Friday, September 29, 2017

The ugly truth behind Obama's war on the Second Amendment

The ugly truth behind Obama's war on the Second Amendment

The ugly truth behind Obama's war on the Second Amendment
© Getty
Sometimes, when the government abuses its tremendous power to scapegoat someone, even proponents of government power find it to be too much.
Mike Weisser is a liberal who writes frequently for the Huffington Post in favor of gun control. Indeed, I have been the target of some of his attacks. But in a new book, “Sandy Hook: A Man Sold A Gun,” Weisser tells the story of a friend of his, Dave Laguercia, whose life was destroyed by the Obama administration in its quest to be seen as proactive in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Weisser describes Laguercia as an honest, law-abiding, decent man.
The emotions at the time were understandable. Adam Lanza had just massacred 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Laguercia’s “offense” was that he had legally sold firearms to the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza. He sold a Bush Master AR-15 style “assault rifle” in 2011 and a Sig 226 semi-automatic handgun in 2010. All the paperwork was properly filled out, and Nancy Lanza had passed the background check. Laguercia did nothing wrong.
Weisser sums it up nicely: “For selling a legal product to a consumer and selling it following exactly the rules and regulations which governed such sales, Dave lost his entire business and millions of dollars in sales, inventory and future profits, lost his reputation, spent thousands of dollars on legal fees and now sits at home still waiting for the legal aftermath of Sandy Hook to come to an end.”
Weisser describes a regulatory system where it is essentially impossible not to make tiny recording errors. Wanting to blame someone for the Sandy Hook shootings, the Obama administration was determined to go through Laguercia’s records until they found some violations. If they didn't find enough dirt on Laguercia, they’d make up false charges.
The administration was not above constantly leaking false, damning stories of a “rogue” gun dealer with a “troubled history.” One story, leaked to the New York Post and other papers, blamed Laguercia for selling another gun in 2010 to another mass shooter. But he hadn’t sold that gun.
Another story described how Laguercia came under scrutiny by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for 33 guns that were stolen from his store. But Laguercia was the person who caught the thief and provided the videos that the government used to convict the miscreant, who was a part-time employee.
Laguercia cooperated fully with officials after the Sandy Hook attack. Nonetheless, on Dec. 20, 2012, the ATF pulled up to Laguercia’s shop in military Humvees, with 21 or 22 agents wearing tactical gear. Many agents were heavily armed. As though worried that Laguercia and his wife were about to engage in a shoot-out with agents, authorities patted his wife down and searched her purse for a gun. Even if the Laguercias hadn’t been told of the raid, advance word was leaked to the media so that TV trucks could line up outside the store.
Many of the ATF reporting requirements are nonsensical. A customer putting an abbreviation for a county name is considered a “serious” mistake, even though the address and zip code make that information redundant. An ATF inspection of “a good sized store” can span several weeks and essentially shut down sales during that period.
Weisser elucidates the ATF’s arbitrary, dictatorial powers. The agency, he says, “has a virtual carte blanche to decide for itself what it can and can’t do to the gun dealers whose business practices and behavior they regulate.”
President Obama claimed in 2016, “We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” If you have any question about whether Obama was right, Weisser will clear it up. I can only wonder how unnecessarily expensive guns are because of the nutty, useless regulations that dealers face.
Still, Weisser’s liberal views prevent him from seeing some things clearly. He calls Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” comment during the 2008 primary campaign a mere “verbal slip.” He doesn't see Obama using Sandy Hook as an opportunity to push for the gun control regulations that he always wanted. Rather, he says, “The public reaction to Sandy Hook was so intense that Obama would be swept up in the wave of emotion.”
Weisser also claims that Obama’s “Fast & Furious” operation was simply an expansion of an operation launched under the Bush administration. While both operations involved guns being sold to Mexican drug gangs, the Bush administration tracked the guns and worked with the Mexican government. The Obama administration made no attempt at tracking them.
I would also have cut chapter 3, which included a discussion on the lethality of “assault weapons. Weisser suggests that Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been able to kill with his Sig P226 semi-automatic handgun, but needed the “assault weapon,” which was also a semi-automatic.
The truth is that 68 percent of mass public shootings during the Obama administration were perpetrated just with handguns. In another 16 percent, handguns were used in conjunction with other weapons.
Despite my quibbles with the book, Weisser helps show how government power can easily be abused. Civil libertarians will find this book a valuable addition to their libraries.
John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Army’s Lethal New Sniper Rifle

