Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Poor guy.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I’ve mentioned previously that I watched COPS on a regular basis, at least until it left Fox for the wilderness of basic cable. I’ll still watch it if I catch it on somewhere.

I remember seeing some fairly shocking and disturbing things during that time; fatal highway accidents, one carload of police officers (with a camera crew on board) being broadsided during a high-speed chase by another cop car. But I never thought anything like this would happen.

A crew member with the “Cops” television show was fatally struck by police gunfire as Omaha officers confronted a robber — who also was fatally wounded — at a midtown restaurant, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The robbery suspect apparently had an air gun, a type of BB gun that looks like an actual firearm. He apparently was a prison parolee from Kansas, law enforcement sources said.

The World-Herald claims that the police were the only ones shooting, and that “at least 30 shots” were fired during the incident.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this, other than it is sad and awful, and I’ll pass along any significant updates.

Busted, again.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

General hattip on all of this to Romenesko.

A while back, I wrote about Busted, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Lasker’s book about their coverage of corrupt cops in Philadelphia. At that time, I asked what they had accomplished, given that the bad cops were still on the street.

Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer (the other daily newspaper, and the one that got soundly beat by Ruderman and Lasker on the story) ran a piece “Why an accused Phila. officer is still on the force” purporting to answer the question of why Thomas Tolstoy hadn’t been fired yet, even though he’d been accused of sexually assaulting three women. There are various reasons, but the Inquirer‘s key one:

The documents also show that actions the victim ascribed to two Philadelphia Daily News reporters who wrote about her assault further undermined the criminal case by damaging her credibility and complicating a federal investigation.
The woman told investigators that the reporters – whose account of the assault and other police abuses would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 – provided her with gifts, paid her bills, offered her money to hire a lawyer, and told her that she could collect a financial windfall if she talked to them and not to law enforcement officials, according to the documents.
She also told investigators that the reporters were aware that an associate of hers had pressured her to lie about the circumstances of the attack. And she said one of the reporters encouraged her to give an exaggerated account of the raid, saying it would help in a potential lawsuit.
The woman’s accusations of impropriety by the reporters – included in detailed interview summaries signed by FBI agents – imperiled an already precarious case, according to three high-ranking officials familiar with the investigation.

Uh-huh. Ruderman and Lasker deny this, of course. Ruderman has posted a response on Facebook. And it’s worth pointing out that these accusations only involve one of the three women, and have nothing to do with the separate allegation that Tolstoy was one of the cops caught on tape stealing from bodegas.

Philadephia magazine has published their own piece about the problems of the Inquirer story. Points:

The Washington Post makes me testy again.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Actual WP headline:

Waldman: Libertarians silent on Mo. shooting

(I won’t provide a link because 1) the Posties tell me I’ve used up all my articles for the month even though I’m a subscriber, and II) I don’t link clickbait.)

Yeah! Those pesky Libertarians haven’t been talking at all about Ferguson!

Except for Walter Olsen at Overlawyered.

And the folks over at Reason.

And Popehat on the Twitter.

And Morlock Publishing, but technically I think he’s an anarcocapitalist rather than a Libertarian.

To be fair, Balko hasn’t had much to say specifically about Ferguson, though he has been continuing to write about police militarization and misconduct.

Perhaps the WP issues highly effective hearing protection to their staff. Maybe something like these.

When seconds count…

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

the police are only minutes away the phone company will send your 911 call to an answering machine.

Strippers. Always with the strippers.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

This one gives me qualms, as it is a BuzzFeed article (by way of the Popehat on the Twitters). But I haven’t found any other coverage of it, and I don’t think it needs to be buried. I did a Google search and found a lot of links to press releases about the original arrest, but very few about the following events (and those I found were mostly on less reputable websites, basically repeating the BuzzFeed article).

Lauro Tobias was an agent with Customs and Border Patrol. Last year, he was arrested and charged with participating in a drug deal:

…6 kilograms of cocaine were exchanged with unnamed persons for $100,000. Tobias was paid $4,000 for working as security during the deal, based on court documents.

Tobias claimed he thought he was participating in a legal transaction, and had no idea it was actually a drug deal.

Except it wasn’t actually a drug deal. The entire thing appears to have been set up by the government specifically to go after Tobias. Why him?

Tobias’ attorney, Steven West, argued in an interview with BuzzFeed that federal agents tried to turn Tobias bad in order to use him as mole in the border station. “They couldn’t get close to the so-called ‘suspect corrupt people,’” he said. “I think they took a 90-degree turn.”

Okay, that’s just what his defense attorney claimed. Take it with a grain of salt.

But it seems pretty clear, based on the evidence already introduced, that the government spent many thousands of dollars setting up this case.

