Coppers are cheerfully expanding their drone fleets

❝ Speaking at the Drone World Expo…a panel of four law enforcement officers resoundingly approved their use and likely near-term expansion of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.

“I really feel that small UAVs are a cost-effective way of enhancing public safety,” Cmdr. Tom Madigan, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, told an assembled group of mostly fellow deputies and officers. “I hope in the near future we will be able to deploy these out of a patrol car or a fire truck.”

As one of the largest law enforcement agencies in Northern California, with a fleet of six drones that are often loaned out and used on behalf of other public safety agencies from Monterey County to the Oregon border, the ACSO has been busy.

❝ “As of last week, we have deployed 70 real world missions in the last year,” he said. “We have quickly become one of the most active UAV units in the nation, and we’re easily the biggest.”…

❝ For his part, Alan Frazier, a deputy sheriff at the Grand Forks County department, said that with 32 sworn officers serving a largely rural county, having inexpensive drones was a godsend, given that “in our wildest dreams we will never be able to have [conventional] air support.” (His department, in a county with a population of about 66,000, now has a fleet of five drones.)

❝ The Peace Garden State has become one of the nation’s hubs for the drone industry, with a federally approved drone testing facility, a military drone base, and an active drone studies program at the University of North Dakota. There is even a regular university committee that meets to discuss drone privacy issues.

So, now you have to decide if the cute little buzzer watching over your peaceful demonstration for voting rights or maybe clean water belongs to the local coppers, a newspaper, or some creepy basement-dweller trying for YouTube stardom.

We’ve have plenty of the last for years. Decide how you want to deal with record-keeping of your life from 30 feet overhead. Maybe try to sort out what should be legal, ethical.

Trump won — So did marijuana, gun control and minimum wage


Shutterstock

❝ …Not all is doom and gloom. While Democrats lost big, liberals won some of the big initiatives that were on statewide ballots. It wasn’t a total sweep — several states, for example, affirmed the death penalty — but there were gains on some issues, including marijuana legalization, minimum wage, and gun control.

The full results paint a much more mixed picture than the top-ballot results suggest: The Democratic Party got clobbered, but some of the major policies Democrats support also won big.

1) Democrats mostly — but not entirely — lost in the state races

Four houses in 3 states – including here in New Mexico went the other way. And liberal control of our state Senate expanded. Not an accident. Hard work since the racist danger of tea party Confederates became obvious – has paid off.

2) Three — and maybe four — states legalized marijuana

❝ Voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada opted to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. They join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, and the District of Columbia in legalizing pot.

Legalization was also on the ballot in Maine, but the race is too close to call…

Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota also opted to legalize medical marijuana. And voters in Montana voted to ease their state’s rules on medical marijuana. No state voted against allowing pot for medicinal purposes.

3) Four states approved a higher minimum wage

❝ Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington state all considered raising their minimum wages to $12 an hour. And the proposal won in all four of these states.

4) Three states passed new gun control measures

❝ California, Nevada, and Washington state all approved new restrictions on guns, while Maine narrowly rejected more gun control measures.

Progressive and Liberal policy ideas had a better night than the Democrat establishment. Many local ballot initiatives succeeded in moving the quality of life forward in states and cities around the country.

Guess what? The kind of activism that produced those victories need to continue and multiply if we’re going to maintain any semblance of sanity. Get ready for the mid-term election in 2018. Prepare yourself for the redistricting fight beginning in 2020. Time to sort out one of the major avenues of backwards political thought in Western Democracies.

Bar Association investigates Trump using libel suits to silence critics — Doesn’t publish report for fear of Trump lawsuit!

❝ Alarmed by Donald Trump’s record of filing lawsuits to punish and silence his critics, a committee of media lawyers at the American Bar Association commissioned a report on Trump’s litigation history. The report concluded that Trump was a “libel bully” who had filed many meritless suits attacking his opponents and had never won in court.

But the bar association refused to publish the report, citing “the risk of the ABA being sued by Mr. Trump.”

“It is more than a little ironic,” David J. Bodney said, “that a publication dedicated to the exploration of First Amendment issues is subjected to censorship when it seeks to publish an article about threats to free speech.”…

❝ Trump has made frequent threats in recent weeks to file more lawsuits, including ones against The New York Times for publishing parts of his tax returns and accounts of women accusing him of sexual misconduct. On Saturday, he threatened to sue the women themselves.

Members of the committee expressed dismay with the bar association’s actions.

“It’s colossally inappropriate for the ABA to sponsor a group of lawyers to study free speech issues and at the same time censor their free speech,” said Charles D. Tobin, another former chairman of the committee.

RTFA for all the forth-and-back discussion. True hypocrisy on the part of the ABA Executive. All somehow fitting.

