Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Friday, August 27, 2004

DoJ: New tactics in the strategy against citizens challenging failed government -- blame the public for acting in a "suspicious manner"

What you can learn about law enforcement misconduct and abuse. Prepare now, don't be surprised. Summary

The AP ran a story outlining standards for law enforcement to detain, question, and threaten handcuffing and detention anyone who dares question government policies. This standard is overly broad, and designed to shift attention from government failings to those who dare remind the government of its ineffectiveness.

Escalating tensions between management, employees, and the public

Professionalism. Workers under stress have no basis to vent their frustration on the public. Management needs to remind employees not to take their frustrations [about a higher stress load] out on the public. The public needs to be provided correct, accurate, and useful information, not led on a maze that "justifies" alerting security.

Accountability. It is not appropriate for government workers to call security "simply because the public has dared challenge the ineffective government service." It is time that problems are solved correctly, not later covered up by shifting attention from the government to the public that reasonably demands public service at management's advertised levels.

Resource-requirements mismatch. Government may have to work longer hours to achieve the same results, but that is no basis to mistreat the public. We pay alot of money to get these people trained; if they can't perform, then we need to recognize that the current personnel are insufficient to meet what's been advertised as the "reasonable expectation of what government is going to do." The problem lies with mnagement, not the public or the employees. This is a leadership problem within government.

Inadequate skills-requirements mix. Ineffective training and employee attention simply compounds the problem. Today is clear that the "ineffective government employee" is a symptom of ineffective training, inadequate resources, poor ability, and not a sign of productivity but inefficiency.

Excuses do little to solve the problem It is not appropriate for government to endorse shifting attention from government failings onto the public that reasonably expects professionalism, responsiveness, and service. The current approach is not evidence of "higher productivity" but simply evidence that "the inefficiency problem is addressed by shifting attention from the inefficiency to the customer."

Public confidence waning. Management may ask that the public "understand" the workload; yet there is no reciprocity when the public asks the government to "understand" our concerns. We're told to put up with the greater intrusions, abuse, misconduct, and arrogance without comment. Yet, the public has little reason to be sympathetic when senior management within the SES is so arrogant and out of touch. The public is not interested in excuses, just solutions. Solve the problem, don't give lectures or excuses.

Escalation The natural consequences of the above problems are greater attention on government; we find governments' "solution" is to shift attention back on the public-client. When a poorly-served client appears to voice a complaint that has otherwise been rebuffed, rather than address the service problem, government is more inclined to notify security. It is interesting that the public is commanded to act in a "particular manner," but the government is quick to circle the wagons to protect its own from public accountability and avoid acting in an equally civil manner. The current FBI memo simply fuels the problem of ineffectiveness.

Purpose. We discuss the government's heavy-handed tactics to to keep the customers in check.

The AP release

FBI and Homeland Security issued an absurd standard as the basis to detain and characterize people as being "suspicious".

  • Aug 2004

    "These include unusual interest in security measures or access points of buildings; suspects possibly disguised as "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors"; discreet use of video cameras in areas not visited by tourists; and individuals seen observing security drills or procedures." Ref

  • Aug 2005

    "Homeless people easily blend into urban landscapes." Somerville, Mass: Someone stopped had a passport "of interest."REf

    We saw in Abu Ghraib what happens under this government. They move without regard to international law; they justify misconduct against those under their care. The risk is that the disadvantaged through no fault of their own, are going to be targeted as suspects, and exposed to abuse.

    The Nazis did the same in the Ghettos. Calling those who were unable to fend for themselves as a disease. The risk is that the same is happening in the United States. The above public release needs to be seen for what it is: A march step closer to committing greater abuses to those who dare challenge this government; or against those who are reminders of the failings of this government.

    Change the argument from "inadequate government" to the person who is complaining

    The ultimate sign of government failings occur when public employees shift the debate. Rather than deal with the unresponsive system, this government shifts attention to those who speak out.

    Government workers will find it easy under the new FBI directive to justify more inaction. Rather than respond to reasonable requests to provide the service, government workers can now say freely, "your problem is you disagree with the abysmal government service".

    Then when challenged on these statements, they accuse the public of "not understanding" and "making up stories" or are crazy; these baseless accusations are simply diversions.

    More troubling is that these baseless charges become fabricated "evidence" to further intimidate the public. To be characterized as "uncooperative" and "unreasonable" is information law enforcement and threat management units [TMU] need to put someone under "special attention".

    The intimidation policy is codified at the Federal Level. Rather than resolve the service-problems within the government sector, the United States government Senior Executive Service has a new strategy--they blame the public for pointing out problems.

    One method is to shift attention from the failings in government, and "report to security" anyone who dares comment on the ineffective government service.

    Rather than admit that they have failed, government workers hide behind their lawyers, risk managers, auditors, and chime, "We have no problems." Indeed, those who keep out the sunlight cannot be seen.

