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by Peter Moskos

September 19, 2014

We Got Another Kingpin! (14)

It's been a few months, and actually "we" didn't get him. But he was gotten all the same.

From the BBC: "Mexican police have found the body of Aquiles Gomez, who was thought to be one of the main leaders of the Knights Templar drug cartel."

We win! (for the fourteenth time and counting...)

As I wrote back in 2011:
Ah, the illusive search for "Mr. Kingpin." If only we could nab him, the whole criminal enterprise would tumble. Witness how we're all safe from terrorism after the killing of Osama bin Laden. And notice how the drug war in Mexico has been won...


The real headline of course, the one you don't see very often, is that crime is down.

So says the BJS. Though I'm skeptical of the NCVS, since it reported a 40 percent increase in the previous two years, which, quite frankly, as I wrote, I do not believe. (The UCR showed an every-so-slight drop during the same time). So this "drop" in crime may be a bit of a statistical correction.

Still, "crime isn't up" is always nice news, since people always assume the world is always going to hell in a handcart (which seems like an awfully slow and old-fashioned way to get somewhere, these days).

Meanwhile, in New York City, despite the claims, or should I say desire, nay, let's go all out and say despite the knowledge, dreams, and aspirations of police unions and many police officers, crime in New York is basically steady.

Yes, shootings are up 6 to 7 percent. Homicides are down. Other crimes are basically steady. (Now PBA, please stop, as you've so often done in the past, trying to harm the city that most of you don't live in).

Oh, how it must pain conservative ideologues to see that even without strong conservative leadership, crime isn't going through the roof. Now let's not forget that in the 1990s liberals knew that crime couldn't go down. It did. Now conservatives have been certain for about a year now that crime would go up. But it hasn't. (And we're through the summer, which was what I was waiting for.)

Imagine this: the city is still safe even with a commie mayor, Al Sharpton as police adviser, extra and probably unneeded police oversight, unfair accusations of murder when criminals die resisting arrest, and unnecessary stop and frisks all-but stopped.

See it's not about ideology. It's about hard work. It's about an intelligent police department and intelligent police officers using discretion and doing their job. I know haters (on both sides) are gonna hate, but instead of seeing impending doom, why not take credit for a job well done?

September 18, 2014

On Gunshot Wounds

The second in a series from Adam Plantinga's 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman:
The seriousness of a gunshot wound depends on a host of factors, including the type and caliber of round, the distance the bullet travels, and if anything is present to slow the bullet down (a wall, a door, another person) before the moment of impact. But it’s a given that anything into the spine is a disaster and close contact handgun rounds to the face can leave the victim’s molars spilled out on the ground, or can blast off half of their skull, leaving a conical section of bone and skin that resembles the head of a unicorn. Other than that, anything goes.

Bullets rarely maintain a straight path. They loop and spin and sometimes follow the curve of the body. A shot into the arm can be “through and through” or it can ricochet off the elbow bone and explode the heart. A bullet entering the lower torso can rip through the intestines and cause lifelong complications or end up lodged in soft tissue without any lasting damage. Many gunshot victims in the latter category are released from the hospital the same day they entered, as it is often medically safer to leave the bullet right where it is. A shot in the buttocks can be a painful but ultimately colorful tale for the shooting victim to share with others, or it can result in an artery being pierced, causing the victim to bleed to death, something one of my sergeants witnessed years ago and to this day still cannot quite believe.

I spoke with a man once who had recently attempted suicide by shooting himself just behind the left ear. The bullet caromed off the front of his skull, and exited out the top of his head, leaving him dazed but very much alive. I could still see the corresponding C-shaped scar on his scalp. I once investigated a shooting where a round entered through a woman’s back, shattered the shoulder blade, and came to rest perched on top of her right clavicle, jutting out like a marble without breaking the surface of the skin. As a police officer, you look at bullet wounds with both respect and wonder because you know that for a gunshot victim, the difference between life and death can be the narrowest of margins.

September 16, 2014

"Write your own damn book!"

