How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

“I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”

Why Attorney General Bill Barr is mad at Apple

“Forcing Apple to create a backdoor would perhaps make investigations easier and quicker for the FBI, but it’s not absolutely necessary to conduct investigations. The FBI didn’t say how it was able to gain access to the phones, but the agency clearly didn’t need Apple’s help to do so. This has been the case in past investigations as well. The Department of Justice is asking a company to change its business practices and create a vulnerability in millions of its customers’ devices for what amounts to a shortcut.”

Justice Department Moves To Dismiss Charges Against Michael Flynn

“The motion is 20 pages long and operates on a complex argument that, among other things, Flynn’s lie was not a crime because the Justice Department has determined that the counterintelligence investigation against Flynn was itself not justified. The interview did not have a proper basis and was not “conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore [the government] does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue.”
This is an extraordinary argument from the Justice Department. In general, (as Reason has noted previously when writing about the Flynn case) the FBI and Justice Department have very wide latitude under federal statute to determine whether a lie is “material” to an investigation. That Flynn lied about contacts with the Russian government during an investigation by the FBI about possible Russian infiltration or manipulation of the 2016 presidential election would seem, to the average layperson, to be a “material” lie. Indeed, one footnote acknowledges that the court has already deemed Flynn’s statements to be “material” to the investigation, but that was before new disclosures about the way the Flynn interviews were being handled.

Shea writes of Flynn’s calls to Kislyak: “The calls were entirely appropriate on their face. Mr. Flynn has never disputed that the calls were made. Indeed, Mr. Flynn, as the former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency, would have readily expected that the FBI had known of the calls—and told FBI Deputy Director McCabe as much.”

This motion is being perceived as a sign of deep corruption in the Justice Department to protect Trump and people around Trump, because it’s extremely unlikely such a motion would happen otherwise. Former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney (and Reason Contributing Editor) Ken “Popehat” White took to Twitter to note that this would never, ever fly for any other defendant

t’s right to be deeply critical of federal statutes criminalizing lying to federal agents. It’s right to be deeply critical of the archaic Logan Act being brought up against Flynn to try to punish political speech. But there’s no sign that this is anything but a special deal for Flynn, and the Justice Department is bending over backward to justify it. Calls for changes to federal laws? None to be seen here. The FBI will continue to attempt to trap others in lies and prosecute them.”

Courts Grant Qualified Immunity to Cops in More Than Half of Cases When Invoked

“Reuters analyzed 252 federal appellate opinions from 2015 to 2019 where law enforcement defendants claimed qualified immunity. The courts ruled in the police’s favor in 57 percent of the cases.”

“Under the 50-year-old doctrine of qualified immunity, police and other government employees are shielded from lawsuits where the civil right they allegedly infringed hasn’t been “clearly established,” or where a reasonable officer wouldn’t have known about it.”

“On its face, qualified immunity is supposed to protect public officials from frivolous lawsuits related to their official job duties, but the confusing precedent has been construed so pedantically by some courts that plaintiffs must find precedents that match the exact circumstances of their case. Qualified immunity effectively short-circuits civil litigation against individual police officers, ensuring that the cases never make it to trial or settlement.”

An LAPD Cop Had Already Shot 3 People on the Job Before Beating the Crap out of Someone

“A California police officer had already shot three people on the job before he was caught on video for beating up a suspect.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released a statement this week about the use-of-force incident which occurred on April 27. According to the statement, Officer Frank A. Hernandez and another officer responded to a trespassing call in the Hollenbeck area. The officers asked the suspected trespasser to leave the property.

A bystander’s video shows the suspect standing with his hands behind his back just before Hernandez mercilessly beats him.”

Trump’s criminal justice record is more complicated than he claims

“To be fair, the First Step Act, Trump’s landmark criminal justice law, is commendable. More than 3,000 people have been released thanks to the law’s effort to take good behavior while incarcerated into account. And by retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine charges, over 2,000 people received sentencing reductions — 91 percent of them were African Americans, according to the Sentencing Project. 342 people have also been released into the elderly home confinement pilot program.

The problem, however, is that the Department of Justice has “attempted to block hundreds of eligible beneficiaries” and send those released back behind bars, according to the Sentencing Project.

It may not be too surprising considering that Attorney General William Barr had expressed his concerns about the First Step Act behind closed doors, according to the Washington Post. The publication found that Barr thought the early release could drive up crime numbers and put the administration in a bad light.

As a result, the department has tried to freeze applications or re-incarcerate former inmates by setting higher standards for their release.”

“beyond the disruption of the Justice Department, there’s a lot to be accomplished for the First Step Act to reach its full potential. Funding falls far short of the $75 million authorized by Congress. Many prisons lack both the space and money to hold vocational, educational, mental health, and substance abuse programming. And the government has yet to expand the Second Step Act, which promised to help break barriers in employment after release. Until all these issues are addressed, Trump’s criminal justice efforts — and the speeches he makes about them — remain lackluster.”

The Illinois Comptroller Will Cease Collecting Red Light Camera Fines Amid Corruption Scandal

“In 2017, ABC7 and the Chicago Sun-Times discovered that most of the drivers cited for running the light were actually making right turns, some even doing so after making a complete stop. In 2019, ABC 7 also found that the Chicago intersections that racked up the most fines had shorter timed lights, giving drivers less time to pass through legally. The investigation identified one intersection where the green and yellow lights were only up for a combined 20 seconds.”

“The final straw, the press release indicated, was a federal investigation into red light contractor SafeSpeed.

Both the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have reported on SafeSpeed’s chumminess with local officials, including connections to a county commissioner’s chief of staff as well as a former police chief; the latter was fired from his job in the police department after his relationship with the company came to light. These local officials worked as consultants to negotiate SafeSpeed’s presence in various communities. At least one of the officials went on record saying that he received a kickback for every fine paid in certain communities.”

“In addition to concerns about corruption, studies all across the country have found that their local red light cameras have made little positive impact on safe driving practices. In 2014, Reason reported that Chicago’s red light cameras may have traded in one traffic accident for another: While the rate of right-angle crashes causing injury at intersections decreased by 15 percent (much lower than the city’s touted 47 percent), rear-end collisions causing injury rose by 22 percent. Additionally, 40 percent of the cameras were placed in intersections with low rates of injury-causing collisions.”

How San Antonio’s Worst Cops Get Their Jobs Back

“Matthew Luckhurst of the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) tried to feed a homeless man a sandwich made of dog feces. While Luckhurst was initially fired for such crappy behavior, Reason reported in March 2019 that his employment was fully restored.

Luckhurst was able to rejoin the force following an arbitration hearing required by the collective bargaining agreement the San Antonio Police Officers Association has with the city. Since the department could not prove the exact date of the crap sandwich incident, the department had no choice but to accept that it missed the 180-day window in which it could discipline Luckhurst, and the arbitration panel ruled in Luckhurst’s favor.

The San Antonio Current reported this week that Luckhurst’s story is not an exception to the rule. Twenty-seven of the 40 SAPD police officers fired between 2010 and 2019 have managed to get their jobs back through arbitration. Only 13 firings were upheld in that entire time.”

An NYPD Cop Was Sentenced to a Day in Jail for a Lie That Nearly Doomed a Man to 15 Years in Prison

“one day in jail plus probation for a lie that nearly cost a man 15 years of his life. Contrast that with the fate of low-income people trapped behind bars because of expensive pre-trial bail. Though the law considers them innocent until proven guilty, they often spend far more time in jail than Bergmann while waiting for their day in court. In one infamous case, Kalief Browder spent three years in Rikers Island without a trial because his bail was set at an unaffordable $3,000.”