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on Monday, June 16th, 2008 at 8:42 am by Radley Balko
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I’ve beaten the Spin the Black Circle game before, but I forgot that was the name of it. I opened it up and just heard that, Waaaa-nanana. Waaaa-nananana. I just started frantically clicking Close! Close! Close!
From the article on the “Bait Car”: “Each bait car usually also has a remote controlled ‘kill switch’ that allows police to disable the engine and lock the doors. It isn’t known why police didn’t shut off the vehicle in this case. ”
Well duh….even I know the answer to that….Where’s the freaking fun in just killing the engine when you could have the excitement of an honest to goodness chase? I mean that IS why most cops become cops isn’t it? Not protecting and serving but getting their testosterone jollies? Maybe I’m wrong and I’ve been misreading cops and their motivations….but I don’t think so.
Regarding the Bait Car story, I’m not sure I’d group bait cars into the same category as other cop-initiated crime. A bait car is a pretty passive enticement to commit a crime. A lot different that faking a drug sale (or buy), or soliciting sex (which shouldn’t be a crime anyway), or trying to set someone up to sell state secrets. I am, in principle, against the cops actively setting someone up to commit a crime by intentionally elevating a temptation above what that person would ordinarily be subject to. Almost all setups wouldn’t pass muster with me, but when some guy drives off in a car that is just sitting there, it’s hard to feel like he’s been unfairly targeted.
I think Dave really identifies what is different about the bait car versus other police initiated crimes: the passive/active dicotomy.
As a former public defender that still handles conflict cases for our local offices, I have seen some horrendous conduct on the part of the police. I had a case once where a known junkie was laying in a doorway sweating and exhibiting obvious withdrawal symptoms when a female undercover agent called him over to the car and told her she would give him money if he “scored her a bag”, he promptly does so and when he got back to the car she drives him down the road, drops him off and calls in the marked units for pick up. I wanted to give jury nullificaton a shot in that case but the guy already had 4 felony convictions and I really couldn’t risk it. I think the cop’s supervisors were disturbed by her conduct as well because she was put back on uniform patrol about 2 weeks later, but who knows. She could have been scheduled for the switch for all I know.
It’s not very nice of me to say this, but I’m all for ISPs ditching USENET in its entirety. No more people whining about yEnc-encoded messages or asking for reposts because they’re too lazy and stupid to figure out how to use .par files.
Seriously, though… This is one of those stupid symbolic gestures done to give the public the impression that the politicians are Tough On Crime. It’s not going to do a damned thing. Most people who use the newsgroups don’t use their ISP’s nntp server in the first place. The people who are posting and downloading kiddy porn definitely aren’t using their ISP for USENET, because most ISPs insert a lot of information in the headers that would make it easier for the police to, I don’t know…. do some actual investigation, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It’s to be expected that the major ISPs wouldn’t put up much of a fight. Shit, when they gov’t asked AT&T if they could spy on their customers, instead of asking for a warrant, they asked how much office space they would need.
When they go after the Premium Newsgroup providers, hopefully they’ll put up a fight.
Where’s the freaking fun in just killing the engine when you could have the excitement of an honest to goodness chase? I mean that IS why most cops become cops isn’t it? Not protecting and serving but getting their testosterone jollies?
And, it’s not like they’re risking one of their own or anything…
I agree with Dave. The bait car story is really about a very unfortunate accident that could have just as easily happened as the result of an unpolice-initiated crime. If police are doign this for fun or because they’re bored, then they should figure out better things to do, but I imagine they were doing this in an area with a steady rate of vehicle theft, and using a bait car seems like a good way to actually catch someone who is highly inclined to steal. Plus it limits the risk to private citizens’ property (i.e. it’s better than waiting for someone to steal a car that has a real owner). Also, this idea would logically seem to deter others from stealing by letting them know some cars are basically crook traps.
So, this is not your best example, Radley. The program seems reasonable, unintrusive and is not particularly dangerous in its nature, and the damage caused here – though awful – is incredibly tenuated to the police’s actions.
A certified liberal visitor (I got here via MeganMcArtle) I was drawn to the WSJ opinion page item. Was surprised to see a sort of toss-off line (not the topic of the paragraph) the observation that ‘the Fed caused the Depression’.
Have looked at the history of the period pretty closely (Masters Degree classes–never finished the degree) and never heard that. Lots of bad shit was happening around that time. There was a large collapse in agriculture in South and MidWest. There was a world-wide credit-and-manufacturing failure that started in Europe (r/t the German reparations payments from WWI and subsequent failure of German currency)….I could go on and on.