Occasionally, really surprisingly rarely, some crusty old cop takes an instant dislike to me because I write and teach about policing even though I wasn't a cop for long. I've never pretended to have as much experience as somebody with 20 years on the job, but I still find something pathetic when a police officer refuses to read what I have written -- which, more often than not, is on his side -- on some B.S. matter of principle. (Usually that principle being he's a dumbass).

The other week I got into a argument with a cop at a bar I like going to. The bartender asked him if he had read my op-ed in the paper. The cop said it didn't matter because I was never real police (of course didn't use those Baltimore words, but that was his gist). Generally I like talking to cops; usually we get along just fine. But after trying to hear him out and conceding much of his basic mistrust (there is a lot about policing I don't know), I mentioned that perhaps he should judge me on what I actually do, say, and write rather than call me a dick for what he thinks I might be writing.

But logic wasn't working. Oh well. I don't need him to like me or read my book. Now I know I can't win a whose-d*ck-is-bigger argument based on my time on the job (two years). But given where I policed, given a few too many damaged and dead friends, I don't take kindly to people asserting I was never there. So after telling him to go f*ck himself, I went on the offensive and questioned his policing credentials (and, while I was at it, his military credentials as well, since by his own ignorant logic, he had only served in Iraq for less than two years).

I also know he's never policed in a neighborhood as violent as where I policed, because such neighborhood don't exist in New York (perhaps the 75 in the late 1980s came close.) I know he's never patrolled alone. So I asked him how many drug corners he's single-handedly cleared? Perhaps I laughed when he doubted the number of arrests I had made. In the end, though my memory is a bit hazy, perhaps I alluded to him and his partner stroking each other off while other cops are out there doing real police work. See, I don't really care what you think about me, my writing, or what I know. But to say I never policed? Go f*ck yourself.

Anyway, it was all drunk stupid macho swinging-d*ck shit. Nobody got hurt. But here's what it all comes down to: if you think you know so much more about policing than I do, write your own goddman book!

Well, every now and then, somebody does.

A short while back I got sent a promo copy of 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman. I put it on the back burner. There actually are a fair number of "I was a cop and this is what the job is really like" books. A few are good. Most aren't. Some cops write better than others. Some police act too macho while others are not macho enough. But I wish cops would write more. At least more than police reports and texts to their lovers.

When I finally got to reading 400 Things Cops Know, I couldn't believe how good it was. I teach a lot of students who want to become police officers, and I can't think of any other single book that would so well prepare them for what the job is actually like.

Plantinga, a sergeant in San Francisco, seems to have both a pretty level head (though who knows? I've never met the guy) and he can write. He was an actual real English major (and a currently employed one, it's worth point out). Evidently, he can write fiction and non fiction. This is non fiction. These are anecdotes. Good ones. It's not heavy on the theory (which some will see as good), but it's a nice combination of this happened and these are my thoughts on those matters. Plantinga is both perceptive and able to articulate the, er, totality of the circumstances. Now I don't agree with him 100 percent of the time. But I do most of the time. Besides, what the hell do I know?

Anyway, with permission from Plantinga, I'm going to publish a few excerpts from his book. They're well suited to blog form. In fact in 2008, when I started this blog, I myself published a little pithy series of "Officer Pete Says".

So here's what I'm thinking: I'll print one of these every few days. It gives me material to keep copinthehood.com active, and you'll tell your friends about this great new policing book. I want to help get the word out and help Plantinga sell a few copies.

So this is my first excerpt from Adam Plantina's 400 Things Cops Know (Quill Driver Book). Available for less than $12 from Amazon. This is my numbering order, not his, but let's call this #1:
The job will change you. It changes everyone, for better and worse. You will become far more alert to your surroundings. You will keep your gun hand free even when off-duty. You will become hyper-aware when taking money out of ATMs, day or night. You’ll look inside convenience stores and banks before you enter to make sure you aren’t walking in on a hold-up in progress.

