Bay Area Takes Police-State Approach to Tobacco

 

Should the LAPD use drones?

As reported by the L.A. Times:

For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.

Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.

On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, saying the department wanted to test the use of drones in a one-year pilot program.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates or police critics for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance and fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies. …

Click here to read the full story

California Bill Would Tie Traffic Fines To Violator’s Income

As reported by CBS13:

SACRAMENTO — If you’ve ever gotten a traffic violation, you know it all too well that California’s traffic fines are among the highest in the nation.

But a state Senator wants to lower fines for people who don’t make much money while making it illegal for the state to suspend your driver’s license if you can’t afford to pay.

Devon Olson is in the passenger’s seat, while mom drives her around town.

“I’m Uber mom these days,” mom said.

Devon lost her license because of $3,600 in unpaid traffic tickets. The biggest penalty is a red light camera violation. But she says she wasn’t home to receive the tickets in the mail. Then the late fees kept building and she had to give up the car. …

Click here to read the full article

New Bill Calls for Cops to Track Weapons

As reported by the Orange County Register:

A state bill introduced Monday would require California law enforcement agencies to keep track of their guns and establish a reporting procedure for when police lose them.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said he introduced the legislation in response to investigations published this year by the Orange County Register and Bay Area News Group revealing that many law enforcement agencies make little or no effort to inventory their weapons and that officers frequently lose their firearms – some of which end up on the street.

“The guns…fall into the hands of criminals,” Hill said. “The public will be protected much better when we account for law enforcement guns.”

The stories on lost police guns noted that there are no state or federal laws requiring police agencies to account for their weapons and few agencies voluntarily do so.

The Department of Justice’s Automated Firearms System attempts to act as a national registry for law enforcement weapons, but agencies are not required to report when a registered gun is lost or stolen. Also, officers don’t have to register their privately-owned guns even if they frequently carry them in the line of duty. …

Click here to read the full article

If Police Unions Were Abolished and Police Associations Were Restored

Police tapeEarlier this month the New York Times ran an editorial entitled “When Police Unions Impede Justice.” They make the point that collective bargaining agreements for police employees often make it very difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. When you have nearly 1 million sworn police officers in the United States, you’re bound to have a few bad apples. According to the NYT, these collective bargaining agreements discourage citizens from lodging misconduct complaints, micromanage investigations, and minimize disciplinary sanctions.

This isn’t news. It’s one of the reasons collective bargaining agreements for police officers are especially problematic. The other big problem with collective bargaining agreements for members of public safety are the often excessive and unaffordable benefit packages they’ve “negotiated” with the politicians whose careers are made or broken by these same unions. So what if police unions were abolished?

One may argue that abolishing police unions in favor of police associations – which could not engage in collective bargaining – would actually benefit all parties. An immediate benefit would be greater accountability for police officers. Why wouldn’t greater individual accountability be supported by the overwhelming majority of police officers who are conscientious, humane, compassionate members of the communities they serve? In turn, why wouldn’t greater police accountability foster rapprochement in neighborhoods where mistrust has developed between citizens and law enforcement?

With respect to pay and benefits for police officers, the risks of abolishing collective bargaining may be overstated. As it is, rates of base pay for police officers are not excessive by market standards. If they were, it would be easier to hire police officers. The primary economic problem with police compensation is retirement benefits, which in California now easily average over $100,000 per year for officers retiring in their 50’s after 25+ years of service. As the unions defend these excessive pensions, younger officers are left with far less generous benefits. The perpetually escalating contributions the pension funds demand – for all public employees – are behind virtually all tax increases being proposed in California. It can’t go on.

So abolishing collective bargaining for police would lead to several benefits (1) more police accountability and improved community relations, (2) minimal impact on base police pay, and (3) quicker resolution of financial challenges facing pensions, which will increase the probability that the defined benefit will be preserved, and will increase the potential retirement benefit available to the incoming generation of new police officers.

Apart from ending collective bargaining agreements, abolishing police unions in no way abolishes the ability of police officers to organize in voluntary associations to pursue common professional and political objectives. Before we had unionized police forces, police associations were very influential in civic affairs and could be again. And there are broader political objectives that may animate these police associations, beyond protecting bad cops and fighting for financially unsustainable retirement benefits. Police and other public safety employees, whether they are part of a union or part of a voluntary association, should think carefully about where the United States is headed. This is especially true in California.