The Army’s Lethal New Sniper Rifle Is Still In The Works Despite Cancellation Fears

The Army’s standard-issue rifle replacement program may have died before it even really started, but the branch’s new and improved sniper rifle isn’t going anywhere.
On Sept. 20, the Army announced that it had canceled its brand new Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) program, just over a month after its first solicitation for a temporary 7.62mm-chambered service rifle. The program died because of shortfalls and uncertainties following a continuing budget resolution passed by Congress, sparking worries that the branch’s M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) program —  established in 2012 to replace the M110 sniper rifle with a maximum order of 3,643 lighter 7.62mm rifles that don’t sacrifice reliability or accuracy — might die along with it.
But rumors of the sniper rifle’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier office confirmed to Task & Purpose that the lethal new system is currently in the production qualification testing phase conducted by its Soldier Weapons program office. And while the CSASS was initially conceived to enhance the range and lethality of those expert snipers who cut their teeth in the Army’s sniper schools, Dawson said that the service plans on fielding a modified version of the sniper system designed specifically for infantrymen in the squad designated marksman role.
Heckler & Koch G28 sniper rifle 7.62 mm
“The CSASS program has not been canceled,” PEO Soldier spokeswoman Debi Dawson told Task & Purpose. When asked if the new sniper rifle program has encountered any political or budgetary problems, Dawson stated that the CSASS “has encountered no such obstacles.”

This is good news for soldiers downrange. In May, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the branch’s current 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round “doesn’t penetrate” enemy body armor downrange, despite the fact that the steel-topped round was adopted in 2010 to replace the M855 cartridge, which soldiers complained were ineffective against “battlefield barriers such as car windshields,” according to a 2015 report.

To address this problem, Army officials at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence whipped up the “more potent” M80A1 7.62mm cartridge to defeat any enemy plates similar to the branch’s own Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, Milley told lawmakers in May. But he also asserted that the branch “might not” need a brand-new infantry rifle to accommodate the higher-caliber shells.
This isn’t totally accurate. As notes, the standard-issue 5.56mm M4 carbine — the very rifle the ICSR was meant to replace — would need “a new barrel, bolt carrier group, buffer system in addition to a new lower receiver” to rock the new higher-caliber rounds. Former U.S. Army War College commandant and legendary small arms expert Gen. Robert Scales put it more bluntly during his own the Senate Armed Services Committee weeks earlier: The M4 is a “terribly flawed weapon” when facing off against 7.62mm rounds enjoyed by AK-47-wielding militants downrange. But Congress, fixated on jousting over the federal budget, didn’t seem to get Milley’s message. The cancellation of the ICSR — which was explicitly established as a temporary replacement for that M4 that could chamber a 7.62mm round — was a direct result of the three-month, continuing resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, which Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned lawmakers would kill the ICSR effort along with 17 other Army start-up programs, according to a Sept. 8 letter to Sen. John McCain obtained by Defense News. And while the ICSR program was the only 7.62mm project in jeopardy explicitly named by Mattis, he emphasized that “funding limitations for all research and development [result] in services assessing the relative priorities of their programs.”
CSASS Heckler & Koch G28 sniper rifle 7.62 mm

The cancellation rocked the tactical gear community. That the continuing resolution was the direct trigger for the ICSR program’s untimely death suggests that “any future [7.62mm] programs … are likely to be organized in a more limited and conservative manner,” as The Firearms Blog, which first reported the news of the cancellation on Sept. 20, observed. “It does seem likely that there will eventually be a new program for a 7.62mm or 6.5mm/.260 designated marksman rifle, which may offer the option for ‘assault’ or ‘rifle’ configurations in addition to a baseline squad marksman variant.” On Sept. 22, Soldier Systems to publicly speculated that the Army’s new sniper rifle program may be the next victim of the political pressures that led to the ICSR program’s untimely demise.

