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by Peter Moskos

May 29, 2015

David Simon and the Code

This interview with David Simon is well worth reading in its entirety. Does he get some things wrong? Sure. Is he a little too believing that cops with the best stories are representative of the entire police department? Sure. (Among other things, drug-free zones were never used to arrest people. Too much paperwork. But that change the horrible concept of a "no-rights" zone.) Still, as usual, Simon gets a lot more right than wrong. And when it comes to the big picture, he's very very right.

Simon also explains why, when it comes to crime stats, I only really trust homicides:
In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means.
[Q: So they cooked the books.]

Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count.... In the Southwest District, a victim would try to make an armed robbery complaint, saying , ‘I just got robbed, somebody pointed a gun at me,’ and what they would do is tell him, well, okay, we can take the report but the first thing we have to do is run you through the computer to see if there's any paper on you. Wait, you're doing a warrant check on me before I can report a robbery? Oh yeah, we gotta know who you are before we take a complaint. You and everyone you’re living with? What’s your address again? You still want to report that robbery?
I mean, think about it. How does the homicide rate decline by 15 percent, while the agg assault rate falls by more than double that rate. Are all of Baltimore’s felons going to gun ranges in the county? Are they becoming better shots? Have the mortality rates for serious assault victims in Baltimore, Maryland suddenly doubled? Did they suddenly close the Hopkins and University emergency rooms and return trauma care to the dark ages? It makes no sense statistically until you realize that you can’t hide a murder, but you can make an attempted murder disappear in a heartbeat, no problem.

But these guys weren't satisfied with just juking their own stats. No, the O'Malley administration also went back to the last year of the previous mayoralty and performed its own retroactive assessment of those felony totals, and guess what? It was determined from this special review that the preceding administration had underreported its own crime rate, which O'Malley rectified by upgrading a good chunk of misdemeanors into felonies to fatten up the Baltimore crime rate that he was inheriting. Get it? How better than to later claim a 30 or 40 percent reduction in crime than by first juking up your inherited rate as high as she'll go. It really was that cynical an exercise.
Mayor O'Malley personally showed me that binder of reclassified stats in 2001. I couldn't analyze it of course. But yes, O'Malley -- right or wrong -- did reclassify the crime rate up after he took office.

And Simon continues:
We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war.... The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but it’s draconian and it's a disaster.
You didn't ask me about the rough rides, or as I used to hear in the western district, "the bounce." It used to be reserved — as I say, when there was a code to this thing, as flawed as it might have been by standards of the normative world — by standards of Baltimore, there was a code to when you gave the guy the bounce or the rough ride. And it was this: He fought the police. Two things get your ass kicked faster than anything: one is making a cop run. If he catches you, you're 18 years old, you've got fucking Nikes, he’s got cop shoes, he's wearing a utility belt, if you fucking run and he catches you, you're gonna take some lumps. That’s always been part of the code. Rodney King.

But the other thing that gets you beat is if you fight. So the rough ride was reserved for the guys who fought the police, who basically made — in the cop parlance — assholes of themselves.
I’m talking in the vernacular of cops, not my own — but even in the vernacular of what cops secretly think is fair, this is bullshit, this is a horror show. There doesn’t seem to be much code anymore – not that the code was always entirely clean or valid to anyone other than street cops, and maybe the hardcore corner players, but still it was something at least.
Now I never heard of "the bounce." Granted I didn't work in the Western. But Simon best knows an earlier era of policing than I experienced. What's always, in police circles, looked back on as the "good ol' days: the "rough ride," the "beat-and-release," the barefoot drop-off, the street corner mass macing? They all had their time. But times change.

I do not believe that the wagonman gave Freddie Gray a "rough ride." And there was another prisoner in the van who said as much. What Gray was, probably, was a sever claustrophobic. Cops knew Gray as low-level hustler and occasional C.I. He did what he had to do to get by. That's not the worst crime in the world. But he was criminal. But here's what interesting: Gray wouldn't resist arrest, but he would go limp every time he saw the wagon. Says one officer: "I think he was an undiagnosed claustrophobic. I could arrest him with no problem. But he would go limp when he saw that wagon. He didn't like the wagon."

Too many? Too few? Or just right?

Arrests are way down in Baltimore. But not just this month (though they are) but over many years.

There were 40,000 arrests in 2014 (3,300 a month). In 2003 there were 114,000 arrests. Like I said, arrests are way down. This is worth repeating because it goes against a narrative that the riots were somehow the inevitable result of overaggressive policing and too many arrests.

Now of course arrests could be down and Baltimore could still be over-policed -- and the war on drugs continues to be the problem -- but even if over-policing were a problem, Baltimore and America is less overpoliced now that it was a decade ago.

