Posts tagged as:

police

“And for those who had cash seized from them — one player had more than $20,000, the regular player said — the police agreed to return 60 percent of the money, and keep 40 percent. … in Virginia state courts the local police agency may keep 100 percent of what they seize.” In a Fairfax SWAT raid on unlawful private gambling nine years ago, an officer shot and killed Sal Culosi, an optometrist who “had no criminal record and no known weapons.” [Washington Post, earlier (Radley Balko: Culosi incident in 2006 "wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid")]

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The “equitable sharing” civil forfeiture program (see weekend post) being just one of the more visible corners of a whole scaffolding of bad incentives in law enforcement:

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An ACLU report argues not, taking issue with some police groups. Practice has differed — the L.A. sheriff’s department, in installing jail cameras, recently adopted a policy that deputies will have to file incident reports before viewing videos.

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Victimization as competitive sport: The Fraternal Order of Police, a national union claiming a membership of more than 300,000, “is asking for the Congressional hate crimes statute to be expanded to include crimes against police officers.” [Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News] Commentary: Jazz Shaw, Hot Air; Radley Balko (“Most states already allow or mandate sentence enhancements for crimes committed against police.”).

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  • “Georgia’s Highest Court Limits Power Of Private Probation Industry” [WABE, Augusta Chronicle, earlier here, here, here, and here]
  • Federal judge slams as “preposterous” DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) actions in raid on Tampa pharmacy [Tampa Bay Online]
  • “At Least 40 Federal Agencies Now Conduct Undercover Operations” [Jesse Walker]
  • “’Gotcha’ program designed to rake in revenue”: “Nassau County Lawmakers Repeal Speed Camera Program” [CBS New York]
  • “Creepy”: “FBI Agents Pose as Repairmen to Bypass Warrant Process” [Bruce Schneier]
  • Somewhere an old guy in his room is wondering about ending it all, and somewhere a fanatic has been made happy [Elizabeth Nolan Brown on launch of Anaheim, Calif. shaming program to post names of sex purchasers online indefinitely]
  • Heather Mac Donald: In defense of broken-windows policing [Time]

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The program, in the town of Beloit, Wisconsin, drew few takers and much ridicule; it was quickly called off [Lowering the Bar]

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“A Long Island woman says in a lawsuit that her 29-year-old son died in a drunken driving crash because police decided not to arrest him on DWI charges earlier that night…. Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday’s is also named in the lawsuit, because [the late Peter] Fedden was drinking there before the two crashes, according to [Fedden family lawyer Harry] Thomasson.” [NBC New York, auto-plays]

The Costa Mesa, Calif. police union scandal breaks wide open with new court papers shedding light on the conduct of a law firm representing the union. [Orange County Register] Two private investigators hired by the law firm called in a fake DUI on the town’s mayor and attached a GPS to a councilor’s car to track his movements, according to the county district attorney’s office. [Daily Pilot] We’ve been covering the scandal for more than two years here, here, and here.

More: union gumshoes alleged to have set honeytrap for opposing councilmember. [Matt Coker, OC Weekly] It’s like Costa Mesa Confidential!

P.S. And yet more from the “playbook”: “keep the pressure up till that person assures you his loyalty then move on to the next victim.” [Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune ("Yes, 'victim'")]

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Police and community roundup

by Walter Olson on December 15, 2014

  • Oh, no: “Ferguson to Increase Police Ticketing to Close City’s Budget Gap,” because three arrest warrants per household is still too low [Bloomberg News via Zach Weissmuller (& thanks for quote), earlier]
  • In years 2011/12 alone, one Buffalo officer “killed as many dogs in the line of duty as the entire NYPD.” [WGRZ]
  • “He believed the poor had the right to buy and sell.” Tunisia yes, Staten Island too? [David Boaz, USA Today]
  • “The language of protest: Race, rioting, and the memory of Ferguson” [Abigail Perkiss, NCC/Yahoo, mentions me]
  • “Red light cameras to go dark in New Jersey” [Josh Kaib, Watchdog Wire] “Public opinion swings hard against traffic cameras” [AutoBlog]
  • On interpreting statistics on race and policing, point counter-point [Scott Alexander, Ezra Klein, Alexander] Reminder: increasing ranks of black officers does not necessarily lead to fewer shootings of black civilians [Jamelle Bouie, Slate]
  • “Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Texas Justice: The Purple Zone Raid” [Reason.tv video]

The coroner’s inquest, familiar to readers of Agatha Christie, might be worth importing to the U.S. to look into police-caused deaths [Josh Voorhees, Slate, on ideas of Paul MacMahon]

