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Criminals at the border

There are armed, untouchable criminals at the US Border and we pay their wages.

66 comments to Criminals at the border

  • Sunfish

    I’m confused.

    USBP tried to search him as he was leaving?

  • It seems they pulled him over, he got out of the car to ask what was going on (naturally), they told him to get back in the car but he repeated his question and then they had their fun with him. Assholes.

    Mind you – people ought to bloody know by now – don’t ever, ever, ever go asking questions to cops. You have no way of knowing that they aren’t just looking for the flimsiest, wafer-thin bit of bullshit to screw you and your family up for good.

  • Tom Dickson-Hunt

    This is a travesty. Border security has been an issue in the past, but it’s mostly along the lines of being forced to decrypt computers, or that sort of thing. I’ve never heard of an incident like this before.

    In case people missed it, there’s a fund being set up for his legal defense. Where to donate is given in the article on BoingBoing. People should definitely donate to this.

  • Webley

    >>USBP tried to search him as he was leaving?

    This is not so unusual especially in light of the fact that drug-driven organized crime in Canada frequently smuggle back cash proceeds back into Canuckistan.

    The typical flow of “commerce” is

    Canada ====> Pot, Meth, Ecstasy======> USA

    USA =======> Coke, Cash, Weapons ===> Canaduh

  • Webley

    >>It seems they pulled him over, he got out of the car to ask what was going on (naturally),

    In the US, there is absolutely nothing “natural” or normal about getting out of your vehicle to question law enforcement at any kind of traffic stop.
    It is considered a an aggressive, threatening act.
    If Watts did indeed get out to confront those border officers and then refused to get back in his vehicle when ordered to do so, then he is a pillock and he was lucky he was subdued with non-lethal means.

  • Preston Hill

    I read the referenced post and about 250 of the comments. What I saw there and here was a clear example of the vice of rushing to judgment.

  • Dale Amon

    Or perhaps the ‘vice’ that I have absolutely no trust or belief in the State. Personally I begin from the assumption they are liars and await the burden of proof that they are not that and worse.

    I actually expect the ‘worse’ to be closer to the truth.

  • Dale Amon

    As to ‘not getting of the car’ because it is taken as a threatening gesture… screw that. America is the land of the free, not the land of the obedient.

    Perhaps the proper approach is for a hundred cars to pull up at once and everyone get out of the cars and refuse to get back in… and then sing “America The beautiful” while secret cameras film the bastards beating people up.

    Then publish the photos to the world so they know what sort of country this has turned into.

    I have said it before. I want these assholes fired and imprisoned. I am *sick* of it. I do not even consider them to be American’s. They share no values with me, they share no beliefs with me.

    They are the enemy of what I hold dear, not the defenders of it.

  • “It is considered a an aggressive, threatening act.”

    I consider being made to stop for no apparent reason and being refused any explanation to be an aggressive, threatening act.

  • “In the [Stalinist Soviet Union], there is absolutely nothing “natural” or normal about getting out of your vehicle to question [the Secret Police] at any kind of vehicle stop.
    It is considered a an aggressive, threatening act.
    If Watts did indeed get out to confront those [KGB/Stasi] border officers and then refused to get back in his vehicle when ordered to do so, then he is a pillock and he was lucky he was subdued with non-lethal means [and only sentenced to do 10 years in the Siberian Gulag].”

    There. Fixed it for you.

    I thought for a moment you were talking about America, but then I realised it was a series of typos. You were obviously talking about life under an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship.

    But you’re right. Anyone who questions the East-German border guards at Checkpoint Charlie back in 1962 is a pillock. You’re supposed to be scared of them. This Watts character is lucky he didn’t end up like Peter Fechter.

    And yes, I realise that stopping cars is dangerous for cops (as I’m sure it would have been for the KGB), but surely in America you need evidence of real aggression and intent to resist before you can use force to assault/subdue someone? Don’t you have to give them a clear warning? Otherwise, what’s to stop you putting cuffs on everyone you talk to? Just in case? (Thunk! Crunch! Oww! “Pardon me, little girl, can you tell me the way to the nearest donut shop?”)

    Do not initiate the use of force.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The current Canadian government has proven itself not to be a complete lapdog in regards to US mistreatment of Canadian citizens – see the Maher Arar case. So it’s possible that Watts may yet have a potent friend in court: it would be quite entertaining to see Homeland Security trying to blow off an outraged Canadian government.

  • thad

    Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman lands at JFK shortly after 9/11. TSA thinks his Steinway concert instrument ‘smells funny’, so they thoroughly destroy it.

    Welcome to America. Enjoy your stay.

    In 2004 British novelist Ian McEwan is invited to the US for a luncheon with First Lady Laura Bush. He is denied entry for lacking a proper visa, despite the fact that as a British national, he didn’t need one for the purposes of his intended visit.

    Welcome to America. Enjoy your stay.

  • Dale Amon

    It really would be nice if the Canadians made a big thing of this, and the bigger the better. This should be a better story than Tiger Woods difficulty to picking up women (only ten in all those years???). It’s certainly more important. EVEN if this had not happened, some of the attitudes I have heard espoused are absolutely terrifying. No one who was born and raised American would consider it a bad idea to get out of their car and challenge one of their employees. If it has come to pass that this is now a dangerous thing, I would begin to wonder who actually won the Cold War.

  • Sunfish

    Personally I begin from the assumption they are liars and await the burden of proof that they are not that and worse.

    I actually expect the ‘worse’ to be closer to the truth.

    ‘Worse,” meaning what?

  • Dale Amon

    The ‘or worse’ is that they are not just lying to cover up their incompetence and poor training, but actually believe they have the power and the right to do pretty much whatever they wish… in other words that they really *are* East German border guards at heart and that this is endemic in the system.

  • Oh, the outrage of it all!

    I’m reminded of the joke about the two guys that get stopped in Texas. The sterotypical lawman, mirrored shades and all, examines the driver’s license, then walks around to the passenger side, and bops the guy in the mouth. “what the hell was that for?” – That was because a half mile down the road, you’d have been mouthin off to your friend about ‘let him try that crap on ME!”

    Should it have gone down like it did? In a perfect world, absolutely not.

    But I can’t help consider this the gentleman’s rather expensive tuition in the classroom of real life.

    I fully agree with the premise, oft repeated here, that thugs are still thugs, more so when they have a weapon and the backing of the state. To forget that, and to assume that one can have a ‘calm rational discussion to clear up an -obvious- misunderstanding’ with someone in such a position, who likely didn’t get the job based upon their PhD in Physics with a minor in Behavioral Psychology – well, as a saying from the Southern US goes ‘ain’t got a lick o’ sense’.

    Think about it – is it really all that brilliant and astute a move to point out one’s ‘rights’ beside a car surrounded by armed dimwits acting in an official capacity? In a courtroom – most assuredly. Dark of the night beside the road? Live to fight another day, laddie, live to fight another day.

    Fucked up situation? Sure is. But then again, a lot of life tends to be ‘fucked up’ upon closer inspection, particularly when compared to an idealized condition.

  • Pierrot

    I cross a lot of borders on business travel . OK, I am a white middle aged businessman, so less likely to be hassled than others less fortunate. OK, common sense rules apply to border guards: be unfailingly polite, non-threatening, don’t crack jokes.

