Police to citizens: Be careful what you tweet

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State


SEATTLE (AP) — Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.

The “TweetSmart” campaign began in late July by a coalition of nine agencies, including the Washington state patrol and the Seattle police, and aims to raise awareness about social media’s potential impact on law enforcement.

Some have called the effort a step that could lead to censorship; others dismissed it as silly. Police, however, say it’s just a reminder at a time when cell phones and social networks can hasten the lightning-quick spread of information.

A social media expert at the International Association of Chiefs of Police said she’s unaware of similar awareness campaigns elsewhere but the problem that prompted the outreach is growing.

“All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity,” said Nancy Korb, who oversees the Alexandria, Virginia, organization’s Center for Social Media.

“It’s a real safety issue, not only for officers but anyone in the vicinity,” Korb said.

Korb said she is not aware of any social media post that has led to the injury of a police officer, but she said there have been a few close calls. Other times, tweets have interfered with investigations.

In those cases, police tweet back and ask people to back off.

Korb said citizen journalists generally respond well when the reasons are explained.

“It’s not that they don’t want the public to share information,” she said. “It’s the timing of it.”

Social media speculation and reports challenged Boston police during the search for the marathon bombers.

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 10, 2014, file photo, police direct parents to waiting students arriving by bus at a shopping center parking lot in Wood Village, Ore., after a shooting at Reynolds High School, in nearby Troutdale.

AP Photo: Troy Wayrynen, File

FILE – In this Tuesday, June 10, 2014, file photo, police direct parents to waiting students arriving by bus at a shopping center parking lot in Wood Village, Ore., after a shooting at Reynolds High School, in nearby Troutdale.

Two recent incidents led the Washington State Patrol to organize the “TweetSmart” campaign: the search for a gunman in Canada after three officers were killed and a shooting at a high school near Portland, Oregon.

“I saw it personally as far back as Lakewood,” said State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins, referring to social media traffic during the manhunt for a man wanted for killing four officers in Washington state in 2009.

At the time, people speculated online about why police were combing a Seattle park while a search was on for the man, Calkins said.

Calkins said police agencies can do their own preventative maintenance with social media by getting information out there when crime is happening.

“We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun,” said Calkins, who along with Korb commended the Seattle Police Department for its use of social media.

Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb said they use social media to engage the public and believe that getting public safety information out quickly will help minimize rumors and speculation.

“We recognize there’s a responsibility to use every tool at our disposal to keep the public safe,” Whitcomb said.

Seattle photographer Michael Holden said he saw a direct path between asking people not to share crime photos and eventually forbidding them to take them.

Holden said citizens have good reasons to take pictures of police and he does not worry about criminals using social media to find out what law enforcement is doing.

“I think the criminals are probably having more pressing concerns than checking Twitter,” he said.

Perry Merriel, a trucker from Ephrata, Washington, said he’s not sure why the public needs a reminder to follow common sense on social media. “They are putting their lives on the line for you,” he said.

“It should go without saying: don’t advertise what they’re doing,” he said.

National Guard Will Have Authority to Make Arrests

July 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

WESLACO – National Guard troops will have the authority to make arrests once they are deployed to the Rio Grande Valley.

Gov. Rick Perry announced last week he was sending up to 1,000 troops to help secure the border.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS on Monday asked the Texas military forces if the troops will make arrests. Officials responded with a short e-mail.

“As guardsmen, our troops can be activated with a law enforcement mission if directed by the governor to do so,” the statement said.

Full Article

Judge Upholds Detroit Mother’s Right to Protect her Daughter from Forced Drugging

July 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

Journalist Kelly O’Meara will join us on today’s edition of the Jack Blood Show (7.22.14) to break this down!

Despite prosecutors’ second attempt this year to bring criminal charges against Detroit mother Maryanne Godboldo, who underwent a 10 hour stand-off with police for refusing to administer a powerful antipsychotic drug to her daughter, Wayne County District Judge Gregory Bill has become the second judge this year to dismiss the charges.

Detroit, MI (PRWEB) July 17, 2014


On July 11th, 2014, there was loud applause in the court when Wayne County District Judge, Gregory Bill, reaffirmed the dismissal of criminal charges against Detroit mother, Maryanne Godboldo for a second time this year. [Case No. 11057748, 36 District Court, Detroit, Michigan, filed 03/27/2011] [1] The mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), applauds Judge Bill in upholding Maryanne’s right to protect her daughter from forced psychiatric drugging.

