Police State Update: Do Police Officers Lie?

Police officers are widely viewed as honest public servants. Unfortunately, it turns out they lie under oath, possibly on a massive scale. Yes indeed, the police state is alive and well in the United States. Why do some police officers lie you may ask? Simple. First, they can get away with it. And second, they’re rewarded for it. Here’s more on the rising American police state from the New York Times:

…Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

(See the rest at the New York Times)

Real-Life Superheroes?

For decades, fans have thrilled to the fictional exploits of superheroes such as Superman and costumed heros like Batman. But such people, who dedicate their lives to protecting the public, aren’t real. Or are they? Meet Phoenix Jones, the most famous real-life costumed hero in America.

Phoenix Jones & Real Life Superheroes?

The United States, and perhaps the world as well, is on the verge of a costumed hero revolution. Across the nation, some 200 ordinary citizens are donning colorful costumes and heading out into the streets on a regular basis, ostensibly to serve the public. However, these people are quite different from their fictional counterparts. They mostly stick to simple tasks…stuff like community service and neighborhood patrols.

And then there’s Phoenix Jones. Phoenix, pictured above without costume, is perhaps the most famous real-life costumed hero in America. His real name is Benjamin John Francis Fodor and he’s 23 years old. He belongs to a ten-member team called the Rain City Superhero Movement. This Seattle-based squad is probably the closest real life example to the Justice League or the Avengers.

While most costumed heroes prefer to remain on the sidelines, Phoenix is best known for wading into the thick of the action. His weapons include a stun baton, a net gun, and pepper spray. He wears a bulletproof vest and stab plating. And good thing too since he’s been hit with a baseball bat, stabbed, held up at gunpoint, and had his nose broken via a kick to the face.

Phoenix Jones…Hero…or Villain?

A few days ago, Phoenix Jones was arrested and charged with four counts of assault. As best as I can tell, a group of individuals was fighting in the street (they claim they were dancing but later one of the girls in the video admitted there had been a fight). Phoenix along with his sidekick Ghost attempted to break up the altercation. The crowd turned on him and he discharged his pepper spray, hitting a young lady in the face. She went ballistic and went after him with her stiletto heels.

Similar to recent comic book story lines, Phoenix’s arrest has raised concerns regarding the legality of costumed crime fighters. The young lady claims that Phoenix’s behavior was irresponsible. And Seattle policemen have expressed their opinion that bystanders should call 911 rather than attempting to intervene in fights (it should be noted that Phoenix and his comrades called 911 numerous times during the fight).

“Just because he’s dressed up in costume, it doesn’t mean he’s in special consideration or above the law.” ~ Detective Mark Jamieson

While some people might agree with Detective Jamieson, a less charitable person would point out that while Phoenix was arrested for the pepper spray discharge, a police officer who did the same thing would receive nothing more than a rebuke. Which, from a certain point of view, places police officers above the very laws they are sworn to protect. As William Grigg put it:

“That’s right: Seattle can’t afford to have oddly dressed people prowling the streets, ready to wade into ambiguous situations and use unnecessary force. Unless, of course, they’re government-licensed purveyors of mayhem, such as Ian Birk – the Seattle Police Officer who murdered local artist John Williams on a street corner in August 2010. Williams, a woodcarver and chronic inebriate, was carrying a carving knife in a crosswalk when Birk pulled up in a cruiser. Seven seconds later, Williams was dead. While Birk was forced to resign from the department, no criminal charges were filed against him. [Phoenix’s] problem, you see, was that he wasn’t wearing a government-issued costume.” ~ William Grigg, Is It ‘Assault,’ or ‘Enforcement’? That Depends on the Costume (Lew Rockwell)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Vigilante justice is a controversial topic in America. Many are frightened by the prospect of someone like Phoenix Jones “taking the law into their own hands.” And this is understandable since innocent people will inevitably get hurt. At the same time, our present system of law enforcement leads to innocent people getting hurt everyday. False arrests, police brutality, and police protecting their own from the wheels of justice does happen, perhaps more often than we care to admit.

Modern law enforcement is really just a government monopoly. And monopolies are generally characterized by high costs and substandard service. With that in mind, perhaps there’s room for competition in the law enforcement arena. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a place in this world for costumed heroes like Phoenix Jones.

Predicting “Future Crime?”

In the popular television show, Person of Interest, a mysterious billionaire named Mr. Finch uses a secret computer program to identify people connected to “future crimes.” While Mr. Finch uses the program to save lives, it’s easy to imagine such a thing being used for evil (see: Minority Report). Fortunately, this frightening technology doesn’t exist in real life…does it?

FAST: Future Attribute Screening Technology…or Future Crime Technology?

In 2008, news began to leak out that the Department of Homeland Security was working on a program named Project Hostile Intent (now called FAST, or Future Attribute Screening Technology). Its purpose was to detect “‘mal-intent’ by screening people for ‘psychological and physiological indicators’ in a ‘Mobile Screening Laboratory.'”

Recently, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security. It revealed that FAST is not just a piece of hypothetical technology. Future crime technology is real. And its being tested on real people, albeit voluntarily.

The concept behind FAST is fairly simple. Government agents will use “video images, audio recordings, cardiovascular signals, pheromones, electrodermal activity, and respiratory measurements” to examine individuals from afar. Advanced algorithms will then analyze this information. This will supposedly allow agents to “predict” future criminal behavior and give them a “head start to stop a crime or violent act in progress.”

Future Crime versus Criminal Profiling?

Technologies to predict the future seem to be all the rage in government agencies these days. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is developing a program to detect traitorous insiders who plan to turn on their colleagues. Meanwhile, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) is working on technology to predict future global events and the “consequences of U.S. intelligence actions.”

Still, the government’s desire to predict the future isn’t new. After all, FAST is, in certain respects, just a more advanced version of the common yet controversial practice of “criminal profiling.” But while profiling usually focuses on just one or two factors, such as ethnicity or gender, FAST goes to a whole other level. It examines ethnicity, gender, age, occupation, breathing patterns, body movements, eye movements, changes in pitch, changes in speech, changes in body heat, and changes in heart rate among other things.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, it would appear that the government is laying the groundwork for a system to predict crime. Fortunately, it’s only confined to employees of the Department of Homeland Security at the moment. Right?

Wrong. It turns out that FAST “has already been tested in at least one undisclosed location in the northeast.” While the nature of this location remains unknown, the DHS claims it wasn’t an airport.

EPIC is concerned about the privacy implications and believes that FAST needs to be reviewed. And it’s hard to argue with them. The privacy concerns are mind-boggling to say the least, especially since the government plans to “retain information” that it collects. In addition, the idea of being spied upon, profiled, singled out, and questioned by government agents for a crime not yet committed is disturbing to say the least. The potential for abuse is alarming and real…Very, very real.