National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

USA a War Zone?

From the Indianapolis Star:

“We don’t have a lot of mines in Johnson County,” confessed Sheriff Doug Cox, who acquired the vehicle. “My job is to make sure my employees go home safe.”

Johnson County is one of eight Indiana law enforcement agencies to acquire MRAPs from military surplus since 2010, according to public records obtained by The Indianapolis Star. The vehicles are among a broad array of 4,400 items — everything from coats to computers to high-powered rifles — acquired by police and sheriff’s departments across the state….

“The United States of America has become a war zone,” he said. “There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

But, to some, the introduction of equipment designed for war in Fallujah, Iraq, to the streets of U.S. towns and cities raises questions about the militarization of civilian police departments. Will it make police inappropriately aggressive? Does it blur the line between civilian police and the military?

And from the New York Times on broader trend around the country:

Pentagon data suggest how the police are arming themselves for such worst-case scenarios. Since 2006, the police in six states have received magazines that carry 100 rounds of M-16 ammunition, allowing officers to fire continuously for three times longer than normal. Twenty-two states obtained equipment to detect buried land mines.

In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.

To protect us against the returning veterans?  Hmm.

For related Cato work, go here, here, and here.

Police Throw Grenade into Home and It Lands in Baby’s Crib

From the Associated Press:

Officers raiding a Georgia home in search of a drug suspect used a flash grenade not knowing children were inside, severely burning a toddler who was sleeping just inside the door, authorities and the boy’s family said.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said the officers were looking for a suspect who may have been armed and followed proper procedure by using the device, which creates a bright flash and loud bang to distract suspects

“It’s a tragic incident,” Terrell said. “The baby didn’t deserve this.”

Alecia Phonesavanh told local media her son was sleeping in his playpen when the raid began Wednesday morning.

“The cops threw that grenade in the door without looking first, and it landed right in the playpen and exploded on his pillow right in his face,” Phonesavanh told WSB-TV.

No one thinks the police set out to hurt this child.  But were the tactics sloppy, reckless, and unnecessary?  Yes.

These raids and injuries are more common than many realize.  Check out the Cato raid map.

Defunding Armed Federal Units

From Newsmax:

Federal agencies are increasingly granting agents the authority to carry weapons and execute search warrants, a trend that one congressman is hoping to reverse.

Rep. Chris Stewart is preparing legislation to defund the law enforcement units of agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, whose primary purpose is regulatory.

“The fundamental challenge is that people like me simply do not trust the federal government any longer. We see examples of non-law enforcement agencies taking a very heavy hand, using armed SWAT teams against citizens, and that leads to an even deeper mistrust,” the Utah Republican told Newsmax.

Florida Police Now Ready For Minefields

From the New York Daily News:

“If you see my SWAT team roll up in this thing … it’s over, so just give up,” said Chief R. Sean Baldwin in a release….

The police department was able to purchase the armored vehicle through the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act, which passes excess military supplies to U.S. law enforcement.

More than $4.2 billion worth of property has been transferred to law enforcement since the program’s inception.

One wonders if these guys shout ‘Yippee Ki-Ya!” as they drive down neighborhood streets.

Deputy Accidently Shoots Woman During Raid

From Buckeye Country 105.com:

A Ross County law enforcement official is on paid leave after firing a shot that eventually killed a woman during a drug raid.

Members of the U.S. 23 Task Force raided a known drug house along U.S. 23 in southern Ross County late Wednesday night. As soon as they got inside, they found a woman with a head wound on the couch in the living room.

“It was discovered later that a bullet had accidentally discharged from outside the door of the trailer and went through the outside wall of the trailer and into the living room,” said Ross County Sheriff George Lavender.

The bullet struck Krystal Barrows in the head. She was flown to OSU Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, but she died from her wounds….

The sheriff says he was outside the home at the time of the raid and never heard a shot go off. He thinks it probably happened at the same time a flash-bang grenade was used as agents entered the home. Those devices are used to distract and confuse suspects.

And for the Nth time, those grenades also confuse the police–and that too often endangers people unnecessarily.

More here.

Mother Jones on Overcriminalization

Chase Madar:

If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago….

The term “police state” was once brushed off by mainstream intellectuals as the hyperbole of paranoids. Not so much anymore. Even in the tweediest precincts of the legal system, the over-criminalization of American life is remarked upon with greater frequency and intensity. “You’re probably a (federal) criminal” is the accusatory title of a widely read essay co-authored by Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals. A Republican appointee, Kozinski surveys the morass of criminal laws that make virtually every American an easy target for law enforcement. Veteran defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate has written an entire book about how an average American professional could easily commit three felonies in a single day without knowing it.The daily overkill of police power in the US goes a long way toward explaining why more Americans aren’t outraged by the “excesses” of the war on terror, which, as one law professor has argued, are just our everyday domestic penal habits exported to more exotic venues. It is no less true that the growth of domestic police power is, in this positive feedback loop, the partial result of our distant foreign wars seeping back into the homeland (the “imperial boomerang” that Hannah Arendt warned against).Many who have long railed against our country’s everyday police overkill have reacted to the revelations of NSA surveillance with detectable exasperation: of course we are over-policed! Some have even responded with peevish resentment: Why so much sympathy for this Snowden kid when the daily grind of our justice system destroys so many lives without comment or scandal? After all, in New York, the police department’s “stop and frisk” tactic, which targets African American and Latino working-class youth for routinized street searches, was until recently uncontroversial among the political and opinion-making class. If “the gloves came off” after September 11, 2001, many Americans were surprised to learn they had ever been on to begin with.A hammer is necessary to any toolkit. But you don’t use a hammer to turn a screw, chop a tomato, or brush your teeth. And yet the hammer remains our instrument of choice, both in the conduct of our foreign policy and in our domestic order. The result is not peace, justice, or prosperity but rather a state that harasses and imprisons its own people while shouting ever less intelligibly about freedom.

Read the whole thing.  The article by Judge Kozinski appears in my book, In the Name of Justice, found on the home page here.