In March 2011, the Maryanne Godboldo casegarnered international headlines when images of a SWAT team, tanks and a helicopter, showed up at the home of a Detroit mother after she refused to administer an antipsychotic drug to her daughter.[2] The seizure of the then 13-year old caused a firestorm of press and public outcry.[3] By December 11th, 2011, nine months and numerous court hearings later, Godboldo was acquitted of all charges, with the judge calling the court order that was used by Child Protective Services (CPS) to try to gain entry into the home invalid. [4]

Maryanne’s story began in 2011 when she chose to fight for the medical well-being of her 13-year old daughter, Ariana, refusing to give the child the dangerous, and potentially lethal, antipsychotic drug Risperdal.[5] What ensued from there is as follows:

    • With a “rubber stamped” court order in hand, CPS enlisted the services of Detroit’s SWAT team to go to the Godboldo home and remove the child from her mother.[6]



    • After a 10-hour standoff with police, and assurances that the teenager would not be removed to a psychiatric facility or forcibly drugged, Godboldo agreed to end the standoff. Both assurances were not upheld and Ariana was taken to a psychiatric facility where the child was drugged against her mother’s will.[7]



    • It took days for Godboldo’s attorneys to locate the child in a psychiatric facility. Once they found Ariana, they discovered that the teenager’s prosthetic leg had been taken from her and she had been forcibly given psychiatric drugs.[8]



    • After nearly two months of legal hearings, Ariana was released into the custody of her aunt, while Godboldo awaited trial for the defense of her child and home.[9]



  • State prosecutors further attempted to prosecute Godboldo for an alleged “warning shot” fired during the illegal entry by police, in an attempt to seize her child. In March 2014, 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles ruled that given the illegal entry of Godboldo’s home, “…the defendant, in fact, did use reasonable force…to prevent an illegal attachment.” Judge Giles further explained, “The Detroit Police did not have the authority to remove a child at that time…based on the invalid court order that was being used and presented.”[10]


Despite numerous dismissals of the criminal charges leveled against Godboldo by Judge Giles and Judge Bill and the appeals court, prosecutors continue to appeal the dismissal. A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office stated, “We do not agree with the court’s ruling affirming the dismissal of the case in 36th District Court, and we will be appealing to the Michigan Court of Appeals.”[11]

In an exclusive interview with CCHR, Allison Folmar, Godboldo’s attorney and champion, says, “In many ways this case really puts psychiatrists and the pharmaceuticals on trial because they tried to do something that they had no right to do. There are a multitude of lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company that makes Risperdal. This is a devastating, harmful drug that should not have been prescribed for this child.”[12]

Folmar has no doubt that Maryanne will prevail, and acknowledges that many positive changes have occurred in the state and even across the country as a result of this case. For example, no more can emergency removal orders be “rubber stamped,” probation officers are prohibited from signing orders and the CPS no longer will investigate cases of parents who refuse to drug their child.[13]

Folmar sums up what she believes transpired in the Godboldo case: “This case has far reaching implications for parents, not only in Detroit, but across the country, to choose whether or not to drug their child. It is a case of misdiagnosis, misinformation and unrestrained persecution. Parents need to understand this is not an isolated case and it is happening across the nation far too often.”

Read the full article here.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.

[1] Kim Craig, “Judge upholds lower court’s decision to dismiss charges against Maryanne Godboldo,” ABC 7 Detroit, July 11, 2014, wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/mom-accused-of-standoff-with-police-over-daughters-medication-in-court

[2] “Ten hour siege, a SWAT team… and a TANK: How police dealt with mother who refused to give her child medication,” Daily Mail, April 15, 2011, dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377178/SWAT-teams-10-hour-siege-mother-Maryanne-Godboldo-Detroit.html

[3] “Detroit Judge Upholds Decision In Standoff Mom’s Case,” CBS Detroit, December 12, 2011, detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/12/12/detroit-judge-upholds-decision-standoff-moms-case/

[4] Kim Craig, “Charges dismissed against Detroit mom who fought removal of daughter by Child Protective Services,” ABC 7 Detroit, Mar 14, 2014, wxyz.com/news/weve-won-says-maryanne-godboldo-after-judge-dismisses-criminal-charges-against-detroit-mom

