Jerry L. Steering specializes in the area of police misconduct litigation; both criminal and civil. “Criminal” because most of the time when the police beat-you-up or falsely arrest you or otherwise violate your constitutional rights, they usually at least attempt to procure your malicious criminal prosecution, to protect themselves and their pals and employing agency from civil liability. “Civil” because Mr. Steering sues the police for beating-you-up or falsely arresting you or otherwise violating your constitutional rights.
Mr. Steering has litigated police misconduct cases in federal court in San Diego (the United States District Court for the Southern District of California) for many years now. He has been suing police officers for violating the constitutional rights of others for over thirty years. Mr. Steering has had some recent high profile police misconduct cases in San Diego County in recent times.
In Jovan Jimenez v. County of San Diego, Mr. Steering recovered $500,000.00 for a man from Riverside County who was beaten by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff’s for verbal protest of his misdemeanor simple battery arrest.
Mr. Steering also currently represents a retired CHP Officer in U.S. District Court in San Diego who was falsely arrested by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for carrying a concealed firearm on a High School campus. He was allowed to do so because he is an Honorably Retired peace officer with a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit from the CHP. Robert Pitt v. County of San Diego, et al.; United States District Court for the Southern District of California.
Mr. Steering also represents other men in their another case against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for beating and falsely arresting a totally innocent man who happened to exit a 7-11 store in Encinitas and look at a Deputy Sheriff in the wrong way who harassing others there.
If you believe that police agencies are honest and that police don’t do bad things to good people you are still drinking the Kool-Aid. That is not our world anymore; at least not in this Country.
In years gone by, we, as a society, had a whole lot more respect for each other; even if the showing of that respect was nothing more than addressing a person as “Ma’am” or “Sir”. Just listen to old radio shows, and it’s apparent that people were simply more polite, civilized and respectful toward each other. So were the police. They didn’t dress like they were suited for street patrol duty in Irag or Afghanistan; part of the present problem in itself in the law enforcement community. They walked a beat, carried .38 caliber revolvers and weren’t trained to kill you if you refused to show them their hands or otherwise possibly might pose a danger to them; the modern trend in policing.
Moreover, the respect by the police for the individual was reflected in the Supreme Court‘s attitude toward your right to be left alone in your home. A man’s home has always been his castle throughout Anglo-American jurisprudence. However, usually pursuant to some sort of “balancing test” created by the Supreme Court and the intermediate federal courts, your rights have, case by case, year by year, have been eviscerated.
Your home is no longer your castle, because the Supreme Court has created so many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement (i.e. police need a warrant to enter your home without your consent), that the exceptions (i.e. “emergency doctrine”, “exigent circumstances”, “hot pursuit”, “administrative searches”, “protective sweeps” and the like) that the exceptions have swallowed up the rule; the requirement that the police obtain judicial authorization to enter and/or search your home. The Warrant Requirement is so basic to Anglo-American jurisprudence that basic and unequivocal protection from the federal government, and
This current problem in American jurisprudence, state and federal courts excusing police compliance with the Fourth Amendment’s Warrant Requirement by redefining what and who the Fourth Amendment protects; usually by eroding what protections from government intrusion your have left. This problem has become so acute and pervasive that the Champion of the Right, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, laments the passing of the era of American liberty (1791 – 2006); when a man’s home was truly his castle; when a man had the right to be left alone in his home, save a warrant or a genuine emergency. Judge Kozinski was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan in 1985; the same year Justice Scalia was also nominated by President Reagan. Although Judge Kozinski has made his reputation as a Conservative Republican jurist, judge Kozinski has gone through a transformation of sorts. Although staunchly “Conservative”, Judge Kozinski nonetheless is staunchly in favor of defending those Constitutional rights that the rights still recognizes; none more dear to the liberty judges than the right to be left alone in your home. As Judge Kozinski laments; that right is no more.
Once upon a time in the West there was a special place called home. Solemn pronouncements from our nation’s highest court, and our own court, protected it from warrantless police intrusions. “With few exceptions,” the Supreme Court held, “the question whether a warrantless search of a home is reasonable and hence constitutional must be answered no.” Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 31 (2001). Such searches were deemed “presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980). We held that the “government bears a heavy burden of demonstrating that exceptional circumstances justified departure from the warrant requirement. The burden [could not] be satisfied by speculation about what may or might have happened.” United States v. Howard, 828 F.2d 552, 555 (9th Cir. 1987) (emphasis added) (quoting United States v. Licata, 761 F.2d 537, 543 (9th Cir. 1985)). Police who entered the home without a valid warrant could be held personally liable. Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 563-65 (2004).
