Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Blissfully unaware of the Streisand Effect, A thin-skinned Illinois mayor chose to sic his city’s police force on some local citizens last week over a parody account that poked fun at him on Twitter.  The mayor was apparently upset that someone had created what was obviously a fake twitter persona, @Peoriamayor, and was tweeting about drug use and infidelity, and otherwise making stupid comments that anyone with an ounce of common sense would recognize as political satire. The mayor himself reportedly contacted his chief of police to report the situation, and, as you might expect, the chief was convinced that a crime had occurred.

Despite the the fact that the account’s creator had added a statement indicating the account was satirical, the chief reportedly said, “I don’t agree it was obvious [that the account was fake], and in fact it appears that someone went to great lengths to make it appear it was actually from the mayor.” A warrant was requested, a judge signed off on it, and a raid of the account creator’s home ensued. Three people were taken into custody, and a small quantity of marijuana was found at the house.

Charges of impersonating a public official are pending.

In the wake of all this, a hilarious stream of fake Twitter accounts has been created, including @NotPeoriaMayor:

Not Jim Ardis (NotPeoriaMayor) on Twitter 2014-04-20 10-30-06

Aside from the First Amendment implications (satire is generally considered protected speech)–and the fact that Peoria’s mayor has made himself look like a petty, vindictive, bully (which he may well be)–the police have been drawn into what is arguably a political matter.  The mayor had other remedies he could have pursued, including just ignoring the inanity of it all, but instead chose to bring the power of the state, via law enforcement, against his political enemies. That’s hardly the ethos of a free and vibrant democracy.

Even outrageous speech by Larry Flynt, the pornography purveyor who famously lampooned Jerry Falwell by distributing a fake liquor ad implying that Falwell had a sexual encounter with his own mother in an outhouse, was deemed to be protected.

Falwellhustler

Short of libel or slander, parodies of public figures have long enjoyed free-speech protections. According to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University:

Satire is a centuries-old type of literature that uses humor and imitation to attack and ridicule individuals’ moral and character flaws, such as vice, unfairness, stupidity or vanity. A parody is also an attack on folly, but it takes the form of a contemptuous imitation of an existing artistic production — usually a serious work of literature, music, artwork or film — for satirical or humorous purposes. Satire and parody have served for generations as a means of criticizing public figures, exposing political injustice, communicating social ideologies, and pursuing such artistic ends as literary criticism. Satirists usually find themselves subjected in turn to criticism, contempt and, sometimes, lawsuits. The First Amendment protects satire and parody as a form of free speech and expression.

And, according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Hustler Magazine versus Falwell, Justice Rehnquist wrote that:

The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are “intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large.” Associated Press v. Walker, decided with Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130, 164 (1967) (Warren, C. J., concurring in result). Justice Frankfurter put it succinctly in Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 673 -674 (1944), when he said that “[o]ne of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men and measures.” Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures as well as public officials will be subject to “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks,” New York Times, supra, at 270. “[T]he candidate who vaunts his spotless record and sterling integrity cannot convincingly cry `Foul!’ when an opponent or an industrious reporter attempts [485 U.S. 46, 52]   to demonstrate the contrary.” Monitor Patriot Co. v. Roy, 401 U.S. 265, 274 (1971).

Public officials definitely don’t have to like what other people say, but they have to allow it. When the government starts picking and choosing what speech it finds acceptable, and what it doesn’t, and then using force to squelch what it deems unacceptable, we’ve got a start on becoming just a more well-resourced version of North Korea.

Update (4/21/14): Popehat posted a very funny (and satirical, just to be clear) guest post from the Honorable Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, that I just had to share.

Update (4/23/14): Well, the mayor came out swinging at a city council meeting Tuesday evening, accusing the press of “spinning” their coverage of what he insists was a legitimate attempt to “protect his identity.”  Meanwhile, members of the city council questioned the mayor’s actions and bemoaned the negative national attention they’ve brought to Peoria. You just can’t make this stuff up.

