A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘United Police States of America’ tag

The Government Can’t Even Be Trusted to Carve Up Cadavers

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People often ask me if there’s something innocuous enough that I’d be willing to let government do it. I always say no because if an entity can’t even be trusted to carve up cadavers what can you trust it with?

Two San Joaquin County, Calif., medical examiners have resigned in the past two weeks, alleging that Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore pressured them to change their autopsy results for deaths in police custody. In other instances also involving deaths at the hands of police, they say, the sheriff ignored their conclusions completely.

Bennet Omalu, the chief medical examiner for the county, tendered his resignation on Nov. 28, as did a colleague, Susan Parson. (Notable aside: Omalu is the medical examiner who exposed the degenerative brain condition found in many former NFL players and was the inspiration for the movie “Concussion.”) Omalu was hired in 2007 to help professionalize and modernize the county medical examiner’s office. In his resignation letter, he said that Moore “has always made calculated attempts to control me as a physician and influence my professional judgement.”

Government coroners suffer the same conflict of interest as crime labs. In the case of the former the government is the coroner’s employer and in the case of the latter the government is the crime labs primary (and oftentimes only) customer. That being the case they have a vested interest in pleasing the government and oftentimes that is accomplished by helping it gets a conviction even if the accused party is innocent.

What makes the position of coroner especially bad is that it is often an elected position:

As it turns out, this is a fun little artifact of the coroner system, which the United States inherited from Britain. Coroners are often confused with medical examiners, but they are two very different positions, and they rarely overlap. A medical examiner is a doctor who performs autopsies after suspicious deaths. The county coroner is an elected position. In most states, you don’t need any medical training, police training or crime investigation training to run for the office. There are only a few states where the coroner must be a physician, and even in those states there’s a big loophole — if no doctor wants the office, anyone can run for it.

So the coroner is often a position filled by an individual who isn’t qualified to be a medical examiner tasked with the job of a medical examiner and influenced by other elements of the government to determine causes of death in a manner favorable to their agenda. What could possibly go wrong?

This is another example of the layers of redundancy built into the State. If somebody questions the accuracy of a law enforcer report on an incident that resulted in a death, that law enforcer can fall back on a coroner report that they helped write by manipulating the coroner. It provides “third-party” verification of the law enforcer’s story so everybody can wash their hands of the mess and move on to other things.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

There’s No Kill Like Overkill

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Proportionality is a concept that many law enforcers appear to have trouble understanding. For example, killing a man for selling untaxed cigarettes isn’t a proportional punishment for the crime. Likewise, blowing up a man’s house to catch a shoplifter is not a proportional response to the crime:

In June of 2015, Reason reports, a man named Robert Jonathan Seacat shoplifted from a Denver area Walmart. He stole a shirt and two belts and then fled, first by car and then on foot, before breaking into a nearby home to hide inside.

Seacat was known to have one gun on him, and officers claimed he shot at them, but after the fact, investigators didn’t find evidence he’d fired that weapon or the two other guns that were already in the house. That’s perhaps because, as would later be discovered when police eventually took Seacat into custody, he was by that time probably feeling awful, as he had allegedly swallowed a container of methamphetamine that began to leak into his body.

The house had a security system that alerted the police of the break-in, and the cops arrived armed to the teeth. As court documents show, “50 SWAT officers” assaulted the house using “40 mm rounds, tear gas, flashbang grenades, two armored Bearcats [a type of armored vehicle] and breaching rams,” plus “68 cold chemical munitions and four hot gas munitions.”

And they used all of it to totally destroy this home. Their harebrained plan was to blow up every room, one by one, to herd Seacat into a corner of the house so police could be certain of his location. This process was ineffective as well as counterproductive: It created so much rubble that a police robot was not able to deliver a phone to Seacat for negotiations.

What’s the value of a shirt and two belts from Walmart? It’s probably somewhere between $30 and $50. What’s the value of a house, fuel for a Bearcat, 40mm teargas rounds, flashbang grenades, breaching rams, chemical munitions, hot gas munitions, a remotely controlled robot, and 50 officers’ time? A hell of a lot more than $50.

Shoplifting doesn’t requires a militarized squad of law enforcers to deal with. It requires compensation. Walmart probably has insurance against shoplifting so it was likely covered. In that case the insurance company had a right to seek compensation from the thief, which it could have easily done in small claims court. If the thief refused to appear in court, the judge could have simply ruled in favor of the insurance company or, at most, sent a single officer to kidnap the thief and bring him to court. Such a response would have been proportional to the crime.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 22nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Freedom of Speech is a Funny Thing

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Freedom of speech can be a funny thing, especially when you combine it with an officer who doesn’t understand how the legalities of free speech work. I’m guessing that many of you are familiar with the Sheriff Troy Nehls. He’s the man who posted a picture of a truck that had a window sticker that read, “Fuck Trump and fuck you for voting for him,” with a comment threatening legal action. After learning her identity he even had her arrested (he claimed it was for an outstanding warrant but all evidence indicates that it was harassment for the window sticker). The owner of the truck has been released from jail and has responded to his threat:

Karen Fonseca, the driver of a truck with an expletive sticker directed toward President Donald Trump, has added another name to the display: Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls.

