Jilted by Taser… It’s Such a lonely feeling.

If you want a good laugh, follow Taser on twitter.  It’s not that they’re funny. It’s that their twitter account is such a blatant, one-sided view of their products.  Mention Taser in a positive light, and their Twitter will scream it to the world. Ask them about their products electrocuting people suspected of minor violations and, apparently, the account can’t hear you.

Last week some random guy on youtube “liked” a video involving Taser, and tweeted about it:

Of course, nobody says anything positive about Taser without Taser telling the world. So Taser retweeted it.  Because I follow Taser, it popped up in my twitter feed. I loved it. I loved it because it couldn’t have been more perfect.  From the screen capture of a gigantic African American man, shirt off, muscles ripped, knife in hand, to the caption using “cop talk” saying the man was “instantly incapacitated” as opposed to something more mundane like “electro-shocked to hell.” Screenshot from 2014-10-20 09:41:00 I was so impressed by the presentation that I couldn’t resist watching.  Would this giant, scary African American man kill the would-be-cop, or would the cop prevail? Before I could even get to the end I was distracted. This video kept referring to the Taser as a “less-than-lethal option.”  Odd, I thought, because I know they kill people. You know they kill people. By now, even Taser has to know they kill people- hundreds of people. So, I “mentioned” that to the fine twitter folks at Taser:

Much to my excitement, they answered back!

Very interesting, I thought to myself. Taser isn’t saying their product isn’t lethal. They’re saying that they’re just using the language the government uses.  Even if their product has killed hundreds of people they can still market it as “less-than-lethal” or “non-lethal” because the government does. Putting my Philosophy degree to good use for the first time since 1996, though, I decided I needed to weed through the Continue reading “Jilted by Taser… It’s Such a lonely feeling.”

If Richard Sherman Can’t Do It, Neither Can The Police.

Richard Sherman might not be a class act, but he’s going to the Superbowl.  As I’m sure you’ve seen on Twitter, or Facebook or even (gasp!) live TV, he had a moment after last nights NFC conference football game to reflect on his performance.  In an increasingly rare sports moment, he spoke from the heart rather than rattle off a string of sports clichés and PR sounding babble.  It went down like this:

To recap, a man trained to act like a human missile made the biggest play of his life in the biggest game of his life and moved his team on to the biggest stage in sports… all against his team’s arch nemesis.  And everybody on the internet is all, “Like, OMG! Can you believe the football man talked like that?”

I’m not saying he should have come across the way he did. I’m just saying that I’m not surprised.

Bragging, in general, isn’t a good idea.

People don’t seem to care when it’s not athletes, though.  Twitter doesn’t go nuts when it’s police, prosecutors, or your county board.

Nobody likes patting itself on the back in public more than the government.  I don’t get it.  I’m clearly in the minority, though. If it annoyed “the masses” as much as it annoyed me, it would stop happening, right?

The fact is that the only difference between what Richard Sherman did and what your local police do is that his message wasn’t filtered through a trained public relations department.  Your local police department, no matter how small, has a public relations contact person.  If it’s a bigger department it’s likely got an entire division devoted to public relations.

For a lot of those departments, public relations (or, as I call it , the bragging department) is working around the clock to let you know how great their wing of government is.  They’re pushing out weekly lists of who was arrested.  They’re also letting you know how awesome they are on twitter and facebook:

Worst of all, they are constantly churning out packaged press releases.  It’s like they think we didn’t know they’d be working if they didn’t constantly tell us that they’re working.

press The Richard Sherman thing is worse, though, right? I mean he called out Michael Crabtree and went psycho on live TV. These media releases are tasteful, tactful, and more well done.  So, it’s different.

Wrong.  While Richard Sherman’s delivery might be worse, he wasn’t using my tax money to tell me he was doing his job.  He’s also headed to the Superbowl.

How many of the media releases and police reports you read about are merely talking about arrests?  Most of them. Nearly every single one of them when it comes to the police.  The Superbowl of police work isn’t an arrest. It’s an arrest that sticks.

So, bragging about arrests is wasteful unless all those arrests lead to convictions.  Of course, they don’t.  When they don’t, the police aren’t exactly issuing press releases and bragging on twitter.

