Arizona Town To Pay $8 Million to Widow of Daniel Shaver, Shot While Crawling Unarmed Toward Police

“In January 2016, Mesa police responded to a report of a man pointing a rifle out of a hotel window. It was in fact Shaver showing a pellet gun that he used at his exterminator job to a couple other hotel guests in his room.

Police ordered Shaver out of the hotel room and onto the ground, with his hands behind his head. But instead of handcuffing Shaver, officers—bizarrely—started barking confusing and contradictory orders at him to crawl toward them. As a clearly terrified and drunk Shaver tried to crawl toward the police, he appeared to reach toward his waistband to pull up his sagging shorts. A Mesa officer, Philip Mitchell Brailsford, shot Shaver five times with an AR-15, killing him.”

“In 2017, a jury acquitted Brailsford of second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter. This is because juries are instructed to judge officers not by how a normal civilian would respond, but by how a reasonable police officer is trained to respond to a threat, real or imagined. As Reason’s Jacob Sullum wrote, the acquittal showed that cops on trial benefit from a double standard: “Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified.””

“Brailsford indeed challenged his termination, and in response, the city cut a special deal that allowed him to be temporarily re-hired so he could retire with medical benefits and a disability pension. Brailsford claimed that killing Shaver and his subsequent prosecution gave him post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of this, he will receive a monthly pension check of $2,569.21 for the rest of his life, courtesy of Mesa taxpayers.”

Wildlife Agents Placed a Camera on His Property Without a Warrant, Then Raided His Home After He Removed It

“A number of state wildlife agencies as well as FWS claim the right to not only enter private property, but in some cases to plant cameras as well, without either a warrant or the property owner’s permission. For example, a chapter of the FWS policy manual denoting “circumstances where a Service officer may observe and obtain evidence without courts considering it a search” stipulates, “when Service officers enter onto open fields…their observations are reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
The open fields doctrine dates back to the Prohibition-era Supreme Court decision Hester v. United States (1924). Revenue agents caught a bootlegger with jugs of moonshine. He was on his property but away from his home. He sued to overturn his arrest, as the officers were on the property without a warrant. Writing for the majority, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the arrest, finding that “the special protection accorded by the Fourth Amendment to the people in their ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ is not extended to the open fields.”

Decades later, the Court affirmed the decision in Oliver v. United States (1984): Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. held that “in the case of open fields, the general rights of property protected by the common law of trespass have little or no relevance to the applicability of the Fourth Amendment.” Further, “steps taken to protect privacy,” like fences or “No Trespassing” signs, “do not establish that expectations of privacy in an open field are legitimate in the sense required by the Fourth Amendment.””

Houston Prosecutors Are Keeping Cash Seized From Defendants Whose Cases Were Compromised by Police Corruption

“Even in cases that hinged on the trustworthiness of demonstrably untrustworthy cops, The Houston Chronicle reports, prosecutors so far have chosen to keep nearly all of the property seized from defendants. That striking contradiction illustrates the lax rules governing civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to pad their budgets by confiscating allegedly crime-tainted property.
The Chronicle identified “three dozen instances in recent years in which an indicted member of the Squad 15 narcotics unit swore to the facts used to justify a search leading to a cash or vehicle confiscation.” The loot, collected over a five-year period, included about $75,000 in cash and several cars. “Records show some or all of the money confiscated during the busts was returned in five cases,” the Chronicle reports, “typically after defendants hired lawyers to challenge the forfeitures.” But the county has kept the rest of the money and the cars, even though prosecutors consider the evidence that led to the seizures unreliable because it was offered by cops with a record of making stuff up.”

Don’t Believe the People Blaming Crime on Defunded Police

“Of the 109 areas examined, 49 raised law enforcement funding by more than 10 percent and 91 raised it by at least 2 percent. Only 8 places cut funding to law enforcement by more than 2 percent.
Nonetheless, politicians, pundits, and police persist in spreading the politically convenient myth that law enforcement agencies have been massively defunded. “Despite what the public record shows, an analysis of broadcast transcripts reveals that candidates, law enforcement leaders and television hosts discussed the impact of ‘defunding the police’ more than 10,000 times the last two years and the mentions aren’t subsiding this campaign season,” ABC found.

