Archive for December, 2013

Roadblocks, Buccal Swabs, and Big Brother-Policing

raodblock

Over the course of the past week, SF has received a handful of inquiries concerning a bizarre, new law enforcement tactic: stopping motorists at roadblocks and then asking — some would say demanding —  that driver’s submit to have the interior of their mouths swabbed.

Yesterday, RT reported that the LAPD will set-up roadblocks and supposedly ask motorists to “consent to a voluntary portable oral fluids test of their gum line and cheeks” on New Year’s Eve.

http://rt.com/usa/portable-drug-test-lapd-902/

Some of those who’ve contacted SF asked how such roadblocks and searches could take place in the United States — in “the supposed the land of the free.”  Another wrote that “roadblocks are something I’d expect to see in China, not in America.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, sees roadblocks differently.  In the summer of 1990, the high court held, by a 6-3 vote, that “sobriety checkpoints” (i.e. roadblocks) were legal.  This decision was more or less authored by now deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was raised in Shorewood, Wisconsin; whereby, the court held that roadblocks did, in essence, violate the Fourth Amendment, but this violation of the Bill of Rights is minor.

Ironically, when the government violates the Bill of Rights for the ‘public good’ the courts pretty much cover for its agents.  That being said could one only imagine what would happen to a citizen, like Edward Snowden, should they make a similar argument in court.  After all, Snowden proved that officials from the Obama administration and the NSA had lied, under oath, to members of Congress. A hunch tells me that, should he ever return to the United States, the Supreme Court will not be as kind to him as they were to roadblocks.

As far as the use of buccal swabs to gather evidence at roadblocks, this is a fairly recent law enforcement phenomenon.  In a previous post, SF spotlighted some of these highly controversial stops, which appear to be funded, in part, by grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

http://www.badgerwordsmith.com/spingolafiles/2013/12/19/its-time-to-stop-feeding-the-beast/

NHTSA is a bureaucratic agency the continually lobbies Congress to pass more intrusive, Big Brother-type laws.  Earlier this year, NHTSA demanded that automakers install “black boxes” in each vehicle that record virtually every function of the driver.  Police officers will soon be provided equipment, paid for with federal grant money, to search these boxes whenever an exigent circumstance presents itself (i.e. an accident or a moving violation) or with a court order.  Earlier this year, NHTSA announced its support to have the alcohol limit lowered to .05 percent of blood alcohol content.

http://www.theharrisburglawyers.com/2013/05/nhtsa-recommends-reducing-blood-alcohol-content-for-driving-under-the-influence-charges-from-08-to-05-but-is-safety-the-consideration/

Under the proposed NHTSA guidelines, a 180 pound man, who has not eaten a full meal, would reach 0.05 after consuming three beers in 90 minutes.  A 135 pound woman, who had not eaten a full meal, would near 0.05 if she consumed two beers in 90 minutes.

In all reality, unless something changes, the writing — about where all of this is heading — is already on the wall: absolute sobriety for ALL persons operating a motor vehicle of any kind and the collection of human DNA by the government at birth.  SF predicts that, should present technological trends go unchecked by lawmakers, and public complacency continues, these two laws will be on the books in most states by 2025.

Note: In Wisconsin, state law currently prohibits law enforcement from using roadblocks.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013


The Winner of the Spingola Files’ 1st Annual LEBOY Awards are…

No doubt, 2013 has been an interesting year for law enforcement. The Boston Marathon bombings, increased surveillance, drones, the NSA scandal, and police militarization, have all been hot topics.  As the calendar prepares to turn and usher in 2014, the staff at Spingola Files’ HQ spent the better part of a week sifting through books that represented the best in 2013 police related fiction and non-fiction.

So today, after considerable debate, SF has announced the winners of its first annual LEBOY (Law Enforcement Books of the Year) Awards.

Winner:               Non-Fiction

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

Author:                Radley Balko

Publisher:            Public Affairs

The brave new world of American policing is something that often divides old school cops from their contemporaries. The belief amongst the officers of yore is that the feds look down their noses at local law enforcement.  Since the attacks of 9/11, however, the federal government has spent billions of dollars constructing a national surveillance state.  To accomplish this goal, Uncle Sam has funneled grant money to local law enforcement in the hopes of purchasing Big Brother buy-in.

Journalist Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, spotlights how federal grant money and fear of terrorists lurking behind every corner has transformed the local police into virtual storm troopers.  Personally, as a critic of government spying absent a reasonable suspicion of wrong doing, I agree with about two-thirds of this book. I am, however, aware that many tactical enforcement officers view Balko’s assertions of the coming (if not already present) police state as “bunk.”

Nonetheless, Rise of the Warrior Cop is a book that judges, cops, journalists, attorneys, and policy makers should read.

http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Warrior-Cop-Militarization-Americas/dp/1610392116/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Winner:                 Fiction

Psychic Reprieve: Deception & Reality

Author:                 Mitchell Nevin

Publisher:            Lemon Press

With the exceptions of Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn (both of whom passed away this year), few can weave a fictional story with non-fictional topics like Mitchell Nevin.   His first novel, The Cozen Protocol, is a Milwaukee law enforcement classic. As such, the crew at SF thought Psychic Reprieve might not rise to the same level, but it clearly did.

