8 Shotgun Wielding Cops Dispatched to Confront College Student Cleaning his Front Yard.

BRLDF: Recently released video shows an intense confrontation initiated by Boulder, Colorado police with an individual cleaning his front yard. Despite the entirely pedestrian nature of this activity, the primary officer believed this to be suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. When the resident naturally became agitated, this officer requested backup, identifying the trash picker pole held by the man as a “blunt object”.  Despite the approximately 20 foot distance between them, this officer wielded a drawn handgun, and rather than retreat (as would seem appropriate if someone believed they were in real physical danger),  repeatedly closed the distance and approached the resident ordering him to “sit down”.

Over the course of the confrontation, which was initiated, provoked and escalated by the Boulder Police, additional Officers arrived, some bearing shotguns, and surrounded the resident. This is an example of “Command and Control” policing, wherein an adversarial dynamic is established between law enforcement & the public. Describing a flimsy maintenance tool as a “blunt object”, repeatedly approaching an agitated individual doing nothing wrong with gun drawn, and ordering him to “sit down”, this cop was establishing legal use of force justification in the event this exchange resulted in violence, or death (to the “suspect”).

This is an example of a police officer abusing his power, more concerned that this totally unjustified investigation did not receive immediate and complete submission. Plainly, this cop felt that his Authority was disrespected, and was determined to show this citizen that he was the boss.

An outrageous violation of the Fourth Amendment, something no American should tolerate, and the exact reason BRLDF was founded.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The city of Boulder should be embarrassed, and unless they’re looking to repeat the Philip Brailsford / Daniel Shaver incident in Mesa, Arizona, this police officer should be removed from active duty as he clearly lacks the maturity to interact with the general public in a sensible manner.

Police in Boulder, Colo., are investigating a March 1 confrontation between officers and a black man picking up trash.

March 7

The Boulder, Colo., police department is conducting an internal investigation after video surfaced of an officer questioning a student who was picking up garbage in front of his residence. The officer has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

On March 1, an officer approached the man as he was sitting in an area behind a private property sign and asked him if he had permission to be there, according to a department release. The Daily Camera reported that the man is a student at Naropa University in Boulder, and the building is listed as a school residence. Police have not publicly named the man or the officer.

The man gave the officer his school identification card and said he both worked and lived in the building. However, the officer continued to investigate and called for backup, “indicating that the person was uncooperative and unwilling to put down a blunt object.”

In the 16-minute video, which appears to have been taken by a friend and fellow building resident after the encounter began, the man can be seen holding a bucket and a trash picker.

“You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash?” the man with the trash picker says.

The man being questioned repeatedly says of the officer, “He’s got a gun!”

“Just relax, man,” the officer responds as sirens are heard and more officers arrive and surround him.

Though a police spokeswoman would not release the number of officers involved, citing the ongoing investigation, at one point the man can be heard saying there are eight officers “with guns drawn.” The video appears to show at least one officer, on the far left, holding a gun before putting it away.

Police chief Greg Testa rebutted these particular claims made in the video at a city council meeting on Tuesday, saying “Body-worn camera video indicates that only one officer had a handgun out and it was pointed in the ground.”

The man who was stopped by police and the person taking the video repeatedly assert to the officers that the man lived there and was only picking up garbage.

An officer can be heard assuring the man, who is agitated by the encounter, that “my plan is not to shoot you.” The encounter continues for several minutes until an officer says “we’ve decided we’re going to end things at this point.”

“Officers ultimately determined that the man had a legal right to be on the property and returned the man’s school identification card,” the Boulder police department release states. “All officers left the area and no further action was taken.”

“We began looking into the incident on Friday, shortly after it occurred, and quickly made the decision that we needed to launch an internal affairs investigation,” Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Aulabaugh said in an emailed statement.

“Our internal affairs investigation will include a review of all body worn camera video, interviews of everyone involved which includes both officers and community members, reports and all other related information,” she said.

Testa said in a prepared statement before the city council that “this is an extremely concerning issue and one that we are taking very seriously.” Members of the public who attended the hearing carried signs and trash pickers, the Daily Camera reported.

“While it appears that the officers responding to the requests for backup followed standard procedures given the information they heard over the radio, all aspects of this incident, specifically the actions of the initial officer, are being investigated,” he said.

“I am not aware of any information that the man did anything unlawful or wrong,” Testa said.

Charles Lief, president of Naropa University, also spoke at the hearing. “I do not want to underestimate the amount of trauma that was experienced by our student, who was the victim in this situation,” he said. He noted that he spoke to the man’s mother and “she has made clear that her son is not interested in becoming a symbol for any issue that we have to deal with in this city.”

“The incident that impacted him is going to be one that’s going to take him a long time to deal with,” Lief said. “The city can’t wait that long for us to talk about the broader issues that we have to address.”


In California, the fight over a secret list of criminal cops


ON JANUARY 8, A LIST OF 12,000 NAMES arrived in the inboxes of Robert Lewis and Jason Paladino, reporters with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. The reporters had filed public records requests with the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training in 2018 for the names of California law enforcement officers and applicants for police jobs who have been convicted of a crime in the past 10 years.

There were many stories in it — the list included current and former officers with serious felonies on their records — but Lewis, Paladino, and their editors weren’t sure what the story was. Three weeks later, when the journalists received a letter from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, telling them to destroy the records and claiming that possessing them was a criminal offense, they knew what the story would be. The headline, as it ran February 26 in both the East Bay Times and the website for the public radio station KQED: “California keeps a secret list of criminal cops, but says you can’t have it.”

“In some ways, the story is that letter—the fact that the attorney general doesn’t want these records out there,” Paladino says.

Paladino and Lewis are still working with the data, checking names to make sure they’ve identified the right people and looking up individual cases in county courthouses. Thousands of the names on the list don’t belong to police officers, but Paladino and Lewis matched about 3,500 names on the list to officers in state personnel databases, and 2,250 of them have been active within the past five years.

RELATED: The ‘really dangerous’ precedent for reclaiming public records

The letter from Becerra’s office isn’t slowing them down, though they say it is distressing. “I’m very hopeful that this is just sort of an idle threat,” says Lewis, who works for Investigative Studios, a nonprofit production company affiliated with the university program. “I’ve been a reporter for more than 15 years, and I’ve never had anything like this happen on a story.”

The letter, from Deputy Attorney General Michelle Mitchell, makes two core claims. The first is that the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training released the records “inadvertently,” and their release should be effectively undone by the UC Berkeley team destroying the records. (The Golden State’s supreme court ruled in 2016 to protect reclamation of inadvertently released materials; such claims remain rare outside of California.) The records never should have been released, the letter claims, because they were drawn from a confidential law enforcement database of criminal records. Second, Mitchell’s letter warns Lewis and Paladino, “you are hereby on notice that the unauthorized receipt or possession” of the records is a misdemeanor (emphasis in the original letter).

I hold the attorney general’s office in high regard … but I do not know how this letter got out of the AG’s office.

Lewis and Paladino, and their editors and attorneys, dispute both claims. The commission’s release of the records was clearly intentional, they say, pointing to a month of back-and-forth between the reporters and the commission about what records to gather and how long they would take to produce. The reporters made their requests on December 6; at no point, they say, did anyone at the commission suggest the records should be exempt from disclosure. The spreadsheet itself is composed of information that is public, available in federal and state court filings.

The threat of criminal liability for possession of the records appears unfounded in California law. Mitchell’s letter cites a state law that says it is a misdemeanor for an unauthorized person to buy, receive, or possess records or information from the state criminal records database. However, that law has an exemption for anyone covered by the state’s media shield law, including reporters, editors, and anyone “connected with or employed by” a news organization.

ICYMI: A reporter asked for 20 years of lottery winner data. After analyzing the records, he noticed something unusual.

“Given the plain language of the statute, there is no way they can credibly threaten prosecution,” James Wheaton, the founder and senior counsel of the First Amendment Project, says.

“I hold the attorney general’s office in high regard … but I do not know how this letter got out of the AG’s office,” Wheaton, who since this story’s publication has been retained by Paladino, says. “I hate to say it, but it’s a bullying tactic: send a shot across the bow, throw around words like ‘misdemeanor,’ and see if you can scare somebody.”

The attorney general’s office did not make anyone available for an interview. Instead, it provided a statement repeating its position as outlined in the letter. The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training did not reply to an interview request.

This isn’t Becerra’s only tangle with the media over records of police misconduct. He’s being sued by the First Amendment Coalition for his refusal to turn over records from internal investigations of alleged law enforcement misconduct. Such records have historically been kept secret in California, even from prosecutors and defense attorneys, making it one of the worst statesfor public access to law enforcement records.

A new law that went into effect January 1 changes some of that, requiring the release of records in cases of officer shootings or other major uses of force, as well as proven sexual assaults and dishonesty on the job.

Police unions claim the law should only apply to records created after January 1. Trial courts in the state have come down on both sides, but most courts in the state’s large counties have ruled in favor of releasing the records. Becerra has said in court filings that the law should apply to older records, but his office still refuses to turn over its own pre-2019 files.

“The attorney general has been really disappointing,” John Temple, the director of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, says. “I don’t know the AG, and I’m not trying to cast any aspersions on his character, but I’d say as a leader, when it comes to the public’s right to know, he’s been disappointing at best and terrible at worst.”


“In California, the fight over a secret list of criminal cops”, Tony Biasotti, MARCH 4, 2019, https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/berkeley-becerra-police-records.php

Looking for Details on Rogue N.Y. Police Officers? This Database Might Help

Some New York City police officers are sued more often than others. The Legal Aid Society has created a searchable database of 2,300 lawsuits filed against city police officers since 2015. Karsten Moran for The New York Times

By Ali Winston, March 6, 2019

For decades, New York has gone further than most states in keeping police misconduct records confidential, even as high-profile incidents like Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island at the hands of police officers prompted calls from civil-rights advocates for more transparency and accountability.

The Legal Aid Society took a step on Wednesday toward lifting the veil on allegations of police misconduct by releasing a detailed database that collates and analyzes about 2,300 lawsuits filed against New York City police officers since 2015.

[Here is the database.]

Legal Aid’s decision to create a public database of lawsuits is part of a national push by civil rights groups and journalists to document and analyze police misconduct. The effort has gathered momentum in recent years after a series of fatal shootings by the police sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. It has also drawn criticism from police unions in New York and elsewhere, who argue many allegations against officers are false.

In California, police unions are in a protracted court battle with civil rights groups and media organizations over a law that makes public substantiated incidents of officer misconduct. And a journalism organization in Chicago has published a database of decades of misconduct complaints, which has led to several policy changes.

The New York City database, named CAPstat, is searchable by an officer’s name, unit, precinct and type of allegation — or by the names of the people filing suit. The data includes court records, news articles and published decisions about officers that defense attorneys have obtained.

To date, the database includes 2,339 lawsuits filed from January 2015 through mid-2018 against 3,897 officers, as well as internal disciplinary records for about 1,800 officers accused of misconduct between 2011 and 2015.

The database includes a summary of the complaint and the outcome of each case, but the Legal Aid Society said it cannot vouch for the accuracy of all the allegations, since many suits are settled without the police admitting wrongdoing.

Still, Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society who is spearheading the database project with the group’s Cop Accountability Project team, said one aim is to identify, track and analyze patterns of misconduct.

“Our interest is not just who is a bad officer,” Ms. Conti-Cook said. “The interest is in which commands are really cultivating the type of misconduct that systematically goes undisciplined, completely unchecked, unsupervised and allows officers to act without any accountability?”


Police union leaders said the database included false allegations and frivolous lawsuits that could be used to help defendants who are guilty to undermine the credibility of police witnesses at trial.

“The intent of this database is clearly to help guilty criminals beat the charges against them,” Patrick Lynch, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president, said in an email. “By publishing this database online, they will be doing even greater damage: Anyone with a grudge against cops will be free to peruse the false and frivolous allegations against specific officers and use them as inspiration for a campaign of harassment, intimidation or worse.”

Many officers regard the roughly 3,000 lawsuits filed each year against the police as a cottage industry. They argue that in too many cases, people with flimsy complaints sue, knowing the city will find it cheaper to settle than to take the case to trial.

New York law prohibits the release of results of internal police investigations, deeming them personnel records. Judicial findings about officers who commit perjury are difficult to collect since they are not centrally recorded or archived. As a result, civil suits against officers are one of the few public, though imperfect, measures that can be used to gauge police misconduct, public defenders said.

The Police Department said in an email that “not all lawsuits filed for money have legal merit.”

“The ones that do can be valuable tools we use to improve officer performance and enhance training or policy where necessary,” the department said.

The lawsuits in the CAPstat database are public records taken from federal and state court websites. The database will include lawsuits that were dismissed or settled out of court. It will also incorporate four years of internal disciplinary records leaked to Buzzfeed News last year, even though those records are confidential under state law.

Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies misconduct suits, said the CAPstat database could also be used by the police and city officials to identify problematic officers and units.

The current version of CAPstat includes a tool that allows users to see where the officers who have been sued for misconduct work, and with whom. The site also lets people map precincts with high numbers of officers who have been sued. The commands with the highest volume of complaints include the plainclothes narcotics units in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Other specialized units, like the Police Department’s gang squads, are also sued for misconduct more frequently than most patrol officers, the data shows. There are 132 gang squad officers included in the database who have been sued a total of 130 times.

There have been a higher number of lawsuits in some districts than others, led by the 75th Precinct, which covers East New York and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn.

“An officer can go completely under our radar for 10 years in a different command and as soon as they go there, they end up getting sued,” said Julie Ciccolini, a database administrator at the Legal Aid Society, who supervised the design of CAPstat.

Certain officers have been the target of many civil complaints as well.

Abdiel Anderson, a detective from Bronx Narcotics, has been the target of 44 lawsuits since 2015, the most of any officer, according to the database.

Sgt. David Grieco, a veteran anti-crime detective who worked in the 75th Precinct for years and was known as “Bullethead” on the street, has been sued at least 31 times, resulting in at least $410,752 in settlement payments, the data shows.

Detective Anderson and Sergeant Grieco did not return calls for comment.

“We hope that this is a tool for the city to identify patterns and address common patterns of misconduct that are pretty obvious if you digest the lawsuits that are coming in and being served on the city,” Ms. Conti-Cook said.

Ali Winston, March 6, 2019, NYTimes, “Looking for Details on Rogue N.Y. Police Officers? This Database Might Help”, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/nyregion/nypd-capstat-legal-aid-society.html



Forced Blood Draws & Implied Consent Laws Make a Mockery of the Fourth Amendment

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

You think you’ve got rights? Think again.

All of those freedoms we cherish—the ones enshrined in the Constitution, the ones that affirm our right to free speech and assembly, due process, privacy, bodily integrity, the right to not have police seize our property without a warrant, or search and detain us without probable cause—amount to nothing when the government and its agents are allowed to disregard those prohibitions on government overreach at will.

This is the grim reality of life in the American police state.

Our so-called rights have been reduced to technicalities in the face of the government’s ongoing power grabs.

Consider a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (Mitchell vs. Wisconsin) in which Wisconsin police officers read an unconscious man his rights and then proceeded to forcibly and warrantlessly draw his blood while he was still unconscious in order to determine if he could be charged with a DUI.

To sanction this forced blood draw, the cops and the courts have hitched their wagon to state “implied consent” laws (all of the states have them), which suggest that merely driving on a state-owned road implies that a person has consented to police sobriety tests, breathalyzers and blood draws.

More than half of the states (29 states) allow police to do warrantless, forced blood draws on unconscious individuals whom they suspect of driving while intoxicated.

Seven state appeals courts have declared these warrantless blood draws when carried out on unconscious suspects are unconstitutional. Courts in seven other states have found that implied consent laws run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. And yet seven other states (including Wisconsin) have ruled that implied consent laws provide police with a free pass when it comes to the Fourth Amendment and forced blood draws.

With this much division among the state courts, a lot is riding on which way the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Mitchell and whether it allows state legislatures to use implied consent laws as a means of allowing police to bypass the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in relation to forced blood draws and unconscious suspects.

Mind you, this is the third time in as many years that the Supreme Court has taken up the issue of warrantless blood draws.

In 2016, the Court ruled 7-1 in Birchfield v. North Dakota that states may not prosecute suspected drunken drivers for refusing warrantless blood draws when they are arrested. However, the Court also tossed the cops a bone by giving them a green light to require a warrantless breath test incident to arrest. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito rightly recognized the danger of allowing the government to warrantlessly take possession of—and preserve indefinitely—one’s biological and genetic material.

In 2013, a divided Supreme Court held in Missouri v. McNeely that people suspected of drunken driving can’t automatically be subjected to blood tests without a warrant and without their consent.

The differences between McNeely, Birchfeld and Mitchell are nuanced, but it is in these nuances that the struggle to preserve the Fourth Amendment can best be seen.

The Fourth Amendment has been on life support for a long time.

Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be strangulated by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Worse, on a daily basis, Americans are being made to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States: we are now guilty until proven innocent.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, property is being seized on the slightest hint of suspicious activity, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Remember what happened to Utah nurse Alex Wubbels after a police detective demanded to take blood from a badly injured, unconscious patient without a warrant?

Wubbels refused to go along with the cop’s order, citing hospital policy that requires police to either have a warrant or permission from the patient in order to draw blood.

The detective had neither.

Irate, the detective threatened to have Wubbels arrested if she didn’t comply. Backed up by her supervisors, Wubbels respectfully stood her ground only to be roughly grabbed, shoved out of the hospital, handcuffed and forced into an unmarked car while hospital police looked on and failed to intervene (take a look at the police body camera footage, which went viral, and see for yourself).

Michael Chorosky didn’t have an advocate like Wubbels to stand guard over his Fourth Amendment rights. Chorosky was surrounded by police, strapped to a gurney and then had his blood forcibly drawn after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. “What country is this? What country is this?” cried Chorosky during the forced blood draw.

What country is this indeed?

Unfortunately, forced blood draws are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the indignities and abuses being heaped on Americans in the so-called name of “national security.”

For example, 21-year-old Charnesia Corley was allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. No drugs were found in the car.

As the Houston Chronicle reported:

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then…Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

The cavity search lasted 11 minutes. This practice is referred to as “rape by cop.”

Corley was eventually charged with resisting arrest and with possession of 0.2 grams of marijuana. Those charges were subsequently dropped.

David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found.

During a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. No contraband or anything illegal was found.

Thirty-eight-year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, the trooper proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

Sixty-nine-year-old Gerald Dickson was handcuffed and taken into custody (although not arrested or charged with any crime) after giving a ride to a neighbor’s son, whom police suspected of being a drug dealer. Despite Dickson’s insistence that the bulge under his shirt was the result of a botched hernia surgery, police ordered Dickson to “strip off his clothes, bend over and expose all of his private parts. No drugs or contraband were found.”

Meanwhile, four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

A North Carolina public school allegedly strip-searched a 10-year-old boy in search of a $20 bill lost by another student, despite the fact that the boy, J.C., twice told school officials he did not have the missing money. The assistant principal reportedly ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear. The missing money was later found in the school cafeteria.

Suspecting that Georgia Tech alum Mary Clayton might have been attempting to smuggle a Chik-Fil-A sandwich into the football stadium, a Georgia Tech police officer allegedly subjected the season ticket-holder to a strip search that included a close examination of her underwear and bra. No contraband chicken was found.

What these incidents show is that while forced searches may span a broad spectrum of methods and scenarios, the common denominator remains the same: a complete disregard for the dignity and rights of the citizenry.

In fact, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlison, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include: individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, making an improper left turn, engaging in an antiwar demonstration (the individual searched was a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years).

Police have also carried out strip searches for passing a bad check, dog leash violations, filing a false police report, failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn, having outstanding parking tickets, and public intoxication. A failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search.

As technology advances, these searches are becoming more invasive on a cellular level, as well.

For instance, close to 600 motorists leaving Penn State University one Friday night were stopped by police and, without their knowledge or consent, subjected to a breathalyzer test using flashlights that can detect the presence of alcohol on a person’s breath.

These passive alcohol sensors are being hailed as a new weapon in the fight against DUIs. (Those who refuse to knowingly submit to a breathalyzer test are being subjected to forced blood draws. Thirty states presently allow police to do forced blood draws on drivers as part of a nationwide “No Refusal” initiative funded by the federal government.

Not even court rulings declaring such practices to be unconstitutional in the absence of a warrant have slowed down the process. Now police simply keep a magistrate on call to rubber stamp the procedure over the phone.)

The National Highway Safety Administration, the same government agency that funds the “No Refusal” DUI checkpoints and forcible blood draws, is also funding nationwide roadblocks aimed at getting drivers to “voluntarily” provide police with DNA derived from saliva and blood samples, reportedly to study inebriation patterns.

In at least 28 states, there’s nothing voluntary about having one’s DNA collected by police in instances where you’ve been arrested, whether or not you’re actually convicted of a crime.

All of this DNA data is being fed to the federal government.

Airline passengers, already subjected to virtual strip searches, are now being scrutinized even more closely, with the Customs and Border Protection agency tasking airport officials with monitoring the bowel movements of passengers suspected of ingesting drugs. They even have a special hi-tech toilet designed to filter through a person’s fecal waste.

Iris scans, an essential part of the U.S. military’s boots-on-the-ground approach to keeping track of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, are becoming a de facto method of building the government’s already mammoth biometrics database. Funded by the Dept. of Justice, along with other federal agencies, the iris scan technology is being incorporated into police precincts, jails, immigration checkpoints, airports and even schools. School officials—from elementary to college—have begun using iris scans in place of traditional ID cards. As for parents wanting to pick their kids up from school, they have to first submit to an iris scan.

