Articles Posted in Search & Seizure

This week, the New York Times published an article about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition software. The article specifically mentions the San Diego Police Department, and accuses it of misuse of this software. Facial recognition software is a new technology to local law enforcement. It was first utilized by the military, and critics of the technology worry about violations of civil liberties, privacy, and misidentification of individuals. The New York Times story includes an account of two local men who said they felt San Diego police violated their rights when the facial recognition software was used on them. Neither man was actually arrested.

One of the men, Eric Hanson, a retired firefighter with no criminal record says that he was “stopped by the police after a dispute with a man he said was prowler. He was ordered to sit on a curb while officers took his photo with an iPad and ran it through facial recognition software. The officers also used a cotton swab to collect a DNA sample from the inside of his cheek. I was thinking, ‘Why are you taking pictures of me, doing this to me?’ I felt like my identity was being stolen. I’m a straight-up, no lie, cheat or steal guy, and I get treated like a criminal.”

San Diego police spokesman Lieutenant Scott Wahl agreed to be interviewed for the New York Times story because he says that he understands the concerns and debate about the use of facial recognition technology by local police. He explained why it is important to be transparent, to ensure people understand the software. The New York Times article claimed that the software is used “with little oversight or training, and that San Diego County law enforcement are building a massive database of photos of people, whether they are suspected of crimes or not.” Wahl refutes these claims and says that they simply are untrue.

Last year, two children were discovered face down and floating in a pool behind a home in La Mesa. The mother of the children, Tassie Behrens, claimed she put the children to sleep on the living room couch the night before and then joined her boyfriend in the master bedroom to sleep. According to detectives, Behrens said the oldest of the two children came into the bedroom about 8a.m. the next morning looking for his younger sister, implying she was no longer in the living room where the mother had left them. Behrens apparently ignored this and went back to sleep, only to get up an hour later and find them both drowned in the backyard pool. The children, one two years old and the other only eighteen months old, should have never been left alone and especially not where they would be able to so easily access the pool. Behrens, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony child endangerment and was sentenced to four years in prison. The drowned children, however, were not all detectives found when they entered the house. The search of the property revealed a drug manufacturing business was underway as police found pipes, bongs, drug residue, exposed wires, butane cans and other dangerous things all within the children’s grasp. Behren’s boyfriend, 45-year-old Larry Dangelo, was the one renting the house and plead guilty to one count of manufacturing honey oil and another charge related to a different location. He was sentenced to eight years and eight months in custody and is required to serve half of his sentence in county jail and the other half under mandatory probation supervision.

“Man In Drowning Case Sentenced On Drug Charges” – UT San Diego

Sunday was an eventful day in East County as authorities rake in the arrests from a routine probation sweep. The probation sweep involved traffic stops and trolley patrols in Lakeside, Santee and East County in an effort to cover as much ground as possible. Overall, the process was successful and left around forty people facing drug charges for various crimes ranging from possession of mere paraphernalia or actual drugs. In some cases, the drugs in possession by the individuals were meant for widespread sale and more than $1,000 worth of methamphetamine was seized during the entire course of the probation check. The probation check ran from a window between 6am and 6pm on Saturday and was nicknamed “Operation Summer’s End,” appropriately so as the fall season is now in full swing. The offenders arrested were booked into jail, charged with their appropriate crime based on what was found in their possession. According to authorities, the probation check was a combing-through of probationers previously or currently involved in crimes to help those on a “conditional release” avoid falling back into their previous crime committing lifestyles.

“Probation Sweep Leaves 40 Facing Drug Charges” – Times Of San Diego

Schools are taking drug use more seriously to the extent of hiring drug-sniffing dogs to secure narcotics from students’ belongings, so much so that the district decided to use close to $60,000 acquired in an education grant to purchase Blitz – their very own drug detecting dog. Previously, principals of the schools in the San Diego district had to pull the funds for separate narcotic searches with canines from their individual campus budgets, but since the hiring of Blitz authorities have been able to visit and have the dog sniff out nearly all of the high schools the district encompasses. Some parents, however, are far from happy about the acquisition and claim the drug searches are a violation of the freedom rights of their children. The administration has taken as many precautions as possible to make sure students are aware the searches are voluntary and parents are notified; text messages are sent to the parents when searches are going to take place. Students are allowed to choose whether or not to exit classrooms and leave their belongings in order to volunteer being subjected to searches from Blitz. Having a personal narcotic sniffing canine certainly is out of the norm for a school district and It isn’t clear if other districts will follow in San Diego’s footsteps.

“Drug Sniffing Dog Has Increased Presence On San Diego Campuses” – UT San Diego

A big drug bust happened around 9am Sunday morning when a female driver approached the interstate 8 inspection facility in Pine Valley. For some reason, the woman wouldn’t roll down her window for routine questioning. Essentially creating the circumstances for her own downfall, her strange behavior tipped off the officers to inspect her vehicle. A drug detecting dog alerted them to the presence of some type of contraband; heroin and methamphetamine were hidden in her dashboard in a non-factory compartment. Authorities seized the large amount of drugs, with a total weight of 24.91lbs – a street value estimated to be just over half a million dollars. The female driver, whose name was not released, was taken into custody and is expected to face federal charges of possession of controlled substances. The Border Patril seized her car and now has it in their custody for further inspection.

“Large Drug Bust In East County” – San Diego 6, The CW

Authorities from the U.S. and Mexico successfully stopped and captured a boat attempting to smuggle approximately one ton of marijuana in the international waters about 150 miles southwest of San Diego, according to officials. The boat was originally detected by a standard Border Patrol aircraft on Thursday morning and notified Coast Guard officials. The Coast Guard responded by sending a C-130 Hercules aircraft and crew to support the Coast Guard Cutter, Terrapin, sent to intercept the suspicious boat in international waters. The Terrapin is an 87-foot patrol boat and is based out of Bellingham, Washington. The crew of the Terrapin is formally trained to handle situations like this and when they got aboard the boat in question, they found three suspected smugglers and ninety bales of marijuana. The haul of drugs weighed approximately two-thousand pounds and were hidden on a fairly small boat called a “panga.” The suspected smugglers stated they were nationals of Mexico and were turned over to the Mexican Navy, along with the drugs and the boat. On August 1st, the Coast Guard captured two other pangas with four other suspected smugglers carrying about twelve-thousand pounds of marijuana.

“Coast Guard: Boat Carrying 1 Ton Of Marijuana Captured” – Times of San Diego

Authorities set up a checkpoint somewhere in the 4200 block of Mission Bay Drive in the hopes of removing some drunk drivers from the streets – which they have successfully done on numerous occasions in the past – and continue to do frequently. The checkpoint began around 11pm on Friday night, operating for roughly four hours before coming to a close Saturday morning at about 3am. Although driving under the influence isn’t the only offense the police officers screen for during routine license checkpoints, it is usually the one seen most often and the one most vital to get off of the roadways. During the hours of the Mission Bay Drive checkpoint, officers on the scene were able to stop a total of almost 572 vehicles for further inspection; around 1,800 vehicles passed through the checkpoint in total. Out of the almost 600 vehicles screened, officers were able to make a total of nine arrests on drunk driving charges.

“DUI Checkpoint in Mission Bay Nets Nine Arrests” – San Diego 6, the CW

Everyone had a great time watching the horse race last Thursday at the Del Mar racetrack, the 75th season of local thoroughbred racing; alcoholic drinks were a fan favorite. After the fun was over, authorities were ahead of the game and set up patrols and road traps, screening people as they went through. In total, there were 14 teams of officers on the job from Thursday at 5 p.m. to Friday at 2 a.m., and it proved to be a good use of resources when the arrests and violations started pouring in. In total, just under 200 vehicles were stopped between the designated patrol times and 13 drunk driving arrests were made – one guy even had some brass knuckles! Aside from those arrests, police cited a person for marijuana possession and ticketed for 50 other violations – four vehicles were impounded, too. Authorities made a statement saying they went into action to reduce drunk driving and had no other choice but to remove any and all persons suspected of it from the streets and roadways to keep drivers safe; and that’s exactly what they did.

“13 Arrests for DUI Near Del Mar Racetrack” – KFMB 760am

Outrage of the week! Not the ruling by the United States Supreme Court but the complete and utter disrespect by Arizona school officials for the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure.

School officials thought it was OK to strip search a female student,13 year old teenager Savana Redding, to find prescription strength ibuprofen, basically one pill with the strength of two Advil’s. School authorities were allowed to search her backpack and outer clothing but went way to far in searching her underwear. The U.S. Supreme court held that educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk.

School officials only need reasonable suspicion, not probable cause, to search a student for contraband not allowed on school grounds. However, the search of the student must be limited in scope. In Ms. Reddings’s case there were no facts suggesting she was a danger to other students or that she was actually possessing the pills in her underwear. Because of these deficiencies, her search was unreasonable under the 4th Amendment.

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