If you didn’t curse before you became a cop, you probably will once you have six months in on this campaign. You will curse like a dockworker. You will also become angrier. More disillusioned. Far more skeptical about the inherent goodness of humankind. The constant exposure to toxic social conditions and dealing with people at their hopeless worst solders an extra layer onto your skin. You see too much darkness and it becomes part of you in ways you may not fully understand. Some describe this condition as compassion fatigue, the main symptom being a vague sense of loathing for human frailty and for one’s self. Maybe this extra layer is good. It keeps you from being emotionally invested and affords you the detachment you need to be an objective investigator. It acts like a suit of armor against the elements. But part of you may want to be, well, illusioned again. Part of you wishes that guy you used to be, the one in the police academy with the fresh haircut and the extra-shiny shoes wasn’t such a stranger to you now. You know that for the most part, it’s good that guy is gone. He meant well, but he wasn’t an effective street cop. He was too hesitant, too trusting. He’s been replaced and you don’t expect him back.

But once in a while, you sort of miss him.

September 10, 2014

Good use of Taser

NYPD subdue armed mentally disturbed man. Nobody seriously hurt.

That's the headline you should read every now and then. But you rarely do.

I'm not a big fan of the Taser, but this seems to me exactly what it is designed for.

What's odd, at least to me, is that here is a perfect use of the Taser. A crazy gets zapped. Nobody gets seriously hurt. And yet at least one media source seems to imply something bad happened.

Also, does the NYPD really respond to 100,000 EDPs a year? Seems awfully high to me. And what the hell does, "routinely result in injuries or death" mean. I seriously doubt there the NYPD responds to 275 EPD calls per day. But if that is the case, and people are "routinely" injured, does "routinely" mean say, half the time? So there are 6 EDPs injured by the NYPD every hour? Now that would be a real story... except it's not true. I'm not quite certain what the story here is, except for a job well done by the NYPD.

Anyway, "cops do good job" indeed isn't much of a headline. Nor is "violent crazy man committed to hospital, everybody goes home" a great lede. Still, it seems appropriate to give the police credit when it is due. I mean this is what Tasers are for.

[hat tip to Sgt B]

September 5, 2014

The 21-Foot Myth

It's long been "known" among police that anybody with a knife or edged weapon within 21 feet is a lethal threat. This so-called "rule" has long been a big pet-peeve of mine.

This anybody-within-21-feet-is-a-threat mentality does result in a lot of crazy people getting shot. And don't get me wrong, I have no problem with police shooting and killing people coming at them with knives. But the idea that anybody within 21 feet could be carrying an edged-weapon and is thus potentially a lethal threat? Get real. Even if the "21-foot-rule" were true, what are you supposed to do with this knowledge? You're a cop. Of course you're going to be dealing with people at a normal talking distance of a few feet.

The first problem with the 21-foot "rule" is that it assumes the officer doesn't perceive a threat. The scenario starts with a holstered weapon. Well if you don't perceive a threat that exists, that's a separate problem. But it doesn't mean you're justified in keeping everybody at a 21-foot distance. The second obvious problem with the "rule" is that it assumes that the man with the blade is a trained skilled stealth ninja (or at least an academy instructor-san much better than you, young academy grasshopper trainee, at hand-to-hand combat).

The relevant question is how close should you let a man with a knife get to you when you are in the drawn and ready position. Based on nothing but my gut experience (I'm sure somebody has better-formed answer), I would probably start shooting at about 6 feet. Maybe 10 feet if they're advancing in more a threatening manner. But of course it all depends on the situation: what kind of person? What kind of knife? How is the person holding the blade? (Blade facing back, arm-down, fist clenched means the guy may know how to use it.)

For small knives that don't make particularly good weapons (like a dinner knife or something without a bolster/finger guard), I'd be more than willing to take my chances defending myself and whacking the guy with my trusty 29-inch wooden straight baton (a far better offensive and defensive weapon than the now much more common expandable metal asp). And I'd be more willing to try and disarm the guy if I could come up from behind while the person with the blade is distracted by the other six officers on scene who are drawn down on him).

[And of course a man with a knife is exactly what the Taser is designed for even if it emasculatingly and shamefully used far more often for routine non-threatening non-compliance situations. Also, you should not mace a guy holding a knife, because then you have an angry blind guy with a knife.]

Here's the thing: most people police face with knifes are not well trained in "edged-weapon combat." They are A) crazy or B) cutting up their loved one. Sometimes both. But police rarely if ever face a trained evil ninja out to assassinate a police officer caught unaware (honestly, there are far easier ways to assassinate a police officer, if you so choose). So basically you have this whole police paranoia based on a situation that never happens.

