A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘United Police States of America’ tag

How Civil Asset Forfeiture Reduces Economic Mobility

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Believers in the American dream still talk about how people who had nothing managed to pull themselves up by their bootlaces and make it big. Proponents of socialism point out that such economic mobility almost never happens. Are believers in the American dream right? Can somebody from poverty elevate themselves to the middle class or higher? Are the socialist right? Is such economic mobility a pipe dream? They’re both correct.

In a free market and where property rights are recognized it is certainly possible for a person to elevate themselves from poverty to a comfortable or even luxurious life. However, such mobility seldom happens this day an age. Where both parties get things wrong is believing that the United States has a free market and property rights.

There is no free market in the United States and there sure as the fuck isn’t a concept of property rights:

Asset forfeiture primarily targets the poor. Most forfeitures are for small amounts: in 2012, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has focused heavily on asset forfeiture, analyzed forfeiture in 10 states and found that the median value of assets seized ranged from $451 (Minnesota) to $2,048 (Utah). Given that law enforcement routinely take everything they find in a forfeiture case, these small values suggest the relative poverty of the victims.

The procedural hurdles for challenging asset forfeiture also mean that poor people are less able to get their money back. The average forfeiture challenge requires four weekdays in court; missing four days of work can be a prohibitive expense for Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Additionally, claims are challenged in civil court, where the right to counsel doesn’t apply, meaning that claimants need to hire their own lawyer.

Asset forfeiture is especially dangerous for the unbanked, because police and federal agents consider high amounts of cash to be suspect. In 2013, half of all households with incomes of less than $15,000 were either unbanked or underbanked. In a report on non-criminal asset forfeiture, the Center for American Progress argues that “low-income individuals and communities of color are hit hardest” by forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture allows the State to seize your property if one of its law enforcers accuses you of a drug crime or affiliation with terrorism. The only time proof comes into play with civil asset forfeiture is when the accused party has to prove that the officer’s accusation was incorrect, which is nearly impossible to do under ideal circumstances. However, as the article notes, poor individuals aren’t operating under ideal circumstances. Many of them cannot afford to take several days off of work to plead their case in court. This makes them prime targets for civil asset forfeiture because law enforcers know that they chances of the property being returned to its rightful owner is practically zero.

As I noted, economic mobility requires property rights because you have to be able to keep what wealth you acquire. If you’re able to scrape together some capital to start a side business but then have that capital stolen, your ability to elevating yourself economically through entrepreneurship is also stolen.

Alabama Legislators Moves to Hasten Executions

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The State of Alabama found itself in an embarrassing position. A man who has been on death row for 30 years managed to prove his innocence. While the legislature won’t pass a bill to compensate the man for the three decades of his life the State stole from him, it did ensure that a mistake like this never happens again:

Meanwhile, since Hinton’s release the Alabama legislature has passed a different bill related to capital punishment — the Orwellian-named “Fair Justice Act,” which aims to limit the appeals of death row inmates and speed up executions. As Hinton himself wrote in an op-ed, had the Fair Justice Act been in place at the time of his conviction, he’d almost certainly be dead.

If the State can execute inmates quicker, it doesn’t have to worry about them possibly proving their innocence and thus embarrassing it. See? Problem solved!

Get Them Indebted Early

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I have some wonderful news! People no longer have to wait until they go to college to rack of debt:

In a Thursday article for The Telegraph, a man named Andre Spicer wrote about the experience of his five-year-old daughter who tried to open a small lemonade stand in the family’s East London neighborhood.

After about 30 minutes, four local council enforcement officers stormed up to her little table,” he wrote. “‘Excuse me,’ one officer said as he switched on a portable camera attached to his vest. He then read a lengthy legal statement – the gist of which was that because my daughter didn’t have a trading permit, she would be fined [$195]. ‘But don’t worry, it is only [$117] if it’s paid quickly,’ the officer added.”

