Austin Police Officer Tries To Paint Police Accountability Groups As 'Domestic Extremists' In FOIA'ed Emails

from the sovereign-citizens-more-ridiculous-than-threatening,-honestly dept

An activist is a terrorist, at least according to Senior Police Officer Justin Berry of the Austin Police Dept. While the terms aren’t mutually exclusive, a person can be one without being the other. In Berry’s mind, they’re both, and he feeds off the FBI’s paranoia to reach his conclusion.

If you can’t read it, it basically says that Berry has come across some information on a “national domestic extremism trend” that is echoed by local activist groups. He claims to have found “mirror warning signs” in “FBI intel.” From there, his own report follows, naming such unlikely domestic extremists as CopBlock, CopWatch and Peaceful Streets. Also included are sovereign citizens groups and government accountability activists. [pdf link]

A nationwide movement has begun against the United States Government and all government officials including those at the local level and the police officers employed by these agencies (Anonymous, 2012). Locally, numerous activists have combined their programs to work together towards the same agenda, which seems similarly in line with that of the national revolution movement…

Here’s the list of groups Berry believes are an imminent threat.

Peaceful Streets Project Austin, TX- Leader and Founder Antonio Buehler

Cop Block- Austin, TX

Cop Watch- National and Local

Texans for Accountable Government Austin, TX (State and Local legislative front) – Leader and Co-Founder John Bush

Occupy Austin- Austin, TX (Political)

Lone Star Sovereign Mutual Aid Response Team Austin, TX (legal aid and blanket calling) – Leader and Founder John Bush

Anonymous- Global (Computer Hacking and obtaining of personal and banking information)- Unknown

Oath Keepers- A first responder and military organization supporter group- National (Police Information Source)- Unidentified Members, one known member within the Austin Police Department

Institute for Justice- National. Texas Chapter Headquarters in downtown Austin, TX (Legislative Arm)- Unidentified at this time

His report goes on to say that these disparate groups share common members and acknowledges that the operations themselves are often peaceful — or at least, not directly violent. But he calls out individual members for social media posts containing broad threats or other antagonistic behavior as being indicative of these groups’ latent potential for violence.

Below is several screen shots that show these organizations intentions, statements, and goals that should not be discredited as mere chatter, but considered an active threat until after November 5, 2012…

Unfortunately, the screenshots are not among the documents posted at antimedia.org [which also include discussion of an online impersonation charge that likely went nowhere], but anyone who’s perused a few comment threads or Facebook posts can probably imagine what was included. In any group, there are always a few commenters who will advocate for violence in response to police misconduct and abuse. These are generally not indicative of the group in total, but do tend to skew higher in certain activist groups. Rather than address the threats as words of individuals, Berry tries to tie the whole thing together as a revolutionary force composed of sovereign citizens, police accountability activists and Anonymous itself. Then he uses a movie to illustrate the severity of the situation.

A good visual of what they are hoping for can be seen in the movie for V for Vendetta. basically what they are basing all their movements off of. At time marker 1 hour 42 minutes a detective is heard telling the plan which is basically hoping one police officer will make a mistake and poor decision, in the case of the movie killing an unarmed child committing a minor offense. They then used that event to bring out regular people to support their cause. Though in real life they do not have numbers needed to pull anything like that off, which is why they will have to create a problem by claiming one-thing ahead of time, then forcing police to take a certain action. My concern is that John Bush has already stockpiled up weapons…

… and so on. Fortunately, Justin Berry’s hysteria (possibly prompted by some recorded run-ins with members of these groups) falls mostly on deaf ears. Much more measured responses are given by other law enforcement officers and supervisors.

Following the notification that Peaceful Streets was planning to hand out free cameras to citizens to record police activity, Lt. Robert Richman had this to say.

Please see Tom’s email below. It summarizes a very good approach to use while discussing the recent “video” activist movement with our officers. If our officers encounter any problems with the activists. please have them bookmark the incident via DMAV and send me a copy of the case number.

Although we don’t anticipate any issues, officers should always be cognizant of their officer safety and the safety of the citizens on scene. If problems do arise. officers should be well versed on the various tools available within the law that may assist them. A few examples are:

Texas Penal Code 38.15 Interference with Public Duties
Texas Transportation Code. Section 552.006 Use of Sidewalk (Le. Pedestrian in Roadway)

Calming, but with a hint of authority behind it. He references “Tom’s email,” which is even more forthright in its assertion that recording police officers is perfectly acceptable behavior.

I have reminded my officers that there is nothing wrong with citizens recording us while we work. Don’t let someone bait us into a negative confrontation.

The would-be camera-persons are to keep their distance and not interfere with the Incident. I have told my guys that 30′ is a fair guideline for acceptable distance, since any closer and the subject becomes a potential immediate threat, which causes an officer to divide their attention. However this will be up to the officer to reasonably articulate if they decide to enforce this. Ultimately, maintain officer safety and if the person attempting to records us legitimately interferes with a police incident, arrest them.

