- The apes are rising.
- Welcome to our world.
- Six important sci-fi ideas that were invented by a hack.
- Marines catch “deserter” – five years after his honorable discharge.
- Louisiana teachers’ union threatens to sue private schools that accept vouchers.
- “Before being arrested and charged with these offences, Simon was a successful professional and politician in the City who, amongst other things, prosecuted police officers accused of disciplinary offences.”
- Do 3-D printers make prohibitions impossible?
- Today’s edition of “never call the cops for any reason whatsoever.”
- The most important trade agreement that we know nothing about.
- Cop chastises man for not being grateful that said cop harassed and humiliated him and frightened his daughter.
- Federal judge strikes down attempt to make websites liable for user-generated content.
- In today’s Q & A column on my blog, I answered several questions with a plethora of links to older columns that a number of you may find interesting.
Category: Police Professionalism
- “If you see something, say something” backfires on NYPD.
- Another isolated incident, with nudity.
- Every 3-D movie is the same.
- New York Times columnist blames the Aurora shootings on Warner Brothers.
- Headline of the day.
- Suicide bombers of the insect world.
- Doctors in Dominican Republic refuse to treat pregnant teenager for cancer, due to fear of prosecution under a strict abortion ban.
- The London Olympics 2012 Total Perspective Vortex.
- Man bets friends he can set his own face on fire, and wins.
- Cops beat and pepper-spray paraplegic for videorecording them.
- Cop has 20 years of on-duty sex, plus overtime, then retires early at 42 with 7 years of health benefits.
- I’m glad none of my famous clients were ever this sort of famous.
- My column from Tuesday: Paging George Orwell! A prison for underage hookers in Texas is named “Freedom Place”.
I do not accept the first and most extreme assertion of Truthers — the proposition that mass-casualty tragedies are secretly engineered by (unusually competent, unusually close-mouthed) government agencies.
I do, however, accept the second and eminently correct assertion of Truthers — that politicians and law enforcement make cynical and unscrupulous use of tragedies for their own ends.
This week San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is here to prove it.
San Francisco is a city that’s famous — or notorious — for being liberal, depending on your point of view. But in modern America “liberal” does not reliably mean “an advocate of limited police power” or “a supporter of Fourth Amendment rights.” Nominal “liberals” in government are as eager to milk fear and law-and-order sentiment as the most gravel-knuckled conservative. Ed Lee is no different.
Mayor Ed Lee remains resolute in implementing some form of a stop-and-frisk program – even if it’s not called that – in the wake of Friday’s horrific movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., and a trip to Philadelphia, which has its own controversial stop-and-frisk program.
“I am as, if not more, committed, and especially in light of the massacre that occurred in Aurora, but also the review of what’s happening in New York and Philadelphia and Chicago and the crime that’s committed,” Lee said Monday on the sidelines of an announcement about federal transportation funding.
Bringing up Aurora to justify a stop-and-frisk policy is jaw-droppingly dishonest — the sort of argument that shows not only shamelessness but a willingness to insult the intelligence of one’s audience. If you’re a guy in red clown hair and body armor carrying a rifle and a shotgun into a movie theater, well-established law is more than sufficient to justify the police to conduct an investigative stop of you. No special stop-and-frisk policy is required. Rather, a stop-and-frisk policy is a device calculated to give legal and political cover to arbitrary harassment of the sort of people they like to harass and in an attempted end run around Fourth Amendment principles like probable cause and reasonable suspicion.
That this is common does not make it less outrageous. Yet after 9/11, perhaps our capacity for outrage about such rhetoric is exhausted. We live in a country, after all, where politicians tell us they need to use post-9/11 anti-terrorism powers against people who pirate Shrek. So what’s a little callous misappropriation of a mass shooting, in the scheme of things?
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. - Mike Godwin
Most well-informed internet users are familiar with Godwin’s Law, a humorous observation which acknowledges the fact that since the Nazi regime in general and Hitler in particular are widely viewed as the very worst recent examples of human behavior imaginable, they are often invoked when a critic or debater wishes to vilify his opponent in the most extreme manner possible. Mike Godwin has written (both in articles and in his book Cyber Rights) that it is precisely because such comparisons are sometimes appropriate (as in discussions about propaganda, eugenics or oppressive regimes) that he formulated the “law” or observation, so as to call attention to the fact that frivolous use of such analogies tends to “rob the valid comparisons of their impact.”
He is particularly critical of Holocaust comparisons; “Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics, its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the The Holocaust.” A perfect example of this is in the recent tendency of trafficking fanatics to brand those who question their wild exaggerations as the equivalent of Holocaust deniers: To compare the ancient evil of slavery with the modern one of genocide is merely asinine, but to compare those who demand basic proof for extraordinary claims with fanatics who deny overwhelming physical and documentary evidence and thousands of eyewitness accounts is both highly hypocritical and astonishingly irrational.
But Godwin’s clear statements about the intended application of his “law” don’t prevent some people from attempting to censor others’ arguments by invoking it even when the comparisons it is leveled against are in fact valid. What makes such misuse more worthy of note than other sleazy argumentation tactics is what it says about people’s perception of the Nazi phenomenon: By pretending the Nazis were so evil that NO comparison to them, however apt, is reasonable, we essentially say that Nazism was some sort of fluke that could never happen again…and that, sadly, is completely untrue. People tend to overlook the fact that the Nazis were a legitimate political party duly elected to leadership of an advanced, modern country by the exact same democratic process as leaders are elected in every Western nation today. Hitler was not a military dictator who seized power in some bloody coup d’état but a politician who gained his position by popular vote, and all of his actions as chief executive were 100% legal under the laws enacted by the German legislature. The Nazis came to power by the same means as politicians always come to power everywhere (namely by telling the people what they wanted to hear), and the German people accepted the militaristic oppression of the Nazis for the exact reason that the British and American people have accepted the abridgement of their civil rights and ever-expanding police powers: they valued the illusion of “safety” over the reality of liberty.