Take scandal plagued Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. He claims that crime is up because “defunding has consequences.” Meanwhile, “his agency’s budget is up more than $250 million,” according to ABC. In Los Angeles County, the police budget was up to $3.6 billion in 2021–2022, from $3.3 billion in 2018–2019.”

Federal Judge Blocks Arizona Law Making It Illegal To Film Cops Within 8 Feet

“”If the goal of HB2319 is to prevent interference with law enforcement activities, the Court fails to see how the presence of a person recording a video near an officer interferes with the officer’s activities,” Tuchi wrote in his order issuing a temporary injunction against the law.”

“multiple federal appeals courts have upheld the right to film police as a core First Amendment activity.”

Local Law Prevented an Alabama Town From Firing Two Cops. So They Dissolved the Police Department Instead.

“When officials in one Alabama town realized local law prevented them from firing two police officers, they dissolved their entire police department instead.

Last Thursday, the small town of Vincent—a hamlet outside Birmingham, Alabama, with a population of just under 2,000—decided to abolish its police department. The department, which employed three officers in total, was disbanded following a June incident that uncovered the exchange of racist text messages sent by at least one Vincent police officer.

In the messages, one officer, who remains unidentified by Vincent officials, asked an unidentified respondent “What do y’all call a pregnant slave?” to which the respondent replied with a string of question marks. “BOGO Buy one, get one free” texted the officer in response.”

“he City Council was unable to simply fire the officers. According to Vincent city law, police officers cannot be fired unless they receive two formal complaints and a verbal warning. With little other recourse, the Vincent City Council passed a resolution which temporarily dissolved the town’s small police department.

This incident isn’t the first time a small town has dissolved its police department for bad behavior. In particular, several small towns found to be engaging in illegal “speed trap” schemes have voted to disband their police departments.”

“this story is the latest in a long string of incidents where cops have lost their jobs for bigoted text messages. While speech by government officials is generally protected by the First Amendment, it has a few important carve-outs. Speech by government employees is only protected when it is a matter of public concern, like an allegation of corruption, and when the public employee’s speech interests are more important than the employer’s ability to maintain order.

“There’s no bright line here,” Popehat’s Ken White notes. “But in general, an employee’s speech is most likely to be protected if it’s on the employee’s own time, on the employee’s own platform or a platform not run by the employer, involves policy issues rather than personal attacks on people in the government workplace, and the employer can’t show evidence of disruption of order or function.”

While it is unclear whether the officer’s text messages were sent while off-duty using their personal phones, Vincent officials regardless had interest in punishing the officers. In 2021, at least 85 criminal cases were thrown out after at least a dozen of Torrance, California, police officers were found to have exchanged racist, antisemitic, and homophobic text messages.

Even if public officials hadn’t been barred by a city statute from firing the two officers, it seems the First Amendment would have provided little protection for the officers’ racially charged jokes. In fact, their messages made them a legal liability.”

LAPD’s Militarized Response to Peaceful Abortion Protests Makes the Case for Police Reform—Again

“Armed with riot gear and brandishing rubber-bullet guns, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) mobilized rapidly in response to pro-abortion protests near the city’s federal courthouse from June 24–27. Activists and journalists claim excessive use of physical force was rampant, with officers using batons against peaceful protesters.

The LAPD has maintained that it did not use force against peaceful protesters. “The vast majority of those involved [in pro-abortion protests] were peaceful and law abiding, however, a much smaller group of individuals took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction,” the LAPD said in a June 27 statement. “The Los Angeles Police Department has the distinction of facilitating First Amendment Rights for all Angelinos. Equally the Department will enforce the law when individuals engage in violence,” the statement continued.

While there were violent actors present at the protests, including one man who attacked police with a torch, videos shared online appear to show police using force against nonviolent protesters, including those trying to deescalate the situation. In one clip that received particular attention on social media, LAPD officers seemingly shoved Full House actress Jodie Sweetin to the pavement as she tried to defuse a confrontation between police and protesters on a Los Angeles freeway.”

The One Thing That Is Very Clear from the Search of Trump’s Home

“We need to remember that earlier this year officials retrieved boxes of materials from Mar-a-Lago that they said should have been turned over to the National Archives before Trump left office. According to reporting from CNN, investigators became aware of the existence of more such documents during a visit to Mar-a-Lago in June. But instead of simply taking these documents as officials had done previously, or subpoenaing Trump for the documents, investigators took the more serious step of requesting a search warrant. This suggests that officials at the Department of Justice did not think they would get all the documents in Trump’s possession if they filed a subpoena.