Psychic Reprieve takes a look at the criminal justice system from the eyes of three offenders, one of which is a former Chicago police sergeant brought down by a corruption scandal. The novel explores some serious issues, like serial murders and terrorism, but also depicts the resiliency of the human psyche.  After all, nothing is more American than perseverance, self-deprecating humor, and a few good laughs that reflect back on society.

If you’re a casual fan of baseball, a person interested in psychics, are concerned about surveillance, or just enjoy one-liners, Nevin’s latest novel will not disappoint.

www.authormitchellnevin.com

Congratulations to the winners of the Spingola Files’ LEBOY Awards.  Hopefully, 2014 will bring more than a few interesting LE reads our way.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Spingola-Files-Volume-Steven/dp/0979683998/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364048098&sr=8-1&keywords=best+of+the+spingola+files

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com  and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013


It’s Time to Stop Feeding the Beast

Manipulation has always been a part of politics.  Remember the anti-Barry Goldwater ad showing an atomic bomb exploding while a young girl played with a flower?  How about the famed Willie Horton spot employed by Bush 41?

At the federal government level, however, the strategy of playing to one’s fears and stretching the truth has been replaced by subterfuge and outright lies.

First, there is the Obama administration’s argument that having the NSA seize the data on over 280 million Americans’ cellular telephones does not equate to domestic spying.  The NSA’s own charter restricts the agency to gathering information on foreign nationals, not American citizens on American soil. Why then did the Obama administration use a foreign intelligence surveillance court to obtain data on American citizens?

Only a “secret” court using apparently “secret” rules would approve a request from the government seeking swaths of information in order to conduct a fishing expedition.  The Fourth Amendment requires that a court order be signed by a magistrate, and supported by Oath or affirmation, “particularly” describing the alleged offense, the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.  In the case of the metadata seizure, the government, according to a Federal Judge Richard Leon, has not met this burden.  In fact, when asked, the government could not provide any information to Judge Leon about a single terrorist act that the collection of metadata had prevented.

And unlike the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith v. Maryland, the metadata obtained by the NSA does more than simply record telephone numbers in a pen register.  Cellular telephone technology enables the NSA to track a user’s location and to geo-tag, via GPS and tower triangulation, the person being called. Granted, while the actual telephone records might be owned by a third party (Verizon, Sprint, etc.), the device itself, which emits its location, is owned and operated by the user.  Common sense dictates that Americans, absent their consent, have a reasonable expectation to privacy when it comes to their location, unless the government can show that an individual is involved in criminal activity. Absent this showing, the NSA’s metadata collection is little more than domestic spying.

The government’s thrust for the metadata of Americans is just one example of a federal government out of control.  Using grant money to hook the local police into a culture of control and surveillance, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) have ushered in a new phase of Orwell’s America.

In late November, an NBC affiliate in Texas reported, “Police officers in Fort Worth, Texas, set up a roadblock on a busy city street last week, and directed motorists into a parking lot, where they were asked to submit samples of their breath, saliva and blood.”

The non-consensual roadblock that unduly interpreted the lives of every day Americans was funded by a NTSA grant.  Its purpose, according to the news report, was to gather “random sampling…to determine how many motorists are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

http://autos.aol.com/article/police-ask-random-drivers-for-saliva-breath-blood-samples/?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl14%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D409229

In Redding, Pennsylvania, local police and a federal contractor conducted a similar operation.  “A private firm,” reports the Redding Eagle, “with a federal contract – and backed up by city police – forced motorists off Laurel Street and into a private parking lot Friday to question them about their driving habits and ask for a swab of their mouth.”

One individual, whose was detained even though he had violated no law, was Ricardo Nieves, who told the Redding City Council, “I feel this incident is a gross abuse of power on many levels.”

“The checkpoint” according to the newspaper, “was supposed to be voluntary, but Nieves said he had to refuse several times over a five-minute period before the woman taking the survey let him go.”

http://readingeagle.com/article/20131217/NEWS/312179910&template=mobileart

Is this the same America that was once the home of the FREE or does this type of conduct eerily resemble that of the police state in the People’s Republic of China?

The federal government is the equivalent of a 600 pound man whose size is set to cause a cataclysmic death.  Only one thing can save him: calorie restriction.  And with our elected officials in the tank for the security-industrial complex and their well-connected lobbyist on K Street, our freedoms and prosperity will soon be crushed unless we stop feeding the beast.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Spingola-Files-Volume-Steven/dp/0979683998/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364048098&sr=8-1&keywords=best+of+the+spingola+files

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013


Spingola Files, the Local News & Stocking Stuffers

Over the course of the past month, I have appeared on two Milwaukee news broadcasts to address a couple issues that I feel passionate about: homicide investigations and the vast overreach of government surveillance.

