Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tickets issued due to red-light cameras are illegal, says Florida court

By

When we reach nerdvana, even the law will be automated.

A human court, however, has decided that a current form of automated law enforcement is actually unenforceable, at least in Florida.

I am grateful to the open-eyed bloodhounds at Watchdog for spotting a Florida appeals court ruling.

The judges mulled the fact that private owners of red-light cameras were the ones who sent out tickets. The judges concluded: "Hang on, that's not legal."

Clearly, those weren't the literal words used in the judgment (PDF). The Fourth District Court of Appeals phrased it like this: "The City is not authorized to delegate police power by entering into a contract that allows a private vendor to screen data and decide whether a violation has occurred before sending that data to a traffic infraction enforcement officer to use as the basis for authorizing a citation."

The city in question is Hollywood, Fla. The court went further and said: "Dismissal of the citation is the appropriate remedy where a private third party effectively decides whether a traffic violation has occurred and a citation should be issued."

This particular case involved American Traffic Solutions. It bills itself as "the leading provider of traffic safety, mobility and compliance solutions for state and local governments, commercial fleets and rental car companies."

It also boasts "over 3,000 Road Safety Camera systems installed and operating throughout the United States and Canada."

The company subpoenaed Eric Arem in 2011. He fought and lost, but won on appeal.

I have contacted the city of Hollywood to ask whether it will fight the ruling or whether it will have all the tickets reissued by the police department. There is also the option, presumably, of refunding money illegally obtained.

At the heart of the use of cameras -- whether at red lights or on highways -- is the suspicion that they're mere moneymakers. Last year, an Ohio judge described speed cameras as "nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty."

Earlier this year, residents of Tamarac, Fla., were incensed that a red-light camera had been mounted near the emergency room of a hospital.

Then there was the Baltimore case of a man who received a camera ticket that claimed he was speeding. It was sent with an image of his car completely stationary at a red light.

Authorities and private camera companies (see video above) say cameras improve safety. The National Motorists Association says they actually increase the number of accidents.

Of course, if this is all about money, the city of Hollywood may merely consider whether there's a cheap way to get tickets sent by its police department. If there is, perhaps nothing will change.

Who would be surprised, though, if the cost of actually having a member of law enforcement examine every ticket before it's sent means red-light cameras slink out of town?

Source: CNet

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Seattle Cops Bring Lawsuit Claiming They Have A Constitutional Right To Use Excessive Force

By Nicole Flatow
Kelly Thomas murdered by police.
Over the past year, the Seattle police department has revised its policies on when police can use force, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that officers used frequent excessive, unconstitutional force on suspects.
Police beating.
But some 125 Seattle police officers responded by filing a lawsuit challenging the new rules. In their view, the new policies infringe on their rights to use as much force as they deem necessary in self-protection. They represent about ten percent of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild membership. The police union itself declined to endorse the lawsuit.
Oscar Grant murdered by police.
This week, a federal judge summarily rejected all of their claims, finding that they were without constitutional merit, and that she would have been surprised if such allegations of excessive force by officers did not lead to stricter standards.
Police beating while in handcuffs.
The officers claimed the policies infringed on their rights under their Second Amendment and under the Fourth, claiming a self-defense right to use force.
 

Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman pointed out that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms — not the right to use them — and that the officers “grossly misconstrued” the Fourth Amendment when they claimed that it protects them, and not individuals who would be the subjects of police force or seizures.
Police murdered this man for selling cigarettes.
If they appeal, the officers have little chance of faring better. But their lawsuit does shed light on the sort of resistance officials and police chiefs face as they seek to make their policies more humane. The lawsuit employs rhetoric hostile to the idea of treating vulnerable suspects such as the mentally ill differently, and calls DOJ’s findings on excessive force “highly suspect.” It also embodies a Stand Your Ground-ification of self-defense attitudes in asserting that officers have a right not to de-escalate the situation before turning to deadly force, asserting that their force is protected “regardless of whether or not there existed less intrusive means, or alternatives to self-defense or defense of others, such as inflicting a less serious injury to, retreating from, or containing, or negotiating with a suspect.” (some version of this could be a defense to criminal charges against police, but not to Department policies).
Cop caught punching unarmed civilian.
Several years ago, the Justice Department investigated the Seattle department after several high-profile incidents of excessive force, and concluded in 2011 that officers use excessive force about 20 percent of the time. It couched its findings by noting that the “great majority of the City’s police officers are honorable law enforcement professionals who risk their safety and well-being for the public good” but that a “subset of officers” continue to misuse force. This is likely the case in most police departments. And some including DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier have lamented that strong government protections prevent her from firing the bad seeds in her department.
Another police beating.
DOJ’s findings of excessive force included one incident in which officers approached a seemingly mentally disturbed man standing in the street yelling at a traffic light while holding a stuffed animal. He didn’t respond when police ordered him to get onto the sidewalk, so they pepper sprayed him. He allegedly then “balled up his fist” so they beat him with a baton, before punching him 14 to 18 times. They later arrested him for pedestrian interference and obstruction.
13 year old murdered by police for having toy rifle.
In another instance, officers reported to the home of a man they “knew was experiencing a mental health crisis” without seeking the assistance of the Crisis Intervention Team, which is trained to assist a person in distress. Instead, they sought to arrest him, and when the man pulled away, proceeded to beat him to the point that he stopped breathing, vomited, and was hospitalized with a brain injury.
Cops torture inmates.
In several instances, they pushed and beat suspects simply because they talked back, even when they had no plans to arrest them, or already had them restrained in handcuffs.

