Saturday, May 28, 2016

ATF gets Black Eye for Abusive Conduct on Alaskan Highway

On 19 May, 2016, a member of the ATF, or at least someone driving one of their vehicles at a time that it was supposed to be in service, may have engaged in abusive behavior on the Glenn Highway in Alaska.  From
Police say that at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a driver on the Glenn Highway said he pulled over for an unmarked white Ford SUV. The SUV flashed red and blue interior dash lights.

When the motorist stopped, police wrote that the driver, “sped past him, laughed, and flipped him the middle finger.”

The man called 911, and told police that he watched as the SUV did the same thing three other times with other drivers.
At the time that the incident was reported, the police checked the license plate of the vehicle, but could not find a match.  Four days later, investigation revealed that the vehicle was an unmarked  vehicle registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, (ATF).  The vehicle was not in the Department of Motor Vehicles data base.  It was an unmarked ATF vehicle whose official existence is shielded from ordinary police view.  This was discovered by a computer search though thousands of police reports. It happened that the ATF vehicle was at the scene of another investigation, and an investigating officer had noted the vehicle plate number in their report.

The person in the ATF vehicle had good reason to believe that they were immune from accountability in this case.  A few years ago, they would have escaped without consequences. From
Police contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, a U.S. Justice Department agency, which confirmed that the SUV was theirs, Castro said.
The person driving the ATF owned Ford SUV has not been identified.  Initial reports describe the driver as a white male in their 30s with short hair.  ATF has a policy not to "comment on personnel matters".

This is not a mere "personnel matter".  If the allegations are true, this is an abuse of authority.  It is a blatant violation of law. It is a deprivation of rights under color of law. If it occured as alleged, it should be easy to ascertain the truth, and the ATF official should not be allowed to be shielded by the agency. 

Using police lights to pull someone over without cause is depriving them of their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. It is hard to believe, given the description of events, that the person in the vehicle had a legitimate reason to pull the vehicles over.  The abusive finger salute adds to the impression that this was a simple abuse of authority under the color of law

It was a minor abuse. Damages under 42 U.S.C.  § 1983 would likely be small. It is roughly the equivalent of the abuse of police officers using lights and sirens to go on a pizza run; or using their police identification to push to the head of a line for personal reasons. But it is exactly these sort of abuses that are very damaging to the rule of law. Citizens see the abuses. They see that nothing is done to correct them, and they conclude that officers consider themselves a special class, above the ordinary rules of society and the law. 

Such abuses make the allegations in more serious cases, such a the Fast and Furious gun running case, all the more believable. In that case, it is alleged that the Department of Justice conspired with the ATF to facilitate the illegal transfer of firearms to Mexican drug cartels, for the purpose of pushing the Obama Administration's policies on gun control.

Digital recording devices make these abuses of authority under color of law much easier to prove. At least two appellate courts have ruled that it is a First Amendment right to video/audio record public officials in the course of the public execution of their duties.  A U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania has refused to recognize recording as a First Amendment right, when there is no intention of criticising the police; that case is being appealed to the Third Circuit.

The case would not apply to those who record police with an intention to criticise their actions.

Criticism of police is at an all time high under the Obama administration. Many of the criticisms have not been justified by later investigations, such as in the Trevon Martin case or the Ferguson shooting case of Michael Brown.

That does not mean that abuses do not occur. It makes the case that recordings of altercations can help to absolve the innocent as well as convict the guilty.

The ubiquity of digital recording devises is helping to make all authorities more accountable for their actions. 

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Link to Gun Watch


Wireless.Phil said...

Police go into my local grocery store, fill up a bag and walk out without paying.
If I did that, I'd be arrested!

Anonymous said...

The problem here, the base problem is quite fundamental. Look, there is supposed to be a private sector and a public sector. In the private sector, defined as that which is privately owned with private wealth, is supposed to be, well, ummm private, whereas that which is owned and operated with taxpayers money is supposed to be open for the public's inspection and oversight (so that government remains both honest and forthright.

Instead, our privately owned property is treated as if it is government property that we must beg permission to own and operate, with the kicker being that government can check us out in its collected databases anytime its operators wish. Meanwhile, we the people cannot check up on what government stooges are doing - even with our own filling of those databases. This example here shows where they are exempting themselves from the very databases they say have merit as applied to us.

It is all a weeeeee bit backward, eh?

America's fundamental problem rests in what is this line between public and private and what puts something on one side or the other? The answer is pretty simple, as I noted previously - who's money funded the particular thing at issue?

Guess what - when government cannot keep secret lists, it cannot operate in secret (out of the public's knowledge). Gun owners often help government with its ability to keep secret lists by being fooled into supporting carry permits. Right then the premise that government is empowered to keep those secret lists is willingly conceded.

We have only ourselves to blame for this pathetic display of corruption. Far too many not only refuse to see what is right there before their eyes, they deride those who point out the obvious to them.

Stop begging for permission slips! Oh, and stop chiding those who point out the ramifications of supporting them to. Instead, have the courage to accept the truth as it is - all those touting the merits of carry permits are in their own way responsible for pathetic displays of corruption like this current ATF nefariousness. Enablers are enablers, even when they refuse to admit it.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised. Among Law Enforcement personnel ATF is known as "America's Terrible Fools". At least that is a printable nickname. A few decades ago when the modern ATF was born as the results of the "GCA 1968" it did a mass hire of existing LEO's to fill their positions. Many were competent but more were LEO's disgusted with whatever department they were working for at the time. As a result of hiring the disgruntled LEO's and the free hand in changing from the old tax group and into ATF many many mistakes were made. Typical of all growing organizations. Those mistakes grew and now we have ATF 2016. One of my old partners joined ATF in 1971 in an attempt to further his LE career which it did. On many occasions over the years we sat, had lunch and laughed at how stupid agencies morph themselves into jokes. Some of those stories were hilarious. Things like one agency almost shooting it out with another because neither one bothered to advise the other what they were doing. Can you image what 10-20 LEO's with weapons drawn facing each other in the dark of night because both were too arrogant to brief the other? Gunfire has been exchanged between agencies with deadly results. That my friends is more than just arrogance.

With the power hungry bureaucrats making stupid rules followed by dumb and crooked politicians who are more power hungry the results are inevitable. What you end up with is a modern ATF run by brain dead democrats controlled by idiots in DC. One of those big mistakes was "Fast and Furious". We all know how that played out. Headline today states "fast and furious count to date is 69 dead and 20 mass shootings" from the weapons that were allowed to "walk". Can we all give the ATF and big fat "THANK YOU for that statistic.

Let me close my saying all groups have problems and there are hundreds of ATF people who are very good and dedicated to the job. The problem is the bureaucrats in DC and their mistakes results in things like Waco, Ruby Ridge, Fast and Furious and so many others. To all LEO's STAY SAFE out there because the politicians don't care about you or your families. You are protected only by those in your team.