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Cop Sued For Bogus Arrest Of Man Who Broke Up The PD's Distracted Driving Sting

from the local-man-arrested-for-making-streets-safer dept

A cop couldn't handle someone diverting his revenue stream. So he decided to do something about it. That "something" was getting sued for civil rights violations. How this will improve revenue generation remains to be seen, but for now one officer of the Stamford, Connecticut police department will need to lawyer up. (via Courthouse News Service)

The plaintiff, Michael Friend, happened to notice a bunch of police officers issuing tickets to drivers for distracted driving. One officer, Richard Gasparino, was hiding behind a telephone pole on the other side of the street looking for drivers using their cellphones and relaying his suspicions to officers further down the road.

Friend moved south of the Stamford PD sting operation and held up a handwritten sign reading "Cops Ahead." This didn't sit well with Officer Gasparino, who swiftly decided he'd like to be sued by Friend and his representation. He began his tour of culpability with the following hilarious assertion. From the lawsuit [PDF]:

[T]he defendant approached Mr. Friend and snatched the sign from him.

Mr. Friend began video recording the defendant with his phone, as he thought the defendant was behaving illegally.

The defendant told Mr. Friend that he was “interfering with our police investigation” and told Friend to leave the spot where he was standing.

Calling this little operation an "investigation" really stretches the meaning of the word. There's literally zero investigating going on. A static speed camera does just as much investigating.

From there, things got worse/stupider/more unconstitutional. Friend walked away from this, headed another block south, and made a bigger sign. Thirty minutes later, Officer Gasparino came back for more. Friend again took out his phone and began recording.

[T]he defendant snatched Mr. Friend’s phone and stopped Friend from recording because he claimed to want to “protect [him]self from any false claims of physical abuse.”

Um. What? One would think a recording would be the best evidence to use against "false claims of physical abuse." I guess recordings made by citizens don't count. Officer Gasparino took the phone in Friend's hand as well as one he was carrying in his pocket. This sounds exactly like an unjustified search and seizure -- one that's at least partially captured on phone tape.

Seeing that his bogus claim of investigation interference was having zero effect on Friend's sign-making, Gasparino upped the ante by arresting Friend for interfering with the so-called "investigation." Friend was taken to the station by another officer, who helpfully explained why Gasparino was so upset with Friend and his signs.

On the ride to the police station, [Officer] Deems told Mr. Friend that he attracted police attention because he was “interfering with our livelihood.”

Deems explained to Mr. Friend that the cellphone sting was operated as an overtime assignment, funded by a federal grant which would require the Stamford police to issue a certain number of tickets in order for the grant to be renewed.

By warning motorists, Deems claimed, Mr. Friend was decreasing the number of tickets that the Stamford employees could issue, and therefore decreasing their chances of earning overtime on a cellphone sting grant in the future.

Seems like Officer Gasparino should have sued Friend for tortious interference rather than trash his signs, steal his phones, and book him on such a transparently bogus charge. Gasparino reiterated his belief that Friend's actions were illegal interference with a business model, noting that officers were not "observing as many violations as they should be," thanks to Friend's "Cops Ahead" signs.

And because he's a complete dick, Officer Gasparino set Friend's bail at $25,000… for a misdemeanor interference charge. Friend remained in jail until 1:30 the next morning. He was released by the bail commissioner who immediately set Friend's bail to $0.

But that didn't stop the financial pain for Friend. He had to purchase a new phone later that day because his other phones were still being held by the Stamford PD.

Unbelievably, it took prosecutors to set this straight, during which the prosecution took a shot at Officer Gasparino's "but muh revenue" assertions.

[W]hen Mr. Friend’s case was called, the prosecution entered a nolle prosequi and explained to the court that Mr. Friend’s signs “actually . . . help[ed] the police do a better job than they anticipated because when [drivers] saw the signs, they got off their cell phones.”

This is a master class on how to get sued, taught by Professor Gasparino. The taking of Friend's signs raise both First and Fourth Amendment concerns. There's the "shut up" part of it and the taking of someone's property without cause, even if said property was nothing more than cardboard.

Then there's the seizure of Friend's phones -- both done without cause. Even if the interference charge were credible (it isn't), there's simply no reason to believe the phones contained evidence of this crime. Any recordings that may have supported Gasparino's assertions were ended by Gasparino himself before they could have captured any "obstructing."

And finally, there's the seizure of Friend himself. This might be the most difficult count to secure a win on, considering cops are given a whole lot of leeway to arrest people for crimes both real and imagined. The imagined ones tend to be tossed by prosecutors, but the courts have consistently held officers need only believe a law was violated to effect an arrest.

