Archive for the ‘police’ tag
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been in office barely a year, and already forces of entropy are roaming the streets, turning their backs on the law, defying civil authority and trying to unravel the social fabric.
Call this what it is: a reckless, coordinated escalation of a war between the police unions and Mr. de Blasio and a hijacking of law-enforcement policy by those who do not set law-enforcement policy.
Mr. de Blasio’s critics foretold doom when he was elected a year ago. They said graffiti, muggings and other crime would rush back with a vengeance. They were dead wrong — crime rates continued to decline to historic lows in 2014 — but now it seems the cops are trying to help prove them right.
The madness has to stop. The problem is not that a two-week suspension of “broken windows” policing is going to unleash chaos in the city. The problem is that cops who refuse to do their jobs and revel in showing contempt to their civilian leaders are damaging the social order all by themselves.
Mr. de Blasio, who has been cautious since the shootings, found his voice on Monday, saying for the first time that the police officers’ protests of turning their backs at the slain officers’ funerals had been disrespectful to the families of the dead. He was right, but he needs to do more.
He should appeal directly to the public and say plainly that the police are trying to extort him and the city he leads.
If the Police Department’s current commanders cannot get the cops to do their jobs, Mr. de Blasio should consider replacing them.
He should invite the Justice Department to determine if the police are guilty of civil rights violations in withdrawing policing from minority communities.
He should remind the police that they are public employees, under oath to uphold city and state laws.
(click here to continue reading No Justice, No Police – NYTimes.com.)
These officers should be fired, the lot of them. Obviously don’t want to do their jobs anymore.
Somewhat coincidently, we came across Frank Serpico’s article entitled “The Police Are Still Out of Control”, which makes this point, among others, about police violence and lack of accountability:
But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.
I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But as I found out the hard way, police departments are useless at investigating themselves—and that’s exactly the problem facing ordinary people across the country —including perhaps, Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a lightning rod for discontent even though the circumstances under which an African-American youth, Michael Brown, was shot remain unclear.
Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)
It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.
In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.
In the NYPD, it used to be you’d fire two shots and then you would assess the situation. You didn’t go off like a madman and empty your magazine and reload. Today it seems these police officers just empty their guns and automatic weapons without thinking, in acts of callousness or racism. They act like they’re in shooting galleries. Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates, has led to a devastating drop in standards. The infamous case of Amadou Diallo in New York—who was shot 41 times in 1999 for no obvious reason—is more typical than you might think. The shooters, of course, were absolved of any wrongdoing, as they almost always are. All a policeman has to say is that “the suspect turned toward me menacingly,” and he does not have to worry about prosecution. In a 2010 case recorded on a police camera in Seattle, John Williams, a 50-year-old traditional carver of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations (tribes), was shot four times by police as he walked across the street with a pocketknife and a piece of cedar in his hands. He died at the scene. It’s like the Keystone Kops, but without being funny at all.
(click here to continue reading The Police Are Still Out of Control – Frank Serpico – POLITICO Magazine.)
how far will our nation descend towards becoming a brutal police state before the pendulum swings back?
bonus Matt Bors cartoon on topic
Something has to change, and soon.
It is a long-established and basic reality of law enforcement in America: Prosecutors who want an indictment get an indictment. In 2010 alone, federal prosecutors sought indictments in 162,000 cases. All but 11 times, they succeeded.
Yet the results are entirely different when police officers kill unarmed civilians. In those cases, the officers are almost never prosecuted either because district attorneys do not pursue charges in the first place or grand juries do not indict, as happened most recently in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.
There are various explanations for this, but the most obvious is the inherent conflict of interest that exists for prosecutors, who rely heavily on the police every day. Cops arrest suspects; they investigate crimes; they gather evidence; and they testify in court, working essentially in partnership with prosecutors.
Whether or not bias can be proved in a given case, the public perception of it is real and must be addressed.
The best solution would be a law that automatically transfers to an independent prosecutor all cases in which a civilian is dead at the hands of the police. This would avoid the messy politics of singling out certain district attorneys and taking cases away from them.
The police should be among the strongest supporters of this arrangement because both their authority and their safety are undermined when the communities they work in neither trust them nor believe that they are bound by the same laws as everyone else.
(click here to continue reading A Crisis of Confidence in Prosecutors – NYTimes.com.)