This isn’t unfounded speculation: Army Contracting Command had awarded Heckler & Koch a $44.5 million contract for a lightweight version of the gun manufacturer’s G28E sniper rifle with a baffle-less OSS suppressor, but shortly after Soldier Systems published its story, ACC issued an award modification on behalf of the Project Manager Soldier Weapons to “incorporate Engineering Change Proposals” (ECPs) into the CSASS program, which the publication suggested indicated the Army’s intent to turn the CSASS into a rifle for squad designated marksmen.

Reached by Task & Purpose, the Army’s message to CSASS observers is simple: Cool your jets. “The ECPs for the CSASS were implemented in response to user feedback and test results conducted by other government agencies,” Dawson told Task & Purpose of the changes to the lethal sniper rifle. “The modifications improve reliability, durability, ergonomics and extended range performance.”

What exactly this means for the future of the souped-up new sniper rifle is unclear; given PEO Soldier’s stated intent to eventually deliver a modified CSASS to regular designated marksman, it seems likely that the sniper system will still make it into the hands of elite sharpshooters. But given the budget pressures bearing down on the service branches, chances are this isn’t the last obstacle facing the Army’s mission to give soldiers downrange the weapons they need to get the job done.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Exclusive: US government (OBAMA) wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman

Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman

Manafort wiretapped under secret court orders 06:21
Washington (CNN)US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.
The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.
Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team, which is leading the investigation into Russia's involvement in the election, has been provided details of these communications.
A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine's former ruling party, the sources told CNN.
The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.
The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.
Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI's efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
It is unclear when the new warrant started. The FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves, that reignited their interest in Manafort, the sources told CNN. As part of the FISA warrant, CNN has learned that earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search of a storage facility belonging to Manafort. It's not known what they found.
The conversations between Manafort and Trump continued after the President took office, long after the FBI investigation into Manafort was publicly known, the sources told CNN. They went on until lawyers for the President and Manafort insisted that they stop, according to the sources.
It's unclear whether Trump himself was picked up on the surveillance.
The White House declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Manafort didn't comment for this story.
Manafort previously has denied that he ever "knowingly" communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election and also has denied participating in any Russian efforts to "undermine the interests of the United States."
The FBI wasn't listening in June 2016, the sources said, when Donald Trump Jr. led a meeting that included Manafort, then campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law, with a Russian lawyer who had promised negative information on Hillary Clinton. 
That gap could prove crucial as prosecutors and investigators under Mueller work to determine whether there's evidence of a crime in myriad connections that have come to light between suspected Russian government operatives and associates of Trump.

Origins of the FBI's interest in Manafort

The FBI interest in Manafort dates back at least to 2014, partly as an outgrowth of a US investigation of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president whose pro-Russian regime was ousted amid street protests. Yanukovych's Party of Regions was accused of corruption, and Ukrainian authorities claimed he squirreled millions of dollars out of the country. 
Investigators have spent years probing any possible role played by Manafort's firm and other US consultants, including the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC, that worked with the former Ukraine regime. The basis for the case hinged on the failure by the US firms to register under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that the Justice Department only rarely uses to bring charges. 
All three firms earlier this year filed retroactive registrations with the Justice Department.
It hasn't proved easy to make a case. 
Last year, Justice Department prosecutors concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges against Manafort or anyone of the other US subjects in the probe, according to sources briefed on the investigation.  
The FBI and Justice Department have to periodically seek renewed FISA authorization to continue their surveillance.
As Manafort took the reins as Trump campaign chairman in May, the FBI surveillance technicians were no longer listening. The fact he was part of the campaign didn't play a role in the discontinued monitoring, sources told CNN. It was the lack of evidence relating to the Ukraine investigation that prompted the FBI to pull back. 

