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Many States Out of Step with the Constitution on the Use of Force by Police

By José-Antonio Orosco | CounterPunch | July 18, 2016

Recently, President Obama held a town hall meeting to address the growing tension between minority communities and police forces after the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas.  He urged police officers to forge trust with communities and recommended better training and more resources.

Many groups around the country have been asking for better training programs, mandatory body cameras, and other reforms. These may indeed help to reduce shootings of civilians, but a deeper concern has to do with the laws surrounding the use of deadly force by law enforcement. What legal standards exist that police officers can use to defend their actions after the fact?

Last year, Amnesty International conducted an investigation into the legal standards for the use of deadly force by police officers in the United States, comparing them with current Supreme Court rulings and international human rights standards, and found enormous disparities.

* It turns out that nine states and the city of Washington, DC have absolutely no legal standards about when officers may use deadly force in arresting suspects.

* There are no states in the country that comply with international law enforcement standards. The current United Nations standard is that police officers should only use deadly force when it is a last resort, and then, only to prevent grave harm or imminent death to themselves or another person.

* What is even more astounding is that there are 13 states that that do not even comply with current constitutional standards set by the US Supreme Court.  In the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner, the Court ruled that police officers may only use deadly force if they have probable cause that the suspect poses significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officers or others.

My home state of Oregon is one of these places out of step with the Constitution, along with the very populated states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.  In Oregon, for instance, police officers are allowed to shoot to kill if the police officers have a reasonable belief that a fleeing suspect has committed a kidnapping, arson, burglary, or indeed, any felony at all, even if the suspect is not posing an immediate threat of death of physical harm. Oregon law does not require that a suspect be given a warning of the use of deadly force, even though such a warning is an international legal standard. Up to 20 states allow police officers to kill a suspect simply for trying to escape prison or jail.

Given this legal framework, incidents of police shootings will not be reduced by body cameras or better training alone since it is the law itself that licenses wide discretion on whom and when police can kill.

This year, at least one state, Missouri, has started working to change that. After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the protests that followed, legislators looked at the use of force provisions (which allowed officers to kill suspects who they believed had committed a felony) and found that it was out of step with the Garner standard.

Everyone who is concerned about the tension in the country and the grievances of the Black Lives Matter movement should press their state lawmakers to ensure that law enforcement officials in their states are at least upholding the US Constitution.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

District Court Says DEA’s Warrantless Access Of Oregon’s Prescription Database Is Unconstitutional

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | February 13, 2014

Early last year, the news surfaced that the DEA was bypassing Oregon state law by using administrative subpoenas to get around the state’s warrant requirement for drug prescription database access. “Administrative subpoenas” are yet another government tool that allows agencies to seek information that would normally require a warrant, but without the hassle of running it past a judge or even showing probable cause.

The DEA probably didn’t expect to encounter much resistance to its subpoenas. After all, drugs are bad and the DEA is fighting the good fight. But the state of Oregon wasn’t impressed with the DEA’s warrantless tactics and filed suit with the assistance of the ACLU. The ACLU is now reporting that a federal judge has ruled in its (and Oregon’s favor) and the DEA (along with other law enforcement entities) will no longer be able to skirt the state’s warrant requirement.

For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that patients have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their drug prescription records, and that law enforcement must obtain a warrant in order to search such information…

“This is a victory for privacy and for the constitutional rights of anyone who ever gets drug prescriptions,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case last month. “The ruling recognizes that confidential medical records are entitled to the full protection of the Fourth Amendment. The court rightly rejected the federal government’s extreme argument that patients give up their privacy rights by receiving medical treatment from doctors and pharmacists.”

As the ruling points out, citizens have long associated privacy with medical treatment, something that has gone hand-in-hand dating back to the 4th century B.C.E. and the origin of the Hippocratic Oath. It also points out the obvious: federal law itself (HIPAA) contains built-in privacy protections. (Hence the form you have to sign, the privacy info sheet you’re handed on every visit, and signs everywhere telling you to stand behind them for the privacy of the patient in front of you.)

The judge’s decision also notes that stripping away this expectation of privacy will have a chilling effect on those seeking medical care, something that could have very adverse effects on the health of people who might avoid seeking treatment because they fear their medical records will be exposed.

As the ACLU notes in its press release, it’s not exactly happy the state of Oregon has chosen to create a centralized database of drug prescriptions, but, if it is going to do so, it has at least chosen to take the privacy of those contained in the database very seriously.

This decision strikes a small blow against the government’s routine abuse of “exceptions” to warrant requirements as well as against its even more routine abuse of the “third party doctrine,” which the DEA actually used to claim that talking to a doctor is no different than dialing a phone. The DEA knows there’s a huge difference between these two “third parties” but applying that knowledge means showing probable cause and getting a judge to sign off on the warrant, two aspects it apparently feels only hampers its War on Drugs.

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Justice Department Set to Overrule any State that Legalizes Marijuana

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | October 24, 2012

Depending on the outcome of initiatives in three states, a confrontation awaits between the U.S. Department of Justice and advocates for legalizing marijuana.

On November 6, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will decide whether to legalize and tax marijuana sales. If one or more of the measures passes, and President Barack Obama is reelected, expect the Justice Department to take action to stop any state from decriminalizing the popular herb.

In an outtake in a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole proclaimed that the federal government is prepared to stop any “dangers” associated with state-sanctioned recreational pot.

“We’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” Cole told the television news magazine.

A crackdown on drug legalization would follow other efforts by the Obama administration to shutdown medical marijuana dispensaries operating within state law in California and elsewhere.

If Mitt Romney wins the presidential election, he would probably take the same position as Obama, having stated that marijuana is a “gateway drug” and that he would fight legalization “tooth and nail.”

To Learn More:

Justice Department Official: State Votes on Legalizing Marijuana Has No Effect on Federal Enforcement Plans (by Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters)

Oakland Sues Obama Administration over Loss of Tax Revenue Due to Medical Marijuana Crackdown(by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Obama Administration Steps Up Attack on Legal Marijuana with Threat to Growers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

October 25, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on Obama Justice Department Set to Overrule any State that Legalizes Marijuana

FBI raids homes of Occupy activists

Press TV – August 14, 2012

A US newspaper has revealed that the FBI has been raiding the houses of anti-Wall Street protesters in Oregon and Washington in what the agency describes an “ongoing violent crime investigation.”

The Oregonian newspaper reported that heavily-armed domestic terrorism units of the FBI have been raiding the homes of activists in Seattle and Olympia, Washington and Portland, Oregon over the last month.

The report said that at least six homes have been raided in the two states since July 10.

The FBI has described the raids as part of an ongoing violent crime investigation, linked to last year’s Occupy May Day protests, during which a number of minor acts of vandalism allegedly took place.

In one of the raids, eyewitnesses reported as many as 80 agents in body armor, wearing military fatigues, and armed with assault rifles participated in the raid.

“I just heard lots of pounding at 6 o’clock, and I got up and I saw the whole thing,” said one of the eyewitnesses, adding, “I saw them screaming to get in. They were using the battering ram, and then finally the door just opened.”

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele told the newspaper, “The warrants are sealed… and I anticipate they will remain sealed.”

The paper said the agents were searching for “anti-government or anarchist literature or material” and “documentation and communications related to the offenses, including but not limited to notes, diagrams, letters, diary and journal entries, address books, and other documentation in written or electronic form.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement began when a group of demonstrators gathered in New York’s financial district on September 17, 2011 to protest against corruption, the unjust distribution of wealth in the country, and the excessive influence of big corporations on US policies.

August 14, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on FBI raids homes of Occupy activists