Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Following police orders does NOT mean you won’t be shot

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Matt Apuzzo reports in the NY Times about a professional expert witness who, in every case, finds that the police were fully justified in shooting someone. No exceptions. Needless to say, he’s a very popular witness, given the number of times police shoot people.

The report opens with an example of a fully justified shooting from the report, and in fact the officer did suffer no penalties at all:

The shooting looked bad. But that is when the professor is at his best. A black motorist, pulled to the side of the road for a turn-signal violation, had stuffed his hand into his pocket. The white officer yelled for him to take it out. When the driver started to comply, the officer shot him dead.

The driver was unarmed. . .

So: the officer issues an order, the man starts to obey and is killed for that.

This reminds me of the South Carolina shooting when the police officer ordered the man to get his driver’s license, and when the man did, shot him for it.

The Times report concludes with this:

On a cold night in early 2003, for instance, Robert Murtha, an officer in Hartford, Conn., shot three times at the driver of a car. He said the vehicle had sped directly at him, knocking him to the ground as he fired. Video from a nearby police cruiser told another story. The officer had not been struck. He had fired through the driver’s-side window as the car passed him.

Officer Murtha’s story was so obviously incorrect that he was arrested on charges of assault and fabricating evidence. If officers can get away with shooting people and lying about it, the prosecutor declared, “the system is doomed.”

“There was no way around it — Murtha was dead wrong,” his lawyer, Hugh F. Keefe, recalled recently. But the officer was “bright, articulate and truthful,” Mr. Keefe said. Jurors needed an explanation for how the officer could be so wrong and still be innocent.

Dr. Lewinski testified at trial. The jury deliberated less than one full day. The officer was acquitted of all charges.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2015 at 11:19 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

High-speed police chases have killed thousands of innocent bystanders

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Thomas Frank writes in USA Today:

More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The bystanders and the passengers in chased cars account for nearly half of all people killed in police pursuits from 1979 through 2013, USA TODAY found. Most bystanders were killed in their own cars by a fleeing driver.

Police across the USA chase tens of thousands of people each year — usually for traffic violations or misdemeanors — often causing drivers to speed away recklessly. Recent cases show the danger of the longstanding police practice of chasing minor offenders.

A 25-year-old New Jersey man was killed July 18 by a driver police chased for running a red light.

A 63-year-old Indianapolis grandmother was killed June 7 by a driver police chased four miles for shoplifting.

A 60-year-old federal worker was killed March 19 near Washington, D.C., by a driver police chased because his headlights were off.

“The police shouldn’t have been chasing him. That was a big crowded street,” said Evelyn Viverette, 83, mother of federal worker Charlie Viverette. “He wouldn’t have hit my son if the police hadn’t been chasing him.”

Nearly every day, someone is killed during a high-speed chase between police and a suspect.

Some police say drivers who flee are suspicious, and chasing them maintains law and order. “When crooks think they can do whatever they choose, that will just fester and foster more crimes,” said Milwaukee Police Detective Michael Crivello, who is president of the city’s police union.

Many in law enforcement, including the Justice Department, have recognized the danger of high-speed chases and urge officers to avoid or abort pursuits that endanger pedestrians, nearby motorists or themselves. At least 139 police have been killed in chases, federal records show.

“A pursuit is probably the most unique and dangerous job law enforcement can do,” said Tulsa Police Maj. Travis Yates, who runs a national pursuit-training academy.

The Justice Department called pursuits “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities” in 1990 and urged police departments to adopt policies listing exactly when officers can and cannot pursue someone. “Far more police vehicle chases occur each year than police shootings,” the department said.

Police chases have killed nearly as many people as justifiable police shootings, according to government figures, which are widely thought to under count fatal shootings. Yet chases have escaped the national attention paid to other potentially lethal police tactics. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2015 at 11:09 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Why The Obama Administration Wants To Pay For Prisoners To Go To School

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Alan Pyke reports at ThinkProgress:

“My professor, Miss Jamie Mullaney, she cried the last day of class. And it made me cry,” Terrell Johnson said, sitting across from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch at Maryland Correctional Institute-Jessup on Friday morning.