What this means is that whatever we may think of the Nazi’s morality, it’s impossible to fault their legality. Morals are principles which transcend human behavior, while laws are merely arbitrary rules invented by eminently-fallible humans in order to control others and/or impose their own personal views of right action. Some laws are moral and many immoral, but the majority are simply amoral; however, even moral or amoral laws can be (and often are) used for the highly immoral purpose of exerting external control over inoffensive individuals who neither desire nor require that control. And because this is so, the act of agreeing to serve as a policeman in any regime is at best an amoral one, because in doing so the individual agrees to enforce (by violence if necessary) all of the laws passed by his government, whether he agrees with them or not; he abdicates his personal morality to those in authority and allows his actions to be dictated by others, even if he knows those actions to be wrong.
At Nuremberg, Western society established the legal precedent that “I was only following orders” is not a valid defense against wrongdoing even if the offender was only a low-level functionary in an authoritarian system, yet how often do we hear police abuses defended with phrases like “they’re just doing their job” or “cops don’t make the laws, they just enforce them”? If a cop is tasked with enforcing a law he knows to be immoral, it is his duty as a moral man to refuse that order even if it means his job. If he agrees with an immoral law then he is also immoral, and if he enforces a law he knows to be wrong even more so. The law of the land in Nazi-era Germany was for Jews and other “undesirables” to be sent to concentration camps, and the maltreatment of the prisoners was encouraged and even ordered by those in charge; any German soldier or policeman enforcing those laws was the exact moral equivalent of any soldier or policeman under any other democratically-elected government enforcing the laws enacted by that regime. Either “I was only following orders” is a valid defense, or it isn’t; either we agree that hired enforcers are absolved from responsibility because “they’re just doing their jobs”, or we don’t. You can’t have it both ways, and sometimes Nazi analogies are entirely appropriate.
(Originally posted on The Honest Courtesan on March 5th, 2011)
Via ArsTechnica, I see that DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier has issued a broad, lawful, Constitution-friendly, photography-protective policy instructing the officers under her command that they are not to interfere with folks taking pictures, including pictures of officers, and specifically including pictures of officers arresting people.
“A bystander has the same right to take photographs or make recordings as a member of the media,” Chief Lanier writes. The First Amendment protects the right to record the activities of police officers, not only in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but also in “an individual’s home or business, common areas of public and private facilities and buildings, and any other public or private facility at which the individual has a legal right to be present.”
Lanier says that if an officer sees an individual recording his or her actions, the officer may not use that as a basis to ask the citizen for ID, demand an explanation for the recording, deliberately obstruct the camera, or arrest the citizen. And she stresses that under no circumstances should the citizen be asked to stop recording.
The story goes on to say that the policy explicitly reaffirms the right to criticize police, says that officer concerns that photographers are “obstructing” police business are to be handled narrowly by asking the photographer to move, and specifically states that police are not to delete photos or video under any circumstances.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The police are starting to understand! Good things are going to start happening to us now! Law enforcement has had an epiphany about the rights of citizens and about the proper limitations on police power!
Update: The order was part of a settlement with Jerome Vorus, who sued the city after he was told to stop taking pictures of a traffic stop in Georgetown two years ago. The lawsuit was filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Well, compliance is compliance, I guess. As any police officer will tell you, it can’t always be voluntary.
[Hat tip to Popehat Commenter Jonathan]
- “Zombies take over city.”
- John Burge’s fondness for torture has cost Chicago taxpayers $33 million so far, with $7 million more on the way.
- One of those things that make me glad I don’t have television.
- Here’s a really good piece on gun control from Harper’s, and an even better one from Mike Riggs.
- And if you prefer more practical arguments on the subject, here’s a good one for women who are married to sociopathic perverts.
- Puppycide, complete with a swaggering excuse from the sheriff.
- Government Wins Right to Pretend That Cables Released by WikiLeaks Are Still Secret. Meanwhile, Congress wants to use the Wikileaks precedent to prosecute mainstream journalists as well.
- Cop tried to trade theft victim’s stolen property for sex.
- If you had plans for the next 20 billion years, you should probably speed up your timetable a bit.
- My column from one year ago today: How the myth of “rape culture” was constructed, or, how to turn 2.5% into “one in four”.
RE: TIME TO GO GALT!
Piers Morgan is a puke, but at least the man knows how to listen. Last night I floated the idea we discussed: if we don’t get the gun control laws we’re entitled to, the cops will go on strike! I backed it up with lots of talk about how there’s a surge in violence against cops. There’s some rable-rousers out there who will dispute my numbers, but nobody listens to them. This is still post 9/11 America, and when you say “danger,” they buy it.
But as I left the CNN studios, Ray, it hit me: aren’t we thinking too small?
We have the public terrified of crime. We have them thinking that they need cops to protect them from that crime. And we have an agenda. Why the hell aren’t we making full use of that?
Saying “Second Amendment? Then No Cop!” is a good start. But let’s look further:
1. Like I said last week, those assholes at the ACLU are as bad as the ones at the NRA. I got your “rights” right here, buddy. Proposal: you want to be protected? Stop complaining about troublemakers being stopped and frisked.
2. Shut the fuck up about Big Gulps, or no cops. (Dude, I know this isn’t a top law enforcement issue. But do a friend a solid, will you?)
3. You think you have a “right” to take pictures of us? Fine. We’ve got a right not to come when you dial 911. How’s that for a picture?
4. Oh, now we’re not supposed to use our discretion in handling parking tickets any more? Well, maybe we’ll use it by not coming to your accident scene, instead.
5. Raiding the homes of protestors to deter them from protesting is a strain on our resources. So quit protesting. Or we strike.
6. Shut the fuck up about the Muslims; we’ll investigate whoever we want for whatever we want. Want to keep whining about it? Maybe the Muslims will help you next time someone breaks into your apartment.
Anyway, Ray, let’s hash this out.
Now, the optics on this are delicate, and it’s a tricky business, so if you could get your guys to go a few weeks without shooting any unarmed people in their doorways or using drunk citizens for sex or sodomizing any suspects with broomsticks, that would be just great.