As for those endless pictures everyone so cheerfully uploads to Facebook (which has the largest facial recognition database in the world) or anywhere else on the internet, they’re all being accessed by the police, filtered with facial recognition software, uploaded into the government’s mammoth biometrics database and cross-checked against its criminal files. With good reason, civil libertarians fear these databases could “someday be used for monitoring political rallies, sporting events or even busy downtown areas.”

While the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent government officials from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause—evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot—the founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy, including on a cellular level.

Yet that’s exactly what we are lacking and what we so desperately need.

Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state—whether or not we’ve done anything wrong—are just a foretaste of what is to come.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to tie you to a gurney and forcibly take your blood or strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods—less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering—of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our bodies or our lives.

Syracuse’s legal bill for police brutality case leaps to $2.2M as city continues fight

Alonzo Grant, right, and his wife Stephanie Grant with his lawyers in back Charles Bonner and Jesse Ryder, Oct. 24, 2018. Grant won a suit against the city of Syracuse in a police abuse case.

Alonzo Grant, right, and his wife Stephanie Grant with his lawyers in back Charles Bonner and Jesse Ryder, Oct. 24, 2018. Grant won a suit against the city of Syracuse in a police abuse case.

The City of Syracuse is appealing a $1.5 million verdict awarded by a jury last year to the family of a man beaten by police.

Syracuse taxpayers are currently on the hook for more than $2.2 million in the case of Alonzo Grant, who was bloodied by two police officers when they arrested him in June 2014. The jury awarded Grant and his wife $1.5 million. A judge ordered the city to pay more than $600,000 in fees and expenses to Grant’s legal team.

Grant was arrested on June 28, 2014 after he called 911 for help with a family dispute. Officers Damon Lockett and Paul Montalto said Grant was “highly agitated” when they arrived at the home. They said Grant’s behaviors justified what became a violent arrest, in which Grant was punched multiple times and struck by the officers’ knees.

Grant was charged at the time with disorderly conduct, but District Attorney William Fitzpatrick dropped the charges, publicly announcing that Grant had done “nothing wrong.” Fitzpatrick testified on Grant’s behalf at trial.

Grant, 58, sued for wrongful arrest and excessive force. The jury sided with him after a nine-day trial in which 28 witnesses testified.

The legal bills could continue to add up for the City of Syracuse as it pursues an appeal.

Grant’s legal team, led by Charles Bonner, who is based in Sausalito, Calif., have already billed for more than $22,000 for post-trial work. If the city is unsuccessful in its appeal, it would likely have to pay some or all of those costs.

Syracuse was billed $88,838 by its own outside attorney, John Powers of Hancock Estabrook, who represented the city at trial. The city said he charged a discounted rate of $240 per hour. So far, just in-house city lawyer Todd Long is handling the appeal, according to court papers.

The city is fighting the verdict and the legal bills. It appealed the case to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last week.

The city argues that U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence of how Syracuse’s Citizen Review Board handled allegations pertaining to the case.

The Citizen Review Board is a city agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct, made up of appointees by the mayor and city council. The CRB reviewed Grant’s case prior to the lawsuit. Evidence of the review, and what the city did with the CRB’s recommendations, was introduced at trial. The City of Syracuse argues this was a “miscarriage of justice” that prejudiced the jury.

The city has also contested Grant’s legal bills.

A jury found that Damon Lockett and Paul Montalto used excessive force and wrongly arrested a Syracuse man at his home in June 2014.

A jury found that Damon Lockett and Paul Montalto used excessive force and wrongly arrested a Syracuse man at his home in June 2014.

Bonner and two attorneys working with him requested more than $1.5 million in legal fees and expenses. The city argued it should not have to pay for things like flights, hotels and meals that included a $400 victory lunch with bottles of wine, oysters, clams and lobster.

Judge Hurd agreed in part, lowering the bill to $639,226.50. Hurd noted that Bonner was a highly-regarded lawyer with expertise in representing plaintiffs in civil rights cases. He also noted it was “unreasonable” to bill the city for $400-plus meals and other superfluous costs. He determined Bonner should be paid $350 per hour, a standard rate for attorneys who work on federal cases in the Upstate New York region.

The City of Syracuse has asked a judge to “stay” the case during the appeals process. The city is asking that it not have to pay Grant and his attorneys until the appeal is decided. Syracuse would likely have to issue a bond to cover the expense of the award and attorneys’ fees, according to court papers.

It would cost the City of Syracuse about $33,000 to purchase a $2,219,226 bond through its insurance broker Haylor, Freyer & Coon Inc., court papers said. That cost could not be recovered if the city was successful in its appeal.


Julie McMahon, “Syracuse’s legal bill for police brutality case leaps to $2.2M as city continues fight”, https://www.syracuse.com/news/2019/03/syracuses-legal-bill-for-police-brutality-case-leaps-to-22m-as-city-continues-fight.html


FEBRUARY 28, 2019

NEW YORK – Today, a New York court ruled that the independent city agency to investigate civilian complaints of misconduct by the NYPD, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), could lawfully investigate complaints of sexual harassment.

Last year after the CCRB announced that it would begin to investigate sexual misconduct complaints, the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), filed a lawsuit challenging the CCRB’s sexual misconduct resolution. The challenge sought to keep investigations of sexual abuse allegations under the control of the NYPD and out of the public eye, arguing that police misconduct was not an “abuse of authority.” The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project filed an amicus brief supporting the CCRB against the PBA’s challenge.

