Body Cam Video Shows LA Police Interaction with Black Versace Designer

Body Cam Video Shows LA Police Interaction with Black Versace Designer

Police released footage that paints a fuller picture of their interaction with a black Versace executive who accused them of racial profiling for an incident earlier this month.

Video captured by a Beverly Hills, California, police officer’s body camera on Oct 1. shows Salehe Bembury, the fashion company’s vice president of sneakers and men’s footwear, admitting to jaywalking at Camden Drive and Wilshire Boulevard before he is released without a citation in under four minutes.

During the interaction, officers refer to Bembury as “sir” and ask him if there is anything they can do to make him more comfortable as they perform a search of his person. The man, who later went viral after sharing footage of his own on social media, says that their presence alone is making him uncomfortable and asks for permission to retrieve his phone.

 

After taking the device out of his pocket, he begins filming, claiming that the officers are harassing him because he’s black.

“OK, I am in Beverly Hills right now, and I am getting f*cking searched for shopping at the store I work for,” he says.

“Now what you are doing is you are making it completely different to what we just talked about. You are making a completely different narrative,” an officer says.

Bembury continues to insist that he’s being racially profiled before the officers eventually let him go. He later shared his video of the incident on Instagram with the caption, “Beverly Hills while Black. I’m OK, my spirit is not.”

In response, the Beverly Hills Police Department released a statement along with the body camera footage.

The police officer checking Salehe Bembury’s ID on October 1, 2020 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Newsflash)

“Mr. Bembury admitted to the pedestrian violation and told the officers he was looking at the GPS on his phone to determine where he was heading. The entire detention lasted about 3 1⁄2 minutes,” the department said. “Mr. Bembury consented to a search, was cleared of any outstanding warrants and released with a warning. No citation was issued.”

Black people in California are stopped by police officers more frequently than people of other races, according to statistics from eight law enforcement agencies in the state. In both Los Angeles and San Francisco, black residents accounted for more than a quarter of all those stopped by police in the second half of 2018 despite making up less than 10% of either city’s population.

Interactions between police officers and black Americans have been under renewed national scrutiny since George Floyd, a black man accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill, died while being arrested by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May. Footage of the incident sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality, as well as calls to defund the police.

(Edited by Carlin Becker and Matthew Hall)



The post Body Cam Video Shows LA Police Interaction with Black Versace Designer appeared first on Zenger News.

Privacy Fury Over Police Cyber Searches to Trace Beating Victims Who Refuse to Come Forward

Privacy Fury Over Police Cyber Searches to Trace Beating Victims Who Refuse to Come Forward

The normally quiet Upper East Side erupted into a street brawl between white supremacists and anti-fascists. Members of the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group with a violent history, allegedly attacked four Antifa protesters Oct. 12, 2018, during a violent clash near the Metropolitan Republican Club, where the leader of the Proud Boys had just finished giving an address.

The New York Police Department sought 12 suspects for rioting and assault. They had a complete list of all the Proud Boys on the scene because everyone had signed the register at the Metropolitan Club speech. What they lacked was the identity of the four assault victims, all presumed to be Antifa members. Disguised in black anti-surveillance garb during their counter-protest, the victims could not be identified by street camera footage. And the wounded Antifa supporters refused to come forward to press charges.

Eventually, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office used a controversial technique to further trace victims: a reverse location search warrant—also called a geo-fence warrant—which compiles the anonymous digital identity and location data from the cell phones, smart watches, laptops and tablets of all users who were in a given geolocation at a certain time.

While a reverse location search can potentially track individuals through their geolocation at the scene of a crime, privacy advocates say the system fails to differentiate between potential suspects and innocent passersby. New York state Assembly Member Dan Quart introduced a bill earlier this year to ban reverse location search warrants.

“I became very concerned because I believe it violates Fourth Amendment requirements for particularized search,” Quart said. “Reverse location search is the exact opposite. It’s a fishing expedition to get people’s data without actual probable cause. That’s just antithetical to the Fourth Amendment.”

“The digital evidence identifies not people but devices,” said Andrew Quinn, general counsel to the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. “Any investigative technique could be abused, but what prevents abuse is for an independent magistrate to review evidence and issue the warrants.”

