The Privilege of Power

I would like you to read this story and ask yourself, what do you think would happen to you if you were in Ryan Haass’ position:

On Sunday, Feb. 11 after leaving the Tippy Canoes bar in Osceola, Wis., Haass drove off the road and abandoned his car in a ditch. He left the scene of the accident and later claimed he continued drinking at home.

Surveillance video from the bar in Osceola, obtained by the FOX 9 Investigators, shows Haass spent the afternoon drinking, consuming at least three beers and four Long Island iced teas.

[…]

When the officer asked Haass what he was drinking, he said, “Hey, stop there. I know why you are asking these questions and I’m not saying any more.”

When the officer asked Haas to perform a field sobriety test, he refused and said, “What is the point? I will not perform the test. Now what are you going to do?”

Osceola Police Chief Ron Pedrys was monitoring the situation that night and told Fox 9 that without a field sobriety test, the officer did not have probable cause to arrest Haass.

In this age where drunk driving is probably considered the same as murder to most people, how did Haass manage to get away with this? Why wasn’t he arrested and taken to the station to be blood tested when he refused to perform a field sobriety test? Because Haass happens to be a law enforcer himself.

Power comes with privileges such as professional courtesy. Law enforcers often extend a great deal of courtesy to each other that they won’t extend to regular schmucks like you and me. If one officer pulls another over for speeding, they’ll often pretend that the situation never occurred. If one officer finds that another is in possession of illegal narcotics, they’ll often pretend that they didn’t see anything. And if one officer suspects that another was driving while intoxicated, they often won’t force a sobriety or blood test.

Rules are for little people, not the king’s men.

There’s No Law So Minor That a Law Enforcer Won’t Murder You over It

Whenever I point out that laws are violence and that law enforcers will escalate even minor transgressions against the law to lethal force, some statist will rebut by asking, “When’s the last time somebody was killed over a traffic ticket?” The answer to that is, just a few months ago:

Locked away in the Mineral County Jail for failing to take care of her traffic tickets, 27-year-old Kelly Coltrain asked to go to the hospital. Instead, as her condition worsened, she was handed a mop and told to clean up her own vomit. She died in her jail cell less than an hour later.

Despite being in a video-monitored cell, Mineral County Sheriff’s deputies did not recognize that Coltrain had suffered an apparent seizure and had not moved for more than six hours. When a deputy finally entered her cell and couldn’t wake her, he did not call for medical assistance or attempt to resuscitate her. Coltrain lay dead in her cell until the next morning when state officials arrived to investigate­­.

Are the officers who, probably literally, watched her die in their cage facing punishment? You probably already know the answer to that question:

The investigators also asked the Mineral County District Attorney to consider criminal charges in the case, after finding evidence the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office may have violated state laws prohibiting inhumane treatment of prisoners and using one’s official authority for oppression.

To avoid a conflict of interest, the investigation was forwarded to Lyon County District Attorney Stephen Rye for review. Rye declined to press charges in the case.

“The review of the case, in our opinion, did not establish any willful or malicious acts by jail staff that would justify the filing of charges under the requirements of the statute,” Rye said.

I guess locking somebody in a cage, refusing them medical care when it was obvious there was something seriously wrong, handing them a mop after they suffered a seizure and telling them to clean up the mess, and failing to even attempt to resuscitate them when they ceased responding to stimuli isn’t “willful of malicious” behavior… at least when you wear a badge.

Although I heap a lot of deserved criticism on law enforcers, they aren’t the only bad actors in the State. Part of the reason there are so many bad law enforcers is because those tasked with overseeing them fail to hold the bad actors responsible. Prosecutors, for example, regularly refuse to bring charges against law enforcers even when handed a mountain of evidence indicating that they did something heinous. If by some miracle a bad law enforcer is taken to court and found guilty of a crime, judges will often hand out a lenient sentences in “recognition of their years of service to the community.” This creates an environment that is a magnet for bad actors. A person with violent urges looks at a situation like this and realizes that they can get away with acting on their urges if they become a cop.

So long as the entire system refuses to punish law enforcers who act in bad faith, the profession will continue to attract the lowest humanity has to offer.

