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by Peter Moskos

November 27, 2014

Who do you believe?

Let me start by saying we'll never know for certain what happened when Officer Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.

No. Seriously. Think about it. You don't know what happened. I don't know what happened. So whatever you think, whatever I think... the only thing I can guarantee is that it's probably not true.

And this is the problem I have with these situations. Nobody knows what happened, but everybody fills in their ideological world view. "Racist cop shot a black kid down for no reason" vs. "cop attacked by vicious criminal defends himself."

Now there are other issues, very real and serious issues related to injustice in America in general. I'm talking about 2.3 million prisoners. And in suburban St. Louis in particular I'm talking about towns that seem to exist largely for the feudal financial purpose of exploiting the residents who live there. I'm talking about towns -- majority black, mostly -- that bring in 30, 50, 70 percent of their budged on municipal and police issued fines. This is wrong. But those issues don't actually directly concern the reality of what happened with Police Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael "Big Mike" Brown.

[But boy would it be nice if we could seriously address and rectify the problems in America without some violent spark? But we as a country don't seem capable of that.]

Back to the shooting. Now that we've admitted that we don't know exactly what happened and we never will, let's stop being so righteous, smug, or disparaging of those who don't have your same world-view.

So now let's get to what we do know.

When the shooting first happened, I was presented a liberal narrative by a TV producer who stated that an "another innocent black kid, college bound, was walking down the street when he was stopped by police and shot while he was surrendering while his hands were in the air."
I responded, "I don't believe that, but go on."

Today we know that narrative I was first presented with wasn't true. Some say that doesn't matter. I think it does. If you want a martyred victim, pick a better martyr (and I hate to say it, but there are plenty: Ayers and Diallo jump to mind.)

Dorian Johnson wasn't the only witness, but he was there. And since Michael Brown is dead, he's the only one with a front row seat other than the cop who killed Brown. So Johnson is a pretty good source to have. But Dorian's version of what happened has changed. I think that matters. If you don't tell the truth the first time, I'm much less willing to believe you the second time.

When I was a cop and would ask somebody's name and date of birth after I pulled them over for some traffic violation, often they would have no ID. Maybe, just maybe, they actually did just forget their valid license. Maybe. Once in a blue moon it happened. I wouldn't have a problem with that. So I would call in their name and date of birth. And wait. And then nothing would come back. They were not in Maryland's DMV system. So then they would try again and tell me a second name and/or date of birth. Like I was supposed to believe them the second time? Moskos don't play that game.

Anyway, they would get locked up for a violation and failure to have ID. But they were really locked up because they committed a traffic violation, and I couldn't write them a ticket because I had no idea who they were. And they lied to me about that. CBIF (jail) could sort out their ID. Not my problem. I had other calls to answer.

Anyway, when Brown was killed many people bought the only narrative then at first presented: college-bound angel shot by racist cop for no reason. Many still do. And it might be true... but it probably isn't. There actually is evidence that shows this narrative isn't true. And then of course the narrative changes to match the new evidence. But, like I said, Moskos don't play that game.

So we have two narratives. And for the record I have not yet read all the testimony, but I have read all the testimony of Officer Darren Wilson and Dorian Johnson. Have you?

So here is what they agree on.

[Before I get into all of this let me say that we also know that the Ferguson Police Department handled this and pretty much everything after this just about as horribly as as police department could. Why didn't they say anything? Why didn't they make any attempt to control the narrative? Even if they don't have a PR person, don't they at least have friggin' lawyer?! Why couldn't they get a crime lab there faster? Why didn't they handle the valid feelings of outrage more responsibly? Why didn't they do anything right?! But that is all for another post.]

1) Johnson and Michael Brown go to a corner store and Brown steals a bunch of 79-cent Cigarillos. These are "blunts" used to smoke marijuana in. This is an unarmed robbery. A yoking, as they say in Baltimore. Now Brown is dead so we don't actually know this, but Johnson claims he wasn't expecting this. Maybe he wasn't. But he doesn't seem to think it's a huge deal. He stays with Brown as they walk away.

2) Walking in the middle of the street, they get stopped by Officer Wilson. By all accounts he curses at the two of them. (Though Johnson says Wilson starts with saying "fuck" and Wilson says he doesn't till "fuck" till a bit later. Whatever. I've seen a lot of cops yell at people in the ghetto walking in the street, and it often involves the police cursing.)

Officer Wilson tells them to get on the sidewalk. They don't. For some weird reason they ignore the police officer's request to not walk in the middle of the street.

3) Wilson backs up his police pick-up truck to block/confront them. This quickly escalates into a struggle between Wilson and Brown. But the nature of this struggle is in dispute. Johnson says Brown is trying to get away and being held by Wilson. Wilson says Brown is attacking him in his police car.

4) Brown, for some reason, is still holding the stolen Cigarillos in his hand and passes them to Johnson.

5) Brown gets shot at by Wilson while Brown is still at the car.

6) Brown and Johnson run away, Wilson pursues. Brown gets shot at again.

7) Brown is shot many times and dies. His body lays in the street far too long.

Those facts are not in dispute. Much of the rest is. Johnson says Wilson treated them disrespectfully by almost backing into them with Wilson's marked police pick-up truck after Johnson and Brown disobeyed Wilson's order to get on the sidewalk. (Though like Rashomon, much of their seemingly contradictory views can actually be mutually possible... but now I'm getting too deep).

So now it comes down to who you believe. Yes, I tend to believe police officers because I worked with police officers who told the truth ("within the bounds of reason," as H.L. Mencken said). This is hard for many people to believe. It's like people project their own shadiness on police. Lying gets you fired (if you get caught). But the average cop is more honest than the average student or professor.

So I basically believe Officer Wilson because based on my experience, my training, and my having been a police officer, what he says basically rings true. Now you may think he's a lying bastard -- and you may be right -- but, well, I doubt it.

I'm going to tell you why you should believe Officer Wilson over Dorian Johnson. And yes, this involves relativism, character judgment, moral subjectivity, and all that. But seriously, we're talking about trust and honesty.

Here's what we know about Dorian Johnson, based on his own testimony.

Dorian grew up around violence and has been shot. I don't know why. That's neither here nor there. I'm just putting it out there because that's a major life event.

Now he's got a serious girlfriend and a kid and shares a two bedroom apartment. He wakes up around 7 - 7:30am (much earlier than I do, I should add).

