Cops are useless

Dynamic shot of police leaping into action to defend the citizenry from terrorists!

Have you ever read the news and wondered how the loons and right-wing terrorists can get away with it all? We had an insurrection on 6 January, 10 months ago, and the wheels of justice, we are told, grind exceedingly slow, so all we see is slaps on the wrists delivered to the low-level dupes. The ring-leaders are sheltered by doubt and fear, the propaganda sources continue to spew poison in the name of “free speech”, and Donald Trump gets to run free and plan his 2024 campaign for president. It’s doubly unjust, because while the so-called “patriots” get all the benefit of the doubt, their victims get swift and decisive condemnation from the opinion pages of the New York Times, the offices of Fox News, and too often get executed by the police. IOKYAR — It’s OK If You Are Republican — has somehow become the unwritten law of the land.

Reuters has published an article on the ongoing campaign of fear.

In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept.

In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die.

“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”

The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.

They were among nine people who told Reuters in interviews that they made threats or left other hostile messages to election workers. In all, they are responsible for nearly two dozen harassing communications to six election officials in four states. Seven made threats explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the U.S. federal standard for criminal prosecution, according to four legal experts who reviewed their messages at Reuters’ request.

You can shout all the terroristic threats you want because FREEEEZEPEEEECH, you can try to intimidate others at will because FREEEEEEEEEEDOMMMMM. The intimidator/terrorist gets the freedom, though, at the cost of the terrorized. And part of it is that the cops and justice system are useless at best, enablers most often, fellow terrorists at worst.

The examination of the threats also highlights the paralysis of law enforcement in responding to this extraordinary assault on the nation’s electoral machinery. After Reuters reported the widespread intimidation in June, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a task force to investigate threats against election staff and said it would aggressively pursue such cases. But law enforcement agencies have made almost no arrests and won no convictions.

In many cases, they didn’t investigate. Some messages were too hard to trace, officials said. Other instances were complicated by America’s patchwork of state laws governing criminal threats, which provide varying levels of protection for free speech and make local officials in some states reluctant to prosecute such cases. Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t formulated a clear definition of a criminal threat.

I’ve had a small taste of that. Remember Dennis Markuze, the nutjob who sent death threats to me practically every single day for years? He wasn’t alone, either; I still get email, at a lower frequency, fortunately, from people who make explicit threats. I’ve had people announce that they were going to show up at my university office and shoot me in the head. I’ve gotten detailed descriptions from Catholics and atheists (it turns out, atheists were the worst) telling me how they were going to cut me up at public events, and horrific threats against my family. There was a time when I would document them all, gather IP addresses and even names and home addresses of these lunatics and take them to my local police department and ask them to forward them to the parties that could take action. I’d get dumb cow-like looks, nothing more, and the information would get filed away and ignored.

I eventually just learned to accept the fact that someone could promise to murder me, and all I could do was note it down so that maybe the investigation into why I was turned into a bloody corpse would have a lead. I don’t even have that confidence anymore. What I see in the justice system is that justice doesn’t matter anymore. I could be murdered in public in broad daylight and I think the cops would spend their time trying to rationalize why the culprit did it, and the media would be speculating about what I did to deserve it.

And I’m a privileged white guy! I can’t even imagine the despair and futility minorities must feel in this country. I’m a member of the older white demographic that is trampling all over decency in America, and that won’t protect me at all.

Most galling is that the 9 people who made these over-the-top threats in the story are not ashamed at all and aren’t even shy about confessing their identities and admitting that yes, they did tell an election official that they were going to “pop” them and talk about firing squads and torturous deaths; they leave abusive phone messages with horrific promises of murder with clear intent to threaten them, they get passed on to the bumbling, incompetent cops, and what do they do? They hide behind excuses to do nothing.

The officials referred the voicemail to state police, who again declined to investigate. Agency spokesperson Adam Silverman said in a statement that the message didn’t constitute an “unambiguous reference to gun violence,” adding that the word “popped” – common American slang for “shot” – “is unclear and nonspecific, and could be a reference to someone being arrested.”

