Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012-02-21 "5 Reasons You Should Never Agree to a Police Search (Even if You Have Nothing to Hide)" by Scott Morgan (Associate Director of "")
Scott Morgan is Associate Director of and co-creator of the film 10 Rules for Dealing with Police.
Do you know what your rights are when a police officer asks to search you? If you're like most people I've met in my eight years working to educate the public on this topic, then you probably don't.
It's a subject that a lot of people think they understand, but too often our perception of police power is distorted by fictional TV dramas, sensational media stories, silly urban myths, and the unfortunate fact that police themselves are legally allowed to lie to us [].
It wouldn't even be such a big deal, I suppose, if our laws all made sense and our public servants always treated us as citizens first and suspects second. But thanks to the War on Drugs, nothing is ever that easy. When something as stupid as stopping people from possessing marijuana came to be considered a critical law enforcement function, innocence ceased to protect people against police harassment. From the streets of the Bronx to the suburbs of the Nation's Capital, you never have to look hard to find victims of the bias, incompetence, and corruption that the drug war delivers on a daily basis.
Whether or not you ever break the law, you should be prepared to protect yourself and your property just in case police become suspicious of you. Let's take a look at one of the most commonly misunderstood legal situations a citizen can encounter: a police officer asking to search your belongings. Most people automatically give consent when police ask to perform a search. However, I recommend saying "no" to police searches, and here are some reasons why:

1. It's your constitutional right.
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless police have strong evidence (probable cause) to believe you're involved in criminal activity, they need your permission to perform a search of you or your property.
You have the right to refuse random police searches anywhere and anytime, so long as you aren't crossing a border checkpoint or entering a secure facility like an airport. Don't be shy about standing up for your own privacy rights, especially when police are looking for evidence that could put you behind bars.

2. Refusing a search protects you if you end up in court.
It's always possible that police might search you anyway when you refuse to give consent, but that's no reason to say "yes" to the search. Basically, if there's any chance of evidence being found, agreeing to a search is like committing legal suicide, because it kills your case before you even get to court.
If you refuse a search, however, the officer will have to prove in court that there was probable cause to do a warrantless search. This will give your lawyer a good chance to win your case, but this only works if you said "no" to the search.

3. Saying "no" can prevent a search altogether.
Data on police searches are interesting, but they don't show how many searches didn't happen because a citizen said no. A non-search is a non-event that goes unrecorded, giving rise to a widespread misconception that police will always search with or without permission.
I know refusing searches works because I've been collecting stories from real police encounters. The reality is that police routinely ask for permission to search when they have absolutely no evidence of an actual crime. If you remain calm and say no, there's a good chance they'll back down, because it's a waste of time to do searches that won't hold up in court anyway.

4. Searches can waste your time and damage your property.
Do you have time to sit around while police rifle through your belongings? Police often spend 30 minutes or more on vehicle searches and even longer searching homes. You certainly can't count on officers to be careful with valuables or to put everything back where they found it. If you waive your 4th Amendment rights by agreeing to be searched, you will have few legal options if any property is damaged or missing after the search.

5. You never know what they'll find.
Are you 100 percent certain there's nothing illegal in your home or vehicle? You can never be too sure. A joint roach could stick to your shoe on the street and wind up on the floorboard. A careless acquaintance could have dropped a baggie behind the seat. Try telling a cop it isn't yours, and they'll just laugh and tell you to put your hands behind your back. If you agreed to the search, you can't challenge the evidence. But if you're innocent and you refused the search, your lawyer has a winnable case.
Remember that knowing your rights will help you protect yourself, but no amount of preparation can guarantee a good outcome in a bad situation. Your attitude and your choices before, during, and after the encounter will usually matter more than your knowledge of the law. Stay calm no matter what happens, and remember that you can always report misconduct after things settle down.
Finally, please don't be shy about sharing this information with your friends and family. Understanding and asserting your rights isn't about getting away with anything, and it isn't about disrespecting police either. These rights are the foundation of freedom in America, and they get weaker whenever we fail to exercise them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

