Thursday, February 28, 2013

'Hillsborough families are lying': Top police officer's astonishing attack on relatives of 96 who died in tragedy

A police chief has been forced to apologise after sending an 'inappropriate' and 'insensitive' accusing families of those killed in the Hillsborough disaster of lying.

David Crompton, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, issued a full apology over the email which was sent just before a report was published in September criticising police handling of the incident which saw 96 Liverpool fans die at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium in 1989.

The email discussed the launch of a website featuring South Yorkshire Police's version of its handling of the disaster.

Mr Crompton mentions republishing past apologies from force Chief Constables and keeping the site 'purely factual'.

It was sent to Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt and the force head of corporate communications Mark Thompson.

It read: One thing is certain - the Hillsborough Campaign for justice will be doing their version... in fact their version of certain events has become 'the truth' even though it isn't!!

'I just have a feeling that the media 'machine' favours the families and not us, so we need to be a bit more innovative in our response to have a fighting chance otherwise we will just be roadkill.'

Mr Crompton apologised for his remarks and said that the email was sent prior to the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report into the disaster.

He said: 'The email from last September was written prior to the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report.

'It was never intended to cause any offence and I apologise if it has done so. Nor was it intended to challenge the integrity and views of those who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough Disaster.

'Following the publication of the Panel’s report I said in the most forthright terms that I supported the findings and that is still my position.'

Shaun Wright, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, said: 'I was disappointed at the use of such language, even in an internal email, and raised my concerns with the Chief Constable.

'As Police and Crime Commissioner it is my duty to hold the Chief Constable and the Force to account in the interests of the public.

'I accept the Chief Constable’s regret for his language in this one particular email and his apology.'

Mr Wright added that he has made the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Home Secretary aware of the email.

Details of the email emerged following a Freedom of Information request.

The report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel concluded that no Liverpool fans were responsible for the tragedy. It blamed a 'failure of police control' for the fans' deaths.

The disaster saw 96 Liverpool fans die during the opening few minutes of an FA Cup Semi Final tie between the Merseyside club and Nottingham Forest.

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Faulty British rape investigation leads to death of two children

Jean Say

A police unit that investigates sex crimes pressurised a woman to drop a rape claim against a man who went on to murder his two children, a watchdog said today.

Jean Say killed his daughter Regina, eight, and son Rolls, 10, in 2011 when they went to stay with him for a weekend in Southwark, South London.

The earlier rape allegation against him was dismissed by a detective sergeant based in the Sapphire unit at Southwark, south London, who said the circumstances did not constitute rape because the woman 'consented'.

He then went on to slit his children's throats as they slept and was jailed for 30 years after admitting to the killings ahead of a trial.

Today a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission said: 'There is no doubt from the evidence that the woman made an allegation of rape at Walworth police station which should have been believed and thoroughly investigated.'

The IPCC also said that the police's handling of the case had been 'wholly inappropriate' after finding the unit failed to believe victims in the first instance.

The report went on: 'The pressure to meet targets as a measure of success, rather than focussing on the outcome for the victim, resulted in the police losing sight of what policing is about - protecting the public and deterring and detecting crime.'

The IPCC blamed the Sapphire unit for adopting its own procedures that encouraged officers to take retraction statements from victims in cases where it was thought they might later withdraw or not reach the standard of prosecution.

The report also found that victims were first questioned by a detective constable before being interviewed by a specialist officer.

When asked if any officers had been disciplined or might be disciplined in the future a Met spokesman said: 'It's still under consideration as we were waiting for the outcome of today's report.'

This meant they were questioned repeatedly, going against standard practice that a victim should be believed in the first instance until evidence showed otherwise.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another sexsomnia claim fails

About time. For a while they were succeeding regularly

An actor who claimed he was sleepwalking when he assaulted a teenage girl was jailed yesterday.

Simon Morris, 42, said he had ‘sexsomnia’ and did not remember attacking the 15-year-old.

But a jury decided his defence was all an act, and yesterday Judge Daniel Williams sentenced him to eight years for rape.

Morris, a bit-part performer who has appeared in Hollyoaks, attacked the girl after a house party.

He went into her bedroom when she was asleep, but told a court he had no memory of sex, saying: ‘I have a history of sleepwalking, checking my phone, gyrating against door frames and having sex with partners in my sleep.’

Yesterday the judge said: ‘I do not accept that you do not recollect the attack. You told an endless number of glib lies.

'You were unrelenting in pursuit of your victim. You tried to chat her up, boasting about your career.

‘You played the role of nice guy and you deployed the acting skills you boasted about.’

He added: ‘You have shown no remorse and the only thing that has burdened you is self-pity.’

In recent years, a string of men accused of rape and sexual assault have claimed they were suffering sexsomnia and were not in control.

Sexsomnia is a medical condition which causes sufferers to carry out sexual acts in their sleep. It is related to other sleeping conditions, or ‘parasomnias’, such as sleepwalking.

It can cause great distress for genuine sufferers, who are mostly male.

Of 18 known rape cases in which sexsomnia was used as a defence in British courts from 1996 to 2011, 12 ended in acquittals, one Scottish case was found ‘not proven’ and only five ended in guilty verdicts.

Morris raped the teenager at a party after she had been put to bed by her father. The prosecutor told the court that Morris had winked at the girl and asked her to stay with him in London during the party

Prosecutor Sue Ferrier said Morris ‘took an interest in the girl – winking at her, helping her pour drinks and even offering her to stay with him’.

She said: ‘The girl got drunk on cocktails and her father put her to sleep. The girl’s father tried to wake his daughter at 6am to go home, but as she was fast asleep he left her in the bed for the night. By 6.30am the girl was crying rape.’

The girl’s statement to police described how she woke to see Morris standing in front of her, touching her sexually.

He had sex with her before leaving, when the ‘full horror’ hit, she said.

Morris’s girlfriend Helen Cole stood by him and told police he once tried to have sex with her in his sleep.

Morris, who lives in London, appeared on Hollyoaks in 2001 and with Michael Caine in the 2000 film Shiner.

He had been found guilty of rape by a jury in December.

Yesterday he was jailed for eight years and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

Original report here

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Australia: Judge's blast for Tasmania police

A SUPREME Court judge has criticised police misconduct in an investigation into the theft of more than $80,000 in cash and cheques from a North-West Coast car dealer.

Kathryn Anne Woodberry, 39, was found guilty in November of stealing the money from her Devonport employer Gowans Motors and was jailed for nine months.

It can now be revealed that in a pre-trial hearing, Supreme Court Justice Alan Blow ruled critical evidence to be inadmissible because investigating officers had broken the law.

Justice Blow found the sergeant conducting the investigation failed to inform Woodberry she was under arrest, did not allow her to phone a lawyer and unlawfully compelled her to submit to a search of her home.

The judge also found the officer obtained evidence unlawfully by questioning her at work without making a video recording.

He was so unimpressed by some of the evidence given by the officer he said he was unable to place any reliance on it and said that it did not reflect well on the officer's credibility or that of another officer who testified in the case.

"The evidence of the two detectives and that of the accused is so different that it is clear that at least one witness has told lies ... it may be that all three have done so."

Justice Blow ruled the evidence could not be used.

"Police officers need to be made aware of the importance of conducting their investigations properly and in accordance with the law," he said.

"One sure way of doing that is to exclude evidence obtained by improper and unlawful means, and evidence obtained in consequence of improper and unlawful conduct."

Justice Blow said he did not expect Tasmania Police would take action against the officer for breaching the law and police procedures.