This is his typical morning:
I start my morning, I wake up, I take a shower, and ask my girl does she like breakfast, what would she like for breakfast. I head out to go get it. Upon getting breakfast I get me some Cigarillos. I smoke marijuana in my morning when I start my day off, so I was going headed to the store.

Dorian, to put it mildly, is "not real pressed on time." "Because like I said, I was still on the verge of looking for new work."

So he's like a Shaggy who can't cook. I'm not judging. I have no problem with that lifestyle. Seriously. Honestly I'm kind of jealous. To each his own.

So he goes out in his pajama shorts to buy his girl breakfast and meets up with Big Mike. They decide to "match" ("it is just smoking together basically"). OK.

They got to a store and Big Mike, to Dorian's surprise, robs the store. By now it's close to noon and, can I just mention it's five hours later and while he says he's still not stoned he still hasn't gotten his girlfriend's breakfast!

Here's an interesting exchange with the grand jury:
Q: Again, I’m not judging you, but somebody just stole something?
A: Right.
Q: On the video that we watched, he grabbed ahold of the man?
A: Right.
Q: He said something to him and he lunged at him, OK, you are walking down the street?
A: Yes, Ma’am.
Q: The police tell you to "get the fuck on the sidewalk"?
A: Correct.
Q: And you say "I’m almost home." You are thinking to yourself we are not doing anything wrong, didn’t you? Somebody did just do something wrong, so that still begs the question why you did not listen to the police?
Dorian doesn't really answer that one, but goes on to say they weren't stressed because he didn't think they were being stopped for the robbery. See in the criminal's mind, you're only dirty while committing the criminal act. In the cop's mind, the criminal is always dirty.

So on one hand we have a police officer with a good record and a believable story. He also has evidence of being attacked that fully supports his version of the story .

On the other hand we have a stoned if charming unemployed slacker who willingly hangs out with a guy who just robbed a store and then ignore a reasonably lawful order from a police officer. Also, he told his girl he's getting breakfast but failed at this rather simple goal. Also, he seems to see nothing particularly odd with his life style choices.

Look there is a chance that Johnson's version of events is true. But really? Odds are slim. There is contradictory evidence. There is strong evidence that Michael Brown did punch Officer Wilson. There is strong evidence that Michael Brown was partially in the police car when Wilson shot him. There is strong evidence that Brown's hands were not hands-up in surrender when he was shot. Now you can believe what you want. But the factual evidence we have really is, as they say, "consistent with" Wilson's testimony.

So no, I don't believe Johnson's version that Officer Wilson -- unthreatened except for his ego -- fought to hold Brown close to himself, and then shot Brown for no reason, and then chased Brown down and killed him.

Why would you think that is true unless your world view that says society is unjust and all cops are cold-blooded racists?

I think it's much more likely that, as Wilson testified, Wilson realized he was dealing with a guy who just robbed a store, Wilson was attacked by said robber, Wilson fought for his life, and Wilson won. It's happened before.

So what I'm saying is I don't know what happened, but it is totally possible that Officer Wilson is a good police officer who, while doing his job, was threatened by a man who did indeed attack him, and reacted accordingly. Why is it so inconceivable that a criminal who just committed a crime would attack a police officer? Is that less likely that a cop killing a black man for no reason? If so, the world really has gone mad.

Who do you believe?

I remember late one night I pulled over a respectable middle-aged black woman over because her head lights were not on. She called me racist and then called 911 saying she was being harassed and threatened by a cop: me. She was convinced her head lights were on (her parking lights were on). But they weren't. Had they been, I wouldn't have pulled her over. I wasn't even planning on giving her a ticket (but I had to once she complained, which is a whole other story). Anyway, the call comes out for a cop harassing a driver on Broadway. My sergeant comes over to figure things out. He deals with the situation.

So it goes to traffic court. I'm there. She's there. And she's looking as middle-class church-going 50-year-old hat-wearing respectable as any woman can. I give the boilerplate summary of a traffic stop. She calmly tells a story about how her lights were on and she knew it and she has no idea why she was pulled over by a racist cop. The judge wakes up, because this isn't normal for traffic court. He asks if I have anything to add. I do. I tell him this was the oddest traffic stop I even had. I go on a bit more, but it comes down to this: I say her headlights were not on; she says they were. I'm sure as snow that that woman believed she was right (after all, she could see the lights on her dashboard). But her headlights were not on.

It was literally he-said she-said. Now the judge wasn't there when I stopped her. He couldn't know for sure. But he believed me. He paused for a moment and actually banged his gavel (not well used in traffic court) and said, "guilty." I thanked him. She huffed off.

This is the way our justice system works. We need to believe the word of police officers over the word of criminals. (Or else we need to get rid of police). My word as a police officer was trusted over an honest woman because I was a paid civil servant sworn under oath to uphold the law and constitution. Now you may not believe me. But the judge did. As he should.

So in the Darren Wilson case the grand jury did not believe there was probably cause to indict the officer. And they were right. Or at least read more testimony than I did before you disagree.

[Admittedly, the questioning in the testimony wasn't very aggressive. But then while it may be rare a grand jury doesn't indict, it's also even rarer that a grand jury deals with an innocent person! So despite the softball nature of the grand jury, evidence was presented. And, unlike at a trial, and you only needed 9 of 12 to bring charges. They didn't get that. Why? Because and -- do consider at least this possibility that this may be true -- Darren Wilson might, just might be a police officer who was doing his job and had to protect his own life.]

This is where cops and conservatives think Ferguson protesters are crazy. Now *I* don't think that. Because I think there are lots things worth protesting about in this country. It's how we make a better country. And there is injustice in America! I even wrote a book about racial injustice and incarceration (no, not Cop in the Hood. In Defense of Flogging is the one you didn't buy)!

But none of that means Darren Wilson is guilty of anything. As I said, we don't know for sure what happened and we probably never will. But do we as society -- or do you, individually -- really believe Dorian Johnson's version more than Police Officer Darren Wilson's?

November 26, 2014

*Let's* Monday Morning Quarterback

Imagine, say, you get a call for an armed person waving a gun in a park.

Here's what you don't do: drive right up to that person on muddy slippery ground to put your partner in an unprotected and defenseless position a few feet from the suspect.

I feel sad for the officer involved. He does have to live with shooting what turned out to be a non-lethally armed 12-year-old boy.

The problems here abound. The dispatcher didn't relay information that the caller said the gun was "probably fake." That could have have changed things. By my main problem with the police here is driving right up to an armed suspect. The only reason to do that is drive into the armed suspect.

