Showing posts with label good intentions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label good intentions. Show all posts

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.


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).

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Elderly Couple Arrested For Buying Plants Without State Permission

Sources: The Kansas City Star

New York Times: U.S. Is Pressed to Comply With Wildlife Protection Treaty

It’s not the kind of plants you would expect either. Kermit and Sandy Schofield from Theodosia, MO could receive a 5 year prison sentence for purchasing ginseng root in Arkansas and transporting it back to Missouri without obtaining the government’s permission, and for doing so outside a 6 month window in which the government allows people to purchase the herb. The couple bought ginseng root in bulk to sell through their home business, Schofield Roots and Herbs, without having a certification to do so, which is in part the result of an international treaty, called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. What most people don’t realize is that much of our laws, like this one, are dictated by international treaties and international bodies not subject to democratic scrutiny. The aforementioned treaty shaped U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy for animals like lynx and snow leopard as well as herbs like ginseng. However, unlike the first two examples, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is not listed in the Endangered Species Act. In fact, ginseng is abundant across the midwest and east coast states; the root is sold by botanical stores everywhere. It’s hard to imagine what interest the government would have in protecting this plant other than extorting people to support their bloated bureaucracy. In reality, private landowners have more of a vested interest in the preservation of this plant than any paper pusher in Washington, especially if it’s one of the means by which they make a living.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Voting Is Not Informed Consent

at least not under the current paradigm


Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program

The U.S Government Supports Genocide Against Indigenous Peoples Through Conservation

Federal Programs Fund Secret Stingray Spying

For instance, did you know that the pentagon spent $22M investigating UFO sightings from 2007 until 2012. Most of the money went to aerospace research company run by Harry Reid’s billionaire friend Robert Bigelow, without producing much in the way of results. We aren’t any closer to being certain that UFOs are alien spacecraft than we were in 2007 before the program began. Of course, pentagon officials claim they have stopped funding the program for good, but we wouldn’t know that for sure since it was part of the $52.6B Black budget; things you are forced to pay for but aren’t allowed to know about. The federal government could be scheming against you, but you’d be none the wiser. The use of cell site simulators by state and local police is the most recent example. The funds to purchase this surveillance equipment comes from federal agencies such as DHS and DOJ, and police departments are made to sign non-disclosure agreements upon purchase, which prohibits them from releasing any information about the use and purchase of the equipment itself. For all we know, Uncle Sam could be using the data collected through stingray surveillance to keep tabs on its citizens. Of course, there are more insidious historical examples such as COINTELPRO and MKUltra, both of which in the long run aimed to crackdown on political dissent. The NSA was a secret agency for the first 23 years of its existence, and yet citizens were still forced to pay for it. There are other programs that aren’t kept secret, but which few people know about anyway. For instance, are you aware that USAID funds conservation efforts in the Congo basin by partnering with private NGO’s, like the WWF, and giving them the money to implement their goals? It’s a little known program called the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment that was created during the Clinton administration. Even fewer people know that the program is used to finance the genocide of traditional hunter-gatherer societies like the Baka tribe. Sure these secret and obscure programs are small potatoes in the grand scheme of the $4 trillion dollars, but they run counter to what we were taught in civics class and what the media frequently tells us: that we are a democracy and the government cannot do anything without the consent of the people.

The notion of ‘government by consent’ blossomed out of the enlightenment, but ever since the widespread adoption of republican forms of government few people have contemplated what it actually means. We are familiar with the idea of consent in our interactions with other private individuals. For instance, the majority of people know and acknowledge that sex with another person without their consent is rape regardless of who perpetrates the offense. Informed consent is required in other interactions too. In psychological and biomedical research, researchers cannot use participants in their experiments without their informed consent. It is considered unethical to do otherwise. It is similarly required for medical procedures in non-emergency situations. Informed consent is also required in your daily transactions. When you go to the grocery store and when you shop online you must authorize payments, giving your consent to exchange a certain amount of money for certain goods or services. Informed consent is required for life changing choices such as who you decide to marry. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, considers forced marriage and a lack of informed consent as grounds for an annulment. But for some odd reason people throw their ethical standards by the wayside when it comes to the government. When it comes to the government, they are willing to simultaneously accept secrecy and forced compliance, as long as it doesn’t personally inconvenience them. Supposedly we are consenting to be governed as long as we get to select a name with an R or a D in front of it every two years, but it could hardly even be called assent. The theory that elected officials are accountable to their constituents doesn’t hold weight in real life. The truth is that most voters probably don’t even know half of the things their governments do; in fact, I’d say they know even less. Even people who consider themselves politically savvy probably couldn’t name all of the programs run at the federal level, which numbers into the thousands, or even the state level. To complicate matters further, there are thousands of federal criminal statutes and regulations that can be enforced criminally. I’d say it’s safe to assume that voters don’t know all of them, or even half of them, or even a quarter of them. How did we consent to thousands of laws and programs we don’t know about? The current theory of a “social contract” cannot explain this disparity between voter knowledge and acceptance of the status quo. The reality is that it’s impossible to give your consent to a government that has duplicative programs for every problem in society. Information asymmetry is considered a problem in the private sector, but somehow gets a free pass when it comes to government since you know politicians are such altruistic people who only have our good at heart. Apparently, you can trust people with power, but not freedom.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 29)

