Wednesday links (8/6/14)

Why Springfield police should get dashboard-cameras. Lowell hired private investigators to spy on an ex-library aide who filed a legal claim against the city.

Judge says Worcester police illegally searched vehicle in cocaine bust.

Massachusetts is one of 15 states sharing drivers' images with a controversial CIA "terrorism" database.

How US policy is responsible for the influx of Central American migrants.

The sharing economy will only thrive if the government doesn't strangle it with regulations.

"Native advertising" troublingly blurs the line between journalism and advertisements.

Monday links (7/14/14)

42% of Bostonians are skeptical of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's guilt in the Boston Marathon bombing attacks. ACLU files lawsuit against the federal government after "Joint Terrorism Task Force" officials harass 76-year-old professional photographer for taking pictures of a gas storage tank in Boston.

Report says prison officials are not qualified to run Bridgewater State Hospital and routinely violate the rights of the patients there.

Worcester police chief defends his decision to spend the past seven years trying to ensure a police officer he fired stays fired.

The Sun writes that NEMLEC's funding should be cut off if it contonues to comply with public records requests

Police shooting unresolved two years later, showing importance of cameras

After two years, the Worcester County District Attorney's Office still has not closed its investigation of the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Victor Davila. Davila was killed in Worcester two years ago yesterday when a state trooper who had been on the job for just three months fired a shot through the windshield of a stolen car he was driving. One year after the shooting occurred, the Telegram & Gazette reported that the district attorney's office still had not reached a conclusion on whether the shooting was justified:

The investigation remains open because a woman who was in the car at the time has refused to speak to state police detectives about what happened that morning at the intersection of Chandler and Irving streets, DA's office spokesman Paul Jarvey said.

"Up to this point, the investigation has determined that State Trooper Ryan Doyle was in fear for his life as the vehicle moved toward him, and he acted in self defense," Mr. Jarvey said. "There was no criminal responsibility on the part of the trooper, and the use of lethal force was justified under the circumstances."

However, some people who live in the area told reporters a different version of events the morning of the shooting.

Two witnesses said they saw the trooper standing in front of the car, a Honda Accord, as the driver tried to back up and flee. They said the trooper yelled repeatedly for the man to stop and then fired into the car when he did not comply.

The witnesses said that once the trooper opened the driver's door and pulled the man out, the car coasted forward into a small tree.

Trooper Doyle was returned to duty a few days after the shooting and remains assigned to the Holden Barracks, where he works the overnight shift, said state police spokesman David Procopio.

Mr. Davila's friends and family continue to believe the woman who was in the car, whom they know only as Yomaira, holds answers to what happened that morning.

"I want her to come forward and get this over with. We want justice, to find out why the person had to kill him," said Marie Carmona of Worcester, the mother of Mr. Davila's eldest daughter, 13-year-old Ashley.

Yesterday, the Worcester County District Attorney's Office confirmed that the case is still considered unresolved.

"That investigation of that has not been completed," said Tim Connolly, the Communications Director for the district attorney's office.

I think this shooting is a good example of why police departments should be requiring their officers to use cameras. If this shooting was captured on video, the truth about this shooting could have been determined in a few minutes, regardless of whether or not any witnesses came forward.

A majority of police departments have already equipped their police cruisers with dashboard-mounted cameras. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 61% of local police departments and 67% of sheriff’s departments used dashcams in 2007.

Last year, the state police confirmed in response to a public records request that they do not have cameras installed in any of their vehicles, but this wouldn't have made a difference in this particular case anyway. According to the Telegram, Doyle's cruiser was parked around the corner from where the shooting happened, so a dashcam wouldn't have recorded it.

What might have helped is if the state police used body cameras, which are still rare but are being used by an increasing number of police departments. These cameras are attached to an article of clothing, allowing police to record virtually everything the officer wearing it sees. If the state police had outfitted Doyle with a bodycam, the district attorney's office probably would have reached a conclusion in a matter of days, not years.

Worcester cop gets paid leave while facing allegation of violent home invasion

worcester_pd_patchLast week, The MetroWest Daily News reported this disturbing story about a Worcester police officer who was arrested and charged with home invasion, assault and battery, breaking and entering, trespassing and threatening to commit a crime:

According to a police report filed in Westborough District Court on Thursday, the veteran Worcester Police officer went to his ex-wife’s Shady Lane home on June 17 and began banging on the door, yelling to be let in while yelling profanities.

The report said his ex-wife would not let him in, so Stout forced a kitchen window screen open and climbed through.

"According to (the ex-wife) her ex-husband was in his full Worcester Police Department uniform at the time he forced his way into her house and he did have his gun, which was holstered in his belt/waist area," the report said.

Stout then went to a bedroom, where he attacked his ex-wife’s "companion" by "grabbing him by the neck and punching him several times, striking him in the face and neck area," the report said.

Throughout the attack, Stout yelled "I will kill you," repeatedly. When the assault was over, Stout told the man he would "murder" him if the man was ever around Stout’s family again, the report said.

Despite the serious charges Stout is facing, the police department is still paying him:

Stout, who has been with the Worcester Police Department for 16 years, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal police investigation, Worcester Police spokesman Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst said.

