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Going Through the Garbage 730

frankejames writes "This is a very funny piece on how Portland politicians said it was okay for police to seize a citizen's garbage without a search warrant. But when some reporters swiped their garbage (and reported the contents!) they screamed foul play! Read Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs."
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Going Through the Garbage

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  • Good Lord! (Score:4, Funny)

    by tempest303 ( 259600 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <nostunksnej>> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990748) Homepage
    Only 4 troll posts so far, and already their webserver has melted!

    Are they being hosted by that "webserver-on-a-gameboy" guy, or what?
  • Anthro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andyrut ( 300890 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990750) Homepage Journal
    There's a whole division of physical anthropology dedicated to the study of people's garbage. Basically, a scientist goes door to door and asks people questions about their consumer habits (how many beers do you drink a week?). Later, they go dumpster diving to verify the survey questions.

    The lying on these surveys is astounding.
    • Re:Anthro (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LordNimon ( 85072 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:55PM (#4990784)
      It's also pointless. I could buy a case of beer to drink over the next three months, and only when I'm done will I throw the case out. I could claim that I drink only one beer a week, but if you happen to search my garbage the week I throw out my case, you'd think I was an alcoholic.

      I could also host a party for people who drink, even though I don't.

      Yes, these are just examples, but they illustrate that the survey technique is fundamentally flawed.

      • Re:Anthro (Score:5, Interesting)

        by marcelmouse ( 74690 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:39PM (#4991068)
        As a social anthropologist and veteran Portland dumpster-diver, I'm going to have to take issue with this. It would be relatively easy to design a study (this isn't actually an experiment, of course) to take this into account.

        "When someone in your house reads a porno mag, does s/he toss it when it's soiled, or keep it?"

        "... no one in this house reads pornos."

        Next garbage day, I find that my informants not only toss the pornos, but toss them when they appear to be unsoiled! Not that I investigate too closely, mind you...

        THis is a fictional account of how one might design a simple study that 1) wasn't full of sh1t, and 2) reveals some truths about the consumption patterns of the house in question. It's all about how you ask; good questions are hard to think up, and that's more than 90% of good anthropology.

        Now, using dumpster diving to make a point about inconsistent standards in privacy, that doesn't require any good study design standards at all. Moral inconsistencies are really easy to reveal, and even clueless laymen (read: willie week reporters) can pull it off without a sweat.

        However, don't write off the truths that can be found in the garbage just because not *every* study that involves trash is done with rigor - good design goes a lot further than nifty jscript menus.

        (no, anthro isn't a science. just wanted to get that out of the way. of course, that doesn't mean that it can't establish truths in a rigorous manner...)
    • >The lying on these surveys is astounding.

      really? I've always thought that telling the truth
      on those surveys was a bit odd. I mean, what's my
      incentive for giving true answers?

  • by dagg ( 153577 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990754) Journal
    Ok. So I need to delete all of the data on my hard drive at least 7 times before it is *really* deleted, and now I need to pulverize all real life garbage just to make sure the cops (or reporters, or neighbors) don't use it as evidence? Jeesh.
  • hypocrites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by juan2074 ( 312848 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990759)
    Surprise! Government officials are hypocritical.

    How often do they consider how it would feel if these laws were applied to them?

    Will the government officials who enacted the USA PATRIOT act ever have to really be subjected to the same things they allowed to be done to us?

    • Re:hypocrites (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Saeger ( 456549 ) <farrellj AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:30PM (#4991009) Homepage
      Beaurocrats often think themselves above the law because they're obviously the "good guys", and in order to do their job they shouldn't be subject to the same inconveniences. It's only the rest of us potential-terrorist peons who should have to prove our innocence by showing we have nothing to hide.

      People despise one-way mirrors for perfectly valid reasons, and I hope the magnifying glass stays focused on those behind it until it's replaced with transparent glass, or brick. (ick... this analogy needs work :)


  • If you... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by craenor ( 623901 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:52PM (#4990760) Homepage
    Really cared about the security of your garbage, you wouldn't set it on the curb so a guy who makes $7.50 an hour can come by and take it with him.
    • Re:If you... (Score:5, Informative)

      by pavera ( 320634 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:53PM (#4990771) Homepage Journal
      Garbage men get paid a heck of alot more than that,
      they actually make like 25-30/hour, at least in Nevada they do.
      • NYC (Score:3, Informative)

        by MacAndrew ( 463832 )
        Until a moment ago I *thought* NYC sanitation workers were well paid. It's a difficult job and a fairly expensive place to live. Not so -- $30-48k [].
      • Re:If you... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dimwit ( 36756 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:38PM (#4991053)
        Which, incidentially, is about 7 - 10 more than the average pay of Texas schoolteachers.

        Not to disparage the work of sanitation engineers, but I think teachers should make at least as much...
        • Collecting garbage is one of the most hazardous jobs on earth. Heavy machinery, sharps, biological and chemical hazards, exhausting hours... doesn't matter if it takes brains or not, if you want people to work an unpleasant, essential and extremely dangerous job, you need to pay them well.
  • Small Difference (Score:2, Insightful)

    Yes... but there's a difference between police swiping your garbage and news reporters swiping your garbage and then publicly reporting it.
    • by Cyclometh ( 629276 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:57PM (#4990789)

      Yeah. The difference being that the police doing it violates the 4th Amendment to the Constitution if they did it without a search warrant, while the reporters may have violated your right to privacy.

      Go ahead, ask me which one I think is worse...

      And then think about which one you might have more redress for.

      • Amendment 4 says, and I quote (well, blockquote actually)
        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
        Lets see, this protects from searching your body, your house and things you own. I don't see things you have thrown away included in here? So, no warrant needed for the garbage bag.

