Quotulatiousness

October 10, 2017

This is not what unions are supposed to do – getting bad cops back on the job

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ed Krayewski explains why it’s so tough to fire a police officer who is proven to be dangerous to the public:

Since 2008, the Philadelphia Police Department has fired more than 150 cops, of whom at least 88 had been arrested and at least 48 were eventually convicted on charges like murder, rape, and extortion. Seventy-one of those officers tried to get their jobs back, and of those 71, at least 44 were successful.

In reviewing 37 of the nation’s largest police departments, including Philadelphia, the Post found that since 2006 at least 451 of about 1,800 fired officers got their jobs back, thanks to provisions in their union contracts. Campaign Zero, an effort of a group of Black Lives Matter activists, tracks union contracts and their content; it finds that such arrangements are guaranteed in some way in virtually each contract they reviewed. That ubiquity makes many efforts at reducing police violence futile. Cities must have the ability to fire cops who are unable to do their jobs without resorting to excessive force.

[…]

Public employees have a right to associate and assemble, of course. But public unions have the power they enjoy today only because of expansive privileges granted to them by government. Labor unions in the private sector must be careful not to make demands that would make their employers fiscally unsustainable. With public-sector unions, by contrast, the government will always be there for a bailout. And no matter how much a service declines in the public sector, the “customers” often have no other place to go. There is no competitive pressure for institutions like police to be responsive to consumer demands. Single-party rule in most major cities offers additional inoculatation from facing consequences for subpar performance.

Bad cops will keep getting rehired as long as public sector unions are among the most powerful forces in government, setting rules that protect public employees at the expense of the people they’re supposed to serve.

October 5, 2017

QotD: Legalizing drugs

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is not the business of the State to tell adults what to do with themselves, or how they interact with other consenting adults. Where drugs are concerned, any disadvantages in leaving people alone are greatly outweighed by the costs of the War on Drugs, which has reduced large parts of the world to violent chaos, and corrupted every law enforcement agency involved in fighting it, and been made an excuse for the destruction of due process rights in England and America.

Sean Gabb, quoted in “Wayne John Sturgeon talks to Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance”, Sean Gabb, 2013-08-26.

September 16, 2017

It’s “as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As the old joke had it, marijuana can cause paranoia, confusion, and total loss of reality in people who’ve never taken them. Canadian police organizations are desperate to keep legal marijuana from becoming a thing:

I cannot be the only one who feels the world is a little upside-down after Wednesday’s hearings on marijuana held by the House of Commons standing committee on health. The day’s proceedings were essentially broken into two parts. First, high-ranking Canadian police came before the committee to complain that they didn’t have the technical resources or the training to deal with legalized marijuana. They pleaded for the passage of the Liberals’ Cannabis Act to be delayed.

Then officials and scholars from the states of Colorado and Washington appeared to talk about their initial experiences with legalized marijuana. The contrast was remarkable. Canadian cops are behaving as if marijuana is a new problem for them—as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land. The general thrust of the American testimony was not in conflict with the police demand to delay the legislation. Indeed, their major messages included going slow, getting it right, and learning from the history of the pot states. But none of the American witnesses, particularly the Washington and Colorado revenue bean-counters, showed any particular appetite for going back to the days of prohibition.

They could have come to Canada and said, “Oh, God, what are you crazy SOBs thinking?” There was little evidence of any such sentiment. I think it is safe to say that committee members who favour legalization, or who are anything other than implacably hostile to it, must have come away from the testimony broadly reassured.

Washington and Colorado have not descended into a nightmare of chaos because they have legalized “recreational marijuana.” By most social measures these states are about what they were before legalization. Youth use of pot is being watched closely, and it appears to be steady, possibly reduced. The states’ coffers have seen a modest benefit, and some of the money from pot taxation is made available for general drug education and abuse prevention—not just the more intensive outreach to young people about weed.

August 28, 2017

“Convicting Arpaio of contempt of court was like busting Al Capone on tax evasion”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jon Gabriel on Il Donalduce‘s pardon of the world-class authoritarian scumbag and all-around thug, ex-Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio:

President Trump asked the crowd last week at his Phoenix rally, “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Had the hall been filled with an accurate cross-section of Arpaio’s former constituents, the answer would have been a resounding “no.”

