Cops Seized $8,000 From Her and Never Charged Her With a Crime

“Police in Rochester, New York, seized $8,040 from Cristal Starling during a raid on her apartment in October 2020. Starling was never charged with a crime, but she may never see her money again due to missing a court deadline during the complicated process of challenging the seizure.

Starling’s apartment was one of two locations Rochester police hit while investigating her former boyfriend, who was suspected of dealing drugs. The police didn’t find any drugs in the apartment, but they did find and take Starling’s cash. Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity. (Starling’s ex-boyfriend was arrested for drugs found at a separate raid in the same investigation, but he was later acquitted.)

Starling, who runs a food cart and says she was saving up for a food truck, began trying to fight the seizure without a lawyer. She managed to get her seized car back, and she thought that, with no criminal charges pending in the case anymore, she would no doubt soon get her cash back, too.

Instead, she got a nasty surprise. The Rochester Police Department had sent her money to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and although she had filed a notice with the Justice Department that she was challenging the forfeiture, she had missed a deadline to do so in federal court, meaning the government could move to forfeit her money by default.

After a judge rejected Starling’s request for an extended deadline, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, announced this week that it will file an appeal on her behalf, arguing that people like Starling should have greater opportunity to challenge government seizures.”

“What Starling has learned the hard way is that asset forfeiture laws not only allow police to seize one’s property without an accompanying criminal charge, but that the process to challenge a seizure is tilted in favor of the government. It’s extremely hard for everyday people to navigate the labyrinthine process to get their money back without paying for an attorney, which in Starling’s case would have probably cost enough to make a victory in court negligible.”

Minnesota’s Attorney General Says the Cop Who Killed Amir Locke Was Defending Himself. So Was Locke.

“Eight seconds after a Minneapolis SWAT team entered the apartment where Amir Locke was sleeping on a living room couch, Officer Mark Hanneman shot him dead. A joint report that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman released yesterday uses footage from six body cameras to break those seconds down into tiny pieces, describing what each officer was doing and what he could see at any given moment. The bottom line: Ellison and Freeman say criminal charges will not be filed against Hanneman or any of the other officers who participated in the deadly February 2 raid, because they reacted appropriately to what they reasonably perceived as a lethal threat—the handgun that Locke picked up after the cops stormed into the apartment.

At the same time, Ellison and Freeman describe Locke as “a victim” and concede that his reaction to the pre-dawn, no-knock raid “was not per se unreasonable.” In fact, they say, “We recognize that Mr. Locke may have been sleeping and that he, like others in the apartment, may have perceived the officers’ entry to be someone breaking into the apartment. We do not dispute this and believe that it is possible that is exactly what happened here.”

The implication is that Locke and Hanneman both acted in self-defense: Locke was justified in grabbing his gun, and Hanneman was justified in responding by shooting him. That perplexing situation, which is similar to what happened during the March 2020 drug raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, underlines the dangers of police tactics that aim to reduce the risk of violence but often have the opposite effect.

The SWAT team was assisting the St. Paul Police Department in a homicide investigation, but Locke was neither a suspect nor a person of interest. The cops were looking for his cousin, Mekhi Speed, who lived on a different floor of the same apartment building. Locke, a 22-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist, was staying with Mekhi’s brother, Marlon Speed, who shared the apartment with his girlfriend. St. Paul police originally obtained “knock and announce” warrants for Mekhi Speed’s apartment, his brother’s place, and a third unit where “the suspect and his associates often convened.”

Minneapolis SWAT officers refused to participate unless the warrants were changed so that they were authorized to enter early in the morning without first announcing themselves. From their perspective, that was a prudent precaution, since their main target was a murder suspect who was known to be armed. Ellison and Freeman note that police knew “the primary suspect and two other suspects had recently made social media posts in which they were seen with multiple firearms; that the suspects were associated with multiple armed robberies and carjackings; and that the .223 caliber rifle used in the homicide had not yet been recovered.””

” the problem illustrated by Amir Locke’s senseless death goes beyond no-knock warrants. Even when police knock and announce themselves before they enter, they can easily be mistaken for criminals when they burst into a home at an hour when the residents are likely to be sleeping.”

“The problem in both cases was not the officers’ split-second decisions so much as the situation that made them necessary. The strategy of discouraging resistance by deliberately discombobulating people while serving warrants has for years led to similar outcomes in cities across the country. Such tragedies are completely predictable in a country where people have a constitutional right to keep guns in the home for self-defense and commonly do.

