Police roundup

  • The stalker wore a badge: AP finds mass abuse by police of non-public databases to check out romantic interests, celebrities, journalists;
  • Union-backed bill: “Pennsylvania lawmakers approve ban on naming officers in shootings” [Philadelphia Daily News]
  • How Chicago’s FOP shapes coverage of police shootings [Chicago Reader] Reason coverage of police unions here, here (Cleveland demand to stop open carry), here (union contracts restrict oversight), etc.
  • Inside the Chicago Police Department’s secret budget of millions a year from seizures and forfeitures [Chicago Reader]
  • Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith about force’s use of dragnet of social media information about citizens: “The only people that have anything to fear about anything being monitored are those that are criminals and attempting to commit criminal acts.” Yes, that’s really what Smith said [Alison Knezevich/Baltimore Sun; in sequel, social media companies rescind access to the Geofeedia service]
  • “It ought to be possible to terminate cops short of criminal convictions for incidents like that involving [Freddie] Gray’s” [Ed Krayewski]


  • The AP reports that there are “millions of daily database queries “, out of which over several years they manage to document less than 600 cases of abuse. I’m willing to assume that there are many more cases of misuse or questionable use of databases by police officers. But, even if it is 10,000 times the number AP’s investigative journalists found, it’s still a de minimus percentage. Further, most of the misuse appears to be snooping on official time — a little creepy, but, considering what is online about all of us, which the retailers and credit card companies routinely share, probably less of a concern than what the law authorizes. AP would make a much more substantial contribution by reporting the amount and type of disclosures authorized by law by commercial entities, so that people can contact their elected representatives to seek changes that will protect them. Further, if our privacy was protected against such disclosures, the information wouldn’t be readily available to creepy cops, either.

  • “Only 0.000002 percent for customer visits to banks were for purposes of robbery.” Sorry, I just can’t see the point of invoking the denominator here to make the numerator less important. Nor can I see why snooping on official time should be less worrisome than snooping after hours. Retailer/credit card information about us does contain some moderately sensitive information (whether we pay our bills, where we shop) but databases available to police by purpose and design get into intrusive (and official) territory. To me, the most disturbing thing about police database abuse is its use against personally known individuals — the dangers of letting it be done to former spouses and prospective love interests speak for themselves — and the second most disturbing thing is the way it appears to be tolerated/laughed off as part of the permitted police culture in some places.

  • If I were worried about someone, say a man that my daughter were dating, I’d peek, too, and damn the torpedos. Maybe I’m just a bad person.

  • Re:

    “Pennsylvania lawmakers approve ban on naming officers in shootings”

    The law puts a 30 day hold on officials publicly naming the officers involved. Even if effective, the ban is just one step in a fool’s errand.

    When it becomes law, a sufficiently outrageous shooting will likely bring unofficial early “leaks” to out of state media. Ordinary people, not just police, sometimes witness these shootings, and some even note badge numbers if they don’t already know the officers by name. The PA AG, DAs and police unions may fume about it, but they can’t stop it by passing another law.

  • They just had a funeral for a police officer who was killed in South West Pennsylvania. The day of the funeral somebody took a picture of a man sticking his hand out the window with his middle finger extended. In the opposite lane there was a police car heading in the other direction. In the picture you can clearly see the car’s license plate. The picture was posted on Facebook with a caption leading you to believe that the man was flipping off the police car that was supposedly going to the funeral. A few comments down there is another version of the picture with the man’s name and address on it. Somebody (my money is on a cop or someone who works for the police) ran the license plate and posted the picture. The man says that he was flipping off a van that cut him off not the police car.