Category Archives: Police Brutality

This category has to do with the abuses inherent in a system where one group has a monopoly on law enforcement within a given geographic area.

Is Police Brutality Systemic or Anecdotal?

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I came across an interesting piece on The American Conservative arguing the proposition that police brutality is not just anecdotal, but systemic. If we think of the incentives facing police officers, this shouldn’t be too surprising. If you’re in a job where there is an above-average likelihood where you will be required to engage in the use of force and the certainty of punishment should you use excessive force is rather low, there is a greater chance, all else equal, that you will use excessive force. Add into the mix that police officers are self-selected from people who find the ability to use physical force on the job an attractive proposition. Furthermore, there are institutional incentives for police officers to disregard misconduct by their fellow officers, as they face retaliation in the forms of ostracism among other police officers, a smaller chance of promotion, and even the threat of physical force should they report this misconduct.

Thus, to say police brutality is systemic is not to say that all or even the majority of police officers are bad. It is talking about the system (thus, “systemic). And, again, these are the kinds of things we should expect from monopolies, which police departments are: you cannot fire them and you have no choice but to pay them unless you skip town.

Ultimately, I would encourage everyone to treat the institution of government policing with a bit more scrutiny than it typically receives. It may be the case that you live in a place that has a relatively well-functioning police department, and if that’s the case, be grateful. But realize that not all departments have the same good institutional culture and if it does not, it is incredibly hard to fix, due to its monopoly status.

H/T to disobey.tumblr.com

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Cotati PD Employees Enter Home without Warrant & Tase Homeowners

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Note: There are several versions of this video on the web; I selected this one because of the subtitles.

What I want to talk about in this blog post are some comments I saw regarding this footage, such as these (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg9yiBezl6E):

unfortunately, if they have reason to believe someone may be in danger, they can do this. a good majority of homicides are a result of domestics. :-\ in many cases, the female is scared the male will hurt her more so she complies with the abuser. on the other hand, we all fight and bicker and this is above and beyond what the cops did. had they opened the door, gotten the story, witnessed nithing had transpired- these people would have never been in this position.

And

It is sad and unacceptable that the cops resorted to this level of violence, but the part that stands out to me is that this entire situation could have been avoided with some simple cooperation. This is a domestic violence call. I’m not familiar with the procedures and protocol of the local law enforcement there, but being uncooperative with police who are most likely required to investigate this allegation is not really warranted either.

Addressing the first comment, as someone who has a degree in criminal justice (whatever that’s worth), I’d like to say that police must have more than “reason to believe someone may be in danger” to break into a house and tase people who show no signs of resistance. Breaking in itself would require probable cause, meaning that the officer could convince a neutral and detached magistrate that either the person involved has committed a crime or that evidence of a crime is in a particularly described place.

Apparently, what led officers to this residence was a noise complaint by neighbors. This is not sufficient to be probable cause. Indeed, the people involved were arrested for “obstruction,” a crime that cannot occur unless police officers are there to be obstructed. What exactly they were being obstructed from is still a mystery.

How about the idea that “this entire situation could have been avoided with some simple cooperation”? This entirely misses the point. A well-established precedent in Common Law is that a man’s (or woman’s) house is his castle.

“The poorest man may in his cottage,
bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.
It may be frail, its roof may shake;
the wind may blow through it;
the storm may enter; the rain may enter;
but the King of England may not enter;
all his force dares not cross the threshold
of the ruined tenement.”

– William Pitt, (1708-1778) First Earl of Chatham, English statesman and orator, Speech in the House of Lords, in opposition to Excise Bill on perry and cider, 1763

Obviously, the main goal of the person holding the camera wasn’t to not get tased. Why didn’t he open the door? “Because we don’t live in a police state, sir.” I think it should be quite apparent that the goal of the officers was not to prevent violence or ensure safety; their taser use saw to that.

But, ultimately, if someone is beaten for refusing to hand over his wallet, does anyone say, “Well, that beating totally could have been avoided if you had only been more cooperative”? It seems that so many people have become so conditioned to police officers employing violence in any and all situations where people assert their rights that they have become desensitized to the gravity of what’s happening: if you resist unlawful orders, even in a non-violent manner,  police will employ violence.

 

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Makes No Sense

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Joe Arpaio

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

For some reason unknown to me, I received a letter in the mail from Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. I’m not sure how I got on his mailing list. I don’t live in Arizona, I’ve never contributed to any sheriff’s campaign funds, and I’ve never voted for sheriff.

If you don’t know Joe, he is apparently one of the most controversial sheriffs in the Union. I was surprised at the number of controversies listed on his Wikipedia page.

He is particularly well known for his “Tent City,” an addition to the Maricopa County jail where inmates have to live in tents out in the AZ heat. Arpaio betrays his own taste for sadism when he openly describes it as a “concentration camp.” In his defense of it, he compared it to the plight soldiers in Iraq who had to bear the heat and wear body armor yet have committed no crime. But there’s a problem, Joe: a large percentage of people in jail haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial (let alone the fact that many of them are there for victimless crimes). Thus, he fails to live up to his own standards.