For instance, according to a court motion filed by Tobias’ attorney, department officials would not release certain information about the investigation during discovery, including “an accounting of how much money was spent on this operation by the government … on hotel rooms, air fare, frequenting adult entertainment establishments, rental car costs, restaurant bills, and any other ‘perks’ that were used to implement the operation, such as the Pacquiao fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.”

Again, defense allegations, grain of salt, etc.

But Tobias’ attorney moved for dismissal of the case. And the government agreed and filed its own motion for dismissal. That never happens. (Well, maybe “never” is an exaggeration. But it is very rare.)

An FBI source referred requests for comment on the case to the Justice Department.

I recommend that you don’t hold your breath waiting for comment from Justice. Blue is a very unattractive color for faces.

Well, isn’t THIS interesting?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Some of my readers may recall my review of Busted and my complaints about state, local, and Federal officials not taking corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department seriously.

Well.

Well well well. Well.

A group of Philadelphia narcotics officers repeatedly robbed and assaulted the drug suspects they were supposed to be investigating, engaging in a campaign of brutality that lasted nearly six years, federal authorities said Wednesday.

More:

One year later, during an illegal search of a suspect’s home, the officers held a suspect by his ankles off the edge of an 18th-floor balcony while demanding information, according to the complaint.

Somebody’s been watching too many movies.

I have trouble linking to the two Philadelphia newspapers, but I think this one will work for the Inquirer coverage. The names of the indicted cops (Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser) ring a faint bell with me, but they don’t overlap with the cops in Busted. (Possibly they were peripheral characters in that book, but I don’t have it in front of me to check.)

The LAT claims “five of the six officers could face life in prison”, but we should keep Ken’s advice in mind. In any event, it should be interesting to watch this play out; does the chief go next? Does the Philadelphia PD come under federal supervision? And do Ms. Ruderman and Ms. Lasker have anything to say? (There’s nothing on the Daily News site. Philadelphia newspapers are weird.)

Stay tuned to this blog for more “As the Badge Turns”.

Edited to add: Oh, I wanted to highlight this part, too:

In the midst of the scrutiny, Liciardello, Reynolds and a third member of the unit, Jeffrey Walker, filed suit against Philadelphia trial lawyer Michael Pileggi, saying multiple civil rights suits he had filed on behalf of clients alleging abuse had unfairly tarnished their names.

Man, that’s brazen. That’s like Lance Armstrong brazen.

Pileggi’s insurance company settled the case for a relatively small sum. But in an interview Wednesday, the lawyer said all of the allegations in his client’s lawsuits “came to fruition [in the federal case] – beating up, false arrests, stealing.”

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass “Go”. Do not collect $1,000.

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Prosecutors said the detective, a 19-year veteran who works at Police Headquarters, forged another detective’s name, as well as the names of a supervising sergeant and a police inspector, on several forms after a November 2012 arrest in which a gun was seized. The arrest report did not include any associated tip, so the detective added one in order to collect $1,000, prosecutors said.

The detective in question, John Malloy, has been charged with six counts of “felony forgery” (is there “misdemeanor forgery”?), five counts of “offering a false instrument”, “attempted petit larceny”, and “official misconduct”.

Interesting note #1:

…the police have seized more than 3,350 illegal guns and arrested well over 5,500 people on gun charges. The program is viewed as a boon to officers, who get weapons off the streets, and easy money for the anonymous tipsters who collect a $1,000 reward. The foundation has paid out more than $2.1 million in rewards, which are financed by donations.

I wonder who donates to “Operation Gun Stop”. Do you suppose that’s a matter of public record?

Interesting note #2:

But the rate of tips coming into the program has declined over the last five years, according to department reports on the program. In 2008, the Gun Stop program received 731 tips, resulting in 319 guns seized. By 2013, the number of tips had fallen to 496, with 235 guns taken.

Hmmmmm. So in 2013, the NYPD got 261 more tips than guns. I wonder about those 261 other tips…

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Friday, July 4th, 2014

History has shown, Scruff observed, that you can never have too many fireworks.

Indeed. We spent a fair amount of money on fireworks for tonight, but the people of Dyckman Street make us look like pikers.

Scruff, whose real name is Ralphy Sanchez, 27, heads a group known as Down Post, representing a block on Post Avenue between Academy and Dyckman Streets. He is confident his group will put on the best show; he estimated that he had about $1,500 of fireworks at the ready, much of it, he said, bought with the proceeds from sales of marijuana.

Of course, this is illegal in New York City. But the people of Dyckman Street don’t give a rat’s ass.

Each block has a 10- or 20-person explosives team, but anyone is free to join. First, the firecracker chains go down — two long ones can stretch the length of a block and light the pavement in a polychromatic blaze for 15 minutes or more. Soon, they pull out the smaller rockets, handing the Roman candles to the children.

Do you smell that, former Mayor Bloomberg? It smells like…freedom.

