Monday, October 8, 2012

Social Media in Time of Crisis

The 'oversharing' on social media has raised a few questions this week.  It's one thing to have a website and tell thousands of complete strangers every detail of your life.  It's another to use the social media to stalk, or possibly to commit crimes.

As a Hostage Negotiator for the police, I had to deal with the 'barricaded gunman' or the 'distraught boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse' that were threatening to take their own life or that of another.  It is law enforcements opinion that it is in everyone's best interest that the police are allowed to do what they are trained to do, and not have the news reporters or a Facebook friend telling the person their opinions or reporting police movements, etc.

What are your opinions on the police being allowed legally (or have the technical ability) to shut down a persons media contacts--telephone, computer, Internet, Face Time, Twitter, etc?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

In this age of instant communication, it seems that we have completely lost sight of the idea of "Innocent until proven guilty" and "a fair trial by a jury of his/her peers."

In our rush to judgement we have lost sight of the fact that the news media only publishes what they have on hand, and that sometimes people (and institutions) lie, or deliberately hold back facts.  In the case of the police and prosecutors, it is necessary to withhold information from the public in an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation and wait for the ultimate completion of a criminal case before stating their opinion.

The recent remarks I've seen on Twitter and Facebook (and not only in the recent Florida case) make me wonder if anyone really knows the meaning of words like racism, prejudice, and hate crimes.

After the Casey Anthony trial, and the OJ Simpson fiasco, have we not learned anything?  Why do we think those cases were lost in court?  Is it possible that maybe we, as citizens, don't need to know every detail of a case before it is decided by a FAIR and IMPARTIAL jury.  And how expensive is it for the taxpayers of a county when a case has to be tried in another county (change of venue) because of the unfair and exaggerated media hype of the case.

Is it more wrong to send a friend request to someone you don't know on Facebook, and less wrong to call for the death of another human being on Twitter.  Is it okay to casually throw around the word racist, or is it just okay if the one being accused is not able to defend themselves in the social media?

I think if the accused, or the victim, were someone in our close family we would feel very differently before casting stones.

Yes, death is a bad thing.  Yes, sometimes the police seem slow to respond, or make an arrest.  But we have a system of doing things in this country of ours.  It didn't develop as quickly as Facebook. It has taken hundreds of years to evolve.

Maybe we should back the train up a little and let the proper authorities do their jobs without the roadside gawking and looking for blood.  Isn't it time that we quit making crime an entertainment event?  Someone's freedom is on the line.  That used to mean something in this country.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who has jurisdiction? FBI, local police, sheriff, state?

The movie Cherry Falls was on cable yesterday.  I've never seen this one before, but was intrigued by the movie description that a serial killer was involved.  The plot was good, but what caught my attention was the that the Sheriff's Department was investigating a series of murders of high school students that were 'virgins.'

The first murder took place near a river and the sheriff department was investigating, so I thought, okay, so the murders must be happening in the county and outside of city limits.  Then, the next murder took place inside a house, inside the city, so I thought, okay, maybe the city police relinquished jurisdiction to the county sheriff because the sheriff department had more of the same murders.

But then, the next murder takes place inside the city, and lo and behold, the FBI turns up at the house and orders the county (sheriff) investigators out of the scene.

Does anyone else have a problem with this scenario?  That would be like Secret Service Agents working a shoplifting detail at Neiman Marcus because private store security seemed incapable of catching the shoplifter.

The problem is, someone, the writer, the director, whoever, wasn't paying attention to real life.  I agree that the creative process allows for some latitude in truth, but this was a deviance from the truth that ruined the movie for me.  And of course, the FBI were very bullying and condescending to the Sheriff and his troops, which is never the case in real life.

I don't expect complete reality in television (thank goodness) but there are lines that I can't cross.

I have worked as a police department investigator for twenty years and never saw jurisdictional lines broken, or fought over.  What I have seen is a huge effort by all agencies to cooperate in investigating a crime and catching the suspect.  I have worked on numerous occasions with FBI, Secret Service, ATF and DEA.  It is one thing to ask for their assistance, or lend them assistance, and another thing to confuse who has jurisdiction.

Here is a guideline for writers to use if they are unfamiliar with who has criminal jurisdiction:

Dual Court System:  Federal and State Court
     A court's legal authority is limited by political boundaries.  Most large civil and criminal cases of federal interest are heard in federal court.  But the only criminal cases heard are those specifically described as under federal jurisdiction.  (That's why they don't do shoplifting investigations at Neiman Marcus.)  Murder is not generally a federal investigation, unless it happens to a federal officer, or on federal property.  A police department can ask for federal assistance in the investigation, such as resources, and information gathering, but ultimately the case will be tried in a local court that has jurisdiction.  The FBI will not make the arrest.

--Generally, if a crime occurs inside the city limits, it is the local police that will investigate.
--If it occurs inside the county (outside of city limits), then the sheriff department will investigate.
--The State Police have jurisdiction anywhere in the state, but most state police agencies restrict themselves to highways and state matters, but will sometimes assist very small jurisdictions that can not investigate because of a lack of resources or manpower.
--The big fish doesn't eat the little fish.  The FBI doesn't come in and take over on a local matter unless they can prove jurisdiction.

If someone takes issue with my remarks I will be grateful to be shown the error of my ways.

I would love to hear some other opinions on jurisdiction.

Rick Reed
"Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"