The Sting. Not only a great movie, but an extremely effective means of catching someone doing wrong under controlled circumstances. The sting provides the opportunity, while the target comes with the predisposition. If not, it’s entrapment, and that would be wrong.
But as effective as the sting may be going one way, it can be just as effective going the other, and that’s got longtime blogger and former defense lawyer turned prosecutor Ken Lammers pissed.
Baiters are the people who go around purposefully engaging in activity meant to arouse police suspicion and then act shocked SHOCKED!!! that police accost them. These are the guys who create houses that mimic the energy and heat production of a grow house, or walk through the middle of town with a pistol strapped to their hip and a rifle across their back, or violate a minor law where they know it won’t be ignored (often trespassing or a minor traffic infraction). Of course, baiters set it up so that the whole thing is captured on video with the purpose of putting the video online (sometimes they even use the police car video gotten through FOIA requests).
It’s not that Ken has any objection to videos that show police abuse, or that he apologizes or excuses it, but the baiters are another story.
It’s a modern day way of counting coup. The baiter usually acts obnoxious and often engages in some sort of passive resistance. The objective is to make the police officer overreact just enough to make him or her look ridiculous. One of the great hypocrisies of this kind of behavior is that it assumes the police are the bad guys, but at the same time relies on their restraint. They want the officer to yell or shove or throw them up against the car and cuff them. They assume the officer will remain professional enough that she won’t beat the crud out of them with her asp, smash the camera phone, and “accidentally” erase the video in her car.
Is there a “great hypocrisy” involved? If so, I don’t see it. What I see are turned tables, people taking to the streets to do to cops what cops have been doing to others. They provide opportunity. The cops bring predisposition.
Just as there are videos created under circumstances where the police could demonstrate clear knowledge of the law, restraint and respect for the constitutional rights of others, they provide the police with enough reason to assert their unjustified control over others. Some videos end up showing police officers behaving admirably. Others, not so much.
One of the most annoying parts of these videos comes when the baiter manages to cause a situation where he can engage in passive resistance. Typically this occurs when the officer has gotten to the point that she is issuing commands to the baiter or actually putting hands on him. The baiter will make statements diametrically opposed to reality such as “I’m not refusing to comply” when an officer has ordered him several times to leave a property he’s trespassing on (most often as part a protest).
There is invariably one distinction that separates the handling of the sting by the police from that of the citizen who “baits” the police into violating the law. When the cops set a trap, they do so without the target knowing that he’s the target. They aren’t forewarned. They don’t see the backup team ready to pounce. They can’t see the hidden cameras.
The “baiters,” on the other hand, enjoy no such secrecy. They have camera in hand, or, if Ken is right and they are relying on dash cams (a dubious proposition, but what the hey), the police know from the outset they are being recorded. They know from the start that poor behavior on their part is going to find its way back to their commander, the internet and, if the video is good enough, the world.
Despite knowing this, the cops behave poorly anyway. One of the secondary benefits of this scenario is that police departments learn which of their officers is dumb enough not to adjust his otherwise abusive conduct because there is a camera on him. So he pushes around people regularly, but he does so knowing that his conduct is being recorded? That adds insult to injury.
Depending on the flavor of baiter, the genesis of the copycats varies. Open carry baiters are most likely encouraged to act by the various Second Amendment listserves or electronic bulletin boards. Various crusaders for all sorts of (generally leftish) protests find instruction and encouragement all over the internet. Both these groups are cause oriented and their engagement with the police is understandable – if not excusable per se.
What’s wrong with a cause? Just so it’s clear, causes don’t derive from a vacuum, but from experience. Take Carlos Miller’s Photography is not a Crime (which is soon to be turned into a book), which was born of his having been arrested (and since re-arrested multiple times) for engaging in the perfectly lawful endeavor of taking pictures. The cops created Carlos’ cause. He didn’t wake up one morning and say, I think I’ll start a blog and dedicate myself to the protection and defense of the lawful right to take pictures without being arrested by the police.
And even though one might think by now that it would be clear across the country, in every police department large and small, that people are allowed to take pictures of police in the public performance of their duty, with the proviso that they not interfere, cops still routinely assert that it’s unlawful or that it entitles the police to detain and question.
No one can make a cop engage in misconduct or abuse. That someone fails to comply, engages in contempt of cop by just not doing what the cop demands they do, may well be baiting, but it’s no more than providing opportunity. When the police officer seizes the opportunity, he gets what he deserves.
If it makes Ken feel less annoyed, consider this: how many times does a cop engage in impropriety when there is no one with a camera around and no one knows of it? As the cops like to suggest, for every time a person gets caught in a sting, they probably got away with the crime ten more times. That goes both ways.