A Brief Story Illustrating My View of Law Enforcement And The Media That Covers It

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96 Responses

  1. perlhaqr says:

    Did this client manage to heed your "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT THE FUCK UP!" advice?

  2. BaronLurk says:

    Considering the Los Angeles area's long history of high-profile cases that the DA can't seem to win (starting with the McMartin case in the 1980s), you would think the press would be onto them by now. It will be interesting to see how the acquital is covered in the media …

  3. Clark says:

    It always bugs me on TV when a character is carrying around a coffee that's clearly empty.

    There is one movie in this world that is perfect.

    The Road Warrior.

    Wait. Close to perfect.

    At one point Max has the Gyrocopter Captain chained up and serving as his personal sherpa. The GC has a pole across his shoulders with two, I think, 5-gallon jerry cans on each side. Four cans total is 20 gallons. Filled, theoretically, with avgas and diesel. Call it 7 lbs per gallons, or 140 lbs. Now 140 lbs on a bar across the shoulders isn't implausible, but the way the skinny little captain (played by Bruce Spence) shrugs the bar off and lowers it to he ground bugs the hell out of me.

    The juice, the precious juice, is not in those cans!

  4. Bill says:

    I honestly though this was a put-on at first. Just freaking wow. Every time my opinion of LE hits rock bottom, it doesn't get nudged down but shoved down by stuff like this. How can anyone justify that? How the hell do reporters go along with it? Even if you did, fine, 'i have to' but then do an expose about it or something. That story Would definitely sell so I don't want to hear the capitalist stupid american crap.And it's funny how publicizing any cops name or address is such a serious offense (in CA I think it's some super crime or that they could get it obscured) but yet putting their face all over tv is fine by them. Freaking hypocrites.

  5. Sidney says:

    Painfully true. I wonder if they have any idea the damage they do–or if they care?

  6. En Passant says:

    The media didn't notice that the DA Investigators were carrying out empty boxes.

    In Soviet Russia, media don't notice empty boxes.

    In America, media are empty boxes!

  7. Clark says:

    In America, media are empty boxes!

    Nice.

  8. Jack B. says:

    This makes me think of one of my other pet peeves on television: Notice how anytime a scene is filmed in a bar, the bartender is cleaning glasses with a rag? In real life, that's a health code violation.

    More on topic, however…

    A couple of months ago, I saw an article about a woman getting her parole violated for contacting the child she molested over a decade ago. Oddly enough, her photo looked familiar. It turns out she used to run in my same circle of friends. Details of the story are scarce, but at least the Texas Attorney General's office was kind enough to provide a broadcast-quality video of her perp walk to the media.

  9. Ryan says:

    I hate how clowns like this give all law enforcement a bad name. Most people in law enforcement are perfectly reasonable people who see these tactics as what they are – absolutely ridiculous and manipulative.

    If you can't make a case on the merits of the evidence, then obviously there is no case to be made and you shouldn't take it personally or play it up for observers. The job is supposed to be the collection of all evidence, inculpatory and exculpatory, and a dispassionate review to determine if charges are warranted… not acting like a trained seal for the cameras.

  10. freedomfan says:

    There was an earlier story here (or perhaps on The Agitator) describing a very similar scene. The police were making a somewhat high-profile arrest and, naturally, had announced to the media when and where they were going to arrest him. Through some mix-up, the TV cameras didn't get there on time and the arrestee was already in the police car when they arrived. So, the cops took him back up to his doorstep and repeated the "perp walk" for the cameras. Total bullshit, played out for the media.

    I know it's good advice not to give in to the temptation to say anything to the police or to the media when one is arrested. But, I don't know if I could resist shouting to the reporters, "You DO understand that this arrest was STAGED for your benefit, right? Will you be honest enough to let your viewers know that the police have set up this unnecessary 'arrest' scene for your cameras, which advances absolutely no legitimate law enforcement duty, and knowing full well that it will increase the chances that a potential jury member will have seen me in handcuffs? Or, will you be complicit in this deception?"

  11. Grifter says:

    @Clark:

    I always assumed that they were just not full all the way. It is post-apocalypse, after all.

  12. htom says:

    Complicit. Perp walks are the police department version of the drinks & press release party that everyone else has.

  13. Clark says:

    @freedomfan:

    I don't know if I could resist shouting to the reporters, "You DO understand that this arrest was STAGED for your benefit, right?

    And then the video runs of you yelling and screaming, the sound blanked out, while the reporter very solemnly intones about the arrest. The sound cuts back in time to catch you screaming "…no legitimate law!".

    Then the video cuts to the two anchors behind the desk. The cute blond shakes her head sadly and looks worried on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Middle America, then turns to her co-anchor. The slightly older soap-opera handsome male co-anchor sighs at the state of the world and intones "Some very serious charges there, Karen." A pause. "Next up – the weekend weather report. It's going to be wet, but there's a surprise in store."

    Then the commercial for chain delivery pizza.

    In Soviet America the State outsources show trials to YOU!

  14. Clark says:

    Grifter

    @Clark:

    I always assumed that they were just not full all the way. It is post-apocalypse, after all.

    I don't think so. Max negotiated very crisply for 5 gallons of diesel and 15 of avgas with Pappagallo (Michael Preston).

    Also, the scene a bit earlier, where Max is sneaking out with Dog past the Humungous' camp, and slips and falls into a ditch, seems to show that the tanks are full. Or at least more full.

  15. Clark says:

    @Ryan:

    I hate how clowns like this give all law enforcement a bad name.

    Yeah, the 3% who are doing their jobs ethically and well are made to look like idiots by the few bad apples.

  16. Ryan says:

    @Clark

    That's really not a fair characterization. I work in law enforcement, and by far the majority of my colleagues,other law enforcement I know, and I get just as worked up by this as you, if not more so, because we live the backlash these idiots cause.

