To Catch A Cop

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.

18 comments on “To Catch A Cop

  1. Jake DiMare

    From my perspective, the overriding issue just makes my brain hurt: The notion of privacy in public is a logical fallacy. If cops, and everyone else for that matter (I’m looking at you Andrea Mears) just assumed they were being watched, perhaps they would grow up and behave?

    [Ed. Note: Andrea Mears vid from PINAC added.]

    1. SHG Post author

      Most of us would assume that big boys and girls already get this. As experience shows, it just ain’t happening that way.

      As Mears, I’m torn between her being one flaming nutjob individual and her being representative of a number of broader problems. While so much of her story and conduct relate to issues discussed here, I’m just as reluctant to make her the poster girl for these problems as I am to make certain males the poster boy for male privilege or rape culture. Damn, it sucks having integrity.

  2. Mike Paar

    How long before these stings make their way into a reality TV show like Bait Car et al so that everyone may have the opportunity to view them?

  3. Mack

    Excellent post!
    Addition points of interest:

    [Ed. Note: Balance deleted. If I wanted to include additional excerpts from Ken’s post, I would have. If you want to, start your own blog.]

  4. John Burgess

    I’d love to be able to get my hands on the Langley-Barbour tapes for their show “Cops” and re-edit or provide voice-overs to turn it into “Bad Cops,” cops who don’t know the law or exceed their authority. It wouldn’t even take new material, so production costs would be lower than the typical reality show.

    Of course, that’s not going to happen. Langley-Barbour would lose access to PDs nationwide and therefore millions of dollars. I assume they are unwilling to foot the bill for public education, but would love to be proved wrong.

  5. Danimaux

    “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, indeed? He’s implying that if you are exercising your First Amendment rights you are less worthy of lawful treatment. The NERVE of these lawful protesters.

    1. SHG Post author

      Having a cause strikes me as a pretty good reason to pursue the vindication of the underlying rights, because that’s what having a cause is about.

  6. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, the exact point in which he lost it (trying to explain his twisted version of Messing with Sasquatch) was around the very first sentence. Then, by the time he said *this and *this (without saying who “they” are and how he gained access to their way of thinking), automatically called for a complimentary 100% Pure Bullshit Stamp, as it came straight from the fingers of a former CDL turned Prosecutor, no-less. Can’t wait to hear about his thoughts on Brady and how it must be considered as VA Stink Bait. Thanks to him, we now have: Us, Them, & a group that goes by They. Thanks to SJ, we know what’s going on in the darkened side of Formerville, VA. Sadly, he’ll get a Bench & Robe of his very own just for sticking with it.

    “The objective is to make the police officer overreact just enough to make him or her look ridiculous.”

    “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.”

    1. SHG Post author

      Ken’s not a bad guy, Thomas. In fact, he is sincerely concerned about abuse and misconduct. What this does reveal, however, is how we take sides and view the world through the prism of our own interests. We all do it, but I wrote about this because I think Ken missed the boat by thinking his baiters are to blame for the cops who get baited. The cops are the problem, not the baiters.

      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        He’s also hurting police accountability.

        We need to be encouraging departments to take action against the “baited” officer, not providing the malefactors with a ready-made excuse.

  7. bill

    I’ve seen a few “Baiter” videos on YouTube, but they were in the rookie category or just one offs. I find it pretty hard to believe there is any significant # of Master Baiters going around, sophisticated enough to set up a reverse sting, but stupid enough to depend on FOIA request dashcam videos. Those have a bad habit of disappearing when they show anything incriminating and as noted already, only a really stupid and/or brazen cop would do the deed in view of the camera. Ken is way too smart to believe that fiction – if someone is involved in an incident serious enough to go viral or get internet attention and they file a FOIA request to get the video, it’s b/c they don’t have a slam dunk.

    Respecting the link prohibition, Marc Randazza has a great post about his career as a prosecutor. Taking the path from CDL to prosecutor doesn’t make/imply you’re a bad guy, but it definitely highlights the blindspot (I realize that’s an awkward way to put it) you mentioned above. I have no evidence, but I”m guessing there are a lot more prosecutors upset with baiters than there are CDLs upset with them.

      1. bill

        I had no idea what to expect when I clicked on that link. You’re a lot of things but boring and predictable aren’t among them ;-)

  8. Jim March

    Regarding the open carry situation, open carry protests started in Ohio in 2003 and there’s a pretty funny story behind it.

    At that time Ohio had no official concealed carry permit system. There was one, under the table: minimal-training-required deputy reserve status for a favored few friends and contributors to sheriffs. Gunnies sued for access to concealed carry permits and in 2003 in the Klein case they “lost” at the Ohio Supreme Court level. But the ruling had a silver lining: they said it was OK to restrict concealed carry because “everybody knew” open carry was legal.

    Well no, “everybody” didn’t know that…especially not the cops across the state who had been busting open carriers for “disturbing the peace” or the like.

    So with that trend over, gunnies did open-carry rallies in big groups doing laps around state and local government buildings until they annoyed their way into a legislatively-introduced carry system.

    The open-carry rallies in Texas are about trying to get an open-carry law for handguns. Right now only rifles or antique-type percussion (“front-stuffer”) handguns can be legally open carried. They want legal open carry mainly because they don’t want to be charged and have their concealed carry permit stripped if the wind catches their jacket and accidentally exposes their boomthing.

    1. SHG Post author

      The view is always different from the inside than the outside. The story explains a far more rational purpose than outsiders assume.

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