Land of the Free – 1 in 3 Americans Are on File with the FBI in the U.S. Police State

Liberty Blitzkrieg
by MICHAEL KRIEGER

Zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes has led authorities to make more than a quarter of a billion arrests

cops

The sickening transformation of these United States into an authoritarian police state with an incarceration rate that would make Joseph Stalin blush, has been a key theme of my writing since well before the launch of Liberty Blitzkrieg. One of the posts that shocked and disturbed readers most, was published a little over a year ago titled: American Police Make an Arrest Every 2 Seconds in 2012. In the event you never read it, I suggest taking a look before tackling the rest of this piece.

Fast forward to fall 2014, and the Wall Street Journal has a powerful article about how children in schools systems across the U.S. are being arrested or turned over to police custody for doing things that children have always done since the beginning of time. Things such as wearing too much perfume, sharing a classmates’ chicken nuggets, throwing an eraser or chewing gum.

As a result of our insane societal obsession with authority and disproportionate punishment, the WSJ reports that “nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.

USA! USA!

From the Wall Street Journal:

A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody.

In Texas, a student got a misdemeanor ticket for wearing too much perfume. In Wisconsin, a teen was charged with theft after sharing the chicken nuggets from a classmate’s meal—the classmate was on lunch assistance and sharing it meant the teen had violated the law, authorities said. In Florida, a student conducted a science experiment before the authorization of her teacher; when it went awry she received a felony weapons charge.

Over the past 20 years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.

Did you catch that too? “Zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes.” Indeed, the big criminals go to Wall Street, crash the economy and then receive trillions in taxpayer bailouts. Or they get a top job in the Obama Administration, such as Jedi-master of cronyism, Tim Geithner, being chosen as Treasury Secretary.

Back to the WSJ…

At school, talking back or disrupting class can be called disorderly conduct, and a fight can lead to assault and battery charges, said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, a national civil-rights group examining discipline procedures around the country.

If these rules were in place in my day, I would have been arrested about 150 times.

“We’re not talking about criminal behavior,” said Texas State Sen. John Whitmire, the Democratic chair of the senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, who helped pass a new law last year that limits how police officers can ticket students. “I’m talking about school disciplinary issues, throwing an eraser, chewing gum, too much perfume, unbelievable violations” that were resulting in misdemeanor charges.

According to the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, 260,000 students were reported, or “referred” in the official language, to law enforcement by schools in 2012, the most-recent available data.

The number of school police officers rose 55% to about 19,000 in the 10 years to 2007, the last year for which numbers were available, according to a 2013 study from the Congressional Research Service.

The schools crackdown has had its intended effect. Victims’ surveys compiled by the Education Department show that there is a lower rate of violent crime committed in schools, falling to 52 incidents per 100,000 students in 2012 from 181 incidents per 100,000 in 1992.Supporters say that alone proves the worth of aggressive policing.

Well yeah, and pigs in a pen are easily controlled too, but are these the types of children we want to raise?

And what about the downside, such as:

Brushes with the criminal justice system go hand in hand with other negative factors. A study last year of Chicago public schools by a University of Texas and a Harvard researcher found the high-school graduation rate for children with arrest records was 26%, compared with 64% for those without. The study estimated about one-quarter of the juveniles arrested in Chicago annually were arrested in school.

A science experiment that went awry turned into a 17-month battle for Kiera Wilmot and her mother as they tried to clear the honor student’s arrest record. According to the police report, she was on school grounds outside the classroom trying out an experiment that hadn’t been authorized by her teacher. Ms. Wilmot, now 18, said she put a piece of aluminum inside a bottle with two ounces of toilet cleaner to see what would happen. The teen’s mother said she was trying to simulate a volcanic eruption.

“It popped,” blowing the top off the bottle, she said. She was handcuffed by the school-resource office, escorted out of the Bartow, Fla., school and taken to a juvenile facility where she was charged with possessing or discharging firearms or weapons at school and making, throwing, possessing, projecting, placing or discharging a destructive device.

Think about what sorts of lessons we are teaching talented students about experimenting and being creative. A modern Benjamin Franklin would most likely be rotting away in solitary right now.

So as we militarize the police, we police the schools. See the direction this is all headed in?

Keep chanting muppets.

Liberty Blitzkrieg

“No Refusal” Blood Draw Checkpoint Planned for Ohio

InfoWars
by PAUL JOSEPH WATSON

Controversial procedure considered a 4th amendment violation by some

checkpoint
Image Credit: YouTube

A “no refusal” checkpoint where drivers will be forced to stop and potentially submit to having their blood taken on the side of the road by law enforcement authorities is planned for Clark County, Ohio tomorrow.

“Every car will be checked to ensure that drivers are not impaired. If there is sufficient probable cause to believe that a driver is operating a vehicle while impaired, law enforcement will seek a blood search warrant from a “neutral and detached magistrate,” reports ABC 22.

The time and location of the checkpoint will not be released until hours before it is set to begin.

Once a search warrant is obtained, a nurse will draw blood to check for alcohol or drugs. It is not specified whether the blood draws will take place on the side of the road or at a nearby jail.

Although the practice of taking blood from motorists suspected of being under the influence has been the law in numerous states for years, many remain unaware of how those who refuse to consent to the procedure are treated.

Last year we highlighted shocking video footage out of Georgia which showed police officers forcibly strapping down citizens accused of drunk driving before putting them in a headlock and having a nurse draw blood.

As the clip shows, even compliant individuals who are showing zero resistance have their heads forcibly pushed down as the blood is taken.

“We all are American citizens and you guys have me strapped to a table like I’m in Guantanamo f***ing Bay,” complains one individual.

Another man screams “what country is this?” as officers hold him down and take his blood without consent.

“Holding down and forcing somebody to submit to this is really intrusive in terms of that level of invasive procedure into someone’s body is ridiculous for investigating a misdemeanor,” Attorney David Boyle told Fox 5 Atlanta, describing the forced blood draws as an “unreasonable search” under the 4th Amendment.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that it is not unconstitutional for the state to hold down Americans and forcefully withdraw blood. A January 2013 ruling affirmed that a warrant must be obtained for the process, although police could dispense with the warrant requirement in an “emergency”.

As we reported last December, citizens are also being intimidated into participating in so-called “voluntary” drug survey checkpoints, during which private firms working on behalf of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy take DNA samples from motorists by swabbing their cheek.

Evidence clearly indicates that sobriety checkpoints have little to do with saving lives or catching drunk drivers and everything to do with revenue generation. In states like California, the number of vehicles impounded as a result of license violations is seven times higher than the number of drunk driving arrests during checkpoint operations.

InfoWars

Reading The Road Map To A Police State

Zero Hedge
by Aaron Tao

police state usa

There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” —Charles de Montesquieu

If there was any silver lining to the horrifying events that took place in Ferguson, Missouri which riled the month of August, it has finally brought the issue of police militarization to the forefront. As outrageous as the police shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was, the brutal law enforcement response in the form of running roughshod over the First Amendment and resorting to quasi-martial law to mostly peaceful protests by local residents and activists was worse. To many observers, what took place in a Midwest suburb was indistinguishable from scenes out of occupied Iraq.

How did this happen? For an answer, the writings of investigative journalist Radley Balko are an invaluable resource. Perhaps more than any other person, Balko has reported substantially on police militarization and injustice across the country for years.

The full details can be found in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces . This important book, which was recently released in its paperback edition, could not have arrived at a better time. Despite going into an intellectually rigorous analysis of law, politics, and history, Balko has a gift for storytelling, which highlights many heartbreaking stories and makes Rise of the Warrior Cop an accessible and gripping read.

In the introduction, Balko begins with the provocative question:

How did we evolve from a country whose founding statesmen were adamant about the dangers of armed, standing government forces — a country that enshrined the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights and revered and protected the age-old notion that the home is a place of privacy and sanctuary — to a country where it has become acceptable for armed government agents dressed in battle garb to storm private homes in the middle of the night — not to apprehend violent fugitives or thwart terrorist attacks, but to enforce laws against nonviolent, consensual activities?

In the first chapter, Balko traces classical history and its lessons on America’s Founders as well their own experiences under British rule. As students of the Enlightenment, they were familiar with how the Roman Republic was overthrown by ambitious military leaders and how the Praetorian Guard in the Empire era, which not only acted as bodyguards for the emperor but also took on many policing roles as well, was responsible for much political intrigue and instability. In the lead-up to the American Revolution, British authorities used the hated writs of assistance to enforce tax laws and to crackdown on contraband in the colonies. This type of general warrant allowed for authorities to “search broad groups of people, for evidence of any number of crimes, sometimes over long stretches of time.” As bad as they were, Balko noted that in contrast to what police can do today, the writs of assistance could not be exercised at night and they required a knock-and-announcement before entry into a private home. Finally, it was the deployment of British soldiers to enforce the law that brought long-simmering tensions to a boil. After the Revolutionary War, with these abuses still fresh on their minds, the Founders framed and ratified a Constitution with a Bill of Rights.

The Fourth Amendment, in particular, was written explicitly to prohibit general warrants and to reinforce the Castle Doctrine, an even older principle carried over from the British common law that can be traced back to antiquity. The Castle Doctrine simply reinforces the timeless idea that “a man’s home is his castle.” As explained by Balko:

Implicit in the sentiment is not only the right to repel criminal intruders but also the idea that the state is permitted to violate the home’s sanctity only under limited circumstances, only as a last resort, and only under conditions that protect the threshold from unnecessary violence. Thus, before entering without permission, government agents must knock, announce and identify themselves, state their purpose, and give the occupants the opportunity to let them in peacefully. … The announcement requirement under English law was not a formality, as it has become in police raids today. It was elemental. Its purpose was to give the homeowner the opportunity to avoid violence, distress, and the destruction of his property.

Balko also goes into interesting detail regarding the Third Amendment, the “runt piglet of the Bill of Rights,” which contains the seemingly antiquated provision that prohibits the quartering of soldiers in private homes. The case law pertaining to the amendment is scant but Balko asks us to consider why the Founders placed such an importance on it. Read in light of the Castle Doctrine, it makes sense that those who revere the principle that “a man’s home is his castle” would not tolerate their homes being occupied by soldiers. But most importantly, “the amendment was a placeholder for the broader aversion to a standing army. … It represented a long-standing, deeply ingrained resistance to armies patrolling American streets and policing American communities.”

Until the Civil War and Reconstruction, active duty troops were rarely if ever used for domestic law enforcement. In the early American republic, law enforcement was left mostly in private hands. Close-knit communities with shared values relied mostly on social stigma and shaming to maintain order. Professional full-time prosecutors didn’t exist, and it fell upon crime victims themselves to initiate the charges before a grand jury, a panel of private citizens who had the power to indict. The citizen militia was called out for only the worst cases that required force. But as urbanization advanced and an increasingly diverse population grew, it brought the need for changes.

One particularly interesting historical fact noted by Balko is that after the fall of Rome, centralized metropolitan police forces were not to be formed for almost another two millennia. In places that developed strong civil liberties traditions such as England and the American republic, people remained suspicious of standing armies, martial law, and powerful executives. In the United States, the New York Police Department (NYPD) was not formed until 1845. Modeled after London’s famous “bobbies,” political leaders had to wage major public relations campaigns to win over the trust of citizens. Major efforts were taken to distinguish the police from soldiers, and to ensure they were responsive to elected officials and the public. But in many jurisdictions, the police became a little too responsive to politicians, acted as corrupt henchmen for anyone who won office, and oppressed minorities and outsiders. The issue of police corruption was serious enough that it became a plank in the progressive movement by the early twentieth century. Reformers introduced the concept of professionalism which “transformed the job of police officer from a perk of patronage to a formal profession with its own standards, specialized knowledge, and higher personnel standards and entry requirements.” Although it helped address the problem of corruption, this new policy began to subtly separate the police from the communities they supposedly served and protected.

The meat of Balko’s story focusing on police militarization began in the 1960s. During this time, the civil rights, antiwar, and counterculture movements became very active while the overall crime rates soared. As the liberal Warren Court expanded the rights of the accused in a number of notable rulings, the law-and-order types became greatly alarmed that society was falling apart. As his critics on the right continued their attacks that he was “soft” on crime, President Lyndon B. Johnson oversaw the creation of two government institutions to fight crime that would have huge future ramifications:

  1. the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), which eventually would become the modern Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the leading government agency fighting the War on Drugs.
  2. the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), to “stream the federal funding, equipment, and technology to state and local law enforcement agencies.”

This would go on to set a large precedent for future programs like Byrne grants and the Pentagon’s 1033 program as “Johnson’s successors would quickly discover that introducing a funding spigot like LEAA, then threatening to pull it away, was an effective way to persuade local police agencies to adopt their preferred polices.”

The modern War on Drugs would officially begin under President Richard Nixon after winning on a law-and-order campaign and appealing to the “Silent Majority.” The focus of the Nixon’s administration’s anticrime effort would be on drugs, which they thought was the common denominator among racial minorities, the counterculture, and the antiwar movement that alienated “ignored America.” The Nixonites pushed for massive funding for the BNDD and LEAA, demanded no-knock warrants for federal drug agents, and even temporarily shutdown the U.S-Mexican border in Operation Intercept. In 1969, the first SWAT raid was carried out in Los Angeles against the Black Panthers. Despite the raid being a disaster “practically, logistically, and tactically,” it was a major success in public relations and SWAT teams would spread to nearly every city in America in the following decades. Despite being originally designed for emergency situations where violence was needed to end violence such as bank robberies and hostage scenarios, mission creep was unavoidable and SWAT teams would go on to be used for everything from breaking up neighborhood poker games, enforcing underage drinking laws, and performing regulatory inspections, as meticulously documented by Balko. Fast forward to modern day, it is now estimated that SWAT raids occur up to 40,000 times per year across the United States.

This can be traced back to the Reagan administration when SWAT tactics began to be increasingly used in fighting the drug war. Hardliners in his administration saw a “biblical struggle between good and evil, and in the process turn[ed] the country’s drug cops into holy soldiers.” Noting the inconsistent reverence supposed limited government conservatives have for Reagan, Balko had this to say:

Conservatives had always held the somewhat contradictory position that government can’t be trusted in any area of society except when it comes to the power to arrest, detain, imprison, and execute people. But Reagan didn’t dance around the contradiction, he embraced it. He blamed crime on big government — and in the same breath demanded that the government be given significantly more power to fight it.

Under Reagan, the FBI was brought into enforcing drug laws, health professionals who favored treatment for drug abusers were purged from the bureaucracy, and sweeping new policies such as civil asset forfeiture (the legal theory that property itself can be guilty of a crime and be seized without the owner even being charged) were embraced. Perhaps the most radical action was that Reagan sought to amend the Posse Comitatus Act and bring the military into the Drug War.

Balko notes that:

By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.

After Reagan was succeeded by Vice President George H.W. Bush, the same course continued. Bush Sr. appointed hardliner Bill Bennnet (who once called for beheading drug dealers on Larry King live and even “urged children to turn in their friends who used drugs to the police”) as drug czar and ramped up rhetoric that the drug war was a moral crusade between good and evil. Drug treatment programs were stripped of funding, while additional cash flowed into law enforcement and new prison construction. Perhaps the most significant were the Byrne grants that were created in a 1988 crime bill which would send billions in federal cash to police departments over the next twenty-five years and allow “the White House another way to impose its crime policy on local law enforcement.” But in Balko’s view, the program’s most harmful legacy was the “creation of hundreds of regional and multijurisdictional narcotics task forces” that were often unaccountable and financially rewarded for making many busts in the following decades.

Reformers and activists hoped the election of Bill Clinton would bring changes to the War on Drugs but sadly, that would not be the case. Instead, Clinton “encouraged paramilitary raids against low-level offenders — even users” and cracked down hard on medical marijuana facilities in order to send a political message despite legalization in a number of states. In addition, the Bryne grants picked up steam as they incentivized “police departments across the country to prioritize drug crimes over other investigations.” Perversely, the funds were awarded based on the “number of overall arrests, the number of warrants served, or the number of drug seizures.” As a result, actually reducing crime was not favored and instead, grants were given to police departments that were making lots of seizures regardless of size and easy arrests (e.g., low level drug offenders).

During this time, the Supreme Court continued to whittle away the Fourth Amendment and further militarization was promoted through the creation of infamous 1033 program as relationships between the federal government and local police departments deepened. High-profile tragedies in the 1990s involving heavily militarized law enforcement such as Ruby Ridge and the Waco Siege served mostly as partisan fodder as the right temporarily became critics only to fall silent when George W. Bush became President.

Bush Jr. followed the moral crusade script and continued the paramilitary raids against medical marijuana facilities and patients despite some initial lip service to federalism. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, drug warriors did not fail to waste a good crisis and used the opportunity to attempt to link the new fear of terrorism to drug use. In addition, the new War on Terror created another “ratchet effect” that ballooned an already-growing National Security State and furthered militarized the police. Thanks to generous anti-terrorism grants from the Department of Homeland Security which dwarfed even the 1033 program, police departments across the country upgraded their arsenals with automatic weapons, drones, armored vehicles, and other military equipment. But since terrorist attacks are incredibly rare, police used their new gear for drug raids instead. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued its siege on the Castle Doctrine and the Fourth Amendment with its decisions in United States v. Banks and Hudson v. Michigan.

Many people desiring “hope and change” put their faith in Barack Obama for a drug war détente and an overall repudiation of the Bush policies, but as with what happened with Clinton, they were in for a very bitter disappointment. Obama expanded the trend of police militarization by pouring a record $2 billion into the Byrne grants. This was part of his 2009 economic stimulus package, overseeing “more federal raids on marijuana dispensaries in four years than George W. Bush had presided in over eight,” promoting greater forfeiture takings by the Justice Department, and continuing to give away hundreds of millions in federal surplus military equipment to local and state police departments.

Near the end of the book, Balko offers a number of proposed reforms to rollback police militarization and restore the workings of a free society. These ideas include the practical as well as politically unattainable, but at very least, provide a working road map:

  1. Scaling back and ending the War on Drugs.
  2. Halting SWAT mission creep such as prohibiting their use by regulatory agencies.
  3. Increasing transparency such as detailed warrant tracking and requiring the use of body cameras on raids where the videos could then be made public upon request.
  4. Embracing authentic community policing by “taking cops out of patrol cars to walk beats and become a part of the communities they serve” to rebuild trust among the people they serve.
  5. Changing police culture by moving away from “us versus them” combat mindset and toward emphasizing counseling and dispute resolutions for resolving conflict in routine problems.
  6. Increasing accountability and ensuring police are not above the law by imposing stronger liability on officers who make egregious errors (this proposal would most likely be fought tooth-and-nail by police unions).

Even as more people awaken to the realities of a growing police state, the challenges to restoring a free society are vast and likely to be resisted every inch of the way by entrenched interests. As Abigail Hall and Christopher Coyne pointed out in their political-economic analysis of police militarization in the Spring 2013 issue of The Independent Review:

Government agencies’ inherent tendency is to expand beyond their designers’ initial aims and goals. Special-interest groups exacerbate this problem by seeking to expand their power and influence. The onset of crises — whether real or manufactured — begins a long, far-reaching process that erodes the already imperfect constraints on the government’s power … citizens must become skeptical of the possibility of establishing permanent constraints on government power. This skepticism ultimately requires recognition and appreciation of the realities of government power and a rejection of government action as a solution to the perceived crises.

After reading through Rise of the Warrior Cop, if there be a single lesson we should grasp, it is that police militarization and the War on Drugs are intimately tied. The former cannot be reversed unless the latter is ended. Thanks to the War on Drugs, the Castle Doctrine crumbled, the United States ended up with the largest incarcerated population in world history, and the Officer Friendlies of yesteryear have been replaced by a de-facto standing army clothed like Darth Vader.

There is a wide range of opinions among commentators today on what extent the United States is becoming/is a police state. In Balko’s conclusion, “it would be foolish to wait until it becomes one to get concerned.” If you were at all disturbed by the events in Ferguson or wondering why your local police department has an armored vehicle with a belt-fed, turreted .50 caliber machine gun, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko, PublicAffairs, 2013

Via Ludwig von Mises Institute

Obama Announces CDC SWAT Teams To Round Up Infected People

The Daily Sheeple

obama

President Obama, who has notably ignored our open Southern border, welcomed illegal aliens, and refused to institute a travel ban from Ebola-ridden countries, has a hardcore solution for Americans who are potentially suffering from Ebola. He’ll just increase the police state another notch.

“What I have directed the CDC to do is that as soon as somebody is diagnosed with Ebola then we want a rapid response team, a SWAT team essentially, from the CDC, to be on the ground as quickly as possible. Hopefully within 24 hours.”.

The Daily Sheeple

“Travelers, Say Bon Voyage To Privacy”

Papers Please

no fly list

We talked at length with Watchdog investigative reporter Dave Lieber for his column in today’s Dallas Morning News: Travelers, say bon voyage to privacy.

Lieber hits the nail on the head by calling out how few travelers realize that the U.S. government is keeping a permanent file of complete mirror copies of their reservations:

Did you know that when you buy an airline ticket and make other travel reservations, the government keeps a record of the details?

If airlines don’t comply, they can’t fly in the U.S., explains Ed Hasbrouck, a privacy expert with the Identity Project who has studied the records for years and is considered the nation’s top expert.

Before each trip, the system creates a travel score for you…. Before an airline can issue you a boarding pass, the system must approve your passage, Hasbrouck explains….

Want to appeal? “It’s a secret administrative process based on the score you don’t know, based on files you haven’t seen,” Hasbrouck says….

Hasbrouck says: “You can’t keep files on everybody in case you want some dirt on them. That’s what J. Edgar Hoover did. We’ve been through this before in this country. Think of all the ways those files targeted innocent people and were misused. People’s lives were destroyed on the basis of unfounded allegations.

“Do we want to go back to that?”

For those whose curiosity has been piqued, here are links to more about this issue:

The FAQ, What’s in a Passenger Name Record (PNR)?, includes links to examples of PNR data, templates to request your travel history and PNR files from DHS, and information about our lawsuit against DHS to try to find out what files it has about us and how it has used and “shared” them.

Requirements for airlines to send passenger data to the government, and receive individualized (per-passenger, per-flight) permission from the government before issuing a boarding pass, are contained in two separate sets of DHS regulations: Secure Flight for domestic flights and the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) for international flights. (More about the APIS regulations.)

The system of “pre-crime” profiling and assigning scores to all air travelers was discussed in recent government audit reports and at a Congressional hearing last month, and in a front-page story in the New York Times, in which we were quoted, last year.

There’s a good overview of the government’s travel surveillance and control process in a talk by Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project that was broadcast on C-SPAN last year. The slides from that talk include diagrams of the system and examples of PNR data and other government files about travelers.

Papers Please

The High Cost of Living in a Police State: US Officers Shielded from Justice

Global Research
By John W. Whitehead

policestate

“It’s been over five months since the night a SWAT team broke into the house in which we were staying…We were staying with relatives and my whole family was sleeping in one room. My husband and I, our three daughters and our baby (nicknamed “Baby Bou Bou”) in his crib. Dressed like soldiers, they broke down the door. The SWAT officers tossed a flashbang grenade into the room. It landed in Baby Bou Bou’s crib, blowing a hole in his face and chest that took months to heal and covering his entire body with scars…

“Doctors tell us that my son will have to have double reconstructive surgeries twice a year, every year for the next 20 years… [I]n five short months our family has taken on nearly $900,000 in medical bills, some of which have now gone into collections… After initially offering to cover the medical expenses, the county has since refused to cover any of our medical costs, all of which would never have happened if the SWAT team hadn’t broken into the home.”—Alecia Phonesavanh

Who pays the price for the police shootings that leave unarmed citizens dead or injured, for the SWAT team raids that leave doors splintered, homes trashed, pets murdered, and family members traumatized and injured, if not dead?

I’m not just talking about the price that must be paid in hard-earned dollars, whether by taxpayers or the victims, in attempting to restore what was vandalized and broken by police. It’s also the things that can’t be so easily calculated to a decimal point: the broken bones that will never quite heal right, the children’s nightmares at night, the uneasy sleep, the broken family heirlooms, the loss of faith in a system that was supposed to serve and protect you, the grief for loved ones whose lives were cut short.

Baby Bou Bou may have survived the misdirected SWAT team raid that left him with a hole in his face and extensive scars on his body, but he will be the one to pay the price for the rest of his life for the SWAT team’s blunder in launching a flashbang grenade into his crib. And even though the SWAT team was wrong about the person they were after, even though they failed to find any drugs in the home they’d raided, and even though they may have regretted the fact that Baby Bou Bou got hurt, it will still be the Phonesavanh family who will pay and pay and pay for the endless surgeries every year to reconstruct their son’s face as he grows from toddler to boy to teenager to man. Already, they have racked up more than $900,000 in medical bills. Incredibly, government officials refused to cover the family’s medical expenses.

That is just one family’s experience, the price they must pay for living in a police state. Tally their pain, their loss and their medical bills, and add it to that of the hundreds of other families in cities and towns across the nation who are similarly reeling from the blows inflicted by the government’s standing armies, and you will find yourself reeling. For many of these individuals, there can never be any amount of reparation sufficient to make up for the lives lost or shattered.

As for those who do get “paid back,” at least in monetary terms for their heartache and loss, it’s the taxpayers who are footing the bill to the tune of millions of dollars. Incredibly, these cases hardly impact the police department’s budget. As journalist Aviva Shen points out, “individual officers are rarely held accountable for their abuses, either by the police department or in court… Internally, police departments rarely investigate complaints of misconduct, let alone punish the accused officers. Because cities insulate police officers and departments from the financial consequences for their actions, police on the street have little incentive to avoid unnecessary force, and their departments may not feel the need to crack down on repeat offenders. And so the bill for taxpayers keeps growing.”

For example, Baltimore taxpayers have paid roughly $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits stemming from police abuses, with an additional $5.8 million going towards legal fees. That’s money that could have been spent on a state-of-the-art recreation center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. As the Baltimore Sun reports: “Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson… Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.”

New York taxpayers have shelled out almost $1,130 per year per police officer (there are 34,500 officers in the NYPD) to address charges of misconduct. That translates to $38 million every year just to clean up after these so-called public servants. Over a 10-year-period, Oakland, Calif., taxpayers were made to cough up more than $57 million (curiously enough, the same amount as the city’s deficit back in 2011) in order to settle accounts with alleged victims of police abuse.

Chicago taxpayers were asked to pay out nearly $33 million on one day alone to victims of police misconduct, with one person slated to receive $22.5 million, potentially the largest single amount settled on any one victim. The City has paid more than half a billion dollars to victims over the course of a decade. The Chicago City Council actually had to borrow $100 million just to pay off lawsuits arising over police misconduct in 2013. The city’s payout for 2014 should be in the same ballpark, especially with cases pending such as the one involving the man who was reportedly sodomized by a police officer’s gun in order to force him to “cooperate.”

Over 78% of the funds paid out by Denver taxpayers over the course of a decade arose as a result of alleged abuse or excessive use of force by the Denver police and sheriff departments. Meanwhile, taxpayers in Ferguson, Missouri, are being asked to pay $40 million in compensation—more than the city’s entire budget—for police officers treating them “‘as if they were war combatants,’ using tactics like beating, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and stun grenades, while the plaintiffs were peacefully protesting, sitting in a McDonalds, and in one case walking down the street to visit relatives.”

That’s just a small sampling of the most egregious payouts, but just about every community—large and small—feels the pinch when it comes to compensating victims who have been subjected to deadly or excessive force by police. The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.”

Indeed, a study published in the NYU Law Review reveals that 99.8% of the monies paid in settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases never come out of the officers’ own pockets, even when state laws require them to be held liable. Moreover, these officers rarely ever have to pay for their own legal defense. As law professor Joanna C. Schwartz notes, police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be made financially liable for their actions.

Schwartz references a case in which three Denver police officers chased and then beat a 16-year-old boy, stomping “on the boy’s back while using a fence for leverage, breaking his ribs and causing him to suffer kidney damage and a lacerated liver.” The cost to Denver taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $885,000. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Kathryn Johnston, 92 years old, was shot and killed during a SWAT team raid that went awry. Attempting to cover their backs, the officers falsely claimed Johnston’s home was the site of a cocaine sale and went so far as to plant marijuana in the house to support their claim. The cost to Atlanta taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $4.9 million. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, a police officer was convicted of raping a woman in his police car, in addition to sexually assaulting four other women and girls, physically abusing two additional women, and kidnapping or falsely imprisoning five men and boys. The cost to the Albuquerque taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $1,000,000. The amount the officer contributed: 0.

In its report on police brutality and accountability in the United States, Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

A large part of the problem can be chalked up to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, which invariably allow officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

In a nutshell, the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning when it comes to qualified immunity for government officials (not just police officers) is essentially that these officials might be too cautious in carrying out their duties if there was a risk that they might be held personally liable for wrongdoing on the job. Frankly, we’d be far better off if government officials operated under the constant fear that there would be ramifications for wrongdoing on the job. As it now stands, we’ve got way too many lawbreakers, scoundrels, cheats and thugs on the government’s payroll, (many of whom are actually elected to office).

So what’s the solution, if any, to a system so clearly rigged that it allows rogue cops who engage in excessive force to wreak havoc with no fear of financial consequences? As HRW concludes:

The excessive use of force by police officers, including unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal chokings, and rough treatment, persists because overwhelming barriers to accountability make it possible for officers who commit human rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat their offenses…. Officers with long records of abuse, policies that are overly vague, training that is substandard, and screening that is inadequate all create opportunities for abuse. Perhaps most important, and consistently lacking, is a system of oversight in which supervisors hold their charges accountable for mistreatment and are themselves reviewed and evaluated, in part, by how they deal with subordinate officers who commit human rights violations. Those who claim that each high-profile case of abuse by a “rogue” officer is an aberration are missing the point: problem officers frequently persist because the accountability systems are so seriously flawed.

Unfortunately, we’re so far gone as a nation in terms of cronyism, corruption and unequal justice that there’s little hope of reformation working from the top down. As I point out in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, if any change is to be made, if any hope for accountability is to be realized it must begin, as always, at the local level, with local police departments and governing bodies, where the average citizen can still, with sufficient reinforcements, make his voice heard.

So the next time you hear of a police shooting in your town of an unarmed citizen, don’t just shrug helplessly and turn the page or switch the channel. Form a coalition of concerned citizens and call your prosecutor’s office, email the police department, speak out at your city council meeting, urge your local paper to cover the story from both sides, blog about it, stage a protest, demand transparency and accountability—whatever you do, make sure you send the message loud and clear that you do not want your taxpayer dollars supporting illegal and abusive behavior.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send him mail] is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He is the author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State and The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks).

Global Research

Public Health Emergency Declared In Connecticut Over Ebola: Civil Rights Suspended Indefinitely

Zero Hedge

We warned a week ago of the various possibilities surrounding an Ebola outbreak in America, and today we get some degree of confirmation of a medical-based martial-law coming to the US. Governor Dan Malloy has declared a Public Health Emergency in Connecticut, authorizing the “isolation of any individual reasonably believed to have been exposed to the Ebola virus.” Simply put, as we noted previously, the State of Public Health Emergency allows bureaucrats to detain and force-vaccinate people without due process – despite not one single case being found in CT. If there is a major Ebola pandemic in America, all of the liberties and the freedoms that you currently enjoy would be gone.

 

The Public Health Emergency declaration…

 

“I hereby declare a public health emergency for the State, pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes Section 19a-131a, for the duration of the epidemic. Specifically, in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes Section 19a-131b, I authorize the Commissioner of Public Health to Order the isolation or quarantine, under conditions prescribed by the Commissioner of Public Health, of any individual or group of individuals whom the Commissioner reasonably believes to have been exposed to, infected with, or otherwise at risk of passing the Ebola virus.”

Which he defended as a precautionary and preparatory measure in the event that the state has either a confirmed infection or has confirmed that someone at risk of developing the infection is residing in the state.

We are taking this action today to ensure that we are prepared, in advance, to deal with any identified cases in which someone has been exposed to the virus or, worst case, infected,” said Governor Malloy.  “Our state’s hospitals have been preparing for it, and public health officials from the state are working around the clock to monitor the situation.  Right now, we have no reason to think that anyone in the state is infected or at risk of infection.  But it is essential to be prepared and we need to have the authorities in place that will allow us to move quickly to protect public health, if and when that becomes necessary.  Signing this order will allow us to do that.”

Translated… as we previously noted:

If there is a major Ebola pandemic in America, all of the liberties and the freedoms that you currently enjoy would be gone.  If government officials believe that you have the virus, federal law allows them to round you up and detain you “for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary.”  In addition, the CDC already has the authority to quarantine healthy Americans if they reasonably believe that they may become sick.  During an outbreak, the government can force you to remain isolated in your own home, or the government may forcibly take you to a treatment facility, a tent city, a sports stadium, an old military base or a camp.  You would not have any choice in the matter.  And you would be forced to endure any medical procedure mandated by the government.  That includes shots, vaccines and the drawing of blood.  During such a scenario, you can scream about your “rights” all that you want, but it won’t do any good.

In case you are tempted to think that I am making this up, I want you to read what federal law actually says.  The following is 42 U.S.C. 264(d).  I have added bold for emphasis…

(1) Regulations prescribed under this section may provide for the apprehension and examination of any individual reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease in a qualifying stage and (A) to be moving or about to move from a State to another State; or (B) to be a probable source of infection to individuals who, while infected with such disease in a qualifying stage, will be moving from a State to another State. Such regulations may provide that if upon examination any such individual is found to be infected, he may be detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary. For purposes of this subsection, the term “State” includes, in addition to the several States, only the District of Columbia.

 

(2) For purposes of this subsection, the term “qualifying stage”, with respect to a communicable disease, means that such disease—

 

(A) is in a communicable stage; or

 

(B) is in a precommunicable stage, if the disease would be likely to cause a public health emergency if transmitted to other individuals.

In addition, as I discussed above, the CDC already has the authority to isolate people that are not sick to see if they do become sick.  The following is what the CDC website says about this…

Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms. Quarantine can also help limit the spread of communicable disease.

*  *  *

And as Police State USA summarizes,

Governor Dannel Malloy has declared Connecticut to be in a state of public health emergency, enabling the indefinite suspension of certain civil rights. State bureaucrats have been granted the broad authority to forcibly detain suspected sick people without due process. The declaration came preemptively, as Connecticut has not yet seen a single case of the virus it purports to stop.

 

Rationalizing his actions, the governor said in a statement: “We need to have the authorities in place that will allow us to move quickly to protect public health, if and when that becomes necessary. Signing this order will allow us to do that.”

 

The recipient of most of the newly-imparted power is Jewel Mullen, Connecticut’s Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH). By having this measure in place, Commissioner Mullen explained, “we don’t have to scramble in the event I need to take action.”

 

The actions that authorities might want to “scramble” to use is the forcible quarantine of citizens — without charges or trial.

 

Connecticut General Statutes Section 19a-131a spells out the powers that may be used during the state of public health emergency:

 

“[While] the emergency exists [the state] may do any of the following: (1) Order the commissioner to implement all or a portion of the public health emergency response plan developed pursuant to section 19a-131g; (2) authorize the commissioner to isolate or quarantine persons in accordance with section 19a-131b; (3) order the commissioner to vaccinate persons in accordance with section 19a-131e; or (4) apply for and receive federal assistance.”

 

As noted above, the Commissioner may issue an order of mass vaccination at his or her own discretion.

 

Section 19a-131d states that any individual who refuses to comply with any portion of the order may be punished with with fines and imprisonment for up to one (1) year.

 

Fending off a police state requires constant vigilance against efforts to desecrate civil liberties. As the current scenario has shown us, a climate of fear — fear of disease, terrorism, foreign threats, etc. — makes it all-too easy to suspend constitutional rights with minimal public resistance. Many people actually feel grateful to see the government absorbing greater powers; taken with the promises of keeping them safe.

 

The state of public health emergency will remain in effect indefinitely until lifted by the governor.

*  *  *

Welcome to the new normal American police state.

Zero Hedge

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