Police investigator fired for not covering up killings in Chicago, USA

Lorenzo Davis, a former Supervising Investigator who was fired from his position at the Independent Police Review Authority poses for a portrait at his home in Chicago, Illinois July 21, 2015. Davis was terminated from his job after his employer said he refused to change his findings in Chicago police officers involved in cases on excessive force and officer involved shootings. (Photo: Joshua Lott for The Daily Beast)

By George Gallanis in the USA:

Chicago police investigator fired for not covering up police killings

3 August 2015

On July 19, Lorenzo Davis, a former supervisor for Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), was fired for failing to falsely exonerate three officers who had killed innocent civilians.

Davis, a former Chicago police officer for 23 years and retired in 2004, was hired to work at IPRA in 2008. Two years later, he was promoted to supervising investigator and led a team of five. According to its web site, Davis served on a review board that “is directly responsible for conducting investigations into allegations of the use of excessive force, police shootings where an officer discharges his/her weapon and strikes someone, deaths in custody, domestic violence, verbal abuse including bias and coercion. IPRA also investigates allegations of off-duty misconduct relating to excessive force and weapon discharge incidents.”

The Chicago Reader reported that during his seven years at IPRA, Davis and his team found six shootings to be unjustified out of a total of 13 investigations. In three of those cases, Davis’ supervisor and IPRA’s chief administrator, Scott V. Ando, ordered Davis to exonerate the officers, despite Davis’ findings. When he refused to falsify the outcome of his investigation, Davis was sacked.

The firing reveals the true character of police investigations that follow killings by officers. Far from offering an independent investigation, the standard operating procedure for these police inquiries is to cover up for police murder.

Davis’s firing came just two weeks after he received a performance review in which he was accused of having a “clear bias against the police” and for being “the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to OIS,” or officer-involved shootings.

In other words, Davis was the only employee who refused to go along with the police department’s efforts to whitewash repeated police killings and protect the perpetrators.

Davis has since openly criticized the CPD and IPRA, stating, “I did not like the direction the police department had taken.”

He continued: “It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.” Moreover, he said, “to me they have a hidden agenda, one that I don’t know about, to decide that virtually all police shootings are justified. That logically cannot be.”

Since the creation of IPRA in 2007, Chicago police have shot nearly 400 civilians. However, only one of these killings has been deemed “unjustified” enough to call for the firing of a police officer by IPRA.

The sole “unjustified” shooting, which took place in 2011, was by an off-duty officer who fired 16 rounds into a car after a drive-by shooting. The driver of the car was an innocent bystander and not involved with the drive-by shooting. IPRA found the off-duty officer guilty of lying to investigators after claiming he fired at the driver of the car responsible for the shooting. Video evidence showed this to be false, and so the review board was forced to act.

IPRA’s investigative results are filled with accounts of officers using violence in one way or another against civilians, yet officers are rarely punished.

In fact, IPRA’s record shows that police terrorize the population with virtual impunity. In its most recent quarterly report, IPRA concluded that only 37 out of 385 investigations required some sort of disciplinary action.

One complaint from 2011 that was recently reviewed includes the following description:

“In an incident involving four on duty CPD [Chicago Police Department] officers (A, B, C, and D), an unknown on-duty CPD officer (E) and five Complainants (1,2,3,4 and 5), Officers A and D were alleged to have directed profanities at the Complainants, knocked Complainant 1’s head on a table, pushed Complainant 1 against a fence several times, punched Complainant 1 several times about the face and body, banged Complainant 1’s head several times against the back window of a police vehicle, entered Complainant 1’s residence without justification, handcuffed Complainant 1 too tightly, punched Complainant 1 in the face and groin several times, and failed to complete a Tactical Response Report.” The report goes to state that the officers allegedly continued punching, kicking and even using objects against the Complainants, all the while using racial slurs.

In spite of this overwhelming evidence, the only allegations which IPRA claims were “supported by sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action” were the allegations that the officers used profanities against the complainants and that they failed to file a Tactical Response Report. All of the other allegations were either considered unfounded, or were deemed “not supported by sufficient evidence which could be used to prove or disprove the allegation.”