[5] “Mother Battles Michigan Over 13-Year-Old Daughter’s Medication,” Fox News, May 22, 2011, foxnews.com/us/2011/05/22/mother-battles-michigan-13-year-old-daughters-medication/; “Risperdal (risperidone) tablets, Risperdal (risperidone) oral solution, and Risperdal M-Tab (risperidone) oral disintegrating tablets,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, August 2010, fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/ucm225758.htm; “Dear Healthcare Provider,” Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., Apr. 2003, fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm168933.htm; “Risperdal (Risperidone) Apr 2003,” FDA Safety MedWatch, April 2003, fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsforhumanmedicalproducts/ucm153478.htm

[6] “Ten hour siege, a SWAT team… and a TANK: How police dealt with mother who refused to give her child medication,” Daily Mail, April 15, 2011, dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377178/SWAT-teams-10-hour-siege-mother-Maryanne-Godboldo-Detroit.html; “Charges reinstated against Maryann Godboldo, mom involved in police standoff over care of daughter,” ABC 7 Detroit, May 29, 2013, wxyz.com/news/region/detroit/charges-reinstated-against-maryann-godboldo-mom-involved-in-police-standoff-over-care-of-daughter

[7] Heather Catallo, “Mom who chose to take daughter off medication files lawsuit, alleges daughter deprived of prosthesis,” ABC 7 Detroit, May 10, 2012, wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/mom-who-chose-to-take-daughter-off-medication-files-lawsuit-alleges-daughter-deprived-of-prosthesis

[8] Heather Catallo, “Mom who chose to take daughter off medication files lawsuit, alleges daughter deprived of prosthesis,” ABC 7 Detroit, May 10, 2012, wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/mom-who-chose-to-take-daughter-off-medication-files-lawsuit-alleges-daughter-deprived-of-prosthesis

[9] “Godboldo May Be Reunited With Daughter,” CBS Detroit, May 6, 2011, detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/05/06/godboldo-may-be-reunited-with-daughter/

[10] Kim Craig, “Charges dismissed against Detroit mom who fought removal of daughter by Child Protective Services,” ABC 7 Detroit, Mar 14, 2014, wxyz.com/news/weve-won-says-maryanne-godboldo-after-judge-dismisses-criminal-charges-against-detroit-mom

[11] Elisha Anderson and Gina Damron, “Judge upholds dismissal of charges against mom in police standoff case,” Detroit Free Press, July 11, 2014, freep.com/article/20140711/NEWS01/307110149/ruling-upheld-Detroit-Maryanne-Godboldo-mother-antipsychotic-medication-judge

[12] David Sell, “Johnson & Johnson settles five Risperdal suits,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 06, 2012, articles.philly.com/2012-10-06/business/34280657_1_risperdal-suits-j-j-antipsychotic-drug; Sophia Pearson, Phil Milford and Jef Feeley, “Johnson & Johnson Agrees to Settle Five Rispersal Suits,” Bloomberg News, October 4, 2012, bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-04/johnson-johnson-agrees-to-settle-five-rispersal-suits.html; “Risperdal (risperidone) tablets, Risperdal (risperidone) oral solution, and Risperdal M-Tab (risperidone) oral disintegrating tablets,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, August 2010, fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/ucm225758.htm

[13] Heather Catallo, “Families torn apart illegally? Heather Catallo investigates,” ABC 7 Detroit, May 9, 2012, wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/removal-order; State of Michigan Department of Human Services, “Mandated Reporter’s Guide,” DHS Pub 112 (Rev. 2-13), michigan.gov/documents/dhs/Pub-112_179456_7.pdf

US government says online storage isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment

July 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State, Sci-Tech

A couple months ago, a New York judge ruled that US search warrants applied to digital information even if they were stored overseas. The decision came about as part of an effort to dig up a Microsoft user’s account information stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft responded to the ruling and challenged it, stating that the government’s longstanding views of digital content on foreign servers are wrong, and that the protections applied to physical materials should be extended to digital content. In briefs filed last week, however, the US government countered. It states that according to the Stored Communications Act (SCA), content stored online simply do not have the same Fourth Amendment protections as physical data:

Overseas records must be disclosed domestically when a valid subpoena, order, or warrant compels their production. The disclosure of records under such circumstances has never been considered tantamount to a physical search under Fourth Amendment principles, and Microsoft is mistaken to argue that the SCA provides for an overseas search here. As there is no overseas search or seizure, Microsoft’s reliance on principles of extra-territoriality and comity falls wide of the mark.

