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Save pets, get tazed/Federal intervention for Newark PD?/random patdowns, warrantless cell tracking

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Police Taser Man Trying to Save Pets in Fire
Published 1, September 7, 2010 Bizarre , Criminal law , Society 33 Comments

Police in Pennsylvania tasered a man who was trying to save his own pets from a fire. The police said that they warned Damon Baker three times and then shot him with a taser when he insist More..ed on using a hose on the house before the fire department arrived.

Baker’s wife is pregnant with triplets and Damon helped her and two children get out of the house. He then used his garden hose to control the flames on the side of the house. He was trying to protect 11 Ball Pythons that escaped from their cage and were loose inside the burning home. Only five snakes survived.

Baker will not be charged.

We have previously seen tasers used on family members seeking to save loved ones or homeowners trying to save family or pets from a fire.


RI cop gets 40 years for rape at substation
Marcus Huffman was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the March 2007 rape of a woman at an empty police substation


Random Pat-Downs Turn PATCO Into Police State
Commuters' clothing, pockets, bags and vehicles to be randomly searched


U.S. Intervention Sought for Newark Police AbusesBy RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: September 8, 2010
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LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. Excessive force, false arrests and other abuses by the Newark police are so rampant that the federal government should investigate and appoint a monitor to oversee the department, a civil liberties group charges in a petition it plans to file on Thursday.

New Jersey Governor Unveils Ethics Reforms (September 9, 2010)
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Petition (pdf)Citing hundreds of claims of police misconduct, and the millions of dollars paid to settle some of them, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey called on the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to step in, as it has in overseeing the conduct of several other police agencies across the country. The complaint documents abuses by officers against not only civilians but also their fellow officers, and a culture of impunity, with few of the officers ever being punished.

The misconduct “has left citizens dead, permanently injured and otherwise damaged,” the petition contends, and has harmed the careers and mental health of good officers. “And,” the petition adds, “it has left innocent Newark residents distrustful of the police, unsure whether an encounter with them will lead to them being protected and served or beaten and arrested.”

A pattern of complaints about the Newark police stretches back decades, and when Cory A. Booker took office as mayor in 2006, ending the scandal-scarred, 20-year tenure of Sharpe James, he pledged to reform the Police Department. But the civil liberties group’s complaint to the Justice Department deals with the Booker era, a challenge to the image of a mayor who is often mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office.

The 96-page petition covers records from the courts, the police, the City Council and news reports, and offers a level of analysis that the civil liberties union had not done before, said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the group. For that reason, it is impossible to say whether abuses have become more or less frequent under Mr. Booker, Ms. Jacobs said. But, she added, “it’s clear that the same kinds of things that were going on before are still going on.”

The civil liberties union said it provided copies of the petition to the offices of Mr. Booker and Police Director Garry F. McCarthy last week.

“The city of Newark was extremely disappointed when it reviewed the A.C.L.U.’s petition,” a city spokeswoman, Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, said in an e-mail. “We find the A.C.L.U. petition is frivolous and submitted in bad faith. It’s disingenuous for the A.C.L.U. to focus on lawsuits that were submitted before the current administration took office.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing most officers, did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

Over a period of two and a half years that ended on July 1, the civil liberties group found, 51 lawsuits were filed against the Newark police, most of them claiming intentional misconduct like beatings, theft, illegal searches, retaliation against people who reported other transgressions, threats and harassment of officers and civilians. In 50 other cases, people filed notices of tort claims, often precursors to lawsuits, and in 21 instances, they asserted serious police misdeeds but took no legal action.

In the same period, the petition says, the city settled 38 police-misconduct cases for a total of at least $4.7 million (the amounts for six of those cases were not available), though many of them were filed years earlier.

Last December, Newark settled a case involving the death of Rasheed Moore for $1 million; he was shot by an officer during a struggle. In 2008, the city agreed to pay $250,000 in a case in which the police, while raiding a home, set fire to the bed in which a mother and her children were sleeping.

