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by Peter Moskos

March 20, 2015

Are applicants for the police job down?

I don't know. And that's what I told Meaghan Corzine of CBS St. Louis. Luckily, I wasn't her only source. It's a good story.

March 19, 2015

Crime up in NYC (this time for real)

Compared to last year, shootings and homicides in NYC are up 20 percent. Twenty percent is a real increase.

Here's the compstat page and also a link to last week's summary (no matter when you click the link).

I don't know why crime is up. But... I can't help but think it's part of (or some combination of) everything that has happened in NYC in the past year. I mean, I know what most cops think is the cause: stop and frisk has stopped; marijuana arrests have plummeted; there's more oversight of cops; De Blasio is mayor; Obama is president; Eric Holder is Attorney General; cops find it preferable to do too little rather than do to much ("if you don't work you can't get in trouble").

Some of that is just ideological sour grapes. But some of it, part of it, is true.

What I find amazing is I don't hear any critic of the NYPD sounding any alarm. Oh well, I guess 60 extra murder victims per year -- 54 of whom, based on passed statistics, will be black or hispanic men -- is a small price to pay to keep innocent people from getting harassed by the police. I for one don't buy that equation.

Those who opposed past police practices (and to be clear it's not like I loved everything the NYPD was doing) seem to be very silent right now. Shouldn't the increase in murders lead to a discussion about what police should be doing?

I guess the same people who think the police had little if anything to do with the crime drop now just think it's preordained that crime goes up. But it is not "written." Why don't I hear debate? Instead I hear a lot of silence.

March 16, 2015

"Why become a cop?"

My latest piece at CNN.com is up. They titled it: "Why would you want to be a cop?"
I speak to a lot of police officers, retired, on the job, and soon-to-be. Anybody who knows cops knows it's in their nature to complain (there's an old barb about there being just two things cops don't like: change and the status quo). But the idealism of my students can be lost with on-the-job realities: incompetent bosses, nasty working conditions, and any quota system (be it for revenue or arrests) that demeans their professionalism.

Police officers try to maintain their pride and idealism on the job, but it can be a tough battle when faced with a hostile political structure and a misunderstanding public too quick to blame police for society's ills. Blaming one officer for the misdeed of another is neither fair nor productive. To have the hashtag #blacklivesmatter held against you is both frustrating and absurd. The general public doesn't seem to care about black lives unless a cop is involved. Police see and help victims every day while most murders don't even make the evening news.

Police do become thin-skinned to criticism — too quick to take offense to even well intentioned criticism — because the job isn't just what you do for a living, it ends up defining who you are. The job damages you physically and, more worrisome, drains you emotionally.

Policing demands a level of hyper-alertness synonymous with post-traumatic stress disorder.
...
So as best they can, police officers make do with the job they have. Certainly police can and should play a role in rebuilding the public's trust. But the public should have more empathy for those who have no choice but to deal with society's problems — poverty, massive incarceration, racism, crime — that we, collectively and to our shame, cannot or will not fix.
[Special thanks to Sgt B and to A.D. for his comment on a previous post. I probably could have done it without you, but it certainly wouldn't have been as good!]

March 10, 2015

"Generating New Revenue Streams" by policing

Sometimes it's important to remember how you got to Point B from Point A to where you are today.

You don't just stumble into a system like Ferguson's where the city tries to get 30 percent of it's total budget from fines, citations, and court fees. Ferguson isn't unique.

I just stumbled across this article from 2010, writen by a police officer, that lays out the potential of using police for revenue:
Based on the research for this article, there is a clear presumption of need for law enforcement to generate new income streams. A first necessary step in that process is to examine possible revenue-generating ideas.
...
Their most prominent recommendations were:
• fees for sex offenders registering in a given jurisdiction,

• city tow companies,

• fine increases by 50 percent,

• pay-per-call policing,

• vacation house check fees,

• public hours at police firing range for a fee,

• police department-run online traffic school for minor traffic infractions,

• department-based security service including home checks and monitoring of security cameras by police department,

• a designated business to clean biological crime scenes,

• state and court fees for all convicted felons returning to the community,

• allowing agency name to be used for advertisement and branding,

• triple driving-under-the-influence fines by the court,

• resident fee similar to a utility tax,

• tax or fee on all alcohol sold in the city,

• tax or fee on all ammunition sold in, the city,

• public safety fees on all new development in the city,

• 9-1-1 fee per use,

• police department website with business advertisement for support,

• selling ride-a-longs to the public, and

• police department–run firearm safety classes.
...
Modeled after other California agencies, the party ordinance allows an administrative citation to be issued at loud parties where the music is plainly audible 50 feet from the property line. The first citation is $100, a second $200, and a third or subsequent citation within 12 consecutive months is $500. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce repeat party calls, improve the quality of life for surrounding residents, and generate a revenue stream to offset the cost of response and enforcement.
It's just so blatant and wrong to see police (or the courts, or prisons) as a source of generating revenue. If you need money, that is what taxes are for.