Nevertheless, Trump pardoned the ex-sheriff on Friday, though he had not yet been sentenced and had shown zero remorse for his crime.

America’s self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” was convicted of criminal contempt of court last month after refusing to obey court orders. This most recent legal battle involved numerous federal attempts to get Arpaio to stop racially profiling residents of Maricopa County.

Not only did Arpaio refuse, he bragged about it. “Nobody is higher than me,” he said. “I am the elected sheriff by the people. I don’t serve any governor or the president.”

Many conservatives outside of Arizona celebrated his headline-grabbing antics, but they don’t know the real story. I’m a conservative Maricopa County resident who has lived under Arpaio throughout his decades-long reign. Arpaio was never a conservative; he just played one on TV.

I saw his love of racial profiling firsthand, especially on my daily commutes through the tiny Hispanic community of Guadalupe, Ariz. When conducting these “sweeps,” helicopters buzzed houses, an 18-wheeler marked “Mobile Command Center” was planted in the center of town, and countless sheriff’s deputies stood on the roadsides, peering into the cars rolling by. Being Caucasian, I was always waved through. The drivers ahead and behind me weren’t so lucky.

Washington’s laxity in border enforcement led many right-of-center Americans to appreciate more robust enforcement, even when it regularly included authoritarian scenes like the one in Guadalupe. But even if you turn a blind eye to the human cost of such race-based enforcement, Arpaio’s other misdeeds are legion.

August 8, 2017

Civil asset forfeiture in Las Vegas – kick’em while they’re down

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

C.J. Ciaramella summarizes the findings of a new report on civil asset forfeiture in Nevada, where the Las Vegas police have been profiting nicely by confiscating even from the poorest members of society:

Photo by Thomas Wolf, via Wikimedia.

When Las Vegas police seized property through civil asset forfeiture laws last year, they were mostly likely to strike in poor and minority neighborhoods.

A report [PDF] released last week by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank, found the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department raked in $1.9 million in asset forfeiture revenue in 2016. Two-thirds of those seizures occurred in zip codes with higher-than-average rates of poverty and large minority populations.

The 12 Las Vegas zip codes most targeted by asset forfeiture have an average poverty rate of 27 percent, compared to 12 percent in the remaining 36 zip codes. Clark County, Nevada, has an average poverty rate of 16 percent.

The 12 most targeted zip codes also have an average nonwhite population of 42 percent, compared to 36 percent in the other remaining zip codes.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police may seize property they suspect of being connected to criminal activity. The owner then bears the burden of challenging the seizure in court and disproving the government’s claims. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by cutting off the flow of illicit proceeds.

But a bipartisan coalition of civil liberties groups and lawmakers have been calling for the laws to be reformed, saying asset forfeiture’s perverse profit incentives and lack of safeguards leads police to shake down everyday citizens, who often lack the resources to fight the seizure of their property in court.

July 12, 2017

Someone at the NRA finally speaks out on the shooting death of Philando Castile

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Radley Balko on the problems the NRA creates for itself by its reflexive support of the police, which weakens its efforts on upholding gun rights for ordinary Americans:

At long last, someone from the National Rifle Association has spoken up about Philando Castile. Sort of. During a CNN segment, NRA spokeswoman and pundit Dana Loesch said this:

    I think it’s absolutely awful. It’s a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. I don’t agree with every single decision that comes out from courtrooms of America. There are a lot of variables in this particular case, and there were a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently. Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over his [traffic] stop? I absolutely do not. I also think that this is why we have things like NRA Carry Guard, not only to reach out to the citizens to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when they go through stops like this.

As Jacob Sullum points out at Reason, this is pretty weak stuff. A law-abiding gun owner was shot and killed by a cop after doing everything he was supposed to do. It then took more than a year for anyone from the nation’s largest gun rights organization to comment, and when she did, she offered a vague, heavily qualified, quasi-criticism of the cop while implying not only that Castile contributed to his death but also that he might be alive if only he were carrying an NRA Carry Guard card.

This is about par for the course for the NRA. This is the group that claims to be the only thing preventing the government from obliterating the Second Amendment, yet they’re noticeably quiet about the people doing the most violence to the Second Amendment — the armed, badge-wearing government employees we call law enforcement officers. For all the NRA’s dire warnings about government gun confiscation, the real, tangible threat to gun-owning Americans today comes not from gun-grabbing bureaucrats but from door-bashing law enforcement officers who think they’re at war — who are too often trained to view the people they serve not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. Here, the NRA just doesn’t want to get involved.

[…]

In short, the NRA seems to think we’re at risk of creeping tyranny and abuse of power from all sectors of government except from the men and women armed, badged and entrusted with the power to kill. That’s a problem, because if armed agents who enforce the laws on the ground aren’t required to respect our rights, our rights don’t really exist.

The Supreme Court could rule the NRA’s way on the Castle Doctrine for the next 25 years, but if the police continue to kick down doors with impunity, law-abiding gun owners will be at risk, and the Second Amendment will be more of an empty gesture than a constitutional protection. The Supreme Court could rule the NRA’s way on conceal carry for the next 25 years, but if the organization keeps pushing the line that cops are at war, that the populace is dangerous, and that every citizen is a possible threat, the right to carry a gun in public will always be constrained by cops conditioned to see every weapon as a threat to their existence.

Finally, the Supreme Court could rule the NRA’s way and abolish all the state laws like those that ensnared Shaneen Allen, but as long as the NRA and its allies push rhetoric that makes white people (and white cops) see all crime with a black face, the right to bear arms for people who look like her — or who look like Philando Castile — exist only in theory.

June 24, 2017

The murder of Philando Castile

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Thomas Knapp on what he calls “The Castile Doctrine” … the police being held to far lower standards than ordinary citizens:

On June 16, a jury acquitted St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez of all charges in the 2016 killing of motorist Philando Castile. That acquittal was, in a sense, also a death sentence — not for Yanez, but for future motorists unfortunate enough to encounter cops like him.

No, this is not a “bad cop” story. It’s a sad tale and I actually feel sorry for Yanez. But the facts are what they are.

Yanez killed Castile. The killing was caught on video and neither Yanez nor his attorneys denied it.

His defense (that he feared for his life) was based on ridiculous grounds relating to the smell of cannabis and the presence of a child (“I thought, I was gonna die, and I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five year old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing, then what, what care does he give about me?”).

I find his justification to be astonishing … how can a man who thinks like this have ever been trusted with a gun and a badge?

Castile had informed Yanez that he possessed a concealed weapon and a permit for it, and was following Yanez’s orders to produce the permit when Yanez panicked and fired.

Key word: Panicked. His fear wasn’t justified. It wasn’t reasonable. It was unthinking and irrational. That made him culpably negligent in the killing.

[…]

The jury, in relieving him of the consequences of that failure, continued a sad tradition of holding law enforcement officers to a lesser standard of conduct than ordinary Americans. In doing so, they made the world a safer place for cops who shouldn’t be cops — and a more dangerous place for the rest of us.

US law generally holds civilian gun owners to much higher standards in cases like this than they ever seem to expect their own law enforcement officers to meet. A civilian who shot a driver in a similar situation would be lucky to only be facing manslaughter charges, but might well be convicted of first degree murder. A cop? Every extenuating circumstance is given full weight by both judge and jury. A person with no formal training is expected (and required) to be cool, calm, and collected under unexpected extreme stress, while a trained officer is given a pass for “panic” and irresponsible gunplay. Where’s the justice?

Update, 27 June: Even more puzzling is the virtual silence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) over this judicial killing:

These are gruesomely interesting times in the American gun debate. The footage of Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez killing motorist Philando Castile wasn’t enough to convict him in a court of law, but it’s no less damning for that. The more these videos pile up, the harder it gets to rationalize American police forces’ objectively insane collective death count.

The circumstances of Castile’s death are particularly enraging for gun rights activists — or, rather, they ought to be. Castile calmly informed Yanez he was legally armed, just as he should have; Yanez freaked out and, seconds later, pumped seven bullets into the car. By rights, many have observed, the NRA should be leading marches through the Twin Cities. Instead it’s saying and doing bugger all. Not a good look.

On the other side of the great divide, the gun control movement is almost in hibernation — and understandably so. Theirs is a tough climb at the best of times; with a Republican House and Senate it’s a sheer cliff.

June 18, 2017

Meet the Texas Lawmaker Fighting Trump on Civil Asset Forfeiture

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 7 Jun 2017

Konni Burton has emerged as the state’s fiercest opponent of civil asset forfeiture.

When the White House hosted a meeting of sheriffs from across the country last February, President Donald Trump joked about destroying the career of a Texas state senator who supported reforms to civil asset forfeiture laws — a controversial practice where police can seize cash and property of people suspected — but in most cases never convicted or charged with a crime.

Though Trump’s comments were meant to support police, they’ve had the opposite of their intended impact — it’s re-energized the push for reform.

Texas state senator Konni Burton was one of many local lawmakers outraged by Trump’s comments. She’s a tea party leader from the Dallas-Fort Worth area who also happens to be pro-life and pro-borders. Burton isn’t the unnamed state senator Trump offered to destroy, but she’s emerged as the state’s fiercest opponent of civil asset forfeiture.

“When you give law enforcement the ability to take your property without a conviction that’s big government,” Burton says.

Last December, Burton filed legislation that would repeal civil asset forfeiture in the state and replace it with criminal asset forfeiture.

“Police can still seize property that they think has been involved in a crime,” says Burton, “but for them to keep it … you have to be convicted of a crime.”

Texas has tried for years to reform civil asset forfeiture laws after horror stories began to emerge about the practice.

One of the most horrifying cases occurred in 2005, when cops seized $10,000 from Javier Gonzales who was driving from Austin to the border town of Brownsville to make funeral arrangements for his dying aunt. The cops didn’t find any drugs or contraband in his car, but they pressured Gonzales to sign away his rights to the cash under the threat of a felony money laundering charge.

Gonzales took the case to court and eventually won his money back in April of 2008.

And in 2012 the ACLU settled a class action lawsuit against the city of Tenaha where cops illegally seized nearly $3 million from traffic stops involving mostly Black and Latino drivers. Victims were told that they could either sign their cash over to the city or go to jail.

Cases like this have earned Texas a D+ from the Institute for Justice for forfeiture laws. Data from the libertarian legal organization shows that the state takes in an average of $41.6 million dollars a year to local law enforcement agencies as a result of these seizures.

Burton’s bill has bipartisan support, but it faces an uphill battle in the Texas legislature where it’s faced opposition from “tough on crime” lawmakers and law enforcement agencies. Burton says her legislation isn’t about stopping police from doing their job, but protecting the property rights of all Texans.

“Everybody is ready for this to be reformed,” Burton says. “You know it’s just upside down and antithetical to what our country should stand for.”

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Paul Detrick, Austin Bragg, and Meredith Bragg. Music by the Unicorn Heads.

June 13, 2017

QotD: Conservative love of the police

Filed under: Law, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is absolutely nothing that conservatives love more than cops. To the average right-winger, cops are everything good and wonderful about the world — a thin blue line of barrel-chested, chivalrous, honorable men who are standing, at great personal risk to themselves, against an onrushing hoard of savages who will murder our children, rape our wives, and sweep away all the gains of Civilization over the last 200 years. As a result, anyone who dares to criticize police officer is on the side of anarchy and violence; anyone who mindlessly adores the cops and will kneel down when asked to lick their boots is a defender of justice and of order.

What this means is that conservatives are constantly misinterpreting any legitimate criticism of American police officers as being some kind of an affront to civilized society, a sop on behalf of violent criminals, rapists, and murderers. Recently, a cop got pistol whipped after, according to him, decided not to use force because he was worried about how it would look on the evening news. […]

Basically, they take this officer’s word as law — the reason he didn’t react forcefully (even when his safety was threatened) is because, in the back of his mind, he was considering how this might potentially run on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe that’s true, but it seems equally likely that this officer made a bad call and then, when called upon to justify his poor decision making, invented an excuse that not only alleviated him of any wrongdoing, but also allowed him to proclaim that any critics of the police are putting lives in danger. Now maybe a beat cop is willing to risk a beating to stay out of the news, but I myself have my doubts.

Regardless, this story has traction because conservatives steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that any criticism of the American police could possibly have merit. All critiques of the cops is illegitimate, merely another example, as if any further examples were needed, of a) the fact that black activists are anti-white racists, b) that libertarians are anti-American anarchists, and c) that progressives wish for the policy to lie prone in the streets, drowning on their own blood. No one seriously criticizes the police due to actual and legitimate concerns — it is all as a result of anti-cop bigotry and demagoguery and it is putting lives at risk.

J.R. Ireland, “Cops Deserve Rightful Criticism No Matter What Whiny, Boot Licking Conservatives Might Like to Pretend”, Locust Kings, 2015-08-20.

Note: when I originally read the linked blog post, it was available to all. At some point in the last year or so, the original author or the owner of the blog changed to a members-only model, so you are now required to log in to read it (I don’t have a Blogger account). My apologies for any inconvenience.

June 3, 2017

Ned Kelly – Lies – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Apr 29, 2017

We know so much about Ned Kelly’s life through documents recorded at the time, and yet disputes over those details remind us how much different people’s perspectives shapes our understanding of events. James Portnow interviews series writer Soraya Een Hajji about Ned Kelly!

May 22, 2017

Ned Kelly – V: The Iron Outlaw – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Apr 15, 2017

Ned Kelly sought revenge against the police. He built plate armor and planned to derail their train so he could kill them, but his plan was betrayed and police surrounded him and his hostages. It all came to one final showdown in Glenrowan, Australia.

May 21, 2017

QotD: Being a cop is dangerous … but not as dangerous as you’d think

Filed under: Law, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is less dangerous than being a cabbie, yet every time a cab driver dies in a car accident I’m not forced to listen to hour after endless hour about how that noble cabbie died so that the good people of Chicago could get from point A to point B. The on the job fatality rate for police officers is only 20 per 100,000 officers, with only 1/4th of all fatalities related to homicides. On the other hand, fishermen have a fatality rate of 127 per 100,000, meaning that if you are a fisherman, your odds of dying on the job are approximately 6 times that of a police officer. Meanwhile, the average compensation for a police officer is $57,000 compared with a salary of $26,000 for fisherman. So in addition to being six times as likely to die on the job, the average fisherman earns half as much as a cop does. So why then am I not continuously being bombarded with proclamations of the selfless brilliance of our nation’s fisherman, braving stormy, treacherous seas, contending with waves and high winds, knowing always that they might drown or be struck by lightning simply so that I might have some salmon for my evening meal?

In addition to the fact that being a cop isn’t actually dangerous, no matter what the inveterate cop-lovers might tell you, for decades American policing has been possessed of a brutality, a fearsomeness, a general degree of oppression which does not exist in any other civilized society. A distressingly large percentage of American police officers behave themselves like stormtroopers in a banana Republic.

J.R. Ireland, “Cops Deserve Rightful Criticism No Matter What Whiny, Boot Licking Conservatives Might Like to Pretend”, Locust Kings, 2015-08-20.

Note: when I originally read the linked blog post, it was available to all. At some point in the last year or so, the original author or the owner of the blog changed to a members-only model, so you are now required to log in to read it (I don’t have a Blogger account). One reader asked me whether the original post cited any sources, but more than a year later I don’t recall. My apologies for any inconvenience.

May 16, 2017

Terry Teachout remembers Dragnet

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I vaguely remember watching Dragnet on TV, but the version I watched is apparently just a pale imitation of the original series:

If you’re fifty or older, you won’t need to be told the source of these half-recalled phrases: “The story you are about to see is true.” “This is the city.” “I carry a badge.” “My name’s Friday.” If you’re much younger than that, though, I doubt that you’ll remember Dragnet with any clarity. In the early days of network television, Dragnet was the most successful of all cops-and-robbers TV shows, as well as the most influential. It’s still influential — every episode of Law and Order bears its indelible stamp — but TV has since moved in flashier directions, and I doubt that the narrative conventions brought into being by Jack Webb, the director, producer, and star of Dragnet, will remain conventional for much longer.

For baby-boom TV viewers, Dragnet is both iconic and ironic. The version of the show that ran on NBC from 1967 to 1970, in which Webb was partnered by Harry Morgan, was an exercise in unintended self-parody, full of hippy-dippy druggies and the earnest cops who locked them up and threw away the key. A few of the episodes remain effective in their quaint way, but most are embarrassingly stiff. Part of the problem was that Sergeant Joe Friday, Webb’s character, was the squarest of squares, and it was already chic to smirk at such straight-arrow types by the time I reached adolescence. My father watched Dragnet religiously, though, so I did, too, little knowing that what I was seeing each week was a recycled, watered-down simulacrum of the real thing.

The real Dragnet was the black-and-white version that aired from 1951 to 1959. That series, in which Webb was partnered by Ben Alexander, was pulled out of syndication long ago and has never been legitimately reissued on DVD, nor is any “official” version, so far as I know, currently in the works. Fortunately, a few dozen episodes were inadvertently allowed to go out of copyright, and it’s easy to track down copies of them. […]

Like the later color version, the Dragnet of the Fifties was a no-nonsense half-hour police-procedural drama that sought to show how ordinary cops catch ordinary crooks. The scripts, most of which were written by James E. Moser, combined straightforwardly linear plotting (“It was Wednesday, October 6. It was sultry in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of homicide”) with clipped dialogue spoken in a near-monotone, all accompanied by the taut, dissonant music of Walter Schumann. Then and later, most of the shots were screen-filling talking-head closeups, a plain-Jane style of cinematography that to this day is identified with Jack Webb.

The difference was that in the Fifties, Joe Friday and Frank Smith, his chubby, mildly eccentric partner, stalked their prey in a monochromatically drab Los Angeles that seemed to consist only of shabby storefronts and bleak-looking rooms in dollar-a-night hotels. Nobody was pretty in Dragnet, and almost nobody was happy. The atmosphere was that of film noir minus the kinks — the same stark visual grammar, only cleansed of the sour tang of corruption in high places. But even without the Chandleresque pessimism that gave film noir its seedy savor, Dragnet was still rough stuff, more uncompromising than anything that had hitherto been seen on TV. In 1954 Time called the series “a sort of peephole into a grim new world. The bums, priests, con men, whining housewives, burglars, waitresses, children and bewildered ordinary citizens who people Dragnet seem as sorrowfully genuine as old pistols in a hockshop window.”

May 12, 2017

Jeremy Clarkson talks speed camera politics – Top Gear – Series 1 – BBC

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 12 Apr 2007

The Top Gear boys, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May discuss the politics of speed cameras…

QotD: Don’t talk to the police without legal counsel

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

“Don’t talk to law enforcement without consulting a lawyer” is simple advice. Anyone can follow it. Most of us understand why it’s a good idea. But too many people reject the advice because of a common and misplaced fear. It’s the fear that if they don’t return that detective’s call immediately, if they don’t invite the FBI agents at their door in and answer their questions, if they don’t cooperate, they will be seen as the sort of person who wants a lawyer. They will be seen as someone suspicious. They will lose the opportunity to “clear all this up” by “cooperating.”

If I say I want to talk to a lawyer, won’t I make things worse?

No. Almost certainly not.

When you view any interaction as your only opportunity to “cooperate,” you’re accepting a false premise, a law enforcement pressure tactic calculated to get you to act against your best interests and better judgment. On television, cops constantly tell suspects “you have to talk now, talk first, or we’ll give a deal to your buddy.” On television, that proposition is presented as true. But real life isn’t like television. In real life, that “now or never” proposition is almost always false. In 21 years practicing criminal law, I have never seen a circumstance where stopping the interview and talking to a lawyer would have destroyed someone’s opportunity to talk to law enforcement and resulted in harm to their best interests. There’s always been another chance, once the client has talked to a lawyer and taken advantage of competent advice about the situation.

The police want you to talk immediately, now, when they are unexpectedly at your front door. They want you to be startled, nervous, out-of-sorts. They want you to blurt things out — either admit true things that they can use against you, or make false statements that they can disprove and use to show you’re a liar. They don’t want you to have time to collect your thoughts, to refresh your memory about the events they are asking about, to look at any relevant documents or evidence, or to figure out the legal significance of the situation. The police know that’s against your best interests. They know that you should talk to a lawyer first. How do you know that they know that? You know because police officers consistently push for state laws and union rules allowing them to talk to a lawyer, review evidence, and take advantage of a waiting period before being interviewed about use-of-force incidents.

Good people — honest people — tend to think “I’ve done nothing wrong, so if I tell the truth now, I can clear this up.” They think “talking can’t hurt me because I haven’t done anything wrong, and because I won’t lie.” It would be wonderful if that were true, but it’s not.

Ken White, “‘If I Just Talk To The Police I Can Clear This Up’ — The Dangerous Delusion”, Brown, White & Osborn, 2015-09-24.

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