A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Law and Disorder’ tag

To Protect and Serve

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People often think that I’m being hyperbolic when I say that law enforcers will escalate even petty infractions into violence but we continue to see examples of them doing so. The latest example comes from California. A 52-year-old woman was selling flowers without a permit and found out how even minor disobedience is treated by the brave men and women of law enforcement:

A California woman found herself subject to a brutal takedown by a police officer who spotted her attempting to sell flowers without a permit.

Juanita Mendez-Medrano, 52, was arrested after working a sidewalk in Perris near to where a high school graduation ceremony was being held last month.

In an unsettling cell phone video, which surfaced on Monday, Mendez-Medrano is seen holding the flowers in her hands just before an officer is seen grabbing her by the arms, grasping her neck and tackling her to the ground in the violent arrest.

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‘Unlike the other vendors, Ms. Mendez-Medrano refused to cooperate as necessary to allow our officer to issue her a citation. She refused to provide her name, and attempted to walk away,’ the police news release said.

Because she refused to give her name so that the officer could issue her a bullshit citation the officer felt that it was appropriate to smash her into the concrete sidewalk.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Remember That Officers are Easily Spooked

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A few days have passed since an innocent woman was gunned down by a rabid Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer. Conveniently both officers’ body cameras and the car’s dashboard camera were turned off and the only other witness is dead so the only account we can get is that given to us by the officers. Now that a few days have passed the officers have had a chance to get their stories straight and their excuse for this shooting is even more feeble than most excuses given to us by cops who gunned down a person under extremely questionable circumstances:

As they reached West 51st Street, Officer Harrity indicated that he was startled by a loud sound near the squad. Immediately afterward Ruszczyk approached the driver’s side window of the squad. Harrity indicated that Officer Noor discharged his weapon, striking Ruszczyk through the open driver’s side window.

Much like a wild animal, police are apparently easily startled by loud noises. Unlike a wild animal though, when a police officer becomes startled they apparently shoot the first person they see who isn’t also a cop.

This excuse is ridiculous and the fact that it’s the best that they could come up with shows that they aren’t worried about even appearing legitimate. I’m guessing the fact that Yanez got away with murder has emboldened police officers to the point where they no longer feel the need to bother justifying their acts of murder. They know that the chances of them being punished in any meaningful way are roughly equal to those of winning the Powerball lottery.

My hope is that the State sees this situation as egregious enough to toss us lowly serfs a bone and actually punish this officer for his misdeeds. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Jeff Sessions Announces Justice Department Will Increase Theft

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Jeff Sessions apparently came to Minneapolis (nobody told me, not that I would have cared). Fortunately, being a government employee, he didn’t have to worry about being murdered by Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers but I digress. During his trip to the Twin Cities he announced that his department is planning to steal more property from innocent people:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment’s use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

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“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”

Some people might claim that the people being robbed aren’t innocent because they’ve been accused of a crime but civil asset forfeiture occurs before somebody has been found guilty of a crime, which is the problem. Under a justice system where one is supposedly innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt there is no justification for stealing an accused individual’s property. So, yes, Jeff Sessions announced that his department is going to be stealing from innocent people and that should have everybody up in arms.

What makes civil asset forfeiture more egregious is that the loot is shared with municipal and state police departments (the “partners” Sessions mentioned), which means their officers are motivated to perpetrate more thefts. The practice also skews the focus of police departments. As I’ve pointed out before, police departments make no additional money by solving burglaries, armed robberies, assaults, rapes, and murders. Departments do, however, make additional money by accusing individuals of violating federal drug prohibitions. Since departments are rewarded for focusing on drug-related crimes that is where they invest their resources. Meanwhile people who have actually been victimized are left with little chance of seeing justice served.

