Deputies Sued After False ALPR Hit Leads To Guns-Out Traffic Stop Of California Privacy Activist

from the too-important-to-implement-cautiously dept

Law enforcement agencies love their automatic license plate readers. ALPRs do what cops physically can’t: scan millions of plates a year and run them against a number of shared databases. The systems are black boxes. The public is often given little information about how many plate images databases store or for how long. Law enforcement agencies rarely audit the data, providing zero insight on the number of false positives ALPRs return. Non-hit photos are sometimes held indefinitely, creating databases of people’s movements.

All of these negatives are supposed to be outweighed by the fact that cops sometimes catch criminals with ALPRs. How often this happens is anyone’s guess. Officials will tout the tech’s ability to track down criminals, but these anecdotes are usually only provided when government officials start asking questions about the tech — questions they should have asked during the approval process.

Getting tagged as a hit by an ALPR is a frightening experience for innocent drivers. The tech tells cops they have a potentially dangerous criminal on their hands and they react accordingly. Drivers are somehow supposed to prove a negative at gunpoint and their inability to do only ratchets up the tension.

A false hit by an ALPR has resulted in a federal lawsuit [PDF]. And the Contra Costa (CA) Sheriff’s Department quite possibly found the worst person to pull over because a machine told it to.

As chair of Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission, [Brian] Hofer, 41, has railed against what he describes as the seemingly arbitrary use of Automated License Plate Readers — cameras that ping police and private agencies by matching plate numbers with “vehicles of interest.”

So the irony is not lost on him when he said he and his brother, a 23-year-old political science student at UC Berkeley, were detained, sometimes at gunpoint, on Nov. 25 when a license plate reader near the San Pablo Lytton Casino off Interstate Highway 80 alerted police that they were riding in a stolen car.

Out came the guns, attached to officers sure they had caught a car thief. Hofer and his brother were detained at gunpoint while their rental vehicle was searched. Nearly a half-hour passed before any deputy attempted to determine whether the rental vehicle/contract was legit. Compounded errors are always a potential problem, but they reach critical mass quickly when government power attached to deadly force is involved. Here’s the backstory to the stop — a string of system failures that could have resulted in injury or death.

Turns out though, that while the rental car he was driving had indeed been stolen from San Jose in October, either the police or the rental car agency hadn’t updated the proper authorities that the white Getaround Kia had been recovered and should therefore be removed from the “hot list” database.

The question isn’t necessarily whether or not officers responded to the hot list hit inappropriately. The question is whether this response — which has the potential to see people not only wrongfully detained, but possibly injured or killed — is worth the tradeoff. Law enforcement will always say the errors are worth the labor tradeoff when it comes to ALPRs. Citizens held at gunpoint and warrantlessly searched will always disagree with this assessment.

It’s up to those policing the police — city/county/federal authorities — to make the right call when it comes to ALPRs. Without better data on these devices’ potential for error, government officials are literally trading citizens’ live and liberty for law enforcement convenience.

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Comments on “Deputies Sued After False ALPR Hit Leads To Guns-Out Traffic Stop Of California Privacy Activist”

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117 Comments
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The rental agency doesn’t have access to that database. They could not have known.

We are not currently sure where the failure lies based on this article. It appears either the police or the Agency recovered the vehicle, and no one notified those maintaining the database the the car was recovered. Not enough is known to assess if the rental agency failed to notify the police it was recovered, or the police failed to notify the database. The article implies it was not a data entry failure at the agency responsible for the database, but otherwise that is also a possibility.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If the assumption can even be taken that far. Hypothetically it is possible some person had their car stolen in San Jose, recovered it, then listed it on the getaround app 40 miles north less than a month later having forgotten all about it being stolen two or so weeks ago, but it is a weird set of behaviors. The logic string works a little better if the car was stolen in San Jose, driven north and then dumped on the app by the thief or someone who ended up with the car in order to monetize their acquisition. The best thing that might happen is for this to get thrown out of court rapidly. Without a very activist judge who wants to use the case to try to break the connection between an ALPR stolen car hit and establishment of probable cause (and the odds on that are low), the most likely outcome if litigated is case law buttressing current ALPR use. I suspect Mr. Hofer is not planning to actually litigate it, just trying to grab a quick settlement via publicity, but it won’t do much to help the case against ALPRs and might hurt it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I suspect Mr. Hofer is not planning to actually litigate it, just trying to grab a quick settlement via publicity

It seems unlikely to me that Mr Hofer would be offered any kind of settlement at all until after it’s shown that his complaint can survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.

A complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. The court must accept all allegations of material fact pleaded in the complaint as true and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the non-moving party.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. This facial plausibility standard requires the plaintiff to allege facts that add up to more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.

Generally, courts may not consider material outside the complaint when ruling on a motion to dismiss.

If the Court dismisses a complaint, it must decide whether to grant leave to amend. The Ninth Circuit has repeatedly held that a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Any cost is cheap when you don't have to pay it

Law enforcement will always say the errors are worth the labor tradeoff when it comes to ALPRs.

Of course, it’s not like they end up with guns pointed at them thanks to ALPR’s.

The ‘tradeoff’ is entirely one sided, they don’t lose anything, but they most certainly stand to gain, so it’s no surprise that they’d be all for the system and consider the costs entirely acceptable; they aren’t the ones paying those costs.

AnonyCog says:

Re: Any cost is cheap when you don't have to pay it

If an officer or data entry to the computer have had the license data entered or read incorrectly, then those vehicle occupants lives are put at risk of being murdered by law enforcers.