A few other media outlets are now picking up on the massive drop in police fatality statistics this year. (Welcome to the story!) But so far, none of them have questioned what happened to all of those alleged trends (gun ownership, increasing contempt for cops, videotaping of police misconduct, anti-government sentiment, decreases in funding for police departments) they all reported were behind the non-existent “war on cops” they were all trumpeting last year. Or in the case of the New York Times, as recently as April.
If we use the numbers from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, there are 800,000 cops on the streets. There have been 53 on-the-job fatalities so far this year. But 21 of those were car accidents. There have been 19 firearms homicides against police. I looked through the descriptions of this year’s officer deaths by firearms at the NLEMF page. Two of the fatalities were from injuries sustained years ago (in one case, 30 years ago). That puts us at 17 for this year. I then looked through the 13 deaths classified as “other.” Four of those appear to have been homicides—three stabbings, and one officer who died from a blot clot resulting from an altercation with an inmate. So let’s add those to our 17. That gives us 21 homicides for the first half of 2012. (I’ll go ahead and count the two officers killed during SWAT-like drug raids, even though it’s possible the tactics themselves may have contributed to the officers’ deaths.)
By my math, that gives us a homicide rate of 5.25 per 100,000 officers. That’s not only a 50-year low, it’s only a hair above America’s overall homicide rate of 4.8. It’s also lower than the 2010 murder rates in 20 states. So in just a year, or just three months by the New York Times’ reckoning, all of those trends driving up violence against cops not only diminished, they practically vanished, to the point where we’ve had six months of historically low rates of police homicides.
How are the police organizations reacting to these figures?
Still, Mr. Floyd cautioned that the low fatality rate should not distract from serious threats to law enforcement agencies, many of which he said are facing severe budget cuts.
“We can’t look at these numbers and say that obviously, officers have everything they need to do their jobs safely — that’s simply not the case,” he said. “We are cutting back on officer strength, and that could very well spell trouble moving forward.”
Mr. Floyd said while many officers enjoy greater access to protective equipment and technology, criminal threats remain and reduced funding could put agencies at risk. He also said while fatality rated dropped, many more officers are still assaulted or injured.
Except that, as I’ve pointed out before, assaults against police officers have also been dropping for years.
“Even when the numbers are lower than normal, I still think it sends a chilling message,” he said.
Historic lows of violence against police officers “sends a chilling message?” No matter what the numbers say, law enforcement groups are going to claim they clearly indicate a need for more funding for police departments, and more power and less scrutiny for cops. Here, Mr. Floyd insists that despite the fact that the job is as safe as it has ever been, cops should still retain that “us vs. them” mindset.
“The bottom line is there is no such thing as a routine assignment. Every assignment you go on is potentially life threatening, do not ever let your guard down.”
He needn’t worry. Incidents of police shooting citizens were up 70 percent up last year in Los Angeles (where 12 of the 54 victims in 2011 were unarmed). The numbers so far this year are lower than last year, but still higher than in years prior to 2011. In Chicago, police use of Tasers is up more than 300 percent in the last two years, while officer-involved shootings have also increased over the same period. That would seem to throw cold water on the idea that Tasers are used as a less-lethal substitute for bullets. Overall, crime in Chicago is up this year, but officer deaths are down. In Las Vegas, the crime rate and number of cops killed on the job have fallen dramatically since 1990, but shootings by cops have soared.
We can’t really compare violence against cops with cop violence against citizens on a national level, because police departments aren’t required to keep any data on officer-involved shootings. Nor do any federal agencies bother tracking those figures. This paragraph from the prior link is telling:
While the [FBI] collects, reports, and analyzes murders and assaults where police are the victim, Carr said budgetary concerns would likely preclude collecting such detailed data on shootings by police.
It’s all about priorities, I guess.
- Headline of the day.
- Six policies economists love and politicians hate.
- Today’s edition of “Never call the cops for any reason whatsoever”.
- Holy conflict of interest, Batman!
- Washington judge rules it’s legal for cops to impersonate the owner of a seized cell phone in order to entrap people in the contact list.
- Two men detained for smuggling dangerous contraband candy across Canadian border.
- The Brady Campaign’s response to the Aurora, Colorado murders: guns are bad.
- “A plea deal was struck because of concerns about whether a jury would be able to agree that a prostitute had been raped.”
- Once a month, I publish a short-short story (often fantasy or science fiction, but not always) in which one of the main characters is a whore of one sort or another. These are not erotica; few even mention sex, and in those that do (such as this month’s) it’s both demurely-described and over in a sentence or two. I suspect most Agitator readers might prefer the one from last July; if you enjoy both of those and would like to see more, here are all 25 which have appeared so far.
(Thanks to Radley for the first three items, Jesse Walker for the fourth and Agitatortot David for the fifth.)
- There’s a vast dust cloud in the center of the Milky Way galaxy that smells like raspberries and rum.
- For a welcome change: a puppycide averted.
- Another isolated incident. Make that two.
- Double your pleasure, double your fun/Headline and subhead of the day in one.
- A brief catalog of slang terms of the types of clients who might visit an English brothel in 1795.
- The dumbest argument for censorship you’ll read today.
- The legislation whose penalties may end up killing more U.S. jobs than all the call centers in India combined.
- Georgia cops deactivate man’s Tourette’s Syndrome control device, then beat him for the resulting tics and verbal outbursts.
- Is that a biological threat in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?
- Thor discovers text messaging.
- My column from Monday: Why “sex trafficking” suddenly became a subject of concern for Mexican politicians within the past year.
(Thanks to Radley for the first four items and Jesse Walker for the fifth.)
- Ron Jeremy and the Barbi Twins hunt Canadian porn-actor cannibal.
- 10 things most Americans don’t know about America. (via Jesse Walker)
- So, will Nancy Grace get the same treatment as Dharun Ravi?
- What makes this news isn’t that he did it, but that he’s being prosecuted for it.