I checked Officer Down and, since 2000, could find just four officers on patrol killed by an assailant with a bladed weapon: one domestic, one EP (aka: EDP or mental case), and two fatal fights after a foot pursuit. As you might guess, not one of these assailants was an a trained stealth ninja.

Best I can ascertain, only one officer in the past 14 years (Sault Ste. Marie Detective John Weir) could have been saved, maybe, I don't know, by keeping greater distance and being quicker to shoot. The other officers, rest in piece, died doing the job they had to do.

So why has the 21-foot rule persisted for decades despite little basis in fact or police reality? I don't know. I'd love to hear what you think. Could it be just another example of the conservative warrior mentality so pervasive (and usually counterproductive) in policing? Think of this: the instructor teaching hand-to-hand combat in the academy is the most aggressive threat-perceiving police officer out there perhaps (just hypothetical, er, based on my experience) having been pulled off the street and into the academy where he can't shoot another sue-the-city person (all of them technically justified, but still...).

So you get a perpetuating cycle where the paranoid cop too-quick to elevate a threat-level ends up teaching and scaring the next generation of police officers to adopt his code-red us-versus-them ideological world-view in which one must assume the worst about even seemingly non-threatening citizens.

Here's a good recent piece by Ron Martinelli which more scientifically analyzes and partially debunks the 21-foot rule, and inspired this post. If you're still with me, it's also worth clicking-through to the first link on this page.

[Update: Based on a useful comment to this post, I also should have included blunt weapons and not just knives. Doing so brings the total number of police officers killed in the past 15 years with any relevance to the 21-foot-rule up to three police officers. It's also worth mentioning that I'm not looking at officers just injured. But we don't have those figures. And one can assume some relationship between fatal and non-fatal injuries.

So let's put the 21-foot-rule in perspective. In this same time period since 2000, as many officers (3) have been killed by a moving trains.

Six officers have been killed by animals: one by cow, one by spider, and one by bee; the other three from horses (none by dog, interestingly).

If one were truly interested in saving police lives rather than simply building police paranoia and mistrust of the public, we should look at the 515 law enforcement officers killed traffic fatalities. How many of these would have been prevented by officers wearing seat belts? And yet the same officer who won't wear his seatbelt because he claims it gets caught on his equipment (which, speaking from experience, is bullshit) will be quick to spout the absurdity that his life is endangered by anybody within 21 feet, in optimal conditions.]

August 30, 2014

"Excited Delirium" is not a real medical condition

Best I can figure, it was invented (or at least inspired by) the Taser corporation (correct me if I'm wrong here).

But it's not a real cause of death. That being said, it's usually used to get cops off the hood when someone dies after being Tased.

But now some high guy dies and the police officer might (but probably will not) get in trouble? If there's any crime here, it sure wasn't committed by the police.

The story from the New York Times.

And I've never heard of this pseudo bullshit medical condition being used in a situation that wasn't Taser related. Again, correct me if I'm wrong.

And since when did the NYC M.E. buy into the concept of "Excited Delirium"?

August 27, 2014

"Unarmed" man not shot by police

One of the things that keeps coming out of the Ferguson shooting is that Michael Brown was "unarmed." As if "unarmed" people cannot be a threat to cop.

That's bullshit.

Now I'm not talking about whether Michael Brown was or was not a threat. I do not know. But the fact that he was "unarmed" does not mean he wasn't a threat.

This is a video (from 5 months ago) of an "unarmed" man on the whom I think the police officer should have shot. But the cop didn't. I guess the officer didn't feel his life was in danger. Kudos to him. Seriously. But I think his life was in imminent danger. And I think I would have shot the guy.

Just based on the description of the video (and the fact that the train isn't leaving and a police officer is involved), let's assume guy threatened to shoot subway passengers. A cop responded. The guy attacks the cop. That's where the video starts.

The cop tries to retreat. Then the cop maces him at 0:15. There's a nice deflection at 0:17. (Shazam! Jujitsu shit.) The asp comes out at 0:21. [Wack.] Little if any effect. The guy keeps coming at the police officer. Notice how few seconds have passed.