Flames! Flames!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Six current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were found guilty Tuesday of obstruction of justice and other charges for their part in an alleged scheme to stymie a federal grand jury investigation into civil rights abuses and corruption in the county’s jails.

The convicted:

  • Lt. Gregory Thompson
  • Gerard Smith
  • Mickey Manzo
  • Lt. Stephen Leavins
  • Sgt. Maricela Long
  • Sgt. Scott Craig

Long and Craig are particularly interesting: you may remember them as the dynamic duo who went to an FBI agent’s house and threatened her with arrest.

Also:

The second trial involved deputies with more experience in addition to two sergeants and two lieutenants. But at trial they insisted they were only complying with orders from their superiors.

Ah, yes. The good old “Nuremberg Defense“.

Today’s fun fact (suitable for use in schools)

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Nationwide, only 402 “no-body homicide” cases have gone to trial since the early 1800s, said Thomas A. DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor and now a law enforcement consultant in Washington.

Silly.

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Our table at the banquet was only about halfway occupied, and some of my fellow diners were trying to scam additional deserts from the server. (“No, really, they just stepped outside for a couple of minutes. They’ll be right back!”)

The server brought over some extras, with the good-humored comment that “I’m not the Cheesecake Police.”

Which got me thinking:

  • How do you join the Cheesecake Police?
  • Is there a Cheesecake Police Academy?
  • Doesn’t “Cheesecake Police Academy” sound like some sort of cheap knock-off movie that you’d see on a low-rent cable channel in the 1980s? Complete with a very low rent version of Michael Winslow?
  • What’s the training like?
  • Is there a citizen’s ride-along program?
  • What do the uniforms look like?
  • What’s the duty gun for the Cheesecake Police? (Obviously, it should be some sort of Smith and Wesson.)

Why, yes, I am in a weird mood. Why do you ask?

Random notes: May 23, 2014.

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

A couple of things that I’ve run across:

1. The Sunday Statesman had a longish article about problem police officers moving from department to department. I don’t think this is all that unusual – I’ve seen Balko and others write about this problem in other states – but the Texas angle is interesting.

In Texas, a police officer’s license can be revoked for only three reasons. One is for “barratry,” or using his position for financial gain; officials said it is rarely invoked. The second is for a felony criminal conviction. About 35 peace officers annually get their licenses pulled for qualifying crimes.
The third is for egregious misconduct. Unlike some other professions licensed by the state, however, Texas defines this for police in an extremely narrow and specific way — two dishonorable discharges.

The reason a police officer left a department, and the status of his “discharge”, is noted on a form called an F-5, which is filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Part of the problem is that, if an officer’s discharge is noted as “dishonorable”, that officer can appeal their discharge status.

In 2008, Ken Walker, chief of the West University Place Police Department near Houston, fired officer Rosemarie Valdes “after she repeatedly told false and grossly exaggerated version of an on-duty incident,” court documents show. When she appealed her dishonorable discharge, Walker recalled, the small department virtually had to close up shop for a day while it sent two attorneys, the city’s human resources director, a police captain and the chief and a firefighter to Austin for the appeals hearing.

So in a lot of cases, departments agree to make the discharge “honorable”, in return for the fired officer agreeing not to take another job in any nearby department. In other cases, even if an officer is “dishonorably” discharged, smaller departments may not check the F-5, or they’re so hard up to get a qualified officer that they’re willing to ignore it.

(As a side note: isn’t it interesting that police departments have adopted military style language for this: “discharged” instead of “fired”? “honorable” and “dishonorable”?)

One other noteworthy bit of information: remember WCD favorite, former APD officer Leonardo Quintana? Were you wondering what happened to him?

Wonder no more: “In March, the former Austin officer was hired as a deputy by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, in the Rio Grande Valley. Quintana didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Acting Sheriff Eddie Guerra, who took office six weeks ago, said he wasn’t familiar with Quintana’s past.

(I didn’t write about this previously because it was behind the paper’s paywall. Also, it’s been a heck of a week. Hattip to Grits for Breakfast for the non-paywall link.)

2. When I first saw “Stop Leaning In. Put Down Your IPhone. And HELP ME.” come across the Hacker News Twitter feed, I initially thought it was another “women in tech” rant. I don’t know why I clicked through to it, but I’m glad I did; it turned out to be something completely different.

Suddenly a thin figure bumped into me, which I wasn’t unused to in this city, but instead of the normal mumbling apology and eye contact, she didn’t move away. She stayed close and stared at me directly.
“Give me your phone, your purse, your bag, everything

I’d like to see this get more attention in the gunblogging community, as I think this is an excellent example of things we talk about a lot.

“SOMEBODY HELP ME!”
People stare and watch.
“Anybody, please, somebody, help me!”
30 eyes follow us.