So how about this letter? Here is the gist of it:

Read the rest of this entry

Why Do People Want to Believe in the Police?

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Jarvis DeBerry recently wrote about a New Orleans police officer who has had many complaints about him yet irrevocably remains employed. DeBerry documents a condemning case against Officer Jayson Germann, citing accusations of excessive force, theft, false reports, verbal intimidation, and unprofessionalism. I found this claim by his attorney to be pretty amazing:

Germann’s attorney, Raymond Burkart III, said, “It’s not uncommon for people to make false allegations against police officers. It’s a way to retaliate and besmirch the officer.” 

I find this to be quite hard to believe, to say the least. Think about the relationship here: you have on one side the private “civilian” whose only legal recourse is to complain to the police department’s internal affairs, likely to consist of people who know and could be friends with the officer about whom he or she is complaining, or the officer, who has an incredible amount of discretion to use violence. Who exactly has more legal routes for “retaliation” here? Of course, that’s his attorney and they are paid to make bad arguments.

I do appreciate DeBerry’s concluding comment:

Complaints made against officers are typically hard to prove, so police defenders generally insist that we only pay attention to complaints that were substantiated. But as police monitor Susan Hutson counters, “If a suspect is arrested for something and has a long arrest history, regardless of whether he’s been convicted, it would be touted by the police.” Exactly. A series of complaints against a civilian is offered as prima facie evidence of guilt. A series of complaints against an officer is described as irrelevant, and most of us shrug and move on.

We want to believe that the system’s still reliable even when we see an abundance of evidence to the contrary.

It is insightful regarding the benefit of the doubt given to police at the expense of everyone else; I’m not sure why that is the general attitude of people who are not police. I suspect it has to do with the unending onslaught of TV shows about police who are never wrong about the innocence of suspects and are never shown making mistakes that result in the violation of rights or the ending of lives. I am sure he uses “we” in the last sentence rhetorically rather than literally. Acknowledging the abundance of evidence to the contrary, I think, is an admonishment of the uninitiated to get their heads out of the sand and see that real life doesn’t resemble TV in this instance.

But perhaps a fuller explanation of why people want to believe in the American criminal justice system is necessary. Though I think most people really don’t care about the corruption until it affects them directly (I feel as though I can guarantee there wouldn’t be a drug war if people knew what it cost them individually), maybe people don’t want to face the discomfort of knowing that the legal system is unnecessarily unjust. Maybe there is a rational irrationality in that there is little point in getting upset about such things if one doesn’t believe she can change it. Ignorance is preferable.

But I don’t know the exact reason(s) why people want to believe in the police. Maybe you can tell me.

Cop shoots 10-year-old boy with Taser for refusing to clean patrol car — RT

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http://rt.com/usa/news/taser-boy-playground-webb-611/

I suppose sometimes I post things that didn’t exactly happen yesterday. This is one of those times.

The title is pretty explanatory. In my search of the interwebs, I couldn’t find an update beyond the boy’s family filing a lawsuit.

With all the crimes police commit, it’s pretty amazing how much of a pass they get in the court of public opinion. It’s also pretty amazing that such an act only results in a 3-day suspension. What do we do when this becomes normal and isn’t amazing anymore?

People in Police Custody Shoot Themselves?

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One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Hopefully there isn’t a third.

There have been two recent cases of individuals in the back of police cars shooting themselves in the head, despite being searched and handcuffed. At least that’s the official story. I certainly hope it’s not the case that police officers were able to shoot a handcuffed man and pass it off as suicide, but they obviously failed in their search for weapons if their story is what happened. Whatever the case may be, this shouldn’t have happened.

August 16 Gem County Sheriff’s Office SWAT raid

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I would strongly advise before watching this video to read William Norman Grigg’s explanation of what happened over at his blog, Pro Libertate. What I find surprising about this incident is that it took place in rural Idaho, which I don’t think is yet considered a hotbed of drug dealing. Yet I have personally had problems with the police state in Meridian, Idaho, where my vehicle has been searched twice by what I strongly suspect of being fabricated evidence (“The K9 alerted on your door handle. Have you been giving rides to people who use drugs?”). Likewise, in this case there were officers conducting an illegal search for marijuana, as well as assaulting an innocent couple.

When will people realize that you don’t have to be involved with any illegal substance to be a victim of the State’s war on drugs?

Giving a Pair of Shoes Covers a Multitude of Sins

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I hope you can forgive me on this one. I found this as a draft from long ago that I didn’t publish until now. I thought about tossing it out, but decided it was better to document an instance (of a large pool of examples) of policemen shooting unarmed people, whether it happened this week or two months ago. (Also, I was asked by a member of a Meetup to which I belong to help promote the radio host in the video, Josh Tolley. Not sure that his style suits my tastes, but do with it what you will.) It seems particularly curious that innocents getting killed by police garners much less attention than a single police officer giving a homeless man a pair of shoes. Is it because the former has become so commonplace that it seems hardly newsworthy? Are commendable acts by police officers so rare that one being photographed merits national attention?