    Judging tens of thousands of people (remember, law enforcement includes everything from police, to immigration, to regulatory offences, to environmental enforcement, to fish and wildlife, etc etc) by the actions of the prominent idiots that make the news is stereotyping of the worst order.

  17. Ryan says:

    Because I can't edit the above: That's not to say I agree with the "few bad apples" nonsense, either.

  18. Grifter says:

    @Clark:

    You are correct, that that's the plausible answer if it were a movie. Since it's clearly a documentary, we know that another answer must be correct: that he used some of the gas already, hence they gallons are not entirely full.

    What are you going to try to say next, that Road House was not a training video?

  19. Matthew says:

    Ryan,

    If you really got as worked up as we do, you wouldn't be an LEO. Real talk.

    Cheers.

  20. JR says:

    Before Clark has a chance to post a picture from the movie with guy wearing butt out leather chaps that causes everyone to yak all over their screens thus being unable to read any further comments….

    Congrats Ken. Good job!

  21. Thedorito says:

    @Ryan

    "The job is supposed to be the collection of all evidence, inculpatory and exculpatory, and a dispassionate review to determine if charges are warranted… not acting like a trained seal for the cameras."

    Seals don't act for cameras. They're acting for fish. Slimy DAs and cops don't act for cameras either, at least not directly; they just want more fish, whether that's money, a promotion, political support, or just a stroked ego. It's our collective fault for giving them more fish when they act like seals, when we should only give them more fish when they act like DAs and cops.

  22. Clark says:

    @Ryan:

    @Clark

    That's really not a fair characterization. I work in law enforcement, and by far the majority of my colleagues…

    I characterize based solely on the dozens of police and court personnel I've interacted with.

    (remember, law enforcement includes everything from police, to immigration, to regulatory offences, to environmental enforcement, to fish and wildlife, etc etc)

    I promise you, I do remember that.

    @Matthew:

    Ryan,

    If you really got as worked up as we do, you wouldn't be an LEO. Real talk.

    Cheers.

    What Matthew said. There comes a time when the system itself is so corrupt that cooperation with it is the same as complicity.

    I think that one could be a member of the German police or Army without being morally complicit with the Nazi party.

    …and then that time was past.

    I'm not sure what the dividing point in the US was, and reasonable minds can disagree.

    1985?

    1990?

    2001?

    Last week?

    We can bicker about the details, but there's no way to convince me that the system of government we have in place today is more moral than immoral, that it does more good than harm.

    Quitting is hard. Your friends will think you're nuts. You'll have to reevaluate your own life. Your career will careen off course. Your finances will suffer. You'll lose your pension, perhaps.

  23. Clark says:

    @Thedorito

    Seals don't act for cameras. They're acting for fish. Slimy DAs and cops don't act for cameras either, at least not directly; they just want more fish, whether that's money, a promotion, political support, or just a stroked ego. It's our collective fault for giving them more fish when they act like seals, when we should only give them more fish when they act like DAs and cops.

    Well said, but "we" are only to blame if the system still accepts meaningful input from the citizens. The system (Moldbug calls it "The Cathedral") educates the voter, credentials and educates the educators, dominates the media, controls the universities, controls the imperial bureaucracy.

    Change is impossible.

    Guilt is never collective.

    The system does as it will, just as the ocean currents do.

  24. sorrykb says:

    Clark wrote:
    > "Next up – the weekend weather report.
    >It's going to be wet, but there's a surprise in store."
    Nonsense. In this situation, "STORMWATCH [INSERTYEAR]!!!!" would obviously be the lead story, at least here in L.A. The police assault would be the amusing little slice-of-life video before the sports highlights.

  25. Clark says:

    @JR:

    Before Clark has a chance to post a picture from the movie with guy wearing butt out leather chaps

    Private Ryan: Tell me about your wife and those rosebushes?

    Captain Miller: No, no that one I save just for me.

  26. Roscoe says:

    Ken – Real great result. I will bet the client is tickled pink.

    The only think I don't like is the news story saying that you were getting the guy off "on a series of technicalities." Hell, 1090 is nothing but one big technicality. No one knows what it means, and I think the DA could charge you with violating it if you just breathed the air at city hall.

    Anyway, congratulations. Enjoy the weekend.

  27. Irk says:

    It was very nice of the police to give the media that nice little shot of them carrying the boxes around. Why should the media act ungrateful? It was a gift!

  28. z! says:

    Roscoe, since you mention it… I always get peeved when some media type mentions "technicalities". Most of law is "technicalities", some are just more obvious that others. The small fact that a LEO needed a warrant and didn't have one is somewhat technical, but also rather important to the preservation of rights.

  29. Ryan says:

    The solution to the problem of unethical, unprincipled, and unprofessional law enforcement is for every who works in law enforcement who is ethical, principled, and professional to quit?

    Not only does that make no sense, it's completely impractical. Rule of law depends on the law being enforced; there must be consequences to breaking it. It's pretty tough for the lawyers and judges among us to ensure those consequences exist without people to ensure those committing actual crimes are investigated, caught and compelled to show up at the courthouse.

    I'm also coming at this from the perspective of a country other than the US – I agree wholeheartedly that your system of law enforcement is broken, I just don't think it's irreparably broken. If anything, law enforcement needs more good people as part of it effecting change, not fleeing and leaving the institutions broken.

  30. Odd Man Out says:

    @Roscoe,

    Tickled? The process is part of the punishment. And where does he go to get his reputation, and the money he spent, back?

  31. Clark says:

    @Ryan:

    The solution to the problem of unethical, unprincipled, and unprofessional law enforcement is for every who works in law enforcement who is ethical, principled, and professional to quit?

    The remaining few, yes.

