Thursday, April 26, 2018

Society is Partially Responsible For 'Incel Rebellion'


As tragic as the Toronto van attack was, I can’t help but feel that the perpetrator was not the sole conduit for this violence. I’m usually one to lay responsibility at the perpetrators feet, but I think this incident and the motive behind it was a little different from your usual hit and run murder sprees. The perpetrator, 25 year old Alek Minassian, was a self-described incel: an involuntary celibate for those unfamiliar with Reddit lingo. His frustration, his rage stemmed from the simple fact that he had not had sex yet. Whatever else he had going on in his life he threw away over a lack of sex. Now maybe he didn’t have much. Maybe he had other issues that caused him to crack, but you have to ask yourself what would cause him to place so much value on this one thing that he thought he was a failure without it. I’m not just talking about Alek Minassian, but all self-described ‘incels’ who’d be willing to throw their whole lives away for temporary pleasure. I don’t think they arrived at this conclusion by themselves. I don’t think Alek Minassian and other incels came to value sex over every other pleasure imaginable. Some people will say it’s just evolution, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Sex might be the only metric of success for lower animals like dogs and rodents, but humans are a lot more complex. Our needs extend beyond basic physiological functions and with fertility rates declining below replacement level, reproduction isn’t really that relevant anymore. I thinks it’s a socio-cultural problem. Society has put this thing on a pedestal and attached more significance than what it’s really worth. It has created a stigma for those who go without it and attached all kinds of unwarranted assumptions about their character. If society didn’t stigmatize ‘virginity’, a construct it made up whole cloth,would these men feel the same frustration and anxiety that they do now? If society tolerated ‘virgins’ or was at least indifferent to them, would they feel the same pain? Or would they feel more free to be open about who they truly are? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think a lack of sexual intimacy is the only problem that incels have. I do think these people have serious character flaws and it’s reflected in the way they handle their problems. Maybe some of them also have personality disorders, although as a non-physiatrist I can’t confirm this. But they wouldn’t hyperfocus on this one thing if it weren’t for the prodding of society to ‘get laid’ and your a weirdo if you don’t.

For everyone with hangups over being a ‘virgin’ just know that:
  1. There’s no such thing as male virginity. It is a social construct with no medical or scientific validity
  2. Your self-worth does not depend on female validation. Celibacy is nothing to be ashamed of; find what makes you happy instead of always trying to fit in.
  3. Your sex drive has other outlets for expression besides the physical one. Our ideas and intuitions come from the same creative energy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Should Psychologists Be Involved In Capital Punishment?


The question of whether it is ethically permissible for forensic psychologists to conduct evaluations of defendants in capital offense cases pertains to standard 1.02 of the APA code of ethics. Standard 1.02, which regulates conflicts between legal authority and professional ethics, obliges psychologists to inform the authorities in question about the conflict, their commitment to the APA code of ethics, and try to resolve the conflict in compliance with the general principles of the ethics code (Fisher, 2017). Furthermore, standard 1.02 prohibits psychologists from participating in any state sanctioned activities that may be used to rationalize human rights violations (2017). This last dictum was added to standard 1.02 in 2010 following the conclusion of an investigation into coordination between some APA staff members and DOD psychologists who provided guidance on torture techniques (Fisher, 2017). This amendment of standard 1.02 has brought other controversial psychologist roles into contention. In particular, some have called into question whether clinical psychologists should be involved in evaluating defendants who could face the death penalty. Fisher argues that the deeply flawed death penalty procedures and the inherent fallibility of psychological tests exacerbates the inequities in capital punishment that sometimes puts innocent people on death row (Fisher, 2013). To the contrary, Brodsky, Neal and Jones argue that the involvement of forensic psychologists helps prevent human rights violations by reducing the arbitrariness of death penalty proceedings and adding an assessment that ‘may divert defendants from the criminal justice process to the mental health system (Brodsky, Neal, and Jones, 2013, p.64).