    Nevertheless the only place on the planet where immigration has given me grief, several times, is the USA, including well before 9/11. That even includes African borders (no bribe was required, unlike in the novels) The strong signal given by Homeland Security is that they would prefer you not to come. It is also a fact of life in the USA that if you get out of car without permission with cops you risk getting shot – they will assume that you have a gun.

    Americans themselves – unfailingly courteous and friendly once you are past the sodding border – neither know nor care, because the vast majority never travel.

    And this is the Canadian border, for chrissakes. Not exactly Iran, or even Mexico.

  • Wind Rider,

    Well fine. But then it would be jolly helpful if you were to put up big brightly illuminated signs at the border, for foreign tourists who are not aware that America’s borders are akin to East Berlin, to tell people to be scared.

    “Warning! You are about to be surrounded by jackbooted morons with guns, personal inadequacies, and the full backing of the State! Orders are to be obeyed without question or hesitation! Make no sudden moves! Fear us, and you may get through without permanent damage to yourself, and most of your possessions. Oops! Hope that wasn’t valuable or anything. Have a nice day, y’all!”

    I think that would be very helpfully educational with regard to that ‘classroom of life’ thing, perhaps avoiding some of this sort of cultural misunderstanding in future. And maybe it would spark a little glow of pride in any returning citizens, too.

  • Fucked up situation? Sure is. But then again, a lot of life tends to be ‘fucked up’ upon closer inspection, particularly when compared to an idealized condition.

    Wind, Dale can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that what his very short post was saying is that it is in fact a fucked-up situation, and that it is high time for it to be unfucked-up. In other words, I don’t really see the point of your comment, other than to say that an innocent person (albeit not necessarily a brilliant one) being able to step out of his car without feeling threatened by the very people charged with protecting him should be considered an idealized condition.

  • Webley

    Wind: thanks for bringing something resembling common sense to this thread.

    Dale and all the other interweb Rambos here. Many thanks for your constructive words in reply to my post which merely tried to explain this incident in the context of how the world actually IS and not how y’all would like it to be in some idealized parallel universe.
    These are the rulesof engagement as they stand today, deal with it or change it.

    Dale, about that 100 car caravan flash mob thing. I really think you ought to run with it darling. Do let us know how that works out for you (I’ll look out for the YouTube)

  • Dale Amon

    So what suggestion do you have for fixing this unacceptable state of affairs? Do you suggest we should all be ‘good germans’ and just do what we are told? Or do you have some plan for getting these SOB’s fired and jailed?

  • Contemplationist

    And inevitably some fools shows up with the “they should have known better than to fuck with the agents/cops” comments. I share Dale’s anger in this. If we can be mad at petty bureaucrats for all the shit that they do, then agents of the state like cops and border guards who ORDINARY people deal with everyday are to be scrutinized FAR MORE.

    Just browse so-called “conservative” blogs and whenever there is post on cops acting like fascist thugs, these sorts of comments are the majority. These fucked up wards of the state see no contradiction in givin the finger to IRS bureaucrats but giving almost free reign to the agents of the state with the actual WEAPONS.

  • Dale Amon

    That is perhaps one of the big differences between conservative and libertarian types. Libertarians think police are just some friends who we ask to help out with some onerous jobs in our community; conservatives think they are specially annointed overlords who may accost us at will and require obeissance to their high status.

    Cops should just be neighbors who help when you need them. That was the way it was in my home town when I grew up.

  • guy herbert

    In the US, there is absolutely nothing “natural” or normal…

    And of course there’s no reason to teach border guards that border involve foreigners who may not have any notice of your quaint customs. But I forgot, foreigners deserve what’s coming to them for being threateningly different; and at some point in the last decade the idea that everyone on US soil has the protection of the Constitution was dropped.

    I haven’t been to the US since 2000, and I can’t see myself going again any time soon. I wouldn’t recommend anyone visiting the UK and experiencing our own unwelcoming, overpowerful, border forces either. But I have heard no accounts of them beating up ordinary arrivals or departures (as opposed to suspected illegal immigrants in the country).

  • Contemplationist

    Dale is right. Its a fetish of badges and guns together. Its nauseating reading comments on Conservative blogs, for example when the Professor Gates brouhaha happened in Cambridge MA. Simply to oppose Obama’s buddy, the ‘right’ neglected private property rights and pretty much all agreed that “disrespecting” a cop should land you in jail! DISRESPECTING! The East German analogy is CORRECT. Until these people are hammered over the head with their stupid overlooking of violent force that the cops yield over common people, they will continue to fetishize SWAT teams who break down doors to arrest grandpa with MS on medical marijuana and have comment threads making pot jokes and dissing libertarians as potheads.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Contemplationist, speaking as a member of some fairly conservative blogs I recognise the type you’re describing: we call them “statists.” They’re far from universal, though: the American Right is pretty diverse and includes many who see government as a necessary evil, not as a positive good so long as it’s in ‘the right hands’.

    But we do see it as a necessary evil.

  • When you cross a border, there is a period when you have virtually no rights. Usually, this is the moment between when you enter a border area of a country and the moment when you are actually granted admission to this country by an official. Officials have jurisdiction over you, but (especially if you are not a citizen of the country you are trying to enter) you are totally at their mercy. Many people behave badly when given absolute power. Such is human nature.

    Police and governments do of course take advantage of this at an institutional level, too. For instance, something called the Anti-Conterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is presently being negotiated in secret between many governments. This is an attempt to implement extremely punitive penalties for copyright infringement throughout much of the world. One thing in the treaty (so leaks tell us) is the requirement that officials at borders be allowed to inspect laptops, MP3 players and any other electronic devices being carried by passengers to determine if they contain any pirated content. Such a search without probable cause would be clearly unconstitutional inside the US proper, but the “you have no rights at the border” factor is being used to override traditional rights. I think I find this tactic for eroding people’s rights even worse than “Thugs at the border” syndrome.

    I confess that when I personally cross borders (which I do often) I am excruciatingly polite and a little overco-operative. No jokes of any kind. Lots of “Good evening. How are you?” and similar platitudes. Do not volunteer any information of any kind unless they ask a specific question.

    I then swear about my resentment of needing to do this later. I’ve encountered officials who were gratuitously rude on many occasions (usually when trying to enter Britain on a foreign passport, but I have also encountered Australian officials who were rude for no good reason). I’ve had my bags searched (almost certainly for drugs) a couple of times, and I once encountered a Polish official who was clearly convinced that I was working illegally in Poland. (“Why do you keep visiting Poland?” I had stamps from four different Polish entry points over about two years. “I like Poland”. “Tell me why you really keep visiting Poland”. No French official would be like this. “You like France? But of course”). Beyond that I have never had any trouble. I have never encountered a US official who was anything other than polite, although American border bureaucracy is quite bad. We foreigners resent the fingerprinting, for one thing.

    I have never tried entering the US by car though. When I have crossed US land borders I have either been on foot or in a coach. In those cases US officials have pretty much just waved me through.

  • But we do see it as a necessary evil.

    The interesting point is the balance between ‘evil’ and ‘necessary’, which is obviously different for different people. Universally though, the more necessary something is perceived to be, the less it is seen as evil – and vice versa.

  • Kim du Toit

    Gotta add a couple of comments here. I share the rage of most whi think these assholes are a bunch of thugs. That’s a given.

    However, I also share Wind Rider’s shrug. Getting out of the car to see what’s wrong: understandable (even though cops ALL OVER THE WORLD regard getting out of the car unless told to do so as a threatening act).