In response to today’s decision, the New York Civil Liberties Union released the following statement from Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

“We know what happens when the police are left to police themselves. Today’s ruling affirms that sexual abuse is a grave form of police misconduct and should be reviewed by the CCRB to help ensure that investigations are transparent and fair. Survivors of sexual harassment have been silenced for far too long but today’s decision is a welcome first-step toward increased police accountability.”


“COURT REJECTS CLAIM THAT SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IS NOT POLICE MISCONDUCT”, FEBRUARY 28, 2019, https://www.nyclu.org/en/press-releases/court-rejects-claim-sexual-misconduct-not-police-misconduct

When Kamala Harris Turned a Blind Eye to Police Brutality

When Kamala Harris Turned a Blind Eye to Police Brutality

“They just started shooting everyone,” a woman sobs. “They shot at little kids too.” The video, from a July 21, 2012 report by CBS News affiliate KCAL, shows Anaheim police firing bean bag shotguns into a crowd of men, women, and young children that had gathered earlier in the day after one of the officers shot and killed an unarmed Latino man from the neighborhood during a chase. At one point, a police dog rushes into the fray.

At the time, Kamala Harris—now a favorite in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary—was California’s Attorney general. Despite public outcry and growing unrest, her office did not conduct an independent investigation into the events of that Sunday nor into the events that followed.

It all began shortly before 4 p.m. Two Anaheim police officers, on patrol in the heavily hispanic neighborhood around the 700 block of North Anna Drive, received an anonymous tip that men were loitering in a nearby alley. They arrived on the scene to find 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz leaning into a car window. Suspecting a drug deal, the officers ordered everyone to stop what they were doing. Diaz took off running. Officer Nick Bennallack briefly gave chase before drawing his gun and fatally shooting the fleeing man as he turned to look behind him—once in the buttock and once in the back of the head. Bennallack would later testify in court that he saw Diaz throw an object he thought was a weapon, but only a cell phone was found nearby. As Diaz lay dying, the officers reportedly cuffed him and called for backup. They did not immediatelyadminister first aid. Diaz was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Cell phone footage shows officers standing around Diaz’s body

The shooting took place in the courtyard of an apartment complex and it wasn’t long before a crowd of angry residents began to gather at the scene. A confrontation ensued, resulting in more violence. Protesters allegedly threw rocks and bottles at police and set a dumpster on fire. Police responded with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.

The footage is difficult to watch. Screaming and sobbing can be heard as officers coolly aim their weapons into the crowd. A series of loud pops ring out as they fire. A police dog attacks a mother with her baby and bites a boy before an officer rushes over to control the animal. Police would later say that the dog’s involvement was accidental and that it had escaped an unmanned cruiser.

Local press reported that officers had offered to buy cell phone videos of what had transpired from bystanders.

The next day, protests continued and Anaheim police officers killed another man, Joel Acevedo, during a foot chase. He too was shot in the back of the head. Acevedo’s death marked the year’s fifth police killing and the sixth police shooting.

That same day, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait held a press conference at police department headquarters and called on Harris’ office to conduct an investigation. “Transparency is essential,” he said, promising that “whatever the truth is, we will own it.” Angry protesters swarmed the lobby.

For a moment it did look like an independent investigation by the AG was imminent. A report from the New York Times on July 25 claimed Harris’ office was indeed looking into the matter. However, there is evidence directly contradicting this claim—Paste contacted the Times, and an assistant in the Standards Department wrote the following: “We make every effort to correct errors when they are brought to our attention in a reasonable period of time. After that, I’m afraid, we do not alter them.” A follow-up email requesting any evidence for the claim went unanswered. On the same day as the Times story, Reuters reported that the Orange County District Attorney’s office was conducting the investigation into the shootings, and the Anaheim city council had voted to ask the U.S. Attorney and FBI to launch a probe, the findings of which would be reviewed by the AG’s office.

Five days later, on July 30, activists delivered a petition to Harris’ office with roughly 18,000 digital signatures, demanding that she conduct an independent investigation. A representative for her office told KABC that Harris intended to wait for the Orange County DA’s office to conclude its investigation before deciding whether or not to look into the matter. Nothing came of it. A public information assistant with the Attorney General’s office told Paste that there was no record of press releases related to any such investigation surrounding the Diaz killing. A subsequent formal public records request yielded nothing when the AG’s office took an extension and then missed their own deadline. Harris’ campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Ultimately, the Orange County DA would clear the officers of any wrongdoing, no charges would be filed, and nobody was fired. Even after that, Harris chose not to start an independent investigation. Officer Bennallack is, to this day, on the force. However, in 2017, a federal jury found that he had used excessive force and awarded Diaz’s family $200,000 in damages.

The incidents left a lasting scar on the city. To rebuild public trust, the Anaheim Police Department implemented a series of reforms including the creation of the Chief’s Neighborhood Advisory Council with representatives from 22 neighborhoods across the city who meet with the police chief and command staff monthly, a Homeless Outreach Team and Psychological Emergency Response Team (PERT), which has two mental health clinicians on staff. The Department also expanded its community policing teams and youth services detail.

“The Anaheim Police Department has worked really hard on building trust with the community following the events of 2012,” spokesperson Sergeant Daron Wyatt told Paste over email.

