Tuesday, December 25, 2007

An Atheist at Christmas

There seems to be a loud push from the two extreme camps of fundamentalism and atheism. Both decry the current celebrations of Christmas. The fundamentalists want to strip Christmas of Santa, Frosty and the reindeer while the atheists see the recognition of Christmas as a tacit approval that we are a Christian country.

The problem with standing in the middle of the road is that you get hit by traffic from both directions but I will take that risk.

Our December 25 observance of Christmas has evolved from the centuries old solstice celebrations. As Christianity grew, it usurped the pagan holidays and converted them to Christian celebrations. Christmas has never been static, it has been an ever-evolving event. The historical St Nicholas lived somewhere between the 3rd to 4th century in what is now Turkey. He gradually merged with British Father Christmas and other symbols from the 17th century until the present to create the image of Santa Claus we all know. It is hard to imagine Christmas without Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer. Rudolph had his start in 1939, created by Robert May as a promotion for Montgomery Ward.

If Christmas is an ever evolving event, we need to evolve with it. There is so much history, culture and faith mixed with the observance, Christmas means something different to each of us. This morning, I read the Christmas story and enjoyed it as I always have. I can marvel that greatest things in life are easy missed because they appear mundane. I can relate the Christ story, the giving of a child as a gift to mankind, when I see police officers lined up in formation. They also have chosen to give their lives to service with much risk and little reward. I can look at the secular Christmas stories and take equally valuable lessons. Rudolph teaches us about valuing those who are different than us. Isn’t Frosty a child’s first encounter with death? And finally Santa, who teaches us about the wonder of the giving and the way to happiness is to bring joy to others.

So, I will be at my piano soon, playing all my favorite Christmas carols. In all honesty, I can play, sing and take in all that is good about this holiday. It is OK that the lessons I will take with me may be different than those of my neighbor.

So on this Christmas morning, the ever-evolving atheist proclaims, “Peace on Earth and good will towards men.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

6th Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Like many of the other amendments, the 6th Amendment specifies rights we now take for granted as basic human rights when it comes to criminal proceedings. It is difficult for me to imagine a time when these rights denied to criminal defendants. The thought of no time requirements only to end in a trial, closed to the public with no jury, no defense witnesses or legal defense is terrifying.

In many of my other essays, I think my search for and value of the truth echo those of the constitutional writers. The purpose of the investigative and judicial portions of the criminal justice system is to find the truth. If the wrong person is found guilty, two sins have been committed. First, the guilty is going free and second, an innocent person is deprived of his liberty, reputation and possibly his life.

I have been involved in hundreds of homicide, sex assault, robbery, burglary and assault investigations. I have spent thousands of hours with the victim’s and survivors. They talk about wanting justice but it doesn’t take long to hear that they are talking about revenge. They want someone to pay for the pain they have had to endure.

Anyone who is attached with the trauma of the crime is very susceptible to falling into the same trap. Investigators, prosecutors, judges and juries are not immune. The 5th and 6th Amendments are acts of sanity which try to pull back on the reigns of the momentum of the victim’s and community’s lust for revenge.

I frequently hear “It’s not fair, the suspect’s have all the rights and the victim’s have none.” In one sense, they are absolutely right, this is the “Criminal justice System.” In recent years that cry has been heard by the legislature. Most states, including Colorado, have a Victim Rights Amendment.
But that is another topic for next week…..

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Matter of Faith???

This posting is going to deal with the topic of Faith. Some my find my opinions offensive but remember that’s all they are, my opinions. None of this is an attack against a specific person or their beliefs. While I will be using references from the Christian Bible and discussing the subject of faith in terms of Christianity, this topic can be applied to faith in anything, religion, science or other unquestioned beliefs.

The question of faith has come up repeatedly in my conversations with Christians. Most conversations start fairly civilly with we both are using good evidence and reasons for our beliefs. When things start getting rocky for believers or they run out of arguments, they have an easy out, “you just need to have faith.” As Romans 1:17 says, “The righteous will live by faith.”

What is faith? The biblical definition given in Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Dictionary.com gives the definition of faith as “belief that is not based on proof.”

To put it simply, I do not have faith in anything. None. Zip, Zero and Nada.