The new adjustments read, “F (expletive) Trump and f (expletive) you for voting for him. F (expletive) Troy Nehls and f (expletive) you for voting for him.”

Ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse… unless you’re a law enforcer. If Sheriff Nehls had familiarized himself at all with First Amendment case history, he’d know that the courts have frequently ruled in favor of the individuals being censored by the government. Fonesca’s window sticker wasn’t threatening in any manner so there is no ground on which to claim that she was inciting violence. Yet Sheriff Nehls, who is supposed to be the top law enforcer in his department, decided it was appropriate to threaten violence against her. If anybody should have been arrested, it was him.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Tightening the Chains

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The turkey won’t be the only thing to get a hand up its ass this Thanksgiving:

New TSA screening guidelines will likely make Thanksgiving travel a disaster for legions of Americans — and the worst is yet to come.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, TSA announced more “comprehensive” pat-down procedures which the Denver airport suggested might involve “more intimate contact than before.” TSA preemptively notified local police to expect potential complaints, and plenty of travelers are howling:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) still hasn’t thwarted a single terrorist plot. After 16 years one might expect an agency to show proof of having accomplished something. Instead the agency has pulled the same stunt as every other government agency and claimed that its failures are due to lack of funding. And like every other government agency, the TSA has shown no evidence of improvement when its funding has been increased.

Turning Minneapolis into a Prison to Appease Our NFL Masters

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Back in 2008 the Republican National Convention was hosted in St. Paul. In response the city was basically turned into a prison. Surveillance equipment was setup everywhere, heavily armed and armored officers were out on patrol, streets were shutdown, etc.

If you missed out on that experience or want to relive the experience, I have some news for you. The city of Minneapolis, in order to appease our National Football League masters, is going to be turned into a prison:

The final plans, including which streets are closed and when, are expected to be announced in the next couple of days.

If the most recent Super Bowls in San Francisco and Houston are an indication, the security operation is like none other the Twin Cities has ever seen. Snipers will be on rooftops and in buildings in strategic places. Officers in head-to-toe commando gear will be on the streets gripping assault rifles against their chests.

Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said the influx of federal agents to Minnesota will be the largest in the 52 years of Super Bowl history. “We are prepared for anything that might come our way,” he said last week.

The full extent of the security won’t be visible, but it will be everywhere: in the skies and on the ground. Whatever equipment is available will be used — from tactical vehicles to helicopters and boats.

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In addition to uniformed officers, there will be other obvious visible protections, including 2.5 miles of concrete barriers topped with wire fencing. Some busy spaces will follow NFL bag restrictions (including no purses) and have metal detectors. The airspace will be restricted above the stadium during the game.

All of this for one fucking game.

In addition to turning the city into a prison, the security arrangements will likely impact local businesses. A yet undisclosed number of streets in Minneapolis will be shutdown, which will impact any businesses that rely on them. And I highly doubt the NFL will compensate those businesses for such losses. Likewise, I highly doubt the City of Minneapolis will give those businesses a tax credit as compensation for not being able to use the roads they pay taxes to use. After all, they’re nobodies compared to the might that is the NFL.

I hope that the worse winter storm in the history of the state hits on Super Bowl weekend. It would be fun to see how well these assholes handle security in several feet of snow.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 10th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste

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Proponents of gun control aren’t the only ones clamoring for a ban of some sort after the recent Texas shooting. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is setting the ground work to once again push for a ban on effective cryptography:

A Federal Bureau of Investigation official said today that the agency has been unable to access an encrypted phone used by the gunman who killed 26 people at a rural Texas church on Sunday.

At a press conference, Christopher Combs, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, said the phone had been transported back to the FBI in Quantico, Virginia for examination. Investigators have identified Devin Patrick Kelley as the gunman in the shooting, which unfolded in the town of Sutherland Springs.

“Unfortunately, at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone,” Combs said.

The shooter is dead and from what I’ve seen his motivations are understood. There is no evidence that he was part of a network that is planning other similar attacks so who fucking cares if the FBI can’t get into his phone? Statists. Why? Because the FBI’s inadequacy, in their minds, makes everybody unsafe. It’s the same mindset that causes people to demand a ban on firearms. If a technology allows an individual to defend themselves, especially against government agents, then it is dangerous and must be prohibited.

Statists want nothing more than to turn the entire country into Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A Different Set of Rules

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If you roughed somebody up and then detained them, what do you think would happen to you? I suspect that you’d be tossed in a cage for assault and unlawful detainment. However, if you wore a shiny badge and a magic suit, you might get fired from your job but somebody else would certainly get stuck paying the bill for your transgression:

A Utah nurse who was roughed up and arrested on July 26 by a Salt Lake City cop because she told the officer that he needed a warrant to draw blood from an unconscious patient has settled for a $500,000 payout.

