“I know the police cause you trouble; They cause trouble everywhere. But when you die and go to heaven; You find no policeman there” –Woody Guthrie
“I know the police cause you trouble; They cause trouble everywhere. But when you die and go to heaven; You find no policeman there” –Woody Guthrie
If someone were to design an event to bolster public support for a militarized police state, what would that event look like? Let us imagine:
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This scenario is not hypothetical. It currently playing out in Missouri, after a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson after shooting Michael Brown. Dozens of businesses, buildings, and vehicles have been looted and burned to the ground by the aggressive mobs that have exploited the occasion.
The community has been left in ruins and countless new innocent victims have been created by people professing to seek “Justice for Michael Brown.” Images of smoldering wreckage and tearful shopkeepers have seared a lasting impression into the consciousness of the public — one that is beneficial for the perpetuation of the police state. Feelings of helplessness and vulnerability will be easily exploited by agencies desiring an increase in budgets and power.
Police State USA regularly covers police brutality and demonstrates that it is a pervasive problem in this country. Out of all the definitive examples of state-sanctioned violence, why was Michael Brown chosen to be the poster-child of victimhood? The evidence was heavily on the officer’s side, lending itself to the conclusion that Brown was not only a strong-arm robber, but also that he assaulted the first police officer that confronted him.
Perhaps his criminality is why the national media spent so much time covering his case, while ignoring so many other innocent victims.
The Ferguson saga will be nationally remembered as a police officer using justified force to remove a bad guy from the streets using textbook self-defense. The public will remember that people rallied behind a robber, bemoaned police brutality with little to no evidence, then burned their own city to the ground. Ferguson will be pointed out as a reason why police should be decked out with armored vehicles and elaborate measures to disperse crowds.
From a purely consequential perspective, Ferguson was gift to supporters of the police state — wrapped and tied with a bow. While a legitimate case against police brutality can certainly be made, its presentation in Ferguson was an utter failure. This speaks to the importance of carefully choosing political battles and vetting the evidence before taking action. Unfortunately, in this case, the picking the wrong battle will ultimately leave people biased more toward police power than they were before, and the righteous opponents of actual misconduct will be lumped in with violent maniacs who have no respect for the rights of others.
The U.S. Postal Service runs a massive dragnet surveillance program of all the mail in the United States; enabling law enforcement to generate profiles of associations and contacts of every American.
Two key programs play a role in the surveillance. The first is called “Mail Imaging.” As the name suggests, the program involves taking a digital photograph of every piece of physical mail that crosses through the USPS. The images provide a permanent record of the source and destination addresses posted on all packages and letters in the country.
The scope of the program is absolutely huge. The New York Times reported that about 160 billion pieces of mail were scanned in 2012.
Ostensibly, the Mail Imaging program is used to sort mail. However, law enforcement agencies are regularly granted access to this data without even the requirement of obtaining a warrant. The massive trove of data can be used to profile individuals and gather intelligence on their private lives. For example, the government can glean who the individual corresponds with; who the individual does business with; who sends the individual birthday cards; who sends the individual monthly bills; who the individual contracts for legal services.
A second program, called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program is engaged when there is special interest in a targeted individual. Reportedly, the program allows law enforcement to “track or investigate” the contents of mail connected to specific people.
An audit performed by the USPS Office of the Inspector General concluded that few safeguards (not warrants) that exist were not faithfully applied to the program. As often as 20% of the law enforcement surveillance requests were not properly approved, the audit revealed. The lax system was recently described in a report by Politico:
Meanwhile, some of the safeguards set up to catch these shortcomings were missing: The Postal Service wasn’t regularly conducting the annual reviews required by federal rules.
While many Americans have abandoned so-called snail mail for most of their communications, the auditors found the Post Office issued 49,000 mail cover orders in the past fiscal year. And postal workers were often slow to stop recording and sending data on mail even after those orders expired: The audit found 928 covers considered “active” even though the orders for them had expired.
“There are a lot of mail covers, but they don’t seem to be very careful about following their own rules,” said Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies.
The mail imaging and surveillance program was secretly established in 2001 and not publicly revealed for over a decade. The extents of the surveillance are still not fully known, because anything considered to be related to “national security” is evidently held secret and not subject to FOIA disclosure requests. The Times elaborated:
The mail cover surveillance requests cut across all levels of government — from global intelligence investigations by the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, which requested 500 mail covers from 2001 through 2012, to state-level criminal inquiries by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which requested 69 mail covers in the same period. The Department of Veterans Affairs requested 305, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security asked for 256. The information was provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information request.
