Showing posts tagged law enforcement
For years, I have declared a preference for taking my chances with criminals rather than with the police.
Criminals usually want my property, not to control my life or to cage me like an animal. With criminals, I can pull a gun in self-defense. Until lately, however, the average person has scowled my way whenever I voiced that preference.
The situation is changing. A tipping point in the public attitude toward law enforcement is under way… finally! A significant number of people have realized that America is either currently a police state or it is teetering on the crumbling edge to one.
Part of the sea change comes from the deliberate militarization of police departments, where tanks, drones, and SWAT teams have become standard. A military-style training, in which civilians are viewed as combatants, has deepened the antagonism of the police toward the public so that violent incidents are commonplace. Many police officers no longer bother to disguise their savagery.
Police at the University of California, Davis who pepper-sprayed peaceful, seated Occupy protesters a year ago come to mind. Why should they be subtle? Their anti-terrorism mandate has erased the restraints of civil liberties.
Meanwhile, there is no oversight. The police define their own rules of conduct, police departments investigate their own misdeeds behind closed doors, and district attorneys and police unions aggressively shield the criminal acts of cops. Victims who complain are often charged with elastic crimes, such as “obstructing law enforcement,” which are later dropped in exchange for their silence.
Part of the sea change also comes from the increased use of law enforcement against children in public schools. Last May, New Mexico police officer Chris Webb was visiting a school for career day when he asked a group of young boys to wash his police car. A 10-year-old refused. According to an ensuing lawsuit against Webb and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, the officer told the youngster, “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.” Webb then used a Taser on him, sending 50,000 volts of electricity into the 100-pound boy’s chest. He lost consciousness. Instead of seeking medical care, however, Webb merely carried him into the principal’s office. The officer claims it was all an accident and points to his punishment — a three-day suspension — as proof the police department believes him.
The incident is not isolated. Last month, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against a Mississippi school district that arrests students, handcuffs them, and ships them off to youth court for minor infractions like breaking the dress code.
Among the defendants are judges of the county’s youth court and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services. They are accused of violating the children’s constitutional rights through such practices as incarcerating them for days without a probable cause hearing.
The backlash goes on and on. The raw money grabs being made by police in the name of civil forfeiture have also sparked fury. Under civil forfeiture, property that was involved in a crime can be confiscated and sold by police departments. It doesn’t matter if the victims of the forfeiture have committed no crime or have never been charged with one.
On Nov. 5, for example, a pivotal civil forfeiture case commenced in Boston. Over a 20-year period, a handful of drug crimes were committed in a motel owned by Russ Caswell and his wife; the “crime scenes” represented about 0.05% of their total rentals. Nevertheless, the federal government and the local police department are attempting to take the Caswells’ $1 million motel and split the proceeds. Ironically, the money grab arose because the Caswells themselves reported suspicious activity.
These and other factors, including the rise of YouTube videos that capture police brutality, contribute to the discomfort with which average people are beginning to view the police.
The importance of this change cannot be overstated.
Years ago, I interviewed several dozen sex workers and surveyed about 200 more for the purpose of writing a book about the realities of the “profession.” The women expressed one political attitude over and over: They did not trust the police, the courts, or any aspect of law enforcement. They recognized the legal system for what it is — an enemy. From visceral experience, the women knew law enforcement as a corrupt system that brutalizes harmless people and criminalizes peaceful acts.
Their attitude was refreshing. The single greatest obstacle over which I used to stumble in arguing for fundamental legal change was the inculcated belief that the police were there “to serve and protect.”
I argued in vain that the police have no duty whatsoever to protect people from criminals; that’s not their job description. The courts have been clear on this point for over a century. In 1856, the U.S. Supreme Court (South v. Maryland) found that law enforcement officers had no responsibility to protect anyone. Their duty was to enforce the law in general. More recently, in 1982 (Bowers v. DeVito), the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals held that “there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.” Later court decisions concur.
Police vehicles often sport slogans like “Proud to serve!” If they aren’t there to protect you, the question becomes who are they serving? The courts have answered: Police departments exist to enforce the law. The police serve the government, not the people. They uphold the law with total disregard for whether their actions create or prevent violence. If government decides that certain forms of consent between adults must not be tolerated, then the police will draw their guns and barge into otherwise peaceful situations. To uphold an unjust law, they will create violence and victims.
To understand the reality that the police are not there for you is an extremely valuable piece of information. If you are depending on them to protect you, to guard you against real crime, to stop intruders or muggers and to prosecute after the fact, you have been sorely misled.
