An app called Clearview allows the user to snap a photo of anyone. Once that’s done, the person who took your picture will have access to all of your information. Privacy is now all but obsolete.
People will not, for much longer, be able to walk down the street minding their own business anonymously. According to a report by The New York Times,it won’t be long before anyone at any time knows exactly who you are while you’re in public.
Our Orwellian future has arrived. We are to be tracked, monitored, spied on, and have no privacy whatsoever at any time. And now, other strangers will have access to your private information is you dare to show your face in public.
According to the Times, this human rights violating app works by comparing a photo snapped to a database of more than 3 billion pictures that Clearview says it’s scraped off Facebook, Venmo, YouTube and other sites. It then serves up matches, along with links to the sites where those database photos originally appeared. A name might easily be unearthed, and from there, other info could be dug up online.
The size of the Clearview database dwarfs others in use by law enforcement. The FBI’s own database, which taps passport and driver’s license photos, is one of the largest, with over 641 million images of US citizens.
The Clearview app isn’t currently available to the public, but the Times says police officers and Clearview investors think it will be in the future. –CNET
Even though law enforcement says they’ve used the app’s technology to solve horrible crimes, human rights advocates warn that the privacy violations are going to be immense. Privacy advocates are warning that the app could return false matches to police and that it could also be used by stalkers and other creeps. They’ve also warned that facial recognition technologies, in general, could be used to conduct mass surveillance.
Most facial recognition technology is already used for Orwellian and tyrannical purposes by the powers that shouldn’t be. It should come as no surprise that this will also be used by the ruling class to eliminate basic human rights.
The Atlanta police department just made a revolutionary move. Let’s hope other cities follow suit!
(TFTP) — In one of the most revolutionary moves we’ve reported on to date, the Atlanta Police Department announced this week that they are disbanding their narcotics unit so they can fight actual violent crime. This move is both revolutionary and heartening and is another nail in the war on drugs’ coffin.
According to a report from WSB-TV Atlanta, the massive change was confirmed on Tuesday. The department confirmed with WSB-TV reporter, Mark Winne, noting that all the officers in the drug unit will be assigned to other areas.
In a statement, the department told Winne (emphasis added):
“We know that the illegal narcotics trade is often at the center of criminal activity fueled by guns and gangs. The Department is de-centralizing its Narcotics Unit in recognition that the violence that surrounds this trade should be the focus of the entire Department, not just one team. We have had tremendous success at targeting the sale of illegal narcotics by tracking violent criminals and getting illegally-possessed guns off the streets.
“Violent crime and gang activity must be the Department’s primary focus and where we will have a greater impact on the crimes affecting those most often victimized in our communities.”
Imagine that! Instead of focusing their efforts on kicking in doors in the middle of the night over people possessing a plant, Atlanta cops will focus on stopping actual violence against the citizens. This is huge.
Naturally, the cops who make a living kicking in doors and confiscating money, drugs and property from drug dealers with all their expensive militarized gear, are not happy.
“Absolutely, it’s a risky move,” a veteran APD narcotics officer told Winne, asking not to be identified. “I’m sure there was a lot of thought put into it. I don’t have all the numbers that the higher-ups in APD have, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
“I hope in the long run that this move is successful. I wish Atlanta the best. I hope it was well calculated,” the officer told Winne.
Although they still acknowledge the perpetuation of the drug war in no uncertain terms, the fact that officers will now focus on preventing harm rather than attacking people for drugs is monumental. Hopefully, this move catches on and departments across the country follow suit
As TFTP has reported before, in the land of the free, those tasked with ‘protecting’ society — often and with extreme prejudice — fall far short of providing anything resembling actual safety. Instead, law enforcement in America often chooses profit over people. One particularly egregious example of this choice is the fact that tens of thousands of raids on people for suspected illegal substances take place every year, while hundreds of thousands of rape kits collect dust in police departments across the country and murders continue to go unsolved.
If you were murdered today, there’s only a 60% chance of police catching the person who did it. That number drops to 3% if you’re raped. 50 years ago, that number was much higher. What happened?
The answer to that question can be found by looking at where police — everywhere except Atlanta — allocate much of their time and resources.
Civil asset forfeiture pays. Busting low-level drug dealers by the dozen and confiscating their drugs, guns, cars, houses, and money pays. Writing tickets for victimless crime pays. Pulling you over for window tint, seat belts, arbitrary traveling speeds, and expired license plates to go on fishing expeditions for drugs; these are the things that pay—not solving crimes.
In criminal justice, clearance rates are used as a measure of crimes solved by the police. The clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are “cleared” (a charge being laid) by the total number of crimes recorded.
Despite the near-complete erosion of the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the clearance rate for murder and violent crimes continued to free fall. This highlights the fact that no matter how many rights are given up or freedoms diminished, police cannot guarantee your safety.
For now, it appears that the Atlanta Police Department is moving in the right direction. Other departments would do well to pay attention.
“Give a boy a hammer and he will bang everything in sight.” Cops create crime. The more cops the more crime?
“Arrests by Chicago police officers dropped by nearly 50% citywide the evening after the sentence came down, and almost 25% in the two weeks following. At the same time, total crime as reported by police dropped to the lowest level in at least two decades, a stat consistent with a policing slowdown.”
The city’s police started working less after an officer was sentenced for killing black teen Laquan McDonald. But Chicago actually got safer.
CHICAGO — Soon after Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to almost seven years in prison for gunning down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, his colleagues did something fairly common to frustrated police departments: They started working less.
Furious at the verdict, the state police union issued a veiled threat the same day asking whether citizens of Chicago were “ready to pay the price” of police officers not feeling comfortable doing their jobs. And while the Chicago Police Department has denied there was any work slowdown, an analysis of crime data by VICE News shows a significant reduction in police activity following Van Dyke’s sentencing on January 18.
Arrests by Chicago police officers dropped by nearly 50% citywide the evening after the sentence came down, and almost 25% in the two weeks following. At the same time, total crime as reported by police dropped to the lowest level in at least two decades, a stat consistent with a policing slowdown. Crime reports arising through street stops, such as drug arrests and weapons violations, fell the most precipitously, as officers continued to respond to serious incidents like shootings.
Police see slowdowns as a way of punishing a community by letting crime flourish unaddressed. But in Chicago, something unexpected happened: While arrests and crime reports by police fell during the two-week slowdown, they stayed low when police returned to work.
In the weeks and months following Van Dyke’s sentencing, serious crime continued to decline even though cops had returned to more active policing. So far in 2019, the number of homicides — which was previously among the highest in the U.S. — has dropped by 8%. Murders have fallen to their lowest level in five years. Shootings are down 9% compared to last year. Police were doing less, but somehow Chicago became safer.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot even used a press conference with the city’s police chief to note the improvement, saying the city was “trending in the right direction but has a long way to go.”
The proof of a slowdown lies in the fact that three particular kinds of arrests virtually stopped: drug possession, weapons violations and prostitution. This is important because narcotics, weapons and prostitution arrests are an indicator of a type of policing known as “proactive,” in which officers initiate encounters with citizens without the report of a crime. This can include stopping people based on “suspicious activity” — which can be interpreted as standing on a particular corner or moving away from a police car. Proactive policing is a fraught and controversial practice, as people of color are often disproportionately targeted.
Between January 18 and January 31, the two weeks after Van Dyke’s sentencing, police made less than one-third the average number of narcotics arrests in the previous 18 years. Prostitution arrests fell by about 90% from the average over the same time period. Weapons violations dropped as well. The massive decline suggests that officers weren’t stopping people on the street nearly as often.
“It’s possible that [citizens said], ‘OK, finally somebody’s doing something; they’re listening.’”
During the slowdown, the crime reduction was also concentrated within black and Latino communities on the city’s south and west sides with higher crime rates, suggesting that different groups of police officers responded to the union calls for a slowdown differently. Former Baltimore police officer and professor of law and police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Peter Moskos said many cops ignore such statements by the union.
It isn’t possible to definitively determine the reason for the crime reduction after the slowdown ended. But some experts believe the drop in proactive policing, or sentencing — or both — may have improved relationships between Chicagoans and the police, ultimately playing a significant role in driving crime down.
There’s some evidence that was the case. Excessive force complaints have fallen by more than 13% so far this year. “That would suggest some improvement in police-community relations,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Van Dyke’s sentence may have also helped to quell anger at the department. Public reaction to the jail term varied, with McDonald’s family describing it as a “victory” while some police reform activists termed it “a slap in the face.”
“It’s possible that [citizens said], ‘OK, finally somebody’s doing something; they’re listening,’” so there’s less willingness for the public to challenge authority, and that would bleed into [fewer] other conflicts as well,” said Scott Wolfe, a professor of criminology at Michigan State University.
And better relationships between officers and the public might lead to more tips and information that could improve the police’s ability to deter and solve crimes in their districts. The arrest rate for homicides, which had hovered below 20% before the sentencing, experienced a sharp uptick to around 23% in the following months. Since the sentence, it has increased to the highest level it had been in four years.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi credited the decline in crime to “considerable investments in data and technology” as well as community policing. He cited gunshot-detecting microphones scattered throughout the city as helping to deter crime and enabling police to more rapidly respond to shootings. But many aspects of Chicago’s violence-reduction strategy — including the gunshot-detection technology — had been in place since 2017 or earlier, long before the inflection point in arrests and crime this past January.
