Thursday, January 24, 2019

Randy Ranger misconduct, CCA says TX cops can locate your phone w/o a warrant, police union endorses lesser punishment for non-violent offenses, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers attention while I edit the January podcast and attend to other business. There's a lot going on!

Litigation alleges randy Ranger misconduct
Here's a remarkable story from attorney Ty Clevenger about Texas Rangers facing discipline, or not, for allegedly sleeping with homicide victims' surviving family members during an investigation. Yuck! I also had missed this item, on alleged "Corruption and cover-ups at the Texas Department of Public Safety," detailing allegations from a lawsuit filed by a former DPS investigator.

No warrant needed to locate Texans with their phones, says CCA
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has declared that the government can use your phone to locate you whenever it wants to without a warrant. SCOTUS may eventually knock this down, but the Texas Legislature should codify a warrant requirement for cell-phone location data and make it clear to everybody what the government can and can't see without probable cause.

The fight over civilian oversight
Advocates in Dallas want to empower that city's civililian review board, which was created to investigate police misconduct. The Dallas News has a story on the effort, and the pushback.

Why jail is a rotten place to send addicted people for medical care
This story of a woman who apparently died of withdrawal symptoms in the Tarrant County Jail demonstrates the folly of attempting to deliver health care services via cops, jails, and prisons.

Police union okay with reduced penalties for non-violent offenders, wants maximal arrest powers
In a column in the Waco Tribune Herald, Texas Municipal Police Association President Aaron Crowell declared, "We have no issue with the current movement to reduce penalties for nonviolent offenders, because we want to successfully reintegrate these offenders into society." But paradoxically, they oppose restrictions on cops' authority to arrest people for Class C misdemeanors - which are minor violations punished only by a fine, not jail time - because the law should not side with the "guilty and corrupt" (?). By "guilty and corrupt" they mean people who commit traffic infractions. I wonder sometimes, can they hear themselves?

Jails consider entering 21st century re: internet access
The Fort Bend Sheriff is experimenting with letting inmates use tablet computers they lease for $5/month, and Grits thinks this is a great idea. Though there's little momentum for it, it'd also be a good idea for TDCJ. I never understood the impulse for denying prisoners phone service so long, and I similarly don't understand why anyone thinks it's in the state's interest to deny them regulated access to the internet and email. The ability to grant and retract web access is an excellent disciplinary tool. And it's not as though contraband phones don't exist, especially in prison; the ban isn't functional, as is.

More Odds and Ends
Let me record links to a few other items, while we're here:


Unknown said...

In Colorado, it was victim advocacy organizations who pushed back against the prison tablet program there. They didn't argue in terms of the state's interests, but instead complained of criminals getting "all the comforts of home" (sic).

Computer security being what it is, the "regulated" part is going to be difficult, but monitoring can feasibly be enforced. That could get labor intensive in a hurry.

There are some cases like scammers and domestic violence perpetrators where Internet access should be forbidden.

Anonymous said...

Tablets have been used in Ft Bend's jail for several years. I spent 30 days there over two years ago and rented a tablet, although it cost $15 then. Biggest problem was getting it recharged. I had to give it to a guard who took it to the charger in the guard station. I had to ask for it back and some guards would just ignore me.

I did not have internet access as we define it. Rather it was "intranet", an in house version. For books, I had access to the Gutenberg Project which is hundreds of thousands of books with expired copyrights. There was some access to news sites though not to as many as I wanted. I could not access Grits.

Corrupt East Texas Law Enforcement said...

RE: Texas Rangers Misconduct

I grew up thinking of Rangers as being the crème de la crème, beyond reproach. Now I am aware of two, possibly three recent scenarios just here in East Texas in which Rangers have engaged in unethical conduct. Remember the "Mineola Swingers' Club" debacle, reenacted in the documentary "Booger Red"? It was Ranger Philip Kent who bought into this preposterous story about a "sex kindergarten," used grossly improper investigative techniques, and possibly hid potentially exculpatory video evidence. John Furlow, who was targeted in a bogus felony theft case by his political opponent and Tyler police is alleging that a Texas Ranger was asked and agreed to arrest him, presumably go give a false appearance of 'legitimacy' to the case against him. Now you have this Brent Davis jackass, who claims there was no harm done by him bumpin' uglies with the wife of a victim of a high-profile murder. Davis' defense is, well, "We ruled out (the victim's wife) early (as a suspect.)" He's talking out of both sides of his mouth, because it came out that Mrs. Horaney got Davis to help her get the payout on her husband's life insurance, and now Davis is saying that he caught wind that someone may have paid to have Horaney murdered. Hmm...

Of course I'm troubled by these officials' behavior. But mistakes and misconduct occur in every government agency. I'm really MORE disturbed by the failure of the agency to adequately discipline these people. As far as I know, Philip Kent was never disciplined at all, and Brent Davis should have been fired outright.

Be afraid, Texas, be very afraid...

Anonymous said...

I believe it was Ranger Davis who helped Matt Bingham cover up theft by the police chief in Whitehouse while they went after the Constable who started the investigation. I think DPS has an obligation to back and look at the cases he was involved in to see if there was other misconduct. No one ever does that in these situations though, do they?

Bougere Rouge said...

And, I heard somewhere that Brent Davis was somehow peripherally involved in the Mineola Swingers' club debacle. Small world.

I think, partly it's just East Texas. Law enforcement officers are so used to getting away with misconduct that they just don't think anyone is going to call them out. Ah, but the Internet is the great equalizer, isn't it?

Oprah, not her said...


Additionally, the Texas Rangers (lead by then-Police Chief Art Acevedo) also botched the 2010 Austin Police Department Crime Lab investigation, failing to find many of the lab problems initially reported by lab analyst Cecily Hamilton that were later found and confirmed true by the Tx Forensic Science Commission in 2016 (why the non-scientific Texas Rangers were investigating a science lab is beyond comprehension). If I recall, then-Police Chief Acevedo even went on tv and slandered the whistle-blower lab analyst claiming she was the one violating lab protocols. According to Art, the lab analyst was responsible for misconduct.

Many "factual" statements in the Texas Rangers report were actually fraudulent statements that Prosecutors, Defense Attorneys, Judges, and Juries relied upon for testimonies and convictions.

Tampering With Government Records as Defined in Texas Law:
(1) knowingly makes a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record;
(2) makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record.

The Texas Ranger's report was false, intentionally so. Hence, an easily prosecutable crime was committed.

Oprah, not her said...

For the interested...Link to the fraudulent report:

Scroll to "Exhibit E"