That special place is no more. The rules haven’t changed, at least not on paper. But legal rules are only as good as their last application. The panel majority dutifully recites the right standard, but guts it of all meaning by approving an intrusion into the home that does not remotely satisfy it. If the justificationhere satisfies the government’s “heavy burden” to show non-speculative “exceptional circumstances,” it’s hard to imagine how we can keep the police from barging into any home anytime they please.” (United States v. Black, No. 05-10640 (9th Cir. 2007; Dissent by Kozinski, J., from Denial of En Banc review).
Today modern police oppression hasn’t stopped with what would have been previously been deemed unreasonable entries into and searches of private residences. Before 1968, the police needed “probable cause” to believe that you committed a crime to restrain your freedom to leave their presence and go about your business (the present standard for determining whether a person is “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment (United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980.)) Since 1968, police officers no longer need “probable cause” to believe that you committed a crime to seize you. In almost all “street contacts” (in public places, not in private residences), the police can, as a practical matter, seize you based on the flimsiest evidence and the slightest suspicion that you are engaged in “criminality afoot”. They can also seize you in a manner that would have required probable cause to arrest not that long ago (i.e. handcuffing and placing in police car usually treated as lawful “investigative detentions“, rather than arrests.)
Moreover, the police are trained that their personal safety is primary, and that your pesky Constitutional rights come second. In a very real way, the use of almost any type of force by a police officer can, and will be justified by the employing police agency. When is the last time that a police agency admitted that they wrongfully shot or otherwise used unreasonable force on someone, or wrongfully arrested someone, or wrongfully searched a person or place? It doesn’t happen.
Most of all, because of concerns for civil liability and political obloquy, police agencies are far less interested in finding the truth about their own conduct, than in obscuring the truth. If you are the victim of police abuse, regardless of the fact that you did nothing wrong, you are now their enemy as you are a threat to them. The police are not our friends anymore. The “why” for this state of affairs is shown below.
By Slowly Enlarging The Summary Powers Of Police Officers To Seize Civilians And Their Homes And Effects, The Supreme Court Set The Table For Police Abuse Of Civilians.
When the LAPD falsely arrested Actress Naiomi Watts for “resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck stood in front of the TV cameras and demanded an apology by Naomi Watts to the LAPD officers who arrested her because he agreed with the arresting officers’ claim that Ms. Watts violated Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officers performance of duties) because she failed to identify herself to the officer; allegedly delaying their investigation of her (turning logic on it’s head). The law is, and has been clearly established in California for some time now, that it is not a crime to refuse to identify yourself to a police officer, other than a refusal to do so during your booking process at the jail. See, In Re Chase C., Cal.App. (1st Dist., Division 4) No. D067787 (12/18/15). Notwitstanding that clearly established law, the LAPD Police Officers Protective Union still tells its members that they can arrest civilian for failing to identify themselves during a detention. See, Providing ID To Police Officers – A Public Service Announcement.
As a practical matter police officers can search you for weapons if they detain you, even though “the letter of the law” (current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence) only allow such searches if the officers are aware of facts that would cause a reasonably well trained police officer to believe that they are dealing with an armed and dangerous person. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
Today’s police officers have become so brazen as to routinely declare themselves dictators of the scene (“taking command of a scene”), with essentially martial law powers, to order civilians around. This is no joke. Any failure to immediately comply with arbitrary or just plain unreasonable police orders, now in itself becomes the basis for the police to seize you, and, very often, to beat the crap out of you; usually for fun with the guys. Don’t think that a substantial proportion of today’s police officers don’t love to beat up defenseless innocents.
To add insult to injury, today’s police officers now routinely beat-up innocents for actions such as: 1) daring to tell the police officer that you know your constitutional rights, or that the officer is violating your constitutional rights, or 2) asking the police what’s going on, rather than immediate unquestioning compliance with police orders; 3) telling the police that you’ll comply with their orders when they tell you what’s going on; 4) complaining to officers about their treatment others, 5) otherwise criticizing the police. Any such actions by innocents routinely usually result in their being arrested, and very often criminally prosecuted for some trumped up “resistance offense”. After all, if they beat you, they have to arrest you (to shift the blame), and if they arrest you that have to at least attempt to procure you bogus criminal “resistance offense”‘; to “shift the blame”, and to (via your bogus criminal conviction) preclude you from suing them.
