Category Archives: Police Watch

Jack Conway’s Unfair Attack on Rand Paul

I’m not a Rand Paul fan, not a Kentuckian and am not going to endorse him or give money to his campaign. Given that, all of the above is true of his Democratic opponent Jack Conway as well. His disingenuous advertisement attacking Paul for an alleged laissez faire approach to law enforcement is absurd and actually makes Paul look like a much more attractive candidate:

As has been made fairly clear by my posts and also by my colleague Stephen Littau, law enforcement in this country has gone out of control into zones of paramilitary tactics that are frightening.

Littau posted a Cato Institute video that showed a police arrest of a motorcyclist by an armed police officer showing no badge who looked on all accounts as if he were conducting a robbery.

Over at the Agitator, Radley Balko reports on the murder of Michael Sipes, seventeen, by police after responding to a noise complaint. As the drug war continues to escalate in Mexico, a smaller escalation appears to have occurred at home, with arrests up and disturbing lethal attacks on homes, including many where dogs have been killed. In 2007, drug arrests for marijuana possession alone totaled 775,138! If a Senator Paul will introduce legislation that would eliminate non-violent arrests for “crimes” like marijuana possession, more power to him.

I can not express enough how much I disagree with Paul on the Civil Rights Act and, given being told by a Kentuckian that racism was benefitting Paul in his senate race, it makes me distrust him highly. Given that, if Paul does think non-violent crimes should be at least a lower priority, that makes me give him a second look. The last thing we need is the “cops know best” approach that Jack Conway seems to be endorsing.

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Cato Presents: Cops on Camera

As cameras have become more available to individuals and government alike, viral videos of cops behaving badly have become quite pervasive on the internet. This short video by The Cato Institute provides a few recent examples of this relatively new phenomenon and explains why recording the actions of police and government officials for all the world to see is good for liberty. Its government that should be watched and its government that should fear the people, not the other way around.

Police Kill Seventeen Year Old: How Much Is Enough?

Reason’s Radley Balko reveals another disturbing story of America’s increasing police force gone awry:

Last Sunday night, police in Morganton, North Carolina shot and killed 17-year-old Michael Sipes. The officers were responding to a noise complaint called in by a neighbor in the mobile home park where Sipes lived. His mother says there were three children in the home on the night Sipes was killed, and were likely he source of the complaint.

According to Sipes’ mother and others in the house, the police repeatedly knocked on the door to the home, but never identified themselves. They say both Sipes and his mother asked more than once who was outside. A neighbor who heard the gunshots also says he never heard the police identify themselves. Police officials say the officers did identify themselves.

According to those in the trailer at the time, as the knocks continued, Sipes retrieved a rifle, opened the door, and stepped outside. That’s when Morganton Public Safety Officer Johnny David Cooper II shot Sipes in the stomach “four or five times.”

More here and here. Profile of Sipes here. The story is still fresh, but at first blush he certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would knowingly confront police officers with his rifle.

Of course, beyond this story we saw the Oakland murder of Oscar Grant, the shooting death by police of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson in Atlanta and the terrorizing of a Missouri family and the killing of their dog during a drug raid (a crime which was replicated several times). This is really unacceptable.

Why is this not becoming an electoral issue? Police have various means at their disposal to nullify suspects and yet story after story of unnecessary lethal force seems to pop up. Republican, Democrat or any party, the candidate who runs on restoring the Fourth Amendment and focussing on law enforcement that prioritizes enforcing laws over terrorizing citizens will get my vote.

The New Prison Ray of Death

Some things you just cannot make up:

A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is “tantamount to torture.”

The mechanism, known as an “Assault Intervention Device,” is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that Ray Bradbury had in mind when he assessed that government was too big. I’d certainly rather have tax dollars going toward exploring space than coming up with new way to control inmates likely in jail for violating drug laws.

Even Death Penalty Supporters Urge Ohio Gov. Strickland to Spare Kevin Keith

Its one thing when anti-death penalty activists petition a governor to pardon or commute a sentence of an individual scheduled for execution but quite another when death penalty supporters agree. Kevin Keith is scheduled to be executed by the state of Ohio on September 15th for the 1994 murders of 2 adults and 1 child; a crime he has maintained he did not commit. Despite exculpatory evidence which points away from Keith and despite Gov. Ted Strickland’s (D) own public comments where he said he found “certain aspects” of the case “troubling,” the parole board voted 8-0 in favor of executing Keith.

