Radley Balko wonders why it hasn’t made the evening news. The office of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas “is both the beneficiary of and willing partner in” the police and evidentiary shenanigans that are calling dozens of cases into question. Earlier here, here.
- NYC Legal Aid lawyer “represented four defendants in a row who had been arrested for having a foot up on a subway seat” [Gothamist, including report of arrests for “manspreading”]
- Recommendations would expand federal role: “President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing” [Tim Lynch]
- Profile of Pat Nolan and momentum of criminal justice reform on the right [Marshall Project] Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan shows how Republicans are experimenting with criminal justice reform [Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post]
- “Though we weren’t at any toll plazas, something was reading the E-ZPass tag in our car.” [Mariko Hirose, ACLU on New York monitoring of car transponders, presently for transport management purposes] DEA license plate tracking has been subject to mission creep [L.A. Times editorial via Amy Alkon, earlier]
- “Texas’s governor signs a bill that will end the ‘key man’ grand jury system, also known as the ‘pick-a-pal’ system.” [Houston Chronicle via @radleybalko, earlier]
- “There’s little dispute overincarceration is a problem demanding immediate redress. Except when it comes to sex.” [Scott Greenfield]
- Massachusetts SWAT teams retreat from position that they’re private corporations and needn’t comply with public records laws [Radley Balko, earlier]
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cracks down on “rent-a-D.A.” scheme in which private debt collector acquired right to use prosecutor’s letterhead [Jeff Gelles, Philadelphia Inquirer, earlier here and here]
- What Santa Ana, Calif. cops did “after destroying –- or so they thought –- all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.” [Orange County Weekly via Radley Balko]
- Maryland reforms mandatory minimums [Scott Shackford/Reason, Sen. Michael Hough/Washington Times]
- Locking up past sex offenders for pre-crime: “Civil Commitment and Civil Liberties” [Cato Unbound with Galen Baughman, David Prescott, Eric Janus, Amanda Pustilnik; Jason Kuznicki, ed.]
- Two strikes and you’re out, Sen. Warren? Or is there some alternative to DPAs/NPAs (deferred prosecution agreements/non-prosecution agreements?) [Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice]
- Covert cellphone tracking: “Baltimore Police Admit Thousands of Stingray Uses” [Adam Bates, Cato, related on Erie County/Buffalo]
- “Citizens face consequences for breaking the law, but those with the power to administer those laws rarely face any.” [Ken White, Popehat] “61% of IRS Employees Who Cheated On Their Taxes Were Allowed To Keep Their Jobs” [Paul Caron, TaxProf]
- Not just motorists: revenue-hungry St. Louis County municipalities mulct residents and homeowners with tickets over toys in yard, missing shingles, overgrown trees [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- So hard to convict: six officers from notorious Philadelphia narcotics squad acquitted in federal “dangled over balconies” case [Inquirer]
- Strictly non-business: Mayor of Campo, Colo. “asserted the ticketing …is strictly about public safety and not to generate revenue.” [KUSA, autoplays]
- Texas legislature: “Bill to limit filming of police activity is dropped” [Allison Wisk, Dallas Morning News]
- “I remember getting mocked as a nutty libertarian when arguing that primary seat belt laws would be used to profile.” [@radleybalko on CBS Miami report]
- “Breaking Down the Cost of Jaywalking: Where Does Money from a $190 Ticket Go?” [L.A., 2010, BlogDowntown via Amy Alkon discussion, earlier, Timothy Kincaid on Twitter] “A traffic fine should not devastate folks living paycheck to paycheck. [Cal.] Senate working to fix this” [Mariel Garza, L.A. Times]
- On the need for independent prosecutors in police misconduct cases [Jacob Sullum]
What, no more free surplus bayonets and grenade launchers? Radley Balko:
According to NBC News, the new policy will stop “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets” from being given to local police agencies.