    Not getting back into the car when the cops tell you to do so, and continuing to argue with them: massive dose of STUPID.

    Once again: I’m not excusing the behavior of the cops; anything but.

    But people need to get with the picture: our border patrol is horribly understaffed, they get second-guessed all the damn time, and the nature of things today means that the guy getting out of the car, yea even at the Canuckistan border, may be intent on some kind of mayhem.

    Did the cops over-react? Absolutely. Did Our Hero act like an idiot? Absolutely. Being a foreign national does not get you a pass.

    The reason that getting into the United States is such an unpleasant experience — I’ve done it many times, both as a non-American and as a citizen — is precisely because everyone’s trying to do so, and not everyone has peace and light in their hearts.

    The USBP and Customs have a really shitty job, and with the volumes of visitors they have to deal with, what’s amazing is not how many times they screw up, but few times they do so.

  • Kim,

    I hear what you’re saying. But I don’t understand it.

    “even though cops ALL OVER THE WORLD regard getting out of the car unless told to do so as a threatening act”

    I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but they definitely don’t in the UK. I’d be surprised if they did so in most of Europe.

    It makes no sense. Policemen interact with people out of cars in towns, on the sidewalk. They interact with them at protests and in crowds. They don’t regard not being in a car as a threat.

    A car can itself be used as a weapon (or to escape), and it is far easier to conceal what it going on, or to access concealed weapons. If the criminal is the sort to prepare, then there are some nasty anti-carjacking devices for giving cops a surprise. Whereas somebody out in the open has limited access to their equipment, you can see clearly what they’re doing, and they’re open to fire. Yes, they have more freedom of movement, and yes, weapons can be concealed, but that’s a trade-off. And it’s no worse than meeting someone on a sidewalk.

    The thing I can certainly understand cops getting concerned by is people who keep on moving around and doing things, ignoring all instructions to stop. And I think I’d go along with an officer who threatened to use force, or who drew a weapon on the suspect, until they could be searched and confirmed to be unarmed. That would apply equally to someone in a car or out of one. And once confirmed, that should be an end to the matter.

    But there surely needs to be some actual evidence of criminal/hostile intent before you can use force, and simply being out of a car, along with all the other pedestrians, isn’t evidence of anything. Unless you know the person is supposed to know it’s an unwritten rule?

    And what little I know of the official rules, a cop needs probable cause, or reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop. e.g. “For example, in the case of the self-protective search for weapons, he must be able to point to particular facts from which he reasonably inferred that the individual was armed and dangerous (Sibron v. New York, 392 U. S. 40, 64 (1968))” It’s tied up with the 4th amendment, so I think the legal system takes it seriously.

    I don’t know. Perhaps Sunfish (if he’s still around) can give a better reason for the don’t-get-out-of-the-car convention?

  • Midwesterner

    About 25 years ago I got drafted into finding and bringing back to his home a drunk and belligerent person. I got pulled over on the way back to his house so leaving his two siblings to keep him in the car and more or less quiet, I got out of the car and sat on the trunk in plain view of the cop’s headlights. I waited with both hands in clear view and my driver’s license in my hand. Eventually after running his checks, he came up to me we talked for a bit and he sent me on my way. No infraction, no ticket – I think he was trolling for drunks in beat up cars. He never even mentioned or even hinted at any concerns about my exiting the vehicle.

    When did that become understood to be threatening behavior? I’m curious to hear Sunfish’s answer as it seems to me that getting somebody away from all of the little hidey holes in their cars and out where both hands are clearly visible is a less, not more threatening situation. But it is so universally accepted in the US that I assume there are statistics showing that cop killers are more likely to exit their vehicle before shooting. Intuitively, though, I would be much more afraid to walk up to somebody in the driver’s seat than standing outside of their car. Sunfish?

  • Sunfish

    The convention against letting drivers leave their cars during traffic stops is new, within the last 20 or so years. To picture why, sit in your driver’s seat and then pretend to grab, stab, or shoot someone who’s standing outside your door.

    It was a change from the previous convention of the driver getting out and sitting in the officer’s car, which AFAICT is based upon ego: “I’m going to make him show respect to me by coming to me.” [1]

    It doesn’t matter what a guy has concealed in his car if he can’t get to it in time to hurt me. I work under the assumption that every person I talk to is armed and every car I stop has weapons in it.[2]

    Another part of the problem: when the car is stopped, the driver has been seized by the officer’s action. He is, in US law, temporarily not really free to decide his own movements. Which means that the officer owns it if the driver wanders in front of a semi. (This is an unsettled area of law right now. However, I like having a house and a car too much to sell them to pay legal fees to be a test case.)

    You’ll have to forgive me for being a little cagey. There are aspects of this that I’m not going to discuss in public.

    Also, I have yet to see any facts presented anywhere other than in the appeal for donations for legal fees. It would not shock me if the USBP agents were out of line. It would also not shock me if the driver showed his ass and kicked off a physical fight, rather than merely the verbal dick-waving contest that he admits to. But a third-hand account as part of panhandling is University of East Anglia-quality evidence.

    [1] There are times that I’ll have a driver come out and come towards me, but those are based upon tactical considerations.

    [2] Generally perfectly legal where I live. And on balance consider this to be a good thing. But I’m all too well aware that they can be pointed at me too.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    On the historical side, as Sunfish notes it used to be that you went to the cop’s car, probably for reasons of cop ego. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago there was a State Police training officer in Massachusetts (IIRC) who would go out – not in uniform – and commit traffic violations in order to get stopped, submissively walk to the arresting officer’s car and, when the officer rolled down his window, shoot him in the ear with a water pistol.

    I believe he was rather widely regarded as being responsible for the whole ‘stopped driver stays in the car’ thing but it’s been a looong time since I read about it.

  • llamas

    What.

    Sunfish.

    Said.

    Nothing else to say.

    llater,

    llamas

  • MarkE

    When I was taught to drive (police instructor/family friend, in the UK) I was told that, if stopped I should get out of the car and walk to the police car. With almost 35 years of undetected crime behind me I have had few opportunities to practise this, and hadn’t learned that the rules had changed and I should now remain in the car. If stopped at a border I would (until today) have got our of the car and, presumably, regretted doing so.

    Is this a cultural thing? Should I stay in the car in the states, but get out at home? What about elsewhere?

  • Maybe we all should be put through a training camp, where they will teach us how to behave when confronted with police?

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    ‘Maybe we all should be put through a training camp, where they will teach us how to behave when confronted with police? ‘

    No camp is required. The entire issue boils down to 6 words, that any functional adult over 10 can remember, comprehend and practice.

    Do, What The Officer Tells You.

    Every couple of months, we get another one of these cases raised here, and the default judgement on the part of all but a very few contributors and commenters is that the Jack Booted Thugs of the State once again oppressed and brutalized a completely-innocent citizen for absolutely no reason.

    The truth is, as we have found, often a little-more complicated than that.

    In almost-every case, a closer look finds that, had the citizen simply complied with the officer’s orders, none of the bad stuff would have happened.

    And that, in almost every case, the officer’s orders were 100% lawful, and that they were entitled to expect, demand and then enforce compliance.

    All you have to do, is Do, What The Officer Tells You To Do.(1)

    This naturally raises the ire of many here, who live in a happy Libertarian dreamworld, where they get to open a debating society by the side of the road and decide for themselves, according to strict Libertarian principles, which of the officer’s instructions they will deign to comply with and which conflict with their cherished Libertarian beliefs, and will therefore be ignored, with the expectation of impunity.

    I hate to break it to you, but sometimes you have to Sit Still, Shut Up, Do As You’re Told and Wait For It To Play Out in Its Own Good Time. Nobody likes doing any of those things – I don’t, I assume you don’t either – but I’m enough of a grown-up to realize that I have to tolerate this sort of thing without resistance as part of the price of living in a society of laws. If you don’t like the fact that the officer has the right to do this to you, by force if necessary, then

    - don’t blame the officer for doing what your elected representatives mandated him to do, and gave him the powers to do, and
    - what alternative do you suggest?

    Coals of fire will now be poured on my head. Pour away. But then let’s see your suggestions for a better approach.

    BTW, I know this border crossing well. If he was stopped, as reported, between the plaza on the US side of the Blue Water Bridge and the Canadian Customs/Immigration area, I bet that this whole incident was multiply video-taped. So we shall see.

    Note also that – once again – almost the only people looking at both sides of this alleged outrage equally are those with JBT experience. Almost everyone is falling over themselves to condemn the Border Patrol officers, who are simply assumed a priori to be lying about everything, while the poor innocent victim is simply assumed a priori to be telling the whole and complete truth. Only goes to show that Libertarians can be just as prejudiced as anyone else.

    llater,

    llamas

    (1) Just to deflect some of the more-simplistic brickbats that will now come my way – I’m not suggesting for one minute that you simply do every thing that the officer asks, suggests or implies. If the officer asks for your permission to do something – anything – then refuse, and keep refusing. And you have the absolute right, in the US at least, to say nothing at all to the officer beyond name, rank & serial number. But if he gives you a direct instruction to do something, or not do something – it’s not open to debate or judgement anymore. Do As You’re Told.

  • Llamas, this is not the US-Canadian border. This is a blog, where we talk. If I were in place of that guy, you can be sure I would have been as quiet and as polite as the next good girl. But that does not mean that this is right, all it means is that I am not stupid. I would have behaved the same way in my Soviet Motherland – what does that tell you?

    What is the alternative? We could begin by giving law-enforcement agencies as few laws to enforce as humanly possible. And I am not blaming the officers for anything (as you rightly point out, we have no idea what really happened there*), I am blaming my Elected Representatives (ha), and suggest they do not put the officers in a position where they might have to treat innocent people as if they were dangerous criminals.

    *Still, are you going to tell me that in all these cases about which we hear every month or so the officers in question were simply provoked by some rabid libertarians on the loose? I am sure that most law-enforcement officers are good and decent people, and that bad apples are simply bound to make it in, just like in any other organization. The point is that the system seems to be such that gives the officers too much power and too much room for abuse of that power, when in hands of these bad apples. And, as a consequence, it attracts far more bad apples than it would otherwise.

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    ‘If I were in place of that guy, you can be sure I would have been as quiet and as polite as the next good girl. But that does not mean that this is right, all it means is that I am not stupid.’

    You still don’t get it.

    You don’t have to be quiet or polite, or try to mollify the officer with your cooperative attitude. Within quite-broad boundaries, you can express your displeasure and disapproval as wide and handsome as you like. As I’ve noted here before, the Detroit standard – set in stone by a judge of the Superior Court, no less – is that the act of calling a MI police officer (an epithet referring to his future disposition to a hot location as punishment for his putative carnal knowledge of his mother) is not grounds for arrest for disorderly conduct. IOW, you can call the officer (that name) all day long, loud and proud, and he has to stand there and take it.

    It’s not a question of “not (being)stupid”. It’s a question of not doing stupid things.

    As long as you do, what he tells you to do – you can act as stupid as you like. Stay in the car. Give me your license and registration. Show me your hands. Turn around and put your hands behind your back. Do as you’re told to do, and you can say pretty-much anything else you please. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Most officers are paid by the hour, and they need some light relief in their work. The choicest recordings of disgruntled citizens take on a life of their own. My personal favourite – “You know that it’s illegal for you to use radar in this state, Don’t You?”

    Your cussing him out, or expressing your dispproval of what he’s doing, or complaining about how this is just costing you time and doesn’t he have real criminals to catch? These are all just transitory vibrations of the molecules of the air. They mean nothing. All he cares about – all he has the right to do anything about – is what you do.

    And, in so many of these cases that are linked here, everyone is all up-in-arms about how the poor innocent citizen was brutalized for ‘arguing with the officer’. Or they’ll confuse the outcome with the original offence, ignoring what came between – the classic case was the ‘Tasered for speeding’ case that we did to death here, a year or so ago. When what actually led to the physical confrontation that gets everybody so incensed, in almost every case, was the foolish and unlawful decision of the citizen to not do as he was told. How hard is this to understand?

    Let’s analyse what we know about this case.

    Stopped at the border by US Customs? Guess what? They have a pretty-much limitless right to conduct inspections, including searches of your vehicle and person. And you don’t have the right to renegotiate – once you are in their AO, it’s their choice, and you can’t say “Ooops, never mind, I decided not to cross the border, so now you have to stop searching.”

    As Sunfish notes, once they start to exercise that power, you are no longer free to leave – you are in a state of detention, somewhere between freedom and arrest, and you must do pretty-much anything they tell you to do.

    (remember – if they ask, feel free to refuse. If they suggest, feel free to rebut. If they imply, feel free to deny. And, in any case, feel free to say nothing at all beyond polite conversation about the weather.)

    Stay in the car? Reasonable enough. If they tell you to stay in the car, then do so.

    This joker decided to ignore (by his own account) repeated orders to stay in/get back into his car. That’s when it all went sideways. If he’d stayed in/got back in the car, like he was told to do, then I wager he’d have been sleeping in his own warm bed in Toronto, that very night.

    But he didn’t. He ignored (it would seem) repeated orders to do a simple and not-obviously-illegal-or-oppresisve-thing – get back in the damned car. We’ll be with you in just a minute. Calm down. Grow up.

    Instead, he decided that his time, or his amour-propre, or his own ideas about what he does and doesn’t have to do, were more important than anything that these mere peons were saying to him. Look at me! I’m a Famous Author! I’m White, and Middle-Class! I don’t have to do what you say At All! Explain Yourselves To Me, This Instant!

    (All mere speculation on my part, of course. But I have seen this attitude, a time or two. I bet Sunfish sees it daily.)

    And so he found out that he does have to do, what the officers tell him to do.

    Most of the rest of his complaint is about how the detention facilities were not to his liking. Quelle surprise. Guess what? I’ve been in the cells of the OPP post in Windsor, ON., in January. It’s cold, uncomfortable and smelly there, too.

    llater,

    llamas

  • No llamas, you still don’t get it. The point is not what this stupid-white-male-famous-writer/assclown type should or should not have done, the point is that he should not have been stopped in the first place – unless the USBP had a very specific good reason to stop him. There are many things we don’t know about this case, but it is very close to being certain that they had no specific good reason to stop him, other than the power given to them by my Elected Representatives (PBUT) to stop people at random to look for stuff. That’s what I am talking about. I do realize though that you are talking about something else entirely – that’s normal, different people are interested in different things.

  • Paul Marks

    If someone is stopped by officers (especially at an international border) and does not do what they say – they are likely to get shot.

    “Get back in the car”.

    “No”.

    “Bang”.

    It is that simple – that does NOT make it right, but it is how people are likely to react.

