'Elite' Balitmore Officers Sued For Civil Rights Violations

It's easy to understand why Baltimore disbanded its "Special Enforcement Team," a group of "elite" police officers who apparently considered themselves above the law. Their misconduct caused the city prosecutor's office "to dismiss more than 100 Circuit Court cases the officers had investigated in the previous two years." Now a civil rights suit has been filed by a man who "says a band of rogue cops held him at gunpoint in the street, stripped him and searched his rectum in front of about 30 onlookers."

The strip search victim isn't the only person whose civil rights were violated by the "elite" officers. [more...]

[Attorney Steven] Silverman said that his office reviewed "scores and scores of prior arrest records" and found numerous "obvious and blatant constitutional violations by this rogue group." The complaint alleges nearly 50 instances of questionable activity by officers, which frequently included spotting drugs from vast distances, eliciting spontaneous confessions and regular "serendipitous discovery of individuals possessing contraband."

An earlier lawsuit alleges that officers "illegally detained, assaulted, searched, humiliated and generally terrorized residents without justification."

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    the basic problem, (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by cpinva on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 12:16:17 AM EST
    with these so-called "elite" police units (SWAT,etc) and, increasingly, just your average joe officer, is that many of them are either former military, or military wanabe's. so, these units fancy themselves some kind of "military" style organization, complete with the use of military terminology and weapons.

    this works great (more or less), in the military. not so great in a civilian venue. this is one reason why, in only the rarest of circumstances (a national or natural emergency), is the military asked to function in the civilian environment; it's not what they're trained for. one exception is the state NG, who does receive training specific to working in a civilian format.

    the military doesn't concern itself too much with annoyances, like the constitution, in a war. again, not its job. it is, however, the job of the police to do so.

    hence, the natural tension between a civilian police force, fancying itself a "mini-military", and the necessity of that civilian police force to observe the rule of law. something's going to give, usually civil rights.

    i expect more and more situations such as this to crop up, as more "special" police units have had time in the field.

    There has been (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by JamesTX on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 08:06:56 PM EST
    an organized, systematic, and largely effective program in the last two decades to desensitize the public to being policed by military-style forces. Where is the outcry?

    Anal cativity searches on the street... (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 07:55:03 AM EST
    what a country, I tell ya.

    At the very least, we should have a warrant requirement before the state can stick anything up your arse....good god.

    Utterly repulsive. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 12:12:51 PM EST
    Martin reported the incident to a police internal investigation division, which retrieved the glove and sent it to a lab for examination. DNA from both Moss and Martin was found, according to the complaint.
    There was a thread here on TL just yesterday about the questionable "science" of forensics. Do we have the same distrust of forensics in this case?

    Why a civil rights case? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by diogenes on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 07:42:44 PM EST
    Why not sue on the merits of the case (police misconduct, negligence, etc) since the police force conduct is reportedly outrageous no matter who it was inflicted on.  Are we saying that if the elite force did this to middle-aged white men there would be no case here?  

    I am an avid (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by JamesTX on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 08:16:30 PM EST
    supporter of civil rights issues as they apply to unfair treatment of minorities, but you are entirely correct. We have been slowly relieved of our Constitutional rights over the last three decades using a simple repetitive strategy related to your statement. It goes like this (over and over):

    Problem reported in media: African Americans mistreated by police

    Solution to problem in media: Treat whites the same way

    They have used this simple strategy to open up entirely new vistas of abuse. If they want a new power, then just do it to Black people first. Then when the civil rights charges arise, solve the "discrimination" problem by making the abusive practice universal so that Blacks are not being "singled out". Nobody seems to notice, so it just keeps going. The obvious solution is to stop the abuse, not to just make sure abuse is equally administered!


    You misunderstand (none / 0) (#8)
    by TChris on Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 02:11:13 PM EST
    the meaning of "civil rights," which embraces more than discrimination.  The right to be free from excessive force during a police encounter is embodied in the Fourth Amendment and in the Due Process Clause.  These are civil rights that apply equally to members of all races.

    Suing the police for negligence under state law is extraordinarily difficult given the various barriers (short periods for giving notice of suit, damages limitations, immunity) that states erect to such lawsuits.  Civil rights suits provide a more effective remedy -- just as they were intended to do when Congress enacted the laws that permit civil rights suits.


    These "elite forces" such as (none / 0) (#7)
    by AX10 on Fri Feb 06, 2009 at 10:56:30 PM EST
    SWAT and the DEA have done much more harm than good for our society.