Posts Tagged ‘police’

The Right to Give the Finger

February 17, 2018

Does the right to free speech include the right to make an obscene gesture at a state trooper? I guess we’ll find out once Mark May’s lawsuit goes to court. Here is the story from WHAS News.

An Indiana man is contending in a federal lawsuit that his right to free speech was violated after he was ticketed for showing a state trooper his middle finger.

The Tribune Star of Terre Haute reports that Mark May is seeking unspecified damages against Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames.

In the suit, May says Ames cut him off in traffic in pursuit of another driver in August. While Ames was conducting the traffic stop, May admitted to making the vulgar gesture while he drove past the officer.

May says Ames then pursued May and issued him a ticket for provocation, deemed a Class C infraction in Indiana. The charge comes with a fine of up to $500.

May challenged the decision in Terre Haute City Court but was found guilty. He asked for it to be reviewed in Vigo County Superior Court, which deemed the judgment to be void.

The suit was filed by Kenneth Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, who says May’s actions were protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“Mr. May’s gesture, which in no way interfered with the Master Trooper’s lawful activities, was fully protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit reads. “The stop represents an unconstitutional seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Indiana State Police have not commented on the lawsuit.

Now, I am an absolutist on the subject of free speech. I do not believe there should be any restrictions on what you can say, other than the obvious exceptions of inciting violence or criminal act or defamation. This means that I think that Mark May had a right to make any gesture he wanted and I hope that he wins his case.

I feel I should add, however that just because you have a right to do something, it does not follow that you ought to do it. Mr. May has a perfect right to make whatever gesture or say whatever he wants. That doesn’t mean he ought to. It would seem inadvisable to offend someone who has the power to arrest you. It’s rude anyway to show such disrespect, particularly to a person whose job is to keep you safe, and never makes never makes a situation better.

I have to confess I have been guilty of flipping the bird in the past, even to police officers who have given me a ticket. I am making a resolution not to do that again. The court may decide I have the right to show the fighter to anyone, even a cop, better I ought not to.

Maybe we would all be better off if we thought less of what we have a right to do and more on what we ought to do.

Advertisements

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent

October 27, 2016

Chances are, that if you are ever questioned by the police about a crime, you will be eager to tell them everything you know. And, if it turns out that you are a suspect, you will want to waive your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present, and will want to explain to the police the reasons you couldn’t have the crime. That is a serious mistake according to James Duane, author of the book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent” and the YouTube video “Don’t Talk to the Police“. In his book and video, Duane contends that you should never talk to the police or give out any unnecessary information unless you have an attorney present, especially if you are innocent.

41svviqdcyl

The problem is that while you know that you are innocent, the police do not. They think that you are guilty or they wouldn’t be interested in talking to you. Because the friendly police officer who is asking questions just to clear things up is certain, in his mind, that you are guilty, he feels justified, and is legally empowered to, use any means of deception or pressure to get you to confess to the crime. This means that any discrepancies in your answers (who really can keep every detail of what they did last Thursday evening straight in their minds, especially when questioned by a trained interrogator seeking to trip them up?), any misstatements, any statement taken out of context  can be taken as proof of guilt and used against you in court. Remember that scene in My Cousin Vinny in which Ralph Macchio repeats the statement, “I shot the clerk” incredulously only to have it repeated as a straightforward statement of guilt at his trial. This sort of thing really happens.


Compounding the problem are recent court decisions which, according to Duane, make more difficult for a suspect to use their rights to remain silent and seek counsel. It is far easier for the police to get away with lying to you to induce a confession and they can ignore a request to speak to an attorney, unless you clearly and explicitly ask for one. Taking the fifth to avoid incrimination can be a perilous step, since such a request can not be used to imply guilt. Making matters worse is the problem of overcriminalization. As Duane points out, there are so many federal laws on the books and so many of them are badly and carelessly worded by Congress, that it is no longer possible for any human being to know the whole scope of the laws, much less be in compliance. Any given individual may be guilty of committing many federal offenses on any given day. A clever and unscrupulous prosecutor can find something to convict anyone. Speaking too freely could get you in trouble.