Legal experts didn’t see it that way. Fred Schauer, a University of Virginia law professor, said the message likely constituted a criminal threat under federal law by threatening gun violence at specific individuals. “There’s certainly an intent to put people in fear,” Schauer said.

The article includes the recorded audio from a number of these messages. You can’t possibly listen to them and think that golly, the wording is ambiguous…they are crystal clear and no doubt is left in the listener’s mind that this person wants to do them serious harm to prevent them from doing their job. The journalists consulted multiple legal scholars about whether these were actionable threats, and got responses that were rather different from what the cops would say.

Three legal experts said the message met the threshold of a threat that could be prosecuted under federal law. “The whole purpose of the threats doctrine is to protect people from not only a prospect of physical violence, but the damage of living with a threat hanging over you,” said Timothy Zick, a William & Mary Law School professor.

Yeah, that’s the whole story, over and over again, at length. Angry crank screams death threats at an official. Cops shrug and do nothing. And then we all wonder why the madness is escalating.


  1. James Fehlinger says

    You can shout all the terroristic threats you want because FREEEEZEPEEEECH. . .

    Meanwhile, of course, comedienne Kathy Griffin, who in May 2017 posted
    a photo of herself holding a Halloween mask of Trump slathered in
    ketchup, was thoroughly investigated for the outrage. According
    to a recent tweet, she was “interrogated under oath at the conclusion of
    the weeks long investigation in which the Feds informed me and my attorneys
    they were considering charging me with a crime of ‘conspiracy to assassinate
    the president of the United States.'” And, she said in an NPR interview,
    “I couldn’t fly for two months.”

    And, of course, she lost work in the U.S., to put it

  2. raven says

    Even when the right wingnuts actually get violent, the cops don’t do anything.

    A young antifa activist was murdered in Portland, Oregon. The murder weapon, a 2 1/2 ton SUV was found at the scene. There were many witnesses. There have been no arrests. I’m sure the cops spent more time on where to go for lunch than investigating this murder.

    In LA, some terrorist in a SUV drove through an outdoor vaccination clinic and hit two of the workers with his car. This was in daylight and there were plenty of witnesses. And every vehicle has license plates. The cops didn’t find him and likely never even bothered to look.
    Because in their cuckoo world, health care workers trying to help keep people alive and healthy during a viral pandemic deserve to be attacked.

  3. Who Cares says

    Don’t forget Rittenhouse. Shooting three people and killing two of them in front of cops who kept ignoring him even as he walked towards them with his hands held up in the air.

  4. says

    Phone numbers that were “hard to trace”? That’s bullshit. Rachel Maddow interviewed one of the journalists from Reuters and he said that they “traced” the phone number simply by calling the guy back.

    Reuters tracks down ‘untraceable’ Trump supporters who threatened election officials

  5. says

    I expect that Rittenhouse will get off with a slap on the wrist, too.

    Also, you don’t want to follow the Crying Nazi/Chris Cantwell trial about the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. He’s using the trial as an opportunity to smugly present Nazi mythology on the record — it’s the justice system being used to amplify fascist messaging, and it is disgusting.

  6. R. L. Foster says

    We had a Black Lives Matter yard sign in our front yard for many months. It was my wife’s idea. To be honest, the sign made me uneasy, but my wife has strong ties to the Black community and she insisted on showing her support. I kept my concerns to myself, but I was always worried about possible reprisals. If someone had stolen the sign it would have been a relief frankly.

    We live in a pleasant, leafy, middle class neighborhood in Williamsburg, Va. Our county is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. My office window overlooks out over front yard and I had a clear view of the sign. I could see peoples’ reactions as they walked past. Most of them were dog walkers and didn’t seem too concerned. Every now and then a couple would stop, point, and make angry faces. But that was it. But it was when county police cruisers began to drive past, slow down and took a long, hard look at the sign and at my house that I became increasingly apprehensive. We rarely ever see the police on our street. But now I was seeing them every 2-3 days. I suppose one could make a case that they were checking to make sure everything was OK. But, this is the South, and one never knows whose side a White cop may take.

