GJPD Exposed

2 Officers Punished; Another Remains on Paid Leave For Pepper-Spray Incident(s)

Posted in Criminalization of Houselessness, GJPD, Grand Junction, Harrassment, Homelessness by GJPD Exposed on August 5, 2010

On Wednesday, GJPD Chief Camper, announced that an officer received a reprimand for pepper-spraying a vacant building sometimes frequented by homeless people, in an effort to deter people from using the vacant building. The officers immediate supervisor was also reprimanded because he didn’t inquire  as to why his officer needed his pepper-spray canister refilled. Camper also promised to announce the fate of another GJPD Officer that has been on paid administrative leave since early July. A fourth officer resigned in early July in response to the investigations. Read more Here.

At the announcement of a second internal investigation looking at the misuse of pepper-spray, Camper was quoted by the Daily Sentinel as saying they were looking at a number of incidents. We at GJPD Exposed, are assuming that spraying of the abandoned building is a different incident then the incident involving the officer that resigned and the officer that is on leave. It will be interesting to see what actually took place in that incident. Camper promised to announce the fate of the third officer currently on paid administrative leave tomorrow.

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Cops Attack Camps; Chief Camper Cleans House

Photobucket*from Vol. 8 No. 6 of The Red Pill*

One Grand Junction Police officer resigned, and another is on paid administrative leave, after an earlier investigation turned up evidence that GJPD officers pepper sprayed property, like sleeping bags, that belonged to local houseless folks. Six more officers were questioned on this matter. The pepper spray was supposedly meant to act as a deterrent, as a signal from the PD to the victimized houseless to “move along.” The incident is still under investigation.

The earlier investigation, conducted as a result of a Monday, May 3rd incident in which police slashed tents and bicycle tires at a local houseless encampment, resulted in the firing of three GJPD officers; Justin Roberts, Joseph Mulcahy and Phillip Van Why. The officers were accused of slashing tents, trashing camps (including smashing Oreos and bananas with a baton at one camp), and slashing bike tires. There was also an unidentified liquid found on sleeping bags at at least one camp. The officers were allegedly looking for a person for questioning.

On Wednesday May 5th, long time Red Pill editor and contributor and Housing First! No More Deaths! activist, Jacob Richards, filed a complaint regarding police being in the area known as “the Point” at the time the damage occurred. This launched a GJPD internal investigation and a criminal investigation conducted by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. The officers were placed on paid administrative leave by Friday May 7th, and were fired four weeks later.

The District attorney decided not to charge the three officers involved in the May 3rd incident, even though the internal investigation revealed they did admit to the slashing.  The three former officers then appealed their firings, claiming their actions were consistent with training and practices of the GJPD. The appeal brought to light other earlier incidences involving GJPD officers and Grand Junction’s houseless folks, like the pepper spray incident currently under investigation. The chief of police and the city disagree with the accused, and have investigated and sanction officers involved in earlier incidents. The former officers’ appeal was denied by Deputy City Manager, Rich Englehart.

The GJPD and Chief Camper have been besieged with scandal this past year, but he seems to be doing some housecleaning.  Last summer, Officer Crooks resigned after being arrested with Domestic Abuse, for which he was later acquitted. Followed a month later by the arrest and termination of Officer Coyne for Sexual Assault. Coyne later committed suicide. Four officers who clearly violate the rights of houseless members of our community are no longer on the force.  With continued pressure on police and continue citizen oversight of the police, maybe we can force the department to reign in their mavericks and become accountable to the people. A little pressure goes a long way.

GJPD Officer Resigns in Face of Pepper-Spray Attack

Posted in City of Grand Junction, Exessive Force, GJPD, Harrassment, Homelessness, police violence by GJPD Exposed on July 8, 2010

One GJPD officer resigns and another is placed on administrative leave for allegedly pepper-spraying homeless people property, including tents and sleeping bags, in a number of earlier incidents. This investigation stemmed from a case in which three GJPD officers were fired for vandalizing a homeless encampment. The three officers while appealing their case plead that such attack on homeless people’s camps are common practice within the department and in line with the training they received. Check out the Sentinel’s story, here.