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Last week, the Department of Justice released its report about the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of force practices, which have been much in the news lately.

Last month, APD officers shot and killed James Boyd, a mentally ill man who was involved in a standoff  with officers that was captured on one officer’s helmet cam. Video of that shooting has sparked considerable controversy about the APD’s apparent tendency toward using excessive force, even against people who posed little or no direct threat to officers.

Video: APD releases HelmetCam footage of shooting

The DOJ’s investigation, initiated in 2012, takes a broader look at the department’s overall practices. Its conclusions are direct, damning, and represent just the type of straight talk and analysis necessary to begin the process of bringing APD into compliance with the law and with the best interests of New Mexico citizens.

As it turns out, concerns about the Boyd shooting may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of improper use of deadly force by APD officers. According to the DOJ report (PDF):

Albuquerque police officers too often use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. To illustrate, of the 20 officer-involved shootings resulting in fatalities from 2009 to 2012, we concluded that a majority of these shootings were unconstitutional. Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others. Instead, officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed. Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force. (emphasis added)

The use of less-than-lethal force by APD officers was little better. According to the report, officer misconduct in this area represented a pattern of abuse that was described as “systemic.”  A lack of effective training, policy development, and appropriate oversight all contributed to incidents of improper use of force in a wide range of situations, including against those involving mentally ill suspects and defendants.

Justice Dept. accuses Albuquerque PD of ‘unjustified force’

In their overall summary of findings regarding the APD, the DOJ had this to say:

We have reasonable cause to believe that officers of the Albuquerque Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment….

The report provides a number of examples in support of its claim that excessive force was used by APD officers. Many of these involved the use of Tasers and other less-than-lethal weapons that were deployed in ways that were improper, harmful, and unnecessary.

For example, one case involved a 60-year-old man, initially armed with a knife, who had made a threat against another man while intoxicated. The APD sent 47 officers to the scene, shot the man with five “bean bag” rounds, launched a flash bang grenade at him, shot him with a wooden baton round, deployed a police canine against him, then tased him repeatedly until he collapsed.  All of that happened after he had dropped the knife.

A judge, who later reviewed the case, wrote that:

“…no reasonable person could believe that an inhibited, slow-moving, 60-year-old individual, who made no physical or verbal threats, and wielded no weapons, could constitute a threat to the safety of any of the forty-seven armed and shielded police officers who stood over twenty feet away.”

In another incident detailed in the report, officers tased and physically assaulted a mentally disabled man who was literally incapable, due to his disability, of complying with APD officer’s commands. As it turned out, the man had wandered away from a group home where he had been living. He had the mental capacity of a five-year-old child.

APD officers also tased and assaulted individuals who were incapacitated due to a drug overdose, or who were so intoxicated that they were proned out on a couch unable to move, or so mentally ill that they were not capable of rational thinking or decision making. In one case, officers were called simply to check on the welfare of a mentally ill young man, who had done nothing illegal, and ended up kicking, choking, and arresting him after he declined their attempts to interact with him, which he had every right to do.

DOJ Investigates APD

Example after example makes clear that the APD is not a police force in any sense, but an aggressive, out-of-control, occupying force bent on imposing its will on the citizenry, even upon the law-abiding citizens in their jurisdiction. The DOJ report goes on to document factors, such as the lack of effective training for officers, a lack of oversight by supervisors and other leaders in the organization, failure to properly document use of force incidents, including very serious ones, such as shootings – all of which contributed to a culture of violence and illegality in the APD.

As part of the background for this report, the DOJ offered up this succinct statement that summarizes my personal feelings about policing in general:

A well-functioning police department has the trust of the residents it protects, functions as a part of the community rather than insulated from it, and cultivates legitimacy when the public views it as engaging with them fairly and respecting the rule of law.

Police departments are not separate from the communities they serve. They do not exist to control the population. Police departments are integral elements of community life that exist for the sole purposes of protecting and serving the citizenry. They are under the direct control of duly elected representatives, and they are fully accountable to the community and anyone who visits or travels there.

