Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cops TV show crew member killed by friendly fire

A still from a video released by the Omaha Police Department showing the armed robber shooting at police image

A crew member for the TV show Cops died after he was shot by friendly fire while filming an episode for the long-running reality series in Omaha, Nebraska.

A television cameraman filming the reality TV series Cops has been shot and killed during a shootout with an armed robber.

Authorities said the crew from the long-running reality TV series was filming a police unit Omaha, Nebraska, when gunfire was exchanged with an armed robber outside a Wendy’s restaurant.

Police said two people were hit in the crossfire, the suspect and the Cops cameraman. The cameraman has been identified as Bryce Dion, a 38-year-old resident of the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica.

crew member for Cops was killed in a police shooting in Omaha image

A still from a video released by the Omaha Police Department showing the armed robber shooting at police. Photo: Supplied

In an exchange on police radio aired on US television, a police office is heard to say: “We’ve got a Cops cameraman hit, [a] white male, he’s not conscious, he’s slightly breathing.”

Another officer says: “We have one of the Cops guys, [he] has been hit by gunfire.”

Killed Bryce Dion image

Initially, police confirmed the robbery suspect had been killed in the exchange of gunfire but made no comment on the condition of Dion.

Media reports in the US later confirmed Dion had died from his injuries.

In a tragic footnote to the incident, police said the armed robber was only carrying an “air gun”, a small low-impact sidearm which resembles a real gun.

Langley Productions, which produces Cops, said in a statement the company was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Dion’s death.

“Our main concern is helping his family in any way we can,” the company said.

“Bryce Dion was a long term member of the Cops team and a very talented and dedicated person.

“We mourn his passing. An investigation is ongoing and we are cooperating with local authorities.”


The reality series, which was a mainstay of the Fox network for more than two decades, is now aired on the cable channel Spike. It launched in 1989.

The series places crews with police units in various jurisdictions across the US. This particular crew had been filming police work in Omaha, Nebraska, since early July.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said 38-year-old Bryce Dion was shot once during a shootout between three officers and one suspect in a Wendy’s.

“It is as if we lost one of our own,” Chief Schmaderer said. “He was an incredible man.”

Dion, who is also an audio technician, had been working with Omaha police on the show since June, police said.

Police said the suspect, 32-year-old Cortez Washington, shot at officers with an airsoft pistol and was subsequently shot and killed.

The shooting happened about 9.20pm when multiple rounds were fire by the three officers during the incident, Chief Schmaderer said.

Although the two-man crew did have on bulletproof vests, the bullet was able to hit an unprotected area on Dion, Chief Schmaderer said.

Both Washington and Dion were pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital.

Dion had been with the show for seven years, said Morgan Langley, who is the head of Langley Productions with his father, John.

Dion was a single man from the Boston area who was recently promoted within the company, Morgan Langley said.

“We want to make sure Bryce is respected, and we want people to know he was a great guy and a hard worker,” Morgan Langley said.

“We train our guys and do provide them bulletproof vests,” he said.

John Langley said Cops is a true reality show, meaning “it happens as it happens.”

“That is our highlight and our low light,” he said.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Among the longest-running series in TV history, Cops was part of the first batch of shows to launch the reality programming craze.

The series premiered in March 1989 at a time when the then-young Fox network was on the prowl for edgy programs that could help establish its identity.

Filmmaker Michael Moore, among others, has criticised the show for selectively focusing on crimes involving poor and working-class suspects. The show’s opening theme, the reggae tune Bad Boys, has become instantly recognisable.

Fox cancelled Cops in 2013 and it was subsequently picked up by the Spike cable network.

– with MCT

Henry Sapiecha

Court May Wipe Out Stoplight Spy Cams:

traffic-light-hooked image

Ticket-happy traffic cameras, the bane of many a driver’s existence, are back in the spotlight again this week after the state supreme court in Ohio heard arguments over whether cities there can fine commuters for running red lights—an infraction typically under state jurisdiction that lets drivers off with just a citation. Now the fate of traffic cameras all across Ohio is being questioned after an Akron attorney sued the city when local law enforcement officials mailed a citation to his wife. PM contributing editor Glenn Reynolds wrote about traffic cameras last year, highlighting how unreliable and dubious they can actually be when it comes to safety. The Ohio verdict won’t be decided for a few months, but until then, plenty of people are weighing in on whether the cameras are invasion, unsafe or just plain unreliable. Feel free to sound off in the comments section below…—Wayne Ma

Henry Sapiecha

Cobra XRS 9950 Tells You When Big Brother Is Watching: Tech Test


Cobra XRS 9950 /// $259 (radar detector); $129 (GPS speed/red-light camera accessory) /// Available now

The Promise: “The XRS 9950 provides total protection and peace of mind with Xtreme Range Superhetrodyne Technology, detecting all 12 radar/laser bands with its super-fast lock-on detection circuitry.” It also has an integrated digital compass, as well as a car battery voltage display. When hooked up to its GPS locator, the XRS 9950 can deliver alerts about red light-running and speed-enforcing cameras. Cobra claims it maintains the only verified red-light camera database for the United States. Needless to say, that got us pretty excited earlier this year at CES—about the whole Big Brother thing, and a big year for new GPS units.