I’m very glad to hear that yesterday’s “destroy the pyramids” story turned out to be a hoax; however, I’m sad that similar recent actions by radical Islamists in Timbuktu and Afghanistan actually made it believable. Also, thanks to those who pointed out (in respect to yesterday’s clam video) that what I (and obviously, the person who labeled it) took as a nonhuman creature tasting a substance was actually something entirely different. It just goes to show how we all unconsciously project our own experiences and mental constructs onto phenomena with which we’re unfamiliar; sex workers have to deal with the same thing, as I explained in this early column about how outsiders perceive just about every non-customer male in a hooker’s life as a “pimp” (with all that entails). You might also appreciate this column in which I answer the burning question “How are pimps like chupacabras?”, and this entirely clam-free video of “What a Wonderful World” performed in 16 different Western musical genres:
I was honestly tempted to call this “Maggie’s Hump Day Links”, but I just couldn’t do it.
- Dog sends hilarious text messages.
- The Department of Education may soon impose a quota limit on the number of male students in science and engineering.
- Islamists call for the Great Pyramids of Egypt to be destroyed as “symbols of paganism.”
- One cop roughs up a 76-year-old former nun for “trespassing”, while others beat up a pregnant woman under the excuse of arresting her for an “active warrant for prostitution.”
- Yesterday was the second anniversary of my blog, so it’s still just a baby. With 732 posts it’s a BIG baby, but a baby nonetheless.
- Man videotapes fight between two others; cops charge him with attempted murder.
Plus, here’s a video of a live clam eating salt on a kitchen table. Really.
(Thanks to Radley for the last two items, via Twitter).
I promised Dave Krueger a new post on terminology today, but when I did I was forgetting that I had to bring my husband to the airport today. I’m just beginning to catch up now and see little hope of doing so before dark, so here are some links and I’ll get that other post ready for tomorrow, harlot’s honor!
- Glenn Greenwald: How America’s Surveillance State Breeds Conformity and Fear.
- Why is the government collecting your biometric data?
- Indiana dad sentenced to five years for criticizing judge and custody evaluator.
- Couple handcuffed, jailed for dancing on subway platform.
- Three accounting tricks the Obama administration uses to hide the cost of the drug war.
- Cop kicks handcuffed woman in head.
- Man tells police dispatcher his mentally disturbed brother is carrying a fake gun; police kill him anyway.
- Ever wonder what it’s like to be married to a call girl? Here’s a two-part column (Part One and Part Two) in which my husband answers reader-submitted questions.
(Thanks to my friend Grace for #1 & 2, and to Radley (via Twitter) for #3 & 4)
Monkey was a family dog — a friendly one, by all accounts. Monkey’s picture doesn’t suggest he was particularly intimidating. Granted, in that picture, he’s dead because a police officer has just shot him four times.
Monkey was barking at a policeman who was in his yard — not by invitation, but because he was chasing a suspect. The policeman, according to a statement, “felt he was being attacked by the dog and was forced to discharge his weapon.”
Police believe that we, the citizenry, should defer to their judgment about when deadly force is warranted. They tell us that they are the thin blue line between us and violent lawlessness.
If the police are afraid of dogs like Monkey, is it even minimally reasonable to accept those propositions?
I give you two police department recruiting videos. The first is from Decatur, Georgia. The second is from Newport Beach, California. These are the videos each respective department has chosen to represent what being a cop is all about. They’re the videos each department feels will appeal to candidates with the characteristics and traits that make for a good police officer.
Let’s assume two generic towns that are otherwise mostly similar. One town takes a Newport Beach approach to policing. The other takes a Decatur approach. In which town would you rather live?
In Heaven, The Cooks Are Italian, The Lovers Are French, The Cops Are From North Carolina, And Everything Is Run By The GermansTuesday, July 3rd, 2012
In Hell, the Cooks are German, the Lovers are Italian, the Cops are French, and everything is run by people from North Carolina.
Hats off to the late Andy Griffith. If American sheriffs had the humor, wisdom, and modesty of Sheriff Andy Taylor; if their deputies were allotted one bullet which had to be carried in a pocket; this site would be unnecessary.
– Patrick from Popehat, proud citizen of North Carolina.
Law enforcement likes “wanted” posters, even in entirely inappropriate circumstances.
I first recognized this a quarter-century ago when I worked as a summer intern for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s Office had just announced, with great fanfare, a “gotcha poster” program. The concept was this: the public relations department of the DA’s office would produce posters with the pictures of recently convicted miscreants (usually gang members), complete with bold-font description of their crimes of conviction and sentences, capped with stern exhortations to avoid committing crimes. Then someone — presumably someone armed — would put these posters up in gang neighborhoods. Someone in the DA’s Office believed that this would deter crime. Don’t blame me for that, I was just an intern. I was briefly assigned to draft language for the posters. That responsibility was unceremoniously taken away as a consequence of a fairly disastrous practical joke, in which I left a message for another intern saying that a poster she had created stated that John Doe had been convicted of Penal Code Section 187, murder, when in fact he had only been convicted of City Code Section 187, excessive noise from a lawn mower, and John Doe was suing, and the District attorney wanted to talk to her. She reacted . . . badly. [She was quite attractive. Of course I was interested in her. Behold my interpersonal prowess!]
But law enforcement posters are not all about bragging rights or harebrained deterrence theories or even about informing the public of wanted fugitives. Sometimes, like any law enforcement communication, they offer a window into cops’ attitudes towards the citizens they police.
Take the story of Matthew Swaye and Christina Gonzalez.
Swaye and Gonzalez are concerned about policing in Harlem, where they live. They are particularly concerned about the NYPD’s aggressive stop-and-frisk program, the questing fingers of which are disproportionately felt by New York’s young men of color, and which Radley has frequently discussed here. They take videos of police stopping and frisking their neighbors, and post the videos on a YouTube channel.
How do you suppose that goes over with the cops?
Swaye and Gonzalez learned the answer when they discovered that officers of the 30th Precinct had created a wanted-style poster of them and posted it outside of a public hearing room at the precinct house.
The flyer featured side-by-side mugshots of Matthew Swaye, 35, and his partner Christina Gonzalez, 25, and warned officers to be on guard against them. It was spotted by multiple people, including the couple, when it was taped to a podium outside a public hearing room in the 30th Precinct house last Thursday, where residents met for precinct council meeting.
“Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators,” read the flyer, which bears the NYPD shield and a seal of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division. It also gave the home address of the couple.
“Above subjects MO is that they video tape officers performing routine stops and post on YouTube,” the sign said. “Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and too deter officers from conducting there [sic] responsibilities.”
The flyer also listed the name and cellphone number of a Sgt. Nicholson in the 30th Precinct, and implored cops to “not feed into above subjects propaganda.”
The couple took a video of the poster; you can see it here.
I think Jacob Sullum is right in his post about this incident when he writes that the poster can be taken in two ways: the style and publication of the couples’ home address suggests intimidation, while some of the language suggests a warning to police to leave them alone rather than approach them in a manner that will look bad on video. But whatever the intended message, the unintended message about law enforcement’s entitled attitudes is clear. First, in the face of steadily advancing legal norms protecting citizens’ rights to record cops in the course of their duties, cops continue to do everything they can to portray such recording as dangerous, intrusive, inappropriate, and a signifier of bad citizenship. Second, cops view concern about constitutional rights as a signifier of bad intent and suspect behavior. Only an agitator would want to document, and challenge, the widespread temporary detention of young men of color in New York City.
Swaye and Gonzalez seem proud to be “agitators.” Clearly our gracious host is proud. I’m proud.
Hat tip to my high school classmate Joe, who sent me the story, and to Jacob Sullum, who beat me to writing about it.
My name is Maggie McNeill, and I’m a whore.
Well, more specifically, a retired whore. Or if you want me to be really specific, a retired call girl and madam who now writes a blog called The Honest Courtesan, in which I discuss the realities of harlotry. Sometimes I write about my personal experiences (sans lurid detail), sometimes about the history of the profession, sometimes about unusual aspects of it most outsiders don’t know about. Once a month I do a biography of a famous prostitute, and once a month I write a fictional tale in which a professional plays some major part, and sometimes I even do funny or whimsical columns. But the great majority of my posts are about the rights of sex workers, which are under heavier assault in the United States (and a number of other countries) than they have been in years. A lot of people enjoy flattering me by telling me that I write very well, and sometimes they do more than just tell me; a few weeks ago Radley asked me to be part of the group filling in for him while he’s on sabbatical, and I was delighted to say “certainly”. I’m not even going to attempt to fill his shoes (I doubt he could cram his feet into my size 8 1/2 spike-heeled pumps, either), but I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and to maintain some of his usual traditions in my own unique way. Most of the stuff I publish here will be written specifically for this blog, but Radley said it was OK if cross-posted as well; so, some days I’ll do that if I think that day’s post is of a more general interest rather than something that would feel out of place anywhere other than my own blog. This post is a hybrid; it’s an adaptation of one I did last year for another libertarian blog called Nobody’s Business, which y’all might also be interested in.
Now, even though most of you think of prostitution as a libertarian issue for the straightforward reason that the government has no business regulating what two or more consenting adults do in private, many of you may not realize that it’s actually much bigger than that. Because prostitution is the only “crime” defined purely by motive (having sex with strangers is perfectly legal unless motivated by financial gain), in the absence of a videotape of the interaction it’s all he said-she said territory. And because professional escorts never, EVER directly agree to the such-and-such sex act for such-and-such amount of money by which prostitution is defined, cops are forced to either A) lie and say they did, or B) come up with some sort of “evidence” of intent to commit prostitution. In recent years, different districts in the US have claimed all of the following as evidence: the possession of condoms or a cell phone, the lack of underwear, winking, dressing provocatively, loitering in an area known for prostitution, and many others. Last year Utah passed a law which added “acting sexy” to the list, but legislators assure us it will only be used against “real” prostitutes.
This sort of “evidence” belongs in a 17th-century witch trial, not a modern courtroom; yet women (both prostitutes and non-prostitutes) are arrested on such flimsy pretexts every day in this country, and mainstream “feminists” say nothing because they accept the arrest and harassment of individual women as collateral damage in their jihad against prostitution. Nor are women the only ones who need to worry; in Sweden, radical feminists have succeeded in establishing a law which makes it legal to sell sex, but criminal to buy it. Let that sink in for a moment: it’s as though cops witnessing a drug deal were to haul off the buyer but wave the seller on his way. The rationale (such as it is) behind this madness is that prostitution is a form of “violence against women”, essentially “paid rape”, so the client is treated as a type of lower-degree rapist. The woman’s wishes are irrelevant; she is considered legally incompetent to consent to sex if there is compensation involved, just as a twelve-year-old girl is incompetent to consent.
This “Swedish Model” has also infiltrated Norway and Iceland (where strip clubs were also banned on the same grounds) and is now being considered in Ireland, Israel and France; the French minister for women’s rights recently declared she will try to impose it on all of Europe. Radical feminists are trying to trick Canadians into embracing it by wrongly labeling it “decriminalization”, and it has already entered into the rhetoric of police departments in a number of states. Massachusetts wants to define “human trafficking” so loosely that even the husbands or drivers of sex workers can be prosecuted for it (and all their possessions seized, naturally), and as of last week New York threatens cab drivers with $10,000 fines and loss of their licenses “if they if they ‘knowingly allow’ their vehicles to be ‘used for the purpose of promoting prostitution’.” And given how easy it is to accuse a woman of prostitution…you get the picture. In the sex worker rights movement we have a slogan: “Sex worker rights are human rights”. Just as the “War on Drugs” has resulted in widespread havoc, tremendous waste and wholesale abridgement of civil rights, so has the “War on Whores” (though to a lesser degree). When the government is allowed to criminalize raw motives, thoughts and relationships, and when a woman can be arrested for how she acts, or a man for whom he knows or does business with, no one is safe.
[Hiya. I'm Ken White. I'm a criminal defense attorney and civil litigator in Los Angeles, and I write at Popehat, a blog about free speech, the perils of state power, and the allure of all forms of geekery. Thanks to Radley for inviting me to offer some guest posts while he's writing.]
