Who Enforces Criminal Speech?
Picture this: eight college guys decide to play a pick-up basketball game at the local playground. As competitive sports often do, things get a little heated between teams. One 18 year old freshman calls another player a “bitch.” A nearby resident walking her dog in the playground hears the verbal jawing and calls the police. When the officer arrives, she points the freshman out and explains what horrific things she heard. The police proceed to arrest the freshman and bring him to jail.
Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well, if Mass Representative Dan Hunt gets his way, this scenario and others like it, will be playing out all across Massachusetts. To say Hunt and his cronies have their priorities straight would be a tale of fantasy. Hunt claims house bill H.3719 was the brainchild of an unnamed constituent and he is merely doing the work of the people. I find that difficult to believe. Hunt is a lawyer by trade and proud graduate of Suffolk Law School. One would think a Suffolk trained member of the bar would scoff at a constitutional amendment altering suggestion from a constituent. But, of course this is 2019 and the criminalization of name-calling plays right into the modern day victimization culture.
What’s ironic is Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins (the county Hunt represents) refuses to prosecute so-called minor crimes like shoplifting and assault on a police officer. I wonder if she is on board with unconstitutional word control? If the above basketball scenario plays out and DA Rollins finds our freshman in her court, will she refuse to prosecute such a low-level offense? I’m not so sure. My guess is a law like this plays right in Rollins’ wheelhouse...as long as the suspect fits her form of criminal justice warrior reform. -RJD
As a law enforcement officer I’m obligated to enforce all observed laws whether I agree with them or not. Take for example leaf blower laws that have been adopted by several eastern Massachusetts communities. This law obligates cops to stop residents and issue fines if they’re using a leaf blower that does not confine to the town’s requirements. Crazy, right? Nevertheless, that’s the job.
The other day I stopped a motorcyclist who was not wearing a helmet. The mid-life, out-of-towner was nice enough, having his documents at the ready and calling me “sir”. But when I told him he’s required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle he responded, “why?” Now, I don’t believe he was being difficult, it was just an honest question from an honest man. Needless to say, I went into some laborious explanation about motorcycle accident statistics and how most result in some sort of brain injury, yadda, yadda.
When I returned to my cruiser I thought to myself, “why is there a helmet law?” The way I view it most public safety laws are designed to protect the unsuspecting victim from injury. Speeding for example protect the widow Jones when no-nothing Johnny plows into her with his Camaro. Serious offenses like murder, rape, robbery are all designed to protect the innocent. Even the ill-designed leaf-blower law was implemented to preserve quality of life in quieter, suburban neighborhoods.
But other than the operator of the motorcycle who chooses not to wear one, who does the helmet law protect? If motorcycle Willy loses control and meets a stone wall, is the fact he’s not wearing a helmet hurt anybody but Willy? Is the unsightliness of Willy’s hair enough to mandate a protective barrier between his skull and the pavement? Or, is the helmet law just another example of government knowing what’s best for its minions? Aren’t the serfs smart enough in Massachusetts to decide for themselves?
Some may argue consumption of controlled substance falls into this category as well, but I disagree. Drugs carry crime and other quality of life issues that affect the widow Jones. The helmet law is in a class all by itself, and frankly I’m tired of the government dictating what’s right for me. If Willy and I want our hair flowing in the wind just before impact, so be it!
"Don't Help the Police!"
If California couldn't get any loonier, Governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill repealing a law that obligates all abled-bodied civilians to help police officer when requested. Now, understand this is an antiquated law that is irrelevant and probably unnecessary. Police officers today are more trained more skilled than when this law was enacted and a request from a civilian is highly unlikely. Seems to me California has bigger problems to address then some antiquated law. Nevertheless, we must look deeper into Governor Newsom's motivation. Clearly he wants to separate police officers from the "good people" of California. His message is unequivocal: our police officers are an unimportant burden on society. We must ignore their cries for help because they are lesser beings. Their existence is not defenders of law and order but as players of the other team who we compete with every day.
Newsom's view of law enforcement further separates the community from the police. With all the progress local police departments have made bridging the gap has been shattered by a stroke of Newsom’s pen. Programs like Coffee With a Cop which originated in the Golden State (Hawthorne, CA police department).
What a shame.
After all these years there is still a faction of the public who see the police as the enemy and one resides in the California Governor's mansion.
Abolish the 2nd Amendment
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a U.S. Constitution buff. I enjoy reading and learning the origin of this important document as well as the how the subsequent amendments were formed. As far as I understand, the 2nd amendment originated from the need of local villagers to take up arms in a militia to defend against brutal oppressors. One can not overstate the necessity of such an amendment. If the colonial residents were unable to fight off red coats with their personal weapons, our country as we know it would not exist. It’s really that simple.
