police militarization

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.

Rand Paul is doing more than any other Republican to reach out to voters, and that could put him in the White House

Libertarianism is starting to become so popular in the media that it’s annoying. Mainstream outlets like the New York Times Magazine, Time, Washington Post, and Politico are trumpeting the rise of libertarians within the Republican Party and the country as a whole, as well as Rand Paul’s corresponding march toward a 2016 campaign.

This week the civil libertarian Vice joins the chorus with as friendly a profile as you can hope for from a leftist publication. Vice uses Senator Paul’s recent unexpected Time op-ed as a launching point to tout his mass appeal on a wide array of issues:

Militarized police supporters in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi get big bucks from defense contractors

The recent stories coming from Ferguson, Missouri have stirred the police militarization debate by putting the spotlight on the police’s use of “surplus” war gear to contain a mass of protestors in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The protests followed the killing of Michael Brown, and while most are peaceful, local police — and now the National Guard — have proceeded to use rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive methods such as curfews to fight locals and even journalists covering the events.

Without proper coverage, it’s nearly impossible to know what is truly going on in Ferguson, especially because the Federal Aviation Administration banned helicopters to fly below 3,000 feet over the region as soon as the unrest began. News crews often use helicopters to cover live events, but with the ban, law enforcement agents on the ground have a free pass to act according to their understanding of the situation.

No accountability.

One essential piece of this equation, however, is missing from the public debate; lawmakers who support the government’s program allowing the distribution of leftover war gear and weapons to local police departments are also the same lawmakers who receive a considerable amount of financial support from defense contractors.

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.”

The Kelly Thomas verdict is an outrage

Kelly Thomas' pleas

Most police officers are not murderers. Most police officers are not corrupt brutes on a power trip. Most police officers do their jobs professionally and serve their communities. Not all policemen are thugs who brutalize and murder unarmed people. However Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are murderers and thugs.

On Monday, both men were acquitted for the murder of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man suffering from schizophrenia. On July 5, 2011; police in Fullerton, CA responded to a call about a man vandalizing cars. Police found a shirtless Kelly Thomas and questioned him. As a video shows the incident grew out of hand, it eventually grew violent.

The heroic Manuel Ramos, who was trying to handle the situation in a calm and professional manner asked Thomas, “Now see my fists? They are getting ready to f**k you up.” Our brave heroes also climbed on top of Thomas’s back and held him down while he was tased not once, not twice, but five times. Apparently in the city of Fullerton, saying you’re sorry and begging for your life is considered resisting arrest. Finally, our brave men in blue beat Thomas nearly to death and Thomas finally succumbed to his injuries five days later.

Kelly Thomas

Podcast: Chatting with Radley Balko

We’re kicking the United Liberty Podcast off again this week with Jason and Brett speaking to Radley Balko, senior editor at Reason magazine and blogger at The Agitator (a favorite of ours here at UL).

The discussion centers around the alarming trend in police militarization and the murders Kathryn Johnston and Johnathan Ayers. We also discussed Cory Maye’s case (video here) in Mississippi and Radley’s work in exposing the questionable methods of Dr. Steven Hayne, a forensic pathologist whose tesitmony at Maye’s trail was essential the death sentence handed down by the jury.

Maye has since been granted a new trail by Mississippi Court of Appeals.

To download the podcast, right-click here and choose “Save Link As…” The introduction music is once again “Silence is Violence” by the always lovely Aimee Allen.

Ferguson, the 2nd Amendment, and Militiarized Police

Ferguson, Missouri

Things seem to be calming down a bit in Ferguson, and that’s good. It proves that people can, and do, behave rationally despite a national news media stirring the pot with constant, perhaps sensationalist, coverage.

There’s little need to rehash the details, and the Grand Jury has begun collecting evidence to get to the facts of the Michael Brown case. Also good, because there’s every possibility that, even if this case proves that Officer Wilson was by-the-book justified, there may be some problem with police overzealousness in Ferguson, perhaps related to race (although class structure may be a bigger culprit, as is usually the case).

But the one very interesting debate that has emerged is the notion of police militarization and if our community police forces are looking more and more like civilian armies ready to squash any protest — peaceful and justified or otherwise — before grievances can be heard. And how, exactly, can people distrust that kind of policing and still be in favor of the 2nd Amendment?

Here’s why the Second Amendment matters: Ferguson business owners guard their property against looters

Shortly after Ferguson, Missouri began to resemble a war-zone, David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and senior editor at The Atlantic, reaffirmed his support for increased gun control by tweeting this:

Keep in mind that the initials protest in Ferguson were peaceful, according to Radley Balko. It was only after protesters were greeted with a militarized police presence, complete with assault weapons and armored vehicles, that the situation devolved into rioting and looting.

Still, Frum repeated his anti-gun refrain with a follow up tweet moments later:

Washington Post stumped by Rand Paul because he’s shattering media narratives about the Tea Party

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) outreach efforts to minorities and young people with a heavy focus on criminal justice reform, police militarization, and civil liberties has perplexed the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

Over at Washington Post’s The Fix, Blake declared that the “Tea Party” label — which, as he notes, has been overused since the peak of the movement in 2010 — is “far too simple” for Paul. He points to the Kentucky Republican’s piece in Time on the startling scenes from Ferguson, Missouri and police militarization:

Given Paul’s political rise — he defeated an establishment-aligned Republican in a 2010 primary — it was natural to label him a tea partier. We have done it too — repeatedly. It’s the easiest short-hand for a GOP outsider. But more and more, it’s looking like that label doesn’t really fit. While Paul is certainly aligned with the tea party on a lot of stuff, the label doesn’t describe him as well as it does someone like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). An op-ed Paul wrote Thursday in Time magazine was just the latest example of that. The things Paul said in it are not the kind of things you would expect from a tea partier.
[…]
The trouble with Paul is that no well-known labels seem to fit him well. While his dad, Ron Paul, is a pretty straight-line libertarian, that’s not really who the younger Paul is. He’s not an establishment Republican, a neo-conservative, an arch-conservative or a moderate Republican.

We still don’t know what label would be better than “tea party,” but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this label doesn’t really fit. Maybe he’s just a Rand Paul Republican.

There could be another Left-Right alliance forming over the issue of police militarization due to the scenes from Ferguson

Ferguson, Missouri

The tragedy that took place over the weekend in Ferguson, Missouri, in which Michael Brown, a recent high school graduate, was senselessly shot and killed by a local law enforcement officer, has sparked a debate over the issue of police militarization.

Although libertarians have, for years, talked about the militarization of police and the use of the weapons of war in communities across the country. Radley Balko even wrote a fantastic book about the issue and continues to cover it extensively. But the militarization of police hadn’t received a significant amount of attention from the media and lawmakers. At least until now.

Police in the St. Louis suburb responded to what was a peaceful protest by showing up with tactical gear, military-style weapons, and armored vehicles. The situation has obviously devolved since the first protest into rioting and looting by locals, actions that simply aren’t justified and only make matters worse.

Back in June, United Liberty’s Matthew Hurtt wrote about the state and local law enforcement agencies’ acquisition of surplus and refurbished U.S. military equipment —including armored vehicles, machine guns, and other leftovers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — for use in communities around the country.


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