Posts Tagged ‘police’

March 27 roundup

  • U.S. Department of Justice files brief in Kisor v. Wilkie somewhat critical of Auer deference, i.e. of deference to the federal government’s own positions. That’s pretty special, and commendable [William Yeatman, Cato; Jonathan Adler, earlier here and here]
  • Parsonage exemption (i.e., favored treatment of allowance for religious housing) does not violate Establishment Clause, rules Seventh Circuit panel [Gaylor v. Mnuchin; background, Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News; earlier]
  • Showing middle finger to police officer counts as constitutionally protected speech, and Sixth Circuit says every reasonable officer should know that already [Eugene Volokh]
  • Home-share hospitality is here to stay, unless regulators get it very wrong [Federalist Society video with Gwendolyn Smith, Matthew Feeney, and Pete Clarke]
  • “Tens of thousands of people in Missouri cannot drive as a result of their licenses being suspended over child support they are unable to pay.” A newly filed lawsuit challenges that practice [Hans Bader]
  • Only Congress can make new law, and administration can’t reach desired ban on “bump stock” firearms accessories just by reinterpreting existing federal law [Ilya Shapiro and Matthew Larosiere on Cato amicus brief in D.C. Circuit case of Guedes v. BATFE]

California AG: it’s illegal to possess secret list of convicted cops

By filing routine public records requests, reporters obtained a hitherto unreleased list of thousands of California law enforcement officers convicted of crimes over the past decade. “But when [California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra’s office learned about the disclosure, it threatened the reporters with legal action unless they destroyed the records, insisting they are confidential under state law and were released inadvertently. The two journalism organizations have rejected Becerra’s demands.” The list includes “cops who stole money from their departments and even one who robbed a bank wearing a fake beard. Some sexually assaulted suspects. Others took bribes, filed false reports and committed perjury.” [Robert Lewis and Jason Paladino, East Bay Times]

The NYPD’s DNA dragnet

New York City police have employed the equivalent of DNA dragnets, combining voluntary with covert (e.g., grabbing a discarded cup) collection methods. Thus, before identifying a suspect in the Howard Beach jogger case, “the NYPD collected well over 500 DNA profiles from men in the East New York area….But things get worse from there. For those people excluded from the jogger case, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the city’s crime lab, permanently keeps those profiles in their databank [with more than 64,000 others] and routinely compares profiles to all city crimes.”

In other words, cooperate with police by giving a DNA sample in order to help solve (or clear yourself in) some dreadful crime, and you’re in the database to nail for anything and everything else in future. “In this respect, [you] will be treated just like someone convicted of a crime.” And did you guess this? “Under their labor contract with the city, rank-and-file officers don’t give the lab their DNA, which means the lab can’t easily rule out possible crime-scene contamination.” [Allison Lewis, New York Daily News]

Police roundup

  • “Twenty-five years of developments in both the law and social science show that a police command to ‘stop’ is more than a mere request for information.” Courts should handle accordingly [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Cisse v. New York, New York Court of Appeals]
  • Procedures must be followed: “Murder suspect tries to turn himself in at New Orleans jail, but deputies demand proper ID” [Matt Sledge, The Advocate]
  • New project aims to educate public on how to navigate oft-complex police complaint process [Cato Daily Podcast with Steve Silverman and Caleb Brown]
  • “Are We About to See a Wave of Police Using ‘Victim’s Rights’ Laws to Keep Conduct Secret?” [Scott Shackford, earlier]
  • “Militarization Fails to Enhance Police Safety or Reduce Crime but May Harm Police Reputation” [Jonathan Mummolo, Cato Research Briefs in Economic Policy, earlier]
  • In letter to Google, NYPD threatens legal action if Waze app fails to remove feature allowing users to post locations of police checkpoints [Amanda Robert, ABA Journal]

Consent decrees: an exchange

My piece of two weeks ago for National Review about consent decrees, police, and the Jeff Sessions memo (briefly summarized here) drew a detailed response from Radley Balko in the Washington Post, whose writings on police misconduct I often link here. I’ve now responded in a second NR piece, arguing that while there is much common ground to be found on the issues here, I will stick with seeing the memo as generally on the right track in articulating proper limits to the feds’ constitutional role (especially under the post-Civil War Amendments) in restraining misconduct by lower levels of government. “The very real and sometimes dire failings of local governments do not change the most important fact about our federal government, which is that it is one of limited powers.”

Justice Department revamps consent decree rules: what the press missed

The feds plan to be less heavy-handed in using consent decrees to micromanage states and cities, and there’s a good case for that, I argue at National Review. Alas, as I explain, national media bungled the story in November by characterizing Jeff Sessions’s memo as if it were primarily aimed at reducing oversight of police. “Not once in its seven pages does the word ‘police’ even appear.”

My short piece doesn’t take up the question of how the well-documented problems of consent decrees in other areas are to be weighed against the possible advantages of the device in curbing abuse-prone police departments. But at least some advocates of police reform and accountability have expressed doubts about whether the process, which can sometimes take political pressure off the local authority, really works as advertised [David Meyer Lindenberg, Tim Lynch, Scott Greenfield; see also John McGinnis]

“Why Doesn’t the FBI Videotape Interviews?”

For the FBI to videotape the interviews it conducts would presumably allow an improvement in accuracy over note-taking, an important issue when statements can lead to criminal conviction (either on underlying charges or on charges of lying to the government). They would also permit improved oversight of how well the FBI does its work. So why did FBI guidelines forbid the practice until 2014, and even now establish a presumption of recording only for custodial interviews? [Alex Tabarrok citing Michael Rappaport, Law and Liberty and Harvey Silverglate 2011]

Judge: First Amendment protects recording cops and officials performing public duties

“A federal court judge Monday ruled a Massachusetts General Law prohibiting the secret audio recording of police or government officials is unconstitutional. …In the 44-page decision [Judge Patti] Saris declared that ‘secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.'” [Noah Bombard, MassLive]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Sorry, Denver cops, but you can’t keep a journalist from photographing an arrest on the street by telling her she’s violating the health-privacy law HIPAA [Alex Burness, Colorado Independent on handcuffing of editor Susan Greene]
  • Conor Friedersdorf interviews Scott Greenfield, criminal defense blogger and longtime friend of this blog, at the Atlantic;
  • Claim in new article: “extremely broad criminal statutes, no less than vague and ambiguous criminal statutes, are constitutionally problematic for depriving ordinary people of ‘fair notice’ about how the legal system actually works” [Kiel Brennan-Marquez guest series at Volokh Conspiracy: first, second, third]
  • “We Cannot Avoid the Ugly Tradeoffs of Bail Reform” [Alex Tabarrok; Scott Greenfield] New York should learn from Maryland on risks of unintended consequences [New York Post, and thanks for mention] And a Cato Daily Podcast on bail reform with Daniel Dew of the Buckeye Institute and Caleb Brown;
  • In Little Rock and elsewhere, police use of criminal informants creates disturbing incentives that can challenge both probity and accountability [Jonathan Blanks, Cato on Radley Balko account of Roderick Talley raid episode]
  • Call to scrap juries in UK rape trials (because they acquit too often) is met with criticism [Matthew Scott, Spectator]