The grappling continues. The guy keeps coming. What would you do?

Now when you can use lethal force is not cut and dried. It's up to the police officer. And I can't read this police officer's mind. But he didn't use lethal force. That was the choice he made. Maybe he never felt his life was in danger.

But I'm telling you I think I would shot guy point-blank at 0:45.

Would this have been a "good" (ie: justified) shooting. Abso-fucking-lootly.

I've been in fights. And I haven't shot anybody. For whatever reason (backup, for instance) I never felt my life was in danger. I won't say this cop should have shot the guy. He felt he didn't need to. And he turned out to be right. But had he shot him, I would defend that shooting (as would the law).

But what if there's no video? What if the cop does shoot? What if, as would happen, some "eyewitness" on the subway says "the guy had his hands in the air [which, actually, he kind of did]. And he was surrendering when the cops shot him for no reason!" Then what do you assume?

Because when cops hear of a cop shooting an "armed person," they assume something like this happened. Cop know, based on everything they have done and seen, that police do not shoot people for no reason. Cops think: there but for the grace of God, go I.

Also note there is a train of people, not one of whom helps the cop. (Or you could say it's good nobody helped the other guy, who was asking for help).

So this subway cop showed amazing (and perhaps even unwise) restraint in use of force. But yes, in hindsight, it's clearly better that nobody got shot.

So did this officer receive any kudos for his bravery or his restraint? I don't know. Should he? Yes. Did he? I doubt it.

Bad cops

OK, my cop friends: please tell me what I'm missing here or how any of this (from February) is defensible. It's so rare I can watch a video and not understand or at least empathize with the police.

These Bloomfield, New Jersey cops are going to end up in jail right? And is the salary range really $57K starting up to $100,000. 

Here's an update from July. I don't know the latest.

August 26, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (VII): hispanics

Fact 7: What about hispanics? Hard to tell because many police departments don't keep track. Half of all homicides (justifiable police homicides) have no "ethic origin" listed. When it is listed, 1/3 of those killed are hispanic, which strikes me as very high. Overall, including all the missing data, hispanics come out at 16 percent. So the real number of hispanics killed is somewhere between 16 and 33 percent. The census lists 17 percent of Americans as hispanic (which includes all races).

That's all I got for now. If you can think of any other question I can answer with the data I have, leave a comment, and I'll do my best.

Race and justifiable police homicides (VI): black police shoot white people, too

Fact 6: Black police officers do kill white people. This really isn't surprising, but I mention it because I've seen a few people on twitter doubt this fact. Black officers (about 1 in 7 of all police) kill about 27 blacks and 9.4 whites per year. White police (of whom there are many more) kill an average of 81 blacks and 200 whites each year (both for the past 15 years).

Like the previous fact, this doesn't mean much without greater context. But it's worth pointing out that there aren't too many black officers working in high-crime white neighborhoods.

The next and last fact concerns hispanics. Spoiler: the data isn't good enough.

August 25, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (V): black police

Fact 5: Black officers are disproportionately more likely than white police to kill black people. But this should not come as a surprise since black officers are much more likely to work in black areas and in cities where there are more blacks. Again, without a good denominator, this doesn't mean much. 73.5 percent of those killed by black police are black. For white police the percentage is 27.6 percent.

Next question: Do black police shoot and kill white people?

Race and justifiable police homicides (IV): On the increase

Fact 4: Police-involved killings are going up. This one surprised me. Because police-involved shootings are generally correlated with overall homicides. But homicides are more or less steady right now, and down 10,000 since 1998 (14,000 in 1998, 13,000 in 2012).

The trend is about five more killings a year, for the past 15 years.

Meanwhile the trend is for fewer officers to get shot and killed. (If you go back further, like to the 1970s when more than 100 officers were shot and killed each year, the trend is way down.)

So cops may just be quicker on the draw. Or perhaps too quick on the draw. Or some combination of the two.

The next post examines if black police are more or less likely to kill people. What do you think?

