Showing posts with label criminal justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label criminal justice. Show all posts

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Police and Law Enforcement Today: Part 2 Modern Vs Militarization

We began this conversation

Police and Law Enforcement Today: Part 1Beginning the Discussion awhile back and for reasons I cannot recall it fell off. Anyway with the whole Ferguson, MO mess and the discussion that came from it we are back here.

I should note that in terms of police equipment and behavior it is easy to look back with rose colored glasses. 

Tam brought up the point that at least during the early part of the 20th century Police were better armed than our military and used some very aggressive tactics.

She is interviewed about this topic by Cam and CO on NRA Radio, that section goes from roughly 1:20 to 1:29.

Also as Tam noted there was certainly rather arbitrary use of force in a lot of places. Skipping ahead I would note this force was generally confined to folks acting a fool or outright bad guys, though as AM noted everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That being said there were certainly some abuses and if I were brown, black, in a union, or a hippie I might feel a lot differently on the matter from roughly the beginning of time till not too long ago.

Going back a bit further in American history and I think the pool of guns available to law enforcement was largely the same though they might individually prioritize them higher and thus end up with say an early pump action shotgun vs a generic coach gun or the like.

I want LEOs to have access to the modern tools they need. We do not expect them to ride horses or drive Model T Fords so why should their weapons and PPE be any different.

In 1890 an LEO might have had a SAA or new fangled DA revolver in .44/.45 on his hip and a .45 colt or 45-70 lever action in a scabbard on his trusty horse. 

In 1960 an LEO almost surely had a DA service revolver in .38 special or .357mag on his hip and a pump shotgun in the trunk of his big ole Ford sedan.

Today an LEO almost surely carries some sort of double stack semi automatic pistol, probably a striker fired 'universal service pistol' like a Glock or M&P. That LEO might also have a semi automatic AR-15 in an M4 type configuration and a plate carrier in the back of a Crown Vic or Interceptor. This is just the modern equivalent of the same thing. As Tam mentioned it would be pretty hypocritical to say a cop should not have an AR and a plate carrier but I can

 Tam said the problem is "tactics not tools" and up to modern individual weapons and PPE I agree. Some folks say that stuff should just be for SWAT teams but I disagree. I disagree for two reasons. First those tools are the modern equivalent of older tools long used by normal lawmen. Second and arguably more importantly the first officers on the scene at the next school shooting or Chechen style rampage attack will be some normal cop nearby on patrol, not Sammy Swat. 

Now if we start talking about MRAPs, belt fed automatic weapons, anti material rifles, etc I do not personally see legitimate reasons for cops to have them, especially in the numbers and locations they currently are at. Maybe one could argue Houston, LA, ATL, etc could use a (single) MRAP and a pair of Barret .50 cals due to the large area and the relative propensity for major violent crimes but Anytown USA population 35,000 doesn't need a pair of MRAPs, a few machine guns and some .50's.

I feel like this piece of the overall topic has been covered. Next we will talk the 'tactics' piece.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Police and Law Enforcement Today: Part 1 Beginning the Discussion

A discussion in the comments section of our last post with longtime blog reader/ commenter 3rd Man brought us to this topic. I realized that I could not possibly cover all my thoughts on this topic in a post. Breaking it up into a series to talk the different issues involved in isolation makes the most sense to me.

I hesitate to say this is going to be a thesis or outline but my goal in this post is to frame my general thoughts and start the discussion. Honestly there is a reason I titled this Part 1 vs Part 1 of X. I'm not entirely sure where this series is going or for that matter how far it is going. If I can put together some cohesive posts and you folks enjoy them it might be a several part series. If I'm scraping for ideas and you all don't chime into the comments section, link to it, etc it might be just a couple posts. So anyway here we go.

 So here we go.

We need cops. Despite what fools may think everybody deciding whatever justice is to them doesn't work. It inevitably degenerates to "well if they don't agree with me I'll hurt them" which is a level of thinking acceptable in a toddler but not an adult. Functional societies have laws and naturally need mechanisms to enforce their laws. At smaller levels we often see part time type enforcers of justice and social norms from the Arbakai to Hector on Longmire. Beyond the super small tribal level these come in the form of some sort of armed group charged with enforcing said laws as well as being the first arbiter for dispute resolution beyond the individual or family level.