Gun

The DOJ report provides a starting place for rectifying the deep and systemic flaws in the APD.  It also serves as an object lesson for police departments everywhere that wish to avoid descending into the type of embarrassingly autocratic, overly aggressive, and flagrantly illegal behavior demonstrated by the APD.

Read the full report for yourself here, and leave a comment below.

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yelling

I recently posted the below on Medium.com, a blogging site with a ton of interesting and compelling content. You can check out some of my other submissions there by following this link.

I’m a gun owner. I’m also someone who has circumambulated the entire 360 degrees of the gun rights issue, from adamant supporter to adamant opponent and back again. In my early days in the military, I was a staunch defender of gun rights. I owned and shot firearms regularly and felt very strongly that service to my country included defending all elements of the Constitution, especially the Second Amendment.

After leaving the service, and after seeing firsthand some of the destruction and pain caused by gun violence, I took my first turn toward support of gun control. I reasoned that if there were fewer guns, it naturally followed that there would have to be less gun violence. I bought into the logic that guns were the problem, not people. I also believed that in modern society, with its well-established safety infrastructure, guns were merely a relic from the past that were no longer necessary.

I’m also a peace-loving person at heart. I have no intention of ever hurting anyone, let alone using a firearm against another human being. That, more than anything else, lulled me into a belief that my ideas of peaceful co-existence were the best way forward.

I believe now that I was wrong.

As I’ve moved into middle-age, and watched the back and forth between the pro- and anti-gun factions over the years, I’ve taken the final turn back toward where I started. What I realized is that neither side has a lock on the truth about guns, violence, or human nature. In their desire, however, to “win” the argument over the limits to gun ownership, both sides have ramped up the rhetoric and have engaged in the type of group polarization that does little to solve anything.

In their zeal to convince the undecided that fewer or more restrictions on gun ownership should be adopted, each side has moved ever closer to the fringes, further away from each other, and ever farther from reasonable solutions. The debate is no longer about solutions, in fact, it’s about the perceived shortcomings of the other side.

Gun owners get branded as uneducated rednecks hellbent on shooting up the countryside, and gun control supporters are labelled as soft-headed liberals with a victim mentality. Try starting a reasonable discussion about guns and gun control from that perspective. It’s a setup for a yelling match in which neither side hears nor cares what the other side is saying.

And that’s exactly what’s occurring now. Ad hominem attacks are just a diversion from the real issues, and a recipe for paralysis.

For what it’s worth, here’s where I’ve landed: Even though it may sound contradictory in the extreme, I’m a peaceful person who chooses to legally own and legally carry a handgun. I’m not a trigger-happy cowboy by any means—far from it—but I’m also not anyone’s victim. I don’t hope to ever use my firearm, but I’m also prepared to do so in defense of my own life or that of a loved one, if reasonable and necessary.

I will always choose first to run from danger, if at all possible, and call the police to deal with the threat. But, I also won’t count on that as the one and only option. If I can’t flee, and my life is in jeopardy, I will do what I have to do to neutralize the threat, including using a firearm. It’s just that simple.

I also refuse to abdicate my constitutional rights regarding firearm ownership just because guns make some people uncomfortable or even fearful. I subscribe to the libertarian ideal that government power and authority should be limited to only what is absolutely necessary. I view taking away my right to use reasonable force to defend myself and my loved ones as an unreasonable intrusion on my liberty.

Those who disagree with me on all of this on the basis of logic are, of course, free to do so. I’ve stopped caring about the contradictions in my choice to simultaneously embrace peace and to arm myself. In a real sense, it’s no contradiction at all. Police officers make the same choice (or at least they should), and entire countries do, too. Many non-warring nations have standing armies, which is an entirely prudent and reasonable choice in my opinion.

I do support reasonable limitations on gun ownership, including universal background checks. But I don’t support wholesale restrictions on the types of firearms a qualified person can own or possess, and I certainly don’t agree that the only way to ensure a safe society is to unreasonably limit the access of law-abiding citizens to gun ownership. That no longer makes any sense to me.