I have trust in many things but I do not have faith. What is the difference? Back to Dictionary.com, Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, etc., of a person or thing. Each of these requires a prior demonstration. I love my wife more than anything but I do not have blind faith in her. In the years I have known her I have come to trust her because of her demonstrated integrity, strength and ability. The day I find her putting arsenic in my food, my trust will need to be re-evaluated.

Back to religion. A perfect example of biblical trust is described in Exodus 14:30-31 (New International Version)
30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
The people did not have blind faith in God, according to the story, they saw a demonstration and put there trust in what they had seen.

Jesus discussed trust as he closed a parable in Luke 16:10 (New International Version) "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

When I looked back on my Christian life, it was faith that kept me from asking hard questions and when I did, it allowed me to accept insufficient answers. I remember lessons about the “armor of God as discussed in Ephesians. In Ephesians 6:16 (New International Version) we read, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” How does one use a shield, you hide behind it. That is exactly how faith is used as a place to hide from anything, even the truth, which may challenge a belief.
This is how the Church is able to ignore Biblical scholarship which shows with considerable evidence that the scriptures, have been changed hundreds if not thousands of times since they were first written from the oral traditions. By faith, many churches still preach that the Bibles in their pews are the inspirered and infallible word of God.

Faith is not a virtue. Faith is a sin against the intellect. If our minds were created by a designing God, then faith is an insult to the gift. Faith takes you nowhere. It is a journey with no beginning or end, it is the train that never leaves the station. Faith is the ultimate enemy of truth because when a question that challenges your beliefs, faith will allow you to ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Here is the example of faith vs trust. Did Jesus exist? Most of my Christian readers have probably stopped reading at this simple question. I agree with my Christian readers that he probably really did exist in roughly the approximate time and place as reported by the Gospel accounts. However the way I came to this conclusion is completely different. It was a matter of reviewing the available evidence for his existence and the evidence against then coming to a tentative decision. This conclusions is open to new or better evidence. This has nothing to do with faith.

Not all Christians hide their heads in the sand when facing the hard questions and I do not wish for it to be seen that I am painting all Christians with the same brush. Many of the greatest intellects I have known are people of faith. Some are Christians, some are Muslims, some have faith in new-thought.

For believers of great faith, what I say here will have no impact on you because you have faith in your beliefs is higher than the value of the truth. For those of you who put truth above everything, let go of your faith, learn what you can trust and seek the truth.

So what do I trust. I trust that the people I love will continue to love me despite my heresies. I trust that letting go of our emotional need to believe will get us closer to the truth in any subject.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'll take the 5th

The 5th Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

You will note that although the amendments to the constitution are loaded with the rights of the people, the Supreme Court has ruled that these are the only rights the government must advise you.

Any fan of prime time crime dramas knows the Miranda advisement by heart but few people know the story behind the famous warning.

Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix Arizona for Sexual Assault. He confessed to robbery and attempted rape. At trial the prosecution used the confession as the foundation of their case. The case was appealed and the conviction was overturned on a 5-4 decision. He was tried again, this time the prosecution used physical evidence and witness testimony and secured another conviction. He served 11 years in prison. He was killed in a bar fight in 1976. Ironically the man arrested for the murder, exercised his Miranda rights.

Chief justice Earl Warren made two critical statements in the majority decision.

“The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”


“If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease ... If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. At that time, the individual must have an opportunity to confer with the attorney and to have him present during any subsequent questioning.”

This was a 5-4 decision with some heavy words from the dissenting justices regarding judicial legislation. In dissent, Justice Harlan stated "nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities." Harlan also quoted former Justice Robert H Jackson This is Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added."

In my 11 years of law enforcement, I am always amazed that more often then not, people wave their rights and talk themselves in to a trip to jail. There have been some interesting ways creative officers have tried to avoid the Miranda warning. My favorite is the “Good Christian Burial.”

Officers had arrested a suspect in the kidnapping and probable murder of a young girl. They were careful not to ask the suspect any questions. As they were driving the suspect to jail, they began talking between themselves loud enough for the suspect to hear them. They commented how it was too bad the parents of the girl couldn’t give her a good Christian burial. After laying this guilt trip on the suspect, he told them where the girl’s body could be located. This “confession” was used and he was convicted. Of course, the conviction was overturned which forced the family to endure another trial before they could be assured the man who killed their child would go to prison.