Capital punishment could be considered a human rights violation because the flawed criminal justice processes sometimes puts innocent people on death row. Since 1973, at least 102 inmates sentenced to death have been subsequently exonerated (Fisher, 2013). Furthermore, defendants who are racial minorities and have low socioeconomic status tend to receive the death penalty more frequently than white, middle class defendants who commit the same crime, suggesting that capital punishment procedures are highly skewed by racial and class biases (Fisher, 2013). Both discrimination and punishment of innocent people constitute grave human rights violations that psychologist should not participate in. The psychological evaluation of defendants is undermined by the fact that most test results for cognitive disability and other mental disorders are probabilistic in nature - they only establish the likelihood that the defendant has one or mental disorders that impair competency based on the similarity of their scores to those already diagnosed with the disorder in question (Fisher, 2013). For instance, IQ scores and adaptive skills are used to assess mental retardation, a condition which makes a death sentence constitutionally unviable. The U.S. Supreme Court prohibited death sentences for defendants with mental retardation in Atkins v. Virginia, but failed to define the term (Fisher, 2013). In psychiatry, it is diagnosed as an intellectual disability and requires, along with current below average intelligence and a lack of adaptive skills necessary for independent living, a documented history of the two deficits prior to 18 years of age (Fisher, 2013). This would generally be difficult if not impossible for defendants from low socioeconomic backgrounds because children raised in poverty are usually never evaluated for intellectual or developmental disabilities and their academic and medical records tend to be sparse compared to children in higher socioeconomic brackets (Fisher, 2013).

Capital punishment in and of itself is not a human rights violation. It could be reasonably argued that defendants forfeit their human rights by violating the human rights of their victims (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Furthermore, there are numerous legal mechanisms in place that can be used to correct errors in capital offense cases such as direct appellate review, federal habeas corpus petitions, and the consideration of mitigating factors during the sentencing phase (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Clinical psychologists, for their own part as expert witnesses, provide information to judges and jurors that could counteract their prejudices and help save innocent people from being sent to death row. For instance, psychologists can provide information about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony based on how human memory changes over time (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). This would engender a healthy skepticism towards the credibility of eyewitness testimony (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Psychologists also take on a neutral role when they become involved in capital offense cases (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). They are usually retained by a neutral court, but when they are retained by the prosecution or defendant, they only provide information about the defendant’s mental state without making conclusions about the sentencing (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). For these reasons, psychologist’s participation in death penalty cases should be seen not as an activity that justifies human rights violations, but as one that protects human rights. For instance, competency assessments can provide evidence of psychopathology or intellectual disability that could save some defendants from execution and get them the proper treatment they need (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Brodsky, Neal, and Jones only object to the use of psychotherapy to restore convicted defendants’ competency for execution, but otherwise regard their involvement as something that should not be out right prohibited (2013).

A provision which prohibits psychologists from conducting competency for execution assessments may be objected to on the grounds that it does not directly implicate the psychologist in the execution. One argument for it being unethical is that the only purpose of these assessments is to aid the state in determining whether to kill the convicted (Bonnie, 1990). However, as Bonnie notes, a psychologist’s role in the competency for execution assessment is not clearly distinguishable from their other roles in the criminal justice process such as in evaluating whether prisoners should be placed in a mental health facility or whether they are fit for parole (1990). Furthermore, there is no qualitative difference between their sentencing evaluations in death penalty cases and their sentencing evaluations in non-death penalty cases (Bonnie, 1990).

Rather than outright prohibiting psychologists from participating in capital offense cases, the APA should allow individual psychologists to use their own discretion in deciding whether their involvement would be contrary to the general principles. Yes, the legal proceedings for death penalty cases are deeply flawed and prone to racial and class bias, but there are numerous legal safeguards, such as appellate review and federal habeas corpus petitions, to protect innocent and incompetent defendants, and the psychologist’s role here is to provide an objective framework for evaluating whether defendants are competent to stand trial and/or be executed. Therefore, the psychologist’s role in death penalty cases is one that helps protect human rights not one that justifies their violation

