Written by attorney Geoff Alan Dulebohn

Predatory Police Practices: When Government Preys on the Populace

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Were it not for the creation of the United States government, most of the principles upon which the union was founded would still be trapped in dusty philosophy books. The principles of justice, equality, and representative government may never have become adopted by other countries without the United States as an example to follow. It may be surprising to learn that some of the most fundamental notions of American liberty and justice were developed before the "common era" by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in their attempts to develop a more just Athenian society. The ongoing struggle for freedom and justice continues, as it always must. We invest our civic capital in the undertaking to achieve the ideal balance between liberty and order, law and reason, while trying to reconciling freedom and security. What happens though, when atrocities occur by a government unto the same population that empower it? A modern and relevant example is the he current unrest in the Arab world that is largely the result of broad abuses of power by government. I did not coin the term "predatory police practices", but it is an increasingly common occurence with disturbing and sometimes devastating consequences. Examples of such predatory police practices that I have personally encountered include the firing-squad style murder of an unarmed 20 year old suspect in Los Angeles and countless situations involving "stakeouts" and "setups" to generate arrests. An often overlooked dimension of the justice system is the origination of evidence and exactly how a case is referred to the courts by law enforcement. Legitimate sources of new defendants in the justice system include (among others): 1. arrests that follow a citizen's 911 call, 2. detentions based upon legitimate suspicion of criminal activity that later reveal evidence to substantiate an arrest and prosecution. A substantial portion of the system's resources are devoted to prosecuting DUI arrests. A common predatory practice that the police employ is to prowl in the shadows near a bar and then stop anyone leaving the parking lot without adequate cause (reasonable suspicion). Merely the location of the driver or time of day or night is irrelevant in the absence of an objectively reasonable belief by the officer that a crime has occurred or is about to occur. I have encountered circumstances in which the police will run license plates outside of a bar and identify which vehicles belong to drivers on probation, and then wait for them to emerge. Perhaps the most disturbing situation involving vehicle stops occurs when an officer blatantly lies under penalty of perjury regarding the alleged violation that prompted the stop in the first place. For evidence to be admissible in a criminal proceeding, it must first be acquired lawfully: that is, in accordance with 4th Amendment search provisions and applicable case law. For example, an officer waits outside of a bar at closing time for the only vehicle in front to be driven away by its owner. The owner then emerges from the establishment and begins to drive, stopping at the nearby stop sign, and then making a lawful turn. The predator has already marked its prey before any violation could occur and pursues the vehicle in order to investigate the driver without first witnessing the violation of any law. The report later alleges that the driver sped through the stop sign at 15 miles per hour: a lie. In this particular case, four credible eye witnesses testified to the driver's stop at the stop sign. Although the case law is very clear as to the objective suspicion that is required to detain a driver and vehicle, the problem becomes convincing the government (law enforcement and the courts) to adhere to its own rules. When a court or administrative body fails to follow precedent from higher courts, it thereby sanctions predatory police practices and allows them to continue. The only definition for this process is "corruption". In fact, the term "culture of corruption" has recently defined the practices of our government by the media at every tier. Unfortunately, we the people have witnessed a crescendo of ambivalence by the government towards the rule of law. Predatory police practices are only one symptom of a grander effort to subjugate the citizenry into submission to whatever other predations may follow. Please submit complaints to a department that employs predatory police and consult an attorney if you have legitimate grievances. In light of the aforementioned corruption that may exist, the press may be able to help by exposing predators. Please bear in mind that this discussion was not intended to target any specific department or to imply that all government agents are corrupt or predatory; rather, it is posted here to illustrate how abuses occur and to encourage ongoing vigilance.

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