The police have so much power, that under California state law, even if you can prove that the police attempted to frame you for a crime that they knew you did not commit, and that you suffered terrible damages, ridicule and humiliation from that attempted frame-up, the police are absolutely immune from liability for attempting to frame you. See, Cal. Gov’t Code § 821.6.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
Since 1968, the Supreme Court has given the police, more power than a judge. A judge can only issue an order to search a person, place or thing, or to arrest another, if there is “probable cause” to believe that suspected person or place is connected with some sort of crime. A judge cannot issue a warrant to arrest or search on any level of suspicion, less than “probable cause.” However, at least in the real world, and under present constitutional standards, a police officer has the “power” to detain you, on less than probable cause; really any reason at all. The real reasons these days include things such as: 1) you looked suspicious, 2) you looked like a gang member, 3) you dressed like a gang members, 4) you’re black, 5) you’re Mexican, 5) you looked like a junkie; 6) you looked poor and homeless. All that the police need to say (reports, court, etc.) is that they asked the person who the officer encountered to show the officer his/her hands and the person didn’t comply. Not only will the judges and juries let the cops detain you, in California these days, the juries will let the cops shoot you to death. Again, this is no joke.
A judge can’t order that you be proned-out on a mud puddle, be make to sit on a curb, be handcuffed, get your hands up against a wall or a car, that you be placed in the back seat of a police car,that you be ordered to exit your house at gun point, etc. The list goes on However, Judges have now permitted police officers to seize you, to points guns at you (when not reasonably necessary), to prone you out (when not reasonably necessary), to handcuff you (when not reasonably necessary), to place you handcuffed in the back seat of police cars (when not reasonably necessary) and many other “petty indignities”. This abdication of power from the judiciary to the police is the genesis of “The United Police States of America“. In the prophetic words of Justice William O. Douglas:
“If the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime”.
Nowadays, the judges have bent-over backwards so much to allow the police to do whatever they want to, including allowing the police to seize you even when they neither have a warrant nor the slightest suspicion of any connection between you and some sort of criminal conduct. For example, there is a new phenomenon in American Jurisprudence; “Special Needs Detentions.” These detentions are not predicated on the police suspecting that you’re connected to crime. These Special Needs Detentions permit the government to ignore the constitutional barrier between you and a tyrannical government; the requirement that the government can’t seize you or your property unless they have some proof that you’re connected to crime. Now the police can seize you because you witnessed them unlawfully killing or beating-up a civilian, and now have to be neutralized. The determination of whether your witness status is important enough to the police “investigation” (in the Internal Affairs business, really the “cover-up” phase), rests entirely with the police. Again, a judge cannot order that a witness to a crime be seized for questioning. The police now can seize you on the flimsiest of evidence of any involvement by you of connection to criminal activity. They can prone you out on a mud puddle, and arrest you for even questioning their directions to you to get down on the ground, even when you have no idea what’s going on. They can point guns at your head when there’s no reason to do so. They can handcuff you, search you and place you all in the back seat of a police car; now all without probable cause to believe that you committed a crime; now all in the name of officer safety; the replacement for the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause requirement. They do this because the judges that compose the federal judiciary allow them to do so.
A judge can’t order that you be proned-out on a mud puddle, be make to sit on a curb, be handcuffed, be placed in the back seat of a police car, be ordered to exit your house at gun point, etc. The list goes on. A cop can. This needs to be stopped and reversed if we are to continue to exist as a free society. Most good, honest and good citizen types feel that since they aren’t breaking any laws, other than going with traffic a moderate speed over the speed limit, that they have nothing to fear. They feel that these bad things that police officers are accused of were probably caused by the actual victims of those transgressions by police officers. That they must have done something to cause the officer to abuse them. They don’t know reality; at least not today’s reality. Not anymore. So, how did we get here
1968 Was A Crazy Year; A Year That Resulted In The Rise Of The Police State.
For most of the 1960′s leading-up to that year, America was in a state of upheaval. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, and Bobby Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. There were riots at the Democratic Convention on August 28, 1968, and there were National Guards troops in cities throughout the United States, for the nationwide race riots and anti-war protests that were going on. Most of white America was shifting their worldview, to support the police, who they perceive as being the barrier between the hippies and the “pinko commies“, and them.
