The Little Rock Drug Raid Story Is A Fourth Amendment Story. But It's Also A First Amendment One.

from the all-amendments-matter dept

The Little Rock drug raid story is appalling. The indiscriminate, repeated, and systemic violation of the Fourth Amendment has been enormously destructive to people's lives, as well as an entire community. But if this situation is to be remedied, and hopefully it will be, it will be thanks to the First Amendment.

Most obviously, the First Amendment is what has allowed for Radley Balko's reporting of the story. Speaking truth about power is only possible with strong press protection. By allowing injustice to be discovered and shared, justice becomes possible. With Balko's reporting the public at large can now be aware of the abuse being done in their name, and the revelation is what will allow people to press for change. As it is, publication of the story has already led to charges being dropped against one of its other victims.

Victim Roderick Talley's own First Amendment rights also made a difference, and in several ways. One important way is that they gave him the right to film the world around him, and that let him record the police's abuse, which provided him with compelling evidence to use in his pursuit of justice.

The complex where he currently resided had recently put out a notice to residents to be on the alert for break-ins. So Talley bought a security system to monitor both the inside and outside of his apartment. About a week before the raid, the outdoor camera picked up some strange activity outside Talley’s apartment. As he sat handcuffed while police officers rifled through his belongings, he began to make the connection. The outside camera had recorded two odd incidents. First, a man whom Talley didn’t know approached the apartment while Talley wasn’t home. Looking anxious, the man knocked, waited a few moments and then left. A few days later, the camera picked up a police officer outside the door. The officer looked around, snapped a photo of Talley’s door with his cellphone, and left. .

[…]

After reading the affidavit, Talley went back to check the camera footage of his mysterious visitor from the previous week. “Sure enough,” he says. “The dates matched up. And nobody else came to my apartment that day.” The informant described in the affidavit was the same man Talley’s camera had recorded knocking on his door, waiting and then leaving. Talley wasn’t home at the time. The account given by the detectives and informant was false. And Talley had the video to prove it.

His access to public records was also critical. Through them he was able to discover patterns of abuse affecting not just him but his fellow citizens.

In the months after his own raid, Talley filed open-records requests for every warrant and affidavit involving the detectives who handled his case. He then expanded out and asked for warrants related to other officers on the drug unit.

In those records was also another important piece of information: the informant's mugshot. Remember the story here about mugshots? The one about how people were arrested for having posted these completely public records, simply because they made the editorial decision about which ones to post based on a profit motive? This story shows why it is so important that they be public records that the public has ready access to. Because with the mugshot Talley was able to figure out what had happened to him and others. A name on a search warrant application is an abstraction; but with the picture he could compare the affidavit to his security camera footage to spot the lies.

Over the ensuing weeks, Talley scoured Facebook and Instagram. He talked to residents of the apartments and the surrounding neighborhood. He started watching the Arkansas courts website for cases that looked similar to his. He eventually found a mug shot of the informant. The man who falsely claimed to have purchased cocaine from Talley is a nine-time felon whose criminal record includes nine convictions for theft and another five for burglary. He has also been convicted for giving a false name to police officers after an arrest, for filing a false police report, and, while behind bars, for writing a death threat to a police officer, forging another inmate’s signature on the threat, and then reporting the threat in exchange for reducing his own charges.

The mugshot also helped him compare notes with other victims, some of whom remembered seeing the informant lurking around the neighborhood.

Talley found Davis’s case late last year on the Arkansas courts site. After contacting Davis, Talley showed him a photo of the informant. “Oh, that was him,” Davis says. “That was the guy who came to my apartment. He has what you might call a unique look. You don’t forget a guy like that.” The informant told the police that Davis sold him cocaine. The police found only pot, a scale, Davis’s gun, bullets and the registration for his gun.

And then there was social media. Not only did it help him figure out what had happened by letting him find posts and pictures from others' affected, but it gave him a forum to speak out about what had happened to him, and to reach out to other affected community members – er, at least until he was censored by Facebook for having posted public information about the state actors who had abused him…

He also continued to use social media to publicize his case and reach out to others who may have been raided. He says he was at one point suspended from Facebook for posting the officers’ identities, photos and contact information, though Talley insists this was all public record.

His First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of his grievances is also what allowed him to sue for the violation of his other rights. The city tried to seal all the records associated with the case, but fortunately a judge refused to allow that impingement of his First Amendment rights to add to the list of constitutional injuries.

In response to the lawsuit, the city’s first move was to ask a judge to seal the search warrants, affidavits and everything else Talley had found — including Talley’s own security camera videos. Laux and Crump fought the motion and won. Talley had obtained all of that information from his own cameras or from public records. The city couldn’t then bar him from sharing or publishing it.