What do I think? I vote every election for my congressional representatives. It is their job to write the law. When one branch of government overreaches it authority, the delicate balance of powers established in the Constitution is skewed and we make the distinctive rolls of the government moot.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Book Review: A Secret of the Universe

A Secret of the Universe by Stephen Gibson
A Secret of the Universe is one of the most unique books I have ever read. While the basic plot is solid, the documentation of research sources is impeccable, the joy is from walking with the characters as they discover the secrets for themselves.

The story revolves around two friends, Ian and Bill. When the book begins they share similar beliefs about life, religion and their place in the world. As the next 20 years pass, their philosophical paths will diverge in very different directions. Bill to follow the traditional road of Evangelical Christianity, Ian will take a skeptical path, which eventually leads him to a place where he doubts and attempts to prove the physical existence of Christ. Although not always easy, the two are able to maintain their friendship through it all. What a lesson for us all to learn.

As time goes on, they each experience tragedy which molds them in to maturity. As these personal losses envelop them, they find that these philosophical questions are to just academic.

Much of this book is a rehashing of Gibson’s book on critical thinking, “Truth Driven Thinking.” Although much of the information is the same, it is saved by the difference in the presentation. “Truth Driven Thinking,” presents the subject in a clear 3rd person presentation. A Secret of the Universe, presents critical thinking through a 1st person perspective, as we follow the characters walking a labyrinth of philosophy. The fiction work emphasizes the points made in the non-fiction and I would recommend reading both to get to full impact.

The most unique part of this book is the respect Gibson pays to the differing beliefs. Normally when an author tries to illustrate his views through a work of fiction, he creates weak and foolish (straw man) characters who have beliefs different from the author. An example of this would be Frank Peretti’s series of Christian fiction. Gibson take great care to show how reasonable, smart and critical people can come to different beliefs.

This book is a model of how people can follow the example of Ian and Bill as they let love and compassion supersede their religious differences.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My de-conversion testimony

My de-conversion testimony

Since I started this blog, I have received much great feedback which I appreciated. Several people who knew me in my former life of evangelical Christianity were understandably shocked to read that I now counted myself as an atheist.

In the last few years I have entertained questions regarding my Christian faith quietly. I shared this with very few people. I thought the as Thomas Moore described, this was the “dark night of the soul.” I figured that this would pass and all would be back normal in time.

Almost by accident, I discovered the Skeptic movement. Like more boys and men who think they are still boys, I have an interested in Bigfoot, UFOs and other paranormal phenomena. I found the skeptical point of view to match my point of view on such matters. For purposes of clarification, I see skepticism as a middle ground between cynicism and unquestioning belief. In my view of skepticism, no theory is dismissed out of hand but those presenting the theory have the burden of presenting compelling evidence.

I has having a difficult time looking at the essential parts of the Christian faith, summarized in the Nicene Creed and finding anything credible. I held it up to scrutiny the way I would look information regarding any paranormal claim. I found it was harder to believe in the Christian fundamentals than ET prowling through trailer parks.

I pulled out my old apologetics books. What I once saw as air tight explanations, suddenly I saw were truly nothing but one logical fallacy after another. Circular reasoning, straw men and special pleading were the essential foundations of nearly every argument in Josh McDowells “A Ready Defense” and other lesser known apologetic sources.

I began seeing the great wisdom of Descartes, doubting everything then rebuilding his world view from scratch. This led him to state, “I think, therefore I am.” In a sense, I took everything I thought I knew or believed and threw it in the air and let everything fall where it may. The first thing that I found to be true is from Dr Michael Shermer’s rephrasing of Descartes, “I am, therefore, I think.”

I found myself in a considerable depression at this point. My foundation was gone and there was no going back with any honesty. My identity as a Christian was shot. When combined with all the existential questions I now faced, I was in a very dark place. I started to search for something to fill that gap. After much searching, pondering, reading and soul searching I think I found it. Truth.

I have learned that it is not the answers we come to that define who we are. It is the questions that we ask and the process we use to address the questions that is of the prime importance. I believe that this is the path to Truth.

I found Stephen Gibson’s book and podcast “Truth Driven Thinking.” He seemed to be a little further along the same path I found myself wandering. He wrote a pledge for truth which states so clearly all the things I have been thinking.

