Category: Police Militarization

Morning Links

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Morning Links

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Morning Links

Monday, May 21st, 2012
  • Yes, it is possible—and not all that difficult, really—to beat someone to death with your hands.
  • Congressmen seek to legalize what the government already does, anyway.
  • Cory Booker learns that there’s no room in politics for integrity or truth-telling.
  • Some sad photos from the earthquake in Italy.
  • Here’s what Obama considers a more “humane” drug war: Federal agents waking a 12-year-old girl, putting guns in her face, cuffing her because a relative sold glass pipes on the Internet.

Watch Them Explode

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Great reporting by the Miami New Times on the city’s hyper-aggressive Tactical Narcotics Team, which goes by the charmingly subtle moniker “TNT.”

Suddenly, flashing lights bathe the front lawn in red and blue. More than a dozen cops in light-gray polos, dark-gray cargo pants, and black vests flood out of the Chrysler and other unmarked cars, storming through the front gate with guns drawn. Dante drops his beer. Before he can react, a beefy cop tackles him, knocking down his 1-year-old, who screams in terror.

The police, all members of an elite Miami-Dade unit called the Tactical Narcotics Team — TNT for short — arrest Dante and his friends, and haul Khalid and Alexis off to jail as well.

The Levels were just three of the 112 people in Liberty City booked that weekend as part of a TNT operation cheekily dubbed “Santa’s Helper,” which the Miami Herald and local TV stations ate up as a feel-good story about cops keeping the inner city safe — an especially juicy tale when coupled with video of the widow of a slain officer handing out 500 toys to poor children. The Levels’ arrest led the 6 p.m. telecasts, with CBS 4 reporter Peter D’Oench hailing the MDPD for “getting kids in the neighborhood to see… the human side of the officers who love to interact with the children.” A Herald story, meanwhile, offered that the “streets of northwest Miami-Dade [will be] safe for when Santa comes to town.”

However, a two-month investigation by New Times has found that Santa’s Helper was a colossal waste of police resources. Of the 112 suspects arrested, 73 people were charged only with misdemeanor pot possession. The vast majority of the busted pot smokers were either released within 24 hours or avoided jail by promising to show up in court. Of the 73 alleged tokers, 68 of them — including Dante Level and his siblings — had no violent criminal record. If they were guilty of anything, it was smoking a joint on their own front porch.

Police say TNT, a 31-officer team that focuses on aggressive, low-level drug busts such as Santa’s Helper, is vital because their work prevents more serious drug and gang violence. Even as other units specializing in cargo and auto theft were disbanded last month to save money for the cash-strapped department, the brass left TNT and its $3 million budget untouched.

“This is a great way to capture a cross section of robbers, burglars, thieves, and dopers who shoot kids and cops and will openly spray a corner with bullets,” says Maj. Charles Nanney, head of the Miami-Dade Narcotics Bureau. “Cocaine, marijuana, and heroin availability at the street level poses the greatest threat.”

But neighborhood activists and some criminologists say letting an aggressive unit loose on small-time users does more to alienate black neighborhoods than it does to end violent crime. Santa’s Helper, they say, is a perfect illustration of how a unit with a history of corruption — and a mound of complaints about excessive force — has lost the War on Drugs. In recent years, three officers who worked with TNT, but not assigned to the unit full-time, were busted in public corruption probes. Meanwhile, 14 current squad members have combined for 40-plus internal affairs probes.

We’ve seen this over and over again. These tactics are typically justified on the argument that they’re only used on the nastiest, most dangerous drug distributors. Time and again, when local media looks into what these raids typically turn up, they find vanishingly few weapons, significant drug busts, or felony charges. In the case above, three people were charged for possessing the same joint.

The one difference with the TNT unit is that, as the story indicates, while it was initially set up to target criminals with violent histories, busting low-level offenders with the shock-and-awe bullshit is now stated policy.  So they’ve dispensed with the pretense. If a few toddlers and grandmas get in the way of scaring the vocabulary out of the city’s pot smokers, well, that’s a price these cops are willing to pay.

