A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

When Being Arrested is Enough to Land You in Prison

without comments

A man is currently sitting in prison because he was arrested. Mind you, he wasn’t found guilty of anything but being arrested violated a condition of his parole so he’s not rotting in a cage again:

In March 2016, a year after Smith’s arrest, prosecutors dismissed the other charge against Smith — the drug crime — after the man who claimed the package of pot pleaded guilty, court records show.

“Your case is dismissed,” a judge told Smith, according to the transcript. “That’s the end of that, so, for you.”

The problem: Smith’s arrest was a violation of his parole. Such violations can send him back to prison. It doesn’t matter that the charges were dropped. And the ultimate arbiter of whether Smith violated his parole isn’t the judge or prosecutor, but the Tennessee Board of Parole. And that group of seven people, all appointed by the governor, has decided to keep Smith in prison.

Just another day in the freest country on Earth.

The whole point of parole (ideally, not in practice though) is to release individuals who haven’t demonstrated themselves to be dangerous on the condition that they behave themselves. However, including the stipulation that a parolee avoid being arrested takes control away from them because, as we all know, a law enforcer can arrest you for any damned reason they please. As the old saying goes, you might avoid the charge but you won’t avoid the ride.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 22nd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Minneapolis Police Not Using Body Cameras

with one comment

The City of Minneapolis spent millions of dollars to equip its law enforcers with body cameras. It also created a policy of when its law enforcers are supposed to turn their body cameras on. That policy lacked any real consequences for officers who didn’t follow it. In an absolutely shocking turn of events, it turns out that Minneapolis law enforcers are willing to suffer the lack of consequences for not following the city’s policy:

Minneapolis police officers frequently fail to turn on their body-worn cameras, a City Council member said Monday, a day before the release of an audit detailing their use.

That was among findings of a two-month examination of the department’s body camera program, said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who reviewed the report over the weekend. It shows that most of the problems stem from a lack of accountability for officers who don’t activate their cameras when responding to calls or turn them off without explanation, she said.

“There’s some people who never have it on,” said Palmisano. “This is a very expensive program, and there isn’t oversight of this, and there isn’t governance.”

This is what happens when you put the foxes in charge of holding themselves accountable to the chickens. Body cameras have the potential to catch police officers behaving badly but that potential will remains unrealized so long as the officers wearing them get to decide when to turn them on. I feel pretty safe in saying that policy changes won’t make any difference. There is too much precedence for law enforcers disobeying policies and getting away with it.

Until the decision of when to turn on body cameras and control over any recorded video is taken away from law enforcers, those cameras will only serve to collect evidence against individuals who law enforcers want to see prosecuted.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Just a Few Purges Away from Utopia

without comments

Comrades, I have great news from the front line of the war against capitalism! Our glorious leader, President Nicolás Maduro, has seized control of the government of Venezuela and is now using his power to purge the counterrevolutionaries from that most prosperous of countries:

Venezuela’s new constituent assembly has unanimously voted to put opposition leaders on trial for treason.

The assembly said it would pursue those it accuses of supporting US economic sanctions against the country.

I’m sure this will fix Venezuela’s failed economy. Once the purges are complete food will return to the tables of Venezuelans, toilet paper will appear on store shelves again, and utopia will rise from the ashes. Socialism, after all, is always just a few purges away from bringing prosperity and equality to all.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 31st, 2017 at 10:30 am

There’s No Honor Among Thieves

without comments

There’s no honor among thieves so this story shouldn’t surprise anybody:

Apparently, nobody’s exempt from the CIA’s intelligence gathering, not even its own intelligence partners. According to a set of documents published by WikiLeaks, the CIA uses a tool called “ExpressLane” that hides behind a fake software update to collect information from agencies around the world that use its biometric collection system. In the US, the list includes fellow government agencies like the FBI, the NSA and Homeland Security. These partners are supposed to share data with the CIA, but clearly, the intelligence service wants to make sure they’re not keeping anything from the agency.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are all tasked with spying. In the case of the FBI, it is tasked with spying on domestic individuals. Both the NSA and CIA are supposed to spy on foreign individuals but they always seem to get caught spying on domestic individuals as well. Since those two agencies are willing to violate the rules that are supposed to govern their behavior, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that they’re both violating those rules by spying on each other.

Now the question is, what will happen with this revelation? Will Congress hold a hearing and punish the CIA for surveilling other agencies? It’s a possibility since the State generally doesn’t take transgressions against it kindly. Then again, Congress has been happy to stand idly by as agencies within the executive branch violate every rule written to govern their power. And since the CIA is spying on everybody, it’s quite possible that the agency has some good dirt on some of the members of Congress (and if you’ve read anything on the history of the CIA, you know that the agency wouldn’t be above using blackmail against members of Congress). If Congress ignores this transgression like it has ignored the NSA’s transgressions, it will further embolden government agencies to violate further rules governing their behavior and the vicious cycle will continue on its merry way.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 29th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The People Who Count the Votes Decide Everything

without comments

Venezuela’s election has come and gone. Joseph Stalin, another great socialist leader, is often attributed to say, “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” That attitude appears to have been adopted by Venezuela’s great socialist leader, Nicolas Maduro:

The company that has provided voting machines and software for Venezuela’s elections for more than a decade said that turnout figures for Sunday’s vote to elect an assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution were overstated.

“Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turnout of the recent election for a national constituent assembly was manipulated,” Antonio Mugica, Smartmatic’s chief executive officer, told reporters in London. “This would not have occurred if the auditors of all political parties had been present at the different stages of the election.”

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council held the widely criticized vote over the weekend and claimed about 8.1 million people participated. The opposition alliance and private polling companies said turnout was less than half that.

Proponents of socialism can now claim that they enjoy the support of the people. While their opponents may point out that they don’t actually enjoy the support of the people, but merely the support of imaginary voters, it won’t matter because they’ll be liquidated soon enough. Meanwhile, Venezuela will have a new constitution that will almost certainly cement the power of the country’s socialist party, which will only make conditions deteriorate faster.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Yet Another Isolated Incident

with 3 comments

Cop apologists love to refer to bad cops as isolated incidents. But for being isolated there are an awful lot of them:

Maryland prosecutors have tossed 34 criminal cases and are re-examining dozens more in the aftermath of recent revelations that a Baltimore police officer accidentally recorded himself planting drugs in a trash-strewn alley.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that, in all, 123 cases are under review in the wake of a scandal in which one officer has been suspended and two others put on administrative duty. Body cam footage revealed nearly two weeks ago showed one of the officers planting drugs when he didn’t realize his body cam was recording. The Baltimore Police Department’s body cams, like many across the nation, capture footage 30 seconds before an officer presses the record button. The footage was turned over to defense attorneys as part of a drug prosecution—and that’s when the misdeed was uncovered.

I can see why the two officers involved in the murder of Justine Ruszczyk left their body cameras off. Being absent minded about those devices can lead to a paid vacation and, I’m sure, a stern talking to about camera etiquette (i.e. being smart enough to turn it off if you’re going to do something that makes the department look bad).

While it’s nice that one dirty cop was caught this incident will ensure that the rest of the thin blue line is aware of the fact that their cameras record everything that happened 30 seconds before pressing the record button. Being aware of the feature will ensure that they work around it when breaking the law in the future. Furthermore, even when caught on camera planting evidence the officer is enjoying a paid vacation instead of being in jail like you or I would be. That alone should seriously piss people off but few people seem to care.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 1st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Retroactive Justice

with 2 comments

After Castile was murdered the State went through his and his girlfriend’s social media records with a find toothed comb. Ultimately, as we learned during the Yanez trial, the defense wanted information to use to assassinate the characters of Castile and his girlfriend during the trial. This was a form of retroactive justice. The crime, the shooting of Castile, was justified by going through the victim’s history to find dirt to use against him. Although the murderer had know way of knowing any of the discovered information at the time of the crime it still allowed his defense to poison the well so to speak.

History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was granted permission to search the home of Justine Ruszczyk, the woman murdered by Officer Noor:

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators were granted permission to search Justine Damond’s home hours after she was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer, according to court records.

A criminal law expert can’t understand why.

“I don’t understand why they’re looking for bodily fluids inside her home,” said Joseph Daly, an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, referring to one of two recently-released search warrant applications.

[…]

According to court documents, investigators applied for the warrant on the following grounds:

  • The property or things above-described was used as a means of committing a crime
  • The possession of the property or things above-described constitutes a crime.
  • The property or things above-described is in the possession of a person with intent to use such property as a means of committing a crime, or the property or things so intended to be used are in the possession of another to whom they have been delivered for the purpose of concealing them or preventing their being discovered.
  • The property or things above-described constitutes evidence which tends to show a crime has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed a crime.

Professor Mitchell doesn’t understand what the BCA is looking for because he’s look at the warrant through the lens of justice, not he lens of retroactively justifying a murder. The search warrant was issued in the hopes of finding dirt on Justine. With dirt in hand Officer Noor’s actions can either be written off as justified outright or, if the case goes to trial, justified to a jury by assassinating the character of Justine and anybody connected to her.

Actions like this will continue to widen the rift that already exists between the public and law enforcers. Unfortunately, I see no signs that law enforcers or their employers care. If they cared about such things, they would have taken steps to reprimand the bad actors in their departments early on. Instead they’ve either stood aside or directly assisted in shielding those bad actors from consequences. With this being the situation I feel justified in saying that The United States is already beyond the point where law enforcement can be reformed.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Your Internet Sucks Because of Government

without comments

When it comes to Internet access parts of the United States often feel like a third world country. If you live in a small town you may be lucky if you can even get digital subscriber line (DSL) service. Those living in larger cities often have access to high speed cable Internet but that is far from the blazing fast fiber connections that people in other parts of the world and a handful of lucky denizens in the United States enjoy. But why does Internet access in the United States suck? Is it due to a failure of capitalism or market forces? No. As it turns out, the reason Internet access sucks in the United States is the same reason so many things suck, government:

Deploying broadband infrastructure isn’t as simple as merely laying wires underground: that’s the easy part. The hard part — and the reason it often doesn’t happen — is the pre-deployment barriers, which local governments and public utilities make unnecessarily expensive and difficult.

Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned “rights of way” so they can place their wires above and below both public and private property. ISPs also need “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities so they can rent space on utility poles for above-ground wires, or in ducts and conduits for wires laid underground.

The problem? Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction.

So the real bottleneck isn’t incumbent providers of broadband, but incumbent providers of rights-of-way. These incumbents — the real monopolists — also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.

Starting an Internet service provider (ISP) or expanding an existing one normally wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Digging trenches and laying cable isn’t exactly rocket science nor is it exorbitant expensive. But receiving permission from municipal governments and their utility companies doesn’t come cheap because they have a monopoly.

If a free market existed in utility provision, ISPs would be able to negotiate cheaper right-of-way agreements when they were needed because most companies would be happy to receive a little extra for letting an ISP utilize already existing infrastructure. And if one utility company didn’t want to lease the use of its infrastructure, an ISP could negotiate a contract with one of that company’s competitors. Another possibility under a free market would be utility companies not even bothering to build infrastructure but leasing the use of infrastructure built by companies that specialize in building and leasing it to utility providers, including ISPs.

However, many municipal governments have granted themselves a monopoly on both utilities and the infrastructure. Without any competition these municipal governments can charge ISPs whatever they want for access to their infrastructure. This ends up hurting the people living in the municipality but municipal governments, like all governments, don’t care about the people they claim dominion over.

If Americans want better Internet they need to either take control of their municipal governments’ infrastructure (which was built with money stolen from taxpayers anyways) or bypass it entirely.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

without comments

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Somebody calls the police to report a potential crime and the police arrive and shoot the person who called them while their body cameras were mysteriously turned off:

Minneapolis police responded to a call of a possible assault. At some point, a weapon was fired and a woman fatally shot. The BCA is now in charge of the investigation. They say the officers involved had body cameras, but they were not turned on.

Last year the City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip the officers in its department with body cameras. This was done in an attempt to restore some of the public’s trust in the department after its officers were involved in a serious of very questionable shootings. Here we are over a year later and that $4 million investment has been entirely wasted since when incidents like this happen body cameras are turned off for some inexplicable reason.

Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), as far as I know, has no policy in place for punishing officers who don’t turn on their body cameras (and if the department does it obviously doesn’t enforce it), which means these officers probably won’t receive any discipline. Moreover, the officers involved will probably say the magical words, “We feared for our lives,” which will ensure that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) absolves them of any wrongdoing.

The only way body cameras can be useful is if departments implement policies that severely discipline officers for using nonfunctional (which would have to cover everything from the body cameras not being turned on to the batteries dying partway through a shift) body camera while on duty. So long as an officer can turn their camera off at will without repercussions they will only serve the purpose of collecting evidence against those who the police interact with. But I’ve said all of this before and I’m sure I’ll have to continue saying it until the day I die.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Mistaken Identity

without comments

It’s a day ending in “y” so there must be another “isolated incident” where one of the “rare” bad apples in law enforcement performs a heinous act. Today’s heinous act involves a case of mistaken identity. Officers were searching for a 25 to 30-year-old 5′ 10″ tall 170 pound black male. When they came across a 19-year-old 5′ 2″ tall 115 pound black girl they mistook her for the suspect and served and protected the shit out of her:

On the day Tatyana Hargrove rode her bike to try to buy her dad a Father’s Day gift, temperatures in Bakersfield, Calif., had reached triple digits, so she stopped on the way home to take a drink of water in the shade.

The 19-year-old girl turned around at the intersection where she had paused and noticed three police cars. One of the officers, she said, had already drawn his gun.

What followed, according to both Hargrove and police, was a case of mistaken identity and an altercation in which police punched Hargrove in the mouth, unleashed a police K-9 dog on her and arrested her. Though the incident took place June 18, it gained wider attention this week after the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP shared a video of Hargrove’s account on its Facebook page that garnered millions of views.

On the day police stopped Hargrove, officers had been looking for a suspect — described as a 25- to 30-year-old, bald black man standing 5-foot-10 and weighing about 170 pounds — who had threatened several people with a machete at a nearby grocery store, according to a police report.

She was black, the suspect was black, and they all look alike, right? According to these fine officers that must be the case but I’d bet money most of us lowly untrained civilians would be able to tell the difference immediately.

Had the arrest not been captured on video it’s likely that this entire incident would have disappeared down a memory hole. Since this was caught on video though it means that there will likely be an internal investigation that will find that the officers followed their training and are therefore innocent of all wrongdoing. But to show how benevolent it is, the department will likely be willing to drop the charges against the girl (as is often the case, the girl was charged for “resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault” even though the officers delayed themselves by assaulting her instead of continuing their search for the suspect). With that said, there is a chance that the officers involved will be fired from the department… only to be reinstated when their union strong arms the department into doing so. There might even be a jury trial where the prosecutor brings the most difficult to prove charges they can against the officers, evidence is withheld from the jury, and the jury is given instructions on how to rule based on the letter of a law written in such a way that an officer cannot be charged under it.

You know, when I put it that way, it really sounds like we live in a police state. Weird.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am