Archive for August, 2010

Needs More RAM

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Two years ago the Chesapeake, Virginia, police made some decisions that led to an officer’s death, then tried to convict a scapegoat of capital murder. In April, following an outcry, the police department announced a change in how it will conduct drug raids. But it wasn’t the change you might have expected.

In January 2008 Chesapeake cops raided the home of 28-year-old Ryan Frederick. Days earlier, an informant had broken into Frederick’s house. He spotted several marijuana plants and stole some of them, giving police the probable cause they needed to obtain a search warrant. During the raid, police put a battering ram through part of Frederick’s door. Frederick says he awoke, saw someone breaking into his home, remembered the burglary of several days earlier, panicked, and fired his gun through the broken door. His bullet struck and killed one of the police officers, Det. Jarrod Shivers.

Police and prosecutors claimed that the cops announced themselves and that Frederick killed Shivers intentionally. The state sought to convict him of capital murder. A year later, Frederick was convicted of manslaughter instead and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The case spurred a flurry of discussion in the Chesapeake-Hampton Roads area about the use of informants and of SWAT-like forced-entry tactics to serve marijuana warrants. Readers’ comments on a local newspaper’s website, initially pro-police, soured against the department as details about the shoddy investigation came to light. The police, for example, had done almost no investigation to corroborate their informant’s tip.

So what did the Chesapeake Police Department announce in April? It won’t be reconsidering its policy of sending cops on volatile, forced-entry raids into the homes of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Nor will it change the way its narcotics officers deal with drug informants. Instead, the department announced, Chesapeake narcotics officers will be using a new and improved battering ram.   

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

Trust Us: You Can Trust Us

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

My crime column this week is a follow-up on Northern Virginia’s extremely secretive police agencies. There’s a law in the state legislature that would require them to be marginally more forthcoming. Naturally, law enforcement officials across the state are fighting to defeat it.

“UNR Police Are Hurting Students” by John Russell

Monday, August 30th, 2010
John Russell and his buddies have been busy with their video cameras in Reno, NV.  They have submitted videos to Cop Block time and time again, even winning the first Video Contest.  It’s been encouraging to watch John and his friends expand their Cop Blocking skills.  They keep calm, engage police with logical arguments and of [...]

Sunday Links

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Killing fine, so long as there’s no ‘ill will’

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
Do we live in a free country, or a police state? In a free country, police (to the extent they’re needed — more private property rights and less “public property” would vastly increase the ratio of private security guards) live under and must obey the same laws as the rest of us. In a police [...]

The Police Beat

Saturday, August 28th, 2010
  • Last month AOL News ran an anecdotal Data-less Trend Story about city governments in small towns firing the city government police force in order to cope with budget crunches.[1] I’d like to know what the actual data here is; typically, cash-strapped city governments react by cutting everything except police and jails. If governments’ financing crises are finally leading them to reduce the number of police patrolling city streets, that’s surprisingly good news. Most of the towns mentioned are very small towns — with populations ranging from about 700 to 4,500. The outlier, Maywood, California, has about 30,000 people living in the town (with a whopping 4 murders in 2008! twice the national average!). Apparently part of the reason they fired the police department was because a lot of the city government’s $450,000 budget deficit, and its trouble securing insurance, came from lawsuits, many involving the police. Government employees and hangers-on are going nuts about all of this. After the vote in Maywood, ex-City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval told the city council You single-handedly destroyed the city, by which she means that they outsourced the city government. (You won’t find any burned-out buildings, torn-up streets, or dead bodies; the places and people in the city of Maywood, California are still right where they were, going on as happily as they were before; the only things destroyed were the government jobs of tax-eaters like City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval.) Jim Pasco, national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Pigs, said that decisions to fire local police were penny wise and pound foolish, because sheriff’s departments and state police will be spread thin patrolling larger areas, and no amount is too much to spend on city cops, because The absolute threshold responsibility of a government at any level is to ensure the safety of its citizens.