California Gives Bureaucrats More Leeway to Impost Pretrial Punishment

Bail is an old concept that allows individuals accused of a crime to avoid the pretrial punishment of rotting in a cage. The idea is that an individual hands over a substantial stake (along with travel documents such as passports) that will be returned when they show up for their trial date. Simple enough, right? Not so much. Since bail is set by bureaucrats of the court, a court that wants to punish somebody who hasn’t yet been found guilty of a crime can do so by setting a suspect’s bail absurdly high. The government of California decided that this practice was unfair and chose to eradicate it. However, as is always the case with government, there’s a catch:

California will end the cash bail system in a sweeping reform for the state. Rather than requiring defendants to pay in order to be released before trial, their release will hinge on an assessment of their risk to public safety.

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.

By rich and poor being treated fairly, Governor Brown means they will all have their fate solely in the hands of a board of bureaucrats. In other words, nothing has changed. Now, instead of setting bail absurdly high, bureaucrats of the court merely need to claim that an individual is too dangerous to be allowed to roam free if they want to punish them before their trail.

Love It or Leave It… If You Can

Love it or leave it is a common phrase used by nationalistic Americans who would rather tell people who criticize their beloved country to get the fuck out than acknowledge its imperfection. What these individuals don’t stop to consider is that getting out isn’t necessarily easy and it’s becoming more difficult everyday:

PHARR, Texas – On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.

His official U.S. birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.

It’s pretty difficult to leave without a passport.

This is another sign of something that nationalists often fail to acknowledge, the United States is a police state. Controlling passports and other forms of travel papers has been a beloved strategy of tyrannical regimes to keep people from fleeing to greener pastures. The Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic were especially notorious for this. In fact in those two countries merely requesting official permission to leave could land you on a secret police watch list. Even if it didn’t, your chances of getting permission were slim unless your communist credentials were solid or you had some collateral (i.e. family members) to put up to ensure your return.

As the United States government continues to tighten the cuffs it has placed on the wrists of population, passport denials for citizens will become more frequent. This, of course, will be sold as necessary for national security but it will really be about stopping tax cattle from taking their wealth outside of the government’s power to steal it.

Security Theater Is Expensive

During the Super Bowl Minneapolis was effectively turned into a giant prison camp. Barriers were erected, snipers were positioned, Humvees were cruising around, and heavily militarized law enforcers from numerous agencies were marching around. While all of that security theater may have looked impressive, it was also expensive:

The department is expected to spend $175.6 million for the fiscal year, coming in at $1.9 million over its $173.7 million budget, according to new projections from the city’s finance department. The projections were a part of a second quarter 2018 financial report presented to the Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday.

“The Police department expects to come in $1.9 million over budget due to payments to other agencies and overtime related to the Super Bowl and SWAT for the X-Games,” read an earlier draft of the report released on Monday. In the final version that was presented at Ways & Means, the wording was revised to “large planned events.”

It’s a good thing that Minneapolis has so many tax cattle to make up for this shortfall. It’s also a good thing that the National Football League was able to subsidize its security expenses by shoving a huge chunk onto the tax cattle. And let’s be honest here, you can’t put a price on the the convenience of the super wealthy tax cattle being able to attend the big game without the hassle of flying to it on their personal jet.

You Live in a Police State

When people think of police states they get an image of jackbooted thugs performing nightly raids in every neighborhood for the purpose of disappearing seemingly random citizens. Because of that image most people fail to recognize a real police state when they’re living in one. A real police state is far more subtle. It is a state where the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons:

If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.

[…]

Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contains more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.

After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.

The key to a police state is that just because the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons doesn’t mean it will choose to harass everybody or even a majority of people. Usually a police state will choose to harass only a small percentage of people, which allows the majority of people to believe that they don’t live in a police state because they’ve never been harassed.

The United States is a police state. The government has established a system of laws so complete that it is impossible not to be in violation of the law. Moreover, the government grants its agencies a great deal of free reign. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) can surveil any air traveler for any arbitrary reason, including them somehow being associated with one of a million individuals on a secret list, and there is no way to know what the result of that surveillance is because the TSA has long had the power to add people to secret lists of people who it has the right to harass. But since most air travelers won’t suffer consequences from this practice, they will continue to be oblivious to the fact that they live in a police state.

Dimwitted Sheep

It is fortune for the United States government that it rules over such dimwitted and malleable sheep for if it wasn’t, it might suffer some kind of resistance whenever it inserted itself further into their everyday lives:

Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

Fortunately for the United States government, this new infringement on its subject’s supposed rights will meet with at most a few days of people making statements about how outraged they are before they roll over like the docile domesticated animals they are.