But I suppose there’s no questioning the results. As I understand it, Miami is now basically drug-free.

Morning Links

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Morning Links

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Here We Go Again

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

From the good folks at Keep Columbia Free:

A few days ago, SWAT officers of the Fulton (Missouri) Police Department shot and killed a dog while serving a “narcotics” search warrant. The residents of the house asked if they could cage the dog. The officers denied the request, ordering that the dog to be chained to a tree. The dog got loose and was then shot eight times, the first six shots wounding the dog and the last two point-blank, shotgun blasts killing it. After finishing off the first dog, the officers turned their guns on caged puppies only stopping when confronted by concerned neighbors.

They found enough pot to charge the guy with a misdemeanor. There’s a local news account at the link.

By the way, Fulton, Missouri has all of about 13,000 people. But they do have their own SWAT team.

Houston Is Safer Today

Friday, May 4th, 2012

This video doesn’t show a dog killing, or a person killing, or a police beating. But in some ways, it’s more appalling than those sorts of videos. In it, you’ll see a “multi-agency” police task force arresting employees at a series of massage parlors in Houston. The businesses were apparently fronts for prostitution. The initial raid was conducted by a paramilitary police team, as you can see from the screen capture. In the video, the head of the task force steps out in full SWAT attire, including a balaclava, as he leads the women out of the building. He keeps the mask on throughout the video.

The women, all but one of whom were immigrants, are led out in handcuffs and leg shackles. One repeatedly struggles with and trips over her shackles on her way to the wagon. They all look terrified. The whole thing is stomach-turning. It’s an ugly, egregious, cock-waving display of power.

At worst, these these women provided a sexual service to willing customers in exchange for money. For that, a completely victimless crime, they get frog-marched in leg shackles on citywide TV.

But under that scenario the cops only look like bullies. There’s another possibility that makes them look thuggish and incompetent. In interviews with the local news, our brave and hooded vice warrior points out that these women could in fact be victims. That is, they may have been in the sex business involuntarily. We can’t know, he says, because they refuse to talk. He says they may fear that if they talk, their families back home will face repercussions.

Now let’s assume this is true. That means this multi-agency task force knew there was a possibility that these businesses were staffed with women who had been forced into prostitution. Aware of that possibility, they still scared the hell out of the women, cuffed and chained them, and—here’s the really galling part—tipped off the local news so it could all be put on TV. The humiliation is bad enough. But if there’s substance to the claim that these women fear retaliation against their families in their native countries, the potential repercussors now have video showing exactly which women were arrested. Back-slaps all around, guys.

And yes, there’s no question that the police tipped off the local news. Four (by my count) different TV stations don’t coincidentally show up at a run-of-the-mill strip mall just as a prostitution raid goes down. And while we’re passing out shame buttons, let’s slap a few on Houston’s local news teams, too. That’s you KHOU, Fox 26, ABC affiliate KTRK, and KPRC.  Think about what you’re putting on the air.  There’s no law that requires you to accommodate the police every time they want to flex their muscles on the evening news. In one of the videos linked above, the news team shoves a camera into a woman’s face as she’s stepping into the wagon. The reporter then shouts questions at the woman—this just after the reporter points out the possibility that the woman she’s humiliating and zooming in on may be a sex slave.

And about that balaclava. Yes, I realize the cop was probably protecting his identity. Take the hood off, and the next time he’s slabbed over a massage table, the 19-year-old Thai girl rubbing his back might recognize from TV, and decline to offer him extras. Thus ruining his investigation. He may also investigate other vice crimes, like narcotics, in which case revealing his identity could put him at risk. Understood. But here’s an easier way to protect your cover: Don’t call in the news cameras before you make your bust.

Look, I understand that cops enforce the laws, they don’t write them. And in this case it appears that (a) neighboring businesses were complaining, and (b) these massage parlors may have been engaged in sex trafficking. It’s hard to fault them for investigating (although in some of these massage parlor cases, the cops tend to investigate “to completion.”)

