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Cities Using Federal Agents To Get Around State Law


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This article is on how federal agents are patrolling the streets with local police, so they can prosecute under federal law instead of state law.

 

The article includes an illegal search of a random individual that was just walking down the street and is search with out probable cause for drugs and guns. For those who have a cpl/ccw, this could add an interesting twist. The article does not say if they will prosecute marijuana, but it does say they focuses on guns and federal law.

 

 

 

GRAND RAPIDS — His hand on his firearm, Grand Rapids Police Officer Chad McKersie talks to the young driver he has just pulled over for speeding. Nearby, a federal agent scans the car’s passengers, his hand near his own gun.

 

McKersie just tells the driver to slow down.

 

In this Southeast Side neighborhood troubled by drugs and violence, McKersie keeps watch — and some keep watch on him.

 

He drives past gang graffiti on buildings and slips through alleys looking for suspicious behavior.

 

He knows a lot of people.

 

“That kid will run if we stop him,” he says.

 

On this day, he has an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as a partner. The bold, yellow ATF on the back of the agent’s jacket draws attention, McKersie said.

 

“Why is the ATF with you?” people sometimes ask.

 

The agent, who requested anonymity, said the bad guys know why he is here, and he knows what they are thinking: “They don’t want to see the feds prosecute for a gun.”

 

This local-federal partnership, begun last spring, is working to get illegal guns off the streets across West Michigan.

 

“The community officers have expertise in working in the neighborhoods and what’s going on there,” police Capt. Eric Payne said. “The ATF has the expertise in guns.”

 

Grand Rapids is one of numerous cities — including Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Battle Creek and Lansing — taking part in Project Safe Neighborhoods, a nationwide effort to cut gun violence.

 

Critical to the project is federal prosecution of felons with guns. The effort targets “the worst of the worst,” ATF spokesman Donald Dawkins said, especially offenders he says have become “desperate, more brazen” in recent years.

Penalties are typically far more severe than in state court.

 

“We have been fortunate to get some of our more violent offenders sent to federal prison,” said Grand Rapids Police Capt. Jeff Hertel, in charge of the Major Case Team.

 

Adds Lt. Scott Merlo of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, “We charge everybody we can through PSN. All the gun cases, they look at federal to see if it meets criteria. They get a pretty big bang.”

 

The average gun-crime sentence in the U.S. District Court’s Western District is 6 1/2 years since the project began in 2000. Nationwide, gun crimes prosecuted at the federal level has increased 73 percent in that time.

G1205ATFpolice3.jpgDarren Breen | The Grand Rapids PressGrand Rapids Police Officer Chad McKersie, left, and a bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent, right, make a citizen contact in Grand Rapids in November.

 

One of those is Keith Ira Cunningham, alias “Pumpkin Man,” a 1999 Creston High School football star turned leader of the Wealthy Street gang. Cunningham is two years into a seven-year federal sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

 

Police say the gang terrorized Southeast Side neighborhoods as part of a “violent criminal enterprise.” While suspected in serious crimes, he is locked up for a loaded .357-caliber Smith & Wesson he tossed while running from police.

 

Federal prosecutors have an advantage over state prosecutors. The federal system has grand juries, which can compel witnesses to testify in secret — under threat of jail if they refuse.

 

But both prosecutors and defense lawyers acknowledge it’s the threat of long sentences — served in out-of-state federal prisons where family visits are few and far between — that causes concern on the street.

 

“Basically, primarily, it’s the penalty,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bruha said. “If you have three prior felonies, and get caught with a firearm, you’re looking at a mandatory 15 years in prison.”

 

His office screens gun cases and targets the “more dangerous felons,” maybe 100 a year, he said.

 

Raymond Kent, the federal public defender, said sentencing guidelines between state and federal courts can vary significantly, with state guidelines calling for probation or jail and federal guidelines calling for long prison stretches.

 

If a defendant has a couple of prior drug felonies and then gets busted for a gun, federal guidelines start at 57 to 71 months — before other variables are considered.