In 2007, Justice Blow made similar findings against the same officer over his dealings with a suspect when questioned in a drugs case.

Woodberry was convicted on the basis of other evidence.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Australia: 'I was capsicum sprayed and fined after going to woman's rescue'

He's lucky he didn't get shot. The Victoria police are notorious for that. Their tiny egos need a lot of propping up

A GOOD Samaritan who rushed to the aid of a woman "having her lights punched out" was gobsmacked to get a $553 fine from police in the post.

Aaryn Hayes, 25, was with friends in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, on Sunday morning when he saw a man grab a woman by the throat and throw her to the ground.

Mr Hayes grabbed the man towering over her and pinned him against a wall. Seconds later, police arrived and doused both men with capsicum spray.

"The guy was punching the hell out of this lady," Mr Hayes said. "I didn't punch him or hurt him. I simply grabbed him and moved him away from her to stop the violence.

"She was having her lights punched out - he was getting really stuck in - and people were just walking past. I had to help," he said.

Mr Hayes said while one police officer dealt with "the yelling and screaming offender", he explained to the other what had happened, and they helped him clear the spray from his eyes.

"Then the other officer came over and said I was disturbing the peace and acting in a riotous way.

"I was bewildered. I was just trying to stop a woman being beaten to a pulp and police were saying I was in the wrong for helping.

"I was with seven friends and my girlfriend, who were all witnesses. But when they spoke to the officer he threatened to arrest me and take me back to the station.

"Meanwhile the guy who attacked the woman was let go because the woman didn't want to press charges."

Mr Hayes said his shock was compounded on Tuesday when he received in the post a $600 penalty notice for "riotous behaviour". "I feel like a criminal for trying to help police," he said.

"I keep thinking, 'What if it was my girlfriend or mum who was being attacked, and no one helped?'. "It's not in my personality to walk by, but the fine has made me think twice."

Mr Hayes said he was seeking legal advice and would contest the penalty in court.

A Victoria Police spokesman, Belle Nolan, said: "It's believed a man in his 20s intervened in a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. It's alleged the man assaulted the victim, aged in his 50s, and refused to comply with police instructions to stop.

"He was sprayed with capsicum spray and received an infringement notice for riotous behaviour."

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aggressive British cop can't stand mockery

A rather pathetic human being

A police officer became a ‘laughing stock’ over a YouTube video of him using a truncheon to smash into a disabled pensioner's car, an employment tribunal was told today.

Pc Mike Baillon, 42, allegedly quit his job after becoming the butt of jokes from fellow officers over CCTV footage of him battering the Range Rover of 74-year-old driver Robert Whatley, near Usk in Monmouthshire, South Wales.

The video of Pc Baillon wielding his truncheon was viewed more than 30million times on YouTube, leading him to walk out of his job after being ridiculed every day by his fellow police officers, the hearing was told.

The former traffic officer is now suing police chiefs for constructive dismissal after being relieved of carrying out frontline duties and also claiming damages for allegedly being bullied by fellow officers.

Pc Baillon told the hearing: ‘The ridicule from colleagues was getting to me - it was every single day. They thought I had done wrong and I was lucky to have got away with it. I just wanted my closure.’

He was one of two police officers chasing stroke victim Mr Whatley as he drove along country roads without a seatbelt, before pulling him over in his black £60,000 Range Rover in 2009.

Mr Whatley expected the officers to gently knock on his window, but instead Pc Baillon attacked it with a baton 15 times while his colleague climbed onto the bonnet and kicked in the windscreen.

The officers were cleared of misconduct after an internal investigation but Pc Baillon was removed from frontline duties and his colleagues often brought up the ‘Whatley incident’, the tribunal heard.

Mr Baillon also told the tribunal in Cardiff that his locker at work was defaced over the ‘Whatley incident’ and that he became a ‘laughing stock’. The experienced officer finally took sick leave for stress and wrote letters of complaint to the Gwent Police Authority.

Former police Superintendent James Baker told the tribunal that he was taken off front-line duties because Pc Baillon's mental state could have impaired his ability to respond to high-speed chases.

Mr Whatley won a £20,000 payout from the police over the damage caused to his Range Rover. He was later ordered to pay £235 after being found guilty of speeding and failing to stop for police.

Original report here

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Australia: Cop admits lying about prisoner assault to Police Integrity Commission

One of the NSW north coast policemen who claimed that an Aboriginal man punched a senior constable in the face has admitted to the Police Integrity Commission that the assault never took place, and that in fact he delivered a "knee strike" to the Aboriginal man while he was pinned to the ground.

And the commission was then played a recorded telephone conversation in which the constable referred to a group of Aboriginal people as "a car full of coons".

The revelations came during an explosive fourth day of the Police Integrity Commission inquiry into allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them.

Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Rushton, SC, Constable Luke Mewings conceded that Mr Barker had never struck his fellow officer, Senior Constable David Hill.

"You accept that, in fact, Corey Barker did not assault officer Hill?" Mr Rushton said. "Yes, I agree with that now."

Constable Mewing then conceded that, despite the fact that the young Aboriginal man had not attacked any officer, they then proceeded to slam him into a wall, and then force him to the ground where one officer "stomped" on him, and then dragged him by his handcuffed arms into a cell.

"Dragging this man by his arms while they were still handcuffed would have been extremely painful wouldn't it?" Mr Rushton asked.

"Yes, I guess so," Constable Mewing replied.

The Constable then conceded that he falsely claimed in his formal police statement, and then in Ballina local court, that Mr Barker had assaulted his colleague.

He also said that parts of his statement were copied from the statement of Senior Constable Hill, after at least three of the police involved had "shared" their statements to "refresh our memories".

The Commission heard that the statements of Senior Constable Hill, Constable Lee Walmsley and Constable Mewing contained a number of sections which were "precisely identical", right down to the punctuation used.

This included the claim that, in response to a direction to turn around so he could be handcuffed, Corey Barker had said: "Get f----- you c---. I'm gun a punch you in the f------ head when I get the chance."

Constable Mewing said that the copying of other officer's statements had happened before within his Local Area Command , and that this was done to "refresh your memory".

When asked why he had both falsely claimed that Constable Hill had been assaulted in the local court, and concealed the fact that part of his evidence was copied from another officer, Constable Mewing said he had been "going through a very stressful time...other things in my life".

The hearing continues.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

A sick society

What if I told you police in your town could desensitize themselves to the idea of shooting a (armed) child, pregnant woman, or young mother, for just a couple of bucks? The "No More Hesitation" series from Law Enforcement Targets Inc. offers exactly that. For less than 99 cents per target, police can shoot at real-life images "designed to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training."

Update: The marketing team at Law Enforcement Targets, Inc. sends along this helpful explanation for the "No More Hesitation" series:

"The subjects in NMH targets were chosen in order to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training. I found while speaking with officers and trainers in the law enforcement community that there is a hesitation on the part of cops when deadly force is required on subjects with atypical age, frailty or condition (one officer explaining that he enlarged photos of his own kids to use as targets so that he would not be caught off guard with such a drastically new experience while on duty). This hesitation time may be only seconds but that is not acceptable when officers are losing their lives in these same situations. The goal of NMH is to break that stereotype on the range, regardless of how slim the chances are of encountering a real life scenario that involves a child, pregnant woman, etc. If that initial hesitation time can be cut down due to range experience, the officer and community are better served."

The series contains seven targets in all, titled Pregnant Woman, Older Man 1, Older Man 2, Older Woman, Young Mother, Young Girl, and Little Brother. Each of the depicted subjects is armed.

