19 Jul
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Press Release: Peaceful Streets Project Organizing a Support Rally for San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams in San Marcos, TX

At 2 pm on Saturday, July 20th, the Peaceful Streets Project will celebrate the extraordinarily rare and brave acts that San Marcos (TX) Police Chief Howard Williams and other members of the chain of command took against a fellow officer following an illegal and violent arrest of a woman who had not committed any crime on May 29th.

That officer, Cpl. James Palermo, had pulled someone over for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, and took issue when 22-year-old, Alexis Alpha walked by the traffic stop. According to the affidavit, Palermo demanded to see her identification, to which Alpha insisted she had done nothing wrong, suggested that he conduct traffic stops elsewhere, said that he apparently was in a bad mood and was taking it out on her, and then called him a “dick”.

Without cause, Palermo then assaulted Alpha by grabbing her, pushing her into a car and then throwing her down on the concrete, resulting in broken teeth and a concussion. He then arrested her and filed false charges of obstruction, resisting arrest and public intoxication.

Over the past year and a half, the Peaceful Streets Project has tracked hundreds of cases where police officers have been caught on film falsely arresting and/or committing violent crimes against innocent, unarmed and peaceful people. However, over the past year and a half we have had difficulty finding stories of good cops who witnessed such crimes by other police officers, and then took it upon themselves to arrest the criminal cops. On the contrary, we have seen one police chief after another acting as Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo does, defending cops who commit crimes while slandering the victims of police abuse.

What is remarkable about this incident in San Marcos is not that Cpl. James Palermo had committed a violent crime; what is remarkable is that San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams chose to defend the victim, and not the criminal cop. When Chief Williams found out about the incident the next day, he ordered an internal review. The video from the patrol car’s dashboard camera proved that Palermo had broken the law, and that led to a warrant being issued on Tuesday, resulting in the arrest of Palermo in Chief Williams’ office.

We have seen cases where police officers have been arrested, but they almost always come as a result of an investigation by an outside agency, bold (and rare) action by a district attorney, or because of overwhelming public outcry over documented police abuse. What makes the San Marcos incident even more remarkable is that this arrest took place because of actions by police officers within the department, and in the absence of public outcry. Furthermore, in the rare instances in which police officers are arrested for crimes committed while in uniform, they are usually arrested on relatively minor charges such as official oppression, a misdemeanor, as opposed to the more serious charges that a public servant should be held accountable to. Palermo was ultimately arrested and charged with a first-degree felony of Aggravated Assault by a Public Servant.

The Peaceful Streets Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort dedicated to ending institutionalized violence through community organizing and non-violent direct action tactics, and we view police accountability as an utmost priority to achieving our mission. While we try to change culture by changing attitudes regarding the role of police in society, we acknowledge that change must also come from within the system. While we are quick to criticize police officers that commit crimes, and the police officers who defend criminal cops, we also want to honor those officers who cross the thin blue line to do the right thing.

Therefore, on July 20, 2013 between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm, the Peaceful Streets Project will be gathering in front of the Hays County Courthouse (111 E. San Antonio Street, San Marcos, TX 78666) in support of Chief Howard Williams. The rarity of police officers being held to a higher standard should be celebrated. While police accountability emanating from within a police department is extremely rare, we are hopeful the San Marcos Police Department is paving the way and serving as a role model to all other departments in policing those who police.

The facebook event page will be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/694356897246295.

So, what do you think?