Tag Archives: police

Brandon Raub and the Thought Police

In the following, Constitutional lawyer John Whitehead comments on the ex-Marine veteran Brandon Raub’s arrest and the blatant Constitutional violations committed by the local police and FBI agents. Whitehead also addresses the growing abuses power by our government officials.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeKRhAK4l1Q&w=560&h=315]

Rutherford Institute Sues Pennsylvania Police on Behalf of Business Owner Threatened with Arrest for Videotaping on Public Sidewalk

(Franklin, PA) Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a First Amendment lawsuit against two police officers with the Franklin Police Department who threatened a business owner with arrest simply for videotaping his own business activities and videotaping his subsequent interaction with the police while on a public sidewalk in Franklin, Pennsylvania. The officers allegedly informed Skip Dreibelbis, the president of True Blue Auctions, that by videotaping on a public sidewalk, he was violating wiretapping laws. Institute attorneys filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, charging that police violated Dreibelbis’ First Amendment right to make video recordings in public spaces and infringed upon his right to receive information.

The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in Dreibelbis v. John Does is available here.

“This is a form of censorship that is an egregious violation of Mr. Dreibelbis’ First Amendment rights,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “For police to suggest that this activity violates wiretapping laws is absurd. The ramifications of this kind of government mindset does not bode well for the future of freedom.”

True Blue Auctions, founded by Skip Dreibelbis, provides a variety of auction services to businesses and individuals throughout the country. As part of its normal business practices, True Blue posts auction signs at an auction site and often videotapes the auction so it has a record of bids, amounts, and other details to aid in resolving potential disputes. The videotaping of the auction is always done in the open, at a location to which the public is invited, with permission of the owner of the premises and/or in a public forum area. True Blue Auctions was contracted to carry out a two-day auction in Franklin, Penn., beginning on October 16, 2009. That day, Dreibelbis posted auction signs at the site and began videotaping the auction from the premises where the auction was taking place and from an adjacent public sidewalk. At no time did Dreibelbis block pedestrian traffic on the public sidewalk, nor did anyone complain about the signs or the videotaping or voice the concern that their privacy interests were being violated by the videotaping. Nevertheless, two police officers approached Dreibelbis while he was videotaping the auction from the sidewalk and allegedly informed him that videotaping was against wiretapping laws and that they would have to arrest Dreibelbis if he didn’t put away his video recorder. According to the complaint, the officers also ordered Dreibelbis to remove his posted auction signs and move about 75 yards away. In filing suit against the two unidentified officers with the Franklin Police Department, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute point out that individuals have a right under the First Amendment to videotape persons, including police officers, in public places. Moreover, Institute attorneys contend that by ordering Dreibelbis to turn off the video camera and threatening him with arrest if he did not immediately cease videotaping the auction and the encounter with the police, police also violated Dreibelbis’ right to receive information in that far more protected activity was chilled than was reasonably necessary to protect any compelling government interest.

Attorneys J. Michael Considine, Jr., of West Chester, Penn., and Joseph L. Luciana, III of the Pittsburgh firm of Dingess, Foster, Luciana, Davidson and Chleboski are assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Dreibelbis.

Does Passing Issue 10 Make Any Sense?

By Daniel Downs

Xenia fire and police want us to believe passing their proposed charter amendment (Issue 10) will guarantee the continued safety of Xenia citizens and their property. What it will actually accomplish is force taxpayers to maintain no less than 42 full-time certified fire fighters and 46 full time police officers at all times no matter the cost to the city. City council claims passing Issue 10 will bankrupt the city by 2013.

Bankrupting the city does not make sense.

Issue 10 will also require the city to adhere to a staffing norm of 1.5 fire fighters per 1,000 population and 1.7 police officers per 1,000 population. The latest financial report has Xenia population at 27,314 and the above minimum number of safety personnel reflects this normative formula. However, the current number of police is 69 and fire fighters totals 41 not 46 police and 41 fire fighters.

Why then does Xenia employ 69 police officers rather than 46? The answer is response time and supervisors. Many years ago, city management and council decided they wanted police to respond more quickly to calls. That meant adding more police officers and supervisors per shift to guarantee the results.

Employing more police for quicker responses to calls does make sense.

What does not make any sense is allowing fire fighters to reformulate requirements that will result in more supervisory staff. It appears fire fighters are attempting to set a minimum number of fighters without clearly delineating the requirement for more supervisory and administrative staff to support them. If this is so, they are misleading voters to get what the police have–more personnel. The problem is no one sees the need for more fire fighters. In fact, city officials didn’t see the need for less either. Only 1 fire fighter was laid off, according to the city’s state audited financial report.

Failing to provide for a reduction of safety personnel should Xenia population significantly decrease only makes sense if you are trying to pass a 1/2% income tax levy. It’s the good cop-bad cop routine.

Whether or not this was intended, Issue 10 still lacks provision to reduce safety personnel in case of decrease on population. For example, if Issue 10 passes and Xenia population grows to 30,000, the city will be required by law to hire 4 more certified fire fighters. But, if the recession caused enough people to move away that the population shrunk back to 24,164 as it was in 2008, city could not lay off 5 police and 5 fire fighters.

It does not make sense to employ more safety personnel unless to improve call response times or prevent crime.

A question still needing an answer is how many residents are there now? Put differently, how many residents have moved away since the recession? According to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Xenia population grew to 27,437, which is an increase of over 3,291 since 2007.

