Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

But Upon Probable Cause

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Profiling is as American as apple pie and football played with a brown pointy ball.  Profiling has its basis both in common sense and our Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The 4th Amendment should protect us from our government acting upon us without probable cause.  It does not ensure that there will be no intrusion into our personal space, just no unreasonable intrusion, nor intrusion without probable cause.   Generally, a judge must be convinced by law enforcement that they have probable cause to search a person or their effects before they conduct the search.  And to do so they develop a suspect profile that blends probability and facts.

For instance if a child is abducted a profile of the abductor immediately starts to compile;

  • a witness might see a red truck speeding away
  • statistics may suggest family members as likely suspects

That’s a quick profile of a suspect in a crime that has occurred.  And is doesn’t have to be about a crime that has already occurred.  Let’s say you were sitting in traffic and overheard the person in the red truck next to you talking on the phone about abducting a person.  The profile would be the same: red truck and family member.  Through this profile, the police have now have probable cause to stop red trucks near the incident and to search and question family members who either own or have access to a red truck.  That’s common sense and that’s how profiling work.  Without profiling what would police do, stop everyone?  question everyone? search everyone?  I know that sounds silly, but out of fear that’s exactly what we have going on in our airport everyday.  Allowing the police to profile the suspect helps protect the rest of us from unreasonable searches.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is stopping, questioning and searching everyone who wishes to board a flight and that is a huge intrusion into our rights because there is no probable cause for the vast majority of travelers.  I think most of us  of us would agree that these blanket intrusions were more reasonable and warranted immediately following 9/11 because the scope of the situation was not known.  Now we have a better handle on the scope through profiling, yet the TSA is still searching and questioning everyone.

profilingTake a look at this photo montage.  All but one of the photos is of someone who has committed an act of terrorism or is accused with evidence of committing acts of terrorism, yet all would be screened equally at your local airport.  Is that reasonable or unreasonable?   How does probable cause come into play for these suspects?  Certainly there is more to probable cause than skin color and I’d never suggest that skin color be used as a key factor in profiling a suspect.  We could though consider age, culture, destination, affiliations, ethnic origin, family ties, associations, skin color, even religion and many other factors when creating a profile of a terrorist.

I have no doubt that agencies such as the FBI, CIA, or NSA have been creating terrorist profiles since well before 9/11 and I think it is long past the time that the TSA should have started using them.  All airline travelers are not suspects and it doesn’t make us any more safe to treat us all as suspects.  How many 7 year old, blonde, white kids have committed acts of terror?  Any?  Yet the suspect above has his kid’s toothpaste in a 1 quart zip lock and his shoes off when he goes to Sea World.   How many 50 year old white guys have blown themselves up on an airline?  Any?  None come to mind.   Yet, last week I went through a full body scan.  Why?    What was the probable cause?  What was the reason?

It’s time we quit wasting time and money indiscriminately searching everyone out of some false sense of equality or political correctness.  The longer we allow this to go on, the more numb we grow to the pain of losing our liberty.  How long will it be until we are considered subjects rather than citizens?  We need to more deeply scrutinize those for which we have probable cause and for the rest of us it’s time to return us our 4th Amendment rights. 

It’s time we  returned to profiling and common sense to protect our people.

Update: I woke up this morning to see a Facebook post that Dusty Gulleson had shared via one of his friends.  The TSA is another government agency that was started with good intentions, but has since run amok.  How would your  child react to this? 

Red Light Cameras in Bellingham

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

red lightThe news in town is that the City of Bellingham just voted unanimously to install Red Light Cameras.  Well, actually it looks like in a work session on the police budget, they voted unanimously to “include revenues and expenditures from the cameras in the 2011 budget” but one would assume that in order to derive revenue from cameras that they must first install them.

I also just read in The News Tribune that the “The council’s No. 1 goal is public safety” in this matter and in a article Bellingham City Councilman Michael Lilliquist is quoted in a  as saying “We are doing this for safety reasons only,”

Hmmm.  It is important not to miss the part about  the decision being made during a budget meeting in spite of  the city’s insistence that this is a safety concern.    The fact that it was decided in a budget meeting though,  goes hand in hand it seems with the goal of American Traffic Solutions who is apparently the camera supplier.  Here’s a glimpse at their mission statement,

Our mission is to deliver the most effective technology and services that reduce operating costs or generate revenue to pay for its use.

Had the goal of public safety been a prime concern to the City of Bellingham, I would have expected to read of all the safety improvements that were needed at these intersections.  Instead I’m reading far too much about generating revenue.

I won’t say that intersections with Red Light Cameras won’t be more safe.  I’m sure there will be a reduction in traffic through those intersections by drivers who will find alternate routes rather than risk a ticket.   Who knows what things will be like on the now more trafficked alternate routes?  Will there be a net improvement in public safety?  Are Red Light Cameras really the best way to improve intersection safety?

In a brief on Intersection Safety Issues the Federal Highway Administration provided this summary of Engineering Countermeasures to Reduce Red-Light Running.