Anyway, for what it's worth, West Covina, CA, does not seem best to be a particularly bad offender in terms of milking its residents, best I could understand their municipal budget. And some of those ideas above are actually pretty good ideas.

Value Over Replacement Cop

This was gonna be my idea! "Bobbies and Baseball Players: Evaluating Patrol Officer Productivity Using Sabermetrics." So kudos to Luke Bonkiewicz because he actually researched and wrote the article and I didn't. Here's the abstract from the current issue of Police Quarterly (2015, Vol. 18(1) 55–78):
Police officer productivity is an understudied topic in police research. Prior studies on productivity have primarily relied on rudimentary statistics, such as calls for service and arrests. A more advanced method for evaluating productivity should (a) account for the diverse activities of patrol officers, (b) weight different productivity outputs, (c) evaluate officers in terms of available minutes for self-initiated activities (productive time), and (d) offer agencies the flexibility to select, prioritize, and weight patrol activities most relevant to their jurisdictions. Borrowing from a baseball sabermetric called Value Over Replacement Player, we create and test an innovative statistic called Value Over Replacement Cop. This metric analyzes 12 patrol activities and generates a single number by which to quantify and evaluate a patrol officer’s productivity. Using data from a midsize U.S. Police Department (325 sworn officers), we find strong support for the validity of this new metric.
This is a good start. But the problem is that this measure doesn't take into account crime, the prevention of which is the primary purpose of police. Crime needs to be the main variable, not indicators of police officer "productivity" (which aren't unimportant, but still).

Shootings up in NYC

Shootings are up 20 percent this year. Bratton is blaming marijuana. I doubt it. But maybe. I'm certainly willing to consider the idea. Most liberals, I find, never ever consider the idea that their advocacy might have unintended consequences, like more young black men getting murdered.

That said, Bratton pointed to drug dealers getting killed. That was illegal last year and remains illegal this year. So I'm not certain how not arrested people for small scale marijuana possession really changes anything. (For public safety or Broken Windows, that is. It certain matters for the guy getting arrested or not.) If the increase is as Bratton describes it, these killings seem more like old-fashioned Prohibition killings than decriminalization killings.

But... it could be that criminals are more brazen in response to less aggressive policing. And maybe some robber smoking a joint last year would have gotten stopped by the po-po. But not so in 2015. I'm not saying that is the reason. But it's possible.

Here's the story in the Times. Worth reading if you're into this kind of thing.

Dan Aykroyd continues to "embrace the police"

Dan Aykroyd is making a donation to the children of slain Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III. Wilson was killed by two robbers last Thursday. Seems Wilson just happened to be in a store, in uniform, when armed robbers decided hold the place up:
Officer Wilson stopped by the GameStop store to purchase a video game for his son as a gift for doing well in school. His 8-year-old son's birthday is on Monday. He also leaves behind a wife and a 1-year-old son.
It's a nice gesture from Aykroyd, who has always supported police.

March 9, 2015

President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2): The Problem with Procedural Justice

Three years ago I wrote about the problem of "procedural justice." If you've misplaced your copy of William Stuntz's The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, just read Leon Neyfakh's review in the Boston Globe.

Procedural justice still matters because the Presidential Report places emphasis on it: "Police and sheriffs' departments should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with the citizens they serve." I disagree.

Now procedural justice seems like something that is hard to be against. But one opposite of procedural justice isn't arbitrary justice but moral justice. If one emphases moral justice over procedural justice, you're saying police and the criminal justice system shouldn't just be judged on following the rules.

Sometimes you need discretion and the ability to bend the rules -- to break procedure -- to do the right thing. I write about this in Cop in the Hood at the start of Chapter 6. [Long story short: Grandmother hits 17-year-old grandson she is the legal guardian of because, well, she had good reason. He calls police to report this assault. I do not arrest grandma. Instead I threaten to arrest this "kid".] As a police officer, whenever I could, I used my discretion to value moral justice over procedural justice. (Not that I would have phrased it that way at the time. I was just "doing the right thing.")

Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker, a big fan of my writing, also described the issue:
“The Collapse of American Criminal Justice,” was published, last fall, is the most forceful advocate for the view that the scandal of our prisons derives from the Enlightenment-era, “procedural” nature of American justice.... In a society where Constitution worship is still a requisite on right and left alike, Stuntz startlingly suggests that the Bill of Rights is a terrible document with which to start a justice system--much inferior to the exactly contemporary French Declaration of the Rights of Man.
...
The trouble with the Bill of Rights, [Stuntz] argues, is that it emphasizes process and procedure rather than principles. The Declaration of the Rights of Man says, Be just! The Bill of Rights says, Be fair! Instead of announcing general principles--no one should be accused of something that wasn’t a crime when he did it; cruel punishments are always wrong; the goal of justice is, above all, that justice be done--[the Bill of Rights] talks procedurally. You can’t search someone without a reason; you can’t accuse him without allowing him to see the evidence; and so on. This emphasis, Stuntz thinks, has led to the current mess, where accused criminals get laboriously articulated protection against procedural errors and no protection at all against outrageous and obvious violations of simple justice. You can get off if the cops looked in the wrong car with the wrong warrant when they found your joint, but you have no recourse if owning the joint gets you locked up for life. You may be spared the death penalty if you can show a problem with your appointed defender, but it is much harder if there is merely enormous accumulated evidence that you weren’t guilty in the first place and the jury got it wrong.
There's also Alex Vitale's critique of the Presidential Task Force in The Nation. Now Alex and I disagree about many police issues (such as Broken Windows), but I like people I disagree with. And he makes this point well:
Today’s Task Force falls into this same trap.... Such procedural reforms focus on training officers to be more judicious and race-neutral in their use of force and how they interact with the public.
...
Similar goals were set in the late 1960s.... Similarly, Johnson’s initial draft of the 1968 Safe Streets bill called for resources to be devoted to recruitment and training of police, modernization of equipment, better coordination between criminal-justice agencies, and innovative prevention and rehabilitation efforts, and had the support of the ACLU and other liberal reform groups.... Over the next decade, the result was a massive expansion in police hardware, SWAT teams and drug enforcement units, and almost no money towards prevention and rehabilitation.
...Community policing also tends to turn all neighborhood problems into police problems.... The tools that police have for solving these problems, however, are generally limited to punitive enforcement actions such as arrests and ticketing.
...
By conceptualizing the problem of policing as one of inadequate training and professionalization, reformers fail to directly address the ways in which the very nature of policing and the legal system served to maintain and exacerbate racial inequality. By calling for color-blind “law and order,” they in essence strengthen a system that puts people of color at a structural disadvantage.

What is not discussed in the report is dialing back in any meaningful way the war on drugs, police militarization or the widespread use of "broken windows" policing that has led to the unnecessary criminalization of millions of mostly black and brown people. Well-trained police, following proper procedure, are still going to be engaged in the process of arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden of that will continue to fall primarily on communities of color, because that is how the system is designed to operate--not because of the bias or misunderstandings of officers. A more respectful and legally justified arrest for marijuana possession is still an arrest that could result in unemployment, loss of federal benefits and the stigma of a drug arrest.
...
We cannot produce true justice by reforming police procedures. Instead, we need to call into question why we have come to rely so heavily on the police to manage social problems.
Thinking about it another way, punishing Ferguson cop who write racist emails on the job is certainly the right thing to do, but blaming cops will do next to nothing to change an unjust system in which police officers are mere pawns.

March 6, 2015

"13 Years in the Slammer ... for Two Joints?"

I'm generally quick to point out that there aren't too many people doing long time for small scale drug possession. (Usually this in the context of pointing out that drug decriminalization will not empty our prisons.)

But it does happen. And it shouldn't happen. Ever.

How is anyone in prison for 13 years for possessing two joints? It's possible if you're a "habitual offender" and in Louisiana:
In Bernard Noble's case, getting caught with a couple of joints morphed into more than 13 years behind bars because of the way the state's harsh marijuana laws intersect with its harsh habitual offender law (known colloquially as "the bitch.") Because Noble had two previous drug possession offenses, one 12 years old and one 24 years old, he fell under the purview of the habitual offender law.

Even though his current offense was trivial (pot is decriminalized in nearly 20 states and possession is legalized in four others and DC) and even though his previous offenses were low-level and non-violent, the statute called for the 13 years, without parole.

Taking into account Noble's minor criminal history, his work record, and his role as the breadwinner for a family with seven children, and making special note of his overpayment of child support to children not living with him, his sentencing judge departed from the statute and sentenced him to only five years. Orleans Parish prosecutors appealed the lower sentence to the state Supreme Court and got the 13-year sentence reinstated last year.
What is wrong with us?

DOJ: The Whole Damn System is Guilty!

The DOJ's report of Ferguson isn't just about police or just about race. A large part of the report -- to me the more disturbing part -- is about a whole system of government using the criminal justice system as a tool to legally steal from its residents. It's feudal, but more arbitrary. That makes it despotic. And it's not unique to Ferguson.

