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Seattle Hacker Catches Cops Who Hid Arrest Tapes 597

Posted by timothy
from the spd-getting-hit-from-all-sides dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In 2008, the Seattle Police illegally arrested security consultant Eric Rachner for refusing to show ID. After Rachner filed a formal complaint, he was prosecuted for obstructing, and the police claimed that videos of the arrest were unavailable — until Rachner's research uncovered proof that the police had the videos all along." It's an interesting story of how he figured out how the system in use by Seattle police automatically tracks deletion, copying, or other uses of the recorded stream.
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Seattle Hacker Catches Cops Who Hid Arrest Tapes

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  • by Enderandrew (866215) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [werdnaredne]> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:52PM (#31945594) Homepage Journal

    Shouldn't the officers in this case be charged with obstruction of justice?

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:58PM (#31945692) Journal

      And falsifying police document. Perhaps perjury as well, if the cops told this to a judge. This is one of those times when "making an example" is the right answer. Otherwise, wtf should we trust the police?

    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:03PM (#31945760)

      So they can be sentenced to one month's vacation (with pay)?

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#31945790) Journal
      No. They should be charged with making a false arrest. They should be suspended without pay until the trial is resolved, and someone should make sure they aren't put on the PBA payroll during that time. If they are found guilty, they should be fired. Not suspended, fired.

      The individuals in the police department that refused to release the video of the arrest -- on false pretenses, by the way -- should also be fired.

      Finally, the head of the police department in question should be fired.

      Cops who abuse their authority are despicable.
      • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:23PM (#31946868) Journal

        Not suspended, fired.

        Imprisoned. And fired.

        No-one else who breaks the law in the course of their employment gets away with just losing their job.

    • by Yold (473518) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#31945796)

      They are police... so yes they should be charged... but I'm sure that "an internal review concluded that no police policies were violated".

      This shit happens every day. NYPD stole hundreds of bicycles today [thisisfyf.com], this innocent teenager was arrested for "resisting arrest" [carlosmiller.com] after being mistaken for a burglar, and of course this is what happens [carlosmiller.com] when you videotape the police. We live in a police state, plain and simple.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cl1mh4224rd (265427)

        We live in a police state [...]

        No, we don't. Contrary to popular opinion, a handful of police precincts engaging in douchebaggery because they're drunk on power does not constitute a police state...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Perhaps a better way to state it is that we are careening toward a police state. A greater percentage of our population is in prison now than 100 years ago, and it is becoming harder and harder to be a law abiding citizen. More and more activities are not only being made illegal, but being declared criminal (in the legal sense).

          The result seems pretty obvious: the police will be able to legally arrest and imprison anyone, even people who are not doing any harm to anyone at all (even themselves).
        • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:37PM (#31947104)
          No, we don't.

          Yes, we do. Anyone can be arrested for any reason. If there is no reason, they they are arrested for resisting arrest or obstruction of justice. All it takes for a resisting arrest charge is to give two conflicting orders, then arrest them when they ask for clarification or don't do both within 5 seconds.

          That people aren't arrested on a regular basis for no reason doesn't mean that any one person could be arrested for any invented reason at any time, and would likely end up convicted.

          For us to not be in a police state, we must require video for a conviction (shouldn't be hard since all cop cars have them now, and putting them on cops themselves would be trivial, though not cheap), and "resisting arrest" and "obstruction" would require that someone be convicted of a felony that was resisted or obstructed before the additional charges could be made. When "resisting arrest" is the only charge, it's absurd. They can't arrest you for resisting arrest because they didn't arrest you before you resisted, and if they didn't charge you with anything else, then they weren't arresting you at all when you resisted. Yet it's getting more common for any belligerent person to get arrested (and convicted) of resisting arrest when no arrest was being made.

          We are in a real police state now. The douchebaggery isn't isolated, it's systemic and pervasive. Almost all cops believe that "contempt of cop" is an arrestable offense, and the law lets them make up charges. Just because the rate of unjustified arrests, charges, and convictions is low doesn't mean that it isn't a system wide problem that could become worse at any time.
    • by joocemann (1273720) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:42PM (#31946242)

      And conspiracy. And fraud. And assault/threat.