The most dangerous risk of politically active police unions is the fact that whenever government fails, whenever our common culture is undermined, whenever social programs breed more problems than they solve, we need to hire more police officers. And whenever government expands to regulate and manage more aspects of our lives, we need to hire more police officers. Social upheaval and authoritarian government create jobs for police officers. For a police union that wants more members, a failing society and an authoritarian government suits their agenda.

For this reason, police officers have a choice to make. Do they really want to enforce the laws emanating from the climate fascists, the tolerance fascists, the sensitivity fascists, the equality fascists, the multi-cultural fascists – the entire ostensibly anti-fascist fascist gang of elitists who currently control public policy in California? Do they want to deploy drones to monitor whether or not someone got a permit to install a window in their bathroom, or watered their lawn on the wrong day? Do they want to fine or arrest people who aren’t willing to adhere to speech codes, or who refuse to hire less qualified employees in order to fulfill race and gender quotas? Do they want to police a society that has fragmented irretrievably because we continued to import millions of unskilled, destitute individuals from hostile cultures, than indoctrinated their children in union-ran public schools to falsely believe they live in a racist, sexist society?

It’s a tough choice. Will politically active police organizations redirect some of their resources to support policies that might actually reduce the number of police we need? Abolishing collective bargaining may make the right choice easier, because police will then be less immune to the economic and social havoc the elitists are currently imposing on the rest of us.

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

Appreciating Police Officers, Challenging Police Unions

Police carIn the wake of tragic and deadly attacks on police officers, those of us who have never wavered in our support for the members of law enforcement, but have questioned the role of police unions and have debated issues of policy surrounding law enforcement have an obligation to restate our position. Civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives have disagreements with police unions which were summed up quite well recently by guest columnist Steve Greenhut, writing in the Orange County Register. Here are some of the principal concerns:

Police unionization protects bad officers and stifles reform. Lack of transparency into investigations of police misconduct aids and abets the worst actors. Police unions often support laws designed to extract increased revenue from citizens in the form of excessive fines. The “war on drugs” and militarization of law enforcement can further increase the tension between police and the populations they serve. And, of course, police unions fight relentlessly for increases to compensation and benefits, especially straining the budgets of cities.

To have a balanced discussion on these topics, however, it is necessary to revisit why police work has become more controversial and more expensive. Here are some of the reasons:

(1)  The value of life has never been higher. A century ago, when the life expectancy for Americans was 49, tragic deaths were commonplace. Compared to Americans in 1916, Americans today on average can expect an additional three decades of productive life, and premature death is proportionately more traumatic. This means the premium that police officers deserve for their service is higher than it’s ever been, and should be.

(2)  The expectations we have for law enforcement have never been higher. Along with longer lives, Americans suffer less crime. For nearly forty years, in nearly all categories, crime has steadily diminished. While there remains enough crime to generate a daily barrage of lurid local news reports, we enjoy more safety and security than at any time in history. We are getting this service thanks to our police forces, and better service deserves better pay.

(3)  The complexity of crime has never been higher. Crime itself has become far more sophisticated and menacing, morphing into areas unimaginable even a generation ago – cybercrime, global terrorism, financial crimes, murderous gangs, international criminal networks, foreign espionage, asymmetric threats – the list is big and gets bigger every year. Countering these threats requires more capable, better compensated personnel.

(4)  The statistical risk to police officers, even in the wake of recent tragedies, may remain low, but that could change in an instant. In the event of severe civil unrest or well coordinated terrorist attacks such as we saw in Sept. 2011, hundreds or even thousands of officers could find themselves on the front lines of a cataclysm. Statistics are not necessarily predictive, and police officers live with this knowledge every day.

So how do civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives manage their debates with police unions while conveying their respect for police officers? First, by acknowledging the complexity of the issues. Police should make more money than ever before – the debate should start there, not end there. Police have to be armed to the teeth, because in a free republic, the citizens themselves are armed to the teeth. That’s the choice we made, and unless we want to disarm the citizenry, we can’t disarm the police. These are fundamentals where there should be agreement.

