A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

The Chicago Police Department’s Watch List

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The Chicago Police Department (CPD), like seemingly every other government agency, has a watch list. And like every other government agency’s watch list, CPD’s contains names that don’t fit into its described scope:

Yet the list is far broader and more extensive than Johnson and other police officials have suggested. It includes more than 398,000 entries — encompassing everyone who has been arrested and fingerprinted in Chicago since 2013.

Nearly half of the people at the top of the list have never been arrested for illegal gun possession. About 13 percent have never been charged with any violent crime. And 20 of the 153 people deemed most at risk to be involved in violent crime, as victim or shooter, have never been arrested either for guns or violence.

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The police concluded the people who hadn’t been arrested for guns or violence were at great risk to commit a violent crime or become the victim of one — and, as a result, should be watched closely — because they:

  • Had been shot or assaulted.
  • Had been identified by the police as a gang member.
  • Or recently were arrested for any crime, even a nonviolent offense.

Watch lists are always advertised by government agencies as having names of suspected criminals. However, they always end up containing names of people that don’t fit the advertised criteria. This is why those of us who aren’t a bunch of statist bootlickers are so touchy about punishing people for having the misfortune of being placed on a government watch list.

If, for example, CPD’s Strategic Subject List was used to prohibit gun ownership (something gun control advocates want done for people appearing on federal terrorist watch lists), people would find their gun ownership privileges revoked because they were the victim of an assault.

Altering the Deal

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A judge in Georgia disagreed with a jury’s verdict and decided to punish the suspect in spite of the fact that he was found not guilty:

A black man who was found not guilty of armed robbery will still serve up to seven years behind bars after a judge ruled he had breached the rules of his probation sentence for another crime.

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The 24-year-old was already was serving a five year probation term (a court order served outside prison through fines and community service) for his first ever offence, breaking and entering an apartment to steal a television worth $120 (£92) in 2012.

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The following February, a judge decided it was likely he did commit the robbery and as a result Chatman was re-sentenced for the original crime of stealing a TV and ordered to serve 10-years behind bars, back dated to the day of the crime.

This is a major problem with a monopolistic justice system. The judge is obviously untrustworthy. He decided that he didn’t like the verdict of a jury so he decided to renege on a previous deal made between the courts and the suspect. But even with this information in hand it’s not possible for people in the judge’s jurisdiction to choose to not do business with him. The best they can hope for is that there are multiple judges in that jurisdiction so they have a chance of getting one who is more upstanding.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Hiding Public Records in the Private Sector

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Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, announced that it would give free body cameras and one year of online video storage to any department in the United States for one year. This seems like a phenomenal deal but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. The deal is meant to make Axon money and to please its biggest customers, the police:

But isn’t just video. Police agencies and local governments are using Evidence.com to store other evidence, too. Defense attorney Rick Horowitz recently put up a post about how in order to access discovery in a case, the district attorney told him to log on to the website. And in order to log on, Horowitz had to sign this user agreement:

You consent to Axon’s access and use of the Account Content in order to….improve Axon’s Products and Services. In addition, for content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP Content”), you specifically give us the following permission: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use any IP Content that you post on or in connection with the Services (IP License).

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Second, this isn’t just any public record. We’re talking about evidence in criminal investigations. To have that evidence stored on servers owned by a private company creates some bad incentives. The company’s primary client isn’t the public; it’s the police agency. And it’s primary interest isn’t just outcomes in courtrooms; it’s keeping the client happy. For example, the company might win favor with police agencies — for example, allowing officers to take certain liberties with body camera video in a way that keeps the courts or opposing attorneys in the dark.

Body cameras were sold as a tool for police accountability but it has become clear that they were meant to collect evidence that the State can use to prosecute more individuals. Axon’s primary customer is the State and therefore it is incentivized to help the State use body cameras to collect evidence against individuals while not allowing the footage to be used to hold police accountable.

People often wonder why the State empowered corporations so much. At one point I thought it was primarily a protection racket, the State offers corporations extra legal privileges in exchange for money. But now I’m starting to think that the primary purpose was so the State could conceal its dirty laundry from the public by hiding behind the shield of the private sector. Remember, the State has given you permission to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request against it but not against a private entity. So long as it can give a corporation the job of hiding information the State can rightfully say that it has no information pertaining to your FOIA request.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Coincidences Everywhere

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In 2013 it was revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has a propensity to stop and frisk minorities. How much of a propensity? In one precinct 98 percent of the people stopped and harassed by the police were minorities. I’m sure that was just a coincidence just like I’m sure that this is also just a coincidence:

Black and Hispanic kids accounted for 99% of all public school students handcuffed by NYPD school safety agents in crisis incidents in 2016, data published Monday shows.