But how about some restraint? You’re “apprehending” 105-pound women here. Maybe you leave the ninja gear at home. Considering that you believe these women could be emotionally and/or physically abused, maybe you also do this bust quietly, bring along some social workers, and take the women away in vans. Maybe you have trained counselors talk to the women for a few hours before you give them the Whitey Bulger treatment. Then, once you have a better grasp on the nature of these businesses, you can hold yourself a press conference and bask in praise for keeping Houston safe from prostitutes.

You won’t get to go on TV dressed up in your riot gear that way. But you’ll at least know you’ve done your job with some professionalism—and some humanity.

Scenes From Militarized America

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

TV station KOAT sent cameras along on a recent drug raid in Los Lunas, New Mexico. This raid was to find marijuana.




Every time I see an image like this, I’m reminded of a blog post from conservative writer Michael Ledeen a few years ago. Ledeen was using a series of photos from a recent drug bust in Iran to point out what a totalitarian state it is. The post is no longer available online, but I excerpted it at the time on the Reason blog.

Terrifying pictures, to be sure. For me, the most revealing thing about them is that the police feel obliged to wear masks while conducting a drug bust in the capital. tells you something about the relationship between the people and the state.

Indeed it does. Here is what the Los Lunas cops found:

Thanks to Mike Riggs for the tip.

NYPD Celebrates May Day

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

So just as I was good and irritated with the Occupy crowd for co-opting the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders . . . the NYPD goes and makes me feel some sympathy for them.

In anticipation [of May Day protests] Monday, the FBI and NYPD raided the homes of protesters.

“There were a number of visits between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning and at other points in the day that appeared to target people that primarily the NYPD, but in one instance the FBI, wanted to ask certain questions to,” Gideon Oliver, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which often represents Occupy protesters, told Buzzfeed. “Questions included things like ‘what are your May Day plans?’ ‘Do you know who the protest leaders are?’ ‘What do you know about the May Day protests?’ and such.”

Gawker reports that Zachary Dempster said 6 officers broke down the door of his Bushwick apartment at 6:15 AM, reportedly executing a warrant for the arrest of his roommate on a 6-year-old open container charge. Dempster believes, however, that cops used the raid as an excuse to question him about May Day.

And an hour later in Bed-Stuy, one of Dempster’s activist friends’ apartment–which he shares with 6 other Occupy protesters– was also paid a visit by 6 of New York’s finest. From Gawker:

The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid. The officers ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked our source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but our source said the message was clear: We’re watching you.“We’re experienced at accommodating lawful protests and responding appropriately to anyone who engages in unlawful activity, and we’re prepared to do both,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told Bloomberg.

Presumably that doesn’t include the unlawful activities of NYPD.

Think about what just happened, here. On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government agents staged early morning raids on the homes of suspected political dissidents, detained them, then interrogated them about their plans and political affiliations. And of course this isn’t the first time this has happened. There were similar preemptive raids ahead of the 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis. Almost none of the charges resulting from those raids stuck, and the city has since been handing out settlement checks like parade candy.

Bonus bit of May Day trivia: American Cold War presidents responded to the commie May Day celebrations by declaring May 1st “Loyalty Day.” Because nothing celebrates “freedom” like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!

Bonus, bonus bit of May Day trivia: The old Catallarchy blog had a tradition of using May Day to commemorate the victims of communism. Here’s a particularly good entry from 2005.

Afternoon Links

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Morning Links

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Morning Links

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
  • Do you think Obama issued this order with a straight face?
  • Surprising: 95% of passengers involved in plane crashes from 1983 to 2000 survived.
  • NYC designates BP gas station a “landmark.”
  • Michigan Supreme Court rules in favor of man who resisted police who were illegally entering his home.
  • Remarkable quote from a federal prosecutor: ““[I]t’s not illegal to watch something on the television. It is illegal, however, to watch something in order to cultivate your desire, your ideology.”
  • Miami-Dade’s Homeland security cops were monitoring, warning one another about Carlos Miller. I know if I lived in Miami, I’d sleep more soundly knowing authorities were working hard to protect me from photographers who occasionally take photos of Miami police.

Late Friday Links

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Morning Links

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012