There are no safeguards that this information database is a closed network meaning anyone who can access it can change the data at will.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Any cost is cheap when you don't have to pay it

So would an open database be better?

That’s an interesting question. What if the database of stolen cars was viewable (but not editable, for obvious reasons!) by the general public, and it had a Wikipedia-style edit history for auditing? There are plenty of obvious benefits to such a system; what would be the downsides?

Jess Ano Therbrickinthewall says:

NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database mistake.

You are flatly wrong about "wrongfully", because had cause. Ranting at mistaken database entries is entirely another topic.

Therefore, your ranting — and the suit — FAIL.

Just a hazard of modern technology. If not willing to risk it, well, places like the Outback of Australia are available.

Knew a black guy who had a German sports car — back in the day when those were rare and blacks driving them even more rare — who got stopped by cops with guns out because of report similar car stolen. To him it was only an amusing story. That’s because HE was on their side, despite all the problems. You clowns and this plaintiff are clearly just anti-police troublemakers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database mistake.

I’m no fan of modern law enforcement and ALPR needs to go the way of the dodo but…

This wasn’t even the PD’s fault. The ALPR hit was not "false". It correctly identified a car that had been reported stolen. The police reacted appropriately to a stolen car report and a hit that located the car in question. The passengers have nothing on which to base a lawsuit against the PD or its use of ALPR technology.

The fault lies with the rental car agency for failing to report the vehicle as recovered. They should not have rented out a vehicle that was currently in a stolen car database. They’re the culpable ones and the party that should be the defendant in that suit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database mistake.

Well, there is also the small matter of the police not checking their story and the hire contract for half a hour. That is the police failing to do their job. The stop could probably have been resolved in 5 to 10 minutes by a competent police force.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database mista

Well, there is also the small matter of the police not checking their story and the hire contract for half a hour.

When someone isn’t doing something during a specific period of time, it’s usually because they’re doing something else, and this is no exception. They were dealing with higher-priority issues first. (Not that Tim Cushing will ever admit that in one of his articles when there’s an opportunity to insinuate something bad instead…)

That is the police failing to do their job.

That is the police doing their job correctly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database m

When someone isn’t doing something during a specific period of time, it’s usually because they’re doing something else, and this is no exception.

Yes, shouting "Resistance is useless!" takes a lot of time. You know, the uniform, the low-slung stun ray holster, the mindless tedium …

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NOT "wrongfully" detained, merely database m

See above. It may. Jumping to the conclusion that it is the car’s registered owner who put it up on the Getaround app less than a month and 40 miles away from where it was reported stolen might be a bridge too far. It’s little more logical and definitely possible that the person who put it up on the app to be "rented" was the car thief or someone who ended up with the car after it was stolen.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

So what exactly went wrong here? Everybody directly involved in this incident behaved appropriately.

These two guys were driving in a car that had indeed been stolen. The ALPR system did not have a false positive, (which is when it misidentifies something, such as reading a B as an 8 or a 1 as an I,) but found a car that had actually been stolen. The deputies responded completely right for a stolen car, treating it as a scenario in which they might have to face hostile resistance, and approached with guns drawn.

The people inside said it wasn’t stolen, but the officers can be forgiven for not accepting that at face value, as it’s exactly what a thief would say. Instead, they took time to verify that there was nothing dangerous or illegal going on–rightfully the first priority–then verified whether or not the rental was legitimate. Meanwhile, the people inside the car didn’t do anything stupid to escalate the situation. In the end, it was determined to be a valid rental and the guys in the car were free to go, without anyone getting shot, arrested, or otherwise screwed up.

This is the very picture of "the system working correctly." The only thing that went wrong had happened a month before when, after the stolen car was recovered, some person (presumably) unrelated to this sequence of events neglected to take this car out of the stolen car database.

That person, whoever they are, is the only person in this entire scenario who did anything wrong. (Aside from the car thief, of course.) If anyone is getting sued over this, it should be that person! But instead Mr. Hofer chooses to pursue a "Steve Dallas lawsuit" against the sheriff’s department. That’s kind of despicable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So what you’re saying is that the ALPR system shouldn’t be used at all then if everything went as expected. In what system is cops pointing deadly weapons at innocent people acceptable? If the cops got twitchy, the "system working as it should" could have led to the death of an innocent person. The system put those innocent people in danger.

If a computer program using unverified data told a non-police officer to point a gun at an innocent person, they’d get arrested for menacing (or another charge depending on the jurisdiction) and saying "the computer told me to" would not be a valid excuse. So why is it suddenly acceptable when cops do it?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

So what you’re saying is that the ALPR system shouldn’t be used at all then if everything went as expected.

Not at all. How can you possibly get that out of what I said? You win today’s Reading Comprehension Fail badge.

In what system is cops pointing deadly weapons at innocent people acceptable?

The system known as the real world, in which the vast majority of the time, people driving around in stolen cars are either car thieves or people who obtained a car from car thieves, generally knowing full well that something sketchy was going on.

In the real world, errors do occasionally happen, and this is taken into account in the checks and balances of the procedure. The cops went in with guns drawn, due to the harsh realities of car theft, but didn’t ever actually fire them, due to the equally harsh realities of the consequences of making a mistake. And everything worked out the way it should have in the end.

There’s a phenomenon–I don’t know if it has a proper name, but I like to call it "the Headline News Effect"–where all too often the only thing that gets widely reported on is problems, which gives the audience an exaggerated sense of problems existing.