I have encouraged my officers to welcome the recordings and present a pleasant professional image for the cameras. “Smile and wave, gang. Smile and wave” – The less our officers respond to the baiting, the more quickly they will tire of their game.

Lt. Tom Sweeney’s advice is sound, although he’s a bit wrong to belittle recording police officers as a “game.” To some, it undoubtedly is, but to many others, it’s one of the only forms of officer accountability available to average citizens.

As to Justin Berry’s breathless statements that activists are endangering police officers by posting their personal information online, Lt. Richman chills his heated assertion with obvious facts.

Additionally. some officers have complained about the activists posting links on Face Book tothe officer’s pay and other personal data. Officers should be reminded that our pay is actually public record and easily found as is many other bits of information via a simple Google search. Officers should be reminded to lock down the security settings on their Face Book accounts and to cleanse any personal data they find on the internet by contacting the site which shows the data.

Antimedia.org portrays this as a wholesale libeling of these activist groups, but what’s released here appears to be nothing more than the fruits of one officers’ personal, um, vendetta. As was briefly mentioned earlier, Berry has had multiple run-ins with one of these activist groups — Peaceful Streets — and appears to be hoping to find a “legal” way to mute their presence (note how it’s listed first and explained in the greatest detail). The other cops in the thread appear to be much more pragmatic, even up to the point of feeling citizen recordings are a “game” that activists will tire of if officers refuse to rise to the “bait.” Berry’s inferences are objectionable but he seems to be finding little support. Without that, there’s not much he can do.

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Comments on “Austin Police Officer Tries To Paint Police Accountability Groups As 'Domestic Extremists' In FOIA'ed Emails”

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62 Comments
drewdad (profile) says:

You're repeating

“In any group, there are always a few commenters who will advocate for violence in response to police misconduct and abuse. These are generally not indicative of the group in total”

Um… You mean pointing out a single person who is misbehaving, and then trying to paint an entire group as tainted is unfair? Like what you’re doing here with officer Berry?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're repeating

Um… You mean pointing out a single person who is misbehaving, and then trying to paint an entire group as tainted is unfair? Like what you’re doing here with officer Berry?

Did you read the same article I did? As I read it, this was a report of a single officer who typifies the stereotypical loudmouth “bad cop” (paints harmless activities as dangerous, wants to find a court-approved way to squelch people he dislikes, etc.) running up against a mixture of indifference and outright disagreement from his fellow officers. When I started the article, I was expecting this to be a report of how the Austin Police Department was tolerating or encouraging stereotypical bad behaviours. Instead, the most I can say is that it did not directly reprimand one officer whose words (not actions) make me doubt that he should be involved in situations involving activity that is not obviously criminal. The article hints at past conflicts between Officer Barry and the Peaceful Streets group, but makes no direct mention that anyone has alleged Officer Barry engaged in physical misconduct (misuse of arrest power, excessive use of force, etc.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: You're repeating

When the groups, when presented with one of their own going over the line, respond with silence and/or support for that person, and refuse to hold them accountable for their actions to the extent they can, then, and only then, will that comparison hold up.

The police force as a whole is seen as no better than their worst officers because with few exceptions, anytime the particularly nasty ones get caught abusing their position and authority, the others just look away or do everything they can to keep them from being held accountable for their actions. If the ‘good’ cops want to stop being seen as no better than the ‘bad’ ones, they need to start doing something about the bad ones, and until that happens, they’ve got no-one to blame for their lousy reputation but themselves.

Candid Cameron says:

Re: You're repeating

“Um… You mean pointing out a single person who is misbehaving, and then trying to paint an entire group as tainted is unfair? Like what you’re doing here with officer Berry?”

Can you point out exactly where this article makes the claim that all Austin police officers are just like officer Berry? Thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You're repeating

At worst, this article is click bait. I admit it worked on me, but I was figuring out that AZ cops seem pretty balanced after the first paragraph.

Things aren’t “buried in the article” when the concluding paragraph spells it out plainly. I generally read the opening paragraph, the closing paragraph, and THEN read the contents if it still interests me.

Andrew X says:

Re: You're repeating

The problem, though, is that officer Berry is empowered by the State to carry a weapon, to use deadly force when he personally deems it necessary, to seize and hold any one of us that he deems to be a lawbreaker, etc etc.

We need such people, we trust such people, by and large, and we should… but the entire ethos of the nation is that such people bear watching, because they are humans with power over the rest of us. The ramifications of them being “the one guy in the bunch” who is wondering off the reservation are such that he has to be held to a higher standard than Fred Schmed popping off on his laptop. Hence the issue.