Body cam footage from the scene shows University Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels calmly telling the officer, who was trained for the task of blood withdrawal, that he cannot take a blood sample because the patient, who was involved in a vehicle crash, had neither been arrested nor gave consent. Then the cop lunges and grabs the nurse as she was fearfully backing away. He rushes her outside the hospital, and handcuffs her. All the while, she’s screaming that there’s no reason for her detainment.

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The $500,000 settlement is to be paid jointly by Salt Lake City and University Hospital. A hospital officer on the scene told the nurse that she would be obstructing justice if she interfered with Payne’s investigation.

Emphasis mine.

While the officer in question was fired, he didn’t have to pay out the $500,000 settlement. Instead his employer, Salt Lake City, and the nurse’s employer got stuck with the bill. Having that kind of shield from liability is one hell of a job perk. Unfortunately, possessing such a shield doesn’t incentivize good behavior.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 2nd, 2017 at 11:00 am

Body Cameras Are Doing What They Were Meant to Do

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The number of complaints against police since the large scale adoption of body cameras by law enforcers has obviously plummeted, right? And the officers caught doing unlawful things by their body cameras have lead to a lot of corrupt officers being arrested and tried, right? As it turns out, not so much:

But what happens when the cameras are on the chests of police officers? The results of the largest, most rigorous study of police body cameras in the United States came out Friday morning, and they are surprising both police officers and researchers.

For seven months, just over a thousand Washington, D.C., police officers were randomly assigned cameras — and another thousand were not. Researchers tracked use-of-force incidents, civilian complaints, charging decisions and other outcomes to see if the cameras changed behavior. But on every metric, the effects were too small to be statistically significant. Officers with cameras used force and faced civilian complaints at about the same rates as officers without cameras.

While this study is interesting I think it’s a bit unfair to judge body cameras by criteria they were never designed to address. Were body cameras meant to address police abuses the officers wouldn’t have control over when they record and the video wouldn’t be uploaded to servers controlled by the departments. Instead the cameras would be record constantly and the video would be streamed and saved to a server controlled by an independent third-party charged with holding officers accountable.

The reason law enforcement agencies have been willing (and often enthusiastically willing) to adopt body cameras is because they recognized that such devices would prove useful for collecting evidence. If an officer wants to collect evidence, they just need to press the record button and video will be uploaded to a service like Evidence.com that their department has full control over. If the video is evidence of a crime, it is saved so it can be used in court. If the video records something that might embarrass the officer or the department, it can be tossed down a memory hole.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Now You Too Can Be Big Brother

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We all know that Big Brother is watching us. Local law enforcers, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and various other government agencies are investing an incredible amount of resources into watching our every move. What if I told you that the day has finally come where you too can play an active role in Big Brother’s great surveillance apparatus? Axon is going to make that a reality:

Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, either wants to encourage helpful citizens or snitches—depending on how you feel about talking to police—to come forward.

On Thursday, the company announced “Axon Citizen,” a new “public safety portal” that lets civilians submit text, video, and audio files directly to participating law enforcement agencies that use its cloud storage service, Evidence.com.

While I spent the opening paragraph of this post mocking this product, I’m sadly aware of the fact that there are a lot of boot lickers out there who will actually use it. However, there is some hope that a bunch of decent people will get together and try to flood Evidence.com with useless data such as videos of lamp posts that are several hours long and high-definition pictures of pigeons. It would also be interesting to see exactly how much porn Evidence.com can store.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Counting People Killed by Law Enforcers isn’t Straight Forward

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How many people have been killed in the United States by law enforcers? That question is actually more complicated than it appears because there is a lot of questionable data being used to establish that number:

Over half of all police killings in 2015 were wrongly classified as not having been the result of interactions with officers, a new Harvard study based on Guardian data has found.

The finding is just the latest to show government databases seriously undercounting the number of people killed by police.

“Right now the data quality is bad and unacceptable,” said lead researcher Justin Feldman. “To effectively address the problem of law enforcement-related deaths, the public needs better data about who is being killed, where, and under what circumstances.”

Feldman used data from the Guardian’s 2015 investigation into police killings, The Counted, and compared it with data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). That dataset, which is kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was found to have misclassified 55.2% of all police killings, with the errors occurring disproportionately in low-income jurisdictions.

This revelation isn’t new nor should it be surprising. Statistics is often an exercise in creating the conclusion and fitting the data to that conclusion. If, for example, the government wanted to make its law enforcers appear to be less lethal, it could massage the number of people killed by its officers by coming up with a creative definition of law enforcement interaction. And government agencies can’t even claim a monopoly on this practice. It seems that most individuals and organizations use statistics to prove an already established conclusion instead of using statistics to establish a conclusion.

Now we have at least two sets of statistics on the number of people killed by law enforcers. Which set of numbers is correct? Who knows. The government has an obvious motivation to massage the numbers so it appears that fewer people are killed by law enforcers but Feldman may be motivated to massage the numbers so it appears that more people are killed by law enforcers. Most people will likely pick the set that proves their conclusion and call it a day. And do you know what? I can’t blame somebody for choosing that strategy because realistically both sets of statistics are probably misleading in some manner.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am