In Practice: First, let me state that all radar detectors use “superhetrodyne” technology, just in case anyone thought that might be something special. The extreme range part of the description is no joke—this detector picked up signals from police many miles before I ever saw them. It also picked up a lot of non-police noise that was probably from alarm systems, radar-based traffic monitoring systems, automatic opening sensors and other mysterious sources. Which is pretty much the problem with all radar detectors these days: The signal-to-noise ratio errs heavily in favor of noise. In fact, I counted what I considered to be 20 false positives for every actual radar trap the XRS 9950 picked up. It’s possible that all those cops were out there hiding very, very well, but I doubt it. That’s not the fault of this particular detector—it just so happens that the X and Ka bands are pretty crowded these days.

As for the GPS locator, it’s a rather unwieldy thing (2.25 in. x 2.25 in. x 0.5 in.) that dangles from the main detector unit via a USB cord, though the company promises a smaller one for 2009. It works as advertised, blurting out a voice warning whenever red-light or speed-enforcing cameras are in your path. In my (rather suburban) area, I didn’t come across any speed trap cameras—only cameras that would send you a ticket if you ran a red light. At every such warning, I looked around the intersection and, sure enough, there was the camera. Since I didn’t plan to run any red lights, the main way Cobra’s clever-seeming gadget changed my driving habits was that it made me stop looking at traffic signals and start looking for cameras instead.

Bottom Line: The Cobra XRS 9950 radar detector does indeed pick up cops with radar and laser speed detection guns and, when outfitted with the GPS accessory, automated traffic cameras. I must admit, however, that I found the camera detector accessory frustrating: There is a certain libertarian satisfaction in knowing when you’re being watched, but also a certain frustration in not being able to do anything about it. —Glenn Derene

Henry Sapiecha

Turning the Tables on Red-Light Cameras with Cobra’s New GPS: Glenn Reynolds’s CES Consumer Watch

cobra-car image

LAS VEGAS — Okay, the tricked-out, “Cobraized” sports car will get the most attention. But Cobra’s new line of GPS and radar-detector products shows that the latest round in the war between motorists and traffic authorities is heating up.

I wrote in Popular Mechanics a while back about the growing trend of revenue-hungry localities to implement red-light cameras and speed cameras, and that’s a trend that has continued in the ensuing years. But now Cobra is integrating its own proprietary — and, they say, verified — database of red-light and speed cameras into its new GPS and radar-detector products. With one of these, you’ll get a warning icon and (unless you shut it off) an audio warning (it sounds like a digital camera’s shutter sound) as you approach a red-light or speed camera. Cobra’s David Marsh demonstrated the GPS to me, and it looked quite easy to use. Cobra’s database also integrates “black zones” — intersections or stretches of roads where accident rates are unusually high — and warns users of those, too.

Marsh told me that Cobra is also working on making its devices easier to use for aging baby boomers and others with less-than-perfect eyesight, making sure that text is large and crisp, and that buttons are big and easy to push. Good design guidelines for every product, regardless of demographic. Cobra’s GPS, the GPSM5000, is already on the market. Its GPS-integrated radar detector, the XRS 9950, will be out in March.— Glenn Reynolds

Henry Sapiecha

Dangers of a Paramilitary Police Force

SWAT Overkill: The Danger of a Paramilitary Police Force

super-troopers-illustration image

As the situation in Ferguson, Mo., grows increasingly out of control, more people are beginning to question the militarization of local police departments. In this editorial originally published in 2006, law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds argued that over agressive tactics and surplus military gear have turned some police units into a dangerous menace.

Originally published in 2006.

Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. Soldiers are aimed at enemies from outside the country. They are trained to kill those enemies, and their supporters. In fact, “killing people and breaking things” are their main reasons for existence.

Police look inward. They’re supposed to protect their fellow citizens from criminals, and to maintain order with a minimum of force.

It’s the difference between Audie Murphy and Andy Griffith. But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.