Related: “The Grand Jury System Is Broken” [John Steele Gordon, Commentary, written post-Ferguson, pre-Garner]; New York Times “Room for Debate“; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asks for authority to take over prosecutorial authority in police shootings [WGRZ (auto-plays), New York Observer, Paul Cassell]; Harvey Silverglate via Todd Zywicki (don’t gut grand jury protections). And from Michael Bell, “What I Did After Police Killed My Son,” Politico: “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified. …As a military pilot, I knew that if law professionals investigated police-related deaths like, say, the way that the National Transportation Safety Board investigated aviation mishaps, police-related deaths would be at an all time low.” (& Wisconsin aftermath)

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Eric Garner, asphyxiated during his arrest on Staten Island, had been repeatedly picked up by the NYPD for the crime of selling loose cigarettes. Washington Examiner:

The crime of selling “loosies” was not considered a serious one in the past. Many corner stores in New York City once sold them quietly upon request. But former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cartoonish anti-tobacco crusade changed that and everything else. Smoking in public places was banned. Punitive taxes and a legal minimum price of $10.50 were imposed in an effort to push prices ever-upward, so that a brand-name pack of 20 cigarettes now costs as much as $14 in New York City.

As a result, the illicit sale of loose and untaxed cigarettes became more commonplace.

I noted at yesterday’s Repeal Day panel at Cato that according to figures last year, New York’s unusually high cigarette taxes had brought it an unusual distinction: an estimated 60 percent of consumption there is of smuggled or illegal cigarettes, much higher than any other state. Another way to think of it is that New York has moved closer to prohibition than to a legal market in tobacco. [earlier 2003 Cato study]

In his history of Prohibition, Last Call, Daniel Okrent cites (among many other law enforcement misadventures) the fatal shooting of Jacob Hanson, secretary of an Elks lodge in Niagara Falls, New York, in a confrontation with alcohol agents — though Hanson had a clean record and was not carrying alcohol. At the time, many saw Hanson’s death as reflecting poorly on the Prohibition regime generally. For some reason, though, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has drawn fire from some quarters for making a parallel observation about Garner’s death. [BBC; note however that while Garner's frictions with the local NYPD seem to owe much to his repeated cigarette arrests, the proximate event leading to his arrest seems to have been his attempt to break up a fight]

Yale’s Stephen Carter: “On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce.” [Bloomberg View via Ilya Somin]

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Even when it’s all caught on video, in daylight, with witnesses. Even when the cop blatantly broke the NYPD’s very clear ban on chokeholds. Even when the victim was heard “gurgl[ing] that he could not breathe” and the cop was heard bantering afterward with colleagues.

The confrontation between officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. had several elements that worked to bolster Wilson’s defense, including evidence that Brown had assaulted Wilson in his car and contradictions in the testimony of eyewitnesses. By contrast, the case for a Staten Island grand jury to return at least some charge in the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of officer Daniel Pantaleo would seem considerably stronger. (Garner had tried to break up a sidewalk fight before police intervened, then argued with police and was uncompliant when they intervened; in accounts after the death, police said he had frequently tangled with law enforcement because of his habit of hanging out on the sidewalk selling “loosies” — single cigarettes out of their packages, a tax violation.)

Some of yesterday’s Twitter discussion:

(This morning, New York Post columnist Bob McManus does defend it.)

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  • At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times]
  • “D.C. Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture, give property owners new rights” [Washington Post]
  • A different view on Ferguson: Richard Epstein defends grand jury outcome [Hoover]
  • “The House GOP leadership is blocking a police militarization reform bill from even getting a vote.” [Zach Carter, HuffPo, via @radleybalko]
  • Will potential cost of citizen public records requests sink police body-camera schemes? [Seattle Times, ABA Journal]
  • Marissa Alexander case, cited by critics of mandatory minimum sentencing, ends in plea deal [Brian Doherty, earlier, CBS Sunday Morning on mandatory minimum sentencing]
  • Forensics guy hired by Michael Brown’s family: “If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.” [Radley Balko]
  • St. Louis County fines/fees: “Municipal courts charge $100 for Christmas gift of fake amnesty” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial]

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It’s like a parody of one’s worst expectations: President Obama refuses to curtail the federal police militarization program, instead calling for a big hike in federal spending on aid to local departments with the usual micromanaging strings attached. [The Guardian] The administration has now gathered some useful information on the Pentagon’s 1033 surplus-gear program, but still has no plans to improve data gathering on police use of lethal force [Washington Post editorial] More from USA Today: “The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, has waged an intense lobbying campaign to keep the surplus equipment flowing,” and its executive director specifically speaks up in favor of the transfer of armored vehicles and personnel carriers. More: Trevor Timm.