Fortunately, the parole board’s decision is non-binding; Gov. Strickland or perhaps SCOTUS can still do the right thing and halt the execution until the more ‘troubling’ aspects of this case can be fairly reconsidered.

According to this article in The Guardian, among those who are urging Gov. Strickland to halt the execution are more than 30 former judges and prosecutors including former Ohio Attorney General and death penalty supporter Jim Petro (R) and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Herbert Brown.

Jim Petro in a letter to Gov. Strickland:

“I am gravely concerned that the state of Ohio may be on the verge of executing an innocent person”

Justice Herbert Brown in another letter:

“There is a mass of exculpatory evidence, suppressed evidence, faulty eyewitness identification and forensic reports that support legitimate claims of innocence”

Innocence Network President and Clinical Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School Keith A. Findley, while likely biased against the death penalty also wrote to persuade the governor:

Like so many of the wrongful conviction cases, tunnel vision by police, prosecutors, and even courts appears to have played a central role in Mr. Keith’s case and his ultimate conviction.

[…]

The evidence of these pernicious effects of tunnel vision, coupled with the compelling new evidence in Mr. Keith’s case, suggests that Ohio might be on the verge of executing an innocent man […]

Keith’s defense team, in a statement following the parole board’s decision points out that Gov. Strickland signed a bill into law which prohibited some of the very techniques investigators used against their client. Unfortunately for Keith, the banning of these faulty procedures came too late.

Yes, the case of Kevin Keith is indeed troubling. Maybe if a few thousand more can petition Gov. Strickland, he will be even more troubled to the point to where he will end this madness (click here to sign the petition).

In other troubling death penalty news, a federal judge has denied Troy Davis’ innocence claim despite 7 of 9 eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies against him.

City of Atlanta Agrees to Pay $4.9 Million to Kathryn Johnston’s Family; Vows to Change Police Culture

Ernie Suggs of The Atlanta Constitution reports:

Four years after rogue APD narcotics officers killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during an illegal raid of her home, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has offered her family a $4.9 million settlement.

[…]

Reed said the resolution of the case is an important healing step for the city and the police department, which was nearly ripped apart because of the shooting.

As a result of the incident, several police officers were indicted in federal and state court on charges and were later convicted and sentenced for their actions,” said Reed, adding that the Narcotics Unit has been totally reorganized.

Obviously, the $4.9 million will not bring Kathryn Johnston back but it is good to see that her family will receive the settlement without having to continue to fight the City of Atlanta in court. I’m also hopeful that the city and the APD are truly making changes to prevent another tragedy such as this from ever happening again.

In a 13-0 vote, the city council ratified George Turner as the APD’s new Chief of Police. With Turner’s firing of two cops who lied and falsified documents regarding the Johnston case, he told the city council that he has higher standards for the department in his charge.

The article continues:

Councilwoman Felicia Moore told Turner Monday that she questioned whether he could reform the department’s culture of silence regarding police wrongdoing that the Johnston case unveiled because he was a product of that culture.

“That culture needs to change,” she said.

Turner responded that he had had already began to reform the Office of Professional Standards to make it more accountable.

“Since being in this role, I have terminated nine employees, specifically those employees who have not lived up to the standards,” Turner said during a committee on council meeting Monday morning.

The article also reports that Turner also said that arrest quotas were at least partially to blame for the botched raid and said that such a metric is not only illegal under state and federal law but also said that what the community really wants from the police is a department “that is accountable, that has high integrity and that gives a good day’s work.”

Police Chief Turner is saying all the right things; we should expect nothing less from any police department in America. Time will tell if these changes will be meaningful or not.

If Turner is successful in changing the APD’s culture for the better, the people of Atlanta will be much better served. It’s just too bad that it took such a terrible, preventable tragedy for such changes to be implemented.

Hat Tip: The Agitator (who else?)

Related:

The Next Phase of the Kathryn Johnston Saga Begins
Third Police Officer Sentenced in Kathryn Johnston Case
How To Create A Police State
A Kathryn Johnston Update
Breaking: Two Officers Surrender In Johnston Death
Police Culture is the Problem
Did Kathryn Johnston Follow the Four Basic Rules?
More Details in the Kathryn Johnston Case

Double Standard

Idaho:

A police dog in the central Idaho resort town of Sun Valley is back on duty after serving a “suspension” for an unprovoked attack on a small schnauzer.

Sun Valley Police Chief Cameron Daggett says the 5-year-old German shepherd named Dax took a few weeks off the job after the incident. The dog will receive more training to prevent a reoccurrence of what Daggett says was an unfortunate situation.