2012-02-13 "The Violent Militarization Of Local Police" by Bob Livingston
Law-abiding citizens are no longer safe from police. Once the motto for police officers was “To protect and serve,” but now it seems to be “To harass, assault and attack.”
Across the country, police officers are increasingly militarized and increasingly militant. They make up laws out of thin air, claiming that innocuous activities like watching or videotaping police activities — including arrests on public streets,  walking in certain neighborhoods, parking on certain streets and putting trash in trash cans [] — are crimes.
While the vilest offenders are SWAT teams, even regular patrol officers become violent at the least provocation [!]. Thanks to YouTube and similar content-sharing sites, more of these incidents are coming to light. However, capturing video of these incidents has put the videographer at risk from the police, who often unlawfully and forcibly take the phone or camera and erase its contents or remove its memory card []. It’s not unusual for the videographer to be roughed up and/or threatened with arrest in the process. A list of recent incidences of police brutality and other police misconduct can be read at Injustice Everywhere [].
Cops have come to think of themselves as gods above the law whose commands are to be obeyed immediately and without question. Any hesitation often leads to the “suspect” being left bleeding and broken or quivering from electricity introduced by a TASER. It doesn’t matter if the person was unable to understand the command because of a language barrier, or if the person was unable to comply due to disability or defect []. Officers expect immediate and complete compliance with no questions asked.
They are shooting dogs for barking [], Tasing (see here [] and here []) and pepper spraying children in schools and shooting wheelchair-bound men in the streets []. They apparently feel they operate above the law.
Many, if not most, patrol cars now carry dash cams. Sometimes, dash cam videos are preserved, which allows abused citizens — if they are persistent and dogged enough — to get justice and restitution occasionally. Such was the case shown here [], where the officer threatened to shoot a suspect in the head for not revealing he had a concealed weapon in the car. Often, though, the dash cam video mysteriously disappears before trial.
According to a report by the CATO Institute [], tens of thousands of raids are conducted by SWAT teams each year. The report claimed:
[begin excerpt]
These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.
[end excerpt]
The so-called War on Drugs is undoubtedly the casus belli for the increased militarization of the police. SWAT officers are armed and armored as well as, if not better than, soldiers. Drug task forces receive Federal funding to purchase assault weapons, armor and armored vehicles to use in drug raids. They no longer serve warrants by knocking on doors or by picking up suspects on the streets. Instead, they bash down doors or use chain saws to gain entry [].
SWAT teams argue their safety requires they swarm into homes. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they create an explosive situation that often leads to innocent people being harmed or killed. Sadly, they often force their way into the wrong residence.
The instance in Tucson, Ariz., in which Iraq veteran Jose Guerena was shot 60 times by SWAT officers in his home is prima facie evidence of the danger these situations create [].
In the early morning hours Guerena’s wife, Vanessa, saw a man pointing a gun at her through the window. She awakened her husband, who was asleep after working the night shift. Thinking a home invasion was in progress, Guerena told his wife to get into a closet and grabbed his gun.
The SWAT team forced open the door and opened fire on Guerena, then stood by and watched him bleed for an hour before letting paramedics treat him. By then, he was dead. SWAT officers then lied about who shot first. The safety was still on Guerena’s gun, indicating he never fired. Nothing illegal was found in Guerena’s home.
It is grounded in conservative American psyche to defend oneself and one’s home. Yet responding to an unannounced and violent intrusion by police will leave you as dead as it left Guerena.
And even if you aren’t shot dead, the police have no qualms about destroying your residence []. They claim it is police procedure to gas the house, tear up floor boards, kick in doors and walls, and strew contents of cabinets and furniture to the winds. Requests for compensation are ignored, even if nothing was ever found.
But it’s not just suspected drug dealers who feel the wrath of police officers. Just ask Marianne Godboldo of Detroit. Police thugs forcibly removed her daughter for the crime of Godboldo not giving her daughter a pill prescribed by a physician [].
Most people dismiss claims of an increasingly violent and aggressive police force as either conspiracy theory or sour grapes by criminals. Minorities have long seen their claims of police brutality dismissed out of hand by white America. Many people naively believe that if they don’t commit a crime, they won’t have anything to worry about from police. But it’s high time that people see this for what it is and connect the dots on the news stories of today.
Congress has just authorized having as many as 30,000 unmanned drones patrolling the U.S. skies. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are greatly expanding the definition of extremist and terrorist to include people performing normal activities [] or objecting to paying taxes []. The USA Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act have given government carte blanche to detain Americans without charge and without trial and ship them to the Guantanamo Bay prison resort.