I think we need to ask just what number of arrests would be around right. Generally. I don't mean this as a quota. And I know this doesn't help day-to-day policing. As a police officer, you don't make arrests based on some arbitrary ideal yearly goal. I know that.

But as part of society, as an thinking person, as an American, it's fair to come up with some rough number of arrests at which we can collectively say, "yeah, that seems about right." Because the status quo seems to be to criticize cops for making too many arrests, and then criticize cops again when they make fewer. What do we want police to do?

Take arrests in New York City. There were about 315,000 adults arrest year for the past 20 years. That's some variance, to be sure, but it's all in the same big ballpark. The number was lowest in 2003 (279,000) and highest at about 345,000 (in 1998 and 2010).

Questioning arrest numbers allows us to ask, for instance, what good NYC got from a 20 percent increase in arrests between 2003 and 2010? Not much, I would say. See, if you can keep crime down and quality of life up, certainly fewer arrests are better, other things being equal. Arrests are harmful to the people arrested and their family. Also, if nothing else, arrests are expensive.

Now Baltimore City went from 2,677 arrest in April of this year to what will probably be about 1,600 in May. That's a big drop. But policing in Baltimore has changed. And since crime is up, people are saying police aren't doing their job. But it does beg the question, what is the right number of arrests for a high-crime city of 620,000 people?

If you refuse to answer that, that's fine. But then don't complain that arrests numbers are too high or too low. And I don't want arrest number to be a goal. I can't state that clearly enough. But I do arrest numbers can be a crude indicator of discretionary police activity (not a very good one, but still).

For years, critics -- myself included -- said there were too many arrests in Baltimore. 84,000 in 1999; 111,529 in 2003. I don't care if everybody arrested was guilty of whatever. It's just too many arrests.

And then arrests declined (25 percent from 2004-2009). Homicide and crime also went down. Win-win!

But in 2007, the Baltimore Sun reported on declining arrests:
Some complain the pendulum has swung to the other extreme — police aren't doing enough to quell violence.

Israel Cason... said it is less common to see police "slamming people on the ground, emptying their pockets on the street."

"You don't see that too much no more," he said.

The downside, he said, is that drug dealers are congregating on street corners again without getting challenged.

"They know what [the drug dealers] are doing, but [the police] don't do nothing," Cason said. Referring to free samples of drugs that dealers circulate through the community, he said: "We got testers out here every day, the police stand right there with them. They went from one extreme to the other."
But arrests kept getting lower. And so did homicides. Again, win-win.

Last year, 2014, there were just under 40,000 arrests in the city. Homicides were a low (for Baltimore) 211. Seems like job well done, right? But if 40,000 is good, is 20,000 even better? Well, not if that more recent drop is because patrol officers aren't able to do their job. And the department isn't willing to support them when they do.

So say what you want about the causes of the riots. (Myself, I like to blame rioters and Baltimore's too large criminal class.) In 2014 arrests were down 50 percent over six years and 65 percent from 2003. So it doesn't seem like Baltimore police are currently locking up too many people for no reason. Francis Barry talks about this in BloombergView:
If the riot was fueled by anger not only over police brutality but also police arrests for low-level crimes... it's a good thing the rioters were too young to light a match or loot a store in 1998 or 2003.
It's actually well worth reading his whole Barry piece, and his earlier article, too, in which he takes on David Simon and points out, among other things, that "the national decline in arrests runs counter to the idea that America has become increasingly over-policed, particularly in poor minority communities." So what's the problem in Baltimore. Could it not be, at least in part, that criminals just don't like police?

Deadliest month in Baltimore. Ever.

The Sun reported that this month has been the fifth deadliest in 40 years.

Actually, by rate, since Baltimore has fewer people than it used to have, May has been the most deadly month ever.

In number of dead, the deadliest months have been:

Aug 1972: 45
Dec 1971: 44
Aug 1990: 42
Aug 1996: 39
May 2015: 38

But the homicide rate (per 100,000) for these months are, in rank order:

May 2015: 6.1
Aug 1990: 5.7
Aug 1996: 5.7
Aug 1972: 5.0
Dec 1971: 4.8

And it's worth pointing out that May isn't over yet. (Also, May isn't August, the usual deadliest month.)

Also, those homicides rates are for one month and still higher than the yearly national rate. Put another way, even if no other people had been murdered in Baltimore before May, and even if no more people were killed from today until 2016, Baltimore would still have an above average annual homicide rate just based on the May killings.

Population figures are here.

Meanwhile, roughly 1 in every 250 young black men was shot in Eastern District. Last month!

Maybe you were too busy blocking traffic into the city to notice, but this past weekend 32 people were shot in Baltimore. Nine were killed.

(as usual, click to embiggen)

This past weekend. In Charm City. With just over 620,000 people.

