Police Corruption along the Border is Big Business


                                                                     Southern Shift: southernshifthat-225This AP article posted below which details corruption along the borders is an interesting one in the sense that it suggests shock and surprise that this is taking place. As much as people like to think highly of those who are charged with protecting and serving the citizens of this country, the sad and sobering truth is that in many parts of the country law enforcement officials are seduced into accepting bribes and doing the wrong thing.  Should we NOT be surprised about this especially here in Texas? Wasn’t it just a mere two or three months ago a band of rogue cops was busted for ‘robbing’ people in Tehena, Texas?

Oh lemme not confuse people here with sementics. The cops in Tehena were ‘police officers’ and not border patrol agents and they were ‘illegally confiscating’ goods from people and not taking bribes. Too often in our attempts to see the very people who were are supposed to trust the most in a nice light, we play mind games with ourselves and overlook the obvious. Bribes being accepted by border patrol agents and cops ‘illegally confiscating’ personal property from motorists accused of minor traffic violations all add up to one thing-Corruption.  And while we are focusing on border agents in Texas, tales of law enforcement being corrupted is widespread and all over the country. From the infamous Rampart Scandal in Los Angeles California to the massive police corruption scandals that scarred the new Orleans police departments to the beloved officers depicted on TV crime dramas who routinely cross the line ‘to get the job done’, its all big business at the end of the day.

Now the usual argument given when such atrocities are pointed out is that these are the actions of a few and ‘one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch’. That holds true in most cases but when it comes to officers of the law, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. It starts when fellow officers remain silent behind the proverbial Blue Wall. It leaves many of us asking, did other officers not know bribes were taking place? There was no locker room gossip? No whispers in the halls? Nothing in the rumor mill? Keep in mind as you read this article that one of the officers busted for accepting bribes, who interestingly enough is unnamed in the article, noted that he took bribes by rationalizing ‘that everyone else does it’.

Whoever this officer is, he is now serving 4 years in prison for accepting bribes. The reality is he should’ve been serving time for not blowing the whistle on his fellow officers. That’s where the corruption begans.  How far up the chain command does one have knowledge of wrong doing? What if his fellow officers were allowing Al Queda operatives to sneak into the country carrying weapons of destructions? $50 bucks and a wink and a nod is all it took to compromise our safety?

Something to think about…

-Davey D-



Border police being busted more



McALLEN, Texas — Corruption along the U.S.-Mexican border takes many forms.

It can start as simply as a smuggler’s $50 gift to the child of a reluctant federal agent, quickly escalating to out-and-out bribes. “Everyone does it,” the agent, now in prison, recalls telling himself. Other times, county sheriffs greedily grab thousands from drug dealers. In a few instances, traffickers even place members in the applicant pool for sensitive border protection jobs.

An Associated Press investigation has found U.S. law officers who work the border are being charged with criminal corruption in numbers not seen before, as drug and immigrant smugglers use money and sometimes sex to buy protection, and internal investigators crack down.

Based on Freedom of Information Act requests, interviews with sentenced agents and a review of court records, the AP tallied corruption-related convictions against more than 80 enforcement officials at all levels — federal, state and local — since 2007, shortly after Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels that peddle up to $39 billion worth of drugs in the United States each year.

U.S. officials have long pointed to Mexico’s rampantly corrupt cops and broken judicial system, but Calderon told the AP this isn’t just a Mexican problem.

“To get drugs into the United States the one you need to corrupt is the American authority, the American customs, the American police — not the Mexican. And that’s a subject, by the way, which hasn’t been addressed with sincerity,” the Mexican president said. “I’m waging my battle against corruption among Mexican authorities and we’re risking everything to clean our house, but I think there also needs to be a good cleaning on the other side of the border.”

In fact, U.S. prosecutors have been taking notice. Drug traffickers look “for weaknesses in the armor,” said former prosecutor Yolanda de Leon in Cameron County, Texas.

Former Sheriff Canrado Cantu was all about taking bribes before convicted and sentenced to 24 years. My question is how many officers knew about this and turned him in?

