Radley Balko takes a look at a couple recent episodes of police abuse caught on camera. Both events are notable not only for the outrageous behavior involved, but also for the subsequent efforts to cover up what took place.
As video technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, such recordings have rapidly become one of the most important tools for ensuring police accountability. It is critical that the right of citizens to record police in public be upheld and that efforts to restrict such activity be vigorously condemned. I’m not usually a big fan of the whole “If you’re not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?” argument, but when it comes to public servants charged with upholding the law, there’s simply no excuse for secrecy.
Law enforcement officers who do their job legally and professionally should have no objection to being recorded in the course of their public duties. To argue otherwise is to create a blueprint for misconduct.
DeNeen L. Brown at TheWashington Post attended our D.C. premiere at the Cato Institute yesterday and put together a thorough piece that’s available online and in print. We’re hearing from a lot of new people today as a result and it’s exciting to see the video receive this kind of attention. We’ve even gotten a couple orders from police departments and I’m looking forward to their feedback because we worked hard to create a resource that would have educational value for police as well as citizens.
Along these same lines, there’s one point that I wished we’d better clarified in our conversation with The Post. Despite its focus on urban settings and black and Hispanic suspects, I’d like to emphasize that 10 Rules isn’t just for people of color. We wanted to place emphasis on representing communities that feel particularly targeted by police, but the legal and practical concepts in the film are valid and useful no matter who you are. Although race can sometimes be a factor in influencing who gets approached by law enforcement, it’s really not a factor in terms of how the citizen should behave during an encounter. Anyone who’s curious about how best to handle police encounters should find the film very helpful. … Continued
*Our friend Phil Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org takes an in depth look at the film here.
*Barbara Hollingsworth at the Washington Examiner attended yesterday’s D.C. premiere at the Cato institute and has a good summary.
*Popular drug policy blogger Pete Guither has an awesome review at his site, DrugWarRant. I particularly like this one, because Pete makes fun of my acting:
Scott plays Thug #1. Oh, yeah. Not Thug #2, which is played quite competently by Steve Silverman. No, the number one thug in this movie is definitely Scott Morgan.
I’m thinking there may be an Oscar nomination. That lean-back double-take when he starts running from the police is exceeded in style only by the intentional dive and double roll shortly after, ending with his grotesque mug frozen on the screen, which left me doubled up with laughter (and will give me nightmares tonight). Please, please, please, flex your rights.org — turn that sequence into a youtube video so I can watch it over and over again!
Fortunately for Pete and the rest of you, we have several outtakes from that scene. I’ll see what I can do to get them spliced together into one awesome clip. Everyone seems to love seeing Steve and I get chased and roughed up by two massive cops, but wait til you see it happening over and over again with slight variations. Stay tuned, folks.
In the meantime, you can get your copy of 10 Rules for Dealing with Police right here.
As long as the public remains largely ignorant about 4th Amendment rights, police will continue to rely on coercive tactics that treat people as guilty until proven innocent:
Dallas police began a new initiative today to combat drugs. Citywide, officers are headed to suspected drug houses to “knock and talk” with the occupants.
The technique involves knocking on the door of a suspected drug house and trying to talk the people inside into inviting officers in to search without a warrant. Police can enter without a search warrant if they see illegal activity happening.
Dallas police have long used the technique, but its use will be widened during the next few months to include more officers and more areas within the city. [Dallas Morning News]
If this sounds to anyone like a program that only affects drug offenders, it’s not. Police tactics like these are always framed as an effort to “get weapons and drugs off the street,” but they are so much more than that. By definition, the people targeted under such policies are innocent citizens against whom police have no actionable evidence of criminal activity. After all, when police have credible facts indicating that drug crimes are taking place at a specific location, they may obtain a search warrant and enter lawfully.
The “knock and talk” approach is used exclusively to enter private residences in the absence of probable cause. Vague and unfounded suspicions, or even prejudices, could ultimately determine which locations are singled out for investigation. In the process, innocent people living in high-crime neighborhoods are placed at great risk of arrest in the event that a guest, neighbor or former tenant left something illegal on their property. Our upcoming video, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police shows exactly how that can happen.
As misguided as these tactics are, there is one simple option available to concerned citizens who don’t want police digging through their drawers: just don’t let them in. Unless you give them permission to enter, police need a warrant to search your home. You may simply decline the search and tell the officers that you’ll gladly cooperate if they return with a warrant. If that makes you uncomfortable, another option is not to answer the door at all, which also reduces the likelihood of police claiming that they saw or smelled something illegal when you opened the door for them.
The bottom line is that invasive “knock and talk” programs don’t work if everyone knows their rights, which is why the D.C. police simply canceled theirs after we started doing this:
Anyone in Dallas who’s concerned about the new policy should consider organizing a similar effort.
There’s no sugar-coating this, but the 10 Rules for Dealing with Police DVD won’t be ready for the previously-announced February 12th release date. I know this is the second release date I’ve blown, and I apologize. Again.
Regardless, I will keep my commitment to get the new DVD into your hands ASAP. While I’m hesitant to announce another specific release date —I expect to ship 10 Rules DVDs by late February or early March.
In the meantime, I offer a full order refund and cancellation to anyone who requests it. And for those of you who’ve already announced a 10 Rules screening event for February or early March, please email me your announcement. I can burn a pre-release DVD and ship it to you in time for your event at no additional cost to you.
Everyone’s talking about this wild story from New York City, in which two men spent 5 days in jail for a bag of coconut candy. The driver consented to a search of his vehicle and both men were arrested after police discovered what they believed was crack cocaine. An officer told the passenger to “shut up” when he insisted it was candy, and the men had to wait in jail for almost a week before lab tests proved their innocence.
In addition to demonstrating the combined arrogance, incompetence, and contempt for innocent people that so often characterizes drug war policing, the story also provides another glaring example of how consenting to police searches can instantly make a bad situation much worse. Pete Guither explains:
Lesson #1: Never, ever, ever, ever, agree to a search. If you’re guilty, you’re helping them catch you. If you’re innocent, you’re wasting your time, you’re taking a chance since they aren’t required to fix anything they break, you’re leaving yourself open for being charged for something you didn’t know about that fell out of a friend’s pocket, and you’ve got the possibility that a couple of morons will think your coconut candy is crack and throw you in jail for a week.
Whether or not refusal prevents the search is beside the point here (although, yes, refusal often prevents the search). Such cases are less likely to be prosecuted, even after evidence is discovered, due to the fact that police and prosecutors do – believe it or not – sometimes recognize a constitutional violation and decline to proceed simply because they don’t want to bring a messy case into the courtroom. Finally, consider how much more impressive a civil suit would look in this case with an illegal search thrown into the mix along with the already-compelling story of spending days in jail over coconut candy.
We’ll never know how things would have turned out if these guys had refused the search, but there’s no question what happened when they agreed to it.
The DVD release date for 10 Rules for Dealing with Police has been pushed from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12late February/early March. This delay is my fault, and I apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you.
The new DVD is coming together just fine. I simply miscalculated how long it would take to complete the multiple elements that go into producing a professional-quality DVD.
Frishling, tell him to get a warrant. Crap. Too late.
There’s lots of web chatter about the two travel bloggers who got home visits from Transportation Security Administration agents. Following last week’s attempted underwear bombing, the bloggers had posted a leaked TSA memo with instructions to airlines. The most familiar and ridiculed requirement blocks passengers’ access to bathrooms, blankets, video entertainment, and carry-on bags during the last hour of flight.
So in an attempt to plug their own administrative leak, the new law enforcement agency did what law enforcement agencies do: they sent agents to investigate. While it’s terrifying to imagine TSA agents harassing us at our homes beyond the confines of airport security, this should surprise no one.
Also not surprising is the fact that one of the two bloggers failed to flex his rights in the face of police intimidation and trickery.
Steve Frischling, said he met with two TSA special agents Tuesday night at his Connecticut home for about three hours and again on Wednesday morning when he was forced to hand over his laptop computer.
Contents: 1. What are “Jury Rights”? 2. Movie Overview 3. Campaign Objectives 4. Budget & Plan 5. Donate & Give Me Feedback Since 2002, Flex Your Rights’ films have taught you and yours how to assert your constitutional rights on the road, in your home, and on the streets. As part of our ongoing effort […]
As promised, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police is nearly complete! I think you’ll agree that it’s the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind, and I can’t wait to get DVDs into your hands. Pre-orders will begin shipping in time for the Jan. 25Feb. 12 late Feb./early Mar. 2010 release date.
In the meantime, enjoy the 10 Rules trailer. And check out our special holiday offers below — including discounts on both 10 Rules DVD pre-orders and our classic offering, BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.
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