Dave Xanatos (profile) says:

Based on his comments about V for Vendetta, I think it’s telling that in Officer Berry’s mind the oppressive corrupt government is the good guy.

Also, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that movie so someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the detective was ‘hoping’ that a cop would do something stupid so much as predicting the inevitability.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Contientious marksmen

To be clear, my comment was meant as a joke, a play on the idea of ‘Gun crazy Texans’, not meant to be taken seriously.

That said I agree with you, if someone owns a gun, it’s their responsibility to make sure they can accurately shoot with it, and that will take practice, a lot of it.

Whatever (profile) says:

although he’s a bit wrong to belittle recording police officers as a “game.” To some, it undoubtedly is, but to many others, it’s one of the only forms of officer accountability available to average citizens.

For the most part, it seems to be a game of “lead the officer to do something bad” or “trick the officer into saying something that could be considered objectionable”. Most of what you see online is filmed up close, in your face, and often in a confrontational manner. That isn’t trying to keep officers accountable, it’s trying to catch them out.

I am all in favor of recording cops from a reasonable distance and not getting involved. Once the camera person becomes a distraction or starts to cause a scene themselves, they aren’t helping anyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“For the most part, it seems to be a game of “lead the officer to do something bad” or “trick the officer into saying something that could be considered objectionable”. Most of what you see online is filmed up close, in your face, and often in a confrontational manner. That isn’t trying to keep officers accountable, it’s trying to catch them out.

I am all in favor of recording cops from a reasonable distance and not getting involved. Once the camera person becomes a distraction or starts to cause a scene themselves, they aren’t helping anyone.”

So, what you’re saying is that the DC Police Chief in the article I’ll link to momentarily is in the wrong and so was the person recording the video from a distance?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140912/15550128507/dc-police-chief-publicly-criticizes-officers-actions-after-he-attempts-to-shut-down-citizen-recording-arrest.shtml

Cause clearly the person who did the recording was “trying to catch them out”, is that correct? Based on your own now quoted statements.

Seriously Whatever, just say “bend over any time you see a cop and take it like a man” already and stop commenting on these articles. It’ll save us all a lot of time and annoyance in reading your responses. And then you wonder why people call you a troll or report your comments.

Because of what you say! You literally fall over yourself trying to paint the public in the wrong in nearly every single article. The moment someone says “citations needed” you either call them a troll or you disappear. In and of itself that is very interesting to say the least.

And for the record, for the upteenth time, I am not PaulT. I would register an account to prove as much and comment seconds after he did on anything just to prove so, but you’d say I was him anyway. We could all three be in a room together and you’d still say it was him. FOR THE RECORD AGAIN, plenty of people see you’re lying half the time and just making things up. I am but one among many.

[cue the “stop trying to bait me, troll” response]

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Because of what you say! You literally fall over yourself trying to paint the public in the wrong in nearly every single article. The moment someone says “citations needed” you either call them a troll or you disappear. In and of itself that is very interesting to say the least. “

Hence why I have Whatever on auto-report – da;dr (dumb ass/didn’t read.) I just skip his threads and read what REAL people are talking about, not walking mouthpieces for appeal-to-authority fallacies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

For the most part, it seems to be a game of “lead the officer to do something bad” or “trick the officer into saying something that could be considered objectionable”.

Yes, it’s exactly that – now replace “officer” with “citizen” and you have the basis for most of the FBI’s foiled “terror plots.”

Now, if the officers are stupid enough to bite, then unfortunately it shows how ineffective all the training, memos, press coverage, etc. has been in getting this simplistic point through their heads. Doesn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Since when does standing silently constitute causing a scene? 9 times out of 10, when I see these videos, the only “scene” is what is being recorded until some dipshit cop comes over to the person recording and makes a NEW, entirely different scene. As for being confrontational with the cop at that point, “contempt of cop” is not a crime especially when he’s attempting stop you from doing something nearly every court in the country has said is completely legal. At this point, the cop becomes the criminal as he is violating your constitutional, supreme court upheld, RIGHTS!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Most of the up close recording are from people being pulled over ,stopped or approached by the officers (for recording), If citizens are to be considered threatening by being within 30ft of law enforcement while recording, then the same holds true for officers that approach a citizen and come within 30ft while the citizen is exorcising his privileged and constitutional right .

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“For the most part, it seems to be a game of “lead the officer to do something bad” or “trick the officer into saying something that could be considered objectionable”.”

Are you saying that officers are so poorly trained and/or unable to control themselves, that they just have to “do something bad”? Shouldn’t we expect them to be better than that?

“Most of what you see online is filmed up close, in your face, and often in a confrontational manner.”

Because the officer approached the person filming them and tried to force them to stop do something they perfectly entitled to do, often in a confrontational manner. So no surprises there.

“I am all in favor of recording cops from a reasonable distance and not getting involved.”

