Murderous Arrogance: Six years later the Fairfax County Police Release tape of questionable killing…
Once again Sharon Bulova and John Faust said nothing and did nothing about it and now they want you to reelect them.
Fairfax County police release video in 2009 officer involved shooting
By Tom Jackman May 6 at 5:33 PM
Fairfax County police Officer David S. Ziants, left, and an unidentified Fairfax officer approach a green Chevrolet Blazer, right, seconds before Ziants shot and killed the unarmed driver, David Masters. (Fairfax County Police Department dashboard video)
Note: This post has been updated to edit the video and add the comments of Masters’ father and ex-wife.
David Masters of Fredericksburg was shot and killed by Fairfax County police Officer David Scott Ziants on Nov. 13, 2009, as Masters drove on Route 1 in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County. Masters was unarmed and had ripped some flowers out of a planter in front of a business, which led to the police pursuit.
On Wednesday, the Fairfax police released the dash cam video from Ziants’s car. The actual shooting is not visible, but the sounds of the shots can be heard (at 1:49), followed by another officer apparently telling Ziants, “What are you doing? Hold up! Whoa! Hold up! The —- you doing dude? Come on.”
Fairfax County police release 2009 video of officer involved shooting(3:00)
On Wednesday, Fairfax County police released dash cam footage of the 2009 chase of David Masters, which ended in him being fatally shot by police. (YouTube/Fairfax County Government)
Fairfax police did not explain why they chose today, more than five years later, to release the video. In March, the police rejected a freedom of information act request from The Washington Post to allow a review of the investigative file in the case, also without explanation. In Virginia, law enforcement agencies may release, or withhold, any investigative information under state public information law, indefinitely.
[The circumstances leading up to the death of David Masters on Route 1.]
In a statement accompanying the release, Fairfax police Chief Edwin C. Roessler said: “In an effort to continue with increasing our transparency and the public trust, I have exercised my discretion under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act by authorizing the release of the in-car video from the criminal investigation into the officer-involved shooting of David Masters that occurred in the Mount Vernon District on Friday, November 13, 2009. Based on several requests, the video was provided to the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission and is posted here. In reaching my decision to release the in-car video, I considered the following factors: the local criminal investigation has been completed; the U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation has been completed; and there is no pending or threatened civil litigation.”
Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh ruled in January 2010 that Ziants had not committed a crime, because Ziants believed that Masters was driving a stolen car, was reaching for a gun and had run over another officer, none of which was true. Ziants was allowed to remain on the force until May 2011, when then-Chief David M. Rohrer fired Ziants.
Barrie Masters, 83, said the Fairfax police sent him a link to watch the video, and “I am really distraught. It’s totally wiped me out.” He asked, “How can we live in a world where a cop can just come up behind somebody, no matter what he thinks has been going on, and just shoot him in the back?”
Barrie Masters, a former Army colonel now living in Florida, said, “The fact is, if David committed a crime, the most it was was a misdemeanor for five dollars worth of flowers. The [police] regulations specifically prohibit the use of deadly force.” Masters said he was still hopeful that a special prosecutor might be empaneled to investigate and charge Ziants.
Gail Masters, who was David Masters’s ex-wife and remained his best friend and caretaker, was devastated again Wednesday after seeing the video. Fairfax police did not contact her, though she is the executor of his estate.
“I’m still miserable,” she said. “I’ve been praying that they would charge him [Ziants]. It’s not fair that he’s out there having a good time and Dave’s gone. I haven’t been myself since it happened. It’s just like they say, a part of you leaves and doesn’t come back.”
David Masters was 52, a former Army Green Beret and carpenter living on disability payments after a work accident, and had bipolar disorder, his ex-wife said. He was driving a blue-green Chevrolet Blazer with the license plate “F001″ up Route 1 from Fredericksburg when he apparently pulled over outside a landscaping business and ripped some flowers out of some planters. An employee confronted him, but Masters hopped in the Blazer, with several of his ex-wife’s puppies inside, and continued north.
