Posts filed under Police

State of Siege

There is no such thing as a limited police state

Use of sneak-and-peek secret search warrants in federal investigations 2006-2009.

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.

— John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
Reuters news wire, quoted by Matt Welch at Reason (August 5, 2013)

Well of course the NSA’s secret data-gathering, spying and warrantless wiretaps have been used to prosecute American drug cases. Every single fascist National Security monitoring program, secret search and seizure method, surveillance policy, financial regulation, foreign-aid slush fund, paramilitary police program and executive power that has been created over the last 20 years in the name of counter-terrorism — including large sections of Clinton’s AEDPA and large sections of Bush Jr.’s PATRIOT Act — has been utilized, over and over again, by federal prosecutors and the DEA in order to gather evidence and coerce testimony in drug cases. Every single National Security state program, regardless of its alleged purpose, has been used to strengthen the narcs’ hand, and to double down on the federal government’s insane and destructive prosecution of a War on Drugs. This one is just as outrageous; but it’s no different, and no more surprising.

Now, even if there were such a thing as a limited National Security state — even if there were some way to create a counter-terrorism-only police state, which would focus on a single threat without creating a general, all-powerful police state in the process — it would still mean shredding civil liberties, targeting people and activities which ought to be presumed innocent, and it would still be destructive and wrong.

But, in any case, there is no such thing. There is no way to focus a police state on only one group of people or one part of life; there are no partial or limited police states. There is only a police state — one which will come for you sooner, or later.

By the book

In Escambia County, Florida, a gang of unnamed sheriff’s deputies shot an unarmed, 60-year-old black man 15 times while he was standing in his own front yard trying to get a cigarette from his aged mother’s car, sending him to the hospital with a gunshot wound in his leg. The police lit him up because they barged onto his property at a quarter till three in the morning, came up behind him, drew down on him and shouted at him out of nowhere to get his hands up. When he didn’t react the right way, quickly enough, to bellowed commands of these belligerent, heavily armed strangers, they opened fire on him.

[Roy] Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home.

A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call.

Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, Get your hands where I can see them.

He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.

He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire.

It was like a firing squad, he said. Bullets were flying everywhere.

— Kevin Robinson, Deputies shoot man in his front yard
Pensacola News Journal (29 July 2013)

For shooting an unarmed man standing in his front lawn, who posed no threat to them, the unnamed police officers have been given a paid vacation from their government jobs.

Last Thursday, Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan gave an interview with CNN in which he defended the shooting and the deputies responsible for it, and that it is within standard protocols to open fire because Middleton did not comply with their commands.

According to Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan in a CNN interview Thursday, the police officers who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton in the driveway of his and his mother’s home acted entirely within their limits in response to a 911 call for a suspected car theft… . On Thursday, Morgan defended the officers’ actions as standard procedure because Middleton “did not comply.” Asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo how police could justify 15 shots at a 60-year-old man, Morgan said the officers saw a metallic object in Middleton’s hand as he made a “lunging movement” toward them. Middleton explained this in his account: He turned around because he thought the entire thing was a practical joke played by a neighbor.

“Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said.

— Rebecca Leber, Florida Sheriff: Officers Who Shot Unarmed Black Man In His Driveway Followed ‘Standard Protocols’
ThinkProgress (August 1, 2013).

Let’s suppose that all that is true, for the moment. (There is actually no reason at all to take the police at their word on this, but let’s assume for the sake of argument.) If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was something that leaves the police comfortable from a training perspective, then what does that tell you about the training? If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was strictly by the book, what does that tell you about the book?

Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d)

(Via Thaddeus Russell.)

An 18-year-old skater died yesterday after Miami Beach Police officers caught him tagging a building and then Tasered him.

Details about the death are still murky, but what is clear is that Israel Hernandez died before dawn Tuesday morning after cops caught him spray painting near 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Police have yet to comment on the killing, but an officer near the scene confirmed that cops had fatally Tasered someone. Hernandez’s friends on the Miami Beach skate scene are devastated.

“I just cant believe it,” says best friend Rafael Lynch, on the verge of tears. “I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It’s crazy.”

Update: MBPD has released a statement and incident report confirming that Hernandez died after being Tasered. Police chased Hernandez after catching him tagging a building and used the electronic weapon [sic —RG] when he refused to stop.

— Michael E. Miller, Teenager Israel Hernandez Dies After Miami Beach Cops Catch Him Tagging, Taser Him
Miami New Times (Aug 7, 2013).

From GT 2011-01-28: Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d):

As such, police in general, and police assault forces especially, are trained to enter every encounter with the goal of taking control of the situation, by means of setting up confrontations in situations (no-knock raids, late-night forced-entry raids, etc.) where their chosen targets are most likely to be disoriented and easily terrorized, and by responding with maximal force in the volatile, disorienting confrontations that they create. For the sake of this maximal-force approach, they are equipped with an arsenal of weapons ranging from tasers and clubs to handguns and assault rifles, up to, and including, military helicopters and tanks. Worse, with all these weapons, they have institutionalized a culture of fact-free assertion and lies about highly dangerous weapons that they consider to be categorically non-lethal — and thus to be used as a first resort, in virtually any situation, as long as it might give the cops a tactical advantage over people who they intend to bring under their control (whether or not these people have ever committed any crime at all). These weapons continue to be used with no hesitation and no restraint, and continue to be called non-lethal force, no matter how many people are killed by them. There are, for example, tasers, portable electric torture devices which were originally sold as a less-deadly alternative to using a hand-gun in potentially life-threatening confrontations, but which cops now freely use for as part of pain compliance techniques[1] in everyday confrontations with the public. This would be bad enough on its own, but part of the reason they are used so freely is because they take no real exertion for cops to use, and are consistently billed as non-lethal by police and media, even though there are hundreds of documented cases of people dying after being subjected to repeated taser shocks.