They buried Rodney King this weekend. They came to praise the man they buried, not to condemn the criminal justice system illuminated by his videotaped beating. For the most part, speakers respected the family’s wish that the service be about remembering the man, not the politics. Indeed, speakers praised King’s capacity for forgiveness, an attribute that once exposed him to ridicule. “People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them,” said eulogist Al Sharpton, a man with reason to hope fervently that proposition is true.
But while King — the man — inspired words about family and love and forgiveness at his funeral, King — the man and the symbol — still inspires raw hatred and outrage. Skim the comments of any news article about him, like this USA Today story about his funeral:
As usual this ass bag sharpton has to get his time in the spot light….and lets not forget king ran because he was on probation…..high as a damn kite….speeding…..once they got him stopped he continued violent behaviour. Ohhhh and after he got his money he was once again arrested and jailed for doing the same thing…..violating his probation….. the content of his “character” and his continued nefarious behaviour spoke volumes about him. He made the decisions that drove his life…and death.
Or check out the comments at National Review Online, which are fairly representative of some political blogs.
Rodney King committed numerous crimes in his life. He went to jail for robbing a grocery, he drove dangerously under the influence serially, he struck his wife with his car. Whatever his capacity for forgiveness and for rising above such things, he led a troubled life filled with significant bad behavior. But such people die every day, and nobody gets too exercised when folks say nice things at their funerals. Why the rage about Rodney King?
I think it comes down to this: being beaten by the police doesn’t make you either a good person or a bad person, but some people would like to believe that it does.
Some people have portrayed Rodney King as a hero. Perhaps there was something heroic about asking “can’t we all get along?” during the riots — certainly it subjected King to years of scorn in some circles. But there was nothing heroic about speeding under the influence and running from the cops out of fear of taking a parole violation. There’s nothing inherently heroic about getting the shit kicked out of you by a crowd of cops. It can happen to good people; it can happen to bad people; it can happen to most of us who are in between.
Just as some have portrayed King as a hero for being beaten, some have portrayed him as a villain for the same reason, and done so well out of proportion to his crimes. That may be because he ushered in an era in which citizens increasingly record the police — a trend welcomed by readers of this blog, but controversial in circles accustomed to deference to police. It may be because the Rodney King criminal and civil trials were the most visible attempt of the last century to hold police liable for excessive force against civilians — an event that is not welcome among those who have internalized more than forty years of thin-blue-line law-and-order political rhetoric. It may be because King was black and many of the officers who beat him were white and some are infuriated at the suggestion that race still plays a part in how people are treated in America.
But portraying Rodney King as a hero, or as a villain, plays into the central narrative of our criminal justice system, one that offers the ultimate excuse for cutting corners, giving police the benefit of the doubt, looking the other way at constitutional violations, putting our thumbs on the state’s end of the scales of justice. He got what he deserved — that’s what one side says, cutting through facts and law and reasoned analysis to pure us vs. them. He didn’t deserve that, says the other side, unwittingly lending support to the implicit argument that there are some who do. But deserve‘s got nothing to do with it. Heroism and villainy have nothing to do with it. We have to demand that everyone be treated justly, whether our viscera tell us that they do not deserve the rule of law at all. Rodney King should have been spared excessive force not because he’d earned respite, but because we extend it to everyone. We do so as a measure of grace, and because it’s so foolish and perilous to let the state (or the mob) decide who deserves rights and who doesn’t. Neither the state, nor the mob, will ever conclude that you deserve justice if it sets its eye upon you.
Don’t believe me? Consider the desserts dished out by law enforcement, as documented here by Radley every day. Consider Kelly Thomas, a disturbed homeless man beaten to death by police. As in Rodney King’s case, police said that Kelly Thomas deserved it because he was “combative.” Consider Lorna Varner, an 86-year-old grandmother tased by police in her bed. Lorna Varner deserved it because she took an “aggressive stance” with a knife in bed — to the extent her oxygen mask allowed her. Or consider Malaika Brooks, a pregnant woman tased by Seattle police. She deserved it because she wouldn’t sign a speeding ticket (for going 12 miles over the limit) or get out of her car in the presence of the sort of men willing to tase a pregnant woman. Or consider the hordes of dead dogs that Radley writes about here and that we write about at Popehat. They deserved it for, I don’t know, barking, or (in the case of some notable puppies) “charging.” The state will always have an excuse for why the recipients of its force deserved it.
Part of protecting rights is committing to protect them without caring too much whether the rights are held by people who are awful or wonderful. It means vindicating Rodney King’s rights to be free of excessive force without particularly caring whether or not King was a good person. For that matter, it means criticizing hallmarks of state power like the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine — even if that doctrine was what allowed King’s attackers to be convicted by the federal government after they were acquitted by the state. It means giving up the notion that deserve has anything to do with it.
Measured that way, a family mourning the life of a troubled man is no cause for outrage.
- The crisis of “vanishingly rare trials.”
- Carlos Miller helping develop a smart phone ap design specifically to record police. And you can help test it out.
- Here’s some local coverage of Leigh Stubbs’ release from prison.
- The Obama administration has shut down 500 California medical marijuana dispensaries in the last eight months.
- NYPD precinct posts mug shot poster of “professional agitators” who record on-duty police officers.
- “Evers began to tell me that he had 19 years on the job and asked me where the ‘brotherhood’ was for being a cop. He indicated that Philadelphia police officers ‘take care’ of one another.”
At the New York Times, Ted Conover has written an amazing profile of Alex White, the longtime Atlanta drug informant who refused to help the cops cover up the murder of Kathryn Johnston. Add it to your long reads folder. It’s well worth your time.
I followed that case closely, so if you were reading this blog back in 2006, you’re probably familiar with the general course of events. But several things about the article struck me. First, for all the danger informants face from the people they give away, White was most afraid of the police officers he dealt with day to day, even before he turned on them after the Johnston raid.
The leader of the team of officers that he worked with most often, Gregg Junnier (pronounced “junior”), apparently set the tone. White said suspects would sometimes make the mistake of talking trash once handcuffed. Junnier would then slam them against a car or grab them on both sides of the mouth, supposedly to keep them from swallowing drugs. White remembers the time another officer he worked with had a suspect handcuffed and on his stomach; when the suspect began insulting him, White said, the policeman “kicked him in the mouth,” which made even his fellow officers flinch.
