Washington DC June 18 2013
The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.
The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and generally operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for “law enforcement purposes.” Amid rising concern about the National Security Agency’s high-tech surveillance aimed at foreigners, it is these state-level facial-recognition programs that more typically involve American citizens.
The most widely used systems were honed on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers sought to identify insurgents. The increasingly widespread deployment of the technology in the United States has helped police find murderers, bank robbers and drug dealers, many of whom leave behind images on surveillance videos or social-media sites that can be compared against official photo databases.
But law enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities.
Such open access has caused a backlash in some of the few states where there has been a public debate. As the databases grow larger and increasingly connected across jurisdictional boundaries, critics warn that authorities are developing what amounts to a national identification system — based on the distinct geography of each human face.
“Where is government going to go with that years from now?” said Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann, a conservative Republican who has fought the creation of such systems there. “Here your driver’s license essentially becomes a national ID card.”
Facial-recognition technology is part of a new generation of biometric tools that once were the stuff of science fiction but are increasingly used by authorities around the nation and the world. Though not yet as reliable as fingerprints, these technologies can help determine identity through individual variations in irises, skin textures, vein patterns, palm prints and a person’s gait while walking.
The Supreme Court’s approval this month of DNA collection during arrests coincides with rising use of that technology as well, with suspects in some cases submitting to tests that put their genetic details in official databases, even if they are never convicted of a crime.
Facial-recognition systems are more pervasive and can be deployed remotely, without subjects knowing that their faces have been captured. Today’s driver’s-
license databases, which also include millions of images of people who get non-driver ID cards to open bank accounts or board airplanes, typically were made available for police searches with little public notice.
Thirty-seven states now use facial-recognition technology in their driver’s-license registries, a Washington Post review found. At least 26 of those allow state, local or federal law enforcement agencies to search — or request searches — of photo databases in an attempt to learn the identities of people considered relevant to investigations.
“This is a tool to benefit law enforcement, not to violate your privacy rights,” said Scott McCallum, head of the facial-recognition unit in Pinellas County, Fla., which has built one of the nation’s most advanced systems.
The technology produces investigative leads, not definitive identifications. But research efforts are focused on pushing the software to the point where it can reliably produce the names of people in the time it takes them to walk by a video camera. This already works in controlled, well-lit settings when the database of potential matches is relatively small. Most experts expect those limitations to be surmounted over the next few years.
That prospect has sparked fears that the databases authorities are building could someday be used for monitoring political rallies, sporting events or even busy downtown areas. Whatever the security benefits — especially at a time when terrorism remains a serious threat — the mass accumulation of location data on individuals could chill free speech or the right to assemble, civil libertarians say.
“As a society, do we want to have total surveillance? Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are . . . without any immediate probable cause?” asked Laura Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor who has studied government facial databases. “A police state is exactly what this turns into if everybody who drives has to lodge their information with the police.”
Facial-recognition systems analyze a person’s features — such as the shape of eyes, the curl of earlobes, the width of noses — to produce a digital “template” that can be quickly compared with other faces in a database.
The images must be reasonably clear, though newer software allows technicians to sharpen blurry images, bolster faint lighting or make a three-dimensional model of a face that can be rotated to ease comparisons against pictures taken from odd angles.
For the state officials issuing driver’s licenses, the technology has been effective at detecting fraud. As millions of images are compared, the software typically reveals the identities of hundreds or thousands of people who may have more than one driver’s license.
When searches are made for criminal investigations, typically a photo called a “probe” is compared against existing images in a database. The analytical software returns a selection of potential matches, though their accuracy can vary dramatically. A probe image of a middle-aged white man, for example, could produce a possible match with a 20-something African American woman with similarly shaped eyes and lips. Many systems include filters that allow searchers to specify race, sex and a range of possible ages for a suspect.
“It’s a fine line where you need to protect the rights of the citizens, but you also are protecting the right of citizens when you ferret out crime,” said Anthony J. Silva, administrator of Rhode Island’s Division of Motor Vehicles and a former town police chief.
Establishing identity, Silva said, is essential to effective police work: “I can’t tell you how many times I was handed fraudulent documents. And when you are on the street at 3 a.m., who do you call?”
Pennsylvania’s Justice Network, which has allowed police anywhere in the state to compare a facial image with mug-shot databases, has become a key investigative tool, officials said, and last month it added access to 34 million driver’s-license photos. (Some residents have several images, taken over years.)
A detective in Carlisle, Pa., attempting to learn the real name of a suspect known on the street as “Buddha the Shoota” compared a Facebook page picturing the man with the mug-shot database and got a promising lead.
“Facebook is a great source for us,” said Detective Daniel Freedman, who can do facial searches from his department-issued smartphone. “He was surprised when we walked in and said, ‘How you doin’, Buddha?’ ”
He said the suspect responded, “How you know that?” — to which Freedman replied simply, “We’re the police.”
Safeguards and trends
There typically is little concern when facial-recognition systems relying on criminal databases help identify suspects in narrowly targeted investigations. But searches against images of citizens from driver’s licenses or passports, as opposed to mug shots of prisoners, raise more complex legal questions.
Police typically need only to assert a law enforcement purpose for facial searches, whether they be of suspects or potential witnesses to crimes. Civil libertarians worry that this can lead to broadly defined identity sweeps. Already many common but technically illegal activities — blocking a sidewalk, cycling at night without a light or walking a dog without a leash — can trigger police stops and requests for identification, they say.
The potential for abuse of this technology is such that we have to make sure we put in place the right safeguards to prevent misuse,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a statement. “We also need to make sure the government is as transparent as possible in order to give the American people confidence it’s using this technology appropriately.”
A few states, including Washington, Oregon and Minnesota, have legal barriers to police accessing facial-recognition technology in driver’s-license registries. New Hampshire’s legislature passed a law prohibiting motor vehicle officials from collecting any biometric data.
But the broader trend is toward more sophisticated databases with more expansive access. The current version of the Senate’s immigration bill would dramatically expand an electronic photo-verification system, probably relying on access to driver’s-license registries.
Montana has a facial-recognition system to help prevent fraud in its driver’s-license registry, but officials are still debating whether to allow police any kind of access.
“I can see it’s an amazingly powerful tool. It has a lot of possibilities,” said Brenda Nordlund, the administrator of the Motor Vehicle Division there. “I don’t know if that’s what citizens expect when they come in and get their driver’s-license pictures taken.”
There are substantial variations in how states allow police searches of their driver’s-license databases. Some allow only licensing-agency officials to conduct the actual searches. Others let police do searches themselves, but only from a headquarters office. And still others have made the technology available to almost any officer willing to get trained.
The District of Columbia has facial-recognition technology for its driver’s-license registry but does not permit law enforcement searches, spokeswoman Vanessa Newton said. Virginia motor vehicle officials have run a pilot program experimenting with facial-recognition technology but have not made a decision on whether police will have access to such a system if it is eventually installed, spokeswoman Sunni Brown said. Maryland does not use such technology in its driver’s-license registry.
Police long have had access to some driver’s-license information — including photographs — when they are investigating criminal suspects whose names they know. But facial-recognition technology has allowed police working from a photo of an unknown person to search for a name.
Las Vegas police, for example, called on authorities two states away in Nebraska for help solving a homicide. Based on a tip, investigators had a page from a social-media site featuring the image of an unknown suspect; the tipster said the woman in the photo had lived in Nebraska. The facial-recognition software produced a hit on a driver’s license there, cracking open the case.
“That picture hung on our wall for a long time,” said Betty Johnson, vehicle services administrator in Nebraska. “We are pretty darn proud of that one.”
Who has the databases?
A single private contractor, MorphoTrust USA, which is based in a suburban Boston office park but is owned by French industrial conglomerate Safran, dominates the field of government facial-
recognition technology systems. Its software operates in systems for the State Department, the FBI and the Defense Department. Most facial-recognition systems installed in driver’s-license registries use the company’s technology, it says.
The largest facial database belongs to the State Department and includes about 230 million searchable images, split almost equally between foreigners who apply for visas and U.S. citizens who hold passports. Access for police investigations, though, is more limited than with state driver’s-license databases.
The FBI’s own facial-recognition database has about 15 million criminal mug shots. Bureau officials are pushing to expand that by tens of millions more by encouraging states to upload their criminal justice photos into the national system. The FBI does not collect driver’s-license images, but the bureau has developed access to state systems that do.
That effort began with“Project Facemask,” which compared images of federal suspects and fugitives against photos in North Carolina’s driver’s-license registry, helping identify a double-homicide suspect who had changed his name and moved to that state from California. The FBI now has agreements giving access to driver’s-license databases in 10 states for investigative purposes. Many motor vehicle officials say they also run searches for federal agents who request them, typically through “fusion centers” that ease the sharing of information among state, local and federal authorities.