The use of reverse location search warrants often remains undisclosed to the public, however, attorneys in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance testified to using such a warrant during the court trial of several Proud Boys members.

In this particular case, the use of the digital reverse location warrant yielded no evidence used in the trial. Nonetheless, the Manhattan D.A. managed to nail two Proud Boys’ convictions based on video shot during the violent clashes.

Vance’s office declined a request for comment from Zenger News, as did the New York Police Department.

“You may be innocent but you may be able to provide invaluable eyewitness evidence,” said Quinn. “Reverse location search can be an incredibly useful tool in solving a serious crime. Son of Sam was solved because they tracked a parking ticket on his car in the area of one of the crimes.”

Under Quart’s bill, proposed in April, evidence from reverse location search warrants would become inadmissible in any New York court. The bill and a companion bill in the state Senate by Sen. Zellnor Myrie are pending in the New York State Legislature. No vote has yet occurred.

In the era of a burgeoning Black Lives Matter mass protest movement, banning reverse location searches appears timely. If allowed, Quart said, it creates a “double infringement of constitutional rights.” In addition to Fourth Amendment violations, it can “target protesters and accumulate data on thousands of individuals who are peacefully assembled to exercise First Amendment rights.”   

Quart also objects to the lack of transparency. It’s unclear whose data is revealed, and how long the data will linger in official law enforcement files after an individual warrant is closed.

“The goal of the bill was really to create a first of its kind. It will outlaw the practice in New York State, blocking police and prosecutors from using reverse search warrants,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, which helped author the proposed legislation. “I hope it will start a national trend because we will eventually need federal legislation to completely block the practice.”

Cahn said a reverse location search warrant “is an incredibly powerful way to monitor every single person who attends a mosque, a protest or a healthcare facility. It’s chilling and dystopian.”

“Everyone at the protest is visible,” counters Quinn. “Law enforcement is not permitted to go to the protests and take pictures to form a database. Almost all the videos of protestors are taken by the protestors themselves and posted to social media.”

“All people in the range are also having their data collected, even those who had nothing to do with it,” said Jerome Greco of the Legal Aid Society’s Digital Forensics Unit. “The problem is, you’re making innocent people possible suspects. Also, it’s not always accurate.”

In 2020, big tech companies control so much of the public’s personal information—even incidental apps, downloaded free of charge, can access and collect data for the developer to sell to the highest bidder—that constitutional privacy rights in the digital realm have become an issue.

For the past decade, Google has published a biannual report that reveals the number of government requests for user data, without differentiating the types of warrants or locale.

A Google spokesperson said that when a request comes in from a governmental agency or member of law enforcement, it is carefully vetted before any data is released. If Google perceives them as overly broad, requests are refused or challenged.

Unfortunately, much of the pushback comes at the discretion of Google and other tech companies. National communications privacy laws were last challenged in 1986. Back then, the digital world was less complex. Big tech companies played a more limited role in controlling public discourse.

“The problem is technology moves at an incredible pace, and the court system at a glacial pace,” said Greco.

That’s why legislation is so important, advocates say. 

“Dan Quart’s bill strikes the right balance,” said Greco.

(Edited by Emily Crockett and Blake French.)



The post Privacy Fury Over Police Cyber Searches to Trace Beating Victims Who Refuse to Come Forward appeared first on Zenger News.

California Wildfires Burn 1M Acres and Counting

California Wildfires Burn 1M Acres and Counting

More than 1.25 million acres of wildfire in Northern and Central California have ignited a man versus nature fiasco as local firefighters are spread thin and left without adequate resources. Cal Fire, the California agency responsible for fighting wildfires, said 650 wildfires of all sizes have caused the extensive damage the state since Aug. 15, with more than 1,400 buildings destroyed.  The fires are collectively larger than the state of Delaware.  

The wildfires follow a statewide heatwave that reached triple-digit temperatures and an unprecedented surge in lightning strikes – more than 13,000 lightning strikes, with 233 strikes alone in the past 24 hours. 