A “child in crisis” incident is one where a student displaying signs of emotional distress is removed from the classroom and taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation.

In 2016, there were 262 child in crisis incidents where handcuffs were used, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which first reported the data — and all but three of those incidents, or 259, involved black or Latino children.

When I said that this was a coincidence I was being sarcastic but I know a lot of “tough on crime” people who would say that sincerely.

Racism is a collectivist idea and therefore incompatible with individualism (which is not to say that an individual can’t be racist, they certainly can, but by being racist they are necessarily being a collectivist) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the State, the greatest form of anti-individualist organization on Earth, has such a strong tendency to institutionalize racism. Even when it goes so far as to create laws against racism, the State manages to institutionalize racism in its actions.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Wonders of Late Stage Socialism

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Maduro has disarmed Venezuelans, armed his loyalists, and is now in the process of rounding up dissidents and trying them in secretive military courts:

Hundreds of Venezuelans arrested in the past week have been tried in secretive military courts, a new maneuver by the government of President Nicolas Maduro as he fights to retain his grip on power in the face of escalating political opposition and massive street protests.

Those taken into custody were charged with crimes including “rebellion” and “insulting authorities,” and some were sentenced within hours, according to civil-rights groups. Thousands of people have been detained across the country in recent months, with authorities rounding up politicians, activists, student leaders, even shoppers waiting in queues to buy food who made complaints police officers decided were out of line.

Yet more proof that Venezuela is experiencing late stage socialism.

Military courts usually come into play after a government has either fully cemented its power or see its power slipping away. In either case the government is motivated to eliminate all dissenters, which is difficult with drawn out public trials. It’s far more convenient to declare dissenters war criminals, whisk them away to a secret military court, and perform a quick show trail to get all of the paperwork in order (because governments are hopelessly addicted to paperwork), and either toss them in a labor camp for the rest of what will be their very short lives or simply execute them.

What Venezuela is experiencing is nothing new. It’s the way pretty much every socialist government has played out. Yet believers in socialism will be quick to claim that Venezuela isn’t real socialism because it didn’t lead to their mythical utopia.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Stories Change to Match the Facts

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There’s been yet another case of police using deadly force under very questionable circumstances. This incident happened in Texas and resulted in the death of a 15 year-old. While this incident isn’t unique here in the United Police States of America, it has offered us a look into how law enforcers will change the story to make it match the facts:

Jordan Edwards, 15, died after Officer Roy Oliver fired a rifle into a car that was driving away from a party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs.

Police initially said the car reversed “aggressively” towards the officer, but footage discredits that claim.

Police Chief Jonathan Haber said he “misspoke”.

Rules are for thee, not for me. When a suspect lies to a police officer they can be charged with a crime but when a police officer lies to the public they simply misspoke.

The officer in question has been fired but this too is a double standard. If you or I fire a rifle into a vehicle and kill the occupant we would most likely be charged with murder. However, when police officers do this they often suffer nothing more than having to take a forced paid vacation (called administrative leave in police parlance) or, in severe cases, losing their job. And even in the severe cases that result in an officer being fired their department is often strong armed into reinstating them by a police union.

Trust in the police is diminishing because of police actions and how the government responds to their actions. Stories like this where one officer steps in to defend another officer who obviously lied exacerbate the problem as does the fact that the officer in question hasn’t been charged after being caught in a lie.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Information Disparity

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Critics of capitalism often bring up information disparity. They claim that the consumer is at a significant disadvantage because they possess less information than the capitalists. I would give more validity to their point if their proposed solutions didn’t generally involve increasing information disparity. But these critics have a tendency of offering more government power, usually under the euphemism of oversight, as the solution to the information disparity problem. The fault with that solution is that there is an even greater amount of information disparity between governments and their subjects:

The growing covert culture is evident across the country. The New York Police Department has fought in court to hide the details of its fleet of unmarked X-ray vans that can see through buildings and cars. The FBI amassed a facial identification database that now includes 117 million individuals and used it for years without publishing a privacy assessment required by law, the U.S. House Oversight Committee reported in March.