You’re not very convincing on that point…

“Once the camera person becomes a distraction or starts to cause a scene themselves, they aren’t helping anyone.”

Actually if the officer is distracted by being filmed, and a scene is caused by said officer, it’s entirely likely the recording will be helpful, because it’ll show everyone what actually happened.

theBuckWheat says:

Re: Re: The OATHKEEPERS!?

When a business associate found it too easy to solve a social problem by wondering out loud if government should pass a law, I asked The Question That Must Never Be Asked In Polite Company, that being “do you mean that this is so serious that you are willing to shoot your own grandmother in the head should she politely but firmly decline to obey it?”

Maybe one of reasons that OathKeepers really frightens so many on the left is that they are willing to ask that question out loud and to suggest that we really ought to only have laws that we need and are worthy of the deadly force they all imply. In so doing, we come to see that we must never allow government to exceed the boundaries of its Constitution or horrible things will result. Moreover when it does, what recourse remains for citizens to address the issue? (The last of those being exercising our duty to defend the Constitution implied by the Second Amendment)

Anyway, when I asked this serious question to my leftist friend, he was entirely put off kilter. I guess he never realized the consequences of passing a law, no matter how good the intentions. Then he deflected me by saying, “well, that is just the price we pay for civilized society.”

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The OATHKEEPERS!?

When a business associate found it too easy to solve a social problem by wondering out loud if government should pass a law, I asked The Question That Must Never Be Asked In Polite Company, that being “do you mean that this is so serious that you are willing to shoot your own grandmother in the head should she politely but firmly decline to obey it?”

Are you under the impression that all laws carry the death penalty?

Deputy Dickwad says:

Re: The OATHKEEPERS!?

Clearly the Oath Keepers are extremists just look at their version of the Ten Commandments.

1. We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey any order to conduct warrantless searches of the American people, their homes, vehicles, papers, or effects – such as warrantless house-to house searches for weapons or persons.

3. We will NOT obey any order to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to trial by military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state, or to enter with force into a state, without the express consent and invitation of that state’s legislature and governor.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control” during any emergency, or under any other pretext. We will consider such use of foreign troops against our people to be an invasion and an act of war.

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies, under any emergency pretext whatsoever.

10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

If that is not a domestic terrorist group in the making Then I Don’t Know What IS!

John Cressman (profile) says:

The Last Time

When was the last time a police officer or his/her family was threatened or insulted for acting in the respectful way that a civil servant is supposed to act towards his/her bosses (that’s us!)?

I doubt too often. It’s the ones that believe that their badge and jobs put them OVER the people who they are hired to SERVE (remember serve and protect?) and that their position makes them SUPERIOR to those they serve (some pigs are more equal than other pigs?) that usually invoke the wrath of their “bosses” (again, us).

Sure, they face things few of us will ever face, but if you become a monster to fight monsters… what are we really gaining?

Hephaestus (profile) says:

” even up to the point of feeling citizen recordings are a “game” that activists will tire of if officers refuse to rise to the “bait.””

Google glass, contact lenses with cameras, life logging cameras, SSD storage size doubling every 1 1/2 to 2 years. Not much of a chances this trend is going to stop, if anything it is going get much more massive. With little brother (citizens) trying to film everything, versus big brother (government) attempting to delete, deny, and hide everything.

James T (profile) says:

What does this logic make the FOP?

Well at least they are not sexually assaulting people. But Justin Berry has a false sense of freedom. Using Justin Berry’s logic the fraternal order of police austin texas is also a terrorist organization since it’s members intentionally commit domestic extremism and violate human rights, and constitutional rights everyday,

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/02/24/3322591/austin-police-chief-defends-police-overreach-sexual-assault/

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140916/10480428535/austin-police-officer-tries-to-paint-police-accountability-groups-as-domestic-extremists-foiaed-emails.shtml

Antonio Buehler (profile) says:

Is Berry the only "bad" cop?

Considering that they’ve conspired to cover up the crimes of Oborski, Snider, Johnson and Berry, and they’ve conspired to file false charges against peaceful protesters, and they’ve arrested numerous innocent people numerous times to stop the Peaceful Streets Project, Berry is obviously not the only stupid, paranoid, criminal cop in this situation.

It’s not just Berry. Just because he is the dumbest one doesn’t mean he is the only dumb (or crooked) one.

Andy Freeman says:

“At time marker 1 hour 42 minutes [in the movie “V for Vendetta”] a detective is heard telling the plan which is basically hoping one police officer will make a mistake and poor decision, in the case of the movie killing an unarmed child committing a minor offense. They then used that event to bring out regular people to support their cause. Though in real life they do not have numbers needed to pull anything like that off, which is why they will have to create a problem by claiming one-thing ahead of time, then forcing police to take a certain action.”

That pretty much describes the Obama administration, aka “never let a crisis go to waste”.

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