This turn to ”The Right”, resulted in the Election of Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and the beginning of our deviance from almost 200 years of our adherence to the most basic pillar of liberty, that the police cannot “seize a civilian” without a warrant in the absence of evidence know to him that would cause a reasonably well trained officer that the person has committed a crime.
In the craziness of the race riots in America, from 1962 to 1968, that the Supreme Court was more inclined, to excise from Fourth Amendment that chief Constitutional barrier between a free society, and arbitrary seizures of civilians by the government. In 1968, the Supreme Court gave the police the right to seize a person, on less than probable cause to believe that they committed a crime; something that a Judge cannot authorize be done to a person (a Judge can’t issue a warrant to detain another for investigation based upon “reasonable suspicion”; only an arrest warrant based on “probable cause.”)See, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968.) The sole dissenter in Terry, was Justice William O. Douglas, who warned:
“To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment. Until the Fourth Amendment, which is closely allied with the Fifth, [n4] is rewritten, the person and the effects of the individual are beyond the reach of all government agencies until there are reasonable grounds to believe (probable cause) that a criminal venture has been launched or is about to be launched.
There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today.
Yet if the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.” (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968.)Douglas, J., Dissenting.)
Ever since Terry v. Ohio , Mr. Justice Douglas’ warning has come to fruition. Now “the police have taken that “long step down the totalitarian path”. Now they can pick a man up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion”.
Although Terry v. Ohio was never supposed to be a generalized “detention case”, and was only supposed to be a stop and frisk case, if you give the police an inch, they’ll take a mile, and when they do so, their conduct that would have previously be viewed as “unreasonable” and “intolerable”, by use / misuse it has now become normal; what the police do. This, in turn, becomes “reasonable” in the eyes of the public, because it’s what they believe / perceive that police do, and, therefore, it’s reasonable.
They can do this because Terry v. Ohio abandoned 200 years of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and allowed seizures of persons on a lesser degree of suspicion than probable cause to arrest; these days on really nothing at all. In fact, things have gotten so bad, that warrantless seizures of civilians are now permitted by the Supreme Court when the seized person isn’t suspected of any crime at all, and the only “justification” for the stopping, seizing, searching, handcuffing and proning of a civilian, is the officer’s claim that such seizure / restraint of the civilian made the officer feel safer. These days, a claim by the police that they seized you, or handcuffed you, or put you in the back seat of a police car, or ordered you out of your home (even without a warrant), or ordered you to prone yourself on a mud-puddle, can, at least in the real world of real judges and real defendants, be justified by a claim of “Officer Safety”, no matter how absurd the claim.
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.
Police officers who abuse civilians, typical arrest their victims (the innocent civilian) is becoming more common every day; notwithstanding the fact that most adults now possess the ability to quickly video record events that we confront (i.e. Smartphone video recordings.) In almost all jurisdictions, the police know that if they beat you or falsely arrest you or otherwise violate your Constitutional rights, that the local prosecutor is more than happy to “persecute” you for some contrived or imaginary “resistance offense” that usually is sufficient to shift the blame from the violating officer, to you. Now you, the victim, is the one being prosecuted for a crime, when you were the crime victim. This is normal. This is business as usual.
However, case by case, year by year, the public becomes used to the police using what would not so long ago be considered “unreasonable force”, on civilians. So, for example, a police officer used to have a pretty darn good reason to shoot a civilian. Now, it’s open season on the public. Peace Officer certification is now a license to kill. Any articulable (and often imaginary / contrived) furtive movement or proximity of hands to ones waist area provides sufficient modern justification to kill the civilian; armed or not; threat or not.
After a while, like the present state o so has public acceptance of the use of: 1) brutal and disproportionately excessive use of, or the threatened use of weapons; 2) disproportionately restrictive methods of immediate restraint (i.e. handcuffing for “officer safety” purposes, as general precautionary practice, in citizen street contacts), 3) shooting persons who the police say that committed a “furtive movement” (usually the suspect moved his / her hands by or in the waistband nonsense; in 2010, the LA Sheriff’s Department killed 15 unarmed people this way, and they haven’t stopped), and the spectrum of “overkill” police techniques, that we’ve grown-up with over the past 30 plus years. We think that dispatching the SWAT team on a call of, “grandpa has Alzheimer’s and locked himself in the bathroom with a kitchen knife”, is normal. We see this as normal, because over the years, case by case, right by right, new weapon by new weapon, we have seen the Executive Branch of government, the police, just doing these acts; especially in the movies and television.