In a free society, the numbers of annual fatal police shootings should be public so these cases can be thoughtfully discussed. The only reason these numbers are hidden is because the police doesn’t want to talk about them, and the police unions are still strong enough to block wider discussion and distribution of these troubling statistics.
The true number of fatal police shootings is surely much higher, however, because many law enforcement agencies do not report to the FBI database. Attempts by journalists to compile more complete data by collating local news reports have resulted in estimates as high as 1,000 police killings a year. There is no way to know how many victims, like [Michael] Brown, were unarmed.
By contrast, there were no fatal police shootings in Great Britain last year. Not one. In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years. In Canada — a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.
Liberals and conservatives alike should be outraged at the frequency with which police in this country use deadly force. There is no greater power that we entrust to the state than the license to take life. To put it mildly, misuse of this power is at odds with any notion of limited government.
I realize that the great majority of police officers never fire their weapons in the line of duty. Most cops perform capably and honorably in a stressful, dangerous job; 27 were killed in 2013, according to the FBI. Easy availability of guns means that U.S. police officers — unlike their counterparts in Britain, Japan or other countries where there is appropriate gun control — must keep in mind the possibility that almost any suspect might be packing heat.
(click here to continue reading What America’s police departments don’t want you to know – The Washington Post.)
These numbers are not good, which is due to a multitude of factors, some of which are structural issues with American society. Allowing the NRA to set policy doesn’t help either. We can all agree being a police officer is a challenging, shitty job, however, that doesn’t give officers absolute freedom to fire guns first, and ask questions later.
D. Brian Burghart wrote a piece for Gawker a few months ago about this paucity of information, and what it means:
The bottom line was that I found the absence of such a library of police killings offensive. And so I decided to build it. I’m still building it. But I could use some help. You can find my growing database of deadly police violence here, at Fatal Encounters, and I invite you to go here, research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It’ll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on my cloud drive that I haven’t even added yet. After I fact-check and fill in the cracks, your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Feel free to check out what has been collected about your locale’s information here.
The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.
It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.
I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.
(click here to continue reading What I’ve Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings.)
This cannot keep happening. Something drastic has to be done to dial back our over-militarized police forces. Disclaimer: of course not all police are brutal thugs, but if you have a package of blueberries, and several are rotten, what do you do? Discard the whole box or carefully pick out each and every bad one?
The Chicago police vice squad burst through the door of the Noble Square neighborhood massage parlor last summer and grappled with the shrieking manager as a security camera rolled.
Footage of the incident released Monday showed that Jianqing Klyzek was on her knees and cuffed behind her back within seconds. As Klyzek continued to scream, an officer standing behind the petite woman slapped her in the head while another threatened to hit her with a Taser “10 f—ing times.” Then another officer got in her face and began to rant.
“You’re not a f—— American,” the officer yelled at Klyzek, according to the video. “I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the f— you came from!”
The disturbing surveillance footage is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week accusing the Chicago Police Department and 10 officers of brutality and a hate crime. Police officers can be seen on the video searching for the surveillance tape, but they were unsuccessful because it was recorded off-site, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that police unjustly charged Klyzek with battery for allegedly biting and scratching officers as they tried to subdue her. The case was thrown out by a Cook County judge at a preliminary hearing, but the police then pursued a felony indictment in which one of the officers lied to a Cook County grand jury, according to the suit.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said prosecutors dropped the felony charge in January after Klyzek’s attorney gave them a copy of the security video. Prosecutors didn’t know of its existence at the time of the grand jury investigation, she said.
Klyzek’s attorney, Torreya Hamilton, told reporters Monday that she believed the officers involved should be fired for treating Klyzek like “she was less than human.”
“I can’t see how they have any business wearing the uniform,” Hamilton said at a news conference at her law offices in the Loop. “She’s 5-foot-2 and weighs 110 pounds. She was handcuffed and sitting on the ground and was struck from behind…This was not reasonable force.”
(click here to continue reading Lawyer: Video caught cop beating handcuffed woman – chicagotribune.com.)
Not that it matters in the slightest, but Ms. Klzek is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
A lot of this is Daley’s legacy, but Rahm has been in office long enough that he cannot avoid responsibility for abuses in the Chicago Police Department. Same with Eric Holder…
Being a police officer may be a challenging job, but if you cannot handle living in a country with civil liberties, perhaps you should move to Somalia, or in Bundyville, Utah.