I've reached out to Minnesota-based Law Enforcement Targets, Inc., for comment on what inspired the series and whether it's popular with law enforcement groups. Considering that the company has landed $5.5 million worth of contracts with the federal government, it might also be interesting to know if these targets are being used by federal law enforcement agents.

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Man whose house was used as spy base in operation which scuppered airliner bomb plot sues London police for wrongful arrest

His main offence seems to be that he is not an infinitely patient Briton

A man who helped MI5 and police convict airline bomb plotters for conspiring to murder hundreds of people in an Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attack, has described how his co-operation and its aftermath led to series of incidents which ruined his life.

Constantinos Alexandrou, 53, played a part in foiling the 2006 bomb plot, which was billed as comparable to the 9/11 tragedy, but claims he was later wrongfully arrested twice and falsely imprisoned.

He is now suing the Met for aggravated damages having suffered stress and related problems due to the police action.

MI5 handlers praised Mr Alexandrou for his part in the operation that stopped ten airliners, travelling form the UK to the USA and Canada, from being blown out of the skies by the terror cell.

Mr Alexandrou, of Walthamstow, told Central London County Court how he assisted the police and security services by giving over his home for surveillance, as it was immediately opposite the bomb factory being run by the al-Qaeda-inspired plotters.

But Cyprus-born Mr Alexandrou, who had no connection to the police before his involvement in foiling the trans-Atlantic bombings, said officers arrested him twice at the home they had taken over for the anti-terrorist operation.

He also told the court about a third run-in with armed police, when he feared he was going to be shot, after they stopped him while walking through a park and demanded to see identification.

His barrister Stephen Chippeck said: 'In the summer of 2006 one of the most dangerous conspiracies in the UK was taking place. A terrorist plot that entailed ten airliners travelling from the UK to the US and Canada was unfolding.

'This was the event that triggered all the airports everywhere into putting strict requirements into how much liquid people could carry onto aeroplanes.

'All agree in this court room that the security services in this country do an important role and nobody is looking to undermine the role they play.

'Two police officers from the anti-terrorist branch of Scotland Yard came round to his house and looked round his home.

'They needed his assistance as a matter of national security and if he could help they would be very grateful as there was a terrorist cell operating in the area and that their plans were very advanced.

'He told them that he loved his country and would help in any way that he could. They asked to borrow his home and he persuaded his partner of 25 years to assist.'

The court heard that his partner had not wanted to move out of the house and the strain led to their relationship breaking down.

Mr Alexandrou was first arrested while trying to get back into his home after the police operation against the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists had been reported as a success. He was advised to stay at a hotel for another week, following the arrests, but his partner moved out.

After speaking to his solicitor he was advised to go back home, and checked with officers he would not be interfering with their work.

He was arrested by police as he tried to get in through a bathroom window after his partner had changed the locks. He claims he was forced to sign a caution after spending more than eight hours in a police station.

The court heard he had signed the Official Secrets Act and did not want to disclose his involvement with MI5. After several months the caution was deleted.

Following the first arrest Mr Alexandrou started sleeping rough under the bushes outside Wood Green police station, as he did not feel safe. His GP made arrangements for him to stay in a night shelter.

After seeking legal advice Mr Alexandrou made his second visit to his home with a locksmith to gain access on September 19, a few weeks after his first attempt to return to the flat. He was arrested when police called a couple of hours later

Mr Alexandrou this time consulted a lawyer at the police station and told the officers of his involvement with the security operation and was released from police custody in about half the time of his previous arrest.

The court heard that Mr Alexandrou's ex-partner's name was on the mortgage at the property, but he told the court that he had lived with her at the address for 15 years and had always paid his way.

The Metropolitan Police deny the claims of false imprisonment, wrongful arrest and Mr Alexandrou's claim for aggravated damages.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Australia: Video footage shows NSW police accused of attacking youth

ON THE same night that an Aboriginal youth was allegedly bashed and then falsely accused of assault by a group of police in northern NSW, his female friend was allegedly slammed into a gutter during a violent arrest, the Police Integrity Commission has heard.

The commission is investigating allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them, giving sworn testimony to this effect in court.

The incident was caught on the police station's CCTV cameras.

On Monday, the commission heard that Mr Barker had initially confronted police after seeing them arresting two of his friends in an allegedly violent manner.

One of Mr Barker's friends, Emma Crook, told the commission that she had been "thrown around" by police and a series of pictures were tendered showing multiple cuts and grazes to her arms, legs, back and ear.

"They tackled me onto the ground and sprayed me in the eyes [with capsicum spray]. I had a lot of scratches and grazes - I couldn't see," Ms Crook said.

But four other witnesses, including at least one who was sober at the time, said they saw her picked up and slammed into the gutter. "They had her restrained on the ground then I saw her lifted up to about chest height and then just dropped her on the ground - a straight dead-drop," Byron Nolan said. "I heard her head slap into the concrete."

After seeing this allegedly violent treatment of their friend, Mr Nolan and Mr Barker ran over and tried to intervene.

"Next thing we were on the ground and they were restraining us … one of them had his foot on the back of my head and was kind of rolling it - it was really uncomfortable," Mr Nolan said.

"I heard one of them shouting, 'let the black guy go, let the black guy go'. I guess [They were talking about me], I'm a bit darker than Corey is."

The commission heard that, rather than being let go, Mr Barker was taken back to Ballina police station with Ms Crook and her boyfriend, Jay Healey.

Ms Crook gave evidence about a number of apparent breaches of police protocol while she was detained, including that a number of documents falsely stated that she had refused to answer questions about her health, possessions and next of kin. Ms Crook said that while detained she had seen Mr Barker being assaulted.

"I heard a big bang and opened the door and Corey was on the ground. Four officers were holding him down and blood was coming from his head. I shut the door quickly … I was scared. I wasn't sure what was going to happen."

The inquiry continues, with Mr Barker and the police involved to give evidence.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Randolph Arledge Freed After Wrongful Conviction In Stabbing Death

A 58-year-old Texas man walked free Monday after serving 29 years for a crime he didn't commit – the repeated stabbing of a woman whose body was found on a dirt road in rural North Texas.

Randolph Arledge was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1984 for killing Carolyn Armstrong. But a state district judge in Corsicana, about 50 miles southeast of Dallas, agreed with prosecutors and Arledge's attorneys that he could no longer be considered guilty after new DNA tests tied someone else to the crime.

Judge James Lagomarsino agreed to release Arledge on bond while the process of overturning his conviction is pending. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must accept Lagomarsino's recommendation for the conviction to be formally overturned, a process that is considered a formality.

Arledge wore shackles around his wrists and ankles at the start of the hearing, but was later taken into a back room by two deputies to have them removed. When he returned, Arledge hugged his two children. His daughter was 4 years old and his son 7 when he was sent to prison.

"They suffered more than anybody," Arledge told reporters afterward. He gestured to his daughter, Randa Machelle Arledge. "She's always talking about, she wanted me to come pick her up from school. Now she's picking me up."

His children said they remained hopeful through the years, not doubting his innocence.

"Every time he came up for parole, it was broken, shattered hopes," his daughter said.

Armstrong's body was found in August 1981 on a rural dirt road in Navarro County, according to a court filing by Arledge's attorneys. She had been stripped naked from the waist down and stabbed more than 40 times.

Her abandoned car was found miles away with several pieces of evidence, including a black hairnet on the left side of the driver's seat. Hair taken from that net was preserved for three decades. In 2011, more advanced DNA testing linked samples from the hair net and elsewhere to someone else.

Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson said authorities are searching for the person matched to the DNA and believe they know where he is. The case "will stay open until we solve it," he said in an interview.