When you pay taxes to fund your local police department you’re actually funding the thieves who are motivated to rob you and their motivation comes from the practices being encouraged by government goons like Jess Sessions.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

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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

Murder Includes a Nice Severance Package

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Killing Philando Castile has been lucrative for Officer Yanez. Not only did he enjoy a paid vacation but he also received a generous severance package:

“A reasonable voluntary separation agreement brings to a close one part of this horrible tragedy. The City concluded this was the most thoughtful way to move forward and help the community-wide healing process proceed.”

According to a copy of the agreement supplied by the city’s attorney in the matter, Yanez will receive a lump sum of $48,500 minus applicable deductions and tax withholdings.

He also will receive payment for up to 600 hours of accrued personal leave. The agreement did not note how much time he has accrued.

Yanez was making $72,612.80 a year when he fatally shot Castile on July 6, 2016, during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights.

$48,500 plus 600 hours of accrued personal leave for murdering somebody is a pretty decent deal. Granted, he’ll have to hang low for a while and wait for this entire mess to blow over before another department will likely take him on.

When a police officer screws up they receive a paid vacation until whatever they did falls out of the news cycle. When they screw up more they might get fired and have to wait until their union forces their department to reinstate them. When they really screw up they are brought before a grand jury to be exonerated. When they really screw up they’re brought before a jury to be exonerated and given a nice severance package.

I must say, being a police officer and screwing up sounds like a good gig.

Mistaken Identity

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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

Perhaps We Should Start Copyrighting Communications

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Law enforces in Oakland, California pulled the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in to assist with a murder case. The assistance that the local law enforcers were looking for was the FBI’s Stingray cellular interceptors, which the agency was more than happy to provide. However, the FBI didn’t bother acquiring a warrant before deploying its interceptors, which didn’t sit well with the suspect’s attorney. In response to the attorney’s protest the Department of Justice (DoJ) said that it didn’t need a warrant because cellular signals are emitted and therefore not private:

The DOJ says that because the stingray was configured to act like a “pen register,” originally a century-old device designed to capture incoming and outgoing calls, and solely capture non-content data, then it was not a search. Use of pen registers, as well as the use of 1970s and 1980s-era “beepers” (short-range FM radio transponders) that can reveal a given location, have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. Plus, because Ellis wasn’t found in his own apartment, but in another apartment, he could not claim a privacy interest. And finally, even if Ellis could claim a privacy interest in his phone, that still doesn’t matter, DOJ attorneys claim.

“However, signals emitted from a phone are not the same, since they are not by their nature private,” prosecutors continue. “They reveal nothing about the person and are being transmitted out to the world, or at least to a third-party service provider, just like the beeper signals in Knotts.”

This brings me to an interesting point. Cellular signals are encrypted, albeit poorly. In order to intercept cellular signals Stingray devices have to break that encryption. If we look at another law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), we can see that the actions taken by the government would be considered illegal if they were being used to bypass some form of copyright protection.

The DMCA makes it illegal to bypass any copyright protection mechanism, no matter how shitty it is. If a copyrighted work is encrypted with the Data Encryption Standard (DES), a broken encryption algorithm, and an unauthorized party breaks that encryption to bypass the copyright protection they have committed a crime under the DMCA.

Perhaps people should start claiming copyrights on the contents of their phone calls and text messages. Maybe they could then gain some protection against organizations that are bypassing the poor encryption that is used to keep their communications confidential.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The NRA’s Fetish for Men in Uniform

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Pop quiz. Who said, “I love a man in uniform?” The answer is… the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA makes no secret about having a fetish for cops. However, its worship of law enforcers puts it at odds with guns rights:

This is about par for the course for the NRA. This is the group that claims to be the only thing preventing the government from obliterating the Second Amendment, yet they’re noticeably quiet about the people doing the most violence to the Second Amendment — the armed, badge-wearing government employees we call law enforcement officers. For all the NRA’s dire warnings about government gun confiscation, the real, tangible threat to gun-owning Americans today comes not from gun-grabbing bureaucrats but from door-bashing law enforcement officers who think they’re at war — who are too often trained to view the people they serve not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. Here, the NRA just doesn’t want to get involved.