A man has died two weeks after police used a Taser on him as he was arrested in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood.
Dominique Franklin Jr., 23, who had lived in the 21000 block of Olivia Avenue in Sauk Village, was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 4:49 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
(click here to continue reading Man dies after Chicago police use Taser during arrest – chicagotribune.com.)
This is a national problem, we keep stepping closer to being a full-on police state…
Salinas, CA police killed a man earlier today, claiming to the local media that they were in fear for their lives after he had waved a pair of garden shearers in their direction, indicating he was going to shred them to pieces.
But then a witness posted a video online, contradicting those claims, showing the man trying to walk away from the cops as they move in on him barking orders with their guns drawn.
or for another random example:
After beating a man into a a coma last week, Florida deputies turned their attention to a citizen who had video recorded the beating, placing him in handcuffs and confiscating his phone, forcing him to sign a waiver that would give them the right to copy the footage.
Shaun Mahoney tried his best to maintain possession of his phone, but eventually complied after several hours in handcuffs when St. Lucie County deputies told him if he did not sign the waiver, they would take his phone anyway, but maintain possession of it for an unlimited amount of time.
That was a lie, of course, as they had no right to seize his phone in the first place.
But that is a lie they know they can get away with considering cops are never disciplined for unlawfully seizing phones as “evidence,” even though the U.S. Department of Justice made it clear there are very strict guidelines in doing this.
The deputies lied about a number of other things as well, including claiming that 29-year-old Tavares Docher was violently resisting them, leaving them no choice but to continually beat him.
But the video shows them punching him repeatedly while restraining his arms behind his back, yelling at him to “stop resisting,” even though it was clear he was not resisting.
In fact, Mahoney started recording after stepping out of a CVS Pharmacy and seeing one deputy planting his foot on the side of Docher’s face, squishing it into the asphalt, which is why he is lying in a pool of blood.
(click here to continue reading Florida Deputies Seize Phone from Man after he Records them Beating Suspect into Coma | Photography is Not a Crime: PINAC.)
Warrants, huh? What are they good for?
Cook County probation officers have for years quietly teamed up with law enforcement to go into probationers’ homes without warrants, looking for guns, drugs and information and leading to questionable and illegal searches, the Tribune has found.
Operating with little oversight, in some cases their actions have triggered accusations that drugs were planted, money was stolen and probationers were threatened with jail if they refused to become informants for Chicago police or the FBI.
The impact has been lasting for some: a promotion missed, a job lost, a dying brother unvisited, months spent in jail.
Although police and probation officers cooperate in other cities, legal experts said such arrangements should have detailed policies to avoid illegal searches that could allow criminals to go free when evidence is thrown out, expose police and others to lawsuits and lead to civil rights violations.
The Cook County Circuit Court’s probation department, however, has not developed rules and regulations for cooperating with law enforcement agencies, has no policies defining “reasonable suspicion” and has only vague guidelines on how officers should carry out their searches. Officers said probationers have had their homes tossed for as little as missing one curfew.
“The fundamental point that is at stake here is an essential guarantee of privacy,” said David Rudovsky, a Pennsylvania civil rights and criminal defense lawyer who specializes in illegal searches and seizures.
“Without that, you really have a police state.”
Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who oversees the probation department, has been repeatedly warned since at least 2005 about potential problems during searches, according to interviews and documents.
The concerns stemmed from the activities of the gun-carrying probation units supervised by Deputy Chief Philippe Loizon, a veteran probation officer who has built alliances with police and the FBI, at times over his bosses’ objections.
(click here to continue reading Warrantless searches draw criticism – chicagotribune.com.)
At the May Day rally at the Haymarket Riot Memorial Statue…
More on that surveillance tool: "’Stingray': Increased and Secretive Cell Phone Surveillance by Local Police Raises Alarms
ACLU calls technology the "electronic equivalent of dragnet searches" prohibited by the Fourth Amendment"
embiggen by clicking
I took City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle on May 01, 2014 at 02:54PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 02, 2014 at 03:37PM
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I took Preparation for May Day 2014 on April 30, 2014 at 03:26PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 30, 2014 at 08:37PM
[for instance: Dictionary of American Regional English; ]
1 – a popular black dance from the 1920’s, performed with the arms outstretched with wings and the body rocking from side to side. Here’s a description of the Eagle Rock (Ballin’ The Jack ?)dance:
"First you put your two knees close up tight, then you sway ’em to the left
Then you sway ’em to the right, step around the floor kind of nice and light
Then you twist around and twist around with all your might,
Stretch your lovin’ arms straight out into space,
then you do the Eagle Rock with style and grace.
