Criminal Justice

Home » Personal Liberty » Criminal Justice

Good Cop Fails to Kill Innocent Man, Gets Fired

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Good Cop Fails to Kill Innocent Man, Gets Fired

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Police abuse is a real issue. Not because all police officers are corrupt, but because government institutions and its members respond to incentives. Just like us.

If an officer is given blanket authority to act only with his best interest in mind while under the guise of public security, personal responsibility is no longer part of the job. Without personal responsibility at play, individuals are no longer worried about the consequences of their actions.

Police CarWhile the cases of misbehavior among officers are often more popular in the media, cases of officers actually acting responsibly seldom make it to the front pages. But a story on The Washington Post has just changed this picture.

According to the publication, the police chief in Weirton, West Virginia has fired an officer for not killing someone.

The report originally comes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And according to the original news story, the incident that led to the officer’s employment termination happened on May 6th.

Then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was called to respond to a domestic incident. While attempting to handle the situation responsibly, Mader found that the man he was confronting was armed. Mader, who had been trained as a Marine, made the decision to look at the “whole person” in order to decide what to do next. Instead of shooting, Mader decided to use a calmer tone, noticing that the armed man was not pointing his gun at him.

The officer then proceeded to ask the man to put his gun down, but instead of doing so, the man answered by saying: “Just shoot me.” When the officer said “I am not going to shoot you, brother,” the man started flicking his wrist. According to the officer, he thinks he did that to get him to react.

He knew then that the man didn’t want to hurt anyone. Instead, he wanted to commit suicide.

When responding to the call, Mader learned that the man’s girlfriend had reached to the police, claiming that the man was attempting to kill himself.

According to Radley Balko, the writer of the Washington Post article, Mader’s reaction was “a lot braver course of action than simply opening fire when the suspect doesn’t immediately disarm.” When in crisis, he added, this is the type of attitude you expect to see coming from an officer. The trigger-happy trend, after all, is not the type of attitude that comes from a person who is thinking about the consequences of their actions.

In his article, Balko stated that what Mader did is exactly the type of work officers claim to experience on a daily basis: Putting their lives in danger to save lives.

And yet, as Mader was handling the situation safely, two other officers showed up at the scene, and ended up shooting the man dead as a result.

After the tragic killing, officers found that the victim’s gun wasn’t loaded. And while officers were not able to know that for a fact before the shooting, it proved that Mader had done the right thing by using what he learned from his training. The victim hadn’t been a threat to anybody, except himself. The situation Mader encountered was, indeed, a suicide-by-cop situation, but instead of following Mader’s lead, the other officers didn’t think twice before putting an end to the man’s life.

Once it was all said and done, the Weirton police department put an investigator to look into the shooting. According to Mader, when he tried to return to work on May 17 after following protocol and taking some time off due to his involvement in the shooting, he was asked to talk to Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander. But instead of being honored for his efforts, Alexander told him that he would be placed on administrative leave.

The reason why? He had put two other officers in danger, despite the fact that he had assessed the situation correctly, unlike his colleagues.

On June 7, he received a termination letter that stated that the fact he had failed to shoot the victim meant he had “failed to eliminate a threat.” That was why he was being let go.

Unfortunately for Mader, he won’t be getting his pension, even though he didn’t hurt anybody. Meanwhile, countless others who are under investigation for actually killing innocents continue to receive their pensions, even after being dismissed from the force.

After looking for legal help, he noticed that his fight against the city wouldn’t produce any desirable outcomes, since he was a probationary employe in an “at-will” state, meaning that he could be fired for any given reason.

While many officers who are considered “bad apples” are able to quickly find work at other agencies, Mader hasn’t been able to find employment in his area. The Afghanistan veteran has two small sons and is now studying to get a commercial truck driving license to support his family. He told reporters that he would still take a job in law enforcement, the problem is that nobody seems to want to hire him. ​

Former Felons Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

in Business and Economy, Criminal Justice, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Former Inmates Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

For too many former convicts, life after prison is hard. Oftentimes, quite impossible. That’s why most of those who are given a second chance end up going back to jail.

But to this 35-year-old, his second chance came in the form of a local restaurant manager who was not scared of government’s formal tagging of felons.