News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying to the camera, “I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out”— or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up.

Steven Pinker, The Guardian

We don’t see stories about ALPR technology working correctly, because that’s the default. We live in a society where we expect technology to work correctly.
Unfortunately, this means there’s no narrative out there to counterbalance the ideologically-driven nutcases who cynically suggest that maybe this might catch a criminal every once in a while, but just look at all these news stories about times when it went wrong!

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh, you mean the thing that didn’t happen here because everyone was doing their job right and behaving like reasonable adults even in this highly stressful situation?

What are the consequences of the sun blowing up???? What are the consequences of a terrorist getting their hands on an atom bomb???? What are the consequences of the South winning the civil war????

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

OK, let me re-phrase it so that a child can understand:

When do we ever hear about a police officer ever facing any consequences for mistakes that they make?

Cops make mistakes all the time, some of them even lead to innocent people dying, and show me where the mistaken officer had been tried to the fullest extent of the law, just as if they were a civilian?

There are dozens of examples that have made the pages here at Techdirt, and hundreds of other examples where a cop or cops have made egregious mistakes but have been never faced any other consequences than a paid vacation (administrative leave)?

Or how about qualified immunity? "Sorry court, I didn’t realize it was a civil rights violation to shove my gun up someone’s ass because nobody has ever told me so."

Sorry, but I believe cops face almost zero consequences for their mistakes, even when those mistakes take the lives of innocent people!! So when they go in with guns drawn, that’s when innocent people needlessly die.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

And from the article:

Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke has been indicted on a charge of first degree murder, prosecutors said, after a video showed him shooting a man in the back as he ran away.

Tell me, how is it a mistake to shoot a fleeing man in the back. That was not a mistake, that was down right murder.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re: Pinker?

That quote, re: reporters where war hasnt broken out -indicates that Pinker isnt following the “news ”in Venezuela, didnt follow the news in Syria, Libya, or any of the Jasmine Revolutions, because mass media and “reporters ”were themselves pre -emptively weaponized BY the military /CIA and used AS provocateurs and more.

Equally, in many mass shootings, etc., the media IS there, and very active /weaponized in true Mockingbird fashion, from the Richard Jewell case, to the Boston Marathon bombing -media as provocateur /faux rapporteur us well documented, goung back to forever, an especially the 1950-60s.

An interesting domestic case study would be to examine the queasy closeness of Baltimores murder of Freddie Gray, and the crisis PR agent Rochelle Ritchie, who also "coincidentally ”shows up in the case of the Wiley E. Coyote styled fake -bomber, Cesar Altieri Sayoc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not at all. How can you possibly get that out of what I said? You win today’s Reading Comprehension Fail badge.

I didn’t actually think that’s what you meant. I was drawing the natural conclusion from what you said. If everything went as expected and something still went wrong, then the system is broken. If ALPRs failures leads to potential homicide, then ALPRs isn’t safe enough to use.

It’s like saying that German police properly deprived Jews of their human rights because they were just enforcing the Nuremberg laws. Well, the Nuremberg laws were unjust, so enforcing them wasn’t good. They "worked as expected" but were still bad and led to bad circumstances.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

where all too often the only thing that gets widely reported on is problems, which gives the audience an exaggerated sense of problems existing. We don’t see stories about ALPR technology working correctly, because that’s the default.

I’ve seen this effect at work here on TechDirt with regard to police welfare checks. Based on TechDirt’s reporting, you’d think that it’s basically a 50/50 coin flip that you’ll be shot to death by the cops if someone calls in a welfare check on you.

The reality is that cops do welfare checks on people all the time, thousands of them across the country every day, without incident. And the number of lives saved by welfare checks– mostly elderly people who have fallen and hurt themselves or are otherwise incapacitated– dwarfs the very few instances in which a welfare check goes sideways and ends badly. But "Cop checks on old lady; turns out she’s fine" isn’t a headline, so it never gets reported and it certainly doesn’t play into Cushing’s "all cops are out to murder you" narrative, so it’s certainly isn’t ever mentioned here.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 the DVIC

The Domestic Violence Industrial Complex birthed this sort of policing into our lives in 1993.

Suddenly, ALL men were domestic abusers, rapists, and pedophiles, and ALL women and children needed to be saved from men.

Then, political psychiatry stepped in, and began to craft the narrative of Officer Friendly,concerned about mental health, after he kicks in the door.

Cuz Stalinism, and Stasi fit together with Nazi, and Israeli….and its for the children, of course.

Of course!

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 the DVIC

Douchebag comment, carToom. You should stop fucking little boys in your squad car .

FYI, Meth comes from Mexico, and North Koea, but the problem comes from your consumer society, and predatory, for -profit policing.

I dont use drugs. There is no need for them in liberated countries, where everyone has a job, food, and a place to live.

And when the main focus of police is on public safety, not private, personal pedestrian crimes, or self abuse/pleasure.

Didnt they teach you that in fascist school?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I can’t. Why in the world would they want to do that? Do you honestly think police are some sort of mustache-twirling cartoon villains who would intentionally pollute the signal-to-noise ratio of a useful tool like that, just in order to manufacture an excuse to oppress people for no good reason?

If so, please get professional help.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

NYPD performs stop ‘n frisk without any DB, but only people of color – in poor neighborhoods. I’m sure there are some cops who do not have the comical cop mustache.

