Archive for September, 2010

More Adventures in Police Professionalism

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson recently awarded Barron Bowling $830,000 for the beating he suffered at the hands of DEA Agent Timothy McCue. McCue and Bowling got into an accident in Kansas City, Kansas, after which McCue emerged from his car, gun drawn, and beat the leaving hell out of Bowling. McCue, the DEA, and officers at the Kansas City police department then conspired to cover up the beating, leaving Bowling to face charges of leaving the scene of an accident (understandable, given that he was getting beaten at the time), and assaulting Agent McCue with his car. Witness statements incriminating McCue for both the accident and the beating were lost or destroyed, as were photos of the damage McCue did to Bowling’s face.

The good news: At least one of the Kansas City police officers has since been disciplined. He was investigated by Internal Affairs, forced into early retirement, lost his retirement health insurance, and lost part of his pension.

The bad news: Only one of them was disciplined. Oh, and he happens to be the cop who exposed the coverup.

Cop Block Contributors Adam & Pete Roll Through Checkpoint Unscathed

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
(Cross-posted at AUSTIN, TX – Last night when cruising east on I-10 we encountered one of the now-permanent checkpoints that’s not actually even on the border itself. Per text put on paper by bureaucrats, men with guns now claim the authority to stop and harass travelers anywhere within 100 miles of the arbitrary political boundary [...]

Judge Tosses Out Wiretapping Charges Against Motorcyclist Who Filmed Cop With Helmet Cam

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Back in April, we wrote about the ridiculous case in Maryland, where an off-duty cop pulled a gun on a motorcyclist, and the whole thing was uploaded on YouTube. While the guy on the motorcycle probably was speeding, the cops later charged him with illegal wiretapping, because he posted the video with audio on YouTube. Through a very twisted interpretation of wiretapping laws, the police and courts have been claiming that any audio recording of police -- even in public places -- can violate wiretap laws. From a common sense standpoint, this is clearly nothing more than an attempt to punish people who expose questionable police activities.

Thankfully, in that case in Maryland, a judge has tossed out the wiretapping claims pointing out that there was no expectation of privacy out in public.
"Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public," the judge wrote. "When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation."
This seems so obvious that it's troubling it needed to even go this far.

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Encryption Nonsense

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It’s hard to improve on Charlie Savage’s story and the many good discussions of the civil liberties implications of the Obama administration’s desire to mandate back doors to encrypted messaging systems like BlackBerry and Skype. I just want to point out that, in addition to the violation of privacy, it’s also bad business and bad security.

It’s bad business because it opens the doors to companies that aren’t governed by US law to create competing solutions and sell them in places where US law doesn’t apply. BlackBerry may buckle under and allow a back door to remain a player in the US market, but some other player could well create a smartphone messaging system that doesn’t have a back door and sell it in the parts of the world that don’t give a shit about US law. And other companies may create smartphone software (apps) that run on top of your iPhone or BlackBerry’s phone or messaging apps to encrypt voice and text traffic, but those companies will be headquartered (and employ engineers) somewhere beyond Eric Holder’s reach.

It’s bad security because a back door is an opening that can be breached by hackers as well as law enforcement, and the existence of a back door makes the system that has one an immediate target of hackers. RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, may not care about your civil rights, but they sure as hell don’t want to be the target of a hack that leverages a back door that they put in to satisfy the US, UAE and India.

A back door to publicly-available encryption has been the wet dream of law enforcement for decades. The last attempt, Clipper, died a quick and inglorious death, and I can only hope that the current idiocy is tucked away in a grave soon, and buried deep.


The Price of Fame

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The Ohio Department of Public Safety has apologized to former American Idol contestant Crystal Bowersox after finding confidential state databases had been improperly used to look for information on the singer. Employees of five local law enforcement agencies, a municipal court and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles all searched for information after Bowersox, who is from Ohio, shot to fame on a the TV show.

Unarmed Pregnant Woman Shot During Drug Raid

Monday, September 27th, 2010

In Spokane, Washington:

A pregnant, unarmed woman was shot during a drug raid in Spokane on Friday morning and she remained hospitalized late last night as investigators pieced together what happened in the county’s third officer-involved shooting in four weeks.

