Category Archives: Abuse of Police Powers

What the Numbers Say on Police Use of Force

It seems as if everyone from the excreable Al Sharpton to the President is inexhaustibly beating the drum of racial unrest in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island, NY.  So the article written by Steven Malanga, titled as above, and published earlier this week in City Journal, is timely.  From the article, these interesting excerpts:

What’s striking in the progression of these later studies is a steady decrease in the number of people having interactions with the police—from about 45 million in 2002 to 40 million in 2011—or from about 21 percent of the 16-and-older population to about 17 percent.  One clear reason for the decline has been the corresponding drop in crime: the number of people reporting crimes or other problems to the police fell by about 3.6 million from a peak in 2002.  More important, perhaps, was that reports of use of force by police also fell, from 664,000 in 2002 to 574,000 in a 2010 report.  Those declines occurred across all races.  The number of African-Americans reporting that police used force against them fell from 173,000 to 130,000.  Among whites, the number has dropped from a peak of 374,000 to 347,000.

and

… in the most recent survey, in 2011, 88.2 percent of those stopped by the police said they thought officers acted properly.  There were few significant distinctions by race.  Nearly 83 percent of African-Americans judged police behavior to be proper, for instance.  The study also asked citizens whether they thought the police had stopped them for a “legitimate” reason—and here the data on race is particularly interesting.  Some 80 percent of all drivers viewed their stops as legitimate, compared with 68 percent of African-Americans.  But the study also asked drivers to report the race of the officers who stopped them, and African-Americans were just as likely to say that stops initiated by white officers were legitimate as those initiated by black officers.  Similarly, white drivers saw no difference in how they were treated by white officers or black officers on this question.

I continue to believe that we must be ever vigilant against the abuse of police power, but the full article, HERE, contains a wealth of information, is enlightening, and is well worth reading.  Since it contains statistics drawn from Justice Department studies, you will realize that Eric Holder has no excuse for pretending that the police have a built-in antipathy toward black Americans.

The DoD 1033-Program Along the Crystal Coast

Back in November before the election, I attended a meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort NC Tea Party in order to hear the scheduled remarks of Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck.  In the Q-&-A session afterwards, as someone who has become increasingly concerned about the militarization of law enforcement in America, I asked Sheriff Buck to what degree his agency had become militarized, i.e., how much military style equipment had been acquired by the Sheriff’s Department during his tenure.  I was pleased to hear the Sheriff say that, beyond the standard firearms, bulletproof vests, and other essential equipment needed to protect the safety of his officers, he saw no reason to pursue any military-type equipment made available by the federal government.

Although my estimation of Sheriff Buck’s judgment went up a notch that evening, the same cannot be said for some of the other law enforcement agencies along the Crystal Coast.  After years of public clamor by folks who are as apprehensive as I about the aforementioned militarization, the Department of Defense has finally made public a detailed list of the military equipment given to law enforcement agencies all over America through the 1033 Program.  Below is a graphic depicting the goodies handed over to policing agencies along the Crystal Coast:

DoD-1033 Gifts on CC

Because of President Obama’s reaction to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other similar events recently, I expect that he will soon direct the Pentagon to refuse equipment to law enforcement agencies that cannot show that their policing personnel are not racially representative in comparison to the surrounding community.  Congress has also become somewhat interested in the issue of police militarization.

To peruse the entire list, organized alphabetically by municipality within states, click HERE, and be prepared to wait awhile after you make your selection from the two state groupings.  And, if you are a Crystal Coast reader residing in one of the localities in the list above, you might want to ask why they need the firepower.

Asset Forfeiture: an egregious abuse in Iowa

I have written before, HERE, about police power abuse in the form of asset forfeiture laws and their enforcement.  In that connection, I have come to believe that everyone should:CopsAbusePower

a]  ALWAYS, at the earliest opportunity, ask a law enforcement officer why you were stopped on the highway or why you are being otherwise detained in order to get his reason on the record;

b]  NEVER give consent to a police search of your vehicle, your home or other real property, or your person;

c]  NEVER linger past the point at which the LEO acknowledges that the process related to his previously articulated reason for detaining you has ended, and if that point is not readily discernable, ask the LEO outright.  Specifically, never respond to any questions asked beyond that point, no matter how innocuous they may seem.