        I believe that courts have routinely ruled that once you put your garbage on the street, it isn't yours anymore. IMHO, anybody -- cops, reporters, garbage collects, dumpster divers -- are be free to go through it. I might not like it, but I threw it out. It ain't mine no more.
        • believe that courts have routinely ruled that once you put your garbage on the street, it isn't yours anymore. IMHO, anybody -- cops, reporters, garbage collects, dumpster divers -- are be free to go through it. I might not like it, but I threw it out. It ain't mine no more.

          You may be correct about what the courts have ruled (I don't know if there's clear case law or precedent set) but that does not mean that the police can use a search of your trash to compile evidence against you. Law enforcement is and must be held to a higher standard; searches of your garbage by police seeking evidence of a crime, is, in my opinion, tantamount to a search of your effects, and should be protected under the 4th Amendment.

          And as I stated above, the 4th Amendment does not only apply to things you own yourself. Rented houses, leased cars, and other items you don't own are protected from search by government officials- why not your trash?

  • 2600 Mag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wilburdg ( 178573 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:55PM (#4990777)
    Last issue of 2600 magazine had a four page article dedicated to the art of dumpster diving. Best advice: Bring a bunch of empty boxes in your car, that way, you can tell a police officer that you are helping a friend move, and your just looking for more empty boxes.
    • Re:2600 Mag (Score:3, Interesting)

      by antis0c ( 133550 )
      Bulk pickup day is also a good day to go diving. I scored a number of usable monitors that can do 800x600 SVGA. I still use one of them to switch between my little server farm in my computer room.

      Also, it doesn't hurt to say you are a college student looking for hardware to practice on. I got a guy to go back in his house and give me to stuff he wasn't planning on trashing.
    • didn't we decide that dumpster diving is perfectly legal? you should be able to tell the cop you were just looking for good trash.

      I live in a city and behind my building is a dumpster that gets picked through by at least 10 homeless people every day (sad but true). I have never seen a cop hassle any of them over it.

      A while ago there was a citizens group that tried to get a ban enforced claiming that some of these people are identity thieves looking for personal information with which to get credit cards, etc...
      they didn't get it though...
  • This should be a clue to all pointdexter bashers out there....
  • text from site (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shuck ( 218188 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:58PM (#4990799) Homepage
    Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs.


    Web-only content:
    Vera Katz's press release
    Stories that have appeared in other media
    The Oregonian

    It's past midnight. Over the whump of the wipers and the screech of the fan belt, we lurch through the side streets of Southeast Portland in a battered white van, double-checking our toolkit: flashlight, binoculars, duct tape, scissors, watch caps, rawhide gloves, vinyl gloves, latex gloves, trash bags, 30-gallon can, tarpaulins, Sharpie, notebook--notebook?

    Well, yes. Technically, this is a journalistic exercise--at least, that's what we keep telling ourselves. We're upholding our sacred trust as representatives of the Fourth Estate. Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable. Pushing the reportorial envelope--by liberating the trash of Portland's top brass.

    We didn't dream up this idea on our own. We got our inspiration from the Portland police.

    Back in March, the police swiped the trash of fellow officer Gina Hoesly. They didn't ask permission. They didn't ask for a search warrant. They just grabbed it. Their sordid haul, which included a bloody tampon, became the basis for drug charges against her (see "Gross Violation," below).

    The news left a lot of Portlanders--including us--scratching our heads. Aren't there rules about this sort of thing? Aren't citizens protected from unreasonable search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment?

    The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office doesn't think so. Prosecutor Mark McDonnell says that once you set your garbage out on the curb, it becomes public property.

    "She placed her garbage can out in the open, open to public view, in the public right of way," McDonnell told Judge Jean Kerr Maurer earlier this month. "There were no signs on the garbage, 'Do not open. Do not trespass.' There was every indication...she had relinquished her privacy, possessory interest."

    Police Chief Mark Kroeker echoed this reasoning. "Most judges have the opinion that [once] trash is put's trash, and abandoned in terms of privacy," he told WW.

    In fact, it turns out that police officers throughout Oregon have been rummaging through people's trash for more than three decades. Portland drug cops conduct "garbage pulls" once or twice per month, says narcotics Sgt. Eric Schober.

    On Dec. 10, Maurer rubbished this practice. Scrutinizing garbage, she declared, is an invasion of privacy: The police must obtain a search warrant before they swipe someone's trash.

    "Personal and business correspondence, photographs, personal financial information, political mail, items related to health concerns and sexual practices are all routinely found in garbage receptacles," Maurer wrote. The fact that a person has put these items out for pick-up, she said, "does not suggest an invitation to others to examine them."

    But local law enforcement officials pooh-poohed the judge's decision.

    "This particular very unique and very by-herself judge took a position not in concert with the other judges who had given us instruction by their decisions across the years," said Kroeker.

    The District Attorney's Office agreed and vowed to challenge the ruling.

    The question of whether your trash is private might seem academic. It's not. Your garbage can is like a trap door that opens on to your most intimate secrets; what you toss away is, in many ways, just as revealing as what you keep.

    And your garbage can is just one of the many places where your privacy is being pilfered. In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government has granted itself far-reaching new powers to spy on you, from email to bank statements to video cameras (see "Big Brother's in Your Trash Can," below).

    After much debate, we resolved to turn the tables on three of our esteemed public officials. We embarked on an unauthorized sightseeing tour of their garbage, to make a point about how invasive a "garbage pull" really is--and to highlight the government's ongoing erosion of people's privacy.

    We chose District Attorney Mike Schrunk because his office is the most vocal defender of the proposition that your garbage is up for grabs. We chose Police Chief Mark Kroeker because he runs the bureau. And we chose Mayor Vera Katz because, as police commissioner, she gives the chief his marching orders.

    Each, in his or her own way, has endorsed the notion that you abandon your privacy when you set your trash out on the curb. So we figured they wouldn't mind too much if we took a peek at theirs.

    Boy, were we wrong.