None of this looks good for Officer Gasparino. These allegations lay out a sadly-credible story of a cop using his power to harm someone who made his life a tiny bit more difficult. Gasparino twice overstepped his Constitutional bounds and followed it up by making sure Friend couldn't just walk away from the stupidity by swinging a $25k bail hammer at him. This is adding injury to injury -- not exactly a great move when you might find yourself being held legally responsible for the injury pile-on.


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 3:40pm

    Look and Learn

    Every time this happens, it'd essential to spread the word. Public awareness is important for keeping the police in line.

    Cause they ain't gonna police themselves.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 9:28am

      Re: Look and Learn

      so what you are saying is that "as citizens" we have to participate in our communities "free market style" instead of getting a politician to solve our problems "regulation style".

      I like the cut of your jib.

      It's funny that you got modded insightful and "liked" what this guy did but simultaneously claim to be impossible in other areas.

      Hopefully you will understand... but I doubt it!

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

      • identicon
        Chip, 1 Nov 2018 @ 9:42am

        Re: Re: Look and Learn

        So what you are Saying is, "I love eating Delicious, Delicious LEADED paint Chips."

        Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 9:54am

        Re: Re: Look and Learn

        New laws, aka regulations, could force our LEOs to understand the laws they're enforcing or avoid enforcing laws they don't understand. Why should our law enforcement be able to operate in ignorance when the public, those whose jobs do not involve studying or enforcing law, be required to know and understand every law in the land? It makes no sense.

        Nice false equivalency argument though.

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

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 1:55pm

      Re: Look and Learn

      This reminds me of a case in Austin back in the late 80's when I was going to college there.

      Cops had set up a speed trap on the freeway behind some trees. Guy drives past, sees the cops set up, and exits the freeway, goes back the other way and essentially does what the guy in this story did-- made himself a sign that warned approaching motorists of a SPEED TRAP AHEAD - THEY'RE BEHIND THE TREES.

      It wasn't long before the cops realized what was going on and arrested the guy for obstruction of justice. (This was long before cell phones, so there was no filming of the arrest.)

      Unlike this case, the prosecutor went with it but the judge was hopping mad and dismissed the charge instantly. He told the cops and the D.A. that it's legally impossible to obstruct justice by merely encouraging people to obey the law. That's promoting justice, not obstructing it. Plus, you know, 1st Amendment and all. He threatened to report the D.A. to the state bar for bringing a case that any lawyer ought to know was legally insufficient on its face.

      Don't know if the dude ended up suing anyone civilly over it, but it sounds like he had a decent case for it.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 2:33am

        Re: Re: Look and Learn

        'Obstructing justice' by telling people not to speed. I suppose if you define 'justice' as 'profit' then yeah, that makes total sense.

        Good on the judge for seeing through that though he really should have followed through on that threat, given how utterly absurd that case was.

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

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 3:56pm

    Maybe it's a Connecticut thing, but since when do cops get to set bail amounts?

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

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:50pm

      Re:

      Never, unless it's zero.

      I think I can see what happened in this particular case.

      CT cops (as IIRC all States) have discretion on arrests for misdemeanors, to either release you without bail on a "written promise" (like a traffic ticket) or to hold you for Arraignment, where Bail will be set by a Judge.

      Arraignment is usually the next business day after an arrest.

      The cop probably ASKED for $25,000 bail, the ADA went nuts and told the Judge at Arraignment that The People were NOT requesting Bail.

      Even though the charges were misdemeanors, the cop unilaterally decided to hold him over for Arraignment.

      But there was NO Bail or Bail Amount set by the cop, the ADA, or the Judge.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:44pm

        Re: Re: umm, not quite...

        Read your story (or maybe the original prayer for relief): Cop sets bail at 25K, 1:30AM higher authority comes around and says "That's ridiculous".

        Victim shows up in court, Assistant DA or DA says to judge: That's ridiculous, nolo prossedere (literally, we don't wish to proceed). He probably doesn't want a bench slap, or maybe he has that progressive prosecutor perspective -- the cops are supposed to enforce the law, and if people see "cop ahead" and obey the law, the purpose is served.

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

        • identicon
          Bruce C., 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:24am

          Re: Re: Re: umm, not quite...

          Yeah, DA saved this from becoming much worse. If it had been a Jeff Sessions wannabe, guy could have had even more trouble...and a bigger lawsuit.

