Radley Balko has this amazing comparison of two different citys' police recruitment videos, which paired together give great insight into really different ways these departments see themselves and their mission. As Balko asks, which town do you want to live in?
Posts tagged ‘Radley Balko’
Via Radley Balko, certain Dallas residents are upset that they are getting "nitpicked" for speeding and other traffic violations caught by camera. Normally, I would be quite sympathetic. But not in this case. You see, those who are upset about getting punished for violating traffic laws are Dallas police:
The Dallas Police Department has suspended a special unit’s regular reviews of dash-cam video from patrol cars because officers felt they were being nitpicked with disciplinary action for minor infractions such as speeding.
The recordings and the reviews are meant to provide evidence when patrol officers go renegade, and they are especially helpful in excessive-force cases. They’re also crucial for protecting officers falsely accused of wrongdoing.
In 11 months of operation, the unit reviewing the video found numerous examples of officers exceeding the department’s speed requirements, failing to turn on their lights and sirens or failing to stop at stop signs or red lights during chases or when responding to other emergency calls.
While in many cases these actions are against department policy, police commanders say they became concerned that some supervisors were taking a heavy-handed approach to routine problems, meting out discipline rather than finding ways to change behavior.
“The folklore among officers is, ‘I’m afraid to go five miles over the speed limit because I’ll be disciplined,’” said Chief David Brown. He ordered a cooling-off period for the review process while the department takes a look at what can be done to ensure that it is fair and reasonable.
As someone who has gotten a ticket from a police officer for going less than five miles over the speed limit, I can think of a two word response: Equal protection.
While some supervisors informed of violations have simply counseled officers to be more cautious, Dallas Police Association officials say at least a couple of dozen officers were disciplined, mostly with minor write-ups, for speeding violations.
Well, since police officers like all public officials are impossible to fire, this does not mean squat. I don't see any fine here, or points on their license, penalties absolutely everyone else would face. A better spin for this article would be "police violations of traffic law treated far more leniently than those by anyone else." And even with this lenient treatment, they still shut it down as too onerous.
All that being said, the video review program Dallas was doing is a good idea. It should continue, and if traffic law enforcement is getting in the way of the program continuing, I would be willing to let the officers slide if only to catch more substantial violations in how they interact with the public.
Outrageous. More at Radley Balko's place.
Via Radley Balko, a woman faces a year in prison for buying a single box of Sudafed and transporting it across state lines. Really.
Don't miss the super BS statistic quoted by the state that they have seen an 80% decline in the children endangered by meth labs.
The first part in a three-part Radley Balko series is up at the Huffpo. Good stuff, though hugely frustrating of course. Watch the media for other stories on this topic -- I challenge you to find one story in the regular media that discusses pain medication that has even one interview of a pain sufferer. This issues is treated 180 degrees differently from any other story one could imagine about victims of medical conditions being denied medication. The part that always amazes me is how "addiction" is treated as a bad thing under all circumstances -- what does addiction even mean if the alternative is unbearable pain? Are AIDS patients addicted to the medication that keeps them alive?
People live every day with excruciating pain that is untreatable with current medications, either because the medication has nasty side effects or they have built a tolerance or both. So I would have thought the prospect of a new medication to help these folks would be an occasion for good news.
But not according to Chris Hawley of the Associated Press. I first saw this story in our local paper, and was just staggered at its tone. The article begins this way:
Drug companies are working to develop a pure, more powerful version of the nation's second most-abused medicine, which has addiction experts worried that it could spur a new wave of abuse.
And it goes on and on in that vein, for paragraph after paragraph. Through it all there is all kinds of over-wrought speculation, with nary a statistic or fact in sight. This is not atypical of the tone:
"It's like the wild west," said Peter Jackson, co-founder of Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids. "The whole supply-side system is set up to perpetuate this massive unloading of opioid narcotics on the American public."
or this gem:
Critics say they are troubled because of the dark side that has accompanied the boom in sales of narcotic painkillers: Murders, pharmacy robberies and millions of dollars lost by hospitals that must treat overdose victims.
Recognize that murders and robberies associated with narcotics are almost always due to their illegality, not their basic nature. These are a function of prohibition, not the drug itself, which in fact is more likely to make users docile than amped up to commit crime.
It is not until paragraph 11 that the article actually acknowledges there might be some folks who benefit from this new medication. And even this is a dry discussion of side effects by some doctors -- how about heart-rending quotes from pain sufferers? Newspapers love to include these, except in articles on pain medications where I have yet to see one such quote.