“I’m in a place where it’s not good to cry,” said Johnson, who’s in the middle of a prison sentence for selling drugs. “But I didn’t care. I felt like this lady genuinely cares if I get this education. That made me wanna try even harder, because I don’t want to let her down.”

Mullaney, the head of Goucher College’s sociology department, wasn’t there to hear Johnson recount how his coursework in the Goucher Prison Education Partnership (GPEP) has changed him. But Duncan, Lynch, a half-dozen members of Congress, and multiple Obama administration representatives were. The unusual assemblage of guards, inmates, and upper-crust officialdom had gathered to mark the announcement of a White House pilot program to restore federal resources for higher education in select prisons.

“I’m starting to become a better person,” said Alphonso Coates, another of the three inmates that prison officials had permitted to speak with reporters who had been invited to the event. “I believe in myself. The Goucher College program, they let me know that they believe in me also.”

When Duncan asked what the government could do better for people like him, Coates had a concise answer: “Try to invest in the people that’s investing in themselves.”

The Goucher program these men participate in is funded entirely through money the school has raised itself. No state or federal education dollars provide GPEP books, teachers, tutors, and work materials. The program’s costs — about $5,000 per student per year, a sliver of what it costs to incarcerate an adult for 12 months at Jessup — have come entirely from private sources who believe in what professors like Mullaney and renowned historian Jean Harvey Baker and their 70 uniformed, caged students are doing here and at a neighboring women’s facility.

But under the pilot program Lynch and Duncan unveiled Friday, partnerships like GPEP will be able to apply for Pell Grant funding. “The cost-benefit of this doesn’t take a math genius to figure out,” Duncan said. “We lock folks up here, $35,000, $40,000 every single year. A Pell Grant is less than $6,000 each year.”

It’s been 20 years since federal Pell Grants were revoked from prisons during the tough-on-crime heyday of the 1990s, amid a bipartisan political fervor that helped transform U.S. prisons from a corrections system to a punishment business. Two decades later, mass incarceration is a runaway train, and America imprisons so many more people than any other country that it’s hard to even compare the thing in one chart.

Holding so many people behind bars means that American society has to grapple with a commensurately huge volume of released inmates — human beings who have ostensibly repaid their societal debt, but often leave prison with even worse economic prospects for supporting their families legally than they had before they went in. There are 700,000 people released from state and federal penitentiaries each year, Lynch said.

“We talk about that number a lot, and it’s easy to talk about numbers,” the first black woman to occupy America’s top law enforcement job said. “But behind every one of those numbers is a person, and connected to every one of those people is a family.”

The 1994 decision to take Pell Grants away from prisoners has made programs like GPEP a rarity. Inmates who aspire to learn during their time are subject to sometimes cruel whims of a system that manages to simultaneously be very expensive for taxpayers overall but underfunded for actual rehabilitation services.

Vivian Nixon knows the vicissitudes of prison education better than most. She now leads College and Community Fellowship, an advocacy organization for incarcerated education. But years ago, she could have been sitting where Coates did Friday.

“I flunked out of college, and that was a real point of pain and shame to myself and my parents. It just sent me down the wrong road, and I did eventually end up in prison,” Nixon told the group. When she was placed in a prison with a higher-ed program for inmates, she was “overjoyed.”

Three days later she was relocated, this time to a prison with no ability to help her finish her abandoned degree. “I spent 3 years at Albion without access to education, with no access to do the thing that I knew really would heal me, because my core wound was flunking out of college,” she said.

The Higher Education Act gives the Department of Education the power to conduct education experiments like this without seeking specific authorization or money from Congress. Restoring Pell Grants throughout the American prison system will require lawmakers to act. The system unveiled Friday is just one initial step toward making stories like Nixon’s a relic, and journeys like Kenard Johnson’s the standard.