Postal officials did not say how many requests came from agencies in charge of national security — including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection — because release of the information, wrote Kimberly Williams, a public records analyst for the Postal Inspection Service, “would reveal techniques and procedures for law enforcement or prosecutions.”
The secrecy behind the activities of key federal agencies is disconcerting. Traditionally, warrants were required to physically open mail, but that check and balance has been eroded during the rise of the War on Terror. President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement on the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act on December 20, 2006, that authorities had the power to conduct “physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.”
It is unknown to what extent the federal government is opening mail for intelligence collection, because the courts have broadly allowed government secrecy on national security issues.
The various mail surveillance programs employed by the USPS and law enforcement agencies leaves us with the conclusion that privacy in the mail is tenuous at best. The massive dragnet holds similarities to that of the NSA in its effort to track the digital and telephone communications of every American.
WINTER HAVEN, FL — Classrooms full of students and staff members were terrified when gun-wielding police officers unexpectedly charged in and locked down their middle school — an event that was actually part of a realistic drill that no one was allowed to know about.
The disturbing event happened early in the school day at Jewett Middle Academy on Thursday, November 13th, 2014. Without explanation, the principal announced at 9:00 a.m. that the school was being put into lockdown.
Moments later, police officers swept through the school, classroom-by-classroom, with weapons drawn. The bewildered children and teachers actually thought they were in real danger.
“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us,” said 7th grader Lauren Marionneaux to FOX affiliate WTVT.
The event was an “active shooter drill,” which are becoming commonplace in America’s public schools, with varying degrees of realism and notification. Ostensibly promoted as a way to thwart school shootings, the controversial and dangerous drills also subtly shape the perspectives of young, impressionable minds.
Many schools run such drills during the summer or when class is not in session. Many use volunteers rather than unsuspecting students. But not in Polk County, Florida.
“I thought he was going to shoot me,” said student Stacy Ray to FOX 13, after seeing an officer carrying a rifle sweep through her classroom.
The teams of officers were not carrying prop firearms. The weapons were real and they were loaded with real ammunition, police confirmed to the Washington Post.
Frightened children began to send text messages to their parents, sending them into a panic. No parent had been notified that the dramatic event was going to occur, nor asked permission, nor granted consent. The first official explanation came in an email, on the day after the drill.
The secrecy was intentional and required, administrators confirmed.
“We do not give advanced notice of fire drills,” the school rationalized to to parents in an email, “in order to evaluate how safety procedures work.”
After many criticisms, the only thing that officials agreed to change in Polk County is the presence of actual, loaded weapons during the drills. The drills will continue, without warning or consent, whether parents like it or not.
“It really is to protect the children,” said Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird.
STETTIN, WI — An elderly couple was traumatized when two dozen sheriff’s deputies swarmed their rural home, prepared to confiscate their property because of zoning ordinance violations.
The outrageous raid took place at the 20-acre property of Roger and Marjorie Hoeppner, who live in a wooded area on Highway 29 in the tiny town of Stettin, Wisconsin. The October raid was the culmination of years of harassment from the town against the couple, which Mr. Hoeppner believes is a “vendetta” against him.
It all stems from the town of Stettin — population 2,554 — making forcible demands to property owners about the appearance of their private land. The town, including Town Chairman Matt Wasmundt, took a particular interest in the Hoeppners’ property, which contains tractors, stacks of pallets, and other property belonging to the couple.
Mr. Hoeppner runs a business in which he repairs both tractors and broken pallets. Aside from interfering with his income, Hoeppner objects on the belief that he was being singled out, as he believes many other residents fall afoul of the same ordinances.
The six-year legal fight is summarized by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
In 2008, the town sued Hoeppner over claimed violations of ordinances about zoning, signs, rubbish and vehicles. About a year later, the two sides settled; Hoeppner was supposed to clean up his property, and the town was supposed to open discussions about its zoning.
The town felt Hoeppner had not complied, and it brought a motion for contempt and enforcement. In September 2010, a judge ordered Hoeppner to remove certain items from his land.
The following May, the judge found Hoeppner had still not complied and authorized the town to seize assets. In the summer of 2011, the town hauled away several tractors, pallets, equipment and other items and auctioned them off for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Lister.
But the dispute wasn’t over. In April 2013, the judge entered a final judgment that imposed a $500-a-day fine against Hoeppner for not adhering to the original May 2011 order, and granting the town’s legal fees.
Hoeppner appealed, but lost in a March ruling. So by Oct. 2, he owed the town about $80,000, according to court records, and the Town of Stettin obtained a writ of execution to collect — without notice to Hoeppner or his attorneys, they say.