Depending on the importance of the case, federal agents can potentially tap facial databases held by driver’s-license registries, state criminal justice systems, the FBI, the State Department and the Defense Department, which has several million searchable faces, mostly Afghans and Iraqi men. Together these amount to an estimated 400 million facial images in government hands, though the rules on access to each database vary. (Often an individual is pictured in more than one database, or even more than once in a single one.)
Federal investigators searched several facial databases in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April, officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. But the images were not clear enough to produce hits, even though both of the alleged bombers had driver’s licenses in Massachusetts, a state that uses facial-recognition technology.
Yet as facial databases grow and video cameras become more prevalent and powerful, such searches will become more effective, experts say.
“More and more, what you’re going to see is criminals and other people whose images were taken over the years are digitized, [and] put into these databases, and incidents like Boston will be easier to solve,” said James Albers, senior vice president for government operations for MorphoTrust USA.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office says its facial-recognition unit conducts 5,000 searches a month and has assisted in nearly 1,000 arrests since 2004. A bulletin board in the office is lined with success stories: A teenage boy who was sending lewd messages to young girls through multiple Facebook accounts was identified, as was a suicide victim and an alleged bank robber — whose scowling image was captured by the branch’s surveillance camera.
In another case, a man reported a stolen computer but then noticed that an online photo album he long had maintained was automatically uploading new snapshots of a couple he did not recognize. When the sheriff’s office ran a search, the pictures matched faces in both the mug-shot and driver’s-license databases. The couple soon fingered an acquaintance who was arrested for stealing the computer and then selling it to them.
The sheriff’s office, whose jurisdiction includes St. Petersburg and its suburbs, built its facial-recognition system over more than a decade, relying for most of that time on mug shots collected at prisons and police booking centers across the state.
The system now has partnerships with the sheriff’s offices in more than half of Florida’s counties and many other government agencies. This year the unit added the ability to search more than 20 million driver’s-license records, bringing the number of facial images in the database to 30 million, officials say.
The Pinellas County system also has access to 250,000 mug shots — though not driver’s-license images — from the Northern Virginia Regional Identification System, a joint project of Washington area jurisdictions, including some Maryland counties.
Pinellas Deputy Jeremy Dressback, a community policing officer, uses access from the laptop in his patrol car to keep track of the people he encounters on a dingy country stretch notorious for prostitution, drugs and seedy motels.
On a recent patrol, when a scruffy-looking man he did not recognize walked up to one of the motels, Dressback stopped him on suspicion of trespassing and asked for identification. The man did not have a driver’s license but gave his name — James A. Shepherd, age 33, from Kentucky — and said he was staying at the motel with his girlfriend.
Dressback pulled out a digital camera, asked permission to take a picture and then snapped a shot. When the image did not match anyone in the facial-recognition system, Dressback downloaded the picture to his laptop computer and attached it to a field report on Shepherd as a “suspicious person.”
Shepherd, who said he was a roofer returning from work, grumbled at the intrusion, even though he had agreed to have his picture taken. “I’m not a criminal, so there’s really no reason for me to be in a criminal database,” Shepherd said before adding, “But I have been arrested quite a few times.”
When his girlfriend walked by moments later — they were indeed staying at the motel — Shepherd directed her toward their room.
“Get out of here,” he said. “You’ll be in his database in 10 seconds.”
OMAHA, Neb. June 16 2013 (AP) – Danielle Powell was going through a hard time in the spring of 2011, just months away from graduating from a conservative Christian college in Nebraska. She had fallen in love with another woman, a strictly forbidden relationship at a school where even prolonged hugs were banned.
Powell said she was working at a civil rights foundation in Mississippi to finish her psychology degree when she was called back to Grace University in Omaha and confronted about the relationship. She was eventually expelled – then sent a bill for $6,000 to reimburse what the school said were federal loans and grants that needed to be repaid because she didn’t finish the semester.
Powell is now fighting the Omaha school, arguing that her tuition was covered by scholarships and that federal loans wouldn’t need to be repaid in that amount. She also notes she was kicked out even after undergoing months of counseling, spiritual training and mentoring insisted upon by the school following her initial suspension.
“I shouldn’t have this debt hanging over me from a school that clearly didn’t want me,” the 24-year-old said.
The university insists that the $6,000 bill covers federal grants and loans that, by law, must be repaid to the federal government because Powell didn’t finish her final semester. School officials declined to discuss specifics of Powell’s case, citing federal student privacy laws, but through a public relations agency said it would provide Powell official transcripts and transfer her credits.
Powell is skeptical. She noted that nine months after she was expelled in January 2012, the registrar’s office denied her request for her transcripts because of the bill, though she eventually received student copies of her transcripts.
Grace University’s code of conduct for its students is strict: No kissing, no prolonged hugs and certainly no premarital sex. The school even monitors students’ television habits, forbidding HBO, MTV, Comedy Central and several other channels “because of the values they promote.” The rules are laid out in a student handbook and signed by students every year.
“No one was more surprised than me,” Powell recalled of her relationship. “I had been very religious since I was a small child, and that did not fit in with what I thought I believed.”
It’s not unusual to see gay and lesbian students disciplined or even expelled from private Bible- and faith-based colleges, but Powell’s case is unusual, said Ken Upton, an attorney at Lambda Legal. The national civil rights organization helps gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“This particular case is unusual because there’s this fear that they might not release her information and they are demanding payback,” Upton said. “We don’t see that very often. Usually, the school’s just glad to be rid of them.”
In response to questions about the case from The Associated Press that included Powell’s financial aid letter, the U.S. Department of Education said in an email Friday that the issue of whether Powell owes money is between her and the school – but “it’s not at all because of federal rules.”
The department said it would need to analyze any case to determine if a school had violated federal discrimination regulations. But it noted that educational institutions controlled by religious organizations are exempt from some federal requirements that might conflict with the organizations’ religious tenets.
Grace and other private colleges that accept federal student aid – sometimes called Title IV funding – must abide by the Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, age or physical handicap. But sexual orientation is not included in that list.
“There’s a long history of institutions of higher education that are faith-based participating in Title IV programs without having to compromise their institutional statement of faith or institutional statement of practice,” said Ronald Kroll, director of the accreditation commission for the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which includes Grace University.
As required by the university after her suspension, Powell said she promised not to engage in sex and completed months of church attendance and meetings with Christian mentors, spiritual advisers and other groups. She was then readmitted, only to receive a letter days later from the university’s vice president, Michael James, revoking her admittance.
James wrote that her re-admittance had been based on professions she made to various faculty and staff that she would change her behavior, but that “the prevailing opinion is that those professions appear to have been insincere, at best, if not deceitful.”
“I was livid,” Powell said. “I had done everything they asked me to do. I drove over to my mentors’ house and just bawled my eyes out.”
Powell legally married another woman in neighboring Iowa in December, but the couple still lives across the border in Omaha and has found support online. Her wife, Michelle Rogers, posted a petition on change.org asking the university to drop the tuition bill.
“Being kicked out of school for being gay would have been awful enough, but Danielle’s nightmare didn’t end there,” Rogers wrote. “In addition to being expelled, school officials revoked her scholarships and are hounding her for $6,000 in back-due tuition for the final semester – which she was never allowed to complete – that her scholarships would have covered.”
As of Friday, the petition had been signed by more than 35,000 people.
GADSDEN, Ala. June 15 2013 (AP) — The Gadsden Civil Service Board has suspended Police Chief John Crane for visiting a convicted murderer in jail over the course of three years.
The board voted Wednesday to suspend Crane for 15 days. Officials say he visited Justin Denson monthly in the Etowah County jail. Denson was sentenced to 119 years for killing his mother, Nita Denson, in 2009. He was also charged with fraudulent use of a credit card.
Officials say Crane and Denson knew each other personally, and Crane visited Denson for religious reasons. Authorities say Crane also bought Denson a suit to wear to court, and put money in his commissary account.
The Gadsden Times reports Michael Rasmussen, who represents Nita Denson’s niece, asked the board to remove crane from his position as police chief.
U.S. Department of Justice
WASHINGTON DC June 13 2013 —The Justice Department announced today that Timothy Lassiter, the former chief deputy of the Hertford County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Elizabeth City, North Carolina to violating the civil rights of an inmate during a court appearance.
According to information presented to the court, on June 12, 2012, the inmate created a verbal disturbance during a court appearance. After removing the inmate from the courtroom, Lassiter repeatedly and unjustifiably punched the inmate in his face and body at a time when the inmate was handcuffed and posed no threat to law enforcement. The inmate was injured as a result of the assault.
