Police Body Cams and the Early Adopter Tax

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, wants to spend $11,000,000 to outfit APD officers with body cameras by 2016.  Meanwhile, the police believe they can start by 2017 with only $2,000,000 and then spend and additional $5,000,000 in maintenance over the next 5 years.

Why would it be so much more expensive to get the cameras one year early?  Currently, the price is high because supply can’t keep up with demand.  In a few years these, as production capabilities expand, these camera will be had at commodity prices.  If APD does it Mayor Adler’s way then the city will pay the “Early Adopter Tax” for new technology.  Body Cam prices are so high that the Dallas Police Chief joked about quitting and becoming a Body Cam salesman to make more money.

Whenever the cameras are deployed, I believe the videos they provide will make it easier to defend people accused of domestic violence.  Many law enforcement officers just can’t resist the urge to write reports that twist and/or embellish the truth.  I understand that police officers feel the need to justify a warrantless arrest, but do they really need to pretend that one person is evil incarnate and the other is an innocent flower?  The truth usually helps the defense in assault cases.

Remembering 9/11

‎9/11 was a double tragedy. Beyond the obvious tragedy of lost lives, it was the beginning of a steady erosion of our system of constitutional rights. Benjamin Franklin said that he who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither. 

Growing up, I could never have imagined that the people of our nation would one day tolerate being groped as a “security” measure to ride an airplane. Nor would I have believed that our police would one day be allowed to forcibly draw blood from any person who asserts his constitutional right to refuse to provide evidence against himself. That still sounds like something out of a novel set in Eastern Europe to me but it’s happening routinely in DWI investigations right here in Austin, Texas.

If the terrorists really hate us “for our freedom” and our way of life then they’ve won a significant victory.

Contempt of Cop

The Statesman is reporting today that three UT football players were arrested on Sixth Street for “failure to obey a lawful order.” If you’re thinking that sounds like a military crime or something out of an Orwellian dystopia, think again. 

Although there is no such crime in the Texas Penal Code, there actually is a City of Austin Ordinance that states that a person commits a criminal offense if he “knowingly fails or refuses to comply with an order or direction of a peace officer that is given by a visible or audible signal” (see Austin City CodesOrdinance 9-4-51).

In my mind, this amounts to Contempt of Cop rather than a legitimate offense because it essentially authorizes Austin police officers to arrest anyone that questions their authority. I’m reminded of APD’s abuse of the Public Intoxication law.

Criminal Practice: The Treadmill

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Bennett has a recent blog entry describing they dynamics of high versus low-volume practice that I want to preserve here because I couldn’t have put it better myself:

I charge bigger fees . . . so I can take fewer cases . . . so I can give each case more attention . . . so I can get better results . . . so I can charge bigger fees . . . so I can take fewer cases . . .

I charge smaller fees . . . so I have to take more cases . . . so I have to give each case less attention . . . so I get worse results . . . so I have to charge smaller fees . . .

Criminal defense lawyers: which gerbil wheel would you rather be on?

Cops Aren’t Family Counselors

Mark Bennett over at Defending People posted an excellent explanation of why you don’t want to invite the cops into a domestic dispute. Assuming they don’t shoot someone (as they did in the tragic case that Mark leads with), they are still very likely to arrest someone, whether or not you want them to. They may even arrest you. And it can be difficult to undo the legal damage that is done by such an arrest.