    Perched in his office on the 15th floor of the Justice Center, Chief Kroeker seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea of trash as public property.

    "Things inside your house are to be guarded," he told WW. "Those that are in the trash are open for trash men and pickers and--and police. And so it's not a matter of privacy anymore."

    Then we spread some highlights from our haul on the table in front of him.

    "This is very cheap," he blurted out, frowning as we pointed out a receipt with his credit-card number, a summary of his wife's investments, an email prepping the mayor about his job application to be police chief of Los Angeles, a well-chewed cigar stub, and a handwritten note scribbled in pencil on a napkin, so personal it made us cringe. We also drew his attention to a newsletter from the conservative political advocacy group Focus on the Family, addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. Mark Kroeker."

    "Are you a member of Focus on the Family?" we asked.

    "No," the chief replied.

    "Is your wife?"

    "You know," he said, with a Clint Eastwood gaze, "it's none of your business."

    As we explained our thinking, the chief, who is usually polite to a fault, cut us off in midsentence. "OK," he said, suddenly standing up, "we're done."

    Hours later, the chief issued a press release complaining that WW had gone through "my personal garbage at my home." KATU promptly took to the airwaves declaring, "Kroeker wants Willamette Week to stay out of his garbage."

    If the chief got overheated, the mayor went nuclear. When we confessed that we had swiped her recycling, she summoned us to her chambers.

    "She wants you to bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney," said her press secretary, Sarah Bott.

    Actually, we couldn't snatch Katz's garbage, because she keeps it right next to her house, well away from the sidewalk. To avoid trespassing, we had to settle for a bin of recycling left out front.

    The day after our summons, Wednesday, Dec. 18, we trudged down to City Hall, stack of newsprint in hand. A gaggle of TV and radio reporters were waiting to greet us, tipped off by high-octane KXL motor-mouth Lars Larson.

    We filed into the mayor's private conference room. The atmosphere, chilly to begin with, turned arctic when the mayor marched in. She speared us each with a wounded glare, then hoisted the bin of newspaper and stalked out of the room--all without uttering a word.

    A few moments later, her office issued a prepared statement. "I consider Willamette Week's actions in this matter to be potentially illegal and absolutely unscrupulous and reprehensible," it read. "I will consider all my legal options in response to their actions."

    In contrast, DA Mike Schrunk was almost playful when we owned up to nosing through his kitchen scraps. "Do I have to pay for this week's garbage collection?" he joked.

    We told Schrunk that we intended to report that his garbage contained mementos of his military service. "Don't burn me on that," he implored. "The Marine Corps will shoot me!"

    It's worth emphasizing that our junkaeological dig unearthed no whiff of scandal. Based on their throwaways, the chief, the DA and the mayor are squeaky-clean, poop-scooping folks whose private lives are beyond reproach. They emerge from this escapade smelling like--well, coffee grounds.

    But if three moral, upstanding, public-spirited citizens were each chewing their nails about the secrets we might have stumbled on, how the hell should the rest of us be feeling?


    Decked out in watch caps and rubber gloves, we are kneeling in a freezing garage and cradling our first major discovery--a five-pound bag of dog poo.

    We set it down next to the rest of our haul from District Attorney Mike Schrunk's trash--the remains of Thanksgiving turkey, the mounting stack of his granddaughter's diapers, the bag of dryer lint, the tub of Skippy peanut butter, and the shredded bag of peanut M&Ms.

    There is something about poking through someone else's garbage that makes you feel dirty, and it's not just the stench and the flies. Scrap by scrap, we are reverse-engineering a grimy portrait of another human being, reconstituting an identity from his discards, probing into stuff that is absolutely, positively none of our damn business.

    It's one thing to revel in the hallowed tradition of muckraking. It's another to get down on your hands and knees and nose through wads of someone else's Kleenex. Is this why our parents sent us to college? So we could paw through orange peels and ice-cream tubs and half-eaten loaves of bread?

    And yet, there is also something seductive, almost intoxicating, about being a Dumpster detective. For example, we spot a clothing tag marked "44/Regular." Then we find half of a torn receipt from Meier & Frank for $262.99. Then we find the other half, which reads: "MENS SU 3BTN." String it together, and we deduce that Schrunk plunked down $262.99 for a size-44 three-button suit at Meier & Frank on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 9:35 am.

    We are getting to know Portland's top prosecutor from the inside out. Here's an empty bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. There's a pile of castoff duds from his days as a Marine. Is he going "soft" on terrorism!?

    Chinese takeout boxes and junk-food wrappers testify to a busy lifestyle with little time to cook. A Post-it note even lays bare someone's arithmetic skills (the addition is solid, but the long division needs work).

    Our haul from Mayor Vera Katz is limited to a stack of newsprint from her recycling bin--her garbage can was well out of reach--but we assemble several clues to her intellectual leanings. We find overwhelming evidence that the Mayor reads The Oregonian, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, U.S. Mayor and the Portland Tribune.

    We also stumble across a copy of TV Click in which certain programs have been circled in municipal red. If we're not mistaken, the mayor has a special fondness for dog shows, figure skating and The West Wing.

    Our inspection of Chief Kroeker's refuse reveals that he is a scrupulous recycler. He is also a health nut. We find a staggering profusion of health-food containers: fat-free milk cartons, fat-free cereal boxes, cans of milk chocolate weight-loss shakes, cans of Swanson chicken broth ("99% fat free!"), water bottles, a cardboard box of protein bars, tubs of low-fat cottage cheese, a paper packet of oatmeal, and an article on "How to Live a Long Healthy Life."

    At the same time, we find evidence of rust in the chief's iron self-discipline: wrappers from See's chocolate bars, an unopened bag of Doritos, a dozen perfectly edible fun-size Nestle Crunch bars, three empty Coke cans.

    We unearth a crate that once contained 12 bottles of Cook's California sparkling wine, but find no trace of the bottles themselves. Is the chief building a pyramid of them on the mantelpiece? We stack the crate beside a pair of white children's socks, a broken pen, the stub of an Excalibur 1066 cigar, burnt toast, a freezer bag of date bars, orange peel, coffee grounds, a cork, an empty film canister (no weed--we checked), eggshells, Q tips, tissue paper and copious quantities of goo.

    We uncrumple a holiday flier from the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church, which contains a handwritten note: "Mark. Just want you to know one Latin from Manhattan Loves You."

    Invasion of privacy? This is a frontal assault, a D-Day, a Norman Conquest of privacy. We know the chief's credit-card number; we know where he buys his groceries; we know how much toilet tissue he goes through. We know whose Christmas cards he has pitched, whose wedding he skipped, whose photo he threw away. We know what newsletters he gets and how much he's socked away in the stock market. We even know he's thinking about a new car--and which models he's considering.

    By the time we tag the last item (a lonesome Christmas tree angel), our noses are running and our gloves are black with gunk. We scrub our hands when we get home. But we still feel dirty. --CL



    * Empty containers and wrappers: Kodiak Washington pears, Washington "extra fancy" fancy lady peaches, Oasis Floral Foam bricks ("Worth Insisting Upon") (2), Kashi Go Lean! cereal, Sunshine fat-free milk, Kirkland Signature weight-loss shake, fat-free Swanson Chicken Broth, mandarin oranges, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Arrowhead water bottle, Cook's California sparkling-wine box, fried apples, cheese rolls, Bounty paper towels 15-roll pack, Kirkland facial tissue, 12-pack Dove soap, Quaker oatmeal, See's candy bars, lady's razors, Dentyne Ice chewing gum, Vivant zesty vegetable crackers.

    * Hershey's Cookies n Crème mini-bars, uneaten (3).

    * Several Oregonian issues, still folded.

    * Email correspondence between chief and Mayor Katz's staff in which he preps them on what to tell Los Angeles officials regarding his application to be chief there.

    * Rough draft, internal police memo.

    * Various cash-register receipts.

    * Half-full bag of fun-size Nestle Crunch bars.

    * Slice of burnt toast.

    * Photocopy of WW Nov. 13 "Murmurs" item on chief, hand-dated in blue pen, reporting scuttlebutt that Katz has "taken over the day-to-day running of the Police Bureau."

    * Half-smoked stub of an Excalibur 1066 cigar.

    * Paper cups from Starbucks and Torrefazione.

    * Pears, lettuce, grapes, bread, eggshells, goo, potato salad, wire hangers, a 75 watt light bulb, orange peels, coffee grounds, wine cork, dish rag, film canister, used Q-Tips.

    * Half-eaten protein bar, still in wrapper.

    * Newsletter from Focus on the Family, a conservative political group. Insert, addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. Mark Kroeker." Insert asks for "one last year-end contribution."

    * Photos of chief and a bare-chested man moving a large appliance.

    * Creased wedding photo of a prominent Portlander.

    * Broken pen.

    * Three envelopes from California, hand-addressed, sent on consecutive days.

    * Notice from mortgage company for payment.

    * Internet printout of "How to Live a Long Healthy Life."

    * Postcard from friend vacationing in Arizona.

    * Post-it with notes about a new car.

    * Extremely personal note on dinner napkin, handwritten in pencil.

    * Account summary from Fidelity Investments for the chief's wife.


    * Trader Joe's "Happy Holidays" paper bag.

    * Several issues of The Oregonian.

    * Several issues of The Washington Post National Weekly Edition.

    * A copy of U.S. Mayor (a monthly magazine devoted to mayors).

    * A copy of TV Click. Someone has marked several programs in red, including Wargame: Iraq, Simulated National Security Council meetings, MSNBC; Everwood: Ephram tries to revive his mother's Thanksgiving traditions, KWBP; CSI Miami: A dead man is found hanging from a tree, KOIN; Life with Bonnie on KATU; The West Wing on KGW; The National Dog Show on KGW; Figure skating: ISU Cup of Russia, ESPN; Biography: "Audrey Hepburn, the Fairest Lady," A&E: Figure skating: ICE WARS: USA vs. The World, KOIN.

    * Several issues of the Portland Tribune.

    * Daily Journal of Commerce from Dec. 3, 2002.


    * Empty containers and wrappers: Cozy Fleece Baby Blanket, Bee Cleaners, Nibblets Corn and Butter, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Fred Meyer unflavored gelatin, Burger King beverage cup and straw, possible Chinese takeout (lots), Dreyer's Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream, Skippy peanut butter (creamy), Land's End, Fred Meyer green beans, Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder with 100-watt bulb inside, Meier & Frank, Jelly Belly jelly beans, Foster Farms boneless and skinless Oregon chicken thighs.

    * Coffee grounds.

    * Used pekoe tea bags, many.

    * Used Christmas napkins, used Kleenex, used Q-Tips.

    * Remains of Thanksgiving turkey carcass, drumstick intact.

    * Remnants of roast beef.

    * Soiled baby diapers.

    * Plastic bags containing dog poo, very clean, with some blades of grass (2).

    * Bag of dryer lint.

    * Christmas wrapping paper.

    * Orange peels, empty Millstone coffee bag, containing two very ripe but uneaten bananas, two half-eaten loaves of wheat bread.

    * Disposable razors.

    * Remnants of peanut M&Ms bag.

    * Energizer AA batteries (2), wrapped in plastic bag.

    * Shopping lists.

    * Baseball cap with crustacean emblem: "DON'T BOTHER ME. I'm CRABBY."

    * Baseball cap for Outward Bound.

    * Baseball cap with embroidered green fish.

    * Military khaki shirts with "SCHRUNK" embroidered on pocket and collar (4).

    * Jacket, olive drab, with fading stencils of "USMC" and "Schrunk."