“The federal system treats the possession and use of firearms in commission of crimes very harshly,” Kent said. Rarely, he added, does the federal government have a weak case.

 

Mark Worch, a Grand Rapids police detective, has been assigned to work with the ATF the past four years. He reviews gun cases and enters all recovered firearms into a federal gun-tracking database as part of the joint effort.

 

“I think there has been a big impact,” he said. “I would say that if I was gone tomorrow.”

 

He said those convicted of federal gun laws know they’re looking at least five years in prison, and worry they’ll serve time somewhere else, such as West Virginia.

 

“It’s a deterrence, but it’s also a wake-up notice,” he said.

The recent afternoon that McKersie, the community officer, was patrolling with an ATF agent, he stopped a man walking in the street. It’s a potential violation.

 

With the man’s consent, he patted him down for weapons or drugs. The man had neither, and walked away. No guns would be found this day, but he’s always on the alert.

 

“When you pull over a car, you’re looking for anything, gestures and movement, what the other people are doing. If things don’t add up, it’s usually for a reason.”

 

Not long ago, he pulled over a car, and smelled marijuana smoke. While dealing with the driver, his partner saw a gun on the floorboard.

 

“It was the middle of the day,” McKersie says. “We deal with people who don’t believe they have to play by the rules.”

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/12/local-federal_effort_targets_w.html

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it is time for police depts around the country to DOWNSIZE!

 

i will drive to the store to get a gallon of milk and pass up to 3 levels of police. we do not need local,countywide,state and federal level enforcemnt.

 

we are being overpoliced. and i dont feel safe at all.

 

 

Can anyone say, "Police State?" Guess the feds don't have enough to do these days. All those bad things happening in the world, and on our soil, and now this crap? No wonder they haven't found Osamma, their too worried about all those gun carrying AMERICANS>....... Our government knows how to do one thing, waste money.... proof is in the pudding...

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Isnt that Prohibited. re: Unecessary Searches ? I'd take the J-walking ticket before I let them Search, esp if I was holding. What's he gonna do then? Know your Rights ! Dont give them away.

 

Sounds to me a lot like the Boiling Rabit Anology: How do you Boil a Rabbit ? .... Been getting a little warm around here sounds like !

 

The guy with the gun on the floor was too Careless, his mistake = Justifiable Cause, Dont be Wreckless, either !

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Illegal handguns are one thing but how is local, state and federal agencies handling homes with hunting rifles and or shotguns? Please tell me there are no "test cases" involving these types of firearms.

 

WE have enough stress doing what WE are legally allowed to do. I hope I don't have to add that too!

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The emphasis has gone from protecting the public to controlling the public. Government has become the muscle of corporations and the rich. I never though I would live to see the day when repression at the point of a gun is the norm. Too many of us have died or suffer daily from defending this country to have it ruled by the rich and their thugs. I am against violence of any kind. It doesnt matter if it originates from criminals or the government. Thanks, Bb

 

Exactly. I too never thought I would see the day. I am 60 years old and have lived through times where the public had control over the police, the way it is intended by the constitution. People need to wake up and realize what is happening to America. They now treat everyone as a suspect. That is how the communists and dictatorships operate. You are guilty until proven innocent. It isn't too bothersome if you have a lawyer on retainer, but how many of us can afford to do that?

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The emphasis has gone from protecting the public to controlling the public. Government has become the muscle of corporations and the rich. I never though I would live to see the day when repression at the point of a gun is the norm. Too many of us have died or suffer daily from defending this country to have it ruled by the rich and their thugs. I am against violence of any kind. It doesnt matter if it originates from criminals or the government. Thanks, Bb

 

 

Exactly. I too never thought I would see the day. I am 60 years old and have lived through times where the public had control over the police, the way it is intended by the constitution. People need to wake up and realize what is happening to America. They now treat everyone as a suspect. That is how the communists and dictatorships operate. You are guilty until proven innocent. It isn't too bothersome if you have a lawyer on retainer, but how many of us can afford to do that?

 

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