If you wish to know one of the many reasons why I advocate this, click HERE.

Trigger Happy Much?

Earlier this fall, on September 4th, South Carolina Highway Patrol officer CopsAbusePowerSean Groubert was parked behind a fuel station when he was passed by a pick-up being driven by a man who was, apparently, not wearing a seat belt.  Officer Groubert started his patrol cruiser up, and with his dash cam continuing to record video, followed the man into the fueling station.  Click the video below to see what happened next:

Three weeks later, Officer Groubert was charged with “high and aggravated assault and battery”.  If you viewed the video, as I did, you may be forgiven for thinking that attempted murder would have been more appropriate.

Full article, from the online Reason Magazine, is HERE.

SCOTUS to decide how long is Too Long

Suppose a police or highway patrol officer notices that one of your tail-lights is out, and pulls you over. After warning you to get the light fixed (or maybe giving you a ticket), he begins to have a gut feeling that you have illicit drugs somewhere in your car. He asks if you are willing to CopsAbusePowerconsent to a search but you, being a sensible person, refuse. Your refusal makes him even more convinced that you have something to hide, and based on probability, he figures it has to be drugs.

At this point, the cop does not have anything that would constitute probable cause, but he is loathe to just let you go, so he orders you to sit tight while he calls in a drug-sniffing dog and his K9 handler.  You protest, and say to the officer that you have a pressing engagement soon, and ask how long you will have to wait.  The cop tells you that you must wait until the dog and his handler arrive, however long that may take.

So, what are the limits in this situation?  Does the cop have the right to blow your whole day if the handler and his dog are delayed?  Without arresting you for something, can he just detain you for an extra minute, an extra hour, two hours, three, what?

We may soon have a definitive answer.  Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take on appeal the Rodriguez versus United States case, a lawsuit which bears directly on the issue of traffic stops and their duration.  Here is an excerpt from the cert petition, the document in which SCOTUS outlines their justification for taking a case on appeal from a lower court:

This Court has held that, during an otherwise lawful traffic stop, asking a driver to exit a vehicle, conducting a drug sniff with a trained canine, or asking a few off-topic questions are “de minimis” intrusions on personal liberty that do not require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to comport with the Fourth Amendment.  This case poses the question of whether the same rule applies after the conclusion of the traffic stop, so that an officer may extend the already-completed stop for a canine sniff without reasonable suspicion or other lawful justification.

What, exactly, is a “de minimus” intrusion, expressed in terms of time?  The lower court, from which the case was appealed, defined it as from seven to eight minutes.  In a similar case from Nevada (State versus Beckman), a lower court had said that nine minutes was too long.

Orin Kerr, a distinguished George Washington University law professor and one of the principle law bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy, put up a post on this case back in February, as well as a second on October 2nd, HERE.  An excerpt from the first post:

Although the Supreme Court has held that the use of the dog is not a search, the length of a warrantless stop must be reasonable.  The officer can’t delay the driver forever.  This raises a question of Fourth Amendment law that has led to a lot of lower court litigation: If the officer has no reasonable suspicion that drugs are in the car — that is, he only has a hunch — how long can the traffic stop be delayed before the dog arrives and checks out the car?

My take is that ten minutes should be an absolute limit, less if the suspect has articulated an urgent need to be on his way.  By the end of next year, the Supremes will have defined a limit, or dodged the issue.  I’ll be interested to see which way they go.

Three Cheers for Senator Rand Paul

Civil asset seizure by Federal and State law enforcement agencies has been, in recent decades, all to often followed by a declaration of forfeiture by the government, from which the owner of the property usually has no recourse. To his credit, Senator Rand Paul realizes that this practice is a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s “No person shall … be deprived of … property … nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” clause, and he has taken action to do something to rectify the situation.

According to an article in Friday’s Washington Post by Radley Balko:

Sen. Rand Paul yesterday introduced S. 2644, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, which would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law.  Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner.  In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property.

The details, HERE, are worth reading.

