a confrontation with two younger men. The specifics of their quarrel aren't totally clear, but two things are certain: Groomes shot Gilbert Drogheo dead, and he wasn't arrested for it. Why not?
Matt Darisse, a sergeant in the Surry County Sheriff's Department, was sitting in his patrol car on the morning of April 29, 2009. Darisse was monitoring northbound traffic on a stretch of Interstate 77 near Dobson, North Carolina. He says that just around 8:00 a.m. he saw a Ford Escort pass his car. According to Darisse, the driver looked nervous, staring forward and gripping the steering wheel, so he decided to pull onto the road and follow the car. After a few miles, Darisse says the Escort approached some traffic and braked. That's when he noticed that one of the car's brake lights, the right one, was out. It was all the reason he needed, he thought, to initiate a stop.
In June, a Manhattan Detention Complex inmate named Rudolph Richardson was using the bathroom in his cell when a guard shut an electronic door on his left middle finger, partially severing it. Richardson sought medical attention, which he found in the form of a doctor who ordered him to throw his own finger in the trash, according to a lawsuit.
On Saturday, a group of inmates at Rikers Island helped tear down a plexiglass barrier to defend a female correction officer who was being sexually assaulted by another inmate, the New York Daily News reports. Raleek Young, above, is serving five to 10 years for raping a 13-year-old girl, and was hit with additional charges regarding the guard assault on Monday.