A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘United Police States of America’ tag

Backing the Thin Blue Line

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Backing the thin blue line, at least in Minnesota, is an expensive proposition:

Over the past 11 years, at least $60.8 million has been paid out statewide to people who have made misconduct allegations, according to data compiled by the Star Tribune.

From 2007 to 2017, jurisdictions in Minnesota have made at least 933 payouts to citizens for alleged misconduct. And they’re on the rise. The average has grown from about 50 payouts per year to around 100.

It’s just a few bad apples though!

If so much money is spent on police misconduct, why hasn’t the government made efforts to restrain its law enforcers? I think history can illustrate the core problem here. Let’s rewind to Ancient Rome. Ancient Rome, like pretty much every regime throughout history, declared that individuals within its territory owed it taxes. Unlike the modern United States though, Ancient Rome had no government tax collectors. Instead it contracted the job out to publicani. Tax collection contracts required collectors to raise a specified amount of money to send to Rome. What made these contracts lucrative was that the collectors were allowed to keep any additional money that they raise for themselves. If, for example, a contract required collectors to collect 1 million sestertii and the collectors collected 1.5 million sestertii, they were allowed to keep the extra half million. As you can imagine, this system was rife with corruption. Tax collectors squeeze every sestertius they could from the population. While the populations being bleed would often complain to Rome, Rome was reluctant to restrain its primary revenue generators so the abuses continued.

The same holds true for modern governments. Law enforcers are a major revenue generator for governments. While $60.8 million may sound like a lot of money even spread out over 10 years, it’s certainly a paltry sum compared to the amount of revenue generated by Minnesota law enforcers in the same span of time. Until the amount being paid out for misconduct allegations exceeds the amount being generated by law enforcers, that status quo will continue.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Reinforcing the Status Quo

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Cop apologists are quick to say that the time to resist a “bad apple” isn’t when they’re violating your so-called rights or curb stomping your face, but in the courtroom after the interaction is concluded. Were the courts just, such advice may be valid. However, the courts are not just and more often than not affirm that heinous acts performed by law enforcers are legal:

The Supreme Court just ruled that a police officer could not be sued for gunning down Amy Hughes. This has vast implications for law enforcement accountability. The details of the case are as damning as the decision. Hughes was not suspected of a crime. She was simply standing still, holding a kitchen knife at her side. The officer gave no warning that he was going to shoot her if she did not comply with his commands. Moments later, the officer shot her four times.

[…]

As Sotomayor argued in dissent, the court’s decision means that such “palpably unreason­able conduct will go unpunished.” According to seven of the nine Justices, Hughes’ Fourth Amendment right to not be shot four times in this situation is less protected than the officer’s interest in escaping accountability for his brazen abuse of authority. According to Justice Sotomayor, “If this account of [the officer’s] conduct sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet, the Court [] insulates that conduct from liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity.”

Worse yet, this decision wasn’t a surprise. And it certainly isn’t an aberration.

This is yet another in a long list of Supreme Court cases that affirm that officers have the privilege to shoot whomever they want for whatever reason they want. This is also why I call bullshit on the earlier mentioned argument commonly made by cop apologists.

If you wait to resist a “bad apple” until a later court case, you may be permanently disabled or even dead. To make matters worse, the court will be more likely side with the “bad apple” than you. Of course fighting with a “bad apple” carries its own risks. The “bad apple’s” buddies will likely join their comrade in beating your ass or summarily executing you. Furthermore, if you do survive, you will likely be tossed into a cage by a court. When you’re so-called rights are being violated by a law enforcer, you’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place and have to decide how to proceed based on the information at hand at the time. However, your list of options shouldn’t consist solely of rolling over and letting a man in a muumuu later affirm that what the officer did to you was perfectly legal.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 11th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Overt Internet Censorship

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The Internet, especially the free speech that it has enabled, was fun while it lasted but it has become obvious that the governments of the world will no longer tolerate such a free system. Of course few governments wants to admit to attacking free speech so they are using euphemisms. For example, the United States government isn’t censoring free speech, it’s fighting sex trafficking:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. law enforcement agencies have seized the sex marketplace website Backpage.com as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a posting on the Backpage website on Friday.

Groups and political leaders working to end forced prostitution and child exploitation celebrated the shutdown of Backpage, a massive ad marketplace that is primarily used to sell sex. But some internet and free speech advocates warned the action could lead to harsh federal limits on expression and the press.

Notice how they managed to throw the “for the children” get out of jail free card in there? Shutting down Backpage wasn’t about prostitution, it was about human trafficking, especially the trafficking of children. It’s just like how the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) is being sold as a law against sex trafficking but it’s really about opening the door to censoring any online material that offends the political class.

Fortunately, there are new frontiers. Tor Hidden Services and I2P offer a mechanism for server operators to keep their location concealed, which makes taking them down more difficult than taking down a standard Internet service. As the precedent being set by SESTA expands, more Internet service operators will find themselves having to utilize the “dark web” to avoid being censored.

He’s Making a List, He’s Checking It Twice

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Few things are as frightening as government lists. No good ever comes from a government list and if you’re one of the individuals who is listed, your future is probably a bleak one, which is why journalists may be facing rather unhappy times in the near future:

In today’s installment of “I’m Not Terrified, You Are,” Bloomberg Government reports on a FedBizOpps.gov posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject “Media Monitoring Services.”

The details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide.

[…]

Meanwhile, the United States government, traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom, is about to compile a list of professional journalists and “top media influencers,” which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they’re putting out to the public.

I can’t think of any reason why the Department of Homeland Fatherland Security (DHS) would want a list of all “media influencers” that aren’t horrible. Every regime in history who has created and maintained such a list has done so for the specific purpose of eliminating (either through intimidation, disappearing, or outright murder) media personnel who fail to push the approved agenda.

Since this is a DHS program, it’s being advertised as a method of tracking foreign media personnel. However, I think recent history with the National Security Agency has shown that government surveillance programs aimed at foreign entities tend to get aimed at domestic entities in short order. So while this database of media personnel may be advertised as being aimed at foreigners, if it isn’t already, it will shortly be aimed at domestic medial personnel as well.

On the one hand, this is rather unsettling. On the other hand, I do appreciate that the political class is finally being overt about its intentions.

The Power of Transmutation

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It turns out that black men have the power of transmutation:

It does not matter what it was to begin with. A wallet. A pipe. A cellphone. It makes no difference. The phenomenon remains the same every time.

In the morning, it is very clearly a cellphone. Anyone who looks at it can see it.

In the afternoon, it is still very clearly a cellphone. It sends texts. It makes calls. Its screen lights up.

But in the evening, the transformation occurs. A police officer sees the cellphone, sees that the hand holding it belongs to a black man, and suddenly, quite without warning, it becomes a gun.

When a law enforcer shoots a (usually black) man who is holding something that is obviously not a weapon, cop apologists will quickly claim that one doesn’t have time to determine whether the object in an individual’s hand is a cellphone or a gun in a potentially life or death situation. The first problem with that argument is that it doesn’t hold for nongovernmental agents. Were I to shoot a man holding a cellphone, I would have a difficult time arguing that I was justified in the use of deadly force. The second problem with that argument is that it assumes the situation was life or death before the officer decided that the cellphone had transmuted into a firearm. Most situations entered by law enforcers don’t start as life or death. They might start off rather tense but they usually only escalate to a life or death situation with time. Oftentimes, the situation seems to escalate because of the law enforcer’s actions, not the individual they’re interacting with.

If this kind of situation only happened rarely, it could easily be explained as law enforcers legitimately mistaking a harmless item a hand for a weapon. But it happens with not insignificant frequency, which indicates that there may be a trend of law enforcers claiming that they believe harmless items are weapons so they can act on their desire to use violence.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 10th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posse Comitatus Act

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Trump announced that he intends to deploy the United States military along the Mexican border to guard it until his proposed wall is built:

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.

“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.

According to the Posse Comitatus Act, neither the Army nor the Air Force can be deployed to enforce laws within the United States without an act of Congress. The Department of the Navy has also created regulations that make the Navy and the Marines operate under the same rules.

However, does the Posse Comitatus Act matter this day and age? Congress has already granted the president the power to wage war without a congressional declaration of war, which is required under the United States Constitution. Since Congress has ceded that power, I see no reason to believe it won’t cede its powers granted by the Posse Comitatus Act. As an aside, if Trump does follow through with his plan, it may be the first time that the Third Amendment gets some love.

But all of this may be a moot point. There isn’t a strong correlation between what Trump says and what he does. He’ll say he’s going to do something one day then seemingly forget all about it the next day.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 4th, 2018 at 11:00 am

I’m Sure There’s a Perfectly Reasonable Explanation

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Stephon Clark was the most recent unarmed black man to make headlines for being gunned down by law enforcers. As is usually the case, law enforcers claimed that Clark appeared to be holding a gun. However, some people are questioning that narrative after hearing the results of a recent autopsy:

Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot last week by Sacramento police officers, was struck eight times, mostly in his back, according to an independent autopsy released Friday, raising significant questions about the police account that he was a threat to officers when he was hit.

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In its initial account, the Police Department said Mr. Clark had “advanced toward the officers” while holding what they believed to be a firearm. In body camera footage provided by the police, it is not clear which direction Mr. Clark is facing, and the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said the independent autopsy contradicted the assertion by the police that he was a threat.