References

Bonnie, R. J. (1990). Dilemmas in administering the death penalty: Conscientious abstention, professional ethics, and the needs of the legal system. Law And Human Behavior, 14(1), 67-90. doi:10.1007/BF01055790

Brodsky, S. L., Neal, T. S., & Jones, M. A. (2013). A reasoned argument against banning psychologists' involvement in death penalty cases. Ethics & Behavior, 23(1), 62-66. doi:10.1080/10508422.2013.757954

Fisher, C. B. (2013). Human rights and psychologists' involvement in assessments related to death penalty cases. Ethics & Behavior, 23(1), 58-61. doi:10.1080/10508422.2013.749761

Fisher, C. B. (2017). Standards for resolving ethical issues. In Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists (4th ed., pp. 205-224). Los Angeles: SAGE.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Utah Highway Patrol Stole $500,000 From Innocent Man


Source: Fox 13 Salt Lake City, Utah Property Protection Act

In 2016, Utah Highway Patrol pulled over Kyle Savely for tailgating another vehicle. For some reason, UHP called out a drug dog that “alerted” them, but it turned out to be a false positive. Although there were no drugs in Mr. Savely’s vehicle, but they did find a bag with $500,000 and stole it under using the rationalization that it could possibly be linked to a crime. Utah Highway Patrol handed the money over to the federal government because supposedly there was an active DEA investigation. In reality, they handed the cash over to the feds so they could keep 80% of the funds and avoid having to provide clear and convincing evidence that it was subject to forfeiture under the Utah Property Protection Act of 2000. Even if Utah Highway Patrol had clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Savely’s cash was criminal proceeds they would not be allowed to keep since the Utah Property Protection Act mandates that all revenue from asset forfeiture be contributed to the Utah Uniform School Fund. Mr. Savely was also acquitted of the minor traffic violation they detained him for and the DEA investigation turned up empty handed, to no one’s surprise. So it looks like they pulled him over on a specious pretext to steal his money.

'The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber.....The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves the government, are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.'

-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VI

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

California May Compensate Victims of Their Eugenics Programme


Source: Californiaheathline.org

From 1909 to 1979, the state of California forcible sterilized 20,000 residents deemed genetically inferior by the state.The victims of this state programme include Rose Zaballos, who was forcibly sterilized at the direction of her older brother in 1939 and died as a result of the operation.California was not alone in their efforts to weed out undesirables and breed a master race. Across the country, 32 states, including my own, adopted similar measures to sterilize people with mental illnesses, physical disabilities, racial minorities, and people deemed to exhibit abnormal behavior by the government. 60,000 people were forcibly sterilized from the early 20th century to the late to mid 70’s. California abolished it’s programme in 1979, publicly apologized for it in 2003, and is now considering paying out reparations for it’s victims under Senate Bill 1190. There are currently estimated to be 800 living victims of the eugenics programme. The passage of this bill would make California the third state to provide reparations for the victims of the eugenics movement, following in the footsteps of North Carolina and Virginia.

Monday, April 16, 2018

DAPL Journalists Still Awaiting Trial


Source: Inforum.com

Six of the ten journalists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in late 2016 early 2017 are still awaiting criminal trial in Morton County, North Dakota. Jenni Monet, a journalist who does freelance work for multiple news outlets and is one of the six still awaiting trial was charged with criminal trespass and rioting, but has yet to receive her arrest report. She was arrested while leaving a protester camp, strip searched and held for thirty hours in a chain link cage with 19 protestors. Her cohort, LaFleur-Vetter, who does photography for the Guardian, was arrested on similar charges on October 22, 2016, while filming a prayer march, but has since been acquitted. This brings up two concerns: the sixth amendment guarantee of a speedy trial and most importantly the first amendment guarantee to freedom of the press. Don’t get me wrong. I am not under any delusion that the federal and state governments will actually honor their “social contract” with us. That is an article of faith I no longer believe in. I brought this up because it demonstrates that we are worse off than what we imagined. All of the journalists arrested were freelance journalists who actually covered the protest. The local journalists who stayed behind police lines and stuck to the official government narrative were left alone. Sure they were trespassing on government property, a particular piece of land claimed by the Army Corps, but the federal government claims to own 30% of the continental land mass and state, municipal, and county governments own the rest. Under the federalist regime any unwanted protesters or journalists could be deemed to be trespassing or causing public disorder at the drop of a hat, and the constitution’s bill of rights would be completely worthless in protecting them.

