Patterico's Pontifications

11/16/2006

Here’s That Number, Sir . . .

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:58 pm

This L.A. Observed post about the LAPD’s dissemination of information reminded me of a story of mine from several years ago.

I had a trial involving alleged possession of cocaine for purposes of sale. The defendant had made a complaint against one of the officers, and Internal Affairs had spoken to the defendant. I had heard rumors that the defendant had made incriminating statements on the tape, but it had not been turned over in the regular course of discovery. (Nothing unusual about that; personnel complaints are often considered confidential, and police often do not include such materials in the set of discovery routinely provided to the attorneys trying the case.) I was looking for a way to contact the IA officers who had spoken with the defendant, and called the relevant station’s front desk asking for the number.

I didn’t identify myself as a D.A. I just called the front desk, and asked for the number for Internal Affairs.

I was given a phone number . . . which turned out to be wrong.

I later called an investigator on the case, identified myself as a Deputy D.A., and explained to him what I was looking for, and why. I asked for the relevant Internal Affairs number. He gave it to me. It turned out to be the same number that I had been given by the officer at the station’s front desk — with one minor difference: two of the numbers were transposed.

I am confident that I correctly wrote down the number that the desk officer had given me.

Do you see what I’m saying? I called an LAPD station, didn’t say who I was, and asked for the number for Internal Affairs — and the number I got was incorrect, but ever so slightly so. I later called back — this time identifying myself and my pro-law enforcement purpose — and got the right number.

When I was given a wrong number by a desk officer, was it an innocent mistake on his part?

Who can say?

There would be no point in filing a complaint, even in the event that I could determine who had answered the phone that day. It would be argued that I might have been the one who transposed the digits — and even if it was the desk officer’s fault (and I’m telling you it was), he might simply have misspoken.

But we Deputy DA’s are suspicious by nature. And I’ve always suspected that it wasn’t a mistake. And I’ve wondered how many ordinary citizens have been given the same “incorrect” number when they told a desk officer that they wanted the phone number for Internal Affairs.

Milton Friedman Dead

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:52 pm

Milton Friedman is dead. His vision, of an America unburdened by counterproductive social welfare programs, died long ago.

Allah says: “Libertarian flags fly at half mast.” He also provides the link to this wonderful video showing Friedman making his excellent arguments in favor of that long-dead vision.

UPDATE: In honor of Friedman, I plan to pay for my lunch tomorrow.

Another Great Alex Kozinski Opinion

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Court Decisions,General — Patterico @ 6:43 pm

Via Eugene Volokh comes a link to an excellent opinion by Judge Alex Kozinski slamming police for an unjustified warrantless entry into a private home:

The facts are remarkable. Plaintiff, Susan Frunz, and her two guests were in Frunz’s home in Tacoma, Washington, when police surrounded the house, broke down the back door and entered. The police had no warrant and had not announced their presence. Frunz first became aware of them when an officer accosted her in the kitchen and pointed his gun, bringing the barrel within two inches of her forehead. The police ordered or slammed the occupants to the floor and cuffed their hands behind their backs—Frunz for about an hour, until she proved to their satisfaction that she owned the house, at which time they said “never mind” and left.

I feel bad for the plaintiffs, but on the other hand, they won $138,000. I’d go through that experience for a chunk of change that large. Still, the officers’ behavior was undoubtedly outrageous, and if that’s what it takes to get their attention, so be it. Read the whole opinion.

Hoyer Defeats Murtha

Filed under: General,Politics — Patterico @ 5:44 pm

The vote was 149-86.

I guess when Murtha said he had the votes, eyeball to eyeball, he wasn’t telling the truth any more than he was about Abscam.

The Democrats have just taken a big juicy target away from Republicans. Dammit.

But I have confidence that we’re still looking at Alcee “Impeached for Bribery” Hastings as the head of the Intelligence Committee.

UPDATE: I had a brain glitch and called Hastings “Alcee ‘Impeached for Bribery’ Hastings.” I meant to say “impeached” and not “indicted,” and have changed the post to reflect my original intent. Hastings was prosecuted in criminal court and acquitted. I don’t know if the prosecution was initiated by indictment or not, but regardless, the more salient fact is that he was impeached and removed from office for bribery. Thanks to a commenter.

