DC Cops Learn From FBI: Regularly Invent Crimes To Arrest 'Possible Future' Criminals

from the minority-report dept

As we recently discussed, it’s becoming readily apparent that the FBI’s most vaunted counter-terrorism wins are almost all stings for “crimes” they made up all by themselves and then coerced others to join. Even for those that don’t have a problem with this kind of practice in theory, it has to be jarring to learn just how many of these “terrorists” are either suffering serious mental or social illnesses or have had their confessions beaten out of them. By all appearances, it looks pretty clear that the FBI is bumping up their “win” statistics on the backs of these highly questionable stings.

So of course local law enforcement is getting in on the action as well. Take the police in Washington D.C., for instance, who are featured in a Washington Post story detailing how they invent armed robbery plans whole-cloth and then recruit civilians to join up shortly before arresting these future-criminals. Some of the plots the police of devised are quite detailed and terrifying, involving robbing liquor stores and targets that are supposedly drug dealers. After discussing the plans with an undercover cop, everyone is then arrested and charged with a variety of “conspiracy to commit” charges. According to some experts, the government is on firm legal ground with regards to entrapment.

The government is on solid legal ground, experts say, when it comes to fending off allegations that suspects were set up — or entrapped — by the police. Even if the government entices the defendant, the target has to show that he was not predisposed to commit the crime.

Sure, and if you’re a defendant in one of these cases, good luck convincing anyone that you didn’t have a predisposition for the crime you were tricked into thinking you were going to commit. Again, it’s easy to opine that these are bad people, but that doesn’t take into account mental illness and pressure applied by undercover officers eager to bolster their arrest statistics. According to reports, that kind of pressure included giving minors alcohol and/or taking them to strip clubs, because nobody has ever made themselves out to be something they’re not when drunk or in the presence of naked members of the opposite sex. The question becomes whether anything like the made up crime would have ever happened had it not been first invented by the police.

“When you have the government offering guns or the getaway car and making it really attractive, you have to ask: Is this an opportunity that would have really come around in real life? Would this person have been able to put together this type of crime without government assistance?” said Katharine Tinto, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York who has studied undercover policing tactics.

It’s even worse when the police engineer aspects of the made up crimes in the sting in order to manufacture longer sentences for the would-be criminals they ensnare.

Tinto and others also take issue with the government’s ability to essentially engineer tough penalties by controlling the details of the made-up crime. Part of the reason the District cases have been so successful, according to defense lawyers, is that the potential jail time for the federal conspiracy charge is steep enough that many defendants are more inclined to make a deal with prosecutors than risk losing at trial.

The global problem in all of this is the aim: this is all about bolstering crime-fighting statistics rather than responding to any actual crimes or criminals. Will the police likely get some violent criminals off the streets with this tactic? Sure, but so could actual police work and, as I indicated, that isn’t what this is all about. On top of that, the questions raised by the tactic are serious and some of the people caught up in all this probably aren’t benefited most by engineered jail time. Add to all that questions about who the police are generally going to look towards as targets of this kind of sting operation (gasp, minorities), and we should be left wondering why they aren’t fighting the crime that exists rather than making up crime that otherwise wouldn’t.

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Comments on “DC Cops Learn From FBI: Regularly Invent Crimes To Arrest 'Possible Future' Criminals”

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35 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Not entrapment...sure...pull the other one...

So if this is not entrapment, what is? Is it enough to show that you never expressed interest, or will they then try to get you on how you knew a crime was being planned and didn’t turn in the would-be culprits (who are actually undercover cops)? How quickly do you need to run away when the would-be crime is first discussed to establish that you definitely didn’t want to be part of it? Based on how far this has already gone, will the courts let the undercover cops commit a real crime to demonstrate street cred to the planned sting victim? I don’t just mean setting up a false rap sheet, but actually committing it in a way that the sting victim can personally witness.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Not entrapment...sure...pull the other one...

It would probably never come up. They more then likely use the copyright troll tactic. Target everyone and only go after the ones stupid enough to not ask questions. It would never catch any real criminals, but it will catch a lot of people too stupid to be a threat on their own.