Why would you drive in a snowy park to put yourself on slippery turn within feet of an armed suspect?! It makes no sense. You should do everything you can so you do not put yourself in what James Fyfe called a "split-second decision." Because that is when mistakes are made.

So you park your friggin' car half a block away and approach on foot. Why? Because your aim is probably better than his. Why? Because you can suss the situation. Why? Because you can issue commands with distance on your side. Why? Because you might notice that it is a 12-year-old kid. And while that may mean nothing, it increases the chance it's a fake gun. Why? Because you shouldn't be a lazy f*ck, you lazy f*ck!

So this was bad policing. But that doesn't make it a bad shooting.

You wave a gun, you get shot. That is the way it works. Because you can't -- or at least I wouldn't -- roll the dice with your own life. You can't give the person a chance to shoot you because then it's too late.

Also, what the hell is a 12-year-old doing out alone on a cold day pointing an illegal fake gun at people?! (It's illegal because the orange "safety" tip has been stripped off)?! Where did he get this gun? Could it be from his wife-beating father or drug-dealing mother? I don't know. Hey, didn't somebody ask: where's junior?

Oh, he's playing the park.

I know it's not politically correct to blame parents. But seriously, shouldn't we blame these parents who did a lethally bad job supervising their son? Instead we blame the cop who had the bad luck to get a bad call and be riding shotgun with a another cop, the driver, who was pretty effing stupid. But the parents had far more time to make far different choices, you know, so their 12-year-old son wouldn't be out in public on a cold day waving a gun around. Shame shame shame.

Some have criticized the officer for saying the guy he shot was around 20. It's interesting to me that the 911 caller also never mentioned that the suspect was a kid. Here's the 911 call.

The video can be seen here.

What the video won't do is convince you how real a fake gun can look. But if it looks real. It needs to be treated as real. Not convinced, take a look at this gun. Real or toy?


Why it's a plastic toy. Can't you tell? No? Well, neither can cops.

That's a replica of my service weapon. It's probably pretty similar to what the kid had. And here's real Glock 17.



Can't tell the difference? Well, neither can cops!

So please do correct anybody who says this kid was shot while holding a "toy gun." This is a toy gun.



Update: from Campbell's comment, this is the gun that the kid had:

Unarmed man kills police officer

This happened back in March, so it's not news. But still, the number of similarities between this case and the killing of Michael Brown are interesting, especially if you are one of those who think that "unarmed" suspects cannot ever really threaten police officers to the point where lethal force might be necessary.

Here's gist: An unarmed man attacks Johnson City, NY, police officer Dave Smith when Officer Smith is still in his a police car. This guy, Clark, gets control of the officer's gun and kills the cop. Then the killer gets shot six times by another cop. Then, after being shot six times by another cop, the killer fights that second cop, who shoots him two more times. Now, after being hit by eight .40-caliber rounds, the cop killer grabs the second's cops gun, rendering it inoperable after another bullet flies into a church parking lot. Two civilians help the cop and three of them manage, with difficulty, to handcuff Clark. Clark fought and ranted all the way to the hospital.

From the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin:
When [Officer} Smith arrived, witnesses said, Clark rushed out to the police cruiser, approaching it from behind. It was unclear who opened the door, but Clark began fighting with Smith as soon as the patrolman exited his vehicle, witnesses said.

One witness told police Smith was still sitting in the car and just starting to get out when Clark punched him in the head. Smith tried to push the door open in an attempt to get out, and the two began to struggle.

Within seconds, Clark was on top of Smith, holding his service weapon.

"I saw the man practically inside the cop car driver's door — on top of the cop," a witness who was leaving work nearby about 7 a.m. that morning wrote in a deposition. "It looked like he was punching and swinging at the cop."

[Officer] Smith weighed 205 pounds and was 6 feet 2 inches tall, according to reports, while Clark weighed 225 pounds and stood 5 feet 10 inches.

Clark fired two shots at [Officer] Smith's head, killing him instantly.
...
Once Officer Cioci could take a clear shot, he fired 10 shots at Clark, striking him six times in the torso, leg and face.

Clark fell to the ground. Then he climbed back to his knees, ranting.

When [Officer] Cioci approached Clark, [Clark] grabbed the officer by the leg and pulled him face-down to the pavement where the two began to wrestle.

Clark climbed onto Cioci's back, reaching around to his front in an attempt to grab the service weapon, police reports state. The officer pushed himself off the ground with one arm while using the other to fire at Clark, striking him a seventh and eighth time, both in the torso.

After he was struck the eighth time, reports state, Clark inserted a finger into the trigger guard of Cioci's weapon, sending a bullet into a nearby church parking lot but rendering the gun inoperable because his hold of the weapon interfered with the recoil action.
...
"It took all three people to handcuff Clark, who was still fighting, eyes open and ranting the entire time." [Even as he went into the ER.]

The entire incident took place in less than five minutes, according to police reports.

In a great understatement, Chief Zikuski added that Clark's behavior "after being hit by eight shots from a .40-caliber weapon is also unusual."
Had Officer Smith managed to maintain control of his gun and had he shot and killed Clark, would the headlines have said, "Cop Kills Unarmed Man"? This is pretty similar to what happened to Darren Wilson, except, according to Wilson's testimony, Wilson managed to retake control of his gun and shoot the suspect. Officer Smith, rest in peace, wasn't so lucky. He was killed by an unarmed man.

November 19, 2014

"A fairer, safer city"

I stumbled across this column by Harry Siegel yesterday in the Daily News while getting my shoes shined. It's bar far the best thing I've read in a while about the current state of crime and New York City. Read the whole thing. But here are some highlights:
Pay no mind to the shrill voices on the left warning of a creeping police state. Or to those on the right shrieking about urban anarchy around the corner.
...
Almost everyone lies about crime and cops, because no one knows exactly how the two relate and almost no one cares to admit an obvious truth: that safety and justice are often competing interests.
...
Still, former Commissioner Ray Kelly sounded ridiculous insisting hundreds of thousands of stops and frisks of New Yorkers, the vast majority young men of color who had done nothing wrong, were crucial to keeping guns and blood off the streets. And his critics sounded equally ridiculous insisting those stops had no impact on crime, never deterred anyone from taking their guns to town.

