National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Worst of the Month – August 2013

For August, it was the home invasion by the Dekalb County officers.

There were probably worse consequences in some of the other August reports, but the DeKalb case didn’t result from a mere momentary lapse in judgment.  It resulted from an environment where an officer can rise to a high rank within a police force and think it acceptable and within his authority to harass and threaten citizens in the middle of the night in their own home, without any resistance.  This case shows officers that are either unfamiliar with, or totally indifferent about, what the Constitution has to say about searches.

Milton Friedman on the Drug War

100 years ago, the great champion of liberty, Milton Friedman, was born.  Thus, it is  an appropriate day to recall some of his words about the American criminal justice system, particularly the drug war.

 

 

Here is Dr. Friedman’s foreword to my book, After Prohibition:

This book contains revised versions of papers given at a conference on “Beyond Prohibition: An Adult approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century,” held at the Cato Institute on October 5, 1999. The papers presented range widely over all aspects of current drug policy. The final two chapters record a debate held at the conference on whetherAmerica should legalize drugs.

Whatever your view about that issue, I believe that you cannot read this book without recognizing the social tragedy that has resulted from the attempt to prohibit people from ingesting an arbitrary list of substances designated “illegal drugs.” That list includes marijuana, for which there is no recorded case of human death from overdose in several thousand years of use and which has important medicinal uses, but excludes alcohol, which also has important medicinal uses but for which the annual death toll in theUnited Statesalone is measured in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Not since the collapse of the attempt to prohibit the ingestion of alcohol has our liberty been in such danger from the misnamed “war on drugs.”

How can there be a war on drugs? Can there be a war on stones, on buildings, on aspirin? Surely, wars are on living, not inanimate, objects. And this war is being waged on people. Like every war, it is being waged in wanton disregard of “Life,Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”-”unalienable rights” with which we are endowed by our Creator, according to the Declaration of Independence.

As a nation, we have been destroying foreign countries because we cannot enforce our own laws. As a nation, we have been responsible for the murder of literally hundreds of thousands of people at home and abroad by fighting a war that should never have been started and can be won, if at all, only by converting theUnited Statesinto a police state. The annual arrest of nearly a million and a half people suspected of a drug offense, most of them for simple possession of small quantities, is frightening evidence of how far along that road we have already gone. So too is the overcrowding of our prisons, despite an unprecedented increase in capacity, leading to the release of persons convicted of violent crimes in order to make room for persons convicted of a drug offense and given minimum required sentences. Minimum required sentences that are sometimes so harsh that at least one judge has resigned rather than be the instrument for imposing cruel and inhumane punishment, and numerous other judges have registered strong protests (see chapter 8). So too is the fact, noted by Nova University law professor Steven Wisotsky, that “law enforcement officials-now joined by the military forces of the United States-have the power, with few limits, to snoop, sniff, survey, and detain, without warrant or probable cause, in the war against drug trafficking. Property may be seized on slight evidence and forfeited to the state or federal government without proof of the personal guilt of the owner….[and] and increasingly imperial federal government has applied intimidating pressures to shop owners and others in the private sector to help implement federal drug policy.

Why is it that laws against the ingestion of a class of substances have proved to be so much greater a threat to our freedom than laws against theft, assault, and murder? The answer is simple. Persons who have been harmed by theft, assault, and murder have a strong incentive to report the crime to law enforcement officials. There is a clear and evident victim. Enforcement of the law is a cooperative enterprise that enlists the assistance of the persons harmed.

By contrast, when a willing seller and a willing buyer transfer a substance that has been designated illegal, no one has an incentive to report what the law in its majesty has declared a crime. NO on has a direct incentive to cooperate with law enforcement officials. Evidence must be obtained in other ways, such as the use of informers-a practice that every totalitarian state has engaged in when it made it a crime to hold or publish the “wrong” beliefs, a crime that willing participants have no incentive to report. The Nazis and the Communists alike encouraged children to spy on and report their parents for “crimes against the state,” and so does the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (see chapter 10).

