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Radley Balko

Entries by Radley Balko

These 13 People Were Killed By The War On Drugs. Their Lives Were The Cost Of Prohibition.

(107) Comments | Posted April 18, 2014 | 11:50 AM

This story was first published in April 2013.

America's long drug war has produced countless tragedies, ruined lives and led to parentless children, as well as the deaths of drug warriors, nonviolent offenders and innocents. As marijuana advocates and drug policy reformers around the nation celebrate 4/20, take a look...

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An Interview With Sam Dalton, Now In His Seventh Decade Of Criminal Defense Law

(1) Comments | Posted December 30, 2013 | 2:55 PM

The year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of two landmark Supreme Court cases in criminal defense law. In Brady v. Maryland, the Court ruled that prosecutors are required by law to turn favorable evidence over to defense attorneys. And in Gideon v. Wainwright, the Court ruled that for felony cases,...

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Militarizing Santa Claus

(11) Comments | Posted December 27, 2013 | 9:00 AM

A couple years ago, I wrote a story about efforts by citizens in the town of Keane, New Hampshire, to block their city council from purchasing a DHS-funded BearCat armored personnel carrier from the Lenco company. One of the residents I interviewed was Dorrie O'Meara, who owns a...

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Dire Civil Liberties Predictions For 2014

(76) Comments | Posted December 19, 2013 | 10:50 AM

As we come to the end of a year that saw revelations about massive government spying programs, horrifying stories of police abuse, and brazen violations of the Fourth Amendment, I thought I might offer my own grim predictions about where civil liberties are headed in the coming year. Sure, some...

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Man Sues After Bungled Sex Sting Operation

(27) Comments | Posted December 17, 2013 | 10:08 AM

Reason TV has the story of Charles Samuel Couch, the caretaker of a disabled boy who was embarrassed and humiliated during a ridiculous sex sting operation in Manhattan Beach, California. He had done nothing wrong.

The Reason folks ask the obvious question here -- don't these cops have anything better to do than to snoop around to find people having sex in public bathrooms?

But there are a couple of other issues, here. First is this general trend of posting the mug shots of arrestees on the web. These pages usually include a tiny disclaimer noting that an arrest doesn't necessarily imply guilt. Still. The whole point of posting their mugshots is to embarrass them -- which of course does them harm. What do we people whose reputations are ruined when the cops get it wrong?

The other troubling thing about this story is that according to the lawsuit, as part of the investigation, one of these cops was apparently peering through the stall, watching this young kid go to the bathroom. Was that really necessary?

I can certainly see the problems with allowing people to regularly use public bathrooms for sexual encounters. But there must be better solutions than to station undercover cops in those bathrooms to spy on us as we relieve...

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2013 Likely To Be The Safest Year For Cops In Decades

(11) Comments | Posted December 16, 2013 | 2:46 PM

With only a couple weeks to go, 2013 is shaping up to be the safest year for police officers since the 1950s.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 97 police officers have died on the job so far this year. That's down 15 percent...

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Slowly, A Consensus Emerges To Oppose The Security State

(2) Comments | Posted December 13, 2013 | 9:18 AM

From a new Reason/Rupe poll (pdf):

Do you think local police departments using drones, military weapons and armored vehicles are necessary for law enforcement purposes, or are they going too far?

• Necessary ............................................ 37%
• Going too far........................................ 58%
• DK/Refused...

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Chief Judge For 9th Circuit Cites 'Epidemic' Of Prosecutor Misconduct

(66) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 11:36 AM

The dissent by Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, from a decision not to rehear U.S. v. Olsen starts off with a bang:

"There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a...
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DOJ Agency Warns Of Police Militarization

(243) Comments | Posted December 9, 2013 | 9:27 AM

In the monthly e-newsletter for the Justice Department's Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program, Senior Policy Analyst Karl Bickel sounds the alarm about the militarization of America's domestic police forces. Here's his conclusion:

Police chiefs and sheriffs may want to ask themselves—if after hiring officers in the...

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Lawsuit: Cops Storm House, Beat Occupants, Kill Parakeet

(262) Comments | Posted December 8, 2013 | 10:30 PM

Your police outrage of the day comes courtesy of the NY Daily News:

City cops barged into the home of a Staten Island mom without a warrant, beat up her family and callously killed her pet parakeet, according to court papers . . .

Lugo’s son Edwin...

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Happy Repeal Day! Here Are Some Things You May Not Have Known About Alcohol Prohibition.

(24) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 10:23 AM

Today is the 80th anniversary of Repeal Day, when America finally lifted its disastrous, 13-year experiment with alcohol prohibition. Here are a few facts about booze and Prohibition you may not have known:

-- Though Prohibition led to a spike in homicides, widespread corruption, alcohol poisonings, and undermined respect for...

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The L.A. Sheriff's Dept. Is Hiring Cops With Shady Pasts

(104) Comments | Posted December 3, 2013 | 10:49 AM

A whopper of an investigation from the L.A. Times over the weekend found that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in America -- is hiring cops with histories of disciplinary and abuse of force problems. Of the 280 new hires in 2010 at...

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The Police-Industrial-Entertainment Complex

(39) Comments | Posted December 2, 2013 | 10:54 AM

In my book on police militarization, I have a section on the role pop culture has played in blurring the line between cops and soldiers, particularly with the onset of reality(ish) shows like A&E's Dallas SWAT or Spike TV's DEA. Over at the blog Gun Culture...

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The Other Feds-Snooping-On-Foreigners Scandal

(5) Comments | Posted November 27, 2013 | 9:46 AM

HuffPost broke a big exclusive today with a story by Glenn Greenwald, Ryan Grim, and Ryan Gallagher about NSA monitoring the porn viewing habits of targets the agency has deemed to be radical.

It's a great story, but it also provides an interesting contrast with

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First Anal Probes, Now This. The Drug War Takes Another Horrifying, NSFW Turn In New Mexico.

(1203) Comments | Posted November 26, 2013 | 8:06 AM

From the state that gave us stories of forced anal probes, enemas, and colonoscopies a few weeks ago, we now get this:

A New Mexico woman claims she suffered for weeks after a Bernalillo County corrections officer strip-searched her and sprayed mace in her...

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White Woman Experiences 'Walking While Black'

(134) Comments | Posted November 25, 2013 | 8:27 AM

Over at the local D.C. blog PopVille, a resident writes about a recent interaction with Metro police:

I think I had my first experience of being stopped for Walking While Black. Mind you, I’m not black. I’m a 52-year-old white woman. Last night, I was walking from...

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Tennessee Hearings Demonstrate Absurdities Of Asset Forfeiture

(689) Comments | Posted November 22, 2013 | 9:46 AM

Here in Nashville, the state legislature held hearings this week on "policing for profit," the catchy name the libertarian public interest law firm the Institute for Justice has given to the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

The hearings were inspired by some...

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Counties That Send The Most People To Death Row Show A Questionable Commitment To Justice

(110) Comments | Posted November 21, 2013 | 10:24 AM

Last week, I looked at a recent study by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) which finds that the vast majority of executions and death row inmates come from a very small percentage of counties across the country.

My prior post looked specifically at the counties...

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Talking "Warrior Cops" With Bill Maher

(1) Comments | Posted November 20, 2013 | 9:39 AM

Last week, I flew out to Los Angeles to do an interview for HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. You can watch video of the interview below. I typically don't enjoy TV interviews all that much, because most of the interviews I've done are on cable news, where you have...

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Next Stop On The Road To Surveillance State: License Plate Scanners

(158) Comments | Posted November 20, 2013 | 9:25 AM

Over at Popular Mechanics, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds writes:

We now know that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are using automated license-plate scanners, mounted on everything from telephone poles to police cars, to build a huge database of where people are driving. This might seem like...

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