The landscaping employee called police. As Masters headed north on Route 1, Ziants spotted him. Ziants, then 26 and a former Army soldier, told police that he confused Ziants’ vehicle with another vehicle wanted in a stolen car case, Morrogh said in 2010. The video shows Ziants turning on his lights and siren and pursuing Masters for about a mile up the highway, with Masters at one point running a red light, then squeezing through stopped cars at another intersection, refusing to stop for the officer.
Finally at Fort Hunt Road, another Fairfax cruiser blocks Masters’ Blazer in. Ziants and two other officers approach the car. But the light turns green and the Blazer starts to pull away. Ziants yells for the Blazer to stop, while another officer appears to tell him, “No no no no.” Then, two shots, while the other officer loudly implores him to stop firing.
Police Violence Casts Shadow on Sporting Event
by MARK HAND
In late June and early July, thousands of police officers and fire service workers from around the world will converge on Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., to participate in an Olympic-style competition known as the World Police & Fire Games.
The 10-day-long games will feature traditional athletic events such as track and field and boxing. Police officers also will be eligible to compete in police pistol combat events and service dog competitions that include narcotics detection and subduing suspects.
The games’ organizers, the California Police Athletic Federation, tout the biennial event as one of the world’s largest multi-sport events, second only to the Olympics in terms of the number of participants. First held in 1985 in San Jose, Calif., the games are open to active and retired law enforcement officers and fire service personnel. About 12,000 athletes from more than 70 countries are expected to compete in 61 events in 53 different venues in Fairfax County and other parts of the D.C. metropolitan area from June 26 to July 5.
The previous World Police & Fire Games, held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, were deemed “the best and friendliest ever” games by its organizers. The organizers estimated the cost of the event at about 13 million pounds, or $18 million. The Fairfax County games are expected to cost about $20 million.
After hosting the event in 2013, organizers of the Belfast games expressed disappointment with the number of participants from outside Northern Ireland. “The consequence of lower out of state numbers has a knock-on impact on subsequent monetary targets: commercial bed nights; registration and event entry fees; and economic benefit,” the organizers of the Belfast games said in an event post-mortem released in February 2014.
Following the lead of previous host cities, the Fairfax County government will be lavishing the private event with at least $3 million of taxpayer money. Public funds will be going to the games as the county’s public schools are facing a financial crisis and as the county’s library system is dealing with budget cuts of almost 30% over the past 10 years on a real spending basis.
Despite budget problems with the county’s core services, government officials are excited about the millions they agreed to spend on the games. “Fairfax County has pledged $3 million to host and sponsor the games. With several more million in staffing and public safety to come,” Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, the county’s top elected official, boasted at a 2014 event to promote the games. Bulova declined a request to comment on the World Police & Fire Games for this article.
In 2009, Fairfax County officials highlighted the economic benefit of hosting the World Police & Fire Games when they were competing with their counterparts in Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada, to win the games for 2015. Organizers estimated a regional economic impact of $60 million to $80 million in revenue from the event. Drawing on the Olympics parallel, the Fairfax County games organizers also hired a former Olympic organizer, Bill Knight, to serve as chief executive of its effort.
Some experts aren’t convinced these types of sporting events are big revenue-producers. When it comes to the Olympics, for example, Philip Porter, an economist at the University of South Florida who has studied the impact of sporting events, told The New York Times that the evidence is unequivocal on cities that host the Olympics. “The bottom line is, every time we’ve looked — dozens of scholars, dozens of times — we find no real change in economic activity,” he said.
Whether the World Police & Fire Games gives Fairfax County a big financial boost remains to be seen. What is certain is the event’s athletic competitions will give police officers and fire service personnel an opportunity to show off their athletic prowess.
A contingent from the Baltimore Police Department is likely to make the 40-mile trek south to participate in the games. The World Police & Fire Games will provide an intriguing juxtaposition for the city’s police department: Baltimore’s finest will be hailed as heroes in Fairfax County at the same time that six of their colleagues face criminal charges in the death of city resident Freddie Gray.
Fairfax County itself is under scrutiny for extreme police violence. Earlier this year, the Fairfax County government paid almost $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man, John Geer, who was killed by a county police officer while standing in the doorway of his home. On top of the Geer settlement, the county could face another multi-million-dollar lawsuit after members of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office recently used a Taser against a woman who was fully restrained in the county jail. The woman died from the delivery of four 50,000 volt shocks from the Taser.