<br /><br />	This photo provided by Jennifer Foster shows New York City Police Officer Larry DePrimo presenting a barefoot homeless man in New York's Time Square with boots Nov. 14, 2012 . Foster was visiting New York with her boyfriend on Nov. 14, when she came across the shoeless man asking for change in Times Square. As she was about to approach him, she said the officer came up to the man with a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks on the frigid night. She took the picture on her cellphone. It was posted Tuesday night to the NYPD's official Facebook page and became an instant hit. More than 350,000 users "liked" it as of Thursday afternoon, and over 100,000 shared it. (AP Photo/Jennifer Foster)<br /><br />

Obviously, it is possible that some police officers are capable of acts of kindness and not all of them desire to break down your door and shoot you and/or your dog. However, the frequency of such acts of violence by those with badges should lead us to seriously challenge the notion that the problems can all be chalked up to a few bad apples. I would like to offer this alternative: the institutional framework of the existing statist policing regime should lead us to expect such results. Firstly, think of the tremendous power afforded to police officers. Such power will immediately appeal to those who desire to use it, leading to a pool of candidates that is biased in terms of those who have a lust for dominance. I should know: I have obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and know the people who want to be cops.

Secondly, the official checks upon police power continue to be diminished (I say “official” because the rise in widespread carrying of devices that are capable of recording video may make officers think more deeply about what actions they will take when in the public eye). In furtherance of the drug war, as well as the war on terror, the courts have continued to decide in favor of police power over constitutional protections.In my own experience, police have searched my vehicle twice (at least to my knowledge). It used to be the case that such an invasion of property required a warrant supported by probable cause and the approval of a judge (and even in this frequently idealized procedure, it doesn’t take an anarchist to realize that cops and judges play for the same team and the deck is already stacked against you). Then judges decided that the 4th Amendment didn’t apply to motor vehicles in the same way that it did to other property and decreed that police were no longer required to obtain a warrant to search a vehicle. To further whittle away any privacy or security in one’s car, the courts then decided that all it took was a drug-sniffing dog to alert on a car and it could be legally searched. This is what happened both times in my case. I have never even handled elicit substances, yet somehow they found their way onto my door handle. Twice. I think a more plausible explanation is that the police know I cannot prove that either their dog is faulty or, more likely, the dog never alerted to anything at all. Thus they are given free reign to go on fishing expeditions. Find something and they’ve got a bust. Find nothing and there is no penalty to them, yet if I did the same thing as a non-badge carrier I would be considered guilty of false imprisonment, car burglary, and robbery (for giving people bills and then threatening to revoke their license and put them in jail should they not submit).

Thirdly, undesirable behavior is officially incentivized. Drug units in many police departments are given grants by the federal government that are partially based on the number of drug arrests. Thus, the most extreme way to handle a problem is the way of choice when something such as a warning may do. (Not to mention the fact that drug and vice “crimes” don’t have a victim. Why aren’t there more people asking why the State has a right to use violence against non-violent people in the first place?)

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, police have a monopoly on violence. The reason why you don’t really hear about cases of security guard brutality (none come to mind) is that they face the likelihood of immediate termination because people don’t want to do business with others who beat them up. Taking your business elsewhere is a powerful check. Yet that option is not officially available in regards to government police. Their paycheck is obtained through the theft called taxation. You are not their customer. You are their potential suspect.

Given only these considerations, the rampant violence and corruption that are commonplace among American police departments should be expected. So the question baffling me is why do people continue to revere policemen as selfless heroes, or at least give the institution the unmerited benefit of the doubt?

Watch “Pro Libertate Podcast #3” on YouTube

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William Grigg does some amazing work and it deserves to be witnessed. This video is about how police officers who embezzle millions of dollars won’t even face criminal prosecution, but one who defends people against other police officers can expect to be fired. Please also check out his blog at libertyinourtime.blogspot.com.

No One is Safe From the Police State (including ex-Marines)

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I suppose I could get in trouble with some Marine veterans, since there is no such thing as an “ex-Marine.” But various individuals who happened to formerly be active-duty Marines have had terrible experiences with law enforcement for no apparent or good reason.

Brandon Raub

The most recent case is that of Brandon Raub of Virginia. He apparently wrote things on Facebook critical of the government and was arrested and assigned to a mental institution without being charged. You can read the full account by William Norman Grigg here and Lawrence Hunter here.

Victim of shooting, Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

Another case was that of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., whose Life Alert necklace was accidentally set off (have you seen the design for those things? I wouldn’t be surprised if false alarms happened all the time).

The police came to his home and he claimed he didn’t need help. They broke down his door, tasered him, and shot him dead. A NY grand jury decided that no criminal charges would be filed against the police. Mr. Chamberlain’s family is suing the government. Wikipedia page.

Jose Guerena

And you might remember the death of Jose Guerena last year, who was shot 22 times by a SWAT team executing a search warrant. Contrary to the accounts given by police, he fired no rounds at them. No drugs were found. Here is a video account:

Of course, the fact that these men were in the Marine Corps increases the notoriety of their stories, but it doesn’t make the acts against them more egregious than if they were civilians all of their lives. But what it does demonstrate is that no one is safe from the police state.