Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

Knee deep in the schadenfreude.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I should have worn waders today.

(Fun fact: “Knee Deep In the Schadenfreude” was Starship’s working title for “We Built This City”.)

Local elections are coming up. I’m not sure what’s on the ballot for Austin specifically and Travis County in general. But in Lakeway, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time, three city council seats are up. Also, the city is considering a proposition to issue $23 million worth of bonds so they can build a new police station.

The new cop shop is kind of a big deal. I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it, but most of the people I’ve been around in Lakeway are police or police supporters. I’ve been down and toured the current police station, and it is small and cramped and crowded: there’s no room to grow. On the other hand, the figures I cam up with for a certain property owner I know came out to around %6 a month more in property taxes. This is someone who is on a fixed income: six dollars here, six collars there, pretty soon you’re talking about City of Austin property taxes.

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the proposition and the candidates. But here’s the problem: Lakeway’s mayor, Joe Bain, who is active on NextDoor (and has a blog on the city website) decided he’d be smart.

“John Smart” on NextDoor, to be exact.

Posts made under the name “John Smart” included advocating that residents vote for incumbent City Council candidates Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” a post by John Smart reads.

The mayor has confessed and deleted the account.

Bain confirmed by phone Thursday evening that he was behind the “John Smart” account, adding, “The city really doesn’t have anything [to do] with this … there are reasons behind all this.”

I’m not currently on NextDoor, but looking over their rules, Mayor Bain’s behavior is a pretty clear violation. I had thought that NextDoor actually did some validation on signups to make sure you were a real person and lived in the place you signed up for. (I know, I know, silly me: expecting a website on the Internet to do validation.) The one person I’ve heard from so far who is on NextDoor says they didn’t go through any validation process, but they used an invite code provided by their local neighborhood association. Maybe that bypasses the validation?

The first question this leads to is: how did he get a fake NextDoor account? Was someone else…helping him out?

The second question: how is this going to impact the election? Early voting started Monday. I can’t vote in Lakeway, but if I could, I’d be looking cynically at Mayor Bain’s endorsed candidates. Perhaps it is time for some new leadership? (I’d also be thinking about my support for the new cop shop. But honestly, I’d probably end up voting for it anyway.)

Random gun and cop crankery, some filler.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Easter Sunday, a group of us went shooting at the KR Training range. Because what better way is there to celebrate the resurrection of Christ than to shoot off guns? Hey, didn’t the man say “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one?”

(Also: KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties.)

While we were out there, the actor we’ve hired to play Karl mentioned that you can get AR pattern lowers (and uppers) in pistol calibers…that take Glock magazines. Here’s an example. (Not endorsed by WCD: I have no experience with the company or product.) Since most folks who are serious Glock users have a bunch of magazines around, this is an attractive idea. Even more so when you know that you can get magazine extensions for those standard Glock magazines and load up even more rounds.

My mind immediately went in a particular direction, but I’m going to come at it from the long way around. Because that’s just the kind of hairball I am. Let’s start with the question: what calibers do Glocks come in?

I can almost visualize a .380 ACP Glock AR carbine (or an AR pistol). The vision I have of it in my head is that it would be a kind of cute plinking gun…that shoots relatively expensive ammo and doesn’t have a fun switch. It reminds me of the old MAC-11, but even less useful. (Though the AR platform carbine would perhaps be more reliable.)

9mm seems to be where the AR/Glock action is, and for good reason: 9mm ARs are fairly popular in various places, 9mm ammo is relatively cheap, and this seems like a very practical pistol caliber carbine. Perhaps even more so if you pay for the tax stamp and make it a short-barreled rife. I think a lot of folks are looking at these, even without the SBR tax stamp, as good home defense weapons: easier to handle, point, and shoot than a pistol, without the possible over penetration issues of 5.56.

You could make the same argument for .40 S&W, except that the ammo isn’t as cheap as 9mm. and I don’t think it has the same following that the 9mm carbine has in the tactical community.