Police review boards across the country—including the IPRA—were created for the purpose of fostering the illusion that the police are in some way held accountable for repeated acts of brutality.

But the situation in Chicago is emblematic of the extent to which the police brutalize the population with near complete impunity.

As the World Socialist Web Site reported in May, the Chicago Police operate a torture chamber at the Homan Square “black site,” where “Chicagoans were held for hours and sometimes days in fetid conditions, denied access to lawyers, and physically abused or threatened until they agreed to police demands. In some instances, individuals were forced to participate in petty drug stings or supply the police with off-the-books firearms.”

This revelation came in the wake of the creation of a $5.5 million reparation fund set in place for victims of police carried out over the course of 20 years by former police commander Jon Burge. One of Burge’s victims had a shotgun placed into his mouth, with police pretending to load it and pull the trigger. Police also used a cattle prod to shock one victim’s genitals.

Davis’s firing is a further indication that the American ruling class will tolerate no criticism of its increasingly violent and depraved tactics of repression. More and more, the police treatment of the population domestically mirrors the brutal treatment of the populations of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Indeed, 15 years after the start of the “war on terror,” no aspect of social, political, or cultural life in the United States is immune from the domestic repercussions of the permanent state of war abroad.

See also here. And here.

Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is readying the city’s police force ahead of planned demonstrations against police violence in the wake of the release next week of a video showing a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer murdering African-American youth Laquan McDonald last year: here.

Twitter Demands To Know What Happened To Sandra Bland. A black woman died in police custody just days before the anniversary of Eric Garner‘s death: here.

Ferguson, USA, new documentary film

This video from the USA says about itself:

A Ferguson Story Short Film (theatrical trailer)

Directed by Award-Winning Filmmaker Lonnie Edwards, A Ferguson Story gives a unique perspective on police aggression and the events following the tragic death of Mike Brown. A meticulously orchestrated culmination of amalgamated footage and sound bites from various amateur photographers, videographers and media outlets narrates this unique documentation of a nation divided.

From Shadow and Act in the USA on this:

Watch Trailer for Powerful Upcoming Documentary, ‘A Ferguson Story’

By Sergio

May 13, 2015 at 9:46PM

It was only a matter of time before we would start seeing the first films about the response in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The images captured the attention of the entire world and brought a whole new wave of political activism, and a sense of urgency, especially to younger people who were, until then, falsely accused of being apathetic to current issues.

Here’s one of the first documentaries about Ferguson, by filmmaker Lonnie Edwards, titled “A Ferguson Story”.

A native of the notorious West Side Austin neighborhood of Chicago, Edwards calls himself “a self-taught director, cinematographer and writer with no formal training,” as well as an installation artist who works in mixed mediums.

His first film, a narrative short titled “Parietal Guidance,” played the film festival circuit last summer, and won several awards, including at the Chicago International Film Fest & New York No Limits Festival.

He is also a company member, playwright and curator at Collaboration Theatre, and a board member, artist and curator at Canvas Collective. If that isn’t enough, he is also a board member of non-profit Austin area based group, Chicago Art Beat Studios, an organization that works with youths suffering from PTSD.

With a “A Ferguson Story,” Edwards says that he was compelled to make it because, “I want the world to realize that the tragic events that transpired brought people together in a way in which we’ve never experienced before”.

He also adds, “I also wanted to bring attention to police aggression and how Ferguson was the pinnacle (in the public’s eye) of police aggression, all eyes were on that case. I just feel as a filmmaker, as an artist, it’s an obligation to create content that the world can see.”

Finally, he says his film is not “a formal documentary.” It is made up of numerous images, soundbites & footage from different media outlets, celebrities news anchors and just ordinary people..

To him, “it represents the amalgamation of the universe, it’s something that I want the viewer to get lost in and have their own perspective but also walk away feeling as if they’ve gotten something out of it. Whether that be motivation to want to make change or gaining knowledge on a subject that you may not even know anything about…At the very least it creates conversations.”

