Archive for April, 2008

More Poker Raids

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

You’d never know violent crime stats actually ticked up over the last year.

In the last couple of months, police have broken up games in Charleston, South Carolina (netting a poker playing cop and prosecutor in the process) and, no surprise here, in Dallas and Houston.

In the Houston case, prosecutors planned to file felony organized crime charges against the operators of a $300 buy-in tournament.

In the Charleston case, investigators went back more than a year to find names of players who may not have been playing on the night of the raid. They then went out and arrested them, too. They were eventually charged with misdemeanors.

Here’s a first-hand account of similar Charleston raid from a couple of years ago:

At the game in 2006, Chimento said there was a knock on the door and then “…all of a sudden it was like a commandos SWAT team raiding a bunch of crack dealers. It’s was like the SWAT team that you see on TV, busting into your home, guns drawn, ski masks on, full protective gear, and demanding we put out hands on top of our heads,” Chimento said. “At first we thought we were getting robbed, then we realized they had police written all over them, and we were like ‘Oh my God, check this out.’ Someone could have easily been killed that night.”

A 78-year-old grandmother was one of the players swept up that night. Police issued citations on the spot and seized about $6,000 in total from all of the players.

Another Isolated Incident

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Fish tank, meth lab—whatever.

Brooklyn Park police were looking for a meth lab, but they found a fish tank and the chemicals needed to maintain it.

And a few hours later, when the city sent a contractor to fix the door the police had smashed open Monday afternoon, it was obvious the city was trying to fix a mistake.

It happened while Kathy Adams was sleeping.

"And the next thing I know, a police officer is trying to get me out bed," she said.

And what thorough investigative work precipitated this raid?

Roehl said the drug task force was acting on a tip from a subcontractor for CenterPoint Energy, who had been in the home Friday to install a hot water heater.

"He got hit with a chemical smell that he said made him light headed, feel kind of nauseous," Roehl said.

The smell was vinegar, and maybe pickling lime, which were clearly marked in a bathroom Mr. Adams uses to mix chemicals for his salt water fish tank.

"I said, ‘I call it his laboratory for his fish tanks,’ " Mrs. Adams said, recalling her conversation with the CenterPoint technician. "I’m looking at the fish tank talking to this guy."

Police say there was no extended investigation, just an interview with the subcontractor.

Still, no one did anything wrong.

"From a cursory view, it doesn’t look like our officers did anything wrong," said Capt. Greg Roehl.

[…]

"Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the exception of what the purpose of the lab was," Roehl said.

[…]

Police say the detective who asked for the search warrant is an 8 ½-year veteran, but he just started working in the drug task force.

CenterPoint energy maintains the home was "unsafe" and it would have "irresponsible" for the subcontractor not to report it.

Your Morning Clickyfest

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
  • British bans on junk food in schools trigger black markets. Whodda’ thunkit?
  • Neocon godfather defends Hillary. Makes sense, given that Hillary is basically a neocon. Speaking of Hillary–oops!
  • Don’t trust markets!
    Last week, French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier warned E.U. officials against “too much trust in the free market.”

    “We must not leave the vital issue of feeding people,” he said, “to the mercy of market laws and international speculation.”

    Yes, because the current food shortage has nothing to do with government meddling in markets in the form of subsidies, ethanol boondoggles, trade barriers, and paying farmers not to grow food. By the way, how’s all that trust in compassionate socialism coming when it comes to say, not letting old people die of heat in the summertime?

  • Out-takes from Whose Line Is It Anyway? I like it when they swear.
  • Sex offender sues harassing neighbors.
  • Photos from the FLDS invasion raid. Tanks, cammies, helmets, assault weapons. Looks like an army to me. Posse commiwhatus?

  • Your Morning Clickyfest

    Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
  • British bans on junk food in schools trigger black markets. Whodda’ thunkit?
  • Neocon godfather defends Hillary. Makes sense, given that Hillary is basically a neocon. Speaking of Hillary–oops!
  • Don’t trust markets!
    Last week, French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier warned E.U. officials against “too much trust in the free market.”

    “We must not leave the vital issue of feeding people,” he said, “to the mercy of market laws and international speculation.”

    Yes, because the current food shortage has nothing to do with government meddling in markets in the form of subsidies, ethanol boondoggles, trade barriers, and paying farmers not to grow food. By the way, how’s all that trust in compassionate socialism coming when it comes to say, not letting old people die of heat in the summertime?

  • Out-takes from Whose Line Is It Anyway? I like it when they swear.
  • Sex offender sues harassing neighbors.
  • Photos from the FLDS invasion raid. Tanks, cammies, helmets, assault weapons. Looks like an army to me. Posse commiwhatus?