Beyond that, it is necessary to appeal to the patriotism and decency that animates the vast majority of members of law enforcement, and ask them: Please work with us to curb the inherent excesses of police union power. Of course we have to get bad cops off the street. Of course we have to come up with effective non-lethal uses of force. Of course we have to figure out how to fund police departments without levying excessive fines. And of course we have to face a challenging economic future together, where police are partners with the people they serve, not an economically privileged class. Is this possible? One may hope so.

There’s more. If police unions are going to be intimately involved in the politics of law enforcement and the politics of police compensation, and they are, they may as well start getting involved in other causes where their membership may find common cause with civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives. Police officers see first hand how welfare destroys families and how public schools fail our children. So why aren’t they fighting to replace welfare with workfare and why aren’t they fighting to destroy the teachers union? You can say what you will about police unions, but they did NOT turn this nation into a lawless hellhole, quite the opposite. The teachers union DID destroy public education. So help us reduce their influence.

Similarly, police officers need to decide if they really feel like enforcing the myriad environmental harassment laws that are criminalizing everything from installing a window or water heater without a building permit to watering your lawn on the wrong day. The global environmentalist movement – of which California is ground zero – has become fascism masquerading as anti-fascism. It has become neo-colonialism masquerading as concern for indigenous peoples. It was a previously noble movement that has been hijacked by cynical billionaires, monopolistic corporations, and corrupt financial special interests. In its excess today, it has become a despicable scam. Help us to crush these corrupt opportunists before our freedom and prosperity is obliterated.

These thoughts, perhaps, are challenges that civil libertarians and fiscal conservatives might offer up to the police unions of America.

This piece was originally published by the Flash Report

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Black Lives Matter — 3 Things We’ve Learned; and 1 Thing We Still Don’t Know

0811-riotThe Black Lives Matter movement has raged for nearly two years. In its better moments, it has provoked soul-searching by sincere Americans who want to understand each other, and who want the law to be enforced fairly as well as effectively.

In its worst moments — such as the one we are enduring now — Black Lives Matter has inspired violence, terrorized police, driven up crime and divided Americans.

Overall, the experience has produced three basic lessons — and raised one lingering question.

1. Lesson 1: Race does not actually matter in police shootings. A black Harvard economics professor has published a new study that reveals that there is no evidence of racial bias when police use deadly force. “On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings — we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,” the study concludes.

The study also reports that blacks and Hispanics are 50% more likely to experience somekind of force in their interactions with police (see below). But the claim that the police are killing black people has no basis in fact.

There is anecdotal evidence to support the Harvard study’s hard numbers. Fresno police recently shot and killed an unarmed white teenager, Dylan Noble. The police “body cam” videos of the shooting are painful to watch. It is not clear that they had to use deadly force against him. But it is also likely that they had some reason to, after he appeared to be holding a long object in one of his hands; seemed to reach behind his back, or to his waist; and walked towards officers who already had their guns drawn.

The common denominator in most of these sad events is not race, but often the unpredictable behavior of the victims.

2. Lesson 2: Racism is still a part of black Americans’ everyday experience. Though there is no racial bias in shootings, minorities do experience different treatment by police.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC), a Tea Party conservative and the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction, gave eloquent voice to that sentiment, describing how he had once been stopped by Capitol police. They did not believe the black man standing at the entrance to the building was a U.S. Senator.

“[T]he officer looked at me, a little attitude and said, ‘The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID’,” he recalled.

That is not to say that black people are the only people who experience racism. Nor does it mean that America’s institutions are fundamentally corrupt. The idea of “systemic racism,” which has become a Hillary Clinton talking point, is an absurd contrivance that presumes all white people to be guilty, and is used to bully people — including liberals — into conformity with the radical left.

But as even former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani noted, as he called Black Lives Matter “inherently racist,” the perception of racism creates its own reality. And there is a basis for that perception, as the Harvard study notes.

3. Lesson 3: Police, like most people, want to do the right thing. One of the striking, but overlooked, common features of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge, the Philando Castile shooting in Minnesota, and the Dylan Noble shooting in Fresno is that the police showed a genuine concern for the people they had shot, once the confrontations were over.

Police called paramedics right away, for example, after Sterling had been shot. And in the body cam video of the Noble shooting, one officer is heard literally pleading with the young man to raise his hands so he would not have to shoot again.