It is not necessary to buy and read this book if you can remember to say only four words when questioned by the police; “I want a lawyer”. But You Have a Right to Remain Innocent is worth reading if you want to get some idea of just how poorly our system of justice protects the rights of the accused. Prepare to be shocked and alarmed.

Abolish the Police

July 18, 2016

A Black Lives Matter activist named Jessica Disu has called for the police to be abolished during what was called a heated discussion on the Kelly File, as reported on Fox News.

A Black Lives Matter activist from Chicago argued during a heated Kelly File discussion that American police forces should be abolished.

“Here are the solutions. We need to abolish the police, period. Demilitarize the police, disarm the police, and we need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice,” said Jessica Disu, drawing some shocked reactions.

The conversation started with Megyn Kelly asking the panel – which included Black Rights Matter supporters, law enforcement officers, conservative commentators and religious leaders – about some who praised the Dallas gunman.

Disu, who described herself as a community organizer, said that Black Lives Matter has never called for violence against anyone.

She did not comment when Kelly pointed out that some protesters have called for “dead cops.”

Megyn Kelly asked her how citizens would be protected if police forces were “abolished.”

“We need to come up with community solutions. The police force in this country began as slave patrol,” Disu argued.

The suggestion is not actually as crazy as it sounds. We believe that having a professional, uniformed, quasi-military style police force is essential for maintaining order in our communities, but in fact, the idea of a body of police officers with the duty of capturing criminals and investigating crimes is a surprisingly recent one, dating back only to the early to middle nineteenth century. Before that time there were no policemen, as we know them. Of course, there have been officials charged with maintaining law and order for as long as human beings have had governments, various forms of county sheriffs. town constables, city watchmen, etc. For the most part, these officials have had the duty of enforcing court orders, serving warrants, responding to citizen’s complaints, and keeping order. Pursuing criminals wasn’t their main function. In most cases, in the ancient and medieval eras, it was up to the victim of a crime and his family to resolve crimes committed against them and to bring the criminal to the attention of the magistrates. Often, there were no public prosecutors, as we know them, and it was up to the victim to bring charges against the criminal in court. If the identity of the criminal were not known, the victims could hire a thief-taker, something like a modern private investigator, to track down and capture the criminal.

This system probably worked well enough in a Medieval setting of a rural country with small villages where everyone knew each other. Social pressure would have prevented most people from committing crimes and it wasn’t too difficult to discover who was responsible for a theft or murder, etc. It perhaps worked less well in the larger cities of pre-industrial Europe, but conditions were probably manageable, at least for the elite. With the industrial revolution, cities such as London or Paris began to grow in population to an extent unprecedented in European history. There were large numbers of people moving to the cities in search of jobs and as a result crime increased to unprecedented levels. It was becoming obvious that something better was needed.

Robert Peel is often credited with establishing the first metropolitan police force in London in, although the gendarmes established by Napoleon in France anticipated his reforms in some respects. Robert Peel was a Conservative politician who would go on to become Prime Minister in 1834-1835 and 1841-1846, when he would prove himself to be something of a reformer. In 1829, Peel was serving as Home Secretary and had become greatly concerned over the rise in crime in London and other British cities. Acting on the recommendations of the committee he had created to resolve the problem, Peel got Parliament to pass the Metropolitan Police Act which created the first, tu, metropolitan police in history.

Strange as it may seem, the idea of having uniformed police patrolling the streets of London was fairly controversial when the Metropolitan Police Act was passed. For many Londoners, the idea of a semi-military force keeping order seemed more fitting for the despotic regimes of the Continent than for a free country like England. The freedom loving Englishmen, along with their former colonists in America had a particular horror of a large standing army as an instrument of tyranny. Kings used such forces to impose their will on the people. For this reason, Peel was anxious to emphasize that the new police force was not a military organization, but was a politically neutral body accountable to the public it served. The police wore blue uniforms, in contrast to red worn by British soldiers (redcoats) and carried no weapon except a club and a rattle, later replaced by a whistle, to call for assistance and he used no military ranks, except for sergeant. Above all, Peel saw his new police force as part of the public, not as something separate. “The police are the public and the public are the police”, he often said.