Polluting the useful tool. Sounds like a challenge, how might one do this? I suppose you are right, they do not need an excuse to stop and search your vehicle.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Police would never subvert a useful detection tool."

Do you honestly think police …would intentionally pollute the signal-to-noise ratio of a useful tool like that, just in order to manufacture an excuse to oppress people for no good reason?

Not for no reason. Asset forfeiture is lucritive and arrests lead to indictments 100% of the time and convictions 90% of the time.

The same way that law enforcment uses trick pony detection dogs who false positive as much as 90%+ of the time, they might want a data engine that justifies unwarranted searches whenever.

We have law enforcement officers pretty much admitting they’re in it for the extra revenues. We don’t have to speculate or imagine the moustache twirling. We have pictures of twirled Law Enforcement moustaches. We have videos of officers doing the twirling.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Police would never subvert a useful detection tool."

…trick pony detection dogs, lol. And full honors processions for police dogs who get killed in the line of duty.

America is a batshit crazy fascist place.

But journalists are beginning to call these bizarre police antics what they are, and attorneys are finding new challenges to the hudden illegal practices of these fascists:

Hamid Khan, and socioligist Alex Vitale gave a talk the other day, addressing organized police stalking

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/predictive-policing-the-stalker-state-hamid-khan-alex-vitale-and-alice-speri-tickets-55799340329

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Trick Pony Detection Dogs

That’s what the handlers who manage real detection dogs call them.

When you need to actually sniff out explosives in a line of thousands of pieces of luggage, you need a terrier who knows what plastique smells like and only signals if he really smells it.

When you need an excuse to search the car you just pulled over, you need a dog that will signal whenever the handler wants.

Unfortunately, the existence of the dogs of the latter situation are jeopardizing availability and legal use of dogs in the former situation. While the police busy themselves with racketeering, it means that organized crime and terror gets that much easier.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Full agreement.

The driver may file suit, but, then again, I can file suit against anyone here for not using enough vowels.

If they file against the cops, the cops MAY be forced to give them the contact information for the ALPR company’s legal department.

But other than that, they’ve got no Standing to sue anyone.

BTW, this is a frequent occurrence with Arrest and Bench Warrants. Nobody bothers to update their status with "Executed" until, at best, several days later. If it sits on a desk long enough, it gets tossed in the trash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m inclined to agree with you here. I’m reminded of the case where 911 was called on a African-American man sitting in his car reading a book. He posted the situation on social media and even made a point that the officer responding to the call was just doing his job and was professional during the entire encounter. No lawsuit was filed (that I am aware of). It wasn’t the police at fault – it was the person who called 911.

Similarly, in this case, the cops were doing their job. They had a hit on a "stolen" car and responded appropriately. My issues with the stop are that the personal effects were searched (why? even if the car was stolen, I don’t think that makes everything in the car fair game for a search), the deputy seemingly using excessive force on the passenger, and, of course, that someone dropped the ball on removing the car from the database. Although, as Hofer himself pointed out… had he been anything other than white, this story may very easily have ended differently.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:

It happens to lower-income whites, ALL THE TIME, but whites are not organized, and worse, excluded by those who racialize dialogues.

Worse, ADLification and SPLC hate rhetoric and racial exploitation and profiteering has tarnished, and racialized every discussion, as pure speech, and democratic exchange has been demeaned as a direct result.

Lets swap stories, how ’bout?

Because what you are really saying is that it doesnt happen to YOU and others LIKE YOU in whatever race /class /gender privileged bubble that you live in.

But it DOES happen to any /all the lower tiers of our society.

And racializing that wont make it go away, or make it stop -you are just lending your voice to the other half of the neo-privileged, while stoking the fires if the one percenters who exploit both groups.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s not exactly news that black men get treated worse than white men by police at traffic stops. Both in terms of being stopped proportionately far more often, and in terms of the way they are actually interacted with.

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1706.05678

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/police-respect-whites-blacks-traffic-stops-language-analysis-finds

It’s not bias that people are treated badly at traffic stops. It is bias that specific people at treated worse based on prejudices. Trying to reduce the bias against a specific group is not the same as ignoring the problem behind said bias; instead, it is actually acknowledging that it is, indeed, a problem, and one with many ways to resolve it.

Trying to claim that individuals who aim to address this bias are causing further problems are facetious at best. Indeed, it raises the question:

Are you trying to claim that deliberately seeking fair treatment for unfairly disadvantaged individuals is equivalent to deliberately seeking unfair treatment for advantaged individuals?

Because that’s what you appear to be implying.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 yeah, no, yeah

Lets swap personal stories, how bout?

Have you ever been in the situation you describe? Because I personally have been shot, stalked, jailed, and had the probing fingers of biased cops up my ass after these types of events because I have been in these exact situations.

Have you? Because if not, fuck off, pinky.

Because you either didnt read my comment (because your knees were jerking like an imaginary hanged man in an imaginary noose, or otherwise misconstrued the meaning, and intent of my comment.)

Please cite one single action group, or NGO, or academic study that focuses exclusively on lower tier white males, and how they are treated by cops.

Because PBS, the McKnight Foundation, 3M. and all their other corporate sponsors etc. are not reputable sources. They are literally INVESTED in these narratives.

Seeking fair treatment is a great and noble thing, and bias sucks, ok? The problem, however, is media “framing,”and the batshit -biased groups that are involved in it.

So -cite something that isn’t infused with bias. Good luck on that.