When the mafia ran a town, at least they knew they were the mob. But this is a system working under the cover of the law. But in its operation it's nothing more than old-fashioned criminal racket.

I don't want to say you shouldn't see this in a broader context of race and racism (I mean, the people getting exploited are poor and black). But one could be blind to race and still be outraged. Just don't be not be outraged because the victims are poor and black. Presumably there are poor whites facing the same problem somewhere else in small town America. I don't know. It's wrong.

Here's how it works: the political system makes rules and tells the police to issue fines. Not for crimes, mind you, but for small stuff, traffic violations and municipal violations. The stated goalis to raise money. The court system multiplies those fines. The goal -- the stated goal -- is to get 30 percent of funds (the legal limit) through such skullduggery. From the DOJ report:
It is rare for the court to sentence anyone to jail as a penalty for a violation of the municipal code; indeed, the Municipal Judge reports that he has done so only once. Rather, the court almost always imposes a monetary penalty payable to the City of Ferguson, plus court fees.
...
The City Manager also requested and secured City Council approval to fund additional court positions, noting in January 2013 that "each month we are setting new all-time records in fines and forfeitures," that this was overburdening court staff, and that the funding for the additional positions "will be more than covered by the increase in revenues."
...
In its budget for fiscal year 2013, the City budgeted for fines and fees to yield $2.11 million; the court exceeded that target as well, collecting $2.46 million. For 2014, the City budgeted for the municipal court to generate $2.63 million in revenue.
...
The Finance Director wrote to Chief Jackson that "unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. What are your thoughts? Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue."
...
Even as officers have answered the call for greater revenue through code enforcement, the City continues to urge the police department to bring in more money. In a March 2013 email, the Finance Director wrote: "Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10% increase. He indicated they could try."

"As the RLCs [Red Light Cameras] net revenues ramp up to whatever we believe its annualized rate will be, then we can figure out how to balance the two programs to get their total revenues as close as possible to the statutory limit of 30%."
How do you work in such a system and maintain a clean conscious? Well...
City officials’ application of the stereotype that African Americans lack "personal responsibility" to explain why Ferguson’s practices harm African Americans, even as these same City officials exhibit a lack of personal--and professional--responsibility in handling their own and their friends’ code violations, is further evidence of discriminatory bias on the part of decision makers central to the direction of law enforcement in Ferguson.
In other words, if you knew the right person, your tickets and fines simply disappear. So the idea of "personal responsibility" didn't actually extend to oneself. It was only used for other people.

As to the police, I think the focus on racist emails sent by police is kind of a red herring. I mean they are racist. And? And -- since these emails are sent on the job on their job email accounts -- this racism is part of the accepted culture. OK. (This goes beyond private tasteless gallows-humor jokes about crime scenes and victims, with which I have no problem).

Racists jokes don't actually make the joke teller become a racist person. Racist jokes let other people know when person is racist. So I'm kind of happy to see these jokes because now I know. But it doesn't shock me that there are racists in the police department. It would shock me if there were not. Liberals seem to revel every time a racist is outed. Conservatives love saying racism doesn't matter. But of course there are racists and of course it matters. But here's why I kind of shrug my shoulders when stuff like this comes out. It's not like racists disappeared when the 13th Amendment was passed. Racist didn't suddenly let their daughters date black men after the passage Civil Rights Act of 1964. We don't need to solve racism to make things a hell of a lot better.

And debating whether a joke is racist or only in bad taste is not an argument worth having. I think many of the cops are racist. But, like Jefferson's bible, we can say the F.P.D. is seriously messed up without even talking about race.

You might still think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. You might be the most conservative Eric-Holder-hating cop. You can think every example of police action in the DOJ report is OK. You can do all that and still read this DOJ report and be outraged at the facts that not subject to ideological interpretation or "liberal bias." (But don't forget this is the same DOJ that did not throw Darren Wilson under the bus.)
Ferguson uses its police department in large part as a collection agency for its municipal court. Ferguson’s municipal court issues arrest warrants at a rate that police officials have called, in internal emails, "staggering." According to the court’s own figures, as of December 2014, over 16,000 people had outstanding arrest warrants that had been issued by the court.
Ferguson has a population of 21,000.

Cops understand this emphasis on fund raising:
One officer told us that officers could spend more time engaging with community members and undertaking problem-solving projects if FPD officers were not so focused on activities that generate revenue. This officer told us, "everything’s about the courts . . . the court’s enforcement priorities are money." Another officer told us that officers cannot "get out of the car and play basketball with the kids," because "we’ve removed all the basketball hoops -- there’s an ordinance against it."
There's some irony there in moving kids from off one "court" to on to another.

