Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

Ever see that TV show Cops? Well this is sort of like the exact opposite of that. It’s a web-based show called KopBusters. KopBusters is a reality show that sets up stings to catch crooked cops. Yes, I know what you are thinking, but it’s true—there are indeed some police officers in the U.S. of A. who do not always play by the rules. And the show’s creator ought to know. He used to be a police officer. And he himself did some not-strictly-legal things during his career in law enforcement (or so he says).

Now I don’t know if this show is supposed to be a series or what, as there is currently only one “episode.” Even so, it’s worth watching just to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them for once. (The “bad guys” in this case being the police.)

What got the KopBusters involved in this particular case was the sentencing of a young Odessa, Texas woman to 8 years in prison for possession of marijuana and methamphetamine. There appears to be evidence (e.g. forged documents, informant’s testimony) to indicate that police planted the drugs this woman was convicted of possessing. That evidence was allegedly ignored at her trial. So her father brought in KopBusters to expose the wrongdoing on the part of the local police.

What KopBusters did was rent an house in Odessa and secretly set up a marijuana grow operation. But they didn’t grow marijuana there. No, they planted two small Christmas trees under their high-intensity lights. They also wired the house for video and had the cameras transmitting to a remote location. And then they waited.

It didn’t take long before the house was raided. In addition to the Christmas-tree growing operation, the raiding officers were greeted with a sign informing them that there was no one in the house and nothing illegal was going on there. Oh, and that they were on camera as part of a sting operation. As you can imagine, this is not the sort of thing that makes the police very happy. And rightly so. Being caught on video tape using an illegal warrant can ruin anybody’s day. So they arrested the KopBusters’ attorney when he showed up on the scene. He was eventually released, under pressure, but according to an evening news story the police were still trying to figure out how to charge the KopBusters with a crime. Which strikes me as just a bit crazy when the police were the ones engaging in illegal activities. Ironic even.

Now as great as this scenario sounds, I do have some misgivings about it. For example, “Mr. KopBusters,” Barry Cooper, is a former police officer who has been making money selling a video showing people how to avoid being arrested for using illegal drugs. A noble concept, but you have to wonder about people’s motives when money is involved. Is he selling out his former profession by using his inside knowledge for profit? Or is he trying to make up for his former evil doings? I don’t know, but having all the pertinent information is the only way to come to an informed decision.

And one thing that really makes me wonder about the legitimacy of this sting is the way the local police found out about this “grow operation” in the first place. If the house was set up in secret, how did anybody outside their organization know about it? It’s not entirely clear to me, but it appears that an “anonymous tip” was delivered to the police. And that alone, they say, is what led to the search warrant. Of course an anonymous tip in and of itself is not sufficient grounds for issuing a search warrant. So there’s some part of the story we’re not being told. But since the police refused to provide KopBusters with a copy of their warrant, I guess we’ll never know. (I don’t quite understand this, since I thought the police were supposed to present their warrant to the person being raided.) So for now at least I’m going to give KopBusters the benefit of the doubt and chalk one up for the good guys.

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