While Thompson credited the system for freeing Arledge, he said he remained committed to finding Armstrong's real killer for her relatives.

"It's their daughter; it's their sister who was victimized," Thompson said. "I empathize with them as much as I can, but you know it's not easy for them to have to have all this brought back up."

Armstrong's relatives who attended the hearing declined to comment as they left court.

Like many wrongfully convicted inmates, Arledge was sent to prison with the help of faulty eyewitness testimony. Two co-conspirators in an armed robbery testified at his trial that he had admitted to stabbing someone in Corsicana and that he had blood on his clothes and knife, according to the filing by Arledge's attorneys.

One of those witnesses has since admitted to lying about Arledge due to a personal dispute, the filing said.

Arledge became the 118th person in Texas state courts to have his conviction overturned, according to the University of Michigan's national registry of exonerations.

State lawmakers have passed several measures to try to prevent wrongful convictions. Texas now has a law allowing all inmates convicted of a crime to seek new DNA testing. It also has the nation's most generous law for ex-inmates who have proven their innocence, providing a lump-sum payment of $80,000 for each year someone wrongly spent behind bars, as well as an annuity and other benefits.

Arledge spent some of his prison time in Tennessee on an unrelated armed robbery conviction. He was placed in a Texas prison in 1998 after being paroled from Tennessee, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said. For that reason, it's unclear how much compensation he will receive.

Original report here

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Claims Against NY City Advance in Wrongful Conviction Case

A federal judge has ruled that a man who was incarcerated for 16 years for a now-vacated murder conviction can press his arguments that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and the NYPD were "deliberately indifferent" to the misconduct that secured his conviction.

Eastern District Judge Frederic Block (See Profile) declined on Feb. 15 to dismiss civil rights claims against the city by Jabbar Collins because he said Collins had adequately pleaded allegations against the municipality in Collins v. The City of New York, 11-CV-766.

However, the judge "reluctantly" dismissed claims against the prosecutor who tried Collins, Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, saying that he was shielded by absolute prosecutorial immunity.

Collins alleged in his $150 million suit that Vecchione—now the bureau chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Rackets Division—fabricated evidence and did not reveal a witness' recantation, among other things. Hynes is not a defendant in the suit but has praised Vecchione and defended his conduct in the Collins case.

Block observed that, at this stage of the litigation, Collins was entitled to argue that Hynes' support of Vecchione reflected a "tacit" policy to condone any actions his subordinates thought necessary to achieve a conviction.

"The Court concludes that Collins's allegations regarding Hynes's response—or lack thereof—to misconduct by Vecchione and other assistants make plausible his theory that Hynes was so deliberately indifferent to the underhanded tactics that his subordinates employed as to effectively encourage them to do so," Block said.

Collins, represented by Joel Rudin, also alleges that two police detectives, who remain defendants in the case, "coerced" a man into signing a written statement that falsely accused Collins of planning to commit the robbery during which a member of Brooklyn's Hasidic community was murdered. Their actions reflected the police department's lack of proper training on interrogation tactics and the obligation to reveal exculpatory evidence to prosecutors, Collins argues.

Collins cited the 1994 Mollen Commission Report disclosing police corruption, which devoted an entire section to instances of police perjury and fabrication of documents.

"Of course, the Report's findings are not conclusive," Block said. "But they at least make it plausible that the type of misconduct that led to Collins' arrest and prosecution was endemic within the NYPD. A jury could reasonably infer from that circumstance, if proven, that the department's policymakers were aware of a serious risk of constitutional violations, and that the failure to take any action in response to the problem—whether through training or otherwise—was the result of deliberate indifference."

Collins was arrested in March 1994. The Mollen Report was issued in July.

Original report here

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bungling British Bobbies again

During the riots of 2011, Leslie Austin turned Good Samaritan as others looted shops and vandalised property.

He led an elderly woman to safety and searched a smoke-filled building for trapped inhabitants, with police thanking him for his efforts three times.

But, despite his public-spirited bravery, Mr Austin suffered months of misery after the Metropolitan Police mistakenly put his photograph on a ‘Wanted’ poster – and failed to remove it despite numerous complaints.

Now the 49-year-old has launched a libel case against the police, seeking up to £50,000 in damages for what he says was a serious smear on his character which almost cost him his job and led to him enduring abuse.

Mr Austin, from Hackney, East London, has served on a number of voluntary bodies as well as working for Hackney Homes, helping to manage council estates.

According to his legal claim, submitted at the High Court, he had just finished work one day in early August, 2011, when one of the worst waves of riots Britain had seen for years began. Unable to drive home from work because of the disorder, Mr Austin set off on foot.

When he saw a distressed woman in her 70s from one of the council estates he managed, he helped her to find her way home through the turmoil.

He then spotted a bus driver, whose vehicle had been attacked by rioters, who was unable to drive on because of debris in the road. Mr Austin reassured him and moved the obstacles.

As the riot grew in intensity he saw a terrified woman clutching a baby in the window of a building as a torched car burned outside. Realising she feared the flames would spread, he went in to help.

Once she was safely outside he scoured the premises, despite thickening smoke making breathing difficult, banging on doors to see if anyone needed to evacuate.

According to his legal claim: ‘On three separate occasions police officers thanked him for his assistance.’

But although Mr Austin escaped any injury, he says his real ordeal was yet to begin – when at the start of May 2012 the police issued a ‘Wanted’ poster with his photograph on it.

Under the heading ‘Identity Sought’, it declared: ‘Police in Hackney are appealing for the public’s help in identifying those involved in the disorder during August 2011.’

Mr Austin’s photograph was featured among those of a number of suspects. But he only found out when he went into a Tesco and an assistant told him he was pictured on a poster in the foyer. His image was also on the police website, where it remained for six weeks.

Alarmed, he swiftly visited Hackney police station to make clear his actions during the riots.

Mr Austin claims he was told the posters would be removed within two hours, and after his bosses demanded proof of his innocence, officers provided a letter making clear he was eliminated from inquiries.

Detective Sergeant Ian Coleman said at the time: ‘The public-spirited attitude of this member of the public is outstanding and I apologise on behalf of the Met for any distress caused.’

Yet Mr Austin says the ‘Wanted’ image remained on display for more than three months, until a year after the riots. It also appeared in a local newspaper. He is seeking damages of up to £50,000 for libel and an injunction to stop police publishing any more defamatory allegations against him.

Original report here

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Friday, February 15, 2013

And Your Little Dog, Too

As Washington politicians aim to restrict the Second Amendment, they should look in the mirror. The time to control government’s guns is now. Overarmed federal officials increasingly employ military tactics as a first resort in routine law enforcement. From food-safety cases to mundane financial matters, battle-ready public employees are turning America into the United States of SWAT.

FBI agents and U.S. marshals understandably are well fortified, given their frequent run-ins with ruthless bad guys. However — as my old friend and fellow columnist Quin Hillyer notes — armed officers, if not Special Weapons and Tactics crews, populate these federal agencies: the National Park Service; the Postal Inspection Service; the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Even Small Business Administration and Railroad Retirement Board staffers pack heat!

These “ninja bureaucrats,” as Hillyer calls them, run rampant. They, and often their local-government counterparts, deploy weapons against harmless, frequently innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.

* An FDA SWAT unit struck Lancaster, Pa.’s Rainbow Acres Farm in April 2010. From there, farmer Dan Allgyer illegally had shipped unpasteurized milk to his customers across state lines through something called a “cow-sharing agreement.” (Really.) Ignoring a woman’s right to choose raw milk, Washington launched an armed federal response against this Amish-run dairy. The company subsequently folded.