    After the Chauvin verdict was reached I asked my wife if maybe now was a good a time to take it down. She resisted, she was fine leaving it up in perpetuity, so I finally expressed my fears that something could happen in the dead of night. Could we trust the police to come to our aid? All they would have to do is drag their feet for a few minutes. I’m a veteran and know how to use firearms, but I’ve resisted getting one because I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is armed and any altercation can escalate into gunfire.

    The sign has come down. I’m more relaxed again. The fact that I am as worried about the police as I am about some lone wolf, MAGA nutjob was an unpleasant revelation. Now I feel like a bit of a coward.

  7. says

    Biden is president and he appointed the AG. These people are as clueless as the conservatives were in Weimar Germany. And that is where we are going and at this point it is obvious that is where we are going to end up. Unless of course we end up with the softer gentler Mussolini type fascism.

  8. mamba says

    I had to deal with that as well PZ, having going to the cops to tell them about multiple death threats to my sister (married to drunk millitary police guy who was abusive and issuing death threats to her and us all the time to keep her in line) and getting nothing in return except “let us know if they do something tangible”.

    I replied, “Like what, kill her? Is that what it takes to get you to do something?”

    When the cop nodded dismissively, I tested something. I said “Ok then asshole, you’re tell me that if i threatened YOUR life and YOUR family right here and now, you won’t do a single thing? No matter how sincere I sound? Because I really do fucking hate you right now. If threats are meaningless and don’t result in action, this is fine by you?”

    Suddenly he got serious and started giving a canned speech about responsibility for what I say and the like. ONLY THEN. So I replied, “Fine, we understand each other. I just HOPE you die then, and it’s not illegal to wish for something. FU!” and left.

    But yeah, funny how that never applies when THEY are the one threatened, harassed, etc.

  9. gijoel says

    @17 Better yet wave a sign that says, “I’m unarmed, don’t shoot”, and you’re labeled a terrorist.

  10. says

    I’m not a lawyer but, it seems to me that there is a significant difference between making a threat, and making a threat to coerce. The latter would constitute extortion if I understand it correctly.

  11. microraptor says

    Mamba @8: Cops can’t stand experiencing the level of disrespect that a teenager working the cash register at a fast food restaurant experiences on an hourly basis. Cops are snowflakes.

  12. microraptor says

    WMDKitty @22: Given the rate of DV among cops, the perpetrators have a high chance of being old friends.

  13. raven says

    …it seems to me that there is a significant difference between making a threat, and making a threat to coerce. The latter would constitute extortion

    Death threats are federal felonies.
    They are terrroism!!!

    You don’t have to be a lawyer to figure this out.
    We’ve been dealing with terrorism for about forever, including most of the 20th century.
    Start here.

    Definition of terrorism from

    Under Federal law, “domestic terrorism” is defined as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
    appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,
    or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

  14. raven says

    In most jurisdictions, death threats are a serious type of criminal offence. Death threats are often covered by coercion statutes.

    Death threat – Wikipedia

    Death threats are illegal at the federal level and usually at the state level as well.
    The FBI occasionally arrests people for making death threats and there are people doing long prison sentences for death threats.
    That said, usually the death threater terrorists who get arrested for this crime do so…because they threaten politicians, the police, or judges. No surprise.

  15. raven says

    The review was rooted in an expert assessment of the domestic terrorism threat provided by the intelligence and law enforcement communities. An unclassified summary of that assessment was released in March so the public could see the key findings. It found that the two most lethal elements of today’s domestic terrorism threat are (1) racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race and (2) anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, such as militia violent extremists.

    According to Homeland Security and the other alphabet agencies, the vast majority of domestic terrorism in the USA is by…right wingnuts/fundie xians.
    No surprise.

    It’s fed by the GOP, Fox NoNews, Facebook, and the right wingnut media looniesphere.

  16. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Death threats are federal felonies.

    Minor nit. Death threats against federal officials and related person are felonies. However, most criminal law, including prohibitions against death threats against most people, are state laws.