That’s it. Take his guns away forever.

Florida passed somewhat interesting legislation in the aftermath of the MSD High School shootings. Although I and my reader would both have preferred dramatic restrictions on private gun ownership and access and hate crazy-blaming, there still could be some utility in the statutory provisions which allow police to assume that when one makes threats that one is at least potentially a danger to others. To that end, the law allows police to deliver those who make what appear to be serious threats (and some others who give indications of being a danger to the public) into the hands of mental health professionals.

The law has complex ramifications for a number of aspects of civil society, including the operation of the First Amendment’s protections of expression generally and the media specifically. Until I see more about how the courts interpret the state legislation and how local authorities mis/use its provisions, I’m going to have trouble  determining whether I find it a net positive or not. Still, the first person they picked up under the law was probably a reasonable choice and doesn’t foreshadow abuse. That person is Christian Nicholas Velasquez.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, cops initially keyed on Velasquez

after getting reports from the [University of Central Florida] community about a user on the online social media platform Reddit called “TheRealUCFChris” who called Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz and Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock heroes.

In an interview with police which happened either immediately before (more likely) or immediately after (it’s not entirely clear) a relatively short evaluation confinement in a mental health institution, Velasquez was clear that although he did make those comments, he couldn’t really see himself following in their footsteps:

“I can’t imagine myself ever doing that. It would take a lot to push me over the edge.”

Still, despite that and similar statements as well as not being found dangerous to the point of requiring confinement by the evaluating doctor, cops felt concerned enough that they applied under a new provision of the law to ban Velasquez from owning a gun for a period of one year. The civil order also prevents or penalizes certain other behaviors, and amounts to a new type of restraining order sought not by a victim but by a law enforcement agency. This new type of restraining order is known as a “risk protection order”.

The Florida judge responsible for deciding whether the emergency order authorizing the hospital say and other very short term measures thought Velasquez’s initial detention was well in-line with the wording and intent of the new law, saying (according to the Sentinel):

“I don’t disagree with the issuing of the initial temporary injunction. I think that’s exactly what the statute provides for.”

Nonetheless, the judge did not believe that the state met the legally required burden for a longer term injunction and declined to convert the emergency order into the new risk protection order with a duration of one year.

People will have different feelings about the law, though I think it’s pretty clear in this case that the authorities acting under the law were interpreting it reasonably and not abusively exploiting the margins of the power granted under statute. It was being used as intended, whatever you think about the intent. I don’t know if the judge had the law right, though it’s likely he did. So the first attempt at use of the law probably went about as well as anyone could hope.

After the hearing was concluded and the decision rendered, Velasquez’s attorney expressed disappointment with the law and its use against her client. Why would the government even want to take away – even temporarily – her client’s right to access guns? After all, she said, quoting her client, he just

wanted to look like a badass on Reddit.

Huh.

 

 

 

Fascist Policing: Yet Another Modest Proposal

So,  NJ.com, an aggregator of content from semi-major newspapers all over New Jersey, has details of a couple of instances of police beating folks without even a decent pretext. The stories are in two separate articles, but they’re entirely routine. In the first a child who took the family car for a drive before getting a driver’s license spooked when a cop wanted to pull him over and drove into a cable:

The teen, who was unlicensed and driving his parent’s car, crashed a sedan into a suspension wire at the corner of Edwin and Bergen streets following a brief police chase.

It’s not entirely clear to me, but my best (although imperfect) understanding of the situation after reading the sources I could get was that the “chase” amounted to something between half a block or up to a few blocks, where the teen, spooked after a cop wanted to pull the car over (probably legitimately, an unlicensed kid is likely to be making many unsafe mistakes in driving) but drove into the wire before any real “chase” could be said to begin.

What happened next was a vicious beating of the teen by the first responding officer – probably also the officer that first attempted to pull over the teen’s car. That officer, Joseph Reiman, is a brother of the mayor of the same city, Carteret, in which the beating took place.

[Read more…]

If you read one thing today, make it this

The Baton Rouge advocate reported yesterday that the mother of a baby killed in a car crash has been charged with negligent homicide.

I’m not one to say that the loss of a child is by definition punishment enough when a parent or parents are responsible for fatal injuries to a child. I’m perfectly fine with charging parents who refuse to get medical care in the face of an obvious health crisis. I’m fine doing that whether they did so because of some issue that ultimately has a reasonable basis (:cough: Tuskeegee :cough:) or whether they did so because of some issue that has nothing rational even at some distant core (:cough: faith healing :cough:). The charges, however, need to be proportionate. In this case, they clearly are not. But you’ll have to stay with me to get more on that later.  [Read more…]

Megyn Kelly Solves Cops’ Racism and Corruption

Oh dear FSM: Megyn Kelly has decided to do “Hopeful Holidays” stories, and what has she decided to cover? White officers framing Black community members for crimes those persons did not commit.

As her guests she invited 2 men, one a white former cop who corruptly invented evidence when asking courts for search and arrest warrants and then turned that fraudulent evidence over to prosecutors to use to incarcerate innocent people. The other man is a Black man who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years incarceration (though only 4 would typically be served inside, the rest on parole) for possessing drugs that never existed.

[Read more…]

Fascist Policing: Portland Oregon Edition

Yet another tip from Shaun King, whom I’ve come to respect more and more. This from my home town, Portland, Oregon. Protestors there interposed themselves between an ICE detention facility and a bus delivering prisoners. They had appeared to violate a rule. They were warned. They may even have been given an explanation. Nevertheless, they persisted. So cops arrested them.