    Rule of law depends on the law being enforced; there must be consequences to breaking it.

    It depends on more than just that.

    If I can bribe a legislator to hand a man over to me as my slave, then crisp and efficient enforcement of the property laws is horrific.

    It's pretty tough for the lawyers and judges among us to ensure those consequences exist without people to ensure those committing actual crimes are investigated, caught and compelled to show up at the courthouse.

    I prefer to have the guilty punished and the innocent spared.

    If I can either have both the guilty and the innocent punished, or neither, then of the two, I choose the latter.

    Our current system of laws punishes both the guilt and the unnocent.

    I'm also coming at this from the perspective of a country other than the US – I agree wholeheartedly that your system of law enforcement is broken, I just don't think it's irreparably broken.

    Most who have been on the wrongside of the "law" (note the scare quotes) would disagree.

    I, certainly, see no way to restore the "law" to anything resembling the Law.

    If anything, law enforcement needs more good people as part of it effecting change, not fleeing and leaving the institutions broken.

    The solution to the problem of lawlessness in Germany 1943 was not more Germans of good character joining the police force and enforcing the laws fairly and well.

    The solution was to strike at the root of the state.

  32. Ed says:

    Ryan, the odds are stacked against you. Read this and weep.

  33. Manatee says:

    Ken, next time one of your high profile clients gets arrested, give me a call.

    "Excuse me, officer? Phineas J Manatee, Daily Estuary. My readers would like to know what kind of evidence is in those boxes you're carrying, and why they appear to be as light as air. Was the defendant developing some sort of chemical weapon in there, and if that's a sample you're carrying, don't you think you should keep it in something a bit more secure than a cardboard box?"

  34. Bill says:

    @Ryan – I dont' believe it's the minority but fine, let's say it is. If 1% of doctors are bad, a lot of people get hurt hence malpractice laws. What do we do about the 'small' percentage of bad law enforcement officers? Qualified Immunity, Police Unions, Cops ability to make evidence disappear and proven track record of lying all seem to stack the deck and make it much different than bad doctors. Serious question – how many people (assuming you believed them) would it take to tell you stories of current abuse before you'd acknowledge that your experience is either atypical or biased (even through no fault of your own)? Would 50 stories of serious abuse that ruined someone's life be enough? How about 500? 1000?

  35. Steve says:

    @Clark, avgas has a density of 6 lbs/gallon, not 7. Just sayin'.

  36. Malovox says:

    @Ryan – I was once part of the majority you speak of at the San Diego DA's office when they filed charges against Dale Akiki; we all went out for a drink and shook our heads and complained amongst ourselves at the utter stupidity of the groupthink that went into that complaint. And then Monday morning we went to work and we did…absolutely nothing.

    We're just as responsible when we don't act; we convince ourselves that we're too junior, we've got mortgages, car payments, career aspirations. There's lots of reasons why we don't act; maybe it's just because we convince ourselves that the folks signing off on the complaint aren't being malicious. They're old deluded ROAD warriors who don't deserve to be shamed; but the truth is our (my) inaction may have contributed to an innocent man spending time incarcerated and stained for life.

    We owe it to our coworkers, ourselves and mostly our constituency (in the case of LE the public) to hold ourselves AND our coworkers to the highest standards – because errors result in people losing personal liberties.

  37. Clark says:

    @Steve:

    avgas has a density of 6 lbs/gallon, not 7. Just sayin'.

    Good to know. I knew that water was 8 lb/gal, knew that gas floated, made a guess.

  38. gramps says:

    Ken: it would be interesting to read the affidavit offered in support of the warrant that resulted in the carrying out of empty boxes. Also how they explained to the judge when they reported the warrant was "dry".

    Ryan: its a tough crowd and you are probably too young to appreciate the idea of cutting one's losses and stealing off into the night. I feel your pain.

  39. Xenocles says:

    "I always get peeved when some media type mentions "technicalities"…"

    I suppose being acquitted for the reason of innocence is also a technicality, since technically the innocent should not be convicted.

  40. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    Teachers wearing glasses that do not help their vision, Doctors wearing clean white coats, policemen carrying around empty boxes – gotta love professional theatre.

    In my own work I often carry around a wrench and screwdriver in a back pocket. While that work does entail repair and maintenance of machines, almost *none* of it entails the use of a wrench or screwdriver. So why do I carry the stuff around? Props.

    Without the right props, I get questioned more often – to the point where it slows down my ability to get the job done. "Are you sure you are doing that right?", "Maybe I should consult my manager…", "Hey! You can't go back there!" Obviously, that can be a pain.

    Now with the props, I get my questions answered, people get out of my way, and often follow my instructions. Sure, I'm only really demonstrating that I possess the motor skills to carry small objects, but the props themselves act with enough hoodoo power that I appear ready and able to fix stuff.

    With police, I would think the requirement for theatre is much, much, greater than most professions due to the nature of the job. A good cop needs the props to appear as a member of the "thin blue line" who you want to help. A bad cop needs the props to generate fear of thecorruptjackbootedfascists. Either way, they need the props to appear as *anything* besides just-another-person. If not, they only get the same cooperation as anyone else would.

    I think policemen only drop the theatre entirely in the best of all possible worlds – in which case their authority is deserved and recognized – or the worst of all worlds – where their power is absolute and unstoppable.

    Any lawyers on the thread want to volunteer the theatrical props of their own profession? Legal pads and writing instruments? The ability to twirl a pen with great dexterity (for some reason, most of the lawyers I know can do that). Just curious.

  41. MCB says:

    Ryan,

    Just a question:

    Do you think America would be better off with more or less people in jail than it has now? Does challenging Stalinist Russia for incarceration rate bother you?

    I really do mean that as a serious question. I promise not to be a jerk about your response if you provide one.