There are rare exceptions, of course. In the Tamir Rice shooting in 2014, where a police officer shot and killed a boy in a park armed with a toy gun, officers struggled to provide first aid.

There are some bad cops, and terrible mistakes by good cops. But police want to solve the problem — without placing public safety at risk.

The point is there is room for debate about how to improve police tactics, and rebuild trust. Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia recently noted that strangers who normally might not trust each other change their minds with just a little more information. As Giuliani sad, we “have to try to understand each other.”

Question: Do black people realize that white people have the same problems? It can be humiliating to be “profiled,” but police make snap judgments about people all the time. In some situations, they have to do so. And sometimes, the decisions are unjust and unfair.

But it is not a uniquely black experience. Breitbart News’ Lee Stranahan was arrested last weekend while covering Black Lives Matter protests, and wrote: “I did nothing to break the law. I was not obstructing traffic … the police came directly at me. I do not know why I was targeted.” Once arrested, he made an effort to be cooperative, and observed that despite being one of the only white detainees, he was treated equally, “no better or worse than any other polite prisoner.”

There has been so much rhetoric lately about “systemic racism,” after years of Occupy-inspired agitprop about inequality, that black people could be forgiven for ascribing the ordinary mishaps and challenges of life, wrongly, to racism.

Do enough black people know that most white people — even among the “wealthy” — struggle to pay the bills, wrestle with addiction, and have run-ins with the cops?

We have let our leaders politicize the everyday. We should try talking to each other, without them.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, will be published by Regnery on July 25 and is available for pre-order through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart California

San Francisco police union rejects outside criticism

Police carThe abrupt May 19 resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr after police Sgt. Justin Erb shot and killed Jessica Williams, an unarmed African-American woman fleeing in a stolen car, drew national and international attention to the city’s Police Department. Its officers are accused of callously killing minority crime suspects and homeless people and some have been embroiled in a scandal for more than a year involving racist and homophobic text messages.

In the normal dynamics of government scandal and dysfunction, leaders identify a problem and work to address it, seeking to win media and public approval. But what’s going on in San Francisco reflects the normal dynamics of law-enforcement scandals. Police officers who feel underappreciated — even besieged since the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2014 —push back hard at the idea that they’re doing something fundamentally wrong, even when it comes to police killings of unarmed people.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association denounced Mayor Ed Lee’s decision to ask Suhr to quit. “His retirement under pressure is an extreme loss to the department and the city,” a union statement said. “Chief Suhr, at the core, was and always will be a cop’s cop and dedicated to the men and women who don the uniform every day to serve and protect.”

This attitude doesn’t bode well for interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who told reporters that his agenda was “reform, reform, reform” because “the department has to move forward.”

But despite the praise for Suhr from the police union, the fatal May 18 shooting of the stolen-car suspect was one more example of his lack of control over his department. Suhr has long implored officers not to shoot into fleeing cars. The police union had also criticized his response to the text-message scandal, including his demanding that officers sign a pledge essentially promising to not be bigots.

Union: “Protect due process” of accused officers

There are presently 18 police officers accused in the texting scandal. While police union president Martin Halloran condemned “the appalling racist behavior committed by a handful of officers,” he also said the police union would closely scrutinize the disciplinary process to ensure it “protects the due process rights of the officers.”

Those right are so strong that it is often difficult to fire a police officer in California unless he commits a crime or acts in egregious ways with indisputable evidence. It’s also difficult to even find out about officer misconduct, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April.

Nearly 40 years ago, California took its first steps to shield police misconduct from the public when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in his first term restricting details of officer personnel files from disclosure. A 2006 California Supreme Court decision went further and extended the law’s protections to cases in which civil service commissions weighed in on officer discipline. Today, almost all details about misconduct — including cases in which police officers were found to have used excessive force, engaged in racial profiling or lied on the job — are kept secret outside of court, administrative or civilian review board proceedings.

And although 23 states keep most public employee personnel records confidential, California is one of just three to provide specific protections for police information, according to a recent investigation by WNYC, a public radio station in New York.

Partly in response to the problems in his home town, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 1286 that would open up police records in cases of “serious misconduct.” It passed an initial Senate committee vote last month, but then died without a second vote on Friday.

But as Conor Friedersdorf reported last August in The Atlantic, many police reform efforts have been launched in the Golden State only to go nowhere.

What’s next in San Francisco?