When I look at what I believe to be true, I recognize all I really have are opinions in various stages of development. Many variables such as age, additional information, education or exposure to other viewpoints could change what I believe in the long run. In the meantime, I can passionately argue on behalf of what I believe. Doing so is my democratic right – perhaps even duty. But none of my beliefs will own me or hold me hostage. I will forever be willing to entertain challenges to what I know, and ultimately even be willing to give up any belief if I do so in the interest of truth, when faced with credible and valid evidence. If I don’t stand for and honor truth above all, I know that the hard wiring of my being prioritizes survival, self-preservation and the path of least resistance. And when ego, self-interest or self-affirmation is allowed to take over, my own worth is less than it could potentially be if I pursue truth. Caving to that kind of “dark side” is not who I am or what I want to stand for. Pursuit of TRUTH is light. I want to be a “net giver” to the world, not a “net taker,” and to do so I simply have to prioritize truth ahead of all else, with the sober knowledge that I’ll never in this life even know for sure whether or not I’ve found it.

- Stephen L. Gibson

OK, back to why I state that I am an Atheist. It is simply that at this point in my life, with all the available knowledge, I do not find credible evidence for the existence of any gods. Therefore, I am a non-theist or an atheist.

In this short statement, I have only been able to touch a fraction of the pieces that came together to make me re-evaluate this change in my life. I am more that willing to discuss, not argue or debate, these issues with anyone who is willing to talk respectfully. I put this limitation up because if you are reading this, you are most likely someone I love dearly and I choose not to place our differences of faith between us.

I will sign off with these thoughts which may give some additional insight to what is in my heart.

If there is a god, my search for the Truth will lead me there.
If there is a god, he will not be intimidated but will rejoice in honest inquiry.
If there is a god who is to intimidated by an honest search for Truth, he is not much of a god.

Monday, October 22, 2007

4th Amendment Part 2

Last week we discussed the exclusionary rule. Lets compare this to the football rule of pass interference. If a defender interferes with the receivers ability to catch the ball, there is a 15 yard penalty. This should be enough of a deterrent to teach players to keep their hands to themselves. But lets say that you are a defender and you know the receiver has you beat and once he catches the ball, he has an easy touchdown. Is the 15 yard penalty better than a touchdown? You bet.

In our post 9-11 America, would you as a government agent be willing to break a few rules if you thought you could prevent a major terrorist attack? This is a difficult question. Could you watch the funerals of thousands but be content that you played by the rules? The opposite argument is that once we trash the constitution, you have played into the hands of our enemies.

So basically we have a no win situation. Or have we created a false dichotomy? Are there other answers? I think it is safe to say the even if we break the rules, some terrorists will slip through. Even if we follow our rules, we sill will catch some if not may of the terrorists.

In the months following 9-11, the Patriot Act was put into play. My first argument against this is the name. Due to the nomenclature, anyone who would speak against it would be anti-patriot. The full name is The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. Sounds harmless enough.

A short list of the problems which have lead to successful lawsuits against the government include authorization of indefinite detentions of immigrants; "sneak and peek" searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of “National Security Letters” which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to government records, including library and financial records.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that using the act to authorize secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence - instead of intelligence gathering - violates the Constitution.

"For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success," the judge Ann Aiken wrote Wednesday. “A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised.” By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. Attorney General's office was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

I think it is a fair to predict that we will see domestic and foreign terrorism in the US again. It could be tomorrow, next month or in five years but it is coming. For those of us in law enforcement, we made a commitment to our defend our county but in the same breath we swore to defend the constitution. We can’t do one with out the other.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

4th Amendment part 1

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.

I believe the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution has the most direct impact on the lives of the average citizen today than many of the other amendments. The loss of these rights would changes the face or culture and would make the US unrecognizable.

To understand how the 4th Amendment is applied today, we must address two key terms, probable cause and unreasonable.

The Supreme Court has stated that probable cause to search is a flexible, common-sense standard. It merely requires that the facts available to the officer would “warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief.” The most widely held common definition would be "a reasonable belief that a crime as been committed" and that the person is linked to the crime with the same degree of certainty.

There are only two ways a person is arrested. The arresting officer has a warrant signed by a judge which already has been examined for probable cause or the arresting officer has probable cause and will present an affidavit to a judge to determine if probable cause exists. This is not a terribly high standard. In 11 years, I have written about thousand cause statement. Probable cause is a long way from proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Probable cause is a gate keeper, a low hurdle to begin the criminal prosecution.