Gary Condit: The Frankenstein Monster of Defamation Lawsuits

Filed under: Buffoons,Civil Liberties,Current Events,General,Public Policy — Justin Levine @ 9:48 am

[posted by Justin Levine – not Patterico]

When people ask me, “What’s the dumbest thing you have ever read in a court decision?” it’s admittedly a tough choice, but I will often cite the following jaw-dropping statement from one Judge Oliver Wagner, who denied the National Enquirer’s anti-SLAPP motion against Carolyn Condit (wife of former Congressman Gary Condit):

The disappearance of Ms. Levy does not concern the performance of duties by Mr. Condit in his capacity as a public official. The criminal investigation of the disappearance of Ms. Levy is not necessarily a political or community issue in which public opinion and input is inherent and desirable…

Yep. That’s an actual statement in a published opinion. Think I’m taking it out of context? Then feel free to read the whole thing and decide for yourself.

And partly because of that ruling, Gary & Carolyn Condit were able to make an entire living suing everyone in sight who speculated that Gary Condit might have had something to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy.

Apparently, the Condits are in need of some more cash, because they have sued Dominick Dunne again for saying what millions of others have said (or at least thought on their own without any prompting from Dunne). Condit even managed to get the latest lawsuit filed just under the one year deadline. Nice.

Think what you want about people who go around implying that Clinton murdered people, or stating that Bush deliberately lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The question is: Do you think it would be good policy to allow Presidents to actually sue such critics in court for defamation? If not, then surely you can understand why the same principles should apply to a Congressman (especially high ranking ones who sat on the Intelligence Committee).

If you don’t forcefully bat down frivolous libel suits, you simply end up encouraging people to abuse the courts as a tool of oppression when it comes to free speech. Dominick Dunne is now learning that harsh lesson. Others are paying the price as well.

I had a brief exchange with Dunne’s attorney when the original lawsuit was going through the court system. I gave him some unsolicited advice at the time. Maybe its time to revisit that message.

One silver lining is that Dunne might get another chance to put Condit under oath in order to see him squirm.

For the record: I don’t think Condit was involved in the death of Chandra Levy. But I certainly think that he hampered the investigation into her death by not being immediately forthcoming to police (and the public) about his relationship with her. I didn’t form that opinion based on Mr. Dunne’s statements — I formed it based on Condit’s own behavior.

The notion that Dunne can be sued by a former Congressman for speculating about Levy’s disappearance should send a chill down the spine of anyone who values the ability to hold public officials accountable for their actions (and inactions). This particular chill is colder than the dry ice at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store

[posted by Justin Levine]

Jack Dunphy on LAPD Punching Video

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 7:42 am

[Posted by Jack Dunphy]

A few more words about the videotaped arrest in Hollywood:

It has been reported that one of the involved officers had twice previously been accused of using excessive force during arrests. Though neither charge was sustained, the uninformed reader may draw an inference that the officer has a pattern of such allegations, giving credence to Cardenas’s claims that he was victimized. It’s important to note that most LAPD officers working the street, including me, have at some point in their career been similarly accused. The filing of such complaints is a routine tactic employed by criminals, especially gang members, who use these allegations in their effort to discredit the officers who have arrested them. Sadly, this tactic has been known to work.

Also, despite all the media attention focused on this incident, there has been remarkably little curiosity displayed in the press about Cardenas’s attorney, B. Kwaku Duren. Duren is affiliated with an organization called Cop Watch L.A., which, according to its website, expresses the following as its mission:

CWLA is a program dedicated to the struggle that will end police terrorism through collecting information on and observing police activity, offer support for those caught in the criminal (in)justice system, fight for change without a reformist consciousness, and ultimately work side-by-side with oppressed communities(*) to create Revolutionary alternatives to policing, prisons, and all systems of domination, oppression and exploitation.

Duren is also identified as the chairman of the New Black Panther Vanguard Movement, whose website offers the interested visitor additional insights as to what his motivating ideology might be.

I acknowledge my bias in favor of the officers in the Cardenas case, but readers should also view Duren’s claims on behalf of his client through the lens of his own professed beliefs.

My thanks to Patterico for offering me this forum.