“He was not tricking people into buying it, he was not forcing people to purchase it, and there had been no complaints about his product,” stated then-Representative Ron Paul (R., Tex.). “These were completely voluntary transactions, but ones that our nanny-state federal government did not approve of, and so they shut down his business.”
U.S. marshals and other federal officers also have conducted similar actions against purveyors of unauthorized milk, cheese, and even elderberry juice.

* When financial questions arose regarding the Mountain Pure Water Company, Washington did not send a few staffers to inspect documents. Instead, last spring, some 50 armed Treasury agents breached Mountain Pure’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. They seized 82 boxes of records, herded employees into the cafeteria, snatched their cell phones, and refused to let them consult attorneys.

“We’re the federal government,” Mountain Pure’s comptroller, Jerry Miller, says one pistol-packing fed told him. “We can do what we want, when we want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

* A U.S. Department of Education SWAT force burst into Kenneth Wright’s Stockton, Calif., home in June 2011. “I look out of my window, and I see 15 police officers,” Wright told KXTV. Wright said one officer forced him by the neck onto the front lawn. “He had his knee on my back, and I had no idea why they were there.” While officers searched his house, Wright said, “They put me in handcuffs in a hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” then ages 3, 7, and 11.

The feds sought Wright’s estranged wife, apparently for suspected financial-aid fraud. However, she had moved away a year earlier. Regardless, such a mobilization seems unnecessary to probe someone for possibly swindling scholarship money.

* In August 2011, armed federal Fish and Wildlife agents stormed into the Memphis and Nashville factories of Gibson Guitar, which helps Jackson Browne, B. B. King, and other legends sound amazing. What clear and present danger did Gibson pose? Rather than import finished guitar components, it purchased raw ebony and rosewood from India so that American workers — not Indians — could manufacture fingerboards and other electric-guitar parts. Proving that there no longer is a need to write fiction, Uncle Sam’s case against Gibson is called United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms

* “SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even [used] to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations,” including armed incursions against several black barber shops in Orlando, Fla., according to the Huffington Post’s Radley Balko, who studiously chronicles this topic. He recalls a federal SWAT outfit that invaded an Atlanta DJ’s studio on suspicion of copyright infringement. When several Tibetan monks on a peace mission overstayed their visas, a federal SWAT unit cornered them. Texas SWAT officers targeted an Austin man accused of stealing koi from a fish pond. And a Virginia SWAT squad killed optometrist Sal Culosi while arresting him for sports gambling.
Balko also has reported on SWAT teams’ reprehensible habit of killing dogs:

* In 2008, gun-toting cops stormed the home of Berwyn Heights, Md.’s mayor, Cheye Calvo. They kicked down his door and handcuffed him (in his underwear) for two hours, along with his mother-in-law. Calvo’s wife walked in during the episode and discovered that police fatally had gunned down their two black Labrador retrievers, Chase and Payton.

“Our dogs were our children,” Calvo told the Associated Press. “They were the reason we bought this house, because it had a big yard for them to run in.” Next-door neighbor Edward Alexander added: “I was completely stunned, because those dogs didn’t hurt anybody. They barely bark.”

Police seized a FedEx package containing 32 pounds of marijuana, to which Calvo was unconnected. Drug traffickers had addressed it to his house, intending to collect it from his front porch before he did. No charges were filed against the Calvos.

* On July 13, 2010, a dozen St. Paul, Minn.–area policemen and a federal Drug Enforcement Agency officer assaulted Roberto Franco’s home. Clad in Army fatigues, they rousted all nine people there, including three children. “Each plaintiff was forced to the floor at gun and rifle point and handcuffed behind their backs,” states Franco’s $30 million federal lawsuit against these authorities. “Defendants shot and killed the family dog and forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour while defendants continued to search the plaintiffs’ home.”

According to the complaint, one young girl who “was handcuffed and prevented by officer from obtaining and taking her medication thus induced a diabetic episode as a result of low blood-sugar levels.”

Oops. Wrong house!

Negligent police meant to hit the house adjacent to the Francos. The search warrant named next-door neighbor Rafael Ybarra, but did not mention anyone named Franco. Perhaps these cops forgot to read that document before launching their onslaught against the Francos, their home, and their dog.

Eventually, the SWATsters realized their error. As the complaint continues: “Despite the fact that defendants learned that the suspect did not live at the address raided, defendants remained in the home of plaintiffs and continued searching the home.” The authorities eventually found a .22-caliber revolver in the basement. Although it belonged to Gilbert Castillo, another resident of the house, the gun was pinned on Franco, leading to his incarceration with Minnesota’s Department of Corrections.

* These raids destroy humans, too.

Fearing that criminals were invading his home on May 5, 2011, Iraq veteran Jose Guerena, 26, hid his wife and son, age 4, in a closet. He grabbed his rifle and went to investigate. An Arizona SWAT posse seeking marijuana kicked down Guerena’s front door, saw his rifle, and lethally pumped 71 bullets into him. Guerena did not fire a shot. Indeed, his rifle’s safety mechanism remained engaged. The dead father and husband had no criminal record, and his home was devoid of contraband.

Balko counts at least 46 innocent people killed in drug raids gone wrong.

Why are local constables devolving into flak-jacketed federales? As usual, thank Washington’s largesse. Like a steady drip of steroids, the War on Drugs has provided funding and encouragement for local cops to gird themselves like GIs leveling an Andean coca plantation.

Furthermore, as Balko wrote in November 2011, thanks to “a 1994 law authorizing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment to local police departments . . . literally millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a foreign battlefield have been handed over for use on U.S. streets, against U.S. citizens.” Since September 11, 2001, the War on Terror has furnished additional funds and matériel. Some of it should be available to defeat militant Islam. None of it should be used against, say, blackjack players.

The Obama administration has played its part, too. “In 2009,” Balko explains, “stimulus spending became another way to fund militarization, with police departments requesting federal cash for armored vehicles, SWAT armor, machine guns, surveillance drones, helicopters, and all manner of other tactical gear and equipment.”

Alas, when local cops who write tickets dress up like Green Berets, their attitudes can change. As former Reagan Pentagon aide Lawrence Korb pithily states: “Soldiers are trained to vaporize, not Mirandize.”

“The routine use of SWAT teams to serve thousands and thousands of drug-search warrants has resulted in unnecessary tragedies and fueled fears of government run wild, military raids of homes in the middle of the night based more upon secret suspicions than evidence, and not infrequently causing casualties to the totally innocent,” Hoover Institution research fellow Joe McNamara tells me. The 17-year NYPD veteran and former police chief of Kansas City and San Jose adds: “The SWAT raids certainly haven’t won the drug war, but have caused ‘collateral damage’ and fears that impair the police’s ability to gain citizen trust and cooperation against serious and violent crime.”

As gun stores currently enjoy land-sale business, some Americans are arming themselves to insure against circumstances as yet unseen. They justifiably worry that a government that aims gun barrels at Amish dairy farmers is capable of the unimaginable.

Original report here

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crooked Australian cops still being believed

A NSW Supreme Court judge has just set a dubious precedent - by citing the disgraced former police officer Roger Rogerson on the practical difficulties of "loading up" [framing] a suspect with incriminating evidence such as guns and explosives.

Acting Justice Graham Barr accepts Rogerson's argument why it would have been difficult during the 1979 raids that led to six Croatian-Australian tradesmen being jailed for 15 years for terrorism.