  42. Watercressed says:

    >Change is impossible.

    You seem to have missed parts 12-14 of the open letter to open minded progressives (this post should be read in a mildly jocular tone)

  43. Ryan says:

    I thought about leaving well enough alone, but what the hell =) For clarity: I am not an American, I do not live in the United States, and I do not work in the United States. One of my degrees is in criminology so I am not completely unqualified to talk about the US system of law enforcement, but I have not worked there to experience it firsthand.

    @Clark – Your response is heavy on idealistic theory and light on reality. Just what do you suppose would happen if every law enforcement officer, good and bad, quit right this second? If you invoke libertarian "citizen police" arguments I reserve the right to quit responding to you – they have been tried and they have failed in every place they have been attempted; furthermore, there is a reason why every democracy on the planet has trained (some better than others), professional law enforcement (and it isn't to tase people, despite what the incompetents in those organizations sadly appear to think). Also, you appear to be demonstrating Godwin's law. The present situation in the US is nowhere near as catastrophic as Germany circa 1933-1945. I completely understand your theoretical point, but in practice it would be an absolute catastrophe, as I'm sure you realize.

    @Ed – Yeah, that's shameful. There's a larger point to be gleaned from that, though. The primary problem with law enforcement in the US is that it is a series of relatively small, piecemeal organizations that range from larger, professional forces, to an elected sheriff and a hired deputy in small communities. There is no consistent, national standard of conduct, education, training, and use of force policy (unlike several other countries with Common Law legal systems).

    @Malovox – That's exactly the point. The ethical, professional people in law enforcement of all stripes have to step up and be willing to call a spade a spade. Fortunately, the people I work with share this same mentality and I have never been required to report or testify against another officer. Would I, if their conduct violated law, policy, or public expectations? In a heartbeat.

    @gramps – I thought about bailing from the comments, but its worth responding. There are a lot of people here that are clearly very jaded about those who enforce the law. I'm not surprised by this, but I'm saddened by it.

    @MCB – The US incarceration rate, the piecemeal state and federal justice systems, the blatant racism in the system, the abhorrent conduct of some officers are all shameful. Your war on drugs is a sham of failed policy pandering to idiocy; your multi-jursdictional mess serves more to thwart justice (both for accused and society at large) than see it done. The state of law enforcement in the United States is a symptom of systemic dysfunction, however; it is not the cause.

    Look, folks, I hear you – I really do. The examples Ken posted make me livid. However, the majority (and I really believe it is a majority) of law enforcement do their jobs because they actually care – they're not in it for the badge, the gun, and the general BS that comes with it (as it happens, I am not of the police persuasion and all I carry for defensive weapons is OC spray and baton, both of which I'm happy to report I have never used). All LEOs are just ordinary people (some don't act like it) and are fallible. That doesn't make the profession inherently evil. Law enforcement investigates street crimes that affect you and your family; they track and refuse entry to international criminals at the border; they enforce legislation that protects the environment and the organisms that live in it; they ensure that people pay their taxes and don't take advantage of their neighbours. Are there bad law enforcement officers? Absolutely. It doesn't mean the profession as a whole should be painted with that brush, even in the incredibly broken American system. It means that good people need to step up and take on those roles that reform their organizations – and that is happening. Despite popular thought to the contrary, law enforcement and police in particular are held to account more today than at any previous point in history.

    Want to fix the American system? Dispense with immunity (most other Common Law countries don't have it; certainly, if I screw up I can be personally held liable for it). Insist on a high level of training. Petition to eliminate disparate state and federal systems that allow every organization to have its own little empire. Insist on national standards for law enforcement conduct. Prosecute those who flagrantly violate people's rights quickly and dispassionately. Set stringent policy and zero-tolerance rules; fire those that break them. Quit with system-abusive incentives like elected DAs, sherriffs, and judges – these odd phenomena distort your system as well by ensuring professionals are not held accountable to the courts, but instead merely pander to public opinion to get elected – and the majority of the electorate learn about the legal system from Law and Order (best case) and CSI (worst). These are all measures which other countries use and which are by and large successful.

    Abolishing all law enforcement is an ideological position, not a practical one.

  44. Patterico says:

    Clark is being a mite bit hyperbolic, I think. My guess is that if he gets robbed he'll call the cops like (almost) everybody else, and will want the robber caught, prosecuted, and punished.

    And comparing today's USA to Nazi Germany is a wee bit overwrought.

    That said, Ken's story is disturbing. If investigators from the DA's office really did that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

  45. LabRat001 says:

    Surely if you have photographic proof of them removing boxes of stuff from your clients address you can now demand it back and sue them when they can't provide you with it?

  46. Patterico says:

    Do we know for sure that they didn't assemble the boxes ahead of time and carry them in for the purpose of using them, and then return them to the cars when it turned out they didn't need them?

    Can I ask how we know that? Because if they assembled them inside knowing they weren't going to use them, to put on a show, that does sound very bad. But I can also imagine an innocent explanation for pictures of them carrying boxes as well.

  47. Patterico says:

    I think I found the local blogger who called Ken "Kenny." Amusingly enough, in a February post,, he employs a Nazi analogy for the defense in this case: arguing that Ken's client was using a "just following orders" type of "Nuremberg defense."

    So either you're a Nazi for working for law enforcement (Clark's view) or you're a Nazi for defending yourself against law enforcement (the blogger's view).

    Once again, the Internet covers itself in glory, as it habitually does.

  48. NoOne says:

    @ MCB

    The props exist in just about every profession.

    I used to have to spend time on the top of skyscrapers as part of my job.

    Without props I'd inevitably be quizzed by the front desk for my entire life story, a business card, two forms of ID, a description of my vehicle, and then they would decide it wasn't good enough and make me repeat the entire process with someone from the security office.