Extra points if you can cite a single study, ANYWHERE, that describes the horrors and differential treatment that lower tier white males who associate with black males get at the filthy paws of cops and then we can talk.

Then, we can have a real conversation. about these things that people like you watch on tv, or read about online.

RIP Gary Webb says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:anonymous cowards and useful idiots

Many people focus on how Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb was or wasnt 100% correct about CIA drug running.

But ya know what his real crime was?

He brought the term "driving while black "to the worlds attention, and the NYT and other AIPAC /ADL Israelified media fried him for it.

He was an early example of “deplatforming ”by these types.

It seems that Americas premiere race baiting organizations, and race profiteering NGOs, etc, are chock full of pink people.

Webbs journalism was gray. And he asked hard questions.

Then, he killed himself with cough cough two bullets to the head.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 yeah, no, yeah

Here’s an article by the Huffington Post on how class affects the way people are treated by police. It points out a study that shows how being in a location with many poor people makes you far, far more likely to be killed by police than being in any other location, regardless of appearance.

It’s still more dangerous to be dark-skinned and poor, but it’s not like the light-skinned and poor get off easy either.

If you take this article as being representative of the truth, being poor is a liability, and being black is also a liability. There isn’t any data on "lower tier white males who associate with black males" because that’s not a measurable or meaningful data set, beyond tracking income.

(I’d recommend staying away from claiming that being near innocent black men is a hazard to your health, beyond the dangers that those same men face, which you are exposing yourself to by proxy. It makes you sound like you don’t care about their problems, only what it means to you. It doesn’t inspire much sympathy if you don’t show some of your own, and can invite accusations of "white privilege".)

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 yeah, no, yeah

All due respect, your whitey-ness is showing.

I grew up around Black Panthers, Puerto Rican nationalists, people who organized historical labor strikes in order to benefit the classes of people who you claim to speak for, and people who were involved in both the Cuban, and the Nicaraguan revolutions -so I understand your delusions.

I watched the news coverage of the assassination of MLK into the wee hours from a notorious Panther bar in 1968, so I understand media framing different than you do.

That said, I am sure we agree in principle on many things.

But unfortunately, arguing with dogmatists is always futile. Your position is circular, and staked -set in stone like any bible thumper anywhere. In fact, your piditions are actually outlined in military PsyOps manuals too.

And this is naive useful idiot pure gold:
-"staying away from claiming that being near innocent black men is a hazard to your health, beyond the dangers that those same men face…"

Not all dangers are created equal, not least of which is the fragility of white /black male alliances.

While all men -and I do mean males -face extraordinary threats in a white supremacist Jewish-christian society, white males who are chained to black males in jails and prisons face a specific, and categorically different series of threats, based in race, from both blacks and cops, including gang rape -that black males, organized and pre -propagandized, and empowered at the lower tier with positive race rhetoric do not.

Because the specific claim that you attempt to make(citing faux -left MSM ) -that of white privilege -becomes a brutally useful tool wherein police -and the think tank /NGO /ADL /SPLC sponsored mockingbirds (and you, now ) all become the useful, race baiting idiots that they are pre -propagandized to be.

And, they say exactly the kinds of things you said up there.

I had the privilege of growing up as black as a white boy could be, and I think that Im right.

Wait a minute: I think Im LEFT, and you are on the RIGHT, because as you aptly state -as a gatekeeper and goal tender of narrative (anonymously, if course ):

-There isn’t any data on "lower tier white males who associate with black males" because that’s not a measurable or meaningful data set….

You-and gateposts like you- lost me at "meaningful ”

You, the arbiter in discussions like these is like having Goebbels in the mic at an NBA game. You have no working knowledge of the game, and only a foot in your mouth, and a mic in your hand, given to you by Freuds nephew, Eddie.

But I do appreciate that you tried, with that HuffPo thingy.

And this:
-It’s still more dangerous to be dark-skinned and poor….

Because you read it a book /blog /college pamphlet? Or because you were there?

Pics, or GTFO

Children dont choose the circumstances of their birth -try being white in a "black " neighborhood and we can talk. But that experience doesnt wash off, and worse, even blacks fear it can rub off on them.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 yeah, no, yeah

Lets swap personal stories, how bout?

Have you ever been in the situation you describe? Because I personally have been shot, stalked, jailed, and had the probing fingers of biased cops up my ass after these types of events because I have been in these exact situations.

Have you? Because if not, fuck off, pinky.

Because you either didnt read my comment (because your knees were jerking like an imaginary hanged man in an imaginary noose, or otherwise misconstrued the meaning, and intent of my comment.)

Please cite one single action group, or NGO, or academic study that focuses exclusively on lower tier white males, and how they are treated by cops.

Because PBS, the McKnight Foundation, 3M. and all their other corporate sponsors etc. are not reputable sources. They are literally INVESTED in these narratives.

Seeking fair treatment is a great and noble thing, and bias sucks, ok? The problem, however, is media “framing,”and the batshit -biased groups that are involved in it.

So -cite something that isn’t infused with bias. Good luck on that.

Extra points if you can cite a single study, ANYWHERE, that describes the horrors and differential treatment that lower tier white males who associate with black males get at the filthy paws of cops and then we can talk.

Then, we can have a real conversation. about these things that people like you watch on tv, or read about online.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Instead, they took time to verify that there was nothing dangerous or illegal going on–rightfully the first priority–then verified whether or not the rental was legitimate.