Applebee'sAfter his release in 2011, Marcellus Benbow was struggling to find a job. He told reporters that, at the time, he was doing odd jobs, hoping to avoid going back to a life of crime while looking for a full-time opportunity. As he struggled to find a steady occupation in order to gain custody of his two oldest daughters, he also found no sympathy from potential employers.

That all changed when he answered an ad on Craigslist.

As soon as he met with the general manager at Apple-Metro, the New York franchisee of Applebee’s, both men hit off. That was it. Benbow had finally scored full-time employment with the company as a broiler cook.

“Applebee’s saved my life,” he said.

Now, Benbow is an assistant kitchen manager at Applebee’s Fordham Road location in the Bronx. He could soon be getting a promotion, taking the role of kitchen manager. He was lucky that his current employer was not afraid of his past, but many in his position aren’t as lucky.

In America, felons are required to disclose whether they have spent time in jail. But even if they don’t disclose this information, background checks help potential employers learn more. In many cases, non-violent felons are seen as a threat by employers who prefer to hire someone else, spurring a wave of discrimination suits against business owners.

The result is quite concerning.

The estimated unemployment rates among ex-prisoners are between 25 and 40 percent, despite the federal incentives some get by hiring felons. But laws that have helped to create so many non-violent criminals are still in effect. Instead of urging Congress to review some of these laws, namely the drug war and other pieces of legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, many advocates for equal employment opportunities blame companies alone for their refusal to hire felons.

Recently, the often feared tycoons known as the Koch brothers announced they would stop asking potential employees about their criminal record. According to Koch Industries’ general counsel, Mark Holden, and Charles Koch, the decision came about after leadership noticed that overcriminalization had been affecting “us all but most profoundly harms our disadvantaged citizens.”

At the time of the announcement, both men penned an op-ed that asked the question: “If ex-offenders can’t get a job, education or housing, how can we possibly expect them to have a productive life?”

Instead of forcing employers to change, advocates could see a real change in the country’s employment environment by just pushing Washington to focus on real criminal justice reform.

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

QUESTION: I am a long time supporter of ending the war on drugs. I advocate treating drug abuse the way we treat alcohol abuse, as a health and not a legal problem. I find that many of the people that I deal with who oppose the war on drugs and support legalization of marijuana want to outlaw tobacco. I try to tell them that the war on tobacco will be just as successful as the war on drugs, but they insist that it go ahead. They point out that tobacco is deadlier than pot. I point out that heroin and LSD are as dangerous as tobacco, if not more. What suggestions do you have to answer the pro war on tobacco people?

CigaretteANSWER: The power to ban something “bad” is also the power to ban something “good.” Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia for many years before it was “outlawed” via the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. As a result, this incredibly useful and inexpensive natural drug has been largely unavailable in the U.S. for the last 80 years.

By outlawing tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance, we pave the way for other “wars” based on political or economic gain. Special interests will lobby Congress to outlaw their competitors, just as William Randolph Hearst lobbied for hemp/cannabis prohibition so that his wood pulp forests would be used for paper manufacture instead of hemp.

The nicotine in tobacco is thought by some to be the most addictive substance known. If someone can’t stop smoking, isn’t it a health problem too? Why not treat it as such?

Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The problem with certain government policies (or should I say all of them?) is that, prior to being enacted, neither lawmakers nor members of the press ask the question: What are the long-term, unintended consequences of signing it into law? But in many other cases, oversight is so spotty that entire governmental agencies are given a green light to act as both the lawmaker and enforcer, making matters even worse.

FBI

During a recent child porn investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) deployed a hacking tool known as Network Investigative Technique (NIT), which allows officials to obtain the real IP addresses of certain website users. But the warrant used to deploy this tech was later ruled as invalid and unconstitutional by judges in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Kansas. Despite the courts’ review, the FBI was given a pass, as judges simply placed the blame at the feet of the judges issuing the warrants instead of penalizing the FBI for making the move.

Now, we’re learning that the malware used by the FBI is breaking its own rules by giving officials access to computers from users around the globe.