The Department of Pre-Crime, Los Angeles Style

In late May, I put up a post, HERE, the title of which referred to the Department of Pre-Crime, a feature of the 2002 Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report”.  My post was really about the executive orders that I anticipate from President Obama, but journalist Nate Berg of the Guardian newspaper has now gone to the Minority Report well again in his recent article about the growing use of computers by the Los Angeles Police Department in trying to predict when and where crimes will next occur in order to improve the efficiency of their dispatchers.  Some excerpts:

The Los Angeles Police Department, like many urban police forces today, is both heavily armed and thoroughly computerised.  The Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division in downtown LA is its central processor.  Rows of crime analysts and technologists sit before a wall covered in video screens stretching more than 10 metres wide.  Multiple news broadcasts are playing simultaneously, and a real-time earthquake map is tracking the region’s seismic activity.  Half-a-dozen security cameras are focused on the Hollywood sign, the city’s icon.  In the centre of this video menagerie is an oversized satellite map showing some of the most recent arrests made across the city – a couple of burglaries, a few assaults, a shooting.

and

The algorithm at play is performing what’s commonly referred to as predictive policing.  Using years – and sometimes decades – worth of crime reports, the algorithm analyses the data to identify areas with high probabilities for certain types of crime, placing little red boxes on maps of the city that are streamed into patrol cars.  “Burglars tend to be territorial, so once they find a neighbourhood where they get good stuff, they come back again and again,” Romero says.  “And that assists the algorithm in placing the boxes.”

and

Predictive policing is just one tool in this new, tech-enhanced and data-fortified era of fighting and preventing crime.  As the ability to collect, store and analyse data becomes cheaper and easier, law enforcement agencies all over the world are adopting techniques that harness the potential of technology to provide more and better information.  But while these new tools have been welcomed by law enforcement agencies, they’re raising concerns about privacy, surveillance and how much power should be given over to computer algorithms.

And rightly so.  One of the many potential drawbacks to this automation is that it may lead to self-fullfilling prophecies and over-reaching assumptions on the part of the police.  But overall, it could be a good thing, so we should keep an open mind until more experience is gained.

To view the full article, click HERE.

Is This Why the Guvmint Needs All Those Guns & Ammo?

As regular readers will know, the graphic embedded in this post means that I consider it an example of the abuse of the government police power, either at the Federal, state, county, or municipal level of government.  If you read the material at the link, keep in mind that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is most likely correct, and justified, in their view that the Endangered Species Act warrants measures to protect the desert tortoise.  And they are probably also correct in their contention that western ranchers must pay fees in order to graze their cattle on Federal land.CopsAbusePower

What I find to be abhorrent, however, is the extreme and militarized actions taken by the BLM in enforcing their position against Clark County, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a man whom his neighbors, and most other people, would consider a law abiding citizen, not to mention the fact that this is a civil dispute that dates back almost two decades.

Consider this excerpt from an Infowars post, HERE, by Paul Watson:

None of the family members were armed, but as soon as Dave Bundy began filming the cattle in the distance, eleven BLM vehicles each with two agents arrived and surrounded him.  “They also had four snipers on the hill above us all trained on us.  We were doing nothing besides filming the area,” said Ryan Bundy.

and

When Dave Bundy didn’t immediately heed the warning and return to his vehicle, a dog was set on him and he was subsequently arrested.  “He was filming and talking on the phone, I don’t know to whom,” Ryan Bundy said.  “It happened pretty fast.  They came down on him hard and had a German Shepherd on him.  And then they took him.”

When Dave Bundy’s father Cliven attempted to contact emergency response in both Mesquite and for Metro in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of his son, he was told to, “get off the phone or he would be arrested,” according to Ryan Bundy.

This episide has been the subject of much local media attention, so for more detail and background information, check out THIS local Nevada newspaper account, or THIS account from the newspaper in nearby St. George, Utah.

SWAT Team Raids Suburban Family Home Over Teenager’s Science Project

On the morning of April 20, 2012, Bob Harte woke up to pounding at his door.  He answered the door to find a fully-armed team of SWAT officers from the Sheriff’s Office in Johnson County, Kansas. The officers pushed CopsAbusePowerHarte to the floor of his home, then gathered his wife, his 13yo son, and his 7yo daughter together and sat them on the living room couch before commencing a two-hour raid of the residence, all the while with cop cars and flashing blue lights filling his yard and rousing his community.

The deputies refused to tell Harte why they were searching his home until they had completed the raid, but as they were leaving they told him they were searching for narcotics. They found none, and left him a receipt stating that there were “No items taken.”  In order to allay the natural suspicions of his neighbors at seeing a SWAT team raid on his home, Bob Harte had to take this receipt around to show his neighbors in order to prove that he and his family were not criminals.