      The worst thing is that the taxpayer will pay for this while the cop gets off. The whole system is messed up because the police are not required to be champions of the law -- they are taught to make assumptions and are trained with perpetuated illegal methods by their peers of the same creed.

  • PAPERS PLEASE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Concern (819622) * on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:52PM (#31945602) Journal

    The dream of cops, reactionaries, xenophobes, and fascist thugs everywhere...

    What are the odds those cops got one of the few people left in their city who know their rights and have the means to defend them.

  • A few bad apples (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigHungryJoe (737554) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:57PM (#31945670) Homepage

    A few bad apples making the other 1% look bad...

    seriously, why do cops always circle the wagons to protect dishonest cops?

    • by JDeane (1402533) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:01PM (#31945740) Journal

      Not quite sure to be honest, it seems like they would be the first ones to want the slime off the force.

      I mean if you can't trust the guy to be honest and fair out on the streets, do I really want this dude "serving and protecting" my community where I live?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Culture20 (968837)
        Tribalism. Us vs. them. If you bring down a dirty cop, you'll be viewed like the member of the family that killed their abusive father in self defense; most will think better of it, but some - even a subset of the prior group - will be wary of you and might not trust you completely any more. In tribal warfare, trust is life and death.
    • Re:A few bad apples (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:17PM (#31945946)

      A few bad apples making the other 1% look bad...

      I really wish I thought it was a ratio of 99% to 1%, but the lines are certainly not clear cut. I know quite a few cops. My brother used to be a cop. The profession attracts people with particular mindsets; the fearful, sadists, people with too much testosterone, people who are emotionally underdeveloped and who have seen too many action movies. When you're talking to 5 cops and 3 of them tell you the reason they went into police work was because they wanted to shoot someone without going to jail, well you've got to figure something.

      ...seriously, why do cops always circle the wagons to protect dishonest cops?

      I don't know any cops who don't break the law regularly. The attitude I've witnessed seems to be that they are above the law, at least to some extent. Since they all break the law they all worry some citizen will get them fired because of it, so they can all sympathize when one of them is accused. They try to cover one another's backs and give one another the benefit of the doubt instead of objectively looking into it.

      If there were a culture of discipline and more strict adherence to the law than is the norm, things might be different. That's not how cops are hired in our society though or how they are taught in their on the job training. I'd love to meet a cop who refused to speed when not necessary for the job because of the principal of upholding the law, but I suspect such individuals make up less than 1% of cops, rather than 99%.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138)

      In this case, the dishonest part was "we don't have the videos." Which probably either equates to "Look, your case is over. I'm busy trying to save people. Go away." or "Frank in acquisitions said George in IT sent Lucy from internal to Gary in servers to get the tape you were looking for, and they said they don't have VHS tapes anymore. I don't know what VHS means, but we don't have it." Neither of these are particularly good reasons, but painting it as a conspiracy to protect these police officers f

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snspdaarf (1314399)
      Seriously? Because few people outside the profession really understand what it's like to be a cop, and what it does to an individual. Much like combat units, they come to believe the only one you can trust is the person wearing the same uniform as you. Nobody else can relate to their experiences. (That's why they don't write traffic tickets to other cop's family members. When the shit hits the fan, and you call for help on the radio, you don't want to chance that another officer is still pissed off at you a
      • Re:A few bad apples (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:27PM (#31946040)

        How is that different from being a gangster...?

      • by Jaime2 (824950) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @08:32PM (#31948710)
        You make it sound like they are fighting a life and death battle every day. Police officer doesn't even rank in the top ten most dangerous professions. The whole "I have to treat them well because they might have my back someday" concept almost never happens. My friend's wife is a rookie cop only two months in, primarily working traffic duty, and has the attitude already. They teach it in the freakin' police academy. She certainly doesn't yet live in a world any different than I do other than the fact that she can screw with people with impunity.

        Professions that you are more at risk of dying:
        Logger
        Fisherman
        Pilot
        Iron worker
        Garbage Collector
        Farmer
        Roofer
        Elecrician
        Truck Driver
        Taxi Driver

        A cop is most likely to die on duty in a common traffic accident. Not pursuing a suspect, but just driving around. They don't write tickets to other cops or families of other cops simply so that they won't get tickets themselves. It is 100% pure abuse of power. The story made up to defend it is only to not appear like jerks and to get chicks.
    • Re:A few bad apples (Score:5, Interesting)

      by waspleg (316038) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:21PM (#31945988) Journal

      because they're hated by a large majority of the population ... until they're needed. both sides are right, who hasn't seen a cop, not in uniform, flip their lights on to run a red light (and no they weren't going to an under cover investigation)? i know i have. i've been repeatedly harassed by police for how i was dressed, both as a kid and as an adult, and done experiments along these lines. clean cut, white, and in jeans and a tshirt? no problem. put on a trenchcoat and grow a beard? you're a criminal, i've even been stopped and questioned by police i knew and worked with. i work with police regularly and have for a long time.

      i've received parking citations for my car facing the wrong way from a cop who lived in my neighborhood and who i had pictures of his cop car parked the same as i did, facing the wrong way for the lane he was in. i have worked 3rd shift hotels and dealt with racist security teams who were also off duty cops, most of them extremely corrupt and definitely only wearing a badge for power and the 'respect' it garners them (fear would be a better word), and i did see some women want to fuck them solely because of this too.

      there are also a LOT of dishonest cops who abuse their power. many (most?) of them are little more than state sanctioned and funded gang members. not all but enough to notice. i forget the exact quote but a friend once said there are two kinds, the corrupt power hungry kind who mostly got picked on in school, and the superman wannabe kind who thinks they're the moral police and are totally smug about their decisions, i have seen the latter even disgusted by other police they worked with and said so but, no they would NEVER under any circumstances turn each other in; it's more of a talk behind their back or pat them on the shoulder and ask them to stop kind of thing. both are dangerous, both abuse power, some more than others.

      generally if you are polite, so are they, sometimes they're good to have around but they're pretty much always like restless invading armies, if they don't have something else to do they will turn on you very *very* quickly. maybe YMMV, i live in the midwest and have lived in the city most of my life and my experiences have been consistent with police for more than 14 years.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:25PM (#31946018)

      Look at the Hans Reiser case, or the Terry Childs case. On Slashdot we see tons of support for them, claiming they couldn't have done it, are being railroaded, etc, etc. They get consideration that people in other professions don't. A circling of the wagons.

      It seems to be human nature.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikael_j (106439)

        Actually, with the Reiser case a lot of people on slashdot and other places weren't rooting for him, most "pro-Reiser" comments seemed to be of the "I suppose it's possible that he's innocent because... ...and I sure hope that's the case" variety.

        And this is hardly the Reiser case, this guy was innocent, the police lied about the footage and audio recordings, Reiser murdered his wife and eventually confessed.

        As for the Terry Childs case, that's a pretty infected issue that's hardly over yet. My personal imp

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeng (926980)

      When criminal after criminal accuses you of brutality/rape/robbery/false arrest I can see why cops may defend each other.

      I believe its a "crying wolf" issue mainly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cowscows (103644)

        Fair enough, but here's a good instance where technology could help solve this problem if applied correctly and honestly. The dashboard cameras that most cops have in their cars is a great start. But that's not taking it far enough. Ideally, the police are on the side of justice, and real justice requires truth. While on duty, police should use easily available technology to record everything they do. They should carry cameras as much as possible, they should all carry microphones that record everything whe

    • by jDeepbeep (913892) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:33PM (#31946130)

      A few bad apples making the other 1% look bad...

      seriously, why do cops always circle the wagons to protect dishonest cops?

      Just for the record, any cop who protects dishonest cops, is also dishonest.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#31945800)

    The department responded: "These recordings are both past our retention period and can no longer be obtained. Please note that the majority of 911 calls and videos are retained for a period of ninety (90) days."

    "They just flat out said they didn't have it," said Rachner.

    Actually, that's not what they said. They said they can no longer be obtained. They didn't say they were destroyed. They didn't say *who* could no longer obtain them. Are they saying "You can't obtain them" (because it's past 90 days and that's our policy) or "We can't obtain them"? (because they were destroyed). The language is intentionally unclear. They *implied* that the recordings had been destroyed, and that the police themselves could no longer obtain them, but that's not what they actually said.

    Either way, this is a good lesson for those /.ers who maintain that you don't have to show a cop your ID in the U.S. when asked (that you don't need "papers" in the U.S.). That may *technically* be true, but it can still cost you a weekend in jail and a $3500 legal bill if you actually pull that shit with a real cop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SpottedKuh (855161)

      They said they can no longer be obtained. They didn't say they were destroyed.

      To play devil's advocate: how many people have called customer service somewhere to try to request something or get something done, only to be told that it can't be done (despite you knowing that it can be)? The letter he got back stating that it was past the 90-day retention period was probably sent by some drone at a desk, doing what happens every time I'm on the phone with customer service anywhere. Yes, it's possible that th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SpottedKuh (855161)

        But, like the parent said: if you want to be a drunk who revels in causing problems for the police while they're trying to do their job (problems that you have the constitutional right to cause, yes, but problems nonetheless), expect problems in return.

        Sorry to self-reply, but I want to expand on this statement. It should be noted that, in a number of states, the person wouldn't even have the right to refuse to present ID. Because of the 911 call and accusation of assault, the police officer's dealings wi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eldepeche (854916)

          What a great country we live in. Be seen in a group with people doing something goofy while drunk, know your rights, and expect legal hassles, including the police department lying to you about the availability of exculpatory evidence and the case being dropped after thousands of dollars in legal fees. U-S-A! U-S-A!

          Thank fuck for the ACLU and its state and local counterparts. Your mindset is far too prevalent today.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      From A Child's Garden of Grass

      "Your paperss pleass!!"

      "Uh, I only got a pipe, man."

      "Zen you'll haff to com vit me!"

  • Suprise, surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by straponego (521991) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:07PM (#31945812)
    ANY time the cops, spooks, politicians, corporations-- anybody, really-- claims to have "lost" the evidence, they are lying or they deliberately destroyed it. Like when the CIA, at the behest of Bush, just happened to lose hundreds of torture tapes after they'd been ordered by a court to preserve them. Like they did with much of the Abu Ghraib evidence.

    Police in particular can NOT be trusted to police themselves. The few honest cops are often threatened by the rest. Rat on us and good luck when you call for backup...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:04PM (#31946602)

    Have any of you posting listened to the audio? Especially the ones claiming they were a group of 'drunken douchebags'?

    If you listen to the audio you'll notice that nobody was loud, obnoxious or incredibly rude. Eric sounds a bit curt, but he's defending his rights against an office who clearly is uniformed of the laws or has gotten too used to getting his way because he is a police office.

    But honestly, I don't fault the officer either. He was as polite as can be expected and I believe he thought that he was in the right.

    The this should have gone down, Eric gets arrested, police realize "Oh crap, you shouldn't have done that." Eric gets compensated for his attorney fees, the police officer gets sent to additional training and a memo is written to the rest of the department reminding them of how the laws ACTUALLY WORK.

    That would have been justice, but we live in a society where everyone is out for blood for the most minor injustices and neither side is willing to say "oops, we screwed up."

    Everything that happened afterward could have been avoided by simply saying "we were wrong, we're sorry" and then providing the necessary training to the police force so that they understand that citizens DO have the right to refuse to identify themselves.

  • Not in Washington (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mantrid42 (972953) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:11PM (#31946720)
    Refusing to show ID is not illegal as Washington does not have a Stop and Identify statute: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_and_identify [wikipedia.org]
  • Just a note (Score:5, Informative)

    by Effugas (2378) * on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:20AM (#31952290) Homepage

    OK, I was actually there. Not, "I heard this from a guy." I mean, I'm Dan Kaminsky, who's named in the article.

    This was kind of a silly situation. One of the guys in our group hit the ball and it sort of sailed into this guy's face. It's a styrofoam ball, the maximum speed of those things is maybe ten miles an hour. It's actually slower than a Nerf ball.

    Anyway, the guy who actually hit the thing was sort of an awkward nerd, and laughed about it nervously. You know in the article when the guy's like, it was just one guy? That's because it was just him. There was certainly no mob taunting.

    Really, this was a bunch of nerds and burners. There was no damage going on, just general silliness and large scale commerce with institutions that were each contacted in advance and specially staffed to seat all of us. I don't think it'll happen again, and that's sort of sad. Urban golf was a lot of fun for everyone.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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