Assuming all of the new residents live in family households and average $20,000 of taxable income, the city should have seen an increase of nearly $400,000 in income tax revenue per year. That does not include any additional property tax increases. In actuality, the city reported $555,025 less income tax revenue, which means most of them became unemployed, some of them became unemployed and some other did as well, or census estimates are wrong. In actuality, the number of taxpayers increased by 76 in 2009 but paid $4,468 less income taxes. This suggests that most of the decrease in income tax revenue was the result of significant decline in local business revenue.

It does not make sense for taxpayers either to make up lost revenue for local business or to add more safety personnel when local unemployment rate is 12 percent as reported by city officials.

Issue 10 will also create an unfunded mandate, which is the reason past and present city council members oppose it. It does make any sense to pass a law that will cost taxpayers more money without creating legal means to fund it.

Passing Issue 10 simply does not make any sense, which is a good reason to vote NO on November 2.

Police & Fire Retirees Become Public-Service Millionaires

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions today released “Dipped in Gold: Upper-Management Police and Fire Retirees become Public-Service Millionaires.” Through the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), public safety officials are eligible to retire on paper, yet continue to work for up to eight years while their pensions (along with three percent cost-of-living allowances and five percent interest payments) accumulate in untouchable accounts. When the officers exit DROP, it is not uncommon for them to collect lump sum payments totaling roughly $1 million dollars. Since they are treated as if they are in year 9 of retirement when they exit DROP, many in upper management also collect yearly pension payments in excess of $100,000 for the rest of their lives.

Since the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F) is a highly secretive entity, the report details DROP payouts and pensions for hypothetical Columbus and Cincinnati police officers. Supposing the average DROP participant is a Columbus police officer, taxpayers would save nearly $1.2 billion if the DROP program were eliminated and the retirement age were raised from 48 to 55. The report also suggests several other money-saving options such as terminating cost-of-living allowance increases during DROP, tying the interest payments to market rates, and disallowing participants to keep their required employee contributions to OP&F.

Mary McCleary, Buckeye Institute Policy Analyst, stated: “Making public servants millionaires when they retire is not the bargain you agreed to as a taxpayer. Ohioans bear the seventh highest state and local tax burden due to expensive programs like DROP. Private-sector taxpayers, many of whom have experienced job losses, pay freezes or cuts, and benefit reductions, cannot afford to finance the gold-plated compensation packages of their police officer and firefighter neighbors.”

The report can be viewed on The Wire at www.buckeyeinstitute.org.

City of Xenia Announces May Ballot Issue

Xenia City Council unanimously passed legislation on Thursday, January 14, 2010, which is the first step in the process that will give voters the right to decide whether it’s time to raise the City’s income tax rate from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent. The proposed tax increase, which would appear on the May 4, 2010, ballot, is expected to generate an estimated $2.7 million for the City. This revenue would help to maintain current Police and Fire staffing levels and services as well as provide much needed dollars for street improvements and other general capital improvements. If voters approve the legislation, the City’s tax credit will not be affected, which is a maximum of 1.5 percent. Further, 0.25 percent of the increase is dedicated solely to maintain current Police and Fire staffing levels and services and provide funding for police and fire capital needs (i.e., police cars, ambulances, etc.).

City Council has been deliberating the city’s finances after the defeat of a Replacement 3.5 Mill Operating Levy in February 2009. Voters approved a renewal of the 3.5 Mill Operating Levy in August 2009. Although the City needs those dollars, the renewal levy only kept the existing revenue stream in place and did not provide any additional funding. The City of Xenia has not received a voted income tax increase since 1991. Further, the existing 3.5 Mill Operating Levy was initially passed in 1959 and has generated very few additional dollars since the 1970s. Mr. Bazelak said, “The City of Xenia has received only one voted tax increase (a quarter percent in 1991) over the last 30 years and that increase was almost 20 years ago. Income tax collections have declined significantly over the past year and there has been a reduction in local government funding from the state, and with little growth in other revenues, it is just not enough anymore to be able to provide the same level of services that our residents have come to expect.” City Manager, Jim Percival said, “the City has done everything we can do to reduce expenses, save jobs, and maintain current Police and Fire staffing levels. We have cut everything we can cut … we cut nine full-time and two part-time non-union positions in September 2009, two vacant police officer positions have not been filled, a wage freeze for non-union employees was put in place in 2009 and will continue in 2010, and union contracts have been renegotiated with concessions. This comes on top of a staff reduction of 15 employees in 2003. Voters need to be made aware of the potential additional cuts to police and fire and service reductions so they can make an educated vote on May 4th. City streets are also in grave need of improvements, but there are just not enough capital dollars to make any substantial improvements.”

In November 2009, the City began a community outreach initiative with a citizen perception survey of a limited number of residents conducted by Wright State University and a focus group of community leaders facilitated by 3-F Coaching. The results of the survey and focus group discussion were utilized in forming a recommendation to Council on a potential levy ballot issue. The survey indicated street improvements as well as police and fire services were top priorities for citizens. The survey results are available on the City’s website at www.ci.xenia.oh.us. Council President Patricia Felton said, “Nobody wants to raise taxes, but we feel an income tax increase is the best approach to raise the necessary dollars to maintain our current Police and Fire staffing levels and also provide much needed capital dollars for street improvements and capital dollars for police and fire. This is essential when it comes to the safety of our City. If it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to go to Plan B – which is to lay off 6 firefighters and 4 police officers – there is no other way around it.”

If approved by the voters on the May 4th ballot, the rate increase would be effective January 1, 2011. The City realizes the economic difficulties of our community and took that into consideration when determining what amount and what of type of issue to place on the ballot. Those with higher incomes would pay more, those with lower incomes would pay less, and those with no earned income would pay nothing at all. For a middle-class Xenia household making $40,000 a year, the increase would cost less than $17 a month. All Social Security, company pensions, dividends, and interest income would continue