“The transparency is still radically insufficient,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, who has studied police technology.

Levinson-Waldman said much of the change is driven by influential private companies that develop and market ever-more-powerful technology.

In Burnsville, Police Chief Eric Gieseke presides over a department that was among the first in the nation to deploy body cameras. The department’s servers now hold more than 93,000 videos. Almost of them are off-limits to the public, because of a separate 2016 state law that determined that the threat to personal privacy outweighed the benefits of seeing everything a police officer sees.

The State exists on information disparity. It wants to know everything about you while telling you nothing about itself. This is why information about new government surveillance technology and programs generally come to light through leaks, not through disclosure by the government. It is also why the government fights any attempt to reveal further information after knowledge of what it’s doing becomes public.

Body cameras are an excellent illustration of this point. More people have been demanding that police wear body cameras because they believe body cameras will keep both the police and the people they interact with more honest. However, the laws surrounding how body camera footage is handled is trending towards allowing the footage to be used to prosecute people but not being available to the public. In this way body cameras have become yet another source of information disparity. Law enforcers can use the data to prosecute the people but the people cannot use the data to hold enforcers accountable.

Information disparity cannot be solved by increasing it. Any solution to the problem of information disparity that involves government will only exacerbate the problem.

Late Stage Socialism

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Witnessing late stage socialism is always painful. It starts with a rapid decrease in the average quality of life. A first this means larger consumer products, such as televisions, are more difficult to acquire. But soon even basic products like toilet paper and eventually food become scarce. Then the very government that caused the crisis scrambles to maintain its power by whatever means are necessary. Venezuela is currently experiencing late stage socialism and its president is doing everything he can to solidify his power:

Speaking at a May Day rally, Mr Maduro said a new constitution was needed “to restore peace” and stop the opposition from carrying out a “coup d’etat”.

He decreed that a citizens’ assembly be convened to write the new document.

Opposition leaders said the move was aimed at neutralising the opposition-led legislature, the National Assembly.

How many times have we seen this tragedy play out in our lifetimes? Yet most people seem unwilling to accept that centralized power is bad.

At this rate I’m not sure whether Maduro will abolish all governmental opposition to his power or the people will have his head in a guillotine first.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 2nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Who Will Protect Us from the State

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Statists always ask, in the absence of government who will protect us? I want to know, in the presences of government who will protect us? The State commits murder on a massive scale but it also finds time to murder little guys as well. Consider the case of Terrill Thomas. He ended up in jail because of an undiagnosed mental illness. His kidnappers then turned the water off to his cell and let him slowly die of dehydration over the next eight days:

Terrill Thomas spent seven straight days holed up in a solitary confinement cell with no running water, slowly withering away.

Thomas started the weeklong stretch at the Milwaukee County Jail belligerent and loud, the result of an untreated mental illness, prosecutors said. But as the days wore on, he grew weak and dehydrated. He lost nearly 35 pounds and turned quiet, never asking for or receiving medical attention.

Barely two hours into his eighth day in solitary, jail staff found Thomas, 38, dead on his jail cell floor, the result of profound dehydration.

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In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley said surveillance videos show three corrections officers cut off the water in Thomas’ cell – a disciplinary measure after Thomas flooded another cell – and never turned it back on. The same officers never documented the water cutoff or notified supervisors, leaving fellow corrections officers in the dark.

Based on the history of how these kinds of incidents are handled, the officers who cut off the water probably won’t face any real disciplinary action. If there is a trial, the officers might receive a paid vacation for the duration of the trail. If they’re found guilty, they might even be fired. But then their union representative will step in and strong arm the prison into reinstating them.

And people wonder why I have no faith in government.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 26th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Snapping Up Everything of Value

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The collapse of Venezuela continues unimpeded. A couple days ago the Venezuelan government announced that it was arming loyalists, likely in expectation of massive civil unrest. Yesterday that same government decided to seize an automobile plant from General Motors:

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”

The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.

Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.

This isn’t surprisingly. Only a fool would believe that the Venezuelan regime can be propped up much longer. Since the Maduro and his cronies don’t come off as fools, they’re probably preparing for the collapse of their regime. A lot of historical rulers when put in the same position started grabbing anything of wealth they could so they could enrich themselves before fleeing the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro seizes more valuable production facilities so he can sell off the assets to enlarge his bank account so he has a comfortable nest egg for his eventual escape.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am