“One day Junnier come into my apartment,” White told me, “started throwing stuff around. He say, ‘Where’s the money?’ He knew I’d made some that week. He going through my dresser. He took $4,000. Junnier rough. He very, very rough.” White just accepted the situation. He was not a partner but merely a sub rosa subcontractor, a fact Junnier frequently reminded him of.
Junnier’s team drove around in a black Ford van with darkened windows that became notorious — Darth Vader’s own ride. “Everybody know that van,” White told me. Junnier also drove his own S.U.V., and one day he handed White, in the passenger seat, an envelope full of pictures.
“He show me this Jamaican guy,” White said. “Except only his head, on a fence. It had dreadlocks on top and veins below where it got ripped off. Junnier say he fell between buildings during a chase.” White said he felt he was shown the photo as a kind of warning.
Second, we learned from the FBI investigation that the sort of police thuggery apparent in the Johnston case was common and longstanding in Atlanta, which White confirms in describing his own interactions with the city’s narcotics cops. The lying, brutality, and corruption had been going on for years. Yet a local civil rights leader told Conover, and a local police official seemed to confirm, that the Johnston case was the first time a white police officer in Atlanta had ever been charged with violating the rights of a black person.
And there’s a good chance even those officers would never have been charged if not for Alex White. This wasn’t a few rogue cops. This was systemic.
Third, after all this died down, White was convicted of selling “a couple ounces” of marijuana to an undercover police officer in an Atlanta suburb. His sentence? Up to eight years in prison. The police officers who pressured an informant for a tip with threats of false drug charges, lied on a search warrant, gunned down a 93-year-old woman, left her to bleed on her own living room floor while planting drugs in her basement to cover up their mistake, then conspired to cover it all up by pressuring and threatening another informant to lie for them? They were sentenced to 5, 6, and 10 years, respectively.
Finally, Conover points out that one of the reforms the city put in place after the Johnston raid was a civilian review board to provide some police oversight. As of November of last year, less than five years after the raid, here’s how that was working out:
Cris Beamud came from Eugene, Oregon to Atlanta to found and run the Citizen Review Board after city ordnance established the police oversight panel in 2007.
The CRB came into being as a response to a botched drug raid that ended with the police killing of 92-year old Kathryn Johnston.
Beamud tells WABE she’s resigning out of frustration with city and police leaders who often ignore the board’s findings and recommendations.
“We’re constantly being faced with dismissals and rejections of recommendations that we believe, and I believe personally, would improve the quality of public safety services in the City of Atlanta,” she says.
Beamud points to the recent police fondling case, and the ongoing Atlanta Eagle raid. Before an outside investigation found police misconduct during the 2009 raid on the Midtown gay bar, the CRB had issued a report saying the same thing.
“You continue to beat your head against the wall, and then you decide that you’ve had enough,” she says.
Joy Morrissey, who chairs the CRB, says Atlantans are losing a valuable ally.
“Cris has been a police officer, a prosecutor, a police legal adviser, an assistant D.A., and yet [the mayor and police chief] don’t listen to her,” Morrissey says, adding that Beamud has established civilian oversight before coming to Atlanta.
“She produces very good reports – well reasoned reports – and the results have been maligned, ignored, criticized,” Morrissey says.
In fact, almost as soon as the board started work, the police department, with the city’s help, was already trying to neuter it.
The board was able to force the firing of the officers involved in the Atlanta Eagle raid. They were promptly hired by the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department.
“Everything changed forever, and everything stayed the same, on the night Miss Johnston died.”
- Headline of the day.
- For a glimpse at the absurd reach of the regulatory state, take a look at the federal regulations for miniature golf courses.
- Here’s an update on the case of Virginia death row inmate Justin Wolfe, who is only still in prison because of Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert, a three-time nominee for TheAgitator.com’s Worst Prosecutor of the Year award.
- “This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.”
- You know we’re losing ground when the Berkeley campus gets a Bearcat. Oh, and Stop & Frisk may be coming to San Francisco.
- Houston woman jailed for 12 hours for warning motorists about a speed trap.
- Another forensics scandal is brewing. This time it’s in Dallas, over a drug testing specialist who is alleged to be a fraud.
- Another survey, this time of 2,000 retired NYPD officers, suggests that commanding officers regularly pressured their subordinates to manipulate crime data.
- Popehat has more on the outrageous censorship of Massachusetts blogger Dan Valenti.
- Another high-ranking police officer in Minneapolis is facing a misconduct investigation. It’s this particular officer’s second investigation in three years.
- Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Larry Thompson worries about the lack of mens rea in our criminal code. As Scott Greenfield pointed out on Twitter, it would be nice if these people would worry about these things before they have former in front of their titles.
- Headline of the day.
- For your amusement: “The Beatles never existed.”
- Fortune magazine investigation concludes that there’s nothing to Fast & Furious. The report seemed convincing until I read Katie Pavlich’s rebuttal, which points to ATF emails that seem to directly refute some of the Fortune report’s key findings. So I have no idea what to think.
- Here is the inside of a camel’s mouth.
- Ronald Thompson gets a new trial in Florida. He was sentenced to the state’s mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison for firing two warning shots into the ground.
- In Michigan: Talking urinal cakes warn you not to drink and drive.
- LZ Granderson embarrasses himself. As a journalist, I’m embarrassed for him.
- New York man literally charged with assaulting two police officers’ fists with his face.
- Some wonderful portrait photos of dogs.
- “[We] can call your editors and publisher…trust us, you don’t want to get on the Department of Justice’s bad side.”
- Louis C.K.’s daughter is my new favorite comedian.
- TSA outrage of the week.
- Parole board member fired for considering parole.
- Jenny McCarthy is really a horrible human being.
- “In April 2010, when President Barack Obama’s then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that ‘this is the most transparent administration in the history of our country,’ Politico reported that ‘laughter broke out in the briefing room.’”
- Chicago vote may decriminalize marijuana.
