Why Chester County Cops Dislike Me

When I lived in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, a neighbor was murdered in her home. I had installed a video surveillance system around my house when I first bought it 6 years prior. (My house was isolated from the street and backed up to a county trail that I thought could be a source of trouble, but to that point nothing bad had happened.) When detectives came knocking I suggested that my video might have picked something up that would help them with the crime. But when we went to the corner of the basement where I had the recorder, we discovered that it had no power because it was plugged into a GFCI outlet that had tripped. The last recordings showed a thunderstorm a few weeks prior.

This misfortune really piqued the police. They came back with search warrants, not only for my surveillance system, but also for all of my computers! (Evidently, at least in Chester County, Pennsylvania, judges will sign any warrant put in front of them.) They took all my electronics to their “computer forensics lab” and told me I would get them back when they got around to imaging them. They didn’t care that my job and income depended on my computers. They seemed determined to punish me for … I guess buying a house next door to someone who would later be murdered, and failing to monitor my private video recorder?

It takes a few hours to make a forensic copy of a hard drive, but the police didn’t return my computers for over a week. Months went by and they didn’t return my surveillance recorder (which stores everything on a standard hard drive that is easily cloned). I repeatedly asked the detectives and the assistant district attorney (ADA) who had joined the murder investigation (still unsolved) to return it, and they did not. I suggested that if they wouldn’t clone it they could just keep the hard drive and return the recorder to me, since I could install a new drive to get it back in operation. They continued to ignore me. So more than a year later I petitioned the court that had warranted its seizure to order them to return it to me. The ADA really didn’t like that!

I mention all of this because it provides another explanation for why some Chester County law enforcement officers subsequently took a special interest in harassing me. To be continued…

Bullies and Mismatched Senders

As described in Malcom Gladwell’s book Taking to Strangers, a strong body of research has revealed that many people have mannerisms that are incorrectly interpreted by others. The academic literature refers to such people as “mismatched senders,” because their non-verbal communication does not match what they intend to communicate. Or rather, to place the blame where it belongs: Many people erroneously think that they can deduce things from non-verbal communication, and mismatched senders are the victims of that error.

I am a mismatched sender. I have often been told this by people who become acquainted with me. Apparently my bearing superficially suggests an arrogance that really isn’t there. I am prone to smile or laugh when I am nervous or confused. Et cetera. Unless you have read Gladwell’s book, you might be surprised at the problems this can create.

I have also been a target of bullies my whole life. Physical bullying mostly stopped when I became dangerous: At age 12 I gave two bullies black eyes and that was the end of that. There was no payoff to psychological bullying because I didn’t have many friends and didn’t seem to care.

But I’m still an attractive target to people who are looking for somebody to take down a notch. Where do bullies go when they grow up? I believe a disproportionate number go into law enforcement, where they are equipped and paid to bully, and where their victims are at a systemic disadvantage to defend themselves. Police abuse has finally gotten enough attention that this should not be a controversial hypothesis. And this hypothesis might explain some of the abuse I have personally suffered at the hands of law enforcement. (More on that to come in future posts….)

Criminal Injustice: Missing Evidence

Previously I described how being battered by “Alice,” my mentally ill girlfriend, resulted in police arresting me. In this post I will briefly highlight some of the subsequent violations of rights and law committed by the police and prosecutors in that case.

When police entered my house, they ordered me to come out of my office where I had retreated to avoid further battery at the hands of Alice. I complied and was met with two police officers pointing their Glocks at me with their fingers on the triggers. Pointing a firearm at a person constitutes felony assault if not justified. (See the prosecution of the McCloskeys for a recent and famous example.) Were the police justified in assaulting me? The system will never consider that question for several reasons. First: Police officers virtually never stop or hold to account their “brothers in blue” for committing crimes. Second: Even when criminal acts of police are reported, prosecutors virtually never pursue them. Third: This particular assault was not recorded, and here it gets suspicious: Both officers were wearing body cameras. One of them was oriented in such a way that we could see his finger on the trigger, but could not clearly see where his gun was pointed. I believe that the other officer’s body camera did record him pointing his gun at me. However, when we subpoenaed the footage the police claimed that his body camera had failed to record anything until a minute after I was in handcuffs, so that’s all we got.

That’s not the first piece of peculiarly missing recordings. I was taken to the detention area of the local police station. Cameras and signs there prominently declare that everything is recorded at all times. It was there that police read me the Miranda warning, and in response I clearly told the two officers in attendance that I did not want to answer questions while under arrest. One of the officers was wearing a body camera. A few hours later the police questioned me at length. I assumed that, because I had objected to custodial interrogation, my statements could not be used against me if I was charged with any crime. Well, it turns out that all recordings of the detention area from that day were “accidentally” not saved, and the officer who heard me invoke my rights had his body camera audio muted during that period (as is, he claimed, department policy), though after he left the area he was recorded telling another cop who asked about me, “He’s not talking.” I was in fact charged and tried for crimes in this incident, and when I objected to the use of my subsequent interrogation based on having invoked my right, the judge said, “Well, we don’t have a record of you invoking your rights, but what I will do is admonish the police to be more careful in preserving these recordings in the future.”

The prosecutor in the trial also tried to exclude a terrifying audio recording of Alice threatening to kill me and herself. That recording would fall under the category of “potentially exculpatory evidence,” which prosecutors are duty-bound to produce to the defense. (They did not produce it, but I happened to have separately saved the recording, which is how this came to light.) Withholding exculpatory evidence (“Brady material“) is a flagrant violation of the prosecutor’s oath of office, and also a violation of a lawyer’s professional obligations. This was brought to the judge’s attention. Did the judge impose sanctions on the prosecutor for attempting to corrupt due process in his court? No. Was the prosecutor investigated by the bar? No. My lawyer explained to me, “That’s business as usual here.”

There was audio recording of the night in question that Alice had created by (bizarrely) activating and hiding a digital dictaphone in the living room. That device was seized by the police during a warranted search. However, the detective who had analyzed it was retired and unavailable for the trial. Written police reports are not admissible at trial unless authenticated by an officer. My lawyer attempted to get the detective who replaced the retiree to confirm, under oath, what the report said. The detective evaded doing so. My lawyer told me, “I know all of these cops. Some of them are good guys. He is not one of them.”

Lady Justice struggling with all the missing evidence