Former Sheriff Canrado Cantu was all about taking bribes before convicted and sentenced to 24 years. My question is how many officers knew about this and turned him in?

One such weakness was her own county’s Sheriff Conrado Cantu. With his thick mustache, ample belly and Western hat, Cantu was a backslapping natural in the political machine of Cameron County, population 335,000. The county includes Brownsville, Texas, directly across the Rio Grande from Matamoros, Mexico.

In no time, Cantu rose from constable to sheriff, a job he later acknowledged he was unqualified to hold. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of running a criminal enterprise involved in extortion, drug trafficking and bribery. He’s now serving a 24-year sentence for extorting money from drug traffickers and illegal gambling operations.

“If the opportunity came along he would take it,” said de Leon.

Not all corruption charges that turned up in AP’s checks were related to drug trafficking. The researched cases involve agents helping smuggle immigrants, drugs or other contraband, taking wads of money or sexual favors in exchange — or simply allowing entry to someone whose paperwork isn’t up to snuff, all part of the daily border traffic that has politicians demanding that the U.S.-Mexico border be secured.

Court records show corrupt officials along the 2,100-mile U.S.-Mexico border have included local police and elected sheriffs, and officers with such U.S. Department of Homeland Security agencies as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol. Some have even been National Guardsmen temporarily called in to help while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks.

As Calderon sent thousands of soldiers to northern Mexico to stop the gruesome cartel violence and clean out corrupt police departments, CBP, the largest U.S. law enforcement agency, boosted its border forces by 44 percent or 6,907 additional officers and agents on the southwest border.

At the same time, CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year — and began to crack down.

“Day in, day out, someone in our agency is approached and says no, but we operate in this high-threat environment,” said James Tomsheck, assistant commissioner for internal affairs at CBP. “The reality of it is we are deeply concerned.”

In the past 10 months, 20 agents from CBP alone have been charged with a corruption-related crime. At that pace, the organization will set a new record for in-house corruption; 90 employees have been charged with corrupt acts since October 2004. Agency officials expect those cases to continue to climb: There are 63 open criminal investigations — including corruption cases — against CBP employees.

At least as unsettling were the prospective agents who never got to commit their crimes: Four applicants for jobs in federal border law enforcement were not hired when polygraph tests and background checks confirmed they were infiltrators from drug trafficking operations, authorities said.

Such in-depth checks are conducted on only about 10 percent of applicants for border agent jobs, though such scrutiny will eventually be made standard for all applicants, according to Tomsheck. Meantime, officials are left to wonder: Are other gangsters working undercover for agencies charged with protecting the U.S. border?

CBP had more than 2,000 in-house discipline cases during the past three years, according to records obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act. Most were minor, but about 100 reflected more serious, corruption-related incidents, many of which were later prosecuted.

The jump in corruption cases comes as CBP has increased its team of internal investigators from five three years ago to 220 today.

CBP’s own investigation of corruption cases showed little correlation between minor disciplinary problems and the more serious instances of bribery and malfeasance.

“Virtually none of the employees arrested for corruption are employees that have serious misconduct issues,” Tomsheck said. “Actively corrupt employees do everything they can to stay below the radar screen.”

It can be heartbreaking to see agents switch sides for small amounts of money, said U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, whose turf covers a long stretch of border from the Gulf of Mexico to Laredo, Texas. But, Johnson and other federal prosecutors say, “these cases will always have a priority” and must be prosecuted “to the fullest extent,” to emphasize that corruption will not be tolerated.

“You can’t allow people who work within the law enforcement community to compromise our mission. We would just lose control of everything down there,” he said.

It’s a lesson Mexico learned the hard way, ignoring for years corrupt police until Calderon began to replace them with military personnel.

In Texas, which has more than half the U.S. border with Mexico, the commission that oversees state and local law enforcement officers reported that criminal misconduct cases were opened against 515 officers in fiscal 2007 and 550 officers in fiscal 2008. Some form of disciplinary action was lodged against 324 and 331 peace officer licenses, respectively, in those years.

“The cartels increasingly recruit law enforcement officers on both sides of the border,” Steve McCraw, then Texas’s homeland security chief, told state lawmakers earlier this year. “It’s not just a Mexico problem because of the amount of money involved. And as we’ve increased presence between the ports (of entry), there’s an increased desire to recruit law enforcement personnel to move across the bridge or use them between the ports.”

In-house CBP data shows corrupt agents fall into two categories — recent hires who are charged very quickly, indicating they took the jobs intending to break the law, and veteran agents who have worked for the agency for a decade or more before succumbing to the offers.

“From the Mexican cartels’ point of view, it is cheaper to pay an official several thousand dollars to allow a load of narcotics to pass by than it is to risk having the shipment seized,” Scott Stewart and Fred Burton, vice presidents of global intelligence firm Stratfor, wrote in a recent report. “Such bribes are simply part of the cost of doing business — and in the big picture, even a low-level agent can be an incredible bargain.”

One such officer, a CBP agent convicted of taking money to smuggle illegal immigrants, was over his head with credit card debt, behind on child-support payments, about to lose his truck. His 10-year-old, whom he had taken to the mall for the day, wanted a football he couldn’t afford.

That’s when a friendly, familiar Mexican man pulled a $50 bill from a thick wallet and handed it to the agent’s son, who snatched the money and dashed off to the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop.

The father related the story in the visiting room of a federal prison in California where he is serving a four-year term.

“I was like, ‘Wait son, hang on!’ but he was gone, so happy with that money,” said the former agent, whom prison officials allowed the AP to interview on condition of anonymity because convicted law enforcement officers are considered potential targets.

That was how it began, the ex-agent continued. A few weeks later, the Mexican man suggested that the officer let a man through his pedestrian checkpoint early one morning without asking questions. He’d get $5,000 for his trouble.

“I thought, ‘Naaah, I can’t do that.’ Then I thought, ‘Hell, my life’s a mess. Everyone does it. If I’m caught I’ll just say the guy got past me. I’ll do it once. I could use the money,'” he recalled.

The cash came in handy. He bought clothes for his kids, jerseys for a youth team he coached; he made his truck payment, caught up on credit card bills.

The next time was easier, if less lucrative: $1,500 a person.

Nervously smoothing his prison-green scrubs, he said, “I really planned to stop.” But then another offer came, even while colleagues warned him the FBI was snooping around. And then a woman he had illegally passed through named him when she was caught by an honest agent.

He was convicted for passing one person through. He paid $5,000 in fines in addition to the prison term.

“You want to know how many times I did this?” he asked. “Sixty-six. I kept a tally.”

The men and women who were caught described their jobs as prestigious and well paid for the small border towns where they grew up. An entry-level CBP officer earns $37,000 a year in Laredo, and within a year is likely paid $41,000, well above the local average annual income of $25,000.

In border communities, the demarcation between countries is insignificant. People live on one side, work on the other; have a favorite barber on one side, but buy groceries on the other. The traffic is heavy, and constant.

Some of the border authorities were born in Mexico or are related to Mexican nationals. So do you let a colleague’s Mexican aunt cross the border without a visa for a family birthday party? Or wave through a loaded truck that belongs to your bosses’ brother-in-law without looking inside? Some agents said yes.

And so did some state and local officers. The deputy commander of a narcotics task force was caught in a sting operation protecting what he believed were loads of drugs moving through Zapata County; others have shaken down drug traffickers moving product through their turf.

In October, FBI agents arrested Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerraat his office as part of a sweep dubbed “Operation Carlito’s Weigh.” Guerra, the chief law enforcement officer for the border county of 62,000 people, had spent a decade as sheriff.

There was little public pressure for his ouster after his arrest and since he was running unopposed, Guerra was re-elected weeks later. County Judge Eloy Vera said the day of his arrest that Guerra, a mustachioed bear of man, was a “very good sheriff.” He resigned only as a condition of his release pending trial.

In May, Guerra pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking charge for accepting thousands of dollars in exchange for passing information to a former Mexican law enforcement contact who he knew was working for Mexico’s Gulf Cartel. Guerra once even gave false documents to one of his own deputies to close a drug trafficking investigation, prosecutors said.

Guerra could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced later this month.


Martha Mendoza reported from San Jose, Calif.

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Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Racial Profiling in a Post-Racial America?



Trials of a Hip Hop Educator: Racial Profiling in a Post-Racial America?
By Tony Muhammad

tonymuhammedchitown-225The past few months have indeed been strange (but yet not surprisingly strange) for a few of us in and among the conscientious Hip Hop community in relation to encounters with police.  On the afternoon of Friday, May 8th, I, myself, was arrested for the very first time in my life.  I wasn’t taken to jail, but I was fingerprinted on the spot and fined, charged with soliciting in the city of Miami Gardens, Florida.  What was I actually doing?  I was passing out invitations for a special Mother’s Day program at my mosque.  I was passing out the invitations in traffic as many other FOI (Fruit of Islam) were doing throughout Miami-Dade county, nationwide and internationally.  I was stopped by a police officer and asked if I was selling anything.  I said “No.”  He inquired about the Final Call newspapers that were in a bag I was carrying.  He asked me if they were for sale.  I told him that they were not for sale, but that we accept donations for them if offered.  It was at this point that the officer asked for my ID and the “arrest” took place. 

 After he was done filling out forms and handed me the fine, the officer mumbled some words that sounded like I was permitted to leave but had to meet him on that same corner in an hour.  I said to him, “Officer, I have a mosque meeting that I have to conduct in an hour.  Why is it necessary that I meet with you in an hour?”  The officer then explained himself in a louder and clearer voice.  He said, “No!  I will let you go ahead and sell your newspaper for another hour.  You can go ahead.  I won’t stop you.”  I found this to be rather odd, practically like a set up.  Like, if I got pulled over and ticketed for speeding, would it make sense for the police officer that pulled me over to say that its okay for me to continue speeding since he already caught me?  I shook my head and said, “No.”  I walked away, got in my car and drove off.  A week and a half later, after the officer finally submitted the paperwork of the arrest, the charges were dropped by the judge even before I had the opportunity to make a motion for an appeal.  Yet and still, the arrest is still on record and I have to pay to get it expunged.  So, even though I am not guilty of any wrong doing, I still need to pay as if I was.
Fellow youth advocates Wise Intelligent (of Poor Righteous Teachers) and Paradise Gray (The Arkitect of X-Clan) have likewise experienced ridiculous arrests recently.  Wise was falsely suspected of drug dealing, literally in front of his home in Trenton, New Jersey.  In the end, he was charged with “obstructing an investigation” since they couldn’t charge him with anything else.  Paradise was falsely charged with blocking a door entrance while video recording a public demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 
The reality of it all is that incidents like these continue to be an every day experience for Blacks and Latinos in the United States despite now having a President of the United States that is of color.  According to CNN, a 2004 Gallop Poll revealed that 67 percent of African Americans and 63 percent of Latinos believe they have experienced police discrimination.  Amnesty International estimates that in the United States 32 million people (approximately the same amount of people that live Canada) have been subjected to racial profiling.  In truth these statistics are more than likely conservative because they are only based on documented cases.  When taking class into account, we would more than likely find that there is a sea of undocumented cases.  It has been shown that poor people of color are least likely to know what their rights are in relation to treatment by police.  This is especially the case of immigrant populations where language barriers may exist.  Official statistics also do not indicate percentage of false arrests or the amount of people there are that have accepted false charges in plea agreements in exchange for no jail time.  More than likely, poor people of color, who also tend to be least aware of their legal rights, disproportionately make up a great percentage within this category. Coherently, it has also been shown that poor people of color are least likely able to afford adequate legal defense and are pressured to deal with court appointed lawyers who usually try to work on ending court cases as quickly as possible; seldom, if not ever, in the best interests of defendants.

Henry Louis Gates

Henry Louis Gates

Since Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in front of his Cambridge, Massachusetts home on Thursday, July 16th it has re-sparked much nation-wide discussion on the realities of racial profiling, involving even President Barrack Obama in an almost “out of character” way (initially publicly saying that police acted “stupidly” in the situation).  As the story goes, after returning from a trip to China, Dr. Gates (along with a driver from a local car company) was seen by a white woman breaking down his “jammed” front door.  The white woman alerted police that a “Hispanic looking” man (much likely the driver) and another man (much likely Dr. Gates) were trying to break into the house.  When the police showed up Dr. Gates was asked by Sgt. James Crowley for ID to prove that he lived at the residence, which he provided.  However, in the midst of it all, Dr. Gates demanded that Sgt. Crowley give him his badge number and, according to police, angrily accused the police of being “racist.”  After ignoring the request for the badge number several times, the officer stepped outside.  When Dr. Gates followed the officer outside, he was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and was detained for several hours.  Less than a week later, after much media attention, the charge was dropped.
Several noted journalists have recently written articles criticizing the fact that so much attention has been given to Dr. Gate’s police encounter; labeling it a mere distraction.  This is especially after President Obama attempted to defuse the hype behind it all last week by having a “beer summit” at the White House with Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley (no doubt in attempt to bring more attention to his national health care plans); likewise with the media exposure of Boston Police Officer Justin Barrett being suspended for referring to Dr. Gates as a “banana-eating jungle monkey” in a mass e-mail to his buddies on the force.  Overall, I would argue that on a surface level the incident is a mere reflection of what happens to peoples of color on a day to day basis with police and on a larger scale white supremacy.  However, if we analyze it in light of Dr. Gates’ attempt to promote a “post-race” identity academic movement since the Presidential Election of Barrack Obama; it serves as a major sign for us.  If the police report is correct that Dr. Gates became emotional and accused the police of racism (and there is an overwhelmingly good chance that it did indeed happen) then surely it largely negates the basis of his work in the past half year.  Even more evident of this is his announced plans on The Tom Joyner Morning Show recently to do a documentary on racial profiling in response to his experience.  In truth, it all reveals how dangerously naïve this “post-racial” false ideology he was trying to push is in today’s times.  

Johannes Mehersele

Johannes Mehersele

Concurrently, on New Year’s Day in Oakland, California, it was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept BART Officer Johannes Mehserle from irrationally holding a gun to the back of Oscar Grant and pulling the trigger.  On June 10th, It was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept James Von Brunn from shooting and killing Stephen Tyrone Jones, a Black security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.  It was not a “post-racial” type of thinking that kept Broward Sheriff’s deputy Al Lamberti from sexually abusing undocumented Latin American immigrants in Fort Lauderdale, Florida just because he thought he could get away with it due to language barriers.  It is not a “post-racial” type of thinking that is keeping the Miami-Dade County Commission from considering the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center to be financially expendable and shut it down due to financial constraints, despite the great service the Center provides to young people in Miami’s Liberty City community.  It is not a “post-racial” type of thinking that is keeping colleges and universities nationwide from downgrading or literally shutting down Black, Latino and overall cultural diversity programming due to budgetary constraints… but yet there is always money available to expand sports (mainly football) programs. 
Dr. Gates should be mindful of all of this while making his racial profiling documentary and make sure that it is not just simply a way to capitalize off of his experience, as many academics normally do.  Because of his position of influence, it should in fact provide a service!  He should also be mindful when it comes to selecting the right crew for such an assignment, preferably people of color that have extensively studied racism and racial profiling in the United States; likewise featuring people of color from different genres that have experienced being racially profiled.  Noting Dr. Gates’ track record, the project should be unlike any project he has undertaken before; especially and namely the development of the Encarta Africana Encyclopedia in 2000 (An encyclopedia about peoples of African descent in Africa and the Diaspora) which involved racial profiling itself.  It involved the hiring of merely 3 Blacks out of 40 full time writers.  In truth, there is no coincidence that the only Hip Hop entry in the project was Sir Mix-A-Lot.  I guess “Baby Got Back” but if Dr. Gates wants to show and prove that he has authentically learned from the experience he’s going to have to get the right “backing” for such a documentary!
Peace! Until Next Time!
Tony Muhammad teaches American, African American and African History at an inner-city high school in Miami and is currently involved in efforts to reform The African American Voices Curriculum for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2008).


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