But it’s the police unions — who complained bitterly about Kelly’s quotas and numbers-driven approach and now are muttering about a work slowdown in response to Bratton’s calls for cops to exercise “discretion” on pot arrests and more generally — who sound most ridiculous of all.
...
How many bad stops are worth a saved life? There’s a reason cops and critics have both ducked that question for a decade now.
...
But, as de Blasio has rightly stressed, broken windows is based on officer discretion, and only stopping people suspected of a crime. Stop-and-frisk-based policing, on the other hand, was based on stopping huge numbers of people, mostly black and brown young men, who had done nothing wrong.
...
The bottom line: Crime is down. Stops are down. The new mayor — politically accountable in ways his billionaire predecessor was not — and his commissioner are living up to a wonderful, difficult promise to deliver a “fairer, safer” city.

Free Doug Williams!

The Feds are really out to get the man who tells the truth about lie detector tests, that they're bullshit. They've been out to get him for a while, as I've previously written.

Here's the thing, Willam's may or may not be guilty as charged. Honestly, he probably is. From the Journal:
Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Williams “trained an individual posing as a federal law enforcement officer to lie and conceal involvement in criminal activity from an internal agency investigation.” He’s also accused of training another person “posing as an applicant seeking federal employment” to trick a pre-employment polygraph examination.” The Justice Department says the two individuals paid Mr. Williams for the services and were instructed by him to deny having receiving his training.
But that is beside the point. Williams is clearly somebody the feds want to get because he is telling the truth about a messed up system. So William's message needs to be told, and told loudly: the polygraph test is bullshit!

It wouldn't matter so much if the agencies that gave this test didn't put credence in them. Yes, you can lie and pass. More troublesome is that you can tell the truth and fail. This is why such tests are not allowed in court. They are also not allowed as a condition of employment.... except by the government. Let me say this loudly: IT DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU ARE TELLING THE TRUTH. I know too many sad stories of people, students of mine, whose life dreams were shattered because they believed in the system, told the truth, and failed the test. These false positives prevented good people from getting good jobs they would be good at. The system suffers when hiring is dependent on a bad test.

If you need to take the polygraph test, absolutely buy and read Doug William's How to Sting the Polygraph.

"Cops fucking love overtime"

I'm quoted in Vice Magazine's article, "New York City’s Biggest Marijuana Problem Is the Police." Of fuckety fuck. Do I really swear that much?

And here's another unrelated story about the corrosive effects of overtime.

November 13, 2014

"Where the Summer of Love Never Ends"

I'm not that into police memorabilia... but your San Fran cop friend (and fellow Princeton grad) gives you a SFPD patch and the coolest ever cop-designed police t-shirt, what's not to like? Long live Park Station Company F!

But Dan Aykroyd was on a mission from God

Actor and Cubs fan Bill Murray on the subject of police, from Rolling Stone:
I remember Danny Aykroyd saying a long time ago, "I embrace the police," and I thought that was the funniest thing ever. It was so nuts, because he's such a crazy person. But when you're a teenager, the police are only going to get you in trouble. But now I see police, and at the top of their game, they're there to serve and protect. It's like, where's a cop when you need one? Well, you are going to need a cop sometime. You need a cop, and you need safety, and you need order. There can't just be chaos.

November 11, 2014

Just following the law

The major final ordered the police commissioner to order the department to follow New York State and not arrest people for small-scale possession of marijuana. This has actually been the law since 1977. But the NYPD has subverted the law, especially in the past decade, by arresting people anyway. And we're talking tens of thousand of people per year. And yes, of course it's racial unfair (since whites smoke just as much if not more weed than blacks, but don't get arrested for it).

The Times account is here. The Post's is here.

The union reps issued their usual tone-deaf disbelief. Which is their right, I suppose, but it would be better if the union reps kept to things like pay and working conditions rather than promoting their uniquely conservative ideological world view. From the SBA head; "People are asking: 'What is going on? Is this department losing its mind? Has the city lost its mind?'"
Answer: A liberal mayor wants cops to stop arresting minorities when the crime is marijuana posession.

The head of the city's Detectives' Endowment Association: "I just see it as another step in giving the streets back to the criminals. And we keep inching closer and closer to that." But here's the thing, we're not giving the streets back to criminals (at least not yet)....

And besides, most of you guys didn't vote for the mayor. And not just because you hate him, but because you don't live in the city. But the citizens of New York City did elected the mayor. And so de Blasio does, to a great extent, actually reflect the represented will of the people. And besides not arresting people for small-scale possession of marijuana has been the law since friggin' 1977! It's just that since the late 1990's, police officers just decided to subvert the law.

Here is the rule: don't arrest people for small-scale possession of marijuana. I'm not certain why that is so radical. You don't arrest people for a lot of things. You don't arrest people for jay walking. You don't arrest people for littering. Hell, you don't arrest drivers for killing people with their cars! Just add marijuana to the list.

Now you can still stop people. You can still run them. You can still cite people for possession. But you cannot arrest them. Guys, I'm sorry you don't like it. But them's the breaks.

So what does this mean? Well, it could mean a lot fewer arrests for police officers. That's not bad if you're a taxpayer or a fan of the bud. But what if anything can police do compensate for the lost overtime? I don't know.

Here's the thing: cops do not and did not actually give a shit about marijuana any more than than they do about jaywalking. Cops wanted to make arrests. And stopping people and finding weed because a way to make arrests. And we're talking a good chunk (like 1 in 7) of all arrests in New York City. Up to 50,000 a year! So we'll see if something else takes the place for such discretionary arrests. But probably not.

This could actually be a pretty major shift in police culture. But it has been argued that marijuana arrests became a thing in New York because of arrest pressure combined with the drop in crime. So will something else because the new reason to arrest when there's no other good reason to? I hope not. Probably, in the long run, the past 20 years of massive marijuana arrests will be seen as the aberration. Just another crazy bit of New York City history. Like the 2nd Avenue L, the New York Giants (baseball), and the 6-shot revolver.

[Also, based on this picture, 25 grams (0.88 ounces) is a lot more weed than I thought it was.]



"Stop arresting people for weed" is 5 words long

You'd think it would be easy to tell cops to stop arresting people for small scale possession of marijuana. But not a police department.

Every now and then I try to write about paperwork, because it's such an integral part of the job and such a key negative motivator of police officers and good police work. But who the hell wants to read about paperwork?