[Also, this DOJ report places strong blames on 12-hour shifts as hurting community relations. It links 12-hour shifts to lack of defined beats. I'm not certain why those would go together. This is news to me. Feel free to comment.]

Overall the police organization comes off as pretty incompetent. Again, not hard for a former cop to imagine. But this level of institutional slackness is pretty bad:
In Ferguson, officers will sometimes make an arrest without writing a report or even obtaining an incident number, and hundreds of reports can pile up for months without supervisors reviewing them.
That's messed up.
Officers invoke the term "ped check" as though it has some unique constitutional legitimacy. It does not. Officers may not detain a person, even briefly, without articulable reasonable suspicion. To the extent that the words "ped check" suggest otherwise, the terminology alone is dangerous because it threatens to confuse officers' understanding of the law.
Along with issuing a "wanted" (basically issuing warrants for people without probably cause. ) I've never heard of a "ped check." It's unacceptable. As is this:
In our conversations with FPD officers, one officer admitted that when he conducts a traffic stop, he asks for identification from all passengers as a matter of course. If any refuses, he considers that to be "furtive and aggressive” conduct and cites--and typically arrests--the person for Failure to Comply.
And it lead to things like this:
One woman... received two parking tickets for a single violation in 2007 that then totaled $151 plus fees. Over seven years later, she still owed Ferguson $541 -- after already paying $550 in fines and fees, having multiple arrest warrants issued against her, and being arrested and jailed on several occasions. Another woman told us that when she went to court to try to pay $100 on a $600 outstanding balance, the Court Clerk refused to take the partial payment, even though the woman explained that she was a single mother and could not afford to pay more that month.
The report concludes:
Our investigation indicates that in Ferguson, individual officer behavior is largely driven by a police culture that focuses on revenue generation and is infected by race bias. While increased vertical and horizontal diversity, racial and otherwise, likely is necessary to change this culture, it probably cannot do so on its own.
So these two reports tell us that Darren Wilson is innocent (and the protesters were indeed wrong at a very basic level about the facts). But one can't in good faith say one DOJ report is spot-on and the other is terrible, biased, and based on lies. Ferguson is a seriously fucked-up place! The system is racist. Even if it's not racist (which it is), it's immoral and broken. And the Ferguson Police are a part of that system.

So wouldn't it be great if liberals could say, "Gosh, sorry. We were wrong about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson." And then conservatives (and cops) could say, "Apology accepted. But you know what? A system of government run as extortion using police as the muscle to extort money from poor people is racist and wrong." Oh, what a wonderful world it would be.

DOJ: Blaming the Cops

I have read (most of) the incredibly damning DOJ’s report on the Ferguson P.D. I tried to read it a bit as Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible. Thomas Jefferson thought that even if Jesus isn't the son of God, even if there are no supernatural events, there’s still something good to be learned from Jesus's life and ethics. So Jefferson edited out all the "special" bits from the Bible. And what was left was still a good book.

I mentally did the same with this DOJ report. I don't think the authors "get" policing. So their criticism of specific policing incidents runs shallow at times. Others I think are interpreted. Some details are probably not true (know from their Wilson/Brown report that witnesses sometimes make shit up). But just as one can cut the miracles and supernatural out of the New Testament and believe Jesus was still a pretty cool dude, a skeptic can excise huge parts of this DOJ report and still clearly see Ferguson is a deeply -- deeply -- fucked-up place. And that will be the next post.

But first, here are my quibbles:
An officer broke up an altercation between two [girls] and sent them back to their homes. The officer ordered one to stay inside her residence and the other not to return to the first’s residence.
That seems like good policing to me. At first he doesn’t give a ticket. He doesn’t make an arrest. But these fighting fools don’t know when to call it a night. Girl Two goes back to Girl One’s place to restart the fight. Girl One goes to the street to fight.
Later that day, the two minors again engaged in an altercation outside the first minor’s residence. The officer arrested both for Failure to Comply with the earlier orders.
Well now they should get locked up. Still seems like good policing. This officer chooses “Failure to Obey.” Maybe a bad choice of charges, since you can't order somebody to stay in their house. But so what? Call it disorderly conduct or loitering or a minor assault or loitering. It doesn’t matter because these charges are going to get dropped regardless. The arrest is the punishment. But the report makes the officer’s actions seem downright sinister: “The officer’s arrest of the two minors for Failure to Comply without probable cause of all elements of the offense violated the Fourth Amendment.”