    The logical thing to do when dealting with the police (or other such) is to carefully note down (in your mind) everything that happens and make a formal complaint afterwards.

    If you are going to start arguing with officers at the scene the minumum that is likely to happen to you is that you will get beaten up and then charged with assaulting an officer.

    It is (as stated above) quite possible that you will just be shot.

    After all you have left the car and refused to get back in – you clearly want a fight. So you are going to get one. Especially in these days when society is breaking down (the old confidence is long gone).

    “But I just want to talk” – border guards are not interested in having conversations.

    Of course the whole thing is utterly absurd – as a true bad guy would likely find his way over the Canadian-American border (in either direction) without ever even going through a check point.

    But there we go.

  • llamas

    Alisa worte:

    ‘ . . . the point is that he should not have been stopped in the first place – unless the USBP had a very specific good reason to stop him.’

    Oh, you want to argue a different point, now? Not that he was unlawfully treated when he was detained, but that he should never have been detained in the first place? Fine, I’ll accommodate you.

    Firstly, of course, you don’t know that USBP did NOT have a very specific good reason to stop him.

    Leaving that aside, let’s assume that he was stopped at random. Let’s just assume.

    Are you saying, therefore, that USBP should only be able to stop and search vehicles/people if they have ‘a very specific good reason’ to do so?

    IOW, no random stops and searches – a strict ‘probable cause’ standard?

    You might just as well remove all the barriers at the border, disband the USBP and the ICE, and let people come and go as they please. A strict ‘probable cause’ standard for stop-and-search means that the only people that will be stopped are the drunk, the insane and those with TSAOAFR. Those can be left to conventional law enforcement. And, if you have probable cause to stop and search the vehicle – why wait until it gets to a border crossing? Just stop it and search it.

    “Do you have any contraband in the vehicle?”

    “Sure don’t.”

    “OK, carry on”.

    Seem like an effective border-control system to you?

    Don’t get me wrong – I have plenty of issues with US ‘border security’, mostly centered on how laughably ineffective it is. But it’s not that they have excessive powers, it’s that they use them in such a fabulously-foolish manner. As I’ve observed here before, US ‘border security’ still maps its activities in a conventional law-enforcement model, where the exception and the anomaly are markers for bad intent. It should be 180° reversed.

    The mere fact that this chucklehead made a fuss and drew attention to himself is a powerful indicator that he is NOT a threat to the US. The real threats will be quiet and compliant and their papers will be in perfect order – or, as Paul Marks observes, they will simply pass below the radar. The Border Patrol should have wrapped the matter up then-and-there. But it sounds as though he was the one who escalated matters.

    Take this away form the border. Let’s say he was stopped for speeding on I69 headed out of Port Huron. Let’s say the officer went to his car, took his particulars, and then told him to stay in the car while his bona-fides were checked. Say he came out of his car anyway and approached the officer, demanding to know what was going on, and refusing to get back in his car when told repeatedly to do so.

    Would the officer be justified in laying hands on him, and using whatever force was required to make him comply, and if he would not, in arresting him if he resisted?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Firstly, of course, you don’t know that USBP did NOT have a very specific good reason to stop him.

    Well yes, I pretty much do, since:

    The mere fact that this chucklehead made a fuss and drew attention to himself is a powerful indicator that he is NOT a threat to the US.

    Unless by ‘specific good reason’ you mean someone did not like the color of his car. What I mean by ‘specific good reason’ is prior information.

    Not that he was unlawfully treated when he was detained

    I would very much like to discuss that, but only after we have seen the videos you said are likely to be eventually produced.

    “Do you have any contraband in the vehicle?”

    Like I said, the less laws, the happier everyone is. Yes, I know you disagree, I’m used to it.

    Re speeding scenario, the answer is ‘yes’, as the guy (gal?) is a clear danger to others, not to mention themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong – I have plenty of issues with US ‘border security’, mostly centered on how laughably ineffective it is. But it’s not that they have excessive powers, it’s that they use them in such a fabulously-foolish manner.

    The two issues are closely related: they have excessive powers to act on easy targets, while at the same time not given the powers/resources/training to act on the real bad guys.

    Did I miss anything?

  • Oh yes, forgot to ask what ‘TSAOAFR’ is. Live and learn.

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    Firstly, of course, you don’t know that USBP did NOT have a very specific good reason to stop him.
    Well yes, I pretty much do, since:
    The mere fact that this chucklehead made a fuss and drew attention to himself is a powerful indicator that he is NOT a threat to the US.

    Now you want to have the advantages of time travel? You want to use what he did after he was stopped as a reason that he should not have been stopped at all?

    Can I get me some of that?

    Especially since you use it so liberally.

    As, for example, when you say

    ‘The two issues are closely related: they have excessive powers to act on easy targets, while at the same time not given the powers/resources/training to act on the real bad guys.’

    Please tell me – given the other things discussed above – how the JBTs of the USBP pick their ‘easy targets’ to stop and brutalize without cause. Do you suppose that they have an ‘easy target’ profile that they use to pick out the most-likely-innocent?

    He was picked at random, more or less, from the traffic stream. If his appearance and circumstances were (to outward apperanaces) unremarkable, I submit that that alone is a good reason to stop him – because that is how a bad guy will look. But, of course, that is not why USBP stopped him – they probably used some exquisitely-random system to pick him, probably the least-effective tool for identifying bad guys that they could possibly choose. But of course it’s better that a terrorist gets by than that anyone be accused of even the slightest hint of bias.

    We know now that he was likely innocent of any wrongdoing when he was pulled over for inspection. But that is to be wise after the event. And he was, of course, not charged with any wrongdoing by the USBP, or ICE, or indeed by any Federal agency. The local PD in Port Huron – Michigan State officers – charged him with a state crime, to wit, assault.

    You want all border stops to be based only on ‘prior information’. Since the means of obtaining such ‘prior information’ are, essentially, non-existent, by your rules, we would be much-better served to simply abolish all border controls, since they could not do anything effective to apprehend bad guys anyway.

    Want to smuggle an illegal into the country? Just put him in the trunk. USBP will not have any ‘prior information’ and (unless he starts singing so loud that the inspector can hear him) no way to form probable cause to search the vehicle.

    A thousand pounds of speed? Or a million dollars of illegal drug profits? Same way – no problem. Under yor rules, USBP has no way to develop ‘prior information’ that could form the basis of a stop and search at the border – unless you want to give them investigative powers for criminal acts carried out both inside and outside the US.

    Is that really what you want?

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote (of me)

    ‘Like I said, the less laws, the happier everyone is. Yes, I know you disagree, I’m used to it. ‘

    And you are completely wrong. I, too, would like to see a lot less laws – a LOT less. I would have thought that that much was self-evident from my history here.

    But that doesn’t mean that I take to myself the right to decide whether or not I will allow the state’s officers to apply the laws that are in effect to me.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Now you want to have the advantages of time travel? You want to use what he did after he was stopped as a reason that he should not have been stopped at all?

    No, I want to use it as the evidence that they did not have a very good reason to stop him, contrary to what you suggested by saying, quote: Firstly, of course, you don’t know that USBP did NOT have a very specific good reason to stop him. Be careful with circular arguments, they can make you dizzy.

    Please tell me – given the other things discussed above – how the JBTs of the USBP pick their ‘easy targets’ to stop and brutalize without cause. Do you suppose that they have an ‘easy target’ profile that they use to pick out the most-likely-innocent?

    They find easy targets by using the easy method of finding targets: random stops and searches. Kind of like looking for car keys under the lamp post.

    unless you want to give them investigative powers for criminal acts carried out both inside and outside the US

    They (the US authorities, not necessarily the BP) already have such powers. Do they use them? Probably, to an extent. Not to the full extent, I’m sure, but they are trying their best in Afghanistan for starters.

    As to your attitude towards laws, it is perfectly clear from even your last comment that you support The War on Drugs. Yes, you probably would like much less laws, as long as you can keep the laws you like. Like I said, nothing unusual about that.

    What on earth is ‘TSAOAFR’?

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    ‘As to your attitude towards laws, it is perfectly clear from even your last comment that you support The War on Drugs. Yes, you probably would like much less laws, as long as you can keep the laws you like. Like I said, nothing unusual about that. ‘

    I am on record here, multiple times and unequivocally, as being very-much opposed, generally speaking, to The War on Drugs.

    My attituide towards laws, generally speaking , is that if they’re on the books, then we are pretty-much bound to obey them. All of us. All the time. The fact that we may not like them, or agree with them, is neither here nor there. And if we choose to ignore or flout the laws we don’t like, or don’t agree with, then we should take the consequences like adults, and not whine and snivel when the application of those laws causes us inconvenience – or worse.

    TSAOAFR – The Situational Awareness Of A ( ) Rock

    llater,

    llamas.

  • I am on record here, multiple times and unequivocally, as being very-much opposed, generally speaking, to The War on Drugs.

    Very much news to me – sorry, my mistake.

    On laws, should I invoke Godwin by giving examples of how blind law obedience can lead to great unpleasantness? You should be able to do better than that, llamas.

    Thanks for the de-acronymization. I keep running into this one (looking at Sunfish here), and keep forgetting what it means.

  • Sunfish,

    Thanks for the answer. I still don’t get it – I can think of half a dozen ways of shooting or otherwise discommoding a person stood next to my car door – but I’ll take your word for it.

    So why does the same not apply to the people on the sidewalk?

    llamas,

    There is much to disagree with in the idea that obeying even immoral laws is a moral (as opposed to tactical) imperative, but that’s a rabbit hole I’ll try to avoid for the time being.

    I sort of had two points, neither of which your excellent answers really addressed. The first was, it isn’t at all obvious to most people not well-versed in roadside confrontations that simply getting out of the car is “aggressive”. Sunfish has answered the “why”, but it still leaves the problem that many people, especially foreigners, wouldn’t know.

    The second is that the argument isn’t really about what the stopped citizen is supposed to do, it’s about what the cops are supposed to do. Yes, you obey the cops instructions, but the cop has to only issue lawful instructions, give fair warning before escalating, and to respond in a proportionate and justified way. If the armed cop tells you to “lie down for a kicking with your legs apart because you’re black”, it might (or might not) be sensible to comply, but we’re not supposed to just shrug and say “that’s life!”

    That’s why I brought up the Soviets. Nobody but the foolish or desperate would try to argue with the KGB at a security stop, and you could easily argue that anybody who did so was an idiot, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. And I think it is a highly significant event when it’s not the Soviet police we are supposed to be that scared of, but the Americans. (Take that as a compliment.)

    The problem is, a lot of us were under the impression that the Americans were different. It needs to be better publicised – e.g. by those big signs I mentioned at the border – they they’re not.

    I fear this may be one of those cultural meta-context things. Americans are perhaps so used to it, that they don’t realise that it isn’t obvious and universal.

  • Sunfish

    Thanks for the answer. I still don’t get it – I can think of half a dozen ways of shooting or otherwise discommoding a person stood next to my car door – but I’ll take your word for it.

    So why does the same not apply to the people on the sidewalk?

    It would be far easier to show than to tell. Not sure what you mean about the sidewalk.

    I sort of had two points, neither of which your excellent answers really addressed. The first was, it isn’t at all obvious to most people not well-versed in roadside confrontations that simply getting out of the car is “aggressive”. Sunfish has answered the “why”, but it still leaves the problem that many people, especially foreigners, wouldn’t know.

    The yelling, or the voice over the PA, to get back in the car is usually pretty clear. If I see a door open, I just get on the PA system and tell them.

    The vast majority of people I stop have picked up on this from Driver’s Ed. The remainder, most stay in the car when I get on the PA after seeing their door open. That leaves maybe one driver in a hundred who could be deaf, could be non-Anglophone, or could be Lovelle Mixon.

    I have no way of knowing, ahead of time. Some will act apologetic or understanding when I explain, after the rest of the business of the stop is complete, why I told them what I did. Some will file a formal complaint in the morning.[1] And some will raise their arms, yell, and close distance.

    The first two, I can live with.

    The second is that the argument isn’t really about what the stopped citizen is supposed to do, it’s about what the cops are supposed to do.

    Court is held in a large city-owned or county-owned building that says ‘Courthouse’ or ‘Justice Center’ over the front door. Not on the side of the road. One is a calm, refereed, generally-controlled and generally-safe environment for resolving disputes. The other is a terrible substitute.

    Note carefully that I am not denying the existence of rogue cops. What I am denying is that the side of the road is a good place to argue about it.

    And I think it is a highly significant event when it’s not the Soviet police we are supposed to be that scared of, but the Americans. (Take that as a compliment.)

    I’m not sure how comparing me to the Committee for State Security or the Ministry of the Interior could possibly be a compliment.

    Alisa: I was there the last time llamas voiced his concerns about the War On Non-FDA-Approved Drugs. He’s on the side of the angels. If his explanation about a half-ton in the trunk bothered you, substitute ‘three Hamassholes with underwear by Skoda’ instead, and I think the point will stand.

    [1] I’ve only ever had one sustained, and it had nothing to do with this. I got a call for a family dispute: little Johnny won’t wash the dishes. Mom didn’t appreciate the cop asking her, “You…freaking…called…911…for…this?”

  • llamas

    Alisa wrote:

    ‘On laws, should I invoke Godwin by giving examples of how blind law obedience can lead to great unpleasantness? You should be able to do better than that, llamas.’

    And you should be able to do better than to put words in my mouth.

    I never suggested ‘blind law obedience’. What I said is that you must do, what the officer tells you to do. This really has nothing to do with ‘blind law obedience’ – it is, in a sense, a matter of administration, not of laws. The traffic stop, or the USBP search, is simply part of the process. As Sunfish notes, justice is served in a building marqueed for that purpose. Anything prior to that is simply the application of ‘the due process of law’ and it’s actually your duty as a citizen to comply with it. To complain about it as well, if you don’t like it, but to comply with it nonetheless.

    Illegal acts by officers in the application of this process are often self-evident – but often not. Except in this venue, of course, where the default position is that any use of force by an officer will be seen first as aheinous and unlawful abuse of authority unless & until proven otherwise.

    Are there coppers who behave badly and abuse the rights of citizens? You bet there are. But they get the same due-process rights as you or I do. The automatic assumption that the officers in this case behaved illegally, based solely on the word of the victim displays a prevalent prejudice which has its own Godwinian parallels.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish,

    What I meant about the sidewalk was in response to the earlier statement – the one I was really arguing with – that “cops ALL OVER THE WORLD regard getting out of the car unless told to do so as a threatening act”.

    The point is that the resulting situation is virtually identical to one in which you meet a pedestrian on the sidewalk and wish to talk to them. They are stood up. They can move about. They can try to pull out a gun and shoot you. But I have never heard that when cops talk to people on the sidewalk they act as if they are about to get shot or have just been assaulted.

    Why is it different, or so we are told, if they had previously been sat in a car?

    This is the bit we don’t understand. Simply standing on the road is not threatening behaviour. Asking questions, or calling the cop names we have been told, is allowed. It is as strange as if we had been told that scratching one’s left ear was globally considered a frighteningly aggressive move – meriting a roughing up and a night in jail – and it was obviously the guy’s own fault for scratching his ear without permission. We didn’t know that. It’s not obvious. It doesn’t appear to be entirely logical, given the many lethal things one can do without any recourse to ears. And the rule apparently only applies some of the time.

    If you want the person in the car, then I’d expect something like “Get back in the car. If you don’t go back, you will be arrested and restrained.” And if they persist, you arrest them with the minimum force necessary, and then once you’ve checked that they are not in fact armed and dangerous, and are now willing to comply, you ought to be able to let them go. There no longer being need or justification to restrain them. (Unless you think a crime has been committed with mens rea.)

    As a matter of legal principle, that’s what I would expect. I don’t know what the law is on the matter in the US; I honestly assumed it would be roughly along those lines. But I find myself astonished to hear the idea expressed that he was “lucky he was subdued with non-lethal means”, and one should “live to fight another day”. An unarmed man doing nothing dangerous and committing no crime can be killed, because a cop thought he might do something threatening in the future.

    Of course, I don’t know whether the guy’s story is true, and obviously I wouldn’t want to criticise something that never happened. I can only go on what I’m told. And I am certainly sympathetic to cops in dangerous situations. But I think that if I assaulted a total stranger simply because he got out of a car, and I therefore thought he might attack me, I fear that my “self defence” defence would receive short shrift from the police.

    I thought everybody’s right to self defence was the same.

  • Sunfish: I know, I apologized to llamas – hope it didn’t come across as sarcastic, because it wasn’t. As to the guy in the trunk, I thought of that too, but this is also a problem that needs to be solved mostly far away from the US-Canadian border.

    Llamas, you wrote:

    And you should be able to do better than to put words in my mouth. I never suggested ‘blind law obedience’. What I said is that you must do, what the officer tells you to do. This really has nothing to do with ‘blind law obedience’ – it is, in a sense, a matter of administration, not of laws.

    Here is your statement regarding the War on Drugs that provoked me to invoke Godwin:

    My attituide towards laws, generally speaking , is that if they’re on the books, then we are pretty-much bound to obey them. All of us. All the time. The fact that we may not like them, or agree with them, is neither here nor there.

    You are either too busy to truly focus on the discussion, or are trying to win the argument by any means. I would like to believe it’s the former.

    Except in this venue, of course, where the default position is that any use of force by an officer will be seen first as a heinous and unlawful abuse of authority unless & until proven otherwise

    If that is indeed the case (which I doubt), then please count me out.

    The automatic assumption that the officers in this case behaved illegally, based solely on the word of the victim

    Ditto.

  • llamas

    Alisa –

    regarding this:

    ‘You are either too busy to truly focus on the discussion, or are trying to win the argument by any means.’

    - I see where you’re trying to ‘win the argument by any means’ by selectively quoting what I said – only the half that seems to support what you allege I am trying to say, and not the second half that completes what I actually said.

    Or perhaps you are just too busy to truly focus on the discussion.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    I’m pretty much in agreement with the points made by Llamas and Sunfish here, but for one thing: the guy was on his way out of the country. What possible grounds was there for stopping him (whether random or not)? If he’s smuggling something illegal into the country isn’t it the Canadians’ job to stop him? Why isn’t the USBP solely concerned with what’s coming into this country?

  • Sunfish

    Alisa, llamas: Take a deep breath. I like you both too much to enjoy watching this.

    Pa Annoyed:

    The point is that the resulting situation is virtually identical to one in which you meet a pedestrian on the sidewalk and wish to talk to them. They are stood up. They can move about. They can try to pull out a gun and shoot you. But I have never heard that when cops talk to people on the sidewalk they act as if they are about to get shot or have just been assaulted.

    There are contacts with pedestrians, and then there are contacts with pedestrians. There’s a difference between “This person’s asking me for directions,” “This person may know something I need to ask him about,” and “This person is about to have his day ruined.” In the last of those three instances, he might find his movements restricted in some way as part of our interaction.

    Why is it different, or so we are told, if they had previously been sat in a car?

    A few reasons:
    1) If they were stopped while driving, it’s a lot more likely that the contact is the third type I mentioned above.

    2) The car contains them. They’re not going to flank me, grab for my gun, or get to a weapon of their own without telegraphing it well in advance.

    This is the bit we don’t understand. Simply standing on the road is not threatening behaviour.

    It’s not as simple as that, once placed into context. In the case at hand, even by the driver’s own admission he was’t just standing there.

  • Llamas, I hope you don’t read this as me attacking you, or even your opinions. What I am attacking are your opinions as perceived by me from your comments. It could be that I am not good at reading comprehension (it seems I wouldn’t be the first here when it comes to your comments), or it could be that you are not good at expressing yourself in writing (I am probably just as inadequate). Or could be both. In any case, I didn’t lose any sleep over this so far, I hope you didn’t either. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

    Sunfish: I assure you that no panting was committed during the writing of the above comments.

    I like you both too much to enjoy watching this.

    Reminds me of that long-dead never-have-been-met relative who really liked sausage, until his mother arranged this production-line job for him…:-)

  • llamas

    Alisa – fair enough. Well let it lie – if nothing else, so as not to discomfort Sunfish.

    Regarding Pa Annoyed’s question about stopping a pedestrian vs stopping a motorist and why officers want to keep motorists in their cars – to build on what Sunfish wrote, you try and keep the motorist in his car because you can. Telling him to stay in the car does not restrain or restrict him in any unreasonable way – it is, after all, usually where he was when the encounter began – and it is an easy way to keep him contained. A motorist stopped for a traffic citation, for example, is already in one of those states of limbo, somewhere between ‘free to go’ and ‘under arrest’, in which the officer has the right to detain him for the duration of the process, and keeping him in the car is a perfectly-reasonable way to maintain that state of detention. Without laying hands on him or doing him any violence. It’s like he brought his own detention facility with him. Kind of a neat trick, really . . .

    A pedestrian is not so easily restrained, simply because he didn’t come in his own box. As Sunfish describes, a pedestrain who enters that state of limbo (analagous to the motorist stopped to be issued a citation) may well be more-actively contained – eg, by being put in the back of the car or, sometimes, by being handcuffed.

    Sunfish will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that if an officer is standing on a street corner and a motorist drives up, leans out of the window and says ‘Officer, may I speak with you a moment?’ and then commences to exit his vehicle, the officer has no authority to tell him to ‘stay in the car!’. Only when the motorist is already in that quasi-detentional state can the officer tell him what to do or not do.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish

    llamas:

    Sunfish will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that if an officer is standing on a street corner and a motorist drives up, leans out of the window and says ‘Officer, may I speak with you a moment?’ and then commences to exit his vehicle, the officer has no authority to tell him to ‘stay in the car!’. Only when the motorist is already in that quasi-detentional state can the officer tell him what to do or not do.

    That’s more or less my understanding.