So, two hundred years later is the 2nd amendment even necessary anymore? The U.S. has an army of all sorts of capabilities and resources to defend against foreign intruders. So the need for farmers with guns is antiquated and unnecessary. Isn’t it?
To answer this question I look to the Cajun Navy. According to their website (cajunnavyrelief.com) the Cajun Navy defines themselves this way: “We are a group of volunteers who work tirelessly without pay (using our own personal equipment) to provide immediate rescue and relief during natural disaster.”
In August, 2017 this group of non-governmental affiliated volunteers saved thousands of people from certain demise when storms brought severe flooding to Houston, Texas. Wait a second...Why would local flood victims need a group of civilian volunteers for help when we have local, state and federal officials to respond? Evidently, the storm came too quick and too powerful for official, government resources to mobilize. Thus, hundreds of average citizens (and heroes) came to the rescue in their personally owned boats to save the day.
Is it possible that in my time of need the government will not be able to save me? Is it possible I would have to rely on neighbors and perfect strangers like the Cajun Navy or a licensed gun owner to help me in an emergency?
Think about that the next time somebody asks you if the second amendment is necessary.
Pro Bono PI Work
I recently had a case where a client was helping a friend find their birth mother. I thought this was an interesting case due to the fact the mother was presumed homeless. The client wasn’t sure how to start or whether she could afford to hire a PI at all. I thought I would give her an hour or two of pro-bono work to give her a head start conducting her own investigation.
Thus, when I start any skip-trace investigation I have to get quality “ground” information. I approach any investigation like building the foundation of a house before building the walls. The first thing I did was pull Moms birth certificate from the vital statistics office and confirmed her date of birth. I learned she was born at Newton Wellesley Hospital at 2:33am, her parents names as well as the address she grew up in Watertown. It’s unbelievable the information you can obtain with one simple document.
With this information I was able to use a PI-only database to track all her residential address from birth to within the last year. The last address was 363 Albany St in Boston, which just happens to be a homeless shelter that had a woman's only component. My guess was Mom may have used this address to obtain some sort of government assistance (i.e. welfare, food stamps or medicaid). I also found several family members (or possible family members) from my database search who were still local.
As one may expect, homeless people (or people with limited resources) are harder to track digitally and may have to be done with some shoe leather. So, I explained to the client that if I was conducting this investigation I would begin by making a list of homeless shelters (especially those with a woman-only component) to visit and say hello. I would speak to not only the staff, but also anybody going in and out or hanging around outside. Most times the residents know who lives where better than the staff, and are not subject to non-disclosure policies. Also, many of these shelters have a high staff turnover because it’s not a very desirable job. I would also fill my pockets with single dollar bills and anybody who gives me good info, I would throw them a couple. Word will get around in the local homeless community and people will be jumping out of the woodwork to help.
Along with cash, I would prepare several copies of a letter directed to Mom in an envelope explaining who I am and why I'm looking for her. Some people become uneasy when they hear that someone is looking for them. To alleviate this, I always identify myself as a Private Investigator and explain in the letter I've been hired to locate them for the purpose of XYZ. I explained to the client when visiting these locations I would ask the staff if I could leave this letter for Mom in the event that she comes back to stay. Some places will keep mail slots for both residents as well as homeless people who frequent the location for a day or two. This is especially true if their shelter is the last known address for them (which is the case with the 363 Albany St.). If the shelter did not have a mailbox for Mom, maybe the staff member knows her and would hold it just in case Mom came in. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to slip the employee a fiver for her troubles. I know it sounds odd but it does work.
As a side note, I explained to the client that if she was planning to do the investigation herself, she should give a trusted friend a list of the shelters she was going to visit. I was not trying to scare her but the locations of these shelters in Boston are not in the most desirable areas and cops don't spend a lot of time patrolling shelters.
I try as often as possible to help where I can. Hiring a private investigator is not cheap and there are people just like this client who are trying to find loved ones without sufficient financial resources. Several days later the client emailed me with the following message:
“Wow! I just have to say thank you so very much For this information! You are one of the first that has been genuinely nice! My friend has been through hell and were not going to give up.”