From the Justice Department’s point of view, this law is necessary in an age where “fraudsters” and “hackers” use electronic communications in not just the U.S. but abroad as well. Indeed, the Microsoft account in this case is in relation to a drug-trafficking investigation.

Full Article

Terror suspect says U.S. agents breach privacy rights of millions

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Americas, Police State

An Uzbekistan refugee charged with conspiring with foreign terrorists accuses U.S. intelligence agents of using a “backdoor” strategy to violate his privacy rights and those of millions of people, including virtually every U.S. citizen who corresponds with anyone overseas.

Defendant Jamshid Muhtorov of Aurora filed a motion seeking to toss out evidence collected against him through warrantless wiretaps. He is also seeking to view wiretap evidence collected against him that has been sealed for national security reasons.

Muhtorov’s arguments could have far-reaching consequences, if, as he claims, federal intelligence agents are routinely violating Fourth Amendment privacy rights on a massive scale. Documents released by the government in Muhtorov’s case have, piece by piece, defined a previously secretive intelligence-gathering strategy.

Intelligence agents have routinely scanned millions of e-mail and phone communications of U.S. citizens, even though it is illegal to directly tap those contacts without a warrant, his motion says.

Full Article

The U.S. military is not-so-shockingly studying your Facebook and Twitter habits

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State, Sci-Tech

It should come as no surprise in the era of Edward Snowden that the U.S. military is keeping an eye on your social media habits, but the Defense Department is also funding Facebook-style behavioral experiments on you.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that DARPA, the Defense Department’s research arm, has given millions of dollars to projects that examine activity on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Pinterest, and other social networks as part of its Social Media in Strategic Communication program. According to the newspaper, one of the studies involved sending messages to users to gauge their responses. DARPA even looked at Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s Twitter accounts to determine how messages spread across the network.

The military also looked at Kickstarter projects. The potato salad crowdfunding campaign would actually make more sense if it turned out to be a government conspiracy.

Full Article

These White Boxes Could Track Your Every Move

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

In fall 2013, Seattle, WA, residents noticed mysterious white boxes installed on street corners throughout downtown Seattle. Their interest only grew when curious WiFi networks with the names of those street corners began to pop up on their mobile phones as available networks to connect to. The boxes and WiFi turned out to be a wireless mesh network set up by the city for emergency personnel to communicate in case of a disaster.

“Ultimately it’s designed to keep our community safe, to help out with criminal investigations and just to be a part of effective government,” says Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, a public information officer with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). The network was paid for with a $2.7 million port security grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

But privacy advocates say the network may be capable of much more than its intended use, including tracking the location of Seattle residents. After the story broke in The Stranger newspaper, it was met with so much concern from the public that the SPD turned off the mesh network in November 2013 and promised to develop protocols for its use.

“Protocols would give the Seattle police the opportunity to show how they are going to use surveillance technology to protect people and show how they are going to protect their privacy,” says Brian Robick, senior policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

But, with focus turned finding a new police chief, the city has gone nine months without a finalized privacy policy for the network. Robick says that the policy is important because—although the SPD says its intention is not to track users and Aruba Networks, the company that manufactured the network, told Reason TV that the product bought by Seattle is not designed to track users—things could change in the future with a new police chief or software updates.

“The city council has asked that every single time you add something or change something that the police disclose it, and we’re still waiting for them to disclose what they are going to do with the base line, but without that we have no assurances of what they are going to add onto the network to change it to do other things,” says Robick.

Although it’s hard to predict what a city might do with newly acquired technology, the city’s 2012 Request for Proposal shows diagrams that would have given the Washington State Fusion Center a direct connection to the mesh network. The Washington State Fusion Center tries to stop major crimes and terrorist acts by collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data submitted by local law enforcement agencies like the SPD and federal agencies like DHS and the FBI.

“That has been a surprising bit of information to some of the folks we have spoken with in the city and the police department when we bring it up,” says Robick who points out that he doesn’t think it’s their intention to have that connection anymore.

“But I do think that it’s interesting that when cities are campaigning for grants that they build in additional information sharing and, in a way, barter the people’s privacy in order to get the funds to put up these systems.”

UPDATE: The city of Seattle has confirmed that the $2.7 million cost of the mesh network only covered equipment and services and after installation the total cost of the network was $4.4 million.

Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning and Detrick. Music by Ergo Phizmiz and Podington Bear.

About 6:12 minutes.

Second German government worker suspected of spying for US

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

German authorities are investigating the second case of a government employee suspected of spying on confidential government affairs for US secret services within a week.

Public prosecutors confirmed that the home and office of a defence ministry employee in the greater Berlin area had been searched on Wednesday morning.

They told the Guardian that a search had been conducted “under suspicion of secret agent activity” and that evidence – including computers and several data storage devices – had been seized for analysis. The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed that no arrest had yet been made.

According to Die Welt newspaper, the staffer being investigated is a soldier who had caught the attention of the German military counter-intelligence service after establishing regular contact with people thought to be working for a US secret agency.

The news came just days after a member of the German intelligence agency BND confessed to having passed more than 200 confidential files to a contact at the CIA.

Full Article

Burned Atlanta toddler spotlights spike in SWAT raids …

July 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

The severe burning of a 19-month-old toddler could accomplish what the unnecessary killing of a 92-year-old woman couldn’t – reining in the use of no-knock warrants by SWAT teams in Georgia.

In 2006, an elderly Kathryn Johnston was gunned down by an Atlanta police SWAT team as she pulled out a rusty revolver to protect herself from what she thought were robbers breaking into her home in the middle of the night. It turned out that the police, looking for drugs, had raided the wrong house.

After that incident, two Georgia lawmakers, state Sens. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, and Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, introduced a bill in 2007 that would have set limits on the use of no-knock warrants. It passed the state Senate but died in the House.



Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh

Now, after another botched drug raid – this time in rural Habersham County in northeast Georgia, where a sheriff’s deputy threw a flash-bang grenade into a sleeping toddler’s crib – the two lawmakers are renewing their call for reform.

The toddler, Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, was released from the hospital Tuesday after more than five weeks of painful surgeries, including the re-attachment of his nose. He will be scarred for life, and he may also end up with brain damage, family members said.

WND was the first to report that the “intelligence” relied upon by Sheriff Joey Terrell came from a confidential criminal informant, who “assured” the sheriff that there would be no children in the home during the 3 a.m. raid.

Unannounced guests

When a no-knock warrant is issued, police do not have to conduct an arrest in the traditional way, by knocking on the front door and announcing their presence. They can simply storm in unannounced.

Fort, the Democrat senator, said he will introduce his bill restricting no-knock warrants as soon as the state Legislature reconvenes in January. He is optimistic it will pass this time. He cites the existence of a strong tea party presence among Georgia Republicans as the main reason for his optimism.

The tea party has joined the NAACP in a case of strange bedfellows rallying against no-knock warrants. Several protest rallies have been held. One such rally that should have gained the attention of Republican and Democrat lawmakers was held across from the Habersham County Courthouse on June 7, organized by a coalition of NAACP, libertarian and tea party activists.

Fort believes the cooperation between left and right will be key in turning the tide against the police and prosecutors, who lobbied hard in 2007 to defeat his bill in the State House.

“You have a tea party very interested in this issue. In 2007 you didn’t have a tea party, so the circumstances have changed and the continued use of these no-knock warrants and the abuse of them and the perception that something should have been done about this a long time ago and more people are unnecessarily being harmed and killed, I’m optimistic we’re going to be successful this time. It will take a lot of work, but it’s time.”

Fort said neither he nor Mullis wants to eliminate no-knock warrants. Rather, they want tighter restrictions put in place. He said the combination of military-grade weaponry now common at all police agencies with no-knock warrants is a “recipe for disaster” that must be addressed before more innocent people get killed or maimed.

In Clayton County, Georgia, a pregnant woman was injured by a flash-bang grenade during a 2010 police raid.

“Right now there is nothing codified, no statute that regulates no knock warrants. It’s all case law,” Fort said. “There’s nothing in the code that regulates them. So my bill would, one, define them but more important it would place restraints on their use.”

Fort said there are three levels of evidence with “clear and convincing” being the highest standard and “reasonable suspicion” the lowest. In between is what’s known as “probable cause,” the standard Fort wants to see clearly demonstrated before any no-knock warrant is issued by a judge in Georgia.

He said the bill may also include some protocols or requirements that police and sheriff’s departments must have in place, such as minimum levels of training for those who serve no-knock warrants.