I’m actually okay with the arrest in this case. The point of civil disobedience is to force the government to act according to its laws in order to bring attention to those laws, and I’m much more comfortable with a government that obeys its own laws than one that does not, even where I strongly disagree with those laws … because at least then I have more reason to be confident that if I and others successfully advocate for a change in the law, that might be followed.

It’s what happened next that is disturbing: five of the protestors had bound themselves together to form a human chain which would be much harder to re/move than any individual person might be. Those protesters were hooded and earmuffed. Then the police applied tourniquets to their arms and explained that they were going to be using loud, dangerous tools to separate them, and the earmuffs would protect their hearing while the tourniquets protected against massive blood loss should any major injury occur to a person while the cops were separating the protesters using these dangerous tools.

No loud tools were used, however, and it’s unclear if any potentially dangerous tools were used or whether applying tourniquets in advance would be a proper protective measure if such tools had been used.

Ultimately, it seems much more likely that this was a scare tactic than anything done for the protesters’ protection as claimed by the police. The tourniquets are particularly disturbing, as harm can be done to extremities by the effects of the tourniquets themselves.

No, Portland. Just No.

Fascist Policing: Caddo Parish Edition

In a story in The Advocate (no, not that one, I’m talking about the one that is slightly less gay & writes primarily about mardi gras and other spectacular events in New Orleans … okay, maybe it’s just as gay), a Louisiana Sheriff discusses the effects of criminal justice reform (a collection of 10 new Louisiana laws collectively titled, “the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Package”) that permits earlier release from prison than was possible under previous parole conditions. Because of the transition to new criteria for reducing time spent behind bars*1 and the way the law come into effect, a larger than usual number of people will be paroled on a single day. 1,400 people will likely be released on November 1st, all of them people who have been without violence or other significant incidents while in prison and most of which*2 were convicted for non-violent behavior. Many of them are people who were jailed as victims of the Drug War.

However Republican Sheriff of Caddo Parish Steve Prator is not excited that he can save taxpayer money by running a smaller jail. No. The Advocate notes that he frets that every single person eligible for parole will actually be granted parole, including particularly one person “arrested 52 times” including for a charge of manslaughter… curiously, the Sheriff didn’t say whether or not the person was actually convicted of manslaughter.

While The Advocate includes all this in its coverage, what is more interesting is what The Advocate leaves out: Prator is unhappy with the new law and its somewhat-earlier release of people who carry around the leaves of plants that grow like weeds just about anywhere in the US because it’s the best prisoners that will be released early, and he counts on being able to force those prisoners to work:

I don’t want state prisons. They are a necessary evil to keep a few, or to keep some [people] out there. And that’s the ones that you can work, that’s the ones that can pick up trash, the work release programs — but guess what? Those are the ones that they’re releasing! In addition to the [cough]. In addition to the bad ones [waves some manilla folders, presumably holding details of people like the current prisoner who has been arrested 52 times] – and I’m calling these bad – In addition to them, they’re releasing some good ones that we use every day to, to wash cars, to change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that where we save money … well, they’re going to let them out!*3

That’s right. No efficiencies of private enterprise, please. The Sheriffs have a good thing going where they can force people to work, and the better you are at doing that work, the more they want to keep you locked down. If you’re uncooperative, you’re a bad prisoner and need to be held longer. If you’re cooperative? Well, then you’re a good worker, and you need to be held longer.

This isn’t a law enforcement official concerned about good law enforcement policy. This is a fucking white man mourning the loss of his slaves.

Speaking or which: Fuck you, Steve Prator.

But the truly terrible thing, is that this was Prator in a public press conference. The Advocate didn’t report Prator as advocating slavery and immediately call for his resignation. Prator clearly believed, and the terrible reporting of The Advocate tends to support his belief, that publicly praising the value of slavery was good way to endear him to the majority of the local populace.

To which I can only say: Fuck you, majority of the local populace.

Fuck the ever-loving fuck.


*1: the total sentence is typically not reduced, but more of it is spent under supervision in the community participating in programs and, the state hopes, working at regular jobs)

*2: Possibly all, I haven’t read the text of these 10 related laws yet.

*3: Transcription of Prator’s remarks by me, from a video of Prator’s press conference on the subject. The video was released (and possibly originally made) by journalist Shaun King. Video taken from King’s twitter feed and embedded here for your convenience:

Police Violence is Racialized And Racist, But That’s Not All

About 15-20 years ago now, I first encountered studies whose data found a person’s disability to be a stronger predictor of police shootings than race. It is tragic, it is racist, and it is utterly predictable that the US law enforcement system would kill Black men disproportionately. I’m very, very glad that issue is getting attention and hope that the even more disproportionate killings of indigenous and First Nations men get the same attention. Our racism must end, and the NFL protests among other avenues are fruitful efforts to bring attention to racist killings by police officers and the utter lack of accountability for them.

I hope, however, that there is room enough for us to discuss not only the racism of police, but other things as well. The increasing militarism of the police gets some attention, though it is frequently (and wrongly) framed as an alternative reason for concern, as if it’s not okay for white people to care about racist killings of Black men, but if we concern ourselves with police militarism generally then we’re being “fair” or “reasonable” by devoting ourselves to an issue that affects all of us. But receiving very little attention is the slaughter of persons with disabilities.

[Read more…]