The London Metropolitan Police proved to be effective at controlling crime and police forces based on Peel’s principles were soon organized in other cities in Britain and the United States. Professional police forces like Peel’s have become the norm all over the world to the point where it is simply inconceivable for a modern society to be run without them, yet I wonder what Robert Peel would make of what we have made of his creation. I think he would be alarmed at the extent in which his critics have been proven right.

Remember that the most important principle on which Peel organized the London police around was the idea that the police were not soldiers occupying the city of London but were a professional, civilian organization dedicated to serving the public. Somehow, over the last century that principle has been eroded. All too often, the police today are organized on explicitly military lines with military-style ranks, uniforms and training. We have heavily armed police officers in armored personnel carriers and Special Weapons and Tactics units being increasingly used to perform the normal duties of police work. Inevitably, people who are trained almost as soldiers begin to act like members of an occupying army instead of public servants, particularly in areas where the ethnicity of the police differs from that of the community. They become warrior cops instead of public guardians.

An excellent question

An excellent question

I do not favor abolishing the police. We cannot go back to the simpler times in which a society could get by with informal law enforcement. Yet, maybe it is time to have sort sort of public discussion what sort of law enforcement serves us best in the twenty-first century. We may want to move away from the warrior cop model in which the police become almost as dangerous to civilians as the criminals towards a police force more integrated with the communities they serve. Demilitarizing the police seems to be a good first step. we certainly want to stop this tendency to see the police and the civilians as somehow being opposing sides. Both the police and the public, at least theoretically, want the same things; safe places to live.

For this reason, movements like Black Lives Matter and community organizers like Jessica Disu are doing more harm than good. By all means, police officers who break the law should be punished, and the police do not do their side any favors when they refuse to assist in the prosecuting wrongdoers in their ranks, but it is reckless and irresponsible to paint all police officers as racists bent on killing black men for no reason. This antagonism can only make needed reforms more difficult to enact, particularly when abuses which should concern everyone; Black and White, police and civilian become a matter of Black versus White and police against the civilians. We all have to learn to stand together or we will fall divided.

Every Breath You Take

August 30, 2013

Maybe you remember this song by the Police.

 

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

O can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

 

I wonder if this is now the theme song for the NSA. Although Every Breath You Take was primarily about a jealous lover (a stalker?), Sting had surveillance in mind as he wrote it.

I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

Fitting for these times, isn’t it?

 

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

July 1, 2013

That’s Latin for “Who will watch the guardians themselves?” or maybe “who will watch the watchers?” An essential institution of any modern, civilized state are guardians or police who are charged with enforcing the laws of that state. Yet, how do you ensure that the guardians or law enforcers themselves will follow the laws and not abuse their position. I don’t doubt that a great many policemen want to serve their community, but the nature of the job of law enforcement naturally tends to attract the sort of people who like to push others around and think that a badge will allow them to get away with it. This tendency is aggravated when a police culture develops that sees the police not as public servants but as a separate and superior caste while the civilians they are charged to protect are seen as potential criminals.

Many years ago, when I was attending Indiana University at Bloomington, I found, while browsing a local book store, a book of humorous anecdotes written by a, I hope, retired police officer. These humorous anecdotes displayed an incredible contempt for civilians, or “tax-payers” as he humorously referred to them. In one such story, he related how he pulled over a woman who was speeding. The woman was somewhat irate and asked him why he wasn’t out catching criminals. He looked right at her and said, “That’s what I am doing now.” Hahahahahaha. No, he wasn’t. Speeding is an infraction, not a criminal offense. The woman might have been rude, but she was not a criminal, despite what the author of the book thought. With that kind of an attitude, I hope he is retired.

With all that in mind, consider this article about the kind of T-shirts favored by cops, written by Radley Balko on the Huffington Post. If the attitudes displayed are typical of police departments, then it is a rather disturbing trend.