According to Motherboard, at least 50 Austrian IP addresses were targeted by federal intelligence officials, giving US authorities the means to pursue suspects outside of the country’s jurisdiction, effectively exceeding the agency’s own Rule 41(b), which allows for remote access searches without notice or special justification.

Tech Dirt reports that the FBI’s hacking tool has now been responsible for the targeting of individual IP numbers in Greece, Denmark, Colombia, Chile, and the UK, even though “the FBI gave no indication in its affidavit that it would possibly be carrying out extraterritorial searches.” In this case, the FBI failed to report that individuals being targeted were located in areas outside of the magistrate’s jurisdiction. And that is a huge problem.

But the targeting of individuals both in America and abroad is wrong—and unconstitutional.

Remote access of a series of computers without consent or specific justification has a name: Mass surveillance. An issue that has already been settled by the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. Individuals should be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures due to the 4th Amendment, so why is the FBI being given the freedom to act outside of its jurisdiction while also going against the law of the land?

In a free society, the work of law enforcement should always be difficult. Not because officers are to be mistrusted in general, but because people with power ought to be mistrusted. Regardless of what role they play. That’s why the presumption of innocence is a feature and not a bug in a country where liberty reigns.

Unless we are willing to annihilate any trace of freedom we still have, we should never let this type of abuse of power go unchecked. No matter how scared you may be of potential criminals.

Personal responsibility is still the best defense against criminals.

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

in Criminal Justice, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Alton Sterling was known as the “CD man” in his neighborhood where Abdullah Muflahi allowed the 37-year-old black man to sell tunes and DVDs outside his convenience store.

SterlingThe owner of Triple S Food Mart told CNN he had known Sterling for six years. “Alton was out there selling CDs,” Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling’s family said, “trying to make a living.” According to the attorney, “he was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct,” yet earlier this week, two police officers pinned Sterling down then shot him as he lay on the ground, defenseless.

The incident sparked outrage online after the video depicting the altercation between Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II and the victim went viral. The footage, which was captured by a driver and his passenger, is hard to watch.

(UPDATE: Second video of Alton Sterling shooting by Baton Rouge police available here.)

It begins with the camera facing the dashboard but once you hear a pop, someone yells “get on the ground!” Once a second pop is heard, the camera pans up to the two officers confronting Sterling, who’s wearing a red shirt. That’s when one of the officers pulls Sterling over the hood then pins him to the ground. Once he’s down, both officers combine forces to keep the man restrained. Moments later, a voice shouts “he’s got a gun!” The video then shows the officer pulling something from his waist then yelling at the man on the ground while pointing at him. After some more yelling, two bangs are heard, which prompts the witnesses inside of the car to yell. After three more bangs follow, the woman in the vehicle begins to cry.

While it’s not yet clear why Sterling was targeted by the officers, the Baton Rouge police say they were called to the scene after an anonymous 911 caller reported being threatened by a man with a gun. But when CNN asked the shop owner about the incident, he said Sterling was a peaceful man. “They told him not to move,” Muflahi said, but once Sterling “[asked] them what he did wrong,” officers pulled a stun gun and used it on Sterling before the shots were fired.

According to Muflahi, one of the officers pulled out a gun from Sterling’s pockets after the shooting. Nevertheless, Muflahi told CNN, he wasn’t sure why the police were called since he hadn’t seen any confrontation involving Sterling before his death. “Just five minutes before,” Muflahi explained, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”

After the killing, the president of the NAACP’s local branch called for the mayor and police chief to resign. And while Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards says the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is the leading agency behind this investigation, the state police, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office in Baton Rouge are also involved.

As local authorities are pressed to act, Baton Rouge police claim detectives are reviewing the cell phone video, but footage captured by the store’s cameras is yet to be released. According to Muflahi, officers took the video before the store owner had a chance to see it. The police also claim officers had body cameras at the time of the incident, but that during the altercation, the cameras fell off, failing to capture the shooting.

In current day America, we often hear about the death of due process, but we’re not completely aware of what that means until an incident like this happens.

Owning and carrying a gun shouldn’t be a crime. After all, the individual’s right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the US Constitution. Whether Sterling had a gun or not, he appears to have been confronted before having had a chance to know why he was being targeted, giving us reason to believe officers never told him why he was being stopped or asked not to move.