That’ll teach that little punk not to be entrepreneurial! But, hey, at least the government is benevolent enough to knock that almost $200 fine down to $117 if it’s paid quickly!

Law enforcers shutting down children’s lemonade stands is nothing new, which isn’t surprising since going after small children is apparently fairly profitable and they’re not likely to put up any meaningful resistance so the profit comes with almost zero risk. As if armed thugs preying on children wasn’t bad enough, there is been almost no backlash. Why aren’t members of these communities up in arms over the fact that law enforcers are wasting time preying on children? Why is the fact that something that has been a staple of childhood for generations now being seen as heinous enough to warrant law enforcer involvement? And how is anybody saying that the United States isn’t a police state with a straight face?

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Selling Stolen Goods

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I’ve pointed out the tendency for law enforcers to focus their efforts on pursuing perpetrators of profitable crimes. Law enforcers dump a ton of resources into fighting people who drive faster than the arbitrarily posted speed limit, violate the often ridiculously convoluted parking restrictions, and enjoy consuming verboten chemical substances. However, those same law enforcers will let rape kits stack up in warehouse, barely lift a finger to find a murderer, or respond in any way to a property crime. Fortunately, law enforcers have found a way to make fighting property crime profitable. Unfortunately, it involves them auctioning off the property once it has been recovered instead of returning it to its rightful owner:

A Pueblo couple’s car was stolen in June and later recovered by Colorado Springs police officers.

According to records obtained by the I-TEAM, Mary and Clyde Antrim’s Ford Crown Victoria sat in a police impound lot for more than a month—eventually racking up fees.

The couple says cops never called them to pick up their car. Instead, News 5 Investigates discovered police planned to sell it at an auction.

Colorado Springs police have nothing to say on camera about this case, but Mary Antrim is talking after she says police would not give her car back or answer her phone calls.

When she found out her car was going to be sold at auction, she called News 5 Investigates for help.

The most obvious thing that I feel I need to point out is that the Antrims shouldn’t be required to pay fees to have the law enforcers they are required to pay taxes to fund recover their property. Any costs incurred by the recovery effort should be paid by the thief. But that’s now how justice works in this country. Even though you’re forced to pay taxes to fund law enforcers, you’re also often forced to pay additional fees on top of that. This form of double dipping is fairly profitable for police departments but not as profitable as auctioning off a car, which is why the Colorado Springs Police Department probably “forgot” to inform the Antrims that their car was recovered and currently being held in an impound lot.

This situation isn’t even unique. Law enforcers have profited off of hocking recovered property before and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colorado Springs Police Department gets away with hocking the Antrim’s car. There is precedence for doing so and the courts are usually pretty good about backing the badge.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 2nd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Yet Another Isolated Incident

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Cop apologists love to refer to bad cops as isolated incidents. But for being isolated there are an awful lot of them:

Maryland prosecutors have tossed 34 criminal cases and are re-examining dozens more in the aftermath of recent revelations that a Baltimore police officer accidentally recorded himself planting drugs in a trash-strewn alley.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that, in all, 123 cases are under review in the wake of a scandal in which one officer has been suspended and two others put on administrative duty. Body cam footage revealed nearly two weeks ago showed one of the officers planting drugs when he didn’t realize his body cam was recording. The Baltimore Police Department’s body cams, like many across the nation, capture footage 30 seconds before an officer presses the record button. The footage was turned over to defense attorneys as part of a drug prosecution—and that’s when the misdeed was uncovered.

I can see why the two officers involved in the murder of Justine Ruszczyk left their body cameras off. Being absent minded about those devices can lead to a paid vacation and, I’m sure, a stern talking to about camera etiquette (i.e. being smart enough to turn it off if you’re going to do something that makes the department look bad).

While it’s nice that one dirty cop was caught this incident will ensure that the rest of the thin blue line is aware of the fact that their cameras record everything that happened 30 seconds before pressing the record button. Being aware of the feature will ensure that they work around it when breaking the law in the future. Furthermore, even when caught on camera planting evidence the officer is enjoying a paid vacation instead of being in jail like you or I would be. That alone should seriously piss people off but few people seem to care.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 1st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Another Summary Execution

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It’s a day ending in “y” so that must mean that a law enforcer in the United States murdered somebody. Oh, and will you look at that, one did! However, this story has a twist. The officers involved were heading to serve a warrant but ended up at the wrong address and, I guess, decided to eliminate all witnesses to their mistake:

One officer fired shots at the pit bull that hurtled out of the mobile home in Southaven, Miss., police said. The other officer fired at the person pointing a gun from behind the cracked front door.

They had been trying to serve an arrest warrant in an aggravated assault case at a mobile home in the neighborhood before the sudden explosion of gunfire Sunday night. When they surveyed the aftermath, they made a heart-dropping discovery: They were at the wrong home.

Ismael Lopez likely never knew why officers were at his door — or even that they were officers.

I already know that the cop apologists are going to blame the victim for having a gun (it’s funny how so many cop apologists simultaneously claim that gun ownership is a right and that possession of a gun is a valid reason for a cop to execute somebody) but the real takeaway from this story is that a man is dead because some idiot law enforcers couldn’t be bothered to verify an address. And this isn’t anything new. There are numerous documented cases of police officers performing no-knock raids at wrong addresses. As far as I know, none of those cases resulted in any officers receiving any meaningful reprimand and I doubt this case will either. Hell, we already know how the officers actions will be justified in this case, the man had a gun so the officers were well within their rights to murder him. Never mind the fact that that excuse wouldn’t work if your or I decided to barge into an innocent person’s house unannounced.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 27th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Retroactive Justice

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After Castile was murdered the State went through his and his girlfriend’s social media records with a find toothed comb. Ultimately, as we learned during the Yanez trial, the defense wanted information to use to assassinate the characters of Castile and his girlfriend during the trial. This was a form of retroactive justice. The crime, the shooting of Castile, was justified by going through the victim’s history to find dirt to use against him. Although the murderer had know way of knowing any of the discovered information at the time of the crime it still allowed his defense to poison the well so to speak.

History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was granted permission to search the home of Justine Ruszczyk, the woman murdered by Officer Noor:

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators were granted permission to search Justine Damond’s home hours after she was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer, according to court records.

A criminal law expert can’t understand why.

“I don’t understand why they’re looking for bodily fluids inside her home,” said Joseph Daly, an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, referring to one of two recently-released search warrant applications.

[…]

According to court documents, investigators applied for the warrant on the following grounds:

  • The property or things above-described was used as a means of committing a crime
  • The possession of the property or things above-described constitutes a crime.
  • The property or things above-described is in the possession of a person with intent to use such property as a means of committing a crime, or the property or things so intended to be used are in the possession of another to whom they have been delivered for the purpose of concealing them or preventing their being discovered.
  • The property or things above-described constitutes evidence which tends to show a crime has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed a crime.

Professor Mitchell doesn’t understand what the BCA is looking for because he’s look at the warrant through the lens of justice, not he lens of retroactively justifying a murder. The search warrant was issued in the hopes of finding dirt on Justine. With dirt in hand Officer Noor’s actions can either be written off as justified outright or, if the case goes to trial, justified to a jury by assassinating the character of Justine and anybody connected to her.

Actions like this will continue to widen the rift that already exists between the public and law enforcers. Unfortunately, I see no signs that law enforcers or their employers care. If they cared about such things, they would have taken steps to reprimand the bad actors in their departments early on. Instead they’ve either stood aside or directly assisted in shielding those bad actors from consequences. With this being the situation I feel justified in saying that The United States is already beyond the point where law enforcement can be reformed.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Cops Helping Out the Suicidal

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Are you felling suicidal? Call 911 and officers will be dispatched immediately to help you shove off of your mortal coil:

WILLMAR, Minn. (KMSP) – Two police officers are on standard administrative leave after a shooting that injured one man in Willmar, Minnesota Sunday night.

