The Parrot Who Wouldn't Talk to the Police

Here’s a story about a parrot who seems to have taken the general advice of criminal defense lawyer’s a little too far:

When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught -- recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.

He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.

The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

But Yosuke apparently wasn't keen on opening up to police officials.

"I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me," Uemura said.

Talking to the police isn’t always a bad idea. (But see the corollary to this rule: Don’t let them search your car if you have a kilo of cocaine in the trunk.)

Police Officers and Public Officals Getting Traffic Tickets? That Wouldn't be Right...

From the Orange County Register “Special license plates shield officials from traffic tickets”:

Vehicles registered to motorists who are affiliated with 1,800 state and local agencies and who are allowed to shield their addresses under the Confidential Records Program.

An Orange County Register investigation has found that the program, designed 30 years ago to protect police from criminals, has been expanded to cover hundreds of thousands of public employees – from police dispatchers to museum guards – who face little threat from the public. Their spouses and children can get the plates, too…

The confidential plate program shields these motorists in ways most of us can only dream about:

•Vehicles with protected license plates can run through dozens of intersections controlled by red light cameras and breeze along the 91 toll lanes with impunity.

•Parking citations issued to vehicles with protected plates are often dismissed because the process necessary to pierce the shield is too cumbersome.

•Some patrol officers let drivers with protected plates off with a warning because the plates signal that the drivers are "one of their own" or related to someone who is.

I'm waiting for Austin's red light camera blog to weigh in on this one...

[Update: Thanks Grits.  I'm sure that's what I would have said about this, had I done more than just cut and paste...]

Doing Well By Doing Good

Via To The People comes this story out of the UK:

A policeman alerted hundreds of families to the danger-drug Strawberry Meth - despite the fact it does not exist.

Pupils and parents at 80 schools in Oxfordshire were warned of the possible risks of the fruit-flavoured drug, also known as Strawberry Quick, by the unwitting officer.

The spurious alert came after the officer sent an email via a special system connecting police and schools without checking it with colleagues.

So it turns out there’s no such thing as Strawberry Meth – it’s an urban myth. Officer, you can always check Snopes.com first before forwarding spam and bogus emails. 

Of course, British policeman aren’t the only ones spouting false information and nonsense about the War on Drugs. In the States we have something called ‘the Senate’ that serves that purpose.

From last April’s press release from Senators Feinstein and Grassley, touting their proposed legislation, the “Saving Kids From Dangerous Drugs Act”:

The legislation comes in the wake of recent reports detailing the growing trend of candy-flavored meth.  According to law enforcement officers and drug treatment officials, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are being colored, packaged and flavored in ways designed to attract children and minors.  The flavored meth first appeared on the streets earlier this year, and is being sold to children and teens. 

“This bill will send a strong and clear message to drug dealers – if you target our children by peddling candy-flavored drugs, there will be a heavy price to pay,” Senator Feinstein said.  “Flavored meth – with child-friendly names like Strawberry Quick – is designed to get people to try it a few times.  It’s all about hooking young people, and we have to stop this practice before it grows any further.  So, this legislation will increase the criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs to our youth – by imposing on them the same enhanced penalties applied to dealers who distribute drugs to minors.”

“New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner.  Candy flavored meth is the latest craze used by drug dealers,” Senator Grassley said. 

[Emphasis Added]

Looks like the capitol complex email system could use some decent spam blocking software as well.

I’m also confused as to the purpose of the policeman’s email to parents in the first place. Are Mom and Dad supposed to stick their heads in Junior’s room and say, “I know we told you not to take any methamphetamine, but that goes double for the strawberry flavored kind”?

Obviously not. I think more likely it, perhaps unintentionally, plays into Drug Warriors’ (and parents’) fears and misconceptions about ‘children getting hooked on drugs’ – i.e. Junior might get hooked on this stuff accidentally, without even knowing what he’s taking in the first place.

Reminds me of the lyrics to “The Old Dope Peddler” by 50’s singer-satirist Tom Lehrer – whose albums were never far from my father’s phonograph:

He gives the kids free samples,
Because he knows full well.
That today's young innocent faces
Will be tomorrow's clientele.

[Hat Tip: Drug WarRant]

Austin Police Not the First to Use Tasers

When an Austin police officer’s dashboard camera showed the tasering of a 5-miles-an-hour-over-the-speed-limit driver from Thanksgiving weekend 2006 it (fortunately) made the news. Eventually, the officer was suspended for three days. The official explanation of the suspension?

[The officer] did not display an attitude consistent with Department policy and did not comply with the Department’s policy regarding the use of a taser.