    The public is routinely harassed by law enforcement. In those cases where the public dares approach an official building, one cannot escape an interaction with law enforcement.

    The government needs to be clearer on what it defines as an "unusual interest in security measures". Does this mean that the public is simply commenting on the badges that the security personnel are wearing; or that the public is daring to read the professional standards so that when they file a complaint against law enforcement that they have a reasonable basis to have their complaint adjudicated?

    The government is ambiguous in this regard and the standard permits anyone who dares complain about law enforcement or ask questions about the unprofessional conduct as being "suspicious." Once again, the government is using their ineffectiveness as the basis to accuse the public of misconduct. This is unreasonable.

    Divert attention from the economic problems

    The American economy continues to stagnate; almost 12.5% of the nation is classified as being in poverty, earning less than $9,000 per year.

    Where do people go when they have no jobs? They provide services to those who have money.

    Government workers have incomes. Yet, this government's approach to the 'economic problem" is to deny reality, and keep the poor away from those who are working in government.

    The economic turnaround has been an illusion. Yet, the government perpetuates the myth that this is a recovery.

    We should not be surprised why those with money [government workers] are faced with more people trying to earn an honest living [those who do not have money].

    Those who do not have money are likely to be "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors"; thus it is not reasonable to assume "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors" are suspects.

    Again, the government's failed economic policies are not getting the attention they need. Rather than hold the arrogant SES accountable for the failed economy, they shift attention to those who are hoping to make a living.

    It is not reasonable to define anyone who "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors" as being a suspect. Such a standard is broad, vague, and ambiguous.

    The real solution is to provide good jobs; and in those cases where government workers do not feel comfortable being around "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors" they might create some credible programs to put them to work.

    However, this Senior Executive Service would rather not be reminded of its failed economic programs; and would rather shift the blame onto the public by calling those who are "panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors" as suspects.

    This doesn't solve the economic problem. The FBI announcement is an absurd justification to dare hide the symptoms of a failed economic strategy.

    Silence the messenger: Label all reasonable public inquiry as suspicious

    The public approaches government facilities when the need help, or need to complain about ineffective treatment. The government's approach to problem solving is abysmal. Government workers in America are notoriously incompetent. Simple problems are not solved, raising doubts about their ability to handle more complex issues.

    When the public has to appear to complain about issues, they have to enter doors. Generally, when someone enters a building, they ask, "Where is the entrance." Yet, the public is tired of the hassles. The public simply wants to know, "How do I get into this place I do not want to be, and get out without any hassle?"

    When one calls ahead to a new building that they have never visited, they normally ask, "Where is the door," and "how do I get there" and "how close is it to parking." Such questions may come as a surprise to those in government who can enter and exit without problems.

    It is unreasonable to suggest that anyone asking questions about the facility parking, or where the front door has an "unusual interest ... access points of buildings

    Today's FBI announcement calls anyone who "wants to enter a building" as a threat that should be reported. Thus it remains unclear "why an interest in doors" is the basis to conclude someone is suspicious.

    The double standard is noteworthy. Law enforcement is allowed to comment on private matters; yet the government wants to public to remain silent on issues that are in public view or government matters.

    If the public is "suspicious" for "noticing", then so too should law enforcement be "suspicious" when they act in a manner that fails to meet their freely chosen professional standards.

    It is not appropriate that government reserve to itself the special priviledge of "public inquiry" that it denies to citizens; nor is it appropriate for government to only permit its officers to inquire into unusual situations, and compel the public to remains silent under penalty of detention.

    The government needs to better define what it means as an "unusual interest in ... access points of buildings". Yet, rather than respond, the government says, "If we told you we're going to tell you how to be a terrorist."

    When the public is harassed by law enforcement or security; or treated inappropriately or not provided adequate service, they have to mention security when filing their complaint

    Despite clear requirements by DoJ to take civil rights complaints, DoJ personnel are encouraged to send the public on a wild goose chase to "talk to someone else" at the local level. Such an approach does little to inspire confidence in America's ability to solve problems.

    The arrogant FBI approach is to blame the public. Clear violations of civil rights occur, yet the public is commanded to "keep quiet", "don't talk about it" and "if you say anything about the abuses committed by security, you're a terrorist."

    Once again, the government provides a vague standard; rather than clarify the standard, it leaves it up to the public to navigate its way through the definition. This is not leadership, but arrogance.

    If you travel and take a camera, you are a suspect

    Of course visitors go to "out of the way places, not visited by other tourists" to film. The only picture worth taking is one that "someone else hasn't taken."

    Law enforcement also says it has the right to photograph the public; "just engaging the private right to film." Yet, why is this right denied to the public; or why is the "use of photographic equipment in new places" the basis to accuse someone of being a terrorist? No reason.

