Posts tagged ‘contempt of cop’

Contempt of TSA

I have written frequently of the non-crime called "contempt of cop" which seems to be at the heart of so many bad arrests and harassment incidents.  Well, you will be happy to know that the helpful folks at the TSA want the same power, to be able to arrest anyone who does not show them proper respect and deference.

Postscript:  Thinking about this more, I have to add a personal angle.  As my company privately operates public parks, our employees are often taking over from state park rangers who have law enforcement credentials.  When we propose our services, we often get pushback on this issue -- how are we going to live without all these law enforcement officers with arrest powers and guns and badges in the parks?

The answer I give is:  Things will be better.  It is an enormous mistake to handle customer service problems with a badge and gun and hard-ass attitude, but that is often what happens in parks.  You don't see McDonald's issuing citations to their customers, but state parks organizations do it all the time.

It turns out that the reason there are so many law enforcement officers in parks has nothing to do with demand -- with very few exceptions, the parks we operate all require fractions of an FTE of law enforcement.  Maybe 20 hours a year per park.  But there are huge incentives for state workers to get a law enforcement license.  Beyond the psychic advantages of having a gun and badge, they typically qualify for a much richer law enforcement pension plan.   Park supervisors don't care -- the extra benefits don't come out of their budgets.

Libbertarian Disconnect

I don't know that I have ever seen a clearer example of the disconnect of thinking between libertarians and authoritarian political thinking than in this brief paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick.  She is writing about a court case reviewing whether it should be a crime to deny police your identification.  She writes, making fun of libertarians:

It would be easier to credit the Cato and ACLU arguments if we didn't already have to hand over our ID to borrow a library book, obtain a credit card, drive a car, rent videos, obtain medical treatment, or get onto a plane. So the stark question then becomes this: Why are you willing to tell everyone but the state who you are? It's a curious sort of privacy that must be protected from nobody except the government.

Really??  It is strange to her that we would treat privacy uniquely with the one and only organization in this country that can legally use force against us, legally take our money without our permission, and legally throw us in prison?  Is she really so blinded by a love for state authority that she can't tell the difference between a transaction at Blockbuster, which we can choose not to patronize if we don't like their terms of sale, and an interaction with police, where there is not even a hint of it being an arms-length, consensual, balanced interaction.

There is an largeand growing body of evidence that police take advantage of their power mismatch with citizens and abuse their power in multiple ways, large and small.  These abuses have likely always existed, but were covered up by police officers standing up for each other.  Only the advent of portable video cameras has started to really document what really goes on in these interactions.  Just read a few posts at this site to get a flavor.  And cops sure don't like when you ask them for their ID, as they hate anything that might impose accountability on them:

And in today's daily contempt-of-cop story, Ft. Lauderdale Police Officer Jeff Overcash did not appreciate a man asking him for his badge number, so he pulled out his handcuffs and arrested him.And it was all caught on video.

The video shows Brennan Hamilton walking up to Overcash in a calm manner with a pen and notepad in his hand. Overcash, who is leaning against his squad car with other cops, then pulls out his handcuffs and arrests Hamilton.

Overcash charged him with resisting arrest without violence and disorderly intoxication.

Alex Tabarrok makes a good point.   Based on these arguments, Lithwick must be A-OK with Arizona's new immigration laws, right?

Update:  It is interesting that while sneering at slippery slope arguments, she proves their merit.

The slippery-slope arguments"”that this leads to a police state in which people are harassed for doing nothing"”won't really fly, although I guarantee that you'll hear more and more of them in the coming weeks.

But in the immediately proceeding lines she wrote:

Is there something about stating your name or handing over a driver's license that differs from being patted down or frisked, which is already constitutional for Terry purposes?I, for one, would rather hand over my driver's license to a cop than be groped by one.

This is a perfect illustration of the slippery slope, almost textbook.  Libertarians certainly opposed current pat down and frisking rules, but since these are legal, Lithwick uses their legality to creep the line a little further.  And then the legality of these ID checks will in turn be used to justify the legality of something else more intrusive.

Contempt of Cop

Carlos Miller at Photography Is Not a Crime coins a term (at least it is the first time I have heard it) for certain arrests called "contempt of cop."  I think it is a great term that summarizes a whole class of actions that many police officers treat as crimes, but in fact are no such thing.   People are getting arrested in public spaces committing no crime every day in this country for charges like "failure to obey" or  "photographing a police officer."  Police like to feel like they have absolute authority on the streets, that they are mini-dictators of the patch of ground within their field of view.   This is a fantasy, but as with all fantasies, folks get really upset when other folks try to dispel their fantasy.

The scary part is that the few who get off quickly are generally the ones who have had their incident video-taped.  Which is probably why police are working so hard to try to make photographing and videotaping of police illegal.  Because they know that in situations of he-said-she-said, the cop will win down at the station and among his buddies at the DA, particularly if his fellow cops will, as is typical, fabricate corroborative stories.  Citizen video tends to break this power imbalance.

One of the most notorious contempt of cop cases to make headlines was last year's arrest of an Albuquerque TV news videographer. Because that incident was caught on video, charges were dropped against the videographer and the cop was terminated.

That incident also prompted  Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz to issue a new policy stating that officers were not to arrest people for "refusing to obey" unless that person was already being arrested for another crime or physically keeping the officer from carrying out his duties.

Defense attorneys derisively call the refusing to obey charge "contempt of cop" and claim that APD routinely violates residents' First Amendment rights when they use it.