“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice works to ensure that no law enforcement officer abuses his power to assault a person in his custody,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Roy L. Austin, Jr. “This assault by a sheriff’s deputy that started in a courtroom—the very place where the constitutional rights of all Americans, including those accused of crimes, are applied and enforced on a daily basis. This plea demonstrates that the department will vigorously defend the integrity of our legal system.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Thomas G. Walker stated, “This deputy’s deliberate abuse of authority undermines the efforts of the vast majority of law enforcement officers who honor their oath to uphold the law.”
“Every citizen has the right to expect law enforcement officers to act legally and in accordance with the Constitution. Former Chief Deputy Timothy Lassiter’s actions were inexcusable. The charges against him should serve as a reminder that no one is above the law,” said John Strong, the Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.
Lassiter pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for September 9, 2013.
This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Betsy Biffl and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Toby Lathan
|credit: JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE|
DOTHAM, Ala. May 26 2013— An Alabama police officer who was suspended and placed on probation for Facebook posts about Christopher Dorner is challenging the punishments doled out by department officials. Dorner, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, is accused of killing four people, including two Southern California officers, before apparently committing suicide in a burning Big Bear cabin in February. The Dothan Personnel Board, which is expected to take at least two to three weeks to decide what could be a landmark case involving the use of social media by police, held a hearing Thursday in the case of Cpl. Raemonica Carney. Carney turned to the board after she was reprimanded for her posts that indicated Dorner was dismissed from the LAPD for pointing out a possible civil rights violation by a co-worker. “You have to have walked in his shoes and experienced the things he experienced … to know the things he is blowing the whistle on. I have. Have you?” Carney wrote on her Facebook page.
She also posted that based on what she had read about the case, Dorner’s morals and ethics were “probably beyond reproach.” Carney said the posts were not supportive of Dorner’s actions. “I never said I supported, never said I agreed with what Dorner did. My personal opinion is that Mr. Dorner went about it the wrong way,” she said at the hearing. “She is being retaliated against now for having an unpopular belief. That is a violation of her First Amendment rights to free speech,” said her attorney, Sonya Edwards of Birmingham. City attorney Kevan Kelly said the Facebook postings disrupted the working order of the Dothan Police Department and prompted complaints from 13 officers. The Dothan Eagle reported that Police Chief Greg Benton said, “It does not matter what kind of officer she was, what she posted was reprehensible, disgusting, it caused a general alarm within the department.” The Dothan Police Department’s policy on social media says employees are free to express themselves as private citizens as long as their speech does not impair working relationships, performance or harmony with co-workers.
Maricopa County AZ May 25 2013 The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has engaged in racial profiling and must not use Hispanic ancestry as a factor when making law-enforcement decisions, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow issued the ruling Friday, more than eight months after a seven-day trial on the subject concluded. The trial examined longstanding allegations that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s emphasis on immigration enforcement led deputies to target Latino drivers based on their race, and that by doing so, they violated the constitutional rights of Maricopa County residents and the sheriff’s own policies requiring constitutional policing.
Snow’s ruling will likely be appealed, as both sides promised throughout the trial to challenge whatever decision Snow rendered. However, Arpaio’s attorney said he was still reviewing the ruling Friday afternoon.
Dan Pochoda of the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called the ruling “a real vindication for the community. It was a terrific win — it was a very solid, comprehensive piece of work, and clearly demonstrated the unconstitutionality from top to bottom at MCSO for many years.”
The class of Hispanic citizens that brought the racial-profiling lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office never sought monetary damages. Instead, the group asked for the court to issue injunctions barring Arpaio’s office from discriminatory policing.
Snow obliged — and indicated more remedies could be ordered in the future.
“Therefore, in the absence of further facts that would give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a violation of either federal criminal law or applicable state law is occurring, the MCSO is enjoined from (1) enforcing its LEAR policy (on checking the immigration status of people detained without state charges), (2) using Hispanic ancestry or race as any factor in making law enforcement decisions pertaining to whether a person is authorized to be in the country, and (3) unconstitutionally lengthening stops,” Snow wrote in his 142-page ruling.
“The evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration–related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so,” Show said.
Snow was the sole arbiter of facts in the bench trial conducted without a jury. He was tasked with weighing the plaintiffs’ arguments that the Sheriff’s Office developed an immigration enforcement policy that encouraged deputies to discriminate against Latino drivers, depriving them of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection. A ruling from Snow late last year expanded the plaintiffs in the 41/2-year-old case to cover a class that includes every Latino driver the Sheriff’s Office has stopped since 2007. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and pro-bono attorneys from a Bay Area law firm, and were faced with the burden of proof in the case.
The case began when Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist who was in the United States legally, was stopped outside a church in Cave Creek where day laborers were known to gather. Melendres, the passenger in a car driven by a White driver, claims that deputies detained him for nine hours and that the detention was unlawful.
Eventually, the case grew to include complaints from two Hispanic siblings from Chicago who felt they were profiled by sheriff’s deputies, and from an assistant to former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon whose Hispanic husband claims he was detained and cited while nearby White motorists were treated differently.
The lawsuit did not seek monetary damages. Instead, the plaintiffs asked for the kind of injunctive relief that the Sheriff’s Office has resisted in the past — a declaration that spells out what deputies may or may not do when stopping potential suspects, and a court-appointed monitor to make sure the agency lives by those rules.
Snow gave each side 20 hours to present their case in a tightly controlled trial that took place in late July and early August in the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs took a three-pronged approach, using Arpaio’s own statements about undocumented immigrants along with racially insensitive requests from constituents for immigration enforcement to show the sheriff’s callous attitude toward the rights of Latinos and his the agency’s intention to discriminate. Data showing that Latino drivers were more likely to be stopped during the sheriff’s immigration sweeps, and that those stops were likely to last longer, was designed to show the outcome of that intent. And statements from residents who claimed they were victims of profiling was intended to illustrate the impact of the sheriff’s policies.
Arpaio’s attorneys used their allotted time taking apart the statistical data and relying heavily on the testimony of sheriff’s deputies, commanders and administrators who testified repeatedly that the agency does not tolerate racial profiling, despite the lack of a policy expressly prohibiting the practice.
Omaha officers told: Don’t interfere with citizens’ right to record police activity www.privateofficer.com
Omaha NE May 14 2013 Omaha police officers are hitting the streets with a clear directive: Don’t interfere with citizens’ right to record police action.
The department has refined its policy on the public’s use of cameras and video in the wake of a YouTube posting of an arrest that led to the firing of four officers, two of whom are charged with criminal wrongdoing. The March 21 incident highlighted the sometimes contentious terrain that officers and citizens navigate when cameras increasingly capture their interactions.
“Individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties, plain and simple,” said Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez.
The department has long recognized that right. But the revised policy, which cites federal case law, states that citizens cannot be arrested simply for recording police or being near a crime scene.
The only time police have a right to step in is to make an arrest or write a ticket if a citizen breaks a law while recording police activity, Gonzalez said.
If a citizen with a camera goes past crime scene tape, for example, or disobeys a lawful order from police, he or she can be arrested for those offenses. Someone taking video or photographs also can be arrested for trying to stop a witness from talking to police. These actions could be considered obstruction or interference, Gonzalez said.
“If an officer is at a crime scene, and you’re recording and cooperating with police, you’re well within your legal right,” Gonzalez said.
Starting Tuesday, the department’s 105 police sergeants will receive training that includes an overview of the revised policy. In addition, all officers have been sent a “training bulletin” outlining the changes. Commanders have gone over the revisions during roll call, which occurs at the start of each officer’s shift.
Omaha is not unique in having to clarify for officers the video rights of citizens. So many law enforcement agencies have struggled with the issue that the U.S. Department of Justice released guidelines last year to help shape local policies.
“Many officers say, ‘If you’re doing your job and being professional and conducting your job the way you should be, you have nothing to worry about,’ ” said Lauri Stevens, a national social media strategist for law enforcement agencies. “Agencies all over the country are dealing with this.”
The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a warning letter last year to law enforcement agencies across the state after hearing about violations of citizens’ recording rights. One case involved a Blair woman arrested by Washington County deputies in January 2012.
“They said her refusal to stop recording was her crime,” said Amy Miller, legal director for ACLU Nebraska.
But Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson said the woman was arrested because she refused to comply with a Breathalyzer test and threw her cellphone at a deputy, striking him in the chest.
“Citizens have the right to record, and (deputies) know that,” Robinson said. “We review this issue constantly.”
Miller said good video policies serve everyone’s interest: Citizens’ videos can hold police accountable when they overstep their bounds — or it can prove that officers acted appropriately.
In the controversial video of Omaha police arresting three brothers near 33rd and Seward Streets, viewers saw only part of what happened. But it was enough to prompt an investigation of possible excessive force and evidence tampering by officers.
Outside experts ultimately exonerated then-Officer Bradley Canterbury, who was seen in the video repeatedly punching suspect Octavious Johnson.