The lack of anyone who has a direct incentive to report an offense is also the reason drug enforcers are driven to warrantless searches, seizures of property without due process, and all of the other violations of civil liberties that have become so common in the relentless prosecution of the drug war.

The high financial stakes enhance the danger to our liberty. The produce widespread corruption, which requires the use of ever more resources to monitor the monitors, and enable drug dealers to finance armies and arms not obviously inferior to the armies and arms of the drug warriors. Only the well-financed and well-armed drug dealers can survive, with the ironic result that our drug enforcement efforts protect the major drug cartels from competition-more effectively than the OPEC cartel was ever able to protect itself from competition!

Law enforcement agencies are major beneficiaries of the drug war at the same time that law enforcement is a major victim. The agencies benefit from the many billions of dollars spent on pursuing the drug war and from the proceeds of forfeiture, an increasingly attractive and lucrative source of funds. Law enforcement suffers because the attempt to enforce laws against victimless crime breaks the link between law enforcers and the community; widespread corruption engendered by the vast sums at stake destroys the trust between police and public that is essential for the proper enforcement of the law (see chapter 7). Moreover, though total expenditures on law enforcement has increased greatly, so large a fraction goes to the drug war that less is available to enforce the laws against theft, assault and murder.

The Declaration of Independence tells us that “governments are instituted among men” in order “to secure” “certain unalienable rights” and that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” A nanny government has become destructive of these ends. It is past time that we alter it.

Milton Friedman
Hoover Institute
Stanford, California
September 8, 2000

Ever so slowly, policymakers are starting to come around on this subject.  

Police organizations too!  More here and here

For more info about the legacy of Milton Friedman, check out the Cato Institute home page.

The Library Book Caper

From CBS News:

A New Mexico woman who says she doesn’t remember checking out either the “Twilight” book or the two-DVD movie set from the library had to endure her own Twilight saga. 

She was arrested in front of her children and spent a night in jail for not returning the materials to the library.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Lori Teel was arrested and handcuffed at her Portales home in front of her five small children earlier this month for the $36 worth of ‘Twilight’ items that had gone unreturned since 2010.

A summons would have been the appropriate response here.

Jury Nullification Law Signed by New Hampshire Governor

With all the buzz and anticipation surrounding the final rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court the past week, there has been little attention to an interesting legal development in New Hampshire:  On June 18, Governor John Lynch (no relation)  signed HB 146 into law and it becomes effective on January 1, 2013.   HB 146  concerns “the right of a jury to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.”  It’s popularly known as “the jury nullification bill.”  In this post, I will try to explain what impact this new law may have in the  New Hampshire courts.

Continue Reading →

It’s nice to know…

That these jokers will be making over $260k off of my idea and hard work.

I really cannot express how much of a blow it is to me that all these years of hard work that went into creating this project and running it, let alone all the sacrifice it took to keep it going through some tough times, is going to be stolen by these guys with support from the US government.

I can’t really see any point of keeping this project going right now when all I’m doing by working myself to death with it is making it easier for those people to sponge off that work to rake in tax dollars.

I’m going to take a few days off to figure this out… meanwhile, here’s a poll to see if any of you can see any real reason to keep this going now.

[poll id="17"]

The Worst Police Misconduct Videos of 2011


The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) “Worst Police Misconduct Video of the Year” readers poll is part an examination of how our readers view police misconduct and part effort to garner more interest into the issues of police misconduct, transparency, and accountability.

Though so many of the thousands of cases we cover each year are bad even when they don’t include video of the incident, we pick about 20 each year that did have publicly accessible video associated with their cases and ask our readers to vote for the worst… and this is the third year we’ve run the poll.

There are no awards, prize packets, or even fake gotcha trophies in this contest that, ultimately, has no real winners. Just the shameful knowledge that hundreds of people decided that the officers involved took part in the worst example of police misconduct immortalized on video in the year of 2011.

With that said, here are the results of our poll:

The fifth worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 67 Votes (15%)


    Date: March 2010 (video leaked February 2011)
    Officers: 9 Houston TX police officers
    Victim: Chad Holley
    Status: 4 of 9 officers involved were fired and charged with official oppression and/or civil rights violations.

    This video that almost never made it to the light of day shows several Houston TX cops piling up on a 15-year-old burglary suspect after he was clipped by a police car and appeared to surrender. The officers then proceed to take turns repeatedly punching, kicking and kneeing the young teen for a span of minutes as he laid on the ground before taking him away. The mayor and police bitterly fought to keep this video from being released and complained fiercely that the person who leaked it should have been arrested.
    Latest Update: http://www.khou.com/home/Judge-denies-venue-change-in-Houston-cop-case-128256043.html

The fourth worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 77 Votes (17%)


    Date: September 2010 (released Nov/Dec 2010 but not on our site until Jan 2011)
    Officers: Approx 6 Weber-Morgan UT Narcotics Strike Force officers
    Victim: Todd Blair
    Status: Lawsuit pending, IA ruled shooting justified.

    This controversial and disturbing video of a no-knock raid performed by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force in Utah appears to show a raid that went wrong and didn’t conform to standard planning practices. The multi-agency task force decided to rush into performing a raid on a home they suspected had housed a meth dealer in September of 2009. However, the raid only turned up a small amount of marijuana by one account or a small amount of an unidentified substance according to a different report. Needless to say, it appears as though their target wasn’t a dealer but, at most, an addict who died with $4.00 in his possession. The fatal shooting occurs very quickly after officers burst through the door, about 1 second after they spotted the victim holding a golf club at least 15 feet away. The report claimed the victim was approaching officers menacingly but, as the video shows, he was stationary at the time and appeared to have just woken up.
    Latest Update: http://www.standard.net/topics/drugs/2010/10/29/family-planning-lawsuit-prevent-repeat-drug-raid-shooting-death

The third worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 78 Votes (17%)


    Date: December 2011
    Officers: Approximately 6 Maricopa County AZ deputies and approximately 4 Phoenix AZ police officers
    Victim: Ernest Atencio
    Status: Under Investigation

    Several Phoenix AZ police officers and Maricopa County AZ deputies are seen in surveillance video taking down a detainee who didn’t appear to be presenting any visible threat then choking and tasering him repeatedly before dragging him into a “safe cell” where they stripped him naked and left him for several minutes. When they checked on him again he was unresponsive and not breathing. He died several days later when he was taken off life support while brain dead. While the Phoenix PD insisted their role in the incident was minimal, the video appears to contradict them.
    Latest Update: http://tucsoncitizen.com/hispanic-politico/2011/12/26/law-enforcer-mike-stauffer-reacts-to-death-of-ernest-m-atencio-death/

The second worst police misconduct video of 2011 – 131 Votes (29%)

And finally…

The Worst Police Misconduct Video of 2011 – 227 Votes (49%)


    Date: July 2011
    Officers: 6 Fullerton CA police officers
    Victim: Kelly Thomas
    Status: Police chief on extended sick leave, 2 officers charged with murder/manslaughter, 4 officers still on paid leave, lawsuit vs Fullerton PD, lawsuit vs Orange Co DA, and recall effort against several public officials.

    6 Fullerton CA police officers can be heard on this video, but not clearly seen, beating Kelly Thomas as Thomas heartrendingly cries out in pain for his father in an encounter, stemming from a questionable car prowling call, that ultimately led to Kelly Thomas’s death from numerous injuries. After a lengthy investigation 2 of the officers were charged with murder/manslaughter and excessive force over the incident. Other videos from surveillance cameras exist but are being kept secret as were a lot of details, which led to recall efforts against public officials who defended the police and tried to whitewash the incident prior to the criminal charges being filed. The incident also led to a flood of other misconduct reports involving that city’s police department being brought out and other legal cases as well.
    Latest Update: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/12/kelly-thomas-mother-sues-da-beating-death.html

Visit here to see all the video candidates and full results of the poll.
Results from the previous Worst Police Misconduct Video Reader’s Polls can be found at the following locations:
Worst Police Misconduct Videos of 2010
Worst Police Misconduct Videos of 2009