  • Is it just me or is the water in this pot getting a little hotter?

    Monday, April 28th, 2008

    In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley wants patrol cops in the inner city to carry M4 assault rifles on the streets.

    In Springfield, patrol cops in the inner city are going to switch to black, military-style uniforms on the streets. According to cop mouthpiece Sergeant John Delaney, the purpose of the new uniforms is in order to make sure that the cops spread a sense of fear.

    Do you feel safer now?

    Further reading:

    Sean Bell

    Saturday, April 26th, 2008

    Several people have asked me what I think about the acquittal of the four New York City police officers who shot and killed unarmed groom-to-be Sean Bell. I guess I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. We’ll never know exactly what happened, but I’d wager to guess that if four men not wearing badges were to unload 50 rounds into another, unarmed group of men, killing one and sending stray bullets all over the neighborhood, they wouldn’t have escaped without being convicted of a single crime.

    On the other hand, I’m having a hard time seeing how…uh…capitalism is to blame. This is what happens to people who read too much Naomi Klein.

    Why Not Just Shoot a Couple of People? That’ll Work, Too

    Friday, April 25th, 2008

    So much for “community policing.”

    Springfield’s men in black are returning.

    The city’s new police commissioner, William Fitchet, says members of the department’s Street Crime Unit will again don black, military-style uniforms as part of his strategy to deal with youth violence.

    Fitchet’s predecessor, Edward Flynn, had ditched the black attire as part of an effort to soften the image of the unit. Flynn left Springfield in January to become the police chief in Milwaukee.

    Sgt. John Delaney told a city council hearing Wednesday that the stark uniforms send a message to criminals that officers are serious about making arrests.

    Delaney said a sense of “fear” has been missing for the past few years.

    Worth keeping in mind when you hear complaints about how the public always assumes the worst about the police. I can’t tell you how many older and retired cops have expressed their concerns to me about this kind of thing. That is, the psychology effected by military-style uniforms happens on both sides of the badge. It’s bad enough that Sgt. Delaney thinks it’s the role of the police to instill fear in the people they work for. But the flip side is even worse: When you dress cops like soldiers, some of them are going to start acting like soldiers.

    We need government cops because private protection forces would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people.

    Friday, April 25th, 2008

    NEW YORK — The wail that came up from the crowd was as if they heard that Sean Bell had died again.

    No! they shouted, while dozens of people, wearing Bell’s face on hats, T-shirts and buttons, burst into sobs.

    The scene unfolded outside the courthouse Friday as three police officers were cleared of all charges in the 2006 shooting of Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets on his wedding day.

    Hundreds of friends of Bell and others wanted vindication for what they called a racially motivated shooting, and they reacted with tears and explosive anger to the officers’ acquittal.

    Many people in the predominantly black crowd began reciting other cases where black New Yorkers were shot by police, and the officers, they said, got away with it.

    This was a disgrace, what happened today, shouted Calvin Hutton, a Harlem resident. We prayed for a different result, but we got the same old bull——.

    Inside the packed Queens courtroom, gasps could be heard when Judge Arthur Cooperman acquitted the officers. Bell’s mother cried; her husband put his arm around her and shook his head. Bell’s fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, left the courtroom immediately. […] Scores of police officers formed lines in the middle of traffic to block the crowd from charging the courthouse.

    […] Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the judge sent a message to officers that when you’re in front of the bench, that you will get fairness.

    […] William Hardgraves, 48, an electrician from Harlem, brought his 12-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter to hear the verdict. […] I hoped it would be different this time. They shot him 50 times, Hardgraves said. But of course, it wasn’t.

    Assocated Press 2008-04-25: Sean Bell Supporters Angry About Detectives’ Acquittal in Wedding Day Killing

    Further reading:

    The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston

    Thursday, April 24th, 2008

    Sean Mullins’ ode to the 92-year-old woman killed in a botched drug raid came out a few weeks ago. And it’s good! Well, the music is good. The lyrics wander around a bit, and don’t really tell what actually happened. But hey, it’s a good pop song about a botched drug raid. I’m not going to complain. I can’t find it online anywhere, but you can download it from Amazon for a buck.


    Here’s a short interview
    Mullins gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I’d beg to differ with him on one point. Mullins says this kind of thing only happens in “certain neighborhoods.” It’s probably true that low-income people get the brunt of it. But there are plenty of examples of botched raids on college students, middle-class homes, and, occasionally, even millionaires.

    More Damage from the Non-Lethal Taser

    Monday, April 21st, 2008

    The reader who sent me this link has a connection to the man who tased, and says he’s expected to die today.