Renewed surveillance

Manafort was ousted from the campaign in August. By then the FBI had noticed what counterintelligence agents thought was a series of odd connections between Trump associates and Russia. The CIA also had developed information, including from human intelligence sources, that they believed showed Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his intelligence services to conduct a broad operation to meddle with the US election, according to current and former US officials.
The FBI surveillance teams, under a new FISA warrant, began monitoring Manafort again, sources tell CNN.
The court that oversees government snooping under FISA operates in secret, the surveillance so intrusive that the existence of the warrants only rarely become public. 
For that reason, speculation has run rampant about whether Manafort or others associated with Trump were under surveillance. The President himself fueled the speculation when in March he used his Twitter account to accuse former President Barack Obama of having his "wires tapped" in Trump Tower. 
The Justice Department and the FBI have denied that Trump's own "wires" were tapped.
While Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, it's unclear whether FBI surveillance of him took place there.
Manafort has a home as well in Alexandria, Virginia. FBI agents raided the Alexandria residence in July.
The FBI also eavesdropped on Carter Page, a campaign associate that then candidate Trump once identified as a national security adviser. Page's ties to Russia, including an attempt by Russian spies to cultivate him, prompted the FBI to obtain a FISA court warrant in 2014.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dallas family says bounty hunters crossed the line

Dallas family says bounty hunters crossed the line

Armed bounty hunters storm Dallas homeThe first thing Michael Faz heard at the door was a loud smack.

He was inside his family’s apartment with his two younger sisters in southwest Dallas last month. He figured it was police looking for his uncle, so he started recording on his cell phone.

He whispered to his sisters, “Girls, the police are here.”

The men broke the deadbolt lock and came in. He would only later learn that they were not the police. They were bounty hunters.

“Come out with your hands up,” one of the men said. “Felony warrant. Felony [expletive] warrant.”

“He’s not here,” Michael told them. “It’s just kids.”

The men were looking for his uncle, who was wanted for jumping bond on a drug delivery case. The bounty hunters ordered him to open the bedroom door, giving every impression that they were the police.

“I’m going to open it,” he told them. “I have no weapons.”

Michael opened the door with his hands in the air. The video shows him getting down on his knees.

“One of the guys right here gestures at me with his pistol to get on my knees,” Michael said.

On the video, his sisters can be heard crying in the background. A man can be seen dressed in heavy tactical gear.

“Are you sure he’s not in there?” one of the men asked.

“Yes, sir,” Michael replied.

“We got the warrant,” a man said.

The man kicked open his mom’s locked bedroom door. By then, Michael had disappeared from the camera view. He says the men handcuffed him.

“There were just guns in my face,” says the 18-year-old high school senior. “Looking down the barrel of a pistol is not a good feeling.”

As the sisters cried, the men continued to ask him where his uncle was. They told him he better not to lie to them.

“We can take him to jail,” one of the men said. “We can take him to jail and take them to CPS. Want to do that?”

The men left a few minutes later. They did not find the person they were looking for. Michael says they told him that they would be watching them.

“When you’re at work and you get a call saying, ‘I just had a gun put to my head or to my face. That's not a good feeling,” says his mother, Leticia Chapa. “I come home. My girls are scared. My son's upset.”

Chapa reported the incident to police, who continue to investigate the Aug. 10 incident at the complex on West Ledbetter Drive.

“I want them to get in trouble and pay for what they did,” she says. “It’s unacceptable what they did. They were afraid when they saw these guys with guns. We have no reason -- no criminal anything -- for them to come in here and treat my kid like criminals.”

Under state law, a bounty hunter cannot enter a residence without the consent of the occupants.

Matthew Toback, an attorney for the bounty hunters, said Chapa’s brother was living there and had been there the night before, an allegation that Chapa says is untrue.

He said management gave them a key to the apartment and told them the occupants had been evicted.

“My clients believe that they were following Texas law in their actions,” Toback said. “We feel that they’ll be vindicated through the court system.”

A manager of Smith Creek apartments declined to comment.

That morning, the bounty hunters first went to the apartment of another family member who lived across the courtyard. The family members say the bounty hunters banged on the door, said they had a warrant and needed to be let in or they would kick in the door.

“We opened the door for them, so they wouldn’t do that,” said Maribell Garcia, who is married to the son of the man the bounty hunters searching for.

She said they also believed the men were police officers. Garcia says the men came in, searched and kicked open her mother-in-law’s locked door. Garcia showed WFAA the damage to the door.

“They threatened us in front of our kids,” she says. They were crying. They were really scared.”

The next day, the apartment complex filed for an eviction against Chapa. They claimed Chapa was behind on the rent, which she denies. Chapa says she tried to pay but they would not take her payment.
Chapa and her children have since found a new place to live.