Meanwhile, from April 25 to May 23, this past month, 122 people were shot or killed in Mobtown. Last year the comparable figure was 52.

[During these same 28 days, Part One reported crimes in the Land of Pit Beef did not increase. Domestics (again, as reported to police) did not increase.]

Where are these shootings happening? The Central District was basically steady. In the Northern District, shootings were actually down to two, from four. Shootings in the Southeast did increase, but just to eight. Not much up in the Southwest.

The Northwestern District? Shootings were up to 13 in the past 28 days. That's compared to 1 last year.

The Wild West? There were 33 shootings this year (compared to 10 last year). I don't know what the population of the Western is, but it's probably even smaller than the Eastern.

In my beloved "Historic" Eastern District? 22 shootings and homicides in 28 days. Last year there were 7. (For what it's worth, homicides in the Eastern actually were lower than last year, 3 versus 4!)

Keep in mind that these victims (and shooters) come mostly from the population of 15- to 35- year-old black men.

The actual population of 15- to 35-year-old black men in the Eastern District is likely less than 5,000 people. (Source: See page 219 of Cop in the Hood).

Now this is just one month, mind you. Twenty-eight days. And we're talking about a "Formstone figure" (OK, I just made that one up) of roughly 1 out of every 250 young black men being shot. In one month! Chew on that bony Lake Trout for a while. But this ain't no bull and oyster roast.

I don't know what else to say. Go ahead, if your world-view inclines you thusly, go ahead, hon, and see police as the biggest problem facing young black men in the land of Pleasant Living. And Boh, I'm not saying police are without blame. But seriously, this is about priorities. If you think police are the biggest problem facing young black men in urban America... I don't know what else to say.

[Maybe I did something wrong with my math? Let me know.]

May 28, 2015

"So what's the big deal?"

What's weird, at least to me, is that many (mostly from the political left) seem to dismiss the never-before-seen increase in homicides in Baltimore as just some random uptick. "You know," I've been told (and more than once), "violent crime is up in New York City, too."

Are you fucking crazy?!

Homicide in Baltimore is up 250 percent over-fucking-night! And that night, April 27, 2015, just happened to be the night of the worst riots "Mobtown" has seen since 1968. This was a time when the mayor said police need to give room to people who want to destroy. (To be clear, I firmly believe this is not at all the message the mayor was trying to say... but still, a good mayor doesn't let things slip from her lips that can be -- and were -- reasonably misinterpreted as letting people know that violence and destruction would be tolerated.)

April 27th was also (and this is more Commissioner Batt's fault) when police were confronted with some kookie young kids at Mondawmin Mall. The police, in riot gear, were told to stand down. I don't think police should go too quickly to riot gear... but when you do use force, you go in strong! Instead, cops charged... and then retreated. This was on order, say police friends who were there, of the high-command.

So the police charge became a half-assed charge. And 5 angry kids became 15 when police retreated. And then one more pseudo charge. And then 15 rock-throwing kids became 50. It was horribly policing, tactically. Horrible. (But not the only problem, mind you. I still want to know who the hell closed down the MTA and thus prevented school kids from leaving the mall?)

So on April 27th, 2015, there were riots. And fires. And looting. And then starting the next day, twice as many get shot. People, this isn't a fucking coincidence! This isn't something that was meant to happen. It's not like the Almighty wrote it. People on the streets, with guns, go up to other pull people, pull the trigger, and shoot them. So now, in a city of 620,000 people, this is happening one more time every goddamn day!

So yeah, to those who point out homicides in NYC are up 13 percent compared to the same time last year: whatever.

13 percent may be a statistical fluke. Or maybe it's not. Maybe we can live with 40 more people murdered annually in NYC if it is at all related to half-a-million other people not stopped by police. I don't know. But those are the discussions we should be having.

Here's the thing -- and this is what bother me -- I'm willing to discuss why crime is up, the role of police in crime prevention, what we can do to reduce violence, and the relationship between more aggressive/repressive police and less violent crime. I mean, that is kind of what I do for a living.

But I'm not willing to debate that more people are getting killed in Baltimore and that something changed because of the fallout from the death of Freddie Gray.

So the starting point for me is that something has changed in Baltimore vis-a-vis violence and homicide.

The reason some people can't accept this, I suppose, goes back to the fallacy that police don't really matter, except as agents of racist repression. This argument says that crime is caused by society and root causes (and not criminals, per se). If racism, unemployment, and even aggressive policing cause crime, than some are happy to blame cops, society, racism, Broken Windows, Bill Bratton, and everybody but those who actually pull the trigger and kill somebody.

Get real.

So here we have the most sudden sustained increase in violence -- overnight, mind you -- in American history (best I know... please, if you know anything comparable to this, let me know). Of course it has to do with the riots. Not directly the riots, mind you. They're over, at least for now. And nobody was actually killed during the riots, which is kind of amazing. This surge in shooting? It's because of politics and police.