The organizers of the World Police & Fire Games likely are hoping the ongoing focus on police violence in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, North Charleston, S.C., Baltimore and many other cities does not overshadow the games. And Fairfax County residents should not be surprised if the county agrees to spend additional public funds on security due to concerns about protesters showing up at the various events.
Mark Hand covers political action. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm John Faust. I'm on the Board of Supervisors and I'm terrified of the cops, I've never done anything to bring them under control and here's an example of something else I didn't do. I didn't stop them or even speak out against the cops collecting hundreds of thousands of license plates of innocent citizens for no reason the cops can explain.
So remember Vote Faust, if you dumb enough to elect me once I'll probably get away with it again!
ACLU Sues Fairfax County Police Over License-Plate Data
FAIRFAX, Va. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is suing Fairfax County police over a policy in which they store data collected on thousands of drivers through the use of license-plate readers.
The civil-liberties group filed the suit Tuesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court. The ACLU alleges that keeping a database of information collected through license-plate readers amounts to an illegal invasion of privacy.
In 2013, Virginia’s attorney general advised state police that data collected by plate readers is personal information under state law and can’t be kept unless it’s part of a specific criminal investigation.
The ruling prompted state police to stop collecting data, but local police agencies, including Fairfax, still collect and share the data.
A county spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday evening.
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VIRGINIA MAN SUES POLICE OVER LICENSE PLATE DATABASE
In what appears to be a legal first, a Virginia man has sued the Fairfax County Police Department for collecting images of his license plate in a massive database.
Harrison Neal, a Fairfax resident, filed the suit after learning that his license plate had been scanned by an automatic license plate reader twice last year and stored in a police database, even though he was not a suspect in a criminal investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed the lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of Neal.
Although individuals have filed suits to obtain records stored in such databases, this is the first case known to target a law enforcement agency over an alleged illegal use of a database.
The database, the complaint (.pdf) asserts, violates a Virginia statute—the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act—which prohibits government agencies from collecting, storing, or disseminating the personal information of individuals unnecessarily.
Automatic license plate readers have become a hot topic in recent years, akin to the government’s warrantless use of GPS trackers on vehicles and stingrays or IMSI catchers that are used to track the location of cell phones and other mobile devices.
The readers, often mounted on a vehicle or in a fixed location, use cameras and optical character recognition technology to take images of license plates and store them in searchable databases. Insurance agencies and impounders use them to locate stolen vehicles or vehicles belonging to people who are behind on their payments. But law enforcement agencies also use them.
Civil liberties groups consider the readers and databases a violation of privacy because it’s possible to discover a lot about a person simply by recording the location of their car over a period of time. The readers can also capture much more than license plates. In California, a computer security consultant named Michael Katz-Lacabe discovered that authorities in his San Francisco Bay Area town had collected images of his two cars 112 times in a database, including one image taken in 2009 that showed him and his two daughters exiting one of the cars while it was parked in their driveway.
But proponents of the technology argue that the data collected is innocuous compared to other data like cell-phone location information.
“We’re not insensitive to people’s right to privacy,” Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association said in 2013 over a battle in his state about license plate databases. “If Big Brother is going to abuse information, there’s better information to abuse than this.”
Neal discovered images of his car in the database maintained by the Fairfax Police Department after filing a public records request recently. In response, he received two sheets of paper containing an image of his car, along with a chart indicating the times and dates the images were taken and a map showing a street location, believed to be the location of the reader when it snapped the images.
But Virginia’s state law should have prevented his images from being stored. In February 2013, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion advising the State Police that automatic license plate readers do collect personal information, as defined by the Act, and therefore agencies cannot legally collect and store that data unless it’s related to a specific criminal investigation. The pronouncement came in part after it was discovered that Virginia State Police had used license plate readers in 2008 to collect information about people who had attended rallies for Sarah Palin and Barack Obama during the presidential election that year.