Well, anyway, it's my blog, damnit! And to understand police you need to understand police paperwork. Here is the Order that tells cops to not arrest people for marijuana. It is 21 steps, 5 pages, and 1,652 words long. And yes, this is typical. And yes, there are literally thousands of others. And yes, they come out about once per week. And indeed, they are all not followed because nobody knows them all. And yes, if you fail to follow them correctly, it could be your ass in the jackpot. Also, believe it or not, this order is designed to reduce the amount of paperwork and time police officers have to spend on the matter.

Figure out a legal and efficient way to reduce paperwork in police departments and the police will beat a path to your door... er... but in a good way!




OPERATIONS ORDER

SUBJECT: ENFORCEMENT OF CRIMINAL POSSESSION MARIJUANA, FIFTH DEGREE, SUBDIVISION ONE

DATE ISSUED: 11-11-14

NUMBER: 43

            1. This Order allows for the issuance of a Criminal Court summons, in lieu of arrest, to people found in possession of a small amount of marijuana – defined as 25 grams or less – in a public place and open to public view. Eligible, properly identified people will be issued a Criminal Court summons for Unlawful Possession of Marihuana, a violation, rather than arrested for Criminal Possession of Marihuana, a misdemeanor. The Criminal Court summons will be issued for the lesser included offense of Unlawful Possession of Marihuana (Penal Law 221.05).

            2. This Order will apply only to people found in possession of a small amount of marijuana open to public view, in a public place, that is consistent with personal use. A person found in possession of marijuana burning in a public place will be arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one (Penal Law 221.10 (1)), a misdemeanor. Additionally, a person found in possession of marijuana in public view in a manner that is inconsistent with personal use will be arrested and charged with the appropriate degree of Criminal Possession of Marihuana.

            3. Therefore, effective November 19, 2014, at 0001 hours, members of the service will adhere to the following procedure when they apprehend people for violating Penal Law section 221.10 (1), Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one – possession in public view only:

PURPOSE: To provide for the issuance of a Criminal Court summons (C-summons) in lieu of an arrest for eligible people apprehended for violating Penal Law section 221.10 (1), Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one – possession in public view only.

PROCEDURE: When a person is found in possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana in a public place and open to public view that is not burning and is consistent with personal use:

UNIFORMED MEMBER OF THE SERVICE CONCERNED

1. Confiscate contraband for subsequent testing and invoicing as per Patrol Guide Procedure 218-08 “Field Testing of Marijuana by Selected Uniformed Members of the Service within the Patrol Services and Housing Bureaus.”
2. Determine if there is probable cause to believe that the person committed any other fingerprintable offense beyond the mere possession of marijuana in public view.     
3. Inform person that he/she may be issued a C-Summons, if qualified.
            a. Disqualifying factors for a C-Summons issued in conformance with Patrol Guide Procedure 209-01, “Conditions of Service,” for Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one – public view only are:
                        (1) Person has an active warrant
                        (2) Person is wanted in connection with an active INVESTIGATION CARD (PD373-163) labeled Perpetrator – probable cause to arrest
                        (3) Person is charged with other fingerprintable offenses
                        (4) Person is not properly identified.
4. Establish person’s identity through observation of valid identification documents.
            a. For the purposes of this procedure, valid documents include:
                        (1) Valid Photo Driver’ License (From New York State, another state, or another country)
                        (2) Valid passport
                        (3) Citizenship or naturalization papers
                        (4) New York State Non-Driver’s Permit
                        (5) New York State Driver’s Permit
                        (6) Other government photo identification
                        (7) School identification card issued by high school, community college, college or university
                        (8) Birth certificate
                        (9) New York State Benefit Identification card
                        (10) NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Vendor Licenses
                        (11) A City, State, or Federal employee identification card
                        (12) Utility bill dated within the last three month, listing person’s name and current address.
            b. Members should note that these are general guidelines, and other forms of identification may be acceptable.
5. Determine if the person has an active warrant or an active INVESTIGATION CARD labeled Perpetrator – probable cause to arrest by requesting a check through Communications Section, the local precinct, and/or through the use of a mobile device.

NOTE: A person should be issued a summons in the field unless further investigation is needed or conditions warrant processing at a Department facility.

IF THE PERSON IS ISSUED A CRIMINAL COURT SUMMONS IN THE FIELD

UNIFORMED MEMBER OF THE SERVICE CONCERNED
6. Issue the person a summons for the lesser included offense of P.L. 221.05 “Unlawful Possession of Marihuana,” as per Patrol Guide Procedure 209-09, “Personal Service of Summonses Returnable to Traffic Violations Bureau or Criminal Court.”
7. Deliver marijuana to Desk Officer, precinct of occurrence

DESK OFFICER
8. Have marijuana invoiced as per Patrol Guide Procedure 218-08, “Field Testing Marijuana by Selected Uniformed Members of the Service within the Patrol Services and Housing Bureaus.”
9. Ensure testing member prepares the MARIJUANA SUPPORTING DEPOSITION/ FIELD TEST REPORT (PD381-145) in accordance with P.G. 209-09, “Personal Service of Summonses Returnable to Traffic Violations Bureau or Criminal Court.”

IF THE PERSON IS TO BE REMOVED TO THE COMMAND

UNIFORMED MEMBER OF THE SERVICE CONCERNED
10. Comply with appropriate arrest processing guidelines and remove person to precinct of arrest or a designated arrest facility and advise desk officer of facts.
a. Determine whether the person should be issued a C-summons or processed as an online arrest.
b. Include in Command Log entry that the circumstances of the summons or arrest were in conformance with the standards set forth in this Order.

DESK OFFICER
11. Question officer regarding circumstances that led to the apprehension of the person and the seizure of the marijuana.
            a. Determine whether the person should be issued a C-summons or arrested.
            b. Include in Command Log entry the circumstances of the summons or arrest.
12. Allow person to contact a third party in order to obtain appropriate identification, when such identification is necessary for the issuance of a summons or Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT).
            a. Delay arrest processing a reasonable amount of time to allow the delivery of such  document(s).
13. Determine whether the person’s identity has been verified. Determine whether the person has an active warrant or INVESTIGATION CARD.        
14. Direct issuance of C-summons if appropriate.

IF PERSON QUALIFIES FOR A CRIMINAL COURT SUMMONS AT THE STATION HOUSE

UNIFORMED MEMBER OF THE SERVICE CONCERNED
15. Issue the person a C-summons for violation of P.L. 221.05 “Unlawful Possession of Marihuana,” as per Patrol Guide Procedure 209-09,“Personal Service of Summonses Returnable  to Traffic Violations Bureau or Criminal Court.”

