Archive for December, 2008

Monday Morning Links

Monday, December 29th, 2008
  • The Dallas Morning News names Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins its “Texan of the Year.” You can read my interview with Watkins here.
  • Oh, Republicans. It’s sorta’ ironic how insensitive the GOP can be toward minorities, given that the way they’re going, that’s going to be their status in Congress for a good decade to come. It’s fine to oppose political correctness. It’s stupid to go out of your way to offend people, just to show how opposed you are to political correctness. A couple of days ago, I was listening to the right’s latest acid-tongued blonde, Monica Crowley. She too was playing some needlessly offensive parody on her show, this one about illegal immigrants stealing cars and spreading bubonic plague to the tune of “Feliz Navidad.” It wasn’t the least bit funny. Just mean.
  • You mean a public servant is warning that unless he gets more public funding, all hell will break loose? Imagine!
  • Nicholas Kristof is torn. If someone is able to make lots of money while at the same time helping others, is that person good, or evil? It’s unfortunate that there are people who even feel obligated to ask the question. I have a little parable I like to bring out on occasions like these. It’s the parable of Jack Welch and Aaron Feuerstein.
  • Add to the list of stuff banned by government: Snowzilla!
  • Here’s more on the city of Chesapeake, Virginia’s harassment of Ryan Frederick over code violations at his home and property.

  • Saturday Links/Open Thread

    Saturday, December 27th, 2008
  • Cheney versus the rule of law.
  • Survey of emergency room physicians shows nearly all believe police use excessive force in arresting and detaining suspects.
  • Former Treasury Sec. John Snow says Bush administration “forgot” the basic principle that before the government implements expansive new programs pushing home ownership, it should probably make sure those people can actually afford the homes they’re buying.
  • Flash Speak & Spell.
  • Will it blend: Bic lighter? With fireball goodness.
  • Will Obama decriminalize marijuana?
  • Eartha Kitt, RIP. The Agitatrix does a mean version of “Santa Baby.”
  • Beautiful panoramic of Hong Kong at night.

  • Puppycide

    Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

    Infuriating story from San Diego’s alternative weekly.

    Around noon on Tuesday, Dec. 2, Peeples was watching TV at home when he heard a knock at the front door. When he looked out the door’s top window, he saw a group of men standing on his porch wearing jeans and T-shirts, a couple of them looking a little ratty. To get a better look, he went to a side window and peeked through the drawn blinds. “Honestly, they looked like they were transients,” he said.

    The men, it ends up, were undercover narcotics officers who were there on a complaint about drug activity at that address—Peeples was later told that it had to do with a “chemical smell.” Peeples said the men—he estimates there were six—never announced who they were.

    Peeples waited until they circled back to the front of his house, at which point he opened his back door to investigate.  That’s when his dog, a three-year-old Staffy named Eygpt ran out.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, except that one of the police officers had left the backyard gate open. The dog ran out, and down Peeple’s driveway toward the officers, at which point they shot it three times.  Even the police concede the dog never attacked. They shot it as it was running toward them.

    It only gets worse from there. The police then arrested Peeples on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon—the weapon being his now dying dog.  Peeples says they then euthanized his dog, despite his explicit instructions not to.

    Animal Control spokesperson Dan DeSousa said Peeples’ verbal authorization to euthanize Egypt was witnessed by a second officer, but Peeples insists he never gave permission. “Do not kill my dog; do everything you can to save my dog,” he remembers yelling. When he saw Chris Victor, his neighbor, he asked him to make sure Egypt was kept alive. Victor said he called animal control to let them know he’d cover any cost for Egypt’s care, but by the time his call got through, Egypt had been euthanized. DeSousa said the dog was put down immediately after arriving.

    The police didn’t find the meth lab they were presumably looking for.  They did apparently find a misdemeanor amount of marijuana in Peeple’s garage—marijuana that, according to the article, was “so old that it disintegrated upon contact.”