Given that six officers were criminal charged for the death of Freddie Gray -- a death that certainly not all six of them were responsible for -- why would you go out and do more than have to?

What you have -- I can't help but keep harping on the failed "gang truce" so loved by the mayor and police commissioner -- is a police department that:

A) isn't doing much proactive police work (which means not doing more than answering calls for service);

B) isn't going hands-on with criminals hanging out on the corner so much (ie: not frisking people on violent drug corners means criminals are emboldened and guns are more accessible);

C) an understaffed force that has been reduced to about 2,200 (down from more than 3,000 cops when I was there -- doing more with fewer cops is yet another west-coast concept that hasn't worked so well in Baltimore);

and D) large crowds getting in the way of every routine call for service. (This means more cops need to respond to every call. And keep in mind that some of those getting in the way are responsible for the horrible increase in shootings. So it's not like cops are paranoid about the situation.)

Maybe I'll break those down more later, but let's just keep going with the 250 percent increase in killings.

I'd bet (though I don't know) that complaints against police are down equally dramatically. Probably the same 50 percent that arrests are down. Some say police arrest too many people. So fewer arrests should be good (it happened in NYC without a big increase in crime).... so if you believe that, please try and explain this increase in murders in a way that doesn't involve police. Or tell me what you want police to actually do. It's not a simple question. And I'm all ears.

May 22, 2015

Aiming for the legs

Right or wrong, American policing are taught to shoot center mass. And only center mass. The goal is not to kill, though the outcome of center-mass shot is usually death. The goal is to shoot to stop or incapacitate the threat. Once the there is no threat (which often happens before the suspect is killed), you stop shooting. This is how I was taught. This is what I have explained to many people.

It's simply too hard in the heat of battle to shoot a leg. Most police miss when shooting center mass. Shooting a smaller target is even more difficult. The idea against shooting to wound is ingrained in American police officers.

But here is a fascinating read from 2011 (one, two, and three) on how you can shoot to wound. How training is done in at least one other country (anybody know about others?). In the Czech Republic they do train police to shoot people in the leg.

It certainly makes me wonder if we could do the same. Are American police inherently worse shots? Why can't we change our training, if need be? If nothing else, training officers to have the option to shoot to wound would give police a justifiable choice. Now maybe you don't want to have choices in the heat of the battle, but you always have a choice (most officers, myself include, have been in situations where they could have used lethal force, but choose not to). Right now, officers are forbidden to aim for anything but center mass (or the head) (and yet I've spoken officers who would consider doing so in some circumstances, despite the prohibition on it).

Some highlights:
“Okay,” I said, “but what if the round passes through? What about the round striking an innocent person who happened to be on the other side of the target?” Now I had him against the ropes, surely these cops are mindful of the dynamic environment in which law enforcement plays out.

Again, he responded without hesitation. “That’s another reason why we aim to the legs. At the distance we usually fire — remember, two to three meters — the bullet has a trajectory towards the ground of only a few feet. A pass through is rare — we use hollow point bullets — but if it does occur, it is not likely to travel much farther.”
“Well, what if the guy is shooting at you? Dropping him to the ground with a leg shot may stop the forward attack but it is not likely to stop the threat?” he can still fire at you — and you won’t have time to assess the continued threat to see if he stopped!

He grinned at me, “If he is shooting at you? Well, then we use lethal shots — two to the chest, one to the head.”
He smacked it out of the park. If you are being shot at, well, then you use lethal shots — two to the chest and one on the head. Of course you do!
When officers recite the “we don’t shoot to kill” mantra — and believe it — we may reasonably conclude that they are not properly prepared to take a human life. Deluding officers into actually believing that police are not supposed to kill — or are even allowed to kill — creates a deadly mental block that will most likely surface in that critical moment of truth — when ending a life for the sake of the greater good may be necessary.

Further, the mantra sends the wrong message to the community. That message indicates that whenever a subject is killed at the hands of a law enforcement officer, then something must have been done wrong, for surely law enforcement does not shoot to kill — they only shoot to stop.
This is probably why American police are reluctant to adopt policies that suggest that shooting in certain scenarios might be intended only to wound, for fear that a wounding shot might accidentally kill. No, it is better for a killing shot to accidentally wound. American police routinely adopt policies that plan for the worst, and hope for the best.

Center mass shots will likely remain the only target area taught and supported by training in the United States. If we don’t have a justification to kill, then we simply teach to not shoot. We prefer a model where we aren’t forced to account so much for accuracy, rather our mission is to describe the elements of using deadly force. We prefer that our accountability virtually end at the squeeze of the trigger.

If the bullet hits and kills, that’s OK — if it doesn’t kill, perhaps that’s better?