I shouldn’t call it the copyright troll tactic. Should call it the Prince of Nigeria tactic. Target everyone and hope enough people fall for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not entrapment...sure...pull the other one...

The police committing actual crimes to make cases in sting ops happens all the time. The sale of illegal drugs on the street is a crime for both parties involved in the transaction. When an undercover cop buys or sells drugs on the street in order to arrest the other individual in the transaction, engaging in that transaction is still a crime regardless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not entrapment...sure...pull the other one...

The sale of illegal drugs on the street is a crime for both parties involved in the transaction.

Right, but not what was meant. The question was addressed to the idea of whether it is permitted for an undercover cop to, say, rob a convenience store while the future-sting-victim watches from across the street, thereby “proving” the undercover cop is willing to commit a crime. The idea was seeded off the mafia style of inductees conducting a murder-for-hire to prove themselves to the family, but includes plenty of lesser crimes too.

TasMot (profile) says:

Solving a crime after it's committed is too hard.....

Have you ever reported a stolen item to the police? They give you a copy of the report and then you’re forgotten. My friend had a mini-van stolen. He had to find it because the police couldn’t. But they gave him a report for his insurance company for filing a claim. I mean, it was a couple of blocks away, not in the next state.
If they manufacture a crime whole-cloth, then they know exactly where to show up and arrest everybody. So much easier since they are also providing the fake weapons and they can’t get shot. Everybody wins except the “criminals” that are all mouth and no action until they are stood in place with fake gun in hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Even if the government entices the defendant, the target has to show that he was not predisposed to commit the crime.”

WTF happened to innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof being with the accuser?

Perhaps it’s time for groups like Copwatch to try to infiltrate and sting some of these sting operations to expose what their tactics and who is actually behind them.

Applesauce says:

Police don't have much choice...

FBI statistics show crime, especially violent crime has been falling since the 1970’s (about the time that tetra-ethyl lead started being removed from the environment).
With less real crime being committed, the cops have no choice but to invent crime to justify having a job.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Police don't have much choice...

about the time that tetra-ethyl lead started being removed from the environment

This is some insane bit of info o.o

No this is absolutely solid evidence – the correlation is observable nation by nation (and state by state in the US).

I am normally totally skeptical about the correlation-causation thing – but the evidence here is solid.

Of course the US poli9ce reaction to this would be to demand that the lead levels of the population be tested and incarcerate everyone showing a high level!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Enhanced Community Watch

This may be a symptom not only of the dropped crime rate (I had forgotten about the tetra-ethyl lead factor, but like to blame the internet. Thanks Applesauce) but also of our resistance to call the cops since they either a) file and ignore if they can’t be bothered, or b) grab the most obvious suspect and bully the shit out of them, either way making the situation only worse.

If we start seeing new community vigilante groups appear who solve neighborhood problems and police report rates drop to negligible, we know this is what’s happening.

John85851 (profile) says:

Things like this happen all the time on TV shows

“When you have the government offering guns or the getaway car and making it really attractive, you have to ask: Is this an opportunity that would have really come around in real life? Would this person have been able to put together this type of crime without government assistance?” said Katharine Tinto…”

I disagree.
How many people watch crime shows or movies like “Ocean’s Eleven” and think it’s not that hard to pull off a crime caper. All you need is a smart guy, a getaway car, maybe 2 or 3 hired muscle-guys, a foolproof plan, and you’re in!
Heck, I saw a Jason Statham movie the other night where they easily stole money from a state fair and hid out in Miami… and met Jennifer Lopez! You can’t tell me that doesn’t happen in real life. 🙂

GEMont (profile) says:

You're under arrest for considering our offer.

“this is all about bolstering crime-fighting statistics rather than responding to any actual crimes or criminals”

Don’t mean to pee on yer party here, but methinks ye might want to take a wee peek at whether or not there may be another “incentive” behind these phony arrests… one that is slightly less apparent, but pretty obvious just the same.

Like perhaps, there’s an under-the-table per-head finder’s fee being quietly offered to (crooked) cops by the many corporate incarceration firms, in order to increase their occupancy rates at a faster pace. More bodies, more income and all that.

Just a thought.

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