The experts said the video, shot by a neighbor, showed Johnson resisting arrest and Canterbury responding with reasonable force. Canterbury was among the four fired officers, but he has appealed his termination.
The criminal charges in the case grew out of a missing video taken inside the Johnson home. Prosecutors allege that Officer James Kinsella destroyed a memory card and that Sgt. Aaron Von Behren conspired to orchestrate officers’ stories. Both were fired.
Kinsella is charged with felony evidence tampering and misdemeanor obstruction and theft. Von Behren faces two misdemeanors: obstruction and accessory to a felony.
The Seward Street incident was the impetus to revise the department’s cellphone and camera policy. The old version fell under the department’s public relations guidelines, Gonzalez said. The revised version stands as a separate policy, making it clear that it’s not about good PR but rather about citizens’ rights, he said.
Stevens, the social media specialist, said none of this is new to law enforcement.
“It’s just that now, everybody’s got a camera,” she said. “Folks have their phones in their hands all the time, and they’re likely to push a button.”
Private Officer International
Private security companies in three states have come under scrutiny in recent months for trying to enforce civil laws and using force to do it.
In January, a Tuscaloosa Alabama property management company assigned a security officer to help evict a tenant from an apartment for being late on her rent. The property manager had posted a notice on the door of the tenant the previous day and twenty four hours later showed up with the security guard to evict the woman. Police were called and the apartment complex, although they had filed an eviction with the court, did not have the final order in hand. Even if they had police said, private security officers have no legal authority to remove property, force or threaten residents to leave the property. Only the county sheriff’s department has the right to enforce a court ordered eviction.
In Sacramento California an apartment complex hired a private security firm to “force” nine residents from a condo as part of a foreclosure.
The heavily armed security team stormed the condo at 3AM, surprising the residents and committed a burglary in doing so according to police.
The residents are suing the private security firm and the homeowners association, claiming that none of the residents knew about the impending foreclosure and that they hadn’t received service of the lawsuit before the guards barged in.
A Rockville Maryland couple is suing another security company after their vehicle was towed by a security officer at an apartment complex because he had previously been told that there was a “mechanics lien” placed against the vehicle for an outstanding debt at the repair shop. The security officers spotted the vehicle, called a wrecker and now face criminal and civil charges for auto theft.
Security officers are also being used to collect outstanding fines and other imposed fees by homeowner associations, apartment and condominium complexes and management firms while circumventing the “due process” of the tenant or other violator by not filing a civil lawsuit. Even when the company has a judgment against a tenant or third party, private security officers cannot be used to enforce or collect them and using private security for this duty in some states violates both state and federal laws.
While some retailers also have a practice of assessing civil penalties and demanding payment from shoplifters, enforcement is through the civil court process and company attorneys, not through their security staff.
Security officers have no authority to enforce civil court orders or non-criminal violations.
While client’s often use security officers to enforce property regulations such as loud music, parking restrictions or swimming pool hours, forced compliance is not an option that private security personnel have.
However, in situations where a tenant has been lawfully evicted but either fails to leave or returns to the property, or where a person has unlawfully entered a dwelling and has set up residency, private security officers may immediately take the person into custody because now there is a violation of criminal law; trespassing and/or burglary.
While the duties and some legal authority of private security worldwide continue to expand, it is imperative that both the security company and the officer know the criminal and civil laws of your state and tread lightly, being trained in the task at hand, prudent in your decision and respectful in your actions.
NORFOLK, Va. April 25 2013- A jury says Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson did perform unconstitutional searches on women in 2011, but not in each alleged incident.In a Norfolk courtroom Wednesday, the jury came back with a verdict stating Sheriff Watson performed unconstitutional searches on two jail workers without reasonable suspicion. The jury did not think Watson performed those searches unconstitutionally on the other seven women named on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged Watson took the nine jail workers to a private room where a female deputy forced them to take off their clothes for a strip search. The women said their constitutional rights were violated.
In May of 2012, Watson sat down with WAVY News’ Andy Fox to talk about the allegations and the lawsuit against him. He said there were never any body cavity searches and no one was touched, they were only strip searches.
WAVY News’ Jason Marks was at the Norfolk Federal Court Building Wednesday and said the court is in recess and will reconvene at 1:15 p.m. to determine what the women will be awarded in the suit.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. April 23 2013 AP
A West Virginia student was charged with causing a disruption at a middle school when he refused to remove a T-shirt that displayed the National Rifle Association’s logo and hunting rifle.
Jared Marcum, 14, said the shirt did not violate Logan Middle School’s dress code policy.
“I was surprised. It shocked me that the school didn’t know their own dress code and their own policy. I figured they would have known not to call me out on that shirt because there was nothing wrong with it,” Marcum said in a telephone interview.
Marcum’s stepfather, Allen Lardieri, said the youth was waiting in line in the school cafeteria Thursday when a teacher ordered the eighth-grader to remove the T-shirt or to turn it inside out.
Marcum said was sent to the office where he again refused the order.
“When the police came, I was still talking and telling them that this was wrong, that they cannot do this, it’s not against any school policy. The officer, he told me to sit down and be quiet. I said, ‘No, I’m exercising my right to free speech.’ I said it calmly,” he said.
Police charged him with disrupting an educational process and obstructing an officer, he said.
“The only disturbance was caused by the teacher. He raised his voice,” he said.
The Associated Press typically does not identify juveniles charged with crimes, but Marcum and his family wanted his name and case known.
A call to the Logan Police Department rang unanswered Sunday and an automated message said the voice mail system was full.
Lardieri said Marcum wore the shirt during five class periods before he was ordered to remove it.
Logan County Schools’ dress code, which is posted on the school system’s website, prohibits clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases. Clothing displaying advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product also is prohibited.
Their lawyer, Ben White, said that the T-shirt did not appear to violate any school policy.
“I just don’t understand why this teacher reacted the way he did,” said White, who said he asked school officials to preserve surveillance video of the cafeteria.
White said he planned to meet Monday with Principal Ernestine Sutherland.
A message left Sunday at a phone listing for an Ernestine Sutherland in Logan wasn’t immediately returned.
White said schools can place restrictions on students to prevent disruptions, but can’t take away their First Amendment right to free speech.
“If a teacher is telling you to do something that’s wrong, I don’t think you should follow it. But I also don’t think you need to do it in a disrespectful way,” he said, adding that he does not think Marcum was disrespectful.
White said he also wants to get the criminal charges dropped.
Erie County Correctional Facility Deputy Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations Involving an Inmate www.privateofficer.com
BUFFALO, NY April 18 2013—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Josephine Cutolo, 54, of Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott to deprivation of rights under color of law. The charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross, who is handling the case, stated that on August 18, 2012, the defendant, a deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, used chemical spray on an inmate. At the time the incident occurred, the inmate was in handcuffs, subdued, and being escorted by two other deputies. Cutolo aimed the chemical spray a few inches from the victim’s face, which resulted in the spray affecting the victim’s face, chin, and shoulder area. After spraying the victim, the defendant yelled a vulgar obscenity at the inmate.
“Those who serve in law enforcement—including corrections staff—are entrusted with substantial power and authority in order to protect the public or those in their care,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Certainly the vast majority of officers live up to the highest ideals and demands of their chosen vocation. But when an officer abuses his position and hurts one she is sworn to protect, our office will not hesitate to bring the perpetrator to justice, regardless of their title or position.”
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by special agents of the Federal bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Frankel.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 16, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. before Magistrate Judge Scott.
Indiana Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Religiously Motivated Attack on Toledo-Area Mosque www.privateofficer.com
CLEVELAND OH April 17 2013—An Indiana man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for hate crimes stemming from the arson of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, law enforcement officials announced today.
U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary sentenced Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Indiana. Linn pleaded guilty in December to intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious real property because of the religious character of that property; using fire to commit a felony; and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence.
“Defendant Randy Linn attempted to burn down a mosque because of the religion of its members,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy L. Austin Jr. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to partner with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country to ensure that anyone who desecrates or burns a place of religious worship because of the creed practiced there is brought to justice.”
“Hate crimes like this seek to damage more than buildings; they take aim at our American way of life. But today’s 20-year prison sentence and the coming together of this community to support our Muslim neighbors show that our freedoms are stronger and more resilient than this man’s hatred,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“We are pleased that Randall Linn got a significant sentence for his destructive act of setting fire to a sacred place of worship,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office. “The FBI, along with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, remains committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to practice their chosen religion by enforcing the laws that defend those liberties.”
“This sentence is the culmination of the tireless efforts of so many agencies to bring this case to justice,” said Robin Shoemaker, Special Agent in Charge, Columbus Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). “Criminal damage to a house of worship is taken very seriously by ATF.”