Ethics of Theistic Therapy


According to Fisher, religious and spiritual practices are typically implemented into therapy along a secular-theistic therapy continuum (2017). At one extreme are religiously sensitive therapies that combine a purely clinical approach to therapy with a tolerance and acceptance for the diverse religious and spiritual beliefs of clients (Fisher, 2017). At the other end of the spectrum are theistic therapies that utilize the religious and spiritual beliefs, practices, and texts of the client and therapist during treatment (Fisher, 2017). Between these two extremes are religiously accommodative therapies that utilize religious vernacular and practices that are drawn from the client’s faith to facilitate their mental health goals (Fisher, 2017). The subject of this paper will be the second category, theistic therapy, and the ethical restraints and guidelines that psychotherapists must following when implementing it.

Several obvious concerns come to the forefront. Without delving into the details of the subject one would immediately question a therapist’s competence in handling something as sensitive as religious belief given the various and subtle nuances that exist even within the same religion. Another immediately obvious concern is the slippery slope that religious beliefs and practices could completely supplant the evidence based clinical approach. Fisher echoes such concerns by pointing out the indispensability of professional mental health knowledge (2017). A third apparent concern is that some therapist may use the cover of theistic therapy to impose their religious or spiritual values, beliefs and practices on clients. This one would be a significant concern in ethics since it strikes at the very foundation of professional ethics: the informed consent doctrine shared by both psychological and medical practitioners. These three obvious concerns, and several less obvious concerns, can be addressed within the pre-established categories of the APA code of ethics. The use of religious beliefs, texts, and practices within the context of therapy also has the potential to establish multiple relationships between the therapist and client, which is already discouraged and often outright prohibited by standard 3.05 of the APA code of ethics. As mentioned earlier, the imposition of religious or spiritual values, beliefs or practices already constitutes a fundamental violation of informed consent, and incompetence in the implementation of religious techniques and practices is already regulated under standard 2.01, which establishes the boundaries of practitioner competence, but there are less obvious ethical concerns to address. As Richards and Bergin mention in A Spiritual Strategy for Counseling and Psychotherapy, seeing clients from the same church or congregation as the therapist may lead to the unintentional leaking of a client’s confidential information, violating standard 4.01 of the APA ethics code (1997). Similar concerns can be found when therapist use their religious values to confront their client’s lifestyle choices. Condemnation of clients for their lifestyle choices could break their trust in the therapist and bring them undue harm, which is contrary to the general principle of beneficence (Richards and Bergin, 1997). If the client is of a different faith than the therapist, particularly a minority faith, it could be unfair discrimination, which is a violation of standard 3.01. None of this implies that theistic therapy is infeasible, but it is a grey area that therapist should approach with caution by following a handful of guidelines that protect the client from harm and exploitation.

There are several precautions that therapist can take to implement theistic therapy and spiritual interventions while remaining in compliance with the code of ethics. One step that therapists can take, that is often ignored by mainstream psychotherapists, is to collaborate and consult with the client’s ecclesiastical leader whenever they implement any religious or spiritual elements (Richards and Bergin, 1997). Therapists who use theistic therapy run the risk of usurping the ecclesiastical leader's authority and assuming the dual role of both psychotherapist and religious leader, which constitutes an unethical multiple relationship (Richards and Bergin, 1997). Collaborating and consulting with the client’s ecclesiastical leader allows therapists to establish firm boundaries between these two roles and helps therapists better assist clients in meeting their mental health and spiritual needs. Furthermore, as Richards and Bergin note, religious communities can provide benefits that therapy alone cannot provide (1997). For instance, religious communities can alleviate social isolation, which is major factor in preventing suicide (Richards and Bergin, 1997). Religious communities can also provide financial and employment assistance and help clients find meaning in their lives (Richards and Bergin, 1997). Regardless of the benefits of collaborating with clients’ ecclesiastical leaders, therapists should always get the expressed permission of their clients to contact their religious leaders and affirm this permission upon initial contact.