Inevitably cops (to use a generic term for law enforcement) will come across people who do not want to stop being jerks or get detained. That in fact might be the understatement of the week. As such I do not see an issue with cops using reasonable force to protect innocent life, do their job and ensure their own survival (we will revisit 'officer safety' at length later) and naturally they will need to be equipped to do that.

To directly reply to part of 3rd Man's lengthy comment(s). I do not have an issue with cops being a bit rough at times. If a scumbag's head bumps into a door I won't cry any tears. I do not even have an issue with cops killing people. I wish the greater Columbus, Ga/ Phoenix City Al and South Eastern Arizona (2 of the last 3 places in the US I've lived) both had a dozen Jim Cirillo's out shooting robbers. If cops and various law enforcement types went on a full up covert direct action fight against drug cartels including incursions  into Mexico I would be fine with that. In fact I would try to get there to help.

The problem is when cops mistreat, injure or kill the wrong people, specifically normal everyday citizens. Unlike the past (say mid 80's to toss out an arbitrary date) due to the war on drug's and a million silly morality legislating laws the percentage of reasonably normal, if imperfect, citizens at odds with our codified laws is at an unprecedented level. So the techniques that are reasonably acceptable against dirt bag's are now being applied to normal people who run afoul of some silly law.

My concerns with contemporary law enforcement in America are as follows:
1) A 'we vs they' paradigm that seems to be growing wider every year.
2) No knock warrants.
3) Increased militarization which leaks into tactics and ultimately mindset.
4) Functional lack of accountability for abuse and flagrant misuse of force.
5) Less lethal weapons being used as the answer to every problem.
6) The incentive to seize anything and everything due to it's affect on their funding.
7) Political/ social targeting of lawful individuals using law enforcement as a mechanism.

During this series I will talk more about these problems and take a stab at what I feel might be some realistic solutions for them.

So those are my general thoughts on that. We'll continue the discussion soon.

What do you think?

Friday, June 4, 2010


The newest Miranda ruling came down recently, and the media has been in a flutter. My personal favorite is the Time article entitled Has the Supreme Court Decimated Miranda? The short answer is no. In fact, the long answer is no. In summation, the answer is no.

Miranda is valid law (although it defines the "Alice in Wonderland logic" Time claims is utilized by Van Thompkins, and I would say is the worst decided case in SCOUS history, ignoring its cases about the Commerce Clause from about 1938-1990). We have to understand what Miranda says, and what it doesn't. First off, Miranda is not the case which states that a criminal defendant has a right to silence. What Miranda says is two fold. First, police must inform a criminal suspect of their right to remain silent (and the right to have an attorney) prior to any custodial interrogation. Second, if a criminal suspect asserts his right to either, all interrogation must cease. One of the interesting things about Miranda is that the case was about overly aggressive interrogation tactics, yet the Warren Court (as was their custom) did nothing to limit the aggressive interrogation tactics which could be used on suspects. Rather, they said that when the guy says stop, you have to stop.

To waive those rights, you must do so knowingly and voluntarily. Knowingly means, you have to know and understand the rights (hence the Miranda warnings), and voluntarily means there cannot be overt coercion (hence why we are not allowed to water board suspects because they won't talk to us). While I have not read this case, I will give the benefit of the doubt to Time as to the facts (although their legal analysis could not be further off).

"Thompkins was arrested in connection with a fatal shooting that occurred outside a mall in Michigan in 2000. The police questioned him for close to three hours, but he remained almost completely silent, offering just a few one-word answers. Toward the end, an officer asked Thompkins if he had prayed to God to forgive him for the shooting, and he said 'yes.'"

While there is no mention of if he was told his Miranda rights, I am going to assume he was. If he wasn't this would have never made it to the SCOUS. Because he was told his Miranda rights, when he replied, it was knowingly. The only coercion was that he was asked questions for close to three hours, which is not overt coercion, so this is voluntary. Did he waive his right to remain silent? Well, he didn't have to say something, and he did. That is a waiver. There is no violation of Miranda. This is an easy case.