.45 ACP could be an interesting build. I don’t see a lot of tactical operators talking about operating tactically with .45 ACP carbines. But I don’t hang out with a lot of tactical operators, either. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

.45 GAP? Well, that’d be weird. The Winchester ballistics calculator on my phone says that .45 GAP will drop a little less and have slightly more velocity at 50 yards. But my impression is that .45 GAP is a dying caliber (even though Glock still chambers guns in it) and is maybe a little more expensive than .45 ACP by a few dollars a box for comparable ammo. However, I haven’t shot or bought .45 GAP, so don’t take that as gospel truth. Check prices at your local dealer or online ammo vendor.

.357 SIG? Ah. That’s the first place my mind went. I remember .357 SIG being touted as having a flatter trajectory than the .357 Magnum, but the same punch at range, higher capacity, and the ability to actually feed it in auto pistols. That same Winchester calculator (which only goes out to 50 yards on the iPhone) does show slightly less drop and a slightly lower velocity for the .357 SIG at 50 yards. If I can find a better calculator, I’d love to run numbers out to 100 yards.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who has this thought. there’s an interesting discussion over at Better and Better where Matt G mentions much the same idea (and also responds to a question from your humble blogger about the current role of the police shotgun).

And finally: 10mm? Why not? I like this idea, too. It reminds me of Jeff Cooper’s “Thumper”. I could see a SBR version of this working perhaps as a compact police carbine, but more so in Cooper’s original conception: a personal defense weapon for tank crews and other people who need something they can carry and deploy in tight quarters. I think I’d pick a 9mm or .357 SIG version for my daily use. But if I was in an appropriate military position, I’d build up a few 10mm ARs for experimental purposes in the sandbox.

More crankery after the jump.

(more…)

New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town…

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

..the cops are crooks and the gun dealers are too. The mimes are food for the bums underground! New York, New York!

(Sorry, had to shoehorn that in somewhere.)

Anyway, more indictments in the NYC bribes for gun licenses scandal. NYT version here, but I prefer the NYPost version Mike the Musicologist sent me.

Paul Dean and Robert Espinel, worked in the NYPD’s Licensing Division before retiring, and allegedly approved permits for kickbacks including cash “food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes” from gun expediters, the newly unsealed complaint says.

So, wait. The cops were being bribed with hookers? Because I’m thinking, if I’m a crooked cop, I can just go out, flash my badge, and get my own hookers. But maybe there’s less risk of an IA investigation if you let someone else procure the hookers for you. Trade offs.

Dunn and Espinel…

…allegedly accepted bribes and kickbacks from gun expediters, including Gaetano “Guy” Valastro, 58, a retired detective who owns firearms store Valastro International Tactical Academy in Queens and is also charged in the scandal.

Should I feel bad for Valastro? On the one hand, he’s a party to a massive scheme to shake down citizens for exercising their rights. On the other hand, he’s trying to run a gun store in Queens: can you blame him if he felt like he had to go along to get along? On the gripping hand, he’s a retired cop who decided to run a gun store in Queens, instead of someplace in free America.

In a separate complaint, also unsealed Tuesday, a fourth man, John Chambers — the former prosecutor who calls himself the “Top Firearms Licensing Attorney in New York” on his website touting his legal services — allegedly bribed NYPD Sgt. David Villanueva, 43, with Broadway shows, tickets to sports game and an $8,000 Paul Picot watch to expedite gun licenses, sometimes as quickly as a day.

Here’s that website for you. Note the URL. I wonder how much that cost him.

(Also: someone please tell me the “Broadway shows” Villanueva got tickets for included “Hamilton”.)

Have to go back to work now. Will update later if I see any more revolting developments.

Memo from the DA’s office.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

For a long time now, the policy of the Travis County DA’s office has been to present all cases involving police shootings to a grand jury for review, no matter what the circumstances where.

That was the case, for instance, for Austin police officer Carlos Lopez, who a grand jury no-billed 11 months after he shot and killed a gunman who was randomly shooting inside the downtown Omni hotel. The gunman had already shot and killed taxi driver Conrado Contreras by the time Lopez arrived.
It also happened with Austin police Sgt. Adam Johnson, who a grand jury declined to indict in 2015 for shooting and killing a man in downtown Austin who was standing in the middle of Eighth Street firing a rifle at police headquarters, and had already sprayed several government buildings with gunfire.

Not any more. The new Travis County DA, Margaret Moore, has decided that her office is going to review officer-involved shootings, and only present the ones that they feel require review to a grand jury.

