Friday, June 10, 2011

Cellphone Technology Continues to Change the World

Saw this article today. As a criminal defense lawyer, this is exceptionally upsetting and yet brings me some optimism too.

I have practiced criminal defense representing the accused for a good part of my ten years practicing law. So, I have seen first hand the slimy tactics and abuse of power the police practice on a daily basis. And, way too often, those practices are then passively endorsed when the agencies responsible for policing the police - be it the local district attorney or some police watchdog or internal affairs agency - allow those practices to continue without penalty, rebuke, sanction, or reprimand. This is one of the most offensive things to occur in a civilized society where the police are charged with protecting and serving the constituency, not taking their tax dollars and abusing them.

What occurred in this case is akin to what we sit back and judge those dictatorships and theocracies in the Middle East and elsewhere for doing to their people. I'm here to say, as an experienced criminal defense attorney in the alleged most free country in the world, this shit is happening right here in our beloved country and its jacked up, really jacked up!

To explain if you don't want to click on the above link and read it for yourself - Chicago police responded to a routine domestic violence call. Per normal routine and policy, the officers separated the occupants to interview them. The officers brought the female into her bedroom where she alleges she was groped and sexually assaulted by the officers. (This, btw, seems to be an ongoing problem with the Chicago PD - see here.)

The issue here is that when the victim of the police-groping went to file a complaint with the Chicago police watchdog organization, she was (I'll keep my criminal defense attorney hat on here and say, allegedly) discouraged from doing so. Unhappy with the way she was being treated during this internal affairs meeting, the woman began recording her conversation with the agency representatives.

So, get to the point, right? Well, the point is not what happened to the alleged domestic violence charge, or the allegations of sexual assault against the officers - the point is that this woman is now being prosecuted for taping or attempting to tape this conversation without the consent of the other parties. And, the real fucked up part of this equation is that she's facing the same amount of prison time for taping a conversation as the officers alleged to have sexually assaulted some women. In other words, the offense of recording an on-duty police officer is a Class 1 felony in Illinois - the same degree as rape. Are you shitting me!? Gotta love those legislatures!

In related news, this article linked to this article. Here, our beloved officers of the law opened fire on passengers in a vehicle for, as of now, unknown reasons. As the officers approached the vehicle and drew their weapons, a bystander in his own vehicle began filming them with his cellphone. After the shots were fired, the officers pointed their guns at the innocent bystander ordering him out of his vehicle. They threw him to the ground and snatched his cellphone from him. They then destroyed the cellphone.

After taking the filmer to the station, taking his photo and interrogating him, they released him. What they didn't know is before they took and destroyed the phone, the guy removed the memory card and hid it. He showed the video to the local newspaper - it has not yet been released. Four other innocent bystanders were shot in the original hail of bullets.

Without sounding repetitive, as a criminal defense attorney, my colleagues and I have often wondered why all police interactions, especially interrogations, aren't filmed or otherwise recorded. This is no argument about the ability to do this - or the cost as the technology to do this is certainly readily available and well within the mammoth enforcement budgets most police departments, why not, right? There is some reason the police don't want to record these interrogations, right? Anyone out there posit a guess as to why? From my previous blog post, found here, we know that a huge percentage of alleged confessions are later found to be false, right? So.....what do you think?

Protect and serve, eh?