Now this is bound to end well: Mississippi lawmakers vote to give Attorney General Jim Hood, a frequent mentionee in this space, his own strike forces [Radley Balko, AP]
“A police officer branded a ‘laughing stock’ for using a truncheon to smash a pensioner’s car window was awarded more than £400,000 compensation from his former force on Wednesday.” Mike Baillon, 42, says colleagues at Gwent Police teased and hazed him after a YouTube video went viral showing him battering a 74-year-old driver’s Range Rover, amounting to “constructive dismissal.” [Telegraph]
“An Oklahoma state senator has filed a bill to allow law enforcement officers to issue electronic citations for traffic, misdemeanor and municipal ordinance violations.” Sen. Al McAffrey, himself a former police officer, says approaching motorists’ cars is one of the more dangerous parts of patrol officers’ job. So why not let them just skip it, even if that also means skipping the opportunity for motorists to be notified of their legal jeopardy at once, see their accusers, have a chance to explain themselves, and so forth? “If they don’t have to approach vehicles during traffic stops to give people tickets but can simply email traffic violation citations directly to the district court clerk then they’re less likely to get into a dangerous altercation, the lawmaker said.” McAffrey’s S.B. 1872 would also attach a new $5 processing fee to the tickets, of which a portion would be shared with the ticketing officer’s department. [Insurance Journal, KOCO](& welcome Above the Law, Scott Greenfield readers)
Australia: “Lawyer argues Kevin Spratt may have been screaming in ‘joy’ while being tasered by police: A lawyer for two police officers says the court cannot rule out the possibility that a man was screaming with joy when he was being repeatedly tasered at the Perth Watch House more than five years ago.” [ABC] One never knows what will work in these cases: a jury in Orange County, Calif. recently acquitted two officers in the death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas, though it is not clear whether they accepted the suggestion of a defense lawyer that Thomas beat himself to death in police custody.
Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:
There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.
On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….
Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”
As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.
Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:
- SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
- HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
- SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
- Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot's]
- State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
- Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
- Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
- Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
- How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]
We termed the lawyers’ arguments “creative,” but a jury apparently found something to be persuasive about them: it acquitted the two police officers in the beating death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas, and prosecutors are planning to drop charges against a third officer. [Los Angeles Times]
Even if the cops wave you to the side amid flashing lights, and functionaries come out to ask you for saliva or blood samples, and keep asking after you say no, it’s all “voluntary.” Right? Right. “A recent Georgia appellate decision reversed a trial court that held the lights atop a police car were merely an invitation to chat rather than a command to stop, the refusal of which tended to produce death by a hail of gunfire.” [Amy Alkon, Scott Greenfield, earlier here, here, and, on "no-refusal" blood-draw DUI checkpoints, here]
Last year we linked a report about a series of unfortunate events that kept happening to elected officials in Costa Mesa, Calif. after they resisted negotiating demands from the city’s police union. One saw his supporters’ businesses harassed by cops, while another was picked up on a bogus DUI charge phoned in by a private eye with ties to an Upland, Calif. law firm, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir, known for extremely aggressive representation of police unions around California.
Now the Lackie, Dammeier firm is in turmoil following a raid on its offices by the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Former Costa Mesa councilman Jim Righeimer, target of the bogus DUI report, and council colleague Steve Mensinger have also alleged in a lawsuit that the law firm’s private investigator attached a GPS device to Mensinger’s car. Lawyers for the two believe the device allowed the investigator to trace the pair’s whereabouts to the bar, allowing for the called-in DUI report which failed when Righeimer produced evidence he had consumed only a couple of Diet Cokes. Mensinger “said the device was affixed to his car during the entire 2012 election season and came to his attention only when he was alerted by the Orange County district attorney’s office.” [L.A. Times, more] The Orange County Register reported: “Mensinger and Righeimer are strong supporters of reforming public pensions and privatizing some city services. … Besides Mensinger, [investigator Chris] Lanzillo is also suspected of following former El Monte City Manager Rene Bobadilla to his home in June 2011, according to a police report obtained by the Orange County Register.” And more recently: “Though they made no admissions, lawyers for the law firm and Lanzillo argued in court papers that placing a tracking device on Mensinger’s truck wouldn’t be an invasion of privacy.” The Costa Mesa police union, also named as a defendant, says in a separate filing that it wasn’t involved with any GPS-tracking plan. [Daily Pilot]
That’s not the only trouble facing the firm: “A statewide police defense fund is no longer sending [it cases] after a forensic audit uncovered triple-billing, bogus travel expenses and ‘serious acts of misconduct.’” [Orange County Register] According to press reports, the firm is in the course of dissolving.
Longtime Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio talks quite a game as a populist defender of the ordinary citizen. His actual record, however, has been one of grave abuse of power. One of the worst incidents has now come home to roost: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a $3.75 million settlement over an incident in which Arpaio’s deputies arrested two critical journalists at their homes in the middle of the night. [Phoenix New Times]
Washington: “A Lake Stevens police officer who was at the center of a civil rights lawsuit that cost the city $100,000 filed a claim Monday alleging city officials mishandled the lawsuit and tarnished his reputation. … ‘The cumulative result of the City’s errors is that Warbis has been continually portrayed as a rogue and hot-headed cop, something that is completely contrary to the truth and case facts,’ according to the claim. … The claim does not spell out how much money the police officer is seeking, however, it says ‘a seven-figure-damages judgement is not unreasonable.’” [Everett Herald]
Explaining how Kelly Thomas came to meet his gruesome decease called for some creative lawyering from defense attorneys John Barnett and Michael Schwartz, who often represent California law enforcers charged with misconduct [OC Weekly, disturbing images]
Also: Why let accused cops delay answering questions after an episode of alleged excessive force? To let them shape their story? [Scott Greenfield on new Dallas policy] And on the brighter side: Radley Balko, the nation’s premier reporter on police and prosecutorial abuse and someone regularly linked in this space, is joining the Washington Post. [Poynter]