According to court documents, Linn left his home on September 30, 2012, in a red four-door Chevrolet Sonic. Inside the vehicle were numerous firearms and three red gas cans. Linn stopped at a gas station near Perrysburg, Ohio, filled the three gas can, and then drove to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Linn made numerous efforts to enter the Islamic Center before gaining entry. He walked through several rooms with a handgun in his left hand before exiting, and then returning with a red gas can, according to court documents.
Linn then entered the prayer room on the second floor and poured gasoline on the prayer rug, a large Oriental-style rug used by members of the Islamic Center during prayer services. He then set fire to the prayer rug, according to court documents.
Linn acknowledges he intentionally set the fire because of the religious character of the Islamic Center property, according to court documents. Linn agrees to pay restitution and understands that the amount may exceed $1 million due to the amount of fire and water damage sustained by the Islamic Center, according to court documents.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bridget M. Brennan, Ava Dustin and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Gwen Howe-Gebers.
This case was investigated by the Perrysburg Township Police Department, the dtate of Ohio Fire Marshal, ATF, and FBI.
BUFFALO, N.Y. April 13 2013 Gun rights advocates were outraged this week when it was revealed that a Western New York man had his pistol permit suspended and guns confiscated because police believed he posed a threat due to a mental health condition.
Attorney James Tresmond threatened to file a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming his client’s health privacy and civil rights had been violated.
It was reported that the unidentified man was taking a prescription for anxiety.
The enforcement action started on March 29th when New York State Police asked the Erie County Clerk’s Office to pursue revoking the man’s pistol permit because he owned guns in violation of the mental health provision of New York’s newly enacted guns law called the SAFE ACT.
“They really pushed us to move quickly on this. We received a subsequent email from one of the State Police sargents making sure that we had taken these firearms away,” said Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs.
The State Police information was reviewed by a Supreme court judge, and the man’s pistol permit suspended and guns taken away.
But now it turns out that the information was wrong.
After further investigation, State Supreme Court Judge William Boller has ruled that the police information that was the basis for the action was “in error.”
Justice Boller writing that the “individual named pursuant to the New York Safe Act was not in fact the above named Licensee.”
“What happened here is the State Police got it wrong,” added Jacobs.
The question now is who is responsible for the mix-up.
The Erie County Clerk’s Office placing blame on State Police investigators, and the State Police maintaining that the Clerk’s office needed to use “due diligence” in getting a positive identification before removing any weapon.
The following are press releases issued by both the Erie County Clerk’s Office and the New York State Police concerning the matter.
Christopher L. Jacobs
APRIL 10, 2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jacobs Says State Mishap Reflective of Flaws in SAFE Act
Erie County, NY – Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs said that late today he received a call from the New York State Police informing him that they had provided information on the wrong person when they notified his office of someone whose permit should be suspended because of the new mental health provisions in New York’s SAFE Act.
“Previously we received correspondence from the State Police that a pistol permit holder in our County had a mental health condition that made them a potential harm to themselves or others, a provision in the NY SAFE Act that requires suspension of their pistol permit license,” said Jacobs.
At that time as required by law, Jacobs’ referred the item and all supporting documentation to the State Supreme Court Judge in charge of issuing pistol permits. Acting on the information provided by the State Police, the judge issued a suspension of the permit pending a hearing.
“When the State Police called to tell us they made a mistake and had the wrong person…it became clear that the State did not do their job here, and now we all look foolish.”
Jacobs’ believes the central reason for this error is the inherent flaws in the mental health reporting provisions in the NY SAFE Act. “Until the mental health provisions are fixed, these mistakes will continue to happen,” says Jacobs.
11 April 2013
New York State Police Statement on Pistol License Suspension in Erie County
NEW YORK STATE POLICE
Joseph A. D’Amico
The SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to file notification when a medical professional determines that an individual he or she is treating is at risk to themselves or others. Medical prescription records are strictly private and not shared with the state, and no firearm license would ever be revoked for an anti-anxiety prescription.
The notification forwarded to the Erie County Clerk’s Office required additional follow-up before a positive identification of a person at risk to themselves or others became final. The State Police was very clear in its letter to the Clerk’s Office regarding the need for due diligence and the need for a positive identification by the County before they removed any weapon.
The final determination on whether to revoke or suspend a pistol permit license rests solely with the County and the licensing officials. The State Police has no authority to suspend or revoke a pistol permit in these circumstances.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which conducts a $10 background check on all gun purchases from gun stores, acknowledges it has a high denial rate. Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the agency, said that its criminal background system, called the TBI Instant Check System, or TICS, is great for recording arrests but doesn’t always get updated as to the outcome of those cases. “Missing dispositions has been an issue with criminal records; however, it has vastly improved over the last 10 years,” Helm said. “When an appeal is filed on a denied transaction, TICS staff diligently tracks down each record from clerks’ offices across the state to locate any missing information, which also updates the criminal history system.” In Armentrout’s case, it was an out-of-state felony fraud charge that ended up being dismissed. He has had a valid concealed weapon carry permit for years, so he has already gone through the state’s background system. But he still has had to put up with rejected gun purchases. “Apparently, Tennessee is doing something different, because I’ve never had any problems in the state of Washington, in the state of South Carolina, in the state of Ohio,” he said. “It tells me Tennessee is doing something odd with what they’re doing with background checks. Or it points to the fact that these records are not real accurate, they’re not up to date.”
In 2010, 12,728 gun purchases were denied in Tennessee alone, according to the Department of Justice report. Of those, more than 7,700 denials were appealed — about 4,400 of those successful. In all, about 57 percent of appeals were successful. Most of the denials are due to some sort of apparent criminal background, whether it be a felony or a domestic violence charge, according to the federal report. Curtis Dodson has seen firsthand the inconvenience of these frequent denials. Dodson has owned The Armory gun store in Lebanon since 2006. When a customer wants to buy a gun, Dodson checks to make sure he or she is a Tennessee resident, takes the $10 background check fee, logs on to the TBI’s system and plugs in the customer’s information. Results typically take a few minutes, tops, though the system has been prone to stall for hours at a time, he said. When a customer is denied, Dodson said, there’s never an explanation. And while he will give customers all the information to file an appeal, they sometimes hold it against the store owner. “Not only is it frustrating, it’s embarrassing,” Dodson said. “That’s probably the biggest source of frustration. We may not get that customer back.”
Since the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., there have been efforts to introduce federal legislation tightening control on gun purchases. One proposal calls for universal background checks. Under current law, private sales don’t require a background check. That sometimes includes vendors at gun shows who operate as private sellers — the “gun show loophole.” The current proposal would require background checks even on private sales between neighbors. While the measure is still being debated in Congress, it picked up key support last week from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group that represents major gun manufacturers. But if universal background checks pass, that could spell even more headaches for Tennessee gun buyers. The state had a flood of background checks to run in the past two months because of worries that new gun legislation might restrict certain semi-automatic rifles. Dodson said the volume made background checks even more of a problem. The TBI said it dealt well with the increase in gun sales, which saw jumps after Obama was elected in 2008, after he was re-elected in 2012 and after the Newtown shootings. The agency said it will be able to handle additional increases if universal background checks pass. “It would alter our staffing model a bit — requiring more work of staff and shifting the routine processing to the call takers,” Helm said. She couldn’t offer a guess as to how much staffing would be needed in that scenario but said that inconveniences caused by erroneous denials are ultimately worth it. “Waiting on the final outcome of an appeal might be an inconvenience on a small percentage of individuals,” Helm said, “but that outweighs the risk of releasing a firearm to someone who is ineligible to purchase one.”
Florida Atlantic University professor on administrative leave after “Jesus” stomping www.privateofficer.com
Deandre Poole, who teaches an intercultural communications class at FAU, used the exercise as part of a chapter dealing with the power of certain words, according to Boca Raton’s News Channel 5.
SEATTLE WA March 15 2013 – A series of new surveillance cameras are expected to be installed along Seattle’s waterfront by the end of the month. Police say it’s about public safety, but some residents feel it’s an invasion of privacy.
The information is immediately sent to laptops in officers’ cars and they can respond immediately. Chief Dan House said if the person driving the car has a criminal history, officers can also run surveillance on the person in an effort to prevent crime. However, he thinks the system will act as a deterrent to keep bad guys from coming to the community. “People know if they come here they are going to get caught,” he said. “So, people who come here to enjoy our beach are going to come here and feel safe because the chance of them being the victim of a crime is less than what it would have been.” House said Wrightsville Beach is a perfect place to use the system, because there is only one way in and one way out of town. However, he said Raleigh Police also have the software. When it comes to concerns that have been raised over privacy, he said there is no expectation of privacy with license plates. He said they could do the same thing by having officers sit at the bridge and run plates. However, that would take a lot of manpower. House believes having the system is like adding extra officers to the force.