So the cop should have charged the girls with something more serious? Or charge their mother's with neglect? Or is the answer is to just let them fight it out until you can get them for felony assault? I don’t like this emphasis on procedural justice (also seen on the Presidential Report) as somehow more important than moral justice. The two sometimes conflict. And I'd prefer to go with what is right that the letter of the law. (Often the law demands you lock somebody up when morally it's the wrong thing to do.)

Later the report criticizes an officer, who, in a similar case of fighting girls, is too quick to make an arrest. Two 15-year-old girls are fighting in class. School staff separate the girls in a hallway. An officer shows up and tells the girls to walk to the principal’s office. Instead, one girl rushes the other girl, "trying to push past staff toward the other girl. The officer pushed her backward toward a row of lockers and then announced that she was under arrest for Failure to Comply." Seems fair enough. She restarted a fight and had to be physically restrained, which is no small deal. What if she keeps charging the other girl? When is it OK to arrest somebody? The report doesn't answer that.

A third officer is criticized for arresting a person who, after being free to go, decides not to leave the scene of his (very minor) crime, and instead responds to the officer:
with profanities. When the officer told him to watch his language and reminded him that he was not being arrested, the man continued using profanity and was arrested for Manner of Walking in Roadway.
The DOJ blames the officer for "Retaliating against individuals for using language that, while disrespectful, is protected by the Constitution."

Say what? If I exercise discretion and don’t arrest you, and then you then thank me by getting in my face and saying, "fuck you," of course I'm going to lock you up. Don't believe me? Next time a cop pulls you over and gives you a warning instead of a ticket (which doesn't happen in Ferguson) and says "drive safe and have a nice day" say "fuck you" instead of "thank you" and see what happens. Cops can legally change their mind. (The legally dubious arrest is for saying "fuck you" when you’re not committing another crime.)

So the report blames one officer for telling fighting girls to go home, another officer for not doing so, and a third for a discretionary arrest. One might conclude that the best policing in no policing.

The report also criticizes cops for using a statute (§ 29-19) that is "likely unconstitutionally." Well thank you for your legal interpretation, Mr. I-haz-graduated-from-law-school. But until the courts actually say otherwise, cops can use the laws that are on the books.

Another curious assertion in the report (citing Brown v. City of Golden Valley and Mattos v. Agarano) is the claim that police cannot use tasers against minor criminals in non-threatening non-compliance situations. I hope this is true, but I don't think it is. I know the courts have been chipping back at wanton taser use. But is the DOJ correct here in this report? What is the law of the land on this matter?

All that said -- even if one doesn't accept some/many/all of the criticisms of the police presented -- this Ferguson report is still a shocking indictment what is business as usual (emphasis on business) in Ferguson.

DOJ on Michael Brown Shooting: Justified

So many reports. So little time.

First the easy one: the DOJ report on Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown. The press seems more interested in the other DOJ report, the one that reams the whole criminal justice system in Ferguson a new one (more on that, later). But what about Darren Wilson and Michael Brown: the shooting that started it all.

This DOJ report really is a complete vindicate of Police Officer Wilson. 100 percent. And you can't really say that this is some racist white-wash from Eric Holder’s rah-rah pro-police Department of Justice.

Now you may say the protests were about so much more. OK. You may say that Ferguson Police overreacted with too much force against protests. Sure. I agree. None of that means Ferguson isn’t a fucked-up place, racially and institutionally. And maybe it's good that now we know about the business of racial injustice in Ferguson (that's the other report).

But let's not change the subject. Darren Wilson was legally and morally justified in shooting Michael Brown. The whole "shot while surrendering" part? It simply did not t happen. To say otherwise approaches the wacky level of Creationists, climate-change deniers, and the anti-vaccine camp.

After I read the grand jury testimony, I was convinced: Darren Wilson's version rings true. The DOJ agrees. If you don't believe me, read the whole report. But the bottom line is this:
The evidence, when viewed as a whole, does not support the conclusion that Wilson's uses of deadly force were 'objectively unreasonable' under the Supreme Court's definition. Accordingly... it is not appropriate to present this matter to a federal grand jury for indictment, and it should therefore be closed without prosecution.
The end. Now that might not sound like huge statement in support of Officer Wilson. But the devil is in the details. The purpose of this report was not to exonerate Darren Wilson but to see if there was any reason to charge him federally. There isn't. But the details of the DOJ's report, based on all the evidence, presents a pretty unambiguous picture:
Brown stole several packages of cigarillos. ... An FPD dispatch call went out over the police radio for a "stealing in progress." Wilson was aware of the theft and had a description of the suspects as he encountered Brown.
...
Wilson ... told the two men to walk on the sidewalk.... Wilson then called for backup, stating, "Put me on Canfield with two and send me another car." Wilson backed up his SUV.... stopping Brown and [Dorian Johnson] from walking any further. Wilson attempted to open the driver's door of the SUV to exit his vehicle, but as he swung it open, the door came into contact with Brown's body and either rebounded closed or Brown pushed it closed.

Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown then reached into the SUV through the
open driver's window and punched and grabbed Wilson. This is corroborated by bruising on Wilson's jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson's collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson's DNA on Brown’s palm.
...
Brown then grabbed the weapon and struggled with Wilson to gain control of it. Wilson fired, striking Brown in the hand.... Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson's gun.... Brown's hand was within inches of the muzzle of Wilson's gun when it was fired. The location of the recovered bullet in the side panel of the driver's door... also corroborates Wilson's account.
...
There is no credible evidence to disprove Wilson's account of what occurred inside the SUV.
...
The autopsy results confirm that Wilson did not shoot Brown in the back as he was running away.
...
Brown ran at least 180 feet away from the SUV.... Brown then turned around and came back toward Wilson, falling to his death approximately 21.6 feet west of the blood in the roadway.
...
Several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson.... Wilson fired at Brown in what appeared to be self-defense and stopped firing once Brown fell to the ground.
...
While credible witnesses gave varying accounts of exactly what Brown was doing with his hands as he moved toward Wilson ... they all establish that Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson shot him.
As to witnesses who say contract these facts:
As detailed throughout this report, some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witness’s own prior statements with no explanation, credible for otherwise, as to why those accounts changed over time. Certain other witnesses who originally stated Brown had his hands up in surrender recanted their original accounts, admitting that they did not witness the shooting or parts of it, despite what they initially reported either to federal or local law enforcement or to the media.
That's it. So you can keep whatever world view you want. [I am the only person on the Venn Diagram who was convinced that George Zimmerman was guilty and Darren Wilson was innocent?] If you thought Michael Brown was executed in cold blood by a racist cop, you were misinformed about the facts. Now you should change your opinion.

[In an otherwise informative piece, Ta-Nahasi Coates admits Wilson's innocence as charged but says, "Darren Wilson is not the first gang member to be publicly accused of a crime he did not commit." Oh, snap. But Wilson may be the first innocent person in the 21st century to inspire mass public protests assured of his guilt.]

What about Police Officer Darren Wilson? The mob of public opinion declares him guilty. As far as I know he's still in hiding. He's innocent. Is he really an agent of a criminal operation? Or does he get his life and job back?

March 5, 2015

"Frozen Wieners"

I know there's probably more important police stuff to write about, but I can't stand when cops get in the jackpot for joking. A NJ cops is getting heat for making jokes about a dead dog. It's in the Daily News. It shouldn't be. The only story is about an idiot, Andrew Mayer, who "was spinning doughnuts on the frozen river when the ice shattered and his vehicle sank." Mayer is being charged with criminal mischief and reckless driving. His dog went down with his pickup truck, which currently rests at the bottom of the Toms River.

So an off-duty cop writes on with "private social media page": "Truck plunging through ice with a dog inside brings a whole new meaning to FROZEN WEINER or DIRTY WATER DOG." "Why didn't the dog do the Doggie Paddle." "Was his favorite movie Dog Day Afternoon."

To that perhaps I can add:
Too bad there wasn't a horse in the bed of the pickup truck. Then it would have been a real dog and pony show.

Was he an old dog? Getting out of the truck is a new trick.

I bet the driver is going to miss the dog days of summer.
My point isn't whether these are funny or not. I don't give a damn. My point is that it's perfectly all right for a cop (or anybody) to make dog jokes when an idiot gets his dog killed like that (I guess the owner is now in the dog house). Not only is it all right, it's essential for mental health.

Now I don't know if this cop is going to trouble. I doubt it. But this is a fine time for some higher ranking police officers to come to his (and all police officers') defense to point out it's perfectly all right for cops to make jokes about what they see on their job. And there's nothing wrong with a cop cracking wise on facebook.

Christ, if you see routinely see human death on the job, are you supposed to break down a weep over a dead dog? (Though many cops do shed tears more quickly for innocent dogs than guilty people, which I always found interesting.) When you're a cop, of course you joke about dead dogs. You joke about dead people. You joke about everything. You don't joke because you don't care (even if you don't).

You joke because empathy isn't always a healthy or professional way of dealing with other people's shitty situations. You joke to stay sane. You joke because joking is how you pass time. You joke in deadpan to get your partner to crack up at inappropriate situations. You joke because laughter is good for the soul. Now perhaps maybe you shouldn't make jokes at a crime scene in earshot of the victim's family. That's professionalism. But out of earshot? In private? Let the best crack win. Let every dog has its day.

