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Professional Troublemaker ®

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Attorney

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assholery

NYPD Cops on Reddit: OK to “Get A Few Punches” While Arresting Suspects

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NYPD cops share their feelings on getting a couple extra punches on suspects who resist arrest…

Massive discussion forum Reddit‘s subforum for New York City-themed topics, /r/nyc, has a lively and diverse cross-section of New York’s population, with everyone from NYU students, retirees, young professionals, and even police officers.  I find the insight one can gain from seeing all these different points of view to be incredibly educational, and sometimes people are, perhaps, a little more candid than they should be.

 

This morning, one of the top threads on /r/nyc was a NYPD cop caught on camera punching and kneeing a suspect in the back of the head while he was on the ground during an arrest (original link, archive).  A cop on the forum, /u/Fast05GT, was quick to defend the actions of the officers, and while starting with a reasonable-sounding explanation that they were dealing with a suspect accused of violent crime who was resisting arrest, he continued to expose that police officers feel entitled to get a little retaliation, seemingly without knowledge that this is wrong:

“You guys are crazy if you think I’m gonna let some extremely violent felon kick my ass and not get a few punches of my own in.”

Another NYPD officer, /u/Mac8831, quickly clarifies:

“The fact is, punching and kicking this shit head is perfectly fine until he’s in custody.”

A read through the thread is filled with these and other gems (“Those cops did nothing wrong. ‘pain compliance’ is taught in the Police Academy, punching and kicking are 100% proper tactical procedures…”) and makes blatantly apparent that these officers do actually think that their conduct — getting in a few extra hits than is actually necessary to restrain a suspect — is perfectly acceptable.

The problem in the NYPD is not merely a few bad apples, but rather than every apple is exposed to systemic and cultural ideologies that condone tactics that are simply not allowed anywhere in our country, whether it’s stopping-and-frisking black people simply for existing, arresting for contempt-of-cop, or excessive force.  Let’s hope the addition of body cameras coming soon brings this issue to light and helps us stamp it out.


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DHS Wants Tourists To List Their Facebook Accounts to Enter Country

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen entering the U.S. with a passport issued by one of our friends in Europe, you can enter “without a visa” by completing an “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” form online and paying a fee (which, if you think about it, is really no different from getting a visa… it’s just you print a piece of paper instead of get a mark in your passport).

The questions on the application are mostly the typical stuff you’d expect we might ask those entering our country, but DHS now proposes to add one more:

“Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

What’s wrong with that?  Well, I’ve explained in a letter opposing the proposed rule that there are many problems with this.  The first is that it’s not even clear what one would need to disclose, and sometimes disclosure may be a troubling basis for discrimination:

Do I need to think back to the MySpace account that I created in 2003 and have not used since 2006?  If I have a username for a chat room or message board, does that count?  What about Tinder?  Or perhaps I use the popular dating app for gay men known as Grindr.  Do you think it’s reasonable that I would then need to indirectly disclose my sexual preference as a condition of entering this country?  Or perhaps I use the Web site for connecting individuals with sexual fetishes known as FetLife.  Will you then review my FetLife account and determine if my preferred variety of kinky sex is acceptable?  If it is uncovered that I enjoy being dominated by women in latex bodysuits while ball gagged, will a CBP officer consider me the same level of security risk as one who prefers long walks on the beach and seeks a partner who loves Jesus?  Speaking of Jesus, many people use social networking related to their religion (Christian Mingle, JDate, etc.).  Now you’d like to know my religion, too?

Not particularly worried since you’re a U.S. citizen and therefore won’t have to personally deal with this problem?  Think again…

When the U.S. government implements a stupid rule affecting foreign visitors, other countries implement retaliatory rules on U.S. citizens seeking to enter their territory. …  Many other countries require visa fees only from U.S. citizens (or higher visa fees only for U.S. citizens), or fingerprinting only for U.S. citizens, in retaliation for what we do to their citizens.  I don’t want to have to share my Facebook details in order to travel, and if you implement this rule, it is all but certain that I shall have to do so as other countries decide to implement retaliatory rules.

It would be nice if DHS, for once, could do something that would actually improve our safety rather than play around with technology that they know nothing about.

[Edit – Online comments are now allowed from the public!  Let DHS know what you think!]

TSA: Taking Pictures Of Our Dogs Is Illegal!

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I’m told that this picture is very illegal.  TSA K-9 handler at JFK T1 immediately before ordering me to stop taking pictures.

On Friday, I flew out of New York’s JFK T1 after experiencing what was the longest airport security line I have ever seen. It literally stretched from the zig-zag queue at the center of the terminal to the far end of the terminal, and then around the corner. The TSA, of course, knows that terrorists now target security lines, rather than airplanes, and doesn’t seem to care that they are putting us at risk, but I digress.

After finally reaching the front of the queue, I spotted, for the first time, the TSA’s new experiment with bomb-sniffing dogs. Interested in finally seeing the TSA put a far better solution in place for the detection of non-metallic explosives than the body scanners, I snapped a few pictures, including the one here.

But, of course, the TSA can’t leave well enough alone. “You can’t take pictures!” barks the dog’s handler. I can’t? Well that’s news to me, and I consider myself pretty up-to-date on aviation security law. 🙂 I soon spot an STSO (supervisory transportation security officer — the “3 stripe” blue uniform people) and ask her to clarify, but she tells me she doesn’t have time to talk to me. Eventually, I spot her boss, the TSM (transportation security manager — always wearing a suit), a very friendly South Asian woman who is cheerfully tells me that my First Amendment right to photograph has been suspended:

Jon: Are you the TSM by chance?

TSM: Yes.

Jon: I have a question for you.

TSM: Sure.

Jon: What’s the policy on taking pictures in line?  The person with the K-9 told me I was not allowed to take pictures.

TSM: Yes, that’s a screening process, what he’s doing there, so you’re not allowed to take pictures.

Jon: OK, so that’s a federal regulation?

TSM: Yes.

Jon: Not New York state, that’s a TSA…

TSM: No, not New York state, it’s federal.

Jon: Ok, so if I ask the TSA, because I’m a civil rights advocate, and my job is to sue the TSA, if I ask them, they’re going to tell me that I’m not allowed to take the pictures, and that’s official TSA policy?

TSM: You have to specify what you were doing.

Jon: Taking a picture of a K-9.

TSM: You can’t.

Jon: OK.

TSM: Because that’s a screening process.

Where legal, I generally record my interactions with the TSA, and New York being a 1-party consent state (any party to a conversation may record it), I got an audio recording (.mp3).  (As a side note, a reasonable argument can be made, and some courts have held, that audio or video recording of government officials while working in public is constitutionally protected even in 2-party consent states.)

Why is this a “big deal,” some may ask: Any time the government restricts our ability to take pictures, they are reducing their accountability to the people. Thousands of times per day, law enforcement in this country violates the rights of citizens, but only occasionally is it caught on camera, and only then is it punished (sometimes).  By removing our ability to document their actions, they are insulating themselves from consequences for wrongdoing, and this a free society cannot stand.

I’ve asked the TSA’s Civil Rights Office to comment as to whether this is official TSA policy and await a reply, but expect a new lawsuit to be filed soon either way.

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