“But the core issue for me is making sure there is a criteria that magistrates have to use,” he said.

The chief magistrate in Habersham who approved the no-knock warrant that led to the injuries to little Bou Bou has announced he will resign effective July 15.

“These no-knock warrants are used to protect law enforcement when they go into a house and when they believe there’s going to be evidence lost or destroyed. What’s happened is they have become too common. They were supposed to be special warrants reserved for special circumstances, and now they’re routinely issued by judges,” Fort said. “I think under my bill they would be issued sparingly and only when they are truly needed.”

Nationwide problem

But the problem of judges issuing no-knock warrants for SWAT raids as a matter of routine is not just a Georgia problem, criminal justice experts say.

The number of house raids by SWAT teams across the U.S. has increased from about 3,000 in 1980 to upwards of 80,000 last year, said Peter Kraska, professor of criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University and author of the book “Militarizing The American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and Police.”

Kraska said the alternative media and even some mainstream media are starting to do a better job of exposing the budding American police state, but there’s still a long way to go.

“I think it’s pretty telling that the Georgia case didn’t receive national attention, and when it did, it was the damn sheriff talking about how devastated his officers were. That’s just outrageous,” Kraska said. “What possible justification could anybody come up with for using that extreme method of policing on a private residence? They used a Navy SEALs approach for busting someone who (they thought) smokes a little marijuana or meth. It just makes no sense. But the sheriff said his officers felt bad.”

In the end, the 3 a.m. raid in Habersham County turned up no drugs or guns. The target of the raid was not there. He was arrested several hours later at another house and only charged with drug possession, not sales.

“The presence of a small-time drug dealer in the house should not even matter when deciding to use such force on a residential household,” Kraska said. “The fact that it was used can only be seen as reckless by any rational analysis of what happened in Habersham County.”

Cheryl Chumley, author of the new book “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Realty,” agrees and said the state appears to be dragging its feet in an ongoing investigation of the police action May 28 in Habersham County.

“It’s unbelievable that this family would have to suffer this at the hands of the very people who are tasked with serving and protecting the public – the police,” said Chumley.

She called the fact that the investigation is still going on after a month “unbelievable.”

“Five weeks,” she said, “is a long time – time enough for a toddler to be blown up, placed in a coma, undergo numerous operations and surgeries, receive untold number of medical tests and analyses, make a miraculous recovery, get discharged, and no doubt be scheduled for a slew of follow-up appointments – at medical facilities hundreds of miles from the place of incident, no less – yet it’s not long enough, apparently, for the police to come to some sort of finding of fault.”

Chumley said the officers involved should be held accountable.

“When over-hyped, overly aggressive police make an error that injures or kills, the least the American public – the taxpaying source of police paychecks – ought to be given is a quick and speedy resolution that reflects true accountability,” she said. “And accountability in this particular case demands, at minimum, the at-fault officers be fired.”

Supporters of the Phonesavanh family held a benefit breakfast Wednesday at an Atlanta restaurant to raise money for mounting medical bills.

The family had moved to Georgia from Wisconsin about a month before the police raid because their home in Wisconsin had burned down. They have steadfastly denied any involvement with drugs, saying they don’t use or sell them or allow anyone around their children who does.
Read more  WND

Also: Police Officer Attacks Man in Wheelchair

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

June 26, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State

As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.

Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.

From the ACLU of Massachusetts’s report on police militarization in that state:

Approximately 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts belong to an LEC. While set up as “corporations,” LECs are funded by local and federal taxpayer money, are composed exclusively of public police officers and sheriffs, and carry out traditional law enforcement functions through specialized units such as SWAT teams . . .

Due to the weakness of Massachusetts public records law and the culture of secrecy that has infected local police departments and Law Enforcement Councils, procuring empirical records from police departments and regional SWAT teams in Massachusetts about police militarization was universally difficult and, in most instances, impossible . . .

Police departments and regional SWAT teams are public institutions, working with public money, meant to protect and serve the public’s interest. If these institutions do not maintain and make public comprehensive and comprehensible documents pertaining to their operations and tactics, the people cannot judge whether officials are acting appropriately or make needed policy changes when problems arise . . .

Hiding behind the argument that they are private corporations not subject to the public records laws, the LECs have refused to provide documents regarding their SWAT team policies and procedures. They have also failed to disclose anything about their operations, including how many raids they have executed or for what purpose . . .