It’s Good to Be the King

It’s good to be the king. When you’re the king, you don’t have to put up with insults from your subjects:

When body-camera footage of an aggressive or abusive police officer goes viral, the response from law enforcement groups is often to caution that we shouldn’t judge the entire system based on actions of a few bad apples. That’s fair enough. But what does it say about the system when the cops gets away with their bad behavior? What if, despite video footage clearly showing that the cops are in the wrong, sheriffs and police chiefs cover for them, anyway? What if local prosecutors do, too? What if even mayors and city attorneys get into the act?

Adam Finley had such an interaction with a bad cop. He was roughed up, sworn at and handcuffed. When he tried to file a complaint, he was hit with criminal charges. The local police chief turned Finley’s wife against him, which (according to both Finley and her) eventually ended their marriage. The fact that video of the incident should have vindicated him didn’t seem to matter.

This is a really good story to read because it illustrates a lot of facts about modern law enforcement, the power of authority, and local government. Even though body camera footage clearly showed the officer was abusing his authority, Finley had his life ruined because the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer covered for him. This shouldn’t be surprisingly since all of the people tasked with overseeing the law enforcer work for the same government as the law enforcer. But many people still make the mistake of believing that government oversight of law enforcement is an effective check against abuse when, in fact, government oversight of law enforcement is merely the government overseeing itself. Whenever you give an entity the power to oversee itself, it has a strong tendency to find that it did nothing wrong.

Federal Court Tells Slaves to Shut Up

What recourse do you have when you’re assaulted by a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) goon? A federal appeals court has decided that you have no recourse:

In a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners were not “investigative or law enforcement officers,” and were therefore shielded from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Badges, even when they’re not on the shirt of a law enforcer, are magical things. So long as your uniform has one, you enjoy significant privileges that allow you to get away with actions that would be considered criminal if performed by somebody without a badge.

Body Cameras Are for the Benefit of Prosecutors, Not You

For decades there has been an continuously increasing number of reports of law enforcers abusing their power. Unfortunately, many of these reports boiled down to he said, she said because of the lack of evidence. Moreover, when he said, she said reports involving law enforcers crop up, the courts that are tasked with overseeing them (but also happen to work for the same employer), tend to side with them. This tendency spurred a call by many for police body cameras. While there was some push back from the law enforcement community regarding body cameras, most departments seemed to roll over with comparatively little resistance, which should have been a red flag that they knew something that we didn’t.

Now that body cameras have been widely deployed for some time, we finally have enough evidence to establish a theory about why so many law enforcement departments rolled over so easily. They recognized that body cameras were valuable assets when prosecutors needed evidence and malfunctioning junk when law enforcers might be shown in a bad light:

Techdirt has the goods on a pretty crazy story out of Albuquerque. Five police officers were at the scene of a fatal shooting. All five were wearing body cameras. And miraculously, none of the five captured usable footage from the shooting on their body cameras.

A sergeant on the scene claimed to have turned his camera on, but the camera didn’t record. He’d later say his camera had never malfunctioned like that before. Ditto for another officer whose camera weirdly captured footage so pixelated that it was unusable — again, no one had ever seen that problem before. A third officer says his camera malfunctioned just before the shooting. Mysteriously, the camera has not had a problem since. A fourth said his camera mistakenly became unplugged. Analysis showed it had been turned on eight minutes before the shooting, then turned off just moments before the fatal encounter. A fifth officer’s camera captured 10 seconds of vague footage. It should have captured at least 30, given the camera’s buffer function. He had failed to turn it on.

Regular readers of The Watch may recall that this isn’t even the first time five police cameras all conveniently malfunctioned at a critical time.

Five officers experiencing body camera malfunctions during an incident involving a fatal shooting is pretty much unbelievable in of itself but if you read the rest of the story, you’ll learn that this sort of thing has happened on numerous occasions. Strangely enough I haven’t seen any reports where multiple body cameras have malfunctioned during incidents that reflect well on the officers involved. If the reports of malfunctioning body cameras are to be believed, then the malfunction must be caused by law enforcers performing questionable actions.

Realistically body cameras were never meant to be tools to hold law enforcers accountable. They were sold as such so community members would support their adoption but they were really meant to collect additional evidence to assist prosecutors. And this scam works because the body tasked with holding law enforcers accountable just happens to be the same body for which the law enforcers generate revenue. Did you really think that government bodies were interested in potentially hurting their revenue by pissing off their revenue generators?