For half an hour? It should have taken minutes to check if anything dangerous was going on that needed to be addressed immediately before checking their story. ‘Do you have any weapons on you? No. Alright, please stand over there while we double-check the records.’

Out came the guns, attached to officers sure they had caught a car thief. Hofer and his brother were detained at gunpoint while their rental vehicle was searched. Nearly a half-hour passed before any deputy attempted to determine whether the rental vehicle/contract was legit.

‘Stolen’ does not automatically mean ‘by a violent individual’, so even the fact that it was technically a correct flag as a stolen vehicle would not justify going in guns drawn, nor searching for half an hour before checking their story. Hell, even if they had been the car thieves it still wouldn’t have been grounds for guns drawn, stealing a gorram car does not justify killing someone, barring perhaps a car thief attempting to escape by deliberately trying to run over the person trying to stop them, at which point it would be legitimate self-defense.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

‘Stolen’ does not automatically mean ‘by a violent individual’, so even the fact that it was technically a correct flag as a stolen vehicle would not justify going in guns drawn

This seems to be implying that because something is not true 100% of the time, it’s not justified to treat it as a thing that is reasonably likely to happen and take appropriate precautions.

As a general principle, that’s kind of horrifying!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Instead, they took time to verify that there was nothing dangerous or illegal going on–rightfully the first priority–then verified whether or not the rental was legitimate.

No—checking whether they’re doing something illegal-but-nondangerous does not take priority over checking whether the rental’s legitimate. This is per Rodriguez v. US. When checking for a stolen car, you don’t get to fish around for other illegal activity first before checking whether it’s actually stolen. You can ensure safety, of course, but the very next priority is to investigate the thing you stopped them for.

Arguably, they could have checked while following the car. If the theft was nonviolent, that would have been the smart option. Stopping someone immediately is how you handle a suspected carjacker or murderer, not someone who stole a rental from a parking lot. The article doesn’t say which this was.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:

I totally agree that ALPRs suck and the police are irresponsible cowboys. But Rodriguez is irrelevant here. That case references traffic infractions. A stolen car is a suspected felony. POST standards pretty much outline a felony or high risk traffic stop exactly as this one went down, with maybe the sole exception of pushing the passenger. To prevail, you’d basically need to create new law i.e. that an ALPR stolen car alert on the hot list does not constitute probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: POST

A stolen car is a suspected felony. POST standards pretty much outline a felony or high risk traffic stop exactly as this one went down

Peace Officer Standards and Training according to Wikipedia …are locally set, and vary from region to region.

Sounds like they’re not very standard, and the local precincts get to decide how aggressive they want to be. Going into a situation guns drawn based on a false report or clerical misshap is exactly the sort of thing that we don’t want our law enforcement to do, hence the shade that SWATTING is still a common thing.

If law enforcement officers approach all felonies as if they’re expected to be violent then false positives need to be very rare at worst.

Maybe you were referring to a Power-On-Self-Test.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:2 POST

https://post.ca.gov/

Felony car stop protocols don’t vary in the State of California. This is not a good example of your argument since it was not a false report or a clerical mishap, but even if it were, it would be significant change in the state of the law to declare that the presence of a license plate on a regional hot list of stolen vehicles does not constitute probable cause that a felony crime may have been committed. You would be overturning law that has been settled for decades.

At a minimum, you would need substantial evidence of numerous false positives. This case is not a false positive.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Not a false positive"

The car was not, in fact, in a current state of missing, having been stolen. Its occupants did not steal it.

Id est, it was a false positive. The police were going into a felony situation with weapons drawn when no felony had taken place.

I’m assuming you genuinely misunderstood, rather than are trying to argue semantics in bad faith. When police offers have weapons drawn on people who have done nothing wrong, then there is a problem.

Valkor says:

Re: Re: Re:2 POST

Thanks for the explanation of the acronym! Power On Self Test was the only meaning that I was aware of previously.

You are exactly right about the local training, and according to the article:

Stolen cars are considered felony stops, and it is standard procedure for police to pull out their weapons in these types of situations, law enforcement officers told 2 Investigates.

So, yeah, that is what they were "supposed to do". On the other hand, I was taught that you don’t pull a gun on someone unless you’re ready to shoot someone, and you don’t shoot someone unless you mean to kill them. I’m not sure that stolen cars are worth that. My car certainly isn’t worth killing someone over.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:3 POST

Those are what the probable cause standards are and that is how police are trained. It’s reasonable to object to it and try to change it on a policy level, but it shouldn’t be misstated what the existing policy is. Police pull guns on people all the time that they don’t intend to shoot. It should be different, but saying that it should change is different than saying that they were out of legal compliance.

There is no mistake. The car was on the stolen car hotlist because it had been reported stolen a month earlier to the police. That is definitely a felony car stop as defined. It is irrelevant whether the car thief was driving it or loaned it to someone else.

A mistake would be if the stolen car reported had license plate IB693 and the car stopped had license plate IB698. Not the case.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "There is no mistake."

Except that a vehicle was on the stolen hot list when it should have been taken off four months ago, when it was recovered.

That counts as a mistake.

And considering how eager police are to shoot innocent people, I think, yes, allowing for mistakes that get police officers to draw guns does endanger lives. Minority lives, disproportionately, even.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:5 "There is no mistake."