    Walk in with a tool box and safety harness? They had a full, all-access key set and building pass ready before I'd even crossed the lobby. No life story, no ID, no security, no forms, no signatures, just "Make sure to drop them off when you have your parking validated!"

  49. Brian says:

    When I was a news videographer, perp walks were always staged. This went for cities in both halves of the country. As far as the other, I have no knowledge of a defense attorney who has a relationship with a tv station that will outweigh their perceived benefit of being in bed with the city administration. Mostly this probably goes back to the fact that prosecutors have vested interests in playing these things up while defense attorneys have a similar interest in keeping them quiet.

    It's easy to manage news videographers though. You just need to provide the "most exciting" video. People walking with boxes trumps people standing around. People standing around tops people sitting in cars. Person of interest giving an interview can trump people walking with boxes if done properly.

    While media management certainly isn't part of an attorney's official job description, if you see something like this happening and don't do anything to distract them, then you are just giving them that video to run in perpetuity any time your client is mentioned. Conversely, if there is no video for them, then the coverage your client receives on the news will be reduced.

    (I don't work in news anymore because it's a profession run by heartless people. After a couple of stints in the Peace Corps and time getting an MA, I am currently reinventing myself [Communication for Social Change, yay!], so don't hate the messenger.)

  50. Ken White says:

    Can I ask how we know that?

    Because the client watched them be assembled at the end of the search.

    Also: I very sincerely apologize for saying yesterday, in a heated moment during oral argument, that your office was "acting as legbreakers for one side in a sordid political dispute." That was unfair and excessive.

  51. Ken White says:

    Also: this is the thematically related perp walk story someone mentioned upthread.

  52. Ken White says:

    I think I found the local blogger who called Ken "Kenny." Amusingly enough, in a February post,, he employs a Nazi analogy for the defense in this case: arguing that Ken's client was using a "just following orders" type of "Nuremberg defense."

    I am strongly considering sending him an email, signed Kenny, asking him for a signed copy of that post.

  53. So the DA Investigators assembled the boxes they had brought into the house, including the tops, and carried them out as if they were taking away documents they were seizing, so the media could see.

    In a sane world, this would be considered jury tampering.

  54. Fildrigar says:

    @ Mark – Lord of the Albino Squirrels

    Don't forget the always helpful clipboard. That's gotten me into all kinds of places.

  55. William says:

    For clarity: I am not an American, I do not live in the United States, and I do not work in the United States. One of my degrees is in criminology so I am not completely unqualified to talk about the US system of law enforcement, but I have not worked there to experience it firsthand.

    That might be part of the problem here. I'm not sure where you live, but I grew up in Chicago, where our Mayor built his career as a State's Attorney on murder confessions that cops tortured out of black suspects using methods they'd learned in Vietnam then went on to spend basically his entire time as Mayor protecting the officers involved. I've spent time in cop bars where everyone tosses around racial slurs like they're characters in a Tarantino movie. I've been told, to my face during a traffic stop, that "spending time with wetbacks is a good way to get yourself hurt" (my buddy, who'd been pulled over for speeding despite stop-and-go traffic, was Puerto Rican). In college everyone knew how much it cost to keep the local cops from breaking up a party and how much it cost to get them to give someone an attitude adjustment.

    This isn't stereotyping, this is the lived experience that many of us have of law enforcement.

  56. Steve says:

    @Ken said

    Also: I very sincerely apologize for saying yesterday, in a heated moment during oral argument, that your office was "acting as legbreakers for one side in a sordid political dispute." That was unfair and excessive.

    Be careful, Ken. As sincere and heartfelt as this apology clearly is, some may get the impression that you apologized in public simply so that you can repeat the assertion that the DA's office was acting as legbreakers for one side in a sordid political dispute. I know you wouldn't want to do that.

  57. me agin says:

    So this is a bad thing, why? You just demand all the seized documents through discovery and let the DA's office try and explain what happened to the other dozen boxes shown on the video.

  58. John Beaty says:

    I think it is very funny, in a sad way, that last week we were talking about how guys get a bad rap because many women have had bad experiences and bring those bad experiences to the next unsolicited encounter. I seem to remember someone saying that guys shouldn't be tarred by the brush of the unreported incidents.
    And now there is a discussion about police and their behavior. And to my eyes there is a lot of commonality, with one big exception: the people complaining are almost exclusively men.
    And, as a couple of year cop, many years ago, my opinion is that Ryan is closer to right than not. And yes, for those lacking in irony, I am very aware of the issues, in both arenas. It just strikes me as sourly amusing.

  59. barry says:

    It's the bad apples!
    'Bad apples' is a phrase that has flipped its meaning 180 degrees within a lifetime. Now it is used as an excuse, as in "there's a few bad apples in every bunch". It is asking for tolerance of the situation. If you want apples, you should expect a few of them to be bad apples etc.

    But not so long ago, the saying was "A few bad apples will spoil the whole barrel". It was really a warning about contagion or infection, and was an argument for zero tolerance of bad apples. It's not that the few bad apples will give the others a bad name, it's that they normalize and spread the bad appleness.

    To get to an acceptable police culture of good apples will probably require zero tolerance, with no amount of abuse of power too small to report; more of that kid who tried to get the badge number of the cop he caught parking illegally (and consistent proportional consequences for official thuggery at all levels (what Ryan said)).

    Why would any cop not give a kid his badge number? And when did apples ever come in 'bunches' anyway?

  60. En Passant says:

    Patterico wrote Jul 13, 2013 @12:52 am:

    That said, Ken's story is disturbing. If investigators from the DA's office really did that, they should be ashamed of themselves.

    Why shouldn't they be peremptorily fired if they really did that?