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

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:58am

          Re: Re: Re: umm, not quite...

          The problem we were discussing is that cops don't get to set bail. If they did, every parking ticket would be a hundred grand in bail.

          Where did the $25,000 "bail" amount come from?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 9:57am

          Re: Re: Re: umm, not quite...

          if people see "cop ahead" and obey the law, the purpose is served.

          True, circa 1950. Today's cops are more interested in baiting and entrapment. Remember: Non-cops are the enemy.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:10pm

    out_of_the_blue's not going to like this, is he?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:50pm

      Re:

      Why, because Techdirt's Free Speech section has gone another day without mentioning the Gab stomping, proving that there's a conspiracy of silence?

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:52pm

        You seem upset. I suggest playing that new Undertale thing.

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

      • identicon
        Braden, 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:14pm

        Re: Re:

        That's because Tech Dirt's Free Speech section covers matters relevant to the constitutional free speech rights of Americans.
        The first amendment does not grant anyone the right to have payment systems or domain registrars do business with them if they don't want to.
        Similarly, social media platforms can decide who they want to allow to participate and who they don't. If the government started interfering with that right, or started censoring the posts on those forums, it would assuredly end up in this section.

        Gab isn't being "stomped," or subjected to any kind of injustice. It's just being ignored because it isn't relevant.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's just being ignored because it isn't relevant.

          But to the guy who believes that something is the most important story out there, ignoring it is obvious proof of a conspiracy. And this deafening silence must be pointed out repeatedly until people get sick of hearing about it.

          "Piracy" sites have of course been regularly getting shut down/deplatformed by the hundreds if not thousands, since the beginning of the internet, but over time there's been a gradual shift away from law enforcement toward getting private service providers to step in and pull the plug themselves. Oddly enough, when Network Solutions had a complete power monopoly, they never used it to shut down sites. In contrast, GoDaddy, as we all know, yanks domain names almost as a reflex reaction to someone complaining.

          But it's been interesting to watch, that over the internet's short history, police action has increasingly been privatized, which is not an entirely bad thing, as the internet has become less centralized by architecture but more centralized by the way people actually use it..

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Some people just refuse to understand what others are trying to communicate, this is typically a juvenile behavior.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:44am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Are you so dense not to realize Gab wasn't taken down by a court order?

            Are you so dense to not realize that these "magic boxes" you put websites on are privately owned?

            Are you so dense you don't realize that Pirate sites were taken down by courts?

            Are you so dense you don't realize that courts are part of the government and not a privately owned corporation?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re:

        Because blue boy hates interference with a business model.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:37am

        Re: Re:

        What's to mention? Platform openly enables hatred and those who encourage and commit violence, other platforms opt not to do business with them as a result. The free market in action, and nothing to do with free speech.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 5:48am

        Re: Re:

        Gab stomping

        Ahhh yes, such victims they are.

        Now if Gab were a gay couple in search of a cake and say GoDaddy was a baker, would you still be losing your shit over it?

        Methinks probably not.

        So fuck Gab. They can go and find another registrar, just like gay couples can find other bakers. Simple.

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

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:52am

        Re: Re:

        "proving" "conspiracy"
        Those words do not mean what you think they mean.

        also:
        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180810/17491840412/defense-slow-news.shtml

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:18pm

    I know, I know...but..

    Is there a law about being stupid??

    On the other side..
    Ignorance of the Law is no excuse..Take your concerns to a lawyer FIRST. let them decide how much you can win or charge a person with..

    Business Interference seems a good one NOW DAYS..

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

  • icon
    Gumnos (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:23pm

    Sounds like this local case a while back

    The guy holding a "police ahead" sign here in the north-Dallas metroplex eventually had charges dropped but shouldn't police know this doesn't work?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:34pm

      Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

      The idea is to make it as painful as possible so the peon won't dare stick their neck out again. And that usually DOES work.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:57am

        Re: Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

        You can beat the rap but you can't beat the ride.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:37am

        Re: Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

        Why is this not illegal and who would enforce it?
        Who is policing the police?
        Why do many trust these liars?

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:35pm

      Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

      Yes, but then they should know the laws they enforce as well, depite the Supreme Court's inferences. It might be an end result of how qualified imunity, inevitable discovery, and a lack of perjury charges when cops lie on the stand in court impacts their decisions.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:54pm

        Re: Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

        I wonder if someone could start data mining all of the perjured testimony officers, to provide whenever any of those people are set to testify about anything. I personally know how much I would trust an officer that has a history of lying under oath.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

          Now that would make an interesting database. Along with some solid statistical methodology it could also be significant.