But then the author quickly goes back to arguing that pharmaceutical companies are purposefully addicting patients as part of the business model
"You've got a person on your product for life, and a doctor's got a patient who's never going to miss an appointment, because if they did and they didn't get their prescription, they would feel very sick," said Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. "It's a terrific business model, and that's what these companies want to get in on."
That's a pretty ugly way to portray this. Couldn't you argue the same thing about, say, medications that suppress HIV? What these opponents never discuss is that they are basically proposing to consign people who have chronic pain to life-long torture. They are saying "better in pain than addicted." Really? I will take the addiction. Hell, by the same logic I am addicted to water and air too.
The notion that we should force a person to live in lifelong pain because some other person makes choices we don't like regarding their own narcotic use is just awful. Seriously, these are the same folks who say that libertarians have no empathy.
Postscript. Only after her death have I really learned about the contributions of Siobhan Reynolds, who died the other day after years of fighting to bring the interests of pain sufferers into this debate. Radley Balko has a memorial, but this AP article is about all you need to understand what she was fighting, and how easily the plight of pain sufferers is ignored in these discussions.
Radley Balko linked this article about Virginia drivers being fined for not having proof of insurance, something that is actually not illegal in the state. Apparently, it is illegal to drive without having insurance coverage, but there is no requirement to carry proof of insurance or any crime defined in law for not carrying such proof.
SO there is some "confusion", but note that the only confusion is in the mind of state law enforcement officers, who are attempting to exceed the law. The obvious solution, to me, would be to educate the officers and prosecutors on the damn law. Of course, agents of the state have a different solution (emphasis added)
Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Michael R. Doucette agreed that failure to have proof of insurance while driving is not illegal.
"Rather, the offense is having an uninsured motor vehicle and not paying the uninsured motorist fee of $500 per year," Doucette said.
Doucette said requiring drivers to present either proof of insurance or proof of payment of the uninsured vehicle fee would go a long way to clear up the confusion. The General Assembly has considered such a mandate at least three times, but has never passed it.
Get it? The best way to solve the problem of the state exceeding its authority is to just give the state new powers and criminalize more things so its actual authority matches it's desired powers. I fear that this will also be the state's answer for the fact that photography is not a crime.
The unindicted co-ejaculator. I'll let Radley Balko explain it.
If nothing else, the OWS movement is helping ordinary Americans see the abuse of power that is so endemic in many police departments. I am tired of the quasi-cult of police ass-kicking on average citizens, as fed by reality cop shows and folks like Joe Arpaio. As Radley Balko points out, the casual way that the officer hoses down citizens who are just sitting on a curb with pepper spray is just outrageous. From past experience, my guess is that these guys were ready to go limp and be dragged off - the pepper spray was just pure torture for the entertainment of the cops.
We would not do this to a terrorist in Gitmo, so why are we doing this to American citizens? I think I get particularly angry and intolerant of this kind of crap because I used to be the kind of law and order conservative that would excuse this kind of behavior, and that embarrasses me. The saying goes that a converted Catholic is often more fervent than a born one, so to I guess for this civil libertarian.
When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women's lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia this week, authorities knew they had another case of witchcraft on their hands, a capital offence in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.
Agents of the country’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head.
Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned the Harry Potter series by British writer J.K. Rowling, rife with tales of sorcery and magic. It set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in May 2009 and placed it under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPV), Saudi Arabia's religious police.
"In accordance with our Islamic tradition we believe that magic really exists," Abdullah Jaber, a political cartoonist at the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, told The Media Line. "The fact that an official body, subordinate to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has a unit to combat sorcery proves that the government recognizes this, like Muslims worldwide."
Actually, we have something similar here, we just call it "climate change" instead of witchcraft.
Federal employees’ job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.
The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance . . .
The 1,800-employee Federal Communications Commission and the 1,200-employee Federal Trade Commission didn’t lay off or fire a single employee last year. The SBA had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths in its 4,000-employee workforce.
When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years . . .
White-collar federal workers have almost total job security after a few years on the job. Last year, the government fired none of its 3,000 meteorologists, 2,500 health insurance administrators, 1,000 optometrists, 800 historians or 500 industrial property managers.
The nearly half-million federal employees earning $100,000 or more enjoyed a 99.82% job security rate in 2010. Only 27 of 35,000 federal attorneys were fired last year. None was laid off.
Forgetting for a minute the adverse selection and incentive problems from preferentially attracting folks who want to work in an environment without any accountability for performance, how can an institution that is running $1 trillion over budget not have any layoff either?