A Washington State Patrol detective sergeant shot the woman, who according to the sheriff’s spokesman is 39 weeks pregnant, while serving a search warrant at the Victoria Apartments, 1405 N. Lincoln St., according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the shooting along with members of the Spokane Police Department and the WSP.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan confirmed that officers found no weapons in the home but did find quantities of drugs during the execution of the search warrant.

“During the entry, a female suspect inside the apartment became non-compliant with officers’ instructions,” Reagan wrote in a news release. “When she attempted to flee out a bedroom window, officers attempted to restrain her. During efforts to prevent her escape, a shot was fired and the woman suffered a minor wound to her upper torso. She fell out the window and received first aid from containment officers stationed at the back of the apartments.”

He offered no further details about why the detective used deadly force, which law enforcement officers are trained to use if they believe their lives are in danger.

Reagan did not identify the woman but said she was a drug suspect and that a multiagency task force from the Moscow-Pullman area “had identified residents at the Spokane apartment complex as suppliers of crack cocaine sold in southeast Washington.”

Men Assaulted by Baltimore Police

Monday, September 27th, 2010
David Boyer, along with his two friends, Ray and Alex were assaulted by police while attempting to buy pizza after a night out.  One of the three pulled out his cell phone to catch the event on camera. David contacted and wanted to share his story. Here is his account of the incident: Myself [...]

Friday Link Roundup

Friday, September 24th, 2010
Here’s a bizarre one. An officer in Milwaukee was arrested on domestic violence charges. The officer, Mark T. Lelinski, is accused of threatening to a murder a woman and, in a separate incident, urinating on their sleeping baby. Meanwhile, former Minneapolis officer Timothy Carson plead guilty to five counts of armed robbery. According to Carson’s lawyers, [...]

Getting Away With Murder

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Two deaths and two injuries. That’s what happens when you text and drive. The punishment for such a heinous act? 30 months probation, two years paid salary and possible personal injury workers’ compensation. No, the perpetrator is not God — just a state trooper.

Former Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell crossed over the median and hit a car carrying four teens head-on — at 126 mph, while sending text messages to, and reading messages from, girlfriend.  Mitchell pleaded guilty and only received thirty months probation. In the current system, pleading guilty to even completely obvious crimes with dozens of witnesses gets you a lesser punishment.

Because Mitchell was “doing his job” as a state trooper, he may be eligible to receive state mandated workers’ compensation in addition to two years of salary.  According to attorneys, even if an accident occurs when the employee is negligent, exercises poor judgment, or even is found to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, workers’ compensation is in order.

Others who have texted, driven a vehicle and killed have faced much more serious consequences than Mitchell. Craig Bigos of Taunton, Massachusetts killed a 13 year old boy under similar circumstances. He was charged with motor vehicle homicide. Like Mitchell, he was sentenced to 30 months … in jail, not on probation. If anything, the circumstances of his crime were less damning than Mitchell’s: He struck the child at night in an alley, where visibility was more of an issue .

Cases involving texting and driving are not only disastrous to those directly affected, but also pose a threat to liberty and serve as an excuse for expansion of government. It only takes a few of these accidents in the news to inspire campaigns for police crackdowns and new legislation. A media hysteria campaign can make it seem reasonable for the police to level up their Big Brother status.

There are quite a few solutions to texting and driving that could exist without government.  Certainly risky behavior should not be controlled due to its nature, but there are simple market incentives for indirect maintenance.  For instance, with insurance in a completely free market, perhaps companies would not cover such accidents, resulting in a strong incentive to be a focused driver.  It would not be advantageous to irresponsibly kill innocent people; there would be extreme costs incurred from doing so.  Results would often include ostracism, public scrutiny and media attention, tarnishing the image of the reprehensible aggressor.

Want to get away with murder?  Become a member of the state’s apparatus of rulership, act as if you’re doing “official business,” and then you can even get compensation for any injuries obtained!  No conspiracy even required.

Abusing Senior Citizens

Friday, September 24th, 2010
Bullies often target those who are too weak to defend themselves.  Maybe that explains the rash of stories in the news involving the police using excessive force on senior citizens.  First, we hear of cops tasering a 86-year-old bed-ridden woman and then we see video of another tasering involving a 64-year old -man in his [...]