Following a series of episodes including the death of Freddie Gray in a Baltimore police van, sentiment seemed to run high for reconsidering at least some of Maryland’s “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” law, which erects tenure-like obstacles to firing or disciplining police over suspected misconduct. But critics say by the time a commission’s recommendations made it to legislative consideration, they had been watered down to accomplish relatively little and even give the state’s police unions more power than before [WBAL, Jim Giza/Baltimore Sun]
A coordinated national campaign promotes enactment of Marsy’s Law, a set of victim’s rights enactments that have been added to state constitutions in many states. (Marsy’s Law amendments were on six state ballots this fall, and did well.) My colleague Roger Pilon testified in 1997 against a proposed federal constitutional amendment.
Now a South Dakota version of such a law is being used by police officers to conceal their identities from the public after a shooting by a police officer of a civilian who was subsequently charged with assaulting the trooper. Similar claims of confidentiality have been made under other states’ Marsy’s Laws to prevent disclosure of names of officers who have carried out shootings. [Scott Shackford, Reason]
More on the problems with victims’ rights laws from Scott Greenfield (“a right has been created for the ‘victim,’ which is curious since there is no victim until there’s a crime, and there is no crime until a jury says there is….many of these ‘rights’ are in direct conflict with some other guy’s rights in the well. Can you guess who that might be?”), Steve Chapman, Jill Lepore, and Sophie Quinton at StateLine, and my opinions against victim impact statements.
While we’re at it: Rules barring the interviewing of police soon after an officer-involved shooting (“cooling-off period”) impair, not advance, accurate investigation [Tom Jackman, Washington Post via Radley Balko] And via Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun, although the general rule in Maryland is that police officers on probationary status can be fired without internal due process, that rule applies except in instances of brutality allegations. Thanks a million, Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR)!
- “Eliminating the biases of all police officers would do little to materially reduce the total number of African-American killings”; that goal will require other reforms to police practice [Sendhil Mullainathan, New York Times; Peter Moskos and Nick Selby; Washington Post analysis of 2015 police shooting deaths; Heather Mac Donald, WSJ]
- “End Needless Interactions With Police Officers During Traffic Stops” [Conor Friedersdorf] “Thin Blue Lies: How Pretextual Stops Undermine Police Legitimacy” [Jonathan Blanks, Case Western Reserve Law Review]
- Dallas police department has lately enjoyed some of the best community relations in the country. Will murder of officers change that? [Radley Balko, his previous] Bonus: extraordinary story of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s leadership through personal crisis after the massacre [Austin American-Statesman]
- A failure of body cameras? Matthew Feeney on Baton Rouge shooting of Alton Sterling [Cato Daily Podcast] People who aren’t cops don’t get a day off before a shooting investigation [Jonathan Blanks, PoliceMisconduct.net] LEOBRs aside, “Police union contracts in 72 of 81 cities reviewed make it harder to hold police accountable” [Anthony Fisher, Reason]
- Missouri judge strikes down post-Ferguson state law limiting how much municipalities can keep from fines and fees [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- Elected Florida public defender, endorsed by police union, vowed not to oppose cuts to own office funds [Radley Balko]
- “Proposed Minneapolis ballot item would require police to carry insurance” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
- Case of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, suspended 5 times before faking his suicide as death in the line of duty, also illustrates how hard it is to fire a public employee [Scott Reeder/Chicago Sun-Times, reprint at Reboot Illinois]
- More on campaign to extend hate crime laws to cover assaults on police [Tim Cushing/TechDirt, earlier here]
- If cops in bad shootings can’t be prosecuted, is it too much to ask at least that they be fired? [Jonathan Blanks, Washington Post] Or at least that we get to find out their names? “Bill shielding identities of police who use force passes Pennsylvania House” [Watchdog]
- Speaking of privacy: “Three Minneapolis officers sue after their names are revealed in prostitution sting” [Star Tribune]
- Also, how Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR) laws fit in: “How bloated pensions contribute to police brutality” [Radley Balko]
- “Reducing the Power of Paramilitary Unions is a Civil Rights Issue” [John McGinnis, Law and Liberty; related, Campaign Zero, Coyote, Michael Wear/USA Today]
- Albuquerque cop, fired after having his lapel cam turned off during a shooting, wins reinstatement to force [David Kravets, ArsTechnica via Matthew Feeney, Cato]
“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan blamed the state’s largest employee’s union for not being able to remove corrections employees who face charges that range from driving under the influence to assault….Since 2013, more than 200 Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services employees have been charged with crimes that include DUI, assault and having sexual relations with an inmate, yet they remain on the job.” Union officials, however, say the governor is in error, and that it’s state law, rather than AFSCME contract terms, that restrict dismissals. So no problem! [WBAL, auto-plays; earlier on Maryland’s Correctional Officers Bill of Rights law, a younger sibling to its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) law for police]
More background on police bill of rights laws, and their origin in the wake of the Kerner commission report on 1960s civil unrest [Scott Greenfield] Veteran police lawyer Herbert Weiner, general counsel to Maryland State FOP Lodge, defends the state’s LEOBR [Al-Jazeera] And commenter Daniel Martin at Popehat on some curious implications of Maryland’s LEOBR, which prohibits investigating cops for some types of misconduct “until the victim, their immediate family, or a direct witness swears out a complaint.”
Yet more: In Pennsylvania, “members of the Fraternal Order of Police are rallying behind legislation to shield the identities of officers who use force.” It’s backed in Harrisburg by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Sen. John Sabatina, D-Philadelphia. [Watchdog] And with respect to our post of the other day, a commenter writes that the city of Tucson’s two-tiered informational release — withholding the names of police in a prostitution investigation while releasing those of civilians — was not done at city authorities’ discretion but in compliance with a newspaper’s public records request, in conjunction with a state law shielding police privacy.
- Government as source of product misinformation [David Henderson notes my City Journal discussion of NY AG Eric Schneiderman’s crusade on herbal supplements]
- “Under Armour is suing pretty much every company using the name ‘Armor'” [Washington Post]
- Maryland police unions defend LEOBR (“bill of rights”) tenure laws [my Free State Notes, Ed Krayewski, Scott Greenfield]
- Someone uses an iPhone to transact Islamic State business; could a court find Apple liable for providing material support for terrorism? [Benjamin Wittes, Zoe Bedell, Lawfare]
- Maybe green-lighting a union for tax collecting staff wasn’t such a hot idea in the first place [Washington Post]
- Seventh Circuit: “Appeals court apologizes for literally misplacing case for five years as lawyers wondered what was taking so long” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]
- For the sake of professional dignity, in future employ authorized methods only: “Italian lawyer steals French tourist’s wallet” [The Local, Italy]
- Police union files grievance to regain job for University of Cincinnati cop charged in Sam DuBose death [WXIX] Also Ohio: “Forget Criminal Charges. Disciplining Officers In Cleveland Is Hard Enough” [Carimah Townes, ThinkProgress] “How Police Unions Contribute to the Police Violence Problem” [Ed Krayewski]
- Profile of Fraternal Order of Police head [Politico via Radley Balko, who comments] When taking on public employee unions, GOP governors often sidestep police, firefighters [New York Times in March]
- FOP president says Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR/LEOBOR) laws don’t “afford police any greater rights than those possessed by other citizens” Reality check please [Scott Greenfield on NY Times “Room for Debate“, Marshall Project “Blue Shield” in-depth look, earlier on these laws]
- El Paso union contract “gives cops two days to get their stories straight after a shooting” [see “Responsive Documents,” p. 55, in public records request via @TimCushing] Frequent-flyer testifier in police shootings: “His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately.” [New York Times]
- Private sector unionism, public, what’s the difference? Now we’re finding out [Greenfield]
- Trying to picture a US politician talking back to organized constabulary the way the UK’s Theresa May did a few weeks back [BBC]
- “‘It seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,’ he said.” [Washington Post (“vacate the streets and see how the community likes it”)] “Baltimore killings soar to a level unseen in 43 years” [Juliet Linderman/AP “Big Story”; WBAL; earlier on NYPD’s “strike while still getting paid” tactics]
Caleb Brown interviewed me for the Cato Daily Podcast on the rise of union-backed legislation in more than 15 states throwing up procedural barriers to investigating or firing police officers charged with misconduct. Maryland was the first state to pass such a law, back in the 1970s, and it has now been debating proposals to trim it back, which have intensified in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray story in Baltimore. Earlier on LEOBR/LEOBoR laws here and, generally, here, and be sure to check out Ken White’s annihilating post on the concept at Popehat, with comment discussion.
P.S. Perhaps not unrelated: charged officer “had been accused of theft four previous times” but was still on the Baltimore force [AP after surveillance cameras in federal sting operation allegedly showed officer pocketing thousands of dollars in a hotel room]
Joline Gutierrez Krueger at the Albuquerque Journal with the tale of the $16,000 in cash that “Joseph Rivers said he had saved and relatives had given him to launch his dream in Hollywood … seized during his trip out West not by thieves but by Drug Enforcement Administration agents during a stop at the Amtrak train station in Albuquerque. An incident some might argue is still theft, just with the government’s blessing.” The government hasn’t charged Rivers with anything and, under the rules of civil asset forfeiture, doesn’t have to:
“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” [Albuquerque DEA agent Sean] Waite said. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”
Meanwhile, despite the U.S. Department of Justice’s promise to stop seizing bank accounts in future in cases where violations of laws against bank deposit “structuring” (keeping them under the $10,000 reporting threshold) are not connected with any underlying crime, it continues to hold on to money already in the seizure pipeline. That includes the $107,000 grabbed from Lyndon McLellan, who runs L&M Convenience Mart in rural North Carolina, according to the New York Times. “You work for something for 13, 14 years, and they take it in 13, 14 minutes.” More about the case from Jacob Sullum and Adam Bates.
A prosecutor wrote menacingly to McLellan’s lawyer about the publicity the case had been getting:
“Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it,” Mr. West wrote. “But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.” He concluded with a settlement offer in which the government would keep half the money.
In other forfeiture news, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the dangers of forfeiture laws (there to defend the laws: Fraternal Order of Police national president Chuck Canterbury, seen in this space just a few days ago defending police officers “bill of rights” laws) And the Maryland legislature has sent a forfeiture reform bill to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan [Maryland Reporter]
Mike Rappaport at Liberty and Law explores how special interest politics contributes to shielding police misconduct, including the role of Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights laws (earlier). More on LEOBR/LEOBoR laws in two articles quoting me: Daniel Menefee, Maryland Reporter/WMAL and other outlets, on prospects for reform of the Maryland law; Kris Ockershauser, Pasadena Weekly, citing coverage last year from Jim Miller of the McClatchy papers on California’s tight restrictions on public access to police disciplinary records, which grew in part out of the state’s enactment of the 1976 Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.
Related: Ross Douthat (New York Times), “Our Police Union Problem“. And for everyone who, like me, has been noticing the parallels between bad cop entrenchment and teacher tenure, Charles Lane wants to call our attention to the pending Supreme Court case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, on dues [Washington Post, earlier and more on Friedrichs]