Chicago’s policing slowdown and subsequent decrease in crime was echoed in New York City only months later, and under similar circumstances.
In mid-August, five years after police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner to death for resisting arrest, the New York police commissioner removed the cop from duty. New York City police answered by beginning a slowdown: In the week following Pantaleo’s firing, arrests dropped by 27% compared to the prior year, a reduction that police privately admitted was retaliation for what they viewed as an unjust dismissal.
There is precedent for slowdowns failing to negatively affect crime — and sometimes even reducing it. In 2015, when an assailant killed two New York City officers in their patrol car, cops also slowed down their policing. The pullback resulted in major declines in proactive policing, ticketing, and arrests, just like this year after Pantaleo was removed.
Researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan found that violent crimes fell during and after the slowdown. Their study showed that there were thousands fewer major crime reports and that the reduction continued for more than three months beyond the end of the slowdown.
Various other research has also indicated little impact or small reductions in crime after slowdowns. “They say they’re pulling back, that their colleagues are pulling back, and the data would suggest that indeed they are. But what we’re not seeing a lot of, at least on average is … change in crime,” Wolfe said of his own findings.
His study focused on a policing slowdown after the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. There, traffic stops fell precipitously after massive protests, but the rate at which officers recovered contraband in stops actually increased — which suggests a decrease in proactive policing meant cops were focusing on citizens who were more likely to be actually breaking the law.
Chicago PD spokesman Guglielmi disputed the slowdown in an interview with VICE News, and noted that some measures of morale, like sick days, did not increase after Van Dyke’s sentencing. But he didn’t explain why arrests declined so dramatically. Another significant influencer of crime — the weather — wouldn’t explain such a severe dropoff. The state union did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the local chapter declined to comment.
And as narcotics stops and other forms of proactive policing have begun to increase in Chicago again, the crime rate has also increased in the latter half of the year. Excessive force complaints were down by more than 20% in the first half of the year, but they’ve begun to return to their old rates as well. Like the 2015 slowdown in New York, any effects of the slowdown — whether positive or negative — may be only temporary.
But Rosenfeld said that the declines in arrests in New York and Chicago are part of a longer-term, more widespread trend toward fewer stops and reduced policing across the nation. Litigation and public outcry against aggressive proactive practices like New York’s stop-and-frisk program — which was shown to be used mostly to stop and search minorities — has drastically cut the number of arrests for minor offenses. According to his research, arrest rates for all kinds of offenses have been decreasing for at least a decade, beginning years before videos of police violence led to a massive protest movement led by Black Lives Matter.
“We have been witnessing, in the United States, in the big cities certainly, something akin to a long-term depolicing effort … with no subsequent effect on crime rates,” Rosenfeld said.
“Anyone who cares for someone with a developmental disability, as well as for disabled people themselves [lives] every day in fear that their behavior will be misconstrued as suspicious, intoxicated or hostile by law enforcement.”
– Steve Silberman, The New York Times
Think twice before you call the cops to carry out a welfare check on a loved one.
Especially if that person is autistic, hearing impaired, mentally ill, elderly, suffering from dementia, disabled or might have a condition that hinders their ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order.
Particularly if you value that person’s life.
At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.
That’s all the time it took for the two police officers assigned to check on Plack to decide to use lethal force against her (both cops opened fire on the woman), rather than using non-lethal options (one cop had a Taser, which he made no attempt to use) or attempting to de-escalate the situation.
The police chief defended his officers’ actions, claiming they had “no other option” but to shoot the 5 foot 4 inch “woman with carpal tunnel syndrome who had to quit her job at a framing shop because her hand was too weak to use the machine that cut the mats.”
This is what happens when you empower the police to act as judge, jury and executioner.
This is what happens when you indoctrinate the police into believing that their lives and their safety are paramount to anyone else’s.
Suddenly, everyone and everything else is a threat that must be neutralized or eliminated.
That’s according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which reports that “disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated… Many more disabled civilians experience non-lethal violence and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers.”
In South Carolina, police tasered an 86-year-old grandfather reportedly in the early stages of dementia, while he was jogging backwards away from them. Now this happened after Albert Chatfield led police on a car chase, running red lights and turning randomly. However, at the point that police chose to shock the old man with electric charges, he was out of the car, on his feet, and outnumbered by police officers much younger than him.
In Georgia, campus police shot and killed a 21-year-old student who was suffering a mental health crisis. Scout Schultz was shot through the heart by campus police when he approached four of them late one night while holding a pocketknife, shouting “Shoot me!” Although police may have feared for their lives, the blade was still in its closed position.
In Oklahoma, police shot and killed a 35-year-old deaf man seen holding a two-foot metal pipe on his front porch (he used the pipe to fend off stray dogs while walking). Despite the fact that witnesses warned police that Magdiel Sanchez couldn’t hear—and thus comply—with their shouted orders to drop the pipe and get on the ground, police shot the man when he was about 15 feet away from them.
In Ohio, police forcefully subdued a 37-year-old bipolar woman wearing only a nightgown in near-freezing temperatures who was neither armed, violent, intoxicated, nor suspected of criminal activity. After being slammed onto the sidewalk, handcuffed and left unconscious on the street, Tanisha Anderson died as a result of being restrained in a prone position.
These cases, and the hundreds—if not thousands—more that go undocumented every year speak to a crisis in policing when it comes to law enforcement’s failure to adequately assess, de-escalate and manage encounters with special needs or disabled individuals.
While the research is relatively scant, what has been happening is telling.
“Although new recruits typically spend nearly 60 hours learning to handle a gun, according to a recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, they receive only eight hours of training to de-escalate tense situations and eight hours learning strategies for handling the mentally ill. Otherwise, police are taught to employ tactics that tend to be counterproductive in such encounters, experts said. For example, most officers are trained to seize control when dealing with an armed suspect, often through stern, shouted commands. But yelling and pointing guns is ‘like pouring gasoline on a fire when you do that with the mentally ill,’ said Ron Honberg, policy director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”
In the end, while we need to make encounters with police officers safer for people with suffering from mental illness or with disabilities, what we really need – as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People – is to make encounters with police safer for all individuals all across the board.
“All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.”
“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.”
― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.
Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.
We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.
We have seen this convergence before in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, and in Mao’s China: the rise of strongmen and demagogues, the ascendency of profit-driven politics over deep-seated principles, the warring nationalism that seeks to divide and conquer, the callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity, and the silence of people who should know better.
Yet no matter how many times the world has been down this road before, we can’t seem to avoid repeating the deadly mistakes of the past. This is not just playing out on a national and international scale. It is wreaking havoc at the most immediate level, as well, creating rifts and polarities within families and friends, neighborhoods and communities that keep the populace warring among themselves and incapable of presenting a united front in the face of the government’s goose-stepping despotism.
We are definitely in desperate need of a populace that can stand united against the government’s authoritarian tendencies.
Surely we can manage to find some common ground in the midst of the destructive, disrupting, diverting, discordant babble being beamed down at us by the powers-that-be? After all, there are certain self-evident truths—about the source of our freedoms, about the purpose of government, about how we expect to be treated by those we appoint to serve us in government offices, about what to do when the government abuses our rights and our trust, etc.—that we should be able to agree on, no matter how we might differ politically.
Disagree all you want about healthcare, abortion, and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn political discourse into a circus free-for-all—but never forget that our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain principles that should be non-negotiable.
Yet no matter how we might differ about how the government allocates its spending, surely we can agree that the government’s irresponsible spending, which has saddled us with insurmountable debt, is pushing the country to the edge of financial and physical ruin.
That’s just one example of many that shows the extent to which the agents of the American police state are shredding the constitutional fabric of the nation, eclipsing the rights of the American people, and perverting basic standards of decency.
No matter how we might differ about the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs, surely we can agree that America’s war spending and commitment to policing the rest of the world are bankrupting the nation and spreading our troops dangerously thin.
All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump. These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.
Yet no matter how we might differ about how success or failure of past or present presidential administrations, surely we can agree that the president should not be empowered to act as an imperial dictator with permanent powers.
Increasingly, at home, we’re facing an unbelievable show of force by government agents. For example, with alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better. Just recently, in fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared a cop who aimed for a family’s dog (who showed no signs of aggression), missed, and instead shot a 10-year-old lying on the ground. Indeed, there are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order. Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
No matter how we might differ about where to draw that blue line of allegiance to the police state, surely we can agree that police shouldn’t go around terrorizing and shooting innocent, unarmed children and adults or be absolved of wrongdoing for doing so.
Nor can we turn a blind eye to the transformation of America’s penal system from one aimed at protecting society from dangerous criminals to a profit-driven system that dehumanizes and strips prisoners of every vestige of their humanity. For example, in Illinois, as part of a “training exercise” for incoming cadets, prison guards armed with batons and shields rounded up 200 handcuffed female inmates, marched them to the gymnasium, then forced them to strip naked (including removing their tampons and pads), “bend over and spread open their vaginal and anal cavities,” while male prison guards promenaded past or stood staring. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the entire dehumanizing, demoralizing mass body cavity strip search—orchestrated not for security purposes but as an exercise in humiliation—was legal. Be warned, however: this treatment will not be limited to those behind bars. In our present carceral state, there is no difference between the treatment meted out to a law-abiding citizen and a convicted felon: both are equally suspect and treated as criminals, without any of the special rights and privileges reserved for the governing elite. In a carceral state, there are only two kinds of people: the prisoners and the prison guards.
No matter how we might differ about where to draw the line when it comes to prisoners’ rights, surely we can agree that no one—woman, man or child—should be subjected to such degrading treatment in the name of law and order.
No matter how we might differ about the deference due to those in uniform, whether military or law enforcement, surely we can agree that America’s Founders had good reason to warn against the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution.
No matter how we might differ about the extent to which the government has the final say in how it flexes it power and exerts its authority, surely we can agree that the tyranny of the Nanny State—disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots— should not be allowed to pave over the Constitution.
At its core, this is not a debate about politics, or constitutionalism, or even tyranny disguised as law-and-order. This is a condemnation of the monsters with human faces that have infiltrated our government.
For too long now, the American people have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.
Yet the unavoidable truth is that the government has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.
No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
So how do you fight back?
How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?
You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.
We have ignored the warning signs all around us for too long.
What we are grappling with today is a government that is cutting great roads through the very foundations of freedom in order to get after its modern devils. Yet the government can only go as far as “we the people” allow.
Therein lies the problem.
The consequences of this failure to do our due diligence in asking the right questions, demanding satisfactory answers, and holding our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law has pushed us to the brink of a nearly intolerable state of affairs.
Intolerable, at least, to those who remember what it was like to live in a place where freedom, due process and representative government actually meant something. Having allowed the government to expand and exceed our reach, we now find ourselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives.
The hour grows late in terms of restoring the balance of power and reclaiming our freedoms, but it may not be too late. The time to act is now, using all methods of nonviolent resistance available to us.
“Don’t sit around waiting for the two corrupted established parties to restore the Constitution or the Republic,” Naomi Wolf once warned. Waiting and watching will get us nowhere fast.
If you’re watching, you’re not doing.
Easily mesmerized by the government’s political theater—the endless congressional hearings and investigations that go nowhere, the president’s reality show antics, the warring factions, the electoral drama—we have become a society of watchers rather than activists who are distracted by even the clumsiest government attempts at sleight-of-hand.
It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.
Wake up and take a good, hard look around you. Start by recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices. Stop being distracted by the political theater staged by the Deep State: they want you watching the show while they manipulate things behind the scenes. Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.
As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”
The head of the RCMP’s financial and cybercrime unit is urging patience as police figure out the whack-a-mole world of online exploitation, where thousands of Canadians are hit with a ransomware attack every day.
“Just report your crime and be patient with police because we are still growing in this space,” RCMP Chief Supt. Mark Flynn told CBC News.
“We’re always catching up. That’s the reality. In order to know where to go and where to target, we have to learn the behaviour. It’s quite difficult to assume or guess what method somebody is going to use in the future and then be in a position to do that.”
Flynn is the director general for financial crime and cybercrime within the RCMP’s federal policing and criminal operations. His brief covers everything from pursuing ransomware and romance scams to sniffing out organized crime online and protecting banks’ servers.
His comments come as new Statistics Canada figures show a rise in fraud and exploitation in Canada. Just this week, the federal agency reported that the national rate of police-reported extortion rose 44 per cent in 2018, while the number of fraud cases grew by 12 per cent.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that nearly $120 million was lost due to mass marketing fraud (which includes extortion and phishing) in 2018.
The RCMP’s data, which rely on Public Safety figures going back to 2016, suggest Canadians are affected by ransomware attacks roughly 3,200 times a day.
Severe lack of reporting
But to get a real sense of the problem, Flynn said, you can multiply most online extortion stats by 20.
“Numbers are hard to give because we also have a serious lack of reporting,” he said.
“There is a significant underreporting of cybercrime. Some of that comes from embarrassment, fear of reputational harm.”
Flynn said that major corporations don’t want to lose customers and risk the public backlash.
“They don’t want it to be public because of the embarrassment factor,” he said. “We need to bring that up to the surface, make it OK to report.”
A number of municipalities across North America also have fallen victim to ransomware. Last month, the mayor of Stratford, Ont. went public after cyber criminals hijacked part of the city’s computer servers and held data hostage, demanding a Bitcoin payment.
Mayor Dan Mathiesen called such online criminals “the new terrorists of the century.” He wouldn’t say if Stratford had paid the ransom or planned to do so.
However, town officials in Midland, Ont., have confirmed they paid a ransom to reclaim data after hackers held their computer systems hostage for 48 hours.
It’s not clear how much has been paid out in ransomware attacks in recent years — again, due to a lack of reporting, said Flynn.
“People don’t report to us what they pay. Even when we’re investigating, there are times when it’s become obvious that people have paid, but they do not report that,” he said.
There’s more work than they can handle already.– Chief Supt. Mark Flynn
“Our advice is not to pay. However we recognize that it’s frequently a business decision to pay.”
Paying out on ransomware attacks, said Flynn, doesn’t necessarily mean the data will be turned over and could make individuals and institutions targets for future attacks.
“You’re dealing with criminals. They will lie to you,” said Flynn.
Response times improving
The veteran Mountie said investigators also have to recognize that some victims don’t believe police will be able to retrieve their data.
He admits previous response times were “unacceptable,” but said the force is more limber now.
“Today the volume has gone up, the adoption of technology, the change in society has occurred so rapidlyit’s very difficult for policing organizations to adapt at that same rate,” he said.
“I think we’re getting closer to a response time that’s more acceptable.”
A shift at the RCMP is also helping them ramp up the response team.
The cybercrime unit at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa is gaining two sister bureaus in Montreal and Toronto.
“There’s more work than they can handle already,” said Flynn.
The force is looking to hire civilian cyber experts who don’t want to commit to front-line policing, he said, adding the RCMP is also more willing now to work with outsiders, including banking organizations and other police forces.
We have raised an entire generation of Americans that have no respect for the law, and now we are reaping what we have sown. I cannot even begin to tell you how alarmed I am by some of the videos that I have been watching lately. As you will see below, all over the nation young people are brazenly flouting the law, obstructing and assaulting law enforcement officers, and committing criminal acts in large groups. I think that “lawlessness” is perhaps the best word to describe what is happening, and many believe that what we have witnessed so far is just the beginning. I have so much respect for the good law enforcement officers across the country that put their lives on the line day after day to protect all of us, but I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at this point. If you wonder why I would say such a thing, just consider what just happened in New York City…
In a series of shocking videos, NYPD officers can be seen being doused with buckets of water and pelted with projectiles as they tried to do their jobs (in one video, the officers were in the middle of making an arrest).
The stunning footage, which was first spotted online on Monday, shows the brazen young men in Harlem and Brooklyn dousing cops with water and, in one frame, an officer gets beaned in the back of the head with an empty red plastic bucket. The attacks on the officers started as they were arresting another young man, and in the video, they can be seen handcuffing the man while he was splayed out on the hood of a car.
How would you respond if you were attacked like this?
If I was a police officer in that situation, I would not have been able to let that kind of abuse go, and those young attackers would have learned the hard way that there are very serious consequences for assaulting a police officer. But this is what happens when we raise an entire generation without any values whatsoever.
These young people are just doing whatever seems right in their own eyes, and similar things are happening all over the nation.
If things are this crazy now, what will things look like when economic conditions get really bad and those young people get really desperate? Elsewhere in Philadelphia, a pack of teen girls was viciously attacking random female victims that they came across in the street, and video of the attacks caused quite a bit of outrage…
A gang of teenage girls filmed themselves targeting female strangers in random attacks on the streets of Philadelphia.
The disturbing video shows the girls approaching their unsuspecting victims on the street before proceeding to slap them and wrestle them to the ground.
The violent video sparked outrage when it was shared online.
Of course, many of these young criminals will end up in prison, but in many cases that will just mean that they will learn how to be even better criminals from those they are incarcerated with.
And the truth is that in many instances our prisons are completely and utterly out of control. For example, it is being reported that one prison down in Mississippi allegedly put the gangs in charge at one point.
Everywhere you look there is lawlessness. This week when ICE officials showed up to arrest an illegal immigrant in Nashville, the man’s neighbors formed a human chain around him in order to keep that from happening…
When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at a Nashville home Monday in an attempt to detain a man there, neighbors and activists gathered to support the man, who remained shuttered in a van with a child for hours before the agents left.
And once the agents and police officers they had called to the scene finally drove away, neighbors who had kept the man and the boy fed, hydrated and cool, formed a human chain from the van to the house as the man and the boy shuffled inside.
In the end, the ICE officials left and the illegal immigrant got away.
When there is a complete and utter lack of respect for law enforcement on a widespread basis, that is a recipe for chaos.
And without a doubt, our nation is on the brink of great chaos. Just consider these numbers…
After a week that saw President Trump and his foes toss toxic words at each other, there is now a warning that the next phase could be “violence.”
Nearly 8 of 10 Americans told the Pew Research Center that supporters for both sides could “act” on the politically charged rhetoric with violence. It was higher for Democrats, 91%, than Republicans, 61%.
Day after day, the mainstream media is stirring up more anger, frustration, strife, discord, and division. I have never seen more hatred in America than I see right now, and it is exceedingly difficult to imagine how all of this could possibly end well.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says he won’t answer to white people over alleged human rights violations – insisting that he will “only face, be tried or face a trial in a Philippine court, presided by a Filipino judge, [and] prosecuted by a Filipino,” adding “maybe they can reimpose the death penalty, [so I can] die in Filipino land.”
“I will not answer a Caucasian… You must be stupid. Who are you? I am a Filipino,” said Duterte. “We have our courts here. You have to bring me somewhere else? I would not like that. I have my country. It’s working, I know it’s working, justice is working here.”
Duterte comments follow a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council on a resolution brought by Iceland to investigate alleged abuses. He is accused of overseeing thousands of extrajudicial killings, according to Newsweek. His administration is also accused of arbitrary arrests, detentions, kidnappings, and other measures amid an anti-drug crackdown.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Office, told Newsweek: “The HRC resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines and its request for a comprehensive written report is an opportunity for all stakeholders, including the government to assess the current state of human rights in the country and in particular to get clarity around the contested facts, figures and circumstances.” –Newsweek
The Human Rights Council expressed “concern at the allegations of human rights violations in the Philippines, particularly those involving killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, the intimidation and persecution of or violence against members of civil society, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, journalists, lawyers and members of the political opposition, and restrictions on the freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association.”
Recently, Philippines Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the former police chief responsible for running Duterte’s war on drugs and an ally of the president, downplayed the death of a toddler during a police raid, saying “s*** happens.”
Myka Ulpina, 3, died in crossfire during a drugs raid by armed police in Rodriguez, Rizal. Ulpina’s father Renato also died in the shootout. Police reportedly accused him of using the girl as a shield, which her mother denied. An undercover officer was killed too. –Newsweek
“We are living in an imperfect world,” said former police chief Dela Rosa during a news conference, adding “Would a police officer want to shoot a child? Never, because they have children as well. But shit happens during operations.”
Tragically, in America, mass shootings — in which murdering psychopaths go on rampages in public spaces — have claimed the lives of 339 people since 2015. While this number is certainly shocking and far too high, during this same time frame, police in America have claimed the lives of 4,355 citizens.
While some of these citizens were armed and dangerous, others were innocent, unarmed, and include small children. Daniel Shaver was one of these people whose life was brought to a screeching halt as he begged on his knees for police not to shoot him. Despite being innocent and unarmed, this father of three was murdered in cold blood by Philip Brailsford who was never held accountable and allowed to retire from the police force with his pension.
Jeremy Mardis was another one of these citizens who was gunned down in cold blood by two killer cops. Mardis was just 6-years-old when he was murdered by these killer cops — one of whom was released last month after serving less than two years for his role in this innocent child’s death.
The list goes on. Yet despite its increasing length, most American citizens think that reining in America’s deadly police problem is somehow “unpatriotic” or “un-American.” Instead of the right realizing the threat to freedom caused by cops who can kill thousands with impunity, they blame the left. Instead of the left realizing the threat to freedom caused by cops who kill with impunity, most of them blame guns.
Sadly, most people who call for gun control fail to realize what that actually means—only the government has the guns. And, if the above numbers are any indicator of what that would mean, this would be a horrific scenario.
The citizens who call for themselves and their neighbors to be disarmed, likely think no deeper than the shallow speeches given by the political blowhards, designed to appeal to emotion only. They do not think of what happens during and after the government attempts to remove guns from society. They also completely ignore the fact that criminals do not obey laws and making guns illegal would have zero effect on criminals possessing guns.
In the perfect statist world in which only the government has guns, we’re told that crime rates would plummet, people wouldn’t be murdered, gun violence would be brought to its knees, and a disarmed heaven on Earth would ensue. But how effective would disarming the citizens actually be at preventing gun violence, while at the same time keeping guns in the hands of government?
One simple way to determine the outcome to look at the above numbers and compare mass shootings in America with those killed by police. It is entirely too easy to compare all senseless murders carried out by the state to those carried out by citizens, so we will zoom in with a microscope.
However, just as a point of reference, in the 20th Century alone, governments were responsible for 260,000,000 deaths worldwide. That number is greater than all deaths from illicit drug use, STD’s, Homicides, and Traffic Accidents — combined.
Now, on to the micro-comparison.
According to a comprehensive database of all American mass shootings that have taken place since 2015, constructed by Mother Jones, there have been exactly 339 deaths attributed to mass shootings that have taken place on American soil.
As Mother Jones notes, in their database, they exclude shootings stemming from more conventional crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence. Other news outlets and researchers have published larger tallies that include a wide range of gun crimes in which four or more people have been either wounded or killed. While those larger datasets of multiple-victim shootings may be useful for studying the broader problem of gun violence, our investigation provides an in-depth look at the distinct phenomenon of mass shootings—from the firearms used to mental health factors and the growingcopycat problem.
If we compare the 339 citizens killed in mass shootings to citizens killed by police in the same time frame, the comparison is off the charts. We are talking about a 1,280 percent difference.
Already, in 2019, American police have killed 488 people. This number is set to increase by one, on average, every 8 hours.
Since 2015, cops in America have killed 4,355 citizens. And most people are not saying anything about it.
The institutional racism rooted in American policing prevents the public from categorizing police shootings as gun violence, Natacia Knapper with Stop Police Terror Project DC explained to Truthout via email. “A large swath of people in our nation — white people in particular, but many others as well — don’t want to reckon with the horrors police have caused in communities of color because to do this would call into question the entire way we have viewed these systems and their roles in our society.” News media consumption, television shows and movies constantly reinforce the belief that policing is an irreplaceable institution keeping society safe and stable. Unlearning this “truth” is akin to unlearning that the Earth is round. Knapper continued, “For many Americans, I think it’s easier to compartmentalize the type of gun violence that comes from the police as “other” and incidents that result in the brutalizing and death of American citizens — Black, Brown or otherwise — are treated as individual instances that are not connected to a larger, overarching problem.” Police and the media exploit this divide when they describe the police violence victims’ unrelated criminal history or the victims’ possession of a gun or pocket knife, regardless of whether it was a factor during the killing. The underlying message is that the deceased deserved to die in order to keep everyone else safe.
As the blowhards spew their nonsense about grabbing guns from law-abiding citizens and those in government demand action, all of these people conveniently ignore the giant pink elephant in the living room — cops in America are killing citizens at an alarming rate.
Ironically enough, those calling for taking guns from citizens are oftentimes the ones most critical of police killings. How, exactly, they rationalize disarming the citizens and having only police, who kill far more people than mass shooters, be the sole possessors of guns, is a mystery.
Indeed, Radley Balko sums up the mental gymnastics of both parties perfectly in regard to the distorted realities held as “truth.”
Radley Balko ✔@radleybalko
Red: “We need guns to protect us from the government. Also, it is unpatriotic to second-guess when armed government employees kill people.”
Blue: “The government has a history of racism and oppression. Guns are instruments of death. Only government employees should have guns.”
In the United States, the overall homicide rate is 4.9 per 100,000 among the citizens.
Thanks to independent watchdog groups who have decided to document this number on their own, we have a total number of citizens killed by police. Given that America has roughly 765,000 sworn police officers, that means the police-against-citizen kill rate is more than 145 per 100,000.
The police kill rate is nearly 30 times that of the average citizen, yet somehow people still call for disarming citizens and say nothing about the police. And no, the citizens are not becoming more violent. In fact, humanity is at its safest time in history—ever—and, in spite of the lunatic terrorists shooting up public places, violent crimes as well as all crime continues to drop, significantly.
The next time your friends try to tell you that citizens should be disarmed, tell them what that really means; they only want government, who has a history of racism and violence, who kill indiscriminately, with zero accountability, and far more often, to be the ones with guns.
A year-long investigation of private Facebook hate groups by REVEAL finds close to 400 current and retired law enforcement officers are members, including officers from small towns as well as big cities — including NYPD.
One guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana, Geoffery Crosby, was a member of 56 extremist groups, including 45 Confederate groups and one called “BAN THE NAACP.”
A detective at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, James “J.T.” Thomas, was a member of the closed Facebook group “The White Privilege Club.”
“One cop was fired before we even published,” writes Reveal’s Aura Bogado.
Inside these Facebook hate groups, which require the approval of a doorkeeper “administrator” before one can become a member, active duty and retired police officers are swapping memes and jokes in Confederate, anti-Islam, anti-queer, anti-women, and anti-government militia communities.
These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as “White Lives Matter” and “DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.”
The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside. Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
More than 50 departments launched internal investigations after being presented with our findings, in some cases saying they would examine officers’ past conduct to see if their online activity mirrored their policing in real life. And some departments have taken action, with at least one officer being fired for violating department policies.
Read More at REVEAL: ‘To protect and slur — Inside hate groups on Facebook, police officers trade racist memes, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia.’
Artificial intelligence might be a technological revolution unlike any other, transforming our homes, our work, our lives; but for many – the poor, minority groups, the people deemed to be expendable – their picture remains the same. “The way these technologies are being developed is not empowering people, it’s empowering corporations,” says Zeynep Tufekci, from the University of North Carolina.. “They are in the hands of the people who hold the data. And that data is being fed into algorithms that we don’t really get to see or understand that are opaque even to the people who wrote the programme. And they’re being used against us, rather than for us.” In episode two of The Big Picture: The World According to AI we examine practices such as predictive policing, predictive sentencing, as well as the power structures and in-built prejudices that could lead to even more harm than the good its champions would suggest.
In the United States, we travel to one of the country’s poorest neighbourhoods, Skid Row in Los Angeles, to see first-hand how the Los Angeles Police Department is using algorithmic software to police a majority black community. And in China, we examine the implications of a social credit scoring system that deploys machine learning technologies – new innovations in surveillance and social control that are claimed to be used against ethnic Uighur communities.
As AI is used to make more and more decisions for and about us, from targeting, to policing, to social welfare, it raises huge questions. What will AI be used for in the future? And who will stand to benefit?
(TT) — In February 2016, prosecutors in Houston filed a lawsuit against a truck: State of Texas vs. One 2003 Chevrolet Silverado.
Houston police had seized the vehicle after surveilling its driver, Macario Hernandez, and pulling him over after he left his house. They took the truck to court, hoping to keep it or sell it at auction to fund their operations, claiming the vehicle was known to be involved in the drug trade.
But the truck’s owner, Oralia Rodriguez, was never charged with a crime. She wasn’t at the scene when officers pulled over Hernandez, her son, and found 13.5 grams of marijuana in his pocket. In fact, Rodriguez said she had recently loaned him the car so he could drive his pregnant girlfriend to the doctor. The girlfriend was having difficulty with her pregnancy and was at risk of losing the baby, Rodriguez said. She was desperate not to lose her truck, which had recently had new tires installed among other repairs, which she was still working to pay off.
“My sole intention was to help out. … Now I am in this situation of losing what I have worked very hard for,” she wrote to local prosecutors. “I am begging you please allow me to have my truck back.”
Seven weeks after police pulled over the truck, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office resolved the suit and agreed to release the vehicle back to Rodriguez, on the condition that she never loan it to Hernandez. But Rodriguez still had to pay $1,600 to get her truck back, plus any towing and storage fees it had accumulated over the course of the lawsuit. (Hernandez pleaded guilty to delivering drugs and spent several months in jail.)
What happened to Rodriguez was perfectly legal. Under a process known as civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can take cash and property they believe to be related to criminal activity, even if the person involved is never charged with a crime. Prosecutors then file suit against the property, and if successful, police may keep much of it for their own purposes.
Civil asset forfeiture is a tool supported by law enforcement leaders, who say it is necessary for fighting crime, but panned by both liberals and conservatives who see it as a violation of Americans’ civil liberties and sometimes refer to it as “policing for profit.” It’s a longstanding, nationwide practice that has regained steam under the Trump administration but faces constitutional challenges in court.
When police seize a person’s property, the onus falls on the owner to prove the property was “innocent,” or not linked to a crime. If a person doesn’t fight the seizure in court — which is what happens in the majority of cases — they lose their property automatically. Many cases involve property worth no more than a few thousand dollars, and attorneys’ fees can end up being more costly than the value of the property itself.
Last year alone, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout Texas grew their coffers more than $50 million by seizing cash, cars, jewelry, clothing, art and other property they claimed were linked to a crime. That includes property seized under both criminal forfeiture — which requires someone to first be found guilty of a crime — and civil forfeiture, which allows the state to sue the property itself and doesn’t require a criminal charge. The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which tracks these figures, does not distinguish between the two.
How much property and money was seized from people, like Rodriguez, who weren’t charged with any crime? That information isn’t collected in any meaningful way in Texas, and state lawmakers, at the urging of prosecutors and law enforcement, have resisted attempts to report more detailed information about asset forfeiture to the public.
“One wonders if our colonial ancestors, transported to 2014, would be astonished — watching government seize, then sell, the property of guiltless citizens who have not been charged with any crime, much less convicted of one,” former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, a Republican who has since been promoted to a federal appeals court by President Donald Trump, wrote in 2014. “A generation ago in America, asset forfeiture was limited to wresting ill-gotten gains from violent criminals. Today, it has a distinctive ‘Alice in Wonderland’ flavor, victimizing innocent citizens who’ve done nothing wrong.”
Extreme cases of abuse have occasionally grabbed the attention of the public and of lawmakers, who in 2011 made a rare move to rein in police seizures. That followed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union a few years before, which alleged that police in the tiny East Texas town of Tenaha were conducting “highway robbery” by shaking down drivers — primarily people of color — for cash under threat of jail time. The suit accused law enforcement in Tenaha of threatening to have children removed from their families if the drivers they’d stopped on U.S. Highway 59 didn’t sign waivers allowing officers to seize their property without a court proceeding.
From 2006 to 2008, officers in Tenaha seized approximately $3 million from at least 140 people, according to the lawsuit, which was ultimately settled with local law enforcement not admitting to wrongdoing. With the lawsuit in the news, Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 signed legislation prohibiting the use of such waivers, forcing all forfeitures to go through court.
The law also limited how law enforcement can spend the money they seize, banning officials from using it to pay for things like margarita machines, as former Montgomery County District Attorney Michael McDougal did in 2005 — or trips to Hawaii, as a former Hill Country district attorney, Ron Sutton, did from 2002 to 2007. The legislation passed just months after a former South Texas district attorney pleaded guilty to misappropriating more than $2 million in seized funds, paying $1.2 million in bonuses to three secretaries and another $81,000 to himself.
The 2011 law faced almost no opposition, but some Democrats and Republicans at the Texas Capitol have called for further reforms to an asset forfeiture system they believe is inherently abusive. Lawmakers on the left cite forfeiture’s disproportionate effects on low-income people of color who can’t go to court to fight back. Those on the right cry out against government overreach that infringes on private property rights and snubs due process.
In recent years, however, most efforts to change the system have fallen flat at the Capitol. Sheriffs, prosecutors and police have urged lawmakers not to further limit a power they say is crucial to their ability to fight crime and drug cartels — and which they say was already cleaned up by the 2011 law. Law enforcement officials say taking money and drugs linked to cartels is one of the most effective methods they have to fight them.
“We’re sitting here at the tip of the spear of cartel activity, and we need asset forfeiture as a tool,” Jackson County Sheriff A. J. “Andy” Louderback said. “It’s a viable tool that we’re not misusing. … There’s accountability in the system that’s been there for a very long time.”
The battle over reform will continue in January when the Texas Legislature convenes for its biennial session. At least two lawmakers have already filed bills that would limit asset forfeiture’s scope, and the Texas Republican Party asked lawmakers to abolish asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction in their 2018 platform. Still, reformers face long odds: Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have remained almost completely silent on the issue, and after last month’s elections, advocates lost one of their most vocal Republican allies in the Texas Senate.
“A great threat” to property rights
Outgoing state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, was so incensed about civil asset forfeiture that she led a press conference early in the 2017 legislative session to announce that a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers was ready to reform the practice. They filed a slew of bills that proposed significant changes to police power, ranging from a total abolition of civil asset forfeiture — by requiring a person to be found guilty of a crime before their property can be forfeited — to requiring more disclosures from law enforcement agencies about how and when they use it.
Other bills sought to help people whose property was seized, such as by making the government pay for any lawyer or court fees if the state loses or drops the case. Another proposal would have placed the burden of proof on law enforcement, rather than on property owners fighting to reclaim their possessions.
“Unknown to many, including some lawmakers, a great threat to the property rights of Texans is staring us right in the face,” said Burton, who lost her re-election bid in November. “The seizing and keeping of an individual’s property without a criminal conviction is in opposition to everything this country was founded upon, and it must change.”
But as Burton discovered as the legislative session unfolded, any effort to rein in asset forfeiture faces strident opposition from law enforcement and local prosecutors — groups that most Texas legislators don’t like to publicly challenge.
“Many times in my law enforcement career, we could not have been effective in doing away with gangs, drug cartels and whatever without the civil asset forfeiture,” Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said during the only committee hearing held to discuss civil asset forfeiture bills in the 2017 legislative session. “Many times forfeiting civil assets is the only way you’re going to get to the kingpin of the operation.”
At least 15 asset forfeiture reform bills were filed in the House or Senate last year. But not a single bill made it onto the floor for debate. The chairwoman of the committee to which many of the Senate bills were referred, state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, didn’t even hold a hearing on her own bill. (Huffman declined to say why but said she plans to file the same bill again next year.)
“The failure of forfeiture reform boils down to legislative gamesmanship and strategy, not a debate on the merits,” said Arif Panju, an anti-forfeiture advocate at the libertarian Institute for Justice, whose downtown Austin office is decorated with a “Don’t Tread on Me” poster signed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky libertarian. “I would be shocked if folks did not recognize this as a problem at the highest levels of government.”
Yet, at the highest levels of government, President Donald Trump and his recently departed attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have spoken favorably of civil asset forfeiture, with Trump even telling a Texas sheriff last year he could “destroy” the career of an unspecified state senator who wanted to end the practice. Sessions, while at the helm of the U.S. Department of Justice, resurrected a federal policy intended to increase seizures throughout the country, though he did modify it to avoid improper forfeitures.
“With care — we’ve gotta be careful — and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures,” Sessions said in July 2017.
Fuel for America’s revolution
The debate over when the government should be allowed to seize private property is older than the U.S. government itself — and it helped spark a revolution. The British Crown’s abuse of “writs of assistance,” which allowed customs officials to seize what they considered contraband from homes and suspected pirate ships, outraged American colonials so much that the Founding Fathers counted it among the grievances justifying a break from Britain.
John Adams wrote that anti-forfeiture opinion “breathed into this nation the breath of life” and was one reason “the child of Independence was born,” according to historian Maurice Henry Smith.
After the U.S. won independence, the new federal government promptly gave law enforcement the same power to seize private property, as a tool for fighting crime. But historians believe the power was only infrequently used until Prohibition, when police seized vehicles used to transport alcohol. Most legal scholars agree that the current era of asset forfeiture began in the 1980s, ushered in by the war on drugs.
In 1984, the U.S. Comprehensive Crime Control Act gave federal law enforcement broad, unprecedented authority to seize property used to “facilitate” a drug offense. Suddenly, police needed to find only a loose link between a piece of property and an alleged criminal act.
The amount of money government agencies brought in through forfeiture skyrocketed in the following decades. In 1986, the U.S. Department of Justice’s asset forfeiture fund took in $93.7 million, according to the Institute for Justice. By 2014, annual deposits into the fund reached $4.5 billion.
Many states followed suit, passing their own permissive forfeiture laws, and the money flowed into local agencies. Police departments, sheriff’s offices and local prosecutors came to depend on the sale of seized property for a significant chunk of their annual budgets. In Harris County, home to Houston, the local district attorney’s office received forfeiture funds worth about 5 percent of its budget in 2017.
In some small towns, the seizures became an outright windfall. Take Reeves County, which has fewer than 20,000 residents and straddles two West Texas highways. In 2012, the value of seized assets was 15 times more than the local prosecutor’s annual budget, according to a report funded by the Texas Office of Court Administration.
Police and prosecutors say the money helps pay for their operating costs, such as computers, vehicles, training and travel, as well as crucial crime-fighting operations, like paying informants. They say the current system is working as intended.
“We are a decade removed from the last big, quote, so-called abuse in Texas. And it was something that was directly addressed by the Legislature,” said Shannon Edmonds, the governmental relations director for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
But reform advocates say that while the 2011 legislation was an improvement, it didn’t address what they see as civil asset forfeiture’s underlying potential for abuse.
Derek Cohen, a forfeiture reform advocate with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the 2011 bill “patched 25 percent of the holes in our boat.”
The 2011 reforms required agencies that seize citizens’ property to disclose how they spend money they get through seizures — but they don’t have to list what they seized in each case, what offense prompted the seizure and whether they filed a criminal charge or obtained a conviction against the property’s owner.
Several bills filed in recent years have sought to peel back the veil on police seizures by requiring agencies to report that information to the state, but none has ever come close to passing out of the Texas Legislature.
Edmonds said the extra reporting would be too burdensome, taking time and money away from law enforcement’s core mission. Individual asset forfeiture cases are public record, and members of the public are welcome to conduct their own studies, he said.
“The cost outweighs the actual benefit that you’re gonna get” from the reporting requirements, Edmonds said. “The idea that it’s gonna reveal all this great information is kind of a false promise.”
Other proposed legislation would have raised the legal bar for seizing property. Currently, government agencies only have to show that what they seized was more likely than not tied to criminal activity — a standard lower than the criminal bar of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Those bills failed to pass, too.
Steve Jumes, a Fort Worth attorney who represents clients who have had property seized under civil asset forfeiture, said the majority of cases he sees involve low-level drug offenses in which the value of property seized greatly outweighs the value of the drugs themselves. He described the case of a woman whose husband got caught in possession of drugs worth less than $500. The husband was criminally charged and ended up going to prison, but police also seized the truck he’d been driving when he was arrested.
The man’s wife, who was pregnant, needed the truck for medical appointments and to take her children to day care. Ultimately, lawyers negotiated an agreement in which the woman could buy the truck back from the police department at a reduced price.
“Unfortunately, that’s what success looks like in this landscape,” Jumes said.
Last year, state Reps. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, and Terry Canales, D-Edinburg — who stand on opposite sides of the political spectrum — filed legislation to put more onus on the state when pursuing asset forfeiture cases. Schaefer wanted to flip the burden of proof from an uninvolved property owner, like Rodriguez, to the state. He said the current system puts the burden on people to “prove a negative” — that the property is innocent and the owner was unaware of criminal activity.
“Now they’re in court and they’ve got to pay an attorney to figure all this out,” he told lawmakers during the lone 2017 legislative hearing relating to civil asset forfeiture.
Canales sought to raise the bar the state has to meet before it can claim the property. He also wanted to require the prosecution to pay all fees if the owner proved the property wasn’t involved in criminal activity.
“If you make it loser pays, that would rein in much of the abuse that’s going on because the first time that the state’s got to cut a check, they’re going to realize that they themselves can incur liability for doing it wrong,” Canales said. “But as it stands, they’ve got a free ticket to ride. Why wouldn’t they?”
Edmonds said such proposals seek to solve a nonexistent problem and that prosecutors work with innocent owners to return their property.
“People are not showing up to contest [asset seizures] because they did it,” he said. “These people are not coming to court and they’re not coming to the Capitol, so how can we gauge the validity of their argument if they never show up to either place?”
At the legislative hearing, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Angela Beavers testified that only four or five of the county’s up to 1,000 forfeiture cases went to trial last year. State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, said so few people fight government seizures because they don’t know how to take on the government without a lawyer, a luxury many can’t afford.
“The ones that did got lawyers like me and like Chairman Canales … they got out of it, and they got their money back,” Dutton said. Both lawmakers are also attorneys and have represented clients in forfeiture cases.
The fight for abolition
The most controversial legislative effort is complete abolition of civil asset forfeiture — which would require law enforcement to secure a criminal conviction before they can keep seized property, rather than simply claiming that property was more than likely connected to a suspected crime.
Burton, a Republican, and state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a long-serving Democrat, filed identical bills last year to do just that. Both died in committee.
Prosecutors, in testimony at the 2017 legislative hearing, responded with scenarios they said exposed shortcomings in the reformers’ proposals. A criminal case is often dropped against a person for reasons unrelated to their guilt — for example, the defendant might plead guilty in another case — but that doesn’t mean the suspected drug money should be returned to that person, Beavers said. A truck found with a hidden compartment containing millions of dollars, she said, might not result in an arrest if police don’t know if the driver was aware of the compartment — even if officers had every reason to believe that money was going to a drug cartel.
“In these cases, asset forfeiture is the key, or virtually the only, way to fight the criminals at the top of the organization,” Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner told the Tribune.
Dutton argued at the hearing that prosecutors were intentionally ignoring other laws or exceptions that could allow them to seize property in such a case. For example, advocates pointed to police authority to seize abandoned property.
“You’re making up an example that’s false. … You know and I know it’s false,” Dutton told Beavers during her testimony.
Canales, chair of the House subcommittee that held the hearing last year, said he would continue to fight for reforms to a practice he calls “un-American.” He has already filed bills on the issue for the 2019 session.
“The natural enemy of any sort of civil asset forfeiture reform is going to be law enforcement itself because of the amount of money that they receive,” he said. “It’s almost like we’ve turned to the dark side.”
But without support from Texas’ Republican leadership, advocates for reform worry that 2019 will look a lot like 2017: lots of bills that gain no traction. Neither Gov. Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Patrick responded to emailed questions for this story. In the past, Abbott has said asset forfeiture should be used to pay for border security operations.
“We have not seen any sort of public comment that would make me think that this would be a priority item for them,” Cohen said.
On that point, at least, forfeiture supporters and opponents can agree.
“I can tell you this, we rarely get asked about this issue by legislators,” Edmonds said.
A New Hampshire judge ruled authorities can examine recordings from an Amazon Echo voice assistant that may offer clues to the stabbing deaths of two women. A suspect in the case has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Prosecutors believe the Echo device recorded the stabbing and bludgeoning attack on Christine Sullivan, 48, as well as the subsequent removal of her body. They are seeking access to Amazon’s servers in order to recover the audio from that night. Tim Verrill is accused of killing Sullivan as well as Jenna Pellegrini, 32, at a Farmington, NH home and hiding their bodies under the porch, along with evidence of the murders.
The online giant, however, refused to allow access to the information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”
Amazon’s Echo is supposed to activate only when the user utters a predetermined “wake word,” but there have been numerous reports of the devices turning on by themselves, speaking and laughing creepily without being activated by the user.
Verrill was arrested in February 2017, having fled across state lines to Lawrence, Massachusetts, and subsequently charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of reckless second-degree murder, and five counts of falsifying physical evidence in connection with the two deaths and his actions in concealing them.
This isn’t the first time Alexa has given evidence in a murder case. In 2016, a murder suspect in Bentonville, Arkansas allowed police access to his Amazon Echo device – perhaps believing it would exonerate him – after the company itself had blocked a search warrant for its servers. The case was also unusual because investigators used the man’s water meter as evidence, alleging the abnormally high quantity of water used over the course of the night implied he had cleaned up after the murder of a man found floating in his backyard hot tub.
Some police departments are so corrupt that it will require an intervention from mythical Gods to restore them to proper functioning. And this is universal. Crime after all is antisocial human behavior.
After nearly 4 years the former chicago police officer who killed Laquan Mcdonald has been found guilty of murder
Chicago, IL – After nearly 4 years, former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke has been found guilty of 2nd degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm after shooting and killing 16-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Van Dyke plead claimed he ‘feared for his life’ that fateful night, as the unarmed teen walked slowly down the street. However, the video of the incident was so damning that the cop was actually charged.
Surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, McDonald, was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense.
But according to witness statements and police dashcam video, McDonald was walking away when Van Dyke opened fire. After McDonald had collapsed to the ground in a near-fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer had to order him to cease firing at the dying teen.
McDonald’s autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot him 16 times, including two bullets in the back, seven in his arms, two in his right leg, once on each side of his chest, and single bullets wounds to his right hand, scalp, and neck. Nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward trajectory. None of the five other officers at the scene fired their weapons.
Before McDonald’s family could even file a lawsuit, the city gave them a $5 million settlement on the condition that the family agreed not to publicly release the dashcam footage of the teen’s death. After suppressing the video for 13 months, the city received a court order to release the footage. The city released the dashcam video in 2015, which clearly shows McDonald did not lunge at the officers before the fatal shooting.
In May of 2015, Burger King district manager Jay Darshane accused officers of deleting the security footage after spending over three hours in the fast food restaurant on the night of the shooting. According to Darshane, the video equipment was working properly, but 86 minutes of footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., disappeared after the officers left.
Charged with first-degree murder, Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57 p.m. When asked if he was certain that the officers deleted the footage of the killing, Darshane answered, “Yes.”
Although 86 minutes of the surveillance video have gone missing, including the moment that McDonald was gunned down, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claims no one tampered with the footage.
“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”
Unable to clearly explain why the 86 minutes disappeared, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy blamed the missing files on technical difficulties. At a press conference, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez asserted that no one had tampered with the Burger King surveillance video. When asked who conducted the forensic testing, Alvarez did not appear to know the answer.
Alvarez responded, “That’s all I’m going to say on this.”
Although the police department and state’s attorney claim the officers did not delete those 86 missing minutes, remember that this information is coming from the same cops who initially lied about the shooting and the same officials who suppressed the police dashcam video for 13 months.
Below is the original news segment showing the officer sitting at the surveillance computer for several minutes.
The death of Laquan McDonald has been the impetus behind police reform across the country as well as in Chicago. Following the controversy surrounding his death the city of Chicago was forced to release years of police brutality videos, showing the horrifying abuse of the city’s citizens by their ostensible protectors.
Thankfully, for the sake of McDonald as well as the countless other victims of the Chicago police department, Van Dyke was finally held accountable.
Russia Provides Conclusive Proof That Ukraine Downed Malaysia Airlines MH17
Of course, proof, facts, evidence are no longer of any consequence in the Western World. Transparently false accusations can be leveled without any evidence provided, and the lie becomes a fact. “Russiagate” is a perfect example.
History is rewritten into fantasy because the historical facts are “offensive” to one “victim group” or the other. Identity politics has birthed a new world: history is whatever serves agendas. Nothing else counts. Truth least of all.
Decades ago when there was still some semblance of justice in the American justice system, police had to provide sound evidence for their case in order for the prosecutor to take up the case. The reason was that prosecutorial budgets were limited, and the career interests of prosecutors was to get as many convictions out of their budget as possible. Today, however, when even the innocent prefer to admit a crime rather than run the risk of a trial, prosecutors have endless strings of “convictions” without having to spend days or weeks in trial.
Today prosecutors no longer have to prove a case before a jury. They only negotiate with the defendant’s attorney a crime, whether committed or not, that settles the case.
Consequently, the police, knowing that there is scant chance of their evidence ever being tested in court, “solve” crimes by simply picking up someone and charging them. The explanations of some experts, who are not beholden to the corrupt system, is that the police, confronted with a robbery, for example, look to see who in the area had previously served time for robbery and select a former convicted robber to construct a case against. The police, like prosecutors, can rely on paid “informers” to provide “evidence.” Drug gangs, for example, use “cooperation with the police” to clear out rivals. The defendant’s attorney knows that, with his client’s prior record, he will be convicted by the naive jury regardless of the absence of evidence. Jurors very seldom believe a defendant instead of a prosecutor. The hapless and ignorant jurors think that defendants, i. e. criminals, lie, but not prosecutors or police. Consequently, no defense attorney trusts a jury. The easy conviction of the prior convicted is the reason for the high recidivism rate. Many of the convicted are serving a second or third prison time for something that they did not do.
Unless the defendant and his attorney are double-crossed, as happened to “junk bond king” Michael Milken, the plea bargain sentence is less than a trial conviction sentence. The prosecutor gets another notch on his gun, the judge’s court docket is cleared, and the police can go back to coffee and donuts.
The persons who pay for the convenience of the justice (sic) system are the wrongfully convicted and their families, and American taxpayers who fund the incarceration of innocents so that crime-scared Americans are “safe.”
The US Constitution is a dead letter document. The Cheney/Bush and Obama regimes destroyed it, and Trump has done nothing to revive it.
The separation of powers is also lost as is, in many instances, judicial review. Dick Cheney, his minions, and the Republican Federalist Society succeeded in giving the office of the president dictatorial powers that vacate the Bill of Rights and American civil liberties. The only protection still standing is the Second Amendment, and the entirety of the liberal-progressive-left and the police state have the Second Amendment in their sights. The liberal-progressive-left is so insouciant that it either does not know or does not mind that it is allied with Dick Cheney’s police state to take away the last protection that the American people have from organized state tyranny.
Sometimes I wonder if, other than my readers, the entire American public is dead, walking zombies taking their directions from CNN, BBC, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post. This crowd of zombies is marching into Armageddon.
The source for Russia’s evidence that Ukraine shot down the Malaysian airliner is Johnson’s Russian List at George Washington University, 17 September 2018
Russia presents audio recording proving Ukraine’s complicity in MH17 tragedy
MOSCOW, September 17. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry has ascertained that the videos showing the movement of a Buk missile system from Russia to Ukraine, presented by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine, were fabricated, ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters.
According to him, Russian experts thoroughly scrutinized those videos and came to the conclusion that they had been fabricated.
The Russian Defense Ministry has held a press conference devoted to the MH17 crash, presenting a detailed analysis of those videos and proof of their fabrication
The Defense Ministry also presented an audio recording proving Ukraine’s complicity in the MH17 disaster in 2014, Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, told the media.
General Konashenkov said the audio recording of a conversation between Ukrainian military servicemen was made back in 2016 in the Odessa Region during the Rubezh-2016 exercise and published in the Ukrainian mass media.
“If so, we’ll … [a synonym of the verb ‘shoot down’ – TASS] another Malaysian Boeing,” one of the Ukrainian military servicemen said in the conversation.
How the projectile was identified as Ukrainian
The missile, which downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, was made in the town of Dolgoprudny outside Moscow in 1986, delivered to a military unit deployed to Ukraine and was never brought back to Russia, Chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Missile and Artillery Department Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin told reporters.
According to him, the missile fragments presented by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) looking into the MH17 crash carried the numbers of the missile’s nozzle and engine. “Once we had the nozzle and engine numbers, we were able to find out the missile’s number,” he specified.
“There are documents in the archives of the Dolgoprudny Research Institute, which made it possible to find out the missile’s tail number. It came out that the missile was assembled on December 24, 1986, and delivered by rail to the military unit number 20/152, officially named the 223rd Air Defense Missile Brigade. It was deployed to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s Ternopol Region, which was part of the Subcarpathian Military District,” he added.
According to the general, the military unit was never withdrawn to Russia
The Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing-777 passenger plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk. The crash killed all the 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers. There were nationals of ten states among the dead. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) looking into the crash is comprised of representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.
On May 24, the team provided an update on the criminal investigation, claiming “the Buk-TELAR that was used to down MH17, originates from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade… a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry rejected all the allegations and said that none of the missile systems belonging to the Russian Armed Forces had ever been taken abroad.
Nevertheless, on May 25, Australia and the Netherlands issued a statement saying that they “hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing of flight MH17.” The two countries called on Russia to hold talks in order to find an appropriate solution and warned that the case could be submitted to an international court or organization.
Australia, the Dutch, the entirety of Western Europe and the UK are reliable accomplices to Washington’s and Israel’s enormous crimes against humanity.
The question before the world, the question that neocon John Bolton most fears, is whether Russian truths will prevail over Washington’s lies.
Washington is prepared to initiate World War 3 rather than accept the prevalence of truth over its lies.
Dallas, TX — The Dallas Police on Thursday announced the findings of a search warrant they executed on the home of Botham Jean after he was gunned down in his apartment by one of their own. The department is now accused of trying to “smear” Jean by claiming they found a tiny bit of marijuana in his house—as if this justifies going into someone’s home and murdering them.
The timing couldn’t have been more insidiously planned as police released the affidavit on the day of Jean’s funeral—despite having allegedly found the marijuana last week. According to the affidavit, when they searched his home, police claimed to have found 10.4 grams of pot—less than half an ounce.
Police also said they found two fired cartridge casings, a police backpack and vest, and a metal marijuana grinder—the horror. Even if police did find marijuana, why on earth would they execute a search warrant on an innocent dead man’s home and then release that information to the public?
“They [police] immediately began looking to smear him,” attorney Lee Merritt said.
“I think it’s unfortunate that law enforcement begin to immediately criminalize the victim—in this case, someone who was clearly was the victim that has absolutely no bearing on the fact that he was shot in his home,” Merritt added to Fox 4.
Pointing out the glaring nature of the smear campaign was the fact that there has been absolutely zero information released about the warrants conducted on officer Amber Guyger, the killer cop who lived just below Jean.
“I would love to see more information coming out about the warrants executed on the home of the shooter who lived just below him. I haven’t seen any of those,” said Merritt.
Merritt accused the department of conducting a “common assassination attempt on the victim that we often see in law enforcement involved shootings.” Sadly, he appears to be correct in his accusations. It is standard procedure for police to dig up dirt on their victims in attempts to smear and assassinate their character to make the killer cops look good in the public eye.
Even sadder, however, is the fact that these smear campaigns work most of the time.
As the Free Thought Project reported on Wednesday, according to police — who continue to attempt to spin this story into some tragic mistake — Guyger accidentally went into the wrong apartment, mistook Jean for an intruder and killed him.
“Guyger entered the building and walked down the fourth-floor hallway to what she thought was her apartment,” according to the arrest warrant made public Monday afternoon. “She inserted a unique door key, with an electronic chip, into the door keyhole. The door, which was slightly ajar prior to Guyger’s arrival, fully opened under the force of the key insertion.”
“Guyger drew her firearm, gave verbal commands that were ignored by … Jean,” according to the warrant. “Guyger fired her handgun two times striking [Jean] in the torso. Guyger entered the apartment, immediately called 911, requesting police and EMS, and provided first aid to … Jean.
“Due to the interior darkness of the apartment, Guyger turned on the interior lights while on the phone with 911. Upon being asked where she was located by emergency dispatchers, Guyger returned to the front door to observe the address and discovered she was at the wrong apartment,” according to the arrest warrant.
At no time, according to the warrant, does Guyger say what “verbal commands” she gave. What’s more, any verbal commands she did give were entirely irrelevant as she was the intruder—not Jean. Attempting to imply that Jean was somehow at fault for his own death for disobeying the commands of a homicidal cop who’d just illegally broken into his home is as irresponsible as it is reprehensible.
What’s more, according to the attorneys for Jean, when Guyger was on the phone with police, she had to go outside to verify the address of the apartment—implying that she knew she was in the wrong apartment from the start.
“From the fact that when you look at an affidavit and I’m thinking that I’m at my house and I call 911 because someone was just shot,” Attorney Daryl Washington said. “Well, the very first thing that I’m going to do is I’m not going to go outside and look at my address? I’m going to give them my address right there on the phone. I’m going to say I’m on the phone. My address is this. Why did she have to go outside to verify the address? It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Even more ominous than having to verify the address is the fact that according to witnesses, Guyger’s story of inserting the key into Jean’s door and it opening up was simply not true. According to witnesses, Guyger was banging on Jean’s door, demanding he let her in.
“Independent witnesses have already come forward to say that they heard this officer pounding on the door and demanding to be let in,” Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing the Jean family, told ABC News. “The contradictions begin to build from there.”
The doors in the complex are also equipped with an automatic closing mechanism. This was demonstrated by the attorneys who opened the door and released it several times—showing that it closed every single time—blowing the claim that the door was somehow ajar completely out of the water.
Jean’s family also pointed out that it would have been incredibly unlikely for Guyger to mistake Jean’s apartment for her own as he had a distinct red door mat which would have been enough for the cop to know she was at the wrong place.
Even as cops come to Guyger’s defense and attempt to shame, smear, and discredit her victim—who was an upstanding member of society regardless of the plant they claim to have found—they are failing miserably.
Despite cops rallying behind the blue line to defend this killer cop, the rest of the country is not buying it. In a damning tweet, writer Kashana Cauley summed up the nature of the smear campaign quite succinctly. In response to cops claiming to find a tiny bit of weed, she pointed out that there was also a homicidal cop inside too.
His apartment also contained an off duty homicidal cop.
The state of New York is using facial recognition cameras to identify drivers and passengers at toll booths.A recent article in the New York Post revealed that toll booths use facial recognition to identify everyone.
A team of researchers from MIT have developed and tested a technology called RF-Pose, which uses artificial intelligence to track and identify the postures and movements of individuals through solid walls.
By analyzing radio signals which are bounced off people’s bodies, the technology can create stick figure interpretations of the subject with an accuracy of about 83%.
The developers say that RF-Pose could be used by healthcare practitioners to monitor diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s. However, the technology has been a call to concern for privacy advocates.
If a normal camera is recording me, it means I am able to see the camera, too. [However,] If the camera can be hidden behind or even inside an object, I would never be able to know when I am being monitored. – Ginés Hidalgo, Research Associate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University
The team claims that this problem is being addressed as they “have developed mechanisms to block the use of the technology, and it anonymizes and encrypts the data.”
Other uses of the technology include search and rescue missions as well as video games, says the developers, who are set to present the technology at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) later this month in Salt Lake City, Utah.
RF-Pose technology can “see” computer-generated silhouettes of human bodies.
The team is also working on technology to create 3D interpretations which would have even greater accuracy and identify smaller movements, according to a statement released by MIT.
By using this combination of visual data and AI to see through walls, we can enable better scene understanding and smarter environments to live safer, more productive lives. – Mingmin Zhao, Lead Researcher
This type of technology is nothing new, as previous research dating back to 2013 reveals that MIT researchers have been attempting to create “X-ray vision” technology for at least five years. Although touting different benefits such as heat regulation and use on Hollywood sets, the goal of “seeing” through walls remains the same.
Law enforcement came under scrutiny in 2015 for using a similar device to see through walls, effectively bypassing Fourth Amendment protections to privacy.
They clearly are useful for law enforcement. But just because they are useful doesn’t mean they should be unregulated by the law…If police wanted to enter my home to conduct search or make an arrest, it has always been clear they would have to get a warrant from a judge first because the home is the most private place we have. – Nathan Wessler, Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The new device from MIT raises a separate issue as they are not currently attempting to sell the technology to police, but to private companies. However, as we saw in 2015, government always wants to get their hands on the most recent technology.
The Supreme Court issued a major statement on digital privacy in June, ruling that the government is required to obtain a warrant if they want to collect the location data from a customer’s cellphone company, deciding that by allowing a private company access to personal data, an individual is not granting the government a right to view that data without a warrant.
By extension, it would imply that the government could not illegally obtain the information gathered by RF-Pose technology either. But the ruling could be overturned in the future as Justice Ginsburg, who voted 5-4 in favor of consumer privacy, is approaching 85 years of age.
We don’t doubt for a moment that the rise of increasingly sophisticated and invasive search technologies will invite us to venture down this way again — and soon. – Judges Official Statement on Police Radars
Toronto Const. Vittorio Dominelli. Photo via Twitter.
We now know a hell of a lot more about the two Toronto cops who allegedly got so high while on duty that they had to call backup for themselves.
The duo of Constables Jamie Young and Vittorio Dominelli are facing a disciplinary tribunal this week—they made their first appearance on Tuesday—and released police documents are giving us a much clearer picture of what happened. (Shoutout to City News for putting the documents online.)
The tale begins on January 27 at 5 PM when the two cops took part in the search and seizure of a Toronto dispensary, according to the documents. Young was the officer in charge of the seized substances and it’s alleged that she “failed to account for” three packages of chocolate hazelnut edibles.
After the seizure, at about 11 PM, Dominelli and Young were sent to surveil a central Toronto restaurant and allegedly, they got hungry. And remember, allegedly, they had some
sweet, sweet chocolate edibles. And then they got super hiiiiigggghhhh (allegedly). At 1 AM, for some reason, Dominelli started to run up the street they were monitoring and put in a distress call as he thought he was going to pass out. Meanwhile Young just straight up called 911. However, when the reinforcement showed up to help the officers the high-as-fuck duo weren’t together.
They first found Dominelli who “appeared to be in distress” and sent him to a hospital. Soon afterwards they found Young and “it soon became apparent that [she was] also in distress and in need of medical attention.” At the hospital, Dominelli and Young admitted to eating the edibles. When the responding officers collected the personal belongings of Young and Dominelli, they found two full packages of the edibles and one empty one. To make this even more Abbott and Costello-esque, an officer who was responding to the officers’ call for help slipped on some ice and had to go to the hospital as well.
At least one of the cops had a colourful online footprint. This included a Twitter video of Dominelli singing the Afroman classic “Because I Got High” and another clip of the officer with his arms crossed nodding along to the Bruno Mars song, “Versace on the Floor.”
When the story first broke a lawyer who is defending several dispensary employees who have been charged told VICE that, if these allegations are true, the duo are “inexperienced cannabis users.” Due to their actions, the charges against the people involved in the search and seizure were dropped.
As a result of their little adventure Constable Jamie Young is facing four misconduct charges and Constable Vittorio Dominelli is facing six—both have been suspended with pay.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone