Posts Tagged ‘police’

Are the ‘new’ body cameras really going to solve police accountability? Or lead to more problems?

We must first begin with understanding cameras without even mentioning police officers. There are cameras in grocery stores, big malls, parking lots, streets, offices, and many other public facilities, but what it really comes down to is; does that really stop crime from happening? No! Crime is still there, people will still steal from malls, or rob cars in parking lots. Having a camera there will not change the outcome of an individual’s actus reas when their mind has already made up the decision to commit a crime. The only thing that really changes is a criminal’s way to go about the criminal activity without getting caught. Now I’m not saying having those cameras there are useless; they do provide safety, and protection for the public, and the police. The point here is that they do not stop crime from happening; it is still there regardless. Really the only difference is now one can visibly see someone stealing or committing a criminal act. The whole point of having police officers is to create a safe community. When we look at measuring safety we look at the dimensions of victim harm, and the rate of crime. To me personally if an individual’s mens rea is there, then really a camera won’t change the outcome of the act. A perfect example to really show what I am trying to get at is the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’. This experiment had normal healthy young males who prior did not have any record of deviance, be either a guard or a prison inmate at random. Now clearly, the prisoners knew there were cameras, or at least were being watched, while the guards also knew there were cameras. That did not stop them from treating inmates inhumanly. What this means is even ‘real’ police officers will still be corrupt if that is truly where their mindset is. They will just be more careful. We can even hypothesis that new types of corruption can be created from this, like for example ‘accidently’ deleting recordings or a camera ‘breaking’ and so forth. The blue wall can also come into effect here, where there can be chances of officers covering for other officers, even with the no deleting recordings policy. Corruption exists in many ways, and those who try to get away with deception, usually find a way around the system. It has happened in the past, and can very well do so in the future.

This video shows exactly how corruption can still exist even with body cameras

The publics uproar about police accountability is really only based on three main cases, Ian Tomlinson, Robert Dziekanski, and Ferguson; two of which did not even occur in Canada. Yes, I do agree justice should be done, but that does not mean every Police officer in Canada should have their privacy invaded. If we zoom into the Dziekanski case, maybe better cameras should have been in the airport instead of blaming the whole police community of the acts of a few correction officers. The rotten apples should not spoil the rest of the barrel by making them undergo a big economical system change. Would anyone like to be on camera throughout his or her whole shift, especially for a 12-hour shift (common hours for police officers). Would a secretary at work like being filmed they’re whole shift, or would teachers like having their classroom being recorded all day. I would assume no they would not, but yet workplace, and classroom incidents are also common situations where body figures misuse their authority in Canada (Moulden et al, 2010).

Coming back to cameras, companies like Axon, and VieVu have already started making products for this new police equipment. According to the TASER’s website the ‘Axon’ body camera is designed to record easily in a wide-angle view while being light weight, and show clear footage (TASER, 2014). The police officer would wear it on their uniform and anytime they would be interaction with a civilian they would simply slide the camera lens off. Once the interaction was over they would slide the lens cover back on. They conclude with showing that the rate of complaints have fallen 87.5%. What I would like the reader to note here is that the study they show here is in only one agency of Rialto, CA which it directly says is a small town. Why have they not shown a study of a big town? We must be critical and note why there are no other agency studies posted on their website? Is it because the other ones do not show improvement? Or did they simply only take the agency that showed to have the most improvement compared to any other agency. By doing this it automatically show improvement because they are ‘marketing’; this means that they are only showing what they want ‘buyers’ to see so they can make money. Another thing to note is the graphs they show fail to go in-depth about the range they are counting for complaints, and use of force. To the naked reader we have no idea what these numbers really mean. The cost for an average body camera is typically around $400. This does not even include the chargers, docks and other gadgets that also would need to be bought. Once the camera has recorded material on it, it can then be charged into the dock where it automatically uploads to evidence.com. The material here can be accessed by police administrative bodies, and usually held for up to 180 days directed by TASER, unless it is in need for evidence. Recordings are able to be watched by the officers, but are not able to be deleted, or modified once they are uploaded. Additionally I would like to inform the reader that from all my research I was not able to find any information about new facilities that would have to open to store the recordings, or new workers that would have to be employed to manage the recordings. Articles just talk about the body cameras; people need to realize that money is not only going to be put into the cameras, but there will be money needed in other areas as well.

Tiny Police Cameras Oakland

Body cameras having been first implemented in the U.S and have made their way to Canada now. Justice officials say that if the public has cameras, so should the police. The body cameras allow the officers to safely protect the public, while ensuring they’re own safety as well. Questions about officer reliability, and accountability are being answered after watching footage. Many civilians may not use force due to knowing it will all be filmed, and vice versa. The safety of both parties here can be potentially benefited. Police officers do not have to deal with as many lawsuits that also cost tax payer’s money. Also sometimes witnesses, or victims decide to later withdraw from a case, which can cause the case to have no evidence. With the cameras there will always be evidence for the court; this can be either good or bad depending on the victims life. Police may in fact come out on top after all the criticism that they have received throughout the years. Now the public will understand that the police officer could have been justified in they’re actions. In situations of police misconduct, the police would have full accountability in cases like these because even the courts would not be able to save them. The courts would never have to feel obliged to take a police officers report as the only evidence anymore, because now they would have footage.

costs

Justice officials in New York claim that body cameras are economically beneficial in saving the city millions of dollars in lawsuits every year, which would in the end pay for all of the cameras themselves (Lopez, 2015). The world of technology is always evolving, and with the dash cams just not being able to cut it anymore; body cameras may prove to be effective on their own. In Goldsmith’s article, he establishes that phone cameras, and the media are apart of the police organization now. Police having they’re own body cameras have evolved from that. Goldsmith would say that the police too should have they’re own cameras so that they can prove what maybe the public ‘filmer’ failed to record. Most civilians only start to record once an event begins to get ‘interesting’. The police officers on the other hand would get the full footage, from beginning to end. He would claim that now accountability would go to whichever party is at true fault.

This is a beneficial way for police officers to prove they’re innocence.

Here is an video that allows viewers to see how Body Cameras are used and can be effective, and beneficial.

I would just like to conclude with one last thing, we live in a ‘democracy’. This means everyone should get the opportunity to see all of the pros and cons, and then decide if we as a community want and need the cameras, since it is affecting everyone’s privacy. If citizens, and police officers all think body cameras are necessary in today’s age, then by all means that is what should happen. I want to leave the reader thinking with one incident I once heard a retired police officer say, “A young female was about to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge…. I sat with her for two hours, and continued talking until she finally decided that life had a lot more for her…this saved her life”. I personally think if the police officer was wearing a camera the female would not have opened up as she did, and possibly the police officer may have not been able to say everything he had to as well. Not every situation should be on film, there’s times when having a camera can be invasive, and create more drama then it really needs to be. As the reader, really ask yourself is this what you would like to see in the next couple of years?

References:

AXON. (2013, January 1). City of Rialto Case Study. Retrieved February 8, 2015. http://info.taser.com/rs/taser/images/CA_Rialto_PD_Case_Study.pdf

Lopez, G. (2015, January 13). Why police should wear body cameras — and why they shouldn’t. Retrieved February 08, 2015. http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained

Moulden, H. M., Firestone, P., Kingston, D. A., & Wexler, A. F. (2010). A Description of Sexual Offending Committed by Canadian Teachers. Journal Of Child Sexual Abuse19(4), 403-418.

Stroud, Matt. “The Big Problem With Police Body Cameras.” Bloomberg. 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-15/police-body-camera-policies-wont-work-if-cops-dont-turn-cameras-on&gt;.

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Gord Hill’s Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book surrounding the Toronto 2010 G20 Summit reveals how the rebels are tarnishing the city and corporate buildings. They are dressed in black and wearing masks to hide their identity while they are being reckless. The issue with this comic is that it shows an us vs. them (police vs. the public). “We as police must fuck them, before they fuck us. The law and the system have tightened around us. We have no choice but to use these tactics of dishonesty” (Goldschmidt & Anonymous, 2008, p.113). The Toronto G20 protest was to be for things like better educational materials and a rally for gender justice, queer, and disability rights. Furthermore, the government spent billions of dollars for guards, police services, riot squad, and military troops. A whole mass of money was spent and paid to the police to ensure the protest was handled properly. Although, there were many complications such as innocent people being arrested, use of excessive force, misconduct, and use of profound language by the police. For instance, “police attacks on ‘non-violent’ protesters resulted in one death – Ian Tomlinson – a local resident beaten by police” (Hill, 2012, p.83).

The first day of resistance began June 21st. It was a hot day, many people showed up to rally and the police did their best to block off the rally. On June 24th, the first day of action, thousands of people showed up to participate in the march to move close to the G20 but were stopped by the police. The comic here shows police deviance and misconduct. On June 25th the author shows the police using unspeakable language towards people that would offend a reasonable person. For instance, in one of the drawings the authors shows police saying “wake up assholes! Show me your hands! Now!” (Hill, 2012, p.87). Police officers are always using these types of words toward the public. The number one complaint against the police is the use of their abusive language. It is mostly used by bent police officers that are sliding into corruption. Moreover, the comic reveals how the police eventually lost control and began to fall apart. Police vehicles were heavily damaged with police officers inside and some were eventually set on fire. The public is being held accountable the things that took placing during the G20 but in fact the police imposing the laws around the G20 had a role in how it turned out.

Overall, the Toronto G20 is one of the worst manifestations to occur in recent history. The G20 poses serious questions on police misconduct. The comic is very interesting and shows how the protesters were being denied their right of public speech and right to protest. Making the police look like the bad guys due to their misconduct and the use of excessive force.

References Cited

Goldschmidt, J., & Anonymous. (2008). The necessity of dishonesty: police deviance, ‘making     the case’, and the public good. Police & Society18(2), 113-135.

Hill, G. (2012). The anti-capitalist resistance comic book. British Columbia: Arsenal Pulp Press.

InfoWarriorsUnite. (Producer) (2010). Video of police assault on Ian Tomlinson, who died at the   london g20 protest [Web].                                                                                                 Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DJNzkIRg_E

As I read the assignment guidelines, I figured it would be extremely difficult to find a recent case of police corruption. Contrary to my belief, the first search I entered into Google brought me to the case of an Edmonton police officer named Derek Whitson. Whitson, a seven-year veteran, is currently being charged with four charges including deceit and corruption for interfering with documents in his brother, Joell Whitson’s, drunk driving case.

Corruption can be described as the abuse of authority, oath of office, and suspects and citizens. Immediately, it is clear that the category of corruption Whitson has committed is “Flaking and Padding.” This involves manipulating files or evidence for personal gain and could also include adding to evidence to increase the penalty an individual receives. In this particular case, it is clear that Derek Whitson was attempting to minimize the level of impairment of his brother in the notes in the hopes that he received a lesser charge or even acquittal. Derek Whitson has also used his authority in a corruptive manner, another one of the typologies discussed in “Police Corruption” by Maurice Punch.

Typology 3 involves the level of police deviance and corruption committed by an individual. Because an internal complaint from within his unit was received, it is evident that this is not a system failure which involves an entire organization in crisis; however, the corruption does occur within the police domain. This involves police interfering with the administration of justice. When the original officer on scene was taking notes, he was administering justice. By tampering with notes about the severity of Joell’s intoxication level, Derek knew that his brother would either be acquitted of receive a lesser charge.

In typology 1, we are introduced to the various forms typologies for officers. Among these are two that fit particularly well with this case, the first being “meat-eaters.” A meat-eater is someone who participates in illegal activity and abuses their power for self-gain. Although manipulating notes is not directly benefitting Derek, I’m sure he would slightly benefit from the fact that his brother no longer needs to serve time or pay large fines. The second typology is an “innovator and number-cruncher.” These are individuals who look for loopholes and technicalities. Having a brother who is able to tamper with records is quite the loophole is you ask me.

The various typologies are quite confusing at first glance. When I first searched for classes to join, I had no clue this one was being offered. What was most shocking to me was that the problem of police deviance is becoming a colossal problem not only in third world countries but countries like Canada. Realizing a problem like police corruption is large enough to have a whole class dedicated to it highlights how drastically this, once small, problem is growing. As human beings, we are instinctively required to look out for others, especially loved ones. In this particular case, one man was willing to put his job on the line to protect his brother. But where do we draw the line?  How far are we willing to go to help others?

REFERENCES

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmonton+police+officer+faces+corruption+charges/7786655/story.html

Oversight and complaints mechanisms are an integral part of any policing organization.  Oversight is defined as an independent committee tasked with overseeing certain aspects of police actives that are considered deviant in nature.  These committees typically lack power to enforce their recommendations.  Complaint mechanism include a electronic submitted form, but is not limited too.  This form seems to focus more on identifying the complainant rather then the perceived deviant act of the officer[s].  The Commission is the main avenue for complaints against the RCMP.  A main theme with oversights and complaints commission is that they are divided into two intersecting faction: the police and the public.  The police are hesitant and often resistance to change brought upon by the oversight because they believe that they do not have the understanding nor the training to analysis the situation in question.  Many feel that they are the subject of undue discrimination brought upon by a community out for blood.

Oversights where born of a need to control the ‘bad apples’ of the police force.  Believing to have providence over them, the public tried to enforce sanctions and other restrictions.  But the police do not give these ‘suggestions’ any credence [unless followed by unrelenting public opinion, even then the public is told they are implement but in reality they are not enforced].  Essentially these services are a forum where the public can voice their opinions, call for alarm and other perceived idiosyncrasies.  These forums are believed to be the emissary of change and a bridge between the public and the police.

There is a cyclical ‘so what?’ question that permeates the discussion of oversight and complaints mechanisms.  The committees hold no real power, so what?  So what if there is no feeling of progress? There is no real forum for the police to voice their concern, so what?  So what if both sides are lost in egos and bureaucratic red-tape, so what?

Without power to enforce their recommendations the oversight is effectively lip-service.  This relates to no feeling of progress, spreading into sideways mobility.  This refers to the continued opening of inquires or committees to look into the problem and their only address of the systems and not the cause of the deviance.  The police also negotiate the offense down to a policy violation rather than a criminal offense.  The police cannot voice their concerns to any outside identity or even their superiors without fear of reprisal and breaking the blue wall of silence.  In the police line of work who they can trust is very important.  Even when not involved in deviance, those who go against the code [of conduct] whether block out in a handbook or verbally inscribed into new recruits, are viewed with suspicion and disdain.  Mainly untreatable.  This problem causes ripples within the unit and then the ranks and then the organization. At any point they can be on the receiving end of taunts, pranks and unaided calls for help.  Serpico, a prime example, went to the newspapers to report on his fellow brothers in blue for their involvement in deviant activities.  Their response?  To ignore his cries for back-up when raiding a drug house, he was shot in the face.  And because each side is trying to limit the power each has over the other, there is feelings of isolation and inadequacy.  This may lead in to blame-dodging in order to cover for this.

While on paper the oversight committees are worthwhile, they lack an important factor.  Power.  Power to implement change and power for the police to stem the tide of public blame.  As mentioned countless times they cannot implement any recommendations made by said committees.  The police feel that the public cannot properly understand what the job entails and thus are under-qualified to preside over their affairs.  This, in-part, is correct.  The general public has no understanding of the daily struggles of having to balance public interest, their own policies and the criminal code.  Not to mention various public appearances meant to stimulate the RCMP’s public image: musical ride and holding as a symbol of Canada to meet visiting dignitaries and diplomats.

There are three ways in which to make oversight mechanisms ‘work’.

First, giving them power to force change.  Once positive of this could be rising public confidence.  but this may also lead to an inflated self-ego and specialization through bureaucratization.  What I mean by this, because of their high specialization they would be the only ones with the resources to review police deviance and through this their reputation as the only ones with power to deal with the deviance with grow.  Dealing with an increased workload leads to growth thus hiring more people.  And through this not everyone will either be of the caliber the organization requires or susceptible to the invitation of a bribe.  Those wanting to implicate someone may bribe someone within the organization.  Specialization through bureaucratization means that through policies and other legalities they gain both power and a narrowed vision of what they encompass, leading to increased public and police isolation and distrust.  In short, are we not creating an environment in which we needed the oversight for the police?

The second, keeping the oversight the same.  It has already been established that the oversight cannot fully contextualize what they were originally created for.  Meaning they were meant as a vehicle of change, to oversee the police and deal with deviance, along with producing recommendations, policies and new legislation to prevent further deviance and to facilitate a more harmonious relationship with the public.  The police and the public both feel victimized and inadequate.  The advent of social media adds to this through repeated visualization of the event, sometimes edited to produce a particular result geared towards a certain side.

Third, is to tear down the existing structure and build anew.  To create a committee that is equal between the public, police and more importantly within the community.  I have some ideas about its creation.

For instance, its membership.  It should be temporary as to not become desensitize to the action it is investing and should be based off of voter registration and telephone directory to get a better cross-section of the community.  There should be an equal number of community members and the police.  Within the police, there will be a propionate number of upper, middle management and ‘beat’ cops.  As well as with the community should be reflective of all of its aspects.  This is so each side can explain their position on the issue and each can address concerns from their level of expertise.  Chairs will be in name only as there must be someone to control the meetings.  There will be open sharing of information between the both sides.  It will also be easier to compel the police.  Though sensitive information must remain within the committee.  As Chris Beach, who is an outreach and complaints analyst for the Commission, mentioned a shared data-base to make sure each side is sharing completely with one another.  Meetings of the oversight will not be public at first, to bolster the relationship between them and the police.Though later on, they may observe the happenings.  And like the Canadian court system, they will not be televised.  Andy discussion will be handed down through third parties like a public relations person, media or another organization.  As to waylay the force of questions directed towards them.  They would still be answerable to the public but this is to ensure that they can continue their proceedings without constant interruption.

As to whether these options ‘work’ is subjective.  Several people believe that the current oversight is workable while others have a variety of opinions.  Without major reorganization of the mechanisms implemented and a true cohesive/ collaborative relationship between these committees and the RCMP, there can be no progress.

Main themes include complaint form, RCMP security level, power and mistrust.

The formal complaints form found on the RCMP website allots more space to help identify the complainant rather than the incident.

Even though the RCMP lost the ability to investigate national security through the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, in 1985, but sixteen years later the Anti-Terrorism Act allowed for their greater involvement.

Power because both sides lack it.  Power to enforce and to develop an open relationship with the public because of their sanctioned use of deadly force.

This helps to spread mistrust because both sides cannot understand the others position and through the blue wall of silence there cannot be clear communication between them.

An Introduction:

‘Agent Provocateur’ what does this mean exactly?  No, not the lingerie brand.  Obviously it relates, somehow, to police deviance.  This is a relatively obscure term used to describe a certain type of crime. An agent provocateur is created when an undercover agent has moved from a passive involvement in crime to an active involvement. This means that such an individual might (and as often is the case) not be a police officer.  The individual could be any number of things, from a police officer working undercover, to an informant who is paid or blackmailed, to a member of The Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) — which is not a policing agency, and is not in fact required to enforce Canadian law.

Typically, an agent provocateur is a police officer that encourages others to commit crime in order for fellow police officers to arrest said guilty parties.  These encouragements can vary depending on circumstance. They could be crimes of themselves.  And the encouragements enacted by the police officer universally stray in to that legal gray area known as entrapment – whether the act of encouraging itself is a crime or not.

A little context is, perhaps, in order.

Grant Bristow and Operation Governor:

When we speak of agents provocateur, it is important to note that agents provocateur are not a new phenomenon in Canadian legal history.

Historically, we also have the case of Grant Bristow, a former CSIS agent who worked with the Canadian chapter of the Aryan Nations.  Unfortunately, the only comprehensive resource on Grant Bristow comes from Wikipedia.  Although we do have fellow blogger, Ezra Levant‘s commentary on the matter, as well as Bristow’s interview with The Walrus to draw on. Less user-friendly is a SIRC report written in 1994 investigating CSIS and Bristow’s role in the Heritage Front Affair.

Regardless, in this case the Wiki article seems to be quite succinct on the subject of Grant Bristow according to my subsequent research.
Grant Bristow
Grant Bristow was an informant employed by CSIS who worked closely with the eventual leader of the Canadian Aryan Nations front, Wolfgang Droege in the ’80s. He has spoken to the fact that his ties with Droege allowed him to prevent various horrific acts of violence, including bombings and riots. However, further investigation has revealed that his placement as Droege’s right hand man may have been what allowed the organization to continue its operations when Droege assumed leadership. The purpose of Bristow’s infiltration was to identify the financial supporters of the Canadian Chapter of Aryan Nations. However, it was upon the impending arrest of Droege (on unrelated charges of assault) and Bristow’s subsequent departure of Aryan Nations in March 1994, that the Front disbanded.  Bristow was forced to step down, because if he had not, he would have become the de facto leader of the chapter.

In 1994, Toronto Sun reporter Bill Dunphy released an expose on Operation Governor; sadly this news article is not available on the newspaper’s website.  Without a copy, what can be said about it is this: the article negatively exposed CSIS’s role in the Heritage Front/Operation Governor Affair and ousted Grant Bristow as the agent in question.

In September 2004, Bristow sat down with the Walrus and narrated his own perspective of the operation.

Bob Lambert:

Robert Lambert

Dr. Robert Lambert is currently the co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter. He also lectures at the Centre of the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews. He was a former officer employed by the London Metropolitan Police from 1980-2008. He is the author of Countering Al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnerships. He was inducted as a Member to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, for his work as a police officer.

Under the false identity “Bob Robinson,” Lambert infiltrated various environmental, animal rights, and anti-racist activist groups. I bring this case up not as a discussion of agents provocateur, but to highlight a similar issue found in the Kennedy case below: Lambert instigated an 18 month relationship with a London Greenpeace activist in an attempt to gain credibility in his undercover role. While police chiefs claim that undercover officers are expressly forbidden from engaging in sexual relations with activists, other undercover officers have come forward to say that sex is most definitely used as a tool to gain trust.

Although Lambert has never been accused of being an agent provocateur, he currently is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in regards to whether or not he was prosecuted under his assumed identity, while undercover.

Robert Lambert

Montebello:

The Montebello Incident involved the Sûreté du Quebec using three undercover officers to infiltrate the anti-Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America protests. The SPP was an open dialogue between Canada, America, and Mexico with the purpose of enhancing trade, sharing intelligence, cooperation, environmental protection, and economic stability between the three nations. The SPP was meant to exist alongside institutions such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The SPP was cancelled in August 2009.

In the above video, peaceful demonstrators are protesting the SPP at the North American leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec. The above video shows Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union) ordering three masked men, who were later revealed as undercover SdQ officers, to leave. In August 2007, the SdQ admitted to its involvement.

Informants:

To further broaden our look into agents provocateur: the issue of informants is paramount.  Mother Jones offers are clear and frank exploration of the use of informants from the American perspective in its September/October 2011 article “The Informants”.  From the Canadian perspective, we have the work of Mathilde Turcotte and his study of police informants and their handlers in Quebec, in the article “Shifts in Police-Informant Negotiations.”

From the Canadian perspective we have the following: police are required to actively seek out and maintain a network of informants without much leverage.  Typically, informants are gathered through actions such as bribes, blackmail, and “flipping.” “Flipping” is where a criminal is given the opportunity to “work off” his crimes through aiding in police investigations. Blackmail is the threat of legal action before an informant is charged. This could include issues of immigration.  However, in Canada, police have no real control over the reciprocity process.  In order to prevent the abuse of power on part of the police, outside agencies have control over the reciprocity process. This creates a unique situation where the informant could gain leverage over his handler, and make demands in return for cooperation. This also puts the handler in jeopardy during the bargaining process, because he cannot be certain that any promises he makes to an informant will be carried through.

As the informant gains more power in his relationship with his handler, it is often the case that he works outside his orders and without confirmation or approval.  An example provided by Turcotte involves an informant, while wearing a wire, attempting to entrap a contact in a drug deal.  This was outside the scope of the informant’s directions, and completely illegal — any evidence he might have gathered would have been inadmissible in court.  As a civilian agent, he was not aware that his actions constituted entrapment. Fortunately, the contact did not accept the deal; if he had, the ramifications are impossible to predict, although it could be said with certainty that the Police would not have come out of it with high public opinion.

Mother Jones also brings up the issue of wires and undercover operations, in the context of terrorist sting operations.  The concern raised here is that, while technology advances further and has allowed for virtually undetectable recording devices, there are still many incidents of key interactions not being recorded. The law enforcement side of the debate offers the excuse of “technical difficulties,” while the pragmatic approach is simply one of convenience. Certain conversations are not recorded because it is “inconvenient” for the agency that they are on record.

Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy is a former London Metropolitan police officer who worked undercover for seven years, between 2003 and 2010, infiltrating various activist groups across Europe. Most recently, he was involved in the case of 20 activists convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at the Ratcliff-on-Soar Power Station. However, this conviction was overturned on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Three appeal court judges ruled that a grave miscarriage of justice had occurred when audio evidence Kennedy had collected during the activists’ meetings was not disclosed by prosecution. The audio evidence showed Kennedy “was involved in activities which went much further than the authorization he was given, and appeared to show him as an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed occupation of the power station and, arguably, an agent provocateur.”

Kennedy’s involvement in the planned occupation of the Power Station was not passive. He recruited, drove reconnaissance, and offered financial backing. In total, 114 individuals were arrested when they gathered for a meeting in April 2009. When Kennedy’s involvement in the group as an undercover officer was exposed, he faced harsh denouncement from the activists he had infiltrated, who had considered him a close friend and confident. They express feelings of violation and betrayal. Kennedy also faces allegations that he had used sex as a means to gain trust and information while under cover.

In response to this controversy, Kennedy claims that “he was mishandled by senior officers and has been hung out to dry.” Interesting, in that this is a technique of neutralization. In the field of sociology, we would describe this as shifting blame to a higher power – in this case Kennedy’s superiors. Although it is important to qualify that what he has to say is quite logical. And not unexpected when, often, police institutions seek to single out the blame and distance the institution itself from corruption.
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
Seven inquiries have been launched in regards to Kennedy’s infiltration and the prosecution of the activists.  In total, of the 114 individuals arrested, none have been convicted.

Analysis:

Undercover officers – what do they mean for police and police deviance?  Maurice Punch (2009), in his book Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing, tells us time and again to look not at the “bad apples,” but the “bad barrels” and “bad orchards” (p. 48), meaning: look at the situation, circumstance, and environment surrounding police that might lead them to corruption. Undercover officers work with, more often than not, criminals; to put it plainly, an officer is expected to infiltrate suspected criminal groups with the intent of gathering evidence (we hope) against these criminals that can be used to bring them to justice.  It is most definitely a dirty job. Getting ‘street cred’ alone usually requires some sort of criminal act.  This common theme of “credibility” or “trust” or “information” is found in the cases of Bristow, Lambert, Kennedy, and Mother Jones’s “The Informants.” In the cases of Kennedy and Lambert, we are further introduced into the idea of sexual encounters as a point of leverage. Morals are pushed and boundaries are reformed. It is natural to assume that somewhere along the line ‘the end justifies the means.’

Gary T. Marx asks us to explore the origins and motives of informants, what they do in radical groups, and factors that enable their transformation into agents provocateur (n.d.).

This leads us first to look our cases of undercover officers as informants, identify some of the motives and concerns that might have lead them to become agents provocateurs.

Bristow’s case is interesting because, as an informant working for CSIS, he is in a different position than the others, who were actual police officers. Bristow had no overarching mandate to uphold the law. And he was tasked with uncovering the financial supporters of Aryan Nations. In his quest to do so he developed a strong relationship with Wolfgang Droege. The maintenance of that relationship required Bristow to act the part of a supporter of the white supremacist cause.  This was an “ends justify the means” situation. Or we could call it a type of Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption.  Maurice Punch describes these types of corruption as specific types of police deviance, however in this case we can apply them to Bristow.  Bristow did not believe in the cause of white supremacy, yet he assumed the guise of such in his undercover role.

The SdQ undercover officer’s roles in the Montebello incident are most definitely Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption. However, as SdQ is a police agency, with a legal mandate to uphold Canada’s law, we have the further issue of Accountability.  Attempting to provoke or incite violence for whatever purpose is illegal. In some cases it could be considered entrapment.  However, it is important to note that Entrapment is only a defense at law; it is not in itself illegal. (Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Legislation blog offers a clearly defined explanation of entrapment if you are so interested.)  The SdQ’s actions at Montebello neatly fall into the definitions of entrapment, although in this case the protesters resisted incitement.  Although no violence occurred, why were the police not held accountable for their actions? If Droege had been prosecuted for his involvement with the Aryan Nations Front, would he have been able to plead entrapment? The role of the agent provocateur is a convoluted one.

In the study of agents provocateur and their roles in undercover operations, the issue of accountability continues to raise its head. There is a certain “legal gray area” that clouds the use of informants and the use of police undercover agents. We can identify some of the motives of agents provocateur, chiefly the types of corruption Maurice Punch labels as Noble Cause, or Dirty Harry corruption.  We cannot, however identify the solution to agents provocateur, because there is so little investigation into the use of them, and there is no transparent accountability structure in place.  CSIS informants hide behind the veil of “National Security.”

Further, what are the ramifications of the agent provocateur? As eluded to above, and as found conclusively in the case of Mark Kennedy, the identification of an agent provocateur can, and will, lead to acquittal.  So what then, makes an individual decide to jeopardize any possible legal action by inciting crime? In Bristow’s case, his purpose was not to arrest Droege – or anyone for that matter. He was tasked with identifying certain individuals and he had no interest in criminal charges.  We see a similar theme in Lambert’s and Kennedy’s situations – they were tasked with gathering information, as well. Is there a distinction between “information gathering” and “nailing the bad guy for a crime”? The literature on police deviance would suggest not.  Mathilde’s and Mother Jones’s articles both allude to the situation of the informant as key to the creation of the agent provocateur.

To look at the cases of Lambert and Kennedy again: I bring them up together because they share similar themes. While Lambert’s case was not one of the agent provocateur (he was an undercover police officer and is currently under speculation for false testimony, not inciting crime), both he and Kennedy were deep undercover agents who operated for years. They created intense interpersonal relationships with the people they were tasked to observe. And they both faced harsh criticism for they duality. They are also both former police officers. Under Peel’s principles that “the police are the public and the public are the police,” we have a concern. The controversy these two individuals are involved in seriously affects the relationship between the public and the police.

Ultimately, the damage the agent provocateur does, to the public and the agency to which he or she belongs, seems to outweigh any benefit. And yet, still these instances occur. What is so very tempting in tempting others into crime?

References:

Marx, G. (n.d.). “Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant,” American Journal of Sociology 80(2): 402-442.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.

Turcotte, Mathilde. (2008). Shifts in police-informant negotiations. Global Crime, 9(4), 291-305. doi: 10.1080/17440570802543508.

And all the electronic resources cited here-above.

The Undercover Provocateur

Posted: December 1, 2011 by dhaliwal15 in Agent Provocateurs
Tags: , ,

A Police Agent Provocateur is a particular type of undercover police infiltrator. However, this undercover agent does not necessarily have to be a Police officer; the agent could be any public civilian who is hired by the Police Department for a special assignment, depending on the circumstances. Police Agent Provocateurs play a vital role for law enforcement and other government agencies, when trying to catch citizens, who the police deem as criminals. Agent Provocateurs are similar to spies who infiltrate an organization.

However, one main difference is that Provocateurs may provoke or influence a person or a group into committing an illegal action rather than just collecting as visual surveillance. This is done so arrests and convictions can be made against non-law abiding citizens. However, provoking someone to commit an act of violence should not be considered fair, and agencies should not be allowed to try and force civilians into commit violent acts. By provoking someone to commit an act, law enforcement agencies are setting citizens up to fail. In these cases, people who are arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail had no intent to commit any criminal acts until they were provoked by law-enforcement agencies. No individual person is greater than the law, therefore agencies that use agents as provocateurs do not have any special authority to break the law.

According to Gary T. Marx (1974), of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Center for Criminal Justice, agent provocateurs can range from all kinds of undercover officers, from Special Forces, to ordinary police officers, and even ordinary citizens. An agent provocateur could be considered an undercover spy who is pretending to fit into a certain group, in order to gain further intelligence.

After an agent has infiltrated an organization and become a member, after he or she has been accepted, the agent may be asked or have to do many immoral acts, which may go against his or her desires. Marx (1974) states that “the agent may go along with the illegal actions of the group, he [or she] may actually provoke such actions, or he [or she] may set up a situation in which the group appears to have taken or to be about to take an illegal action” (Marx, 1974, 405). Furthermore, Marx (1974)  states that an agent is not just randomly chosen by he or she must also fit a certain set of characteristics. An agent is carefully examined at how well he or she matches and fits into with a group. For example, age, race, and religion are just some of the characteristics that may be looked at.

Marx (1974) introduces an interesting point while discussing the characteristics of a agent who may be chosen. Furthermore, he states that civilians rather than professionally trained and sworn police are used as agents who act as informant.Po lice agencies may influence a civilian to take on the role of an agent provocateur for a number of reasons, including the promise of financial rewards or a reduction in a charge or sentence.  Also a civilian may share much more attributes of a group that he or she is asked to infiltrate. Furthermore, Marx (1974) talks about using police officers as agents. These police officers, who are chosen to perform such a task, are usually young inexperienced officer, who have just recently joined the police force.

In Canada, there have been several big accusations made against Police agent provocateurs, especially in massive protests, which occurred in Canada’s largest Metropolitan area, Toronto, Ontario. In addition, some agent provocateur operations have not gone so well as others, for example, Montebello, Quebec. Protestors did not turn violent, and the Quebec Provincial police had to admit their mistake.

In Montebello, Quebec, the Sûreté du Québec, which is the Provincial police force of Quebec was accused of using police agent provocateurs in a wrongful manner. Many people gathered to protest meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America on August 20 2007. The protest was intended to be a peaceful one, however three individuals who had their faces covered, and wore similar boots to those of the police officers dressed in riot gear, were essentially asked to leave the protest; due to them trying to turn the protest violent.

A video posted on YouTube, by user leper99 is about a CBC News World clip about the use of agent provocateurs regarding the Montebello summit. In the video clip criminal lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon talks about how the use of agent provocateurs is not a proper use of police resources. In addition, he states that there should be guidelines and other regulations set out for police organization, when dealing with large crowds. Furthermore, the video states that the police use agent provocateurs so that they may disperse crowds quickly and gather up as many protestors as possible. Also that the use of agent provocateurs is endorsed by politicians, because it is gives the police an opportunity to move in the with riot squad and disperse the large crowd as soon as possible.

The G20 Summit riots on June 26 2010 occurred in Canada’s largest metropolitan area Toronto, Ontario. Many conspiracies began to arise of the Toronto Police Department  using officers as provocateurs, in order to provoke the protesters to become violent. Similar to the Montebello incident, many rioters were seen wearing similar boots as Toronto Police officers that day. Rioters wearing similar shoes as officers were caught on pictures destroying local stores, and even going as far as to jumping on top of police cars.

More than a year later as Jerry Colangelo (2011) states that at least two police officers infiltrated activist groups that were planning to cause trouble in the streets of Toronto. Recently police officers have come forward and admitted “that not only did they join the group, but that they also took part in and encouraged several acts of vandalism” (Colangelo, 2011). The two officers who took part in this operation have not been yet identified, however, one is a male, and one is a female. While the two were undercover “they promoted vandalism and violence at strategy sessions — once suggesting that they vandalise building equipment — and took part in an unsuccessful attempt to interfere with the Vancouver Olympic torch run” (Colangelo, 2011).

Furthermore, relating to the Toronto G20 riots, CTV Southwestern Ontario conducted an interview with activist, Julian Ichim. Ichim discusses how he had close contact with officers who were part of the actions committed by rioters. As Ichim discusses with CTV Southwestern Ontario, about the undercover police officers actions, he states that the officers “offered to drive to events like the Olympic Torch relay to protest as it passed through a number of locations, including Guelph, Kitchener and northern Ontario” (2011). Furthermore, “Ichim says the officer was one of the big organizers of the torch protest and was even arrested while trying to block the flame in northern Ontario” (CTV Southwestern Ontario, 2011). Whether the officer organized the protest against the torch in order to cause some sort of a violent scene, such as a riot is still unknown. In addition, the Ontario Provincial Police have refused to release the final amount of how much these undercover operation cost taxpayers (CTV Southwestern Ontario, 2011).

Marx (1974) states that agent provocateurs are used most often in political cases. Agents work undercover and the public does not know about these police operations. However, Simon Kitson (1999) states that “between the political policing exercised by democracies and by dictatorships, certain general characteristics serve as common denominators” (p. 98). How can two different types of political views be so similar, this seems as if the police are following in a dictatorship way.

Furthermore, According to Jean-Paul Brodeur (2007), low policing is defined as the policing of criminal acts, which are not deemed a threat to national security. For example, littering or spray painting on private property is not seen as a major crime. On the other hand, high policing is based on the threat of national security. As Brodeur (2007) states that high policing has more to do with intelligence gathering, and is left aside by some smaller police organization, rather high policing is handled mostly by many federal organizations such as, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in the United State of America, and in Canada, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). However, many local police forces may be responsible for planting agent provocateurs into a crowd, although this may involve more than one organization, such as the RCMP, OPP, and the Toronto Police Service all working together during the Toronto G20 Riots. Finally, Brodeur (2007) discusses the importance of humans going under cover, “…despite the growing reliance on technical sources, the infiltration of human informants remains the primary tool of high policing” (p. 35).

In the United States of America, there been several interesting incidents involving undercover police informants. The Black Panthers have had their fair share of the police and other government agencies infiltrating their group. According to the New York Times, a New York Police Detective helped the Black Panthers open up a location in the Bronx. At the time, the Police Detective was undercover acting as a spy. This should be considered an act of deviance on behalf of not only the Detective, but also the NYPD as a whole. The NYPD as a department allowed one of their own Detectives to participate in illegal activity, and helping to expand the illegal activity. Furthermore, the FBI in the United State of America has been involved in several undercover operations.

There are many cautious circumstances that law enforcement agencies have to be aware of when dealing with agents who go undercover in order to and infiltrate a certain group. Known as The Double Agent, the agent plays a role were he or she is truly an activist for the group which he or she is supposed to infiltrate. The purpose of The Double Agent is to trick and manipulate the law enforcement agencies by providing false information. Marx (1974) states that “He [or she] may enjoy a sense of power by deceiving everyone, experience cross-pressures, and be unclear as to which side he [or she] is really on”(Marx, 1974, 417). Another reason why many law enforcement agencies must be aware of when dealing with agents is that some may have mixed views and opinions. According to Marx (1974), if an agent shares similar characteristics of a group that he or she has infiltrated, he or she may convert and become part of the group, rather than just an undercover member. In order to first become an accepted member of a group an agent must build trust, and loyalties within a particular group. However, the more trust and loyalties he or she builds, the more his or her opinions may change about the group and the people within.

When a police officer becomes an undercover agent, he or she may be involved in dealing with many dangerous criminals and befriending them. Everett Hughes (1962), states that being an undercover agent and trying to befriend a criminal, while also looking for a conviction is considered to be “dirty work”. Hughes (1962) also goes on to say that leaders do not want direct involvement with criminal organizations, rather the leaders find someone who is useful enough to go and do the dirty work that is required of agents. When a police agent is doing undercover work illegal actions should not be permitted for the agent, as these actions would be going against many laws which are set out by the state. However, many undercover operations may end up being a total failure if some illegal actions are not to be permitted, because an agent may not be able gather enough evidence in a legal manner, therefore, an arrest or a charge may not be possible. This is very similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, were the “means” are justified by a successful ending, such as catching the criminal (Punch, 2009, 24). As Marx (1974) states, some agents may contribute to violence, whether directly or indirectly, through these kinds of illegal actions one is able to entrap other committing illegal actions as well. Similar to the “Dirty Harry” phenomena, the term “Noble Causers” seems to fit in well with an agent provocateur. Although some agents may break the law and go against social norms, they however, are breaking the law for a greater cause. As Stated by Punch (2009), Noble Causers, break the law because officers believe it to be for the good of the public.

Police organizations that plan to provoke peaceful crowds into to turning violent should be held accountable for their actions. Officers along with the organizations that they belong to should be held responsible, similar to the members of the public who may be charged with an offence. The police are there to keep peace within and control any situations from arising. However, the more undercover officers provoke a crowd it is not only a danger towards the general public, but also it can cause a huge amount of property damage and put many officers lives at risk; with such a violent crowd. The police make the public look like a bunch of anarchists. However, many undercover officers influence acts of anarchy to be pursued by certain individuals.

Agent provocateurs do not only provoke criminal organizations and other citizens into committing illegal actions. Agent Provocateurs are also responsible for gathering vital information, which may possibly lead to further arrests of criminal organization groups. In addition, these agents are responsible for gathering a huge amount of intelligence from inside a secret organization. Throughout history there have been many incidents involving law enforcement agencies infiltrating certain groups, not only is this a dangerous role for officers and citizens to play, it is also dirty work as many people may be easily influenced.

After searching for “Police Agent Provocateurs” on Google, many different kinds of websites appeared on the first page of results there were about 5,560,000 hits.  Surprisingly, the Wikipedia page does contain of a decent amount of Canadian content, compared to other countries. Also, the Wikipedia page introduces the incident which took place in Montebello, Quebec. Furthermore, several multimedia websites such as You Tube appeared with videos of undercover officers provoking rioters, and escalating the violence.  Several newspaper articles appeared, such as The Star. In addition, some newspapers from the United Kingdom appeared such as: The Guardian which discussed the G20 protests in London also resulted in a similar situation as Toronto, and The Independent. A non-profit organization known as the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) based out of Quebec, displayed several pictures of rioters and police officers wearing the exact same boots.  The Articles are fairly recent dating back to 2007.

References

Brodeur, J. P. (2007). High and low policing in post-9/11 times. Policing, 1(1), 25-37. doi: 10.1093/police/pam002

Colangelo, J. (2011, November 28). G20 protest group infiltrated by police. The Brock Press. Retrieved from http://www.brockpress.com/news/external-news/g20-protest-group-infiltrated-by-police-1.2717238

Southwestern Ontario, C. (2011, November 23). Police went undercover with activists before g20 riot. CTV News. Retrieved from http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20111123/undercover-g20-activist-operation-111123/20111123/?hub=TorontoNewHome

Hughes, E. 1962. “Good People and Dirty Work.” Social Problems 10 (Summer): 3-11

Kitson, S. (1999). Political policing. Crime, History & Societies, 3(2), 92-102. Retrieved from http://chs.revues.org/index893.html

leper99. (2007, August 23). quebec police admit going undercover at montebello protests [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAfzUOx53Rg

Marx. Gary. T (1974) Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 80 (2), 402-442.

New York Times. (1971, February 3).

New York Times. (1971, February 17).

Punch, Maurice (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. Devon: Willan Publishing (Routledge)

The Vancouver Sun. (2004, September 12). B.C.’s Hells Angels: Rich and Powerful. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://www.canada.c/vancouver/vancouversun/news/observer/story.html?id=f525bc8a-d80a-4ece-9ffc-f5a2a55a43b0

Several videos by protestors who are taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement, have been recording what goes on daily. A video post on YouTube by the use known as bYarlboro is about Lawrence O’Donnell, a news broadcaster for MSNBC, on his show called “The Last Word”. This video shows the NYPD being overly aggressive, and arresting protestors for simply standing around.

Based on the discussion given by O’Donnell, that the Police Department will ignore what has happened and just push it aside brings forward the notion of police deviance from an organizational level.