Monday, June 9, 2014

Having A Blast?

How ironic is it that the most recent victim in what appears to be American Society's favorite drama, Cops Gone Wild, is pronounced "Boo Boo"? Some apologists would like to dismiss this as a little fuquey uppey. You know--shit happens. Others point to a trend often citing the Kathryn Johnston disaster that resulted in the temporary disbanding of the special force whose members murdered her. Sadly that group has been recently re-formed. Or they look to the strikingly similar case of Trinishia Dukes who was also bombed with a flash-bang grenade and whose lawyer has made it clear this is out of control: "It has just become 'If SWAT goes out we're using flash bangs.' They think it is a toy." It is also epidemic with Clayton SWAT grenading citizens at a rate of over one per week. For over three years.

All this leaves many of us asking:

Others are beginning to ask why but as is so often the case this can be explained by money. Drug busts lead to property confiscation with due process denied in practice and afforded only as a legal theory. Increasingly police agencies are funding not only their peccadilloes but their core operational budgets from this revenue source. Attacking the public is now for fun AND profit.

They have also co-opted confidential informants who have been falsely identifying innocents and worse yet running entrapment schemes in order to avoid threats of punishment should they not meet quotas handed out by their police handlers. Using what would normally be seen as blackmail police handlers are using these informants to violate Constitutional Rights entrapping otherwise law abiding citizens while maintaining the one degree of separation they feel indemnifies them.

In militarizing the force the police (with our negligent approval) have done what is necessary in all military conflicts: dehumanize the enemy. And in this case the public is enemy number one. They speak in vague characterizations--the Bad Guys--terms that can be applied at their discretion to anyone they see. Those that buy into this view, who bandy about the chimerical threat of these mysterious Bad Guys to assist in expanding the military nature and capabilities of what should be a civilian law enforcement operation are the real Bad Guys. The public are the Good Guys and increasing the police are, well...

Some say these are isolated incidents that are being blown out of proportion by those with anti-government proclivities. The Cato Institute begs to differ and offers an online map to help elucidate the extent of these abuses of power. This is a serious and growing problem and measures must be taken:

  • Issuing no-knock warrants must be taken more seriously as it is a clear violation of Constitutional Rights. We must stop issuing these warrants to any agency below the state level--no more city or county LEO's playing warrior. Judges issuing these warrants should be at no less than the state level as well. There should also be a minimum 48 hour period between issuance and execution--if the cops are afraid the suspect will flee then that is an excellent time to apprehend--w/o a no-knock warrant. 
  • A minimum of two law enforcement agencies must be involved in executing these warrants with at least one being at the state level or above. When cops misbehave (as they apparently have in bombing beds and bassinets with their flash-bangs) there needs to be someone at the scene of what has become another crime to preserve the integrity of the evidence. Yes, this will always be problematic.
  • Body and vehicle cameras must be a mandatory prerequisite for mission-go and must be operational and active before vehicles roll and cannot be disabled in the field. Un-redacted video is proactively supplied during discovery and is available to the public under FOIA requests within 48 hours. 
  • The use of confidential informants must be curtailed. While it has become quite the commercial ecosystem with all the for-profit operations providing training and seminars those are exactly the kinds of operations that indicate this practice has become excessive and long detached from its original usefulness. Severe penalties, greater than what the cops can hold over informants, need to be applied to cases of entrapment and equal responsibility and punishment must be afforded any handler whose informant is successfully prosecuted. Informant and handler must hang together.
  • We must stop paying law enforcement to behave badly by ending property confiscation as it exists today. All confiscated assets must go to the State and not local agencies. This money must be dedicated, in order, to: a) victim compensation; and b) programs to deter or rehabilitate offenders. Any left over assets (there should be little or none) must go to the general operating fund. Furthermore any seized assets must be held in escrow (IE: impounded) until the owner of that asset has been convicted of any charges brought against them. As a part of their sentencing, the presiding judge will determine what assets can be seized, which must be returned in whole or in part to others with claims on those assets and determine the allocation of seized assets according to the guidelines above. 
This will not be well received in some quarters but let's apply the logic so often used when government wants us to freely give up our Constitutional Rights: if they're not doing anything wrong what are they afraid of? Where cooler heads prevail there will be an understanding that these efforts will do as much to protect police officers as it does anyone else. Unnecessary use of paramilitary tactics (keep in mind the Habersham suspect was captured later at a different location without the need for Seal Team Six) puts officers as much at risk as it does the public.

If we as a society do not take direct, firm action we run the risk of benignly supporting the political creation of an oppressive police state.