To make meaningful progress, though, we need to talk about these ideas. We need to hear each other out and work together on this. I have a right to arm and defend myself, and you have a right to feel safe, too. Let’s talk about what all that means and how we can best make that happen.

We need to discuss these issues without the anger, the hyperbole, and the unreasonable expectations that seem to be the norm. Gun-rights and gun-control advocates need to view each other as well-intentioned people with valid concerns. Both groups need to find common ground to reasonably discuss how we can move forward as a country, both safely and in a way that recognizes the constitutional rights of gun ownership enshrined in our founding documents.

I think it’s entirely possible, and I think it’s time to have a reasonable discourse for all our sakes.

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Disclaimer: The below article makes reference to federal laws related to gun purchases. Please note that state gun laws vary, and you are well advised to seek expert assistance from an attorney knowledgeable of your state’s statutes regarding the ownership, possession, and/or transfer of firearms if you have questions before buying or selling. The below is not legal advice.

Time Magazine ran a somewhat hyperbolic article this week about the ability of Facebook users to arrange firearm purchases through the site’s messaging features (gasp!). The article’s breathless hook was that it was easier to purchase a gun on Facebook than it was to understand the site’s privacy settings (oh, the horror!), which is  not only misleading, but a misstatement of fact to boot.

Facebook7

The implication was that nefarious individuals were using Facebook as a way to skirt gun laws, but the article provided scant evidence to support that assertion. And, as several commenters pointed out, it’s entirely legal to purchase guns from private citizens, as long as certain guidelines are followed.

None of those guidelines prohibit the use of online platforms to arrange a firearm sale.

According to the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms web site:

A person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of his State, if he does not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under Federal law.

Federal law is silent regarding how the sale is arranged or whether those arrangements can be made online, and there is no requirement that a background check be completed by private sellers under federal law. According to the ATF, federal law only prohibits the sale or transfer of a firearm to an individual who:

  • Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution;
  • Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his or her citizenship;
  • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;or Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence Cannot lawfully receive, possess, ship, or transport a firearm.

There’s no restriction — that I could find, at least — barring the use of online platforms to discuss or arrange a gun purchase. To suggest otherwise, or to imply that people are somehow buying guns directly through Facebook (which the article noted doesn’t offer an e-commerce capability anyway) would be factually inaccurate and, frankly, a little dumb.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

The reality is that people all over the country frequently use the internet to search for and purchase firearms. A Google search for online gun stores returns millions of hits, including Armslist.com, which alone had 1.3 million unique visitors per month, as of August, 2012.

So, a more relevant and interesting point for debate might be the issue of universal background checks for all gun buyers, including those making a purchase from a private seller they met on a site like Facebook.

Gun control advocates argue that the lack of universal background checks allows unqualified or dangerous buyers to purchase firearms from private sellers. They argue that all purchases, whether through a licensed gun dealer or not, should be required to complete the same background process. They also note that:

…because federal law does not require universal background checks, “individuals prohibited by law from possessing guns can easily obtain them from private sellers and do so without any federal records of the transactions.”

The NRA, on the other hand, opposes such measures as an unnecessary restriction on the rights of law-abiding individuals to purchase weapons. They argue that most legal gun purchases are made through licensed dealers, who do background checks as a matter of course, or from family, friends, and acquaintances who should already know whether or not the buyer has some disqualifying characteristic.

