Monday, January 27, 2014

Ushanka Interview: Mr. B.

[Our first attempt at a Google Doc interview.  I posted a document to Comrade Mr. B., from In the Middle of the Right blog fame, with all of my questions and asked him to fill in his answers.]

Karl:  Comrade Mr. B!  Thank you for joining us at the virtual Ushanka Studios today for this short interview.  

Mr. B:  My pleasure

Karl:  So I sent you the link to the TechCrunch article about the Google Glasses event in a Columbus Ohio movie theater.  Apparently the theater manager saw a customer with Google Glasses go into the new Jack Ryan movie.  He called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  DHS shows up with several local police officers and mall security and detain the guy for over an hour until he proved he was not recording the movie.  Can you share with me you initial reaction when you read this story?

Mr. B:  Well, first of all, I would wonder why they thought that he was recording the movie….they’d have to prove to me a reasonable suspicion, or get a warrant to find out. IIRC, I have the “presumption of innocence” on my side. I’d be polite, but firm in my refusal….

Then there is the question of detaining me. For what? At best the theater management could have asked me to leave. Any question of copyright issues should have been brought up by the copyright owner….Which I would NOT think is the theater manager.

I think that I’d have retained an attorney and sued for unlawful detention/arrest. IF they prevented me from leaving (and I’d have asked for a refund) then they would have had to arrest me. Being arrested isn’t fun (Been there, done that) but it isn’t the end of the world. Make them escalate the issue. The farther they push things, the more foolish they look later. Cooperate and be polite if you go this far. Don’t raise your voice, and never get snotty. Be firm and polite.

Karl:  How would you respond to someone sitting next to him in a theater and grabbing his glasses off of his face?  Do you have suggestions for others on the level of cooperation when pulled into the lobby by DHS?

Mr. B:  See above….the person who pulled the glasses off would have been charged with assault...either in criminal or civil court…. the above charges for unlawful detention would be brought against the officers involved.

Karl:  Mr. B, I wanted your opinions on this because of your keen eye on police abuse.  Some of the blogs yell “Police State!”  It is hard to argue against that claim when you’re pulled out of a theater and required to prove your innocence to “5-10” police officers.  

Mr. B:  More probably just bored cops. “Police State” is an entirely different kettle of fish. These were (likely) out of control officers...bored and wanting something to do.

Karl:  One question that comes to mind from this story is: “Are there DHS agents standing by to race to the local movie theater?”  I remember my few times of calling 911 to ask for police help with noisy neighbors or suspicious activity, and having to sell the operator on the need to send an officer.  A theater manager calls, and “5-10” officers respond?

Mr. B:  Again, you have to understand….Police like to have their friends and other officers around...if nothing else is happening, you’ll end up with a bunch of them for a really minor issue. (Makes you wonder why we need all those officers of we can spare them from the streets….who is patrolling/responding if they are all at the theater??). and this usually leads to an overreaction from the cops…..they have to find SOMETHING to justify all those man hours wasted.
Really, the overreaction is a management issue. The supervisor/shift sergeant should have made the other unneeded officers go back to patrol duties as soon as the situation stabilized. But that is what cop behavior is like. That is something that needs to change, but it comes from the top.

Remember that police officers are human...they act like the rest of us do….Sadly, they aren’t all (or even most) the smartest members of our society...In many ways they act like any other large group of people when together….and they are (often) somewhat immature and don’t realize it. Think of a group of young toughs in high’ll find very similar behaviors. When you add in the power (real and perceived) of their position and badge…..

Karl:  Another unanswered question is: Did DHS contact the theater manager in some community outreach effort to enlist his help?  Something like Napalitano’s “If you see something, say something.”  If so, this is like a federal neighborhood watch program.  Is there a number I can call if my wife and I have our friends over to watch Agenda, for example, and one of our friends is wearing Google Glasses?

Mr. B:  I dunno. One would wonder why DHS officers would be involved. The only thing I can suggest is that is was a slow night at the cop shop….

Karl:  Mr. B, do you have any peaceful protest ideas?  I have one idea.  Why not get our fellow bloggers to link to the Yelp URL for the offending theater?  Why not give one-star ratings to any business that drops a dime on their customers to the DHS.

Mr. B:  Not a bad idea… and email the theater management and refuse to patronize the theater chains that do this.

Karl:  Thanks for your time, Mr. B, and stay warm in this crazy weather.  On the plus side, nobody is getting shot up in Chicago!

Mr. B:  Just at a slower rate…..

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