Peaceful daytime protests of ex-St. Louis cop's acquittal turn violent at night

Peaceful daytime protests of ex-St. Louis cop's acquittal turn violent at night

Protesters damage police car in St. Louis

Agitators damage a St. Louis police car during protests after the Jason Stockley not guilty verdict.
St. Louis Police via Twitter
Many protesters appeared to be prepared for more extreme police action, wearing bandannas or gas masks and carrying bottles of milky liquid intended to treat tear gas and pepper spray. Still others wore bandannas or scarves over their faces, with a few wearing “V for Vendetta”-style masks seen at Occupy demonstrations in years past.
Using hashtags #StockleyProtests and #StockleyVerdict, commentary on Twitter flew ahead of the protests, which were populated by all demographics: black and white, young and old, city and suburb. The crowd seemed to grow larger as it marched, with chants of “hands up don’t shoot.” A second group of protesters met up with the first march, and the mass of protesters marched up past the hospitals on Kingshighway.
IMG_4646 (1)
Tensions rose as the marchers reached the I-64 on-ramp and met up with the line of police. After a few moments of standoff, the march turned instead up a grassy hill toward a neighborhood, with more than a thousand people gathered beside the road.
At that point, a protester set fire to a small American flag. It was not the main flag that was being carried by the protest leaders — that flag was being carried upside down, which is considered a signal of dire distress or of civic protest. The second flag was set on fire, but just as quickly, another protester poured water on it to put it out, with a brief disagreement between the protesters.
The march then reversed itself, returning to the Central West End for a mass sit-in at the intersection of Euclid and Maryland, and a six-minute silent “die-in” in honor of six people who have been shot and killed by St. Louis police this year.
The march then proceeded up to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. Protesters stood outside her home and shouted at her to “Wake up!”
The St. Louis Police Department tweeted that protesters were breaking windows, and they were ordering the crowds to disperse. At last reports, altercations were beginning, with multiple loud cracks heard. It was not immediately clear what caused the sounds.
IMG_4612 (1)
According to various news reports, four police officers were injured and 13 protesters arrested in Friday’s demonstrations. It was not known how many protesters were injured in earlier clashes with police.
Earlier at the courthouse, a percussion group led the chants of “no justice, no peace,” “I know that we will win” and “hey ho, hey ho, killer cops have got to go.” A protester wearing an Occupy mask waved a black and white version of the American flag printed with the names of black people who have been killed by police officers.
Courtney Kelsey and Taliba Strickland, of St. Louis, held a sign that read “Unarmed citizen — please don’t kill me.”
Kelsey said she had hoped Stockley would be the case that would “make an example.” Instead, she said, the city’s preparations with barricades and a heightened police presence showed her that they knew what the verdict would be.
“I’m out here for all the people who can’t be out here today, who are scared, who don’t understand the impact of what happened today,” Strickland said. “I want to support my people and support the cause.”

'If you kill our kids, we will kill your economy'

Demonstrators in the Central West End in St. Louis continue to protest the not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley.
Only a few feet away was Pigeon O’Brien, of Brentwood, holding up signs reading “Heal my racist city” and “‘I’m gonna kill him’ + killing him = premeditated murder.”
She said she believed the verdict to be unfair and wrong. “I’m tired of the police killing black St. Louis,” O’Brien said. “We’re all St. Louisans, this is our city ... Our unofficial motto is, ‘I’m not racist, but ...’ and then they say something incredibly racist. Everybody needs to be part of the solution, everybody. Because everybody is part of the problem.”
Later protesters apparently clashed with police again, this time resulting in pepper spray and a cordon of police officers in tactical gear downtown, near the police academy. However, the number of protesters was small, and eventually the lines of police officers retreated to the academy.
In an interview Friday, Stockley said he believed the prosecutors should never have charged him.
Protests continued late into the night Friday.

