Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cops gone wild

John Stossel brings us the latest outrage from the "Only Ones".

A story in today's Philadelphia Daily News shows why it's so important that citizens be allowed to videotape cops - it can be citizens' only way to fight back against police abuse of power.

This incident happened several weeks ago in Philadelphia to Mark Fiorino, a 25-year-old IT worker who carries a gun on his hip at all times for self defense. He got the gun after several friends were mugged.
But he didn't count on attacks by police:

On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: "Yo, Junior, what are you doing?"

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

What happened next would be hard to believe, except that Fiorino audio-recorded all of it: a tense, profanity-laced, 40-minute encounter with cops who told him that what he was doing - openly carrying a gun on the city's streets - was against the law.

"Do you know you can't openly carry here in Philadelphia?" Dougherty asked, according to the YouTube clip.

"Yes, you can, if you have a license to carry firearms," Fiorino said. "It's Directive 137. It's your own internal directive."

Fiorino was right. It was perfectly legal to carry the gun. But that didn't matter to the cop:

Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver's and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.

"Excuse me?" Fiorino said.

"Get down on your knees. Just obey what I'm saying," Dougherty said.

"Sir," Fiorino replied, "I'm more than happy to stand here -"

"If you make a move, I'm going to f------ shoot you," Dougherty snapped. "I'm telling you right now, you make a move, and you're going down!"

"Is this necessary?" Fiorino said.

It went on like that for a little while, until other officers responded to Dougherty's calls for backup.
Fiorino was forced to the ground and shouted at as he tried to explain that he had a firearms license and was legally allowed to openly carry his weapon.

"You f------ come here looking for f------ problems? Where do you live?" yelled one officer.

"I'm sorry, gentlemen," Fiorino said. "If I'm under arrest, I have nothing left to say."

"F------ a------, shut the f--- up!" the cop hollered.

The cops discovered his recorder as they searched his pockets, and unleashed another string of expletives.

Fiorino said he sat handcuffed in a police wagon while the officers made numerous phone calls to supervisors, trying to find out if they could lock him up.

When they learned that they were in the wrong, they let him go.

But only temporarily. Fiorino posted the audio recordings on youtube, and now they are harassing him again:
A new investigation was launched, and last month the District Attorney's Office decided to charge Fiorino with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct because, a spokeswoman said, he refused to cooperate with police... He's scheduled for trial in July.

If one listens to the audiotapes, it's hard to imagine how a reasonable person could charge Fiorino (and not the cops) for disorderly conduct.

Police have a difficult and dangerous job and they deserve our support and respect.  However when they behave in a manner such as this they should be dealt with, by their departments and the criminal justice system, with savage ruthlessness.

At the very least this cop should lose his badge and pension and ideally serve some time in prison.

I'm sure that other cops would say the Sgt. Dougherty is a "good cop" and would bring up all the criminals that he has taken off the streets.  But you know what?  I don't give a damn.  This kind of abuse of authority is utterly unforgivable.  It betrays an attitude which proves Robert A Heinline's adage that "civil servant = civil master" - at least in their own minds.

What happened here is clear.  Sgt. Dougherty and his brother officers were deeply offended at an ordinary citizen tresspassing onto what they believe should be their monopoly of going armed in public and they decided to teach him a lesson in how to keep his proper place.

As Mr. Stossel points out this incident is why it is so vital that citizens be legally able to record the actions of police officers.  If they will not restrain themselves out of respect for the law, their oaths or simple right and wrong they just might be shamed into proper conduct.

I'll bet you any amount of money that cops in Philadelphia are pissing and moaning about how unfair it is and how put upon they are at having their conduct held up to public scrutiny.  Well tough.  They work for us not the other way around.