A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Law and Disorder’ tag

Romanes Eunt Domus

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A United States court decided that one cannot consent to a cop who is conversing with you through a commonly unserviceable translation utility:

Imagine you’re driving in a foreign country and a police officer stops you on the road. You don’t speak the cop’s language and they don’t speak yours, so a halting exchange ensues using a laptop and Google Translate. You’re not always sure what the officer is asking, and you end up agreeing to something you didn’t quite understand, and are arrested.

Translating human language is difficult, which is why it still remains a common target for satire. Anybody who has used Google Translate for a language about which they’re even moderately knowledgeable knows that it has severe limitations. While it can oftentimes provide you the gist of whatever is being translated, it’s a far cry from accurate. If you want to see this in action, translate something from one language to another then take the result and translate it back to the original language. The meaning may be preserved the first time, although even that’s unlikely, but if you keep doing this for a few iterations you’ll end up with some hilarious nonsensical arrangement of letters.

Needless to say, if a cop is using Google Translate to communicate that they’re arresting you, you have abundant evidence with which to argue that you had no idea what the officer was trying to communicate to you.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 19th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Just Drug ‘Em

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The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) can’t keep itself away from controversy. Fortunately, the latest controversy doesn’t involve another unarmed person being gunned down. Instead it involves people being drugged against their will, oftentimes without any crimes being committed:

Minneapolis police officers have repeatedly requested over the past three years that Hennepin County medical responders sedate people using the powerful tranquilizer ketamine, at times over the protests of those being drugged, and in some cases when no apparent crime was committed, a city report shows.

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The number of documented ketamine injections during Minneapolis police calls increased from three in 2012 to 62 last year, the report found, including four uses on the same person. On May 18, around the time the draft report was completed, Minneapolis police Cmdr. Todd Sauvageau issued a departmental order saying that officers “shall never suggest or demand EMS Personnel ‘sedated’ a subject. This is a decision that needs to be clearly made by EMS Personnel, not MPD Officers.”

This story involves two groups of bad actors. The first group is the usual suspects, MPD officers. The second group are the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel who administer the drugs simply because an MPD officer asked them.

Not surprisingly, both MPD and the EMS people involved have issued statements that absolve themselves of responsibility. MPD at least tried to smooth things over by announced that it has put a new policy in place. While new department policies seldom change actual behavior, it’s a step better than the shut up slaves statement given by Hennepin EMS Medical Director Jeffrey Ho:

The draft report prompted sharply different reactions among local officials. A statement included in the report from Hennepin EMS Medical Director Jeffrey Ho and Minnesota Poison Control System Medical Director Jon Cole dismissed the findings of the report as a “reckless use of anecdotes and partial snapshots of interactions with police, and incomplete information and statistics to draw uninformed and incorrect conclusions.”

“This draft report will prevent the saving of lives by promoting the concept of allowing people to exhaust themselves to death,” Cole and Ho wrote.

Pro tip: if you’re going to claim that a report is based on anecdotal and partial information and are in a position to provide the information that supports your claim, you should release that information. Failing to do so makes it look like your statement is nothing more than an attempt to cover your ass.

The fact that MPD requested the sedation of a subject isn’t the real red flag of this story. There are circumstances where sedating somebody is the best option for everybody involved, including the suspect. However, the rapid increase in the number of sedations is a red flag. Going from three in 2012 to 62 in 2017 is a drastic increase in just five years. Statements from officials and policy changes aren’t going to answer the important question of why was there such a dramatic increase?

Written by Christopher Burg

June 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

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Remember the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent who became separated from his weapon while dancing and ended up shooting somebody he attempted to retrieve his weapon in a panic? In a surprise twist, he has been arrested:

An off-duty FBI agent whose gun accidentally fired after it dropped out of its holster while he was doing a backflip at a Denver nightclub was taken into custody on Tuesday, jail records showed.

Chase Bishop, 29, turned himself in to the Denver County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday morning and was being held in a detention center in downtown Denver. He was charged Tuesday with one count of second-degree assault, the Denver County District Attorney’s Office said.

I feel the need to point out the verbiage used here. Notice how the report says that the FBI agent “accidentally” fired his firearm. While his actions were almost certainly accidental, it would have been better to use the word “negligently” since his negligence lead to the gun being fired. But negligence is when nongovernmental individuals unintentionally shoot somebody. When government agents unintentionally shoot somebody, it’s accidental.

As far as the charges go, I’d put money on the agent not being convicted. Law enforcers tend to enjoy a great deal of leeway when it comes to shooting bystanders, whether intentionally or accidentally. But it is nice to see that charges were actually filed and an arrest was made.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Finding New Justifications for Harassment

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The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has announced that it will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis. At least that’s what you’d think if you were going by a lot of people’s comments. What MPD actually announced is far more limited in scope:

In a series of rushed announcements Thursday, authorities said that police would no longer conduct sting operations targeting low-level marijuana sales, and charges against 47 people arrested in the first five months of 2018 would be dismissed.