Would there have been a suspension and retraining if it had been a human officer filling the schnauzer full of lead?

Did the Jury for the BART Shooting Get the ‘Right’ Verdict?

It was arguably the first nationally broadcast officer involved shooting of 2009. Early January 1, 2009 BART Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant on a crowded platform at the Oakland station. Several videos (see them here) captured by cell phone cameras show what appears to me to be an execution style shooting of Oscar Grant.

Even as shocking and outrageous as this footage was, I cautioned readers at the time that the videos only tell part of the story (the videos aren’t exactly of the best quality either). Officer Mehserle’s defenders at the time said that he was likely reaching for his tazer rather than his gun. If this could be argued to the satisfaction of a jury pursuant to California law, then Officer Mehserle’s actions do not satisfy the conditions necessary to convict him of second-degree murder but involuntary manslaughter*.

And that is exactly the conclusion the jury ultimately reached. I can imagine a very contentious deliberation where several believed Mehserle acted with intent to kill while several others believed the shooting to be accidental. Those who believed the former must have been outnumbered by those who believed the latter and decided to agree to the lesser charge to prevent the jury from being hung and take the risk that another jury would find him not guilty.

This is pure speculation on my part, of course, but involuntary manslaughter is the verdict. The more important question: is it possible that the jury arrived at a ‘right’ and/or ‘just’ verdict?

For regular readers of The Agitator, you may be a little surprised that none other than Radley Balko believes the jury reached the right conclusion, however unpopular. While I’m not in total agreement with Balko’s reasoning in his recent article in Reason, he does make a persuasive case.**

At the very end of the article, Balko speaks directly to those of us who are a little less than satisfied with the outcome of this case:

The anger at Mehserle’s conviction on a charge short of murder stems from the perception that cops who allegedly commit crimes are held to a lower standard than regular citizens accused of the same crimes […]

[…]

There’s also the appearance of a double standard. Mehserle’s defense is that he made a mistake. In the heat of the moment, Mehserle inadvertently reached for the wrong weapon. But Mehserle had training. He had other cops there backing him up. If we’re going to be sympathetic to him, we should also show some sympathy and understanding for people like Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick, both of whom were tried for murder for killing police officers who broke into their homes at night. Both Maye and Frederick say they mistook the raiding cops for criminal intruders. Maye was convicted of capital murder. Frederick’s jury opted for voluntary manslaughter.

That said, Mehserle shouldn’t be required to suffer the accumulated anger stemming from other problems in the criminal justice system. He should be convicted of—and punished for—the crime the evidence presented at his trial proves he committed, nothing more. His jury did the right thing.

I can’t fault the jury for doing the ‘right thing’ as I am sure this was a very difficult case for each individual. And technically, Balko has a very good point that it was the jury’s job to make a decision on the facts of this case rather than consider the injustices that have befell many individuals such as Cory Maye and Ryan Fredrick. And because each of these cases took place in different states each with different legal standards, we probably aren’t exactly comparing apples to apples.

The jury may have reached the ‘right’ or ‘just’ decision but damn it, it sure doesn’t feel*** like the right decision. It seems to me that if a police officer can be convicted with a lesser penalty for an accidental killing**** that those who don’t have the benefits of wearing a badge should be judged similarly.

I really wish jury instructions for defendants who happen to be police officers or other government agents would include something I like to call the ‘average person’ test. Put simply, the jury would be asked to consider if the actions of the defendant would fit the definition of the charge if the individual was neither a cop nor government agent. If it’s a crime for an average person to act a certain way than surely the same action is a crime regardless of his or her chosen profession (no matter how difficult).

This case was about whether Johannes Mehserle’s actions met these definitions not whether BART Officer Mehserle’s actions met these definitions.

See the difference? It wasn’t a uniform that was on trial but a man. Nothing more, nothing less.

If the jury decided that Johannes Mehserle, the individual, committed involuntary manslaughter, then I would be much more inclined to agree with Balko.

But as long as the perception (which is reality, I believe) remains that the double standard exists for the badges and the badge-nots, there will be jurors who will deliberate accordingly whether or not their decisions are ‘right’ or ‘just.’

» Read more

Ohio Supreme Court Speeding Ruling Lowers Burden of Proof and Opens the Door Civil Liberty Abuse by Police

Most of us have been pulled over and issued a ticket for speeding or other moving violations at least once in our lives. It’s probably also fair to say that in many if not most cases; we don’t even bother to challenge the ticket because the patrolman says that his radar gun reading showed that you were driving over the speed limit.