Subsequent to the attorney general’s pronouncement, the Virginia State Police stopped storing license plate records and established a policy for purging such information within 24 hours after being collected by a reader, unless the information is relevant to a criminal investigation.
But, according to the ACLU of Virginia, other government agencies in the state have failed to follow suit. The Fairfax Police Department, for example, stores license plate images for up to a year, regardless of their relevance to an investigation.
The department also has an agreement with law enforcement agencies in Maryland and the District of Columbia to share information collected in its database.
“Like many other technologies, ALPRs have legitimate law enforcement uses,” Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia said in a statement. “We do not object to the real-time use of ALPRs to compare license plate numbers to a current ‘hot list’ of vehicles involved in current investigations. The danger to privacy comes when the government collects tens of thousands of license plate records so it can later find out where people were and when. The intrusion is magnified in the Washington, D.C. area, where multiple law enforcement agencies may access each other’s information.”
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION
May 6, 2015 | By Dave Maass
Virginia Governor Signs Warrant Requirement for Drones, Rejects License Plate Reader Limits
With broad and near-unanimous bipartisan support, the Virginia General Assembly passed a series of bills this year to defend the public’s right to privacy from new mass surveillance technologies.
To his credit, Gov. Terry McAuliffe almost immediately signed a bill to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before tracking people’s mobile phones with cell tower emulators, often called “stingrays.” But he initially balked at two other bills: one that would have also required police to get a warrant before using drones and another that would’ve placed strict limitations on other mass surveillance technologies, including a seven-day limit on the retention of locational data collected through automatic license plate readers (ALPR).
McAuliffe sent these two measures back to the legislature with suggested amendments, who sent them right back to his desk with only the slightest changes. The message was clear: these protections are what Virginians want and what they deserve.
The second time around, McAuliffe signed the drone bill, but he vetoed the ALPR bill, parroting the flawed talking points of the device manufacturers and law enforcement lobby groups:
Many localities in Virginia retain this data for 60 days to two years. Seven days is a substantial reduction. Additionally, law enforcement agencies demonstrate that crimes are often not reported until several weeks later. Under this bill, essential data would not be available at the time of those reports. This is particularly concerning when considering implications for the National Capitol Region, where cross-state collaboration and information-sharing are essential to responding to potential criminal or terrorist activity occurring near Virginia’s borders.
What McAuliffe fails to mention is those law enforcement agencies are already breaking Virginia’s Data Act by storing ALPR data, as the Virginia Attorney General determined in a 2013 legal opinion [PDF]. He also pays little attention to the threat to personal privacy that ALPRs represent: by collecting information on every driver, police are treating the entire population as if they’re suspects in a criminal investigation. Even more worrisome is how these cameras, which are capable of collecting thousands of locational data points a day, can potentially reveal the intimate details of a person’s life, including religious preferences, political affiliations, medical conditions, and romantic relationships. Indeed, as the ACLU of Virginia notes:
In 2013, public records revealed that during the 2008 election, Virginia State Police used ALPRs to collect information about people attending rallies for candidates Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and later targeted vehicles crossing from Virginia to Washington for Obama’s inauguration.
McAuliffe also failed to address some of the more questionable techniques used by ALPR companies to shield their products from public scrutiny, such as contracts that forbid agencies from talking candidly publicly about the technology. In Lansing, Michigan, police have given up on ALPRs because they were unreliable and drained the batteries of their cars. In San Francisco, police have been sued after a false positive resulted in a confrontation between officers and an innocent government employee.
The ACLU of Virginia isn’t giving up. Five days after McAuliffe signed the bills, the organization filed a lawsuit [PDF] against the Fairfax County Police Department, which, despite the Attorney General’s guidance, has been storing ALPR data for up to a year and sharing that data with other law enforcement agencies in the region. If successful, the lawsuit could potentially have an even stronger impact on ALPR limits than what the bill would have provided.
We're very proud of the hundreds of EFF supporters in Virginia who sent letters to their lawmakers and tweeted at the governor about these measures. And, again, we commend McAuliffe for signing bills to limit the use of stingrays and drones, but we’ll be rooting for the ACLU as they pursue other means to challenge invasive technologies such as ALPRs.