The city came to an agreement with the Justice Department, which resulted last year in new policies that for the first time defined “force” as “any physical coercion by an officer,” and required those interactions to be reported to supervisors, according to the Seattle Times. It also requires officers to attempt to de-escalate many situations if possible before turning to force.

In response to the lawsuit, Mayor Ed Murray said, “The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s.”

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

The reporter who brought down the Secret Service's director

By

Behind the shocking revelations of incompetence and unprofessionalism that rocked the Secret Service this week is a longtime reporter who has been diligently uncovering the agency's secrets for years.

Carol Leonnig, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has worked at The Washington Post for nearly 15 years, has broken almost every single story on the agency, a series of shocking reports that on Wednesday resulted in the abrupt resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. (Pierson called the resignation “painful.”)

In less than a week, Leonnig uncovered three scandals that pushed the agency’s first female leader out the door. First, she reported that Secret Service agents failed to respond for days when a gunman shot the White House residence seven times with a semi-automatic rifle in 2011, smashing a window while Sasha Obama was home. (At first the agency thought the noise was from a car backfiring; then they believed the bullets were from a gang fight they theorized must have occurred on the White House lawn.)

Leonnig also reported that a knife-wielding man who jumped the White House fence weeks ago made it all the way to the door of the Green Room before an off-duty officer tackled him. The man made it much farther into the building than the agency initially admitted.

Lawmakers pummeled Pierson on Tuesday with Leonnig’s reporting at a House Oversight Committee hearing on the agency’s security failures. After the hearing, Leonnig broke the news that President Obama recently rode an elevator with an armed felon who was acting strange. It’s unclear if the president was immediately informed of the security breach. Pierson announced her resignation the next day.

Leonnig’s domination of the story has been so total that the editorial board of The New York Times, The Washington Post’s competitor, cited her stories three times in its editorial calling for an overhaul of the agency.

In an interview with MSNBC this week, Leonnig said Secret Service sources were motivated to talk to her because “they know how great the Service has been in their lifetime and they know what a sacred duty it is to protect the president.” The agents wanted the nation to hear their concerns about how the agency has been sliding down in quality. She added that she believes more Secret Service details and scandals will come out. “Who knows what we will discover as the days go by,” Leonnig said.

The longtime reporter has been on the beleaguered agency’s tail for years: She reported in 2012 that a dozen agents solicited prostitutes while traveling with the president. She also broke the story with colleague David Nakamura in 2013 that a Secret Service agent left a bullet from his service weapon in the hotel room of a woman he had picked up at a bar.

She was part of a team of reporters who won a Pulitzer this year for their work on the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, and she also won a Polk Award for her coverage of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell accepting luxury gifts while in office, which led to a criminal indictment. On her Facebook page, Leonnig thanked her colleagues who weren’t included in the Pulitzer earlier this year but who helped the team win. “Another day that I feel so grateful for the kind of razor-sharp colleagues I get to work with,” she wrote.

Source: YahooNews

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Miami-area mayor found guilty of corruption

By Zachary Fagenson



MIAMI (Reuters) - A Miami jury found a south Florida mayor guilty of corruption charges on Monday stemming from an undisclosed consulting job he took for a healthcare company while in office, as well as illegally using his position to lobby for a construction deal.