As bureaucrats and progressive politicians on both sides of the isle work together to add more crimes to the criminal code—making criminals out of us all—law enforcement agents are pressed to enforce these laws by any means necessary.

Instead of admitting government is inherently inefficient and acting accordingly, lawmakers add insult to injury by creating an environment ripe for conflict, not peace.

If we, as a nation, are serious about keeping communities and individuals safe, we must be ready to get back to the basics, looking at the Constitution for an example of how we must restrict rulers and enforcers—not ourselves.

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

in Criminal Justice, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

For the past two decades, crime in the United States has declined considerably. Compared to the crime rate of the early 1990s, US crime rates have fallen about half while violent crime has fallen by 51 percent. Between 1991 and now, property crime has fallen by 43 percent.

Sign But while many understand that better economic prospects tend to help keep the crime rate low, many tend to attribute the considerable reduction to a series of factors that, when closely reviewed, have little to do with safety.

Some of the most common arguments brought up by experts include the expansion of enforcement agencies, “tough on crime” policies, and increasing incarceration rates. Some have even gone as far as claiming that legalized abortions had helped to boost safety, ignoring the fact that abortion rates have declined over the past decades.

But according to research on the subject by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, socio-economic factors, not mass incarceration, has helped reduce the crime rates across the country.

According to the paper, increasing incarceration has had no effect on the drop in crime rates since 2000. When it comes to violent crime, the rate is also close to zero. States like Texas, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have all seen a drop in crime as incarceration rates have also dropped.

Between 2000 and 2013, the study concludes, growth in income and decreased alcohol consumption have been the top factors responsible for the drop in crime, along with a boost in consumer confidence. Between 1990 and 1999, factors that helped to push crime rates down included decreased unemployment, growth in income, decreased alcohol consumption, and increased incarceration and police numbers.

But as the number of police officers increases, the number of low-level offenders behind bars shoots up. According to Brennan Center for Justice, the fact we have more low-level offenders in jail now than before impacts the crime reduction effect.

From the study:

“The incarceration rate jumped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 1999, while the rate of violent crime dropped by 28 percent. In the next decade, the rate of incarceration increased by just 1 percent, while the violent crime rate fell by 27 percent.”

During a recent justice reform event organized by the grassroots organization FreedomWorks, Molly M. Gill, a former prosecutor who’s now the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM), pointed out that “very few violent offenders end up in federal prisons.” Instead of violent criminals, federal prisons hold a great number of non-violent drug offenders, who account for more than 25 percent of the federal budget every year. Instead of rehabilitating them once they are inside the system, U.S. Justice Action Network Deputy Director Jenna Moll told attendees, prisons are often seen as the easy way out. During the FreedomWorks event, Moll also talked to attendees. She pointed out that a “national survey found prisoners prefer one year in prison versus five years probation,” adding that “if even prisoners know” prison is “the easy way out,” it proves that the system is not working.

In a 2000 article for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), economics professor Bruce Benson explained that, while few studies on the matter have been carried out, “Private security employment has accelerated since 1970,” leading him to believe that the “private security market … the second fastest growing industry in the United States” may have something to do with the drop in crime rates. To the economist, private-sector responses to crime should be studied as a major factor behind crime decline.

Man Accused of Stealing Tomatoes Sues Off-Duty Cop Over Unlawful Arrest, Brutality

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Man Accused of Stealing Tomatoes Sues Off-Duty Cop Over Unlawful Arrest, Brutality

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A man from Atlanta, Georgia is suing an off-duty police officer over an incident that left him with broken bones and a severed artery.

CarnegayThe October 2014 incident, which was caught on camera, shows the off-duty cop beating Tyrone Carnegay. The officer was working as a security guard for Walmart at the time. According to the lawsuit, Carnegay was accused of stealing a tomato by the store’s manager, which prompted the officer’s aggressive reaction. After the encounter, Carnegay was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and severed artery where he was handcuffed to the bed. After receiving treatment, the victim was sent to jail, where he stayed for three days. Charges were eventually dropped and no evidence of theft was found.

Due to his injuries, Carnegay now walks with a limp because of the titanium rod in his leg.