The Harte’s, two former CIA employees with no criminal records, wanted to know how they had been selected for the raid, but the County officials would not tell them.  So they filed suit, eventually spending $25,000 dollars to find out, because they felt, as I do, as you would, that the public has an interest in knowing whether law enforcement raids of residential properties are based on a well-founded allegation of wrong-doing, validated by the careful scrutiny of the magistrates or judges who sign the authorizing warrants.

For more on this episode and it’s aftermath, check out THIS article at Yahoo News, and THIS article from local Kansas City television station KSHB (which includes a video), and THIS article from Opposing Views, an independent media site based in Los Angeles.

My purpose in posting about such occurances as this one is that I think that law enforcement in the United States is becoming too militarized, and that magistrates and judges are all too often derelict in their duty to clearly identify a legitimate “probable cause” before signing warrants for searches, particularly of residential properties.  However, I also acknowledge that LEO’s have a vested interest in trying to employ overwhelming force when they have a realistic expectation of armed resistance.  So, HERE is another perspective, more fair and balanced.

80-Year Old Man Shot In His Bed By L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy

This post recounts another bad outcome resulting from law enforcement CopsAbusePowerconducting a raid based on a warrant that was obtained through a dubious assertion (of meth cooking, based on “the strong odor of chemicals”) on the part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

From a post by reporter Caleb Howe at the online Independent Journal Review, with my editing for brevity:

Deputies approached the house, and what happened next is where things get murky.  The deputies said they announced their presence upon entering and were met in the hallway by the 80-year-old man, wielding a gun and stumbling towards them.  The deputies later changed the story when the massive bloodstains on Mallory’s mattress indicated to investigators that he’d most likely been in bed at the time of the shooting.  Investigators also found that an audio recording of the incident revealed a discrepancy in the deputies’ original narrative.

That discrepancy was the timing of when the instruction to “drop the gun” was given.  Upon listening to the recording, the command from shooter Sgt. John Bones appears to have come after he opened fire, fatally shooting Mallory six times.

Mallory never fired a weapon, and no methamphetamine was found in the home.

Mallory was a retiree.  An elderly man, hard of hearing, who apparently did not understand who was invading his home armed to the teeth.  It was a high tension and very dangerous situation.

And then there is the video below (over seven minutes long, but worth your time), from Reason-TV, which also includes this bit:  “When it was all over, Eugene Mallory died of six gunshot wounds from Sgt. John Bones’ MP-5 9mm submachine gun.  When a coroner arrived, he found the loaded .22 caliber pistol the two deputies claimed Mallory had pointed at them on the bedside table.  Mallory had not fired of a single shot.”

If you paid attention to the 30-second segment beginning at 4:17, it is obvious that the shooter concocted an outright lie about the circumstances in order to make his action appear more justified.  This seems to have become standard operating procedure in some law enforcement jurisdictions.

Continuing Examples of Police Power Abuses

I recently posted a piece, with links, expressing my concern over the CopsAbusePowerincreased militarization and lawlessness of the civil law enforcement in the United States.  I am aware that this has always been a problem, but it is becoming acute, in my view, for two reasons:

First, the increasing militarization tends to cause police officers to view themselves more as soldier/combatants in hostile territory rather than as law enforcement officers (i.e., civil servants) integrated into a community.

Second, the ferocity of police unions in adopting a “my LEO, may he always be right, but my LEO, right or wrong” mentality is one that, all too often, turns a blind eye to justice in the service of blue solidarity.  

Following are examples of police power abuse that do nothing but heighten my concern:

Example-A, HERE, is an update on a case arising from the massive California manhunt for accused cop-killer Christopher Dorner in February of 2013, in which two women delivering newspapers in a pickup were inexplicably mistaken for Dorner.  The cops, seemingly near hysteria, then fired a total of 103 rounds into the truck.  Amazingly, the women were hit by nothing more harmful than flying shards of shattered automobile window glass.

Example-B, HERE, is an update on the case of David Eckert, an innocent New Mexico man who …

was stopped on a minor traffic violation and accused by an officer of holding his buttocks.  What followed was a nightmare where officers and doctors subjected Eckert to outrageous abuse as they searched for drugs or contraband in his body.  Before the police released him after finding no drugs, he would endure five manual penetrations; three forced defecations before witnesses; and an intrusive surgery under sedation.