In terms of how criminal offenders obtain guns, the NRA points to the problem of straw purchasers:

In 1985, the Department of Justice reported that only about one in five convicted felons obtained guns through legal channels such as retail stores. In 1991, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reported that 37% of armed career criminals obtained firearms from street sales, 34% from criminal acts and associates, 8% from relatives, and only 7% from dealers and 6% from flea markets and gun shows.  More recently, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of state prison inmates convicted of firearm crimes found that 79 percent acquired their firearms from “street/illegal sources” or “friends or family.” This includes theft of firearms, black market purchases of stolen firearms, and straw purchases. The survey also found that 12 percent obtained their firearms from firearm dealers (gun stores, pawn shops), while only 1.7 percent obtained firearms from anyone (dealer or non-dealer) at a gun show or flea market.  The FBI’s National Crime Information Center stolen firearm file contained over 2 million reports as of March 1995, and an annual average of 232,400 firearms were stolen between 2005 and 2010.  46.3% of firearms traced by the BATFE in relation to firearm trafficking investigations originate with straw purchasers.

Requiring private sellers, therefore, to conduct a background check would be needlessly burdensome and a waste of resources. The people least likely to comply with background checks are those who aren’t law-abiding in the first place. So, nothing is really gained by requiring such checks by private individuals conducting private sales.

Whether buyers and sellers connect on a social media site, through a web site designed specifically around firearms sales, or via some other online platform, hardly matters at all. If people are abiding by local, state, and federal laws, I can’t see why there’s concern about this happening on Facebook.

What are your thoughts?

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Image courtesy of koratmember / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week, the US Department of State released its human rights report for 2013, which offers up an assessment of human rights compliance and non-compliance in countries around the world. Secretary of State, John Kerry, had this to say about this year’s report:

Governments that protect human rights and are accountable to their citizens are more secure, bolster international peace and security, and enjoy shared prosperity with stable democratic countries around the world. Countries that fail to uphold human rights can face economic deprivation and international isolation. Despite that simple truth, these reports show that too many governments continue to tighten their grasp on free expression, association, and assembly, using increasingly repressive laws, politically motivated prosecutions and even new technologies to deny citizens their universal human rights, in the public square, and in virtual space.

The irony here, of course, is that our nation’s credibility is questionable at best on many of these measures. The NSA’s eavesdropping activities alone, as revealed by the Snowden leaks, have made it clear that our own government is willing to engage in legally questionable practices that have a chilling effect on free speech, freedom of expression, and the willingness of citizens to lawfully disagree with their own government. Eavesdropping, of the type that the government claims is legal and necessary, also erodes press freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution that are fundamental to the maintenance of a free and vibrant democracy.

(more…)

Image courtesy of tiverlucky FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverlucky FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In many of the corrections courses I teach, we frequently end up having some variation of the below conversation:

Student: We need to build more prisons because crime is increasing.

Me: Actually, crime isn’t increasing, and there’s little consensus that prisons work to reduce crime rates anyway. In fact, many who research the relationship between incarceration and crime feel that we’ve gone too far in our use of prisons, which has lead to overcrowding.

Student: But if our prisons are overcrowded, we need to build more.

Me: Or, we could stop over-relying on prisons as a primary way to deal with crime.

Student: But, if people don’t believe they’ll go to prison, they’ll just commit more crimes.

And on it goes.

I don’t fault my students, of course. They’re just learning about the system and how it works, and I expect them to bring their ideas about correctional practice to the classroom. I also expect them to challenge what they’re learning and to think critically about all of the new information they’re being exposed to in their studies.

It’s certainly no wonder that students are frequently convinced that a) crime is on the rise, and b) we need more prisons. Both of those points are commonly misconstrued in the media and, more significantly, by ill-informed politicians seeking to whip the public into a frenzy over crime issues as a way to secure funding for this or that pet project.

True, the evidence is somewhat mixed on whether or not prisons actually reduce crime. There’s some research showing that the incapacitating effect of imprisonment does reduce certain forms of criminal behavior.  The relationship between incarceration and crime rates is complex, though, which makes studying it quite challenging.

But some leading academics have pointed out the illogical elements of pro-prison arguments. On this point, Dr. Joan Petersilia of Stanford University wrote that:

…if there were a close correlation between crime rates and incarceration, the prisons would have begun emptying out in the late 1990s, when crime in most of its forms began to decrease.