Read more here:

Man kidnapped by gunmen wearing police tactical gear

Man kidnapped by gunmen wearing police tactical gear

Sunday, September 10, 2017
The son of a Pleasantville businessman has been whisked away from his home by gunmen wearing police tactical gear. The abduction was similar to the disappearance of hairstylist Ria Sookdeo almost a year ago.
The search for Clint Beharry went late into last night. Video footage from the Born Free Recreation Bar in Blitz Village, Pleasantville, showed two men dressed in police uniform running into a premises with firearms in their hands. Two minutes later, the suspects and a third gunman wearing a blue jersey walked out with Beharry in handcuffs. One of the gunmen was holding a box. The gunmen sped off with Beharry in a silver Nissan AD Wagon. Relatives declined to speak to the media yesterday.
Investigators said there was no warrant for Beharry's arrest executed yesterday and they did not believe that that the men dressed in uniform were police. While no motive was revealed for his abduction, investigators are probing whether it was related to him witnessing the murder of a relative.
On September 22, 2016, Sookdeo, 34, a hairstylist, dropped off her two children at the Picton Presbyterian Primary School. As she drove her red Nissan X-Trail to Picton Estate Drive to turn, a black Nissan X-Trail SUV pulled up behind, blocking her path. Two men wearing tactical gear forced her out of her SUV and into theirs and drove off.
She has not been seen or heard from since.