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

          • identicon
            Christenson, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:48pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Sounds like this local case a while back

            The newly released Harvard database of state and local cases means that the database of unindicted cop perjuries is going to be created pretty soon. Hold on to your hat!

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 3:07am

      Define, 'work'.

      Even though he wasn't charge or even tried he was still punished for his actions by losing his phone and being locked up overnight, such that you can bet the next person who might have the audacity to interfere with their money-making schemes will be thinking twice about it.

      Much like SLAPP suits a win in court is nice for this sort of thing but not actually necessary. Rather the primary goal is to make them suffer and less likely to do a certain action again in the future, while sending a message to others of the same.

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

  • identicon
    Rocky, 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:35pm

    I have personal experience when a distracted driver hits someone and I would like the police to fine the shit out anyone driving while using their cellphone.

    IMHO Mr. Friend was an asshole in this instance for interfering but he was fully within his rights, but Officer Gasparino was way way out of bounds and should be slapped down hard.

    Finally, giving law enforcement monetary incentives to fill a quota is mindbogglingly stupid because they will in time rationalize and then we get this type of situations.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:39pm

      Re:

      Understand the point being made, however - there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and I would like the LEOs to do things the right way. Then end never justifies the means.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:50pm

      Re:

      Mr. Friend was an asshole in this instance for interfering

      Interfering with what? If the true goal of those tickets was to stop drivers from being distracted while on the road, Friend saved the cops some trouble by warning drivers about the police stop further down the road—and thus warning against being caught with a cellphone in their hands. But if the goal was ticketing as many drivers as possible in an effort to meet a quota so they could keep a revenue stream open…yeah, I can see how the cops (or a police bootlicker) might see Friend as an asshole.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Frankly, I think the signs might have added to the distracted driving thingy. Motorists might think speed trap and slow down, they might think sobriety check and turn on a side street (if available) or, well there are many possibilities. Thinking about talking on my phone while driving might not even come to mind (I don't have a cellphone so it definately would not come to my mind).

        I can picture many motorists glancing around the cabin of their cars looking for anything that might concern a police officer, and therefore be distracted, but not in any arrestable way.

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 8:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think people who have cell phones are very aware it's illegal to use them while driving (I think every state has done this by now but I could be wrong). My impression of the most likely actions people will take on seeing a cops ahead sign is to stop doing anything they know is illegal (speeding, using a phone, drinking a beer) and look for the cops. So you get people ceasing illegal (and in many cases unsafe) behavior and paying more attention to their surroundings. A double win.

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

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          > Frankly, I think the signs might have added to the
          > distracted driving thingy.

          If a roadside sign counts as a distraction with regard to driving, then billboards and every kind of business signage would be illegal.

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

      • identicon
        Rocky, 1 Nov 2018 @ 1:26am

        Re: Re:

        Interfering with giving distracted drivers a lesson in the form of a fine.

        How many of the distracted drivers that saw Mr Friend's sign started using their phone again right after they passed the cops?

        That the cops where out to bolster their income is immaterial to the actions of Mr Friend. You are judging Mr. Friend's actions after the fact having all the facts while I judge his actions based on what he knew at the time.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "How many of the distracted drivers that saw Mr Friend's sign started using their phone again right after they passed the cops?"

          ...and how many of the people stopped and fined actually changed their behaviour after the stop? I have a feeling both are similar numbers.

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

          • identicon
            Rocky, 1 Nov 2018 @ 5:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Are you arguing that fines has the same (non) impact on behavior as an informational sign?

            I don't buy that all since then we don't really need any enforcement at all, just a lot informational signs.

            Studies have shown that between 60-70% of drivers adapt their driving habits dependent on the likelihood and size of fines given for violations, so if there are very little enforcement or very low fines they are much more likely to violate the rules and vice verse.

            It's not a very hard concept to understand, some people run stop signs when no one is around but they would hardly do it when there is cop car nearby.

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

            • icon
              Bamboo Harvester (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 6:02am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              High fines worked with seatbelt laws.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So, you are arguing that the end justifies the means. Perhaps you have empirical data that shows this to be the case?

              afaik, there is no evidence to support the belief but that does not stop people from being bullshitted into going along with the outrageous behaviors that ensue.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 8:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Are you arguing that fines has the same (non) impact on behavior as an informational sign?"