She will only take cases to grand jurors if she thinks the shooting was unlawful or if facts about what happened are in dispute.
Unlike predecessors, who have viewed grand juries as independent reviewers best equipped to determine whether to indict an officer, Moore said she also will issue an opinion, with help from the new Civil Rights Division she has established, and provide a recommendation “as to the legal sufficiency of a case.”

Bad idea, as I see it.

There are a lot of problems with the criminal justice system, including grand juries. Jurors sometimes aren’t much more than rubber stamps for the DA’s office. But at least they are independant. At least grand juries offer some kind of outside review, flawed though it may be. This is going to backfire badly on DA Moore the first time a shooting that didn’t get reviewed blows up.

I’m baffled by the NAACP’s support for this: you would think they’d want the additional scrutiny, but perhaps the DA was persuasive. The support of the police union makes a little more sense:

Moore said those cases often have taken months to present to a grand jury because of workload and a backlog of other cases, leaving officers in limbo and sometimes preventing police officials from closing administrative investigations.

The people who have spoken to our CPA classes and that have been involved in shootings have said that there is some stress involved in waiting on the grand jury verdict. But they downplayed that specific part of it. Yes, the aftermath is highly stressful (and the department has good programs in place to deal with it). But it seemed to me that they felt the grand jury verdict was just the end: by the time that came in, they’d already been cleared by Internal Affairs and the Special Investgaions Division, and had usually moved on to other assignments.

(I can’t recall a case in…well, ever, where APD ruled a shooting okay and a grand jury indicted. Maybe the Kleinert case mentioned in the article, but I’m not clear on what action APD took in that case. In the most recent case that I know of where there was any controversy – the naked 17-year-old – the grand jury no-billed but APD fired the officer anyway.)

Bagatelle (#4).

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

If you told me I could only take one Talking Heads album to the desert island with me…it would be Stop Making Sense.

If, however, you said that it had to be a studio album, Remain In Light would be a good choice.

The thing that sort of surprises me is: he was able to hit 92 on MoPac. Then again, I can’t really tell what time of day it was, and traffic does thin out a little around the Braker Lane exit…

Apropos of nothing in particular, this post from Tam, in particular the last paragraph.

Bagatelle (#3).

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

As seen in the Statesman:

5 things to know if you think you’re being pulled over by a fake cop

Quick update.

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

The guy who killed two people and injured a third near Lakeway?

Randall Burrows, 54, shot himself in the head just outside of Summit, Miss., after a short chase with Mississippi highway patrol, Travis County sheriff’s officials said. He was taken to a hospital, and he was pronounced dead soon after 5 p.m., roughly 15 minutes after the U.S. Marshals had found him and the chase began, Travis County sheriff’s Capt. Craig Smith said.

Memo from the police beat.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The past few days have been busy ones for law enforcement in and around Austin, and not just because of South By So What. Here’s a quick survey of some things that I’ve found interesting.

There’s a new plan for the APD DNA lab: get Texas DPS to run it.

Under a proposed contract, the city of Austin will pay the Texas Department of Public Safety $800,000 a year to manage all aspects of the lab, including procedures for analyzing forensic evidence and the oversight of employees hired by the DPS to work there.
The newly named Department of Public Safety Capital Area Regional Lab will focus exclusively on Austin police cases, Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said.

I suppose this is better than nothing, or the current state of affairs. And $800,000 sounds like a reasonable amount of money if the new management from DPS is going to fix all the problems and claw through the backlog. But I still think we’d be better off with an independent lab like Houston’s, or making the existing lab am arm of the courts.

Speaking of the DNA lab, here’s a story I haven’t seen reported anywhere else:

In the first legislation of its kind, the lawmaker, State Representative Victoria Neave, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced the bill in February to solicit donations of $1 or more from people when they renew or apply for driver’s licenses. The money would underwrite a grant for the Department of Public Safety to test what are commonly called “rape kits,” which consist of evidence samples including hair, semen, fabric fibers and skin cells.

(Note that the paper of record characterizes this as “crowdfunding”, which I find a bit misleading.)

If adopted, it could generate an estimated $1 million a year, based on similar donations collected for veterans from driver’s license applications, according to a legislative budget document. When administrative costs are deducted, that would leave more than $800,000 every fiscal year that local governments could tap to push through testing of evidence collected from the victims of sexual assault during a physical examination that can take four to six hours.