The fires are exacerbated by dry summer air and strong winds, both of which California is currently experiencing. These factors have contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ for the natural disaster, as fire departments struggle to combat the rapidly expanding blaze, with the brunt of the damage in the top half of the state. 

Fire departments are usually aided by inmate firefighters during peak fire season, but thousands of prisoners have been released due to overcrowding concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will hire more than 800 additional firefighters to fill the void.

Newsom declared a state of emergency last week, asking for additional fire engine resources from over half a dozen states across the country, as well as Canada. Arizona has contributed 10 fire engines, Oregon has contributed 25, and Texas and New Mexico have contributed five each, said the governor in a press briefing on Friday. 

A helicopter drops water on the Soledad Fire in California on July 5, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

 

Two fire department vehicles sit outside the Lake Fire on August 14, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

Nearly 50,000 people were instructed to evacuate their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains and east of San Jose. To minimize exposure to Covid-19, evacuees have been encouraged to stay with family and friends rather than pack into confined indoor shelters. Authorities prioritized shelters for people who have no other place to stay, and have been enforcing pandemic protocol, such as masks, throughout the emergency. 

The largest fire, named the SCU Lightning Complex, has burned 363,772 acres of land east of San Jose, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This fire is at 15% containment as of Tuesday. 

The wine country northeast of San Francisco, including Napa and Sonoma counties, is the second largest area at risk, with 356,326 acres burned at 27% containment. Tens of thousands of structures remain at risk. The Global Supertanker, a firefighting airplane that can hold 19,600 gallons of water, has been deployed to the area.

The CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains has devoured 78,869 acres of land and is at 17% containment.

Kim-Flud Markey, a mother of four and longtime resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains, evacuated her home with her family last week in accordance with local fire department instruction. They thought they had reached safety upon reaching a hotel, but were instructed to evacuate further the next day to escape the drastically worsening fire.

“The fire department simply does not have the resources to contain it,” Flud-Markey told Zenger News. “They are doing everything they can, but low visibility from the smoke has restricted air support.” The Flud-Markeys evacuated all of their animals from the house, including horses, chickens, goats and an 85-pound turkey. “People have been so kind as to open their fenced property to house our animals while we are sheltering. They are all safe. Our two dogs have stayed with us.” said Flud-Markey. 

The wildfires come as California residents expect rolling electricity blackouts to conserve energy during the heatwave. The three biggest energy providers in California, Pacific Gas & Electric, So Cal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, collectively had a megawatt shortage of over 4,000 on Monday, enough to power for roughly 3 million residences. 

A helicopter drops water on the Lake Fire in California on August 12, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

 

A helicopter drops water on the Tujunga Fire outside Los Angeles on July 31, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

An estimated 10 percent of the state’s wildfires are triggered by electric power lines every year, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. However, the California Independent System Operator maintains that rolling blackouts are unrelated to the wildfires, and serve to stabilize California’s immense power grid instead.

Cal Fire continues encouraging residents to be prepared for wildfires.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 93 very large wildfires have burned 1,832,101 acres nationally as of Aug. 25.  Outside of California, Oregon and Arizona reported the most fires of a significant size.

(Edited by Bryan Wilkes and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



The post California Wildfires Burn 1M Acres and Counting appeared first on Zenger News.

New York Seeks to Ban Reverse Location Searches

New York Seeks to Ban Reverse Location Searches

The normally quiet Upper East Side erupted into a street brawl between white supremacists and anti-fascists. Members of the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group with a violent history, allegedly attacked four Antifa protesters Oct. 12, 2018, during a violent clash near the Metropolitan Republican Club, where the leader of the Proud Boys had just finished giving an address.

The New York Police Department sought 12 suspects for rioting and assault. They had a complete list of all the Proud Boys on the scene because everyone had signed the register at the Metropolitan Club speech. What they lacked was the identity of the four assault victims, all presumed to be Antifa members. Disguised in black anti-surveillance garb during their counter-protest, the victims could not be identified by street camera footage. And the wounded Antifa supporters refused to come forward to press charges.