METROLEC, one of the largest of the law enforcement councils covering the metropolitan Boston area, operates a range of specialized resources, including a Canine Unit, Computer Crimes Unit, Crisis Negotiation Team, Mobile Operations Motorcycle Unit, and Regional Response Team, in addition to its SWAT force. The organization maintains its own BearCat armored vehicle, as well as a $700,000 state of the art command and control post. In 2012, METROLEC reportedly used its BearCat 26 times, mostly for drug busts, and applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain a drone license.

The North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) similarly operates a SWAT team, as well as a Computer Crime Unit, Motorcycle Unit, School Threat Assessment & Response System, and Regional Communications and Incident Management Assistance Team. Its SWAT team members are trained and equipped to “deal with active shooters, armed barricaded subjects, hostage takers and terrorists,” and they dress in military-style gear with the words “NEMLEC SWAT” emblazoned on their uniforms. Given this training, it is not surprising that the NEMLEC SWAT team has over the past decade led numerous operations that involved armored vehicles, flash-bang devices, and automatic weapons.

(Note: In addition to the LEC SWAT teams, the ACLU notes that at least 25 other Massachusetts cities and towns have their own SWAT-like units, along with the state police and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.)

Massachusetts also has a long history of accountability and excessive force problems with SWAT teams. A few examples:

  • In 1988, Boston Det. Sherman Griffiths was killed in a botched drug raid later revealed to have been conducted based on information from an informant a subsequent investigation revealed that the police had simply made up.
  • Six years later, the Rev. Accelyne Williams died of a heart attack during a mistaken drug raid on his home. The Boston Globe found that three of the officers involved in that raid had been accused in a 1989 civil rights suit of using fictional informants to obtain warrants for drug raids. In testimony for that suit, one witness testified that after realizing they’d just raided the wrong home, a Boston police officer shrugged, apologized and said, “This happens all the time.” The city settled with the plaintiffs.
  • In 1996, the Fitchburg SWAT team was already facing a lawsuit for harassing a group of loiterers when it burned down an apartment complex during a botched drug raid. The SWAT team subsequently faced a number of other allegations of recklessness and misconduct.
  • In January 2011, a SWAT team raided the Framingham, Mass., home of 68-year-old Eurie Stamps at around midnight on a drug warrant. Oddly, it had already arrested the subject of the warrant — Stamps’s 20-year-old stepson — outside the house. But because he lived in Stamps’s home, the team went ahead with the raid anyway. When the team encountered Stamps, it instructed him to lie on the floor. He complied. According to the police account, as one officer then moved toward Stamps to check for weapons, he lost his balance and fell. As he fell, his weapon discharged, sending a bullet directly into Stamps’s chest, killing him.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU, told me in a phone interview. “The same government authority that allows them to carry weapons, make arrests, and break down the doors of Massachusetts residents during dangerous raids also makes them a government agency that is subject to the open records law.”

In some states, police agencies can claim exemptions from open records legislation for certain types of requests, such as for internal personnel files, or investigation documents that could reveal the identities of witnesses or informants. In some parts of the country, like the Virginia suburbs of Washington, police agencies have broadly interpreted open records laws to allow them to turn down just about every request. But this claim in Massachusetts is on a whole different scale.

“They didn’t even attempt to claim an exception,” Rossman says. “They’re simply asserting that they’re private corporations.”

The ACLU is suing five Massachusetts LECS. The press release announcing the suit specifically names NEMLEC. It’s worth noting that in addition to receiving taxpayer funding from its 51 member police agencies, NEMLEC has also received significant federal funding over the years, particularly from the Byrne Grant program. In fact, just last April, NEMLEC made a series of drug busts across the state in an investigation funded at least in part with Byrne Grants. (NEMLEC seems to be involved in a lot of drug raids.) In 2010, NEMLEC received an $800,000 Byrne Grant earmarked by then-Sen. John F. Kerry.

Interestingly, in 2009, NEMLEC had to pay out $200,000 “to settle allegations that it made false claims related to the use of Justice Department grant funds” — specifically, funds obtained through the Byrne Grant program. That sounds like an agency that could use a little oversight.

Read the rest at Washington Post


SWAT Teams Treat U.S. Neighborhoods ‘Like a War Zone’

A member of the SWAT team trains a gun on an apartment building during a search for the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013.

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