This well-established hazard has to be considered every time police enter a home, regardless of whether the warrant notionally requires that they give the residents a chance to answer the door. When police decide to surprise people by serving warrants in the middle of the night with an overwhelming show of force, there is little practical difference between banging on the door and quietly unlocking the door before charging in. Either approach creates a substantial risk that people will not understand what is going on. And if they dare to defend themselves, even “an objectively reasonable officer” is apt to perceive a danger that justifies the use of deadly force.”

How Democrats learned to stop worrying and love the gerrymander

“The grinding battle over congressional redistricting is drawing to a close. And, contrary to expectations that the process would result in big Republican gains, the final House of Representatives map may well improve somewhat for Democrats.

The main reason is gerrymandering — redrawing of district lines for partisan benefit. Republicans built on their existing gerrymanders to try to expand their House advantage, but Democrats fired back even more powerfully with gerrymanders of their own.

Basically, Democrats saved themselves by resorting to a tactic they’ve previously denounced as not only unfair but downright unethical — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called gerrymandering “unjust and deeply dangerous” in 2019. But in the absence of national reforms banning the practice, refusing to gerrymander would have meant effective unilateral disarmament, ceding the GOP a significant advantage in the battle for control over the House.

Redistricting has proceeded like a tug of war. As state legislatures, judges, and commissions have approved new maps, creating more safe or swing districts in various states, the underlying partisanship of the median House district has been pulled in one direction, and then the other. The most powerful pulls came from either state legislatures that gerrymandered, or state courts that struck down certain gerrymandered maps”

“it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that Democrats will still lose badly in House elections this fall — the party has a small majority, President Biden is unpopular, and the historical pattern is for the incumbent’s party to struggle in the midterms. But unlike much of the previous decade, the underlying map may be at least somewhat less biased in Republicans’ favor.”

Local governments have billions in federal Covid cash and no workers to pay

“State and local governments are struggling to hire and retain workers amid a tight labor market, even as private-sector employment is reaching pre-pandemic levels.

Despite an influx of federal cash they received in response to Covid-19 — much of which remains unspent — and their own booming revenues, governments are having a hard time competing for workers as salaries at private companies rise.

Economists and unions warn that if public-sector employers can’t reverse the trend, it will erode the quality of services like education and slow the overall economic recovery. ”

“Altogether, the public sector has gained back 53 percent of the jobs lost since February 2020, a ZipRecruiter analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found. The private sector has won back 93 percent.”

“Economists cite a historically tight labor market as one driver of the discrepancy. Employers in every industry are struggling to attract and retain talent, which has put upward pressure on pay and perks such as remote work that governments thus far have been unable to match.

There were a record 11.3 million job openings in January, the most recent month for which data is available — about 5 million more than there are employed workers. At the same time, average hourly earnings have surpassed $31 — a more than 5 percent increase from the previous year.

The year-over-year growth rate for hourly private-sector salaries and wages in each of the past four quarters has exceeded that for state and local governments by the largest margin on record, according to a Pew analysis of Labor Department data.

“Really across the board, many governments are often facing intense competition for workers,” Mike Maciag, who studies the government sector at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said. “Slower [public-sector] wage growth is playing a major role in hindering efforts by a lot of governments to fill openings and retain workers.”

Maciag points to a recent report from Arkansas’ Office of Personnel Management that found competing offers from Walmart, McDonald’s, Amazon and the like were impeding that state’s efforts to fill some positions. All paid significantly more than the state for entry-level jobs — despite the fact that the “complexity and responsibility” of the government roles “far exceeded” that of the private-sector ones, according to the report.”

What Both Sides Get Wrong About Title 42

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been using the policy implemented at the onset of the pandemic to immediately expel migrants apprehended at the border, while progressives, pro-immigration activists and institutions such as the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders have rebuked the policy for shutting the door on thousands of desperate families and stranding them in unsafe camps with limited options.

Almost everyone in this debate recognizes that the necessity of Title 42 to prevent Covid transmission is a pretense. Public health experts have long contended that the rule is scientifically baseless. In fact, officials in the previous administration explored enacting the policy before the pandemic by using the flu and measles as justification. But the benefits of repealing or leaving in place Title 42 are not as straightforward as either border security or human rights advocates claim, which both sides would be wise to understand as they argue the political merits of the administration’s next moves. If approached smartly, rescinding Title 42 could lead to a more secure and prosperous America rather than the chaos that some warn of.