United States anti-war artist Leon Golub, London exhibition

This video from Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Leon Golub – Figuration and Monsters

15 July 2011

Artists Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh talk about the human figure and artistic process in connection with their work on view in the Smart Museum of Art exhibition Go Figure. Learn more here.

By Christine Lindey in London, England:

Accusations from an atrocity exhibition

Saturday 11th April 2015

A retrospective of Leon Golub’s work is a disturbing indictment of US war crimes and torture, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

BORN in Chicago in 1922 to Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Leon Golub (1922-2004) grew up in the shadow of WWI and the “great slump.”

His art studies were interrupted by military service in the second world war, from which he emerged to the unimaginable news of Buchenwald and Hiroshima. Whereas the dominant postwar US aesthetic ridiculed socially committed art and retreated into the inner worlds of Abstract Expressionism, Golub confronted the inhumanity of recent atrocities.

His deliberately inelegant provocations to genteel notions of art were underpinned by layered references to antiquity. After resuming his studies on a GI grant he painted monstrous hybrids and mutilated figures which emerge from roughly applied brush marks, an example being the larger than life size Colossal Torso II of 1959, whose shockingly charred and pitted flesh and truncated body evokes Hiroshima victims.

Yet the painting also refers to the fragmented colossuses of the late Roman empire, whose grandiose abuse of power Golub associated with that of 20th-century US imperialism.

The Vietnam war fully politicised him and in 1964 he became active in New York’s Artists and Writers Protest Group. Conflict became his subject and he searched for ways of making politically committed paintings relevant to modern times. Golub confronted the all-pervasive mass media’s visual language by working from published photographs and transforming these source images into unbearably emotive art by physically challenging the traditional processes and mediums of representational painting.

Working on unprimed, unevenly cut and unstretched canvases, Golub suspended the finished works loosely against the wall from grommets, so subverting the revered status of rectangularly framed paintings.

The figures in the large Gigantomachy series of the mid-1960s are based on contemporary sports photographs combined with images of the antique frieze at Pergamon which depicts the mythological battle between the Giants and Olympian Gods.

The unarmed, naked combatants are depicted on a roughly stained and blotched canvas in unpleasant combinations of purplish magenta, pink and white paint which Golub partially scraped off with a meat cleaver to deepen the impact of the combatants’ flayed flesh. The savagery of his processes paralleled his subjects’ indictment of warfare.

The Napalm and Vietnam War series which followed now referred to specific events and Golub attacked his canvases with greater savagery. With large chunks cut out of them, the scorched, scarred and splotched canvases mirror the violence of the depicted US army atrocities whose vileness are conveyed by deliberately awkward drawing, compositions and morose colour.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Golub produced his greatest works. These included the Mercenaries and Interrogators series — gigantic accusatory history paintings exposing US imperialist support of the odious counter-insurgency methods by Latin American dictatorships.

Intimidating, larger than life-size armed and uniformed soldiers and police are captured in acts of torture or military bravado as they loom over us.

Based on magazine photographs of mercenaries, the men in bright blue or green and buff uniforms are painted against flat undifferentiated red oxide or maroon backgrounds, so preventing distractions from the gruesome acts.

The men leer and grin grotesquely in awkward poses, as in a film still’s arrested motion, and their macho body language and callous expressions convey the dehumanising effects of alienation.

These paintings go beyond simple accusations of individual acts of cruelty. Like Goya’s Disasters of War they portray the perpetuators of brutal acts as desensitised products of inhumane governments whose purpose is to retain power for the powerful.

In his late paintings, Golub raged against the dystopia of urban decay, the horrors of ageing and impending death in graffiti influenced works, an example being Fuck Death of 1999.

His work is not for the faint-hearted. The visceral directness of his scenes of war and torture assault our gaze. Yet their rawness of expression is contradicted by the depth of meaning which percolates from his erudite understanding of art history, mass media and politics.

The paintings are intentionally difficult to look at and defy lengthy contemplation. In discussion with the artist Martha Rosler, Golub said: “Film passes through, painting sits on the wall. I take the fact that painting isn’t moving and I make it unendurable — you can’t sit in front of it. I myself have jumped at my own paintings.” Yet they burn with an honesty and directness which resonate long after seeing them because they cut to the core of political and social injustice.

Given the massive scale of Golub’s paintings and prolific output, a larger venue would have better suited this retrospective. The Serpentine Galleries’ exhibition over-represents his late works and omits loans from major public museums. But it does give very welcome exposure to this important artist and its display of four 1980s history paintings in the rotunda do him full justice as does the imaginative and beautifully produced catalogue. Recommended.

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue runs at Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 until May 17, opening times: serpentinegalleries.org. Free.

Friesland moth atlas now on the Internet

This video from Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Moths vs Butterflies

9 October 2013

Wherein we explore the order Lepidoptera!

Huge thanks to Jim Boone, collection manager of insects for making this episode possible. Check out his episode from the Chicago Adventure series!

Translated from the Dutch Butterfly Foundation:

Monday, March 30th, 2015

In Friesland for many years already there has been attention for moths. The regional Butterfly Working Group has been working for years at an overview of the Frisian moths. Now the provisional Atlas of the macro-moths is available digitally. In this atlas you can find distribution maps of all 674 (!) species known from the province. …

For those interested, the digital atlas is available by clicking on this link. Due to the size of the file (288 MB), it takes a while before it is loaded.

Great horned owl swimming, video

This video from the USA says about itself:

Great Horned Owl Doing Breast Stroke

2 December 2014

This owl was forced down into Lake Michigan by two Peregrine Falcons. Taken at Loyola Park Beach in Rogers Park, Chicago.
Taken with a Panasonic GX7 and 100-300mm lens, handheld.

David Mizejewski in the USA writes about this:

5 December 2014

This great horned owl was attacked by a pair of peregrine falcons. Though much larger than the falcons, the owl knew better than to fight back against the smaller birds, which kill other birds by dive-bombing into them at speeds of over 200 mph.

Instead, it plunged in to waters of Lake Michigan to escape. Owls and other large birds don’t enter the water willingly, but their light bodies float and they can use their wings to do a breaststroke and swim, as this owl shows.

Fortunately for the owl, it survived the attack and flew away after it reached the shore.

Something else again than the young goshawk which I saw swimming.

British artist Jeff Perks interviewed

This video from the USA says about itself:

Voice of Art – Iraq Veterans Against the War, Pt. 1

29 June 2012

Meet the artists: members Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Chicago chapter. Hear their stories of service and struggle. Learn why they now protest the wars they once participated in.

And this video is the sequel.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Saturday 30th August 2014

Artist JEFF PERKS tells Len Phelan why his stimulating and unabashedly political new show at the Stockport Art Gallery is not ‘a comfy sofa’

IT’S not often that you’ll see a retrospective which packs as political a punch as the one which opens in a few weeks at the Stockport Art Gallery.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa is a must-see exhibition of work by the Derbyshire-based artist Jeff Perks, which wittily and provocatively views the world from an unavowedly socialist perspective. These striking, polemical images and constructions are beautifully crafted.

A filmmaker, painter, printmaker, publisher and sculptor, Perks has had his work on show at the Whitechapel Gallery’s Art For Society exhibition, Race Against Time for the TUC at Congress House and he produced the graphics for Michael Rosen’s enormously popular poem on the history of the slave trade.

Perks is also credited with recently producing the largest lino cut ever made, part of his We Will Not Walk Away From Iraq show at Battersea Arts Centre, a sardonic swipe at Tony Blair’s declaration of intent.

At six feet tall and 21 feet long The Training Ground tells the history and horrors of the British army’s involvement in Ireland and it’ll be on show in Stockport along with prints on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and ceramic sculptures which deal with the politics of everyday life in a humorous and original way.

Explaining the exhibition’s title, Perks is at pains to point out that the retrospective is designed to make us think about why the world is the way it is.

“The painter Henri Matisse described his own work as ‘a comfy sofa for the bourgeoisie to relax in’,” he says. “This exhibition is definitely not a ‘comfy sofa.’

“The work will inevitably be called anti-politician. It is, and against all those men who too quickly rush to solve the problems of our nuclear world by military action,” he stresses. And he’s clear too about the committed nature of his work, citing Pablo Picasso’s declaration that he had never looked on painting as an art “for mere pleasure or amusement.”

Perks left school aged 15 with only two qualifications in art and woodwork, which maybe accounts for his use of so much reclaimed material in his three-dimensional work. “Wherever possible the materials I use are either reclaimed industrial wood or steel or from trees uprooted from storms — this helps to maintain the existing native woodlands and landscape,” he says.

“Their shape both inspires me and defines the resulting sculpture.”

After what seems like a hugely active artistic life, embracing work in advertising, publishing and TV — where he made programmes about artists, cartooning, punk and women comics — Perks sees the Stockport show as a return to his first loves of painting and sculpture.

“You could say my life has come full circle and that at last I’ve put my two O-levels to good use,” he says.

Political Furniture, Not A Comfy Sofa runs from September 20 until October 20 at the Stockport Art Gallery, Wellington Road South, Stockport. Free. The exhibition will be opened by poet and broadcaster Michael Rosen on September 19, details: here.

Sydney spiders bigger than Australian outback spiders

This video from the USA says about itself:

6 June 2011

Get a behind-the-scenes look at this history and creation of this dazzling textile—the only one of its kind in the world—made from the strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders. On view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 2011.

From Wired magazine:

Cities Are Making Spiders Grow Bigger and Multiply Faster

By Nick Stockton

08.20.14, 2:00 pm

Something about city life appears to be causing spiders to grow larger than their rural counterparts. And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, these bigger urban spiders are also multiplying faster.

A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.

The study’s authors collected 222 of the creatures from parks and bushland throughout Sydney, and correlated their sizes to features of the built and natural landscape. …

To measure urbanization, the authors looked primarily at ground cover throughout the city, at several scales, where they collected each spider: Are surfaces mostly paved? Is there a lack of natural vegetation? Lawns as opposed to leaf litter?

“The landscape characteristics most associated with larger size of spiders were hard surfaces (concrete, roads etc) and lack of vegetation,” said Elizabeth Lowe, a Ph.D student studying arachnids at the University of Sydney.

Humped golden orb weavers are a common arachnid along Australia’s east coast. They get their name from their large, bulging thorax, and the gold silk they use to spin their spherical webs. They typically spend their lives in one place, constantly fixing the same web (which can be a meter in diameter). Each web is dominated by a single female, though 4 or 5 much smaller males usually hang around the edges of the web, waiting for an opportunity to mate (only occasionally does the female eat them afterwards).

Paved surfaces and lack of vegetation mean cities are typically warmer than the surrounding countryside. Orb weavers are adapted to warm weather, and tend to grow bigger in hotter temperatures. The correlation between size and urban-ness manifested at every scale. Citywide, larger spiders were found closer to the central business district. And, their immediate surroundings were more likely to be heavily paved and less shady.

More food also leads to bigger spiders, and the scientists believe that human activity attracts a smorgasbord of orb weavers’ favorite prey. Although the study wasn’t designed to determine exactly how the spiders were getting bigger, the researchers speculate that things like street lights, garbage, and fragmented clumps of plant life might attract insects. They also believe that the heat island effect might let urban spiders mate earlier in the year, and might even give them time to hatch multiple broods.

The orb weavers could also be keeping more of what they catch. Because they are such prolific hunters, orb weavers’ webs are usually home to several other species of spiders that steal food. The researchers found that these little kleptos were less common in webs surrounded by pavement and little vegetation.

Lowe says quite a few species of spider are successful in urban areas, and she wouldn’t be surprised if some of these other species were also getting bigger. Despite how terrifying this sounds, she assures me that this is actually a good thing. “They control fly and pest species populations and are food for birds,” she said.

Australian peacock spiders videos: here.