Event: Public Space and the Criminalization of Houselessness a Lecture

Posted in Criminalization of Houselessness, Homelessness by GJPD Exposed on May 25, 2010

Randall Amster is a professor of Peace Studies and Social Thought at Prescott College. He is the author of many books and academic articles including: Lost in Space: the criminalization, globalization, and urban ecology of homelessness.(2008) Amster also publishes opinion pieces on Truthout, Common Dreams, Huffington Post, and many others. Amster has a law degree from Brooklyn College and a Ph.D in Social Justice from Arizona State. Amster has done more then study houselessness, much of Lost in Space is dedicated to his own involvement with the homeless in Tempe, AZ opposing laws that clearly targeted the houseless.

Amster will be speaking about issues surrounding the criminalization of houselessness and issues of public space in our increasingly commodified society. His insights will shed light on local issues of houselessness, police harassment and the criminalization of houseslessness here in the Grand Valley.

Free to Attend. Donations Welcome.

What: Free Lecture “Public Space and the Criminalization of Houselessness”
Who: Randall Amster Ph.D
Where: 1022 Grand Ave. Grand Junction. UUCGV Church
When: Wednesday, June 2nd 7:00PM

Sponsored by a Housing First! No More Deaths!

Media Round-Up: Police Vandalize Homeless Camp

As the investigation into allegations that GJPD officers vandalized an area houseless camp goes into its second week, we eagerly await the outcome of both the Sheriff’s criminal investigation, and the Department’s own external investigation.

Here’s the local media round-up of the incident.

The Grand Junction FreePress had this excellent article

The Sentinel, true to form, did everything in their power to discredit the messenger, in this article, that eventually hit the AP wire and was picked up by major media outlets in Denver and beyond.

NBC Channel 11 had the best coverage Friday the 7th when the police announced that three officers were placed on administrative leave.

CBS Channel 5’s story from the Monday after the announcement was the most comprehensive.

ABC Channel 8’s coverage from mid-week was good as well.

The local blogger John Linko had this to say.

Three Officers on Administrative Leave For Slashing Homeless Camp

Three Grand Junction Police Officers were placed on administrative leave on Friday May 7th under allegations of damaging homeless peoples’ property. The officers are under criminal investigation by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and under internal investigation at the PD.
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On Monday May 3rd, GJ Police Officers were in the area of a well-established homeless camp near the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers. Some residents were denied access to the area by the police during their visit. No known residents were in their camps at the time. Residents later returned to slashed tents, scattered belongings and slashed bike tires. On Wednesday, Jacob Richards, long time Red Pill editor and contributor and Housing First! No More Deaths! activist, filed a complaint about the incident. By Friday, three officers were placed on leave. The story was picked up by all local media outlets, the Denver Post, and even hit the AP wire.
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The fact that the GJPD are conducting an internal investigation and the Sheriff’s Department is investigating the matter criminally indicates that the powers-that-be may actually be taking this seriously.

Criminalization and harassment of the homeless is nothing new to Grand Junction. Police officers and the law itself target the homeless. The City attempted to virtually illegalize flying a sign in the city in the summer of 2009 as an emergency ordinance, but was shut down by the power of the people. In July of 2009, two undercover GJ police officers were ousted from the organization Housing First! No More Deaths!. Panhandling within a median began became illegal in the fall of 2009, and overnight Colorado West Park became a median without any formal process.

As odd as it may seem, the system might actually bring some form of justice for the houseless, and some accountability to the GJPD.

Panhandling, Parks, and Gentrification: Criminalization of Homelessness in Grand Junction

Posted in City of Grand Junction, Criminalization of Houselessness, GJPD, Grand Junction, Homelessness by GJPD Exposed on January 28, 2010

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In late June of 2009, the City of Grand Junction stepped up its continued criminalization of the homeless by trying to pass two “emergency” ordinances targeted at ‘flyin’ a sign.’ The city tried to sneak these measures through as emergency ordinances; they had to pass unanimously, but could by-pass the normal process. The city released the text of the ordinances the Friday before Country Jam, the area’s largest annual event, and held the hearing the following Monday.

The homeless community, and many from the broader community, came to the City Council meeting to oppose the bill. The crowd was well over one hundred people strong. Even the ACLU sent an opinion letter opposing the ordinances. Both bills were struck down, but were sent back to committee for heavy revision.

The revised bill banned “soliciting in medians,” but also prohibited anyone being in a median for any reason. This measure was eventually put into law on October 2nd. The first arrest was made 22 days later. John Martinez was ‘flyin’ a sign’ at a place know as the ‘wedge,’ at the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue. The ‘wedge’ is also known as Colorado West Park. But how is a park a median?