Today, police and prosicutors LOVE Miranda. Under Miranda, once someone has been informed of their rights, its game on. Until they say stop, anything they say is fair game. Furthermore, this is not a conspiricy of the conservitave members of the Court. This opinion was written by Justice Kennedy. Justice Kennedy is one of the justices responcible for Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the current abortion case. *Side note: Roe v. Wade was practically overturned by Casey, which implimented a new standard for judging abortion cases, while affirming Roe in spirit.*

Kennedy is not a conservative, so why is it important for him to be labeled as one? Liberals have controlled the Court since the Switch in Time that Saved nine, in 1937. Liberals have since used the Court to push every "progressive" goal they have, but which they are unable to get the other branches to buy into. However, the make up of the Court has changed. The Court is currently a 4-4-1 with the liberals, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, in a tie with the conservatives, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito. The tie breaker is Kennedy, the moderate, who is rather unpredictable. The reason liberals need this to be considered a conservative court is it motivates their base. Ask people if they think the SCOUS should have an equal number of people from both the major political parties on it, with someone in the center as a tie breaker, and they will say thats a good idea. Tell people that the evil conservatives control the Court (insert a reference to Bush), and you can panic them into doing what you tell them to.

In this case, the Court held that police can continue to question someone until they give an affirmative sign they want to remain silent (only answering a couple of questions from police is not an affirmative sign). The question is not how much did the majority want to chip away at Miranda; the question is how much did the minority want to expand it beyond the original ruling.

When the police question you, say, all together now. "I want an attorney." Don't just sit there... And if you choose to just sit there, actually remain silent. Its not hard people, if you are not going to say anything, don't fucking say anything.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Amused Me, Stolen From Hermit

A young Texan grew up wanting to be a law man. He grew up big, 6' 2'', and strong as a longhorn and fast as a mustang. He could shoot a bottle cap tossed in the air at 40 paces. When he finally became of age he applied to where he had only dreamed of working: the West Texas Sheriff’s Department.
After a big mess of tests and interviews the Chief Deputy finally called him into his office for the young man's last interview.
The Chief Deputy says: "You're a big strong kid and you can really shoot. So far your qualifications all look good. But we have what you call an 'attitude suitability test' that you must take before you can be accepted. We just don't let anyone carry our badge son."
Then, sliding a service pistol and a box of ammo across the desk, the Chief says: "Take this pistol and go out and shoot:
six illegal aliens,
six lawyers,
six democratic politicians
six meth dealers,
six Muslim extremists,
and a rabbit."
Why the rabbit?" asked the applicant.
"Great attitude," says the Chief Deputy. "When can you start?"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Services Will Be Cut And You Will Be On Your Own

Due to massive personnel/ budget cuts Ashtabula County which is 720 square miles is going to have a single patrol car on duty. Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey was asked what residents should do to protect themselves and their families with the severe cutback in law enforcement."Arm themselves," the judge said. "Be very careful, be vigilant, get in touch with your neighbors, because we're going to have to look after each other." Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Conservative Scalawag.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Breakin The Law, Breakin The Law

One of the interesting and thought provoking parts of the book I am reading is that it discussed breaking the law. It is too tempting and easy to think that in any situation worse than a weekend power outage you will just saw the barrel of your Remington 870 flush with the tube and carry it around all the time shooting people who do things you do not like or otherwise doing whatever you want. Matter of fact almost every serious worst case scenario worth considering will have law and order and LEO's in some form or another. Making difficult choices in an environment which is probably more harsh and restrictive isn't a pleasant idea but it is a realistic one. Both Matthew Bracken's "Enemies" series and the recent and enjoyable "John Galt" blovel show that things can get really bad AND you will still have cops and laws to worry about.

This book discussed breaking the law in an interesting and dispassionate manner. Look at what you can lose or gain from breaking a law. Look at the cost to benefit of both sides. For example I firmly believe anybody who does not keep a valid drivers license, have a vehicle that is properly registered and maintain the necessary auto insurance is seriously asking for a ton of trouble. You can get pulled over and provided you have the previously mentioned basic stuff you can go on your way without a hassle. If you want to argue about the legality of drivers licenses or whatever you could well end up like the brothers in Patriots. A drivers license costs a few bucks and they are good for several years. Vehicle registration sucks but if you drive an older and modest vehicle it isn't that bad. Assuming your driving record is halfway decent and you drive an older vehicle the bare minimum liability insurance should not hurt your pocket that nuch. For the cost of being able to drive wherever you want carrying whatever you feel like and getting out of a police stop with just a modest fine to me this is well worth it. Often the alternative means real problems when getting pulled over, even for what would surely be a warning like a dead tail light. Getting pulled over and not having these simple documents (Papers Please!) will almost surely mean your vehicle is going to get towed. In order to be towed it needs to be 'inventoried' and depending on what you have in it that day things could degenerate significantly from there. At a minimum it will cost money, take time and inconvenience you significantly.

What law would it be an easy decision to break? Well ones that are not actively enforced and do not carry significant penalties come to mind.

To me this isn't about saying "I am a free American and I can do whatever I want". For instance breaking federal firearm laws will almost surely bring a serious penalty. Mr. "The Constitution gives me the right to saw off this shotgun barrel" could well find himself in prison. One who was a bit more pragmatic might note that the difference between an 18 1/4 inch barrel and a 17 3/4 inch barrel is a half inch OR a few years in the pen. It is about taking an objective look at how breaking certain laws could make you more free as well as the risk of legal consequences and the severity of those consequences.

Just think about it.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

This Outraged Me

So I am sitting enjoying my favorite part of the work day, well my favorite part except driving home at the end, sitting in my chair drinking a cup of coffee between cleaning up from PT and heading back to work. I am watching CNN because AFN does this rotating news thing between all the full time news networks (donated so we can watch US news) and I heard something which outraged me. Some girl  (well a hippy dippy 20 something) was talking about the organization she works for. What they did really doesn't matter but when she was describing the kids they help she used a phrase, "court involved" which just stuck out to me.

She didn't say juvenile offenders or parolees or even felons. She used a vague phrase that is completely blameless, in fact it goes as far as to push away any sense of possible blame. Heck if I have to go down to the courthouse to fill out some paperwork I am in a sense court involved. This is at least as bad as "undocumented workers" if not worse.

My big issue with this is that when we take away blame for peoples actions we take away responsability. Responsability is the lynch pin to just about everything productive and good in society. I don't particularly look down on felons or parolees as a group. Some of them are total scumbags but then again some like say, Randy Weaver are probably decent folks albeit ones who made a mistake. As one guy on one of those prison investigative shows once said "You are all one messed up day from being right here" and he had a very good point.

My issue is that if people, particularly teens and those in their early 20's are told by people they value and respect (like the upper middle class hippy dippy 20 something working with them) tell them that their actions are not their fault they will internalize that and keep doing the same dumb stuff.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lying to the People

I have taken, as of late, an acute interest in Oregon criminal law. One of the interesting things about Oregon is that it has sentencing guidelines which are mandatory. While under federal law, there are sentencing guidelines, those are merely guidelines; in Oregon they are mandatory. Another interesting thing is that they only apply to felonies; misdemeanors are still left basically to the judges discretion, limited only by the maximum time possible for a misdemeanor, 365 days in jail.

There are some serious issues with the sentencing guidelines. For starters, under the guidelines, a crime category 1 or 2, is punishable by a maximum of 90 days. This is a felony which is punished much less harshly than a misdemeanor. Furthermore, there is a fraud being perpetrated on the people of Oregon. There is an administrative rule which states that all sentences under the guidelines are divided by 3. That means when the sentencing guidelines say 90 days, it really means 30 days. Why not change the guidelines to reflect this change? This allows the state to maintain its catch and release program while still looking like its tough on crime. Politics at its finest.

The reason the times are shorter for some felonies then they are for misdemeanors is that there is mandatory probation, time where the person is supervised, and if they screw up again, the maximum sentence can be imposed, which is normally up to about 5 years. At least that is how it used to work. Oregon passed House Bill 3805 this year, which makes the maximum possible jail sentence for a probation violation 60 days. That means, if you commit a crime category 1 or 2 felony the maximum jail sentences you can do, even if you screw up probation, is 70 days. Max. Compare that to Failure to Carry and Present a License (having a drivers license but not having it on your person) which is a C misdemeanor, the lowest form of misdemeanors. That crime is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The insanity is apparent.

This post isn't about whether people should be spending more or less time in jail. What drives me crazy is when politicians play games like this; they pretend they are doing one thing, but actually do the other. If you are going to change the law, change it. Don't lie to the people, pretending to do one thing, while actually doing another.
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