It’s pretty widely agreed that the Fed and Congress did as much wrong as they could: Tariffs and interest-rate-cuts and tax increases and etc.
But the Fed was begun in 1913 (same time as the modern income tax) and Repubs (a particularly conservative Ohio-wing, as opposed to the fairly liberal NewYork-wing—think TR) had controlled the Fed for decades.
Neither MiltonFriedman now AlfredKeynes actually blamed the Fed above other participants in that long-ago-CHARLIE FOXTROT situation. And both of them kinda earned their bones by figuring out how it happened and why. Altho, I gotta say–Bernanke has accepted responsibility for the Fed’s role in causing it. Whatever that means.
Anyhow…probably boring. But I hate over-simplification for the purpose of political smearing—and I think I hear a meta-message in the WSJ that ‘meddling’ by the Gov’t caused the Depression. Which no one who’s studied the period has ever said. And that the ‘invisible hand’ will straighten out the whole mess in 2008 if we just turn conservative now and hard.
Child pornography on usenet is not a major problem because nobody who is producing the material can make any money through free distribution. If anything, usenet child pornography undercuts the demand for materials that are commercially available, and whose revenue is put back into production. Attempting to eliminate child pornography on usenet will accomplish next to nothing in terms of real benefits for exploited children, and will result in real economic losses for the prosecution and incarceration industries, which depend on massive amounts of free and accessible child pornography to multiply the pool of potential criminals. That’s why I’m a little perplexed to see that the AG Cuomo is doing this.
The video lays out a major conflict of the fifth season. If I’d watched it before getting at least 1/3 of the way through the final season, I’d probably have wished I hadn’t.
Thanks for the heads up, Laertes. I generally don’t worry about spoilers because I just don’t have enough short term memory cells left to actually store much info. Unfortunately, it may be some time before I manage to get to the 5th season and by that time this clip just might have found its way into my long term memory, suddenly popping out in crystal clarity, completely ruining the entire season for me.
I thank this blog for recommending The Wire. I had never considered watching it before coming here. I am now up to the start of season 4 on disk.
I also don’t think this is really an example of police creating crime. Indeed, I think this is REAL policework, as opposed to drug enforcement, seat belt enforcement and other examples of state overreach. The police aren’t compelling anyone to steal the cars. They are offering the same opportunity to criminally-inclined people that you or I do every time we park our cars. If the police can identify a pattern of criminal activity, aggressive decoy operations, stakeouts, etc. are certainly justified. Of course, results of this particular operation were awful, and these cars are supposed to be shut down and locked after the thief drives a short distance. If someone didn’t follow the proper procedure they should be disciplined, charged or sued.
I tend to agree that the bait car isn’t really entrapment or even a bad idea. There is a difference between actively inducing someone to criminal acts he wouldn’t otherwise be inclined to commit (which seems all-too-common in prostitution stings) and providing a passive target for a criminal act where there are already other numerous targets. It’s sort of like having a plain-clothed female cop walking in an area of reported rapes. That’s not entrapment, IMO.
If there is fault with the police here, it’s that they let things go on longer than they should have, instead of the minimum necessary to establish that the crime was being committed. I suppose an argument could be made that they wanted to follow the thieves back to the chop shop or whatever, but it seems to me that as soon as they saw reckless behavior and an immediate threat to public safety, they had an obligation to put an end to it.
BTW, thinking about this, it strikes me again how much more likely and onerous entrapment is when it involves a consensual crime or a “process crime” like money laundering. Obviously, I don’t want to see people entrapped for theft, but that seems far less likely a problem than entrapment for prostitution, gun trading, narcotics, financial “structuring” or other BS Act violations, etc., where it seems so common that people with no intent to harm others are snared. Just a thought.
When I was a young whelp serving in the US Navy in the early 1990s we used to eat canned bacon for breakfast every morning. When you first get assigned to a shit as a new seaman or 3rd class petty officer you have to do what is called “mess cranking,” which is about 2-3 months of working in the mess, feeding the rest of the crew. As part of that duty I had to help the cooks prepare breakfast. Powdered eggs in football-sized packets were thrown by the dozen into large boiling pots affixed to the floor, then cut open and dumped into a serving tray. The bacon was canned. Imagine taking 20 feet of paper towel, placing strips of bacon on it in a row, then rolling it up tight, sticking it in a can, filling the can with brine, and sealing it. That bacon can last in that airtight state for years.
The breakfast — canned bacon, powdered eggs, and all — was usually pretty damn tasty. We got no real complaints. Bacon that’s been in a can for two years tastes just as good as anything else I’ve ever had.