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In short, the NRA seems to think we’re at risk of creeping tyranny and abuse of power from all sectors of government except from the men and women armed, badged and entrusted with the power to kill. That’s a problem, because if armed agents who enforce the laws on the ground aren’t required to respect our rights, our rights don’t really exist.

Gun rights activists often forget that politicians are only a minor part of the problem. Politicians write words on paper and declare those words law but law enforcers are the ones who actually enforce those words. If law enforcers refused to enforce laws then it wouldn’t matter what the politicians declared to be law because there would be no consequences for ignoring their declarations. Any gun rights organization should be just as critical of law enforcers who enforce bad laws as they are of politicians who write and pass bad laws.

No organization that claims to fight for individual rights of any sort that is also worshipful of law enforcers can be effective. Law enforcers, at the end of the day, are the ones who are directly violating the rights of individuals.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2017 at 10:00 am

What’s the Difference Between the IRS and a Thief

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What’s the difference between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and a thief? There isn’t one:

The unmarked vehicles arrived in the morning. More than 20 armed agents poured out.

Hours later, Mii’s Bridal & Tuxedo was out of business after serving customers for decades. Its entire inventory of wedding gowns and dresses as well as sewing machines and other equipment were sold at auction.

The hastily-called sale held inside the store netted the IRS about $17,000 — not enough to cover the roughly $31,400 in tax debt alleged, court records show. The balance is now likely unrecoverable.

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Regarding the speed of the sale, the government said in legal filings that the IRS used a special law that allows for a streamlined procedure if the agency determines the goods seized could “perish or waste” or become greatly reduced in value.

As a result, the IRS didn’t have to post advance public notice of the Mii’s sale or wait at least 10 days before selling the goods, as is normally required.

How are tuxedos, wedding dresses, and sewing machines perishable goods? They’re not. The IRS just made shit up so it could perform this act of theft without giving the owners enough time to involve lawyers.

While I spend a great deal of time brining up civil asset forfeiture laws, there are other laws on the books that allow the State to legally steal property without convicting the owner. Arcane tax laws are often used in this way. In this case the IRS once again used, or should I say abused, laws against structuring. I’ve mentioned this before but there is a law that requires people making deposits greater than $10,000 to report them. Many businesses don’t realize this is a law, they only realize that the bank requires them to fill out a bunch of additional paperwork if their deposit is above $10,000. So to avoid paperwork many businesses take deposits over $10,000 and divide them into multiple deposits that are each under $10,000. Doing this violates the law against structuring so the IRS combines the fact that many small business owners are entirely unaware of this law with the fact that it’s illegal to justify rolling in, seizing a small business’s assets, and auctioning them off.

These kinds of laws violate the concept of private property. So long as they continue to exist nobody in the United States can be said to actually own property, they can only lease property for as long as the State permits them.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

But Wait, There’s More

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Yesterday’s story about another puppycide committed by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) was already horrible. However, in the words of the great philosopher Billy Mays, “But wait, there’s more!” Not only did the MPD officer shoot two dogs for no reasons whatsoever, he apparently lied to the owners about having called in to get the dogs medical aid:

The family didn’t instantly take the dogs to the emergency vet because police told the family that “animal control” would be there in minutes to access the dogs’ medical needs. No one showed up, LeMay said.

I’m super sorry I jumped your fence like a burglar and gunned down your dogs. Don’t worry though, I totally called animal control and they’ll get here before your dogs bleed out. I promise.

If history is any indicator, this officer will receive either no punishment at all or a paid vacation while the department waits for this fiasco to fall out of the news cycle. Even if by some miracle the officer is fired the police union will likely step in and get him reinstated. And that is the problem. So long as officers remain unaccountable for their actions they will have no motivation to stop acting badly and stories like this will continue to hit the front page.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2017 at 10:00 am