DESK OFFICER
16. Release person after C-summons has been issued.
17. Make Command Log entry and process summons as per Patrol Guide procedure 209-09, “Personal Service of Summonses Returnable to Traffic Violations Bureau or Criminal Court.”
18. Ensure marijuana is invoiced as per Patrol Guide Procedure 218-08, “Field Testing Marijuana by Selected Uniformed Members of the Service within the Patrol Services and Housing Bureaus.”
            a. Once a decision is made to issue a C-summons, do not delay the release of the person in order to field test the marijuana.
19. Ensure testing member prepares the MARIJUANA SUPPORTING DEPOSITION/ FIELD TEST REPORT (PD381-145) in accordance with P.G. 209-09, “Personal Service of Summonses Returnable to Traffic Violations Bureau or Criminal Court.”

IF PERSON DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR A CRIMINAL COURT SUMMONS AT THE STATION HOUSE

DESK OFFICER
20. Direct issuance of Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) if person is properly identified and eligible.
            a. Disqualifying factors for a DAT for the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree are:
                        i. Person refuses to sign the DAT
                        ii. Person has an active warrant
                        iii. Person is under the influence of drugs/alcohol to the degree that he may endanger himself or others
                        iv. Person owes DNA.
            b. If person has an active INVESTIGATION CARD labeled Perpetrator - probable cause to arrest:
                        i. Notify the Criminal Intelligence Section, Regional Intelligence Support Center (RISC) of active INVESTIGATION CARD
                        ii. Continue with DAT process and release person to responding detective
                        iii. Do not release person with an active probable cause INVESTIGATION CARD if no detective is available to re-arrest person. In this situation deny the DAT and process online.
21. If person is not eligible for a C-summons or DAT ensure that the arrest is processed online as per existing Department procedures.

ADDITIONAL DATA

A GROUP OF PEOPLE SMOKING MARIJUANA
If a group of people are observed smoking and passing a burning marijuana cigarette in public, all persons observed in possession of the burning marijuana may be arrested for Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one (Penal Law 221.10(1)), a misdemeanor. Additionally, this type of incident does not constitute a sale or intent to sell under this Order. None of the people should be arrested and charged with selling marijuana.
MARIJUANA IN A VEHICLE If marijuana is observed inside a vehicle with multiple occupants, every attempt should be made to identify the person in custody and control of the marijuana. Only that person should be issued a C-summons or be arrested for the possession of the
marijuana. Normally the operator of a private vehicle would be considered in custody and control of any items in the vehicle, unless it is found on the person of a passenger or in such a manner that would lead an officer to believe that a passenger has custody and control of the item.
PERSONS EXTINGUISHING MARIJUANA IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO APPREHENSION
An officer does not have to personally observe a person in possession of marijuana burning in public. If there is probable cause to believe that a person was in possession of burning marijuana in public (i.e., the unique smell of burning marijuana), yet the officer only observed the person in possession of an extinguished marijuana cigarette, that person may be arrested and charged with Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree, subdivision one (Penal Law
221.10(1)), a misdemeanor.

4. Operations Order 49, series 2011, is hereby REVOKED.

5. Operations Order 13, series 2013, is hereby REVOKED.

6. Commanding officers will ensure that the contents of this Order are immediately brought to the attention of members of their commands.

BY DIRECTION OF THE POLICE COMMISSIONER DISTRIBUTION
All Commands

November 9, 2014

So I'm on the subway...

I'm on the subway looking at the ads and all their poorly photo-shopped clip-art.

It kind of cracks me up. The Office Technology worker on the right? Looking very professional (nice window view, too). The Emergency Care Management guy? He's got a medical bag and a smile. No problem there.

So what does a "Homeland Security & Security Management" dude do? Apparently, walk in front of cabs and talk on his bluetooth earpiece. Hardcore, man. Hard effing' core. Important business. National security at stake.

November 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

As more and more states legalize marijuana, New York City still leads the world for arrests for possession of the evil weed. You might wonder who actually thinks it's a good idea to arrest people for a decriminalized amount of marijuana. Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins: "If the current practice of making arrests for both possession and sale of marijuana is, in fact, abandoned, then this is clearly the beginning of the breakdown of a civilized society."

Dude, get some perspective. Mullins continued, "If we’re not making marijuana arrests, then we may not pop someone who has a warrant on them or who committed felony crimes.... If the department doesn’t want us to make marijuana arrests, they should introduce legislation to change the law." Seems fair enough, but there are a few problems here. First, you can run somebody and see if their wanted. If not, you don't need to arrest them misdemeanor marijuana.

Second, small scale possession of marijuana is just a violation (not an arrestable offense) until the marijuana is in "public view." And I don't want to imply anything, but how the marijuana gets into public view is open to debate. But I think it's safe to say most of the tens of thousands of people arrested aren't walking around holding dime bags in their hands.

Finally, and this is important to policing, back in the old days, hell, even the days I policed, real police would be ashamed to come in with such a crappy arrest. Off the street for hours for what?! If you come across weed, you can throw it in a sewer. Or hell, you could even hand it back. (It's happened.) There are lots of minor violations that do not deserve zero-tolerance. In the absence of other crimes, in the absence of a person being wanted a warrant, you can warn, you can admonish, or you could even turn a blind eye. Police have a lot of discretion. Use it. If anything will lead to the "breakdown of civilized society," it won't be police officers doing their job and using their brain.

November 6, 2014

Better Policing Equals Less Crime

This is a no-brainer to many, but a lot of people -- usually those who don't like police -- still deny or diminish it: cops matter. And national trends are the result not some crime-related miasma but of the collective work in individual cities and neighborhoods.

Camden, NJ, is worth paying attention to. I haven't been following it too closely, but what I do know (in part due to my colleague John DeCarlo) is very interesting. Then:
In January 2011, the state slashed the budget for the city's police department by nearly 23 percent. The police union was dissolved after half of the uniformed officers were let go. The department - criticized by some as incompetent and ineffective - was then reconstituted as a county-run enterprise. But until new recruits could be brought on, the city suffered under the draconian cuts. There were nights when only 12 officers patrolled the entire nine square miles of the city.
And now:
The city - frequently labeled "America's Most Dangerous" - has recorded as of Friday the fewest homicides in a year going back to at least 2010.

In addition, during the first six months of 2014, the number of gunshots in the city fell nearly 50 percent over the previous year....

Despite two fatal shootings in quick succession this week, the number of killings is less than half of that two years ago. By Halloween 2012, Camden had buried 55 victims. This time last year, it had 43. As of Oct. 31, the city had seen 24. In 2010, at this point, there were 30.
...
By civilianizing or outsourcing every job that does not require a gun or a badge, the county-run force bolstered the number of boots on the ground.

Police walking beats are supplemented with "virtual patrols" by civilians, who monitor 120 surveillance cameras bolted to light poles. An additional 40 to 60 private security guards, sporting yellow-and-blue vests, roam the business district, calling in reports to the command center.
Of course some people still complain, but haters are always gonna hate.

Meanwhile...
Vallejo [California] has struggled for years. Crippled by high pension costs and public-employee salaries, it filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Things didn’t get much better after the city emerged from Chapter 9 in 2011: Crime was bad and the city’s police department was perpetually short-staffed. There were 10 murders in 2010, 14 in 2012, and 24 in 2013.
Obviously both cities cannot simply be reflective of some "national trend."

November 4, 2014

Strike against cop cameras

When I was cop, boy did I joke about things I wouldn't want seen on youtube.

It might be a tad overgenerous to say what I said were even jokes. But I laughed. I still do. When I get a message on my answering machine that says, "Pete, will you stop touching little boys and pick up the phone!" I know who it's from. And I'm pretty sure my wife knows I'm not a pedophile. But can references to raping innocent children ever be funny? Well, I think so. And you are free to think less of me, but what I and my friends say in private really is none of your business. Besides, does anybody not say things in private that would be inappropriate in the public sphere?

So two cops in Austin are recorded on a tape made public, while in their squad car, making tasteless comments about rape (and a few other things). Now that this video is public, you need to react accordingly. But you also need to keep things in perspective. Is what these officers said serious? No. Threatening? No. Did it affect their job performance. I doubt it. And truth be told, this is positively mild compared to things I have said. Let me confess that I too have made tasteless jokes, in private, about sex, race, crime victims, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, and quite frankly every other possible taboo subject I could think of.

Now cops, more than most people, have a obligation to refrain from bad taste in public, and especially when dealing with the public. But that's not what happened here. When you're riding in a car with somebody for eight hours, you get bored. You talk about a lot of things. You joke. You make tasteless jokes. Of course it depends on whom you're riding with and the camaraderie and relationship you have with your fellow officers. Yes, I can be crude and insensitive in private and caring, compassionate, and professional in public.

Some of this is gallows humor. And police (and paramedics and firefighters) need it because they have to deal with a lot of unpleasant stuff. But you also need to joke to bring up subjects that would be otherwise be taboo. And police joke because a lot of people you deal with -- the vast majority -- lie to you. Some lie to you about robbery. Some lie to you about rape. Some lie because they think it will benefit them, they want revenge, or power. Some lie because they can't tell or don't know the truth. And cops have to listen to all of them. So back in the car you make jokes.

A lot of police humor is at the expense of "victims" because a lot (most?) victims aren't actually "innocent victim." Now in the current climate of political correctness (especially with regards to sexual assault and rape), it's not acceptable to even bring up the phrase "innocent victims" because the alternative places some blame on the victim. But police need to make such judgements because the freedom of other people, sometimes innocent victims themselves, is at stake.

Outside of crimes where the victim isn't doing anything illegal and doesn't know the person who committed the crime, there are a million shades of gray. And police need to talk about these shades. And one way to discuss nuances is by joking and making tasteless comments. In private, there's nothing wrong with that. It's how you learn. It's how you cope. On the street cops need professionalism and discretion. In private, police use humor, and sometimes it's not funny.

Take two different rape cases. One was a nurse walking to work at Hopkins Hospital who was grabbed and raped by a stranger at knife-point. The other was a prostitute who engages in consensual sex but wasn't paid the agreed amount. When the former happened, it was all hand on deck. A few days later the guy was caught. But for "failure to pay"? I once helped a supposed rape victim by doing little more than retriving her three jackets. It was cold outside.

Or take a guy robbed while buying drugs. There were "real" robbery victims. You would know that when you saw a guy running barefoot wearing nothing but his tighty-whities. Now that was a robbery. And we would treat it accordingly. (Mind you, it still wasn't "an innocent victim," because he was still there to buy drugs... but the robbery was real.)

But more than once I got a call for a robbery at the corner of Wolfe and Eager (then a 24/7 drug corner). On scene, the "victim," a poor addicted white guy, would say he was minding his own business, jumped, and robbed of $20. Well, officer, what do you do?

Generally people minding their own business don't like being being taken for a drug dealer by some junkie too cheap to buy drugs in his own neighborhood. So this "victim" asks the first young black male he sees if he's selling. The pissed-off non-drug dealer says, "sure" and takes his order, his $20, and continues on his merry way. The "victim" calls the police.

I would try to keep a somewhat open mind on the off chance the "victim" was actually telling the truth. But do I start canvassing the neighborhood, stopping people who "meet the description." Of course not. So I would conduct a brief investigation, perhaps by asking an old timer if he saw anything unusual, like an armed robbery (something beyond the usual chaos of an open-air drug market). If he nodded "no" with a look of, "you know how that white boy had it coming," case closed. Call unfounded. Adam-No.

And then, back in a parking lot, I would meet with a squademate and crack jokes. The guy running in his tighty-whities? "He was fast." "Or slow." "He had it coming... did you see what he was wearing?" "Exercise is important." "I saw you looking at his package."

We would joke about anything. We needed to joke about everything. We didn't joke because we didn't care. We joked to stay sane. We joked to relieve the boredom. We joked to counter the cruelties of a very harsh and random world. We joked because the only real alternative would be despair. If you care too much -- if you breakdown in a situation where any normal person would be unable to do anything but curl up in a fetal position and cry -- you're not a real police officer. We joked because laughing is good for the soul.

So in this video one officer is telling another how to properly fill out a robbery report. And they they segue to insensitive comments about that robbery and then about about rape. They joke about fighting crime. They joke about ignoring crime. It was said in private, to each other. So I have no problem with it. Police should have a reasonable expectation to privacy when in private, even while on the job. And short of conspiring to commit a crime, there's very little that should be off limits.



Here are people who disagree with me. From Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and you can google a dozen others. And this news broadcast gives some good context.

The lesson I see: police need to be more careful about the record button. And I still believe that cameras will be a net plus for police.