We also see, that when civil and criminal litigants challenge these acts, that our so cherished federal constitutional rights are usually are cast aside either:
1) By Issuing Appellate Court rulings that allow for the warrantless and often even suspicionless searches and seizures of persons, places and property, in the name of “Officer Safety.
As shown above, the backlash of the right in the judicial philosophy among Supreme Court Justices is the slow but sure, case by case, substitution of “officer safety” in place of and instead of the “probable cause” or even “reasonable suspicion” standard heretofore required for the police to be able to search and seize you, or your home or your effects. In other words, prior to this recent wrinkle in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the police either had to have a warrant to search (a person, place or thing) or to arrest you or your home and effects, or a true emergency requiring such warrantless searches and seizures. Now, the tether between the government only being able to seize you and your things, and some requirement that your are at least suspected of a crime, is almost completely severed.
For example, in Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997), the Supreme Court allowed police officers to order the passengers of vehicles that traffic stops were effected on, to exit the cars, notwithstanding that the passenger was not suspected of any criminal activity whatsoever. The year before, in People v. Hannah, 51 Cal.App.4th 1335 (1996), the California Court of Appeal permitted the de minimis “detention” of two adult men who were present at a private home during the execution of a juvenile arrest warrant, extolling that the manner of detention was uninstrusive and conducted in a private home and the need for “officer’s safety”.
People v. Hannah was followed by the California Courts three years later in People v. Matelski, 82 Cal.App.4t 837 (2000). The Matelski court upheld the constitutionality of the detention (a demand for identification) of two men who were standing outside of a probationer’s home, based on their claim that they needed to investigate who the probationer was consorting with to see if he was violated his probation; something that even the most fervent of federalist types could not justify with a straight face.
Thereafter, the Supreme Court took another steep nose dive in the justice / good vs. evil world, when, for the first time, they actually authorized the detention and handcuffing of anyone present at the scene of a search warrant execution; claiming that the justification for the suspicionless detention of innocents, officer’s safety, had previously been approved in a previous Supreme Court case; something patently false. See, Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005); misquoting Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981) (that only justified the seizure of the non-target at a search warrant executed on ground that since judge who issued warrant found probable cause to believe contraband at home, that at least the executed police officers could rely on that probable cause determination to detain others present at home).
Thanks to the judicial thunder from right, in large part because of the unintended consequences of the exclusionary rule, fewer and fewer police actions are, day by day, being deemed unconstitutional. This was caused by a combination of legal opinions by the Supreme Court, coupled with political expediency. After all, most law abiding types who don’t look like gangsters have not had or seen cops gone wild. They can’t imagine that any of the “nasties” involved when the police are free to ignore your Fourth Amendment protections, might ever happen to them. The body politic also generally excuses and approve of police officers violating your rights, by finding in their favors in civil actions against police officers, and by a great reluctance to convict police officers of truly criminal conduct, just because. Just because that’s just the way that they feel about it.
2) To further some sort of executive efficiency.
The Supreme Court doesn’t want cops to have to learn their state laws; too difficult; notwithstanding the fact that the cops are not only responsible in their own states to know what state public offenses are, and are not, jailable under state law, but they actually do know. See, Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) (‘The Fourth Amendment does not forbid a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seat belt violation punishable only by a fine”); Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001). Atwater is a repudiation of over 200 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence, holding that searches and seizures of persons must be “reasonable.” Atwater allows the police to arrest civilians for anything that the law prohibits; parking ticket, bald tires, taillight out, and the like. Justice Souter’s rationale for permitting admittedly “unreasonable seizures” of persons like Atwater (a soccer mom, arrested for violation of the Texas seat belt statute; the maximum punishment for violation of which was a $50.00 fine) is not grounded in reality, and really set the stage of the Rise of the Police State, following the World Trade Center Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.) Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001.) The Fourth Amendment no longer forbid a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seat belt violation punishable only by a fine”; Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001); In her stinging dissent in, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Republican Conservative first female Justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by Ronald Reagan, on recommendation from Mr. Reagan’s mentor; Barry Goldwater (former Sen. R-AZ), warned about the import of Atwater:
“Such unbounded discretion carries with it grave potential for abuse. The majority takes comfort in the lack of evidence of “an epidemic of unnecessary minor-offense arrests.” Ante, at 33, and n. 25. But the relatively small number of published cases dealing with such arrests proves little and should provide little solace. Indeed, as the recent debate over racial profiling demonstrates all too clearly, a relatively minor traffic infraction may often serve as an excuse for stopping and harassing an individual. After today, the arsenal available to any officer extends to a full arrest and the searches permissible concomitant to that arrest. An officer’s subjective motivations for making a traffic stop are not relevant considerations in determining the reasonableness of the stop. See, Whren v. United States, supra, at 813. But it is precisely because these motivations are beyond our purview that we must vigilantly ensure that officers’ post stop actions–which are properly within our reach–comport with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of reasonableness.