    This standard of "discreet use of video cameras in areas not visited by tourists is absurd. It merely acknowledges that the government has been abusing those who dare take pictures in isolated areas; and that the public "in order to engage in photography" has been forced to hide their cameras so that they can get their pictures.

    Once again, we have another vague standard. Anyone who dares use a camera in a manner that "non-photographers [many people] do not understand" is the basis to detain, call in the law enforcement, and demand an explanation.

    There is no reasonable basis for this arbitrary standard. Photograhy should be an enjoyable hobby, or a worthwhile profession. Not something that is forced to be hidden.

    Deny the public the right to enjoy what is in plain view

    Law enforcement regularly takes objects that are hidden in computers on the false notion that it is in "plain view." The courts have a dim view on witch hunts. Yet, the "plain view" doctrine is what law enforcement uses to justify their warrantless searches into motor vehicles.

    Law enforcement argues before the courts "we can see it in plain view, so it is admissible." Strange, that this "plain view" standard doesn't also give the right of the public to simply, "enjoy what is in plain view."

    Yet, the DoJ release would have us believe that the "plain view priviledge" is one that only belongs to law enforcement; and anyone in the public "who dares observe what is in plain view" is a suspect.

    The DoJ release says that people are suspicious when, individuals [are] seen observing security drills or procedures. If law enforcement doesn't want these procedures observed, then law enforcement needs to create barricades and physically restrict the public from observing what is otherwise in plain view.

    The basis for credible 42 USC 1983 claims is video evidence. The public has the right to video police misconduct, just as law enforcement has the right to video police stops on the open highways.

    The government needs to explain why it affords itself the special priviledge of "plain view" access to evidence, but denies this right to the public. The public is not "suspicious" merely because it observes something in plain view; nor does the government have "probable cause" or "reasonable suspicion" when the public is seen observing that which is in plain view.

    It is not the job of the public to "turn their eyes" or "pretend they do not see abuses." Rather, law enforcement management needs to ensure that their officers are trained before they enter the public arena and can be observed engaging in gross and reckless misconduct. If law enforcement wants to ensure its "training" is not observed by the public who might become adversarial witnesses in a 42 USC 1983 claims, law enforcement management has the responsibility to train their personnel before they interact with the public.

    To suggest that the public is "engaging in suspicious behavior" by observing police training misses the point. Police are regularly trained on the job. The real problem is that the Field Training Officers [FTOs] provide misleading information to the public to explain away police misconduct. Rather than admit a new recruit stopped someone without reasonable suspicious, FTOs will encourage the recruits to create a plausible story that sounds believable. FTO's are also known to train new recruits to tell the public an incident "insn't a crime" so as to avoid taking the information.

    Law enforcement management needs to admit that the problem isn't "public observing police," but that poorly trained FTOs are observable when they provide false and misleading information to new recruits and the public. Rather than expose their botched training to 42 USC 1983 claims, law enforcement wants to create another barrier to effective public monitoring of regularly police misconduct that we saw depicted on the images at Abu Ghraib.

    Law enforcement lies all the time. DoJ doesn't want law enforcement misconduct caught on tape as that creates more work for DoJ OPR to perform, and prosecutors are forced to bring convictions against those they would rather blindly support.


    The FBI release is merely another tool this failed American leadership is using to avoid oversight and consequences for ineffective policies, public misconduct, and government malfeasance. Rather than admit they have a problem in-house, this government's approach is to shift attention to the public and create barriers to accountability.

    The AP story issued today creates an arbitrary standard. The standard creates an unreasonable presumption of guilt for engaging in innocent, lawful behavior.

    The greater crime is that government workers are using these nebulous standards to shift attention from its own failings to those who dare challenge the malfeasance.

    The government is simply creating a new excuse to justify shifting attention from their failed workforce, and put the pressure back on the public. Such an approach does not solve problems.

    A similar approach was used during the 1700s. This approach failed. Government attention on those who speak out doesn't solve the problem; it merely allows the problem to fester.

    Today's American government is committing the same error as the British Monarch did in 1776: It hopes to intimidate those who dare speak out against government ineffectiveness, or asking reasonable questions, or engage in lawful behavior so as to shift attention from the government's failed policies and put the attention on those in the least powerful position to stand up to this government arrogance.

    The public cannot be reasonable defined as being "suspicious" for simply going about lawful activity. Characterizing someone "suspicious" opens the door to government questions, intrusion, intimidation, and further harassment. We need not repeat the abuses of the British Monarch.


    The release needs to be redacted. The standards are not appropriate. The Inspector Generals for DoJ, the VA, and state auditors need to be tasked to identify to what extent these policies are a chilling effect on public complaints about ineffective government programs.