Swing your foot way ’round then bring it back.
Now that’s what I call Ballin’ the Jack." from http://ift.tt/1hsIxbG ]
[some say Eagle Rock is a metaphor for sexual congress, but I have no special insight into that usage in re: this photo]
I only knew the phrase from a Blind Willie McTell song, Kind Mama:
Soon in the morning at half past four
Hot shot rider rappin’ at her door
She’s a real kind mama looking for another man
She ain’t got nobody in town to hold her hand
Went to the door and the door was locked
Think that baby tryin’ to eagle rock
She’s a real kind mama looking for another man
Real kind mama looking for another man
And she ain’t got nobody here to hold her hand
Kind mama looking for another man
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I took Let Me Show You How to Eagle Rock on May 03, 2009 at 10:56AM
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I took Red White and Blues on January 11, 2011 at 12:29PM
I was amused to read about both of these incidents in the same morning.
Compare and contrast this story:
Police in Washington, D.C. are investigating NBC’s “Meet the Press” after the show’s host David Gregory appeared to display a high-capacity ammunition magazine during Sunday’s program, a spokeswoman for the police department confirmed to the Washington Post early Wednesday.
Washington, D.C.’s firearms regulations state that “No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device” even if it is not attached to a firearm. During his interview with National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre on Sunday, Gregory held what he said was a magazine capable of holding 30 bullets.
(click here to continue reading D.C. Police Investigating ‘Meet The Press’ Over Gun Prop Used During Show (VIDEO) | TPM LiveWire.)
with this story:
Maybe the most bizarre part of that Post article on the Freedomworks coup is the part about Dick Armey’s henchman coming into the office with a handgun. So my question is: was that legal?
DC is really strict on gun laws, even after Heller, which tossed out some of the strictest gun regulations. So if there’s anywhere this would be illegal, it would probably be DC. But it sounds like the real issue might be something hard to get a read on beyond what’s contained in the Post article itself.
The article suggests an air of menace in the use of the gun — and that’s not terribly surprising if the situation was an inherently confrontational one (Armey was ordering people out of the office) and Armey associate came with a holstered handgun. But a lot of that is going to come down to perceptions. And the Post reporter might have played some of the gun angle up for effect.
But using a firearm to intimidate someone can be assault.
(click here to continue reading Is That Legal? | TPM Editors Blog.)
Sorry to hear of Mayor Jean Quan’s evasion of responsibility re: the horrific police riot in Oakland that left Scott Olsen, a 2-tour Iraq Veteran, in the hospital with brain swelling and skull injuries. If you haven’t seen the video, here’s a short version with commentary:
Oakland — Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who is being criticized from all sides for a police sweep of the Occupy Oakland encampment, said Wednesday that she was not involved in the planning and did not even know when the action was going to take place.
The decision to raid the camp outside City Hall was made by City Administrator Deanna Santana on Oct. 19 with consultation from interim Police Chief Howard Jordan after campers repeatedly blocked paramedics and police from entering the camp despite reports of violence and injuries.
Quan told a news conference at City Hall on Wednesday that her input on the raid was limited.
“I only asked the chief to do one thing: to do it when it was the safest for both the police and the demonstrators,” she said.
The mayor said “I don’t know everything” when asked by reporters if she was satisfied with how police conducted the sweep. She said she spent Wednesday meeting with community groups.
She also defended “99 percent” of police officers “who took a lot of abuse” and who “have really been trying to re-establish that connection with the community.”
(click here to continue reading Occupy Oakland: Jean Quan ‘I don’t know everything’.)