Due to my unending pursuit of ultimate safety, I’m constantly searching for new tips and tricks to keep myself and others safe. Last year I found strong talent in the Secure Dad which is a blog website that includes news and information geared to keeping families safe. Following the tragic events of 9/11, Andy Murphy has dedicated his adult life to learning new ways to protect his family. He selflessly shares this information on his blog (thesecuredad.com) and more recently his all encompassing book Home Security. A common misconception regarding home safety is that its as easy as locking the front door and installing a surveillance camera. We can blame crafty home security commercials for that! But Andy dives deeper, forcing the reader to self analysis by evaluating their own home to implement simple, no nonsense steps to fortify their homes.
I’ve been in law enforcement for two decades and have seen every type of breaking and entering there is. I’ve seen first hand the devastating effect this type of victimization has on people. This intrusive violation is unlike any other feeling in civil society. The feeling a stranger was in your home where you experience your most private moments is a feeling like no other. I can say with much confidence if the average victim were to deploy the techniques clearly outlined in Home Security, the likelihood of victimization would have decreased dramatically. Andy has gone to great lengths to research and include very practical, inexpensive ways to make minor adjustments to secure your home. In fact, since reading this book I deployed several techniques already, and have recommended several items to residents in the community where I’m a police officer (I’m sure Andy wouldn’t mind if I shared them!)
So this summer, if you’re looking for an informative book to read while you sun yourself on the beach, read Andy Murphy’s Home Security, you will not regret it!
The recent suspension of 72 cops in Philadelphia illustrates the double standard facing the American Police Officer. If you haven't heard the most recent assault on the thin blue line, here’s a brief synopsis. Apparently a so-called “watch-dog” group, referring to themselves as the Plainview Project (gimme a break), conducted a two year long investigation into local cops and their personal lives. What was their purpose? My guess is to make themselves feel good by “proving” local cops are racists and bigots. Because racism is a systemic problem in 21st century policing (insert sarcastic eye roll here). Apparently, it took these clowns more than two years of digging into the personal social networking accounts of thousands of municipal cops to find the proverbial smoking gun.
Once the team of do-gooders found what they were looking for they dropped this “bombshell” report to their respective police departments like the Philadelphia Police Department and demanded a full investigation. As a result 72 Philadelphia hired a local law firm to investigate and these free speaking cops were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome. Their crime? I’m so glad you asked. According to a NBC10 news report, the group claims several cops made comments on their personal accounts that was derogatory or showed some kind of bias toward particular groups of people within their community. One such post was a repost of a meme that read “Death to Islam”. Another was in reference to a service call where the cop said the subject they were dealing with should be “taken out back and put down like the rabid animal he is.” Oooo, tough stuff.
Even though the headline in the NBC10 news report refers only to the Philadelphia Police, the article mentions two unrelated posts from cops from other parts of the country. One from Phoenix and the other from St. Louis where a cop questions whether the confederate flag is really racists. NBC10 appears to be a hard hitting news outlet. Evidently linking the Philly cops with other cops identified by this watch-dog group from across the country really proves their racist cop argument.
I spoke about the constitutional restrictions on cops in my eBook: #Nationwide Police Strike and still haven’t found an answer to the question plaguing American cops: where is the line drawn? Where does the police officer end and the off-duty, normal, average citizen begin. As far as we can tell from the groups “investigation” the uncovered posts originated while the cops were off-duty and supposedly protected by the first amendment. When a cop is sitting on his back deck enjoying a cookout with his friends and family shouldn’t he be allowed to say whatever he wants about whomever he wants? This question is not rhetorical.
What amazes me is that people still want to do this job. Believe it or not, there are people, who despite the constant restriction on their constitutional rights and constant under-the-michroscope treatment, that want to take the police exam, spend six months in the police academy and want to wear the uniform. Who are these people? Who is the recent college grad who sees the Chicago Cop go to jail or the Furgeson cop relieved of duty for fulfilling their duty and says to themselves “Yeah...that’s for me?” They need to have their head examined. If I knew twenty years ago, what I know now I’m not sure I would’ve taken that exam.
I recently received an email from a credit card company of whom I do business. I read the email twice and thought, 'would my credit card company really attempt to contact me using email? I don't think so.' Being the suspicious, skeptical person that I am, I called the credit card company using the phone number that is printed on the back of my card. And low and behold, my credit card company doesn't even have my email address on file. Imagine that? The service rep I spoke with said it happens so frequently now that the company doesn't even investigate these claims anymore. So, I thought I would research and share some helpful hints to protect us from becoming victims.
