Shai Werts and the Bird Shit Cocaine

Shai Werts

A young man named Shai Werts who plays football for Georgia Southern was arrested for cocaine possession the other day and the entire thing gives me yet another chance to rant against the so-called War on Drugs. The entire episode illustrates how police use the War on Drugs to persecute those they don’t like, which, I’m sure you’ll find shocking, is most often minorities.

Here’s what happened. Werts was supposedly speeding on a secluded road and an officer tried to pull him over. Werts was uncomfortable in the situation, called 911, and drove to a more populated location followed by police. When he did pull over, he explained why he didn’t stop immediately.

Our finest officers then scraped bird shit off his car hood, put it in their field kits, claimed it tested positive as cocaine, and arrested him. Werts told the officers it was bird shit but they weren’t going to put up with that excuse. Later, when subjected to a real laboratory test, the substance turned out not to be cocaine, what a surprise.

Here’s what really happened. A young black man was rightly afraid for his life when the police pulled him over for speeding. That alone is sad testament to the reality in which we live. He was also likely afraid they’d plant drugs on him because that is also a reality of the world. So, he forced the officers to follow him to a less secluded location. That pissed off the officers. They decided they wanted to punish him. They found the flimsiest of excuses to harass him. Did the bird shit actually test positive in the field kit? Who knows, field kits and drug sniffing dogs are notoriously unreliable.

This situation was simply officers abusing their authority to harass someone who did something they didn’t like. If you’re a minority living in this country, you aren’t at all surprised by this. If you’re not a minority you probably don’t even believe it happens, you’re mad at me, and will write nasty comments about how I hate police.

This is the War on Drugs. An excuse to harass citizens, steal from them, put them in prison, and be a general bully. This behavior has effectively alienated law enforcement from the communities they are trying to serve. I’ve written before how this is a tragic situation both for citizens and police so I won’t reiterate.

What does it say when police scrape bird shit off the hood of a car in order to harass people they don’t like? What does it say that we put up with drug detecting field kits that mistake bird shit for cocaine, that is if we don’t just assume the officers were lying?

Close your eyes to the travesty that is the War on Drugs and reap the consequences.

Tom Liberman

Ticketed for Leaving Car Running in Driveway

ticket-taylorThere’s an interesting story making the news regarding a fellow named Nick Taylor or Taylor Trupiano (depending on which article you read) who was ticketed in Roseville, Michigan because he left his car running and unattended in the driveway of his girlfriend’s home.

The reason for the law, according to Roseville Police Chief James Berlin, is that thieves sometimes steal cars that are left in this state, usually during winter months. Cars thus stolen must be dealt with by law enforcement officials. The police must investigate the crime and track down the criminal and might even have to engage in high-speed chases. The investigation costs money and the chases are dangerous to bystanders. Chief Berlin is unabashedly a supporter of such laws.

You all know me by now. I’m a Libertarian. I think the law is ludicrous but let’s take some time to examine why.

Let us take Chief Berlin’s assertion at face value. There are cars stolen in this manner. Investigating such events does cost money. A high-speed chase might result.

Let’s also take a look at some Libertarian points of view on the subject. Leaving a running car in your driveway hurts no one directly. It is a convenience in cold weather. It is your car. It is private property.

Now I want to examine Chief Berlin’s arguments

His first argument is largely that the law is designed to protect people from themselves. You might get your car stolen if you act in a careless fashion. I don’t think the state should be protecting us from our own stupidity. If we are stupid and do stupid things that is our business. Would we want police officers to fine someone wearing a nice watch in a bad part of town? The crime is committed by the thief, even if we act irresponsibly and put ourselves in dangerous situations. That’s our business, not the state’s business.

His second argument is that it costs money for the police to investigate crime. Yes. That’s true. That’s their job. People pay taxes to support the police force in doing this job. We should not be taxing through citation. This problem is largely created by municipalities that fail to fully fund their police force and use it as a cash cow to rake in revenue for City Hall. Which is, of course, the real reason behind the ordinance, not that Chief Berlin or the Mayor of Roseville would ever admit as much. Fully fund the police force. If crimes occur they will attempt to solve them. I certainly wouldn’t object to community outreach to explain not to leave your car unattended because it invites thieves.