    Anybody who does not like long posts about legal stuff will find Yet Another AGW Thread more interesting from here on out.

    Any time a police officer gives someone an order that impairs that person’s freedom of movement in some way, under US law he has ‘seized’ that person. Under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, any such seizure must be ‘reasonable’ in view of the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time.[1] I can prevent a person from leaving and tell him to sit down on a park bench for five minutes and then send him on his way, if that is the limit to what is reasonable for the case at hand. Or I can order every occupant out of a car and into the prone position at gunpoint, again if such an action is reasonable for the facts and circumstances with which I’m presented. (I don’t do the latter one routinely. We generally limit that to times where we have some specific reason to anticipate violence from an occupant if a lesser show of force is used.)

    The appropriate level of restraint, the appropriate amount of time that someone may be detained for, the appropriate amount of force used or threatened, etc., are all heavily fact- and circumstance-dependent. The guy suspected in a purse-snatching a week ago in which no violence was used will not be presented with the same show of force as the guy who looks just like a guy who robbed a pharmacy with a shotgun 20 minutes ago, riding in a car identical to one seen leaving said pharmacy at a high rate of speed.[2]

    In the case suggested by llamas…he has not offered any reason to suspect wrongdoing in his hypothetical. It’s a guy asking for directions. Unless there’s other information that the officer has that didn’t get mentioned, there’s no reason to start yelling orders. Llamas hasn’t included any reason to suspect criminal behavior, and absent even reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing an officer usually[3] has no basis for denying a person freedom of movement.

    What a lot of people don’t understand and don’t like is the following: What we’re allowed to do, what’s reasonable (there’s that word again) isn’t based upon facts unknown. Nor is it based upon what you, as a member of the public knows inside your own head and your own heart. You may know that, when you got out of your car screaming at me and rapidly closing distance, you did not have the intent of committing physical violence. However, I have no way of knowing that. All I know is what I personally observe, and what I’ve been told by other officers or dispatchers or other members of the public before we meet.[4] You may have no way of knowing that you have the same jacket and haircut as a suspect in some damn thing or another, or that your car looks like one that was carjacked in Pueblo last night. However, if that’s information known to the officer, then he’s not just allowed but expected to include it in his decisions as to how to proceed.

    That’s the legal standard that we’re supposed to apply to decisions to seize a person or item: Is the seizure reasonable, based upon the totality of facts and circumstances known to the officer, as interpreted by a reasonable officer with that officer’s knowledge, training, and experience? That’s also the courts’ standard when they review our actions after the fact.

    Example: I’m sure some of you have seen big bottles of iodine tincture. Not just the shot glass-sized bottle in your medicine cabinet, but the pint bottles sold to farriers. Let’s say that you see four of those, a crate of road flares, and some laboratory glassware in a car. What does this mean? I bet you that I could search that car based upon this alone and anything I find would be admissible. The key to my hypothetical is in the footnotes.[5] However, I have specific knowledge, training, and experience that I’m using to make my decision to search.

    [1] A common misconception is that stops or seizures of a free person in the field must meet the ‘due process of law’ standard set by the Fifth Amendment. This is not so. For reasons explained in various decisions, SCOTUS has held instead that the requirement for ‘reasonableness’ contained in the Fourth is the standard that applies.

    [2] Unless the call is assigned to ‘That Guy,’ flatly unable to exercise judgment. Unfortunately, every department in the US has him somewhere on the payroll, and as you’ll remember from the thread about a chickenshit firearms arrest from Surrey a few weeks back, the UK apparently actively encourages That Guy to be promoted to senior ranks. Rent “Super Troopers” and note the character portrayed by Kevin Heffernan.

    [3] There are exceptions. SCOTUS has held that 4th-Amendment rights are drastically lessened at international borders, for instance. Isn’t that how we ended up in this conversation?

    [4] That statement usually brings forth objections to relying on hearsay. Hearsay is information which a person does not know directly, but instead was told by someone else. Heresay is generally inadmissible at trial. It is, however, able to be included in decisions to arrest and can be included in the facts used to justify a search. Hearsay is a messy and convoluted subject and I’m mostly raising it in order to dismiss it.

    [5] Those are two ingredients in making methamphetamine using the ‘red P-I’ method, which uses iodine and red phosphorus (taken from the flares’ striking surfaces) to reduce psuedoephedrine cold tablets. If I put the presence of the cold medicine in the hypothetical, I’d have given the whole story away. But would it be okay if this didn’t result in another “war on drugs” threadjack?

  • Dale Amon

    While I recognize, by exception, that some persons employed by the State are really quite decent and doing the right thing, I do not trust or believe in the government by default. The actions of it or its employees must be proven to me in each case to be proper and truthful. Yes, I have lost all faith in the system. I do not like where it is going, I do not like the fact that simple movement from point A to point B has come to require scrutiny.

    I travel all the time. I am basically bi-continental between the US and the UK and I find the security measures rather intolerable, especially so since I have absolutely no belief that they are anything more than theater. This border crap is about the exercise of power and about appearances. They won’t stop squat from happening. It is you and I and whoever happens to be present at the time who might have to lay down our lives to stop it or to delay it until police or military can arrive at the location selected by terrorists by the criteria that the aforementioned weren’t there.

  • Laird

    The lengthy (and excellent) post on “legal stuff” by Sunfish notwithstanding, neither he nor llamas has addressed the question which I consider fundamental in this particular case: why is the USBP stopping and searching people who are leaving the country? I would have less problem with all of this if Watts had been stopped on his way into the US, but what possible justification can there be for such a search of someone on his way out?

  • Sunfish

    Laird-

    Webley speculated that it might be to keep people from muling proceeds of illegal activity out of the country, but I don’t think that to be any more than speculation right now.

    The only people who know for sure are the people who were there, and so far none of them are saying.

  • llamas

    Ah, Sunfish nails it again. This should be required reading in 8th-grade civics class.

    Regarding the stop on the way out of the country – there is a whole class of offenses which this might be addressing. For example, the transport of currency or monetary instruments out of the country. It’s not illegal to exit the US with a suitcase bursting at the seams with used $100 bills. But it is illegal to do so without declaring it to US Customs. I don’t know what the reporting threshold is today, but it used to be $10,000. I’ve had to make that declaration in the past – it’s a matter of routine.

    Same goes for the export of a wide range of technologies, ranging from software to exotic alloys and materials, electronic devices and a whole slew of other stuff.

    I believe that it’s illegal to transport a whole class of persons out of the country, including those under Federal indictment or court order, probation, parole and so forth.

    As Sunfish notes, the Feds have essentially-unlimited powers to stop and search at the border, largely-free of 4th-amendment restrictions, in order to enforce these laws.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish

    It’s not illegal to exit the US with a suitcase bursting at the seams with used $100 bills. But it is illegal to do so without declaring it to US Customs. I don’t know what the reporting threshold is today, but it used to be $10,000. I’ve had to make that declaration in the past – it’s a matter of routine.

    It’s still $10K. IIRC, it’s the same reg as the one that requires all cash transactions over that amount to be reported to the Treasury Department.

    Same goes for the export of a wide range of technologies, ranging from software to exotic alloys and materials, electronic devices and a whole slew of other stuff.

    Isn’t ITAR wonderful?

    I know for-profit firearms instructors who can’t let Canadian or British soldiers into their classes because of ITAR. Providing training to furriners is apparently exporting munitions.