Insensitivity to diverse religious traditions, imposition of one’s religious values, beliefs, or practices and unfair discrimination against certain religions can be avoided by learning about the diverse cultural backgrounds of their clients and exploring how their own cultural identities affect their beliefs about therapy (Weld and Eriksen, 2007). Some behaviors that therapists may think are friendly and benign could be forms of proselytizing that make clients uncomfortable and less willing to share their problems with therapists. Proselytizing includes giving clients literature about one’s religious sect or spiritual beliefs, inviting clients to attend religious services, and teaching clients about one’s belief system when it is irrelevant to the client’s mental health goals (Richards and Bergin, 1997). One step that therapists can take to avoid offending clients is to make sure they work within the client’s belief system when they pray with them or encourage them to pray (Weld and Eriksen, 2007). Similarly, condemnation of clients’ lifestyle choices can cross the thin line between moral confrontation and religious imposition (Richards and Bergin, 1997). For this reason, Richards and Bergin recommend that therapists inform clients about the physical, mental and spiritual consequences of their behavior and the risks they take in continuing this behavior (1997). Clients that do not share the same faith as their therapists may engage in certain behaviors that are integral to their faith, but which their therapists consider spiritually harmful. For instance, a Christian therapist may view a wiccan client’s spell casting as playing with fire. In such instances, it would be best to focus on the common ground between therapist and client and suggest practical ways that the client can go about meeting their mental health goals. Weld and Eriksen recommend that therapists examine the values inherent in their own counseling process to further manage and assess their client’s expression of values and beliefs (2007). This could include discussing their own perspective on prayer with their clients (Weld and Eriksen, 2007).

Confidentiality is perhaps as fundamental in a therapeutic relationship as a client’s trust in their therapist. In fact, the two are inseparable. Therapists that serve members of their own congregation or religious organization run the risk of breaching client confidentiality. Their interaction with clients in multiple settings makes it less likely for them to remember where they learned certain information about their clients (Richards and Bergin, 1997). In such instances, they may accidentally disclose information about their clients, to other members of the congregation, that they learned during a therapy session, but which they mistakenly believe came from a church related activity (Richards and Bergin, 1997). Even telling clients that they need to reschedule their appointments, during a religious gathering, constitutes a serious breach of client confidentiality (Richards and Bergin, 1997). To avoid this ethical pitfall, therapists and clients from the same congregation should have their arrangements approved and monitored by a board of review (Richards and Bergin, 1997).

Theistic therapy is a feasible approach to psychotherapy that can help clients cope with their mental health problems and meet their spiritual needs too, but like other kinds of therapy it has ethical pitfalls. Fundamental ethical standards are at stake when religion and spirituality are incorporated into therapy, so therapists must take multiple precautions to avoid unethical conduct. In general, they should develop a sensitivity to the cultural and religious diversity of their clients, research the nuances and religious belief systems, and always obtain the expressed permission of their clients before incorporating any spiritual or religious practices.

References

Weld, C., & Eriksen, K. (2007). The Ethics of Prayer in Counseling. COUNSELING AND VALUES, (2). 125.

Fisher, C. B. (2017).Standards on therapy. In Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists (4th ed., pp. 113-171).Los Angeles: SAGE.

Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (1997). Ethical issues and guidelines. In , A spiritual strategy for counseling and psychotherapy (pp. 143-169). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10241-007

Thursday, April 12, 2018

State Imposed Smoking Bans Don't Protect Workers


This is a follow up response to a post made by @eric-the-red Free Market Solutions.

A common argument for forcing restaurants, bars, and casinos to kick smokers out of their establishment is that it protects the workers from secondhand smoke. This might be a valid contention if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that restaurant, bar, and casino workers are significantly more inclined to smoke than the general population. In fact, according to the CDC they are about 1.5x more likely to smoke than workers in other industries.

CDC analyzed National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data for 2011–2013 to estimate current cigarette smoking prevalence among adults working in the accommodation and food services sector, and found that these workers had higher cigarette smoking prevalence (25.9%) than all other workers (17.3%).

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant would intuitively know this. This is what the waitstaff do on their breaks. Saying your intention is to protect them from secondhand smoke is kind of worthless if they’re already inhaling first hand smoke at a significantly higher rate than the customers they serve.

Of course this isn’t an endorsement of cigarette smoking or any other kind of smoking for that matter. I am personally against smoking; putting tar in your lungs is never a good idea. Smoking is bad M'kay, but you are the only one with a moral claim to your own body; only you have the prerogative to decide what you put in it. In a state of affairs where unhealthy behavior wasn’t subsidized at the taxpayers expense, the grim consequences would deter such behavior. Despite its posturing and moral grandstanding on the issue of smoking, the government, through its department of agriculture still subsidizes crop insurance premiums for tobacco farms, and until 2004 the government fixed tobacco leaf prices to guarantee high profits to farms.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Obey Your Masters Without Question


This is a meme I was inspired to create by fellow cop hater @mikebluehair42. I can't remember the exact context, but it was in response to an episode of his podcast Strategic Noncompliance where he talks with other cop watchers and first amendment auditors about their experience filming the police on duty. We tend to take freedom of speech and of the press for granted and give scant attention to the ways in which the 'authorities' undermine it. It's fair to say that unless you actively challenge the 'authorities' and their narrative of the world you never see past the illusion that you have this freedom.

Olmos Park Police Sued For Violating First Amendment Rights



Source: News 4 San Antonio

I first learned about these gun grabbers from @mikebluehair42 on his podcast Strategic Noncompliance. Apparently, this suburb of San Antonio had an ordinance, which was recently removed during a city council meeting, that practically banned open carry. I say practically because it technically only banned open carrying loaded guns, which we all know is a specious pretext for arbitrary search and seizure. A video of Olmos Park Police pummeling two men on the ground for peacefully exercising their second amendment rights sparked a gun rights protest and the alternative media attention now circulating this event. Apparently, in a related event from February, Olmos Park Police arrested a man named Jack Miller for open carrying a rifle at night and assaulted a woman for filming the incident.

Joanna Castro, who is also a second amendment advocate and copwatcher, has filed a lawsuit against one particular officer for violating her first amendment right of free press by ordering her to stop filming, slapping her camera, shoving her to the ground, hitting her with an AR15 and having her arrested in retaliation for filming them. As you can see from the video above, Joanna was not interfering with the arrest at any point; she was at least 50 feet away from the guy open carrying. The thug officer clearly initiated the aggression and escalated the encounter into physical violence.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not Just U.S., Cops Are Thugs In Other Countries Too


Source: Beaten, Abused, humiliated and filmed by Victoria Police

This is a story about a mentally ill man in Australia being beaten and tortured by police simply for wanting to be left alone. He did not commit a crime nor was he planning to commit a crime. The man was sitting in his house going through opioid withdrawals, after deciding to go cold turkey, while simultaneously recovering from chronic back pain, for which he was prescribed the painkillers, and cancer remission. The man was physically ill and not in the best of shape, to say the least, so it’s understandable why he didn’t want to be harrassed by police. These events transpired in September of last year after his psychologist stupidly called police to conduct a welfare check, worried about his mental health. Beating, pepper spraying and blasting the man with a hose obviously made his vulnerable mental state much worse and perhaps resulted in lifelong trauma. The psychologist should be considered liable for this incident along with the five pigs that assaulted him. Apparently Australia has a statute similar to the U.S. that allows police to involuntarily hospitalize people if they ‘appear’ mentally ill, which in practice allows these thugs to harass, beat up, torture and sometimes kill innocent people going through hard times.