As a side note, justifiable killings by civilians have been increasing at an even greater rate over the past 15 years. From 191 in 1998 to 309 in 2012. I would assume (but do not know) that "stand your ground" laws have something to do with this. Also, (surprising to me) the race relationship of those killings have become even more intra-racial (and the greatest increase is seen in justified killings by black).

[Data on police fatal shootings comes from the Officer Down Memorial Page.]

August 24, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (III): one a day

Fact 3: Nationwide, police kill about one person a day (426 in 2012, to be exact, 30 percent were black, 63 percent were white). Again, how you want to use or misuse that statistic is up to you. Either one person a day needs to be shot to protect somebody from getting killed or seriously hurt. Well, either that or police are cold blooded murderers who fill a one-body-a-day quota in the murder department. I'm more partial to the former explanation...

But it might be worth mentioning that the combined total for deaths from police shootings in Japan and Britain was... zero. Germany had eight.

Now ask yourself this: are police-involved killings in the US going up or down. That's tomorrow's fact.

And now, for the nerdy set, some numbers:

In 2012, police killed a total of 426 people. Of those:
white men: 267
black men: 128
white women: 6
black women: 4
"Asian or Pacific Islanders": 9
"American Indian or Alaskan Native": 5

The rates of justifiable police homicide, are roughly (per 100,000):
black: 0.33
Indian/Native American: 0.17
white: 0.12
Asian: 0.06

To put these numbers in some perspective, there were 13,063 total homicides in 2012.
white men: 4,332
black men: 5,745
white women: 1,651
black women: 858
Asian men: 160
Asian women: 82
Native/Indian men: 72
Native/Indian women: 22

The 2012 US homicide rates (per 100,000, and again, roughly):
black: 16.5
white: 2.7
Asian: 1.6
Indian/Native: 3.2

One other interesting tidbit, if you're still with me, is if one looks only at murders in which the killer is known to be a "stranger" (which is just 15 percent of all homicides... and this does not include the larger category of "relationship not determined"). Then the numbers plummet:
white men: 912
black men: 812
white women: 112
black women: 90
Asian men: 45
Asian women: 9
Native/Indian men: 15
Native/Indian women: 1

I mention this because fear and public policy is built so much around the concept of people (I'll say it: white women) being killed at home or in a robbery by some stranger (I'll say it again: a black man). And yet there were just 32 such victims in 2012. And 2012 was a high year. 2011 saw just 25 white women killed by black strangers.

The odds of being killed by a stranger, especially if you're a woman, are almost infinitesimally small. Though to be fair, they're still greater than the chance of being killed by lighting or attacked by a shark.

[Rates are based on these population numbers (which are not cut and dried): white 224 million; black 40 million; Asian 15 million; Native/Indian 3 million. Homicides from the 2012 UCR homicide supplement.]

August 23, 2014

Race and justifiable police homicides (II): white and black

Fact 2: Blacks are more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police, but probably less so than you'd suspect. 34 percent of those killed by police are African American. But put another way, 62 percent of those killed by police are white. (Actual numbers provided in next post.)

What you want to make of these data probably depends on your ideological persuasion. While the percentage of blacks killed by police (1/3) is disproportionately high compared to the percentage of Americans who are black (about 13%), one-third is low compared to other indicators of violence, such as the percentage of homicide victims and offenders who are African American (about 50 percent, give or take).

Since police-involved shootings correlate with gun violence in the population -- and many black communities receive a disproportionate amount of police attention -- one might expect the percentage of those killed by police to be closer to (or more than) 50 percent.

Based on the data, it does not seem that police are particularly trigger-happy around blacks compared to whites. (Though once could still argue that police are too trigger-happy overall.)

And keep in mind I make mistakes. If something seems fishy about my facts, let me know and I can double check.

Question for tomorrow's fact (#3): how many people (per year or per day) do police kill in the US?

[The source for all police-involved homicides is self-compiled UCR homicide supplements from 1998 to 2012. I've selected the value of 81 ("felon killed by police") for V29 ("Offender 1: circumstance"). I know that not all police departments report to the UCR, so the real numbers may be a bit more. But most police departments -- certainly all the big ones -- do report to the UCR. And the UCR covers "93.4 percent of the total population as established by the Bureau of Census." The coverage for justifiable homicides, however, is less complete.]