Related: Conor Friedersdorf gathers stories of cops reinstated in union arbitration from Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Miami, Sarasota, and other cities. He concludes:

I’d rather see 10 wrongful terminations than one person wrongfully shot and killed. Because good police officers and bad police officers pay the same union dues and are equally entitled to labor representation, police unions have pushed for arbitration procedures that skew in the opposite direction. Why have we let them? If at-will employment, the standard that would best protect the public, is not currently possible, arbitration proceedings should at a minimum be transparent and fully reviewable so that miscarriages of justice are known when they happen. With full facts, the public would favor at-will employment eventually.

You can’t tackle the excessive force problem credibly unless you tackle the power of the police unions. Period.

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Ferguson decision, cont’d

by Walter Olson on November 27, 2014

PBS NewsHour “read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by [officer Darren] Wilson,” pulling together the results in this chart, which illuminates points where the witness testimony tended to help Wilson’s defense and where it did not; perhaps most surprising is how many questions he was apparently not asked. Prosecutor Robert McCullough managed the grand jury proceedings almost in the manner of a defense lawyer for the man facing charges, a strategy extremely unlikely to be repeated in the great majority of grand jury proceedings where the accused is not a police officer [Jacob Sullum] And Conor Friedersdorf notes that if you were looking for poster cases of wrongful use of lethal force for which police were not held accountable — even when there was video or other strong documentary evidence — many other cases would stand higher on the list than that of Michael Brown.

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  • Why none of the major methods for addressing claims of police excessive force — grand juries/prosecution, internal investigations, civil suits, personnel disciplinary procedures, civilian review boards, federal oversight — work very well, and what we may want to consider instead [Chase Madar, The Nation]
  • “Rand Paul Reacts to Ferguson: Reform Criminal Justice System, Petty Fines” [Robby Soave, Reason, quotes me] Incidentally, the Cato Institute has been working on police misconduct issues for more than 15 years [Cato Policy Report]
  • “As a front-line means of regulating lethal force, grand juries – which are secret, remote from the truth-finding of an adversary process, and dependent on prosecutors’ guidance – do not command broad public confidence.” [my brief reaction statement, posted at Cato] “How the Ferguson grand jury process works” [Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post] “in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment.” [Ben Casselman, Five Thirty-Eight] Cato survey a few years back found only 7 percent of excessive force allegations against police resulted in indictments, 3 percent in convictions [Tim Fernholz, Quartz]
  • “What we know about who police kill in America” [Dara Lind, Vox]
  • “Anytime I’m involved in an officer involved shooting… it is always listed during my initial investigation as an assault on law enforcement” [Kevin Underhill/Lowering the Bar, who also dissected the grand jury report on Twitter] Journalists and investigators begin digging through the many volumes of transcripts and testimony released following the grand jury action [NPR on Officer Wilson's testimony] Eyewitness testimony pointed various ways [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • Listen: Tuesday morning’s Diane Rehm show where I joined a panel discussing the Ferguson grand jury outcome, or a highlight portion;
  • “How Police Unions Stopped Congress From ‘Militarization’ Reform” [Dave Weigel, Bloomberg] Reform-blocking role of police unions part of wider, systemic problems [Ed Krayewski, Reason]

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Washington, D.C. listeners, tune in at 10 a.m. this morning (Tuesday) when I’ll be a guest again on Diane Rehm’s award-winning radio show, discussing developments in Ferguson, Mo., including a grand jury’s decision that officer Darren Wilson won’t face charges in the shooting of Michael Brown. Other guests include Julie Bosman, reporter, The New York Times; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and Andrew Ferguson, associate professor of law, University of the District of Columbia School of Law. (bumped Tuesday morning to keep at top of page)

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Police and community roundup

by Walter Olson on November 24, 2014

  • “As Ferguson waits, some lessons from the Rodney King riots” [Radley Balko] “ACLU wins federal court orders on right to video police in Ferguson, elsewhere” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • “What charges could the Michael Brown grand jury consider, if they choose to indict?” [Paul Cassell, Volokh; related on Missouri jury instructions regarding deadly force by police, Robert VerBruggen/Real Clear Policy]
  • Quick links: things this site has published on Ferguson, on police militarization, on police issues generally;
  • Interview with University of Illinois lawprof Andrew Leipold on grand jury process [U of I] A reminder about the surprisingly high error rates of eyewitness testimony [Balko]
  • “Judges propose wide reform of St. Louis County’s municipal courts” [StL; related, holiday warrant forgiveness] Municipal court fines and fees: “Why we need to fix St. Louis County” [Radley Balko, related (Better Together report), earlier here, here from Balko, etc.]
  • “The hurdles for indicting or convicting a uniformed officer are high, for many reasons.” Survey of police deadly force issue [L.A. Times] Police forces have strayed far from the “Peel Principles” for which London police were so admired [Tuccille, Reason]
  • Not much. “Whatever Happened To The White House Police Militarization Review?” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed]

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