I blogged on our dust storm last week. It was really bizarre to watch it rolling in on us. It was one of those things that you know intellectually is not really threatening but a steady diet of Stephen King and other authors had some part of my brain wondering if I shouldn't be driving north at 90MPH to stay ahead of it.
By the way, such storms are called a "haboob".
Radley Balko linked this time lapse video.
Lefties are struggling with the concept of a libertarian doing a good deed (in this case, Radley Balko's great journalism leading to the release of Cory Maye.
Here is the real problem for the Left: This is exactly the kind of story -- a black man railroaded into jail in Mississippi -- that leftish reporters used to pursue, before they shifted their attention to sorting through Sarah Palin's emails. A lot of investigative journalism has gone by the wayside -- in Phoenix, it has really been left to independent Phoenix New Times to do real investigative journalism on folks like Joe Arpiao, as our main paper the Arizona Republic has largely fled the field.
Radley Balko wins journalist of the year award. I used to say he was the best reporter on the web but he is one of the to reporters in the country in any medium. His work on police and prosecutorial abuse has been critical in an era when the media is generally in the tank for tough on crime overreach (eg love affair of press with sheriff Joe).
I am sure everyone is resting easier now that the government has taken over all student loan activity. Now we won't see any of that abusive behavior by private lenders. Ha ha, just kidding. Don't get behind on your government student loans! Via Radley Balko (Updates: Still bizarre the DOE has this kind of firepower, but DOE says its a criminal / fraud case, not a payment issue.)
Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
"I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers," Wright said.
Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as the officers team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.
"He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there," Wright said.
According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11, and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.
As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for was not there - Wright's estranged wife.
"They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids," Wright said.
Wright said he later went to the mayor and Stockton Police Department, but the City of Stockton had nothing to do with Wright's search warrant.
The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his wife's defaulted student loans.
Arizona police officers accused of misconduct will soon have more protection.
Gov. Jan Brewer has signed six bills, backed by police unions, that spell out procedures for internal investigations.
Great, because it was not already hard enough to take action against bad cops in a system where all the insiders - police and prosecutors - generally close ranks to defend them from scrutiny.
The new laws are not all bad -- at least one gives protections to internal whistle-blowers, something that is needed in a police culture that has an effective law of omerta against cops who call out other cops for bad behavior. My guess, though, is that this rule will be used by unions who want to harass police management, rather than to protect street cops who testify against other street cops.
Defenders of the law said
Police unions weren't asking for anything more than the due process an arrested citizen receives, said Larry A. Lopez, president of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs.
"Just because we wear uniforms, we're not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights," said Lopez, a Tucson officer.
I have said a number of times that this is not quite true. Police are given powers to use force against other citizens that the rest of us do not possess. This necessitates a kind of scrutiny and oversight by the state that would not be appropriate or legal for the average citizen. For example, police simply do not have the privacy rights in conducting their jobs that the rest of us do. We have seen too many times that when we give police broad discretion, special powers, and no oversight (or even a nudge and a wink guarantee against oversight), bad things inevitably happen.
If you are confused about what I am talking about, go read Radley Balko's archives.
It should be a regular feature here -- government programs so silly they sound like a spoof. Seriously, I thought this was some spoof birther proposal. Via Radley Balko, from Consumer Traveller
The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information. According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”
The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.
It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.
In fact, this text misses some of the real doozies. Here is a jpg of the 2nd page of the application (click to enlarge)
Dates and locations of your mother's pre-natal doctor visits? My mom would laugh her ass off if I called her asking for these. And how can the government get away with asking for details of religious ceremonies connected to one's birth?
I swear the combination of the religious ceremony stuff and the residence of one's mother before, during, and after birth is so parallel to birther arguments about Obama I thought this was a spoof.
Update: Apparently this form is for people who have lost their birth certificate. If a person cannot track down his or her birth certificate and can't find his or her birth hospital to get a replacement, I find it hard to believe any of this stuff is answerable either. To me, this factoid makes the whole Obama/birther irony even funnier.
Younger readers will be forgiven for not fully understanding just how credulous the American public became during the late 80's and early 90's as the media, prosecutors, and various advocacy groups worked hard to convince us every school was a sort of Road-Warrior-like playground for child predators. Adult after adult were convicted based on bizarre stories about ritual murder, sexually depraved clowns, and all kinds of other dark erotic nightmares. In most cases there was little or no physical evidence -- only stories from children, usually coerced after numerous denials by "specialists." These specialists claimed to be able to bring back repressed memories, but critics soon suspected they were implanting fantasies.