American support for legalizing marijuana reaches new highs — Har!

❝ A new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question…The Gallup poll tracks closely with numbers from the Pew Research Center released last week showing 57 percent support for legalization…

❝ …Support for legalization has soared in the past decade among nearly every demographic group. Close to 80 percent of 18-to-34 year olds now favor legal weed, up from 44 percent in 2003 and 2005. Gallup finds that Americans age 55 and older are now the only age group with less than majority support for legalization.

❝ Support for legalization has more than doubled among Republicans in the past decade, to 42 percent today. With 70 percent support, independents are the political group most likely to favor legalization, just edging out Democrats at 67 percent.

❝ This fall, five states will decide whether to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and DC in legalizing marijuana for personal use…The outcome of the November measures could have a transformative effect on the marijuana policy conversation going forward: “The percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass.”

…The real prize for legalization proponents is California: “If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”

The latest polling out of California suggest that the legalization measure is leading by a two-to-one margin.

Who wants to be the last state to board the train to the 21st Century?

Police chiefs apologize for historical mistreatment of minorities

❝ The president of America’s largest police management organization on Monday issued a formal apology to the nation’s minority population “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”

❝ Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement was issued on behalf of the IACP, and comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

…Cunningham’s comments are an acknowledgement of police departments’ past role in exacerbating tensions and a way to move forward and improve community relations nationwide. Two top civil rights groups on Monday commended Cunningham for taking an important first step in acknowledging the problem.


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❝ “…If we are brave enough to collectively deliver this message, we will build a better and safer future for our communities and our law enforcement officers. Too many lives have been lost already, and this must end. It is my hope that many other law enforcement executives will deliver this same message to their local communities, particularly those segments of their communities that lack trust and feel disenfranchised.”

The IACP members present for Cunningham’s speech gave him a standing ovation, IACP spokeswoman Sarah Guy said. Cunningham made the remarks on behalf of the membership…

Overdue. Justly applauded.

Colorado’s legal weed impacts Kansas – not necessarily in a bad way

❝ Early results from a survey of law enforcement agencies conducted by the Kansas attorney general suggest legal Colorado marijuana is having a big impact on Kansas, but it may not be all negative.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt received responses from 390 Kansas law enforcement agencies and district attorneys indicating that less marijuana is being confiscated, but it’s much higher in potency than pot smuggled in from Mexico.

Survey results also show that the legal system has been swept by changing attitudes about marijuana, with some jurisdictions no longer enforcing pot laws much. When they do they’re finding it tough to win convictions…

“The criminal justice system is moving in the direction of what appears to be changes in public attitude,” Schmidt said. “Obviously not moving as far as some people would like, but there is obviously an evolution or a change, and this showed that it has reached the enforcement level as well.”

❝ Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have legalized marijuana. California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will vote on marijuana legalization this fall…

❝ Schmidt said he also is concerned about the growing popularity of edibles, which are food products made with marijuana or infused with marijuana oils.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported its seizure of marijuana edibles increased from zero in 2013 to more than 30 in 2015. Confiscated items have included chocolates and other candies, powder mix, hot sauce — even lip balm.

Got that part right. The simplest reason for me NOT smoking ganja is that I don’t smoke. Now, if it was legal for me to add Alice B. Toklas brownies to my weekly baking – I’d certainly check out some recipes.

Fired for being a lousy cop? Don’t worry, you can always get another job — as a cop.

❝ As a police officer in a small Oregon town in 2004, Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on the mouth…Mr. Sullivan’s sentence barred him from taking another job as a police officer.

But three months later, in August 2005, Mr. Sullivan was hired, after a cursory check, not just as a police officer on another force but as the police chief. As the head of the department in Cedar Vale, Kansas, according to court records and law enforcement officials, he was again investigated for a suspected sexual relationship with a girl and eventually convicted on charges that included burglary and criminal conspiracy…

❝ Mr. Sullivan, 44, is now in prison in Washington State on other charges, including identity theft and possession of methamphetamine. It is unclear how far-reaching such problems may be, but some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.

Yet there is no comprehensive, national system for weeding out problem officers. If there were, such hires would not happen…

❝ While serving as a St. Louis officer, Eddie Boyd III pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety records.

Though Officer Boyd subsequently resigned, he was soon hired by the police department in nearby St. Ann, Mo., before he found a job with the troubled force in Ferguson, Missouri.

Officer Boyd is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident…

❝ Last year, in a report by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing, law enforcement officials and others recommended that the Justice Department establish a database in partnership with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, which manages a database of officers who have been stripped of their police powers. There are some 21,000 names on the list, but Mike Becar, the group’s executive director, said his organization lacked the resources to do a thorough job.