There is much we still don’t know about what the agents were looking for and what they found, but the process of applying for and receiving permission for the warrant indicates the significance of what happened Monday.

Typically, I would advise a client that an FBI search at your home means that you will likely face charges. That’s because a federal judge determined that there was good reason to believe a federal crime was committed and that evidence of the crime was in your home. To be clear, the execution of a search warrant doesn’t necessarily mean that the evidence points to the owner of the home as the person who committed the crime. It just usually works out that way.

To obtain the warrant, the DOJ had to present a detailed affidavit to a judge walking through the evidence they have that a crime was committed and providing some reason to believe evidence of that crime is at Mar-a-Lago right now. I emphasize “right now” because the government needs to show that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of the crime was present at Mar-a-Lago at the time of the search. It is extremely unlikely that a judge would approve a warrant based on stale evidence that had been received many months ago. The Justice Department also would act in the most conservative, cautious manner given the enormous stakes for the Department’s reputation and the nation as a whole.”

“The nature of the possible charges is also very unclear. Recent reporting from both the New York Times and the Associated Press indicates the search warrant is related to classified material taken from the White House by Trump when he left office. But we know that mishandling classified documents only rarely results in charges.

James Comey was right when he testified that the DOJ typically does not prosecute cases involving the mishandling of classified material unless that material was deliberately transferred to a third party. That suggests to me that there is something important — call it a plus factor — we don’t know here. People on the right have rushed to judgment and are already saying, “This is just a docs case.” But we don’t know that. In fact, there is reason to believe it is more than that.”

New Arizona Law Will Make it Illegal to Film Within Eight Feet of Police

“Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill into law Wednesday that will make it illegal to film the police within eight feet.

The legislation, H.B. 2319, makes it a misdemeanor offense to continue filming police activity from within eight feet of an officer after receiving a verbal warning. The bill originally restricted filming the police from no closer than 15 feet away, but it was amended after criticisms.

There are also exceptions for filming the police in a private residence, during a traffic stop, and for the subject of a police encounter. But the law qualifies those exceptions, saying they apply only if the person recording is “not interfering with lawful police actions,” or “unless a law enforcement officer determines that the person is interfering in the law enforcement activity or that it is not safe to be in the area and orders the person to leave the area.”

Interfering with police, or obstruction of justice, is one of the most frequently cited justifications for frivolous and retaliatory arrests.”

“”Can you be arrested for standing still while wearing a GoPro under this statute?” Doucette asked. “It seems the answer here is yes, which would violate the First Amendment (since standing still isn’t interfering with an officer’s duties).””

“State legislators should be less concerned with cops’ feelings and more concerned about citizens’ right to document how armed government agents go about their business. Giving officers another discretionary offense to slap on someone who annoys them will lead only to more confusion and more censorship.”

Supreme Court Makes It Effectively Impossible To Sue Federal Cops, Smashing a 51-Year-Old Precedent

“the Supreme Court partially opted to dismantle Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics—its 1971 decision that allowed a man to sue federal officers who searched his home without a warrant and then strip-searched him at a courthouse—not by hearing a case and deciding on the merits but by refusing to do that.

The justices announced..51 years after the Court handed down Bivens—that they would decline to consider two major petitions. In the first, St. Paul Police Department Officer Heather Weyker, who was serving on a federal task force, conjured a fake sex-trafficking ring and jailed a teenage girl for two years on trumped-up charges. In the second, Department of Homeland Security Agent Ray Lamb allegedly tried to kill a man who had a personal beef with Lamb’s son; video appears to show Lamb attempting to pull the trigger of his gun, though it jammed.

Federal courts in both cases agreed with what may sound intuitive: Both Weyker and Lamb violated clearly established law. They are thus not protected by qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that can make it difficult to sue local and state actors when they violate the Constitution. But because they were working for the federal government, they are protected by absolute immunity, the courts said, and their victims—Hamdi Mohamud and Kevin Byrd, respectively—may not sue them for disgracing their positions.”

“By demurring at hearing those cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the decisions giving both officers absolute immunity for committing transgressions while policing domestically. “Today’s rulings are basically saying that you can never sue federal officials, period,” notes Bidwell.”