Back in 2010, I wrote a column for Reason on the startling lack of transparency among police departments in Northern Virginia.* Despite the state’s reasonably sound open records laws, the state’s largest police agencies have chosen to interpret an exception clause in the law to give them carte blanche to deny information requests. They turn down all open records requests as a matter of policy, even when journalists have attempted to test them by, for example, requesting information that the same agency had already included in a press release.
Virginia journalist Michael Lee Pope—who has done terrific reporting on this issue—updates the story this morning.
ACROSS VIRGINIA, there are almost no details available to the public about crime that happens every day. From petty larceny to murder, Virginia police officials routinely deny access to basic documents such as incident reports. In the case of Hailu Brook, his father Brook Beshah can’t even get a copy of the investigation conducted by Arlington County officials detailing how Fairfax County police officers shot and killed his son — even though the case is closed . . .
Earlier this year, a State Integrity Investigation ranked and graded each of the 50 states on government accountability, transparency and corruption. Virginia got an F, largely because police agencies use an exemption clause in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to withhold basic documents in all cases, regardless of what the case is about and regardless of whether the case is open or closed . . .
During a hearing conducted by a subcommittee of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council in 2010, law-enforcement officials from across the commonwealth descended on the capital to oppose any effort to weaken the exemption clause. Even if a case is closed, they said, releasing documents would be a bad idea. Now, two years later, the same subcommittee is set to meet yet again to consider the same legislation.
The state’s police agencies don’t even release information to the families of crime victims . . .
. . . the same Virginia law that allows police agencies to withold information from the public also allows them to deny access to victims of crime and their families. One of those family members was an aunt of the slain teenager who works as a nanny for a prestigious law firm in downtown Washington. Hogan Lovells took the case pro bono and submitted a Freedom of Information Act request. As it does in all cases, the Alexandria Police Department denied access to the documents.
“To be honest, I thought it was some kind of joke,” said Martin Price, an attorney for Hogan Lovells. “It’s just hard to believe you can have a victim’s family completely left in the dark.”
Just to give you an idea of the extent of the hubris from law enforcement officials on this matter, consider the sneering letter to the editor Alexandria, Virginia State’s Attorney Randolph Sengel wrote in response to Pope’s original article in 2010:
Law enforcement investigations and prosecutions are not carried out for the primary purpose of providing fodder for [Pope's] paper. The sacred ‘right of the public to know’ is still (barely) governed by standards of reasonableness and civility . . .
The most offensive theme of this article is the notion that law enforcement agencies decline to release these reports to protect their own, or to conceal corrupt behavior…Believe it or not, the reporter and his colleagues are not the last true guardians of truth and justice, the attainment of which does not hang on unfettered exercise of journalistic zeal. Last time I checked there were multiple safeguards in place to assure the integrity of the criminal justice system. Conscientious and dedicated judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and law enforcement officers work in a system which is as transparent as it needs to be, constrained by reasonable and appropriate limitations which are there for the greater good, not for purposes of playing hide the ball.
These are the words of a man who was elected to enforce the state’s laws. It’s also worth noting that Pope became aware of the agencies’ policy when the Fairfax County Police Department refused to release the name of a police officer who had shot and killed an unarmed motorist.
Meanwhile, over at Reason, Steven Greenhut notes a rare rebuke of police unions in California.
Last week, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee killed AB2299, which would have allowed police officers, correctional officers, prosecutors, and judges to keep their names off of public property records. Approved by the Assembly 68-0, the bill was based on the unproven idea that criminals look up the home addresses of public safety officials and then attack them—even supporters couldn’t come up with examples of this having happened.
Had it passed, the bill would have undermined the public property record system and would have been an open-door for real estate scams. The legislators who voted for this knew better, but they weren’t about to stand up to these unions. Yet sanity did prevail. It also prevailed with AB1275, which would have banned the media from getting copies of transcripts and tapes of 911 calls . . .
In the past, these bills would have moved forward with little scrutiny, but this police-union overreach grabbed wider attention and sparked the dismay of editorial boards across California.
But Greenhut explains that it’s the bill’s defeat that makes the story unusual.
We all know that secrecy is the petri dish for misbehavior, yet the unions continue to push bills that shield their members from oversight. It’s already nearly impossible to learn what actually happened in the many instances where police use deadly force thanks to the peace officers bill of rights and other special protections.
Let’s say we saw the following headlines: “Surge seen in shootings of Sacramento deputies” and “Killings of police in LA County jump sharply.” Everyone in the state would be well aware of this data. The Capitol would rightly be awash in proposals to protect officers from the carnage.
Those headlines are close to accurate, except one word was changed. The real headlines are (from the Sacramento Bee): “Surge seen in shootings by Sacramento County deputies,” and (from the Los Angeles Times), “Killings by police in LA County jump sharply.” There’s a trend here.
Police have broad latitude to use deadly force. Thanks to the above-mentioned peace officers’ bill of rights and the 2006 state Supreme Court’s Copley Press v. San Diego decision, the public and media have virtually no access to allegations of wrongdoing or investigations against police officers. We see only what police agencies want us to see, and only through the civil litigation process do crucial details emerge. The latter is no panacea given that agencies often provide financial compensation in exchange for nondisclosure.
In Sacramento, complacent official attitudes toward police use of force issues may contribute to the problem. District Attorney Jan Scully halted all investigations of police-involved shootings, a shocking dereliction of duty that she blames on budget cuts, but is a sop to police unions.
I’m still a little thrown back when I see laws with names like “the police officer’s bill of rights.” Informal, corrupt deference to cops accused of criminal misconduct is one thing. But the idea that the government agents in charge of enforcing the law would get an official, codified set of rights above and beyond those afforded to the rest of us is really an affront to everything a democratic society is supposed to represent. And we’ve seen how even the slightest violation of a cop’s extended set of rights can excuse even egregious abuses of power.
(*That 2010 article inspired a visit from an Alexandria Sheriff’s Department deputy to what he thought was my home. I had already moved to Nashville. I had no luck trying to find out the deputy’s name or the purpose of his visit.)