“It’s all we can do to keep the database up,” he said.

The Justice Department, which gave the association about $200,000 to start the database in 2009, no longer funds it. The department declined to explain why it had dropped its support…

Meanwhile, the oldest Brother Blue favor in the unofficial rulebook on How to be a Cop remains letting someone who faces severe discipline or termination resign their job. Their record stays comparatively clean. There is no outstanding pointer to behavioral dangers. In fact, a department will often recommend the tactic to keep their own noses clean. They avoid lying to explain troubled events if the events aren’t recorded as causing a sanction or termination.

Not the way to manage an honest trade, a legitimate civil service.

North Dakota is first in the US to authorize weaponized drones for local coppers

❝ Armed drones could be used by police in the US state of North Dakota after local lawmakers legalised their use.

While they will be limited to “less than lethal” weapons, tear gas, tasers, rubber bullets and pepper spray could all be used in theory by the remote controlled flying machines.

❝ In a classic case of unintended consequences, the original sponsor, Republican state representative Rick Becker said he was unhappy with the way legislation turned out.

His original intention was to prevent law enforcement officials from using the unmanned aerial vehicles from conducting surveillance on private property without a warrant.

“In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponised,” he said.

The rest of the idjits in charge of lawmaking in North Dakota quickly moved on.

The state’s police union amended the Bill, limiting any ban to only lethal weapons, meaning that sound cannons or rubber bullets could be used on police drones…

Mr Becker said that he didn’t fight the amendments, telling the Ars Technica website that he wanted “the Bill to pass to at least require warrants.”

❝ At least 39 people have been killed by police tasers in 2015, according to The Guardian.

The fact that a suspect could potentially be tasered by an officer sitting hundreds of miles away will likely add to the concerns of those who are worried about the militarisation of US police departments.

First two thing that occur to me:

1. Another fascist growth industry for America. Armed drones rolling out of factories from Alabama to Arizona. Drone wars on television with the winner getting a contract from the DEA. Hammer wars to determine who can rack up the biggest kill ratio with .50 caliber armament included in Nevada militia versions.

2. Who will be first to hack one of these critters and turn it on the coppers? Or an elementary school?

“Big Brother is finally here” — starting in Baltimore


Bloomberg Businessweek

cSince January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public.

The sky over the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on June 23 was the color of a dull nickel, and a broad deck of lowering clouds threatened rain. A couple dozen people with signs—“Justice 4 Freddie Gray”…lingered by the corner of the courthouse, watching the network TV crews rehearse their standups. Sheriff’s officers in bulletproof vests clustered around the building’s doors, gripping clubs with both hands.

Inside, a judge was delivering the verdict in the case of Caesar Goodson, the only Baltimore police officer facing a murder charge for the death of Freddie Gray…

The verdict trickled out of the courthouse in text messages: not guilty, all counts. Ralph Pritchett Sr…stood on the sidewalk among the protesters…In a city with more than 700 street-level police cameras, he wondered, shouldn’t the authorities have had video of Gray’s ride?

“This whole city is under a siege of cameras,” said Pritchett…

Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.

A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems, based in Dayton, Ohio, provided the service to the police, and the funding came from a private donor. No public disclosure of the program had ever been made…

A half block from the city’s central police station, in a spare office suite above a parking garage, Ross McNutt, the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems, monitored the city’s reaction to the Goodson verdict by staring at a bank of computer monitors…

McNutt is an Air Force Academy graduate, physicist, and MIT-trained astronautical engineer who in 2004 founded the Air Force’s Center for Rapid Product Development. The Pentagon asked him if he could develop something to figure out who was planting the roadside bombs that were killing and maiming American soldiers in Iraq. In 2006 he gave the military Angel Fire, a wide-area, live-feed surveillance system that could cast an unblinking eye on an entire city…

McNutt retired from the military in 2007 and modified the technology for commercial development…

Almost everything about the surveillance program feels hush-hush; the city hasn’t yet acknowledged its existence, and the police department declined requests for interviews about the program…

McNutt says he’s sure his system can withstand a public unveiling and that the more people know about what his cameras can—and can’t—do, the fewer worries they’ll have. But the police ultimately decide who and what should be tracked. In a city that’s struggled to convince residents that its police can be trusted, the arguments are now Baltimore’s to make.

RTFA. It’s long and detailed. It makes the case for tracking down and arresting lawbreakers. The police love it. Every law-abiding citizen should love it.

How far do you trust police and politicians to go with the technology?

I have no more problem with this than I do with public CCTV. Identified as such. However, the regulation and oversight of this tech – like any other means of spying on the bad guys – must include protection for ordinary citizens within constitutional boundaries. Of course.