  61. NotThatPublicADefender says:

    Hey, offtopic, I don't know if any of the readership here has an overlap with Arthur Silber from the blog Once Upon A Time, but he's in some desperate straits and I remember you guys do calls for pro bono assistance. He's a destitute blogger in (I think) California whose only source of support (his PayPal account for donations) just got seized by the IRS and he needs someone to advise him. He's also got a heart condition and no health insurance. The blog is well written philosophy and politics and I think you'd probably be sympathetic if not in total agreement with his ideas. If you know anyone out there he could really use a referral. Thanks! http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/

  62. Steven H. says:

    @Ken:

    "Also: I very sincerely apologize for saying yesterday, in a heated moment during oral argument, that your office was "acting as legbreakers for one side in a sordid political dispute." That was unfair and excessive."

    I note that you don't describe it as "untrue". Just "unfair" and "excessive".

  63. AlphaCentauri says:

    @barry: Very good point.

    I believe the expression was "One bad apple will spoil the whole barrel" until George Jackson needed a one-syllable word for the song he wrote for the Osmond Brothers in 1970 and wrote, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch."

  64. perlhaqr says:

    Ryan: I dunno, man. You said you don't live or work in the US, so, ok, maybe you just don't know.

    Maybe I've had exceptionally bad luck in my lifetime.

    But as a young private citizen, I've been stopped and had my pockets tossed literally for walking down the sidewalk, on more than one occasion. I've had the police harass me, and provide cover, while bounty hunters kicked in my friend's door in front of me, on an arrest warrant for a person who didn't live there, with an address halfway across town, based on the fact that a phone number once associated with that guy had once been associated with that apartment, ten years prior. I've had cops hold me at gunpoint in the Nevada desert for hours, in August, for shooting on BLM land (which is legal) and then confiscate all my firearms, basically just because they could. I've had cops search me, run my plates and insurance, and generally harass me explicitly because they didn't like the way I was dressed. "Folks around here aren't used to seeing people with all that stuff on their belts." "Uh, you mean, except for you?"

    As an EMT, I've watched cops separate homeless people from their backpacks, and send them along in the ambulance, even though the guy was asking about it. (Yes, I made a point of going and getting the guy's stuff.) I've watched cops tell stories with the purpose of instructing other officers how to lie to people, in order to get them to admit things they would otherwise not have had to admit.

    I have once in my life had a police officer be helpful to me.

    So, yeah. My perspective is that the vast majority of police are "bad".

  65. Myk says:

    Don't go thinking that you Americans have cornered the market on dodgy cops. A recent (~2 years?) incident in New Zealand concerned a team of police aggressively "controlling" a peaceful protest. Violent thuggery was used, and video footage supported one victim's claim that all the cops were wearing the same badge number to avoid identification (in NZ, cops have their numbers on their shoulders). The courts slammed the cops by slapping them with a wet bus ticket and sent them back to work. The victim's recuperation took a lot longer.

  66. Anony Mouse says:

    Here's hoping you can nest blockquotes…

    The solution to the problem of unethical, unprincipled, and unprofessional law enforcement is for every who works in law enforcement who is ethical, principled, and professional to quit?

    The remaining few, yes.

    This is a curious stance. The problem is corruption in an organization (with wide-reaching powers) and the solution is for the non-corrupt to quit? Wouldn't that make matters considerably worse? And if the system is utterly broken, we'll just be left with nothing but horror, not mitigating people, and no hope of recourse.

    That… sounds worse to me, not better.

  67. a_random_guy says:

    @NotThatPublicADefender: Re the plea for help for Arthur Silber. Can you give any idea of what his troubles with the IRS are? From his blog, it's impossible to tell. Is he the victim of bureaucratic incompetence, is he one of those people who refuses to file tax returns, or is he somewhere in the middle?

    It doesn't matter for his plight, he's still in the same situation today: destitute and with his assets impounded. However, a bit of information may matter in terms of interesting someone enough to take up his case.

  68. Clark says:

    @William:

    This isn't stereotyping, this is the lived experience that many of us have of law enforcement.

    Exactly.

    I don't hate LEOs because I don't know them.

    I hate LEOs because I do.

  69. htom says:

    The first rule of using the clipboard is not to talk about the clipboard.

    And yes, it was when I really got to know some officers professionally in a bad way that I became disgusted with those … and realized that I could never tell the good ones from the bad ones.

  70. Chad Miller says:

    me agin:

    Plenty of people will see the boxes but not the "retraction". The point is that the police get to dishonestly smear someone's reputation at no cost or risk to themselves.

  71. TomB says:

    "Doctors wearing clean white coats, policemen carrying around empty boxes – gotta love professional theatre"

    "Clean white coats" as compared to what? Bloody ones? Black leather ones? I don't quite get your point here.

    How does that even remotely compare to pretending to bring out evidence?

  72. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    @TomB
    "As compared to what? Bloody ones? Black leather ones? I don't quite get your point here."

    Blue coats, green coats, white coat with pin stripes, khaki coats, oxford shirts, a good jacket and shirt, the beige coats they wore long ago – any of those look professional and are just as useful as a plain white lab coat.
    Plain scrubs, short sleeved button up shirts, polo shirt, and other attire that leaves the arms bare below the elbow may even be a bit better than the lab coat. They all make proper scrubbing hygiene – which is more than a bit crucial – faster and easier.

    But none of them carry the magic I-Am-Doctor-with-skill-and-authority magic that the plain white lab coat does. There is a reason those things are still given out in quasi-religious ceremonies.

    The empty boxes are just one police prop, of course, but they fill a lot of the same functions as the white lab coat. Both say "I am here to do what I was trained for", "You should not question me", and "I am working, not just hanging out."
    Sure the police could fake phone talk to do some of that, but audible fakery is a bad idea around reporters. They write that stuff down and – the good ones anyway – check up on it. It also doesn't get across the doing-my-job impression. Much like a laptop or tablet, enough people carry phones that using one conveys little importance. Very few people carry around boxes of "evidence" so it conveys more importance.