As we know, that’s not what’s happened at all. Incarceration rates have soared to the point where the US  leads the world in the use of imprisonment. According to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (PDF), the incarceration rate in the United States (including both jails and prisons) was 920 per 100,000 residents in 2012, down slightly from the 1,000 persons per 100,000 rate in 2009.

The reductions in imprisonment rates is welcome, but will that translate into increases in crime as some fear? Not necessarily, at least according to a 2013 summary by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. According to the below infographic that summarizes state data on 2012 imprisonment rates, 29 states simultaneously reduced both the rates of imprisonment and crime.

PSPP_pop_webgraphic_FINAL

The Pew infographic also makes a direct comparison between data from two states (Maryland and Arizona) that both experienced more than a 20% drop in the crime rate but also had very different rates of incarceration. Maryland reduced prison use by 11% while Arizona increased their use by 4%.

This highlights the complex relationship between incarceration and crime rates – but the overall message is clear:  it is possible to reduce prison use without increasing crime.

In my opinion, we’re at a point where reducing our reliance on prisons is not only a good idea, it’s a necessity. We’re spending billions of dollars annually to house, feed, and clothe inmates, many of whom could be safely and effectively supervised in the community at a fraction of the cost. As Dr. Petersilia also noted in her article above, informal discussions with correctional administrators around the country have disclosed their belief that fully 10-15% of their current prison populations could be safely released to the community.

When we couple all of this with the advancements in evidence-based practices, such as Cognitive Behavioral Interventions, it becomes apparent that we now have tools that can indeed reduce our reliance on incarceration while also increasing our ability to successfully intervene with correctional clients in community-based settings.

What are your thoughts? More prisons, less prisons? Leave a comment and share your opinions below!

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The US Constitution proclaims the right of the people to keep and bear firearms, but the reality for some law-abiding citizens has been quite the opposite. Last summer, the New York Times published an article about otherwise law-abiding folks from all walks of life being arrested and charged in New York City for violating local firearm statutes.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Their crime? Bringing a legally-owned firearm from their home state to New York City without first understanding New York’s draconian gun laws.

According to the above Times article:

The visitor arrives in New York and retrieves the gun. No problem there. They see the city, whether armed or with the gun locked away at the hotel, without incident. Trouble arrives upon their return to La Guardia Airport or Kennedy Airport to fly home. The visitors repeat the procedure practiced at their home airport, presenting the firearm to a gate agent to be checked. Only this time, the gate agent calls police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airports. The gun owners are then placed under arrest.

I wouldn’t argue against the fact that gun violence is a problem in our country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 14,000 homicides were perpetrated in 2011, and 9,900 of those involved a firearm (PDF).  Obviously, the government does have a compelling public safety interest in reducing violence of all types, including gun violence.

I also wouldn’t argue against the right of individual states to establish their own laws either — whether that be to regulate firearms or anything else — but the patchwork of legal standards that exist around the country is destined to make law-abiding citizens, who have no intent to violate any law, into felons simply due to a misunderstanding.

So, what’s a law-abiding gun owner to do?

Many people scour the internet for advice before traveling with their firearm to another state.  A very, very bad idea, and here’s why:

Reciprocal Carry - Minnesota

The above was found on a web site intended to provide information about state-by-state gun laws across the US. It claims that Minnesota (my home state) doesn’t recognize firearm carry permits from any other states. But the link it provides in support of that assertion takes you to:

Minnesota DPS Gun Laws

That’s right. This is the Minnesota Department of Public Safety page on permit reciprocity that correctly identifies the out-of-state permits that Minnesota will indeed recognize as valid.

Now, you may or may not care about permit reciprocity issues specifically, but my point is that the internet has a very high potential to be wrong about all kinds of things (shocking, I know). And if you rely on it exclusively for guidance on where you can bring your legally owned firearm, you’ll potentially suffer the consequences.

So, take this advice from the Minnesota DPS:

Minnesota permit holders who plan to visit another state, and who also wish to carry a concealed firearm while visiting that state, are urged to contact that state before traveling. This will allow Minnesota permit holders to determine all restrictions or prohibitions regarding the carrying of concealed firearms in those states, as well as their laws regarding firearms and weapons in general. Most of these states have web pages dedicated to this subject. State firearm laws and reciprocal agreements may change frequently, and are also subject to court interpretation. Information contained on this page is not to be considered legal advice.

You should always contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your state for any legal advice.

In fact, contact an attorney who is familiar with all of the jurisdictions involved, and ask questions until you fully understand the gun laws at your destination and everywhere in between. It’s worth the time and money to protect yourself from needlessly being arrested and prosecuted for a crime you had no intention of committing.

What are some thoughts on all this? Do you have any experiences dealing with gun laws in other states? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences below!

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Court

Presentence investigations have been an important aspect of the criminal sentencing process for many years. Listen to my audio post below to learn about who writes PSIs, what goes into a PSI, and how judges use that information.

Click the arrow on the player above to listen to the podcast.

For more information about PSIs and how they’re used, check out:

What is a presentence report?

Law and legal definition

Federal Probation Presentence Investigation Unit

American Probation and Parole Association Position Statement on the PSI

One state’s rules about PSIs

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Cincinnati woman filed suit against police last week, claiming she was unlawfully arrested for disorderly conduct after she had been the victim of a rape. According to one news account:

The woman’s suit alleges Officer Adrienne Brown took her to the Hamilton County jail instead of a hospital early Jan. 19, swearing at her and treating her like a criminal. The officer charged her with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct while intoxicated.

And, here’s how the Associated Press summed up the same incident:

A woman who reported being violently raped and assaulted by a cab driver filed a lawsuit today against a Cincinnati police officer who arrested her instead of taking her to the hospital.

Buried in the first story and not mentioned at all in the second was the fact that the officer did take the victim to the hospital initially, but ended up having to restrain her due to her allegedly violent behavior while there.

Here’s what the police say happened after the victim was initially placed in the squad car and asked the officer where she was being taken:

“I am taking you to the hospital, so you can get some help,” Brown [the officer] said. “Did I ask you to take me to the hospital?” the woman said. “My supervisor told me to take you,” Brown says before the woman interrupts, “Did I ask you to take me to the hospital?”

After stopping at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, according to the arrest and investigation report from the Cincinnati Police Department, the woman became very aggressive when she was removed from the cruiser.

The woman then attempted to swing at an officer and was told that she was under arrest, the report says. The woman then refused to be taken into custody and had to be restrained by multiple officers, according to the report. Back in the cruiser, Brown then tried to get information from the woman. The officer repeatedly asked her, “what is your name?”

When the victim still refused to identify herself after being put back in the patrol car, this is what the officer had to say:

“Let me explain something to you right now and you listen, and you listen good because this is going to be the last thing I am going to say to you,” Brown said. “You can either give me your information or I can put you down as a Jane Doe, which means you will not get a bond.”

And, at another point, the officer lectures the victim about her drinking, hinting that this is what lead to the alleged sexual assault:

“You should know your limit,” Brown tells her. “You’re an adult. You should never be in a situation where you don’t know you’re limit because you’re drinking too much.”

You can watch the videos below and decide for yourself, but to me this whole thing appears to be a case where the officer was caught in the middle of a situation that had no good solution.

She reportedly attempted to take the victim to an area hospital for treatment and evaluation, which seems a reasonable course of action under the circumstances. It also seems reasonable that officers would defend themselves if the victim did in fact act aggressively toward them, as they claim she did. Finally, it seems reasonable that if the victim was arrested for her violent behavior, she would be taken to jail.

What’s not reasonable, of course, were some of the officer’s statements in the squad car. But, that aside, what other options did the officer have in this scenario?

Should she have left the victim at the scene from the very beginning and done nothing? Or, should she have just dropped off an intoxicated, reportedly violent woman at the hospital to fend for herself? Or perhaps the officer should have just let the victim assault her.

I’m not sure exactly what would be expected of the officer in terms of resolving a situation like this. Arresting the victim doesn’t stop her from pressing charges against her alleged attacker, and it appears to have been a reasonable way to handle an untenable situation.

Cincinnati police are investigating both the rape allegation and the claims made against the officer. In the meantime, the officer is on desk duty pending the outcome.

What are your thoughts on all this? What do we expect of cops when they’re caught in the middle of a situation like this one?

WLWT News Story

WLWT News Story

WLWT News Story

Have a safe weekend!

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Several weeks ago, Jon Evans posted a great piece on TechCrunch about the techno-militarization of policing in the U.S.  Although he’s certainly not the first to raise such concerns, he provided a nice summary of the primary issues involved.

He made the point, for example, that even though crime is at historically low levels nationwide, police departments everywhere are investing heavily in new crime-fighting technology. Everything from high-tech mass-surveillance systems and other types of security software, to drones, and even military tanks, are being purchased for use in everyday domestic law enforcement situations.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Evans isn’t bashing the police or their need for safety equipment, either. It’s subtler that that:

It’s not that it’s bad for the authorities to use new technology. A lot of the time it’s an excellent idea. The NSA wants to listen in on high-confidence bad-guy cell-phone conversations in Yemen and Somalia? Fair enough. You can make a case for many aspects of Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center. And I’m a big fan of always-on chest/helmet cameras for police and others, for example, at least in theory … although of course, in practice, the authorities don’t like it at all when that footage gets out to the public.

But simply transposing military technology into the civil realm — or foreign surveillance techniques and tech into the domestic arena — seems really hard to justify to me, especially when violent crime is at a 40-year low across America… which is probably because of less lead, not more cops (Emphasis added).

One of his points here is that more gear, more tech, and more weaponry is hard to justify in a time of tight budgets and low crime. But that’s only part of the story.

On the other side, of course, are those who say that military gear is the right way to protect police officers who go into highly volatile and dangerous situations, as SWAT officers often do. If the federal government is willing to fund a tank or armored personnel carrier for such situations, then it makes perfect sense to buy them. Never mind that the equipment will be rarely used – it’s there if and when we need it.

One driver of the ever increasing perceived need for high-tech police equipment, though, is almost certainly related to human factors within police culture itself, especially the para-military nature of many departments. A thread of militarism exists and is encouraged among many officers from the very start of their careers. And the dangers – both real and perceived – of police work can certainly lead to an “Us versus Them” mentality that lends itself to an increased desire for more equipment to combat the bad guys. That’s the human side of policing.

The spectre of terrorism, as remote as the likelihood is in most jurisdictions, is another driver of this phenomenon. Even in small towns, where crime rates are extraordinarily low, fear of terrorism has lead agencies to seek federal grants to purchase military equipment for use by local police. According to one article from 2011 about the Fargo, ND, police department:

Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. For now, though, the menacing truck is used mostly for training and appearances at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house. “Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”

Ultimately, though, it’s not about the overkill of using such resources in relatively safe jurisdictions. Military equipment does probably provide some added margin of safety for officers in certain situations, which is definitely a good thing.

The more concerning problem – to my mind at least – is the increasing potential for over-reliance on technology as a replacement for using soft skills and de-escalation techniques to resolve incidents in ways that avoid using physical force altogether. Why waste time talking with protesters and trying to solve the problem peacefully when you can show up in intimidating military-style riot gear, riding on armored personnel carriers and blasting the crowd with nausea-inducing sound cannons that end things quickly and decisively.

Top 5 Mind Blowing Weapons Police Use on Protestors | Think Tank

Technology too often becomes a way to avoid doing difficult tasks and sharpening critical skills. And, dealing with human beings is among one of the most difficult, skill-based tasks out there.

As we go down this path of technology development, however, we can’t forget that criminal justice work of all types, including policing, is at it’s heart a human endeavour. To the extent that we allow technology to replace the need for human skills and the human touch, the public will actually have lost a substantial margin of safety and accountability.

What are your thoughts?

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