— Jack Dunphy

More on the LAPD Punching Video

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:56 am

Some further notes on the video showing the LAPD officer punching a suspect:

Jack Dunphy’s promised article on the incident is up, and I recommend reading it all. In it, Dunphy recalls an incident from his own career as a patrol officer, in which an apparently routine traffic stop turned into a street fight when the driver emerged from the car concealing a semiautomatic firearm behind his back. The firearm fell to the ground when Dunphy grabbed his arm; the man dove for it and the officers fought — a fight that ended when Dunphy managed to crack the suspect in the head with a sap. Dunphy says:

There was a single witness to the incident, a woman sitting on her porch across the street. She had seen everything, she told our sergeant, and she said we had beaten the man “for no reason at all.” The sergeant asked her if she had seen the gun the man had dropped. She had not, and she agreed that this added information changed her interpretation of what she had witnessed.

Just as the woman failed to see the gun from across the street, if she had recorded the incident with a video camera the gun probably wouldn’t have been visible on the tape, either. I can envision such a tape being played, over and over and over, on the news and on the Internet, and I can imagine being pilloried in the media just as the two Hollywood officers in the current tape are being pilloried today. And I can imagine myself saying, just as the two Hollywood cops must be saying, just as cops all over the LAPD are saying, Why bother?

There can be no better illustration of the dangers of jumping to a conclusion based on incomplete information. And that’s all I recommend in the punching case: not that we all assume the officer’s actions were in clear compliance, but that we wait for all the facts, and not make up our minds on the basis of a selected portion of video.

I don’t know whether the officer committed a crime, used excessive force, or was out of policy. I don’t know all the facts, and neither do you.

(more…)

L.A. Times the Only Major National Newspaper to Fail to Explain Why Murtha’s Abscam Activities Were Suspicious (UPDATED: Now They Have!)

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:03 am

Citizens wondering “what is this Murtha/Abscam ethics issue?” have four national papers to which they can turn for an explanation.

Of the four major national newspapers, three made it clear that Murtha did something shady — specifically, that he suggested that he was open to bribes in the future. By contrast, one national newspaper suggested that Murtha was investigated and cleared, but is still hounded by watchdog groups for some mysterious and undisclosed reason.

I’ll give you one guess as to which paper that is.

(more…)

Excellent Column on LAPD Punching Video

Filed under: Current Events,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:01 am

There is an excellent column in the L.A. Daily News about that LAPD video depicting an officer punching a suspect. I’m tempted to just quote it all, but of course I can’t do that. I’ll give you a generous slice of the beginning and hope it motivates you to read the rest:

THE Hollywood Division LAPD officers “caught on tape” provide the latest example of public outrage over police use of force. The increasing proliferation of video cameras guarantees that more and more police incidents will be captured. So it seems useful to provide some context about how such incidents are analyzed.

For the past 17 years, I’ve worked as an expert witness on civil and criminal use-of-force cases around this country, usually in favor of the police, sometimes not, sometimes with video, sometimes not.

The truth almost always lies deeper than the video.

When all the facts are included, there are a few glaringly obvious facts about this video.

First of all, there is not just one video. There are three videos of this incident posted on YouTube. One is 19 seconds long. One is five seconds long. One is one second short. They each capture a different part of the incident.

The videos were captured via someone’s cell-phone camcorder. You should wonder (I do) about why the two shorter videos published on YouTube are so short. And you should wonder why the longer video suddenly stopped just as the suspect’s right hand was approaching the gun holster of one of the officers.

Were the videos edited to someone’s advantage? Or was it just the luck of the draw and the vagaries of an amateur pushing buttons on the cell phone?

Second, newspapers have published excerpts of the officers’ own report of the arrest, in which they admit hitting the suspect in the head after describing the suspect’s alleged resistance to arrest. It’s very clear watching these videos that the officers are attempting to handcuff the suspect (one cuff is already on one wrist), but the suspect is not allowing that to happen.

Third, it is very interesting that the court commissioner who looked at the video (which was taken back in August) refused to dismiss the criminal case against the suspect. According to news reports, the commissioner said, “The issue here is not whether the officers had to use force. The question is whether or not the defendant used force in resisting the lawful arrest, and I find that he did resist, using force.”

As I did the other day, the writer goes on to discuss the applicable case of Graham v. Connor and the principles by which courts would analyze the use of force. The author concludes:

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are right to express concern about the Hollywood incident because it’s obviously of concern to the public. But they are also right to withhold judgment until the various investigations play out.

The public – and the media – would do well to listen to them.

Very well said, with one quibble: I don’t agree with Bratton’s decision to publicly state that the video was “disturbing.” I’d rather see more withholding of judgment and less spouting off.

Read it all. The L.A. Times should run something like this.


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2384 secs.