Because Talley's story, and the records evidencing it, are able to remain in public view, we are able to learn about a renegade police force running around one of America's cities, unfettered by the constitutional limitations put on police power. Fortunately knowledge is power, and thanks to the First Amendment we can start to fight back.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    John Smith, 23 Oct 2018 @ 10:54am

    Stuff like this ahs been going on since the 1960s. Now the raiders are militarized so it's worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:09am

    The man who falsely claimed to have purchased cocaine from Talley is a nine-time felon whose criminal record includes nine convictions for theft and another five for burglary. He has also been convicted for giving a false name to police officers after an arrest, for filing a false police report, and, while behind bars, for writing a death threat to a police officer, forging another inmate’s signature on the threat, and then reporting the threat in exchange for reducing his own charges.

    You know, I've heard the phrase 'It takes a thief to catch a thief' before but this... This is obscene. About the only good thing I can see from all that is there appears to be no physical violence in his record.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Shufflepants, 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      Yeah, that the cops trusted this guy for literally anything is beyond absurd.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:28am

        Re: Re:

        I doubt the cops trusted this informant; they just used him to establish cause for their raids.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:06pm

        Re: Re:

        i don't know if they necessarily trust, just use. they are complicit. it isn't like they were fooled.

        racking up points rather than dealing with actual crime seems to be the game rather frequently.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      how to make money...
      When the nation is full of police..

      PROBLEM..
      It has to be an Inside thing..
      the Cops are fully involved..
      They gave him money even when they didnt find anything..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      guy, 23 Oct 2018 @ 2:53pm

      Re:

      What's most significant is the convictions over the false police reporr, fake name, and forged signatures. He was known to be specifically unreliable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:19am

    Using no knock warrants when they shouldn't? Using explosives during these? Using an informant that is lying to police?


    These are issues, they point out lazy police work, but what are we asking to police to do? Stop the drug trade?


    Friends of ours just lost their 24 year old son to an opioid overdose. People around town are looking to the police to make arrests, to stop the sale of drugs, to keep our kids safe.

    No easy solutions here, we can't demand cops do things that are probably not possible anyway, yet expect them to not bend the rules. Hell, they may be doing this all in good faith anyway. Who knows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tin-Foil-Hat, 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:30am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 23rd, 2018 @ 11:19am

      What are you saying? That everybody must give up their rights for the relatively small percentage that might die of an opioid overdose.

      The CDC has not been entirely honest in the representation of this epidemic and the government response has contributed to an increase in deaths and created a system where the government dictates quality of life causing immense suffering to people who legitimately need the drugs they are restricting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:01pm

      Re:

      _Friends of ours just lost their 24 year old son to an opioid overdose. People around town are looking to the police to make arrests, to stop the sale of drugs, to keep our kids safe.

      No easy solutions here, we can't demand cops do things that are probably not possible anyway, yet expect them to not bend the rules. Hell, they may be doing this all in good faith anyway. Who knows._

      My sympathies for your loss - I haven't lost anyone to drug overdose, but I have lost people, so I know how the emotional wreckage affects you and those near you.

      However, I have to disagree with your conclusion here. If people are looking to cops to do something about the drug problems, whatever those problems may be, that in no way excuses unconstitutional and illegal action by the cops.

      We absolutely can demand that the cops try to do something about the drug trade, and simultaneously not bend the rules. We should always demand that the cops not bend the rules. Those who enforce the rules should be afforded the least amount of leeway to bend them of any group.

      Moreover, this is not simple "bending" of the rules. This is out and out breaking - this is gross indifference to the actual law. This is outright lying and falsification of reports. There is no "good faith" argument to be made here - a simple reading of details of what's happened here denies that anyone could have been acting in "good faith."

      Good faith doesn't state that you witnessed something you didn't. Good faith doesn't apply for a no-knock warrant without any indication of there being a serious threat to officers in the execution of the warrant. Good faith doesn't use explosives to take off a door of a home in which there was zero indication of there being a likelihood of an armed response.

      You know what good faith is? Good faith is the police chief issuing a press release within hours of a raid on the wrong house stating that the police were at fault and that no charges would be pressed against the man whose home was invaded (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180920/19192640684/hell-forms-bobsled-team-after-police-chief-a dmits-fault-swat-raid-targeting-wrong-address.shtml). This is the type of action that builds community trust. This is accountability, transparency, and honesty. This is "Good faith."

      The Little Rock Police Department's actions are exactly the type of thing that will cause the community to view the police as a hostile entity. When the community views the police as a hostile entity, the police have failed at their duties and will be unable to effectively do what they are supposed to do. When this occurs, it's because the police have acted in bad faith - as the LRPD has done.