Johnson, who will turn 50 this fall, first took a remedial math course through GPEP. Now, he’s juggling “Black History from 1667 to Reconstruction,” a short-fiction writing class, and either Algebra II or Pre-Calculus depending how the schedule shakes out. (“We never change Goucher’s standards,” GPEP head Amy Roza explained, “out of respect for Goucher but also out of respect for the potential of our students.” Everyone who has enrolled in one of GPEP’s college prep courses has gone on to join the full degree program.)

Johnson wanted to be one of the public faces of Friday’s announcement because “it gives us an opportunity to show them who we are, how hard we’re working, the obstacles we face trying to get an education in a prison setting,” he said. “If society as a whole get to see us for who we are, then it would open up the doors for more prisoners to take college courses.”

Popular attitudes toward the imprisoned and the newly released may be a sort of last frontier for advocates of carceral education as a driver of true personal change. . .

Continue reading.

If we want people to emerge from prison having changed in positive ways, we obviously should support initiatives like this.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2015 at 9:15 am

Yet another clear instance of government failure and decline: Private police force in New Orleans

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David Amsden reports in the NY Times Magazine:

On the morning of Sunday, March 29, Sidney Torres was sipping an espresso in the kitchen of his mansion on the edge of the French Quarter when a jarring notification lit up his iPad and two iPhones. Pimps fighting with drug dealers and johns. Man has gun. Hurry. The message came from a neighbor 10 blocks away, on St. Louis Street, and was sent through a venture Torres started four days earlier: a private police patrol that could be summoned via mobile app. Torres, who made a vast fortune as the founder of SDT Waste & Debris Services, a sanitation company that cleaned up much of New Orleans in the years following Hurricane Katrina, spent $380,000 to fund the enterprise after a crime wave put Quarter residents on edge for the better part of a year. Between November and January, there were more than 60 robberies in the neighborhood, and the crimes became increasingly brazen, including a vicious stabbing and a spate of random beatings. It became a personal issue for Torres on Dec. 17, when his 8,000-square-foot home was burglarized; three weeks later, the bar next door was held up by two masked gunmen. Torres’s crowdsourcing approach to crime, conceived throughout February and March, was the impulsive byproduct of his belief that the New Orleans Police Department, which has shrunk by around 500 officers since Hurricane Katrina, was no longer able to protect even the neighborhood less than a square mile in size that contained the city’s most valuable real estate.

Seated at his kitchen table, Torres began furiously refreshing his iPad. The screen displayed a digitized map of the Quarter, a grid of 78 city blocks that, as a national historic landmark and the center of the city’s $6.7 billion tourism industry, draw upward of nine million visitors each year. A red dot represented the incident in progress on St. Louis, while a green arrow indicated a member of Torres’s squad, the French Quarter Task Force, which at all hours had three armed officers zigzagging the neighborhood in matte black Polaris Rangers that resemble militarized golf carts. When Torres, who is 39, had deployed the same vehicles in his garbage business, the decimated city became cleaner than ever. ‘‘Basically, I’m handling crime the same way I did trash,’’ said Torres, whose brooding good looks and penchant for self-promotion earned him the nickname of Trashanova before he sold his sanitation company to a national conglomerate in 2011.

The task force’s Polarises had been retrofitted with blue halogen lights and a dock for an iPad, which served up requests in a manner similar to Uber. Torres was especially proud of the GPS chip he embedded in the chassis of each patrol, which now allowed him to watch the green arrow closing in on the red dot. Still, there was a three-second delay with the GPS, and he was not satisfied. The previous June, a shootout between two men on Bourbon Street’s commercial strip left nine wounded and one dead; worried a similar event was about to unfold, Torres telephoned a member of the dispatch team, which he was paying $20,000 a month.

‘‘We have a possible gunfight on St. Louis. What’s going on, man?’’

‘‘We have a guy en route.’’

‘‘I see that, but he needs to step on it.’’