Electronic Village has the video of the incident. Salad wrote a lengthy substantive post on the subject. (Also see his views on a related new APD policy that helps cops to not perjure themselves in these types of situations.)

When folks see the reality of excessive force, they seem to have two instant reactions. First shock and dismay. Followed by the “One Bad Apple” reaction. It’s just one bad apple, and it’s a shame that radicals use these isolated incidents to sully the whole bunch. (Of course, all uses of excessive force are caught on videotape – just as all innocents are released from death row based on DNA.)

But how do these ideas get sold to police agencies, and the public to begin with? By pretending that only the bad guys get zapped. And after all, bad guys deserve it.

From the September 1935 issue of Modern Mechanix & Inventions Magazine:

Note the caption: “This glove looks innocent, but any criminal tapped on the shoulder with it would get a 1,500-volt shock.” [Emphasis added]

And speeding is, of course, technically speaking a crime. But I wonder… how does the glove automatically know not to zap a good guy’s shoulder?

You're Not a Cop, Are You?

Midnight and I’m not asleep yet. Go out to the living room, flip through some channels. A movie on HBO called 8MM is on.

Joaquin Phoenix to Nicholas Cage:

“You’re not a cop, are you? If I ask you and you are, you gotta tell me…”

“I’m not a cop.”

Of course this is nonsense.

Here’s what I don’t get though, even from the Hollywood writer’s perspective. Why does the guy asking “Are you a cop?” always follow it up by telling the potential undercover officer what his duty is? To fess up?

That doesn’t make any sense to me.

If he’s a cop, surely he’ll know the rule, wouldn’t he? Only the non-police officer wouldn’t know the rule, but he’ll say “No” anyway.

Update: Saw a bit more of the movie. The 2 main characters are being granted entry into a room full of possibly illegal activity. There’s a guard at the door. He asks everyone who enters

Are you currently in or have you ever been affiliated with law enforcement? (‘No’)

Yeah. That should be enough to grant that motion to suppress, right?

Meth Gun and 'Good Enough for Probable Cause'

Kiran Chetry interviewed a Sheriff’s Deputy on CNN’s American Morning news program about the new methamphetamine detection ‘gun’ being tested in Arizona and Missouri.

First citing the National Association of Counties survey that found meth the ‘number one drug problem,’ Chetry defines the device as “[helping] police detect trace amounts of meth on any surface including skin,” and asks her guest about any legal issues that might be raised.

His response:

I hear the Fourth Amendment issues come up on several occasions and, you know, we’re here to protect or defend that constitutional right and so we’re here to use this device to determine if something is methamphetamine or not.

So, the right to be secure in your person (house, papers or effects) from unreasonable search and seizure is basically, well, the same as the ‘right’ of the police to determine if you have trace amounts of methamphetamine on you?

And what about trace amounts? Any way you could get trace amounts of methamphetamine on you and not be a dealer/user? Chetry continued:

…one of the other concerns… because this can test for a microgram of meth, how do you insure that innocent people wouldn’t get in trouble for inadvertently touching something that someone else touched, or hugging a person who had traces of meth?

No problem replies the Sheriff. In Arizona, the possession of controlled substance statute requires that a person have a ‘usable amount’ of meth. Well, there’s no such requirement in Texas. For marijuana, yes; for all other controlled substances, no (which is a separate problem in and of itself).

The Sheriff continued:

…if we determine that there’s a trace amount, we’re going to [go on] to determine

  • How did you get that?
  • Why do you have a trace amount on your clothes or person?

Well, let’s see here. Everyone will say “I have no idea”. Since we know that drug dealers/drug users will deny knowing where it comes from, that won’t be a very good excuse now will it? If you actually have no idea where it came from, better not get caught using the same excuse as all those junkies.

I found the part of the segment interesting. Chetry interrupts and rephrases the Sheriff’s last response to say that it’s ‘good enough then for probable cause’. But he actually says:

It wouldn’t be probable cause in itself… until the courts determine that the science and technology behind it is good quality science.

An admission from police that the gizmo isn’t ‘enough for probable cause,’ and that we don’t know the quality of the science… but, of course, they’re using it anyway.

Also see, from Jonathan Turley:

The concern is not meth users but the creation of a fishbowl society where the government constantly scans and surveils its citizens. It presents a world not contemplated when the fourth amendment was written and a world quite different in terms of the feeling of freedom in public. Notably, as surveillance cameras increase and scanning devices proliferate, there is little discussion of the shrinking zone of personal privacy.