              Pretty much. I've witnessed it a lot of times - people who habitually speed won't stop doing it just because they've been caught and fined. However, they will slow down near those places where they know the cops will be present. So, a sign warning them of such has the same effect as a cop actually being there to pull them over (at least, up until the points where they learn the cop is actually not there).

              "I don't buy that all since then we don't really need any enforcement at all, just a lot informational signs."

              You do if you want to keep collecting that sweet cash. These stings are usually as much about catching people out and making some revenue as they are about actually preventing distracted driving (or whatever behaviour it's supposedly to catch).

              "Studies have shown that between 60-70% of drivers adapt their driving habits"

              So, there's still 30-40% of drivers who won't change a thing no matter what? That's kind of my point - whether it's a cop fining them or a sign warning them, the people actually altering what they were doing would likely be the same.

              "It's not a very hard concept to understand, some people run stop signs when no one is around but they would hardly do it when there is cop car nearby."

              It's also not a hard concept to understand that without a totalitarian surveillance state, there will be more times when they aren't present than when they are, so some people are going to be running stop signs when they think there's nobody watching them.

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

              • identicon
                Rocky, 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                >> Are you arguing that fines has the same (non) impact on behavior as an informational sign?

                > Pretty much. I've witnessed it a lot of times - people who habitually speed won't stop doing it just because they've been caught and fined. However, they will slow down near those places where they know the cops will be present. So, a sign warning them of such has the same effect as a cop actually being there to pull them over (at least, up until the points where they learn the cop is actually not there).

                It's a fact that fines change a majority of peoples behavior, you witnessing something is considered anecdotal evidence and doesn't count.

                >> I don't buy that all since then we don't really need any enforcement at all, just a lot informational signs.

                > You do if you want to keep collecting that sweet cash. These stings are usually as much about catching people out and making some revenue as they are about actually preventing distracted driving (or whatever behaviour it's supposedly to catch).

                But the thing is, if people follow the law that "revenue stream" would dry up - it only exists because some people chose not to. Just drive safely and stick it to those nefarious cops!

                >> Studies have shown that between 60-70% of drivers adapt their driving habits

                > So, there's still 30-40% of drivers who won't change a thing no matter what? That's kind of my point - whether it's a cop fining them or a sign warning them, the people actually altering what they were doing would likely be the same.

                You just assumed that those 30-40% are those who will not change a thing no matter what. A large part of those will try to follow the law to the letter but there is also a group of people that never will, no matter what - they are usually classified as anti-social in one way or another. And your point entirely misses the target, because arguing that some people will never change doesn't change the fact that the majority will.

                >> It's not a very hard concept to understand, some people run stop signs when no one is around but they would hardly do it when there is cop car nearby."

                > It's also not a hard concept to understand that without a totalitarian surveillance state, there will be more times when they aren't present than when they are, so some people are going to be running stop signs when they think there's nobody watching them.

                Some people will always be and act anti-social, the point is to curb that behavior in general. Those who don't change will eventually face the consequences of their behavior, the question is how many they will kill and maim before that happens.

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

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 3:28am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "It's a fact that fines change a majority of peoples behavior"

                  Source? I'd also question the claim that this is quantifiable as the only, or even major factor. I'd bet there's plenty of reasons other than the fine that explain changes in behaviour.

                  "But the thing is, if people follow the law that "revenue stream" would dry up - it only exists because some people chose not to"

                  That's only part of the story, of course. Law enforcement have ways of "creatively" interpreting laws and messing around with parameters to retain their revenue stream. One example that comes to mind was that certain cities were reducing the time it took for the lights to change in areas where red light cameras were present. Which, not only made the junctions less safe but essentially tricked drivers into breaking the law where they would previously be obeying it. Another is where some places decided that distracted driving no longer needed the phone to be handheld once handsfree devices became more commonplace.

                  It's been documented numerous times - sometimes when people start obeying the law enough to make significant revenue be lot, there can be a tendency for more things to become law-breaking behaviour.

                  "You just assumed that those 30-40% are those who will not change a thing no matter what."

                  I'm going by your figures. If 60-70% will change their habits, then there's 30-40% that won't. There's no middle ground here, you don't get merit points for trying to change but failing. Many will never bother to try, of course, but the ones who tried and failed will still be doing the thing that gets them fined.

                  "the question is how many they will kill and maim before that happens."

                  For the majority of drivers, that figure is zero. Hyperbole is not a great counter argument to any of the points raised. If a person opts to drive through a stop sign at 5mph in the middle of the night when they can see the road is clear but would not do the same thing the middle of the day when a cop is sat there, that doesn't realistically mean that any lives would be saved by having the cop car there 24/7. It does, however mean that they get a lot less free income.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 6:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          How many of the distracted drivers that saw Mr Friend's sign started using their phone again right after they passed the cops?