    These stories seem to be popping up with increasing frequency.  Three weeks ago, police in Waldorf, Maryland shot a family dog in front of two small children while attempting to serve papers on a man who no longer lived at the address.  They claim the dog charged them.  Last month, police in Indianapolis put nine bullets in a German Shepherd.  They ignored warning signs about the dog posted on the property before walking in to serve a warrant on a man who hadn’t lived at the address in years.  Just last week week, police in Gwinnett County, Georgia shot and killed a Dalmatian after entering the wrong garage to serve a warrant in a gang-related case.

    Milwaukee resident Virginia Villo is suing that city for the 2004 police shooting of her lab-springer spaniel mix, Bubba.  As part of her lawsuit, she requested police reports of every dog killed by Milwaukee police over a nine-year period.  The request turned up 434 dead puppy reports, or about one every seven-and-a-half days.

    See more puppycide stories from recent months here, here, and here.  Or browse stories from the last couple of years here.

    Note too that none of these more recent incidents were associated with drug raids (that’s a different problem).  They’re cases where the police walked or drove onto private property (usually at the wrong address), were confronted by the dog that lived on that property, interepreted—correctly or not—the dog’s barks or gestures to be threatening, then shot the animal.  Last August, video surfaced of a case in Oklahoma where an officer pulled into a woman named Tammy Christopher’s driveway to ask directions.  When Christopher’s Wheaton Terrier ran out of the house to great the officer (the dog appears to be bounding in the video)—still on Christopher’s property—the officer shoots the dog dead. Christopher released the video to a local news station when the police department wouldn’t listen to her complaint.

    What’s troubling is how often in these stories the police officer’s first reaction is to fire his weapon at the animal.  I suppose that reaction might be understandable if the dog is, say, a pit bull, given that type of dog’s (not entirely deserved) reputation.  But black labs? Dalmatians? Springer spaniels? A Jack Russell? Something’s clearly amiss when a police officer can stroll onto the private property of someone who’s doing nothing illegal, be confronted by a dog who’s merely doing what dogs do—defending his territory—shoot the dog dead, and get nothing but full support from his superiors. Moreover, many of these shootings have happened in neighborhoods, inside of homes, and in a few cases, directly in front of children.  You’d think there would be some public safety concerns, too.

    Police departments should be training officers how to deal with dogs in ways other than filling them full of bullets.  Cops should be taught, for example, how to tell a charging dog from a bounding one; an angry dog from a barking but playful one; and that a curious or territorial bark is much less threatening than a snarl.  Mailmen, firemen, paramedics, and the rest of us non-badge-wearing citizens manage to visit private homes and deal with the dogs that may reside in them without resorting gunfire.  It’s odd that not insignificant number of police officers can’t.

    There are plenty of ways of safely dealing with even a large, aggressive dog that fall far short of shooting it. I don’t know what percentage of police departments offer this sort of training, but it seems clear that quite a few of them don’t.

    One of the Cops That Jumped Dymond Milburn Named 2008 Galveston “Officer of the Year”

    Monday, December 22nd, 2008

    Congrats, Officer Sean Stewart. You are the latest embodiment of Justice Antonin Scalia’s “new police professionalism” in action.

    See here (pdf), page five.

    Prior posts on Milburn’s lawuit here and here.

    Credit to commenter CharlesWT for the find.

    Saturday Links/Open Thread

    Saturday, December 20th, 2008
  • SWAT team mistakenly breaks into teenagers’ bedroom. Note that they were raiding the neighbor for a nonviolent crime (he was suspected of having child porn on his computer), and that he was released shortly after they confiscated his computer. If one of the teens had a gun in the room, this mistake would probably have resulted in a body or two.
  • Dick Cheney says he and he alone will decide which of his official documents get turned over to the National Archives. I wonder what novel legal theories David Addington & Co. will come up with to allow Cheney to continue asserting unlimited power after he leaves office?
  • President Bush’s “I had to kill the free market in order to save it” economics continues apace.
  • The most inane article you’ll read this week.
  • Pitchfork releases its annual list of albums you aren’t cool enough to have heard of.
  • The Buckeye Institute has filed suit on behalf of the Christian food co-op raided by the state’s Agriculture Department earlier this month.