Abuses such as these were once thought to occur only in the large metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit, etc., but they are now gradually being seen with increasing frequency in less urbanized areas.  This is yet another example of where our “eternal vigilance” is needed to prevent an erosion of our liberty.

It is Time that We Step Up our Opposition to Police Militarization & Lawlessness

As a conservative, I am generally very supportive of law enforcement.  CopsAbusePowerHowever, I have long thought that the trend toward militarization and lawlessness of the police in American is becoming very problematic.  It is another example of how we lose our rights, not by some grand gesture on the part of a President, and not by some radical legislation passed by Congress.  Rather, we lose them by a creeping erosion that brings about deterioration so slowly that we barely even notice, and therefore do not find as alarming as we should.

Police lawlessness and misconduct can take many forms.  One abusive practice that takes place on almost a daily basis in America is police over-reaction to being photographed or videotaped by the citizenry during the performance of their duties.  This has become so troublesome that there is a website, administered by an often-arrested professional photographer, that exists to document and highlight such excesses.  This post if not about this situation in particular, but for those interested in exploring the depth of this issue the photographer is Carlos Miller and the website is known by the acronym PINAC, for Photography Is Not A Crime.

A new example of another type of police lawlessness occurred recently in Ankeny, Iowa, and has been featured in two articles by journalist Radley Balko, a former Cato Institute policy analyst and someone who has researched and written about this topic extensively.  I will try to summarize the salient points of both in the text below the following video.

First, the police have tried to justify their behavior based on their prior knowledge that an occupant of the house, a man named Justin Ross (who had recently been honorably discharged by the US Army), held a concealed carry permit.  Ross, however, was not a target of the police investigation and was not suspected of any illegal behavior.

Second, in order to conduct this raid the police had to get a warrant.  They had a choice of what type of warrant to ask for, and they requested a “knock and announce” warrant as opposed to a “no-knock” warrant.  It is important to understand that the premise of a “knock and announce” warrant is that the police will knock on the suspect’s door, loudly announce that they are law enforcement officers, and then give the suspects the customary time to answer their door, thus avoiding property damage and other unnecessary disruption.  In the video, it is plainly apparent that the police executed as if they had a “no-knock” warrant when they did not, even to forcing the door open with a battering ram and ripping a video surveillance camera off the porch wall.

Third, consider how the police looked when they came up the driveway to the home.  They were nine officers dressed in “swat team” type uniforms with boots, helmets, bulletproof vests, and hoods, and with guns drawn and held at the ready.  This appearance can have an intimidating effect, and the police can be forgiven for using that to their advantage when confronting hardened criminals with a record of violence.  It has no place, however, when serving warrants on those suspected of non-violent crimes.

Fourth, the two people who were the target of the warrant were suspected of credit card fraud, a non-violent crime.  The presence of a law-abiding armed citizen in the home was therefore no legal basis for requesting a “no-knock” warrant, let along executing the raid as if they had one when they didn’t.  Although the police did take two houseguests into custody, the two were charged with probation violation and drug possession, neither of which is a violent crime.

One of the many disturbing aspects of this event is that the police in Ankeny insist that they did nothing wrong.  That may speak volumns about how far the public has allowing this trend to progress.

Law enforcement needs to be frequently reminded that there are limits, lines that must not be crossed.  And that even their personal safety does not justify disregarding the Bill Of Rights.

For more on this story, Radley Balko’s two articles, both published in the Washington Post, are HERE and HERE.

Give Up The Cows, Buster, Or We Drone You

Property owners whose neighbors do not adequately maintain their CopsAbusePowerfences often find themselves in possession of unwanted livestock.  That might have been what happened when North Dakota cattle rancher Rodney Brossart found six cows that had wandered onto his property.  Then, perhaps in an effort to teach the neighbor a lesson, he refused to return them, triggering a very unfortunate chain of events.

The neighbor called the cops, the cops called SWAT, the SWAT called in a Predator drone from Homeland Security, and Brossart was captured and jailed, along with his three sons.

The full story, notable because it reports on the very first instance of federally-owned drones being used in domestic law enforcement against a United States citizen, is HERE.  [ US News & World Report, via Drudge ]