Additionally, the new policy would attach some restrictions and conditions to the transfer of other equipment, “including armored tactical vehicles like those used in Ferguson, as well as many types of firearms, ammunition and explosives.” These restrictions include requiring the agencies to present “a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment,” adopt community-oriented policing strategies, agree to “close federal oversight and monitoring overseen by a new federal agency with the power to conduct local compliance reviews,” train officers who will be using the gear, and keep data on how the equipment is used and with what results.
A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police has already promised to fight the plan. Despite the changes to the 1033 surplus program, so far as I can tell, municipalities and states will remain perfectly free to purchase most of the named categories of equipment; they’ll just have to do so on the open market with their own money. Of course, once they are constrained to weigh such purchases against other uses of public funds, most will probably have little interest in doing so — which is part of the point we critics have been making.
Radley Balko himself deserves applause for having led the way on the issue of police militarization, both when he was at the Cato Institute and more recently as an independent reporter and Washington Post commentator, above all in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop. More of his work on the issue at Cato’s Letter (2013), at this video, and in a white paper on paramilitary police raids, as well as a general link to Cato’s work on the subject by many authors. I’ve covered the subject in many posts here and elsewhere, as well as in a podcast.
- The magic of immunity: DEA commandeered truck for fatal sting, but doesn’t owe owner even the cost of bullet holes [Houston Chronicle, Radley Balko, Scott Greenfield] More: Lowering the Bar.
- Federal takeover of local policing is a truly bad idea [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today; Elizabeth Price Foley]
- Some of government’s worst messes come when there’s bipartisan agreement, as with lack of police accountability [Coyote]
- “Is Rakoff the Only Judge Not In Love with DOJ?” [Matt Kaiser, Above the Law on Judge Jed Rakoff’s “Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges,” New York Review of Books]
- San Antonio cop “held his wife and children at gunpoint, striking his wife in the head with his gun, and had a 20 minute standoff with police before surrendering” but will keep law enforcement officer license [Cato National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, “worst case” for February] “Arbitrator says Cleveland police officer who sexted crime victims, visited women on duty, should keep job” [Cleveland.com, with a related series including “Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says arbitration process keeps bad cops on police force“]
- “We Should Be Wary of Federal Body Camera Funds” [Matthew Feeney, Cato, related from Feeney here, here, and here] More on bodycam programs from several points of view: Uri Friedman via Althouse, Bloomberg editors (anti), Alex Tabarrok, Radley Balko;
- Those ATF sting operations were even more exploitative and predatory than imagined [Balko, earlier]
After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a quick, high-profile round of on-camera media interviews by Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson helped establish the public narrative that officer Darren Wilson had stopped Brown and Johnson for no better reason than walking in the street, and that a peaceable Brown had been gunned down while trying to surrender with his hands in the air. To put it mildly, several key elements in this account were not well supported by the investigations later conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and others, and Johnson’s version of events was further put in shadow by the revelation that before the police stop he had accompanied Brown into a convenience store where Brown committed a strong-arm robbery of cigars later handed off to Johnson. At any event, Johnson has now filed a lawsuit against the town and against Wilson for being stopped and for the subsequent gunfire: Johnson wasn’t hit, but says he was endangered by the shots. [NBC News] Meanwhile, the chairman of the large law firm of Winston & Strawn will receive $1,300 an hour to represent Ferguson in the Justice Department probe. [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
Mike Rappaport at Liberty and Law explores how special interest politics contributes to shielding police misconduct, including the role of Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights laws (earlier). More on LEOBR/LEOBoR laws in two articles quoting me: Daniel Menefee, Maryland Reporter/WMAL and other outlets, on prospects for reform of the Maryland law; Kris Ockershauser, Pasadena Weekly, citing coverage last year from Jim Miller of the McClatchy papers on California’s tight restrictions on public access to police disciplinary records, which grew in part out of the state’s enactment of the 1976 Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.
Related: Ross Douthat (New York Times), “Our Police Union Problem“. And for everyone who, like me, has been noticing the parallels between bad cop entrenchment and teacher tenure, Charles Lane wants to call our attention to the pending Supreme Court case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on dues [Washington Post, earlier and more on Friedrichs]