Citizens' Academy VI: Traffic stops and room clearing

Editor's Note: Citizens' Academy is a six-week program within the Corsicana Police Department designed to educate citizens of Corsicana how our police operates through class lessons and simulations. Daily Sun reporter Patrick Sparks has enrolled in Citizen's Academy and attends the lessons each week to write about them so that everyone may also learn:
The class drove out to the former Corsicana State Home found at the south end of Second Avenue for our next hands-on lesson, led by Officers Sean Eggleston, Sean Fraiser and Ron Kludy. Tuesday we were to learn about how the police conduct their traffic stops as well as SWAT tactics when it comes to sweeping and clearing rooms while searching for a suspect.
We began with a quick study of the tactical gear that police use during hostile confrontations, with Eggleston passing around a ballistic vest and helmet. Police vests look like they're militarized, but are actually lighter than what the army uses; the ballistic plates used are a lighter grade than military, and offers less upper chest protection – certain military vests have neck protection.
The vests are still modifiable, allowing their users to customize the pouches they may use, either for spare magazines, a first aid pouch or a loose accessory pouch.
However, lighter does not mean lightweight: Eggleston passed around a bare vest with only the plates inserted and it was still fairly heavy, close to lugging around a full high school book-bag (my classes in high school required a lot of books back then). It's important to note that if a plate ever receives impact of any form – be it from a bullet or melee weapon – the plate needs to be discarded and replaced; officers cannot afford trusting a ballistic plate with any wear or tear. For cop safety, they're a one and done deal.
After the vest, Eggleston passed around a tactical helmet, showcasing how much a helmet has changed over the years. They're now much more lightweight and aren't as bulky as their predecessors. The ears are left open for communication gear to be worn, and includes rails for different tech on the sides and front. A photo of the helmet can be seen online.
After the quick show and tell, we moved on to the procedure of a routine traffic stop, but the varying elements and situations make them anything but routine. A person might be pulled over for many reasons: busted headlight or tail light, running a stop sign or red light, speeding, expired registration, or no license plate light. The person inside may be compliant and agreeable, or annoyed and irritable. They might even possibly be hostile and possess a gun.
Certain procedures that have to stay the same deal with positioning the cop car and approaching a person's vehicle. Officers try to make a habit out of parking their vehicle at an angle on the side of the road, cutting their wheels to point in the street, and there are two reasons for this:
The first reason is that should an officer find himself in a federal traffic stop – a stop with the intent to arrest a potentially dangerous suspect, the angle of the vehicle's parking will allow the officer to use the engine as a shield and cover. The spotlight helps with cover as well; looking at the photos online, you can see the difference from the officer's perspective and the suspect's.
The officer has clear sight of who he's aiming at, but from the other side, that spotlight can blind a suspect and make it difficult to aim back.
The second reason is to help prevent further damage should someone driving by accidentally smack right into the cop car from behind. If they parked normally and that were to happen, there's a good chance that the officer's car would roll right into the back of the person they stopped. So with the vehicle angled and the wheel turned into the road, the car will roll into the open street instead.
When officers approach a vehicle, they use that time walking up to check for other factors: Are people moving around inside the vehicle? Is someone hiding in the backseat? Does the car smell of drugs? After that initial assessment, now comes the part where an officer will approach your window to talk with you.
They'll actually normally stay a foot or so back behind your window, and the reason for this is in case whoever they pull over has a gun they're willing to use. If an officer were to stand directly in front of the window, a suspect could easily shoot from inside the vehicle. With the officer standing a little behind the window, the suspect would have to stick their body outside the window to aim properly, making it harder to aim quickly.
Everyone got to take turns pretending to pull someone over and acting out a traffic stop, asking for license and registration, informing the person the reasons for pulling them over and making judgement calls whether to pass a citation or not. For most of us, not much happened, but one student was surprised as Fraiser (acting as the suspect being pulled over) suddenly jumped out of his vehicle while she approached, scaring her.
To her credit, she did exactly what she was supposed to, which was move behind the vehicle for cover and draw her weapon; key word is draw, not fire, as there is a difference. Turns out Fraiser was acting as an irritated suspect that might step out of their vehicle to greet the officer instead of waiting inside the vehicle. In that situation, it is best for the officer to ask that person to step toward the sidewalk and get out of the street.
When it grew dark enough, we moved to the shutdown cafeteria of the Corsicana State Home for Eggleston, Fraiser and Kludy to demonstrate how SWAT officers clear a building with flashlights and partners. The lights attached to pistols and rifles are as bright as the spotlights on their vehicles and help with disorienting a suspect.
Time for more movie myth debunking: You usually watch shows where officers sweep through dark rooms with their lights on, slowly panning over as they try to find the bad guy. This is a bad move as it not only gives away where you are, but the direction you're looking. What is supposed to happen is that officers use their flashlights in short bursts.
I got to experience firsthand why this is effective when asked to hide in a dark bathroom for the officers to search me in. When passing by, Eggleston and Kludy would short flash their light into the bathroom to light it up for a split second before turning the light back off as they passed by.
As I was on the receiving end, I was heavily disoriented by the light as it reflected off the wall tiles, the brightness bright and brief enough to leave spots in my vision and disrupting my night vision (when your eyes eventually adjust to low light) when I was back in darkness. No matter how many times they did this, I could not determine how close they were to me or accurately figure out their position.
The brief quick flashes does no harm to the officers performing them, as they're behind the light and have control and know when it's coming, which I got to see when they asked me to step out and try the light for myself.
Along with controlled light bursts, when clearing a room officers always go in pairs or groups, taking larger groups for bigger buildings. They move in a way where someone is always watching one direction, leaving no blind spots for an ambush. Even when clearing rooms, the officer outside cannot turn to check on their partner; they have to trust that their partner knows what they're doing.
The students got to practice this as they were given pistol lights and were made to sweep the cafeteria and search for Kludy, who hid in the building.
Afterwards, we had a little fun with the exercise with the students getting a turn to hide, only this time we were armed with airsoft pellet pistols as cops came looking for us, looking to target and clear us out. For safety reasons, the students were given paintball masks to protect our eyes and faces, and went in groups of three while Kludy and Fraiser came looking for us with airsoft rifles.
It was a tense experience, trying to get into the mindset of someone trying to ambush a cop. I was crouched down behind a pillar, sitting in the dark with bated breath, pistol trained at the door I felt they would come through. I was listening for footsteps, looking for shadows on the floor or walls, anything to help me predict where they were coming from. I had a flashlight on my pistol; would I use the strobe effect to blind them, or make an annoying distraction should I need to move for cover?
I could already hear gunfire coming from the room in front of me as the two others that hid with me were found and engaging the officers, and that did not last long as things grew silent again. I knew I was the last one in the building to find, and there were two trained officers looking for me.
I felt so exposed and unsafe where I was, quietly moving further back into the building to bide my time; I wasn't looking to actively fight with them, I wanted to get the drop on them at an opportune moment.
Apparently I was getting a bit too creative with my hiding, as Kludy and Fraiser weren't really expecting anyone to hide as far into the building as I was doing. Plus with me moving around, it was making their search that much longer, and it got to the point where we ran out of time to continue. I was told afterwards I wasn't doing anything wrong; most criminals would move in the same fashion I was, trying to get behind the cops.
Normally with a building that size I was hiding in, they wouldn't have just two officers searching; they'd send a team of 12 to come looking for me. And I thought it was scary with just two of them trying to pick me out in the dark