There are other times, however less common, which we don’t necessarily agree with the patrolman’s assessment of the facts (example: you failed to come to a complete stop). According to our system, suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law; the government has the burden to prove that an individual violated a law (anything ranging from jaywalking to murder).

At least that’s what I thought.

Jim Hickey for ABC News writes:

The state’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the trained eyeballs of police officers are enough to hand out speeding tickets. A radar gun is unnecessary.

Some Ohio drivers were stunned. One woman called it “crazy,” adding that “just the radar gun itself is disputable.”

This unidentified woman from the article is right to be skeptical of the technologies the police use. I once received a ticket in the mail from one of those photo radar cameras. According to the ticket, my wife was driving the family minivan by herself in the HOV lane. There was one slight problem though: not only was my wife not driving alone but every single seat in the vehicle was occupied! We knew this ticket was bogus because this particular stretch of highway is one we almost never drive and the one time we did take this particular stretch of highway according to the date it was taken was when my parents were in the vehicle*.

But even as these technologies are disputable, the notion of humans are prone to error is not…except for 5 of 6 judges on the Ohio Supreme Court. The article continues:

In its ruling upholding that conviction, the Ohio Supreme Court said “a police officer’s unaided visual estimation of a vehicle’s speed is sufficient evidence to support a conviction for speeding … if the officer is properly trained.”

In this case, the court ruled, the office was properly trained and certified to eyeball speeding motorists. The court added in its ruling that a radar gun “is not necessary to support a conviction for speeding.”

[…]

But one dissenting judge argued that the ruling creates too broad a standard for jurors who must evaluate police testimony. He said the ruling “eclipses the role of the fact-finder to reject such testimony” which, by itself, may not be enough to support a conviction.

I share the dissenting judge’s opinion but I fear that this ruling is even worse that what is stated in this article. We may tend to think of speeding tickets as trivial matters but they really are not. Speeding tickets often means higher insurance premiums and points against an individual’s license. For those who drive for a living and are required to have a CDL, having too many speeding tickets can result in losing his or her livelihood.

In saying that a police officer’s judgment that an individual is speeding is as good as radar gun gives the police virtually unchecked authority and opens the door for future abuse. Radar guns, whether defective or not, are at the very least objective. The same cannot be said for human judgment (trained or not).

Ohio police can now pull over someone for no reason at all, lie about his or her rights, and threaten to write a speeding ticket if the motorist fails to ‘cooperate.’ Some motorists might think it wise to make audio and/or video recordings of any such interaction with the police to ensure such abuses are documented or prevented but as Radley Balko reports, this can have its own set of risks.**

The real ugly truth of the matter is that traffic citations aren’t really as much about safety as they are about revenue. Most states, counties, and cities are seemingly having financial difficulties; it’s in the best interests of these entities to collect as much revenue as possible. With this sort of perverse incentive in place, practically anyone who drives in Ohio can be found guilty of speeding – not beyond a reasonable doubt but merely beyond a reasonable guess.

» Read more

Ohio Police Officer Found Guilty In Shooting Of Unarmed Cyclist

Yesterday, an Ohio jury found a local police officer guilty in the shooting of an unarmed motorcyclist:

TOLEDO, OHIO — A Lucas County jury has found an Ottawa Hills police officer guilty of felonious assault in the May 2009 shooting of a motorcyclist.

After over five hours of deliberations, a jury found that part-time Ottawa Hills officer Thomas Caine White, 27, used excessive force in shooting motorcyclist Michael McCloskey, 25, during a traffic stop on May 23, 2009. White was found guilty of count of felonious assault with a gun specification, charges that could lead to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced.

McCloskey suffered serious injuries as a result of the shooting. He is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Attorneys for each side made closing arguments Friday afternoon.

The prosecution emphasized that this trial was not about all police officers or a specific police department but about the actions of Officer White that night.

Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo told the court that slides of the police dash cam video show McCloskey made no movement as if he had a weapon and the he gave no indication of being a threat to White. “He says, ‘Will you please lift the bike off me?’ This is after he’s been shot. He’s still being police to the officer who just shot him in the back. That’s the Mike McCloskey that he faced that night,” said Lingo

Here’s a video from White’s dashboard camera (no sound) which clearly shows the pursuit and shooting of McCloskey, and the fact that McCloskey made no threatening moves at all:

As noted above, Officer White faces up to eleven years in prison for this conviction.