In the NSW legal establishment's latest review of the "Croatian Six" case, Barr joins a long line of judges and state legal counsel who refuse to doubt evidence from Rogerson and colleagues that they found explosives in the homes of the accused, that each then volunteered confessions at the Criminal Investigation Bureau office, in the absence of lawyers or signatures.

Another pillar of the case is already demolished - testimony by an alleged seventh conspirator, Vico Virkez, who became the chief crown witness. In 1991, Chris Masters of ABC-TV's Four Corners program had Virkez, by then back in a Serbian region of Yugoslavia, admit on camera he'd set up the Croatian Six in cahoots with Yugoslav officials.

By then Rogerson, who had led one of the Sydney raids and arrested three of the six, was dismissed from the force and facing jail.

The NSW legal establishment was not moved. An application for judicial review was refused by the state government in 1994, based on a still "privileged" opinion by the then Crown advocate Rod Howie, QC (later a Supreme Court judge).

The 1996 Wood royal commission, which found "systemic" corruption in the NSW Police and led to disbandment of the squads involved in the Croatian Six raids, came too late to influence this review. But now Barr says it warrants no retrospective scepticism anyway.

The latest application for judicial review came after a reinvestigation by the Herald, published as the e-book Framed a year ago. NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst appointed Barr to advise whether a review was warranted.

The Herald's main new material included a statement made by a former senior legal officer in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ian Cunliffe, that intelligence material which would have led to "not guilty" verdicts had been withheld by Canberra officials in a virtual "conspiracy to pervert the course of justice".

In addition, an American expert on the Balkans and its intelligence circles, Professor John Schindler, of the US Naval War College, said the former Yugoslav intelligence agency UDBa regarded the Croatian Six case as its most successful-ever operation to discredit ethnic separatists.

Barr made no further inquiry of Cunliffe or Schindler. He says Cunliffe must be pointing to knowledge about Virkez and his Yugoslav intelligence link, but declares that even if Virkez is discredited, the convictions stand on the police evidence. Schindler's finding about UDBa operations are dismissed, unless his informants were willing to be questioned.

Yet elsewhere Barr notes that: "It is clear that the part played by Virkez was greater than he said at trial. Whatever he did he did as a spy. That gave him the motive to lie about the part played by each applicant." And also that: "The Court of Criminal Appeal thought it unlikely the jury would have convicted had they thought Virkez to be a Yugoslav agent or anything of that sort."

Like the appeal court in 1982, Barr thus comes back to the police evidence. But he sees only the same partial view as did the jury, complaining that the transcripts of the trial and arguments over admissibility of evidence are "presumably now lost". They are not. The Supreme Court registry can get them out for him, and they are illuminating.

The jury was not told that evidence of the brutal bashing of the accused Vic Brajkovic, provided by medical staff at Long Bay Jail, made his verbal "confession" at the CIB inadmissible. Yet the same detectives were allowed to testify they'd found bomb materials at Brajkovic's house and that he'd confessed there: "I make bombs" - without defence lawyers being able to ask why they had lied about the later interview.

The defence couldn't raise the matter of a seventh young Croatian, Joseph Stipic, arrested the same night as the others in a fourth Sydney raid. A half-dozen police attested in the Central Magistrates Court they'd found detonators in his desk drawer. His lawyer, Jim McInerny, was able to show that Stipic had no desk and no drawer. The charges were dismissed.

Thus in two of the four raids in Sydney that night, led by members of squads later disbanded as hot spots of the systemic corruption found by Justice James Wood, groups of police were shown to have given identical incorrect evidence, and in one case brutalised the suspect. One of the other raids was led by Rogerson.

Barr finds support in remarks by Rogerson to the Herald, that it would have been hard to plant or fabricate evidence in raiding parties made up of officers from different squads who did not know and trust each other well. "Notwithstanding the participation of some officers impeached on other occasions, it seems reasonable to conclude that there was not the necessary absence of officers not known to be corrupt and co-operative . . . These considerations support the most recent statement of Mr Rogerson," Barr said.

Although Barr has acted as a court, his decision remains technically an administrative one, not subject to legal appeal. Any further avenue of review would have to be political. For a start, the federal Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, or ASIO's chief, David Irvine, could initiate an inquiry into Cunliffe's allegations.

Original report here

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Crackdown on thug British police

Police who behave like thugs will be put on a national ‘struck off’ register to stop them sneaking back to work at a new force.

In a dramatic shake-up of police rules, Theresa May yesterday also announced plans to force senior officers to disclose their pay and perks.

There will be a new register of second jobs held by all officers so that the public knows if a constable is moonlighting.

Officers have been known to work in jobs such as undertaker, vicar and pole-dancing teacher.

And police will be stopped from effectively investigating themselves over allegations of serious misconduct. In future, all complaints will be referred to a beefed-up version of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The Home Secretary said the aim of the measures was to restore ‘integrity’ in the police.

It follows scandals over the G20 protests, the police handling of the Andrew Mitchell ‘Plebgate’ row and the cover-up of their role in the Hillsborough disaster.

Mrs May said: ‘We need clearer rules for how officers should conduct themselves.’ She pledged that, in future, disciplinary hearings against officers who resign or retire will be pursued until their conclusion.

Currently, officers can escape a guilty verdict by standing down, which brings an automatic halt to proceedings. Anyone found guilty will be placed on a struck-off list managed by the new National College of Policing and available to all forces at home and abroad.

To the irritation of some MPs, guilty officers will not be stripped of their pension. But Mrs May said they would lose out financially because they would be unable to find another police job, either in Britain or elsewhere.

It is intended to prevent a repeat of the shocking case of PC Simon Harwood, a riot squad officer denounced as a ‘thug in uniform’. Newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died after PC Harwood lashed him with a baton and shoved him to the ground during the London G20 protests in 2009.

The officer had an appalling record of complaints against him for violence in the years before the incident. But he was able to continue working in the police by playing the system.

He retired from the Met on medical grounds on the eve of a disciplinary hearing, re-joined the same force on its civilian staff three days later, then moved on to Surrey Police before returning to serve with the Met in 2004.

An inquest found Mr Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed. But a jury found PC Harwood – who has since been sacked by the Met – not guilty of manslaughter. The jury was not told of his disciplinary record.

A stronger system of vetting before senior officers are appointed will also be developed.

Police bosses will have to consider a candidate’s background – such as any allegations of sexual misconduct – when making recruitment decisions.

Original report here

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lying British cop fired for chasing and punching teenage French student he caught urinating in bushes

A police constable has been sacked for using excessive force after he chased and punched a French student who had been urinating in bushes. PC John Caulfield, 33, has been dismissed for gross misconduct over the arrest in Hackney, north-east London, in August 2009.

He was accused of chasing Charles Quichaud, then 19, and hitting him in the face. The officer said this was a legitimate technique to restrain him because he feared for his own safety.

Mr Caulfield faced trial twice for assault occasioning actual bodily harm - the first jury failed to reach a verdict and the second cleared him.

Today Mike Franklin, from police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (PCC), said: ‘A disciplinary panel has concluded on the balance of probabilities that PC Caulfield breached police professional standards in that his use of force was unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable and he has rightfully been dismissed.

‘The panel also found that his written account of the incident was false, misleading and inaccurate and was, in all likelihood, written to justify his excessive use of force.

‘This was a unique case in that the young man who was arrested, who suffered serious facial injury, did not lodge a complaint but PC Caulfield’s actions were witnessed by a local resident who was so disturbed by what he saw he contacted the IPCC to complain.

‘I would like to thank that resident, the victim in this case and the other witnesses from Hoxton Square that evening who willingly gave their time to give evidence in two criminal trials and this misconduct hearing. 'Without them, this officer would still be serving.’