Earlier this week, an anonymous public defender sent Gothamist this photo of an NYPD warrant squad officer wearing a t-shirt with a pretty disturbing quote from Ernest Hemingway:

There have been a number of other incidents over the years in which cops have donned t-shirts that reflect a mentality somewhat less lofty than “protect and serve.” Most recently, a Northern California union for school police officers came under fire for printing up and selling these shirts as a fundraiser:

See what I mean? It doesn’t help that there has been a trend towards more militarized police department, in large part due to the war on drugs. Here’s some more.

It’s no coincidence that the same departments and units caught wearing shirts displaying this sort of attitude tend to also get caught up in controversial beatings, shootings, and other allegations of misconduct and excessive force. The “us vs. them” mindset has become so common in U.S. police culture that we almost take it for granted. In my new book, I argue that this is the result of a generation of incessant rhetoric from politicians who treat cops as if they were soldiers, and policies that train and equip them as if they were fighting a war. The imagery and language depicted on the shirts in these stories are little different than the way pop culture, the military, and government propaganda have depicted the citizens of the countries we’ve fought in wars over the years.

Within the more militarized units of police departments, the imagery can be even stronger. Former San Jose, California police chief Joseph McNamara told National Journal in 2000 that he was alarmed when he attended a SWAT team conference the previous year and saw “officers . . . wearing these very disturbing shirts. On the front, there were pictures of SWAT officers dressed in dark uniforms, wearing helmets, and holding submachine guns. Below was written: ‘We don’t do drive-by shootings.’ On the back, there was a picture of a demolished house. Below was written: ‘We stop.’” In his 1999 ethnography on police culture, criminologist Peter Kraska writes that one SWAT team member he spent time with “wore a T-shirt that carried a picture of a burning city with gunship helicopters flying overhead and the caption Operation Ghetto Storm.”

Balko also quotes comments from a police forum.

– “In God we trust, all others get searched,”

— “A picture of an electric chair with the caption: JUSTICE: Regular or Crispy”

— “B.D.R.T Baby Daddy Removal Team on the back and the initials on front with handcuffs. You should see peoples faces when I wear it….HAHAHAHA”

— “Human trash collector. ( above a pair of handcuffs )”

— “Take No Guff, Cut No Slack, Hook’em, Book’em and Don’t Look Back!”

— “‘Boys on the Hood’ Pic had two gangbangers jacked up on the hood of a patrol car with two officers.”

— “SWAT T-shirt: ‘Happiness is getting the green light!'”

— “I have one that sates “SWAT SNIPER” on the front and on back it has a picure of a “terrorist” with a shell ripping through his skull and the “pink mist” spraying from the back of his head. Below the picture it reads, “Guerillas in the mist”.

— “Save the police time, beat yourself up”

— “An ounce of prevention is fine and dandy…….. But we prefer 168 grains of cure.”

— “Be good or you might get a visit from the bullet fairy.”

— “Sniper – When you only have 1 shot at an opportunity……We’ll make it count”

— “Law Enforcement……Helping perps slip down stairs since 1766”

— “Math for Cops………2 to the chest + 1 to the head = problem solved”

— “I had a couple of ’em a loooong time ago….1 showed a cop leaning on his rather long nightstick, saying “Police Brutality….the fun part of policework.”……obviously not very PC….another was a picture of a LEO with smoke coming from the muzzle of his pistol, with a badguy falling backwards (lookin’ like swiss cheese) with the caption…..The best action is OVERREACTION….also not very PC….”

— “Cops make good roommates…they’re used to taking out the trash.”

— “There was also one I saw where there was a big burly looking Sarge behind his desk and the cation read ‘It doesn’t say kindness and sympathy on the badge.'”

— “happiness is a confirmed kill”

— “Park Ranger T-shirt: One of funniest I ever saw: Picture of Smokey the Bear with Riot Gear and he’s just poked a protester in the chest with a riot baton. The Caption Reads: “Smokey Don’t Play That”. Funny!”

— “My Daddy can Taser your Daddy”

— “School Patrol – You fail em, we jail em”

— “Got one that says, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted and used against you.”