This Day in History: 40th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

From the Progressive/Left-wing DemocracyNow.org’s coverage:

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Shootings. On May 4th, 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students at an antiwar rally at Kent State University in Ohio. The guardsmen fired off at least 67 shots in roughly 13 seconds. Four students were killed and nine others wounded.

The events of May 4, 1970 at Kent State were certainly tragic but the notion that the Nation Guardsmen fired at “unarmed” students engaging in peaceful demonstrations is plainly untrue. In fact these “peace” protesters failed to practice what they preached as they set fires, looted, vandalized cars and buildings, and threw rocks and bottles at the police/National Guardsmen who tried to restore order. These anti-war protesters certainly didn’t practice the Libertarian “non-initiation of force” principle as they, like the U.S. government initiated force to attempt to accomplish a political goal.*

However, sending in the National Guard complete with semiautomatic M1 Garand rifles (.30-06 FMJ rounds) with fixed bayonets to suppress these riots seems to be a bit of an overreaction on the part of the governor.** The methods used to suppress these violent protests were very different from the less lethal methods police use today (which some say is a direct result of this event).

Were the National Guardsmen’s deadly actions justified self-defense? A full 40 years later, this is still a subject of great debate.

One thing which isn’t debatable is that this event was tragic and preventable.

» Read more

Quote of the Day – Taken from “Government Brutality and Society’s Shadow”

This is an excerpt from a post from the blog Classical Liberal that was written in response to the post Doug wrote yesterday regarding the University of Maryland student police beating caught on tape.

As long as men and women in uniform (State-issued costumes) carry out these violent acts, we think it’s okay, because they’re “protecting us.” But the State gives a false sense of legitimacy to acts that if carried out under other circumstances, would be serial criminal activity.

The government doesn’t do this to us, however, because the truth of the matter, is that it’s merely a reflection of our collective shadow … when otherwise good men and women become agents of savage brutality … turning us all into sociopaths.

This is the price of identifying ourselves with the State.

Read the whole thing. It’s a sad commentary on just how far we as a people have allowed the state to carry out unjustified acts of violence in our name.

Flex Your Rights Presents: 10 Rules for Dealing with Police

The Bill of Rights provides citizens basic protections against unlawful searches and seizures via the Fourth Amendment, protections against self incrimination via the Fifth Amendment, and the right to an attorney via the Sixth Amendment. On a theoretical level, most people probably know this but what does this mean on a practical level?

If the police pull you over, are you required to answer the officer’s questions if he hasn’t informed you of your right to remain silent? What does “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” mean when a police officer wants to search your vehicle and do you have a right to refuse the search? Should you consent to the search if you know you have nothing to hide? If the police knock on your front door, are you legally required to let them in if they don’t have a warrant? Are the police legally required to tell the truth or can they make false promises or otherwise trick you into waiving your constitutionally protected civil rights?

If you are unsure about the answers to these questions, don’t feel bad; I wasn’t too sure myself. The 4 part video series 10 Rules for Dealing with Police from the group that calls itself Flex Your Rights answers these questions and more in terms a lay person like myself can easily understand. Some of the advice is common sense (see rules 1, 7, & 8 below) while others are more legal in nature.

Whether you are a “law abiding citizen” who almost never has an encounter with the police or a “cop magnet,” this advice not only could keep you from being in serious legal trouble but also keep you from being beaten, tazered, or shot (if you follow these rules and these things still happen, you have more legal recourse against offending officers).

If you don’t have time to watch these videos right away, here are the 10 Rules for Dealing with Police in brief:

1. Always be calm and cool. [Don’t give the police any reason to act aggressively; they do have a very dangerous job and if they feel threatened they are more likely to act aggressively].

2. You [always] have the right to remain silent. [The best way to assert this right, especially if the police insist on questioning you is by asserting your Sixth Amendment right to legal council and KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT until your lawyer advises you otherwise].

3. You have the right to refuse searches. [Assert this right by calmly and politely telling the police officer “I don’t consent to searches”].

4. Don’t get tricked. [Yes, the police can legally lie to you and trick you into waiving your civil rights].

5. Determine if you are free to go. [Ask the officer: “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”].

6. Don’t expose yourself. [Don’t do anything that might appear suspicious in public].

7. Don’t run. [Running from the police is never a good idea].

8. Never touch a cop. [The simplest touch of a police officer can be considered assault; don’t do it].

9. Report misconduct: be a good witness.

10. You don’t have to let them in. [You do not have to let the police in your home unless they have a search warrant or there is an emergency which requires immediate action on their part. If you allow them to enter, anything they might find that could incriminate you can be used against you because you unwittingly waived your Fourth Amendment rights].

Here’s the series in its entirety (parts 2-4 are below the fold).

» Read more

Video Captures Campus Police Beating University Of Maryland Student

It’s always a raucous time on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland after a basketball game, especially after a game against the Terrapins long-time ACC rival Duke, and March 5th was no exception as about 28 students ended up getting arrested for rowdy behavior and public intoxication. In turns out, though, that it was U of Md campus police who really got out of control:

Prince George’s prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation of three county police officers who beat an unarmed University of Maryland student with their batons after a basketball game last month in an incident that was caught on video and surfaced publicly Monday, authorities said.

County police also ordered an internal affairs investigation of the three officers, Maj. Andy Ellis said. Ellis said the inquiry would also focus on a county officer who filed official charging documents that are contradicted by the video.

“The video shows the charging documents were nothing more than a cover, a fairy tale they made up to cover for the officers’ misconduct,” said Christopher A. Griffiths, a lawyer for the student. “The video shows gratuitous violence against a defenseless individual.”

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said that one of the three officers had been identified and that his police powers have been suspended during the investigation. The other two officers will also be suspended as soon as they are identified, Hylton said.

“I’m outraged and disappointed after viewing the video,” Hylton said. “That’s not the type of professional conduct we promote. Any employee who uses excessive force will be held accountable.”

(…)

The video shows McKenna on the sidewalk as he skips and throws his arms in the air. He stops about five feet from an officer on horseback, the video shows. In the video, McKenna’s arms appear to be in front of him, but he does not appear to touch the officer or the horse. His hands are empty.

McKenna backs up, then two county police riot officers rush toward him from the street, the video shows. The officers slam McKenna against a wall and beat him with their batons. McKenna crumples to the ground.

As McKenna falls, a third county police riot officer strikes his legs and torso with his baton. The video shows the officers striking an unresisting McKenna about the head, torso and legs — more than a dozen blows in all.

Because they are wearing riot gear, the officers who hit McKenna are not easily identifiable.

In the video, county police officers and officers on horseback from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police are seen nearby. They do not intervene in the incident with McKenna. The officers form a line and move toward the students who had been milling about, the video shows, and the students move back.

The video also shows that the charges that were brought against this group of students were nothing more than a charade meant to cover up what is clearly a case of police mis-conduct.

Watch for yourself:

Fortunately for these students, someone was nearby with a video camera to record what really happened. If not for that, they’d be the ones facing charges right now

Quote Of The Day

The state of Washington is currently in process on a bill that will impound any car for 12 hours where the driver is arrested on suspicion of DUI. This will be automatic — whether the car is owned by an innocent third party, or whether someone else in the vehicle can legally drive does not exempt the auto from the policy.

But here’s the quote:

The Towing and Recovery Association of Washington is one of the main lobbying organizations pushing for the adoption of the law.

Really?! I’m SHOCKED!

Who’da thunk the tow truck lobby cared so much about the children?

Hat Tip: Overlawyered

I’m Going To Turn My Grandmother Into A Radical Libertarian

Okay, maybe not. But I sure have a great way to do so (and maybe to turn a few readers).

I’m in Chicago visiting family, sadly with little internet access (sitting outside Panera Bread Co in the car with my napping son in the back). Today we celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. This is a woman who lived through the Great Depression, raised three sons during WWII, lived on the south side of Chicago up until a year or so ago after her sister died, and is generally one of the tougher old ladies I’ve ever known. My other grandmother spoiled me rotten when I grew up; Grandma Ann — as the father of three boys — didn’t let me get away with squat!

My grandmother doesn’t have a driver’s license. My grandfather was the only one who drove up until he passed about 15 years ago, and then she was still tough enough to walk or take transit pretty much wherever she needed to go (when she couldn’t get a ride from a neighbor).

So why am I throwing out all this backstory?

Because a few weeks ago, she got a ticket.

No, before you ask, she wasn’t joyriding out in my dad’s minivan. She was sitting in the passenger seat, with the audacity to ride without a seat belt.

Surely, you’d think that a cop would understand that a 90 year old woman was competent enough to make her own decisions. That at most, if he has to pull my dad over, that perhaps he could give her a warning. After all, it wasn’t illegal for most of her adult life. Maybe, you’d just think that a cop would have the common decency not to give a 90 year old woman a $75 dollar ticket for a completely victimless crime in the middle of the holiday season. In fact, my father tried to argue these points — and yet the ticket still came.

