Category: Police Professionalism

Saturday Links

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Morning Links

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Sucker Punch

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Most of you have probably seen this video by now. It was taken in Philadelphia. I’ll just make the obvious point others have already made: Even assuming the woman had been the one who threw water/silly string on the cop, the reaction should at least get him fired. And probably prosecuted. That it doesn’t appear to have been her makes it worse, but is kinda’ beside the point.

Lunch Links

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Morning Links

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Morning Links

Monday, September 24th, 2012

This Week in Puppycide

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Have a good weekend everyone!



Morning Links

Monday, August 20th, 2012
By David Bratzer, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


  • A Fistful of Freedom: Using 3D printers to distribute firearms around the world (via Dave Killion and the Libertarian Book Club).
  • Do you think this brochure will make officers safer… or more paranoid?
  • Police Need New Professionalism, by Christopher Stone: “There will always be a certain degree of force in policing. What matters is whether policing—when it asserts its authority—makes democratic progress possible or impedes it. Professional policing enhances democratic progress when it accounts for what it does, achieves public support, learns through innovation, and transcends parochialism.”
  • Automatic License Plate Recognition: In Minnesota, license plates are not considered private information. This means license plates in police ALPR databases are subject to FOI access requests by anyone in the state. What could possibly go wrong?

Asset Seizure and Forfeiture – The State’s (Often Wrong) Rationale for Seizing Currency During a Traffic Stop

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

By Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Charles B. Frye, Attorney at Law in Houston, Texas, has written an excellent discussion on the government’s fallacious rationales for seizing cash during traffic stops at the Americans for Forfeiture Reform blog. I excerpt this portion and encourage you to read and share the rest:

What are the risks of transporting large sums of cash when you’re traveling?  Obviously, you could get robbed or get involved in an accident and lose the money.  Your car could catch on fire while you’re buying gas and your currency could go up in smoke.  A number of bad things could happen if you carry a large amount of cash on you when you travel.  But, one risk that many folks never consider is that a law enforcement officer could decide to seize your cash,even if you are not committing a crime and the officer cannot show any reason to believe that you have committed a crime.

If you’ve never had a law enforcement officer stop you for a traffic violation and then ask for your “consent” to search your vehicle, you probably find it difficult to believe that you or any other “law abiding citizen” could become embroiled in a criminal case or a forfeiture lawsuitjust because you happen to be carrying a large amount of currency.  But, it can, and does, happen.

One Texas Court of Appeals case, Deschenes v. State, 253 S.W.3d 374 (Tex.App.‑Amarillo 2008, pet. ref.), catalogued the various ways that the State tries to justify a seizure and later forfeiture of a large amount of currency discovered after a traffic stop.  Justice Pirtle wrote in the majority opinion in Deschenes listing twenty two arguments the State advanced to justify the seizure:

“Here, the evidence tending to establish a connection between the money and some unnamed criminal activity amounts to mere conjecture. In support of a nexus between Appellant’s $17,620 and some unidentified “criminal activity,” the State points to profiling characteristics and a positive alert by a narcotics dog: (1) Appellant opened the passenger door to speak to the officer, handed him his wallet when asked for his license, and exited on the passenger side at the officer’s request; (2) car had energy drinks and fast food wrappers on the floorboard giving it a “lived‑in” look; (3) he could not give his uncle’s exact address in San Diego; (4) he was traveling east to west on Interstate 40;[9] (5) he was nervous throughout the encounter; (6) he stared at his vehicle rather than maintaining eye contact when answering one of Esqueda’s questions; (7) he denied carrying a large sum of cash; (8) he was in possession of scales; (9) he avoided showing Esqueda [the investigating officer] the money; (10) the money was in a plastic bag; (11) it was a large amount of money; (12) the money was divided into bundles and wrapped with rubber bands; (13) he had an empty suitcase; (14) he denied having any drugs in his vehicle; (15) he stated he was going to Las Vegas; (16) he failed to produce “documentation” for the money; (17) a narcotics dog alerted to the money and the large empty suitcase; (18) an odor of narcotics on the empty suitcase; (19) the close proximity of the cash to the empty suitcase that presumably contained narcotics at one time; (20) an odor of narcotics on the cash; (21) the money was enough to purchase a felony amount of narcotics; (22) money from drug trafficking travels east to west.”

Protect and Serve — or Brutalize?

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

by William Anderson

For most of my life, I was a fairly typical law-and-order conservative, although there were times I questioned some police tactics. For example, nearly 40 years ago one of my college friends was severely beaten by the Knoxville, Tennessee, police in a situation considered serious enough for the FBI to investigate. After seeing Jake’s face two days after the beatdown and knowing the circumstances behind it, my long-held faith in the police certainly was shaken. Still, I wanted to believe that the police were “on our side.”

Today, I no longer hold to that illusion. Yesterday, I met with a woman about my age whose son, a Marine veteran, was found dead in his Dade County, Georgia, jail cell earlier this year, allegedly due to suicide. Not long before that arrest, he had been picked up for DUI by those same police and was severely beaten and tased by six officers, much of the beating coming after he was prone on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back. He had broken ribs, a ruptured eardrum, numerous burns from the taser repeatedly used on him, and bruises all over his body. Naturally, he was the one charged with felonies.

If police officers ever believed in their “protect and serve” mottos, that time is long past. As this post from Will Grigg demonstrates, the police today are obsessed with “officer safety” and their pay. He writes:

Police departments exist to enforce the will of the municipal corporations that employ them. Any actual service they render with respect to the protection of person and property is incidental to that mission.

As a recovering law-and-order conservative, I never believed I would be writing anything like this, and I would love to be proven wrong. I no longer buy the “few bad apples” argument; as I see it, the few “good apples” left in police departments either are driven out by fellow officers or they are cowed into silence.

Maggie’s Harvest of Links

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

(Thanks to Radley for the first two items, Jesse Walker for the third, Grace for the fourth, Walter Olson for the fifth and Brooke Magnanti for the sixth.)

Maggie’s Big Heap of Saturday Links

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

(Thanks to Radley for the first two, and to Mike Siegel,  FilmRot Dave, GraceTeller and Wendy Lyon for the next five.)

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Knows A Useful Tragedy When He Sees One

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

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?

–Ken White

Godwin’s Law

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

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)

Compliance At Swordpoint Is Still Compliance

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

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.

–Ken White

[Hat tip to Popehat Commenter Jonathan]