Race and justifiable police homicides (I): Over time

Back in 2008 I posted about what I called the "Al Sharpton effect": cops shooting white people doesn't generally make the news. That post has gotten a lot of hits recently (roughly 2,000 page views a day, when normally my whole blog gets about 700).

So I've re-crunched these numbers, both to make them more current and to look at the past 15 years, from 1998 to 2012. This is fact 1 of 7 (give or take).

Fact 1: The racial percentage of those killed by police hasn't changed. In other words, police are not more (or less) likely to shoot and kill blacks than they were 15 years ago. (In more academic terms, there is no correlation between year and race, from 1998 to 2012, selecting for whites and blacks).

Before I post the next fact, ask yourself this: what percentage of those killed by police do you think are black?

I ask because because it's good to know if your "facts" are actually based on reality And if the actual facts don't coincide with what you think is true, then you need to reconsider your opinions based on lies. Too many people don't do that.

August 13, 2014

Is the silence deafening?

That's because I'm out of town, in New Mexico ("not really new and not really Mexico"), and only have my phone to type on.

I'll be back home and posting in about two weeks.

August 5, 2014

How to arrest a very large man who doesn't want to go

Telling officers what not to do doesn't tell them what they should do. And it's never going to look pretty. That doesn't make it wrong.

Here's my op-ed in today's New York Daily News:
If you’re a cop, how do you cuff a 6-foot-tall, 350-pound man who doesn’t want to go to jail?

Most arrests happen without a problem. Police order a guy to put his hands behind his back. The cuffs click or zip, and that’s that. But sometimes people make it clear that they don’t want to go. Then what?
Read the whole thing here.

August 1, 2014

I stand corrected

The medical examiner's office says Eric Garner was murdered. To wit: "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity were contributing factors.

His death has been ruled a homicide, and presumably we're going to be in for a Staten Island trial with Daniel Pantaleo and perhaps other police officers as defendants.

July 28, 2014

Gun Rights

This recent decision in DC saying there is right to carry is actually bigger news than you'd think. Why? Because up till now you did not have that right.

This decision asserts constitutional rights beyond what the Supreme Court has ever ruled. The Court said that the government cannot prevent you from having a gun in your home for protections. But that's it. Now this was a huge decision because, for the first time ever, the Court, in Heller and McDonald, ruled that the 2nd Amendment indeed does give an individual a right to bear arms.

This wasn't the intention of the Founding Fathers and has never been the case in US history, but what is good for the (liberal) goose is good for the (conservative) gander. I have no problem with the Court expanding our rights (or more correctly: limited the rights of the government). The 9th Amendment says this explicitly (though this Amendment, for reasons I do not understand, is rarely invoked in Court opinions).

Still, given those Supreme Court decision, the government could regulate ammo, the kinds of gun, and everything about guns in public. But even with those restrictions, Heller and McDonald were landmark cases that re-interpreted and expanded the 2nd Amendment. But all they said is that regulations could not prevent, again, you from having a handgun in your home for protection. That's it. But it was huge.

But now a lower court has said you, my fellow American, have a constitutional right to carry a gun in public. That is a huge expansion of the the core rights of the 2nd Amendment. We'll see if it stands.

July 23, 2014

Looking up to police officers

I just learned that cops in Greece have to be at least 5'7" (170 cm) tall. Male and female. That's crazy. Hell, I'm just barely over the cutoff.
...which is the highest minimum in Europe, along with Malta, Romania and Serbia. At 152cm, Belgium has the lowest height requirement. Female applicants in Greece must also be 170cm tall, making them the highest in Europe.

Is Selling Untaxed Cigarettes Now A Capital Offense?

So asks W. James Antle III in the Daily Caller. The answer is no, even with death of Eric Garner. But it is an arrestable offense. And that's a problem for police. It should be a problem for society. But people love passing stupid laws and then getting upset with police for enforcing them.

July 21, 2014

How to change occupational culture

New York City just paid $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit from a prisoner who killed in Rikers. As a taxpayer, I worry about a million here and a million there. Pretty soon, as they say, we're talking about real money. To the tune of $100 million each year for New York City. And indeed it does not grow on trees.

