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Category Archives: Know Your Rights

Video: Memphis airport POLICE and disabled ST. JUDE PATIENT FIGHT

A Memphis International Airport security video shows the June 30, 2015 confrontation between security personnel and Hannah Cohen, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, that led Cohen to file a federal lawsuit.

MEMPHIS — A Memphis International Airport security video shows the confrontation between security personnel and Hannah Cohen, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, that led Cohen to file a federal lawsuit.

The incident happened on June 30, 2015, when Cohen, 19, and her mother, Shirley, went through security at the Memphis airport. The women were traveling back to their Chattanooga home following treatment at the Memphis-based hospital.

The video, obtained by The Commercial Appeal, shows Cohen speaking with several security agents. When one of the agents tries to detain her, Cohen tries to punch the agent, who then slams her to the floor. She then struggles to break free as the agent tries to handcuff her.

According to the lawsuit, an alarm went off when Hannah went through the security screening. She was described as being impaired from radiation treatment and the removal of a brain tumor. The aggressive cancer treatment left the teen with limited ability to talk, walk, stand, see and hear.

“(She) became disoriented and confused by the warning alarm and the actions of the personnel manning the security checkpoint to try to search her person because of her disability. The security personnel failed to recognize that she was confused because of her obvious disability and was unable to cooperate with the search,” the lawsuit said.

Transportation Security Administration and Memphis International Airport Police Department personnel were manning the checkpoint, according to the lawsuit filed several weeks ago.

Her mother tried repeatedly to tell personnel about Cohen’s brain tumor and disabilities, according to the lawsuit.

Her daughter, who had been under anesthesia the day before, is blind in her left eye and deaf in her left ear, Shirley Cohen said.

Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, the mother said.

“It freaked her out,” she told The Commercial Appeal. “They didn’t listen to me at all. When they grabbed her, it scared her, and she was trying to get away from them. The next thing I know, one of them slammed her down on the floor and busted her head open. There was blood everywhere.”

Security personnel arrested Hannah Cohen on allegations she lashed out and hit an officer in the shoulder, chest and face.

She had refused to go through additional screening or leave the checkpoint, an airport police report states. The officer was not injured, according to the report. All charges against Cohen were later dropped, according to the lawsuit.

Shirley Cohen said her daughter had been going to St. Jude for 17 years, which included traveling through the airport many times “without incident ever.”

TSA spokesman Mark Howell and Jerry Brandon, chief of public safety of the Memphis International Airport Police Department, said they could not comment on pending litigation. The Memphis International Airport Police Department is an independent agency, which is not part of the Memphis Police Department or Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“At this point, it is alleged, ” Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and CEO Scott Brockman said. “Anybody can file anything, and we don’t comment on active litigation. Clearly there are additional facts in this matter, and we won’t comment until we address the litigation.”

Cohen and her mother are suing the airport police, TSA and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority for damages that include medical expenses, personal injury, emotional injury, pain, suffering and embarrassment. They ask for a “reasonable sum not exceeding $100,000 and costs,” the lawsuit states.

They allege the officers and agents of the TSA and airport police discriminated against Cohen because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation for screening her. They allege the airport authority failed to properly manage the personnel.

Cops Who Stop Drivers to Give Them Stuff Are Abusing Their Power And Is Illegal. What Can Happen You Asking.

A white cop walks up to a car he has just stopped and asks the driver, a black woman, “Are you aware of why I pulled you over today?” The puzzled driver replies, “No, sir.” The cop asks her if she is “familiar with Vehicle Code 1739.” She is not, so he explains that “it’s actually against the law to drive on a hot day without an ice cream cone.” The driver laughs, either out of relief or amusement, as the cop hands her an ice cream cone. “Oh, my God!” she says repeatedly, laughing into her hand. She shakes the officer’s hand as he wishes her a nice day.

Since viral videos of cops interacting with motorists usually involve abuses of power such as random searches, money grabs, bogus arrests, or the unjustified, occasionally fatal use of force, this episode, which was recorded in Halifax, Virginia, as part of Police Chief Kevin Lands’ “attempt at developing better relations between police and the communities they serve,” may seem like a refreshing change. But it also involves an abuse of power, albeit one disguised by benign intentions.