Scores of innocent people went to jail -- many still languish there, including targets of Janet Reno, who rode her fame from these high-profile false prosecutions all the way to the White House, and Martha Coakley, just missed parleying her bizarre prosecutions into a Senate seat (Unbelievably, the Innocence Project, which does so much good work and should be working on some of Reno's victims, actually invited her on to their board).
Radley Balko has yet another example I was not familiar with. The only thing worse than these prosecutions is just how viciously current occupants of the DA office fight to prevent them from being questioned or overturned.
I am particularly sensitive to this subject because I sat on just such a jury in Dallas around 1992. In this case the defendant was the alleged victim's dad. The initial accuser was the baby sitter, and red lights started going off for me when she sat in the witness box saying that she turned the dad into police after seeing another babysitter made a hero on the Oprah show. The babysitter in my case clearly had fantasies of being on Oprah. Fortunately, defense attorneys by 1992 had figured out the prosecution game and presented a lot of evidence against, and had a lot of sharp cross-examination of, the "expert" who had supposedly teased out the alleged victim's suppressed memories.
We voted to acquit in about an hour, and it only took that long because there were two morons who misunderstood pretty much the whole foundation of our criminal justice system -- they kept saying the guy was probably innocent but they just didn't want to take the risk of letting a child molester go. Made me pretty freaking scared to every put my fate in the hands of a jury (ironically the jury in the famous McMartin pre-school case was hung 10-2 in favor of acquittal, with two holdouts).
Anyway, one oddity we did not understand as a jury was that we never heard from the victim. I supposed it was some kind of age thing, that she was too young to testify. As it turns out, we learned afterwards that she did not testify for the prosecution because she spent most of her time telling anyone who would listen that her dad was innocent and the whole thing was made up by the sitter. Obviously the prosecution wasn't going to call her, and her dad would not allow his attorneys to call her as a witness, despite her supportive testimony, because he did not want to subject his daughter to hostile cross-examination. This is the guy the state wanted to prosecute -- he risked jail to spare his daughter stress, when in turn the state was more than happy to put that little girl through whatever it took to grind out a false prosecution.
update: This is a tragic and amazing recantation by a child forced to lie by prosecutors in one of these cases. Very brief excerpt of a long article:
I remember feeling like they didn't pick just anybody--they picked me because I had a good memory of what they wanted, and they could rely on me to do a good job. I don't think they thought I was telling the truth, just that I was telling the same stories consistently, doing what needed to be done to get these teachers judged guilty. I felt special. Important....
I remember going in our van with all my brothers and sisters and driving to airports and houses and being asked if we had been [abused in] these places. I remember telling people [that the McMartin teachers] took us to Harry's Meat Market, and describing what I thought the market was like. I had never been in there before, and I was fairly certain I was going to get in trouble for what I was saying because it probably was not accurate. I imagined someone would say, "They don't have that kind of freezer there." And they did say that. But then someone said, "Well, they could have changed it." It was like anything and everything I said would be believed.
The lawyers had all my stories written down and knew exactly what I had said before. So I knew I would have to say those exact things again and not have anything be different, otherwise they would know I was lying. I put a lot of pressure on myself. At night in bed, I would think hard about things I had said in the past and try to repeat only the things I knew I'd said before.
Andrew Thomas was very competitive in Radley Balko's Worst Prosecutor of the Year voting. But if he had just waited a few days, this news could have easily put Thomas over the top:
The same people responsible for tens of millions in claims being filed against Maricopa County are now drooling after their own pot of gold.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and David Hendershott, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's former right-hand man have filed a notice of claim along with Thomas' former lackey, Lisa Aubuchon, for a combined total of $60 million.
Aubuchon had already filed a $10 million claim; she's revised that to $22.5 million. Andrew Thomas, who quit the job voters gave him and failed in his bid to become state Attorney General, has the gall to seek $23.5 million from taxpayers. And Hendershott, the infamous Chief Deputy now under investigation following a co-worker's allegations of corruption and abuse of power, wants $14 million.
For the first time in my life, I voted in a partisan primary for the Coke/Pepsi parties this year specifically to vote against Thomas. I cannot even imagine why they think they deserve this kind of payoff. If anyone should be suing, it is the citizens of Maricopa County who should be suing these three. Lots of articles about him on my site, but this one in the ABA Journal covers a lot of the ground.
Just after the Giffords shooting, Travis Corcoran, who I link from time to time for his biting commentary, posted something along the lines of "one down, 534 to go." I didn't like the comment, but it was not wildly different from his quasi-revolutionary rhetoric he often uses when describing the fraud and outright criminality of public officials. In the context of his body of work, I did not find it either surprising or particularly troubling, and certainly did not take it as a call to action or overt threat. I merely thought it in poor taste.