Two Willmar Police officers responded to a 911 call of a suicidal man at a home on the 400 block of 11th Street Northwest around 5:30 p.m. Upon arrival, the officers found the man in the backyard holding a gun.

I’m sure somebody is going to claim that the fact the suicidal man was in possession of a firearm demonstrated that he meant to commit suicide by cop. However, I feel the need to point out the fact that suicide by a cop is a thing. If you stop and think about the phrase “suicide by cop,” you will probably come to the realization that such a mechanism could only be reliable if the police were sufficiently trigger happy. If police officers weren’t sufficiently trigger happy, calling them in the hopes that they will kill you would be unreliable and suicidal individuals would likely opt for another method.

If you are concerned that somebody may be suicidal do not call 911. The operator who picks up will likely send a couple of police officers who will end up trying to kill the suicidal individual. While it’s true that such action technically prevents the suicide it doesn’t solve the actual problem, which is saving the individual’s life.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Another Feeble Excuse by a Cop Who Needlessly Shot Somebody

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Officer Noor’s lawyer is apparently running with the defense that Officer Noor was startled and that is why he murdered Justine Ruszczyk. While that is one of the more feeble excuses given by a cop who needlessly shot somebody, it’s only one on a long list of feeble excuses. For example, and Eden Prairie police officer needlessly shot somebody in June. His excuse? Muscle memory:

Matthew Hovland-Knase, 22, of Bloomington, led police on a chase at 3 a.m. on June 20 that reached speeds of almost 100 miles per hour before stopping at Eden Prairie Road near North and South Lund roads. Sgt. Lonnie Soppeland got out of his squad car with his gun drawn — protocol for high-risk stops, he told investigators — but the gun went off, shooting the motorcyclist’s arm.

According to documents released to the Star Tribune on Friday by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Soppeland told investigators that firearm training earlier that month contributed to the unintentional discharge due to the muscle memory of squeezing the trigger.

“My plan was to hold the suspect where he was until back up arrived,” he told investigators three days later. “ … It was not my conscious choice to discharge my firearm. This all happened very fast, maybe within a matter of a second. I could feel the effect of the adrenaline.”

Funny, if I shot somebody accidentally all would not be forgiven regardless of the training I had received. But rules are different when you’re wearing a badge. Suddenly a negligent discharge becomes a valid excuse.

It’s true, most police departments offer lackluster firearm training. However, lackluster training is not an acceptable excuse for putting a bullet in somebody. Just as it was my responsibility to obtain adequate training when I acquired my carry permit, it should be an officer’s responsibility to obtain adequate training when carrying a firearm.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 25th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Body Camera Footage of an MPD Officer Trying to Murder Two Dogs

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Remember the story from last week about a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer who tried to murder two dogs when responding to a burglar alarm? The entire mess was captured by the family’s security camera but the officer tried to lie by claiming the dogs were acting aggressively anyways. Yesterday the officer’s flimsy excuse was thrown out of the window because the footage from his body camera was released and it clearly shows that the dogs were not acting aggressively:

Mays’ initial report filed that same night contended that the dogs, which he described as large pit bulls, “charged at” him. The police union defended Mays, contending that the first dog growled as it advanced toward him.

LeMay and her attorney, Mike Padden, have scoffed at that version of events, and have called for Mays to be prosecuted for filing a false report. They also suggested Mays be disciplined, possibly even fired.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon in north Minneapolis, where Padden made the officer’s body camera video available to other media outlets, the attorney said the imagery makes it obvious that Mays shot with the intention to kill.

Fortunately for the two dogs and their owners, Officer Mays was a poor shot and failed to kill the dogs. However, that left the family, not Officer Mays, with medical bills. The family was able to crowdsource those funds and hopefully with the release of this video will be able to bring a civil case against Officer Mays and make him or his employer pay for the medical bills.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am