A second officer, a female constable, who failed to write up what had happened quickly enough was given a written warning.

Commander Allan Gibson, Directorate of Professional Standards at Scotland Yard, said: ‘There is no doubt that the actions of PC Caulfield brought discredit on the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and, although acquitted at court, reflect badly on the thousands of officers who are honest and work tirelessly for the people of London.

‘The panel found his use of force was unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable and was additionally found to have produced a misleading written account of the incident.

‘Given the finding, there was only one appropriate outcome in this case and PC Caulfield was dismissed from the MPS without notice.’

Mr Quichaud was on a three-week holiday in London and had been drinking with a friend when the incident took place.

Original report here

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Monday, February 11, 2013

DHS Watchdog OKs ‘Suspicionless’ Seizure of Electronic Devices Along Border

Where did the 4th Amendment go?

The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.

The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.

“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.

The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.

The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.

Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union suggest that “reasonable suspicion” should be the rule, at a minimum, despite that being a lower standard than required by the Fourth Amendment.

“There should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a low threshold.”

The DHS watchdog’s conclusion isn’t surprising, as the DHS is taking that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the nation’s borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which maintains its mission is “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties.”

“This is a civil liberties watchdog office. If it is doing its job property, it is supposed to objectively evaluate. It has the power to recommend safeguards to safeguard Americans’ rights,” Crump said. “The office has not done that and the public has the right to know why.”

Toward that goal, the ACLU on Friday filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding to see the full report that the executive summary discusses.

Meantime, a lawsuit the ACLU brought on the issue concerns a New York man whose laptop was seized along the Canadian border in 2010 and returned 11 days later after his attorney complained.

At an Amtrak inspection point, Pascal Abidor showed his U.S. passport to a federal agent. He was ordered to move to the cafe car, where they removed his laptop from his luggage and “ordered Mr. Abidor to enter his password,” according to the lawsuit.

Agents asked him about pictures they found on his laptop, which included Hamas and Hezbollah rallies. He explained that he was earning a doctoral degree at a Canadian university on the topic of the modern history of Shiites in Lebanon.

He was handcuffed and then jailed for three hours while the authorities looked through his computer while numerous agents questioned him, according to the suit, which is pending in New York federal court.

Original report here

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Australia: Incredible lack of justice for one victim of crime in Vivtoria

Nobody could be bothered: Nick Clarke was bashed by 4 thugs in 2009 when he was 22yrs old. He got over the violence but the next three and a half yrs dealing with police, hospital, lawyers and getting compensation was a nightmare.

IN February 2009, I got gang-bashed. I'm writing this because the system of victim compensation is profoundly inadequate and needs addressing, but for the purpose of context, here's what happened.

It was a muggy summer's night, I was 22 and had been out with friends at a renowned Melbourne nightclub. Not long after midnight, I elected to walk the two blocks to my CBD apartment alone.

As I neared the end of the first block through an unusually quiet Chinatown, I stopped sharply and my heart skipped a beat, as a beer bottle shattered just in front of my feet. Sensing that it had come from the other end of the street, I addressed four young men who had been walking about 10 metres in front of me.

"Where did that come from?" I said as I craned my neck to the left and motioned to the far end of the street, assuming that they, too, had been surprised by the sudden appearance of the projectile.

All four men turned on their heels, and a ginger-haired man with a rat's-tail haircut and a cocky swagger led the group in my direction. With him were a heavier-set man of Pacific Islander appearance and two Caucasian men of medium build who both gave off the air of unthinking followers.

With his chin stuck up in the air and his chest expanded like a puffer fish, the leader snarled, "What the f--- did you say, c---?"

"Huh? I thought somebody had thrown a bottle at us? What … What do you mean?"

He grabbed me by my collar and shoved me back and forth at arm's length. I raised my arms in protest and implored the three henchmen to pull their friend off me. The bovines glared back.

"You faggot c---," the ringleader continued. Rational argument would not defuse the situation, and there was nobody within earshot to whom I could call out for help.

From behind the group of men, a white delivery van pulled into a side street no more than 30 metres away. I saw a middle-aged Asian man at the wheel. I knew that if I could attract his attention he might step in, or at the very least serve as a witness if it came to that.

Now I too straightened my arms, and set about physically manoeuvring the scuffle 180 degrees, so I could reverse towards the van and have all the men in front of me.

"I don't want to fight," I kept repeating, knowing the words were futile, but hoping they would buy me some more time.

After successfully drawing the scuffle to within a few metres of the van, I sensed no movement from behind. "Come on - beep your horn, call the cops or rev your engine … anything," I remember thinking, exasperated.

It was not to be. The first blow hit just below my right eye, the second caught my left, and my vision glitched like a worn VHS tape.

The male of Islander appearance, who had now become increasingly vocal, then stepped up and struck me with full force in the mouth. I had never been in a fight but it was just like Raging Bull - a surreal, disorienting subversion of reality that unfurls at half-speed, punctuated by flashes of light and primordial surges of adrenalin.

My teeth loosened and my head rocked back, but my life did not flash before my eyes. Instead, I revisited the tragedy that had befallen a school friend, who was assaulted in an eerily similar way several years ago. His head hit the pavement, and he never recovered - his brain was so severely damaged that he has remained in care ever since.

With this harrowing incident at the forefront of my mind, I purposefully hit the deck and covered my head.

Shins and feet soon dug into my back, and while the yelling continued, I could no longer decipher any of the messages.

Then my legs were in the air, hands rummaged about in my pockets, my phone was snatched and the chief assailant screamed frenziedly, "Give me all your f------ money!"

Now I was getting mugged, and I was aware that my late father's ring and necklace were likely to be targets. I reached into my back pocket and flicked open my wallet so they could see the contents. I had just visited the ATM in preparation for a music festival the following day, and hoped that the sight of a couple of $50 notes would prompt them to grab the money and run.

It worked.

My face numb and covered in blood, my clothes all torn and my back kicked in, I hauled myself off the ground and limped over to the van. The man still sat inside, avoiding eye contact. I pounded on the window to get his attention. "Thanks a lot, mate. I've got no money, no phone, my face looks like a car crash and you just sat there."

"I'm just reversing my van," he mumbled back sheepishly.

Before long I was in the back of an ambulance, off to emergency.

I reconciled myself to the violence of the incident pretty quickly. No reasonable person condones street violence, but any reasonable person appreciates that in every civilisation, in every continent, since the beginning of time, there have been angry, unevolved degenerates who want to beat people up for no particular reason.

That said, I did return to the same nightclub, at the same time on the same night for a few consecutive weeks by myself. I would scan around the rooms, looking for the four faces, quizzing people about their whereabouts on the date in question.

Had I spotted them I'd planned to call the bouncers over, have them contain the men and call the police; but it was much more about feeling some semblance of control in a situation where I really had none.

In terms of psychological damage, though, the wanton violence of this bashing does pale into insignificance when compared with the farcical fight for justice I have been forced to wage, for four years, in its aftermath. The following parties (whose individual identities have been hidden here) have, in every step of the process, been incompetent, verging on negligent.

The hospital: When I was attended at the hospital, a nurse felt around my face, mopped up the blood and handed me an ice pack. No scans. Perhaps she thought I was just another lout, out at night shooting his mouth off? When the swelling went down several weeks later, I sought out a 3D facial imaging scan for my clearly rearranged face, which confirmed I had a heavily fractured cheekbone. Given the time that had passed, it would now need to be rebroken and operated on to deal with its depression into my skull.

