law enforcement

Georgia Legislature to Consider Modest Reforms for ‘No-Knock’ Raids

No Knock Raid

On May 28th, 2014 around 3:00 a.m. in Habersham County, Georgia a SWAT team raided a house the police believed to be occupied by Wanis Thonetheva, an alleged drug dealer. In the chaos of the raid instead were four children and up to four adults. The youngest of the children, 19 month-old “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh was burned and permanently disfigured from a flash-bang grenade which set the play pen he was sleeping in ablaze.

No drugs or contraband of any kind was found in the home. Also absent from the residence was the man they were looking for.

Bou Bou was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he was put into a medically induced coma. Doctors were not sure if the toddler would ever wake up but fortunately, he did. This is not by any means, the end of the Phonesavanh family’s problems with Bou Bou’s medical expenses around $1.6 million and surgeries into adulthood. These expenses, by the way, that will not be paid by the county or the departments responsible for severely injuring this child.

Eric Garner’s death shows exactly what’s wrong with the American legal system

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At first glance, it’s yet another example of a law enforcement officer being cleared of charges for what was quite obviously an unjustified and unnecessary civilian death. But the story of Eric Garner’s homicide exposes so much more of what ails our legal and criminal justice systems.

Garner’s heinous alleged crime that was so deserving of police action, violent arrest, and ultimately death was…selling loose cigarettes out of their original packaging. In the allegedly free market capitalist society of Staten Island, New York, America, this is a misdemeanor offense, for which Garner had several charges already pending at the time of his suffocating death.

In New York, cigarettes are taxed and regulated so highly that they can cost more than $12 per pack. This insane bureaucratic scheme has inevitably created the black market that Garner was participating in - selling cigarettes out of their packs, avoiding the confiscatory taxes altogether, and pocketing the pure profits. Garner was no angel, but he was an entrepreneur, and in Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s view entirely justified in not following the oppressive New York cigarette laws:

Police should wear body cameras to protect themselves when they’re accused of wrongdoing

body-mounted camera

It seems that there is at least one area of agreement (with caveats) between some in law enforcement and some civil libertarians: cops should wear body cameras. The how, when, and where is still a question for all concerned but at least there seems to be some agreement on the broad outlines.

PoliceOne.com’s editor-in-chief Doug Wyllie argues that police departments should embrace the idea of body mounted cameras on almost every police officer. Wyllie writes:

In the week following the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson (Mo.), many have asked me for a comment and/or my commentary on the matter. My reply has generally been, “What, precisely, might that comment be? We know very little detail regarding the incident itself, so any ‘analysis’ on my part would be tantamount to irresponsible speculation. Further, analysis of the rioting and looting (and police response to same) would be redundant — we’ve got reams of columns on crowd control tactics and strategies.”

One thing, however, merits mention in this space. It’s directly related to the first thought that came to my mind when news of this tragedy broke: “Man, I hope that officer was wearing a body camera.”

More evidence that we must be vigilant: Barack Obama begs cops to stop reminding Americans they’re under constant surveillance

We have all heard of the now infamous technology known as “stingrays,” which law enforcement uses to track cell phones.

The military and local law enforcement agencies have been making use of this technology for years. The devices are used by law enforcement to trick cell phones into giving in details on its identification and location. This process takes place once the tool used by the authorities mimics a cell phone tower. The target then receives electronic signals that transform the phone into a tracking instrument.

Stingrays are reportedly used by law enforcement when officers are not willing to contact the phone companies during an investigation. They ignore a few steps of the operation, ignore any need for warrants, which they have already ruled unnecessary when using stingrays, and focus on obtaining information on a potential suspect by going straight for the target’s phone.

Some of the most recent coverage the use of these technologies has obtained was linked to the special motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU filed the motion in the Florida state court to obtain access to information on why law enforcement was using this technology, but federal authorities were having none of it.

According to Wired, U.S. Marshals grabbed the files before ACLU even had the chance to review any documents.

Whether this technology is widely and consistently used by law enforcement across the country or not, privacy proponents are not ignoring its capacity. Now, however, new revelations seem to indicate the real scope of the matter.

NAACP Chief: GOP Needs To Become Party of Civil Rights

Ben Jealous

A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rand Paul did a courageous and unusual thing by visiting Howard University in DC. Howard is what is known as a “historically black university,” founded in the wake of the Civil War to provide opportunities for higher education to African-Americans. It’s not exactly home turf for Republicans, but that’s precisely why Paul went, in order to bridge a massive gap that is hurting the GOP.

Response to his visit was mixed, but yesterday, NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous wrote a generally supportive op-ed on CNN. Although noting that Paul missed his target in most areas, there is one area that has promise:

Paul struck out when he tried to equate today’s Republican Party with the party of Abraham Lincoln, while ignoring much of the 150 years in between. (He even acknowledged his mistakes shortly after). But his willingness to step up to the plate can provide a lesson for a GOP struggling to get on top.

Republicans will not win black votes by paying lip service to party history while attacking social programs and voting rights. But they can make inroads by showing a commitment to civil rights, something Paul managed to do briefly in his remarks.

Why We Need Guns for Self-Defense

Second Amendment

You may have heard about the recent slaying of a Texas district attorney and his wife in their home. It follows the brazen daylight killing of a prosecutor in the same county, and it has everyone on edge. This is what local law enforcement is going through:

The judge was on the phone.

“Yep, I said I’ll do anything,” Bruce Wood told the person on the other end, rubbing his forehead. “They asked me to do a eulogy. I don’t know what I’m going to say.”

Elsewhere in the Kaufman County Courthouse, a sheriff’s deputy was handing out bulletproof vests. “I brought the smallest one,” he said to a secretary, who stared at the khaki armor as he explained how to adjust the side straps should the need arise. “These have the neck for a female.”

Outside, two armed guards escorted a white-haired judge from his parked car to the mirrored doors of the yellow brick courthouse in a county where little seemed the same anymore.

“Judge! How are you doing?” shouted a reporter.

“Everybody is making do as best as we can,” he said.

Fast And Furious: Isn’t the ATF just the Government’s Appendix?

Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:

Why do we even have ATF around anymore?

Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.

Let’s read their mission statement:

A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.

A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?

  • “protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?

  • “criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD

  • “the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one

  • “the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily

  • “acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Trayvon Martin: A Victim of the Fear State

There’s a lot of outrage over the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, last month. Trayvon was allegedly killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, who is claiming “self-defense.”

I’m not really clear on what actually happened. It appears that Trayvon entered a gated neighborhood, visting his father, when Zimmerman confronted him. Trayvon ran, unsure of what was going on, and Zimmerman—apparently the guy was some sort of criminal—shot and killed him. At some point during all of this, Zimmerman spoke with a 911 dispatcher, who asked him to back down. At least, this is what I think, from my limited knowledge, happened. (It should be noted that Zimmerman has not been arrested and is still out and about, though apparently in hiding.)

There have been calls to disarm neighborhood watch groups over this. There is also a lot of criticism towards a particular Florida law, called “Stand Your Ground,” which brings the self-defense claim out of the home and anywhere the person may be. These are both charges I disagree with; I am against disarming people in general, since law enforcement is essentially useless when it comes to actual, personal defense, and it seems ludicrous to me that you can defend yourself in your home but not on the street, such as if you get mugged. Such arguments are irrational.

But so are defenses of George Zimmerman.

Legislator Wishes To Suspend Civil Liberties To Show He’s “Tough On Crime”

This week, I caught a story on the Atlanta news that immediately drew my attention.  A state Representative, MY state Representative, will introduce a bill during the next legislative session that requires every suspect arrested of a felony to submit to a DNA sample.  Without careful examination, along with a very friendly news report about the bill, this does not strike many everyday citizens as a “bad thing,” as seen in the first comment made about the story.

Cops are stealing your stuff for profit, and D.C. is the latest jurisdiction to try to put a stop to it

Police Man Stealing

Over the past few months, civil asset forfeiture has made national headlines.

Thanks to hard work by folks at the Heritage FoundationWashington Post, and journalists like Radley Balko, this corrupt police practice has been brought to the forefront of the debate on how the government erodes our civil liberties.

Thankfully for us, some politicians have taken notice and decided to make some positive changes.

A few weeks ago, the D.C. City Council passed a measure that limits law enforcement’s incentive to engage in civil asset forfeiture. They have informed the police department that forfeiture money will now be directed to the city’s general fund.

A recent Reuters article about the measure highlighted the fact that 90 percent of the time, forfeitures occur without actually charging an individual for a crime.


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