  • For example, consider local hero Officer Bryan Yant, liar and killer for the Las Vegas Metro police department, who by making up lies to obtain fraudulent search warrants and by violently breaking into citizens’ homes late at night, where he ensures the safety of Las Vegas’s citizens by kicking down doors and shooting unarmed black men with his AR-15 assault rifle, based on furtive motions and a glimmer or something shiny that nobody but Officer Bryan Yant ever saw, and which is plainly contradicted by forensic evidence related to the angle of the shot. Local government in Las Vegas has fulfilled is threshold responsibility by once again[2] ensuring the safety of Officer Bryan Yant from any legal consequences for shooting innocent, unarmed men in the head during a hyperviolent raid to investigate a completely nonviolent, victimless crime, all of it based on demonstrable falsehoods and mistaken identity — oops! my bad! All of which should free Officer Bryan Yant up for a fourth Internal Investigation, in which his government colleagues will once again either exonerate him or let him off without any criminal penalties, for lying and fabricating fictitious search and arrest warrants in at least one other drug investigation involving another hyperviolent late night home raid. The polite term in local media for Officer Bryan Yant’s work ensuring the safety of Las Vegas citizens is sloppy. A better term would be fraudulent and lethally violent. How much safer does it make you feel that this lying, killing 4-time winner is still a fully-paid member of the Las Vegas Metro police force?

  • Meanwhile, in El Reno, Oklahoma, government police officers are ensuring the safety of El Reno citizens by forcing their way into an 86-year-old bed-ridden grandmother’s home on a wellness check, and then, if she should object to 10 armed strangers busting into her house, by stepping on her oxygen hose and torturing her with electrical shocks in her own bed, until she passes out from the pain. El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown justified this use of extreme violence against an elderly woman who could not possibly have physically harmed anybody more than a couple feet away from her on the grounds that she was holding a kitchen knife, and she told officers She was in control of her life. Thus, Police were forced [sic!] to use a Taser on the woman until she could be forced into a hospital psychoprison — not because she was actually charged with any crime, of course, but so that she could be cured of her deranged and dangerous belief that she was in control of her own life.

  • Meanwhile, in New York, New York, Officer Patrick Pogan, a government police officer working for the New York city government, ensured the safety of New York citizens by body-slamming an unarmed bicyclist to the ground for trying to avoid hitting him, and then lying about it in his police reports, where he claimed that his victim was trying to ram into him, rather than swerving around him. His government colleague Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley, in turn, fulfilled his threshold obligation by ensuring that this lying violent thug would face absolutely no criminal consequences whatsoever for the crimes that he had been convicted of.

  • Also, in New York, New York, government cop Detective Louis J. Eppolito ensured the safety of New York citizens by taking a second job as an informant and hit-man for the Luchese crime family. He took a special interest in ensuring the safety of Brian Gibbs by framing him for murder — among other things, making up fictional witness statements, threatening witnesses in order to get testimony against Gibbs, withholding evidence that would have proven Gibbs’s evidence, and torturing Gibbs himself until he extracted a false confession. Brian Gibbs lost 19 years of his life locked in prison. The New York Police Department spent years fulfilling its threshold obligation to keep Detective Louis J. Eppolito safe from any consequences for his violent crimes, even though — years before he tortured and framed Brian Gibbs — they had direct evidence that he was working for the Mafia (including having his fingerprints on police reports he had handed off to a fellow gangster). The Incident was, of course, Internally Investigated, and Detective Eppolito was let off without even facing any administrative disciplinary actions. Which freed him up to go on murdering and imprisoning innocent people for the mob. The city government in New York still officially maintains that Brian Gibbs is guilty of murder. However, they’ve decided to sign a $9,900,000 settlement; dedicated public servants that they are, they will send the bill to innocent New York City taxpayers who had nothing to do with the crimes committed against Brian Gibbs.

  • Meanwhile, in Sebastian County, Arkansas, government drug investigators are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging heavily armed, late-night raids on citizens’ houses, where they threaten the lives of everyone in the house, including sleeping babies — without bothering to check the address on the mailbox to see whether they are actually even forcing their way into the right house. (Oops! My bad!) Then, after releasing their innocent victims from the shackles they had forced them into, the cops they went down the street to the right house, where they broke into somebody else’s home, threatened three other innocent people’s lives, and forced them into cages at gunpoint, for the completely nonviolent offense of having marijuana.

  • Meanwhile, in Universal City, Texas, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by surrounding innocent women and children in their cars, pointing guns at them and screaming at them to put their hands up, and then forcing their way into the car before they realize — oops! our bad! — that they had the wrong car and the wrong people, and were threatening the lives of a black woman with three children who had nothing to do with the white man they were trying to ambush. Since government police never face any consequences whatsoever for their fuck-ups, no matter how high-stakes, violent, reckless, traumatic or dangerous to the safety of innocent citizens, the police department is waving it off as an unfortunate coincidence. They refer to the use of such high-stakes, violent tactics in uncertain situations, with incomplete information, to terrify and overwhelm innocent women and children, as doing our jobs, and publicly state that We would not change what we did. Of course they wouldn’t; who’s going to make them?

  • Meanwhile, in Tavares, Florida, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by interrogating and then arresting Latina women who are not suspected of any crime, for not giving her name fast enough or producing identification papers on demand. The government police officer told his victim that she had to provide ID because he needed to put her name in a database. When she said she needed to go to the car to get it, the cop arrested her for resisting arrest and had her locked in a jail cell for 5 hours.

  • Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Ontario, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging hyperviolent drug raids, forcing their way into apartments at gunpoint, forcing the citizens in them to the floor, then slamming their faces into the floor and kicking them when they try to explain that the cops have the wrong address. Po Lo Hay’s safety was ensured so good and hard that he ended up with stitches above his eye, a bloody nose, welts, and a broken rib.

  • Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, England, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by threatening them with electrical torture devices and then accidentally hitting them with a 50,000 volt electric shock to their genitals, in the course of an unnecessary traffic stop intended to investigate whether or not they were committing the completely nonviolent offense of driving without government-mandated corporate car insurance. For accidentally inflicting the worst pain that this innocent man has ever been subjected to in his life, government cops are offering an Oops! Our bad!

I sure am glad that government cops are out there to ensure our safety, and local governments are there to extract tax dollars to force us all, on threat of prison, to pay for this threshold obligation. If government cops weren’t there to harass, threaten, torture, frame, jail or kill innocent citizens, all with complete legal impunity so long as they can shout an Oops! My bad! that some fellow cop or other government employee will believe, who would keep us all safe?

  1. [1] When city governments fire police forces, county sheriffs or state police forces generally take over the busting of heads and jailing of suspects. But the shift does mean that patrol cops are fewer and farther between, and local taxpayers are much less likely to get soaked with local tax increases to pay for salaries or benefits packages.
  2. [2] Yant has gunned down three people during his police career — killing two of them, including Trevon Cole — and has been exonerated by the police department and the Clark County government’s coroner’s inquest.

Saturday Links

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

In Which Observing a Traffic Stop = Resisting Arrest

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Salisbury, North Carolina:

The resisting-arrest conviction last week of Felicia Gibson has left a lot of people wondering. Can a person be charged with resisting arrest while observing a traffic stop from his or her own front porch?

Salisbury Police Officer Mark Hunter thought so, and last week District Court Judge Beth Dixon agreed. Because Gibson did not at first comply when the officer told her and others to go inside, the judge found Gibson guilty of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.

Gibson wasn’t the only one watching the stop, and wasn’t the only one who refused to go inside. So why was she arrested and not the others? This might have had something to do with it:

She was the only one holding up a cell-phone video camera.

You have to wonder if Officer Hunter is fit for police work if he’s so easily distracted that merely observing him from a distance qualifies as obstructing him from performing his duties.

In Which Observing a Traffic Stop = Resisting Arrest

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Salisbury, North Carolina:

The resisting-arrest conviction last week of Felicia Gibson has left a lot of people wondering. Can a person be charged with resisting arrest while observing a traffic stop from his or her own front porch?

Salisbury Police Officer Mark Hunter thought so, and last week District Court Judge Beth Dixon agreed. Because Gibson did not at first comply when the officer told her and others to go inside, the judge found Gibson guilty of resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.

Gibson wasn't the only one watching the stop, and wasn't the only one who refused to go inside. So why was she arrested and not the others? This might have had something to do with it:

She was the only one holding up a cell-phone video camera.

You have to wonder if Officer Hunter is fit for police work if he's so easily distracted that merely observing him from a distance qualifies as obstructing him from performing his duties.

Lunch Links

Friday, August 27th, 2010
  • Scientists bring a Steven Wright joke to life.
  • Redesigning Addis Ababa.
  • Somehow I missed that yesterday was National Dog Day. Here’s a gallery of photos.
  • Montgomery, Alabama to poor people: We’re going to demolish your house, steal your property, and give the land to rich developers. Oh, and we’re going to bill you for the demolition costs. This isn’t even eminent domain. It’s much eviler.
  • Shorter Eric Holder: It might be nice to do something about prison rape, but it’s just too darned expensive. I can see his point. Better that we pay wealthy people to get SUV’s with better gas mileage.
  • Man arrested, falsely charged after filming police making an arrest, calling them “Nazis.” Yeah, he’s an asshole. Barring an actual crime, being an asshole shouldn’t get you arrested.