          If they put the shithead officer who was fucking around with the sign guy further down the road, maybe we'd know the answer. They didn't, so we don't.

          Perhaps if officer fucktard had some business sense, he would've thought of this, given how important revenue is. It's what you get for hiring marginally retarded people and expecting them to think.

          But keep telling us about how fines are important, and how their revenue issues are some else's fault. Seems like their biggest issue with low citation numbers is a lack of critical thinking skills. That's not Mr. Friend's fault. Being a cop should require something more than the equivalent of an 8th grade education, maybe.

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

  • icon
    rangda (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:47pm

    The lesson here is that next time Officer Gasparino should empty his service weapon into the sign holder and claim they were resisting arrest. Dead people don't get to tell their side of the story.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 4:51pm

      Re:

      Especially when the cops have the dead person’s cell phone. “Whoops, everything was wiped before we could check it! Funny how that works, huh?”

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

  • identicon
    Ian Williams, 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:10pm

    Double extra stupid...

    In CT we have a law that not only explicitly allows citizens to record cops, but holds the cops liable in they interfere with the recording

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:16pm

    Illegal interference with a business model

    That's a thing? Is it possible that an action that is otherwise not criminal can be made illegal because it interferes with a business model?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:35pm

      Re: Illegal interference with a business model

      Hatch keeps trying to make a felony interference with a business model law in Utah. Keeps getting voted down, but he tried every year for nearly a decade. We've seen that here at TD in a number of articles.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 5:38pm

      Re: Illegal interference with a business model

      There have been multiple inferences to such activity, here on Techdirt. Many of them surely seem to be reasonable inferences.

      That such a law exists is not only a big negatory, but what does that matter? When the business wins because the only infraction was some kind of interference with their business model, what other conclusion is available? No laws broken, no infraction, but the business wins anyway?

      To some degree, we need to think about how the FEC has allowed soft money and the Supreme Court has stated that money is speech to be big problems here. Now the question becomes how do we get the electorate to comprehend these things and make changes. Changes will take time, 40 or 50 years for the Supreme Court, but in the interim both the Executive and Legislative branches can be impacted. To do so, the electorate needs to ignore the money in politics and vote with integrity, rather than party.

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:59pm

        Re: Re: Illegal interference with a business model

        Felony interference with a business model is a derisive term for someone arrested apparently because what they were doing interfered with someone's revenue stream, instead of doing anything we might consider immoral (stealing) or dangerous to the public (speeding).

        As to the Money is speech, the underlying problem is that money certainly can buy speech. What does that space on that billboard by the freeway cost??? Or what did Fox News cost Roger Ailes??? It is a complicated problem, made worse by huge inequalities in resources. See Techdirt on moderation at scale for a good discussion.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:49am

          Re: Re: Re: Illegal interference with a business model

          I would call it accurate rather than derisive, but guess it depends upon pov.

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

    • identicon
      guy, 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:44am

      Re: Illegal interference with a business model

      There's a civil cause of action called tortious interference, for intentionally damaging someone's contractual or buisness relationships by e.g. preventing them from fufilling their contractual obligations so the other party considers them in breach of contract.

      *If* the sting were considered a valid buisness model where the police were contractually obligated to make a certain number of stops, there'd be a basis to sue, not arrest, Friend.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re: Illegal interference with a business model

        LOL - that would worth going to the trial just to witness the absolute silliness the court system contorts its self into just to please those with wealth and power.

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

  • identicon
    DUSTY, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:32pm

    Bogus Arrest?

    He violated the law.

    The article implies the "sting" was for revenue generation
    Very bias. It was for Traffic Safety. Distracted driving is involved in a lot of collisions and has gotten more prevalent with the widespread availability of cell phones. The job of a driver is to drive. Be alert to the conditions on the road and maintain control of the vehicle.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:38pm

      Re: Bogus Arrest?

      Well copsucker, you tried. Next time try inserting a finger into the police rectum.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:40pm

      Re: Bogus Arrest?

      Actually with the big sign ahead of the cops, the guy was helping prove that any driver they caught after his sign was really driving distracted;)

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:40pm

      Re: Bogus Arrest?

      The article implies the "sting" was for revenue generation

      DUSTY, thanks for commenting! However, you apparently are commenting on a different article than the one at the top of the page, because it explicitly states several times that the cops said Mr. Friend was interfering with their revenue stream. In fact, they were pulling OT to secure a federal grant - to pay for OT.

