Cop fibs about his identity, then gets promoted

Is there something in the water in New Zealand I don’t know about? Because this is so far “out there” it’s not funny.

The Wellington, New Zealand newspaper The Dominion Post (story posted online by stuff.co.nz) reported on the antics of one officer Aaron Bateman, who apparently had no moral or ethical qualms about fibbing about his identity when stopped for a council bylaws violation (towing a person without an observer). Mr. Bateman gave the name of a friend, who was shocked to get the citation, and Mr. Bateman went as far as to call the incident a “practical joke gone wrong.”

The limit of Mr. Bateman’s punishment by the council was a (NZ)$200 fine on top of the original violation’s (NZ)$200 fine. From the article:

Rotorua area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said Mr Bateman did not commit a criminal offence, but acknowledged he had breached a council bylaw.

“The actions of the officer involved were clearly not of the high standards the police expect, and he was subject to an internal code of conduct investigation.”

Mr Horne said he was “bound by employment law”, which meant he could not reveal the outcome of the investigation.

But this is the most shocking part:

Three months after the incident, sources have revealed Mr Bateman has been promoted from constable to sergeant.

Promoted? Seriously?

I’d like to know what they were thinking when they decided to promote someone who had committed a breach of the public trust, criminal offense or not. This course of events is outrageous enough reading about it thousands of miles away. Is it any wonder we have cops thinking the badge is a “get away with it” card all over the globe, when things like this happen?

The right thing to do, at minimum, is strip Mr. Bateman of his promotion immediately and apologize to the citizens of Wellington and the Rotorua district. I have serious doubts that someone willing to lie to escape a small fine has any business carrying a badge and a gun and enforcing the law.

(Another) trigger-happy cop vs. defenseless dog

This is rather old (most of the interesting events were from 2008 and 2009), but in the same vein as a very similar post I made here a little over a year ago. This time it’s a police officer stopping to ask for directions, and leaving with one less bullet in the chamber. That bullet was fired at a dog for no good reason.

This YouTube video and this post on The New World Order Report tell the disturbing tale of Tammy Christopher and her dog. Tammy sued Grady County, the State of Oklahoma, and Deputy Sean Knight for the wrongful shooting of her dog.

Thankfully, the senseless and brutal slaying of Tammy’s beloved pet was captured on her security system’s video recorder. So there is undisputable evidence that Deputy Knight is flatly lying when he says the dog charged at him.

Even more disturbing is that Grady County wanted to shut Tammy up, with a feeble attempt to buy her silence. Money is easy to come by; publicity is priceless. Especially if it’s bad publicity against someone who has committed a tort and trying to avoid liability. The county appears to have later settled for $15,000 (Tammy’s original claim was for $25,000).

Even more disgusting is that Deputy Knight not only stayed on the job, but was promoted, according to this blog post from Classically Liberal. However Deputy Knight would make headlines again for falsifying a time sheet and getting fired for it.

This is an old story. And the unanswered question I have is: Where did Mr. Knight wind up? Is he still a cop? How does Grady County justify not only not firing him after this, but promoting him?

Let’s see: cop shoots dog, gets away with it, and gets promoted, and later gets fired from a security job for falsifying a timesheet. And people still wonder why I distrust law enforcement.

It’s a police badge, not a license to shoot defenseless dogs

This video was recorded in 2010 February in Columbia, Missouri, documenting what happens during the execution of a search warrant on the home of Jonathan and Brittany Whitworth. It may (in fact, it almost certainly will) be upsetting to dog lovers, or for that matter, any human being who places at least some value in life, whether it be human, canine, or otherwise. It’s not graphic, but the audio track clearly records the very disturbing thing that happens to this owner’s two loyal dogs at the cold, brutal hands of these police officers serving the city of Columbia, Missouri:

There’s also a blog entry on norml.org about this case.

The worst part of this is that the raid was supposedly for a small amount of marijuana, one of the least dangerous drugs that in fact stands the best chances of having its prohibition ended during my lifetime. And they shot the dogs with a child present in the house.

I can’t imagine what these cops could possibly have been thinking to do something this mean and cruel. Frankly, I don’t care if the guy was a wanted fugitive with an arrest warrants for multiple murder charges; that is no excuse to kill defenseless animals like this. One was a pit bull, which has a bit of a reputation as a violent breed of dog. But the other dog, the one that it sounds like they shot three times? It was a Corgi. Yes, a Corgi!

Not surprisingly, the family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbia for this despicable, inexcusable, and unprofessional act. Thankfully someone was recording video of this, so there may be no mistake about what happened.

I’ve ranted before on what I think of drug prohibition in general. This is the best example yet on why the madness needs to end, and end now. Maybe it’s too much for this society to realize that drug prohibition in general is a failed policy, but certainly the case for legalizing marijuana is not that hard to make.

And it would seem others agree. From Russ Belville’s Huffington Post article in May:

P.P.S. Paul Armentano reminds me that in 2004, seven in ten Columbia, Missouri residents voted for the end of the “arrest, prosecution, punishment, or sanction” citizens for their medical use of marijuana, and six in ten voted for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use.  So the dog was murdered and the family terrorized over something only 30%-40% of residents believe is a crime.

So much for rule by the majority. It is my sincere hope that justice is served for the Whitworth family by a judgment in their favor and that other citizens fed up with such blatant violations of the public trust file suit as well.

Above the law: HPD officers told to ignore subpoenas

A recent Houston Chronicle story outlines the deserved low public opinion of a new Houston Police Department court appearance policy. Specifically, HPD officers are instructed not to show up in court until 1pm on trial days, even if the subpoena says 8am or 10:30am.

Unlike the police officers, defendants (the citizens on trial) are not allowed to leave the courtroom except for bathroom breaks or to put money in the parking meters. (Or possibly for lunch at noon, though the story does not mention this in particular.) Of particular note is this part of the story (emphasis added):

[Mark] Adlam [a defendant awaiting his speeding ticket trial that day] said that under the previous policy, his lawyer would quickly know if the complaining officer was available to testify. If an officer did not show, Adlam said, prosecutors would have no choice but to dismiss the ticket.

[Gary Blankinship, t]he head of the Houston Police Officers Union said the new policy — which was distributed late Friday and took effect Monday — will lead to massive gridlock of the municipal court system, as well as exposing officers to possible arrest for ignoring a lawful subpoena.

Normally I do not so readily concur with someone representing law enforcement, But when the HPOU leader sees the potential for officers to be arrested for ignoring the subpoenas, it’s obvious the policy is on its face illegal, in addition to being bad for the public opinion of Houston’s government.

Specifically, that opinion is that the potentially five-hour-long wait now encourages more citizens to just plead guilty so they can go back to work. Note that if a defendant does not show for trial, they are subject to an immediate citation for failure to appear (class C misdemeanor). Not surprisingly, the cops can come and go as they wish.

To his credit, the HPOU president, Gary Blankinship, has told officers to do what the subpoena says and disregard an “illegal order” by the chief. I admire and respect that, but at the same time, I recognize that an unwillingness to back down to Mayor Annise Parker and Chief of Police Charles McClelland is bound to come with its own share of consequences. Indeed, doing the right thing is against one’s best interests so often it’s not funny.

In case anyone’s wondering, this kind of thing is why I did not vote for Annise Parker for mayor. I would like to think Gene Locke would have handled this better.

Another look at photographer’s rights

Gizmodo recently ran a story (which in turn drew on and linked to a Popular Mechanics story) on what they termed “photography bullying” or the intimidation of photographers taking still pictures and/or video.

One of the more interesting parts of the story is a quote from Bruce Schneier, well-known security expert currently employed by British Telecom. From the Gizmodo article:

As Bruce Schneier, head of security technology for British Telecom points out, the notion that terrorist conspirators photograph their targets is an overblown one: “Look at the 9/11 attacks, the Moscow and London subway bombings, the Fort Hood shooting—no photos.” Rather, [Popular Mechanics writer Glenn Harlan] Reynolds argues, a camera in the hand of every pedestrian can only serve to foil potential plotters.

The latter story contains a chilling, yet almost comical, example of just how bad things are getting:

Not long ago, an Amtrak representative did an interview with local TV station Fox 5 in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station to explain that you don’t need a permit to take pictures there–only to be approached by a security guard who ordered them to stop filming without a permit.

The Popular Mechanics story also mentions the Anthony Graber case yet again. Anthony faces 16 years in prison for recording his own arrest under Maryland’s wiretapping laws. If upheld, this would essentially mean law enforcement has the right to privacy when arresting someone in a public place, and the right of the common citizen to document things like the Rodney King beatings no longer exists. To say the least, I find this frightening, and I believe you should too.

I find it ironic that an obvious video camera or DSLR merits harassment, yet those looking to do reconnaissance for a future crime or terrorist act would likely use an inconspicuous pocket sized point-and-shoot or even a cell phone camera. Usually, the odds are against being hassled by cops when using one of the latter two devices, as the assumption made in those cases is usually “tourist” as opposed to “terrorist.”

Anyway, I’ll close with reminders to the fellow photographers out there, paraphrased from the articles (this is primarily for the US, the rules might be different elsewhere):

  • If you’re on public property, it is the rule, not the exception, that photography is allowed.
  • If you are on (someone else’s) private property and you are hassled by security or police, politely ask on what legal basis they are ordering you to stop taking pictures, and be ready to either call a real police officer (for security) or ask to speak to a supervisor (for police).
  • You never have a legal duty to delete pictures or video already taken and should never do so on the order of security or police officers.