You’ve got the chronology wrong, Uriel 238. The car was reported stolen in San Jose in October and put up on Getaround by someone in November and rented/borrowed by Hofer in November, a month or less after the stolen car report. The only four months involved is in the media writing about it in February. The stolen car report and the incident are a month or so apart. Which makes it somewhat likely or at least the preponderance of the evidence suggests that the car was probably still stolen and stuck up on the Getaround app by someone other than the person who reported it stolen a month earlier. That’s a guess, but it is a little hard to contemplate that a person would report their car stolen, recover it, and then list it in a car borrow application 40 miles north just a few weeks later to monetize it.

Of course the police endanger lives. They take them too and often in felony car stops. But "the policy should be different" and "the law was broken" are two different things.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Stealing cars to turn them into rentals

That’s distressingly clever.

And like SWATTING it shows another way the eagerness of the police to go into situations in a hostile (dynamic) posture has redirected their guns towards innocent victims.

Maybe we should consider their guns-drawn approach to stolen vehicles similarly the way we consider their guns-drawn approach to serving warrants.

And Maybe we should start looking at the way other nations approach policing.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The only thing that went wrong had happened a month before when, after the stolen car was recovered, some person (presumably) unrelated to this sequence of events neglected to take this car out of the stolen car database.

And it also has nothing to do with the use of ALPRs. This same thing would have happened if the cops had been using the pre-ALPR system of identifying stolen cars while on patrol. "Hot sheets" or whatever they were called.

peter says:

Re: Re:

So what you are saying is that it is not just justifiable but routine for officers to approach every car, under suspicion of being stolen, with their guns drawn? A car and occupants that had given the officers no indication of being at risk from harm other than a ping on the APLNR?

I do like the fact you think it is the responsibility of the car’s occupants to not escalate the situation……but apparently not the officer’s. You realise that the difference between "its OK because no-one innocent got shot" and "Oops, my bad, sorry I killed you" is a twitchy trigger finger. Right? Now that right there is how to escalate each and every situation.

Agammamon says:

Citizens held at gunpoint and warrantlessly searched will always disagree with this assessment.

It’s up to those policing the police — city/county/federal authorities — to make the right call when it comes to ALPRs.

Sounds simple enough – the citizens don’t want them. So get rid of them. After all, its the citizens paying for it – and their salary’s.

bob says:

too big

I just recently bought a used car from a private owner. She forgot to take the old plates off and I hadn’t yet either because I was registering it that day.

I was stopping at my house before going to the DMV and a cop flipped on his lights. His ALPR signalled that my car was driving with expired insurance because the previous owner hadn’t renewed it in months because she had bought a new car already and had left this one parked at her house while she sold it.

Luckily my wife had already gotten insurance on the car so I had the card to show to the officer. He let me go but I had no idea they tracked insurance information as well.

Seems to me that database is too big.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Making it harder to get away with not obeying the law

Given the law is extensive, byzantine and not evenly and consistently enforced, yes.

If all laws were fair. If ours was a nation of laws (rather than a nation of trigger-happy police and conviction-happy judges) If our penal population did not feature the highest incarceration rate of all nations in the world, then we might be able to consider the law itself for the benefit of the public.

But laws aren’t fair. They aren’t well researched nor are they passed consistent with the best interests of the public. They’re not enforced evenly or fairly. Our penal population is huge and racially non-disproportionate.

And that is before we get to the use of ALPRs and how they might constitute an unreasonable search (let alone the use of such databases for non-crime-detecting purposes).

When the Department of Justice instates policy in which the public is regarded as the enemy of the police, the law becomes an enemy of the public.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "nothing byzantine about the insurance mandate"

So what are the standards that make insurance valid? Must it be an actual insurance policy, or is a reserve in escrow acceptable. Is this consistent from county to county? Are the insurance compliance rules constructed not to hinder new businesses thereby encouraging competition, or are they obtuse and judged by a human official with a lot of latitude who can be influenced by insurance lobbyists?

Are they systematically ticketing everyone whose vehicle is tagged driving who doesn’t have insurance?

I don’t know any of these off hand for Oakland. I bet you don’t either. It’s one of those fine places for a Madison quote:

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. –Federalist #61

And all this presumes that insurance is the only check ALPRs are used for.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I was under the impression that before ALPRs they didn’t manually run every set of plates which crossed their field of vision. It was too labor intensive, that’s the attraction of automation. Which means that the driver would have had to do something to attract the attention of an officer in order to induce an inquiry. Now all a driver has to do is exist in certain physical space.

ECA (profile) says:

Perfect job, expecting everything to be perfect..

Its wonderful when you expect things to be perfect.
If even 1/2 of what we wished came true..everything would be perfect.
Expecting 1 thing not to get interrupted in a chain, stolen car, Hauling crew report, cleaning report, distribution report, Office report, RENTAL report…All working,..and reporting to another agency, that the car is returned..

Anonymous Coward says:

Wasted filing fee

After reading the complaint carefully, it’s my opinion that the plaintiff has wasted his filing fee.

Prediction: Motion to dismiss granted. Tossed on qualified immunity.

No matter how angry it may make some of the people posting here, some things just ain’t never gonna change in the courts. What you gonna do about it? What can you do about it? Some things just ain’t never gonna change. Way things go.

This plaintiff has wasted his filing fee.

This plaintiff and his brother ought to just count their lucky stars they’re warm and breathing — that they ain’t dead and cold in the morgue.

Personanongrata says:

Quality of Life 0 - Police State Expediency 1

It’s up to those policing the police — city/county/federal authorities — to make the right call when it comes to ALPRs. Without better data on these devices’ potential for error, government officials are literally trading citizens’ live and liberty for law enforcement convenience.