For the next few minutes, Torres stared at the screen with the twitchy intensity of a day trader. The report came from Gail Cavett, a 30-year resident of the neighborhood who had parked her car on St. Louis to discover a commotion breaking out among a group of about a dozen people. This was not uncommon. The block had become so rough in recent months that, as Cavett later explained, ‘‘I wouldn’t take out my garbage without a gun.’’ From what she could gather, one of the men had failed to pay a prostitute for services rendered, and in response her pimp and his entourage — the ‘‘drug dealers’’ in her report — were now chasing the man down. They caught up with him in front of her home, where they started beating him. When he scurried away, Cavett ran inside and observed the scene from her balcony. The man returned wielding a gun, which he began waving in the street. That was when she sent in the report, opting to use Torres’s mobile app instead of 911, because, as she said, ‘‘everyone in New Orleans knows that 911 is a lost cause.’’

A Polaris turned the corner within two minutes, or 26 minutes faster than the N.O.P.D.’s average response time for the district. At the sight of the flashing blue lights, the men put their guns away and scattered.

‘‘Crazy, right?’’ Torres later said. ‘‘I kind of felt like Bruce Wayne.’’

In the United States, private police officers currently outnumber their publicly funded counterparts by a ratio of roughly three to one. Whereas in past decades the distinction was often clear — the rent-a-cop vs. the real cop — today the boundary between the two has become ‘‘messy and complex,’’ according to a study last year by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Torres’s task force is best understood in this context, one where the larger merging of private and public security has resulted in an extensive retooling of the nation’s policing as a whole. As municipal budgets have stagnated or plummeted, state and local governments have taken to outsourcing police work to the private sector, resulting in changes that have gone largely unnoticed by the public they’re tasked with protecting.

A recent report by the Justice Department, which has become one of the most prominent advocates of such collaborative efforts, identified 450 partnerships in the country between law enforcement and the private sector. Nationwide, there are now more than 1,200 ‘‘business improvement districts’’ in which businesses pay self-imposed taxes to fund improved services, including security. In many cases, officers covered by corporate entities have become indistinguishable from those paid for by taxpayers. Last year, Facebook entered into a three-year partnership with the Menlo Park, Calif., Police Department in which the social-media giant agreed to pay the $194,000 salary of a police officer whose job was going to be cut. One of the largest private security forces in the nation today is the University of Chicago Police, which has full jurisdiction over 65,000 residents, only 15,000 of whom are students. More than 100 public housing projects in Boston are patrolled by private security, including one company that has been authorized to arrest suspects under certain circumstances.

Torres’s security detail is unique not just in the prominence of its beat — a major American city’s most-visited neighborhood — but also in the fact that it was conceptualized and financed by a single individual, with government support. Staffed by off-duty N.O.P.D. officers in vehicles that bear the N.O.P.D.’s star-and-crescent logo, the force became part of a larger initiative for public-private policing that Mitch Landrieu, the city’s mayor since 2010, had been working to put in place since the shooting on Bourbon Street last summer. In addition to Torres’s force, set to run for a two-month pilot, Landrieu brought in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2015 at 7:06 pm

German journalists investigated for treason for practicing journalism

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It’s a very dark sign when government goes after journalists for publishing reports that are demonstrably true. I understand that the German government does wish that a person in government (the fault here lies within the government) leaked a classified document, but it should recognize that journalists took no oath to respect government secrecy. That’s the job of the government.

Morgan Marquis-Boire reports in The Intercept:

Two journalists at the prominent German news website Netzpolitik are under investigation for treason after publishing details about the planned expansion of the German Secret Service’s Internet surveillance program.

On Wednesday, the organization received a letter from the Federal Attorney General of Germany confirming ongoing investigations against reporters Markus Beckedahl, Andre Meister (pictured), and an “unknown source” for the articles, one of which waspublished in February and detailed a secret budget plan for surveillance activities, and another, from April, describing a new surveillance unit for monitoring social networking and online chats. Meister has characterized the plans as being part of Germany’s “post-Snowden” internet surveillance push.

Netzpolitik, which reports on politics and technology, learned within the last several weeks that Federal Attorney General of Germany was investigating the stories, but believed its sources were the target of the investigation rather than its journalists, Meister said in an interview. Only yesterday did it became clear that Meister and Beckedahl were also under investigation.