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But in recent years, Minneapolis police have stepped up their presence on Hennepin Avenue in response to concerns about safety downtown. Using undercover officers posing as buyers, they arrested 47 people for selling marijuana on Hennepin between 5th and 6th streets.

MPD will stop having officers posing as buyers in order to find suckers to arrest. However, that doesn’t mean that the department will stop arresting people for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Then there is the issue of demographics. When 46 of the 47 people you’ve arrested are black, red flags are raised. This is especially true when the arrests were the result of a sting operation that involved law enforcers initiating contact. Such demographics make it look as though the law enforcers in question were almost exclusively approaching black individuals and mostly ignoring people with lighter colored skin. But now that MPD has been caught apparently red handed, the racial profiling will cease, right? Don’t get your hopes up.

Anybody who studies the history of laws and how they’re enforced in the United States quickly learns that when law enforcers are caught targeting specific individuals, law that are claimed to prohibit such targeting are quickly passed but nothing changes. This is because law enforcers simply find another way to target those individuals using a different justification. A very good case can be made for the drug war actually being a continuation of Jim Crow laws. While the laws prohibiting drugs never specifically mention race, they tend to be enforced more rigorously against black individuals. But since the laws never mention race, when questions about the demographics of those arrested are asked, law enforcers have plausible deniability. They can claim that they were enforcing the law consistently but that blacks simply break those laws more frequently.

If MPD wants to racially profile, it can find a justification to do so that gives its officers deniability.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Ensuring You’re Not Well

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What do you do if a friend of family member hasn’t responded to your attempt to communicate for a while? What do you do if you think a friend of family member might be suicidal? In these cases it’s not entirely uncommon from concerned parties to call 911 and ask emergency personnel to perform a wellness check. However, most of the time when you call 911 law enforcers are dispatched and that can turn a wellness check into a very dangerous situation.

Apparently some concerned party, the law enforcers involved are being cagey about the specifics, were concerned about Chelsea Manning after she posted some tweets that sounded suicidal and called in for a wellness check. In response law enforcers officers stormed her home with guns drawn:

Shortly after Chelsea Manning posted what appeared to be two suicidal tweets on May 27, police broke into her home with their weapons drawn as if conducting a raid, in what is known as a “wellness” or “welfare check” on a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst turned whistleblower and U.S. Senate candidate, was not at home, but video obtained by The Intercept shows officers pointing their guns as they searched her empty apartment.

The footage, captured by a security camera, shows an officer with the Montgomery County Police Department in Bethesda, Maryland, knocking on Manning’s door. When no one responds, the officer pops the lock, and three officers enter the home with their guns drawn, while a fourth points a Taser. The Intercept is publishing this video with Manning’s permission.

Here’s a question, were the law enforcers performing a wellness check or were they using the wellness check as an excuse to burst into her home, claim that a controversial individual appeared to be holding a gun, and murder that individual? The answer you give will probably depend on your overall view of law enforcement in this country. I certainly am leaning towards the latter.

Fortunately, she wasn’t home during the incident so if it was the latter, she wasn’t around to be gunned down. However, the fact that a supposed wellness check involved four officers with weapons drawn bursting into a home should be concerned to everybody. If, for example, the home was occupied by a retired soldier who was suffering from a post-traumatic stress episode, they could have reacted violently to strangers with guns bursting into their home and end up gunned down by officers who made a bad situation worse. Moreover, the fact that the question about the law enforcers’ intentions can be seriously asked at all indicates a dangerous trend in law enforcement behavior.

I doubt we’ll hear much more about this incident. The department involved is being cagey and probably won’t be any less opaque in the comings days. This incident should be a lesson though. If you suspect somebody may be suicidal or incapacitated in some manner, don’t call 911. Check on them yourself or have a friend or family member check on them. If you call 911, the dispatcher will likely send law enforcers to perform the check and then there will be a good chance of the person you’re concerned about will end up in a body bag.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 6th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Living in Postliterate America

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I’m working with a dying medium. The written word has served humanity for thousands of years but it’s time, at least here in the United States, is coming to an end. Why do I think this? Because every time a piece of news involving even a tiny bit of minutia crops up, few seem able to read more than the headline.

The latest example of this involves a baker in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips. A couple wanted him to make a cake for their wedding. He refused because the couple were both men and his Christian beliefs don’t jive with same-sex marriages. The couple decided that this was discriminatory and brought the wrath of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upon him. Eventually the case reached the Supreme Court and yesterday the nine muumuu-clad judges announced that they sided with Phillips.

Obviously religious freedom just made a giant leap forward in the United States, right? Wrong. It turns out that everybody cheering this decision as win for religious freedom stopped reading after the headline:

In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.

Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

He said that in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line because the state law at the time afforded store keepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility towards Phillips and that that hostility prevented an unbiased hearing. Basically the government failed to act as a neutral third-party mediator and that invalidated its decision. At no point did the Supreme Court rule on the law in question. The law forcing Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding wasn’t invalidated.

Knowing this literally took only a few paragraphs worth of reading but I somehow saw tons of people claiming that this decision was in regards to religious freedom. No wonder people make video blogs today. If you’re using the written word, you’re apparently making your content unavailable to 99.99 percent (this is totally a scientifically backed percentage) of the American population.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 5th, 2018 at 11:00 am

When a Court Wants to Add Insult to Injury

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In 2014 two officers were responding to a noise complaint. When they arrived at the address, they saw a black man with a gun and decided to open fire through the man’s garage door. One bullet fatally struck the man. Considering the rather murky circumstances (firing blindly through a garage door at somebody who hadn’t posed a direct threat yet) an excessive force lawsuit was brought against the officer. Not only did the jury find the officer innocent of any wrongdoing (normal in these cases) but it decided to add a bit of insult to the injury:

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A federal jury has cleared a deputy of using excessive force in the 2014 shooting death of Gregory Hill Jr. and awarded $4 to Hill’s family, a family lawyer said. The jury, which was weighing a lawsuit filed by Hill’s family, ruled last week that St. Lucie County Deputy Christopher Newman did not violate Hill’s civil rights, reports CBS affiliate WPEC-TV of West Palm Beach, Floirda.

Awarding $4 over a fatal excessive force complaint is nothing more than a giant fuck you.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2018 at 10:30 am

You Can’t Commit Suicide If You’re in a Full Body Cast

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Cops are called to deal with an apparently suicidal person. When they arrive on the scene they decide to shoot or beat the shit out of the suicidal man:

Two police officers in Paterson, New Jersey, went to a local hospital March 5 on reports of a man who attempted suicide, video showed. But after the man threw an object into the hallway and insulted one of the cops, the officers grabbed the man’s wheelchair, punched him in the face and pushed him to the ground, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Another video (this one allegedly recorded by Officer Roger Then, 29, on his cellphone) caught the second stage of the assault, prosecutors said. At that point, the victim was in his hospital bed, video showed. Lying on his back, the suicidal man hurled an insult at an unidentified police officer. In response, that officer grabbed a pair of hospital gloves, put them on and “violently struck” the man two times, prosecutors said.

You can’t commit suicide if you’re in a full body cast!

While the story itself isn’t surprising, what is surprising is that Officer Then has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. I was expecting to read that the officer was enjoying a paid vacation since that is such a common outcome of stories like this. But apparently an officer recording himself beating a man lying in a hospital bed is stupid enough that federal law enforcers feel the need to actually do something.

Once again I’m left wondering exactly how many isolated incidents perpetrated by bad apples are needed to establish a trend.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Ideal Officer

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There is a slight amount of controversy in Minneapolis because a video was released showing a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer napping in uniform in his patrol car:

The Minneapolis Police Department has launched an internal affairs investigation after video surfaced of a uniformed officer who appeared to be nodding off in a marked squad car.

A South Minneapolis resident, who recorded the act, said it was at 12:26 a.m. Saturday morning. A friend of the woman said she was driving home and noticed the police car, parked on Ogema Place, with an officer alone inside, and his head bobbing back and forth as if sleeping in the high-crime area.

I’ll be totally honest and say that I would far rather see this kind of behavior from MPD officers than the usual controversies involving unarmed individuals, sometimes in handcuffs, ending up summarily executed.

The officer in question really is the ideal officer in my book. Instead of creating a bunch of busywork or harassing innocent individuals, he decided to nod off. While it’s true that he was probably drawing a paycheck at the time, the fact that he wans’t hurting anybody automatically puts the money to better use than it would have been if he was harassing innocent individuals. Admittedly, that’s a very low bar to set for judging an officer’s actions but MPD has done a fantastic job of setting the bar low.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2018 at 10:30 am

She Totally Had It Coming

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Remember the officer who protected and served the shit out of a 20-year-old woman on Memorial Day? He claimed that the reason he took the woman to the ground and began pummeling her was because she spat on him and kicked him in the nuts. While such an excuse doesn’t justify such behavior, he did claim that his body camera footage would exonerate him. That footage was released but I’m having a tough time seeing when she spat on him or kicked him in the nuts:

What I see are a few officers harassing a girl and her getting agitated and walking away. Then I see one of the officers pursue her and eventually rush her. When that happens she puts up her hands defensively, probably instinctively, and is quickly taken to the ground and pummeled. It’s possible that she kicked the officer in the nuts when he rushed her but that would have been self-defense, not assault, as the officer had no grounds at that point for rushing her.

Instead of exonerating him, the body camera footage proves that the officer lied about the situation. Now the question is, will any meaningful punishment befall him for lying and assaulting a woman? I’m guessing there won’t be.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 31st, 2018 at 10:00 am