First, it’s not clear there was a legal reason for pulling this woman over. WSET, the ABC station in Lynchburg, reports that Halifax police stopped about 20 drivers in one day “to hand out ice cream instead of tickets.” It makes no mention of any traffic violations that might have justified the stops. Neither does the local CBS station. On Lands’ Facebook page, where the video of the laughing motorist has been watched 7.7 million times, he describes the drivers who got ice cream as “speeders,” which suggests cops ended up ignoring violations that supposedly were serious enough to pull people over. The woman in the video does not even get a warning, and there is no mention of any actual legal violation.

Cops have wide latitude to stop vehicles, but that latitude is not unlimited. “When the police pull over a car, that’s a Fourth Amendment ‘seizure’ of the driver, any passengers, and everything inside,” notes George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy. “To justify that seizure, the police need at least some cause either that a driver committed a traffic violation or that a person in the car is involved in a crime or wanted in connection with a serious crime. If the police have that cause, they can stop the car regardless of whether they want to write a ticket, investigate a crime or give the driver an ice cream cone. But the police can’t pull over the car without any cause, even if they want to do something nice, such as give the driver a gift.” Kerr also notes that the “something nice” could easily turn into something not so nice if a gift-bearing cop happens to notice illegal drugs or other evidence of lawbreaking.

The Halifax ice cream stunt reminds me of a program launched last year by the Macomb County, Michigan, sheriff’s office that involved handing out gift cards to teenagers as a reward for good driving. In that case, the stops were clearly unconstitutional, since the teenagers were targeted for driving well—exactly the opposite of a legal justification. Other examples of cops pulling people over to give them stuff ostensibly involve actual traffic violations. In this 2014 video, a police officer in Lowell, Massachusetts, who gives a driver Christmas presents for her kids says he pulled her over for illegally tinted windows. In another video from the same year, a Covington, Louisiana, police officer gives a woman a $100 bill stamped “Secret Santa” after pulling her over, supposedly because she failed to stop completely at an intersection. He adds that giving her the present was “the real reason” for the stop.

The latter two examples would be deemed constitutional under the standard set by the Supreme Court, which says reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation makes a seizure legal even when it is not the real motivation for the stop. But these supposedly heartwarming interactions are still abuses of power. If police would not have stopped drivers for these minor violations unless they had gifts to hand out, they are deliberately inconveniencing people and causing them needless anxiety for the sake of a publicity stunt. The distribution of gifts is beneficent on the face of it, but it is a demeaning kind of beneficence given the inherently unequal relationship between a citizen and an armed agent of the state with the power to forcibly detain him. If someone without a badge (or with a fake one) made people pull their cars over so he could give them ice cream cones, he would be treated as a criminal, and the fact that he was only trying to put smiles on their faces would not be an admissible defense.

Michigan Goes Total Police State With Roadside Saliva Check Points

Michigan goes total police state.

Regardless of your stance on drugs, I think most would agree that the Michigan State Police has no right to ‘run roadside saliva check points’.

The pilot program will be launching in five Michigan counties this year according to this MLive report:

The Michigan State Police is working on plans to establish a pilot program for roadside drug testing, a spokeswoman said.

A new law instructs the state police to pick five counties where it will run a one-year pilot program for saliva-based testing to check drivers for drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

“We expect the counties to be finalized this summer with a pilot to begin sometime later in the year,” MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner said.

The five counties will be determined based on criteria including: the number of impaired driving crashes;the number of impaired drivers arrested; and the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) trained in the county, she said.

Attorney Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm Rockind Law, opposed the legislation he said would set a “dangerous precedent” for Michigan.

“The criminal justice system wants to take science and turn it into a fast, easy utility,” Rockind said. “Science is neither fast nor easy.”

According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, as of February, Michigan had 99 Certified Drug Recognition Experts in 37 counties.

DRE officers have received “highly specified training” to allow them to identify drivers with drug impairment, Banner said.

The saliva analysis will only be administered by a DRE, she said, and will be given along with the drug recognition 12-step evaluation currently used. DREs employed by state, county and municipal agencies could also be involved.

The law instructs the MSP to conduct a pilot program meant to establish policies in the area of roadside drug analysis, Banner said, and to make a determination of the accuracy and reliability of the tests.

Average Americans Commit 3 Felonies a Day

Violent crime is down America, across the board, spanning two decades. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that the incidence of reported rape had hit a 20-year low. Homicides are down, as are juvenile violence and crimes committed against children. Crime rates have been plummeting since the early 1990s to such an extent that explaining the drop has become something of an obsession among criminologists and sociologists.

Part of the drop can of course be explained by mass incarceration—America leads the world in the percentage of its population behind bars. Putting one in every 100 citizens in jail causes its own problems, and there’s plenty of debate over just how much that incarceration has contributed to the fall in violent crime. But there’s no question that we’ve put lots of people in prison over the last 20 years, the crime rate has fallen, and part of the public likely believes (with some justification) that there’s a link betweent the two.

But there’s something else going on too, picked up in the blogosphere last week by George Washington University political science Professor John Sides. According to Gallup, since 2002 the percentage of the American public who think violent crime is on the rise has been increasing, even as actual violent crime rates continue to fall. Sides notes that from 1989 to 2001, perception and reality somewhat went hand in hand. But 2002 to 2003 saw a 19 percent leap in public perceptions that violent crime was on the uptick, and the figure has been going up in the years since—to 74 percent today. What’s going on?

From the time Richard Nixon made crime a national political issue in the 1970s, we’ve been conditioned by politicians and public officials to live in perpetual fear. Our baseline is that there’s too much crime, and that we aren’t doing enough about it. Despite that, there was an actually drop in public worry about crime that began in 1992 and continued until 2002. As noted, that drop corresponded with an actual decline in the national crime rate, something that hadn’t happened in 30 years. That crime rates going down for the first time in a generation was something new, something worth noticing. The 1990s were also generally an optimistic decade. The economy was humming. We weren’t engaged in any major wars. We didn’t have many worries, period.

Post-2002, the national mood soured. Terrorism, obviously a form of violent crime, was all over the news. The economy slowed down. Illegal immigration once again became a national issue, along with the false assumption that undocumented immigrants bring violent crime. And so we returned to a state of fear, though the crime rate continued to fall.These fluctuations in the Gallup poll are interesting, but it’s worth noting that the percentage of respondents who believe violent crime is on the rise has dipped below 60 percent only three times since 1991. This, again, despite the fact that violent crime has been in decline over the entire period.

Fear makes for easy politics. It both wins votes and primes us to give government more power at the expense of personal liberty. And that’s certainly true when it comes to crime. With the possible exception of an incumbent mayor, politicians only benefit from exaggerating the threat of violent crime. Senators, Congressmen, and even governors are rarely held responsible when the crime rate goes up. But they do win votes by proposing new powers for police and prosecutors to bring it down.

The result has been a one-way ratchet effect on crime policy. We’re perpetually expanding police and prosecutorial power, a process only occasionally slowed by the courts. Congress and state legislatures rarely take old criminal statutes off the books, but they’re always adding new ones. A 2008 report from the Heritage Foundation estimates that at the federal level alone, Congress has been adding about 55 new crimes to the federal criminal code each year since the 1980s. There are now about 4,500 separate federal crimes. And that doesn’t include federal regulations, which are increasingly being enforced with criminal, not administrative, penalties. It also doesn’t include the increasing leeway with which prosecutors can enforce broadly written federal conspiracy, racketeering, and money laundering laws. And this is before we even get to the states’ criminal codes.

In his new book, the Boston-based civil liberties advocate and occasional Reason contributor Harvey Silverglate estimates that in 2009, the average American commits about three federal felonies per day. And yet, we aren’t a nation of degenerates. On the contrary, most social indicators have been moving in a positive direction for a generation. Silverglate argues we’re committing these crimes unwittingly. The federal criminal code has become so vast and open to interpretation, Silverglate argues, that a U.S. Attorney can find a way to charge just about anyone with violating federal law. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for some business owners to comply with one federal regulation without violating another one. We’re no longer governed by laws, we’re governed by the whims of lawyers.Whatever one may think of Ayn Rand’s political philosophy or ethics, her criminal justice prophecy has proven unsettlingly accurate: In our continuing eagerness to purge American society of crime, we’ve allowed the government to make us all into criminals.

“There’s no way to rule innocent men.
The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them.
One declares so many things to be a crime
that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

Ayn Rand