In an interview to WSB-TV, Carnegay claimed that the officer gave him a command to “get on the ground” while beating him with his baton. According to the footage of the incident, the officer hit Carnegay’s leg at least seven times. The officer reportedly never asked him for a receipt before the attack, but once Carnegay was subdued and placed in handcuffs, the officer allegedly reached into his pockets where he found a receipt showing Carnegay had paid for the tomato.

According to Craig Jones, the victim’s attorney, this incident could have been avoided if the officer had asked Carnegay a simple question. Instead of asking the customer for a receipt, “the officer went into Robocop mode and beat the crap out of him,” Jones told news organizations.

The lawsuit names the store’s manager, the officer, and Walmart, but the Atlanta Police has not been involved.

This is not the only wrongful arrest story to have hit the news recently.

According to the Baltimore Sun, six men who were arrested during last year’s Baltimore protests against police brutality have recently filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department. The suit alleges the six men were wrongfully arrested in what the plaintiffs claim to be an unconstitutional violation of their protected speech rights.

While the circumstances under which these men were arrested are different from Carnegay’s, both cases showcase an issue prompted by the country’s ongoing overcriminalization efforts.

As the nation struggles to abandon its addiction to passing too many laws, law enforcement agents are trained to act as if civilians are the enemies in an undeclared war against the individual.

Unless we address this issue by helping others understand the importance of limiting government bodies, not individual liberties, the issue of police brutality will never be fully tackled.

In a column for Bloomberg, Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter wrote that, on “the opening day of law school,” he always counsels his “first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce.”

Are they listening?

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A terribly tragic incident involving a man from Texas is receiving little attention from the media.

According to Yahoo! News, Patrick Joseph Brown, a 46-year-old man accused of stealing a guitar, was booked on a misdemeanor theft charge on April 3. Forty-eight hours after failing to post bail, Brown was found beaten to a pulp in the cell he shared with several other men, including three men who had been charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

PrisonWhile authorities in Harris County aren’t aware of what prompted the violent act, Brown was placed in a cell with violent suspects due to his failure to come up with $3,000. Brown’s teenage son is devastated.

To proponents of a comprehensive criminal justice reform, the financial burden tied to minor or drug-related crimes has become a reason of concern.

The drug war, for instance, has had a real impact on the poor across the United States. But the financial burden tied to other non-violent crimes has also been affecting low-income communities across the board.

Harriet Cleveland, a 49-year-old mother of three in Alabama, was arrested after not being able to pay a series of traffic tickets. She had accumulated a number of citations because she had been driving without a license for some time. She also had no insurance.

While Cleveland says she knew what she was doing “was wrong,” she had no choice. She had just found a job after some time, a part-time gig that paid her $7.25 per hour, and her son had to be taken to school. She felt that the tickets could wait. Unfortunately, the police didn’t agree.

After she was arrested, the judge sentenced her to two years of probation with Judicial Correction Services, a private probation company. Cleveland had to pay JCS $200 a month, the judge ordered. While Cleveland was able to make her payments throughout the first year, gathering whatever she could find to put the money together, she eventually fell behind on payments. After losing her part-time job, Cleveland had to turn in all of her income-tax rebate to JCS instead of fixing the holes in her bedroom walls. By summer of 2012, “the total court costs and fines had soared from hundreds of dollars incurred by the initial tickets to $4,713, including more than a thousand dollars in private-probation fees.”

In the past three decades, the size of America’s incarcerated population quadrupled. The overcriminalization of America has been, along with the drug war, partially to blame for this phenomena.

With federal agencies and state governments attaching jail time to otherwise non-criminal behavior, even private companies that rely on the criminal justice system like Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity to fill in the gaps by offering the state the services public law enforcement agencies are supposed to offer but are unable to. Instead of looking at the laws for an answer to this problem—identifying what kind of laws should be scraped, and what kind of behavior should be spared jail time—many justice activists believe that the solution is to put an end to what they call “policing for profit.”

But whether non-violent arrestees are trapped in a cycle of debt and incarceration because of mounting court debt or because of other probation company fees, we must look deeper into this matter by identifying ways of only arresting those who have committed crimes worthy of jail time.

Jail is not the best place for a mother of three who’s struggling to make ends meet but nor is it a safe place for a non-violent arrestee taken into custody for allegedly stealing a guitar. If criminal justice reformers are serious about their goals, tackling the overcriminalization problem in the United States is the only solution.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

in Criminal Justice, First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Jay Park was following a recently passed Georgia law extending amnesty to those who seek medical attention for others in need when he refused to arrest two underage college students who had far too much to drink.

Police-Car-Lights-GOOD.JPG

The Georgia General Assembly passed the 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law in March 2014. Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., put his signature on the bill not long after. The bill extends amnesty to people who seek medical attention to those who may have overdosed on illegal drugs and underage individuals who were consuming alcohol.

The idea is that amnesty may save the lives of those who may have otherwise died because those who they were with were scared of being prosecuted. As of August 2015, 32 states have passed a 9-1-1 “Good Samaritan” law, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

In September 2014, Park was called to a scene where two underage female students had been drinking. The University of Georgia wrongly believed amnesty applied if the intoxicated person was the one who made the call. After speaking to state lawmakers who worked on the law and a judge, he believed the university had gross misinterpreted the law.

Park, who served for four years as a police officer for the University of Georgia, was fired for refusing to arrest two underage students who fell under the protections of Georgia’s 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law.

University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson recorded the firing of Park. “You went outside the chain of command,” Williamson told the dismissed officer. “You’re an embarrassment to this agency.”

Current and former students have petitioned Williamson to reinstate Park, without success. An online petition has gained nearly 5,000 signatures. “In the interest of preserving the safe environment within the University of Georgia community,” the petition states, “I ask that you reinstate Officer Jay Park, expunge his most recent personnel record for insubordination, and commit your officers to serving and protecting in a legal and ethical manner.”

Park, who has been unable to find work in law enforcement as a result of his firing from the University of Georgia, has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the state’s university system; the University of Georgia Police Department; and others, including Williamson.

Frankly, it’s discouraging to see so many instances of police officers getting away with abusing their authority and not face any repercussions, and finally see one who did the right thing lose his job because of it. Here’s hoping Park either wins his suit and is awarded monetary damages for the harm to his reputation.

No, Violent Crime is Not Getting Worse

in Criminal Justice, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

No, Violent Crime is Not Getting Worse

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

One wouldn’t know it if they read what some news outlets are reporting or listened to the words of some Republican hopefuls and pundits on television, but there isn’t any real evidence that crime is getting worse.

The Pew Research Center, in May 2013, noted that the gun homicide rate was down 49 percent since 1993, when it peaked. What’s more, non-fatal gun violence dropped by 75 percent over the same period analyzed. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency in the Department of Justice, found similar figures, a 39 percent drop in gun homicides and a 70 percent drop in non-fatal gun violence, between 1993 and 2011.

Police-Car-Lights-GOOD.JPG

Although instances of gun violence were falling, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans believed gun-related crimes were on the rise compared to 20 years before. The causes of this belief are certainly up for debate, but the media’s focus on shootings and coverage of politicians’ reactions could be a cause. After all, bad news sells.

At the end of August, The New York Times reported that “[c]ities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines.” The Times offers data from several U.S. cities that have seen spikes in homicides. Some have interpreted the story as a nationwide spike in violent crime attributed to the so-called “Ferguson effect.” Heather Mac Donald pushed this theory in a May editorial at the Wall Street Journal.

“Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today,” Mac Donald wrote. “Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests.”

Others, including Bruce Frederick of the Vera Institute and John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, have taken a more reasoned approach to the perceived spike in violent crime.

“[N]ot all of the increases cited by the Times are statistically reliable; that is, some of them are small increases, or are based on small numbers of cases, such that the observed increases could have occurred by chance alone. Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data, only three experienced statistically reliable increases,” Frederick explained. “Only one of the top-20 cities included in the Times’ sample, Chicago, experienced an increase that was statistically significant.”

“Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced,” he noted, “a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend.”

Writing in response to Mac Donald at the end of May, Lott pointedly contested her narrative, writing, “The bottom line is that across the largest 15 cities in the US the murder rate has fallen by by 12 from 749 to 737 (a 2% drop) or from 43 from 871 to 828 (a 5% drop).”

And while many are insisting that violence against police is becoming a trend, the Associated Press recently noted that shooting deaths of police officers are actually down by 13 percent. “There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year,” the report explained. “Those figures include state and local officers, as well as federal agents.” The data used in the report came from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Each shooting, whether of an innocent person or a police officer, is a tragedy, but everyone needs to calm down about this supposed uptick in violent crime because the data suggest that 2015 is consistent with recent years. Even if by year’s end there’s an increase in violent crime, it’s far too early to call it a trend.

A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

in Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.

DetentionIn 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trail under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.

“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country. But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee Americans the right to due process of law. The Sixth Amendment protects the right to “a speedy and public trial.”

The indefinite detention provision was inserted into the FY 2012 NDAA at the request of the White House, according to then-Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who complied with the administration’s wishes. A Senate amendment, which passed the upper chamber with strong bipartisan support, to clarify the language was dropped during negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the FY 2013 NDAA.

“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”

“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.

Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The federal government is gathering information about your driving habits — when, where and why you drive. Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

That’s the latest in a seemingly endless flood of revelations about secret, sinister, invasive government spy programs conducted against innocent American citizens, often without court approval, suspicion, or oversight.

Reports the Wall Street Journal, in an article by Devlin Barrett entitled “Justice Department Spying on ‘Millions of Drivers’”:

“The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

“The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter. …

“What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’ according to one email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. …

“The database raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance. … It is unclear if any court oversees or approves the intelligence-gathering.

“The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects. …

The DEA database, named EPIC, “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle. One May 2010 redacted email says: ‘Anyone can request information from our [license-plate reader] program, federal, state, or local, just need to be a vetted EPIC user.…’”

The Wall Street Journal notes that is just the latest in a stream of such revelations.

In November 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Marshals Service planes carried devices that mimicked cellphone towers, enabling them to scan the identifying information of Americans’ phones.

Earlier this month the DEA revealed that for nearly 15 years it had created and operated a secret law enforcement database that collected virtually all data relating to Americans’ outbound overseas telephone calls, without judicial oversight, which was sifted to search for possible drug law violators. Astoundingly, according to Reuters, federal agents were trained to conceal the role of the database when presenting cases to defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

And on January 15, USA TODAY wrote: “At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used.”

Renowned libertarian Judge Andrew P. Napolitano says of this crisis:

“None of these flagrant violations of privacy, dignity and basic American constitutional values was enacted by a majority vote of any representative body of lawmakers — and yet none has been stopped by those lawmakers. That’s because we have a deep state system in American government, whereby certain law enforcement, military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel can do as they wish, no matter which party controls the legislative and executive branches and in hair-splitting defiance of the courts. … Who will keep us safe from the government? Who will keep our personal liberties safe? What representative government splits hairs in order to defy the Constitution, rather than complying with its oath to protect it?”

Robbery With a Badge: Shocking New Report

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Asset forfeiture is a dull name for a shocking little-known legal device Civil Asset Forfeiturethat allows law enforcement officials to take your cash and property — without a warrant or criminal charges of any kind — and keep most of the proceeds.

That’s right: they can do this even if you have not committed a crime. Even if you’ve never been charged with one.

The only way you can get back your money or property is to go through an exhaustive legal process to prove that your property was legally acquired. Yes, in essence, you must prove to the government that you are not guilty. And the process is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that most don’t attempt it.

Even if you think you know about this vile practice, a new report by the Washington Post entitled “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes” has uncovered new information that will shock you.

Among the Post’s findings:

* Asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of Americans have had billions of dollars stolen by police — again, without being charged or convicted of a crime.

* The federal government has given millions of dollars to non-government organizations to train police officers in aggressive use of asset forfeiture. An estimated 50,000-plus police officers have had such training in the last decade.

* Says the Post: “Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of ‘highway interdiction’ to departments across the country.

“One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop. …

“A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing ‘trophy shots’ of money and drugs…”

* “Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. ‘All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,’ Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt. Hain’s book calls for ‘turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.’”

There’s much more in the Washington Post’s multi-part series, now online.

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.

New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.