Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts in Police Abuse

For more than three months after police officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the middle of a Ferguson, Missouri, street on August 9, it was difficult to get a full idea of what happened.

Wilson’s grand jury testimony was secret. But there were leaks, along with a few publicly available details about his life. He is 28 years old. Six months before the shooting, he won a commendation for “extraordinary effort in the line of duty.” He lived with his girlfriend (whom he married in secret in October). He had previously worked for a nearby police department that was so dysfunctional it was disbanded. Anonymous sources “close” to him told various news outlets that Brown had tried to grab Wilson’s gun and that Brown was charging at him before Wilson fired the fatal shots. A fuzzy picture of Wilson and his account emerged.

Of course, it’s impossible to ever know Brown’s side, because he isn’t here to tell it. But we have learned quite a bit about him, as well. He was “no angel.” He had marijuana in his system when he died. He was college bound. He stole cigarillos from a convenience store and “strong-armed” a clerk in the process. He, at 6’5″ and almost 300 pounds, was remembered by loved ones as a gentle giant.

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St. Louis County police said they have spent around $100,000 stocking up on riot gear and other items they may need if protests turn violent after prosecutors announce whether a Ferguson officer will face criminal charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“And CNN reports that citizens are also preparing for the grand jury ruling: gun sales are up in St. Louis.

A state grand jury has been meeting since shortly after Brown, who was 18 and black, was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, on Aug. 9. Brown was unarmed and some witnesses said he was trying to surrender. Wilson’s attorneys have repeatedly declined comment.

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“There’s no perfect system out there. So take what’s available, many (police agencies) are already doing this – I don’t hear complaints from them. Let’s go do it,” NAACP Austin’s Nelson Linder told KXAN.

During the 2011 Texas Relays, Austin Police tried out seven types of body cameras, records show. It was decided potential cost (between $800 and $2500 per unit) and other issues such as video storage, unit battery life and reliability warranted more study.

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A new Youtube account is pushing local police agencies to reconsider their use of body-mounted cameras.

Despite considering officer accountability a top priority, police say records requests from that new website may make the programs too expensive and too invasive.

“We had a great experience,” said Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan. “The video that we had was very very good and we would like to go full steam ahead.”

But last month reality hit, in the form of a new YouTube user website, set up by someone under the name, “Police Video Requests.” The profile says it posts dash and body cam videos received after public records requests to Washington state police departments. There are just a couple of police videos there posted within the past week.

In September, “Police Video Requests” anonymously asked Poulsbo PD for every second of body cam video it has ever recorded. The department figures it will take three years to fill that request. And Chief Townsend believes it is a huge privacy concern, as officers often see people on their worst days.

“People with mental illness, people in domestic violence situations; do we really want to have to put that video out on YouTube for people? I think that’s pushing it a little bit,” he said.

Now the city of Poulsbo says it may have to suspend or even end its police body cam program. Bremerton PD is, at least temporarily, shelving its plans to start up its own body cam program because of the blanket requests received by Poulsbo and other agencies in the state.

Both departments say they have no problem with legitimate video requests from either the media or people with police complaints. But they don’t want someone making money by posting police videos that could be an invasion of privacy.

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Nash Bearcat

Roger Hoeppner was in a dispute with the city about tractors on his property. The police came to collect an $80,000 fine with a BearCat and 24 officers.

Earlier this month, nestled between the antique tractors he restores and the wood pallets he uses for his business, were 24 police officers, and, eventually, the armored truck.

Marathon County sheriff’s captain Greg Bean declined to answer multiple requests for comment, but told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the large police presence was called in because law enforcement officials expected they would have to seize large equipment.

And precisely how was a BearCat supposed to help move this large equipment? Was it going to tow tractors behind it?

He also defended the decision to use the armored vehicle because he said it can save time, money and increases safety in such situations.

“I’ve been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up,” Bean told the Journal Sentinel.

So, the police would rather use a big vehicle to scare and intimidate people instead of actually doing their jobs.

Hoeppner has for years been embroiled in a legal battle with the city of Stettin, which has just over 2,500 residents, according to the 2010 US census.

The city sued him in 2008 because of the state of his property, which sits off of a major highway and is packed with wood pallets and land equipment. They complained again in 2010, saying he had not complied with an order to clean up the property, at which point a judge intervened. The city did not approve of adjustment he made to his land and in 2011 a judge authorized the town to take away some of his items. A final judgement was issued in April 2013, with Hoeppner receiving a $500 fine every day he did not comply. He lost an appeal in March – bringing the total he owed to $80,000.

The same day as the police intervention, Hoeppner paid out the sum, with officers escorting him to the bank he said he has been going to for 50 years. He said the incident depleted his 401k and caused his wife Marjorie to go to the hospital because of distress. “The United States is not supposed to terrorize its hardworking people,” Hoeppner said.

“I just don’t understand why a dollar and a half of postage on an envelope that I would have had to pick up at the Wausau post office wouldn’t have done the same thing as 24 officers and an armored vehicle,” Hoeppner told the Guardian.

No one else does either, sir.

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