“Since 2010, the state [of New York] has sought to fire 30 prison guards accused of abusing inmates through a convoluted arbitration process that is required under the union contract. Officials have prevailed only eight times, according to records of disciplinary cases released under state Freedom of Information Law requests.” [Tom Robbins, The Marshall Project; earlier on difficulty of investigating Attica abuse allegations, and related on correctional officers’ bill of rights laws]
- Ex-Costa Mesa police union head testifies re: scheme to set up councilman on bogus DUI charge [Daily Pilot, our earlier coverage of the scandal]
- Ferguson-1-year-later stories should concede that initial “hands-up” accounts of the Michael Brown shooting were wrong, no? [Greg Weiner, Law and Liberty]
- “Cops: We ‘Expected Privacy’ Because We Tried to Smash All the Cameras” [Lowering the Bar, Conor Friedersdorf/The Atlantic on Santa Ana, Calif. police union’s effort to suppress evidence in dispensary raid case]
- Beach patrol, serving warrants, college football display: reasons departments gave in 465 requests for mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles from the Pentagon’s 1033 program [Molly Redden, Mother Jones via Anthony Fisher, Reason]
- “Prosecutors’ union inadvertently demonstrates why local prosecutors shouldn’t investigate police shootings” [Radley Balko]
- Past time for a public airing of what went on in the Chicago facility known as Homan Square [Spencer Ackerman and Zach Stafford, The Guardian]
- Which human decision-making process claims a mere 0.25% error rate? Shootings by Chicago police [Coyote, Radley Balko on investigator in that city fired for resisting pressure to exonerate cops]
- 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]
If you worry about the potential harm of lobbying and influence by private prison operators — and that’s a reasonable worry, given past scandals — you ought to be all the more worried about lobbying and influence by guards’ unions and other public prison interests. Because that’s much bigger. [Ed Krayewski, Reason; earlier]
- “To the public, a car’s status is binary: it is either broken or working, flawed or functional.” But to an engineer… [Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker; our coverage of autos and sudden acceleration]
- Canadian court awards special costs, akin to sanctions, for bad litigant conduct in “Real Housewives of Vancouver” divorce case [CBC]
- As IRS scandals grind on, lawyers defending agency meet with less than favorable reception before D.C. Circuit panel [Scott Johnson, Power Line, our earlier takes here, here, etc.]
- Gov. Larry Hogan signs Tesla bill, okay. But Maryland auto buyers should be demanding more freedom than that [my Free State Notes, related Peter Van Doren, Cato and Nick Zaiac, Maryland Public Policy Institute]
- Why one victim of Washington, D.C.’s peeping-Tom rabbi isn’t suing [Bethany S. Mandel]
- After Illinois Supreme Court rules that state constitution forbids lawmakers ever to cut public pensions for any reason, Moody’s slashes Chicago bond rating to junk status [Daniel Fisher; David Skeel, On Labor]
- Panel on Capitol Hill tomorrow (Fri., 5/22) on lessons of Baltimore with Cato’s Tim Lynch, Matthew Feeney, Michael Tanner, moderated by Peter Russo [register or watch online] Richard Epstein on Baltimore with a critique of both 1) police unions and 2) Ta-Nehisi Coates’s apologia for violence [Hoover “Defining Ideas”]
- The magic of immunity: DEA commandeered truck for fatal sting, but doesn’t owe owner even the cost of bullet holes [Houston Chronicle, Radley Balko, Scott Greenfield] More: Lowering the Bar.
- Federal takeover of local policing is a truly bad idea [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today; Elizabeth Price Foley]
- Some of government’s worst messes come when there’s bipartisan agreement, as with lack of police accountability [Coyote]
- “Is Rakoff the Only Judge Not In Love with DOJ?” [Matt Kaiser, Above the Law on Judge Jed Rakoff’s “Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges,” New York Review of Books]
- San Antonio cop “held his wife and children at gunpoint, striking his wife in the head with his gun, and had a 20 minute standoff with police before surrendering” but will keep law enforcement officer license [Cato National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, “worst case” for February] “Arbitrator says Cleveland police officer who sexted crime victims, visited women on duty, should keep job” [Cleveland.com, with a related series including “Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says arbitration process keeps bad cops on police force“]
- “We Should Be Wary of Federal Body Camera Funds” [Matthew Feeney, Cato, related from Feeney here, here, and here] More on bodycam programs from several points of view: Uri Friedman via Althouse, Bloomberg editors (anti), Alex Tabarrok, Radley Balko;
- Those ATF sting operations were even more exploitative and predatory than imagined [Balko, earlier]
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]
As surmised earlier, Maryland knife law has emerged as an issue in the Freddie Gray story; Gray’s death in police custody has now resulted in the filing of charges against six police officers, the most serious charge, “depraved heart murder,” being leveled against the driver of the police van from which Gray, unbelted, emerged with fatal injuries. [Washington Post] More links on “rough rides” here, here, and here. “The Baltimore police union defended the officers involved…. ‘none….are responsible'” [Baltimore Sun, The Hill, Ed Krayewski/Reason] Some obstacles for the prosecution [Associated Press]
Update, Colin Campbell, Baltimore Sun:
The separate investigations by police and prosecutors have some conflicting findings.
While Mosby said Friday that the officers had made an illegal arrest because a knife Gray was carrying was not a “switchblade,” a violation of state law, the police task force studied the knife and determined it was “spring-assisted,” which does violate a Baltimore code.
More from Twitchy link roundup (investigators have not yet released picture of knife or other information that could help identify model and resolve dispute), Andrew Branca (Baltimore code bans “spring-assisted” weapons not banned under Maryland law; also, reasonable mistake of law on illegality of weapon might still support probable cause finding).
“I don’t understand how she [Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake] can continually say they’re not cooperating,” Michael E. Davey, an attorney for the police union, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. “They are. They did. And they’re lucky they got those statements before I got involved.”
They’re lucky they got those statements before I got involved. That’s a little window into the adversarial relationship between the union representing six Baltimore officers under investigation and city officials charged with determining whether Freddie Gray’s fatal injuries in police custody might have been caused by foul play such as an unbelted “rough ride” in the back of a police van.
Newsweek, and before that the Foundation for Economic Education, have now reprinted a short Cato at Liberty piece in which I describe the operation of Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR or LEOBoR) laws, of which Maryland passed the first in the early 1970s, and which have spread to more than a dozen states; in many other localities union contract provisions accomplish some of the same goals. These laws sharply restrain how police forces can pursue misconduct investigations against suspected officers, and officials in Baltimore and elsewhere have repeatedly cited the law as an impediment to investigations of officer misconduct long predating the Freddie Gray incident, including the probe into the enormous scandal of employee misconduct at the state-run Baltimore jail. (I’ve got more at Free State Notes about the local Maryland angle, including the failure of efforts this year in the state legislature to reform the law.)
Radley Balko followed up with a post summarizing my argument and adding an important point, which is that these laws can provide a covert way for departments to sabotage investigations so as to help out fellow officers, by introducing seemingly inadvertent errors that ensure that charges will later have to be thrown out.
In my opinion, conservatives should no more defend LEOBRs than they should defend teacher tenure laws, and for much the same reasons. In response to rising criticism, which has intensified since Gray’s death in custody, police unions have begun a broad effort to shore up support for the laws. The version of my article at FEE, for example, drew a response from a Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police official which you can read here together with my response.
One oft-heard claim that these laws merely give suspected cops the same rights as other suspected citizens. Don’t miss Ken White’s new post at Popehat blowing that argument to smithereens. Equally laughable is the suggestion from union brass that the laws merely put into effect Fifth Amendment or other constitutional rights. While a few cases from the Warren Court era did invent new constitutional constraints on public agencies’ handling of employee investigations, LEOBR laws go far beyond anything in those cases.
Further reading and listening: Ed Krayewski, Reason; Kojo Nnamdi show; New York Times “Room for Debate” roundtable with Prof. Paul Butler, my friend and former Manhattan Institute colleague Heather Mac Donald (the middle-of-the-roader, in this context) and FOP’s Chuck Canterbury. See also my coverage of correctional officers “bill of rights” laws in Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. here, here, here, and here.