Violent crime in Newark fell for a few years after the arrival of Mr. Booker and the police director he hired, Mr. McCarthy, though the city remains one of the state’s most dangerous. But killings are up this year, and officials have warned that budget deficits will mean the layoffs of officers.

“I think that Director McCarthy has expertise and he’s committed to change, but he has limited resources, and his hands are often tied by politics and policies,” Ms. Jacobs said.

Mr. McCarthy has created a committee with members from other government agencies and private groups to recommend improvements to the department, but the civil liberties group dismissed the results as mostly cosmetic. The department has repeatedly rejected the idea of an independent monitor, or a board to review complaints.

The group said the department had long been unable or unwilling to take action against officers who misbehave.

The civil liberties union cited 261 complaints filed with the department’s Internal Affairs office in 2008 and 2009 that charged serious misconduct — acts like excessive force or unlawful searches and arrests. The department upheld a complaint against an officer in just one of those cases, it said.

Of the 38 recent lawsuit settlements, the petition described the 26 in which the person abused was not another officer, and said the department had given no indication that any of the officers involved “were disciplined for the conduct that led to these lawsuits.” The petition contends that the pattern of misconduct discourages residents from cooperating with the police, a factor contributing to Newark’s high rate of crime.


NC Sheriffs want lists of patients using painkillers


Court allows warrantless cell location tracking

by Declan McCullagh

The FBI and other police agencies don't need a search warrant to track the locations of Americans' cell phones, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday in a precedent-setting decision.

In the first decision of its kind, a Philadelphia appeals court agreed with the Obama administration that no search warrant--signed by a judge based on a belief that there was probable cause to suspect criminal activity--was necessary for police to obtain logs showing where a cell phone user had traveled.

A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit said (PDF) tracking cell phones "does not require the traditional probable-cause determination" enshrined in the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits government agencies from conducting "unreasonable" searches. The court's decision, however, was focused on which federal privacy statutes apply.

But the panel sided with civil-liberties groups on an important point: it agreed that, in at least some cases, judges may require investigators to obtain a search warrant. That is, however, "an option to be used sparingly," the court said.

Some questions are likely to be resolved in future proceedings, once the case returns to a lower court. "It is still an open question as to whether the Fourth Amendment applies to cell phone records," Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston said after the ruling. "This decision does not definitively answer the question of the Fourth Amendment status of cell phone [location records]."

In this case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant, saying federal privacy law prohibited it. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.

The Obama administration had argued that warrantless tracking is permissible because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers said "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Lenihan had required the Justice Department to demonstrate "probable cause," a standard used in search warrants. But the three-judge panel rejected that idea, saying Lenihan "erred" and the relevant requirement is a "lesser one than probable cause" that is less privacy-protective.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, had told Lenihan that it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug-trafficking activities." The name of the mobile-service provider is not public.

The ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology had argued (PDF) that because cell phone information "is protected by the Fourth Amendment," a search warrant was necessary. The court did not squarely address that question in Tuesday's ruling.

EFF's Bankston said it was encouraging to see a ruling that allowed judges to demand search warrants at least in some cases. "The court explicitly refused to set a boundary for the court's discretion," he said. "It clarifies that judges have the discretion that the government has long argued they don't have."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to questions from CNET about whether it would appeal that portion of the ruling to the Supreme Court or seek a review from the Third Circuit.

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).

Cell phone tracking comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective historical data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that is typically not very detailed, or prospective tracking--which CNET was the first to report in a 2005 article--that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

The Obama administration argues that no search warrant is necessary; it says what's needed is only a 2703(d) order, which requires law enforcement to show that the records are "relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."

Updated at 4:30 p.m. PDT with background and comment from EFF attorney Kevin Bankston.

. Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.


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Added: Sep-17-2010 
By: HydrogenEconomy
Tags: cell, tracking, warrantless, newark, pd, federal, intervention, tazed, taze, taser, tase, pets
Marked as: repost
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