To collect the egregious $80,000 fine, officials called up some muscle to present a show of force against the elderly couple. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department dutifully followed orders and marched onto the Hoeppners’ property and put the homeowner in shackles.
A total of 24 deputies participated in the raid, and brought their armored quarter-million-dollar Lenco Bearcat vehicle.
The deputies literally drove Mr. Hoeppner to the bank and forced him to withdraw money from his retirement account to pay off the extortive court order.
Mrs. Hoeppner was so traumatized by the raid that she had to be taken to the hospital.
“Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment” with a police raid, said attorney Ryan Lister to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The lawful oppression of the Hoeppners — which cost the couple $200,000 in legal fees and fines — perfectly illustrates the inherent injustice of zoning ordinances. When petty tyrants are able to dictate the rules for other people’s private property, homeowners are faced with a choice to submit or potentially lose everything, even over the most menial of complaints.
Town Chairman Matt Wasmundt
Phone: (715) 571-1483
Email: [email protected]
SUMMERVILLE, SC — Fans were startled by the heavy presence of police officers, drone surveillance, and warrantless checkpoints upon entry at the local high school football game.
The prison-like security at Summerville High School was called “the reality of the world we live in today.” As students and fans filed into the homecoming football game on Friday, October 24th, 2014, they were forced to place their belongings in a bin for police examination, then walk through a metal detector. Stadium-goers were restricted from bringing certain items into the stands.
“It is very scary to come here tonight,” said Summerville resident said Ann Almers to WCIV. “It’s such a change, I’ve been coming to the stadium for so many years. Now we have armed guards. I couldn’t carry my purse, I forgot my phone. I’m a little out of sorts.”
Fans also were quick to notice the conspicuous presence of police officers mixed among the crowd and perched on the rooftops, surveillance drones whirring overhead, and even SWAT team members ready for action.
The security bonanza was imposed because school district officials had allegedly been tipped off that rival gangs might fight at the game, WCIV reported. No incidents of violence were reported.
The event might have been the site of the most elaborate and intrusive level of security employed at any high school sports event to date. With a precedent set, more schools are sure to follow suit with drone surveillance and police checkpoints.
See video of the checkpoints via WCIV:
CLEBURNE, TX — Body-cam video shows how an officer coaxed a family dog toward him with friendly kissing sounds before raising his weapon and firing.
The incident took place on August 10, 2014, when dogs belonging to Quinton Tatum and Amanda Henderson escaped from their fenced-in yard while the married couple was not at home. Some neighbors called the government to complain that the dogs were loose and interfering with them walking from their car to their house.
When a Cleburne police officer arrived at the scene, one of the pit bulls happily approached him, wagging its tail, and licked his face. This was included in the police report and can be seen on video from the officer’s body cam.
After the friendly interaction with the first dog took place in the front of the house, the officer then attempted to locate the other two dogs. They turned out to be playing in a nearby irrigation ditch between the homes, in a more obscured area.
As recorded on his body-camera, the Cleburne officer then began coaxing the dogs over to him by making kissing sounds, which can be heard in the video. The dogs respond by wagging their tails and exhibiting very friendly body language, video shows.
That’s when the officer raises his pistol and began firing. Three shots can be heard, along with a pitiful yelp.
One dog rolled over and died from the gunshots. The other frightened pet backed away, paused, then ran home.
View the moments of the shooting below:
Soon after, an animal control officer arrived on the scene with a catchpole to collect the remaining two dogs who were still alive. Video shows that animal control officer didn’t even need to use the catchpole, since speaking to the dogs in a friendly tone was all that was required to get them to follow her to a secure area with tails wagging.
The officer’s narrative is the subject of some speculation from witnesses and many who have viewed the video.
The official report states: “I raised my duty weapon to the ready position – pointed at the growling dog’s head. As soon as I lifted my pistol, the dog began coming up the hill, continuing to growl and display its teeth… I fired three shots at it.”
No growling or teeth baring is evident from the video at all. In fact, every angle of the dogs portrays them as friendly.
“Words can’t even explain that,” commented Mr. Tatum after viewing the video of the officer tricking his pet before opening fire.
The Cleburne police department is claiming that the video has been taken out of context and reiterates that the officer was only “assisting” the dog-phobic 9-1-1 callers, suggesting that they were “pinned” inside their vehicle by “aggressive” dogs.
The incident remains under department review, and the identity of the shooter remains without consequence. He has been identified as Officer Kevin Dupre.
“Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” — Robert Kennedy