The Court neglects the Fourth Amendment’s express command in the name of administrative ease. In so doing, it cloaks the pointless indignity that Gail Atwater suffered with the mantle of reasonableness. I respectfully dissent.” O’Connor, J., Dissenting.
3) To refuse to suppress evidence in criminal cases.
There is a natural reluctance by any judge to exclude evidence of criminal activity at a criminal trial because the evidence was obtained in violation of the Constitution. Judges know that they will have to exclude evidence in criminal cases if they find that the evidence was obtained by way of violating the Constitutional rights of the accused. See, Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) See, “How The Exclusionary Rule Backfired And Crushed Americans’ Constitutional Rights”. Accordingly, many times the judges and justices don’t want to let the accused go, so they pervert and eviscerate the protections afford us by the federal constitution, so as to not have to exclude the evidence at trial. This may serve “justice” in that particular case, but by achieving “justice” in that case, the rights of the innocent have now been eviscerated.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently found a way around Atwater to some degree in their recent case of Edgerly v. City and County of San Francisco, Case No. 11-15655 (9th Cir. April 10, 2013.) Edgerly held that since under Cal. Penal Code § 853.5, a police officer cannot take a person to jail for an infraction (i.e. simple speeding ticket, with no possibility of any jail time) unless the person fails to provide the officer with some sort of reasonable identification, then the Fourth Amendment is violated when an officer arrests another for any such infraction. However, Edgerly only provides that such a violation is grounds for a state court claim under California state law (i.e. a state law false imprisonment claim.)
The Cops Are Never Wrong.
Plain and simple. If grandpa is held-up in his bathroom with a kitchen knife, it’s safer to come into a restroom with grandpa in it with a machine gun. But what’s the goal. The police routinely bust into the restrooms in such scenarios, and then shoot and kill grandpa, because grandpa raised his kitchen knife at officers wearing Kevlar helmets and stab-proof vests. This is no joke, and guess what? The cops get immunity in many cases in California, for police shootings that were caused by the police, because their use of deadly force is to be judged only at the time that the force was used; even if the cops created the need for the use of force to begin with. See, Munoz v. City of Union City, 120 Cal.App.4th 1077 (2004.) They certainly did their job. They prevented grandpa from committing suicide (the cops’ homicide of grandpa took care of that), but they also got to get home that night. Believe it or not, in most such situations just described, not only will the cops be exonerated from any departmental discipline, but the entity will back them all the way; lies and document destruction be damned.
Accordingly, because the courts have refused to restrain what used to be considered police outrages, the police have become “gang bangers with badges”. The days of the cop walking his beat with his .38 caliber revolver, and twirling his baton, are long gone. Even on police television shows such as Dragnet, Adam 12 and CHPs, the FCC banned the police drawing their pistols out, because the shows were shown on prime time TV during family hours. The Police used to be our friends. Now, anyone that they violate (i.e. beat-up or falsely arrest) is their enemy; a threat to them.
Modern Times; The Rise Of The Police State in America.
The Los Angeles Police Departments (LAPD’s) motto is: We’re the badest gang in town. A recent study of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department (LASD) that was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (“Report of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence“) actually found that there is a culture within the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department of various “gangs of officers”, who routinely beat, torture, maim and kill members of the jails, and of the community, for fun; for the honor of the gang. Everybody is a scumbag, and have no rights.
One of those gangs was “the Vikings”, whose “colors” was the Minnesota Vikings Football Team logo tattooed on their lower legs. The Former Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, was a Viking gang member when he was a Captain at the Lynwood Sheriff’s Station. The Vikings were found by United States District Judge Jesse Curits to be a Neo-Nazi / White Supremacist gang within the ranks of the Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department; See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al; 978 F.2d 504 (1992).