  1. [1] That is, torture.

Auburn police department contact sports

Officers will have 100 contacts per month, minimum … 40 of those may be warnings for traffic, the other 60 will be divided between: traffic citations, non-traffic citations, field interviews and custodial arrests …. Do not be the one that does not get 100.

— Sgt. Trey Neal, Auburn Police Division, Auburn Alabama.
Recorded by officer Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Cop Fired for Speaking Out Against Ticket and Arrest Quotas
Reason TV (July 24, 2013).

Oh, hey, look, my hometown’s in the national news again. This time it’s for the contact quotas handed down from the police division’s chain of command. The requirements for ticketing and arrest quotas required more contacts[1] every year than there are people in the city of Auburn. The story has hit the news because Justin Hanners, a former police officer in Auburn, says that he was fired by the police department in retaliation against his objections to the quota policy, and to the over-use of police force and arrests that it was producing. After making some contact with local CopBlockers in Auburn, Hanners got his story to Reason TV.

From the story in the Opelika-Auburn News:

Back in 2010, when Chief Dawson came in, immediately afterward, they started telling us that we had to have two tickets a day and two warnings a day on average and if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t get promoted, we would get bad evaluations and if we continued to not do it, we would get written up and ultimately fired, Hanners said in a phone interview with the Opelika-Auburn News.

Hanners said he initially wrote a complaint about what he thought of the alleged quotas, but was soon suspended for other reasons and put on bike duty.

They went back seven months on my computer where I told a joke to another officer and suspended me for four days and made me forfeit two days of annual leave, Hanners said, who added the other officer was not punished.

Hanners said while on bike duty, which he claimed involved patrolling the interior of Auburn University, he was still force[d] to comply with the alleged quotas.

By directives, I’m not even supposed to be writing tickets, but my supervisor told me in my bike duty that I had to have just as many tickets as officers in cars, Hanners said.

— Drew Taylor, Former officer claims Auburn police division quotas
Opelika-Auburn News (July 25, 2013)

Since the story came out in the press, spokes-flacks from the city government have issued rote denials and slimy Oh-we-can’t-comment-but… insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file from the City Manager’s office. Assistant City Manager James Buston admits that the sergeant said everything that was on that tape but that it wasn’t official policy. (But, you know, if it were official policy, it’d be O.K., because it’s kind of challenging them to do what they are supposed to do…). The Office of Charles Duggan, City Manager of Auburn, says The message that there is a quota was wrongfully conveyed through supervisory channels to at least one patrol shift — which of course is a long-assed way of saying that there was a quota while denying responsibility for setting it — but insists that there is an unfounded accusation being leveled by Mr. Hanners. Because, when ex-chief Dawson told the city government that this story was going to hit the press, the city government hired another government investigator to look over their records and tell them that all was O.K. Tracy Oppenheimer at Reason responds to the denials here. Public Safety Director Bill James, for example, put the following in writing:

To make 100 contacts, which include among others, traffic stops, issuing warrants, field interviews and arrests, requires about two contacts per shift hour. Making two contacts per hour is not unreasonable and still seems to leave a lot of time to perform other duties that are detailed in your job description. Your supervisors as well as I have an expectation that each employee needs to be productive during their time on shift.

— Auburn Public Safety Director Bill James, Re: Grievance
Correspondence with Officer Justin Hanners (November 20, 2012)
Quoted by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Buston also claims that Reason did not offer the city government an opportunity to respond before they put the video together. Oppenheimer’s story shows that this is false, and that Capt. Tom Stofer of the Auburn Police Division specifically said that the Division refused to comment. As for the insinuations about Hanners’ personnel file, besides the note about the retaliatory shift to bike duty, here’s some more elaboration on what happened to him.

“Well, the day my grievance was over, I get called into the Chief’s office, and was told that some evidence I presented was from an internal affairs investigation and the gag order had been placed and I wasn’t supposed to have it. So then the Chief, who is the suspect in my grievance, now starts an internal affairs investigation into me and my partner to see if we somehow compromised his own investigation into his own wrongdoing where he had found he had done nothing wrong. So in this investigation, they found that we had violated a gag order and that I had violated the city’s reporting policy by reporting these people. And they ultimately fired me for it and suspended my partner who gave me a statement that said everything I was saying was true.”

— Justin Hanners, qtd. by Tracy Oppenheimer, Auburn Cop Fired for Resisting Quotas Gets Online Support; City Officials Deny Deny Deny

Here as elsewhere, cops protect their power. Support your neighborhood CopWatch.

  1. [1] When you hear about police departments setting requirements for making contact with individuals on Auburn streets and sidewalks just think of contact in the sense that ice hockey or American football are contact sports.