      I understand what losing someone does to you. I understand the anger and the hopelessness and the desire to get justice. But if we allow that to serve as a rationalization for the type of unconscionable actions displayed by the LRPD here, then we are simply promoting gross injustice against other people who have nothing to do with the cause of our own loss.

      Imagine if Derrick Davis had died. That loss that's hit your friends? That would be Derrick's loved one's going through the same - and remember that Derrick is innocent, and has nothing to do with the opioid problem.

      Now consider that there are people who have not been so lucky as Derrick - either lacking in evidence to refute false claims by police (and yes, there would have been false claims, simply based on the discovered pattern of bad behavior by the LRPD) and therefore falsely convicted of crimes they are innocent of, leading to the ruination of their lives; or, dead.

      Never let grief serve as a pass for injustice. All that does is spread the grief.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:08pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 23rd, 2018 @ 11:19am

      aye, you can always expect - demand! - they don't bend the rules.

      the opoid problem is an issue with pharma and the US military. arrest them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      "Friends of ours just lost their 24 year old son to an opioid overdose. People around town are looking to the police to make arrests, to stop the sale of drugs, to keep our kids safe."


      Perhaps the police are not looking in the right places? If they are interested in finding the perps I suggest they begin looking in the C-Suite of every pharma corp.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      guy, 23 Oct 2018 @ 3:02pm

      Re:

      From the article it is quite clear they knowingly provided false information in the warrant application; officers testified they witnessed an event that video footage confirms did not occur.

      More generally they can use less force, reserve no-knock warrants for when there's realistic concern about dangerous resistance or destruction of evidence like they're supposed to be doing already, and generally do a better job of making sure the drug dealer they're raiding is actually a drug dealer before raiding him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 6:17pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 23rd, 2018 @ 11:19am

      The opioid epidemic is primarly caused by two things- addiction due to perscriptions and the illegality of drugs.

      Because the are illegal, the price is very high and addicts end up convincing friends to try and use drugs so they can resell them to he able to afford them themselves.

      Google the 'British System' that worked very well to limit the problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2018 @ 5:50am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 23rd, 2018 @ 11:19am

        This is not true. Addiction to prescription drugs is a factor, but it is a small factor. The percentage of overdose deaths from people who were on or started with prescription drugs is under 10%.

        It is a nice talking point and a great talking point to place blame, but mostly the people who are dying of opioids are dying because they were into heroin and died from that or other drugs laced with Fentanyl.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Band N Boston, 23 Oct 2018 @ 11:49am

    I suppose you're for Mom and apple pie too. Brave stance.

    This is sheerly fluff PR for person ginning up credibility by pretending to be pro-American (specifically known: this person attacks the Constitutional Right of controlling copies of ones's own work, and believes that CDA Section 230 empowers corporations to absolutely and arbitrarily control the speech of "natural" persons). -- I'd bet also that this person does NOT support the 2nd Amendment, and is for unlimited immigration into the US, ie, no right to control our border. Anyhoo, I regard this who-can-argue piece as selective yahoo-ery.

    But you never see these neo-liberals (including Techdirt) using their alleged prestige to rail about the entirely falsified Iraq War that killed a million persons and displaced millions more. Nope, they're New York Times Establishment supporting The Empire, just like neo-cons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:10pm

      Re: I suppose you're for Mom and apple pie too. Brave stance.

      you either don't read enough here or suffer comprehension issues, or simply lie for some reason, if that is your stated assessment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 12:18pm

        Re: Re: I suppose you're for Mom and apple pie too. Brave stance.

        You have successfully analyzed blue boy, here. He used to be semi-amusing. Now he's just tiresome.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 23 Oct 2018 @ 1:04pm

        Re: Re: I suppose you're for Mom and apple pie too. Brave stance.

        That's certainly the most likely way he arrived at his
        "there's a constitutional right to control copies of one's work"
        "230 empowers corporations to absolutely and arbitrarily control speech"
        and
        "unlimited immigration ie no right to control our border"

        fictions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 8:06pm

      Re: I suppose you're for Mom and apple pie too. Brave stance.

      How's that Paul Hansmeier defense fund coming along, bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 12:03am

    The city moving to try and suppress the evidence of them burning down the barn that was filmed by other people...
    How many zeros does this put onto the settlement?

    Everyone else in this city needs to be terrified that the cops are out of control & those in charge of keeping them in line would rather waste your tax dollars protecting the bad guys they employee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 8:23pm

    This is similar to something that happened at a place i worked

    Some years ago, a rather strange fellow came in the front door, asked some bizarre questions then left.

    A couple days later some suspicious men in plain clothing were poking around. We called the police, they showed up, and attempted to arrest the guys for trespassing. Turns out the guys were undercover officers. They were looking for someone that no longer worked for us, and were about to launch a full swat raid on the building based on some random person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.