    * Yellow Post-it note with sample of someone's arithmetic: The addition is successful (54 + 32 = 86), but the long division of 32 divided by 6 comes up a little bit wide, at 5.4.

    Gross Violation
    Officer Gina Hoesly has long had less privacy than the average cop, thanks to the Portland Police Bureau's rumor mill.

    Hoesly (below), 34, has dated rock musicians, other cops and Portland Trail Blazers. She's had breast implants and once posed for a photo on a website selling motorcycle plenty of skin. In 1996, she won a $20,000 settlement from the bureau in a sexual-harassment claim based on behavior by her co-workers. But none of that comes close to the scrutiny she received in March, when fellow officers rifled through her garbage. The evidence they found led to her indictment on charges of possessing ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine.

    Hoesly, a 13-year police officer who occasionally was an undercover decoy in police prostitution stings, became the subject of an investigation early this year, when she told police she'd been assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Joshua David Rodriguez. Rodriguez has a history of drug arrests and convictions, and when officers booked him on assault charges, they found meth in his pocket.

    Subsequently police began investigating Hoesly, hearing rumors from police informants that she had used drugs. On March 13 at 2:07 am, narcotics officers Jay Bates and Michael Krantz took her garbage. The order to do so came from Assistant Chief Andrew Kirkland, who dated Hoesly in the early '90s.

    Searching through her trash back at Central Precinct, they found traces of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia. They also found a bloody tampon. They sent a piece of the tampon to the state crime lab, where forensics experts tested it for drugs, DNA and, for reasons that remain unclear, semen. The results of those tests have not been released.

    The police didn't seek a search warrant to take Hoesly's trash because, as the Multnomah County District Attorney's office conceded, officers didn't at the time have sufficient evidence to convince a judge to issue a warrant. But once they had drug residue from Hoesly's trash, officers were able to persuade Judge Dorothy Baker to issue a search warrant for Hoesly's house. Inside, they found more paraphernalia and a diary that described apparent drug use. An indictment was issued in June.

    Hoesly, who is currently on medical leave and at the time of her arrest was in the process of medically retiring, pleaded not guilty and hired criminal-defense lawyer Stephen Houze. Like a Labrador smelling leftover turkey, Houze promptly zeroed in on the grabbing of her garbage. He argued that under Oregon's Constitution, privacy rights extend to someone's trash--at least until it's picked up by trash haulers. The used tampon "goes to the heart of just what an outrageous violation of privacy rights this police search was," Houze said. "If the police will do this to a police officer, who won't they do it to?"

    Not only that, he said, but if garbage is up for grabs, "There will be identity thieves lining up out there on every garbage day, knowing they can [take trash] with impunity."

    The Hoesly case is not unprecedented. In 1997, police poked in the trash of David Peters, a star prosecutor for Multnomah County, and found cocaine residue, which was used to obtain a search warrant. Unlike Hoesly, he was not indicted; instead, he was fined and allowed to enter court diversion to maintain a clean record.

    In a hearing on Dec. 10, Judge Jean Kerr Maurer agreed with Houze, issuing a ruling that said the cops' taking of trash was illegal. Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonnell immediately said his office would challenge the ruling. --NB

    Big Brother's in Your Trash Can

    The government is essentially going through your trash every day, says Evan Hendricks, publisher of Privacy Times, a Washington, D.C., newsletter. "They just don't have to get their hands dirty.

    In the past 16 months, thanks to measures contained in the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and the creation of the Total Information Awareness office, our government has turned into a bad Oliver Stone movie--you know, where a cabal of conservative spooks takes over and suddenly Big Brother is in charge.

    No longer do the Feds need to meet the evidentiary standard of "probable cause" to initiate an investigation or start amassing information on you. Nor do they need to show any evidence of a link to terrorism. All they need to do, in short, is say they find you suspicious. They don't need to tell a judge why.

    "This administration really represents a combination of Reaganism and McCarthyism--though they're not chasing Communists, they're chasing people that they call 'terrorists,'" says Hendricks, who grew up in Portland. "They're expanding their power and intimidating people to sort of go along or be afraid of being accused of being soft on terrorism."

    The October 2001 enactment of the USA Patriot Act opened the door to domestic and Internet surveillance, as well as warrantless, covert "sneak and peek" searches. Then, on Nov. 19, 2002, Congress approved the Homeland Security Act, which Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) called the "most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act in its 36-year history."

    The HSA also created the Total Information Awareness office, whose logo, taken from the back of the dollar bill, is of a pyramid with an eye on top, looking down at the globe. Headed by Iran-Contra co-conspirator Admiral John Poindexter, the agency will "mine" commercial databases, including magazine subscriptions and book purchases, to spy on American citizens. It plans to use this information to profile likely terrorist supporters; it also wants to deploy video camera and facial-recognition surveillance systems.

    "The Pentagon basically wants to knock down the walls to all private-sector records and plug into them," says Hendricks. "And trash is like a microcosm of what you get: the bills people pay, what they buy at the store, the packages they throw out. The government is proposing more systematic surveillance of databases that have the same information."

    How do they define who is a likely terrorist supporter? Sorry, but that's a secret. Attorney General John Ashcroft has given federal agencies free rein to reject information requests, with the assurance that his Department of Justice would defend the agencies no matter what.

    Civil-liberties advocates point to the inherent danger in granting the government such sweeping power. Declassified documents have shown myriad abuses by law-enforcement agencies involved in domestic spying in the '60s, '70s and '80s, including in Portland. In 1997, a Washington, D.C., police official used video surveillance of people coming and going from a gay bar to try to blackmail married men. And studies of camera systems in Britain found that they were used to target minorities for increased police attention, while women caught on camera were often targeted for voyeuristic reasons, with male camera operators panning over them for purposes of ogling.