What is unreasonable? This has evolved and will continue to evolve as technology has improved. Where things get complicated are issues such as telescopes, infrared heat sensors, collection of DNA and the developing field of human sent.

Just because we have these rights, where of the teeth to enforce them? The primary method is the exclusionary rule followed by the “fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine.” Before a trial the defense has the opportunity to request a motions hearing where they can raise issues regarding potential constitutional violations made by the police or prosecution. The judge will rule of the motion and determine if the evidence will be allowed.

If the judge applies the exclusionary rule, that single piece of evidence is not permitted to be used at the trial and jurors will never know it existed.

The doctrine of the fruit of the poisoned tree would apply if one piece of illegally collected evidence leads to other evidence. All the evidence is in jeopardy of being excluded from the trial.

I saw an example of this on TV recently. The police conducted an warrant less illegal search on a potential suspect’s home. The officer found photos in the home which showed where the body was buried. The evidence collected from the burial scene was excluded from the trial due to the initial search.

Next week we will conclude this discussion of the 4th Amendment with a look at several of the exceptions the courts have granted to the police and prosecution as well as a closer look at direct application of the issues.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

1st Amendment: revisited

In light of recent events, I think we should take the time to re-visit the 1st Amendment, specifically issues of freedom of speech.

Colorado media was buzzing about David McSwane, the editor of the Colorado State University newspaper. McSwane wrote in his opinion editorial “Taser this: F--- Bush.” Not the most persuasive argument I have heard lately but I am also known for having a colorful vocabulary. I try to be careful who is around when I use profanity. Other cops-yes, Grandmother-no. Why be careful? I have the freedom to say what I want. The first amendment protects me from the government not from the consequences I would receive from my friends and family. The situation is similar with the newspaper.

The purpose of the newspaper is to place as many advertisements as possible, then sell as many copies as possible. If is likely that McSwane’s comment may have an effect on this equation? I think so. Therefore it is reasonable for the newspaper to police itself. The Rocky Mountain Collegian's code of ethics, bars "profane or vulgar words" in opinion writing. McSwane was admonished but allowed to keep his job. That is the self-control that is needed in a free country.

I’m sure President Bush is not happy about the comment but there was never a word from the government. In my eyes, this story has a happy ending, the CSU College Republicans have started their own newspaper, the Ram Republic. As I said a few weeks ago, the cure for bad speech is more speech.

The recent Columbus Day parade in Denver is deserving of commentary. 83 protesters were arrested for disrupting/attempting to block the parade. I was there for this event which would only be made possible by the 1st Amendment. Without that clause, the City of Denver would be more than happy to deny one or both sides the right to speak and avoid the headache. I never heard the dollar amount but I am sure the overtime cost is enormous.

Thanks to the 1st, the marchers were issued a permit to have a parade. The protesters were issued a permit for the steps of the capitol, which was a part of the parade route. The majority of the route was lined, not by average parade spectators cheering and waving flags, but protesters shouting and waving signs. Although unsightly and disorganized, this is the perfect example of freedom of speech in action. I loved every minute of it.

What about the 83 arrests? They crossed the lines and attempted to deny the rights of the marchers. They were warned, then arrested. Those that I spoke with or saw interviewed, stated that they entered the street knowing they would be arrested. The arrest amplified the message. This is symbolic speech at its best. I have far more respect for those who took the risk of civil disobedience and were arrested than the several hundred who had no better way to exercise their rights than to shout profanity.

I watched another protest outside the jail where the protesters were being processed. These protesters were demanding that those arrested by released. What they are trying to do is take away the sacrifice made by those who engaged in civil disobedience.

Consequences are a requirement if those who commit acts of peaceful civil disobedience are to be honored.

So my message to the marchers, thank you for exercising your rights. To those shouting obscenities from the sidewalks, you learned that you have the right to speak, not say something worthwhile. To those who were arrested, I would offer a quote from Henry David Thoreau “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

3rd Amendment

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

People forget about the 3rd Amendment these days, but 200 years ago, this landed #3 on the founding fathers list of things that piss me off. The reason we forget about the 3rd Amendment rights, is because these rights have not been eroded or challenged since the civil war.