I’m not sure why the autopsy results bring the department’s account into question. It’s obvious what happened. Mr. Clark must have drawn his gun while facing away from the officers and aimed it over his shoulder behind him! Because that’s what people commonly do.

While I’m being sarcastic, there are a lot of law enforcement worshipers currently concocting a narrative that exonerate the officers and their concoction will likely look something like what I just pulled out of my ass. People have a knack for dismissing or contorting information that doesn’t fit their narrative.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 3rd, 2018 at 10:30 am

The FBI’s Dog and Pony Show

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) made a big stink about being unable to unlock an iPhone 5C, which led to a lengthy debate over whether or not phone manufacturers should be required to include a law enforcement backdoor in their devices. According to the FBI, it was powerless to unlock the phone and because of that terrorists, child pornographers, and other heinous individuals would be able to act with impunity. It turns out that the FBI may be been exaggerating its incompetency:

Additionally, the OIG also found that when then FBI Director James Comey swore up and down in Congressional hearings that there was no alternative but to force the issue in court—it wasn’t entirely true.

“We have engaged all parts of the US government to see, does anybody have a way, short of asking Apple, to do it, with a 5C running iOS9, and we do not,” Comey told Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) during a March 1, 2016 hearing.

However, the new OIG report reveals that by February 11, the head of yet another FBI group—known as the Remote Operations Unit—had been in touch with a vendor that “he worked closely with [who] was almost 90 percent of the way toward a solution that the vendor had been working on for many months, and he asked the vendor to prioritize completion of the solution.” In short, weeks before Comey’s testimony before Congress, the FBI actually did know of a technique that was nearly all the way there.

Why would the FBI lie about something like this? One reason is that government agents, unlike private individuals, are allowed to get away with lying during hearings. But the biggest reason is probably because the FBI wanted to expand the United States government’s overall surveillance powers. A law enforcement backdoor would enhance not only the FBI’s surveillance powers but also the Drug Enforcement Agency’s, Central Intelligence Agency’s, National Security Administration’s, and basically every other federal, state, and local agency’s. Technology that allows individuals to protect their privacy is directly at odds with a government’s desire to expropriate wealth from individuals.

Nobody will likely be punished for this lie, which means that the FBI will see no reason to lie again in the future. But it’s good to keep these cases in our back pocket to remind ourselves that every time a government agency claims it needs additional powers, the reasons it feeds us are likely bullshit.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2018 at 10:00 am

More Heroes Doing Hero Things

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You might make the mistake of thinking that an individual who carries a toy gun to plant on anybody they decide to shoot is a bad person being but they’re actually heroes:

Last week, the beginning of an explosive corruption trial involving eight members of Baltimore’s elite Gun Trace Task Force revealed that a handful of Baltimore cops allegedly kept fake guns in their patrol cars to plant on innocent people—a failsafe they could use if they happened to shoot an unarmed suspect, the Baltimore Sun reports.

It’s almost as if positions of power that lack accountability breed corrupt behavior.

I’m not sure whether corruption has become more common in law enforcement departments or has simply received more coverage by the press. Arguments can be made for either. But I think it’s obvious that corruption is far more common in modern law enforcement departments than most people realize. I also think it’s likely that we only see the tip of the iceberg and a majority of corruption remains hidden.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Just Hero Things

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What do you do when you’re a law enforcer who killed a child when driving over twice the posted speed limit? You sue the mother, of course!

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – – A police officer officer being sued for speeding through an intersection and killing a young boy is now suing the boy’s mother, saying the crash was all her fault.

[…]

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s investigation of the incident determined APD Officer Jonathan McDonnell was going double the speed limit while responding to a call in May 2017.

However, he says the mother was the one driving carelessly when she turned in front of him.

Laws are for thee, not for me.

Antoinette Suina, the mother, didn’t break the law when she turned on a green light. Officer McDonnell, on the other hand, was breaking the law by driving 80 miles per hour. And less we forget, his driving record before the accident wasn’t exactly stellar:

The Albuquerque Police Department officer whose cruiser collided with a woman’s car last month, killing her 6-year-old son and critically injuring her 9-year-old daughter, has been disciplined in at least six driving-related incidents during his nine years on the force, according to records obtained by the Journal.

So the officer not only broke the law but has a history of doing so. If he didn’t have a badge, things would not be looking good for him and his chances of winning this lawsuit would be roughly zero (and he’s probably already be in a cage). However, he does have a badge so the rules are different. He actually has a chance of winning this lawsuit because he can claim that the accident happened while he was performing his duties and that usually acts as a get out of consequences free card.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am