Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, an aggressive brand of policing called “highway interdiction,” which involves authorities seizing money and property during traffic stops, has grown in popularity. Thousands of people not charged with crimes are left fighting legal battles to regain their money.

Cash seizures can be made under state or federal civil law. One of the primary ways police departments are able to seize money and share in the proceeds at the federal level is through a long-standing Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program known as Equitable Sharing. Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired.

The practice has been controversial since its inception at the height of the drug war more than three decades ago, and its abuses have been the subject of journalistic exposés and congressional hearings. But unexplored until now is the role of the federal government and the private police trainers in encouraging officers to target cash on the nation’s highways since 9/11.

“Those laws were meant to take a guy out for selling $1 million in cocaine or who was trying to launder large amounts of money,” said Mark Overton, the police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., who once oversaw a federal drug task force in South Florida. “It was never meant for a street cop to take a few thousand dollars from a driver by the side of the road.”

It’s the same, no matter where the police are conducting these stops.

In case after case, highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script. Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed “indicators” of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.

More at The Washington Post.

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The notion that certain rights are guaranteed to citizens is being proven false every day. For instance, you have the First Amendment right to film police officers and other public officials, but it often takes an official policy change (usually prompted by lawsuits) before these public servants will begrudgingly respect that right.

More at techdirt.

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SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.

Read the story at the New York Times.

Video.

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The San Jose and Davis police departments are returning their military equipment obtained from the government.

Citing fears after seeing images of Ferguson, the city of Davis, California is set to return its armored vehicle.

The police wanted to keep the vehicle. The city said no.

The Davis Police Department now has 60 days to get rid of a $689,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle, which police acquired through a U.S. Defense Department program, and must consider other rescue vehicle options.

The Davis Police Department took possession of the free vehicle two weeks ago through the Defense Department’s 1033 program — administered by the California Office of Emergency Services — which is aimed at repurposing federal and military equipment for local law enforcement.

Through the program, the police department has obtained a number of free surplus military hardware, including body armor, binoculars, riot helmets and training rifles.

San Jose police will be returning its mine-resistant armored truck.

San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol told KCBS the decision was made based on concerns for potential damage to the department’s image and community relationships.

“We want to keep their trust. We don’t want them to feel we are going off on another path with our police department,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable about the tools that we use.”

Used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop transport, or MRAP, became a focus for debate after a military surplus vehicle and equipment were used at protests in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

According the San Jose Mercury News, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and Antioch, have decided to keep their armored transports.

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This happened January 31st 2014 I’m the downtown st Paul sky way… And they confiscated the phones for 6 months.

It is abundantly clear that things did not escalate until the second police officer came on the scene. That officer threatened Chris Lollie from the moment he arrived, telling him he was getting arrested no matter what. The second officer never bothered to assess the situation. He came into the situation looking to arrest someone. Lollie asked several times what he did wrong and why he needed to show identification. The best answer the police could give is “because I said so.”

These police officers are the reason people hate the police so much. The second officer comes in, acts like a bully and demands his authority be respected. The first officer is an enabler who does nothing to stop the second officers abusive behavior despite no crime having been committed.

From KARE 11:

Chris Lollie was at the First National Bank Building last January when he was approached by St Paul Police officers, according to an incident report. He started recording video on his cell phone as they asked for his name.

But in the video Lollie can be heard telling the officers he was in a public space picking up his kids from New Horizon Academy and wasn’t breaking any laws. In just a few seconds things escalate.

Lollie did not commit any crime. He was walking out of the area, which is his right as he was not being detained. He stopped walking once the officer told him he was under arrest. Until that point, Lollie had no legal requirement to stop walking.

Minnesota also does not have a “Stop and Identify” statute, which would require you to stop and identify yourself if criminal activity has occurred in the area.

Lollie was exercising his first and fourth amendment rights. He broke no law. He was under no obligation to follow their commands.

Lollie was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction. But all charges were dismissed last month. Lollie did not respond to questions about why he released the video nearly eight months after it was recorded.

If they watch the original video, Lollie explains in the description of the video on YouTube, his cell phone was confiscated for six months. The charge of trespassing seems suspicious because he was in a public place in the middle of the day.

This is how the exchange should have gone. The first cop finds the person who made the complaint. If Lollie is in a public area, inform the person that they are allowed to legally be there and she could go on with her day. If he wasn’t allowed in that particular area, then the cop should have informed Lollie and asked him to move. The discussion would have been short and easy.

Cop 1: It is your right to not want to give me your name. You are not under arrest and you are free to leave if you wish, just please don’t occupy [whatever space it was he was allegedly in] because of [insert reason].

Lollie: That’s fine officer. I’m just on my way to pick up my kids.

And they both go their separate ways.

At no point in time was Lollie wrong and he was calm and reasonable until Cop 2 showed up.

Instead Cop 1 yammers on and on until Cop 2 comes along with a chip on his shoulder acting like Eric Cartman.

You can read more at The Atlantic.

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