May 21, 2015

Murder in Baltimore

With murdered doubled post-riot, you'd think more people would care. I don't mean people in high-crime neighborhoods in Baltimore, they do care. It's all those other people who so righteously saw police as the biggest problem in the hood. Where are they, now that the murder rate has doubled?

Oh, and how did that "gang truce" work out? Well that hasn't worked out so well. Legitimizing and empowering gangs is not the answer. It's the Cloud Cuckoo Land idea, embraced by too many, that crime prevention can be purely collaborative and never confrontational. It's also a strangely insulting concept, especially when it comes from outside white liberals, that criminals somehow represent the community more than the police.

Yes, police can and should be more polite in their job. There's no reason to be an asshole on the job (which is not to say that some people sometimes don't need to get told off sometimes). But being a dick is not only wrong, it's bad policing. It makes the job tougher for all police. Still, more polite and empathetic and understanding police -- which can make non-criminals less anti-police (a more important than many cops want to admit) -- will not stop criminals from killing each other.

I think a lot of this comes down to the old sociology fallacies that A) police don't deserve credit for preventing crime, B) culture doesn't matter, and C) the only real causes of crime and what is perceived as bad culture are inequality, racism, and lack of opportunity. But the "root causes" did not magically change on April 27, when Baltimore burned.

After the riots and horrible leadership from Baltimore's mayor and police commissioner, proactive police patrol all but stopped. Why? Because all police work has the risk of going south. There's long been the maxim in policing, "if you don't work you can't get in trouble." I'm not a big fan of the thin-blue-line trope, and yet here you have a pretty clear cut case where police have done less and criminals have done more.

Racism in America and violence in America are two separate problems. To walk up to an enemy and pull a trigger is something some people choose to do and others do not. Somehow, lots of poor people -- even in Baltimore -- manage to live decent and even joyous lives without killing somebody. Calling out racism and racists -- a noble calling -- isn't going to save one black life in Baltimore. To see police as some kind of nexus between racism and violence is a tragic mistake. Baltimoreans aren't being killed by racists. They're being killed by each other (Freddie Gray being a notable exception).

In parts of Baltimore we pay police to deal with those people who think murder is an acceptable problem-solving methods. Police deal with these criminals daily because these criminals are hanging out on the corner all day dealing drugs. Some neighbors have the gumption to not like this. So they call the police. And in come the police to clear the corner. And that's what real police do.

May 20, 2015

Baltimore Homicides, pre- and post- riot

After the riots, the daily number of homicides in Baltimore more than doubled from 0.58 to 1.41. That's a lot more dead people. 0.8 per day. (For those of you not too good with math, that's almost one a day. And yes, Gotti, I'm looking at you.)

Click to embiggen.

The trendlines, pre- and post-riots, are in red.

[Updated May 21]

May 1, 2015

Taking a break

This will be my last post for close to three weeks. I'm heading out of the country (hiking in Greece).

The late-breaking news is that six BPD officers have been criminally charged. That's a lot. This will be a very tough case for the prosecutor to win. The most serious charges need intent (said a law professor I just on the radio with). Intent beyond negligence or indifference.

The other detail well worth mentioning is that, according to the state's attorney, Gray had not committed a crime. The knife was legal, she said. Hence there was no probable cause for arrest. (Strangely, though, the Supreme Court has ruled that officers are OK as long as they think something is illegal. But I don't know if that applies to something like this. Best I remember that case was something about a traffic (non) violation and a subsequent search.)

So legally, best I understand, the initial chase and stop were legal (reasonable suspicion based on flight from police). But there was no probable cause for arrest because Gray wasn't doing or carrying anything illegal. Fleeing from police gives reasonable suspicion to stop (and a frisk leads to plain-touch with regards to the knife; that plain-touch then gives probable cause to search for said object; and the knife would be legally found). But if the knife isn't a crime... well, you don't have probable cause for arrest. That's minor compared to the more serious charges, especially if you think the knife is illegal, but it certainly does not help the police.

April 30, 2015

The 2nd man in a van

Interview with Donta Allen, the second man in the van. He's Baltimore, that's for sure. Straight out of the Western. Some might find him unique and charming. I'd just like to point out that his is a voice you don't hear much.

The scale of the riots

In certain circles (like my circles) it's popular to post things about how when whites riot (and they do) we call it frat boys having a good time. Now whites frat boys riot over stupid shit, like their sport's team winning, or their sport's team losing. And don't get me wrong, I'm not down with frat boy culture.

I think these situations are very different. But I don't buy the violence against oppression argument either. First let me just say I find white frat boys so completely idiotic because of their drunk stupidity without a cause. It's a party. And a lame party of that.

In Baltimore's case, there are real reasons for being pissed off. But that has nothing to do with burning down a senior center or cutting a fire house. You're allowed to be pissed off. You're not allowed to be violent. And if you can't be the former without doing the latter, then you're a child. This has nothing do to with protests. Looting is also a party. A destructive party. But it's actually a decent party.

The difference between college riots and Baltimore's riot is the scale and magnitude of violence. And this may reflect the culture of the rioters. Frat boys: a little violent, very drunk, college educated, very stupid, disrespectful, often come from good families, don't generally kill each other. Ghetto boys: more violent, less drunk, high-school drop outs, less stupid, disrespectful, often come from horribly dysfunctional families, and they too often do kill each other.

To say we're only making a big deal out of this because of race is absurd. People need perspective. They also need to understand the scale of destruction here. Any one of these incidents would have been news in a college paper (and probably not much else). A bonfire and a tipped car and broken store are not good. But it is what it is. It destroys neither the college nor the downtown.

This was different. And it bothers me how quickly people are willing to take fact and rumor and whatever else they want from Baltimore when they have no idea what really happened in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Sun has a nice little interactive map on the violence (similar to their great map of city homicide).

Don't believe the hype

Baltimore has 99 problems... gangs aren't really one. At least not on list of top 5. Batts seems a bit obsessed with them. That's West Coast bullshit.

An article by Leon Neyfakh in Slate.

The "ghetto"

I use the word "ghetto" because it is the vernacular of police officers and many (though by no means all) of the residents. Here's what I said about "ghetto" in Cop in the Hood:
In any account of police work, inevitably the noncriminal public, the routine, and the working folks all get short shrift. Police don’t deal with a random cross-section of society, even within the areas they work. And this book reflects that.

The ghetto transcends stereotypes. Families try to make it against the odds. Old women sweep the streets. People rise before dawn to go to work. On Sundays, ladies go to church wearing beautiful hats and preachers preach to the choir. But if you’re looking for stereotypes, they’re there. Between the vacant and abandoned buildings you’ll find liquor stores, fast food, Korean corner stores, and a Jewish pawnshop. Living conditions are worse than those of third-world shantytowns: children in filthy apartments without plumbing or electricity, entire homes put out on eviction day, forty-five-year-old great-grandparents, junkies not raising their kids, drug dealers, and everywhere signs of violence and despair.

...If you’re not from the ghetto, and though it may not be politically correct to say so, the ghetto is exotic. One field-training officer accused me of being “fascinated by the ghetto.” I am. There are very few aspects of urban life that don’t fascinate me. But it is not my intent to sensationalize the ghetto. This is a book about police.

If you want to read about the ghetto, good books are out there. Ghettos are diverse and encompass many cultures and classes. Some object to the very term “ghetto.” I use the word because it is the vernacular of police officers and many (though by no means all) of the residents. If you really want to learn about the ghetto, go there. There’s probably one near you. Visit a church; walk down the street; buy something from the corner store; have a beer; eat. But most important, talk to people. That’s how you learn. When the subject turns to drugs and crime, you’ll hear a common refrain: “It just don’t make sense.”

April 29, 2015

Civil Unrest Mom

"Isn't that child abuse?" "Absolutely"

Holly Walker is my friend. So no saying nothing bad about her. But how could you? She does a great job here.

Life and Death in Baltimore's Eastern (and Western) District

More than ten percent of black men in Baltimore's Eastern District are murdered! Why is this not known? Why is this not discussed with urgency? Why has this been going on for decades?

This is from my book, Cop in the Hood. I can't find it anywhere online. It should be. I'm still honestly hoping there is some major error in my math. But if there is, nobody has brought it to my attention. This stats comes from 2000-2006. Though it may have changed slightly, I have no reason to think it's changed significantly. And to be clear, the "men" I'm talking about are black men:
The risk of death is astoundingly high. For some of those “in the [drug] game,” the risk of death may be as high as 7 percent annually.* Each year in Baltimore’s Eastern District approximately one in every 160 men aged fifteen to thirty-four is murdered. At this rate, more than 10 percent of men in Baltimore’s Eastern District are murdered before the age of thirty-five.** As shocking as this is, the percentage would be drastically higher if it excluded those who aren’t “in the game” and at risk because of their association with the drug trade. (p. 73)
And here is the fine print, the dirty details, the footnotes from pages 219-220:
* Levitt and Venkatesh (Levitt, Steven D., and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh. 2000. “An Economic Analysis of a Drug- Selling Gang’s Finances.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 115 (3):755–89) show an annual 7 percent death rate for those actively involved in street-level drug dealing. A Baltimore City police officer entering the force in 1982 and retiring in 2007 would have had, roughly, a 0.7 percent chance being killed on duty during those twenty-five years.

** More than 11.6 percent of men in the Eastern District are murdered. This is based on homicide and census data. The 2000 Eastern District population for age 15 to 34 is 5,641 (derived from 2000 block-level U.S. Census data). The official U.S. Census citywide undercount for Baltimore was 1.8 percent. I arbitrarily doubled this figure for the Eastern District. Adding 3.6 percent raises the sample population to 5,844. The Eastern District lost 3 percent of its population annually between 1990 and 2000. Following this trend (it may have even accelerated give the massive expansion of Johns Hopkins Hospital), the 2006 population would be 4,867. I keep the 2000 population figure to be more conservative with my estimation of the homicide rate. Daily migration is not taken into account. I do not think this accounts for a large bias in either direction. All homicide victims in the Eastern District are assumed to reside in the district. Likewise no victims outside the Eastern District are assumed to come from the district. Homicide deaths in the Eastern District between 2000 and 2006 (excluding 2003, when I could not acquire data) are, respectively: 59, 38, 61, 55, 35, and 43. The mean is 48.5 murders per year. The demographic characteristics of homicide victims in the Eastern District are estimated from citywide, African American sex and age data. Of the city’s 179 black homicide victims in 2000 age 15 to 34, 168, or 93.9 percent, were men. 78.9 percent of all black male Baltimore homicide victims are 15 to 34 (FBI UCR 2000 Homicide Supplement). Based on these data, the average annual homicide rate for men 15 to 35 is 615 per 100,000. To put it another way, for these men, the odds of being murdered in a single year are 1 in 163. Based on the survival rate function 1 − (1 − r)^x, (r = death rate and x = number of years), 11.6 percent of men are murdered during a twenty-year period.
Source: Peter Moskos. 2009. Cop in the Hood. Princeton University Press.

As Reagan said...

I'm going to attribute this to Ronald Reagan so cops will agree with it. Reagan invented compassionate conservatives, right? (Even if he didn't coin the phrase.) Unlike Obama, Reagan was willing to speak the truth. Liberals just blame everybody else. But Reagan would blame bad parents for messing up their kids. Reagan would call out absent fathers. Reagan knew too many people were dealing drugs. It takes somebody who supports police to say you shouldn't blame police officers when we send them in to do society's dirty work of containing these people. And only a great leader would say we need to pay attention to these problems not just when fools burn a drug store or police kill somebody. That's how I remember him. It went something like this:
If you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents -- often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves -- can't do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college. In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks -- in those environments, if we think that we're just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not going to solve this problem. And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets, and everybody will feign concern until it goes away, and then we go about our business as usual.
But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant -- and that we don't just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don't just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We're paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they're important. And they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.
It takes that Morning-in-America-Again vision. If only liberals like Obama could understand stuff like this, things cops have always known.

The Purge!

The Purge is coming! No. Actually, really it's not (even though it sort of did). But this bullshit did a fair bit of work to fuck things up Monday afternoon.

By noon this had already gotten more 16,000 views. The Purge was "scheduled" for 3:30pm. The first cop was injured at 3:45pm.

April 28, 2015

Messages to rioters

These messages also need to be heard by all the apologists for rioters as well. Especially those that live nowhere near Baltimore.

I don't know these guys (well, I've heard of Ray Lewis), but I find these unrehearsed personal messages quite powerful. Especially compared to pontificating buffoons who don't live in Baltimore and use the city's destruction to fit their ideological world-view. These are the perspective you won't hear on NPR or from your over-educated liberal friends.

First from Emeka Mbadiwe. Here is his facebook message to Baltimore Police.

And second, maybe my favorite, from Leroy Wolfgang Harrison. Because sometimes you just need to say, "Fuck you, you ignorant ass motherfucker." (Also, he uses "bank" a verb, a true Baltimorean.)

And finally Ray Lewis, an NFL player who knows a little something about violence.

Baltimore mom beats son for rioting

This had become a popular video in Baltimore.

And the interview with moms.

You know, technically, in our-spanking-is-wrong society, mom committed the crime of physical child abuse. The law says lock her up and put her child in protective services to protect him from her. The law is not made by single mothers in Baltimore.

This is what a curfew sounds like

Here's the citywide announcement (mp3 file) to police on the city curfew. Story in the Sun.

"Baltimore Riots! Murder Rate Drops!"

That could be one headline from yesterday. There was no Baltimore homicide between 23:45 hours on Sunday and 12:00 our today (Tuesday). I also just heard a call dispatched for drug dealing. It's almost like things are getting back to normal. (Though they're not normal yet.)

"Space to Destroy"

I still can't get over the Mayor saying "We also gave those who wish to destroy space for that as well."

[Update: Though now I understand, thanks to a comment by Matt and others in a previous post, what I think she was trying to say:
From the video, it appears she did indeed mean that the city inadvertently provided space for those to destroy through their attempts to provide space for protest. Also from the video, the guy on the left of the screen (one of her own who was likely privy to the content of her speech prior) clearly heard the more inflammatory version. People make mistakes, they misspeak; she just needs to clarify her position, wring her hands, and call for an end to the destruction. It wouldn't hurt if she called on protestors to do their best to police their own... using different language of course.]

Now this isn't some gotcha moment, but when I ask a cop fighting the riots why the riots started, he said, "The mayor gave them permission." I had no idea what he was talking about. I sounded like some right-wing lie. But this police officer isn't right wing. He's also African-American.

I wasn't convinced that the mayor said this. But regardless, I asked, "But so what? It's not like the people out there burning shit listened to the mayor's press conference. They don't even know who the mayor is!"

"Word gets out. Through the leaders of the community. It trickles down. That was the message."

So I found and watched the video. Now I don't know what the mayor meant to say. But this is what she said. I thought she was going to correct herself. She didn't. Maybe it's exactly what she meant. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is in way over her head.

(And look at the guy on screen-left having a "what chu talking 'bout, Willis" moment.)

Here are two links to the same press conference (in case one link dies in the future).



Baltimore Police Riot Training

Well, that did not go well.

When the fires hit the Eastern, I felt it got personal.

I can't believe nobody got killed. Hell, by that standard, it was a peaceful night in the city.

In the academy, we got less than one (1) day of riot training. This are my notes from Tuesday, April 4, 2000, in their entirety:
Started by watching a video of characteristics of armed suspect: the shoulder dip, the stiff arm, the coat swing, security checks--all of these are grounds for reasonable suspicion and a stop and frisk.

[Instructor 1]: “Don’t walk the line [between legal and illegal]. Often times the department says you can do something, but if you do it against someone with a little pull and they sue you, the department won’t back you.”

“I’m a peon here and my opinion don’t count for much. [regarding getting more time for crowd control]”

“You should be happy you’re going to the Eastern and Western. You’ll learn a lot there. Just keep a good attitude. Stay humble.”

[Classmate 1, a white guy:] “I can’t wait to go to Sarajevo.”

[Classmate 2, a black guy:] “These neighborhoods aren’t that bad. I grew up in the Western. Am I a bad person? There are lots of good people there.” “But a lot of these people aren’t from these areas. They don’t know.” [Classmate 3, a black guy]

“The Eastern and Western are where most of the IID numbers come from... people get burnt out.”

“Keep your contacts here. If you don’t you’re going to have a hard time.

For class, we’ve watched a few episodes of “In the Line of Duty.”

“These college students who think their stuff don’t stink and want to mouth off. I get to arrest them. And it was fun.”
There is no G.O. [general order] on crowd control.

Crowds: there are passive and hostile crowds.

“In Japan, I saw where they bring in buses and let a few people out and beat them. Them they let a few more out and beat them. After that everything is OK. But we have something that stops us from doing it.”

“The ACLU?”

“No, civil liberties, the constitution.”

Our goal: containment, isolation, dispersal.

“Yes, we’ve already been tested on this.” This was a test question yesterday that we were “reviewed” on.

“This academy is a joke” [said Instructor 1]

“As a person penetrates the front line, you will wack them, hit them, beat them down.... This is the one time we will tell you to strike a person.”

We spent the day doing riot formations. Kind of fun. Kind of. But also another long boring day. At one point, though, [instructor 2] slammed his baton into the floor, ran up to [classmate 4] and screamed, “What are you nodding at?! Do you know everything?! You’re creating a hostile working environment because you’re pissing me off!!!” [Classmate 4] sucked it up. It was such an unnecessary yelling event that I found it funny.

275 of last year's [305] murders were of blacks.

Norris is now in charge, says the news.
That's it. Let's hope training has gotten better, though I doubt it has.

[Update: From a comment by Adam, below:
When I went through the BPD academy (in 2008) there was more extensive riot training, done at the firearms training facility. We learned and drilled formations: "V"-shape, a straight line, etc. It wasn't very lengthy training (I obviously can't remember much of it), but it was more substantial than what you describe.
An NYPD officer tells me "Your description of riot training is spot on. We were actually told that we'll probably never do the stuff they taught us.

April 27, 2015

"We also gave those who wish to destroy space for that as well"

You sure did, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
I cannot believe that the mayor of Baltimore said this yesterday.


You think that may encourage people to loot and burn?

The full context in case you were wondering (I was) is:
I’ve made it very clear that I work with police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try and make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on. We also gave those who wish to destroy space for that as well. And we work very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to deescalate.
(And no, it's not "outside agitators" doing this.)

It's ugly in Baltimore

Now the Eastern is burning. @PeterMoskos https://twitter.com/PeterMoskos.