Harris’ inaction in these matters could be written off as not wanting to interfere with an ongoing investigation by the Orange County DA’s office, but it’s important to note that she didn’t act even after that investigation concluded (and prompted another public outcry). Nor was this refusal an isolated incident; indeed, it was a feature of her time as AG. Although she did oversee the creation and implementation of an implicit bias and procedural justice training program for California law enforcement officers, she notably opposed legislation that would have required her office to independently investigate police shootings like the ones in Anaheim. She also spoke out against another proposal to mandate officer body cameras. “I as a general matter believe that we should invest in the ability of law enforcement leaders in specific regions and with their departments to use … discretion to figure out what technology they are going to adopt based on needs that they have and resources that they have,” she explained.

For her campaign, Harris has leaned into her law enforcement background, characterizing herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” But that record has proven problematic for some Democrats as more has come to light—particularly involving her truancy crackdown and her decision not to prosecute OneWest, the bank Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin owned during the financial crisis. Harris’ failure to investigate the high profile acts of police violence in Anaheim is another troubling example of how her pursuit of justice apparently had limits.


Walker Bragman, February 28, 2019, “When Kamala Harris Turned a Blind Eye to Police Brutality”, https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/02/they-shot-at-little-kids-too-when-kamala-harris-tu.html

Buffalo police officer acquitted of three brutality charges

  FEB 26, 2019

The jury in the trial of Buffalo Police Officer Corey Krug was dismissed Tuesday, after reaching a partial verdict. But as WBFO’s Chris Caya reports, Krug’s legal troubles may not be over yet.


Krug was accused by three men of using excessive force while he was on duty. The jury spent nearly eight days deliberating and found him not guilty on three counts. They were deadlocked on the fourth count.

A video of the 2014 incident, on Chippewa Street, showed Krug using his nightstick on Devin Ford who claimed he was assaulted without cause. Krug was represented by Attorney Terry Connors.

“I said a number of years ago when this first occurred that we think that the video actually helps us because the video shows how that individual grabbed the baton, grabbed the impact weapon, and how it put him in a struggle that he had to prevail,” Connors said.

The defense was covered by the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association. Its President John Evans says he never thought prosecutors had a strong case against Krug. But Evans is concerned about how it may impact police officers.

“It seems to me that any force is now deemed to be excessive, right? I mean judging from the accusations  made against Corey throughout this it makes you not want to ever use any force. You know – put yourself through this, federal court, over going to work one day. It’s not good in my opinion,” Evans said.

In a written statement following the verdict, U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said federal prosecutors accept the jury’s verdict and will be seeking an immediate retrial of Krug on count four.


Chris Caya,   FEB 26, 2019, “Buffalo police officer acquitted of three brutality charges”, https://news.wbfo.org/post/buffalo-police-officer-acquitted-three-brutality-charges

Video of man being beaten in Buffalo lockup released

Feb 22, 2019

City of Buffalo Cell Block Attendant Matthew Jaskula assaults Shaun Porter on May 19, 2016 (snapshot from video footage)
Credit City of Buffalo

A video showing the 2016 beating of a man in the Buffalo Police lockup has gone public.

The footage shows cell block attendant Matthew Jaskula throwing suspect Shaun Porter to the floor, opening a bloody wound and then dragging him to a room. Two Buffalo police officers are seen standing by and watching.


Earlier this week, the City of Buffalo settled with Porter for $300,000. Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera, a former Buffalo Police officer, said there is no justification for using the force shown in the video.


Matthew Jaskula (right) leaves federal court in 2017 after pleading guilty to deprivation of civil rights in the 2016 incident inside the Buffalo Police jail cell block.

“I think we just have to go back and we have to make sure that this isn’t repeated again,” said Rivera. “The fact that this cell block attendant and these police officers were punished will send a signal to other police officers and other cell block attendants that you can’t do that. You just cannot use excessive force on prisoners or anyone, for that matter.”

Renowned personal injury attorney John Elmore points out that Jaskula was not a police officer. Even so, Elmore said cell bock attendants need to be properly trained to avoid behaving as Jaskula did

“Still, there has to be a process of selecting, weeding out those bad people at the academy,” said Elmore. “There has to be adequate supervision to make sure that never happens again, because what was shown on that tape was disgusting and should never be. Our taxpayers deserve better.”

Elmore said he is disappointed it took the city this long to reach a settlement. He agreed the video shows blatant excessive use of force that caused injury.

“The fact that they did nothing, I think, is a sign that there is a culture in the cell block which allowed that to happened and that culture needs to be changed,” Elmore said, “and certainly, culture changes begin with the administration at the top.”

Rivera, meanwhile, suggested that while $300,000 is a lot of taxpayer money, Porter could have sued the city for many millions more.

“Going forward, we want to limit the city’s liability, period. We want to make sure that incidents like this do not reoccur,” Rivera said, “and videos like this should be part of the training, so police officers can see that, even if you’re there, you have to do something. You just can’t allow anything like this from occuring in your presence.”

Civil Rights Attorney Matt Albert said he isn’t surprised by the video and that police violence and brutality  has become normalized.

“It’s just the rare occasion when it’s actually caught on film and when that film is, after years and years of struggle, ordered to be released that it comes to the forefront of our attention,” Albert said. “When I see that video, it just screams for the absolute need to install body cams on every officer in their line of work.”

Albert said the community that deals the most with police officers alredy has a complete distrust with them.

“This is not to paint all officers with the same brush,” he said, “but there is a culture of brutality and cover up within the Buffalo Police Department. When something is exposed to the massers, such as the way the Porter video was, then ultimately those people who don’t have regular run-ins with the police get a glimpse as to what it’s really about out there, what really happened.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, joined by Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood and Deputy Commissioner Barbara Lark, apologized to Porter for the 2016 incident.

“It is an event that we are certainly are truly sorry for and, in particular to the young man that suffered this event,” Brown said. “We apologize to him, his family and his friends.”