    Small wonder that even conservatives such as Rep. Dick Armey, Sen. Charles Grassley and New York Times columnist William Safire are going ballistic. Attorney General Ashcroft is "out of control," and the federal government has "no credibility" on protecting individuals' privacy, said Armey, who has even volunteered to do consulting work for the ACLU on privacy issues upon his retirement.

    "You Are a Suspect" was the title of Safire's Nov. 14 column on the Total Information Awareness program, which he called a "supersnoop's dream" and a "sweeping theft of privacy rights." --NB
  • by Badge 17 ( 613974 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @05:59PM (#4990803)
    This seems to be an interesting precedent...

    As I understand it, the basic claim of the police is that if it's easily accessible, it's public information.

    So, how does this apply to the Internet?

    For instance, is unencrypted email now public information? What about information on a HTML page - with no links leading to it?

    I particularly like the police officers claiming that the lack of a "No tresspassing" sign / "don't open garbage" sign gives them the right to do this... Does a woman have to wear a "Don't Rape" sign to make this clear to potential attackers?

    Perhaps the "Don't Rape" sign should really go on the Constitution - particularly the Fourth Amendment.
    • For instance, is unencrypted email now public information?
      Since the email travels entirely through privately owned computers and wires during its entire existence, then the only way for a member of the public to access it would be to:
      • Break in to a location with a computer that has a permanent or transient copy of the email (your house, ISP server farm, router farm, etc.); or
      • Splice into a telecom company's trunk lines to intercept the message.
      Either action is illegal, so the public isn't considered to have unfettered access to the email.

      A proper analogy would be to ask, if you send a letter through the USPS, is it accessible to the public? Even if it's unencrypted (hence making it analogous to a postcard), the answer is no. Only the intended recipient and employees of the USPS are able to access the letter legally. Any random individual who wanted to access that letter would have to:

      • Break in to a location where the letter is physically stored (your house, the recipient's house, or a USPS office); or
      • Intercept the letter en route (on a mail truck or plane, or in a mail carrier's possession after pickup or delivery).
      But why am I telling you all this? This was all obvious, wasn't it?
  • GIGO... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cqnn ( 137172 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:01PM (#4990819)
    Garbage In, Garbage Out...
  • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@y a h o o . com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:02PM (#4990832)
    It seems to me there is a difference between the police, who are guided by local, state and federal laws regarding use of evidence, and reporters, who have pretty much free reign under the US constitution in what they report. Quite honestly, despite the anti-government, anti-authority slant by both the article and the comments in the posting here, I would be far less comfortable with reporters stealing my garbage than with police collecting it. And I can entirely see the city's point about why reporters going around rummaging through peoples' garbage is a bad idea. Reporters are not answerable to anybody - government is.

    That said, why would anyone expect that something they've acknowledged they no longer want and have therefore basically thrown up for grabs on the curb to be secure? As someone who lives in NYC, where it's routine for people to pick up junk they find lying on the side of the street, this just strikes me as idiotic. Not just dumb, not just stupid, but completely moronic. You threw it away; it's on the curb, it's no longer yours. End of story. Whether it's the police or the press taking it, if you're at all worried about it you should have either kept it or destroyed it.

    There's a reason why shredders exist. And if you don't want to use one, that's your choice. But then don't complain when people go rummaging through your garbage looking for credit card statements and pay stubs. You put that stuff out on the curb of your own free will.
    • by Milican ( 58140 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:32PM (#4991017) Journal
      Have you seen one of those tampon shredders at Office Max? Or should we all incinerate our trash now too... Going through trash without a warrant in my opinion is a violation of the Constitution of the United States of America. I am not a lawyer, but I am an American citizen and that is my interpretation.

  • by wherley ( 42799 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:03PM (#4990833)
    here []
  • by psi_diddy ( 634033 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:03PM (#4990840)
    All your garbage are belong to us!
  • Buy a shredder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:06PM (#4990849) Homepage Journal

    Screw privacy: Speaking as someone who had my credit card numbers stolen from my trash, EVERYONE should have a shredder to shred bills. It's incredibly cheap insurance.

    As far as people taking the rest of my garbage, they're welcome to it. Less I have to take to the curb!

    • All of my receipts, no matter what kind, and anything else I don't want people to see, goes into the fireplace and is burned.
    • Re:Buy a cat (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrCode ( 95839 )
      Empty the litter box on top of everything else.
  • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:06PM (#4990851)
    In CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988) [], the Supreme Court ruled police could do this. I happen to agree with this. By putting it on the curb, you have shown that you want the city to come and take it away. In other word you want the city to have it.

    As far as the city getting annoyed at the journalists, they can be annoyed, but I doubt there is much they can do about it, for much the same reason that the police can rummage though trash.
    • by grungy ( 634468 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:29PM (#4991002)
      As far as the city getting annoyed at the journalists, they can be annoyed, but I doubt there is much they can do about it, for much the same reason that the police can rummage though trash.

      I lived in Portland until 6 months ago, and I Loved the WWeek's reporting. Mark Kroger (the police chief, one of the officials who got his garbage peeked at) calls the stunt "cheap" in the article, but people in government need to be kept in check by having exactly this kind of thing done by the press. WWeek is honest enough to spell out the fact that no scandalous material was uncovered, and thourough enough to print a full, detailed list of the "dirt" they did dig up. If I were religious, I'd thank God there are reporters out there willing to do this kind of thing.

      Way to go WWeek! Three cheers for the Free Press. Great way to ring in the New Year!!

    • " By putting it on the curb, you have shown that you want the city to come and take it away."

      I disagree. People should be able to discard all evidence of wrong doing so that they can maintain their freedom!

      Okay, bad time for a joke like that. I half agree. Ever hear of a 'search warrant'? Due process? If the city has a search warrant to go through my garbage, that's fine. The ability to do it willy nilly is wrong. Fortunately, WW proved to the right people why it's wrong. It's nosey.