Eventually, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office used a controversial technique to further trace victims: a reverse location search warrant—also called a geo-fence warrant—which compiles the anonymous digital identity and location data from the cell phones, smart watches, laptops and tablets of all users who were in a given geolocation at a certain time.

While a reverse location search can potentially track individuals through their geolocation at the scene of a crime, privacy advocates say the system fails to differentiate between potential suspects and innocent passersby. New York state Assembly Member Dan Quart introduced a bill earlier this year to ban reverse location search warrants.

“I became very concerned because I believe it violates Fourth Amendment requirements for particularized search,” Quart said. “Reverse location search is the exact opposite. It’s a fishing expedition to get people’s data without actual probable cause. That’s just antithetical to the Fourth Amendment.”

“The digital evidence identifies not people but devices,” said Andrew Quinn, general counsel to the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. “Any investigative technique could be abused, but what prevents abuse is for an independent magistrate to review evidence and issue the warrants.”

The use of reverse location search warrants often remains undisclosed to the public, however, attorneys in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance testified to using such a warrant during the court trial of several Proud Boys members.

In this particular case, the use of the digital reverse location warrant yielded no evidence used in the trial. Nonetheless, the Manhattan D.A. managed to nail two Proud Boys’ convictions based on video shot during the violent clashes.

Vance’s office declined a request for comment from Zenger News, as did the New York Police Department.

“You may be innocent but you may be able to provide invaluable eyewitness evidence,” said Quinn. “Reverse location search can be an incredibly useful tool in solving a serious crime. Son of Sam was solved because they tracked a parking ticket on his car in the area of one of the crimes.”

Under Quart’s bill, proposed in April, evidence from reverse location search warrants would become inadmissible in any New York court. The bill and a companion bill in the state Senate by Sen. Zellnor Myrie are pending in the New York State Legislature. No vote has yet occurred.

In the era of a burgeoning Black Lives Matter mass protest movement, banning reverse location searches appears timely. If allowed, Quart said, it creates a “double infringement of constitutional rights.” In addition to Fourth Amendment violations, it can “target protesters and accumulate data on thousands of individuals who are peacefully assembled to exercise First Amendment rights.”   

Quart also objects to the lack of transparency. It’s unclear whose data is revealed, and how long the data will linger in official law enforcement files after an individual warrant is closed.

“The goal of the bill was really to create a first of its kind. It will outlaw the practice in New York State, blocking police and prosecutors from using reverse search warrants,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, which helped author the proposed legislation. “I hope it will start a national trend because we will eventually need federal legislation to completely block the practice.”

Cahn said a reverse location search warrant “is an incredibly powerful way to monitor every single person who attends a mosque, a protest or a healthcare facility. It’s chilling and dystopian.”

“Everyone at the protest is visible,” counters Quinn. “Law enforcement is not permitted to go to the protests and take pictures to form a database. Almost all the videos of protestors are taken by the protestors themselves and posted to social media.”

“All people in the range are also having their data collected, even those who had nothing to do with it,” said Jerome Greco of the Legal Aid Society’s Digital Forensics Unit. “The problem is, you’re making innocent people possible suspects. Also, it’s not always accurate.”

In 2020, big tech companies control so much of the public’s personal information—even incidental apps, downloaded free of charge, can access and collect data for the developer to sell to the highest bidder—that constitutional privacy rights in the digital realm have become an issue.

For the past decade, Google has published a biannual report that reveals the number of government requests for user data, without differentiating the types of warrants or locale.

A Google spokesperson said that when a request comes in from a governmental agency or member of law enforcement, it is carefully vetted before any data is released. If Google perceives them as overly broad, requests are refused or challenged.

Unfortunately, much of the pushback comes at the discretion of Google and other tech companies. National communications privacy laws were last challenged in 1986. Back then, the digital world was less complex. Big tech companies played a more limited role in controlling public discourse.

“The problem is technology moves at an incredible pace, and the court system at a glacial pace,” said Greco.

That’s why legislation is so important, advocates say. 

“Dan Quart’s bill strikes the right balance,” said Greco.

(Edited by Emily Crockett and Blake French.)



The post New York Seeks to Ban Reverse Location Searches appeared first on Zenger News.

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.