His final argument is that high-speed chases endanger the public. He’s right. They do. And police should not engage in such chases for the safety of the citizens of the town and the officers themselves. Chases make sense when the criminal is violent and dangerous but do not make any sense for a car thief. Yes, the thief might get away. That’s true. But also: Yes, innocent people and officers themselves die in such chases. They aren’t worth it.

There are a lot of factors that go into such ordinances as we see in Roseville but as a Libertarian I cannot countenance them. Bad laws make people hate police officers. And that’s something law enforcement agencies would do well to consider.

When police work with the community both are served.

Should warming up the car unattended be a crime?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Dash Cams are a Good Idea

Dash CamI was browsing through all the news that’s fit to print when I came across a story at Yahoo Odd News that caught my interest. A fellow by the name of Randy Kratofil was driving through the Pennsylvania town of Jefferson Hills when he came to a three-way stop sign. He stopped and then proceeded forward. A pair of police officers, clearly staking out the intersection, then pulled him over and wrote him a $127.50 ticket. They told him that residents were complaining of people running the stop sign.

Kratofil has a dash-cam in his car. He took the video to a local news station which then showed it to the Jefferson Hills police chief and the ticket was rescinded although the chief of police stands by the officer that wrote the ticket. Which in itself is ridiculous. If you stand by the ticket then you wouldn’t rescind it. That’s another story.

A factor in the case which I did not see in the reported story is the nature of the intersection where the non-infraction took place. If you watch the video it is very apparent that the intersection is extremely dangerous. It’s a three way intersection which sort of bends around and away to the left; after the original stop it’s very difficult to see oncoming traffic from that direction.

The problem appears to me to be that the white line is not painted in the right spot. From the video I couldn’t even see the white line. For everyone out there not familiar with traffic laws it’s important to note that you are required to stop at the white line, not the stop sign. This rule is designed for intersections exactly like the one in the video. The nature of the road made it impossible to put the stop sign where it needed to be and there should have been a white line painted another ten feet or so forward.

The fact that the white line is either absent or badly painted leads me to the conclusion that someone is either incompetent or the police use the intersection as a revenue generator. I’d like to know how many tickets are written at that intersection. I’d also like to know how many accidents happen at that intersection. If the white line is intentionally absent in order to generate revenue for the police department there is serious criminal misconduct going on. It is creating a dangerous situation in the pursuit of money.

I do not know if any of that is actually true. It’s possible the white line is there but just not visible because of the lighting condition. It’s possible that the white line is missing for other reasons but the events here make me extremely suspicious of the Jefferson Hills police department. If someone was injured in an accident at that intersection there should be criminal liability.

The moral of the story is that it’s not a bad idea to purchase a good dash-cam for your car. They have a nice selection at Amazon but you can pick them up just about anywhere you do your electronic shopping.

As an added bonus for me, I can upload video to YouTube and show off how all those other drivers are out there trying to kill me. I drive about seven minutes to work everyday and about the same back home. Now that I have a food service bringing me food I don’t even stop at the grocery store. In that fourteen minutes of driving I have least one person try to kill me every day. People think I’m paranoid but I’m not! I tell you they’re out to get me! Now to get that dash-cam and prove it!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Your Sheriff’s Devotion to Duty is Important

Weyker Damaged CarEarlier this week I ran a story about good guy Sheriff Jimmy “J.J” Jones of the Knoxville, TN. Footage came out that exposed one of his officer as a sadistic bully and Sheriff Jones immediately fired the offending man.

I just read this story where an officer in Milwaukee, WI ran a stop-sign and hit another woman’s car so hard it spun into a tree. She suffered a broken neck from the accident. At the scene the officer claimed he did not run the stop-sign and the woman’s lights were not on therefore he could not see her.

While awaiting the ambulance, officers questioned Tanya Weyker about alcohol or drug use and eventually charged her with five crimes including driving drunk and causing an accident. There is no happy ending to the story but Weyker was exonerated when surveillance video showed that Deputy Joseph Quiles ran the stop-sign and Weyker’s lights were on.