Your neighbor who just had is name blasted all over the press because your police department arrested him… how good was the police work on his case?  You’ll never know- unless, perhaps, if he’s convicted.  If Sherman loses the Superbowl the entire world will know he’s a blowhard. When your neighbor is found not guilty, the police and prosecutors won’t use your tax dollars to say a damn thing.

Where’s the twitter outrage for that?

Harriet Is Dead: When parking in the snow is outlawed, only outlaws will park in the snow.

Guys, Harriet has died.  This is very sad news.  She didn’t go out doing what she loved. She didn’t go down fighting.  She quietly rolled away in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

I loved that Ford E250 cargo van.  Yes, she was white.  Yes, she had a sliding door.  Yes, she was what people around the neighborhood horrificly referred to as a “molester van” or a “creeper van.”

Harriet in Wisconsin
Harriet in Wisconsin

I still loved that van.

It was a sadly short relationship for Harriet and I- we only came together in June.  Even so, we had some great times together.  In July we spent a week hauling The Boss, and Bacon the Vizla around Lake Michgan (seen above).  Harriet helped me moved bikes and canoes and all sorts of fun stuff.

Harriet hauling toys.
Harriet hauling toys.

I’ll never forget that van.

Sadly, though, we grew apart.  By late September I had the opportunity to make an even better buy on a truck that probably would run for more than another six months without leaking oil (and all sorts of other fluids) everywhere we went.  So, Harriet was parked.

I had intended to either sell Harriet for cheap to some young person who, hopefully, was getting into the trades or was starting some sort of business who could use cheap wheels.  If I couldn’t do that, I was going to donate her to charity.  I tried to list her before Christmas, but couldn’t find her title.

On the 26th, while sifting through my things getting ready to take a little trip, I happened upon the title.  As soon as we came back, I listed her.  Sadly, it was over between us.

Then it got weird.  Before I received much action on the ad, the cold and snow came.  Lots of cold. And lots of snow.  With a dead battery, I couldn’t fire her up to move her to safety before the plows rendered her immobile.

“No problem,” I figured, “snow melts… I’ll sell her when I can move her.”

Snowed in!
Snowed in!

Shortly after stepping out one night, I got a frantic text from The Boss- the cops had come to the house complaining about Harriet.  The Boss told me that she thought it was a cop and she thought he was talking about the van but she couldn’t be positive because, well, she didn’t open the door far enough to look out (or, even better, for him to look in… THAT’S MY GIRL!).

What, exactly?
What, exactly?

When I got back, I saw this little notice.  Even though the officer marked the completely wrong time on there (he was there in the pm) and even though he didn’t let me know if it was days or hours,  and even though the van was absolutely not abandoned, I think I understood what he wanted.  He wanted Harriet gone. Quickly.

So, I obliged.  I called the closest towing company I could find, offered to sign the truck over to them if they could get there within the hour.  Then I hung up and wept- even though it was over between Harriet and I, it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

An hour later, Harriet was gone.

I’m not intending to relay this touching, heart wrenching, somber tale to ruin your day or make you sad.  I’m sorry if you’re as broken up reading this as I am writing it.  I know how bad it hurts.

I’m also not intending to have this come off as some sort of complaint about the police or how silly the laws are when there’s snow.

I am intending to highlight, however, that there’s one law none of us control and all of us are subject to: the law of unintended consequences.

I’m sure that when the founding fathers of this little village so bravely signed their names to the aggressive parking ordinance which caused the departure of Harriet, they figured they would just be keeping the roads clear and safe for the children.  I doubt they had any idea that a car would never get donated to a charity devoted to, say, fighting juvenile diabetes or breast cancer.  I’m sure they had no idea that they might be hampering the ability of a young man to get his new business off the ground with a cheap van.

And so it is with every law passed.

Laws passed to keep drug dealers away from schools actually increase crime near those same schools.  Being tough on DUI gives drunk people more incentive to speed home than to pull over and sleep it off in a parking lot.  All the traffic laws that have been increased to misdemeanors for illegal immigrants have cost millions in taxpayer dollars by giving those illegal immigrants the right to free (to them, not the taxpayer) attorneys.  There is no end to it, no matter what the law seeks to punish.