Law enforcement usage of ALPRs has very little to due with apprehending criminals and a whole lot to do with alternate streams of revenue for municipalities/states.

Government’s misallocation of finite public resources squandered funding state sanctioned exploitation/extraction schemes under the specious guise of public safety are blatant reminders of the extent of the no-longer incipient police state that has been legislated into existence by city/county/federal authorities in America.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But if we have the black boxes open to be examined & flaws pointed out then the bad guys will win! They will change how they operate and totally defeat this private intelligence gathering system that no one wants to explain or be responsible for.

Something something eventually they will hit upon that 1 target pissed off enough & with enough power/money to fight back and they will destroy them exposing it all.

I said this about copyright trolls, I said this when they threatened to unmask me and drag me into court (putting me on the stand to testify about why I called them extortionists is suicidal). A massive failure of this system targeting a privacy activist, who quite possibly warned about this exact outcome, is serving up a large plate of failure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any large system with various i/o is tested for errors

I am sure a flowchart about the data entry points and database, AND the private and public real world test results gave a percentage of average errors per volume of entries or whatever. This data should have been requested, or better, made available as part of the sales process. Whatever data entry point failed in updating the DB doesn’t matter, rather it is the fact an error is expected to happen an average number of times per volume of entries and method used/ deployed, etc. Therefore contingencies should have been in place for any police response that is triggered by ALPRs. From reading the comments and the story, it may be that ALPRs has too many data entry points that may fail accidentally or fail on purpose which, of course, may cause a cascading effect later on. In other words… Garbage In results in Garbage Out. This crap is taught in beginning university courses of computers and statistics.

Rog S. says:

What is “organized stalking ”

….for the win.

Once you weed out the obvious dis /misinformation from retired NSA /CIA /.Mil spooks and pseudo -whistleblowers such as,Ramola D., Karen Stewart, OSI et al,

https://everydayconcerned.net/tag/karen-stewart/

you start to find stories about individuals who were targeted from 2001-today.

Google organized gang stalking and ALPRs and you will find legitimate dissent from anti police-state activists discussing how we are targeted by LEOs with these bizarre, and chronic “lil ol mistakes”

You will also find very interesting stories about gang stalking in Contra Costa, and Los Angeles, and Oceanside, and San Diego too.

Google (or duckduckgo) returns bizarre stories of how all these gadgets are used to chronically, and incessantly target protesters, activists, and especially, Twitter "speakers ”in that area.

My personal favorite is how the CHPs work with retired spooks, and community mobs via Fusion Centers, to target and track activists, and even tries to literally run people off the roads after tracking them with ALPRs, etc.

And, of course, the ADL/SPLC /AIPAC has Israelified every single police force on that coast, too.

Cuz they are all the “good guys , ” of course.

Of course!

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re: What is “organized stalking ”

Valkor, there is a substantial body of evidence that people just like you are involved in misinformation.

Even more evidence that the combined efforts of corrupt police, Fusion Centers, and alohabet agencies use gang stalking as a social engineering, social control scheme, with asshats just like you claiming that the police or surveillance state, and ALPRs, Stingrays, NSA warrantless domestic spying, etc. dont exist.

You should get your delusions checked out. Gang stalking denialists like you are dangerous to due process, and civil liberty.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re: What is “organized stalking ”

I am guessing this is you, Valkor. Predictably, a vendor for military gear.

http://www.valkortactical.com/

“About Valkor Tactical

TEAM Group has launched Valkor Tactical as its reinvented and revised line of tactical sewn goods. Since 1969, TEAM Corp has supplied all branches of the military with high quality and well-designed USA made gear. ”

Like I said…..

Anonymous Coward says:

I think most are missing the ALPR angle

although the "any large system with various i/o" comes close.

What ALPR allows is magnification of the error rate across the whole ‘wanted plate’ database. Prior to automated plate recognition, it wouldn’t be the plate that triggered the stop — it would be odd behaviour by the driver, which prompted the cop to get wants and warrants from the paper list of plates. An error in the paper list was much less critical — and wouldn’t have triggered in this case. Now, the trigger is presence on the database — and it is clear the database has accuracy issues.

IMHO, if they are going to retain ALPR as a tool, then they need to increase the accuracy of the ‘wanted’ database. They need to continuously validate the information. I am not sure, but I don’t think I really object to being able to determine the location of a "car of interest" out in public. But given that a hit can lead to irreversible action, we have to make sure that being "of interest" is justified by due process and strong evidence.

(Similarly, they have to ensure that the ‘plate seen’ database is protected by strong PII controls, prevent secondary use, etc.)

Nick says:

Re: I think most are missing the ALPR angle

I think the policy you want is that an ALPR hit for a stolen car is NOT probable cause that a felony may be have been committed. But that is a big change in the status quo. A broken tail light or a traffic infraction is probable cause to get pulled over, just not probable cause for a felony. The policy change would be to have an ALPR stolen car alert equivalent to a traffic infraction ie speeding and then your Rodriguez case would apply and no guns blazing. But that is a huge policy lift and again would require a whole bunch of specific evidence that there are a large number of cars being flagged as stolen that affirmatively aren’t. This particular incident is a wretched example because the stolen car report was flagged to this car, and the analogy is one of you-borrowed-a-stolen-car-unknowingly-from-your-friend-the-car-thief-who-didn’t-tell-you-the-car-was-stolen. They won’t overturn decades of case law for that.

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