  • Dead Dog Tales

    Friday, December 19th, 2008

    Two dogs killed this week in Gwinnet County, Georgia. Two very different reactions from local authorities.

    Here’s the first:

    Gwinnett police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the person who stabbed and dismembered a dog before discarding the carcass behind a Duluth store.

    [...]

    A stab wound led to the dog’s death, said Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman.

    Spellman said investigators are especially anxious to get leads that could point them to the culprit in the “gruesome” crime, adding that “anybody that is capable of doing that is capable of doing anything,” Spellman said.

    [...]

    Whoever killed the dog is subject to be charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, which carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000, police said.

    Here’s the other story:

    A family in Gwinnett County was outraged Wednesday night after they say police officers shot their beloved dog.  The homeowners said the incident happened because police went to the wrong house.

    [...]

    The homeowner said when police went into the garage she heard three shots.  The homeowner said an officer told her they shot the dog and the dog ran off.

    [...]

    Officer said they were looking for a material witness in a gang member’s trial, but they entered the wrong home.  Police entered 1468B, instead of 1468A.

    Officers said the dog charged and the officer felt he was in imminent danger and shot the dog.

    The vicious beast was a 2-year-old Dalmatian.

    It’s the second time in 10 days that cops in Gwinnett County have forced their way into the wrong home.

    More on Dymond Milburn

    Thursday, December 18th, 2008

    So there’s been quite a bit of discusion around the Internet on the Dymond Milburn case since I posted on this Houston Press story this afternoon.  I guess if you aren’t used to these sorts of stories, it can seem a little implausible.  Which is why more than a few commenters at various sites have raised the possibility that the whole thing is a hoax.  If it is, it’s quite a hoax.  Like, on a Tawana Brawley scale.

    So let’s clarify some misconceptions…

    It’s all a hoax.

    The lawsuit is very real. It was filed in August of this year.  Here’s a write-up from the Courthouse News Service from the day it was filed.  Here’s a copy (pdf) of the complaint.  If this is a hoax, Milburn, her family, and her attorney are going to great lengths to pull it off. Yes, her complaint likely paints what happened in a light quite favorable to her, and unfavorable to the police.  But I’d be very surprised if the major components of the complaint weren’t true.

    This happened two years ago.  Why are you posting about it now?

    The incident happened in August 2006.  The lawsuit was filed in August of this year.  Milburn’s attorney tipped off Houston Press reporter Chris Vogel, who wrote about the case yesterday.  I saw Vogel’s story, and blogged about the case today.

    This is just one version of events, from Milburn’s lawyer.

    Yes, and I made that clear in the post.  After I put up the post and talked to Vogel on the phone, he posted a response from the police officers’ lawyer, William Helfand.  You can read that here.

    Here’s what isn’t in dispute:  Milburn was wrongly targeted during a prostitution raid.  The police were looking for white prostitutes.  Milburn is black.  She was apprehended by plain-clothes narcotics officers who emerged from a van as she stood outside her home.  She resisted.  The police have acknowledged they targeted the wrong house.  Three weeks later, Milburn was arrested at  her school, in front of her classmates, for “assaulting a public official.”  At some point, her father was arrested on a similar charge.  The judge declared a mistrial on the first day of Milburn’s trial.  According to Vogel, she’s scheduled to be tried again in February.

    Milburn and her family are now suing the police officers who apprehended her.  They claim she was severely beaten during the raid.  According to the compliant, two hours after the raid, Milburn’s parents took her to a hospital, where doctors documented a host of nasty injuries.  I haven’t seen documentation of the hospital stay or the injuries, but if that’s all included in the complaint, I would assume it exists.

    I called the Galveston police department and the Galveston district attorney’s office for comment.  I haven’t yet heard back from either.

    Milburn has profiles on social networking sites that say she’s 17.  That means she would have been 15 at the time of the raid, not 12.

    I’m not linking to a minor’s social networking page, particularly a minor who may have been the victim of abuse.  She doesn’t need a bunch of crazies trying to contact her.  Use Google, or check the comments if you’re interested, but yes, she does state in one of her profiles that she’s 17. My guess is that Milburn exaggerated her age, as teenage girls sometimes do on the Internet.  This high school track and field results page, found by a commenter, says she was born in 1993.  If her birthday falls later in the year than August, she would have been 12 at the time of the raid, as indicated in the complaint.

    If it’s true, why hasn’t an outrageous story like this been picked up by the national media?

    Why don’t 90 percent of the abuses of power we look at on this site get covered by the national media?  The lawsuit was filed in August of an election year.  A single instance of police misconduct in Galveston at that time would have quite a few other stories to compete with.  As to why the story wasn’t covered in 2006, Vogel tells me the raid took place in a low-income neighborhood.  I would guess that after a traumatic experience like that, and after the seemingly retributive arrest, the family was either too frightened to take their story to the media, or couldn’t get anyone to listen when they did.

    I’ll post more information on this case as I learn of it.

    Another Isolated Incident

    Thursday, December 18th, 2008

    But not a drug raid.  A prostitution raid.

    It was a little before 8 at night when the breaker went out at Emily Milburn’s home in Galveston. She was busy preparing her children for school the next day, so she asked her 12-year-old daughter, Dymond, to pop outside and turn the switch back on.

    As Dymond headed toward the breaker, a blue van drove up and three men jumped out rushing toward her. One of them grabbed her saying, “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.”

    Dymond grabbed onto a tree and started screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” One of the men covered her mouth. Two of the men beat her about the face and throat.

    As it turned out, the three men were plain-clothed Galveston police officers who had been called to the area regarding three white prostitutes soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

    All this is according to a lawsuit filed in Galveston federal court by Milburn against the officers. The lawsuit alleges that the officers thought Dymond, an African-American, was a hooker due to the “tight shorts” she was wearing, despite not fitting the racial description of any of the female suspects. The police went to the wrong house, two blocks away from the area of the reported illegal activity…

    So you’d think that after the police figured out they had the wrong house, they’d apologize, and possibly even compensate the girl and her family. According to the lawsuit, you’d be wrong:

    After the incident, Dymond was hospitalized and suffered black eyes as well as throat and ear drum injuries.

    Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, police went to Dymond’s school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant. Griffin says the allegations stem from when Dymond fought back against the three men who were trying to take her from her home. The case went to trial, but the judge declared it a mistrial on the first day, says Griffin. The new trial is set for February.

    I have a call into the Galveston district attorney and with Dymond Milburn’s lawyer. We’re going on a press account of one side of a lawsuit, here.  So it’s possible—and I would hope—that there are some important details missing.

    Otherwise, a police mistake leads to an innocent 12-year-old getting violently snatched up and roughed up by a group of plainclothes cops jumping out of a van . . . and they charge her for resisting?

    The New Professionalism

    Thursday, December 18th, 2008

    Cop arrested for DWI. BAC was three times the legal limit. Turns out, it’s his fourth DWI in the last 12 months. The first two charges were dropped by county prosecutors. One of those was dropped when the arresting officer conveniently failed to show up for a court hearing. The third apparently resulted in some sort of conviction, but the cop was back in his patrol car within months.

    Virtual high-five to anyone who can guess where the cop works.

    Morning Links

    Thursday, December 18th, 2008
  • Anne Applebaum says the Madoff bust may cripple American capitalism.
  • Libertarian purity test: If preventing people from committing force or fraud against others is a legitimate function of government, how do you feel about the government shutting down fortune tellers? Legitimate fraud prevention, or infringement on free speech?
  • Ted Galen Carpenter throws cold water on DEA claims that our Latin American intervention efforts are “working.”
  • More Madoff fallout: Looks like the criminal justice advocacy foundation JEHT will fold. They’re also one of the big sponsors of the Innocence Project. That’s bad news.
  • Utah man sprays raiding SWAT team with bear repellent. Probably a pretty good indicator that the guy didn’t know they were cops. They also charged him with possession, which means they didn’t find enough drugs to merit a distribution charge.
  • The Wall Street Journal on Obama’s sudden fondness for pre-Bolshevik Russian nobility. Nothing like the head of a democracy showing he’s serious about a problem by bestowing on a political appointee a title that implies authoritarian power.