How to Cope With Cops

Increasing numbers of people are being stopped while driving and being arrested so Dale Carson, a criminal defense lawyer who was a cop in Miami for 8 years, wrote
Arrest-Proof Yourself to help people cope with the police state. The following are excerpts from the book.

The system needs you. It’s huge. It’s no small chore keeping the jails filled; government employees at work; and those tax dollars, fines, and court costs rolling in. The problem nowadays is that, in many cities, serious crime is way down. The cops are great at arresting the really bad guys, and state legislatures have passed stiff sentencing guidelines that put felons away for decades. What you’ll never see, however, is a headline like this: “Crime Down—Judges Laid Off, Cops Furloughed, Jails to Close.”

One of the “advancements” in law enforcement that truly disgusts me is the extension of vehicle laws to bicycles and the use of proactive policing techniques to pile felony charges onto children. Every criminal attorney in my city has cases of children arrested and jailed for such crimes as riding a bicycle at night without a light, riding without a helmet, and riding with their buddies on the handlebars. This enforcement is highly selective and never, ever occurs in wealthy neighborhoods. Poor kids, primarily poor black kids, are just Hoovered up into the system in industrial-sized quantities.

Naturally, this takes much of the fun out of riding bikes, which for most kids is their first taste of freedom from their parents and an important stage in growing up. These bicycle laws were passed by city commissions and state legislatures to protect children’s safety. Unfortunately, the welfare state has an unfortunate tendency to morph into the police state. For police, bicycle safety laws have become another means of making more arrests and racking up more points. Children need to stay free and out of jail long enough to grow up, straighten up, and become citizens. Help them out.

Schools already look like prisons, with surveillance cameras, electric locks, entry and exit recorders, armed police, and escape-proof detention rooms. Several Texas school districts now mandate that students carry a magnetic card with an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip. These cards track students’ locations, supposedly for safety reasons. Students, who can be punished for not carrying their cards, are freaking out. There are certain mildly naughty teenaged activities (smooching, sneaking a cigarette, masturbating) that need to be done in secret. They need to happen without children being busted, tossed into juvie jail, and given a permanent arrest record in the FBI’s database. In Surveillance High, there’s no place to run, no place to hide, and no place to grow up.

Plate scanners make possible thousands of easy arrests and generate gushers of revenue from traffic tickets, court fines, jail charges, and the unending fees of the probation and parole system. (See Arrested for the detailed list). The decrease in arrests initially caused by the Supreme Court’s prohibition against traffic-stop searches has been more than offset by the increase in scanner-generated arrests. A plate scanner that costs thousands can pay for itself in a few shifts. Every arrest-hungry patrol officer, and every dollar-hungry tax collector, is lusting for one.

Police use the devices to scan for criminal offenses, arrest warrants, detainers (wanted for questioning by detectives or other agencies), BOLOs (Be On the Lookout for), stolen vehicles, traffic violations, and, increasingly, administrative offenses such as unpaid, expired, suspended, or revoked driver’s licenses, unpaid traffic and parking tickets, unpaid child support, and probation and parole violations. Cops soon may be able to scan for professional and business license problems; zoning violations; unpaid property, sales, and income taxes; even unpaid driver’s insurance and health insurance premiums. There are few legal barriers to using police as revenue agents and bureaucratic paperwork checkers. This mission creep is alarming. Citizens need more than a little wiggle room with government.

As you pass under these cameras and scanners, you can sense the binary code flashing along fiber-optic cables, beaming up to satellites and bouncing among computers and servers from sea to shining sea. The machines are whispering to each other. They’re thinking; they’re planning. It’s Skynet, coming alive. Soon there will be no place to run and no place to hide in America, the Land of the Surveilled.

Real bad guys share one characteristic: they’re hard to catch by cops driving around in cars. Here’s my beef with proactive policing as currently practiced. For every big crook caught, thousands of petty offenders get hammered for smoking weed, flipping off a police officer, and playing their stereos too high. Processing these people endlessly through the criminal justice system is abusive, not to mention expensive. Too many people’s rights get trampled.

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