“One potential problem: wearing a mask in public may also be a crime…. In fact, many states and localities have similar anti-disguise laws, most of which date back to the Reconstruction era and were aimed at suppressing the Ku Klux Klan.” Kevin Underhill’s explainer of the law of mask bans includes the sidelight question of “false whiskers” [Lowering the Bar]
Matthew Feeney joins Caleb Brown to discuss aspects of police surveillance and privacy in two Cato Daily Podcasts. The first arises from the rapid advance of facial recognition technology and databases: a tech company is now promising to link up photos of unknown people with their presence on the web for private clients and police.
The second inquires into where we are headed with the new electronic neighborhood watch: Amazon’s Ring provides handy surveillance of the front porches of many American homeowners, but acquires a new dimension when localities partner with the company to make it easier for cops to get its footage.
A 62-year old cop in the small Rhode Island town of Warren has finally taken retirement after 22 years on sick leave. Legal wrangling went on over that period, during which the police detective could “receive his full pay and benefits, but never come to work.” He pointed to a state law guaranteeing full pay and benefits to officers injured on the job until they return to work. Warren has just 22 cops on its force and felt his approximate $114,000 in salary and benefits to be a burden. [Parker Gavigan, NBC 10 News]
- Crime victims’ rights enactment: “Florida cops who use force keep names secret with Marsy’s Law” [Tony Marrero, Tampa Bay Times, I’m quoted; earlier]
- Sergeant’s Benevolent Association in NYC declares “war on” Mayor Bill de Blasio and I have something to say about that on Twitter;
- Jeepers: “The chief also said Tuesday that someone forged his signature on Kidd’s 2015 agreement, which lowered his punishment from termination for cowardice to a 65-day suspension.” [George Hunter, Detroit News] “How San Antonio’s Worst Cops Get Their Jobs Back” [Zuri Davis]
- “Nobody was physically injured in the Looking for [Guy] Who Was in Prison incident, but the plaintiff does allege that the grenades terrified her and her children, [who] also did not enjoy having assault rifles pointed at them by screaming officers.” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
- Philly cop misconduct files rarely made public but here’s an exception [William Bender and David Gambacorta, Philadelphia Inquirer] Three links on Baltimore police misconduct [my Free State Notes post]
- Deputy was drinking and crashed twice, but kept his job and county owes him $16K [Elizabeth Doran, Syracuse Post-Standard, related editorial]
A proposal from my Cato Institute colleague Clark Neily: small claims courts for low-level police misconduct. Ilya Somin praises it as among the few constitutional law ideas “that are simultaneously good, original, and potentially useful in the real world.” [Volokh Conspiracy] More: Howard Wasserman (similar ideas), Scott Greenfield and some other thoughts on small claims.
“Prosecutors estimate that as many as 60,000 car accident victims may have had their confidential information improperly disclosed” in a scheme in which New York Police Department employees accepted money to pass information about 911 callers to an outfit that would then urge them to visit prearranged medical clinics and lawyers. “He told his fraudulent call center not to target victims in Manhattan, court documents said, because ‘those people got attorneys.’… ‘We want all the bad neighborhoods.’” With bonus HIPAA content: the ringleader of the scheme, besides paying off police personnel, allegedly “bribed employees at hospitals and medical centers to violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, and disclose confidential patient information for car accident victims, the documents say.” [Ali Watkins, New York Times]
The city of Phoenix quietly erases police misconduct records: “The practice, which the Department refers to as ‘purging,’ has been standard for more than two decades under the police union’s contract, but the public has been unaware of it.” [Justin Price, Arizona Republic; Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
Although the Supreme Court’s Brady doctrine requires prosecutors to inform defense counsel of evidence undermining the credibility of police witnesses, the right can amount to little if matters are so arranged that past instances of officer dishonesty never come to their attention in the first place [Steve Reilly and Mark Nichols, USA Today] In Baltimore, following the conviction of several officers in the notorious Gun Trace Task Force scandal, the state’s attorney has begun throwing out nearly 800 convictions tainted by the wrongdoers’ testimony [my Free State Notes post]
Meanwhile: “The former New York police officer who was fired in August for using a chokehold during Eric Garner’s deadly arrest five years ago is suing to be reinstated.” [Doha Madani, NBC News] Earlier, New York’s Police Benevolent Association said the city’s police commissioner would “lose his police department” if he followed a judge’s recommendation and fired Daniel Pantaleo [Jonathan Blanks, Cato; Joel Mathis, The Week]
- “Lawyer says it ‘would be an honor’ to be disbarred; disciplinary board aims to oblige” [ABA Journal, Lowering the Bar]
- In the mail: Jacob Grier’s new book The Rediscovery of Tobacco: Smoking, Vaping, and the Creative Destruction of the Cigarette [more from author, Mark Fogerson/Portland Monthly, John Locke Foundation podcast with Grier and Mitch Kokai] And: Cato video;
- Re: House subpoenas aimed at the Trump administration, colleague Ilya Shapiro wrote this comprehensive pre-game report [last December for the Washington Examiner]
- NBC might not have picked the ideal poster inmate to showcase the problem of long-term sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders [Kent Scheidegger via Volokh]
- Profile of police brutality/civil rights plaintiff’s lawyer Benjamin Crump [John H. Richardson, New York magazine]
- Conservative Tennessee lawmaker introduces bill to provide instructions for jury nullification in acquittal direction only [Scott Greenfield in February]
“…when it comes to parody, the law requires a reasonable reader standard, not a ‘most gullible person on Facebook’ standard. The First Amendment does not depend on whether everyone is in on the joke.” — Judge Amul Thapar, Sixth Circuit, writing on behalf of a unanimous panel that “an Ohio man who was acquitted of a felony after creating a parody Facebook page that mocked a suburban Cleveland police department can sue the city and two police officers over his arrest.” [Jonathan Stempel, Reuters]
Related: everyone has the right to call politicians idiots, and that goes for gun store owners too [Eugene Volokh; North Carolina gun store owner’s billboard likened by sitting member of Congress to “inciting violence”]