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“Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear.”     Ayn Rand

August 22, 2007

Jimmy Justice: Policing the Police

by Stephen Littau

As a general rule, I believe that most police officers are brave, respectable, and truly do their best to honor their mission statement: to serve and protect. As with any organization, there are some bad apples, however. And what happens when a police officer abuses his or her badge to break the law or harass a citizen? If it goes to court and it’s the citizen’s word against the police officer’s, unfortunately, many judges and juries will give the police officer the benefit of the doubt.

As Doug has pointed out in several of his posts, cities are considering adding surveillance cameras on city streets to keep an eye on the citizens. One man who calls himself Jimmy Justice is turning the tables and is doing some surveillance of his own on police officers and government officials who abuse the power given to them by the public.

As you might expect, some of these government officials don’t appreciate their bad behavior filmed and later broadcast on the internet for the whole world to see. Jimmy Justice’s work has put public pressure on the respective government agencies to investigate these incidents further and take disciplinary action.

In a time where government is taking more and more control over our lives, its refreshing to see that everyday citizens have the will and the technology to serve as a check on government abuse of power. This first clip is a news story on Jimmy Justice and his mission to police the police.

This second video is Jimmy Justice confronting a police officer who parked in front of a fire hydrant (if an average citizen were to do the same thing he or she would be ticketed and fined). Notice the contempt this woman and her friend have for the citizens; it’s both disturbing and revealing.

WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS PROFANITY. IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY PROFANITY DON’T WATCH.

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15 Comments

  1. I don’t have a problem with police in general and I actually respect the difficulty of the job they do, but I do have a problem with the air of entitlement that some police officers seem to develop in regards to being above the law. Frankly, I think people like Jimmy Justice only help our society by holding our public servants accountable. It’s not like he’s making them break laws unnecessarily…he’s just holding them to the same standards everybody else would be held to.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 22, 2007 @ 2:40 pm
  2. Agreed. I love this guy. If we’re going to have a police state, the police need to be under the microscpe with us.

    Comment by Buckwheat — August 22, 2007 @ 9:35 pm
  3. That’s a great point UC. Jimmy Justice is only documenting what he sees and does not entice this bad behavior (unless you want to say confronting the cops for bad behavior is enticement of more bad behavior).

    We cannot always say the same thing for the vice squads, however (such a department should not even exist). How many times have you seen on COPS where a female police officer will pose as a prostitute? Maybe by the letter of the law it isn’t entrapment but it certainly seems like an invitation to break the law to me. What a complete waste of police resources!

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 23, 2007 @ 12:46 am
  4. Taping and posting is one thing — I’m all for it.

    But I’m not sure what the shouting accomplishes.

    Comment by KipEsquire — August 23, 2007 @ 8:04 am
  5. Buckwheat,

    I don’t actually want to live in a police state, which is part of why I like what Jimmy Justice does…holding police accountable for their actions helps to prevent that. In true police states, the cops answer to no one for what they do and nobody gets to ask questions.

    Kip,

    The Jimmy Justice stuff’s been posted on other sites too and the general consensus from commenters seems to be that he’d score a lot more points with people if he didn’t come off as such a colossal asshole. Maybe he’s just one of those people cursed with an unpleasant personality and an annoying nasal voice and the shouting’s just so he won’t feel ignored. Or maybe the sound equipment he uses just sucks. Frankly, it doesn’t matter much to me because I think that his point is valid either way.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 23, 2007 @ 9:23 am
  6. Stephen,

    As long as we’ve got stupid laws outlawing drugs and prostitution, we’re going to have vice squads who use questionable tactics. As long as it’s not textbook entrapment, I guess there’s not much to say about it. The “To Catch a Predator” thing on NBC actually bothers me more. There the cops are trying to enforce a legitimate set of laws, but they use actual entrapment to entice people to commit crimes against minors for entertainment ratings for network TV. There are so many things wrong with this on so many levels (undermining the odds of getting a conviction, private enterprise enticing the police force to go after people for entertainment value, allowing network journalists to dictate operational tactics to police officers), it’s just unbelieveable that this goes on. I hate pedophiles, but even more I hate the idea that journalists are able to go out, openly entice people to commit crimes, put themselves in the role of the court with their camera, do all this with police support, and never be held accountable. It’s abominable.

    I hate Fox News, but in my opinion NBC’s standards of journalism are just as bad if not worse…if only because they’re directly manipulating our police force for their own purposes.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 23, 2007 @ 9:38 am
  7. I agree with the observation that, while the filming itself is correct and proper, the verbal abuse that this fellow showers on the police officers detracts from his credibility. The police in these cases came off as highly professional, ignoring his verbal abuse and even, in one case, saying “Have a nice day.”