Seattle Robs Landlords of Their Right To Choose Tenants

Source: Pacific Legal Foundation

Back on August 9th, 2016, the Seattle city council passed the first in time rule, which mandates that landlords of any capacity must rent to the first qualified candidate who applies for a unit. The statute went into effect on January 1st. Since landlords are no longer allowed to assess the risks involved for candidates who meet broad criteria like not having pets and being able to pay, this has raised rents and made it harder for candidates to meet the criteria for tenancy. Small scale landlords who rent out units on their own residence have been saddled with the greatest burden since they are more dependent on rental income from one tenant than corporate landlords who rent out hundreds of units. One sketchy tenant could make them lose a month's worth of rental income and put them in the hole. Their personal safety would also be put at greater risk, especially for female landlords, since they are no longer able to assess the character of prospective tenants. A few small scale landlords have spoken out against the new mandate. Their grievances run the gamut of issues from personal safety to the financial risks of renting to delinquent tenants. The Pacific Legal Foundation has filed suit against the city of Seattle on behalf of Marilyn Yim, a small scale landlord who lives in one of her own triplex units with her family.

We are, literally, mom-and-pop property owners renting our home to make Seattle affordable for our family and our tenants, and the council’s actions hurt not only us but the very people they keep saying they want to help,” said Mrs. Yim. “We aren’t corporate landlords sitting on large capital reserves or with hundreds of rentals to spread our risk. One bad tenant could take us years to recover from financially. The primary way we have to manage our risk is by carefully selecting tenants and collecting adequate deposits up front. The new city rule deprives us of that flexibility. With this added, undue risk, we can no longer afford to charge below-market rents or give a break to good people who are just starting out or rebuilding from their own setbacks.

No business would be told they have to hire the first person to show up with a decent resume,” said Ms. Lyles. “This law would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so frightening!I inherited a small amount of money — and used the food bank for several years — in order to purchase my rental,” she recounts. “Now, as a female landlord, I’m very concerned about the ‘first in time’ mandate. Women are taught from childhood to ‘trust our gut’; I’m now denied that option. I am terrified of no longer having a choice over whom I entrust with the majority of my yearly income (and life savings), not to mention my personal safety. There are preexisting laws on the books protecting tenants from discrimination; this new one comes at too high a price: robbing landlords of protection from potentially dangerous situations.

The city’s first in time mandate puts an undue burden on small landlords who manage their property after-hours and on weekends, and do not have the capital to hire a management company or absorb the cost of an expensive eviction,” said Scott Davis. “We will be forced to make strict screening requirements to protect our investment, exposure and liability, since we are no longer able to use our best judgment and reasonable discretion in selecting a tenant. The result will be to exclude good tenants who are able to make a good impression.This legislation only rewards the fastest applicant and does nothing to protect the people it seeks to help,” he continued. “As a result of this new rule, we have substantially raised our rents across the board with the anticipation of being forced to hire a property management company and avoid the future sting operations of the city and the convoluted rules that are being implemented.

The intention of the first in time rule was to eliminate unconscious bias against protected classes in the rental market, even though there are already anti-discrimination laws on the book. The statute, though perhaps well meaning, had the opposite effect of what was intended. One of its unintended effects is that it put lower income earners at a greater disadvantage than before the statute was enacted. Another unintended effect is that it favors native english speakers over immigrants, who are more likely to be disadvantaged by a language barrier in the application process. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is not the intentions of policies, but their effects in the long run that make them good or bad, and all of the long run effects of such sweeping policies as this statute cannot be accurately predicted. For this reason, governments of any level should stick to simple and straightforward measures that do not unnecessarily burden their citizens. Shifting taxes onto the unearned increment from land would make rental housing more affordable, and thus more readily available, than forcing landlords to take tenants on a first come first serve basis. The latter merely covers up the symptoms while the former strikes at the root of the problem.