Where have I heard $800,000 recently? Oh, yeah.

The donations are intended to supplement rather than replace a budget for the testing, which can cost $1,000 to $1,500 for each kit. The Legislature, which is now in budget talks, is also considering allocating $4 million to fund the process, said Rebecca Acuna, Ms. Neave’s chief of staff.

You know what I’d really like to see? A breakdown of where that “$1,000 to $1,500 for each kit” goes. I’m not against rape kit testing – quite the opposite – but I’m curious why it costs that much. I’m also curious if this cost has increased or decreased over time, with improved technology. And are there possibly better, faster, and cheaper ways of testing rape kits without sacrificing accuracy?

Two people shot and killed last night, and a third airlifted with “critical, life-threatening” injuries.

If you look at the Stateman‘s handy Google map, you’ll see this took place not terribly far from the Lake Travis High School/Education Center complex. My mother and I were down there last night with a bunch of other people….attending the Lakeway Police Department’s Citzens Police Academy class. As a matter of fact, right around the time of the shooting, we were out in the parking lot looking at the Lakeway PD patrol cars (Chevy Tahoes. This led someone to ask, “Why the switch to SUVs?” I suspect most of my readers know the answer already, but in case you don’t: “Because Ford stopped making the Crown Vic, the greatest patrol car ever given to us by God.”) and the Lakeway PD police motorcycles (Harley Davidsons). I don’t recall hearing any shots or even the Starflight helicopter.

Even better, we had just finished listening to a presentation from one of the people who does the Lakeway PD statistical analysis about how safe Lakeway was, how many calls for service/stops/arrests there were year to year, and what the major categories were. “Homicide” didn’t even register. (Technically, it’s probably still true that Lakeway is relatively safe, even though the shooter is at large: I believe the shooting happened near, but outside of, the Lakeway city limits, so it would be chalked up as “unincorporated Travis County”.)

The first we knew about it was when we were breaking up for the night: the second in command of the department (who also runs the classes, and who usually jokes around a lot) came in and said “I want everyone to listen to me very closely. Two people have been shot near here and the shooter is still at large. We are going to walk everyone to the parking lot and make sure you all get into your cars safely. I need for you to leave the area as quickly as you possibly can.” That will put some spring in your step.

Reports are that this was “an isolated incident”, possibly a “disgruntled contractor” who shot these people because he didn’t get paid. Which is just stupid: if you shoot people, they can’t pay you.

And speaking of the Lakeway CPA, for reasons: a interesting and contrarian point of view from Grits For Breakfast in opposition to a statewide ban on “texting and driving”.

Flaming hyenas watch.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

The LAT has gotten really obnoxious about viewing articles on their site with ad-blockers enabled (or disabled) so I haven’t been keeping up as well as I should with goings-on in the banana republic of California.

For example, I totally missed that Lee Baca was being re-tried. (You may remember his first trial ended in a mistrial.)

And even better:

Lee Baca, the once powerful and popular sheriff of Los Angeles County, was found guilty Wednesday of obstructing a federal investigation into abuses in county jails and lying to cover up the interference.

Let me just remind folks:

To get to Baca, prosecutors methodically worked their way up the ranks of a group of sheriff’s officials who were accused of conceiving and carrying out a scheme to impede the FBI jail inquiry. In all, 10 people — from low-level deputies to Baca and his former second in command — have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Several other deputies have been found guilty of civil rights violations for beating inmates and a visitor in the jails.

Dumber than a bag of hair. But I digress. The NYT claims he “could face up to 20 years in federal prison”. As we all know, claims like this should be taken on good quality rice with some soy sauce and wasabi. My totally outsider speculation, as someone who isn’t a lawyer and hasn’t practiced in federal court: I’ll be surprised if Baca gets any prison time, given his age and alleged Alzheimer’s. I expect a long probated sentence.

It’s Baltimore, gentlemen.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

The gods will not pay your overtime when you’re sitting on the beach.

A federal judge ordered Thursday that six Baltimore police officers be held in jail pending their trial on racketeering charges, saying no conditions of release were sufficient to ensure public safety.