The comment went viral, and many others trashed him on blogs and in his comments -- these folks found the comment to be much worse than just poor taste. Their response was exactly what one does in a free society in reaction to speech we don't like -- we use speech in response. Travis strikes me as a big boy who was able to handle the consequences of his speech. Unlike many more cowardly sites, Travis did not re-edit the post to whitewash it or secretly eliminate it.
However, some folks were apparently not happy with just responding with speech. Typical of modern discourse, certain folks wanted to win their argument by bringing the coercive power of the state in on their side. Apparently, Massachusetts gun laws allow for revocation of firearms permits under certain vague circumstances (which are conveniently flexible for the state). Travis had agents of the state (or local?) government show up at his door and confiscate his firearms. Now, presumably there is a legal ruckus going on (TJIC is not one to take such things passively) and his site is down (presumably under advice of attorneys).
This strikes me as way over the line. The implied threat does not meet any of the well-worn court judicial tests for speech that can be actionable as a threat. I don't know enough law, and have not really studied the statute in question, to know whether this particular gun licensing law is able to establish a broader definition of threat (I am not sure it even has been tested in court).
But I am certain about one thing, because the statement I am about to make applies to just about every government law with vague terminology that leaves enormous room for selective interpretation and enforcement: There is probably no way the state of Massachusetts or the city of Arlington can argue that this effective restriction on speech is being enforced in a viewpoint neutral way. I bet I could find a whole boatload of radical leftish academics with firearms who have made far more specific threats and never have, and would never have, such restrictions enforced against them.
Update: Apparently there are threats of other legal actions. I have just no time to blog right now, but Radley Balko has what seems to be a fair take and a lot more information.
It is impossible to trust the judicial process after reading this (via Radley Balko) and realizing that this kind of thing must go on all the time. In fact, our heroes on TV shows engage in behaviors not much more honorable than this. You can't watch a TV crime drama for five minutes without seeing police and prosecutors pressuring witnesses. I was Castle the other day with my 12-year-old daughter (her favorite show, and being a Nathan Fillion fan I am happy to watch it with her) and as usual they were interviewing some suspect and she started doing what has become her habit in these situations -- she started screaming "lawyer -- get a lawyer" at the suspect. Good for her.
Radley Balko tells his frustrating stories about dealing with the IRS. These stories seemed totally familiar to me because in my business life, I deal with very similar problems nearly every day. Doing business in 12 states, I don't just deal with the IRS but 12 sales tax agencies, 12 employment tax agencies, 12 unemployment insurance agencies... you get the idea. Multiply this story times 100 and that is what I spend most of my time on running my business.
Just as one example, 8 years ago Florida switched our company from quarterly to monthly reporting for sales taxes. They did this in the middle of a quarter, so the reporting for that quarter was a funny mix of a partial quarter plus one monthly report. The next year a letter was triggered automatically from their system saying I hadn't submitted two months of reports. It took me several hours and multiple phone calls and two faxed letters to get them to understand the situation and promise to update their system. Frustrating but case closed. Or not. Their system again triggered a threatening letter to me over the same issue in December 2004. And then 2005. And 2006. 2007. 2008. 2009. This comes up again every dang year. Every year after hours of work someone swears I have finally found the right person and I would never hear about it again. But the next year it pops up yet again. In 2009 they actually sent a sheriff to our Florida location to start attaching assets over the non-issue.
His response to a commenter should not be missed. An excerpt:
Let's move on. I'm going to get a bit more critical now, so prepare yourself. Let's start with this:
What a sniveling little shit of a post from a sniveling little shit of a man.
This really feels lazy to me. You can do better. "Sniveling little shit" is already overused to the point of cliche. It is evocative, so I probably could still have lived with it had you only used it once. But to use it twice, and in the same sentence, really left me wishing you had come up with something more creative. Perhaps you were using repetition as a rhetorical device, but it really reads as if you just got tired of coming up with colorful ways to express your contempt for me. Which is disappointing, because those first couple lines really had me wanting to believe that you hated me. If I could offer a suggestion: This might be a good time to return to the puss-oozing lesion metaphor. I think it serves you well in a couple ways: It vividly and luridly conveys your disgust for me, and it links me in the minds of your readers to something quite unpleasant"”a festering wound. And a call-back is always a good way to keep your audience on its toes. You might even add some extra ickiness the second time around. For example, you might set the sore on someone's genitals, or perhaps on an anus. That's the beauty of writing! You are in control!