Bad Boys, Bad Boys

Whatcha gonna do when they come for you:

KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.

The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster’s attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster’s secret mobile office nearby.

On a scale of one to ten for awesome, this rates an eleven. You would think the Odessa police would have better things to do, but what with the money-making aspects of the ridiculous war on drugs via asset forfeiture, it is much more lucrative to chase down pine trees than it is to fight crime.

Radley Balko has more.

56 replies
  1. 1
    r€nato says:

    That is AWESOME.

    How much you wanna bet the cops pressure the district attorney or county attorney or whatever to file trumped-up charges for something… ANYTHING… against KopBusters?

  2. 2
    joe from Lowell says:

    Whatchoo gonna do when they come for you? was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but I guess this works.

  3. 3
    dr. bloor says:

    Up next: the new fad of indoor Christmas tree cultivation in Northern California will light up law enforcement’s FLIR cameras like…well, like Christmas trees.

    Win.

  4. 4
    Laura W says:

    Here’s another 11…
    It is dark and cold and rainy and windy here. I have the start of a horrendous head/chest cold. Surely my karma for mocking Rachel’s cold last week. I have NO food in the house, which is not unusual. I do have tp, which is unusual at a time like this. My wild demon seed cat, Annie, (she of The Bra fame), will have cabin fever which means total hell for Sadie, her favorite object of torture.
    Warning: cute kitty video ahead for those of you who hate that stuff.
    Proving raucous laughter is the best medicine…

  5. 5
    Zifnab says:

    Get these kids a cable network tv series. Seriously, there would be no end to the amount of entertainment I could gleen from this.

  6. 6
    r€nato says:

    With state budgets busted along with these komical keystone kops, you’d think this might be a really, really good time to stop filling up expensive prison cells with people convicted for non-violent drug crimes.

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    It’s not a matter of if, but what, these pine-growers will be charged with. I’m guessing "material support for terrorism" or "disorderly conduct" or some such fuckshittery.

  8. 8
    Incertus says:

    That made my whole day, and considering that I’m currently giving a final exam, which I will then have to grade, along with the dozens of papers and revisions I have waiting, I sure needed it.

  9. 9
    p.a. says:

    That is ballsy. PD’s and the legal system as a whole really are out of control with this stuff. Tangental point- racism and the law. Crack epidemic- inner cities, minorities, ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’. Meth epidemic- suburban and rural, many whites. ‘It’s a disease, these people need treatment’.

  10. 10
    Keith says:

    How much you wanna bet the cops pressure the district attorney or county attorney or whatever to file trumped-up charges for something… ANYTHING… against KopBusters?

    That would be trying to dig their way out of a hole. With the publicity this stunt is getting, along with an almost 100% degree of certaintly that Cooper et al. covered themselves quite well legally, trying to abuse the justice system to make an abuse of the justice system go away would be the definition of chutzpah. Well, before Blagojevich defined it.

  11. 11
    r€nato says:

    seeing as this happened in Texas, I hope that KopBusters has some crack legal help. They are in for a shitstorm from these embarrassed cops.

  12. 12
    Face says:

    seeing as this happened in Texas, I hope that KopBusters has some crack legal help. They are in for a shitstorm from these embarrassed cops.

    It is as sure as stink on a monkey that this guy will very soon face very comprehensive tax audit, and he’d better not go 1 mph over the limit anywhere while using all 100 feet to signal before a turn. Even then, arrest for DUI can be based on suspicion alone, which is subjective by definition, while the other cop plants the drugs under his seat. Boom goes the dynamite.

    Basically, he’s called the cops out, and they will go soooo Patriot Act on his ass that he’ll wish he never did this.

  13. 13
    Krista says:

    Basically, he’s called the cops out, and they will go soooo Patriot Act on his ass that he’ll wish he never did this.

    Which is sad, really. But it’s true. There are definitely some good cops out there, but unfortunately they seem to be outnumbered by the jerks who are only interested in their status, authority and image.

  14. 14
    canuckistani says:

    I wish Joe Strummer had lived to see this.

    When they break down your front door
    How you gonna come
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your webcam?

    You see, I can’t do a thing with it, and it is a full, hot mug of win.

  15. 15
    Incertus says:

    @r€nato: Which is why cops, more often than not, can get away with breaking laws in pursuit of what they consider the greater good. If it were me, I’d have had my bags packed and furniture already in another state once the cops showed up for precisely that reason.

  16. 16
    jvill says:

    Basically, he’s called the cops out, and they will go soooo Patriot Act on his ass that he’ll wish he never did this.

    Quite possible. In which case I’m sure his selective prosecution lawsuit could be almost as much fun.

  17. 17
    Stimpy says:

    Which is sad, really. But it’s true. There are definitely some good cops people out there, but unfortunately they seem to be outnumbered by the jerks who are only interested in their status, authority and image.

    Fixed.

    Cops are no different.

    There is far to much positive reinforcement for asset seizure to expect anything different. Who needs to raise taxes when you can seize the assets of some poor schmuck who for a few tokes.

  18. 18
    Comrade Kevin says:

    @canuckistani: Except that that song was written by Paul Simonon.

  19. 19
    canuckistani says:

    @Comrade Kevin:

    D’oh! That’s why I’m a big loser. Well, he should get to work then. We need that song.

  20. 20
    ppcli says:

    Ah, Canuckistani, you beat me to it! The Canadian’s version of "Guns of Brixton":
    .
    You can crush us
    You can bruise us
    But you’ll have to answer to
    Oh, the [surveillance equipment] of [Odessa]

  21. 21
    Stimpy says:

    BJ’s magical HTML tag stealing fairy removed my tags. Lets try again…

    Which is sad, really. But it’s true. There are definitely some good [strike]cops[/strike] people out there, but unfortunately they seem to be outnumbered by the jerks who are only interested in their status, authority and image.

    Thats better

  22. 22
    Comrade Dread says:

    With state budgets busted along with these komical keystone kops, you’d think this might be a really, really good time to stop filling up expensive prison cells with people convicted for non-violent drug crimes.

    You forget that many towns, counties, and states have asset forfeiture laws which let cops seize the property of people who are merely arrested (not necessarily convicted) of a drug crime.

    Even if you’re later acquitted, getting your property back is an onerous, time-consuming, expensive burden. More often than not, the State usually retains it or the ill gotten money gained from selling it at auction.

    Bloody wankers.

  23. 23
    demimondian says:

    @Stimpy: Actually, asset forfeiture is considerably less common than it was prior to the 2000 reform act talked about in article linked to in John’s header.

    And can you blame these guys? They had what they thought was a clear chance to clean up a grow house. The house was deserted, yet it would have clearly shown very high electricity consumption. Contrary to the claims of the KopKatcherKlowns, it’s not illegal to examine a residence from the outside with a FLIR device, and, in so doing, the cops found direct evidence of gro-lights.

    Brothers and sisters, what is that? An empty rental house with gro-lights? You know what it is — it’s a grow house.

    If the police had gone to the court with only that evidence, they almost certainly would have gotten a warrant. It’s entirely possible that they did so, in which case they’re idiots, but not on the wrong side of the law. If they also used an informant, though, as is alleged, then they’re in worse trouble than they can imagine, particularly if they then didn’t display the warrant when challenged by the renters’ attorney.

  24. 24
    demimondian says:

    @Comrade Dread: That’s really not true any more. Forfeiture proceedings became much more demanding after the 2000 reform acts.

  25. 25
    thefncrow says:

    @demimondian:

    Contrary to the claims of the KopKatcherKlowns, it’s not illegal to examine a residence from the outside with a FLIR device, and, in so doing, the cops found direct evidence of gro-lights.

    Um, have you been keeping up with your jurisprudence? The use of FLIR constitutes a search, and to use FLIR to examine a property requires a warrant.

    You can’t use FLIR to obtain PC for a warrant, because you need PC and a warrant before you can use FLIR.

    Check out the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kyllo v. United States if you don’t believe me.

  26. 26
    benjoya says:

    at risk of making joe strummer spin even more in his grave, i’ll try to rescue this parody:

    when they kick at your front door
    how you gonna come
    with your hands on your stash
    or chewing on some gum

    when the law break in
    how you gonna go
    smoked up in the basement
    or watching the video

  27. 27
    benjoya says:

    right, and as comrade kevin points out, it was paul simonon who wrote the original (sang it, too). but he can’t spin in his grave, being alive and all.

  28. 28
    demimondian says:

    @thefncrow: The narrow majority in _Kyllo_ depended upon Scalia’s observation that FLIR devices were not commonly available to the public. This search shows that I can go to Google and find them available right now.

    Even ignoring the evidentiary absurdities behind Scalia’s argument, the factual basis upon which he asserted it no longer stands.

  29. 29
    Shygetz says:

    @thefncrow: Actually, a warrant for the use of FLIR is only required in the case of a residence, which requires someone living there. That apartment was obviously not used as a residence, so FLIR usage without a warrant would have been fine under current law. If, however, the cops faked an informant, then they have a whole other issue.

  30. 30
    comrade rawshark says:

    So Herc works for the Odessa police department now? We’ll know for sure if the informants name turns out to be Fuzzy Dunlop.

  31. 31
    demimondian says:

    @Shinobi: Just like we all know what an empty house with gro-lights in it is, we also know exactly what happened with the KeystOdessaKops: they leaned on an informant, and got him or her to swear to something. They’re in metric shit tonnes of trouble, and they know it.

  32. 32
    ThresherK says:

    So, where will we see this on TV first?

    Not to be left unsaid: If this makes it to your local news, they’ll be all Kent Brockman. If it makes it to Keith or Rachel, they’ll be pounding the Consititution/WoT/security oogedy-boogedy farce angle.

    (We can call them Keith and Rachel, right?)

  33. 33
    Tim Fuller says:

    I want more just like it. Is there a way to use civil law to put an end to this abuse of police power? Civil rights? You do remember civl rights don’t you?
    Enjoy.

  34. 34
    Comrade Dread says:

    @demimondian

    There may have been an intent to reform the laws, but even cursory searches (some of which are obviously shaky, but others fairly documented) reveals that the practice continues.

    Aside from which, outside of hopeful idealism, why would we expect law enforcement to actually obey the law?

    There is absolutely no incentive for anyone with the power and authority to take them to task to actually do so.

  35. 35
    demimondian says:

    @Comrade Dread: List the ones you think are compelling, would you? A number of the posts I’ve seen on forfeiture made me suspicious that this had degenerated into a set of largely false FOAF stories, and my investigation has tended to support that.

    But I’d love to be wrong, so, if I am, please show me.

    As to why would law enforcement to actually obey the law…because it costs the police chief his job when a tape like this crops up. And the mayor, and a bunch of council members, too.

  36. 36
    Tymannosourus says:

    @demimondian:

    Kyllo is still good law, and so even though FLIR devices might be more common now, the SC hasn’t overturned its decision. Kyllo speaks directly to the use of spectrometer/infared detection devices, and no matter how narrow the majority was, the use of said devices for PC is an illegal search.

  37. 37
    lovethebomb says:

    While this is certainly some egg on cop face with a side of fictional informant, I don’t think this will change anything. The public are simply too easily swayed with law and order posturing. If anything, the investment is only worthwhile in that it will help educate real growers of the hazard so they can adjust accordingly. And bless em, they are doing the work of angels.

  38. 38
    demimondian says:

    @Tymannosourus: That is really not clear. The most generous reading I can give _Kyllo_ is as banning invasive "through the wall" imaging, while specifically excluding crude "on the wall" imaging. That’s a non-trivial distinction. Military-grade imaging can do deconvolution to reconstruct very detailed portraits of what is going on on the other side of the wall, which appears to me to violate a reasonable expectation of privacy, while consumer-grade imaging shows nothing more than a hot-spot-on-a-wall, which is no more protected than the back of a postcard.

  39. 39
    Tymannosourus says:

    @demimondian:

    I think you might be focusing too much on the now readily available nature of the devices. While that was certainly a part of Scalia’s decision (whether devices are available to the public at large), there are also several other aspects of 4th amend. jurisprudence that indicate that Kyllo will stand for a long time.

    Scalia wants to maintain a boundary between the inside of the home and the outside of the home. The exception to this are the plain-view and plain-smell doctrines. So, e.g. if a cop walks by a house, and sees/smells illegal activity going on through the window, that comes in under the plain view exception even though it is going on in the home.

    The SC has been very hesitant to extend the plain view/smell exceptions to instances where police use devices that produce readings that human beings couldn’t other wise detect. Amplification is okay, and that’s why binoculars and microphones are permitted since they only amplify an impulse that is otherwise detectable by the human senses. Thermal imaging devices, however, are looked at with much greater suspicion since humans are not able to detect heat with their vision.

    This is all a long way of saying that as long as Kyllo is not overturned, the SC will invalidate high tech imaging devices being used to detect heat coming from the inside of the home. And I think, in fact, Kyllo was very forward thinking in that the ct. knew that new devices would be coming along, and that if we drew the boundary at the exterior of the house for search purposes, we wouldn’t run into 4th amend. problems with these new devices.

    I have to get back to work now.

  40. 40
    cmorenc says:

    Had McCain won in November, we were only a very short time away from the virtual abolition of 4th Amendment jurisprudence with the type of SCt appointees McCain had promised to make, and would of certainty have had a chance to make fairly soon. Justice Stevens could not have held on four more years, and perhaps neither could Ginsburg. That Scalia was in the 5-4 majority in Kyllo is an atypical fortuitous gift of the nimble quirks of Scalia’s intellect, which usually is more reliably in service of rigid conservative ideology. The man is a walking definition of what a a brilliant mind uninformed by a single speck of human wisdom is like.

  41. 41
    demimondian says:

    @Tymannosourus: I don’t think that argument will stand. A thermal imaging device, after all, is nothing more than a very sensitive equivalent of my thermal sense of touch. I think that the external/internal argument will prevail.

    Either way, though, you’re right. I need to get back to work, too.

  42. 42
    bago says:

    Everyone knows that the FL in FLIR stands for Forward Looking, right? It makes sense to say FLIR when talking about an airplane. For a regular IR camera, not so much.

  43. 43
    thefncrow says:

    @demimondian: You might need to re-read Kyllo then. Scalia talks directly to the off-the-wall/through-the-wall imaging issue:

    The Government maintains, however, that the thermal imaging must be upheld because it detected "only heat radiating from the external surface of the house," Brief for United States 26. The dissent makes this its leading point, see post, at 1, contending that there is a fundamental difference between what it calls "off-the-wall" observations and "through-the-wall surveillance." But just as a thermal imager captures only heat emanating from a house, so also a powerful directional microphone picks up only sound emanating from a house-and a satellite capable of scanning from many miles away would pick up only visible light emanating from a house. We rejected such a mechanical interpretation of the Fourth Amendment in Katz, where the eavesdropping device picked up only sound waves that reached the exterior of the phone booth. Reversing that approach would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology–including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home.

    The majority opinion rejects both off-the-wall and through-the-wall thermal imaging technologies. It’s not a matter of protecting places and with a mechanical explanation of the Fourth Amendment(in that, well, your home is protected, but things emitted from your home, such as light, sound, and heat, are not), it’s a matter of protecting people, in this case, the resident.

    Off-the-wall, through-the-wall, neither is allowed unless you have a warrant, at least until the Supreme Court says otherwise.

  44. 44
    Shinobi says:

    @demimondian

    Doh. Multitasking bad.

    But yeah, Absolutely. Freaking cops man.

  45. 45
    demimondian says:

    @thefncrow: Well, I can certainly go reread the opinion. IMHO (and, as I’m not a Supe, My O *really* doesn’t matter), Steven’s dissent is a far stronger opinion, and likely to be the one which stands, in the long run.

  46. 46
    jane says:

    Laura W (wayyyy up there), re: cat with photocopier:

    I like it even better in French.

  47. 47

    KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana.

    And the WingTards will claim this is another example of The War Against Christmas in 5…4…3…

  48. 48
    Laura W says:

    @jane: Oh…my….dog….
    I’ve not laughed like that since 10:40am. I have to go back for more as soon as I can breathe again. I watched this morning’s about 4 times, laughing just as hard every time.
    Like that eTrade baby commercial…he just threw up again on my teevee… and I love it the 987,654th time as much as the first time I saw him.
    Thanks, Jane. I needed that big time.

  49. 49
    TR says:

    Steven’s dissent is a far stronger opinion, and likely to be the one which stands, in the long run.

    In my opinion, John Marshall Harlan’s lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson was the far stronger opinion, and yet we had legalized segregation for 56 years after that. The majority opinion is the only one that counts.

  50. 50
    HyperIon says:

    @TR:

    good one.
    but i doubt demi-god will let your comment go unnoted.

  51. 51
    Nancy Irving says:

    Asset-forfeiture laws are an awful invitation to corruption on the part of Police Depts.

    This kind of thing goes way back, too. During the Salem witch hysteria, those who called out "witches" were often able to get hold of their victims’ property by underhanded methods. This is believed to have lengthened and worsened the crisis. (See Hawthorne’s "House of the Seven Gables" for a beautiful treatment of this event.)

  52. 52
    TR says:

    During the Salem witch hysteria, those who called out "witches" were often able to get hold of their victims’ property by underhanded methods.

    You don’t have to go that far back, though. Japanese internment in WWII meant that all their property — homes, businesses, equipment — was sold at bargain basement prices. And to the white neighbors who’d been clamoring for their internment. Funny, that.

  53. 53

    […] little late to this story but long story short, this is a video of the cops showing up in a house rigged by KopBusters. The […]

  54. 54

    […] Brian and John Cole, the victims of the War On Drugs (that would be ordinary taxpayers and citizens who are being bled […]

  55. 55
    Bnad says:

    Just as cameras were banned in Abu Ghraib after the abuse scandal there, I’m sure police across America will start a new policy for houses about to be searched: cut off the house’s phone and internet access just prior to search (thereby disabling any streaming video).

  56. 56

    […] Posted in Miscellany by Fletch on December 10th, 2008 – Crooked cops in Odessa get slapped around. Hard. Figuratively speaking, of course. Awesome with a capital “Fuck […]

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  1. […] Posted in Miscellany by Fletch on December 10th, 2008 – Crooked cops in Odessa get slapped around. Hard. Figuratively speaking, of course. Awesome with a capital “Fuck […]

  2. […] Brian and John Cole, the victims of the War On Drugs (that would be ordinary taxpayers and citizens who are being bled […]

  3. […] little late to this story but long story short, this is a video of the cops showing up in a house rigged by KopBusters. The […]

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