      There are matters of privacy here. What if they found a pair of panties a little too small for the politician's wife? Funny? Yes. Our business? No.
  • by Rai ( 524476 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:08PM (#4990859) Homepage
    The U.S. Government seems very fond of this phrase so I'll throw it back their way...

    If you're not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn't have anything to hide.
  • Reasoning... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by qat ( 637648 ) <admin@pleas e e a t . us> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:13PM (#4990894) Homepage
    I don't think it was the fact that they took the garbage that made them mad. It was almost definatly the fact that they reported the contents. example, if you are throwing out an old computer, you don't know what it's good for! It's old and slow with nothing on it. However, some guy that knows computers back and around, decides he could salvage it, so takes it. Would you be made? Nah, it was headed for the dump anyways. However, he finds your secret porno stash from the 1940's and starts selling the videos, or simply tells other people. Do you want people knowing your a porn addict? Probably not. But do you mind if somebody salvages a few parts from what you think is a worthless computer? Again, most likely, no. It's all in the intended use.
  • by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:15PM (#4990910) Homepage
    I could swear we did this a few weeks ago, but I can't get the slashdot search engine to perform.

    The police or anyone can take trash at curbside, as it is considered abandoned. CA v. Greenwood []

    It gets stickier in the "curtilage" area of the property left open to trash collectors to come in for the garbage. See Greenwood. IIRC curb versus curtilage was the distinction in this Oregon case between the two trash takings?

    Warrant is otherwise required unless a 4th A. exception applies such as exigency or evanescent evidence. (If these interest you, do a search or try :)

    States or local authorities can set the 4th Amendment bar higher if they like, that is they can require greater restraint. I don't know of any that have done so offhand -- perhaps yours.
  • by rdmiller3 ( 29465 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:17PM (#4990923) Journal
    Now I know most comments on this article are talking about the legality of taking someone's garbage... but the real issue here is deeper.

    The article (which was kindly copied by a decent slashdotter) said that the police not only took a fellow officer's garbage without her permission... they went further against the privacy of her body itself by using a bloody tampon as a drug test sample which led to her dismissal!

    Folks, this is not a case of stolen "property". This is an involuntary medical examination; an invasion of privacy to the highest degree.

    • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:33PM (#4991028) Homepage
      Folks, this is not a case of stolen "property". This is an involuntary medical examination; an invasion of privacy to the highest degree.

      Liberal nonsense. Obviously, if this lady cop actually wanted to retain her constituational rights, she should have known better than to put her used tampons in the trash. Instead, she should be stockpiling her tampons like all good freedom-loving American women do.

      Seriously, though, this is just another example of an alarming trend in American law: The destruction of rights via the control chokepoints.

      For example, if a cop pulls you over on the road, you cannot refuse a breathalizer exam without automatically losing your license. As such, you effectively don't have the right *not* to give up evidence (since the punishment for not giving up said evidence is just like the punishment for the crime of drunk driving, it becomes a moot point). This is technically constituational even though it's blatently a jackbooted tactic.

      In this case, they're using your garbage against you. Since we all generate refuse which we need to get rid of, this is another effective way to end-run around our rights. You obviously can get astounding amounts of info from the average person's garbage -- no warrent needed.

      We (and I mean "We" as in "We the People") put up with this even though we see it's fascist bullshit. We think it's important to make the police's job easier (even when we're just encouraging random searches that can't earn a warrant), or that we're fighting terrorists. Or maybe we're just too lazy and distracted to care, what with all the bread and circuses.

      And it sucks.

      • The drunk driving thing is a little different. You have no constitutional right to be able to drive a car on public roads. It is a privledge. If you wish to drive a car on public roads, you are required to be liscenced to do so, and are required to register your vehicle. Now, if oyu get pulled over for drunk driving, you may refuse to take a brethalizer, that's fine, but if you do you will loose your privledge to drive on public roads.

        Now, none of this applies to private land. You may drive with out a lisence, in no regard of a speed limit, and cars that are not normally street legal or liscenced on private land, such as a test track. However, if you want to drive on the public roads, there are things that are required for that privledge and they can be revoked.

        You have no constitutional protection to be able to drive a card.
    • Important questions that were missed:

      How do they know it was her tampon? Could have been a guests who used the bathroom.

      Can they prove it was her garbage? Do they need to for court purposes?

      Anyone can drop a bag of garbage on someone's lawn.

      All in all, very very disturbing.
  • by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:39PM (#4991067) Homepage
    From the article [] :
    "Chinese takeout boxes and junk-food wrappers testify to a busy lifestyle with little time to cook. A Post-it note even lays bare someone's arithmetic skills (the addition is solid, but the long division needs work)."

  • This is legal! (Score:4, Informative)

    by elnerdoricardo ( 637672 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:45PM (#4991097)
    For all of those people that have waxed on about due process, and Fourth Amendment rights, and private property, and whatever else.. keep in mind that this was already argued at the US Supreme Court level.

    Police have the legal right to search trash without a warrant.

    Here is an exerpt from the ruling:

    1. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home. Pp. 39-44.

    (a) Since respondents voluntarily left their trash for collection in an area particularly suited for public inspection, their claimed expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items they discarded was not objectively reasonable. It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left along a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public. Moreover, respondents placed their refuse at the curb for the express purpose of conveying it to a third party, the trash collector, who might himself have sorted through it or permitted others, such as the police, to do so. The police cannot reasonably be expected to avert their eyes from evidence of criminal activity that could have been observed by any member of the public. Pp. 39-43.

    (b) Greenwood's alternative argument that his expectation of privacy in his garbage should be deemed reasonable as a matter of federal constitutional law because the warrantless search and seizure of his garbage was impermissible as a matter of California law under Krivda, [486 U.S. 35, 36] which he contends survived the state constitutional amendment, is without merit. The reasonableness of a search for Fourth Amendment purposes does not depend upon privacy concepts embodied in the law of the particular State in which the search occurred; rather, it turns upon the understanding of society as a whole that certain areas deserve the most scrupulous protection from government invasion. There is no such understanding with respect to garbage left for collection at the side of a public street. Pp. 43-44.

    2. Also without merit is Greenwood's contention that the California constitutional amendment violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Just as this Court's Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule decisions have not required suppression where the benefits of deterring minor police misconduct were overbalanced by the societal costs of exclusion, California was not foreclosed by the Due Process Clause from concluding that the benefits of excluding relevant evidence of criminal activity do not outweigh the costs when the police conduct at issue does not violate federal law. Pp. 44-45.

    182 Cal. App. 3d 729, 227 Cal. Rptr. 539, reversed and remanded.
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @06:55PM (#4991155) Homepage Journal

    If you live in Portland just start flushing your garbage down the toilet and shitting in your garbage can.
  • by Peale ( 9155 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:10PM (#4991253) Homepage Journal
    Check out the newsgroup alt.dumpster [alt.dumpster], they know a whole lot of the legality of diving in every state.
  • by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @07:31PM (#4991353) Homepage
    From the article []:
    If the chief got overheated, the mayor went nuclear. When we confessed that we had swiped her recycling, she summoned us to her chambers. "She wants you to bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney," said her press secretary, Sarah Bott.

    Ok, so she all but commands the reporter(s) to her office. Abuse of authority big-time, though you could argue that they didn't have to appear.

    We filed into the mayor's private conference room. The atmosphere, chilly to begin with, turned arctic when the mayor marched in. She speared us each with a wounded glare, then hoisted the bin of newspaper and stalked out of the room--all without uttering a word.

    If this is accurate and not missing any details then the mayor STOLE that material. After all, if the garbage is "open for trash men and pickers" then it belonged to the reporters. It was no longer the property of the mayor. So the mayor, under color of authority, robbed a reporter.

    That is positively amazing.
    • the mayor STOLE that material

      Only if the current owners were not willing to give it up. And in this specific case, I believe that they'd made their point and were transfering ownership of the papers back to the mayor. Technically one could charge the mayor with petty theft or something, but given the circumstances, it would probably be thrown out. heh.
  • by JimmytheGeek ( 180805 ) <jamesaffeld AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:05PM (#4991516) Journal
    The mayor in particular should apologize to the reporters, probably buy them lunch. Yeah, her privacy was violated. She thought it was o.k. that other people's privacy was violated. Now she has a personal understanding of the issue.

    I think it's bogus to say that cops can rummage through trash without any oversite because they are officials, and reporters can't because they aren't. The fact that one is acting in an official, governmental capacity doesn't settle the issue at all! Cops are not necessarily good guys. The subjects of investigation are not necessarily bad guys. We have to watch the watchmen. Who does that better in our society than journalists?
  • by cmburns69 ( 169686 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:14PM (#4991556) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that the of the three politicians, the Mayor was the most pissed off about the invasion of privacy. She also probably had the least to do with the crafting of the policy since she the Oregon police have been doing this for decades.

    The Chief of Police was next on the list, and he was never quoted as saying anything legally threatening.

    The DA got the point of the 'prank' and even played along a bit.

    The Mayor was the only one that hinted at criminal charges, and that was only a threat.

    Nobody is saying you shouldn't be pissed off if somebody dives through your garbage, only that it isn't illegal.

    This might just be the catalyst that is needed to change the policy.

    StarCraft RPG? []
  • by MWoody ( 222806 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:19PM (#4991572)
    Hmmm... This article indicates a need for a non-government trash collection agency. I wonder if there's enough demand to support a company that, for just a few more dollars a week than the gov't, collects your garbage, transports it securely, and makes certain it is either destroyed or disposed of in an untraceable manner. Instead of in a city-supplied bin on the curb, you'd be able to keep your trash on your property (leave it in the front yard or something) in a container clearly marked as NOT for normal curbside pickup. You'd just sign a contract at the start of the service giving the company limited rights to enter onto your property for the sole purpose of anonymously disposing of your trash.

    Really, if you're going to use a government organization to dispose of your waste, don't be surprised when they give it a quick glance before shuffling it off to the heap. If you've got something to hide - or just don't like big brother's latex-gloved hand collecting your used kleenex or more "personal" items - find a private alternative.

    I guess this idea is similar to the shredding services used by many companies. But does anyone know if a similar service is available for homes for a reasonable price?
  • by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Tuesday December 31, 2002 @08:55PM (#4991716) Journal
    Christ, this is 1984, or [insert big brother novel here].

    This is just...evil?....sick?

    Hypocracy has reached it's peak in the 'land of the free'. I'm just glad I don't live there. The problem of course is the old joke "When the end of the world comes, be glad you live in the'll come six months later".

    After the PATRIOT acts I was amazed. After the Homeland Security act I was frightened. Now I'm just scared. Call me naive, but this is just freaky scary.

    I knew that science fiction writers are prophets of a sort. What they qwrite is what people aspire to. Case in point, Isaac Asimov, William Gibson. People read their work, and aspire to create giant Manga robots, the internet, geosynchronous satelites. What sci-fi predict comes to pass, because young kids think it's cool, and thionk of that for the rest of their life. But they also have nightmares...and this is one.

    Maybe it's the champange, but this double standard scares the shit out of me. This just shouldn't happen. In the seventies, people marched against a war which didn't really even effect them. But now the problems are at home, and no-one gives a peep!?!? WTF!?

    That's really all I can!?!?

    People, posting on /. is no longer enough. E-mail doesn't work. March...let them know that they've crossed the line. Tell, them, vocally. Just don't sit, cos they'll never see. I'm just scared that what's happening over there will make the crosiing to the EU.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe