In a time when America is averaging more than one mass shooting per day*, the good people of Burlington just suffered through several weeks of a homeless man riding his bike around town with a rifle strapped to his back.
*FBI definition: four or more people shot in a single incident, not including the shooter. We’ve had 29 in July so far.
Per Seven Days’ Mark Davis, police “found [Malcolm Tanner] to be ‘incoherent,’ and he insisted that laws do not apply to him.” But they did nothing about him because “he did not seem to be breaking any laws.”
The Burlington Police Department was well-represented at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally last Thursday. Plenty of cops on hand, just in case things got cray-cray.
Or, in case two people threatened the peace by wearing masks in public.
A video posted on the Free Press’ website shows two young men with Guy Fawkes masks, standing in the crowd, doing absolutely nothing. They are then approached by uniformed officers; an inaudible conversation ensues, after which the two are separated from the crowd and taken into custody.
Their offense: refusing to take off the masks.
At least the two weren’t charged with a crime. Because THERE WASN’T ONE.
But refusing to unmask is an offense that warrants confrontation, questioning and handcuffing?
I have a useful phrase that describes my general approach to new technology: “ape at the monolith.” It refers to the opening scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the apes react to the monolith’s appearance by screaming and throwing stuff. That’s pretty much how I respond to new gadgets and software, except I usually keep the screaming inside my brain.
Well, the Burlington Police Department seems to have the same problem.
VPR’s Taylor Dobbs has a “funny if it wasn’t so sad” report about a shooting incident in September. The incident itself wasn’t funny; a Colchester man was wounded by Burlington police. Today, authorities cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
From the way the incident was described, it sounds like the right call. But we have to take the officers’ word for it because they turned off their body cameras during the incident, fearing that the cameras’ red lights would compromise their safety.
Trouble is, as Dobbs reports, the users’ manual says the red light can be disabled without turning off the camera.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has announced his choice for new police chief: Brandon del Pozo, a veteran of 18 years with the New York City Police Department. He has, as they say, risen rapidly through the NYPD ranks; his current post is Commanding Officer in the Strategic Initiatives Office.
Hmm. The most famous NYPD “strategic initiative” I know of is its free-range intelligence unit, which routinely ignores jurisdictional boundaries in its search for potential terrorists. According to a 2011 report on NPR, NYPD Intelligence has “teams of undercover officers… who basically just troll ethnic neighborhoods. …They also have informants known as mosque crawlers” who serve as “the eyes and ears of the police department inside the mosques.”
The latter, notes NPR, would “seem to violate the federal privacy act.” It further notes that the unit is “creative in ways that come right up against the line of what the federal government or other police departments either can do, or feel comfortable doing.”
The expansionist NYPD even has an intell office in the Middle East, which seems like quite a stretch for a city police force.