On November visit to to Milwaukee’s CBS 58 news, I spoke about the issue of biometrics.

http://www.cbs58.com/news/local-news/Real-ID-or-real-nightmare-231998111.html

On December 2, reporter Myra Sanchick, of Fox News 6 in Milwaukee, conducted an interview with me regarding the death of Walter Ellis, Milwaukee’s infamous north side strangler.

http://fox6now.com/2013/12/02/death-of-serial-killer-leaves-questions-unanswered/

In Best of the Spingola Files, Volume I & II, I discussed the complicated deaths associated with Ellis and other suspects in a four part series entitled “The Detectives in the Rye.”

Christmas/Hanukkah Stocking Stuffers

When shopping for the holidays, please consider giving the gift of books.  My latest, Best of the Spingola Files, Volume I & II, is now available in print and audiobook format.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Spingola-Files-Volume-Steven/dp/0979683998/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386709924&sr=8-2&keywords=spingola+files

Mitchell Nevin’s first novel, The Cozen Protocol, is also available in audiobook format.  For a limited time, the e-book version of the novel is available for just 99 cents.

Nevin’s latest novel, Psychic Reprieve, is currently in the process of being formatted into a screen play.  The e-book version of this outstanding book has been discounted to $3.99 for the holidays.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013


Wisconsin Lawmakers’ Attempt to Rein in Surveillance State

Whether one thinks of him as a traitor or a whistleblower, Edward Snowden’s leaks of information pertaining to NSA spying illustrate one thing: our government and its leaders will lie to the American people whenever they deem it necessary.

Typically, these so-called “noble lies,” a term coined by the philosopher Plato, are premised on protecting our national security interests.  In reality, no matter what the underlying purpose, untruthfulness on the part of public officials undermines the rule of law at every level of government.

In August, President Obama, during an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, proclaimed, “We don’t have a domestic spying program.”

Even though he is isolated in the White House, even a casual observer must wonder what planet the President is living on.  Has he driven down a major thoroughfare in his limo and observed surveillance cameras capturing the movements of Americans?  What about the millions of closed circuit television cameras (the square white ones) found virtually every mile or two on high traveled portions of interstate highways?  Has the President conveniently forgotten that his own administration is providing grants to local law enforcement for automated license plate readers that capture, geo-tag, and store data on the locations of our vehicles absent a reasonable suspicion? What about the NSA’s Utah Data Center, a facility that creates electronic dossiers on millions of Americans?

During my tenure at the Milwaukee Police Department, a long-time detective frequently echoed the mantra that “abuses lead to restrictions.”  If this now retired detective’s warning rings true, then the wide spread abuses and overreaching of our government, at all levels, is about to be met with a slew of regulations.

Fortunately, the state legislature in Wisconsin is finally grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns.  Two proposed bills seek to curtail the ability of the government to spy on its citizens.

The first initiative would restrict the ability of so-called Intelligence Fusion Centers from using GPS cellular telephone technology to monitor the movements of citizens without court authorization.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/bill-would-require-warrants-for-law-enforcement-tracking-of-cellphones-b99158195z1-234978781.html

As things currently stand, operatives at the Southeastern Wisconsin Threat Assessment Center, located on the second floor of Milwaukee’s Police Administration Building, can keep close tabs on any cellular telephone user who leaves their “location services” on.   The software used is very Orwellian.  Even though local tax dollars are used to fund the MPD’s fusion center, federal officials and city leaders believe much of the data captured and stored is exempt from Wisconsin’s open records law.

Another bill takes aim at information accumulated from Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs).  These devices are either mounted on squad cars or at fixed locations.  Once a license plate is capture it is time stamped and geo-tagged.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/proposed-wisconsin-bill-would-set-rules-for-license-plate-readers-b99155494z1-234324371.html

The proposed bill would limit the amount of time that law enforcement can maintain the license plate information after its capture.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Milwaukee Police Department has photographed over 9.6 million license plates since 2008.

Of course, Wisconsin’s law enforcement community is not particularly pleased with these restrictions, which limit its authority to spy on citizens absent a reasonable suspicion on any wrong doing.  Statist politicians, such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and big government police chiefs, like Milwaukee’s Edward Flynn, appear to view electronic surveillance and other measures that stretch the Constitution to its limits and beyond as a god send.

For example, Flynn, like Bloomberg, is a supporter of the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which require officers to have a reasonable suspicion to stop a person but seems to forgo the reasonable articulable suspicion necessary for a lawful pat down.

http://inpublicsafety.com/2013/08/the-ongoing-battle-of-stop-and-frisk-nypd-faces-epic-battle-today-while-detroit-police-chief-pledges-to-continue-practice/

Yet if surveillance initiatives are a god send then why does the government feel the need to conceal their activities from open records laws or, as was the case with the NSA, outright lie about them? Could it be that these leaders are fearful of what its citizens may learn: that America has become the land of the watched and home of the “Brave New World” that Aldous Huxley foretold in 1932?

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Spingola-Files-Volume-Steven/dp/0979683998/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364048098&sr=8-1&keywords=best+of+the+spingola+files

If your organization is on the lookout for an outstanding guest speaker, please consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com and click the “seminars & presentations” icon.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013