DURHAM, N.C. Feb 19 2013 — A judge in Durham Monday declined to approve a temporary restraining order that would have forced NewHope Church on Fayetteville Road to turn down the volume while it battles neighbors over the sound of its worship services in court.
Judge Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins did approve a request from the church’s attorneys to inspect two homes near the church and test for sound levels.
In a lawsuit filed last month, neighbors of the church accuse it of holding performances and practice sessions at its facility that are “akin to rock concerts.”
Nine families living in The Hills at Southpoint subdivision have joined the suit.
The temporary restraining order requested by the neighbors would have prohibited the church from playing amplified music until the lawsuit is resolved.
The lawsuit isn’t the only legal problem the church faces. In December, police cited the church under Durham’s noise ordinance for sound considered “unreasonable and disturbing.”
A hearing on that is set for Tuesday.
The church claims it’s tried to work with its neighbors by soundproofing walls, lowering sound levels, and changing worship times.
Phillipsburg NJ Jan 17 2013 A Phillipsburg, N.J. substitute teacher has been terminated for the year after sharing a Bible verse with a student and subsequently giving the child a Bible.
The school board’s Monday decision follows an October incident in which Walter Tutka quoted the Bible saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” to a student who was last in line to leave the classroom, WFMZ reports. The student reportedly inquired about the origin of the statement numerous times before Tutka produced his personal copy of the New Testament to show the student.
When the student mentioned he didn’t own a Bible, Tutka offered his, Fox News reports. The student accepted the gift, but later returned it to Tutka, according to The Express-Times.
District officials say Tutka broke two district policies: one that prohibits employees from distributing religious literature on school grounds, and another that requires educators remain neutral while discussing religious materials.
Tutka’s supporters, however, argue that the Bible exchange was a gift, and not “distribution,” adding that the school board is violating its own religion policy by being hostile toward a particular religion through terminating Tutka. Linda Hoyt, pastor of the 11th Hour Church in Hackettstown, told The Express-Times that Judeo-Christian beliefs were a key part of American history and the country’s development.
“History will vindicate that he has a heart for these kids and he did the right thing,” Hoyt said of Tutka.
Tutka’s removal from the district’s approved substitutes list is only for the remainder of the current school year. District officials declined to comment on whether Tutka could reapply next year.
The case in New Jersey comes as a Republican state senator in Indiana wants the state’s public school students to begin each day by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Denise Kruse, chair of the Indiana Senate’s education committee, introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow Indiana’s school districts to require recitation of the prayer, “in order that each student recognizes the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen.”
New York Jan 8 2013
A civilian flipping off a police officer can’t be cause for a vehicle stop or arrest, a federal appellate court has ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”
The ruling conforms to existing legal precedent, said Devallis Rutledge, POLICE’s legal expert.
“You can contact the person,” Rutledge said. “You cannot detain the person. It doesn’t provide grounds for arrest. It’s just not criminal.”
In the most recent case, John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz had sued two St. Johnsville (N.Y.) Police officers who arrested Swartz in May 2006 after he flipped off an officer who was using a radar device at an intersection. Swartz was later charged with a violation of New York’s disorderly conduct statute, but the charges were dismissed, reports the Huffington Post.
Richard Insogna, the officer who stopped Swartz and his wife when they arrived at their destination, claimed he pulled the couple over because he believed Swartz was “trying to get my attention for some reason.”
Prior courts have ruled that contempt of cop is protected First Amendment speech. The U.S. Supreme Court in City of Houston v. Hill (1987) ruled that the First Amendment “protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers.”
The 9th Circuit court confirmed this ruling in 1990′s Duran v. the City of Douglas, Arizona.
Federal judge issues restraining order against state law aimed at Backpage.com www.privateofficer.com
Nashville TN Jan 7 2013 U.S. District Court Judge John Nixon issued a temporary restraining order against the state of Tennessee yesterday, preventing them from enforcing a law aimed at websites — specifically Backpage.com — which sell ads that critics say promote child sex trafficking.
The law, known as Tennessee Public Charter 1075, makes it illegal to sell advertisements that “would appear to a reasonable person” to include a “commercial sex act … with a minor.”
Backpage.com sued state attorney general Robert Cooper Jr., claiming that the new law violating the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the First and 14th amendments, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In issuing the order, Nixon agreed on all counts, writing that Tennessee law “flatly conflicts with federal law.”
“The Constitution tells us that — when freedom of speech hangs in the balance — the state may not use a butcher knife on a problem that requires a scalpel to fix,” Nixon wrote in the order. “Yet, this appears to be what the Tennessee legislature has done in passing the law at issue.”
Nixon notes that the General Assembly passed the law “with no substantive debate and no discussion by legislators,” except for a lone request from a state senator to ask the attorney general to verify the law’s constitutionality.
Nixon’s ruling falls in line with a U.S. District Court of Western Washington ruling that also issued a restraining order against a state law in Backpage.com’s favor. Nixon called the legislation passed in Tennessee a “near-carbon-copy” of an early draft of the Washington legislation.
The two sides presented oral arguments to Nixon in August.
Jim Grant, a Seattle-based attorney for Backpage.com, said he was reviewing the order and wouldn’t comment on the order until after he contacted his client.
A spokeswoman from the state attorney general’s office said they were reviewing the matter.
Source-Nashville City Paper
Washington DC Jan 3 2013 The allegation — a young woman sexually assaulted on a bar during an unsanctioned after-hours party — was as serious as the police department’s action was swift: Bohemian Caverns, a popular D.C. jazz club, was shuttered for 96 hours.
When D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier shut down the U Street NW bar last month, it was the 15th time that she had issued such a decree last year, four more than in 2011. It was the first time the chief’s power to close a club was exercised after anything other than a shooting, a stabbing or drug trafficking.
A 2005 District law affords Lanier unusually broad authority over the city’s bars and nightclubs, a responsibility generally left to the agency that regulates liquor licenses. Officials say the statute, which allows police to close establishments for days, is meant to be firm. But the chief’s use of that power has renewed discussion of the policy as the city’s growth spurs economic development but also causes worries about crowds and crime.
Lanier denied that she is embarking on a bar-closing binge. She said she uses her authority — which can cost establishments dearly in revenue and unwanted publicity — deliberately. The opinions of others — including elected officials and some in the business community — range from supportive to concerned.
The viewpoints of some key players remain unclear. Neither the city agency that regulates establishments that serve alcoholic beverages nor the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, which represents many of those establishments, responded to repeated requests for comment. Many bar and club operators expressed reluctance to speak frankly for fear of appearing to excuse crime.
Lanier called the latest incident to lead to a club’s closing — the early December sexual assault at Bohemian Caverns — “egregious.”
“We had management and employees who allowed people to drink inside a bar after it had been closed,” Lanier said. “That incident never should have happened.”
A co-owner of the club — located a block from Indulj, a club that Lanier closed after three men were shot outside — threw himself on the mercy of the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board during a December meeting.
“All of us are embarrassed and angry at the employees who violated our trust,” co-owner Omrao Brown said. “I apologize to everyone here.”
The ABC Board allowed Bohemian Caverns to reopen after Brown revised his security plan, ordered guards to stay until the staff had cleaned up after closing and fired a manager and two employees. By then, the club had been closed for six days, and two concerts had been canceled. No arrests have been made.
Lanier attributes the closings to the proliferation of new venues, a result of the growth of the city’s night life. She has targeted only a small fraction of the city’s more than 1,700 licensed establishments, a point her critics concede.
“I don’t always close a bar,” Lanier said. “To me, it has to be very clear that there has been some action that management did or didn’t do that resulted in an injury to the victim.”
Andrew J. Kline, a lobbyist who represents Bohemian Caverns and many other bars and clubs before the ABC Board, questioned what he called Lanier’s overuse of the law. “I am of the opinion that this is an emergency police power and should be used sparingly and thoughtfully when there is an actual imminent threat to public safety,” Kline said in an interview.
“Certainly public safety is paramount, but the reaction should not be knee-jerk,” Kline said. “There should be an actual ongoing threat to public safety. . . . We don’t close the bus system when there’s a killing aboard a Metrobus.”
Some business leaders disagree. “It’s the chief’s obligation to maintain public safety,” said Robin Eve Jasper, president of the NoMA Business Improvement District. “Unhappily, a number of the club operators are not sufficiently attuned to the safety of their establishments.”
The ABC Board’s role
Ruthanne Miller, who chairs the ABC Board, declined through a spokesman to comment on Lanier’s use of the closure law or on how the board deals with bars and clubs the chief targets.
Enforcement related to police action is a small part of the board’s role. Each year, it acts on hundreds of reports concerning liquor-selling establishments, generally striking deals to improve security or correct other problems.
Since 2009, the board has revoked the license of only one establishment — a bar in Northwest Washington tied to cocaine sales — that Lanier had closed temporarily. A club that Lanier ordered closed twice in two years, once after a machete attack, remains open with no additional sanctions imposed. Lanier had recommended that the owners lose their liquor license.
The Emergency Suspension of Liquor Licenses Act, enacted two years before Lanier became chief, gives the police chief power to close an establishment for up to four days, after which the ABC Board decides what will be done.
Other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, have similar laws, but few, if any, grant such far-reaching discretion. In Baltimore, for example, the police commissioner can padlock a club only after a public hearing.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the U Street corridor, said he wrote the bill to be strong.
“We don’t want crimes committed in bars, and we don’t want after-hours activity,” Graham said. Graham said he has “no reason to question” Lanier’s closure orders.
Inside and outside
Bar and club owners, however, say it is unfair to hold them accountable for incidents that occur outside their clubs. Police say that many incidents start inside the clubs and that shoving people outside doesn’t excuse the clubs.
The nightclub Fur, in NoMa, was shuttered in 2011 after the machete attack and, again, in November after a patron and a security guard were stabbed during a fight. The owner, who did not respond to a request for comment, had told police that the guard was hurt when he slipped and fell on broken glass, according to an investigator’s report to the ABC Board.
Fur holds more than 1,200 people, and on busy nights hires 47 security guards. The ABC Board opened 16 case files against the club last year; it fined the owner once, for $3,250, and suspended the license for four days for violating an agreement to improve security.
The other cases — which included incidents of robbery, gun possession and assault, according to police reports — received no action.
NoMa is home to several large nightclubs, which were there before the area sprouted new condominium developments, stores and restaurants. Police have noted tension between club owners and the new arrivals.
“We love night life in the city,” Jasper said. “But there has been a deafness to the issue that has been created in the way some clubs are licensed and in the way some operators are allowed to run them. . . . I don’t know why it’s only Chief Lanier who is paying attention.”
American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuit against 38 states over use of license plate readers www.privateofficer.com
Boulder CO Aug 18 2012 The University of Colorado will segregate students who have concealed-weapons permits in special dorms, but their firearms will have to be locked up before bedtime, according to campus police.
University officials have amended their student housing contract at its Boulder and Colorado Springs campuses to accommodate students who are 21 years or older and have concealed-weapons carry permits, said Ryan Huff, public information officer with the University of Colorado’s campus police in Boulder.
“If you have a permit, you can carry a concealed weapon on campus, as long as its hidden away from view, and you can even have it with you in class,” Huff told NBC News. “What you can not do is have it on you at a ticketed event, such as football games, or in any of the residence halls on campus.”
The university’s policy change comes after the Colorado Supreme Court upheld an appeals-court decision in March that struck down the university’s ban on guns.
“I believe we have taken reasonable steps to adhere to the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court, while balancing that with the priority of providing a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff,” CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in a statement on the university’s website.
Orlando Fla Aug 18 2012 A federal jury Friday found that an Orlando police officer used excessive force when he took down an 84-year-old in a parking lot almost two years ago, breaking the elderly man’s neck.
After deliberating for roughly three hours, the panel determined Officer Travis Lamont violated Daniel Daley’s civil rights and awarded the World War II veteran $880,000 in damages.
Daley had little to say about the verdict as left the Orlando federal courthouse.
“I think they’re right,” he said, adding that he doesn’t care about the money.
When asked what the lesson is to be learned, Daley replied: “Behave.”
Daley’s lawsuit against Lamont stems from an encounter he had with the officer in a parking lot off North Orange Avenue on Sept. 18, 2010.
Daley, who was upset his car was going to be towed, admitted he repeatedly tapped Lamont on his arm while asking the officer for assistance in the dispute.
Daley, now 86, said the tapping was only intended as a friendly gesture. The tow-truck driver also testified Daley repeatedly tapped him as he inquired why his car was being towed.
But Lamont told jurors the encounter with Daley escalated when the elderly man threatened to knock him out while simultaneously cocking his fist up to his chest.
The city claims Daley was drunk and belligerent — his blood alcohol level was 0.162 — and Lamont performed the armed-bar takedown on Daley because he was in fear.
Lamont, now 28, and city attorneys left the courthouse Friday without commenting to reporters.
“Every day police officers face difficult circumstances and make on-the-spot decisions in order to ensure the safety of our community. In this particular case, Mr. Daley admitted to lunging at and touching the officer at a time he had an elevated blood alcohol level,” Orlando Police Department spokesman Sgt. Vince Ogburn said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “In this situation, the officer had to make the split-second decision of how much force to use in order to de-escalate the situation without harming the person involved.”
Jurors heard testimony from witnesses and use-of-force experts throughout the week.
Witnesses who had been with Daley at The Caboose bar in the moments leading up to the controversial takedown testified they never saw Daley make a fist or make any threats toward Lamont. Those witnesses said they saw Lamont flip Daley and saw the elderly man’s head strike the ground with his legs straight in the air.
Lamont’s backup officer, Natasha Endrina, told the jury she saw Daley lunge at Lamont’s neck. But she didn’t see the takedown maneuver because she was in the process of getting out of her car.
Experts brought in by Daley’s legal team said Lamont’s actions were excessive and improper.
Criminologist George Kirkham called Lamont’s armed-bar takedown “very extreme and unwarranted.” Lamont never threatened to arrest Daley if he didn’t stop touching him. He also did not try other tactics such as threatening him with chemical spray, a Taser or other measures, Kirkham said.
Daley initially filed suit against the city of Orlando and Lamont, but the charges against the city were dismissed this week — making Lamont the only defendant and focus of jury’s decision.
“The federal court judge completely validated the City’s training, policies and actions in this case by dismissing the City from all claims,” Ogburn said via email. “As for Officer Lamont, we respect the jury’s decision and are pleased that Mr. Daley has made a complete recovery.”
During his closing argument Friday morning, Jason Recksiedler, one of Daley’s attorneys, told the jury the case was about excessive force. He described Lamont as having “sudden and uncontrolled rage.”
Daley, Recksiedler said, wasn’t angry with Lamont. But Lamont was irritated that Daley kept patting him on the arm. Recksiedler said Daley was no gang member or street thug. He asked the jury what a reasonable officer would be afraid of.
Daley, the attorney said, was “just an old man upset about his car being towed.”
Meanwhile, Lamont’s attorney, Dennis O’Connor, told the jury the officer was cordial and he didn’t intend to injure Daley.
“At worst, ladies and gentlemen, this was a mistake,” O’Connor said.
Daley’s attorneys asked the jury for more than $750,000 in damages, which includes past and future medical expenses.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the $880,000 will be funded.
Heather Fagan, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said city officials are evaluating their options related to the case. The city is self-insured up to a certain limit and carries private insurance for anything over that amount.
Fagan said officials have not determined how the insurance in this case will be applied.
That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?
Carter filed a lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated, and his case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. This week, Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union filed briefs supporting what they say is Carter’s constitutional right to express his opinion, signaling the case’s potentially precedent-setting nature.
The interest was sparked by a lower court’s ruling that “liking” a page does not warrant protection because it does not involve “actual statements.” If the ruling is upheld, the ACLU and others worry, a host of Web-based, mouse-click actions, such as re-tweeting (hitting a button to post someone else’s tweet on your Twitter account), won’t be protected as free speech.
“We think it’s important as new technologies emerge . . . that the First Amendment is interpreted to protect those new ways of communicating,” said Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Pressing a ‘like’ button is analogous to other forms of speech, such as putting a button on your shirt with a candidate’s name on it.”
Facebook’s like button appears next to many different types of content on the site, from photos of a friend’s kids to an organization’s page to news articles. When someone clicks the button, an announcement is posted on his or her profile saying that the user likes that piece of content. The like is usually displayed to the user’s Facebook friends as well. Facebook says there are more than 3 billion likes and comments registered every day.
The like controversy is just one of many thorny issues surrounding social media in the workplace.
In April, the Marine Corps said it would discharge a sergeant who criticized President Barack Obama on his Facebook page — including allegedly putting the president’s face on a poster for the movie “Jackass.” And last fall, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a New York nonprofit illegally fired five workers who criticized a colleague on the site.
The board, a federal agency that brings labor-related complaints on behalf of workers, said it had seen the number of cases involving social media skyrocket from zero to more than 100 over five years.
Carter’s troubles began in the summer of 2009, when longtime Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts was running for reelection, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Newport News, Va. in March 2011. Roberts learned that some of his employees, including Carter, were actively supporting another high-ranking Sheriff’s Office official, Jim Adams, in the election.
Carter liked Adams’s election page on Facebook, according to court records. When Roberts learned of the campaigning on the site, he became “incensed” and called a meeting of employees, according to the lawsuit. He allegedly told them that he would be sheriff for “as long as I want it.”
After the meeting, the lawsuit says, Roberts approached Carter and told him: “You made your bed, now you’re going to lie in it — after the election you’re gone.”
About a month after Roberts was reelected, Carter and five other employees who supported Adams or did not actively campaign for Roberts were fired, according to the lawsuit. The other employees are also parties in the lawsuit. Carter and his attorneys did not return calls for comment.
In filings in response to the suit, Roberts’s attorney disputes Carter’s version of events and says the firings were not politically motivated. The attorney did not return a call for comment, and Roberts could not be reached.
“All employment decisions involving plaintiffs were constitutional, lawful, not the result of any improper purpose or motive, and not in retaliation for political expression,” the sheriff’s attorney wrote in the filings.
Roberts said that some of the fired deputies had unsatisfactory work performance and that the campaigning had disrupted the workplace.
U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson issued a summary judgement against Carter and the other plaintiffs in January. In his explanation of the ruling on Carter’s claims, he dismissed the argument that a Facebook like is constitutionally protected speech.
“Merely ‘liking’ a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection,” Jackson wrote. “In cases where courts have found that constitutional protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record.”
Facebook took issue with the decision, saying in its filings that likes are the “21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.” (Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)
Jackson’s decision has also drawn criticism from some legal experts. Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, said firing government employees for speaking out about matters of public concern is generally unconstitutional.
He said there are some exceptions, such as when a high-ranking employee’s political affiliations are relevant to the job, or if the speech greatly disrupts the workplace or diminishes public confidence in the government agency.
In the Sheriff’s Office case, Volokh said, Jackson upset a precedent with deep roots in U.S. law.
“The judge’s rationale that a like on Facebook is insufficient speech is not right,” Volokh said. “The First Amendment protects very brief statements as much as very long ones. It even protects symbolic speech, like burning a flag.”
Volokh, like the ACLU, says liking is similar to putting a bumper sticker on a car, so it should be protected. He said he thinks the 4th Circuit will probably overturn the district judge’s ruling — but if it does not, it would be a significant moment.
“If the 4th Circuit agrees with the judge — that liking is not protected speech — that would suggest an overturning of precedents,” Volokh said. “It would be interesting to see what the Supreme Court would do with that decision.”
Washington state’s highest court rules school resource officers must have probable cause to search www.privateofficer.com
Bellevue WA Aug 5 2012 A school resource officer did not have probable cause to search a student’s backpack and, thus, an air pistol that turned up had to be suppressed in a criminal proceeding, Washington state’s highest court has ruled.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the school resource officer was not a school official and thus the more lenient standard of “reasonable suspicion” applied to searches by school personnel did not apply.
The Aug. 2 ruling in Washington v. Meneese stems from a February 2009 incident at Robinswood High School in Bellevue, Wash. School Resource Officer Michael Fry, of the Bellevue police department, spotted a student in a school restroom holding a bag of marijuana. Fry took the student, Jamar B.D. Meneese, to a school office where he placed him under arrest and handcuffed him. Fry then opened and searched the student’s locked backpack, which contained an air pistol.
Meneese, who was evidently an adult at the time, was convicted in a state trial court of possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana and unlawfully carrying a dangerous weapon at school. The student challenged the weapons charge based on the officer’s alleged lack of probable cause to search his backpack. Under relevant case law, the officer would have had to have a warrant to open the locked bag absent the “school exception,” or reasonable suspicion standard.
Lower courts rejected the argument, but in its decision this week, the Washington Supreme Court sided with the student. The majority said there where overwhelming indications that Fry was acting as a law enforcement officer, not a school official, in conducting the search.
“Fry’s job … concern[s] the discovery and prevention of crime, and he has no authority to discipline students,” said the majority opinion by Justice Susan Owens. “He is a uniformed police officer who responds to, and addresses, incidents occurring on school grounds. Moreover, his role as SRO does not exempt him from other police duties as he can still be called upon to answer police matters unrelated to the school.”
This is in contrast to searches conducted by school administrators. The underlying rationale for applying the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion is that “teachers and administrators have a substantial interest ‘in maintaining discipline in the classroom and on school grounds’ that often requires swift action,” the state high court said, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1985 decision in New Jersey v. T.L.O.
The Washington Supreme Court majority noted that its decision ran counter to rulings in several other states that have treated school resource officers as school officials and have not required probable cause for their searches.
But the Washington court said several factors required its own ruling, including language in the Washington state constitution that provides stronger protections from illegal searches than that of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. And the specific facts of this case supported the probable cause requirement, as Officer Fry was not trying to further school discipline because he had already placed Meneese under arrest when he conducted the backpack search.
“There was no chance for swift and informal school discipline and further searching primarily promoted criminal prosecution, not education,” the majority said.
Writing for the dissenters, Justice Debra L. Stephens said the school search exception should apply to a search by a school resource officer “so long as it is related to school policy and not merely a subterfuge for unrelated law enforcement activities. This is the view of the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions to have considered the issue.”
“Schools will now be dissuaded from using SROs to detect and intercept violations of school rules or the law,” Stephens said. “Instead, teachers and other school administrators who have reasonable suspicion, but lack probable cause, must conduct such searches themselves. The Constitution does not demand such foolhardiness, nor is it necessarily conducive to respect for student privacy.”
Washington DC July 26 2012 District police cannot interfere with citizens as they photograph or videotape officers performing their jobs in public, according to a new directive issued by Chief Cathy L. Lanier as part of settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The six-page general order, similar to one published by police in Baltimore in November, warns officers that “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”
On Monday, the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union dropped a federal lawsuit filed against D.C. police by Jerome Vorus, a freelance photojournalist who was detained while shooting a traffic stop in Georgetown in June 2010.
Arthur B. Spitzer, the ACLU chapter’s legal director, said Vorus obtained an undisclosed monetary settlement and agreed to the new general order, which was published June 19.
“It tells police to leave people alone,” Spitzer said. “It makes it clear that if a person is in a place that interferes with police operations, the officer can ask or tell them to move to another location, but they can’t tell them to stop taking pictures.”
Gwendolyn Crump, chief spokeswoman for D.C. police, said the new policy is in addition to existing rules governing how officers interact with the news media. “The new general order reaffirms the Metropolitan Police Department’s recognition of the First Amendment rights enjoyed by not only members of the media but the general public as well,” Crump said in a statement.
The issue of police officers seizing cameras and ordering people to stop taking pictures has been a source of conflict for years, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The new policies recognize that cameras are ubiquitous, and that anyone carrying a cellphone is also most likely equipped with a camera.
In 2010, a Maryland judge threw out criminal charges filed under the wiretapping statute against a motorcyclist who recorded his own traffic stop with a helmet-mounted camera and posted it on YouTube.
That same year, Baltimore police seized a cellphone that recorded a disorderly-conduct arrest at the Pimlico Race Course during the Preakness Stakes.
The general order in D.C. makes it clear that citizens with cameras are not permitted to cross police lines, stand in areas not already accessible by the public and cannot interfere with officers doing their jobs.
But it also emphasizes that taking pictures “by itself does not constitute suspicious conduct.” Lanier’s order says that images cannot be deleted “under any circumstances.”
If an officer thinks a citizen has captured images that could be used as evidence, police can ask the person to e-mail such images to the department. If the person refuses, the officer can call a supervisor and seek a warrant to seize the camera or images.
When Rizer complained to the mayor’s office about the arrest, the Point Marion Police Department arrested him at home and charged him with violating Pennsylvania’s wiretap law, which bans audio recording unless all parties consent. The district attorney has since removed the charges and returned Rizer’s cell phone – without the recording. The ACLU argues that Rizer was within his rights to record the officer because “the state’s Wiretap Act does not apply if the person being recorded does not have a reasonable ‘expectation of privacy.’” ACLU cooperating lawyer Glen Downey explained,
“The explosion of technology that allows almost every citizen to document and record the interactions between police and civilians makes it incumbent that both the officers and those seeking to record them understand that officers cannot shield themselves from public scrutiny by invoking wiretap laws. Police officers performing their official duties do not possess the requisite reasonable expectation of privacy necessary to be covered by the statute.”
There have been reports from across the country of police officers interfering with cell phone recording of their actions. Earlier this month, the New York City Police Department put out a flyer warning against a couple who record “stop-and-frisk” searches in the city. New York’s ACLU chapter released a phone app, “Stop-and-Frisk Watch,” to help New Yorkers hold police officers executing these controversial searches accountable.
Last week, New Jersey’s ACLU chapter released a similar app, “Police Tape,” an Android phone app that allows users to discreetly videotape and record police officers. The app also explains American civil rights and allows users to send recordings to ACLU databases for backup storage.