The police: Two young women came forward. It was incredible. They had been chatting to my assailants, who had been boasting about assaulting me. They visited their local police station, left their details, and waited to be contacted. Unfortunately, the relevant officers at this station either forgot, or never bothered, to pass this information on to anyone.

The lawyers: I sought financial compensation from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT), a government-run organisation that provides financial compensation and assistance to victims of crimes committed in Victoria.

A string of lawyers advised me to go elsewhere (I wondered: "Do they not like taking these cases on?") until I wound up with a lawyer who explained to me that in Victoria (unlike other states in Australia), there is no lump-sum compensation from the state in VOCAT claims; no recognition that the incident should not have happened. I could expect to receive a reimbursement to cover the stolen money, the damaged clothes, and any relevant medical bills.

She was completely wrong about the lump-sum claim; I was eligible for $10,000, plus reimbursements. She also lost all my medical papers and only ever responded to my inquiries (whereupon she would chastise the slowness of the VOCAT system) after months of my leaving messages with her secretary. I was clearly not a priority.

Two years in, I got a sheepish call from a lawyer at the same firm, saying he would now take care of the case. He started the process virtually from scratch, and tenaciously got my claim approved in its entirety, including a year's worth of self-defence classes and some psychological treatment.

The courts: Late last year a cheque arrived in the mail. I'm a video producer and presenter who works on contract, and at first glance I suspected I had invoiced for a job and was being paid by this dated, unorthodox means. The cheque, I noticed, was attached to a form stating it was from VOCAT, but there was no covering letter or explanation of how the figure they arrived at had been calculated, and no indication of the aforementioned classes and treatment I was now entitled to receive.

The psychologists: The free psychological treatment is supposed to be part of my compensation, but the psychologist I have recently approached is apprehensive about treating me because she does not want to get involved in the bureaucratic nightmare.

"Look, I know how much you've been through, and I hate to do this to you," she said last week, "but I'm also a small business, and every hour I spend on the phone trying to deal with these people is an hour I'm not making money. VOCAT are also asking me to prove my credentials - I've been doing this for 30 years, and now I'm asking for approval from these people? I understand now why so many of my colleagues avoid VOCAT cases like the plague. I think you're going to have to see if you can get anywhere with them and get back to me."

I made the calls to VOCAT and all relevant forms were submitted in November last year. "It usually takes a couple of weeks," VOCAT said. "You always say 'it usually takes a couple of weeks' - it's been 3½ years," I retorted. I have heard nothing since.

Far from feeling like a victim of crime, I have essentially been on trial. I have been consistently forced to prove myself, to hustle and fight for attention, let alone compensation.

I have spent countless hours driving to meetings, photocopying, resubmitting, calling, emailing and, ultimately, reliving this experience every day for four years, while the perpetrators of the crime left it all behind long ago.

Perhaps a dozen times since the incident, I could have elected to forget about receiving any form of compensation - just given up - and I suspect nobody would have contacted me about it, ever again. Nobody.

Last week, as I stood in the middle of a circle of eight males screaming abuse at me at a self-defence class, preparing to simulate a kick to the groin when prompted by the instructor, I was struck by a figurative one-two; the hopelessness of both my current predicament and my subsequent world view.

The hope you maintain as an angst-ridden, excruciatingly self-aware teenager, that adulthood will be a more agreeable undertaking, is quickly extinguished when you become an adult.

You realise that adults (even the ones you grew up wanting to be like - trusted people in positions of power) can behave in sad, imprudent and absurd ways. If I wasn't sure of it before, I certainly know now that the only people you can really trust are your close friends and your family.

As far as the assailants are concerned, the two young women returned to the station to find out why they hadn't been contacted.

Their persistence led to two of the assailants receiving probation, while the other two received a good behaviour bond and a fine respectively. I only learnt this late last year when I called the detective to gather information for the purpose of this article.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The relentless march of the US police state

Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, wrote recently:

"An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will. . . . Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely."

Turley does not say much in this article about the other rail of the Police State Railway that Americans are riding to hell: the drug war, with its massive arrests, prosecution, and imprisonment of people charged only with victimless crimes and its militarization of the state and local police all over the country. (On the militarization of the police, see especially this research paper, a revised version of which will appear in the spring issue of The Independent Review.) This massive bloating of police power and legalized oppression and the corresponding suppression of individual rights have brought down to the lowest level the threats to life, liberty, and happiness that the war on terrorism has created in what most people view as a more remote and less threatening venue—”out there” somewhere, in drone-istan.

Each day, the U.S. police state grows larger, more powerful, more pervasive, and more menacing. When will the majority awaken to the realization that this threat has nothing to do with party politics, that it makes no difference whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the presidency while our freedoms are demolished?

This country was never a paradise of liberty; it always countenanced the oppression of plenty of people, especially Indians, blacks, and socially marginalized people who did not behave as the “respectable” white elites wanted them to behave. Yet, for the majority of Americans, freedom was a reality in most spheres of life, if only because the governments of the day were too weak to crush the people’s freedoms more thoroughly.

For many decades, however, these freedoms have been smashed one after another under the pretense of protecting people from foreign enemies, criminals, and terrorists. Thus have Americans marched with little more than a whimper toward a destination that combines elements of the dystopias imagined by novelists such as Huxley, Orwell, and Bradbury with ever more high-tech innovations used to monitor our every move, whether it be financial or personal.

The question is: how much farther must we travel down this road before people will be compelled to admit that “the land of the free” is more a reassuring myth than a description of the land in which we actually live—to recognize that the freedoms to go shopping and browse the Web are not enough to make a society genuinely free?

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Friday, February 08, 2013

Queer British cop quits after misusing force Twitter account to contact gay men

It could be seen as coercive

An award winning police special who allegedly used a force Twitter account to contact gay men has resigned after volunteering for more than a decade.

Head of Dudley District Special Constabulary James Horton, 34, quit following allegations that he had misused the account which was linked to West Midlands Police.

Mr Horton, who was head of a team of 70 special constables, resigned before disciplinary proceedings could take place. It is understood that he used the account to message gay men.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: 'A member of the force's Special Constabulary was referred to the Police Professional Standards Department over alleged misuse of a force social media account, against force policy. 'The individual officer concerned has since resigned. 'Any identified breaches of force policy are taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly and professionally investigated.'

Mr Horton's resignation comes a little over six months since he won an award for ten years of unpaid service. He was awarded the Chief Constable's Award for Outstanding Contribution to West Midlands Police at a ceremony in Birmingham last July.

The award also recognised the fact that he had continued to volunteer despite battling Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

After accepting the award he had said: 'I've always been enthusiastic for what I do. 'If you are going to volunteer for something you need to love doing it and everyday I'm encouraged and inspired by my team.'

The complaints were made just months after former West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie spoke out about how police should deal with officers who misuse social networking sites.

Now second in command of Tayside Police and police spokesman on social media, Assistant Chief Constable Scobbie said that forces risked looking 'out of touch and heavy-handed' if they overreacted to mistakes made by officers using social media.

His comments came after two officers were disciplined for apparently misusing Twitter last autumn. One acting inspector in the West Midlands was demoted to sergeant after an investigation was launched into his activity on the site.

At the time the police said the investigation was because he had allegedly tweeted pictures of a Second World War weapon and grenade that was found in a house search.

Sarah Giles, a PCSO for Devon and Cornwall Police was told to delete her account after complaints were made by Exeter University over a series of tweets about policing students.

A police inspector was sacked last year after posting a picture of his gentials on Facebook.

Daemon Johnson of Northamptonshire Police claimed that he had meant to text the picture to his girlfriend but had pressed the wrong button.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here