A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Useless Body Cameras

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The City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip its law enforcers with body cameras. You might think that Minneapolis invested that money to hold its officers accountable but you would be wrong:

The Minneapolis Police Department is not tracking whether all officers are routinely activating body cameras and has not fully staffed the office tasked with reviewing body camera footage, despite the City Council’s directing it to do so last fall.

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Deputy Chief Henry Halvorson told the council last week that such a comprehensive report would be too labor-intensive. Someone has to check several databases and watch the video to decide whether each officer followed department policy, he said. Instead, Halvorson said, the police will analyze 2 percent of officers’ body camera usage for each quarterly audit starting in the second quarter.

Mr. Halvorson’s excuse is pathetic. There is no need to manually watch all of the footage collected by an officer’s body camera to know whether or not they used it. The camera should create a record every time it is turned on or off. If the records shows that an officer didn’t turn their body camera on or turned it off during their shift, inquiries should be made. The technical solution is dead simple and requires almost no additional manual labor.

But body cameras aren’t about holding law enforcers accountable. If that were the case, Bob Kroll and his police union buddies would stopped their adoption. What body cameras are about is collecting evidence that a law enforcer can use against you in court. Since nobody is reprimanding officers for failing to keep their body camera on, they can turn it off while they’re executing an unarmed black man then turn it back on when they’re arresting somebody for possession of pot.

Minneapolis’ body camera program demonstrates once again that any solution offered by a government body will only benefit that body.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

The States has Decided to Keep Its Political Prisoner

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Anybody who paid attention to the trial of Ross Ulbricht knows that he was railroaded. The judge ruled his defense inadmissible. Then when several officers involved with hunting down Ulbricht were found to have been corrupt, thus bringing the validity of any claims they made during the trial into question, but new trial was called. Ulbricht’s lawyer has continued to push for a new trial despite these setbacks. Unfortunately, it looks like the State will keep its political prisoner:

The federal judge overseeing the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of creating the underground Silk Road drug website, has denied the Ulbricht legal team’s attempt to extend the normal three-year window for “post-conviction relief.” In essence, the move stifles Ulbricht’s new attorney’s extraordinary effort to re-open the case with new exculpatory evidence, on the off-chance that it exists.

Don’t forget that all of this was done because of a fucking website. Ulbricht was never charged with manufacturing, selling, or distributing any illegal substances. The only thing he was guilty of was running a website. But the State needed to make an example out of somebody and Ulbricht was the person it could get.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Just More Heroes Doing Hero Things

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For the life of me I can’t figure out why our heroes in blue have such a dismal reputation:

BALTIMORE — The officers’ job during some of the bloodiest years in Baltimore was to get guns off the streets.

Instead, they plundered money, jewelry, drugs and weapons and gouged the cash-strapped city for overtime and hours they never worked, according to their own admissions and testimony in ongoing criminal cases.

Over the past four years, some members of the Gun Trace Task Force stole more than $300,000, at least three kilos of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin and hundreds of thousands of dollars in watches from suspected drug dealers and civilians, according to officers’ plea agreements and statements in federal court.

They admit to putting illegal trackers on the cars of suspected dealers so they could rob their homes and sell off any drugs and guns they found.

This sounds an awful lot like the Minneapolis Gang Strike Force. In both cases officers were assigned to specific duties and used their newfound positions of authority to rob people left and right. Moreover, it appears as though the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force followed in the footsteps of the Minneapolis Gang Strike Force in that it committed so many crimes that they could no longer be effectively swept under the rug.

I’m sure Minneapolis and Baltimore aren’t unique. After all, what else could be expected of a group of officers given tremendous powers, in addition to the tremendous powers they already have, and almost no oversight? Such an environment is custom made for corrupt behavior.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 9th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Pretending to Do Something

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There is never a shortage of government busybodies when something has to be done and people have been demanding that something be done in response to the Las Vegas shooting. So the law enforcers in Mesa, Arizona have answered those demands by arresting and charing an individual show the shooter purchased ammunition from:

U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Authorities have charged Douglas Haig, 55, of Mesa Arizona with selling “armor-piercing ammunition” to Las Vegas killer Stephen Paddock according to court documents acquired by the Associated Press. Haig works full time as an aerospace engineer and part-time as a manufacturer of reloaded ammunition.

This would be like arresting the head of Ford in response to somebody using an F-150 to run down a group of people. Haig made a product and sold it. After that he ceased to have control over it and therefore ceased to be responsible for it. But that doesn’t matter because the government wants to show the world that it’s doing something in response to the shooting.

