Do Not Underestimate the Dishonesty of Cops

by Will

Liberty Minute March 19 2014

Georgia resident Adam Bennett was a passenger in a truck driven by his girlfriend. A police officer stopped them and said that the truck was missing a rear bumper. Rather than performing a license check, the officer immediately asked if either the driver or the passenger was on probation or parole. Bennett volunteered that he was on probation for drugs. Eventually, a small amount of drugs was found during a search of Bennett’s clothing.

Bennett filed a motion to suppress the drug evidence. A state appeals court ruled that the search was impermissible because the officer had not prolonged the pretense that it was intended to address a traffic violation. Instead, the officer dropped the pretext and went directly to a search for narcotics.

The typical traffic stop pits a vulnerable citizen against an armed stranger who is given a license to lie. Yes, there are decent and conscientious people who become police officers – but their social function is to extract revenue from you and put you in a cage if they can find an excuse to do so. Obviously, people shouldn’t commit acts that would justify prosecution – but they also shouldn’t underestimate the ability of cops to devise an excuse to do so anyway.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

They Don't Believe in Heaven, but They're Eager to Create a Hell

by Will

Liberty Minute March 18 2014

For people of an entrepreneurial perspective, technical innovations are a blessing that can be used to improve human life. Those burdened with a statist view see such advances as the means of controlling other human beings and inflicting punishment and destruction on those who resist.

One extreme and speculative example of the latter disposition is a theoretical proposal to use life extension methods to prolong the suffering of people convicted of exceptionally heinous crimes, such as child-murder. Dr. Rebecca Roache, who describes herself as a “philosopher,” has suggested that the use of a mind-altering drug called a “time distortion pill” that could give convicts the sense of interminable punishment.

Others have pointed to the punitive possibilities of so-called singularity theory, in which human consciousness could be digitized and transferred into a non-biological platform. By manipulating that program, a condemned criminal would supposedly experience the equivalent of a thousand-year sentence within the space of a few hours of actual time. 

Roache suggests that the use of such methods would offer the possibility of inflicting “an eternal sentence” for crimes against humanity. 

Christian believers understand that eternal sentences do exist – and that it is not within our province to impose them.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Washington makes Moscow Look Reasonable

by Will

Liberty Minute March 17 2014

In 1999, the US government, with the aid of the NATO alliance, bombed Serbia for 78 days, killing thousands of people and inflicting billions of dollars’ worth of damage to the country’s infrastructure. Serbia never attacked or threatened the United States.

The purpose of the campaign was to force Serbia to surrender the province of Kosovo into the hands of ethnic Albanian separatists. In other words, Washington made war on Serbia’s government to aid a secessionist movement. This nearly led to open military hostilities with Russia, which has cultural ties to Serbia and didn’t approve of the bombing campaign.

That was in 1999. Today, the Obama administration is refusing to recognize the results of a referendum in Crimea that may result in the region withdrawing from Ukraine and allying with Russia. The Crimean separatists are following a similar – but less violent – path to the one taken by Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Yet Washington now insists that secession is impermissible, and that residents of Crimea have no choice but to be ruled by the new Ukrainian government in Kiev that was installed in a US-backed coup.

Given the Russian government’s history and character it is nearly impossible to cede the moral high ground to Moscow – and somehow Washington has managed to do so.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Prosecution: A Despicable Profession

by Will

Liberty Minute March 14 2014

Prosecutorial misconduct is ubiquitous, in large measure because it is almost impossible to hold a prosecutor accountable. Last year, South Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty gave a speech in which he took note of the rampant and well-documented abuses by prosecutors in his state.

Judge Beatty warned that his court “will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury, and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example.”

In response, 13 of the 16 prosecutors across the state have demanded that Beatty recuse himself on criminal cases coming out of their districts.

Writing in the Washington Post, Radley Balko points out that in Santa Clara County, California, a corrupt prosecutor sought to boycott a judge who had disciplined her for misconduct, and also sought to restrict the power of the state bar to discipline prosecutors.

As Balko notes, cases of this kind across the country demonstrate that “prosecutors just don’t want to be held accountable by anyone but themselves.”

As I’ve said before: If you don’t despise prosecutors, you’re not paying attention.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Why Pretend that the Fourth Amendment Exists?

by Will

Liberty Minute March 13 2014

At some point, we should formally excise the Fourth Amendment from the Bill of Rights. From the National Security Agency to the local police department, government agencies are contemptuous of the idea of limits on their powers to search and scrutinize us.

A recent ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case from Missouri held that once police have entered a home by any means – including coercion or deception – they can conduct a “protective sweep” of the entire dwelling and use any evidence that is found against the residents. It is not necessary to have “articulable facts” to justify the search, or probable cause for an arrest.

In a separate case, the US Supreme Court ruled that police can conduct a warrantless search of a home when residents disagree about consenting to the search. All that is necessary is to arrest the resident who refuses to permit the search. This obviously creates an incentive for police to commit an unlawful arrest in order to intimidate other occupants into consenting to a warrantless search – which will then be used to find evidence to justify the unlawful arrest.

As the late Joseph Sobran noted, the Constitution poses no threat to our form of government.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.

How Much Does a Corrupt Cop Cost?

by Will

Liberty Minute March 12 2014

As a patrol officer in Minneapolis, Michael Griffin is paid at least $60,000 a year, but the expenses he has inflicted on the city’s tax victims are much higher. Two lawsuits filed against Griffin for crimes committed off-duty will cost more than $400,000.

Last month, the city council approved a $140,000 payout for attorney fees in the case of Ibrahim Regai, who was punched and kicked by Griffin following an incident in a bar. Griffin, who was off-duty, followed Regai to another club, beat him to the ground, called another cop, and charged the victim with assaulting an officer. The charge was dropped after video evidence demonstrated that Griffin lied about the incident.

In a second episode, Griffin got into an argument at a bar with three men. After they left, Griffin called another officer to the scene to detain them. Griffin assaulted two of the men, knocking one of them unconscious then picking him up and kicking him in the face. The victim, Jeremy Axel, suffered a concussion and had to have several teeth replaced.

Despite losing the subsequent lawsuit, Griffin is still on the force, and hasn’t faced criminal charges. This is typical of Minneapolis, which has made nearly 100 payouts totaling $14 million for police misconduct since 2006.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Hampton, Florida: A Museum of Civic Iniquity

by Will

Liberty Minute March 11 2014

All governments, as St. Augustine observed, begin as criminal syndicates that achieve dominance over a territory. They distinguish themselves from ordinary robber bands "not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity."

Few things offer a better illustration of that principle than a small-down speed trap, and the tiny town of Hampton, Florida might be the definitive case.

The criminal clique in charge of Hampton converted a 1,260-foot stretch of a busy interstate into one of the country’s most lucrative speed traps. With the revenue it acquired, the municipal government built a police force of nearly 100 officers to patrol a population of about 480 people. The cops were deployed on lawn chairs at roadside, using radar guns to harvest revenue from motorists.

 A recent municipal audit discovered that as much as $1 million in city revenue had simply disappeared. Abuse of official credit cards and cell phones was rampant. City officials were appointed on the basis of nepotism and wildly overpaid. The last mayor, Barry Lynne Moore, operated a narcotics ring with the connivance of city police until he was arrested by sheriff’s deputies.

Hampton embodied the criminal proclivities to which all political governments are prone. It should be preserved as a museum of civic iniquity.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Murder Through Torture in a Vermont Jail

by Will

Liberty Minute March 10 2014

Vermont resident Robert Taylor, a homeless man and long-term alcoholic, died sometime last December of starvation and related neglect while in the Burlington County Jail.

Taylor should have been taken to a hospital, but jail officials insist that this was too expensive. Instead, he was placed in a segregation unit, dressed in a suicide-prevention smock commonly referred to as a “turtle suit,” and then abandoned.

During his incarceration, Taylor wasn’t given a morsel of food, a mattress, a blanket, or a single shower. Taylor’s neighbor in the segregation unit, an accused robber named Sean Tyrzanski, pleaded with guards to take Taylor to the hospital. His pleas were ignored – as was Taylor, apart from demeaning comments from guards about the elderly man’s condition. Rather than checking on Taylor’s health, guards would simply spray air freshener into the cell to mask the odor emitted by the dying man. 

When his captors finally checked on him, the elderly man’s lifeless body was found lying in a puddle of feces and urine.

A cursory investigation by the District Attorney found no evidence of “criminal wrongdoing” in Taylor’s death.

This was murder through torture, a summary punishment that was cruel but by no means unusual in the American gulag.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

An Unlawful Arrest is a Crime

by Will

Liberty Minute March 7 2014

Oklahoma City resident Robert Biegler heckled a police officer during a traffic stop, which may be a bad idea, but it’s not a crime.

Biegler, who was driving a pickup, yelled “Road rage sucks!” when he saw Sgt. Matt Downing issuing a ticket to a driver at an intersection. Downing abandoned the puzzled driver and took off in pursuit of Biegler, who wasn’t aware he was being followed. After Biegler stopped at a convenience store, Downey pulled up, snarled “You think you’re pretty smart,” threw Biegler to the ground, and stuffed him into his vehicle.

Downing’s supervisor arrived shortly thereafter, and released Biegler. Sgt. Downing, a 15 year veteran, was placed on paid vacation. His record includes several complaints of excessive force, including an assault on a handcuffed suspect that left the victim permanently disabled. He had never been fired, demoted, or placed on unpaid suspension. However, as a result of his attack on Biegler, Downing now faces charges of assault and battery.

An unlawful arrest is an assault and an attempted abduction, and citizens have the right to resist. Sgt. Downing’s supervisor is to be commended for understanding and acting on that principle.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

Police: Useless, Not Harmless

by Will

Liberty Minute March 6 2014

Anthony Vuona of Worcester, Massachusetts was beaten and robbed by two unidentified assailants during a home invasion. He called the police, who have failed to find the suspects or the stolen cash and jewelry. However, they did arrest Vuona after they found marijuana in his basement. Now the victim of a crime of violence is facing the prospect of a prison term for indulging in an act that didn’t injure anybody else.

This incident offers a microcosm of the hopelessly skewed priorities of what is called our criminal justice system. The only legitimate purpose of peace officers is to apprehend people suspect of crimes of violence or fraud. Government police agencies, by way of contrast, enforce laws that make criminals out of people whose actions inflict no harm on anybody else. Their primary mission is not to protect the property of individuals, but to act in the interest of a class that claims the supposed authority to regiment the lives of other people.

This is the main reason why the US prison system is the largest of any nation in history. Owing to the perverse incentives of the drug war, police are more eager to arrest a non-violent pot smoker than the violent offenders who beat and robbed him.

Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. 

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