Most non-libertarians view the state as helpful and friendly, and believe that it only hassles the type of people who deserve it*. To those non-libertarians I ask one question: does your grandmother deserve it? Because mine sure as hell doesn’t.

So I might not have enough time to change my grandmother’s views. I’m only in town for another 25 hours or so, and she’s spent a lifetime building those views. But I am going to try to convince her not to pay the ticket, and not to go to court. If they want to come after a 90 year old woman, I’d like to think I know enough people in the greater libertosphere to rain down hell (in the form of letters, emails, and phone calls) on the local police force.
» Read more

Liberty Rock Friday: “Prison Song” by SOAD

Here’s a perfect song to complement my recent call to action to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

toxicity

System of a Down
“Prison Song”
Toxicity (2001)

Written by: Tankian, Serj;Malakian, Daron;Odadjian, Shavarsh; and Dolmayan, John

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Nearly 2 million [*] Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system,
Prison system of the U.S.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985,

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world,
Drugs are now your global policy,
Now you police the globe,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

*This number has since increased to about 2.4 million according to the Sen. Webb’s findings.

Cory Maye to Have a Second Chance at Justice

With my busy work schedule as it is, I managed to miss the very encouraging news that Cory Maye will get a new trial!

I think it will be very interesting how his second trial unfolds now that he will have a better legal team with better expert witnesses to debunk the dubious testimony of the prosecution.

The prosecution isn’t showing any signs of dropping the charges; if anything they seem to be hell bent on keeping Maye behind bars:

“Certainly we disagree,” said District Attorney Hal Kittrell, adding that the attorney general’s office will seek a rehearing on the matter and will appeal, if necessary, to the state Supreme Court.

If the courts all agree that a new trial is necessary, there will be another trial because prosecutors believe Maye is guilty, he said. “We didn’t buy it (his self-defense claim), nor did a jury, so we’ll go back.”

For more background on the Cory Maye saga, here are some of my previous posts on the case posted here and elsewhere.

Reason.tv also did a great job telling Cory’s story (below).

Risk and Compliance

For the first time today, TASER international has acknowledged that the use of their electro-compliance device has a higher risk to the health of the restrainee than they have advertised

Taser: Don’t shoot stun gun at chest

First time company has suggested there is any risk from its stun guns

AP – updated 8:23 a.m. PT, Wed., Oct . 21, 2009

PHOENIX – Taser International is advising police agencies across the nation not to shoot its stun guns at a suspect’s chest.

The Arizona-based company says such action poses a risk — albeit extremely low — of an “adverse cardiac event.”

The advisory was issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin. It marks the first time that Taser has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the use of its 50,000-volt stun guns, The Arizona Republic reported.
Story continues below ?advertisement | your ad here

Taser officials said Tuesday the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.

Critics called it a stunning reversal for the company.

We have all of course seen or heard of such incidents as the intransigent elderly woman who was TASED a few months ago in Texas (and many other similar incidents involving the elderly or emotionally disturbed); and most famously of course, of Rodney King, who continued resisting arrest after multiple TASER hits (which is why the officers began beating him. What started as an attempt to physically restrain a violent and intoxicated offender, turned into an emotional free for all).

Less frequently, we hear of someone experiencing cardiac or respiratory arrest, seizures, or nervous system damage from the use of the TASER.

Civil liberties activists have claimed that TASERs have directly caused the death of at least 350 people this decade; and that unjustified use of the TASER device is rampant, with thousands of effective cases of police brutality every year.

I take those claims with a hefty grain of salt.

Unfortunately, it IS clear that there have been a not insignificant number of deaths, either directly or indirectly caused by TASER usage; and that the risks of TASER usage are in fact much higher than law enforcement agencies and individual officers have been trained, or led to believe.

Because of these risks, those same civil liberties activists have called for the TASER device to be banned.

For years, TASER international has utterly denied the possibility of any elevated risk of death or serious injury involved in the use of the TASER.

Today, for the first time, the company acknowledged those risks; but in response suggested something I believe is ridiculous, counterproductive, and may even be harmful. In order to avoid liability, they are advising law enforcement agencies to train their officers to avoid shooting restrainees in the chest…

This is patently ridiculous.