In my case, the email looked unbelievably accurate, with the company logo and even an email address that started with service and ended with the company name and dot com. The one thing that immediately drew my attention was the way some of the sentences were phrased. Everything was spelled correctly but reading the sentence aloud did not sound right (the reason for this I later learned was because the email probably originated out of the U.S. and English is their second language). In addition, the email asked me to click this specific, attached link to log into my account. That didn't sound right either. Thus, I wasn't fooled and neither should you. So, here are a couple helpful hints courtesy of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions:
Never respond to an unsolicited email that asks for detailed financial information: (In my case I did not click on the link, but if I had I'm sure it would've sent me to a site that asked for my log-in, password, account number, date of birth or other identifying information. I've heard of other incidents where clicking the link took you to a site and asks just your username and password. When you enter it the next screen read something like, "I'm sorry but our system is down, try again later". Then you go about your day not knowing that your username and password were recorded and your account is being cleaned out.
Report anything suspicious to the proper authorities: If after you believed you were scammed, or your account has been hacked, you should always report it to your local police department. As long as there is a monetary loss, or potential for loss, your police department is obligated to document the information and conduct an investigation. Most local departments are involved with state reporting agencies who track these types of cyber crimes. Even though most of these phishing scams are done across country boarders and county lines, financial institutions are much more ready to assist you AFTER you've reported it to a law enforcement agency. In addition, you can put a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting all of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
Finally, contact the Federal Internet Crime Complaint Center: This agency is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center and can be reached at www.ic3.gov.
I hope these tips help keep you safe. Feel free to contact RobDisario.com for a free consultation or for more information about how you can protect yourself. Thank You!
Bad Exit Orders
The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine forces cops to play by the rules. Essentially, the doctrine eliminates any evidence police seize that was not collected properly. If the cops violate the 4th amendment (or Article 14 in Massachusetts) a judge should rule the drugs found in the sugar bowl are not admissible. Case dismissed.
I recently had a criminal defense case where the driver in a traffic stop was arrested and charged with being in possession of cocaine. This was the classic constructive possession case after an ill advised exit order of the passenger led to the discovery of a crack pipe under his legs. The driver, my attorneys client, had no idea the drugs were there. Later we learned the passenger dumped the pipe on the floor once the flashing blue lights went on. The crux of the case weighed heavily on the search of the car following the exit order which I determined to be inappropriate. The cops made no attempt to justify why they were pulling the driver or the passenger out of the car. They observed no drugs, no drug use, no inappropriate “furtive” movements...nothing. Armed with this expert information from someone whose been doing police work for the last two decades, the judge was forced to toss the ill-gotten drugs and thus, toss the case.
My ability to assume a third party, professional practitioner view of the police performance was the saving grace for the attorney. Click here to learn more information about having an expert in police procedure review your case.
The recent shift is American policing is cause for concern. It wasn’t that long ago where a uniformed police officer could approach anybody on the street for a brief chat. Most citizens welcomed the interactions, others not so much. The cooperation between the two set an unwritten contract in motion detailing that once certain information was shared each would go on about their day. If, however the officer gained information that raised his suspicions there were procedural laws the officer followed to proceed up the ladder and eventually to arrest, summons or no criminal action. As the criminal case Terry v. Ohio explains: the officer has as much duty to prevent crime as he has to react to it. Obviously I will not go into the specifics of that case, but basically a cop saw a couple guys casing a store and when he conducted a threshold inquiry he learned they were planning to rob the clerk. The officer prevented a crime.
Unfortunately, as a recent cell phone video in Boston, MA illustrates cops shouldn’t speak with anyone without a smoking gun in the person's hand while they stood over a cooling corpse. The video is of a gang officer who is sitting in their parked, unmarked cruiser with his partner when a guy approaches them while filming with his cellphone camera. The citizen initiates the conversation and the cop reacts by asking him questions about who he is and where he’s going. Very reasonable. The cop never swears at the citizen nor touches him. In fact, since the conversation was initiated by the citizen he is free to leave at any time.
So, who suffers? If cops are alienated from society; from merely speaking to another citizen without being filmed, without being chastised by his superiors and even the Mayor of the city, they become reluctant to act. The new cop attitude is a complete reversal of the officers in the Terry v. Ohio case. Now, they may see something that is of criminal design and fail to act for fear the interaction will be posted on Youtube.
Thus, the citizens of the town or city are forced to become victimized before cops act. That’s now our reality in American Policing. My advice: Protect Yourself. Read my book by this title and implement the tips and tricks that recommend and avoid becoming a victim.
Blog posts are written by Rob Disario and include opinion editorials about policing and private investigations. Other topics include tips and tricks to protect yourself, thoughts for today, new products and product reviews. Rob's opinions are his own which are protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and do not reflect any other entity, affiliation or person.