Proponents of keeping Title 42 in place assert that the quick expulsions are needed because they give officials greater ability to intercept and turn back more migrants. A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute notes that Title 42 expulsions can take as little as 15 minutes, while removals under standard immigration law, which require more procedures and paperwork, can often take an hour and half.

But the procedural steps that Title 42 bypasses are critical for the U.S.’s ability to target smuggling networks and discourage repeat crossings. This is why Border Patrol agents warned in a 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office that Title 42 “negatively affected enforcement” because the expulsions gave them no time to collect intelligence from migrants concerning nearby smugglers and other illegal activity.

The quick expulsions under Title 42 also cut corners in ways that prevent authorities from deterring migrants as they attempt to reenter the country. Before the pandemic, officials were able to use criminal prosecution, fines and other penalties to deter people from repeatedly crossing the border. This is because apprehended migrants were being processed under standard immigration law. Title 42, however, is a provision that exists under health law, which means that authorities are incapable of issuing penalties for reentry against migrants who are expelled under this provision. Border Patrol officials have stated that because of Title 42, migrants now try to cross multiple times a day. Since the pandemic expulsions began, repeat crossings jumped from 7 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in 2020. It’s not unheard of for people to make as many as 30 attempts at crossing in just the span of a few weeks.”

“But even when considering all the security liabilities that Title 42 is responsible for, proponents of the policy are correct in saying that Biden needs a plan in place as he works to rescind the program. This plan must include interagency coordination that rapidly expands capacity as more families arrive to claim asylum. The administration must also work with humanitarian organizations to ensure that they’re in the best position possible to monitor and shelter migrants — and that their capacity is being fully utilized.

At the same time, advocates for ending Title 42 as well as the Biden administration must acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of people who are being expelled under the policy haven’t been families seeking asylum, but rather single adults fleeing extreme economic deprivation and in search of work. In February alone, more than 90 percent of Title 42 expulsions were single adults — the vast majority from Mexico. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has acknowledged this reality and urged Biden several times last year to work with him to expand guest worker programs for the U.S., Mexico and the Northern Triangle. Though the Biden Administration recently suggested a willingness to do so, it has not yet provided any details.

It’s critical that Biden’s post-Title 42 strategy includes increased access to guest worker programs. Extensive research shows that when expanded legal channels are paired with border security measures, illegal immigration rapidly declines. This was exactly what happened in the mid-1950s when the U.S. government expanded their agricultural worker program for Mexicans, which caused illegal immigration to collapse by 95 percent in just 5 years. Border Patrol saw the success of the agricultural program and warned that restricting it would cause “a large increase in the number of illegal alien entrants into the United States.” But in 1960, the Department of Labor did just that, causing employer use of the program to drop by 30 percent in just one year while Mexican apprehensions increased by 55 percent. When the program was eliminated altogether, apprehensions continued to grow, reaching nearly 1 million in 1976.”

“With a surge at the border and a shortage of workers, maintaining Title 42 has done nothing to solve either crisis — aside from creating more jobs for human smugglers. Though the Biden administration is right to rescind Title 42, chaos at the border will continue to drive headlines and the U.S. economy will limp forward until Biden prioritizes expanding legal channels for those in pursuit of a better life.”

US, UK, Australia team up on hypersonic weapons with eye on Russia and China

“The U.S., the U.K. and Australia will start joint work on hypersonic missile technology and electronic warfare capabilities under the umbrella of the AUKUS security pact.

The decision, announced Tuesday by the leaders of the three governments, is the latest move in an international race for hypersonic weapons, which can travel up to 10 times the speed of sound, making them much harder to detect.

It is also a further example of the deepening security partnership between the U.S., Britain and Australia, after their creation of AUKUS last September scuppered a mega submarine deal for France, souring relations between Washington and Paris. Developing hypersonic missiles represents a long-term aim for Canberra, which is seeking to step up the long-range strike capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.”

“In March, Russia said it had used a hypersonic missile to strike an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine. Last year, China reportedly tested two hypersonic weapons, causing alarm at the Pentagon.

The U.S. successfully tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March but did not announce it for two weeks to avoid increasing tensions with Russia, according to media reports.”