You are responsible for your own safety. Yes, it would be nice if we could count on other people to help us. Yes, it would be nice if the police were always right there, instead of minutes away. But the world doesn’t work that way, and all of our wishes won’t make it so. The world, and the drug addicts in it, don’t care that you have to give a presentation to 200 people that night, or that you have children. You have to take responsibility for your safety. What are you doing about that?

Coffee in hand I mulled in front of the train station waiting for an Uber because I’d recently torn the ligaments in my foot. Headphones in my ear as I watched the little dot on the screen’s progress, scrutinizing his every move as if he were the worst Pac Man player I’d ever seen.

Situational awareness. Enough said.

Well, maybe not “enough said”. I know that situational awareness is something I sometimes have a problem with. I’ve been trying consciously since I got my CHL to work on improving that, and I feel like I’ve made some progress. But I’d love to find additional resources in that area: Hsoi has written some good stuff on the subject.

I realize it’s your business if you choose to tune out the world. But if you do choose to do so, don’t be surprised if you’re viewed as a ripe target for someone willing to take advantage of you… and your first post-situation thought is “they caught me by surprise… I wasn’t aware of them until they were on top of me”. Be pro-active, don’t let it happen to you, stay aware of your situation. And teach your kids the same.

She caught up to me and latched on.
“ I’m going to stab you and kill you”
By now she was livid. And suddenly we were brawling, she swinging at me with a knife in one hand, and punched with the other. I blocked all I could. panic filling every moment.

How’s that strict gun control working for you, San Francisco?

Okay, that may be a little facile. This post is the only one (so far) at Kirsten’s Amazing; there’s no way of knowing if she’s the type of person who could (or would) use a gun in self-defense, and there might be some practical problems with carrying one in her environment. (Example: what do you do with it at work, if you’re taking public transit instead of a personal vehicle?). But I think Kirsten is damn lucky to have come through this as well off as she did; she could very well have been seriously injured or killed.
Some martial arts classes might have helped Kirsten out in this case (since it sounds like her attacker was a small woman, rather than a 250 pound ex-football player) but it takes time to become good at martial arts. (It takes some time to become good with a gun, too, though.) (Edited to add: and torn ligaments in one’s foot might, perhaps, cramp your martial arts style.) Maybe she would have benefited from carrying pepper spray, though we know that doesn’t always work either. Guns may not always be the answer, but I like Kirsten’s odds a lot better with a S&W Bodyguard or even a little Beretta .25 in her hand.

I threw my hot coffee in her face and made a run back for the train station.

Caleb Giddings, call your office, please. (More seriously, that’s good thinking, Kirsten. Your main weapon isn’t a gun or pepper spray or your martial arts training; it is your brain. Use whatever is at hand if you need to defend yourself.)

I’ve seen two different schools of thought in the community. School number one is what I’d call the “sheepdog” school: “I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” School number two is perhaps best described this way: “My gun is to protect me and the people I care about. I’m not going to become involved in some stranger’s bullshit.”

Would I have jumped in to help Kirsten? I find it hard to say. First of all, I wasn’t there; I’m not sure how obvious it was that Kirsten was in trouble and who the aggressor was. What if I was mistaken about what was going on? What if this had turned out to be a fight between Kirsten and, say, an undercover cop who was trying to arrest her for using Uber instead of a licensed taxicab? Surprise! Now I’m facing charges of “assaulting a police officer”!

If it had been clear that she was being attacked by that woman, would I have jumped in? Would you have jumped in? Does it change things that we’re talking about San Francisco (where we both almost certainly would be unarmed) instead of Austin?

Someone (I wish I could remember who) said recently that you should look at self-defense this way; if you have to use your gun, every bullet has a $50,000 bill attached. Are you willing to bear that cost for someone you don’t know? Honestly, I don’t know if I am.

We live in a world where you can be shunned by society for engaging in justified self-defense. Are you willing to become this week’s featured demon on CNN because you jumped in to help a stranger? Even if it was justified? Imagine the family on the nightly news: “He was always sharp, always goofy, loved to dance, he was a respectable boy.” Why did you have to go and shoot Mister “Loved to Dance”, just because he pointed a gun at you? And as bad as those links are, you can bet it’d be even worse if you shot a petite woman with a knife. “He’s a big guy, he could have taken the knife away from her.” “He didn’t have to kill her, he could have just shot her in the leg.” You know the drill.

And are you willing to bear the costs, even if it was justified? This story from the comments is illustrative: time away from work (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t get paid if I’m not working), the risk of infection from junkie blood, being attacked by the bad guy’s lawyers…

…and that’s if things go well. What if the junkie bitch turns around and stabs you instead? Even if you have health insurance, you may end up out-of-pocket a significant amount of money. That is, if you survive being stabbed.

These questions are hard to answer, and I’m not sure of my own answers. But not being sure doesn’t make them any less worth asking.