So basically, the Mayor is saying she isn’t that interested in what the police are doing in her city, and doesn’t think that is important for her to be involved, or even informed. Oh, and stop being so mean to the poor, poor police, they were just trying to pet kittens.1
Keith Olbermann was disappointed as well, saying (on Current-TV)
Olbermann discussed Mayor Quan’s 20 year liberal career in Oakland and then said, “And in the last two nights Mayor Jean Quan has betrayed all of that. There is no excuse. There is no justification. There is no rationalization for being the mayor who may have begun the great march backward in this country to the days when mayors like Sam Yorty of Los Angeles and Hugh Addonizio of Newark and Richard Dailey of Chicago stood back and their police incited, bullied, overreacted, and brutally assaulted protesters at the height of the Civil Rights and Vietnam movements. Those protests began non-violently, positively with singing and marching and cooperation with authorities, but the police like the police in Oakland, California this week, they injected the violence. Then it escalated and echoed, and soon there wasn’t just one Iraq vet in a hospital with a fractured skull, but there were dead men and women on the streets in this country and no one in this country wants to see that again today.”
He continued, “The mayor of any city is not out on the front lines with cops, and not everything they do can be lain at the mayor’s feet, but if one night a group of peaceable protesters exercising the rights given to them under the Constitution and not rights made up for the cops by the cops like lawful command and imminent threat. If they are attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets and the mayor’s only comments are to commend the police chief for a, “generally peacefully resolution to a situation, “ and after that claim democracy is messy, after the unprovoked actions horrify a nation, she is endorsing and assuming for herself whatever havoc the out of control police officers wrought.”
Later Olbermann closed by pointing out that it was only 15 months ago that Mayor Jean Quan was bullied by the police department, “Fifteen months ago Mayor Jean Quan was bullied by the Oakland Police Department, and tonight she is the bully. Mayor Quan is left with two choices. She can dismiss the acting police chief Howard Jordan and use her mayoral powers to authorize Occupy Oakland to protest again without harassment, or having betrayed everything she supported and all those who supported her, she must resign.”
(click here to continue reading Keith Olbermann Calls Out The Police for Instigating Occupy Oakland Violence.)Footnotes:
Police should be held to the same standards as citizens: and not allowed to hide behind this archaic, pre-digital law. I fail to see why the police are afraid of being recorded, unless they plan on bending the law in some way and don’t want to be caught. Other states don’t have this same law, and seem to be doing just fine…
The Illinois Eavesdropping Act has been on the books for years. It makes it a criminal offense to audio-record either private or public conversations without the consent of all parties, Mr. Schwartz said. Audio-recording a civilian without consent is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison for a first-time offense. A second offense is a Class 3 felony with a possible prison term of five years.
Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The A.C.L.U. filed its lawsuit after several people throughout Illinois were charged in recent years with eavesdropping for making audio recordings of public conversations with the police. The A.C.L.U. argued that the act violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials.
On Jan. 10, a federal judge in Chicago dismissed the suit for the second time. Mr. Schwartz said the A.C.L.U. would appeal. Andrew Conklin, a spokesman for Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, said, “We did feel the A.C.L.U.’s claims were baseless and we’re glad the court agreed with us.” Beyond that statement, Mr. Conklin said, “we have no comment because we have these two cases pending.”
(click to continue reading Eavesdropping Laws Mean That Turning On an Audio Recorder Could Send You to Prison – NYTimes.com.)
Insanely ridiculous. How is this even remotely acceptable behavior? Police should avoid doing illegal acts if they are so worried about being videotaped.
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.
Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.
The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, “[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want.” Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, “The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law – requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense.”
The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler’s license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
(click to continue reading Are Cameras the New Guns?.)
Police are public officials, paid with our tax dollars. Why should they be exempted from established principles? Horrible decision by lawmakers in Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland, and everywhere else considering similar draconian laws.
In Chicago, the police department declines to make any details available online to us or to EveryBlock, a five-member operation based here. EveryBlock was bought last year by MSNBC.com and cranks out daily updates for neighborhoods in 15 other cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Dallas.
The site’s frustration with Chicago underscores how scant our access is to public records at most levels of government.
Take the city’s Department of Public Health. It stopped updating its Web site last year. That means that for months, citizens haven’t been able to find out about, say, what restaurants have been hit with violations. In part, the department blames technological problems.
EveryBlock is the brainchild of soft-spoken, angular Adrian Holovaty, 29, well-known in the online world for innovations in computer code. He retains oversight and, with two colleagues, operates out of an airy but bare Ravenswood loft about a mile north of Wrigley Field.
Mr. Holovaty is asking his audience here to sign a petition, to prod the Chicago Police Department to change its ways. He links to the petition from each crime. ‘Would you like to see more information about this crime? So would we!’ he asks.”