Everybody who has ever been a jail -- guard, police officer, prisoner, lawyer -- knows some bad stuff happens in there. If you want to find brutality, stop looking at police and start looking at C.O.s. (Of course, it's a lot easier to film police than to film what goes on in jails and prisons.)

But those big settlements don't cost the agencies where it happened one penny. The Department of Corrections or NYPD budget doesn't pay for the lawsuits they brought about. The city pays. It's a lot easier to be irresponsible when somebody else picks up the tab. It's like you're playing baseball and break a neighbor's window. You'll probably break fewer windows if you have to pay for the replacement. But as long as mom and dad pick up the tab, play on.

If some or all of that money came from the agencies that were responsible, I guarantee you those agencies would find a way to change the behavior and working culture that leads to lawsuits. Instead, the culture stays the same, and every now and then an officer gets thrown under the bus.

[Update: Jim Dwyer has a July 22 story with a similar theme in the NYT.]

The chokehold that wasn't?

Not surprisingly, the preliminary autopsy report in the death of Eric Garner shows, shows that the "deadly encounter Thursday did not damage his windpipe or neck bones."

Why is the not surprising? Because I'm still not convinced there was any chokehold at all. It certainly did not happen when Mr. Garner was taken down. There may have been a chokehold later, but as I have said, and without 100 percent certainly, I don't think there was. But seeing how Garner apparently didn't suffer any damage from a chokehold, can we at least stop saying a chokehold killed him?

The Daily News, which has been the most harsh of all the NYC newspapers, has repeated mentioned "chokehold" as a matter of fact, even though it may not be. "Chokehold" is mentioned around eight times in a webpage that ends with, "Sources told the Daily News that a preliminary report found no signs of neck trauma, such as a crushed windpipe."

There's something very strange about people who are screaming about "police killing a man with an illegal chokehold" who then don't care that there perhaps there wasn't a chokehold. Don't facts matter? Of course it doesn't help that Commissioner Bratton himself has called it a chokehold, which seems to sort of settle the matter, at least in the media.

Of course Garner is dead, so it's fair to ask, "does it matter?" Well, yes. It does. Because (as I've said before) there's a big difference between police killing a man and having a man die of a heart attack in the course of resisting arrest. It matters because the former is a crime and the latter is a tragedy. The guy seems to have died from physical exertion while resisting arrest. Is that the fault of police?

Meanwhile a police officer has been tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty. He very well may be tried in a criminal court -- and then there will be further shock and uproar when he is acquitted.

Except for some of the more extreme cops, who believe everybody resisting police should die, most decent people can agree that something went wrong. A man shouldn't be dead after a minor police encounter over a non-violent crime. That should be a starting point for discussion. But if you start by saying police killed a man -- even if it's not true -- it's hard to have any sort of reasonable or productive discussion.

This ideological anti-police bias is a left-wing lie similar to the right-wing lies I prefer to write about. It's like Larmondo "Flair" Allen, the drug dealer who, according to a right-wing email being sent around, was receiving $13,500 a month in welfare before he was murdered. "An outrage!" people scream while blaming Obama ("Flair" died in 2004). When I corrected this fact -- the real figure would have been more like $550 a month -- most people who so outraged by the $13,500 figure didn't seem to give a damn that it wasn't true. They want to be outraged! Facts be damned! "Well," they say, "maybe those numbers are wrong, but that doesn't change my opinion." Well... then you're a fool. If your opinion is based on beliefs that are not true, shouldn't you perhaps change your opinion? Or at least get your facts right?

Maybe in my next post I'll try and break down the Garner encounter situation and point out various points where something could have been done differently. Choices, had they been taken, where Mr. Garner wouldn't end up dead. Certainly things went wrong; a man is dead. But that doesn't mean the officers on scene killed a man.

[Update: I defer to the medical examiner, who says otherwise.]

July 20, 2014

Meanwhile, in the land of Greek Americans

I'm featured in The National Herald, the largest Greek-American newspaper. Front page story, no less (below the fold). Must have been a slow news week. Read all about it.