'Arrested While Grieving'

From Bob Herbert’s New York Times Op-Ed piece today “Arrested While Grieving”:

No one is paying much attention, but parts of New York City are like a police state for young men, women and children who happen to be black or Hispanic. They are routinely stopped, searched, harassed, intimidated, humiliated and, in many cases, arrested for no good reason…

Herbert, whose excellent and persistent coverage of the Tulia cases uncovered that scandal, goes on to report about black teenagers, excused from school to attend the wake of a murdered friend, who were suddenly arrested for no reason. Or, wait, I guess there was a reason…

Many of the kids were wearing white T-shirts with a picture of the dead teenager and the letters “R.I.P.” on them. The cops cited the T-shirts as evidence of gang membership.

No need to comment further really. You either get it, or you don't.  If it weren’t so outrageous, the whole thing would be laughable.

Same Topic, Other Bloggers: Donkey O.D., PREA Prez, Simple Justice.

[No link to the Op-Ed given here, because, unfortunately, the NYT makes this a pay option only.]

Paramilitary Police Need Hurts Recruiting

Jack Love at New Mexico Law and Society questions the recruiting requirements for Police in his neck of the woods. Apparently Albuquerque is experiencing a severe shortage of police officers at the moment.

First, the idea of paramilitary police should be examined. Some police ought to be paramilitary, just like there should be some other specialty teams. Mental health, SWAT, close-encounter rough and ready teams, of one or more, should be available. But the tedious, boring, hard and dangerous work of patrolling and answering calls may be handled by officers without special qualifications, and without special physical attributes.

He goes on to argue that not all p[olice recruits need to fit the SWAT profile.  I agree in part, but would go further. Yes, the need will always exist for specialized units with young, physically fit officers on the ready to handle dangerous situations.

But, unfortunately, it’s our so called War on Drugs that has caused the recent explosion of paramilitary style raids, and fueled the need for paramilitary police units and tactics. It’s just one more example of how our senseless drug policy in this country is draining resources from where they are truly needed.

Are the Police Allowed to Lie to You (During a Criminal Investigation)...

…and if they do, will a judge toss out any evidence they obtain as a result? The short answer is: police in almost all circumstances are allowed to say whatever they want to get you to incriminate yourself. A short example follows:

When Al Pacino, the low level mobster, introduces Johnny Depp, the undercover police agent, to the other Mafiosos in Donnie Brasco, Depp’s character is justifiably met with some initial skepticism.  Is an undercover police agent in this situation duty bound to reveal his real identity in this situation, if he is asked, “Are you a cop?” Imagine the consequences.

Common sense tells us the answer is no. The undercover agent doesn’t have to choose death simply to maintain the constitutionality of the investigation. (And the U.S. Supreme Court came to the same conclusion in Hoffa v. United States. Yes, the Jimmy Hoffa.)

Even before that decision, police ruses were commonplace, and they have become even more so in today’s drug war environment.

In the recently decided Krause v Kentucky, however, the state’s Supreme Court decided that a trooper went too far over the line in obtaining a drug suspect’s consent to search his home. The police in this case woke the defendant up at 4 o’clock in the morning to tell him that his roommate had been accused of rape that very night. They needed to search the house to verify whether the accuser’s description of the apartment matched the scene of the alleged crime.

In fact, there had been no rape, not even an allegation, nor an accuser. It had all been a lie, intended to cause the known innocent person to allow police entry, where they could then search for drugs. Cocaine was eventually found “in plain view”.

The Court decided to reverse the conviction (affirmed by a lower court) because Schneckloth v. Bustamonte requires consent to search not to be coerced. Even that part of the Schneckloth decision has been watered down over the years, but the Court found that upholding the search would discourage future citizen cooperation in real cases.

Since the state decision was decided, at least in part, on federal Fourth Amendment grounds and federal caselaw, the State of Kentucky may appeal this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Part of me wants to know what the result would be, and the other part fears further erosions of our constitutional rights. As far as the drug war goes, is there no end in sight to the ridiculous police state we are becoming?  Don’t forget, this ludicrous set of facts led to a conviction which was initially affirmed.

(Hat Tip to the Fourth Amendment blog for initially posting about this case; also, please read that blog for useful tips on navigating the confusing Kentucky Supreme Court’s webpage, if you want to read the decision.)

The Dangers of Using SWAT Tactics

Radley Balko over at The Agitator posts three examples about the dangers of paramilitary police raids.

Even in the last example, where the police (supposedly) had the right “target”, is this sort of military force necessary when we’re talking about $60 worth of marijuana?