Some of the LASD gangs of these gangster deputies are: The 3000 Club (the deputies who worked the third floor of the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail), The Grim Reapers, The Little Devils, The Regulators, The Vikings and The Jump Out Boys. After the FBI had announced that it had infiltrated the Los Angeles County jail and can now prove that the LASD Men’s Jail was essentially a torture chamber, with gangs of sick and sadistic guards, Paul Tanaka still showed his grit, as an LASD “gansta”, by addressing the command staff of the sheriff’s department, about the LASD internal affairs bureau. He mentioned that their were 45 LASD Internal Affairs Bureau investigators, and that was 44 too many (you’re got to have at least one to have a bureau.)
In 2014, six LASD Deputy Sheriffs were convicted of obstructing the FBI’s investigation of the torturing of prisoners at the Los Angeles County Jails. That’s not the end of it. Former LASD Deputy Sheriff Noel Womack pleaded guilty in June of 2015 to federal charges of lying to the FBI about systemic LASD torturing and framing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jails.
One might think, why are these cops acting like Nazis; literally, not metaphorically? Why is this allowed to persist? Things have gotten so bad at the LASD that now the United States Department of Justice Indicted 18 LASD Deputy Sheriffs and their Supervisors on charges ranging from Obstruction of Justice and torturing prisoners. Moreover, Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, along with a retired LASD Captain, were indicted on May 13, 2015 by a federal Grand Jury for Obstructing and Conspiring to Obstruct a federal Grand Jury investigation of the rampant torturing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail (See, Paul Tanaka Indictment of May 13, 2015.)
Those Indictments also resulted in the resignation of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, as Tanaka implicated Baca as having approved the LASD scheme to thwart the FBI investigation of tortures, beatings and murders of inmates by deputies at the L.A. County Jails.
On February 10, 2016, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty to violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors investigating the beatings of inmates and visitors at the Los Angeles County Jails. As part of a surprise plea deal with the U.S. attorney’s office, Sheriff Baca admitted that he took an active role in trying to stymie the federal probe into his deputies routinely beating and torturing inmates at the Los Angeles County Jails and in having his deputies hide an FBI informant – jail inmate from his FBI handlers. He admitted even approving a team of his deputy sheriff’s attempting to interfere with the government’s investigation by threatening an FBI agent at her home with arrest.
Thereafter, on April 6, 2016, former LASD Undersheriff was convicted by a jury of violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiring to obstruct justice) and 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a) (obstructing justice), for not only obstructing an FBI investigation into years of beatings and torturing of inmates at the L.A. County Jail, but also Tanaka and other high ranking Sheriff’s Department officials threatening one of the FBI agents involved in that investigation, with arrest for continuing that investigation. In his trial, Tanaka admitted that he still had the Minnesota Vikings Logo tattoo on his leg; a tattoo that he described as a member in a club; the “Vikings”; a tatoo that the federal courts have held is the gang taoo for a “neo-Nazi white supremacists gang within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, 978 F.2d 504 (1992).
Thereafter, on July 18, 2016, United States District Judge Percy Anderson threw out a plea agreement that would have given former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca a maximum of six months in prison, saying the sentence was too lenient considering Baca’s role in obstructing an FBI investigation into the county jails. Addressing a downtown courtroom packed with Baca’s supporters, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said the deal “would trivialize the seriousness of the offenses … the need for a just punishment [and] the need to deter others.”
On December 19, 2016 a mistrial was declaredin that federal criminal corruption case against Sheriff Lee Baca. During the two-week trial, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office tried to convince jurors that Baca had played a central role in a scheme carried out by a group of subordinates to thwart an FBI investigation into abuses and corruption by sheriff’s deputies working as jailers. Baca’s lawyers countered he had been unaware of the ploy unfolding beneath him. The panel deliberated for days, with all but one of the 12 jurors ultimately voting to acquit Baca. After the panel announced it was deadlocked, Anderson declared the mistrial.
On January 10, 2017, federal prosecutors announced that intended to retry Sheriff Baca. Judge Percy Anderson also granted a request by the U.S. attorney’s office to allow prosecutors to include the charge of making false statements to federal authorities in the retrial. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson previously split that charge from the obstruction and conspiracy charges Baca faced at his first trial.
Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases”, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated another (i.e. beaten-up / torture); usually to self-medicate rather frail and easily bruise-able egos.
Why Are The Police Acting As Our Oppressors, Rather Than Our Protectors?
There are several reasons for this seemingly growing waver of police brutality, and, for us in the business, malicious criminal prosecutions. The primary reason is, as a practical matter, political subdivisions of a state, are set-up to deny that their officers acted improperly, and basically no matter how wrongful the agency’s officer acted, in large part out of fear of litigation, the agency will always find a way to justify its officers actions. This, of course, has led to the police pursuing a myriad of institutional methods of accusing the innocent victim (“you”; the public), and protecting the police, by, among other things, routinely unlawfully (feloniously and tortiously) withholding exculpatory evidence in criminal and associated civil proceedings; in violation of the fourteenth amendment’s due process of law claim, has been clearly established by the United States Supreme Court since 1963 (Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) )
In 1968, in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time allowed the seizure of persons by police officers, without a warrant, on less than probable cause; the standard settled upon for police seizures of persons, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1791 (“To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path.”, Douglas, J. Dissenting.)
This has turned-out to be the most prophetic dissenting opinion of the Warren Court era. It deals with the basic relationship between innocents and their police / regulators.
This author watched a 1998 C-Span reunion of the United States Supreme Court Law Clerks, who actually wrote the majority and dissenting opinion in Terry v. Ohio, 391 U.S. 1 (1968.) Although “Terry stops” are as much a part of what is considered normal and basically universally accepted part of proper police practices, those law clerks all stated that Terry v. Ohio, was supposedly to have been a “stop and frisk” case (of persons reasonably suspected of being, armed, dangerous, and presently involved imminent criminal activity, and not some generalized authority to detain civilians on less than probable cause.
In The 1970s And Thereafter, We Saw The Police Change From The Protectors Of You And I, To The Oppressors Of You And I.
In the 1980s the U.S. Supreme Court starting chipping away at our basic liberties, such as the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement and the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause (the right to cross-examine your accusers). The television show S.W.A.T. and its progeny caused the American people to accept the militarization of the police as normal in American society.
In Anaheim, California, there were seven shootings of persons by the Anaheim Police Department in 2012. The Orange County District Attorneys Office won’t criminally prosecute any of these officers, because that’s something that they just don’t do.
Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in “perception shootings“ ; shootings where a police officer shoots a civilian, and claims that the thought the person who he shot, was armed and some danger to him, who turn-out not to be. In fact, in 2010, the Los Angels Sheriff’s Department shot 15 unarmed people to death, who they claimed were reached for their waistband; that’s 15 people; dead. There has never been a criminal prosecution in Orange County, California of a police officer for an on-duty shooting. There have been a few criminal prosecutions of police officers in Orange County for a “duty related activity” (i.e. using force on persons during detentions or arrests) but, they were either “token” prosecutions (i.e. prosecuting an officer here and there to appease the body politic), or video and/or audio recorded so as to be simply undeniably outrageous behavior, such as the Fullerton Police beating Kelly Thomas to death. However, the Fullerton Police Department officers were acquitted of even using unreasonable force upon Kelly Thomas, because the jury pool in Orange County, California, simply will not convict a cop of a crime for even murdering a civilian, so long as the cops murdered the civilian in the course of his police duties.
Moreover, there is an inherent conflict of interest in every public prosecution for crime. If the District Attorney’s Office actually went after police officers for criminal conduct, they would eventually have to show how creepy and crooked the entire police community is. For example, when they went after the audio and video recordings and records that the police routinely destroy if they had arrested you or me (i.e. “My batteries must have been dead”), they would find them altered, stored under phony case numbers [to secrete them from location], lost, destroyed and otherwise concealed from location. That is the real world police system. If the cops want it lost, it gets lost, and in the real world, no judge or politician, is going to do anything about it. That’s reality.
Thus, the DA’s office would eventually destroy the credibility, and future usability at all, of the very persons that it depends upon to criminally prosecute you and I. The District Attorney represents one party (i.e. The People of the State of California), and it is not out to destroy the the credibility of the very system and police agencies, upon which it relies in being able to successfully prosecute you and I. Guess who wins the allegiance? It’s not you and I.
The fact is, that if a cop beats you up for fun, while on duty, and arrested you for some imaginary failure to immediate comply with an outrageous “police order” (i.e. “get down on the ground now”, when you have no clue as to what’s going on), and you have a black eye and your teeth knocked-out for daring to question the peace officer about what is going on, don’t be looking to the government to go after your oppressors; the police. Remember; they are the police. If you are reading this article, you probably would have never believed that the police really are “gangstas with badges”, if you or your loved one had not personally experienced police outrages.
If you’ve been falsely arrested or beaten-up by the police, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free phone or office consultation, to get some justice. We can live without a lot, but we can’t live without justice.