It’s the last news roundup of 2015! The blog will be on its annual holiday hiatus for the next two weeks, resuming on Monday, January 4, 2016.
It was certainly a full news week. A Baltimore jury hung on manslaughter charges against an officer in connection with the death of Freddie Gray (Baltimore Sun), Disney World added metal detectors after a Florida lawyer was arrested last week trying to smuggle a handgun into the Magic Kingdom (Orlando Sentinel), and California proposed new rules “that could hobble the development of autonomous cars and even ban ‘driverless’ ones outright” (Jalopnik). Quite a bit happened here in North Carolina as well.
Durham to become latest city to equip police with body cameras. As WRAL reports here, Durham has released a draft of its policy for police use of body cameras, and officers will begin using them “soon.” Departments across the state have been adopting cameras this year, bringing new attention to the discovery and evidentiary issues that accompany the use of such cameras.
Statewide traffic stop data now available online. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has just launched opendatapolicingnc.com, a website that “aggregates, visualizes, and publishes public records related to all known traffic stops to have occurred in North Carolina since January 1, 2002.” Users may “[e]nter an agency name . . . to review data on the racial and ethnic demographics of people stopped, searched, and subjected to force in the course of traffic stops in a given jurisdiction.” A News and Observer story about the website is here. I can imagine the data being used in connection with defense motions alleging racial profiling, among other possibilities.
Holiday news, part 1: you may need to register that quadcopter you got for Christmas. The FAA now requires registration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones. There’s an exception for units weighing less than 0.55 pounds, which the FAA states in this FAQ includes “[m]ost ‘toys’ . . . at a purchase price of $100 or less.” Maybe so, but I searched Amazon.com for “quadcopter” and the top result was this $60 item, which Amazon states weighs 1.1 pounds. Anyhow, registration is normally $5 but it’s free for the first 30 days of the new system. Note that “[f]ailure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.” Ho, ho, ho!
Holiday news, part 2: when participating in “Shop with a Trooper,” don’t shoplift. At least, that’s what I took from this Kentucky story. Troopers were shopping at Walmart with underprivileged kids when one of the kids’ parents was apprehended for attempting to steal a drill. On the up side, a trooper advised that they “were still able to continue to do all the interactions we were doing with the kids as far as shopping was concerned.”
Finally, let me thank all the readers of this blog for being a part of the blog community this year. I am especially grateful to those who engage with and challenge our posts with substantive comments, and I appreciate the positive feedback and encouragement that we receive from time to time. We’re planning a couple of changes to the blog for 2016 that I hope will make it even better and richer. In the meantime, I hope that everyone has a wonderful, safe, and joyful holiday season.