Monday Morning Jumpstart

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That’s right. It’s back. For this week. See you in a month. Now, here’s something to read while you drink coffee.

In disregarding FOIA laws, CT lege has assistance from police departments

For a State that bills itself the Constitution state, Connecticut sure is running into a lot of problems with the First Amendment and Freedom of Information Laws, which seek to make government transparent.

First, the legislature, in a midnight session behind closed doors severely restricted FOI access in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. Then there were the disingenuous arguments by the state’s attorney to keep 911 calls private, and finally a new task force that’s further scaling back the FOIA public access provisions.

But yesterday, a tremendous investigative reporting project by the New Haven Register and associated newspapers concluded that most police departments in Connecticut are doing a terrible job of complying with FOIA laws by failing to release information to the public:

Under state Freedom of Information law, the record of arrest is public information. This means the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense, and at least one of the following designated by the law enforcement agency: the arrest report, the incident report, news release or other similar report of an arrest.

The law also calls police records public records, with some exemptions: the identity of informants, signed statements of witnesses, information which would be prejudicial to a law enforcement action, investigatory techniques not known to the general public, juvenile arrest records, the identity of a sexual assault victim and uncorroborated allegations.

So, of all of these, what were they able to get?

State police troops typically got a B– range by providing arrest logs, but refusing to give detailed reports out. Troop G, however, didn’t even give an arrest log during a compliance check, so it was the only state police troop to get an F.  “That’s impossible,” state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said, when told our reporter got no information at Troop G. “Arrest logs and press releases are available to anyone in the lobby.”

Twenty-six departments got an A– rating, for both providing an arrest log and an in-depth report, though these sometimes asked for our identity, or don’t provide information online.  Overall, about 25 percent of police departments got a score in the A range.

Another 61 departments or troops, or about 59 percent of them, got a rating in the B range. These departments typically gave an arrest log, but weren’t forthcoming with in-depth reports.

Seven departments scored in the C range, such as Bristol, where they claimed FOI law prohibits them from releasing police reports on arrests until a case is adjudicated in court.  We gave out two D grades and six F grades.

Therefore, 15 percent of departments or troops scored a C+ or under.

Why, exactly, is this important, you ask? Because this is watching those that purport to protect us and have the power to change our lives drastically. Everything that police departments do should be open to public scrutiny so we can determine whether they are, indeed, serving the public or engaged in racially discriminatory tactics.

Wednesday is link dump day

Mo’ Wednesday, Mo’ Links!

  • The city of Waterloo, Iowa has an expanded rental inspection program that requires landlords to open their tenants’ apartments to HA officials, in complete disregard for the Fourth Amendment.
  • London’s massive CCTV network, blanketing every part of the city, solved only one crime last year.
  • A NYT op-ed against mandatory-minimum sentences for gun offenses.
  • Marco Randazza has a must read piece at his blog on Section 230 that provides immunity to people like me from comments left by idiots like you.
  • Dan Klau at Appealingly Brief writes about whether Michael Skakel is a public figure.
  • The DOJ is seeking to prevent [PDF] Dzokhar Tsarnaev from viewing autopsy photos in his case.
  • There still are plans for a national license-plate tracking database.
  • Eugene Volokh has this interesting post on the First Amendment right to access judicial proceedings.
  • Australia’s Attorney General wants a new law that forces people suspected of computer crimes to turn over passwords and decryption keys.
  • Scott Greenfield writes about the study by Judge Mark W. Bennett on allocution by defendants and what it should look like. As you can guess, it ain’t pretty.
  • Garrett Epps at The Atlantic tells people to back up off of Justice Ginsburg and let her retire whenever the hell she damn well wants to.
  • MoJo has this piece on a new report that documents 650 instances of professional misconduct by DOJ prosecutors, judges and other officials in a 12-year period.
  • The AP has this article on the AZ case of death row convict Richard Hurles, his claim of bias against the judge who presided over his case and the fourteen times that SCOTUS has continued deciding whether to accept it.
  • A federal judge in Los Angeles has blasted the ATF for their fake sting operations that entrap lots of people.
  • Somewhat tongue in cheek, this piece at The Atlantic wonders where the logical conclusion of the Snowden opposition lies: keeping the Fourth Amendment secret.
  • Federal drug prosecutions have fallen to 14 year lows.
  • As Radley Balko writes, there’s an absurd bill in Kansas that would make it a felony to make a false report of police misconduct. Guess who gets to decide if a report of police misconduct is true or false.
  • Meanwhile, the legislature in CT is considering a bill that would strengthen the rights of citizens to file complaints against police officers and get departments to take the complaints seriously.

Death penalty in CT still alive

Pardon the pun, but the state’s abolition of the death penalty in 2012 was always an incomplete measure, in part because of the 10 or so men on death row who weren’t pardoned by abolition and because of the one remaining pending capital case of Richard Roszkowski.

Roszkowski killed three people, but got the death penalty for only the killing of one of them: 9-year old Kylie Flannery. This was the second penalty phase trial for him, the first also having ended with a death sentence, but that was reversed by the trial judge because of incorrect jury instructions.

It’s quite illogical to argue that our standards of decency have so evolved that we no longer consider death an appropriate punishment in the State of Connecticut, except for those people who committed their offenses before a certain date.

Ironically, I’ve been told that Roszkowski’s lawyers weren’t allowed to argue to the jury that the State has abolished the death penalty and thus they shouldn’t impose a sentence of death.

I guess when you get the taste of blood in your mouth, it’s really hard to let go.

And so now we have yet another deeply mentally disturbed man on death row, over whose murder we will spend decades and millions of dollars.

Because vengeance is more important. And killing is wrong. So we must kill to enforce that message.

Under new proposed law, no one in CT can accidentally download child porn

There can be little doubt that abuse of children has been the cause du jour. Children do get abused and used and should be protected. To that end, there’s a new bill in the CT legislature that seeks to make several “technical changes” to the child pornography laws, but which actually makes it impossible for anyone to avoid a five year minimum prison sentence, no matter how one came into possession of the video.

There’s a growing discussion among those who observe the effects of the harsh punishment meted out by our black-and-white justice system on the people who are the subject of these zero-tolerance laws: the similar treatment of those who engage in sexual behavior with children and those who, without ever touching a child, view pictures and videos of children in sexual situations or engaging in sexual acts.

In other words, people are starting to realize that the two situations are disparate and should be treated as such. For one thing, the federal sentencing guidelines are over-the-top and maddeningly inconsistent. For instance:

Wednesday is link dump day

You know the drill, baby, drill!

Okay enough procrastination; get to work.