And so, Harriet is gone. Not to a charity. Not to a startup business.  To capitalist vultures who roam the streets at night looking to prey on scofflaws like myself.  Nobody is immune from the law of unintended consequences. Not even Harriet.

Godspeed, Harriet.

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan
Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

Cops need to be armed with peanut butter and frisbees.

You know by now that both Law Dude and I have a soft spot for dogs.  Ray’s dog picture is occasionally one of the highest viewed posts on this sorry, pathetic excuse for a web page.  My post about dog searches (which features a video of my puppy, “Bacon”) still gets a steady stream of traffic.

So this recent story about the police killing a dog after responding to a complaint for barking strikes a nerve:

I know you just watched that and you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah… but Matt, they had to kill the dog. It was coming right for them!”  Yes. I’m sure it was.

But, lets put the sarcasm aside for a moment and pretend the dog did, in fact, come at them with the intent to chew their faces off.  The fact is that that was the end of the incident, not the beginning. The story makes it sound like the police tried to catch the dog for hours. Hours.  That, of course, is after the old man tried to get it in the house but the police surrounded it.

I’m not surprised a dog surrounded by strange men with guns got defensive rather than turned to go inside– that is, if it was even being defensive and not playful.

You can chase my dog for hours and not catch her. She’s fast. Once she knows you’re chasing, she thinks it’s a game.  Then you’re never going to catch her.

Want to get her to come close? Ignore her.  Walk away.  Stop chasing.  If she’s being playful she’ll usually swoop within grabbing distance.  You can also try such advanced techniques as throwing a frisbee, or stuffing a bone with peanut butter.  Either one can be used to get her to come really close.

In the hours the cops chased after this dog, do you think they ever tried that?  In the hours that dog was running loose before it presumably attacked them, I’d be interested in knowing exactly what they did. I’m betting the Dog Whisperer doesn’t need hours to catch a loose dog.

As a cranky taxpayer you don’t care, right? Somebody’s dog was being a pain in the ass and the cops killed it. No big deal, right?

Maybe.  If catching dogs is part of police officer’s responsibility then maybe they should be trained on how to do it without turning the neighborhood into a live target range.  If they’re not going to be trained how to do it correctly, then maybe they shouldn’t respond to such trivial matters as barking dogs.

The reality is that this dog is dead for the same reason that Robert Edward Saylor and the crabby old man with the cane are dead– because taxpayers want the cops to do a million things but don’t want to train them how to do a million things correctly.  While police techniques have advanced with the modern age, the theory behind police training is still stuck in the 50’s- and that’s that control and force are the safest, quickest ways to handle just about any situation.

I’m waiting for the day when the police academies have less force and control, and more patience, peanut butter and frisbees.  It’s just a shame that, when it happens, it will be too late for Robert Edward Saylor, and this little pooch.

If you’re a jerk to the police, you’ll probably get searched. If you’re not a jerk to the police… you’ll probably get searched.

You know what I tell people who are in my office because they let the police search their car and, well, the police found that bag of weed that the “arrestee” had no idea was stashed in the center console?  I don’t initially tell them anything.  First I ask them why they would ever let the cops search if they knew they had weed in the car.

Of course, everybody lets them search because “they were going to search anyway”- which is probably true.  Although, in my mind, that’s actually more reason to tell them not to.  Either way, if you tell them they can search, they will. If you tell them not to search, they will then, too. Or, so people think.

It matters if you don’t consent, though.  If you tell them not to and they do anyway, your lawyer may be able to get that crack pipe that your friend accidentally left in your jacket pocket suppressed.

I say that you may be able to get it suppressed, because whether you consent is not necessarily the end of the game.  Even if you don’t consent, they can search if they’ve got something law people call “exigent circumstances.”  Exigent circumstances is a really confusing way to describe something that gives the cops a real belief that you’re breaking the law.  Like, for instance, when they pull you over for speeding and when they’re getting your license you’re wearing your “I HEART Weed” shirt, you’ve got a smoking one-hitter sitting in your lap and a large cloud of burnt cannabis is escaping your open window.

In that case, it doesn’t matter if you give them consent.  They’re going to search the car, and the judge will be ok with that.

It doesn’t even have to rise to that level, though.  Generally speaking, if you’re a jerk to the cops they’re going to find exigent circumstances. I mean, they may not actually find exigent circumstances, but they’ll end up being in the police report and being testified to in front of the judge.

So you should just go ahead and be polite, right?  Right…. wait. Maybe.

That’s what Joshua A. Fontaine did in the great state of Ohio.  According to the recently decided case of Ohio V. Fontaine a lawman stopped Mr. Fontaine.  During the stop, the lawman became “suspicious of criminal activity.”

Why was he suspicious, you ask?  Because Mr. Fontaine was too damn polite, of course:

“While speaking to Mr. Fontaine I felt that his body language and his behavior was a little bit unusual. He was extremely — like almost overly polite, and he was breathing heavily at times while I was talking to him.”

Almost overly polite. Almost. Overly. Polite.

That’s what a cop in Ohio used as the major part of an excuse to pat Mr. Fontaine down for weapons, put him in a squad car, and call the K-9 cop.

Almost overly polite. That’s just silly.

Thankfully the trial court agreed, and tossed the whole case.  Of course, the prosecutors couldn’t let that go, so they used taxpayer money to drag the case on through an appeal.  The Appeals court agreed with the trial court:

“We agree with the trial court that “overly polite” and “heavy breathing” are not sufficient indicators that give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.”

So, there you go. If you’re a jerk, the cops are probably going to search. If you’re polite, they’re probably going to search… but you might win on appeal.  Isn’t that fantastic?

When the meek inherit the earth, there will probably be hell to pay.

I grew up in a house with a disabled woman.  The disabilities were physical only, thankfully.  Even, so, if you’ve ever spent time around anybody who’s ability to function isn’t 100% on par with an able-bodied person, you quickly learn how different life can be.

I’m not sure if it’s that experience or spending my first few years as a public defender helping way-too-many people who were only caught up in Iegal system because of their mental disabilities, but I feel for the disabled.  I guess you could say I have a soft spot for people with physical or mental infirmities.

People with disabilities are the ones we should be looking out for.  The ones we should be holding doors for, helping with directions, and keeping an eye on.  As a matter of basic human kindness, maybe traffic should stop for a disabled man to cross the street.  Maybe you should look and smile at that developmentally disabled kid yelling loudly at the McDonalds- don’t look at it as him disrupting your ability to peacefully shovel that McDouble and Hi-C down your gullet, think of it as you being able to be a part of one of the most fun things he gets to do that day.  There’s no real good reason not to.

That’s why I’d rather wait 20 minutes for a movie to start than watch the cops kill a man with Down’s Syndrome.

So, I find this story out of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan disgusting.  Officials there are investigating police officers who were doing some fairly jerkish things. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that, in the investigation,

Grosse Pointe Park law enforcement is investigating allegations that officers took photos and video of black men while making them sing and dance like chimps.
* * *
The investigation began after Steve Neavling of the Motor City Muckrakernews site posted a story last week detailing several incidents, which he said were among about a dozen videos being being shared from phones of Grosse Pointe Park police officers. Neavling is a former Detroit Free Press reporter.

Nevaling’s site actually has more of the details:

Grosse Pointe Park police officially opened an internal investigation today following our report Thursday that officers were capturing humiliating videos and pictures of black men and texting them to colleagues and family.
* * *
One of the main culprits is Officer Mike Najm, who texted a picture of a black man in the back of a trailer and typed, “Gotta love the coloreds.” In one video, Najm can be heard telling a mentally ill black man to sing.

I can’t fathom why any human would ever do this to any person.  It’s exponentially asinine to do it to a mentally ill person.  It is beyond comprehension that law enforcement officer could act like such a tool, though.  Racist cops are bad enough.  Racist cops picking on the mentally ill, however, deserve an extra intensity of hatred.

For the officer’s sake, I’m going to assume this is all some sort of misunderstanding… or some sort of hoax. After all, it can be easy to spin the press.  Maybe the truth will come out soon enough.

The video at the bottom of the page (and here) seems to lend some credibility to the story, however.  Look it over and come to your own conclusion.