Although we don’t think about it much in the 21st century, this is a huge leap for the rights of the common people. Most of history, all property was the right the king or who ever had the biggest club. There was nothing to protect the commoner against “might makes right.” Everyday was lived in fear of loosing everything, legally to the powers that be.

Of course the 3rd amendment was routinely ignored during the civil war. The actions of the Union forces can be shown to have violated both clauses of the end of the amendment. First of all, Congress never declared war on the Confederate States and even if they had, no manner had been prescribed.

There is very little legal precedent to review. There was only one Federal case involving the 3rd Amendment, Engblom v Carey. This involved striking prison workers who had been living in government provided housing. The National Guard was called in to run the prison and was housed in the facilities of the striking workers. This case went to the prison because the striking workers were not the owners and the case never reached the Supreme Court.

Having been about 150 years since US troops were quartered in private homes, it is interesting to think that in the event of war and with a prescribed manner, I could be forced to host US troops without my consent. I hope they like my chili.

Monday, October 1, 2007

2nd Amendment

The First amendment draws the most controversy in issues of freedom of/from religion and free speech. This is closely followed by the second amendment and issues around gun control. It would be difficult to find an American who has not been touched by violence or accident where a firearm was involved. In my time working in the crime lab, I was responsible for attending the post-mortem examinations. I have seen what a bullet the size of a pencil eraser can do to the human body. In my years on the police, I have lost friends who were murdered with guns. It is impossible to take the emotion out of this discussion. The best we can do is remember that emotionally charged decisions rarely lead us to reason and justice.

Lets begin with the text.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What is the “militia?”
"I ask, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people…”--George Mason, Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, June 16, 1788

The militia is us. At this time this was written, The United States had just emerged from a war with England where the average man was the average soldier. Wars change. Over 200 years later we are engaged in another war, this time against crime and violence.

King Henery III required every subject between the ages of fifteen and fifty to own a weapon other than a knife. This was of such importance that Crown officials gave periodic inspections to guarantee a properly armed townspeople. This was because England did not have a police force until 1829.

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms. . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -- Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book, 1774-1776,

For illustration purposes I will use the Denver Police Department, DPD, I am using the 2006 states available at http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/311/documents/DPD2006AnnualReport.pdf

The current staffing of the DPD is 1539 sworn officers. The assignment numbers were not published in the annual report but most police departments run at about half of personnel in are assigned to the patrol division where they can immediately be deployed to crime in progress. This would bring us to about 770 officers and supervisors. Consider that due to 24 hours coverage, days off and training, 1/5th of that population is on duty at any one time. This leaves 153 officers to cover the entire 154.9 square mile City and County of Denver, population 566,974 at any one time.

In 2006 there were….
Homicide: 55
Sexual Assault: 373
Robbery: 1285
Aggravated Assault: 2244
Total reported crime in Denver: 46,020 criminal incidents

I believe that Denver Police Department is an excellent organization and they use their limited resources very well. I would encourage my readers to look at the 2006 Annual Report and see how much can be done with so little. Back to the point, Even one of the premier law enforcement agencies can barely staff 1 officer per square mile. Can we truly depend the police to come save us when we need it the most. The people have put this responsibility on our local law enforcement and the police said they were up to the challenge. The truth is that the police do a great job of investigating and prosecuting criminals but we can’t depend on the blue suits coming to save until the crime is over and the bad guys have left.

If we can’t depend on our local law enforcement, who can we depend on?
As citizens, we need to depend on each other. My neighbors can depend on me. I commit to watching their property when they are gone. I will answer my door when they knock. I will make a police report and I will testify in court for them. I am a citizen of the United States that is my responsibility to my neighbors. They have the same responsibility to me. If America has one great failing today, it is because we refuse to honor our responsibility to our neighbors. If it is our responsibility to protect each other, we must be equipped.

I carry a gun when ever I leave my home. I practice. My wife has attended the concealed carry course. She has a gun and she is not a bad shot. Don’t mess with her.

I commit to my readers that I will protect you and your family. Will you do the same for me?

For more information on both sides of the issue I recommend

Thursday, September 27, 2007

1st Amendment: part 2

1st Amendment…Part 2
“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

"The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with a good deal of rubbish."
Robert H. Jackson

Freedom of Speech, how far does it go? What are the limits? Should there be limits? What is the responsibility of law enforcement.

It would seem contradictory that we have such a clear statement from the Bill of Rights when compared with laws such inciting a riot, harassment, and even treason. Colorado Revised Statutes 18-11-201 Advocating overthrow of government is a class 5 felony.

Reasonable limits were set of Free Speech in 1919 with the decision written by Justice
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

So apply that statement to the following story

Please note the source:
The American Conservative

When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, “The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.” The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a “designated free-speech zone” on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president’s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, “As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.”

I couldn’t say it better myself so I will say it again “As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone.”

For those of us on the front lines of law enforcement will always be put in difficult positions. We are the most visible face of the government. When the powers that be overstep their authority, they will delegate it to us.

The Democratic National Convention will be in Denver August 25-28 2007. The organizers (
www.08DNC.com) and the protesters (www.recreate68.com) are working diligently for this event.

Decisions about my department’s involvement in the DNC are being made far above my pay grade. I get to do what I am told or face the consequences. I am talking to the command and asking about these issues. I may be a pawn in the big scheme by I can ask questions and make by concerns known over coffee and a doughnut. When the big day comes, we will all make decisions and we will live with the consequences.

In order for our American society to work we need more expression. As much as I personally think that Swaggartt, Dobson and Haggard the rest of God’s little helpers are causing unbelievable damage to the country, I will support their right to speak and I will sit here on my little blog and speak because the cure for bad speech is more speech.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing as S. G. Tallentyre in 1906 (commonly attributed to Voltaire, of whom Hall wrote a biography).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First Freedom First trailer

This is what it is all about

1st Amendment: part 1

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Lets take on the first clause today.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

What are the comments made by the founders regarding this issue?

James Madison: “The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

President Thomas Jefferson: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

“I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

This does seem fairly straight forward. Throughout history, just about every religion has had it's moment of power. Most of the time the line between church and state became fuzzy or completely erased. In every instance I could find in my research, the church has used its power to promote it self and damage competing ideas.

The State is not innocent. Politicos have used the perceived legitimacy of the Church to secure power and wealth as well as banish, imprison and kill adversaries.

It has been said "A gentleman will neither discuss religion or politics." Why, because someone is going to get bloody. These are the two most powerful forces in the world. Between the two, they have shaped the majority of human history. When forces this powerful combine the only result has been bloodshed.

What religion are the American people?

From www.adherents.com

Top Ten ORGANIZED Religions in the United States, 2001
ARIS Study
[Nonreligious, Atheist, Agnostic have been dropped from this list.]
Christianity 76.5%
Judaism 1.3%
Islam 0.5%
Buddhism 0.5%
Hinduism 0.4%
Unitarian Universalist 0.3%
Wiccan/Pagan/Druid 0.1%
Spiritualist 0.05%
Native American Religion 63 0.05%
Baha'i 0.04%

This shows why nearly all 1st Amendment lawsuits are against the Christian majority, in defence of the 23.5% non-Christan minority.

What are some of the current issues dealing with this part of the 1st amendment?

I am all for people engaged in all types of philosophical thought and discussion. Those who believe in the Native American belief that the earth is supported on the back of a turtle, they should seek evidence and engage in discussion. Likewise those who believe the universe was created in 6 days by a Deity, they should conduct research and host discussion. However this is done at your expense, done in your church or open public forum. This is entirely consistent with the 1st Amendment.
Consistent with the remaining amendment's, the 1st amendment grants power to the people and protection from the government. That is why the second half of the clause states "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Most of the legal action we see deals with the Church getting involved with the State so people forget that the Church is equally protected from State interference. These few words are all that protect our Muslim neighbors in our post 9-11 America as well as the remaining 23.5%. The schools and other government bodies are protected from the influence of the church just as the Church is protected from the influence and pressure of our government.

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the best foundation I can think of for beginning this blog. Having been a cop for 11 years and in instructor for 7, I have found that one of the main areas of weakness in officers is one of the most important, constitutional law. The oath we took specifically was to uphold the constitution. As we as citizens are protected by it, we as law enforcement must also conduct ourselves under it's authority. I doubt most citizens could list each amendment in the Bill of Rights and that is their right to be ignorant of what protects them. The right to be ignorant is not extended to the police. I would propose that all law enforcement officers be required to have these committed to memory. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights is what makes this country worth our time and our lives.
I will be addressing these amendments in more detail in the coming weeks. What did they mean to our founders and what do they mean today.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

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.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.