Meanwhile, Mayor Lee is facing pressure from the most liberal members of the city’s Board of Supervisors to go after bad cops. Supervisor Jane Kim, a rising star in city politics, has been pushing for change for more than four years and now has more support than ever.

But the police union thinks that Lee has already done too much to address police controversies.

On May 26th Mayor Ed Lee made some very disturbing remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle. These comments were directed at the SFPD Sergeant who was forced to discharge his firearm in the Officer Involved Shooting last week. The Mayor’s remarks were prejudicial and irresponsible. The POA has always responded to misinformed politicians who make such inflammatory statements and the Mayor is no exception.

That’s from Friday post on the police union’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department continues its investigation of the San Francisco Police Department, launched in February. It’s not clear when the federal probe will conclude.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Wrongful convictions cost California taxpayers $282 million over 24 years, study finds

As reported by the Washington Post:

A California research project tried to do something no one’s ever done: determine the total cost of wrongful convictions. That cost being not just the settlements paid to innocent defendants, but the unnecessary costs of prosecuting and incarcerating them, plus the total legal bills of their criminal trials and appeals.

Beginning the project in 2012 and working backwards to 1989, the study found 692 people who were convicted of felonies in California but whose cases were later dismissed or acquitted on retrial. Those people spent a total of 2,346 years in custody and cost California taxpayers an estimated $282 million when adjusted for inflation, according to the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, which released the study last week.

Now for some scale: Those 692 failed convictions over 24 years were part of a California system that convicts more than 200,000 people every year. Some may argue, the report notes, that 692 mistakes over more than two decades “reflects an acceptable rate of error. We reject the proposition that an acceptable rate of error can apply to proceedings that impact people’s lives in the way that criminal prosecution can…Just as with airline safety and medical mistakes, the acceptable rate of error is zero and that should be the goal.”

The researchers also note …

Click here to read the full story

Superbowl Spotlight Bad Timing for SF Police

San Francisco, CA, USAThe global spotlight on the Bay Area created by Super Bowl 50 couldn’t have come at a worse time for the San Francisco Police Department. The fatal December shooting of Mario Woods, a young African American stabbing suspect who was shot by five officers as he walked away from them, continues to trigger increasingly regular protests.

Now the U.S. Justice Department has concluded that there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing that it is going to review SFPD and its history. Yahoo News has details:

“We will examine the San Francisco Police Department’s current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement going forward,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

At the conclusion of the review, the Justice Department will give San Francisco police a list of best practices it can follow to ensure fairness in its interactions with citizens.

San Francisco police will then report back to the Justice Department on a periodic basis to show it is following the practices, a Justice Department official said.

The ACLU of Northern California and African American activists welcomed the announcement.

Officers asked to pledge not to be racists

Meanwhile, San Francisco police are also being called out, in essence, by their chief, who is asking them to pledge to not act like racists, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“People that would use racial epithets, slurs and things like that clearly fall below the minimum standard of being a police officer,” Police Chief Greg Suhr [said]. “A cop needs to show character and point that out.”

Suhr noted that a website — notonmywatchsfpd.org — had been launched to emphasize what he expects out of his officers. This is from its “About” description:

SFPD created the Not On My Watch initiative … in an effort to improve relationships between police officers and the diverse communities they serve.

This first-of-its-kind pledge is about recognizing that we need to guard against our own implicit biases,” said SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, “and to call out anyone who is intolerant or bigoted.”

Since 2011, SFPD policy has prohibited biased policing. The inspiration for the Not On My Watch project came from SFPD Sergeant Yulanda Williams, president of Officers for Justice. “It tells everyone that I am going to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Sgt. Williams. “And at the same time, we’re encouraging them to trust us, respect us and allow us to help them by delivering the type of police service that makes for viable, stable communities.”

Selling police chief as idealist may prove difficult

This initiative may play well in San Francisco and nationallly, but Suhr’s critics will question his sincerity and idealism. He’s had to deal with two rounds of harsh news coverage since last summer.

The city had to spend nearly $1.5 million to defend him from a whistleblower’s lawsuit with embarrassing allegations andpersuasive evidence that Suhr mishandled a domestic violence case to help a friend.

He’s also accused of giving special breaks to a family friend in his attempt to secure a job as a San Francisco officer.