We see this sort of thing all the time. Police officers are accused of misconduct or criminal behavior and the department they work for puts them on administrative leave, but continues to pay them their lucrative salaries (police are some of the highest paid government employees in Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and other communities).

In recent memory, Massachusetts police have been given paid leave while facing allegations including everything from multiple assaults and rapes, to drunken hit-and-run accidents, to stealing military-grade explosives.

This paid time off can last for months, and sometimes even years. For instance, during 2012 and 2013, a West Springfield police captain was on paid leave for almost two years at a salary of about $104,000 while under investigation for several allegations of misconduct, including allegations that he abused several people in his custody.

There is no reason that police who are taken off the job due to allegations of misconduct or criminal behavior should be allowed to continue drawing a paycheck at taxpayer expense. In the case of guilty officers, the public is literally being forced to fund paid vacations for criminals. In the case of the innocent, the public is still being forced to pay people who aren't doing anything to benefit them.

Neither outcome is fair.

Friday links (7/4/14)

Belchertown judge wrongfully throws 73-year-old man in jail for failing to pay $508.27 debt. Former Truro police chief, who resigned after being arrested for OUI, was arrested for OUI again.

Worcester police officer arrested for alleged home invasion and assault stemming from incident at ex-wife's house.

Wiretap report shows explosion in government surveillance, nearly all drug war related.

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz gets her third Muzzle Award in three years, this time for refusing to release files related to the Ibragim Todashev shooting.

The four November ballot questions for Massachusetts have been finalized.

Thursday links (6/12/14)

The Marijuana Policy Project is pushing to get legalization on the 2014 ballot in Massachusetts. National lawmakers rebuke the DEA for threatening Massachusetts doctors involved with medical marijuana.

Obama's visit to Worcester cost local taxpayers about $200,000.

Students rally against deportations during Obama's visit to Worcester.

Are school shootings "becoming the norm" in the United States? The data don't seem to support that conclusion.

The news organization MuckRock is suing the CIA over its refusal to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests.

Thursday links (5/29/14)

The murder conviction for ex-FBI agent and "Whitey" Bulger associate John Connolly has been overturned on a technicality involving the statute of limitations:

A Worcester police officer shot at a knife-wielding man yesterday morning, but none of the shots hit him.

A federal appeals court has upheld the right of a New Hampshire woman to record police. New Hampshire is in the same district as Massachusetts, so this will likely be cited as precedent in future court cases here.

Edward Snowden unlikely to return to the US due to the legal threats against him by the US government. Snowden's lawyer says the only way he is likely to come back is if the government agrees to some sort of negotiated settlement.

The NSA rejects a FOIA request to protect Edward Snowden's privacy (!).

Obama plans to leave almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. Who will be the last person to die for a mistake?

Why new laws are an ineffective response to tragedies.

Wednesday links (4/21/14)

Massachusetts police are citing and even arresting people with legal medical marijuana. Timothy Alben, the head of the state police, said police should "err on the side of caution and probably issue a criminal complaint" and let the courts sort it out if they encounter someone with marijuana. The mayor of Somerville will be signing an executive order barring the city from locking people up solely for the purpose of allowing federal agents to pick them up for suspected immigration violations.

Worcester's data about complaints against police officers understate how much police abuse actually happens.

New FBI boss still focused on making up fake terrorist plots, may make up fake criminal plots too.

Newly released documents show past government efforts to force gay people out of their jobs.

Why does the government have a hands-off list for certain terrorist supporters?

Video shows unprovoked killing of Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers.

Saturday links (5/17/14)

Much of what we know about the Boston Marathon bombing has been through leaks by the government. Boston Marathon bombing hero and peace activist Carlos Arredondo gets a settlement for an undisclosed amount of money in his brutality lawsuit against four Boston police officers.

An appeals court tells the Worcester Police Department, for the second time, that they must re-hire a police officer who was accused of threatening three teenagers with a firearm, showing how hard it can be for police departments to fire bad cops. The Worcester police must either re-hire the officer, work out some sort of settlement, or appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court.

There have been several police shootings in Massachusetts over the past few days:

  • On Thursday, a man was fatally shot by Salisury police after stabbing two people and attacking police with a machete.
  • In a suspicious shooting on Thursday, a Holyoke police officer shot into an SUV during a traffic stop, but did not hit the driver or his passenger. The police would not say why the officer shot into the vehicle, but they did say that they did not find any weapons in the vehicle. The driver was arrested for driving with a suspended license while the passenger was not arrested. So far, there do not appear to be allegations that the driver or passenger attacked the police or did anything to warrant the shooting. The driver said police shot at him for no reason and has denied the charge against him. Police have claimed that the man is a gang member, which he also denies.
  • On Friday, a man was shot and injured by Weymouth police after allegedly attacking them with a knife during a domestic dispute.

How the Fourth Amendment grew from a showdown in Boston's North End.

Feel good video of the day: People spontaneously come to the aid of a woman who fell on the tracks at an MBTA station.

For the first time, a judge has ordered the government to stop force-feeding a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay prison.