    Of course, insofar as carrying "evidence" around conveys a sense of guilt on a suspect the prop actually causes harm – much as the (possibly minor) increased chance of infection does for a white lab coat. I did not mean to give the impression that I though the empty-box-carrying was a good thing.

    That said, there are much easier and clearer ways to imply whatever impression you want about somebody than carrying around empty boxes. In this case – just personal opinion here from someone who was not there – I think law enforcement was mostly just covering their butts. You have to look like you are investigating – even when there is *nothing* to investigate – or else you can easily be accused later of not properly investigating. After all, nobody saw you use the magic props, therefore you were not performing all due diligence.

    And yes I could have just said "doing your job" instead of "performing all due diligence". They have almost the same meaning in an informal setting like this. It's only a phrase – just like those boxes are only cardboard, and that coat is only bleached fabric.

  73. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    ….and clipboards. Noted :)

  74. Zem says:

    You could cause some trouble here for the police if you wished. Just some thoughts.

    Were the empty boxes logged as evidence? If not what happened to the missing evidence? as the boxes were clearly shown by the media as being removed as part of the search. Is someone responsible for destroying evidence?

    But the boxes were empty they say. No they were not. They contained air removed from the property. That air also most likely contained traces of the buildings occupant as well. Why were the boxes not hermatically sealed? Has there been any spoilation of evidence?

    Why wasn't the air returned along with the other evidence seized in the search?

  75. Ibidem says:

    Completely OT, but…lawyers in Florida might be busy fighting off SLAPP lawsuits shortly.

  76. oldnumberseven says:

    If I am ever arrested, I think I would prefer the media being there over no media coverage. With no media coverage of your arrest, you could be disappeared fairly easily. What's that saying, it can't happen here?

  77. TomB says:

    Blue coats, green coats, white coat with pin stripes, khaki coats, oxford shirts, a good jacket and shirt, the beige coats they wore long ago – any of those look professional and are just as useful as a plain white lab coat.

    If you are seeing patients, you are required (at least where I work), to wear something over your street clothes that you do not wear home. I prefer to wear scrubs. But for most people it is easier to throw a lab coat (which are white because white equals cleanliness) over your coat and tie, and then leave it at the clinic/office/hospital. And the LAST thing you want if you are dealing with blood/saliva borne pathogens is more exposed skin than necessary.

    There is no prop involved.

  78. TomB says:

    BTW, I'm not sure what hospital you hang around at, but the ones I frequent, nearly everybody involved in patient contact wears lab coats. So it doesn't so much say "I'm a doctor" as "I work here".

  79. NI says:

    You know, my conservative friends keep complaining to me about the liberal media. It seems to me that if the media actually were liberal, they wouldn't treat the police as gently as they usually do.

  80. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    @TomB
    "(which are white because white equals cleanliness)"

    How, exactly, does white equal cleanliness?

    "nearly everybody involved in patient contact wears lab coats"

    So the cleaning staff, hospital lawyers, receptionists, cafeteria staff, etc. all generally wear white lab coats at your hospitals? And the surgeons all wear long sleeves there since they deal the most directly with blood borne pathogens?

    As far as the hospitals I frequent, very few of the actual doctors still wear white lab coats at all any more. Their use is declining rapidly – possibly because the AMA here in the U.S. recommended discontinuing their use to decrease infections. Of course they have already been banned outside of private practice in England for the same reason: infection.

  81. AlphaCentauri says:

    O/T: When patients are sick and dependent on strangers who wander in and out of their hospital rooms, they want to know who is who. At a hospital where I used to work, the attending doctors wore long grey coats, the residents wore long white coats, and the interns wore short white coats. As pointed out, any long sleeve garment that is worn all day from one patient room to another isn't "clean" by hospital standards. Hospitals are moving to ID badges that identify the wearer in large letters, but getting people to wear ID's on scrubs with no lapels without resorting to lanyards (which also hang down and carry infection) is a practical issue. Color coded scrubs are one solution, but when various staff consider the same room temperature as too hot or too cold depending on how physical their jobs are, you get them wearing long sleeve garments over their scrubs anyway.

  82. TomB says:

    "How, exactly, does white equal cleanliness?"

    People associate white with cleanliness. Is that so hard to understand?

    Also, fluids transmitted from patient to doctor (or nurse or phlebotomist or rep. tech, etc.) show up best on white. Which is one of the reasons why it is preferred.

    So the cleaning staff, hospital lawyers, receptionists, cafeteria staff, etc. all generally wear white lab coats at your hospitals? And the surgeons all wear long sleeves there since they deal the most directly with blood borne pathogens?

    I said those that were "involved in patient contact". Don't be silly.

    As far as the hospitals I frequent, very few of the actual doctors still wear white lab coats at all any more. Their use is declining rapidly – possibly because the AMA here in the U.S. recommended discontinuing their use to decrease infections.

    Link?

    Actually, what's changing is the material they're made of. Many groups are looking at anti-microbial materials to make hospital uniforms out of.

  83. TomB says:

    At a hospital where I used to work, the attending doctors wore long grey coats, the residents wore long white coats, and the interns wore short white coats.

    It was easier where I've been. The interns just wear clueless expressions.

  84. AlphaCentauri says:

    "It was easier where I've been. The interns just wear clueless expressions."

    Ah, that was the uniform for the medical students. ;)

    But he's right about England. Ties and long sleeves are being prohibited because of infection control concerns.

  85. ULTRAGOTHA says:

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/02/the-bad-apple-group-poison.html

    Bad apples do spoil the entire barrel.