First, the TASER is most effective when shot into the chest. The TASER device works by disrupting neuromuscular co-ordination, and hits outside of center mass are far less effective at causing systemic disruption. Other areas simply do not have the concentrations of nerve and muscle junctions that allow for effective immobilization.

When targeting peripheral areas of the body, effective immobilization may be limited to the localized area of the hit, or to one side of the body. Even hits to the abdomen or pelvis are far less effective in immobilization, (especially on larger restrainees) though they are exceptionally painful.

It is entirely possible (though very difficult) to fight through a TASER hit to a peripheral area, whereas it is nearly impossible to do so with a chest hit (unless you are physically huge, or very high).

It is also standard tactical doctrine for all projectile weapons training to aim for center mass; and it’s damn near impossible to hit a limb in a stressful situation. You don’t want to train officers to shoot for other targets under stress, it will just cause more problems.

Even after the department training officers and lawyers dutifully pass on the message from TASER; officers will, RIGHTLY, ignore this warning.

If you’re going to restrict TASER usage to targeting peripheral areas of the body, you might as well ban their use entirely.

I believe banning TASERs would be a huge mistake, as would changing the targeting area for the device; but clearly something needs to change.

The problem with TASERs isn’t their risks; it’s their doctrine for use.

I’ve been a law enforcement trainer myself, and I’ve been through various less-lethal force training courses, including TASERs. I’ve been TASED several times, and have had several other electro-compliance devices demonstrated on me (to great effect).

Officers are trained to view TASERs as, and to use them as, a less harmful compliance option than direct physical contact; with less risk to both the officer, and the restrainee. The TASER is viewed as a less risky, and less harmful option in the continuum of force.

While the less risk to the officer part is true, the risk of great harm to the restrainee is very high. Much higher than that of chemical compliance techniques, and as high as PROPERLY EXECUTED physical restraint and compliance techniques

Improperly executed physical restraint and compliance techniques, unfortunately present nearly as high a risk of fatality as a shooting; and with much greater risk to the officer. Without extensive training, continuing practice, and exceptional strength and physical fitness; it is very difficult for officers to maintain proper physical restraint and compliance techniques. Even with proper technique, the risk to the officer remains much higher than non-contact restraint and compliance techniques.

It is these issues, which in fact prompted much of the development of less-lethal force technologies; including chemical restraints, and electro-compliance devices like the TASER.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave law enforcement officers; who are simply looking for a way to effectively restrain subjects, with less risk to the officer, and the subject.

This improper perception of risk has created an environment; especially in smaller law enforcement organizations, with lower training budgets and more permissive attitudes towards the continuum of force; where TASER use is not considered serious.

In general, many officers would prefer to use the TASER than other means of enforcing physical compliance; because it presents the least risk to them, and the most compliant restrainee.

Combined this false perception of low risk, with a more permissive attitude, and the undoubted advantages to the officer; and it is understandable why in many jurisdictions it seems that taser usage is out of control, and suspects are being TASEd almost casually.

The use of the TASER should be understood to be (and officers should be trained to this effect) 1/2 step below the use of a firearm in the continuum of force. Officers should be trained in a more realistic assessment of the risks and dangers of the TASER (and other electro-compliance devices).

Additionally, TASER use in the line of duty, should be reviewed with the same diligence as the discharge of a firearm.

I don’t want to take the TASER away from officers, as it is a useful and excellent tool that in general DOES increase the safety of both the officer, and the restrainee.

What I want, is for officers, and agencies, to understand, and take the risks and impact of TASER usage more seriously.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Government Reasonability Quiz

On Monday morning around 5:30 a.m. in Springfield, Virginia, Eric Williamson was making coffee (in the privacy of his own home) in the buff. Unbeknownst to Williamson, a woman and her 7 year old son could see him in all his glory as they took a shortcut through his front yard.

The woman, horrified that her and her son saw Williamson naked, called the police.

How does the police/District Attorney choose to deal with this situation? (Hint we are dealing with government officials here, throw common sense out the window)

A. Nothing. Police advise Williamson to make sure the windows are properly covered next time.
B. Nothing. The woman is advised not to take this shortcut again.
C. Both A and B.
D. The woman is charged with criminal trespass and violation of Williamson’s privacy. She could face up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.
E. Williamson is charged with indecent exposure and could face up to 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted.
F. Both D and E. Both parties broke the law as both parties violated the rights of the other.
G. Neither D nor E. Both parties broke the law, therefore the penalties offset and no charges will be filed. (Replay 3rd down?)

(See the correct answer below the fold.)
» Read more

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