In a series of debates on socialism in 1914, John Basil Barnhill said, “Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.” The government fears the people and the coming conflagration it has sparked. By tightening its grasp on liberty through the militarization of the police force, the pendulum is swinging to where the people are now beginning to fear their government.

Where this will lead is anybody’s guess, but I predict it won’t be pretty.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Judicial Corruption

Judges can arbitrate life-altering decisions based purely of personal interests and politics.
The following example shows how judges can gain from their position...

"Insider Trading in LA Superior Court"2012-02-11 by JB Tucker [link]:
The recent scandals in Washington and the passage of legislation to ban congressional “insider” stock trading caused me to unearth an old memo that I’d sent to federal authorities some time ago, because it seemed quite plausible that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge might very well have had advance knowledge of impending stock crashes.  Here’s the substance of the memo I composed:
[begin memo]
According to Judge xxxxxx x xxxxxxz’s FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests dated September 21, 2002 he disposed of an investment in WORLDCOM in June 2002. According to his previous filing dated December 18, 2001, the investment was worth somewhere between $10,000 – $100,000.
Somewhat more intriguing is that for the most part, his entries of investments that were sold off have the exact date of disposition listed. His Worldcom entry merely shows the month and year.
A website with extensive public documents on the Worldcom scandal listed three documents of interest that have since come to light in the month of June 2002: two internal memos dated June 17, 2002 and another on June 24,2002, in which people were discussing the firm’s shaky financial situation. The timing of the Judge’s disposition of this stock seems to raise a reasonable suspicion of insider leaks.
The Form 700’s are filed at the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office in Norwalk as well as with the Secretary of State and FPPC in Sacramento.
Amongst his many other investments, the Judge also made two purchases of Tyco stock on January 22, 2002 and January 23, 2002. Haven’t looked extensively at that issue yet.
[end memo]


Friday, February 10, 2012

2012-02-10 "Richmond police bias trial hears of bizarre behavior" by Kevin Fagan from "San Francisco Chronicle"
(02-10) 10:55 PST RICHMOND -- Between tales of one police captain dropping to all fours to yell "don't beat me" and black and white commanders angrily proclaiming they were being discriminated against, jurors got a stark depiction Thursday of a Richmond Police Department consumed with racial tensions in 2006 when Chris Magnus took over as chief.
The revelations came as Magnus spent a second day testifying in a Contra Costa County Superior Court trial over a lawsuit claiming he had discriminated against seven high-ranking black officers.
Plaintiffs' attorney Stephen Jaffe tried to make Magnus look like a disconnected leader who revealed racist bents in quips and favoritism, while the chief attempted to portray himself as working to dispel racial tensions that he found when he took the job.
One of the most bizarre moments came when Magnus described an incident in which then-Capt. Cleveland Brown, one of the commanders suing him, came into his office to complain that he didn't want then-Capt. Lori Ritter to become deputy chief.
Magnus said Brown had told him he thought Ritter - who, like Magnus, is white and a defendant in the trial - was a racist, and then had pantomimed his displeasure.
"I remember him getting down on all fours and raising up his arms and saying, 'Don't beat me, Miss Lori!' " Magnus said. "It was kind of hard to tell if he was joking or if he was acting out a story.
"I was floored by it," the chief told the jury. However, he added, "that was pretty typical for Cleveland. He was very animated, very loud, very extreme."
He also said Brown had told him that "an African American captain shouldn't have to work for a white female."
In their lawsuit, the black commanders contend it was Magnus who made racist remarks, telling plaintiff Lt. Arnold Threets to imagine Ritter standing over Brown, cracking a whip and telling him to dance.
After the exchange with Brown a few months after Magnus took the job, the chief made Ritter his deputy. Brown was later demoted to lieutenant.
Magnus also described a hellish staff retreat in Napa nine months into his job, in which he tried to get black and white commanders to discuss racial tensions and cliques in the department.
Instead, he said, Brown and others remained hostile and said they didn't want to cooperate with his new, community-minded policing style.
The chief said he was "upset" by the tenor of the retreat and told his officers that "if you want to engage in bias, engage in cliques, then you need to work somewhere else, or I will make your life a living hell."
The suing commanders have contended that such statements created a racially hostile workplace. Magnus said his comment "was dramatic, yes. But I was disappointed in what I was hearing and not hearing in that room."