Charges were dropped, Quiles was given a whopping nine-day suspension, and the county is thus-far refusing to pay her hospital bills and actually sent her a bill for the damage to the deputy’s car.

That’s all just a prelude to what I really want to talk about.

I want to talk about the kind of community that will arise under the stewardship of Sheriff Jones and that of his counterpart in Milwaukee.

There are so many great police officers out there who are dedicated to their jobs and to protecting and serving the people of this nation. What happens to men and women like that when they see people like Quiles getting a nine-day suspension for lying in a report and nearly killing a woman in an accident?

Contrast that to what will happen to dedicated officers under the command of a man like Sheriff Jones.

There are also men and women attracted to law-enforcement because it gives them the opportunity to bully and torment people. What happens to this sort of officer in the department led by Sheriff Jones? And their counterparts in Milwaukee?

The entire department follows the lead of their commanders and when leaders allow men like Quiles to escape all but unpunished after heinous crimes, for which you and I would face prison, there is only one direction the entire department is heading. If you happen to live in a county where men like Quiles are welcomed into the force; you or someone you know will eventually pay the price.

Likewise, if you happen to live in the county led by Sheriff Jones you will be far more secure. Not only because of Sheriff Jones, but because of the men and women who follow in his footsteps, who become officers in your neighborhood. It is hard to estimate the good that men like Sheriff Jones do for all of us.

I imagine anyone who has a young son or daughter thinking about joining a law-enforcement agency hopes that a man like Sheriff Jones is charge of their child.

I totally understand and applaud the concept of loyalty. But it can be taken too far. You cannot be endlessly loyal to someone who does not earn it. In order for society to function people must eventually do what is right. When you do, everyone except the evildoers win. That’s a good thing.

When good men are discouraged and evil men excused it is a recipe for disaster.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Frank Phillips Fired for Choking Student

Officer Choking StudentI’ve posted a number of times about how important it is for people in authority to not only reward good behavior but also discipline those under their command. Too often we read about police agencies bending over backwards to protect officers to keep pure the reputation of the force.

Well, thanks to Sheriff Jimmy “J. J.” Jones of the Knoxville, Tennessee county police department I’ve got a different story for you today. Sheriff Jones doesn’t put up with rogue officers and fired Officer Frank Phillips upon reviewing photographic evidence of his abuse of a handcuffed student.

Jones made it clear his office does not tolerate excessive force and also promoted the idea of body-worn cameras on officers uniforms as a way to keep such abuses in check.

I have no doubt that many people will suggest that Jones is merely firing Phillips because there is photographic evidence and that such abuse goes on frequently. That Jones generally tolerates such use of force.

I don’t doubt that officers do abuse suspects but proving such cases is difficult because many criminals make up stories of attacks. I’m more than willing to give Jones the benefit of the doubt and I hope the people of Tennessee recognize that they’ve got one of the good guys in charge of their force.

There is no doubt in my mind that the action by Jones will attract a better class of person to his department. When leaders stand idly by or even actively protect such sadistic officers it is to the detriment of all good police officials. Every officer in Knoxville who takes seriously his or her oath to protect and serve will applaud this action. More good men and women will be attracted to a leader like Jones who expects his subordinates to behave with ethics and morality.

Law enforcement officers must be seen as a force of good in any country or they slowly become a force of evil. They stop protecting and serving and start abusing and degrading.

Every time someone like former officer Phillips is allowed to treat suspects in this manner is another nail in the coffin of our country. When we stop respecting police and the courts we start to become a lawless nation where anyone will do anything to get ahead.

A big tip of the hat to Sheriff Jones from this blogger. Well done, sir. You’ve not only improved your police force in Knoxville but you’ve set a shining example for the rest of the command officers around the United States. You’ve made our country a better, safer place.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
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To Protect and Serve or to Raise Funds?

Policing for ProfitAll across this great country of ours police officers are being put into a terrible position and the situation grows worse every day. The double attack of less money available to run the department and more money spent on fancy equipment is leaving more and more police departments with revenue shortages.

The solution to this gap seems to be to fleece as many people as possible.

