Computer Tampering with the Intent to Harass

What does the title of the post mean? Well, if you are the Phoenix police (and at least one sorry-ass local judge) it is the name of the new "crime" invented to describe blogging that is critical of public officials.

In what should send a frightening chill down the spine of every blogger, writer, journalist and First Amendment advocate in the United States, Phoenix police raided the home of a blogger who has been highly critical of the department.

Jeff Pataky, who runs Bad Phoenix Cops, said the officers confiscated three computers, routers, modems, hard drives, memory cards and everything necessary to continue blogging.

The 41-year-old software engineer said they also confiscated numerous personal files and documents relating to a pending lawsuit he has against the department alleging harassment - which he says makes it obvious the raid was an act of retaliation.

Maricopa County Judge Gary Donahoe signed the search warrant that allowed at least ten cops to raid his home in North Phoenix on March 12 while handcuffing his female roommate for three hours as they tore the place apart....

The search warrant lists "petty theft" and "computer tampering with the intent to harass" as probable causes. He has yet to see an actual affidavit that lists in detail the probable cause and is skeptical that one even exists.

Hat tip to Radley Balko.   The police are apparently considering throwing in identity theft to the charges. The Bad Phoenix Cops web site is raw and over the top traffics in salacious gossip about senior police officers, but I can't see how that is illegal.  Well, its been a good week here in the Phoenix area -- Sheriff's deputies arrest four people for applauding a speech critical of the Sheriff, and now police arrest a blogger who has been critical of them and confiscate his computer.

Postscript: The author of the blog where I excerpted the article above is a Miami photographer who has been on the front lines of one of an emerging civil liberties issue.  Police have somehow developped a theory, based on no law and in total contradiction to the first Ammendment, that it is somehow illegal to photograph or film police doing their jobs in public places.  They particularly hate such filming and photography when it shows them doing something absurd.  The photographer's ongoing fight with the legal system, all begun when he had the temerity to take pictures of police officers in a public place, is here.  The blog is very well written and thoughtful and seems to try hard to be fair -- in fact, this is one of the I have ever seen someone make of his opposition.

  • tomw

    Well, doncha know? With the One now installed, and a new attorney general who you should know, all 'thought crimes' are on the books now. First Amendment? It means what we say it means. We will let you know when you have broken it.
    Eastasia? No, we have always been at war with Westasia.....

    tom

  • Max Lybbert

    I have to admit a little surprise that Phoenix's elected officials aren't stepping in. When I lived in North Carolina one of the more famous/popular sheriffs was Sheriff Hege, who was eventually thrown out for corruption ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Hege ), and I think the investigation that nabbed him was started when county officials realized his behavior could be incredibly costly to the county monetarily, and could lead to really bad publicity when things went wrong.

  • K

    Get used to it.

    The trend is for government to consider civilians as serfs and their property as state revenue. Both are to be used as needed. And serfs are to speak only when spoken to.

    There is only a small difference between the parties. The real driver is not ideology. It is government's continuous demand for more revenue. It never decreases and neither does public employment. Both rise faster than GNP or private employment - now not much of a trick.

    A secondary driver is elected officials who believe they are entitled to hold office for life. Criticism can derail that. It must stop.

    This didn't begin with Obama or the Democrats. In a way O is being honest when he lets us see how our government now works and where it is going.

    So you uppity guys shouldn't be surprised when cops tear up your home. You should be surprised they were so nice. They won't be next time.

  • Reformed Republican

    The cops should be glad that there is photographic or video evidence when they are doing their jobs. It should show that they are not doing anything wrong, which would be really handy in a court of law, if they were ever accused of acting inappropriately, right?

  • morganovich

    for years, police forces resisted putting cameras on cop cars and cops. the proliferation of consumer video changed this. suddenly, there was lots of video in court, and most of it made cops look bad. there is enormous selection bias in what gets taped. you don;t film a cop politely giving a citation. but a beating, oh yeah, film it! rarely were the events leading up to it captured.

    in a sea change, the police pushed through cameras (though many fewer in large cities). they have overwhelmingly helped police prove proper behavior was observed on their part. most cops are pretty reasonable.

    but trying to stop private filming is outrageous. is it precisely the sort of freedom that allows the rotten apples to get pulled out of the barrel. such freedoms are vital in preventing tyranny.

    they prevent things like this:

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/baltimore-cop-vs-skateboarder/4210513541/?icid=VIDURVENT04

    or the case in oakland where a transit cop shot a prone, handcuffed detainee in the back and killed him.

    i'm surprised the "national security" issue hasn't been trotted out more frequently where police try to characterize taping them as surveillance and useful to terrorists. (a stupid argument in all but a very limited number of cases)

  • Fred Z

    Have you lot followed the incident up here in Canada where 4 RCMP officers tasered a Polish tourist to death?

    The mounties lied their asses off until a cell phone video revealed them and the poor Pole doing exactly the opposite of what the mounties first testified.

    I practiced law for 30 years and all of us lawyers knew that coppers lied pretty much as often as the crooks. I hope you civilians aren't too shocked.

    Contrary to what K. says, I think it's actually getting better as more and more people have video recording abilities and are getting mad.

  • Information is the key, and those who do wrong, on both sides of the badge, are scared of it. Cell phone cameras and camcorders, blogs, a world of information at the fingertips...the winds are changing and smart politicians are aware of it. The cops are acting scared and justifying their negative coverage. Guess who will be mayor next? If the promoters do their job, it will be someone who doesn't trample 1st amendment rights. The trick is making sure people pay attention. Keep those cameras rolling, and keep the information flowing. I know a lot of good cops, and I have to say I feel worse for them (hating the bullshit command structure and such) than I even do for victims who can get a fat settlement when crap like this hits the mainstream.

  • K

    Fred, Corey: You could be right. It may be getting better. My view is that open information challenges the entrenched governments more than ever. Therefore inconvenient information will be suppressed or neutralized in some manner. IMO all parts of the government will increasingly agree to do whatever it takes.

    I regard it as akin to tribal warfare. When the tribe is threatened everyone supports their own side. And I think the government tribe will too. By far the biggest employer in the US is government. Nothing else comes close, some might say education but teachers are government employees. And much of medicine - the other big employer - is operated by government or otherwise dependent upon it.

    And the government employees think matters are swell except they always need more. They intend that this continue.

    Some have a great deal of faith in our government. Usually the court system is cited as the bulwark of our liberties. But ultimately judges work for the government too. And elections are supposed to allow the reversal of unpopular government actions. Yet time and again we see it doesn't happen - the parties fight for office and spoils, they only pretend to differ over issues.

    Admittedly I have an extreme view. But otherwise we would all think alike. Who wants that?

  • Paul Ralley

    There was an article on here in the UK on BBC Radio 4 'Today Programme' (sorry for lack of link, it was at around 8.45 am local time) about the spate of kidnapping in Phoenix. We were "reassured" that this was only affecting Mexican nationals! - With that attitude, none of the rest of the above surprises me.

  • We'll be discussing this issue of police harassing photographers and videographers on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com Tuesday April 7 at 5 PM New York time.

    Please go to my blog, http://www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the link to the chatroom to join in the conversation and sound off.

    Thanks,

    Gary