The lack of Haig’s involvement with the crime doesn’t matter as illustrated by the charges against him. He’s not be charged with anything relating to the shooting. Instead he’s being charged with violating an unrelated regulation against manufacturing “armor piercing” ammunition (which, itself, is a nonsensical legal definition) without a license. Since none of the Las Vegas shooter’s victims were wearing body armor, the ability for the ammunition he used to penetrate body armor is irrelevant (and that’s not what the legal definition of “armor piecing” is even based on). But the arrest gives the law enforcers something to show the public and that’s all that matters.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2018 at 10:30 am

War Is Good for Business

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Yesterday I posted about my theory that the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan aren’t meant to be won, they’re meant to grind of perpetually in order to enrich the military-industrial complex. Less you think I’m a complete wonk I would like to take a moment to point out that war is good for business:

As Donald Trump might put it, major weapons contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin cashed in “bigly” in his first year in office. They raked in tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts, while posting sharp stock price increases and healthy profits driven by the continuation and expansion of Washington’s post-9/11 wars. But last year’s bonanza is likely to be no more than a down payment on even better days to come for the military-industrial complex.

The nice thing about being a policy maker is that you’re in a position to make a great deal of money when your policies are enacted. If, for example, you plan to wage a perpetual war, you can invest in military contractors before you announce your policy. After you announce your policy, you can enjoy significant profits at the stock prices of those companies skyrockets. Moreover, you can buy more stock if you plan to announce a policy of increasing the war effort.

This is one of the reason political offices are magnets to corrupt individuals. It’s also one of the reasons why political reform is impossible. Do you think somebody in a position to make significant profits is going to willingly curtail their own power and thus harm their profits? Of course not.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 2nd, 2018 at 10:30 am

The NSA Has Become More Honest and Open

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Believe it or not, the National Security Agency (NSA) has a set of core values. Those values are little more than doublespeak but the NSA has finally decided to be a bit more honest and open about its intentions:

Since at least May 2016, the surveillance agency had featured honesty as the first of four “core values” listed on NSA.gov, alongside “respect for the law,” “integrity,” and “transparency.” The agency vowed on the site to “be truthful with each other.”

On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page – which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive – and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agency’s new top value is “commitment to service,” which it says means “excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”

This reminds me of a picture I saw of a homeless guy holding up a sign that read something along the lines of, “I need money for booze and cigarettes. Hey, at least I’m not bullshitting you.” By removing honesty and truthfulness from its core values, the NSA has ceased bullshitting us as much. While that doesn’t help us plebs who are being constantly surveilled by the agency, we at least have a better idea of what we’re getting.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 26th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Getting Away with Murder

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Yesterday Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Officer Noor will be getting away with murder:

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has convened a grand jury to compel testimony and gather evidence in the July 2017 officer involved shooting death of Justine Damond.

For those wondering why I’m so sure Officer Noor won’t be charged it’s because grand juries have an extremely strong tendency to side with officers and that’s because grand juries are designed to intimidate jurors into siding with officers. Grand juries are usually just officious rituals tacked onto the act of dismissing charges against an officer.

Another point of interest in this decision is that it goes against one of Freeman’s previously made promise:

In recent years, Freeman has said he would no longer use grand juries to decide whether officers would be charged in police shootings, saying he would make those decisions himself to provide more accountability and transparency.

I understand that Freeman is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand he’s an employee of Hennepin County. As a government employee he has a conflict of interest. Officer Noor, like himself, is also a government employee and government employees are supposed to have each other’s backs. But if Freeman just declared Noor innocent there would likely be civil unrest. By reneging on his promise he can effectively let Noor off while claiming he did the best that he could but the decision was in the hands of a grand jury.

Welcome to the United States of America, the freest country on Earth… if you have a badge.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 25th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Prosecutors are Scum

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If one mindlessly accepts the bullshit fed to them by public schools and other government propaganda departments, they believe that governments exist to protect the people by ensuring justice is served. After even a minor amount of analysis though one is left realizing that the purpose of government is to rob wealth from the masses. A good example of this is how government approaches justice.

For justice to be served there must first be a crime. A crime necessarily involves a victim. The government gets around this by espousing a nonsense belief that society, a concept that exists solely in our imaginations, can be a victim. It uses this belief to charge people with victimless crimes such as being in possession of a plant or firearm that has been arbitrarily declared verboten. Another factor that must exist for justice to be served is that only a person guilty of a crime is punished for it. Prosectors, however, are primarily concerned with conviction rates, not justice:

Prosecutors are supposed to disclose any information they uncover that might help the defense. But enforcing that obligation — and punishing those who ignore it — has been no easy task. After Mr. Thompson was freed, he won a $14 million judgment, only to have the Supreme Court reverse the award in 2011, ruling that prosecutors can be held financially liable only if they are shown to have a pattern of unethical behavior. He received nothing.

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This time, lawyers for Mr. Jones and experts at the Innocence Project have pored over court records to compile evidence of a pattern.

“This was a galling disregard for the constitutional rights of defendants,” said Michael L. Banks, a lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. “From the top of this office, there was a culture of winning. And winning meant getting convictions. And that’s why there’s such a striking pattern of wrongful convictions.”

Once again we see the redundancies built into the government to protect its power. Withholding evidence from the defense is supposed to be a crime itself but the Supreme Court ruled that it’s only a crime if there is a pattern of such behavior. What constitutes a pattern? Who knows. But it ensures that yet another barrier exists between corrupt prosecutors (a redundant term) and their victims so business can continue as usual. And that’s the way government works.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 25th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Politicians Can Shut Slaves Up

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Can a politician have you silenced for talking to them? That’s one of the cases the Supreme Court is taking up:

If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow?

Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one dug up after the fact—does that make her arrest constitutional?

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But the struggle was far from over. His original lawsuit against the city had alleged a violation of Florida’s open-meetings law. State authorities sent law enforcement agents to interview council members about those charges. The elected officials were so infuriated that, as one said on the record in a private 2006 meeting, they decided to “intimidate” Lozman and other critics “so that they can feel the same kind of unwarranted heat that we are feeling.” A few months later, Lozman went to the microphone during open comment time at a City Council meeting; but when he mentioned “public corruption” in Palm Beach County (where the city is located), the presiding council member ordered a police officer to arrest him.

He was charged with “disorderly conduct” and “resisting arrest without violence,” but the local prosecutor dropped the charges, saying in essence that no reasonable person would believe them. Lozman then brought a federal lawsuit against the city for “First Amendment retaliation.” A federal judge agreed that Lozman had “compelling” evidence that he’d been arrested as punishment for his protected speech. But the judge then threw out the case, reasoning that he actually could have been charged with the obscure state offense of “willfully interrupt[ing] or disturb[ing] any school or any assembly of people met for the worship of God or for any lawful purpose.”

What this meant, the court decided, was that the officer who arrested Lozman would have had “probable cause” (a reasonable basis to believe a crime had been committed) to arrest him if he had known about “assembly of people” statute and wanted to enforce it. The fact that the officer didn’t know about it was irrelevant—and so was the city’s unconstitutional motive. As long as an officer could have arrested Lozman for something, in other words, the retaliatory motive didn’t matter. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed: The existence of probable cause for any offense is an “absolute bar” to a suit for retaliatory arrest, it said.

Spoiler alert, they can (probably).

The ramifications of this case will be interesting. If the Supreme Court rules the intimidating tactics used by politicians are constitutional, then expressing dissenting opinions at public meetings will be a offense that can lead to arrest. It might not result in charges but it will give politicians throughout the entire country the ability to have annoyances removed and therefore create the illusion that their decisions are unanimously supported by the public.

The actions of the officer who arrested Lozman are also noteworthy. Lozman’s case was thrown out because the judge decided that an arrest is lawful so long as there is some law that the arrestee could be charged with (even if the officer is entirely ignorant of that law). With the mind boggling number of laws on the books, most of us are unknowingly in violation of some law at any given moment of the day. Under the judge’s criteria pretty much any arrest is a lawful arrest. Such power would effectively grant politicians to have anybody arrested at anytime without consequence.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Rules of Evidence Don’t Apply

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The legal system of the United States has a concept of admissible and inadmissible evidence. If, for example, a prosecutor uses evidence that was acquired illegally, it is supposed to be thrown out. However, this concept like most concepts developed to protect defendants is little more than a fairytale told by politicians, judges, and law enforcers to create the illusion of legitimacy in the minds’ of the masses. In reality there are a lot of options for those who wish to submit “inadmissible” evidence. Parallel construction is one such option:

The Special Operations Division receives raw intelligence from the NSA’s surveillance programs, including from the mass surveillance programs revealed in documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. DEA agents in this unit then analyze the surveillance data and disseminate leads to federal and local police nationwide. But the information comes with a catch. Law enforcement can’t use it to secure search warrants or in any way reveal the intelligence community as the source of their leads. Instead, they must find another way to justify their searches and broader investigations.

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The convoluted and secretive process of building a case to obscure the use of underlying intelligence, known as “parallel construction,” is meant to protect the intelligence community’s sources and methods, according to internal DEA documents. It also often deprives the accused of a fair shot at defending themselves in court because some of the evidence against them is not made public.

If a domestic law enforcement agency is given evidence by the National Security Agency (NSA), it’s not supposed to be able to use it because the NSA is supposed to be prohibited from spying on American citizens. So when the NSA finds evidence that is of interest to a domestic agency, it gives the agency the evidence and orders them to make up a story about how it was uncovered by the agency’s personnel. The agency then works in reverse. It creates a story about how it discovered the evidence. After charges have been filed the defendant has no knowledge of the NSA’s involvement and therefore can put up a meaningful defense.

You may get your day in court but does it really matter when the court is rigged to favor the prosecution?

Written by Christopher Burg

January 12th, 2018 at 10:30 am