You can see the original video in the source link. The CCTV camera video shows the police drag the man out of the door and pin him face down on the ground, after he yelled at them to leave him alone. One of the thugs begins to beat him repeatedly in the leg with a baton while another pepper sprays him in the face. After the man asks them if they feel tough for beating up a retired pensioner, one of them blasts him in the face with a hose while another films it with his cellphone, presumably to share it with his fellow gang members. The ambulance eventually arrives and the man is taken to the hospital.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Who's Watching The Watchers?


A new study, conducted out of the University of Denver, reveals that despite open records laws on the book and a state supreme court mandate for records custodians to release public records related to police misconduct, Colorado police remain extremely opaque in their internal affairs investigations. The police investigate themselves and find themselves innocent of wrongdoing. We all know that from experience; that’s why it’s cliche, but now we can put some hard data to it.

The researchers in this case used the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act to request the internal affairs logs of the forty-three largest law enforcement agencies within the state from the years 2015 and 2016. The jurisdiction of these forty-three agencies cover eighty percent of Colorado’s population; thus, they are critical to any measure of government transparency (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Of the forty-three agencies that received CCJA requests for any lists, logs, summaries, or synopses of internal affairs investigations, twenty-four either did not respond or rejected the request outright without explanation (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Law enforcement agencies were given thirty days respond to the request and multiple attempts were made to contact their records custodians (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Out of the remaining respondents, the law school researchers requested specific internal affairs files, categorizing them by the type of incident, the outcome of the investigation, the party making the claim against law enforcement and media coverage of the incident which would indicate public interest (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). They requested the internal affairs files of investigations into both alleged policy violations and criminal complaints and noted whether the allegations were considered unfounded or sustained, hypothesizing that police agencies would be more willing to release the files of internal affairs investigations that concluded that the complaints were unfounded.

In the second wave of CCJA requests, researchers requested sixty-one specific internal affairs files from the law enforcement agencies that responded to the first wave of requests. Six of the sixty-one specific internal affairs files concerned police misconduct that garnered significant media coverage, resulted in ‘unfounded’ allegations, but nonetheless lead to a large settlement with the alleged victim. The results were even more dismal than the first wave of requests. Seven agencies failed to respond even after multiple attempts were made to follow up with them (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Another seven agencies denied the requests outright without providing a sufficient explanation (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). One agency sent a duplicate summary of internal affairs files and two agencies demanded thousands of dollars in fees to fulfill the requests (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Not one complete internal affairs file was obtained in the process (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018).

Most law enforcement agencies denied access to internal affairs files in violation of the Colorado supreme court decision in Harris v. Denver Post Corp, which requires records custodians to determine the release of files on a case by case basis, using what is referred to as a balancing test that weighs five factors to determine release or withholding of files. Records custodians must consider the privacy of the individuals who would be affected by the release of certain files, the agency’s interest in retaining confidential information, the agency’s interest in not compromising ongoing investigations, and the public purpose of releasing the files.

In making this statutory determination, the custodian takes into account and balances the pertinent factors, which include the privacy interests of individuals who may be impacted by a decision to allow inspection; the agency's interest in keeping confidential information confidential; the agency's interest in pursuing ongoing investigations without compromising them; the public purpose to be served in allowing inspection; and any other pertinent consideration relevant to the circumstances of the particular request.

- Harris v. Denver Post Corp, 2005

As the study relates, the seven agencies that outright denied their requests used similar vague statements and without citing the specific source for their statements (Dupey, Kwoka, and Mcmichael, 2018). Researchers recommend an amendment to the current Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act that requires law enforcement records custodians to publicly release complete internal affairs investigation files upon request with some redactions. Like all well meaning police reformists, they seem to be operating under the false presumption that the police are here to ‘protect and serve’ them.

References

Dupey, B., Kwoka, M. B., & Mcmichael, C. (2018). Access Denied: Colorado Law Enforcement Refuses Public Access to Records of Police Misconduct. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3136011

Harris v. Denver Post Corp (November 15, 2005).