(click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – In the Age of Information, the Police Department Lags Behind – NYTimes.com.)
What is strange is that the local paper The Chicago Journal has a page of police reports written in English. I guess these are hand-crafted by Chicago Journal reporters? They are not as extensive, of course.
If you have a second, take the time to sign the EveryBlock petition.
Chicago Police Bomb Squad
As I hinted, I love Everyblock – I receive a daily email about my 8 block area, and another email1 that contains all news in a hand-crafted area of my own choosing, plus I subscribe to an RSS feed that covers similar ground, and have the EveryBlock iPhone app installed.
Neighborhood demarcations are like country borders, they are useful sometimes, but in real life, are less meaningful. When I walk around taking photos, there is an area that I usually stick to – about a mile in some directions, but it is not a geometrically perfect circle. I walk west to Ashland, but usually not beyond, walk south to maybe Jackson, or occasionally Van Buren, but not beyond, walk north to Chicago Avenue, along the Chicago River, but not west of Halsted, walk into the Loop proper, but not too far. In other words2 my personal stomping ground includes portions of 4 or 5 different neighborhoods, but to me, it feels like one. EveryBlock allows me to mark a map and then pulls information from this marked “personal” neighborhood3.
Anyway, I strongly agree with Mr. Holovaty that the Chicago Police should open up their data for EveryBlock, I don’t see the downside for CPD.
It’s one thing to know there was a $300 theft down the street; it’s another to read the police officer’s description. “Clearly, there’s a huge difference between a random break-in and, say, an ex-boyfriend breaking into an apartment to get his stuff,” Mr. Holovaty says.
We can get those details if we go to the police station. But the department won’t make descriptions available online. The end result is ignorance, possibly about the real dangers in a neighborhood. Lack of context can breed fear and needless anxiety.
Chicago is not alone in arguing that there are privacy concerns, notably names of victims, and what can be raw descriptions replete with misspellings. But Mr. Holovaty underscores that EveryBlock, as a matter of policy, does not run people’s names on any of its listings, be they crimes, real estate transactions or granting of business licenses.
Further, he says he could devise algorithmic solutions to dealing with privacy issues like bad spelling and raw language. But he meets resistance.
“The trend in the law is fairly robust when it comes to access for the public,” said Eve Burton, vice president and general counsel for the Hearst Corporation. “But the practice among those implementing the laws is less good, and media companies are no longer putting the time, energy and resources into being the watchdog of government.”
If government wanted to live up to its obligations, technology could make everything from crime reports to restaurant inspections available. But instead, the cat-and-mouse game will continue, with government preferring secrecy and the likes of Mr. Holovaty banging on doors, or at least their data servers.
A few interesting links collected March 2nd through March 6th:
- Rispondere al telefono in bicicletta costa caro, la multa di Milano – Foto | Polizia a Chicago, swanksalot by Flickr
- Ted Williams on Jim Bunning | Richard Adams | World news | guardian.co.uk – Ted Williams, when he was still playing, would psyche himself up for a game during batting practice, usually early practice before the fans or reporters got there…hen he’d say, “Here comes Jim Bunning. Jim fucking Bunning and that little shit slider of his.” Wham!
- “He doesn’t really think he’s gonna get me out with that shit.” Blam!
A former Chicago police officer convicted of a bar beating seen around the world violated his probation by failing a drug test last month, Cook County prosecutors alleged today.
Anthony Abbate, 41, tested positive last month for opiates, prosecutors said. Circuit Judge Arthur Hill Jr. set a hearing on the allegations for March 12. Prosecutors could seek to have him imprisoned for up to five years if the judge finds he violated his probation.
The burly Abbate was convicted in June of aggravated battery for the 2007 off-duty beating of Karolina Obrycka, a bartender at Jesse’s Short Stop Inn. The attack was caught on video and circulated on the Internet.
Jesus Reyes, acting head of the Cook County Adult Probation Department, said test results do not specify the type of opiate for which Abbate tested positive, but the test screens for opium, heroin, morphine, codeine and a number of medications.
[Click to continue reading Ex-cop in bar beating fails drug test, authorities say – Chicago Breaking News]
Abbate gives regular hard-working police a bad name, yet the Chicago justice system seems intent upon letting Abbate stand as a mascot for the CPD.