    State Auditors

  • State auditors have a requirement to collect non-financial information in order to conduct performance audits. How many public complaints have state auditors rebuffed?

  • Public workers should have avenues to report misconduct in government. How many whistle-blowers have been denied the ability to provide information anonymously?

  • State auditors have anonymous call lines. What testing is done to ensure that the state auditors are actually taking the information they are required to take?

  • State auditors have a statutory requirement to take non-financial information in order to do performance audits. Also, non-financial information is required to conduct adequate SAS99 risk assessments prior to audit engagements. Without an adequate communication system to intake these non-financial indicators, there is a reasonable question about the basis for the adequacy of the audit scope. What methods, if any, are used to ensure that the anonymous tip lines to the state auditors are adequately intaking this non-financial information needed for SAS99 audit reviews?

    Government effectiveness

  • Public accountability means the ability for the public to provide anonymously information that is investigated. The public is required to follow the laws; so too should state auditors be required to follow statutes which require public auditors to intake non-financial information for performance audits.

  • Why are auditors advertising to legislators that they are in full compliance with these statutes, yet in practice the auditors rebuff non-financial information;
  • what methods are used to ensure that those who wish to remain anonymous are able to provide this non-financial information for management attention?

  • Public statutes provide mechanism for the public to provide complaints when service does not meet performance standards. The public needs to have simple methods to have problems resolved.
  • In those cases where the public is not satisfied with the response, what mechanism is used to ensure the problem is corrected;
  • to what extent are public employees using the "suspicious behavior" as a means to distract attention from ineffective government service standard?

  • Government effectiveness is measured in terms of providing reliable information. Government workers should provide accurate information on who the employees' supervisors are; and who they can talk to to get assistance when they are not satisfied with the service they have received.

  • To what extent have government workers given incorrect information to the public so that the public is led down the very maze that makes them "act in a suspicious manner";
  • to what extent are public employees deliberately providing high walls to the public to overcome, only to complain that the public is "acting in a suspicious manner" when the public dares approach the public officials that the public has been told "they need to talk to";
  • to what extent are government workers deliberately giving the public "wrong information about how to handle a problem" only to use the "public's belief of that approach" as the basis to characterize the public as acting in a suspicious manner?

    Economic programs

  • The FBI-Domestic Security news release states that they had no specific information. What was the basis to characterize "those who are panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors" as being suspicious?

  • The United States just reported a significant rise in American living below the poverty line. To what extent have government employees sought to have themselves insulated from reminders of failed economic policies?

    Complaints about law enforcement

    Peace Officer Standards and Training [POST] are state-regulated entities designed to ensure public accountability for state-level law enforcement. In order to adequately process a complaint against law enforcement, the public needs to ask many detailed questions about the officer: Where they are assigned; their duties; nature of work identifying information.

    Also, during 42 USC 1983 claims, the public has the right and responsibility to oversee the legal profession when brining civil actions against law enforcement. In those situations, the public has to engage in detailed analysis of law enforcement to assess whether the claims and allegations of law enforcement misconduct are actionable.

    In some cases, the public is led to believe that the FBI is in the position to investigate law enforcement misconduct. This is only true in cases of criminal matters. Further, the Bush Administration has a policy of not encouraging DoJ to seek court orders against local law enforcement; rather DoJ is encouraged to sign settlement decrees that are not enforceable by the courts.

    The public has the right to ask questions about law enforcement when law enforcement is, or appears to be:

    [a] engaging in a manner that is not consistent with public policy;
    [b} acting in a manner that violate their oath of office;
    [c] acts in a manner that violates POST standards;
    [d] engaging in a pattern of conduct that raises questions about the nature and purpose of questions; or
    [e] raises reasonable questions about the tactics law enforcement uses to intimidate the public.

  • To what extent have law enforcement used the "heightened security alerts" as another tool to avoid needed oversight and public scrutiny into law enforcement misconduct?

  • The public has the right to inquire into public matters. How often do government workers notify law enforcement of "suspicious behavior" with full knowledge that the private citizen is merely following up on ineffective government service?

  • To effectively oversee and manage complex 42 USC 1983 claims, the public has to understand the nature of police work.

  • To what extent is law enforcement using this DoJ release as a barrier to the public understanding the scope of law enforcement misconduct;
  • how often are these notices going to be released to create a barrier to the public in their understanding of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable police behavior?


  • How many civil rights complaints does the FBI rebuff on the basis that "local officials" handle that matter?

    National Peace Officer Standards and Training [POST]

  • When was the last time that POST was exposed to a no-notice audit by Interpol?

  • What is the sampling plan by POST personnel to evaulate in the field their FTOs?

  • What excuses does POST provide to FTOs to justify "not taking public complaints"?

  • How frequently do FTOs tell new recruits to "avoid a 42 USC 1983 claim" by making up a ridiculous reason for a stop?