Sometime in October, the park sign, picnic bench and trash can were removed and the park became a median. Poof, overnight, gone. The City Manager’s office told TRP that changing a park to a median “would have to be something City Council decided.” Yet, no mention of changing Colorado West Park to a median are in the Council’s minutes.

Granted the park was never much of a park, considering it was jammed in an 5-way intersection. It was probably first listed as a park to create an exaggerated community-image in order to get businesses to relocate to Grand Junction.

When TRP talked to the Parks and Rec department they tossed us around the phone network like a hot potato, but we got some interesting information.

“Council must of designated it as a median,” said Parks and Rec employee Ron Felps. “It’s still part of our regular maintenance.”

“I have very little information,” said Parks and Rec employee Mike Vendegna. He did say that the sign, picnic table and trash can were removed from the park just in the last couple of weeks. “It was never truly a park,” said Vendegna. He directed us to the City Clerk and Recorder’s office for information on who decided to change the park’s designation, but the City Clerk never returned our repeated phone calls.

“There wasn’t any authorization,” said City of Grand Junction Public Relations person Sam Rainguet. Rainguet said that after the City passed the ‘median ordinance’ the city looked at certain parks to see if they were parks or medians. Raignuet said that Colorado West Park was never actually designated as a park, and so no official re-designation was needed. When pressed about who ordered the sign, picnic table and trash can removed, Rainguet said “I don’t know,” and promised to get back with the answer, which she never did.

There are other parks in town that aren’t really parks and are more like a median, but they still remain parks. The main reason is that people don’t panhandle at those parks.

It’s vindictive. The ordinance lost, then they came back with a watered down ordinance that banned people from being in medians, and then they get rid of an entire city park just to keep a few people from ‘flying a sign’ on one corner. This is just a little battle in a war the city has been waging to push the poor and homeless out of sight and out of the city.

From The Red Pill Vol 8 No 1. http://www.gjredpill.org

Tickets on Rise for GJ’s Houseless

A famous french satire before the Revolution mocked the rich and their law this way (rough paraphrase) “It is illegal for both a rich man and a poor man to sleep beneath a bridge, therefore the law is just.” Check out Channel 8 doing some research. http://www.kjct8.com/Global/story.asp?S=11841432

GJPD CAUGHT SPYING ON HOMELESS

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Members of Housing First! No More Deaths! were able to confirm that two undercover Grand Junction police officers had joined their organization. The two undercover officers participated in meetings, trainings, and had signed the membership list joining the organization. HF! NMD! has made it public that they, as an organization, are willing to risk arrest to provide shelter for and by the homeless this up coming winter.

“I’m honestly not surprised,” said Connie Murillo, “they stood out since the beginning.” Murillo said that she was disappointed that the police would resort to political surveillance. “Undercover policing of public political organizing destroys community trust of the police.”

Murillo was at the police station waiting for a friend who was doing some paperwork around noon on Wednesday. When she saw the two undercover officers escorting themselves through a secured door into the lobby and then out the rear secured door of the police station. “I got up to make sure they were the same guys that were at the meetings, and they both looked back as they were leaving. It was definitely them.” Murillo said.

Minutes before the beginning of the first HF! NMD! on July 7th in Whitman Park, police scanner traffic indicated that two officers were on “special assignment at Whitman Park.” Indicating that the police had planted undercover officers at that meeting.

One of the officers who called himself “Vic” claimed to be an Iraq War vet who had been houseless since he discharged from the military. Vic and his fellow officer reported to be camped at two different locations to two different people in the organization.

“This is really just more of the same police intimidation and harassment that is directed at the the houseless population in our city on a regular basis,” said HF! member Laurel Ripple. “I don’t see what the city and police find so frightening about the poor and the houseless organizing themselves.”

HF! member Jacob Richards said that three members of his organization were harassed by the police after the first HF! NMD! meeting on July 7th. “Three different people all said the same thing: that officer Cody Kennedy and four other officers told a number of homeless people in the park that they ‘never should of had that meeting,’ that they ‘have the wrong idea,’ and that ‘you don’t know what kind of trouble you’ve started.’

Despite all this the group is still willing to work with the police department. “Deputy Chief John Zen has made an effort to establish open lines of communication between the police department and our organization, and though the discovery of undercover police at our meetings sets things back a little bit, we are still willing to work with the GJPD. In fact they are vital partners if our organization wants to achieve our first goal which is “No More Deaths on the Streets of Grand Junction.” said Richards.

From The Red Pill Vol 7 No 6. http://www.gjredpill.org