Steven Bateman, 59, was arrested in August 2013 and charged with two felony counts of illegal compensation and three misdemeanors for allegedly breaking Miami-Dade County ethics rules.

The jury found him guilty of the two felonies and one misdemeanor of illegal lobbying. He faces up to 15 years in jail for each felony count.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Luck withheld pronouncing the verdict for two weeks to consider a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Bateman was mayor of Homestead, a city south of Miami at the entrance to the Florida Keys, from 2009 to 2013. He admitted to working as an outside consultant for the healthcare company, but said it did not affect his mayoral duties.

State prosecutors alleged that he illegally lobbied the town council, of which he was a member, to help speed construction of a child-care center.

During a weeklong trial Bateman’s lawyers argued that the former mayor was able to separate his public and private duties.

Bateman is the latest in a growing list of south Florida mayors to face prosecution for public corruption, although juries have acquitted some.

One-time Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño is currently serving a 40-month sentence after pleading guilty to accepting kickbacks late last year. A federal jury in August acquitted Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi of several corruption charges tied to an FBI sting operation.

Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina was also acquitted earlier this year on federal charges of conspiring to avoid paying taxes on $2 million in income and lying to authorities.

In May, federal officials arrested North Miami Mayor Marie Lucie Tondreau and alleged she was part of a mortgage fraud scheme that bilked more than $8 million from lenders. Tondreau, the city’s first Haitian-American mayor, has pleaded not guilty.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Constitutional Revolution: Asymmetric warfare


General George Washington did not confine himself to confront the British head-on in battle, but rather engaged in guerrilla operations, hit-and-run attacks, and tactical surprise.

Guerrilla warfare (gərĭl`ə) [Span.,=little war], fighting by groups of irregular troops (guerrillas) within areas occupied by the enemy. When guerrillas obey the laws of conventional warfare they are entitled, if captured, to be treated as ordinary prisoners of war; however, they are often executed by their captors. The tactics of guerrilla warfare stress deception and ambush, as opposed to mass confrontation, and succeed best in an irregular, rugged, terrain and with a sympathetic populace, whom guerrillas often seek to win over by propaganda, reform, and terrorism. Guerrilla warfare, also known as unconventional, irregular, or asymmetric warfare, has played a significant role in modern history.

The American Revolution

Large-scale guerrilla fighting accompanied the American Revolution, and the development of guerrilla tactics under such partisan leaders as Francis Marion Marion, Francis , c.1732–1795, American Revolutionary soldier, known as the Swamp Fox, b. near Georgetown, S.C. He was a planter and Indian fighter before joining (1775) William Moultrie's regiment at the start of the American Revolution.

The term guerrilla itself was coined during the Peninsular War (1808–14), when Spanish partisans, under such leaders as Francisco Mina, proved unconquerable even by the armies of Napoleon I

From Spain the use of the term spread to Latin America and then to the United States.

During the U.S. Civil War, William C. Quantrill Quantrill, William Clarke , 1837–65, Confederate guerrilla leader, b. Canal Dover (now Dover), Ohio. In the Civil War his band of guerrillas was active in Missouri and Kansas. He was given the rank of captain in the Confederate army.

From its initiation, the American Revolutionary War was, necessarily, a showcase for asymmetric techniques. In the 1920s, Harold Murdock of Boston attempted to solve the puzzle of the first shots fired on Lexington Green, and came to the suspicion that the few score militia men who gathered before sunrise to await the arrival of hundreds of well-prepared British soldiers were sent specifically to provoke an incident which could be used for propaganda purposes. The return of the British force to Boston following the search operations at Concord was subject to constant skirmishing, using partisan forces gathered from communities all along the route, making maximum use of the terrain (particularly trees and stone field walls) to overcome the limitations of their weapons- muskets with an effective range of only about 50–70 metres.
 
Throughout the war, skirmishing tactics against British troops on the move continued to be a key factor in Rebel success; however, they may also have encouraged the occasional incidents, particularly in the later stages, where British troops used alleged surrender violations as a justification for killing large numbers of captives (e.g., Waxhaw and Groton Heights).

Another feature of the long march from Concord was the urban warfare technique of using buildings along the route as additional cover for snipers, which provoked the logical response from the British force — destruction of the buildings. When revolutionary forces forced their way into Norfolk, Virginia, and used waterfront buildings as cover for shots at British vessels out in the river, the response of destruction of those buildings was ingeniously used to the advantage of the rebels, who encouraged the spread of fire throughout the largely Loyalist town, and spread propaganda blaming it on the British. Shortly afterwards they destroyed the remaining houses, on the grounds that they might provide cover for British soldiers. On the subject of propaganda, it should be borne in mind that, contrary to the impression given in the popular American film The Patriot, British forces never adopted a popular response to partisan-style asymmetric warfare — retribution massacres of groups selected on a semi-random basis from the population at large.

The rebels also adopted a form of asymmetric sea warfare, by using small, fast vessels to avoid the Royal Navy, and capturing or sinking large numbers of merchant ships; however the British responded by issuing letters of marque permitting private armed vessels to undertake reciprocal attacks on enemy shipping. John Paul Jones became notorious in Britain for his expedition from France in the little sloop of war Ranger in April 1778, during which, in addition to his attacks on merchant shipping, he made two landings on British soil. The effect of these raids, particularly when coupled with his capture of the Royal Navy's HMS Drake — the first such success in British waters, but not Jones's last — was to force the British government to increase resources for coastal defense, and to create a climate of fear among the British public which was subsequently fed by press reports of his preparations for the 1779 Bonhomme Richard mission.

From 1776, the conflict turned increasingly into a proxy war on behalf of France, following a strategy proposed in the 1760s but initially resisted by the idealistic young King Louis XVI, who came to the throne at the age of 19 a few months before Lexington. France also encouraged proxy wars against the British in India, but ultimately drove itself to the brink of state bankruptcy by entering the war(s) directly, on several fronts throughout the world.

The Americans using guerilla tactics, particularly following Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and later in the South by such partisan leaders as Francis Marion. These guerilla bands managed to wear down Cornwallis' force with hit-and-run tactics and the destruction of supplies, making his army more vulnerable when they finally confronted the main Continental Army at Yorktown. Furthermore, American riflemen, or rangers, when led by officers who knew how to utilize them correctly such as Daniel Morgan and Nathanael Greene, were extremely effective.

Generals George Washington and Nathanael Greene successfully used a strategy of harassment and progressively grinding down British forces instead of seeking a decisive battle, in a classic example of asymmetric warfare. Nevertheless the theater tactics used by most of the American forces were those of conventional warfare. One of the exceptions was in the South, where the brunt of the war was upon militia forces who fought the enemy British troops and their Loyalist supporters, but used concealment, surprise, and other guerrilla tactics to much advantage. General Francis Marion of South Carolina, who often attacked the British at unexpected places and then faded into the swamps by the time the British were able to organize return fire, was named by them "The Swamp Fox." However, even in the South, most of the major engagements were battles of conventional warfare. The guerrilla tactics in the South were a key factor in the prevention of British reinforcement to the North, and that was a decisive factor in the outcome of the war.

In June 1775, General Washington arrived at Boston to direct the siege of the city to eject the British forces. On inspection rounds, he was impressed with siege lines engineered by a young officer, Henry Knox. Subsequently, Knox presented a plan to recover and move the big guns from Fort Ticonderoga which had recently been captured by militias led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. After some opinions to the contrary, Washington gave the green light to attempt to move large weapons over rough terrain in the deadly northern winter. Knox left in December prepared to meet heavy snows and ice on the shores of Lake Champlain in upper New York. He built sleds to transport the heavy loads over frozen rivers, snow underfoot and over mountainous terrain. He returned to Boston in six weeks with 78 cannon, 2 howitzers, 8 mortars, thousands of cannon balls, 18,000 pounds of musket balls, and 30,000 flints. When these weapons were placed on the Dorchester heights in Cambridge overlooking Boston, the British commander, Lt. General Howe, reportedly was stunned at the sight. He ordered his forces to abandon Boston and left a goodbye gift, a trove of British cannon. The victorious American siege of Boston had ended on March 17, 1776

Two years later (March 2, 1778), the American Commodore Hopkins sailed into a British stronghold in Nassau, Bahamas. He forced the surrender of two forts. He seized 78 cannons, 15 mortars, 16,000 shells and balls, 20 barrels of gun powder. The high seas became a store house for American war resources.

Sources: revolutionarywararchives.org/tactics.html

wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_warfare#American_Revolutionary_War

doublegv.com/ggv/battles/tactics.html

wiki.answers.com/Q/Were_guerrilla_war_tactics_used_in_the_American_Revolution

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