Ben Dreyfuss

Engagement Editor

Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones.

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Jon Stewart Explains What Is "So Utterly Depressing" About the Eric Garner Grand Jury

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 2:38 PM EST

Last night, Jon Stewart began the Daily Show by dropping the comedy and expressing in very human terms the frustration and disbelief everyone (or (well, not everyone) is feeling after a Staten Island grand jury's failure to indict the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold on film."If comedy is tragedy plus time I need more fucking time—but I would settle for less fucking tragedy, to be honest with you. What is so utterly depressing is that none of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case. And yet the outcome is exactly the same." Stewart says. "We are definitely not living in a post-racial society and I can imagine there are a lot of people out there wondering how much of a society we're living in at all." Pretty much.

 

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Grand Jury Doesn't Indict Staten Island Cop in Death of Eric Garner

| Wed Dec. 3, 2014 2:47 PM EST

Update 12/3/2014: Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly told New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the Department of Justice will conduct a federal investigation into Eric Garner's death, following a grand jury's decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. 

A Staten Island grand jury has declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.

The "no-bill" decision comes despite the fact that Pantaleo was caught on camera putting Garner in a chokehold during his July 17 arrest.

Cell-phone video of Garner’s July 17 arrest shows Pantaleo wrestling him to the sidewalk on Bay Street, with the white cop’s arms wrapped around the neck of the black suspect.

On the ground, Garner was heard repeatedly yelling “I can’t breathe!” as Pantaleo and other cops held him down and handcuffed him.

The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

Police union leaders denied that Pantaleo used a chokehold — which is banned by the NYPD — and blasted the autopsy as part of a “political” witch hunt.

The fact that this video exists, that the cop saw it being recorded, that the grand jury watched it and then still declined to indict, should chasten anyone who thinks body cams will be a cure-all for police abuse.

Read about the science of implicit prejudices and what we can do to better train police.

This Is the Best Newspaper "Retraction" You'll Read All Year

| Tue Dec. 2, 2014 12:13 PM EST

The "retraction" appeared in Australia's Courier-Mail, which later interviewed the family:

Kai Bogert, as he is now called, was known as Elizabeth Anne for 19 years. Ms Bogert last night told The Courier-Mail that placing the ad was “a no-brainer”.

“I needed to show my son I support him 100 per cent and wanted to let the world know that."

Perfect.

I Wish I Weren't Already a Journalist So This Music Video Could Inspire Me to Become a Journalist

| Mon Dec. 1, 2014 5:42 PM EST

Here is the video for the 1985 Olivia-Newton John song "Queen of the Publication" from the album Soul Kiss. I don't know how I have lived this long on this planet working in this profession without having seen it.

This is what the Newsroom could have been:

The lyrics are so good:

Something strange is going on
And you're in the middle
I'll do anything to solve the riddle
I've got a city editor
Put me on a deadline
If I don't come through
I'm on the breadline

I'll invade your privacy
Please don't take it personally

I'm oh so sorry
But the reader's got a right to know
You're gonna help the circulation grow
When I get the story right
I'll be queen of the publication

I've got a hidden camera
A shadow on your tail
And I'm tape recording every detail
All the walls have ears tonight
They're listening in case you might
Talk in your sleep

I'm oh so sorry
But the reader's got a right to know
You're gonna help the circulation grow
When I get the story right
I'll be queen of the publication

In every supermarket checkout line
They'll be staring at your face
Make you a legend in your own time
Give you triple column space
When I get the story right
I'll be queen
I'll be queen
I'll be queen

I'm oh so sorry
But the reader's got a right to know
You're gonna help the circulation grow
When I get the story right
I'll be queen of the publication

Teach this in your J schools!

Anyway, good night and good luck.

(via Nick Hose)

President Obama Wants More Cops To Wear Body Cams

| Mon Dec. 1, 2014 2:24 PM EST

The White House wants Congress to spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement. The funding, which could pay for as many as 50,000 devices, comes as part of a larger proposal to provide $263 million in new funding to train and equip local police departments.

Calls for more body cams have increased in the wake of Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson. As we reported in August:

"I think body cameras are definitely a net good," says David Harris, a law professor and police behavior expert at the University of Pittsburgh. "They are one of the most prominent technologies to come along in a long time in terms of accountability, evidence gathering, [and] in terms of, frankly, changing behavior on either side of the camera. Nothing is a silver bullet, but this has the potential to be a substantial advance."

Harris, who consults for law enforcement agencies on the side, points to a study by police in Rialto, California. After introducing body-worn video cameras in February 2012, that department reported an 88 percent reduction over the previous year in complaints against officers—and the use of force by its officers fell by nearly 60 percent. A separate British study of one small police department looked at data collected in 2005 and 2006 and found a 14 percent drop in citizen complaints in the six months after cameras were introduced compared to same six-month period of the previous year.

Obama's proposal could pay for as many as 50,000 body cams but, as the Verge points out, there are 750,000 police officers in the US—and even if each of them had a body cam on it still probably wouldn't be a panacea for police abuse. A bad cop with a body cam is still a bad cop.

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