“This is a direct attack on freedom of the press, such as hasn’t been the case in around 50 years in Germany, since the ‘Spiegel scandal’ in 1962,’” Meister told The Intercept, citing an incident in which the German newsweekly Der Spiegel was searched and some of its journalists were arrested on treason accusations stemming from an article questioning the preparedness of West German armed forces.

“These charges are an intimidation against media and against potential sources — which are an integral part of investigative journalism,” he added. “The public needs whistleblowers to find out about what’s done in their name and with their money. So the original investigations against our sources were already a direct attack on freedom of press and freedom of information.”

The attorney general’s letter cites a section of the German penal code that states:

Whosoever … allows a state secret to come to the attention of an unauthorised person or to become known to the public in order to prejudice the Federal Republic of Germany or benefit a foreign power and thereby creates a danger of serious prejudice to the external security of the Federal Republic of Germany, shall be liable to imprisonment of not less than one year.

Meister railed against the implication that he or his publication have attacked the German state, saying that, as part of a “fourth pillar” in German society, their job is to “dig deep, investigate, and provide the public with information that has not previously been public … providing the public — and thus the sovereign — with information for public debate that’s integral for informed consent.”

“Germany won’t be invaded because of our reporting,” he added. “On the other hand, one could argue that the pervasive mass surveillance of the digital world is an attack on the basic freedoms of a free society. Without privacy, there can be no freedom of thought and freedom of association without a protected, un-invaded private space. We want to enable a public debate about these integral issues.”

The charges have generated significant attention in Germany. A public demonstrationhas been organized in support of Netzpolitik, and today they received high-level support when the Heiko Maas, the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, expressed doubts to the Attorney General that journalists intended to harm Germany or aid a foreign power.

Asked if Netzpolitik would continue to report using materials gained from whistleblowers, Meister replied, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2015 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Media, NSA

Edward Snowden Explains Why Apple Should Continue To Fight the Government on Encryption

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And Snowden is right. The 4th Amendment (and the 5th Amendment) are part of the Bill of Rights for a reason. If the government wants to read your emails, it can serve a warrant and seek formal access, not through breaking the encryption. The government truly wants one-sided secrecy: secrecy for itself and its actions, transparency for you and your actions.

Jenna McLaughlin reports in The Intercept:

As the Obama administration campaign to stop the commercialization of strong encryption heats up, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is firing back on behalf of the companies like Apple and Google that are finding themselves under attack.

“Technologists and companies working to protect ordinary citizens should be applauded, not sued or prosecuted,” Snowden wrote in an email through his lawyer.

Snowden was asked by The Intercept to respond to the contentious suggestion — made Thursday on a blog that frequently promotes the interests of the national security establishment — that companies like Apple and Google might in certain cases be found legally liable for providing material aid to a terrorist organization because they provide encryption services to their users.

In his email, Snowden explained how law enforcement officials who are demanding that U.S. companies build some sort of window into unbreakable end-to-end encryption — he calls that an “insecurity mandate” — haven’t thought things through.

“The central problem with insecurity mandates has never been addressed by its proponents: if one government can demand access to private communications, all governments can,” Snowden wrote.

“No matter how good the reason, if the U.S. sets the precedent that Apple has to compromise the security of a customer in response to a piece of government paper, what can they do when the government is China and the customer is the Dalai Lama?”

Weakened encryption would only drive people away from the American technology industry, Snowden wrote. “Putting the most important driver of our economy in a position where they have to deal with the devil or lose access to international markets is public policy that makes us less competitive and less safe.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2015 at 1:27 pm

Switch from NewsBlur to G2Reader

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When Google abandoned Google Reader, I did some looking around, tried Feedly, but settled on NewsBlur. But NewsBlur has been having some niggling but on-going problems, so I did more exploration. I thought I would switch to Feedly, but now you can sign in only through Facebook, Google+, or the like. I don’t care to link all those things so easily.

So I came across G2Reader, and I started using it yesterday. So far, it’s quite nice. It’s a bit different: it shows me (in effect) an archive of all past articles for each feed, but if I leave it open at “Unread items” I can easily scan the new stuff only. Nice format. So far, so good.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2015 at 11:38 am

Posted in Software


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