October 25, 2014

October 23, 2014

Those pesky facts

What if everything you thought about Michael Brown was wrong? Do you believe in evidence? Science? Evolution? Global warming? Can new evidence change your opinion? Is your conviction that a police officer killed an innocent surrendering black youth in Ferguson, Missouri, so strong that facts and evidence simply do not matter?

Might you accept that there are racial injustices in the world in general -- and perhaps in Ferguson in particular -- while also understanding that perhaps the police officer in this case actually acted properly? Just maybe? The Atlantic says:
A new report on Michael Brown's official autopsy results appears to support Officer Darren Wilson's version of the events on August 9, according to two medical experts.
...
St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham told the paper that the autopsy "does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.” The other expert, forensic pathologist Judy Melinek, went even further, saying that the wound on Brown's hand "supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun" and adding that another shot, which went through Brown's forearm, means Brown could not have facing Wilson with his hands up when he was shot, an apparent contradiction of the now iconic "hands up, don't shoot" posture adopted by protesters in Ferguson.
...
These recent leaks are meant to prime the public for an inevitable result: a grand jury investigation that ends with no charges being filed against Wilson.
This is no way changes my belief that the police response to the protests was both tactically horrible and way over-the-top.

October 21, 2014

Score one for cop's camera

KOB Albuquerque reports how a lapel camera protected an officer against a woman's false accusations that he sexually assaulting her.

Brrrr... it's cold outside

I can't help but notice -- now that another long hot summer is done and a commie mayor and Al Sharpton are running the show and the police have been thrown under the bus and Obama is president and the ACLU stopped letting police stop criminals and there's no more stop question and frisk and there's independent oversight and body cameras are coming and it's open season on cops and people don't show any respect and society going to hell -- but crime *still* isn't up (-4% by stats I don't trust. But what I *do* trust is 249 homicides to date compared to 262 in last year's record low. Shootings are up 6%). I know it's in good part because of the hard work of the men and women of the NYPD, but I'd still like just one Republican, one conservative cop (or maybe somebody like Heather MacDonald) to admit he (or she) was wrong. It's all very strange to me.

Or maybe the only thing keeping New York City from become The Warriors are all the marijuana arrests or the bike ticketing blitz in Crown Heights? Nobody really believes that, right?

October 18, 2014

If crime doesn't pay, why is it so expensive?

And in case you were wondering, the cost of housing a prisoner in jail on NYC's Rikers Island is now officially $100,000 per year! You get what you pay for, they say. $1.1 billion dollars. 42 percent higher than seven years ago. "During the same period, there was a 124 percent increase in assaults on the staff by inmates at city jails, and triple the number of allegations of use of physical force by guards." Mazel Tov.

October 17, 2014

Bootlegging: for cigarettes, alive and well in New York City

Story in the New York Times:
The toothpick pressed a hidden button that released a large magnet that kept a secret compartment locked. Deputy Davis lifted the front of the row of shelves like you would the trunk of a small car, and inside were rows and rows, all different brands, of contraband. Not narcotics or pills, but unopened packs of cigarettes, perfectly legal in the state in which they were bought, but not here. Hence the secret compartment.
The moral here is simple. You need some enforcers, but we shouldn't waste too many resources in regulating a legal product. When there's a huge market bootlegging, then you need to lower taxes.
Also, I suspect that smoking isn't down as much as people think as a result of raising taxes. Because if The Man can't find the cigarettes, than the public health expert things they aren't being smoked.

According to a great study by Klaus von Lampe (et al), my brilliant colleague:
It was found that 76% of cigarette packs collected [by looking at litter... how cool is that?] avoided the combined New York City and State tax. More specifically, 57.9% were untaxed (counterfeit or bearing no tax stamp), for 15.8% taxes were paid outside of New York City (including other states and New York State only). Only 19.4% of tax stamps collected indicated that New York City and New York State taxes were paid.... The finding that the majority of cigarettes did not have a tax stamp or bore a counterfeit tax stamp suggests that these cigarettes were being bootlegged, most likely from Native American Reservations. It was found that 76.2% of cigarette packs collected avoided the combined New York City and State tax.
And two words: Eric Garner.

October 16, 2014

"Why we need to fix St. Louis County"

Well said by Radley Balko in the Washington Post:
When a local government’s very existence depends on its citizens breaking the law — when fines from ordinance violations are written into city budgets for the upcoming year as a primary or even the main expected source of revenue — the relationship between the government and the governed is not one of public officials serving their constituents, but of preying off of them.

When the primary mission of a police department isn’t to protect citizens but to extract money from them, and when the cops themselves don’t look like, live near or have much in common with the people from whom they’re extracting that money, you get cops who start to see the people they’re supposed to be serving not as citizens with rights, but as potential sources of revenue, as lawbreakers to be caught. The residents of these towns then see cops not as public servants drawn from their own community to enforce the laws and keep the peace, but as outsiders brought in to harass them, whose salaries are drawn from that harassment. The same goes for the judges and prosecutors, who also rarely live in the towns that employ them.
...
This isn’t as much about a police shooting as it is about the release of residual anger over an antagonistic system of governing that virtually requires its poorest citizens to live in misery and despair.
...
If Bel-Ridge wasn’t collecting the equivalent of $450 in fines each year for each of the town’s residents, the town of Bel-Ridge probably wouldn’t exist.
...
This is what St. Louis County government is built upon. And this is what needs to be changed.
When I was a cop, I knew my ticket money went to the city. Hell, I was happy to help Baltimore. But I never felt that my job depended on me fining residents.

New York City gets about $500 million annually from parking tickets, which is the biggest chunk of about $820 million overall in fines. New York's overall budget is about $70 billion. So we're talking one to two percent of the city's budget coming from fines. I don't know about court fees, but I doubt they're a money maker for the city.

I don't think a big-city perspective really gets at what is going on in these small towns where government seems to exist for the sole purpose of taking money from residents: "Pine Lawn, with an embattled mayor facing federal charges of steering towing jobs to a particular company, brought in close to 70 percent through its courts last year. At least four other St. Louis County municipalities — Beverly Hills, Bella Villa, Calverton Park and Cool Valley — all took in more than half their general revenue that way, according to reports submitted to the state." And "It's illegal: "The city of Bourbon was breaking state law. Under Missouri law, a city is only supposed to make 30 percent of its revenue off tickets."

Thirty, 40, 70 percent of budgets comes from fines and court fees? Mandatory private garbage collection? Per person occupancy permits? It sounds like a straight-up criminal racket, and one enforced by police and the courts.