Radley Balko

Home » Radley Balko

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

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

As America discusses yet another deadly police shooting, the name Terence Crutcher becomes a “viral” hashtag. And as many argue that yet another hashtag won’t make a dent in helping to put an end to the systemic violence associated with law enforcement, Washington Post’s Radley Balko continues to report on all kinds of police abuse cases, bringing certain stories to light that seldom get any air time due to their less than dramatic developments.

open carry

According to Balko, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut filed a lawsuit against the local police on behalf of Michael Picard, an open carry gun rights activist.

Picard was targeted by the local police while he was protesting a DUI checkpoint in September of 2015. He positioned himself ahead of the checkpoint, holding up a sign that read “cops ahead, remain silent.”

ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett explained that, as soon as the police was made aware of Picard’s silent and legal protest, state officers working the checkpoint approached the protester and proceeded to slap the camera out of his hand. As the officer carries on, believing the camera had been broken, Picard is searched.

As an open carry activist, Picard had been carrying a gun in plain sight all along, making it easy for officers to find it immediately. Nevertheless, the officer in question announces he found a gun as loud as possible. As the officers check his permit and run a check on his records, Picard picks up his camera, prompting the officer to say “taking my picture is illegal.”

Nonsense, Barett says.

As Picard debates the officer over his constitutional rights, the officer “snatches” the camera from Picard’s hands and places it on top of the police cruiser.

Thankfully, the camera was still recording.

What happens next is why Picard is now suing the Connecticut police.

According to the footage, three troopers are caught talking about what they should do next. As they see Picard’s permit is valid, they say “oh crap. … we gotta punch a number on this guy.” Meaning they should “open an investigation in the police database.” The officer then says, “we really gotta cover our a*ses.”

They proceed, discussing what to do about Picard without facts to back their story. During at least eight minutes, they attempt to get to a conclusion as to how better they will “cover their” butts.

At no time, Balko explains, did the cops think of giving Picard his camera back and telling him he was free to go.

Toward the end of this ordeal, the officers get to the conclusion of charging Picard with two criminal infractions: “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian,” and “creating a public disturbance.”

Thanks to Picard’s camera, we know the officers discuss how to support the public disturbance charge until a supervisor comes up with a plan.

“What we say,” he tells the other officers, “is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.”

After filing a complaint that led to nowhere, the ACLU took on the case.

Regardless of where Americans stand on gun rights or law enforcement, Picard’s right to protest the checkpoint in peace while carrying a weapon should always be upheld.

The same way pulling over and reaching out to the police with your arms raised should not give officers an excuse to practice target shooting over your helpless body.

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. ​

Innocent Grandma In Hospital After Botched Police Raid

in Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Innocent Grandma In Hospital After Botched Police Raid

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

In what may as well be the hundredth time this type of incident happens, a grandmother from Chicago, Illinois went through the scariest moments of her life when a police officer broke down her door unexpectedly while searching for someone else.

The 82-year-old ended up in the hospital after the scare.

GrandmaAccording to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, the great-grandmother from Chicago claims police raided her home while searching for a man she wasn’t acquainted with. In an interview for ABC News, the 82-year-old Elizabeth Harrison said the police “were there with the guns drawn: ‘Put your hands up! Put your hands up! Put your hands up!’” They asked for a “young man that they were looking for. And they would not take no for an answer that I didn’t know him.”

As officers explained Harrison and her family they could file a claim to have the poor old lady’s door fixed, the man officers had been looking for walked right up to them, telling the inefficient policemen that he lived at 126, not 136, Harrison’s address.

Despite finally catching the suspect, officers didn’t even take him into custody, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence for an arrest.

After the incident, the elderly woman was rushed to the hospital where a doctor is now monitoring her heart due to the frightening encounter.

In his article, Balko claims that this is not the first time this type of accident happens.

In 2014, a botched New Hampshire drug raid resulted in the shooting of another grandmother. No charges were brought against the federal agent and the victim survived. In 2010, another grandmother was surprised by federal agents in another botched drug raid. She survived the encounter, but her dog wasn’t as lucky.

During a 2014 police raid in Virginia, a 75-year-old grandmother was restrained, even as she told officers she had nothing to do with their investigation. Officers initially broke down her door and accused her of selling drugs. Despite the fact investigators never found anything on her, the grandmother said officers never apologized for what they did.

While these examples all involve botched raids that did not result in fatalities, the story of a 57-year-old grandmother from Harlem doesn’t have the same happy ending. In 2003, the New York Times reported that a botched raid in Harlem resulted in the death of Alberta Spruill. She had done nothing wrong and the city later paid her family $1.6 million for the mistaken raid.

From the New York Times piece:

“The settlement was notable not so much for the amount as for the speed with which it was reached. It came a mere five and a half months after Ms. Spruill, a longtime city employee, died of a heart attack induced by the use of the grenade in a no-knock raid on her apartment, which the police had been told was used by a drug dealer. At the time, the drug dealer was already in custody.”

The family of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was also paid millions after their grandmother was killed in a botched November 2006 drug raid but the family of an 84-year-old grandma from Texas whose life was also taken during a police raid, weren’t as lucky.

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.

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

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

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

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

Immigration has been catapulted back into the national political discussion in recent weeks, thanks to the comments of a bloviating celebrity businessman who is desperately seeking relevance.

immigrant family

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said last month. “And some, I assume, are good people.”

While some justifiably cringed at the notion, immigration restrictionists have praised the comments, especially after the tragic death of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a rabidly anti-immigration group, declared, in the wake of Steinle’s murder, that the celebrity’s “widely mocked warnings of this very danger have been vindicated.”

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, who, in 2010 signed the toughest anti-immigration law in country, said the celebrity “is kind of telling it like it really, truly is.”

“I think that the people of Arizona realize that we picked up the tab for the majority of the violence that comes across our border in regards to the drug cartels, the smugglers, the drug houses,” Brewer said. “It has been horrendous.”

But is it true that immigrants bring crime to the United States? The answer may surprise you. Writing at Reason in July 2009, Radley Balko noted that despite its close proximity to Ciudad Juarez, which has been ravaged by Mexican drug cartels, El Paso, Texas “is among of the safest big cities in America.”

“There were just 18 murders in El Paso [in 2008], in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings,” Balko explained. “In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).”

“Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso,” he added.

On Tuesday, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy expert at the Cato Institute, further countered the argument that more immigrants mean more crime in the United States.

“Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions. There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality,” Nowrasteh wrote. “One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.”

“Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes,” he added. “According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals.”

None of this touches on the economic benefits of immigration or the dishonorable intentions of anti-immigration groups that drive the fear mongering. Those are topics, perhaps, for another day. But the fears about crime committed by immigrants are completely and utterly unfounded.

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.

SWAT Teams: We’re Above the Law

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

From a recent Washington Post column by libertarian Randy Balko, entitled “Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws”:

SWAT Raid

“[A] number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board ….

“Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests.

“Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences.

“And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.”

New Book Reveals Danger of Militarized Police

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Rise of the Warrior CopFor several years award-winning libertarian investigative journalist Randy Balko has been covering an extremely important story that few other journalists have touched: the increasing militarization of U.S. police and the danger this poses to American liberties.

Rise of the Warrior Cop is Balko’s brand-new book on the topic of militarized police, and it is a chilling eye-opener. Anyone who cares about liberty should give it serious attention.

Balko shows how bad laws (the War on Drugs being a prime example), anti-liberty politicians, and America’s various “wars” against vague ill-defined enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have transformed America’s police force. The distinction between a cop and a soldier has been blurred to the point where they are often indistinguishable.

America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops: complete with military-style uniforms, tanks, other military weapons, military training and military-style tactics. Decades of police-state legislation have gutted fundamental constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment. Rogue cops ignore or bypass our remaining legal protections.

Today’s police have arguably become an internal army — something the Founders feared and warned about. Indeed, according to Balko, police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an “other” — an enemy. In enforcing tyrannical laws like drug prohibition, they are actually engaging in a violent war against the people whose liberty and property they are supposed to protect.

America wasn’t supposed to be like this. And this isn’t an anti-cop book; good police will welcome it. It is a warning about how bad laws and bad politicians have transformed the police into something they were never supposed to be. Balko offers sensible suggestions to defuse and reform this situation.

Balko’s carefully researched book covers history, politics, and constitutional law. It is breathtaking and terrifying, and it is one of the most original libertarian books in years. Balko has exposed a grave danger to American freedom, and his argument deserves major national attention.

You can read a lengthy excerpt from Rise of the Warrior Cop for free, courtesy of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal website.