Lockwood defended his department, meanwhile, saying those who commit acts such as what happened in 2016 are a small minority. He also spoke of efforts to improve workmanship as well as community trust.

“I think the majority of police officers, 99 percent of them, go out and do their job every day,” he said. “I think the direction we’re going right now, as far as community policing, I think it’s working in some ways.”



Feb 22, 2019, “Video of man being beaten in Buffalo lockup released”, https://news.wbfo.org/post/video-man-being-beaten-buffalo-lockup-released

One of six officers who fired at Willie McCoy had killed unarmed man in 2018

Vallejo officer Ryan McMahon, among officers in shooting at Taco Bell, faces lawsuit in earlier killing

Willie McCoy was shot at a Taco Bell after officers woke him up inside his car.
 Willie McCoy was shot at a Taco Bell after officers woke him up inside his car. Photograph: Courtesy David Harrison

One of the six California police officers who fired a barrage of bullets at Willie McCoy at a Vallejo Taco Bell had previously shot and killed an unarmed man and is the subject of an ongoing excessive force lawsuit. A second officer had been sued by the family of a Vallejo teenager in a police brutality case.

The Vallejo officer Ryan McMahon and five other policemen fired at McCoy, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper, after officers woke him up inside his car at a fast-food drive through earlier this month. McCoy died at the scene.

The McCoy family’s attorney, who recently viewed the young man’s body, said he was hit by what appeared to be roughly 25 shots, including in his face, throat, chest, ear and arms. His loved ones have called the death an “execution by a firing squad” and have accused police of racial profiling.

The department released the names of the six officers on Wednesday night in response to a Bay Area News Group records request. They were Ryan McMahon, Collin Eaton, Bryan Glick, Jordon Patzer, Anthony Romero-Cano and Mark Thompson.

Officer McMahon, who has been on the force for more than seven yearsshot an unarmed black father of two just last year. On 13 February 2018, McMahon stopped Ronnell Foster, 32, who was riding his bike in downtown Vallejo. Foster fled toward an alley, prompting McMahon to chase after him and strike him over the head with a flashlight, according to a federal complaint. McMahon eventually shot Foster several times in the back and the back of his head.

The department claimed McMahon fired the fatal shots after Foster took the officer’s flashlight and raised it in a threatening manner, but an eyewitness disputed that account. The complaint noted there was no evidence that the officer was injured in any way, and when he called in the shooting to dispatch, his only statement was that Foster had fled from him.

It is unclear why McMahon followed or stopped Foster in the first place.

Foster left behind two children, now ages six and 14.

A troubled history

The police department in Vallejo, 30 miles north-east of San Francisco, has a troubled history of excessive force claims and controversial killings. McMahon is not the first officer in the department to be implicated in multiple shootings. One officer killed three men in a five-month period – and was subsequently promoted.

“Over and over and over, we have these cases in Vallejo, and we never have any discipline or re-training,” said Melissa Nold, a civil rights attorney who is representing McCoy’s family. “That is why people keep dying … It’s pretty disturbing.”

Nold’s law firm also represents the relatives of Foster, whose civil lawsuit against McMahon and the city of Vallejo continues.

“It’s rare for any police officer to use deadly force in the course of their career,” said Adante Pointer, an attorney for Foster’s family, noting that it was particularly rare for police to kill multiple people. “It is alarming … that he would be placed in a position where he can harm and kill citizens again while there is still ongoing litigation about the lawfulness of his use of force.”

Despite a continuing stream of deaths, Vallejo officials did not seem interested in trying to reduce the use of deadly force, said Nold: “How are you training officers if they are repeatedly taking lives?” The attorney said McCoy’s body was one of the most disturbing examples of police brutality and gun violence she had ever seen in her career.

Officer Thompson was sued in 2013 by the family of Anton Barrett and his teenage son. Barrett was unarmed when he was was shot by Vallejo police the year before. Thompson was not involved in the shooting, but was accused of directing his police dog to repeatedly “maul” Barrett’s 19-year-old son after the teen was handcuffed, according to the complaint. The officer was also accused of threatening to kill the son and calling him the n-word. The teenager ended up in the the hospital with bites to his face and legs.

The city denied the allegations and the case was eventually settled. Thompson was never criminally charged.

Vallejo police did not respond to a request for comment, and McMahon and Thompson could not immediately be reached.

‘We are being slaughtered in the streets’

The 9 February killing of McCoy has sparked national outrage, and a witness video, filmed from a distance, revealed that after the group of officers riddled him with lethal shots, they shouted a series of commands at him.

Police have alleged that McCoy had a handgun in his lap and had “moved his hands downward” when he was wakened. The department has not released body-camera footage.

Taco Bell had called 911 to report a man who appeared to be unconscious.

David Harrison, one of McCoy’s cousins who helped raise him, said Thursday he was not surprised to hear that one of the officers who shot his loved one had previously killed a man.

“It’s not shocking to me, because these guys are trained to do that,” Harrison, 48, told the Guardian. “We are just helpless. We are like sheep being led off to slaughter, and we are being slaughtered in the streets.”

Harrison said he wished McMahon had faced accountability after the first killing, but noted that his cousin would probably still be dead, given the involvement of five other officers.

“It’s a bigger problem than just that one officer,” he said. “This has just been going on for so long … It’s not just Willie. I want people to know that this could also be your child.”


Sam Levin, “One of six officers who fired at Willie McCoy had killed unarmed man in 2018”, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/21/willie-mccoy-police-shooting-taco-bell