      Safety? I've heard of that.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:41pm

      Two things.

      1. Biased is an adjective; bias is not. Learn you some grammar, son.

      2. The sting was set up by the admission of the officer being sued (as was pointed out in the article) as “an overtime assignment, funded by a federal grant which would require the Stamford police to issue a certain number of tickets in order for the grant to be renewed”. While the sting may have had a secondary objective in making the roads safer for all drivers, the primary intent of the sting was to reach a quota for ticketing distracted drivers so the cops could ensure the renewal of an income stream.

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

    • identicon
      Christenson, 31 Oct 2018 @ 7:09pm

      Re: Bogus Arrest?

      I'd be curious to have you cite chapter and verse of the law being violated, or even a reasonable common law basis with a case citation.

      The prosecutor himself said "This man helped make people obey the law". Obeying the law is what the police are supposed to make happen.

      And, if we hunt through Techdirt files, I am pretty sure that this exact same scenario has been adjudicated before...except it was a speed trap, not a distracted driving trap, and I think it was in California and daytime instead of nighttime. That time, the court concluded that warning people of the presence of a cop and causing them to pay careful attention to the speed limit was well within the first amendment and no crime.

      So hopefully this is clearly established law that destroys the qualified immunity here. Failure to be aware of the law *should* be expensive for the individual cop.

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

  • identicon
    bshock, 31 Oct 2018 @ 8:46pm

    While I would never commit nor advocate violence against anyone, I certainly contemplate it every time I see someone looking at his or her phone while behind the wheel of an automobile.

    I have absolutely no objection to police officers ticketing individuals who have been screwing with their phones while driving. I wish they'd do it more often. I wish there were a police agency to which I could submit dashcam videos of people committing this insanely dangerous, irresponsible act.

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

    • identicon
      Christenson, 31 Oct 2018 @ 9:18pm

      Re:

      Get the non-emergency number for your 911 center programmed into your phone, and use it. Be prepared to give your name. Tell your friends to do the same.

      But remember that trolling is also a thing...there's that (in)famous blogger or my favorite horrible neighbor again, so can I make him miserable today with a false report???

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

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      I drive an unmarked official car. Looks like a normal black Ford Explorer but has hidden grill and window lights and a siren.

      One of the ways I entertain myself on my commute is to watch for people on their cell phones while stopped at intersections and if they don't put them down when the light turns green, I bloop the siren and lights and point at them. It's hilarious watching their panicked reactions as they drop their phones like a hot potato.

      Unfortunately I don't have jurisdiction to enforce the state traffic code, so I can't pull them over and cite them or anything. Still, they don't know that and it teaches them a lesson that you never know who is watching when you're committing your crime.

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

  • identicon
    Charles, 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:10am

    Why do so many of these things sound like people with too much time on their hands?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:57am

    Creating all the wrong incentives

    On the ride to the police station, [Officer] Deems told Mr. Friend that he attracted police attention because he was “interfering with our livelihood.

    Deems explained to Mr. Friend that the cellphone sting was operated as an overtime assignment, funded by a federal grant which would require the Stamford police to issue a certain number of tickets in order for the grant to be renewed.

    By warning motorists, Deems claimed, Mr. Friend was decreasing the number of tickets that the Stamford employees could issue, and therefore decreasing their chances of earning overtime on a cellphone sting grant in the future.

    Ignoring for a moment the multiple constitutional violations involved here what really stuck out for me was the admission that the grant required them to issue a certain number of tickets, such that they had a financial incentive to create stings like described. A person telling people not to be distracted on the road should in no way be considered a problem by the police as they should want more attentive drivers, yet in this case they want the exact opposite in that the more distracted drivers the better(for them).

    That grant, and any like it, needs to be killed, and the sooner the better. For what should be very obvious reasons police should never be put in a position where the more crime(or 'crime') there is the better off they are.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:09pm

      Perverse incentives.

      What Deems essentially explained to Friend was that it was a racket.

      Fine are elevated to create an incentive for behavior that avoids the fine. A fine that cannot be evaded is a tax or a toll, the pricing for which is entirely different.

      This is the end result of fines being used as revenue enhancement. It creates a perverse incentive to regard the fine as a toll. It's a confidence scam.

      The fact that this is being endorsed by administrators suggests that fines have been used this way for too long, and they're comfortable with it. Fines need to go to funds that have no power regarding enforcement, and kickbacks need to be regarded as highly illegal.

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

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:15pm

        Re: Perverse incentives.

        > A fine that cannot be evaded is a tax or a toll

        Ummm... you can avoid this fine easily enough by not futzing around on your phone while driving.

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

  • icon
    Flakbait (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 3:06am

    Ineffective sign

    If the drivers are truly distracted then that sign would be worthless BECAUSE THE DISTRACTED DRIVERS WOULDN'T SEE IT.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 6:02am

    candid camera for cops

    Mr. Friend must be white, cause you know if he were black, he would'a been shot for:
    not handing over the 1st sign
    not handing over the 2nd sign
    not handing over the 1st phone
    not handing over the 2nd phone
    having his bail reduced and/or removed
    etc...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:34am

    So, if a guy is standing out there with a "cops ahead" sign, why not just leave him there and move across town? Twice the enforcement with none of the lawsuit risk!

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

  • identicon
    similar story for bike lights, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:50am

    In my town when it starts to get dark early the cops sit on a bridge from the campus to town and hand out fines for cycling without lights.
    Student unions will then set up a couple hundred meters before that and hand out flyers for their events with free bike lights.
    Never heard about it being a problem, after all, it gets the job done of getting people to put on lights.

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

  • identicon
    Dawn Carey, 1 Nov 2018 @ 8:25am

    Bogus arrest

    Some cops are bullies, not there to protect but to hold themselves above the law (I AM THE LAW). Look at detective Jeff Payne of Utah, who bullied then arrested a nurse for doing her job. Quite a lot of money was spent in reparations, and Payne may still be prosecuted by the FBI. Cop abuse doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it is egregious. I hope this guy was fired.

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

  • identicon
    Bryan K. Porter, 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:22am

    The real problem

    No one seems to have addressed why our government is sticking their nose in this in the first place by funding these sting operations be it speed, or what ever? The police sometimes are just doing their job. This officer went way out of control like too many do too often, but even so, We need to stop the government from funding this sort of bull shit. I agree people on cellphones while driving is a hazard and it is stupid, but to fund the police to work over time just to do a sting like this is stupid. Instead the laws are already passed that it is illegal, and educational advertising is being presented on TV and other places. That is enough. If your stupid enough to get caught legitimately you deserve what you get. But this idea of now a days using unmarked cars for speed control, and this stuff is total BS. Fair is fair but they are not playing fair, and why do we need so many damn police forces too? Hell in my town alone we have three hospitals, a University, a Railroad, and city police plus the Sheriff and highway patrol. Seriously? All of the have rights to arrest, carry guns, etc. This is too much.

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

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 2:20pm

      Re: The real problem

      > No one seems to have addressed why our government is
      > sticking their nose in this in the first place by funding
      > these sting operations be it speed, or what ever?

      I agree. Traffic enforcement is a state and local concern. The federal government has no business butting into it, even if only in the form of a grant.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    RE Ality, 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:55pm

    But it's not a "sting", only observing.

    Minion is simply using a loaded word implying some effort to entrap. ALL that was done was OBSERVING.

    This minion is always anti-police. -- NO, that doesn't justify the actions, it's separate, just pointing out blatant bias in falsified title.

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 1:38pm

    In the early 2000’s, Mayes county, OK gained a bad rep because the county police would ticket you the maximum fine allowed for even the slightest traffic violation. A county resident who lived near the southern border of Mayes county and owned property adjacent to Highway 69 posted a billboard warning drivers of the county’s treatment of traffic violators. I used to travel along 69 through Mayes county a few times per year to visit family in Joplin, MO. Last time I drove through the area was in 2005. It was still up. I do not know what the status is now nor do I know if any legal battle broke out over it.

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

  • identicon
    Russel A Helmers, 4 Nov 2018 @ 5:14pm

    Bail

    Well in all my life I've never heard of an Officer setting bail. Seems to me someone writing this article has a personal thing against the Officer and is just running his mouth. I call this whole article B.S.

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

  • icon
    jaack65 (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 7:01am

    Police Feel They Are Above the LAW

    Americans are have become so frightened of "crime" they have given police unprecedented powers or the police believe they HAVE such power. Police threaten citizens with arrest, illegally arrest citizens, seize their property, cameras, cell phones, etc. while legally recording police activity. Citizens are exercising their Constitutionally protected rights, but police have little concern for the rights of civilians. Without effective oversight other than the court action by the public against illegal police activity and abuse of power, this illegal activity will continue unchecked and citizens have little recourse from prosecuting attornies or judges.

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


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