For communities along major thoroughfares the best method is to charge passersby with small crimes and impound everything they have and extort them for more money. This directive comes from corrupt politicians and departmental leaders who see dollar signs in their eyes.

Even communities who are nowhere near criminals now gear up and scour the country not looking to make arrests but simply to seize money from as many people as possible.

It is very likely that your state politicians have passed laws allowing police to seize anything and everything from your car under the flimsiest of suspicions. Trying to get back your property and money will take a huge amount of time and effort.

That’s hardly the end of the story. More and more police departments are funded almost entirely through their ticketing systems. Not only are the departments funding themselves but they are funneling that money back to City Hall. As politicians see this revenue stream increase they place money-seeking officers in charge of departments and these leaders create quotas that insist upon more and more traffic stops. Officers who simply want to Protect and Serve are ostracized, put on desk jobs, and fired.

In order for a police department to be legally forced to stop this scam the entire municipality must get 50% or more of their revenue from such stops. Anything less than 50% and they can continue to steal your money.

After reading what I’ve written so far I’m sure some people will leap to the conclusion that I’m against the police and law-enforcement in general. This could not be further from the truth. I think the police do a dangerous job and I well appreciate their efforts. I’m of the opinion that this revenue grab hurts the police department and the officers tremendously. They are prevented from Protecting and Serving but more importantly they lose the trust of those upon whom they depend.

Without the trust of We the People the police become nothing more than a thuggish paramilitary operation preying on the weakest members of society. Officers generally join the force out of idealism and hope. When they throw away these wonderful ideas they destroy their own sense of self-worth.

I’ve ranted now about the problem for a while and I’d like to offer a few solutions before I get ready to watch The Masters golf tournament today.

I largely think it’s a matter of where the seized money goes. If the money doesn’t go into the coffers of the politicians then we solve most of the problem. All money obtained from traffic violations should go immediately back to the community as a refund. None of it should be used for any other purpose. Communities should apply tax dollars to completely fund their departments with no consideration towards eventual ticketing revenue.

Seizure money presents a bigger issue because even if said money was to go to the community, voters would feel monetary pressure to seize as much as possible. I think the best solution might be to have all seized money and assets go to various national charitable organizations. Communities could vote on which organizations to fund based on some sort of list of reputable charities.

I think the key is to remove the element of profit from the situation. When we do this I think both We the People and the law-enforcement officers will be the better. Money might not be the root of all evil but I’m hard pressed to argue that it isn’t.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Video and the Police Officer

Taking PicturesThere was an interesting article in the news the other day about police arresting people recording video of the officers in their regular duties. It seems to be making a big splash and the alarmist headline naturally drives people to the story.

While reading the comments on the article it struck me that, as usual, most of the commenters failed to read the article completely if at all. It’s one of those stories that is going to provoke a strong reaction from both sides of the political spectrum and likely eventually distill down to a game of name-calling with both sides blaming the other.

I find two things interesting about the article and the reaction to it.

Firstly, anyone who cared to read the item all the way through had to note that police officers and politicians were aware of the issue and passing laws and training officers in the appropriate way to handle the situation. This is a good thing! With new recording technology ubiquitously available not only in person but remotely there are clearly going to be more people recording public activity. So, as the police become accustomed to this it will expose officers who flaunt the law which in turn emboldens all the great officers out there who are already doing a fantastic job without prompting. I talked about the how letting people get away with bad deeds hurts everyone in this post. The idea is that good people are discouraged when bad people are allowed to go about their business.

The second thing that struck me was that people in total agreement about how police should behave towards law-abiding citizens recording their activity were in complete and total disagreement about the cause of the problem. The two camps, not surprisingly, were political opposites, Republicans and Democrats. I don’t have to tell you who each blamed for the problem. What distressed me is that both sides were in such lock-step agreement about the problem yet made no effort to join forces and find a solution.

I think that is endemic of the political situation in the U.S. I’m of the opinion that people really aren’t that far apart ideologically and that if they would focus on solving problems rather than blaming each other amazing things could happen. I suppose I’m a dreamer but I’ll continue to dream … and blog.

Who’s with me?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
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