    Comment by Chepe Noyon — August 23, 2007 @ 10:22 am
  8. Someone should do this at the DMV.

    Comment by Stan Hunter — August 23, 2007 @ 10:30 am
  9. Most of the DMV employees I’ve run across have been professional and courteous. Plus, the DMV guys don’t generally issue me tickets for an improper right turn on an empty road at 1130 at night so they can make quota. And the DMV guys don’t have the authority to storm my house with a SWAT team on a no-knock warrant.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 23, 2007 @ 10:44 am
  10. These police officers deserve every ounce of abuse they are receiving for their disrespect for the laws they enforce. The difference is that these cops can write you a ticket, force you to pay a fine, and have your car towed. Neither Jimmy Justice nor any of us have that ability to force the police to obey the law; what we can do is shame and humiliate them. I think what J.J. is expressing is frustration many of us have. Personally, I find it effective as well as entertaining. Someone needs to put these lawbreakers in their place

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 23, 2007 @ 11:00 am
  11. Let me add one other thing: the police work for us. The ones who have been caught on tape clearly have forgotten that.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 23, 2007 @ 11:03 am
  12. UC:

    I have to partially disagree with you on the To Catch a Predator thing based on my understanding of how they go about it. If they have undercover cops advertising on message boards that they are minors looking for sex from an adult; that would be wrong. My understanding is that these undercover cops simply pretend to be minors chatting in a chat room with everyone else and the would-be pedophiles are the ones who initiate the proposition of having sex. Once that proposition is made, the undercover cop sets up the meeting place. If I’m wrong on any of these details let me know…

    I guess you could say that these tactics aren’t all that different then the prostitution busts, so maybe its not so much a question of tactics but legitimacy of the law (laws against sexual contact between consenting adults are illegitimate; laws against sexual contact between adults and minors are legitimate). While it is true that NBC does this for ratings, they are offering a valuable public service for at least 2 reasons:

    1. It demonstrates to parents the dangers their children may be exposed to on the internet. Maybe some parents will think twice before allowing their children to visit a chat room unsupervised.

    2. It may discourage other online predators from doing from contacting a child online. Even if the prosecutors cannot secure a conviction because of some technicality, these individuals have been exposed to viewers around the world which could include their family, their friends, their employer, organizations they may be involved with (i.e. Big Brothers/Big Sisters) etc. In this sense, this is very similar to what Jimmy Justice is doing by using shame as a weapon.

    The bottom line is that if these people are actually stupid enough to set up a meeting, they deserve to be humiliated and possibly prosecuted.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — August 23, 2007 @ 5:22 pm
  13. ya know why they think they are above the law those cops… I’ll give ya a hint and no offense to the good ladies and gents who do the job… Their African American! They believe they can do what they want, when they want. ESPECIALLY WOMEN! Let them try that here… Grounds for dismissal period….

    Comment by Dragonfire — August 24, 2007 @ 3:56 pm
  14. Stephen,

    The busts aren’t being set up by police, they’re being set up by members of a volunteer group known as Perverted Justice who are paid by NBC and who use tactics that would be considered entrapment if the police were using them. The police claim that this gets around entrapment because they’re not the ones conducting the investigation, even though Perverted Justice are actually acting as agents for the government. Esquire did an article on it and the Wikipedia site actually references some of the criticisms and problems:

    http://www.esquire.com/features/predator0907

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_catch_a_predator

    I’ve got no problems with police running sting operations online to catch sex predators…more power to them. The cops are bound by the law, they’re trained to accumulate evidence so that they can effectively make their case, and they’re generally held accountable when they screw up. What I’ve got a problem with is the cops trying to do an end run around our legal protections, using proxies whose primary interest is in trying these cases in the court of public opinion for the sake of ratings and advertising dollars. If the cops feel they are unable to do their job effectively when dealing with predators, then we need a discussion over what additional powers the police should be granted and how we can tailor the law to achieve that (by re-working entrapment laws, for example). But letting our police do an end run around the system, especially at the behest of a private company who are attempting to capitalize on the situation for personal gain (their motivation certainly isn’t “public service”), because they find the legal limitations of their job inconvenient is not behavior we should tolerate from our government or police. The sex predator “epidemic” just isn’t catastrophic or widespread enough to justify giving them that much latitude.

    Comment by UCrawford — August 27, 2007 @ 3:10 pm
  15. I agree with him. Hey, if I can get traffic tickets, so should they. I have witnessed numberous cops running red lights, speeding, and driving recklessly. It is about time something is done about it, after all, these are the laws they are supposed to inforce, so why not practice what you preach.

    Comment by bsl_international — August 28, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

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