Improve Signal Visibility/ Conspicuity Increase the Likelihood for Stopping
  • Signal for Each Approach
    Through Lane
  • Install Backplates
  • Modify Placement of Signal
  • Increase Size of Signal Displays
  • Install Programmable Signal/
    Visors or Louvers
  • Install LED Signal Lenses
  • Install Signal Ahead Signs
  • Install Transverse Rumble
  • Install Activated Advance
    Warning Flashers
  • Improve Pavement Surface
Remove Reasons for Intentional Violations Eliminate the Need to Stop
  • Adjust Yellow Change
  • Provide or Adjust All-Red
    Clearance Interval
  • Adjust Signal Cycle Length
  • Provide Dilemma Zone
  • Coordinate Signal
  • Remove Unwarranted
  • Construct a Roundabout

Now, I don’t know if all or even any of the above listed items are in place on the target intersections, but I can see that Red Light Cameras are not on the immediate list of things the Federal Highway Administration recommends to improve safety at intersections.   If safety is truly  the prime concern then it would seem obvious that many of the recommended measures would have been tried by now and a move to red light cameras is a last ditch effort.  Oh, or is it that the city can’t fund the actual needed improvements and revenue from the cameras will be used to fund recognized safety improvements?  Well no, remember the money goes into the police budget and not into the public works budget.  If these improvements are recognized ways to improve public safety and Red Light Camera are not on the list, then why the cameras?  Well we’ve already answered that question.  The camera’s are not about safety, they are about money.

I’ve had friends mention the “fact” that intersections will become more safe as the few worst violators  lose their licenses or have their insurance rates driven up so high they can’t afford to drive.  And I put the little quoty things around “fact” because referring to something as a fact, is usually restricted to things that are true. which in this case it is not.   State law tells us how Red LIght Camera tickets are to be handled.

(2) Infractions detected through the use of automated traffic safety cameras are not part of the registered owner’s driving record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, infractions generated by the use of automated traffic safety cameras under this section shall be processed in the same manner as parking infractions, including for the purposes of RCW 3.50.100, 35.20.220, 46.16.216, and 46.20.270(3). However, the amount of the fine issued for an infraction generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

A police officer actually on site writing a ticket for a red light runner put’s that ticket on their driving record eventually leading to them losing their driving privileges, while an automated camera ticket is merely a glorified parking ticket aimed at bringing in revenue?   And they’ve even stretched the envelope for the amount of a down town parking ticket.  It won’t be 10 bucks as per usual, they plan on charging $124+ because the courts have allowed them to get away with it.

So what I see overall is that safety is just being used as an excuse to bring in more revenue for the city.   I wish someone at the City of Bellingham had the spheres to just say this is all about money.   While we are waiting for that to never happen I’m  reminded of an Irish saying,

Tax his tractor, tax his mule; tell him, taxing is the rule.
Tax his oil, tax his gas, tax his notes, tax his cash
Tax him good and let him know, that after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, tax him more; tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, tax his grave, tax his sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb, “Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Once he’s gone, we won’t relax. We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

Our “chief voice” has failed us

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

KL spending

Kelli Linville is so proud of her record in Olympia that she included this Bellingham Herald endorsement quote on her campaign website

Linville is, and has been for at least a decade, the House Democrats’ chief voice for running the state government more efficiently. 

“Efficiently” is not the word that comes to mind when I consider the increases in spending that have gone on while Kelli Linville was on duty in Olympia. 

I’ve already voted for Vince Buys because we obviously need a new “chief voice” for efficiency in Olympia. 

Bellingham stomps your vote… again!

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Last year I made the claim that the City of Bellingham was acting as a political action committee (CoBPAC) when it urged voters to oppose I-1033, which would limit funding. 

tttThe news this morning on KGMI is that last night the Bellingham City Council passed a resolution 6-1 opposing State Initiatives 1100 & 1105.   So I’ll make my claim again.  I believe that using any city resources and influence to affect the outcome of a state election qualifies the City of Bellingham as a political action committee. 

Remember, here’s how the PDC summarizes a Political Action Committee.

A political committee is any person (except a candidate or an individual dealing with his or her own resources) who expects to receive contributions or make expenditures to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure. The disclosure law applies to most groups organized to influence an election. Political parties, political action committees (PACs), and one-issue groups that disband after a single election are all political committees.

Terry Bornemann organized and presented this proposal to the council.  In doing so he  garnered several radio and news stories for his cause and I’m certain that more publicity will come now that his proposal  has become a city resolution.  Any private citizen’s group would certainly have to be registered as a political action committee if they were raise and spend money to achieve the same level of media exposure, so why is the City of Bellingham any different?

Well I don’t think the are different and I don’t think that what they have done is fair nor in the spirit of our nation.  Each one of those council members has the same vote on this state matter as you or I, but they have used their positions to diminish the power of any voter who opposes their view. 

The Bellingham City Council is just another part of the bigger is better government system that stomps on the supposed foundation of our nation; the individual voter.  

By the way, I support both I-1100 and I-1105 which would privatize the sale of alcohol, because our government really has no business being in the business of buying and selling products in a private market.