    Invariably, groups that had the bad apple would perform worse. And this despite the fact that were people in some groups that were very talented, very smart, very likeable. Felps found that the bad apple's behavior had a profound effect – groups with bad apples performed 30 to 40 percent worse than other groups. On teams with the bad apple, people would argue and fight, they didn't share relevant information, they communicated less.

  86. Manatee says:

    @NI,

    Considering that Bush handed Obama his Patriot Act baton and watched him disappear over the horizon with it, I think it's safe to say that the consolidation of police power has become a bipartisan goal.

  87. Votre says:

    I don't know what's worse, the fact that law enforcement plays these PR games, or that our press goes along with it – and even worse – refuses to call the cops and AG's office on it when they catch them doing it.

    First it was the weather reports being seen as "entertainment." Then it was the network evening news that got sucked into it. Now it's actual law enforcement agencies regularly getting in on the act. (More police high speed chase and "scariest arrest" shows anybody?)

    Wonder what can possibly come next? Wait…I know…how about: You're Killing Me: Capital Punishment's Funniest Videos!

  88. barry says:

    I would bet that this box-trick was not original to these particular DA investigators, that it was something one of them heard of some other DA investigators getting away with doing. It might eventually become 'part of the job'; one of those unwritten procedures that everyone just learns to do because it works.

    That would be another likely mechanism of the bad-apple contagion; people just learning to do their jobs. It doesn't even need people to be aware of doing anything wrong ('We've always done it this way').

    When I first read the story I assumed the flat boxes were carried into the house in expectation of finding evidence. But a less generous reading is that they took them into the house just for the show of taking them out again. It makes more sense to not take them in till they know how much evidence there is and how many they need, unless there is some other reason.

    And a less generous reading of "the media didn't notice" is that the media has always been aware of it. I wouldn't even bet against it originally being a media invention; "Hey George, slow day, could you do us a favor.. you know those flat evidence boxes you got in the back of your car.." etc.

  89. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says:

    @TomB

    "People associate white with cleanliness. Is that so hard to understand?"

    Nope. That association is a large part of what makes a white lab coat a good prop.

    "I said those that were "involved in patient contact". Don't be silly."

    So the cleaning staff does not clean rooms with patients in them? That must get either dirty or stressful on patients getting moved around a lot. Neither one sounds like something you want in hospital room.
    All patients are barred from the cafeteria and hallways? So no exercise I guess, and a lot of angry patients.
    Staff or personal lawyers are only allowed to visit patients through a glass partition? Maybe a good idea (weak joke), but possibly illegal.
    No patient is allowed to approach a receptionist? Strange. How do they find their doctor then? Just looking for a white lab coat to do so would be pretty useless after all, since more non-doctors would be wearing them than doctors.

    I say "more non-docors" since I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that most of the nurses and orderlies (who are generally involved in the *most* constant contact with patients) wear WLCs at hospitals you frequent. That is more than a bit unusual. Or maybe doctors outnumber nurses and orderlies at your hospital? That is even more unusual.

  90. TomB says:

    "Will no one rid me of these colorful lab coats?!"

    http://tinyurl.com/lyymj88

  91. Frank says:

    I shake my head in disgust every time I hear a "good" LEO defend his profession while using the "few bad apples" excuse. How long do you really think the "few bad apples" would stay if the "good apples" outnumbered them and put pressure on them to behave like decent human beings? What's that saying about birds of a feather?
    I wonder how any human being can consider themselves a "good apple" while freely associating with people of lousy character.

  92. spinetingler says:

    @ Mark – Lord of the Albino Squirrels

    I usually go with a manila file folder with a few papers from one of my continuing programs (undated, of course). That and a brisk, determined-looking walk insures that I am not interrupted on my walk to the snack machine, bathroom, or out the back door to the store next door.

  93. Dismoun says:

    Something stood out for me in ken's posts: the boxes were assembled at the end of the search.

    I've never worked on a search warrant for documents, but I understand that the procedure is usually to bag each specific batch of documents in an envelope, tag it with the location it was seized and place it in a box with the exhibit custodian, who keeps a running inventory of which documents (seized by whom) are in the box.

    Maybe they do things differently down there, but any search I've seen where boxes have been used, at least some of the boxes are assembled before the search commences. I think it's just as likely that they assembled a few boxes and carried them back out when they couldn't fill them. I note also that Ken said that they found very little to seize, how does he suggest they should transport the things that were taken? Setting aside the despicable issue of contacting the media to advise them of a search, does he think that law enforcement should be walking out of the house with his client's personal property in plain view of a bunch of reporters?

    Of course, in a country where police commanders and prosecutors have to work on re-election, it certainly wouldn't surprise me if they DO stage this kind of theater. I can't think of a single field of human endeavor which would be improved by the addition of submitting the leaders to a popular election.

  94. babaganusz says:

    Brian • Jul 13, 2013 @3:53 am :

    "This went for cities in both halves of the country."

    …i spend a fair (i.e. likely mentally unhealthy) amount of time on websites which showcase a considerable variety of denunciation, division, dichotomy, cheerleading, obfuscation, etc. from an also-considerable variety of viewpoints, ideologies, physical locations, etc. i.e. i consider myself rather familiar with a number of "there's two [x] of [x]s in this [unit]" premises.
    never before have i seen the phrase "both halves of the country" absent clear-or-close-at-hand context. i can't even guess why you would include the mention unless you expected its absence to encourage readers to presume that you're only referring to one "half". what gives? care to elaborate on these "halves"?

    "(I don't work in news anymore because it's a profession run by heartless people. After a couple of stints in the Peace Corps and time getting an MA, I am currently reinventing myself [Communication for Social Change, yay!], so don't hate the messenger.)"

    seconding your yay!

  95. TPRJones says:

    But I guess they have a lot on their minds.
    If that is true it must be quite precariously balanced indeed.