I don’t want to come across as anti-police. Obviously they do perform a vital job in any community. Law enforcement is a dangerous and stress-filled career and the police do not usually interact with the best and brightest among us. I can see how any cop could develop a rather jaundiced attitude toward his fellow human beings. As Mr. Balko concludes,

It’s worth noting that policing is a high-stress job, and one that often puts officers in contact with some pretty awful things, and in some dangerous situations. Like other high-stress professions, and professions that encounter difficult subject matter — defense attorneys, medical examiners, emergency room doctors and nurses — cops often develop a morbid sense of humor. It’s a coping mechanism. But it’s one thing to crack jokes inside the department, or at the bar after work. It’s quite another to openly advertise and promote a culture of abuse. As with most police abuse issues, the real failure here is on the part of the elected officials. They’re the ones who can’t resist the urge to incessantly declare “war” on things, who are responsible for setting the policies that have given rise to this culture, and who have done little to nothing to rein it in.

I do wish that politicians would stop declaring war on things. In war, there can be no compromises. You either defeat the enemy or they defeat you. In domestic issues, like drug abuse, you have to balance costs and benefits in a way you do not in war. Making every issue a war encourages extreme, irrational policies, and justifies abuse.

But as to the police attitudes and potential abuse, it all comes back to the question, quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

 

 

Man Arrested After Craigslist Pot Post

June 19, 2011

This is just dumb.

Police didn’t have to look far to find a man hoping to buy marijuana Thursday.

Michael Krebes, 31, of Vernon, put an ad on Craigslist looking to buy pot, police said.

Members of the East Central Narcotics Task Force answered the ad, and set up a location to meet Krebes.

Officers set up surveillance and waited for Krebes to arrive.

Sure enough, he showed up at the McDonald’s on Main Street in Glastonbury Thursday, where police took him into custody.

Krebes was charged with Criminal Attempt/Possession of less than 4 ounces of Marijuana.

He was released on $2,500 bond.

What kind of an idiot do you have to be to advertise your wish to buy a controlled substance in a place the whole world, including the police, can see. I wonder what other kinds of foolishness I’d find on Craigslist if I looked around.

Paying a Bill in Pennies

June 5, 2011

I suppose it’s a common fantasy when you have some argument over billing with a company or utility, to pay the bill in pennies. Jason West of Vernal, Utah did just that over a disputed doctor’s bill of $25. The clerks at the doctor’s office were not amused and called the police.

Police said 38-year-old Jason West went to a clinic in Vernal, Utah, on May 27 to dispute an outstanding bill for $25.

“After asking if they accepted cash, West dumped 2,500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they count it,” Vernal Assistant Police Chief Keith Campbell said. “The pennies were strewn about the counter and the floor.”

West was cited for disorderly conduct and now faces a fine of $140. I wonder if he is going to pay that in pennies.

 

Court: No Right to Resist Illegal Cop Entry into Home

May 15, 2011

“Fourth amendment? We don’t need no stinkin’ fourth amendment“. So ruled the Indiana Supreme Court, in effect.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.

“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

So apparently, now the police can enter your home for any reason. Of course, you can sue them afterwards, after spending the night in jail, and if you can afford a decent lawyer.

In fairness, though, I should mention the context:

The court’s decision stems from  a Vanderburgh County case in which police were called to investigate a husband and wife arguing outside their apartment.

When the couple went back inside their apartment, the husband told police they were not needed and blocked the doorway so they could not enter. When an officer entered anyway, the husband shoved the officer against a wall. A second officer then used a stun gun on the husband and arrested him.

I agree that the man should not have shoved the officer. That was assault and reason enough to arrest him. And yet, if there was no obvious crime involved, why did the officer have the right to enter this man’s apartment?

In his dissent from the ruling, Justice Robert Rucker said:

In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally — that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances

And Justice Brent Dickson added:

The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad

I agree. Whatever the merits of this particular case, this decision could well be used as a precedent for the police to enter in a person’s home without a warrant , or any sign of a crime being committed.


%d bloggers like this: