Since We've Been Discussing Police Misconduct...

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bc59's picture
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I though that some of you might be interested in this recent episode of Frontline. It tells the story of the "Norfolk Four" a group of men who were convicted in connection with the rape and murder of a young woman and all confessed to the crime under intense police interrogation.  All these men were convicted on the basis of their confessions despite the lack of any other evidence against them.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-confessions/

After watching this episode, I really appreciate politea's position on protecting individual rights against police misconduct.  It is important to safeguard these rights even when the incident might seem trivial in order to prevent more extreme constitutional violations that can have more serious consequences.  Also, it is important to be aware of your own rights, including the right to ask for an attorney and the right to remain silent under police questioning. The documentary makes the point that innocent people often fail to invoke these rights, because they believe that an innocent person does not need protection from the law. 

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dmuth's picture
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This sounds not unlike the West Memphis 3: http://www.wm3.org/

 

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bc59's picture
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i dont know much about that case but in this one they were all convicted DESPITE the fact that none of their DNA was a match to the evidence, bec. the jury believed the confessions that they made while under intense interrogation and threat of death penalty.

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politeia's picture
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Quite simply, understand your rights because you never know when you will need to exercise them.

While this video series is far from perfect in my view (I'd add quite a bit to certain parts), it is a good primer.

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Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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outtathere's picture
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I'll have to take your word about the Philly skyline.

Given the 'musical accompaniment' on the first vid, I had to bail at 0:30.

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

dmuth's picture
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On the lighter side of that, Chris Rock also offers some tips for not getting one's ass kicked by the police:

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politeia's picture
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Not my personal taste in music either, but I don't knock what others may enjoy.

The music is just during the opening and ending credits and the vid is obviously geared to the conditions inner city folks face, but the legal points it makes are solid.

It shows the police in a heavier hand than it needs to in my view, but that is what some people have to deal with (I‘ve had to deal with worse in my hometown of Lower Merion).

The points made are to treat the police respectfully while exercising your rights, and from that standpoint it explains your rights.

Given that many people I know truly do not understand what their rights are, it can't hurt to learn about them while looking beyond the negative aspects in which the vid portrays police, but it is long.

However, taking 40 minutes to understand your rights will last a lifetime and could save you a small fortune in legal fees and perhaps even your freedom.

If anyone wants to shorten it up, I recommend just watching the second and third YouTube.

Seeing as I respect the freedom of others to do what they want as long as they don't harm anyone else, does not bother in me the least if anyone watches these vids or not.

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Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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politeia's picture
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So I was at the A-Plus at County Line and Lancaster getting gas not long ago and I noticed at the corner of County Line and Lancaster, in broad daylight and in front of a lot of traffic traveling by on Lancaster, two LM cops frisking a young man who had his hands clasped behind his head. This must have been humiliating for him, to say the least.

This young gentleman was not dressed particularly well and did not look too clean. His teeth were yellow.

I continued to observe this and watched the two LM cops release this young man, so I proceeded to go ask him what happened.

His name is Steven and he said the LM cops said someone made an anonymous call to the LMPD that he had a gun on him.

I asked why someone would do that, and he said he had no idea - that he does not even live around here.

Needless to say, he was not carrying a gun.

Now, under the law, an anonymous tip is not reasonable suspicion to stop, detain and frisk. A tip from a person who called the police and pointed out the individual and said he saw person breaking the law would be reasonable suspicion based on positive identification. However, there is no law against carrying a gun in PA, and since a person ccould have a license to carry concealed, a cop just seeing a concealed gun is not reasonable suspicion to detain - just like a driving a car is not reasonable suspicion to detain as to whether you are driving with a driver’s license or not.

Now Steven, like most people, did not understand his rights, and he agreed to be frisked.

If Steven were to have some personal use marijuana on him, he could have been busted for that even though he was stopped for supposedly carrying a gun - and based on an “anonymous” tip.

Steven also provided ID so the cops could run a background check on him. Under the law, and per the above YouTubes, Steven did not have to supply the cops with ID.

Just based on a an “anonymous” tip of him having a gun, Steven could have just asked the cops is he was free to go, and if the cops obeyed the law, they would have had to immediately let him go on his way.

Now, I guess you could say Steven had nothing to hide and he is a good citizen, so he “cooperated”.

The first thing this makes me wonder is if the LMPD is making up “anonymous tips” for individuals they think seem out of place to give them a reason to approach and to get citizens who do not understand their rights to allow for a frisk and ID check. Remember, the cops can legally lie to you.

Now, the LMPD may well have gotten an anonymous tip about Steven carrying a gun, but if they did not, and if this is standard operating procedure for the LMPD - to lie about receiving an anonymous tip as pretext to stop, frisk and check ID of those who do not understand they can refuse, how do other bloggers feel about that?

Do you think this is good police work that needs to be done to keep our community safe?

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Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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outtathere's picture
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Now, the LMPD may well have gotten an anonymous tip about Steven carrying a gun, but if they did not, and if this is standard operating procedure for the LMPD - to lie about receiving an anonymous tip as pretext to stop, frisk and check ID of those who do not understand they can refuse, how do other bloggers feel about that?

To my knowledge, all phone calls to the police station are recorded. Are you suggesting that that the LMPD might have a shill, an operative. Someone they might contact upon seeing someone suspicious who would then phone in a bogus 'anonymous tip'?

If they claim to have an anonymous tip, it would seem they would have to be able to provide evidence there was such a tip, even if it was phony.

a cop just seeing a concealed gun is not reasonable suspicion to detain

While a cop seeing something that is concealed seems like an oxymoron I suppose that is just due to the way you worded it. It raises a good question though. Do the cops, upon finding a concealed weapon on your person, have a right to ask to see your license to carry concealed?

Regarding the cops finding dope on someone, it is very important that they tow the line procedurally in every action that leads up to the discovery. Otherwise, even though it is illegal to be in possession of the dope, a defense attorney will use any misstep to get the client off scot-free and the cops have to watch a bust go out the window.

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

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"Do you think this is good police work that needs to be done to keep our community safe?"

Is a very different question than the questions down this path ...

"Now Steven, like most people, did not understand his rights, and he agreed to be frisked ..."

I've lived in a country where the police had the right to demand identification from you at any time for any reason and had (a limited) right to search your body/possessions for weapons.  Belgium does have some crime issues, but is not quite as bad as the US by many measures.  Just because it is unconsitutional in the US doesn't mean it doesn't work well in other countries.

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politeia's picture
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I know Belgium well. Wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

In my mind, police stopping and frisking people they have a "hunch" (which is unconstitutional in the U.S.) may be up to no good is ripe for abuse and flies in the face of being a free person.

Note the person I indicated the LMPD detained at a busy intersection and told him to put his hands on his head while they frisked him based on an "anonymous" tip he had a gun (which did not show up in the police blotter as being called in) was unkempt, his hair was greasy and his teeth were yellow. This is a very humiliating (and unconstitutional) thing to have to happen to you on the sidewalk of a busy street next to a busy mini-mart gas station. It indicates that you are not a free person. If you are not breaking the law (or do not match a verified description of a criminal suspect), this is appalling behavior by the state in what is supposed to be a free society.

Why should this unkempt citizen be targeted on a hunch? Perhaps he was not properly raised in an enviornment that provided him with how to go about proper hygene? Perhaps he is an honest person who is down on his luck? Perhaps he has some mental health issues but is a nice guy who is not violent (appeared to be a nice guy when I spoke to him)?

What inevitably happens if the police are allowed to detain you without reasonable and articulable suspicion of a crime being committed is that a certain segment of the population (wealthier, educated, well dressed) get a free pass and a certain segment of the population (most often minorities, the poor who are not so well dressed) get targeted.

This is dead wrong, and I am glad we have our constitutional protections - not that the LMPD obeys them. The examples of the LMPD violating the constitutional rights of citizens just keep adding up under McGrath.

As for being stopped randomly and being forced to show your “papers” to the police, I prefer to live in a free society with constitutional protections, as oppsed to going the former Soviet Union, East Germany or Nazi Germany route.

Now, if the police truly have reasonable and articulable suspicion a person is involved in a crime, I have no problem with that person being detained and investigated at that point.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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outtathere's picture
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rg280CFqqqq71++++++++40%

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

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I'm suggesting the cop on the street himself, upon witnessing a person who appears out of place, could have just made it up - that they had received an "anonymous tip" (by whatever means) as a pretext to stop someone and get them to agree to a detention when that person does not realize he can refuse.

If you are carrying concealed and a cop sees your gun as you open your coat to get your wallet at a store, can he detain you and demand to see your license?

That’s an interesting question. The law reads:

18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6122.

Proof of license and exception.

 (a) General rule.--When carrying a firearm concealed on or about one's person or in a vehicle, an individual licensed to carry a firearm shall, upon lawful demand of a law enforcement officer, produce the license for inspection. Failure to produce such license either at the time of arrest or at the preliminary hearing shall create a rebuttable presumption of nonlicensure (my emphasis).

The way the law reads, a cop can only make a lawful demand for your license. Since being able to carry a firearm in PA is a constitutional right, one can assume a lawful demand can only be made with reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed - and just carrying a concealed firearm is not a crime if you are licensed, and you are presumed innocent (or law-abiding) in this country. Same example when driving a car. How does a cop know you have a driver’s license? He does not, but he can’t pull you over without reasonable suspicion or probable cause of you committing or having committed a traffic violation (or other crime).

Cops should be very careful with those carrying friearms - and not just for their safety. Law-abiding gun owners Understand Their Rights, and especially in this state.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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outtathere's picture
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very well

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

politeia's picture
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Some advanced teaching from a law professor and former criminal defense attorney who is quite entertaining, plus a cop who is in law school gives his take:

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Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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