Every citizen who wants to be free must prepare for his or her own defense against violence. The market is there to assist with security services, alarm systems, property monitoring devices, ever more sophisticated locks, and, of course, guns of all sorts. In the end, we are responsible for our own security. The state will not come to your rescue. On the contrary, it is the market that provides the means by which we are rescued from the state.
Wendy McElroy is Author, lecturer, and freelance writer, and a senior associate of the Laissez Faire Club.
It’s a shame it tooks the recent bouts of violence from cops to bring attention to an issue blacks have been struggling with for decades
FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across US
September 8, 2012
Birthmarks, be damned: the FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document (.pdf) that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America .
“The NGI Program is a compilation of initiatives that will either improve or expand existing biometric identification services,” its administrator explained to the Department of Justice at the time, adding that the project, “will accommodate increased information processing and sharing demands in support of anti-terrorism.”
“The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.”
The agency insists, “As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners.” In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids’ stuff.
According to their 2006 report, the NGI program utilizes “specialized requirements in the Latent Services, Facial Recognition and Multi-modal Biometrics areas” that “will allow the FnewBI to establish a terrorist fingerprint identification system that is compatible with other systems; increase the accessibility and number of the IAFIS terrorist fingerprint records; and provide latent palm print search capabilities.”
Is that just all, though? During a 2010 presentation (.pdf) made by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Intelligence, the agency identified why facial recognition technology needs to be embraced. Specifically, the FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” meaning NGI is more than just a database of mug shots mixed up with fingerprints — the FBI has admitted that this their intent with the technology surpasses just searching for criminals but includes spectacular surveillance capabilities. Together, it’s a system unheard of outside of science fiction.
New Scientist reports that a 2010 study found technology used by NGI to be accurate in picking out suspects from a pool of 1.6 million mug shots 92 percent of the time. The system was tested on a trial basis in the state of Michigan earlier this year, and has already been cleared for pilot runs in Washington, Florida and North Carolina. Now according to this week’s New Scientist report, the full rollout of the program has begun and the FBI expects its intelligence infrastructure to be in place across the United States by 2014.
In 2008, the FBI announced that it awarded Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions, one of the Defense Department’s most favored contractors, with the authorization to design, develop, test and deploy the NGI System. Thomas E. Bush III, the former FBI agent who helped develop the NGI’s system requirements, tells NextGov.com, “The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics.” With those items being collected without much oversight being admitted, though, putting the personal facts pertaining to millions of Americans into the hands of some playful Pentagon staffers only begins to open up civil liberties issues.
Jim Harper, director of information policy at the Cato Institute, adds to NextGov that investigators pair facial recognition technology with publically available social networks in order to build bigger profiles. Facial recognition “is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots,” he says. When these files are then fed to law enforcement agencies on local, federal and international levels, intelligence databases that include everything from close-ups of eyeballs and irises to online interests could be shared among offices.
The FBI expects the NGI system to include as many as 14 million photographs by the time the project is in full swing in only two years, but the pace of technology and the new connections constantly created by law enforcement agencies could allow for a database that dwarfs that estimate. As RT reported earlier this week, the city of Los Angeles now considers photography in public space “suspicious,” and authorizes LAPD officers to file reports if they have reason to believe a suspect is up to no good. Those reports, which may not necessarily involve any arrests, crimes, charges or even interviews with the suspect, can then be filed, analyzed, stored and shared with federal and local agencies connected across the country to massive data fusion centers. Similarly, live video transmissions from thousands of surveillance cameras across the country are believed to be sent to the same fusion centers as part of TrapWire, a global eye-in-the-sky endeavor that RT first exposed earlier this year.
“Facial recognition creates acute privacy concerns that fingerprints do not,” US Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law earlier this year. “Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online.”
In his own testimony, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Alessandro Acquisti said to Sen. Franken, “the convergence of face recognition, online social networks and data mining has made it possible to use publicly available data and inexpensive technologies to produce sensitive inferences merely starting from an anonymous face.”
“Face recognition, like other information technologies, can be source of both benefits and costs to society and its individual members,” Prof. Acquisti added. “However, the combination of face recognition, social networks data and data mining can significant undermine our current notions and expectations of privacy and anonymity.”
With the latest report suggesting the NGI program is now a reality in America, though, it might be too late to try and keep the FBI from interfering with seemingly every aspect of life in the US, both private and public. As of July 18, 2012, the FBI reports, “The NGI program … is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed.”
The surveillance state is here, full throttle.
These lovely Orwellian times we live in.