The trend toward militarizing police began in the ’60s and ’70s when standoffs with the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the University of Texas bell tower gunman Charles Whitman convinced many police departments that they needed more than .38 specials to deal with unusual, high-intensity threats. In 1965 Los Angeles inspector Daryl Gates, who later became police chief, signed off on the formation of a specially trained and equipped unit that he wanted to call the Special Weapons Attack Team. (The name was changed to the more palatable Special Weapons and Tactics). SWAT programs soon expanded beyond big cities with gang problems.

Abetting this trend was the federal government’s willingness to make surplus military equipment available to police and sheriffs’ departments. All sorts of hardware is available, from M-16s to body armor to armored personnel carriers and even helicopters. Lots of police departments grabbed the gear and started SWAT teams, even if they had no real need for them. The materiel was free, and it was fun. I don’t blame the police. Heck, if somebody gave me a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to play with, I’d probably start a SWAT team, too—so long as I didn’t have to foot the maintenance bill.

Thus, the sheriff’s department in landlocked Boone County, Ind., has an amphibious armored personnel carrier. (According to that county’s sheriff-elect, the vehicle has been used to deliver prescriptions to snow-bound elderly residents, and to provide protection during a suspected hostage situation.) Jasper, Fla.,—with 2000 inhabitants and two murders in the past 12 years—obtained seven M-16s from the federal government, leading an area newspaper to run a story with the subhead, “Three stoplights, seven M-16s.”

This approach, though, has led to problems both obvious and subtle. The obvious problem should be especially apparent to readers of this magazine: Once you’ve got a cool tool, you kind of want to use it. That’s true whether it’s a pneumatic drill, a laser level or an armored fighting vehicle. SWAT teams, designed to deal with rare events, wound up doing routine police work, like serving drug warrants.

The subtle effect is also real: Dress like a soldier and you think you’re at war. And, in wartime, civil liberties–or possible innocence–of the people on “the other side” don’t come up much. But the police aren’t at war with the citizens they serve, or at least they’re not supposed to be.

The combination of these two factors has led to some tragic mistakes: “no knock” drug raids, involving “dynamic entry,” where the wrong house has been targeted or where the raid was based on informants’ tips that turned out to be just plain wrong.

On Sept. 23, 2006, a SWAT team descended on the home of a farmer and his schoolteacher wife in Bedford County, Va. “I was held at gunpoint, searched, taunted and led into the house,” A.J. Nuckols wrote to his local paper. “I was scared beyond description. I feared there had been a murder and I was a suspect.” When the couple’s three children came home, the police grilled them, too. The family was held under guard for five hours as the SWAT team ransacked the place, seizing computers, a digital camera, DVDs and VHS tapes. Ten days later, the cops returned the belongings. It turned out that a special anti-child-porn police unit had made a mistake while tracing an computer address and sent the SWAT team to the wrong home.

Sometimes, homeowners are killed in these actions; other times, it’s the officers. When a narcotics task force raided a duplex apartment in Jefferson Davis County, Miss., in 2001, they arrested one tenant, then burst into the adjacent apartment of Cory Maye. Thinking a burglar had broken into the bedroom he shared with his toddler daughter. Maye shot the officer fatally. Maye was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, his sentencing was overturned, and a motion for a new trial is still pending.

And, in a case that is now drawing national attention, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who lived in a high-crime neighborhood of Atlanta, recently opened fire on police when they broke down her door while executing a drug warrant. They returned fire, killing her. It’s hard to believe any of this would have happened had the police taken a less aggressive approach in the first place.

It used to be that police came to the door, announced themselves and, once a homeowner responded, entered the premises. Most policemen still work this way. But an alarming number now break down doors first and ask questions later.

Don’t get me wrong: Police often do dangerous work and they need equipment that’s going to protect them. And dynamic entry is valid when dealing with desperate criminals, but these tactics put ordinary citizens—and the police—at risk.

And when they do, it’s often hard to get redress. Lawsuits against police and supervisors face strict legal limits in the form of “qualified immunity,” and prosecutors, who work with the police on a regular basis, are unlikely to bring criminal charges against officers who negligently kill people. But homeowners confronted with tactics like flash-bang grenades and shouting that are intended to disorient targets, tend to be held to a much higher standard. The result, as in the Cory Maye case, is that people who do the laudable thing and defend their homes against unknown, armed intruders sometimes wind up being prosecuted for murder.

I discussed the issue with political commentator Radley Balko, who wrote a troubling report titled “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.” Balko said that the problem is more common than people realize. He suggests that accountability and transparency are what we need. I agree. Police raids should be videotaped, in an archival format that discourages tampering. And I think we need legal reform, too. Police who raid the wrong house, or who fail to give homeowners adequate warning except in truly life-or-death situations, shouldn’t benefit from official immunity.

Our homes are supposed to be our castles. The police shouldn’t treat them like enemy camps.

Henry Sapiecha