There are actually seven officers who have been indicted.

Federal prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein allege that the officers, all members of an elite unit tasked with getting guns off the streets [Emphasis added – DB], robbed Baltimore residents, fabricated court documents and filed fraudulent overtime claims. Gondo also is accused in a separate case of being involved in and assisting an illegal drug organization.

According to this report, “some” of the officers were members of “the elite Gun Trace Task Force”.

As first reported by the Baltimore Sun, several of the officers were also highly praised in the October 2016 Baltimore Police newsletter in an article written by Lt. Chris O’Ree, a member of the ATF taskforce.
“I am extremely proud to showcase the work of Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and the Gun Trace Task Force,” O’Ree wrote. “Sergeant Jenkins and his team have 110 arrests for handgun violations and seized 132 illegal handguns.” He added, “I couldn’t be more proud of the strong work of this team.”

How elite were they?

In one case, four of the officers are alleged to have stolen $200,000 from a safe and bags and a watch valued at $4,000. In July 2016, three officers conspired to impersonate a federal officer in order to steal $20,000 in cash.

Also, I’m sorry, but if you are a police officer, your nickname should not be “GMoney”.

Memo from the police beat.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

A quick roundup of some police related news, mostly for RoadRich, but perhaps of interest to my regular readers.

APD’s latest officer-involved shooting. There don’t seem to be any updates since late last night, but so far this is sounding like just another sad story: police responded to a call in South Austin, a woman in her 20s fled, tried to run over offices, crashed, exited her vehicle and brandished a knife at one of the responding officers, and…

By way of Hognose over at Weaponsman: the chief of the Punta Gorda, Florida police department has been charged with “culpable negligence” and one of his officers has been charged with felony manslaughter. This is related to the citizen’s police academy shooting that I’ve discussed previously in this space.

(Interesting note: my mother and I started the Lakeway Citizen’s Police Academy last night. The officer who was teaching last night (also the second-in-command of the Lakeway PD) mentioned the Punta Gorda incident in the context of “things we won’t be doing in this class”.)

(I might discuss the Lakeway CPA in more detail at some point down the road. My initial impression is that there are a lot of differences between it and the Austin CPA; some of those are probably do to the relative size of the departments, the available resources, and the length of time the programs have been in operation. My class is the 14th for the Lakeway CPA: my Austin CPA class was the 87th, and I’m currently helping out with the 91st class.)

The city of Cleveland has agreed to pay more than $13.2 million to settle lawsuits involving police misconduct since the November 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an officer-shooting death that came at a time when the public started scrutinizing police actions.

(Hattip: Tim Cushing.)

I wish there was more context in this article. $13.2 million over 26 months sounds like a lot of money, but how does this compare to other cities over the same time frame? How much have cities like Chicago, New York, and Austin paid out over the same period? How does this break down on a per capita or per officer basis?

(Wikipedia estimates the current population of Cleveland at just under 400,000. Let’s take that as a base number. That’s $33 per citizen. “More than 1,600” people are on the police force: just for grins, let’s round up to 1,700. That’s $7,764.70 per employee, which would include both sworn and non-sworn.)

(The population of Austin was about 931,000 in 2016, and there’s about 1,800 people on the APD staff, both sworn and non-sworn. It’s interesting that the Cleveland PD has somewhere between 100 and 200 fewer officers for a city with less than half the population and a third of the area. But I digress. Unfortunately, I don’t have a figure for settlements paid out by the city since November 2014. But I will note, since I haven’t previously: last week, the city agreed to pay $3.25 million to the family of the naked 17-year-old shot by an APD officer.)

Art quickie.

Monday, February 13th, 2017

I don’t feel like this justifies a full “Art (Acevedo) Watch”, but noted:

Police Chiefs Say Trump’s Law Enforcement Priorities Are Out of Step

Some police chiefs and sheriffs have complained that immigration enforcement is not consistent with their priorities and could undermine hard-earned trust. “I would rather have my officers focused on going after violent criminals and people breaking into homes than going after nannies and cooks,” Chief Art Acevedo of Houston said.

Related:

It remained unclear whether the actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were part of continuing operations to round up undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions or a ramping-up of deportations by the Trump administration.

Also quoted: Kim Ogg, the new Harris County DA.