[Here are my other posts on Cop Humor. I say much the same thing... but the jokes are different!]

March 3, 2015

President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing (1)

Here are the "recommendations" and "action items" from the Interim Report. (I guess the "action items" are how to go about achieving the "recommendations"? I'm not sure.)

I've removed all the other text and explanations. Just trying to boil this down to its essence. The whole report is here.

Once I digest this I'll have a few things to say. Maybe I'll categorize these into "good ideas that can happen," "good ideas that won't happy," "bad ideas that shouldn't happen," and "yeah, sure, whatever."

0.1 OVERARCHING RECOMMENDATION: The President should support and provide funding for the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force to review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system for the purpose of making recommendations to the country on comprehensive criminal justice reform.
0.2 OVERARCHING RECOMMENDATION: The President should promote programs that take a comprehensive and inclusive look at community based initiatives that address the core issues of poverty, education, health, and safety.

Pillar One: Building Trust & Legitimacy
Procedurally just behavior is based on four central principles:
1. Treating people with dignity and respect
2. Giving individuals ‘voice’ during encounters
3. Being neutral and transparent in decision making
4. Conveying trustworthy motives
1.1 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy. Toward that end, police and sheriffs’ departments should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with the citizens they serve.
1.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.
1.2.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should develop and disseminate case studies that provide examples where past injustices were publicly acknowledged by law enforcement agencies in a manner to help build community trust.
1.3 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy. This will help ensure decision making is understood and in accord with stated policy.
1.3.1 ACTION ITEM: To embrace a culture of transparency, law enforcement agencies should make all department policies available for public review and regularly post on the department’s website information about stops, summonses, arrests, reported crime, and other law enforcement data aggregated by demographics.
1.3.2 ACTION ITEM: When serious incidents occur, including those involving alleged police misconduct, agencies should communicate with citizens and the media swiftly, openly, and neutrally, respecting areas where the law requires confidentiality. p11
1.4 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should promote legitimacy internally within the organization by applying the principles of procedural justice.
1.4.1 ACTION ITEM: In order to achieve internal legitimacy, law enforcement agencies should involve employees in the process of developing policies and procedures.
1.4.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agency leadership should examine opportunities to incorporate procedural justice into the internal discipline process, placing additional importance on values adherence rather than adherence to rules. Union leadership should be partners in this process.
1.5 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should proactively promote public trust by initiating positive nonenforcement activities to engage communities that typically have high rates of investigative and enforcement involvement with government agencies.
1.5.1 ACTION ITEM: In order to achieve external legitimacy, law enforcement agencies should involve the community in the process of developing and evaluating policies and procedures.
1.5.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should institute residency incentive programs such as Resident Officer Programs.
1.5.3 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should create opportunities in schools and communities for positive, nonenforcement interactions with police. Agencies should also publicize the beneficial outcomes and images of positive, trust-building partnerships and initiatives.
1.6 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should consider the potential damage to public trust when implementing crime fighting strategies.
1.6.1 ACTION ITEM: Research conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of crime fighting strategies should specifically look at the potential for collateral damage of any given strategy on community trust and legitimacy.
1.7 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should track the level of trust in police by their communities just as they measure changes in crime. Annual community surveys, ideally standardized across jurisdictions and with accepted sampling protocols, can measure how policing in that community affects public trust.
1.7.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should develop survey tools and instructions for use of such a model to prevent local departments from incurring the expense and to allow for consistency across jurisdictions.
1.8 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should strive to create a workforce that contains a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities.
1.8.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a Law Enforcement Diversity Initiative designed to help communities diversify law enforcement departments to reflect the demographics of the community.
1.8.2 ACTION ITEM: The department overseeing this initiative should help localities learn best practices for recruitment, training, and outreach to improve the diversity as well as the cultural and linguistic responsiveness of law enforcement agencies.
1.8.3 ACTION ITEM: Successful law enforcement agencies should be highlighted and celebrated and those with less diversity should be offered technical assistance to facilitate change.
1.8.4 ACTION ITEM: Discretionary federal funding for law enforcement programs could be influenced by that department’s efforts to improve their diversity and cultural and linguistic responsiveness.
1.8.5 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to explore more flexible staffing models.
1.9 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should build relationships based on trust with immigrant communities. This is central to overall public safety.
1.9.1 ACTION ITEM: Decouple federal immigration enforcement from routine local policing for civil enforcement and nonserious crime.
1.9.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should ensure reasonable and equitable language access for all persons who have encounters with police or who enter the criminal justice system.27
1.9.3 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should remove civil immigration information from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.

Pillar Two: Policy & Oversight
2.1 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should collaborate with community members to develop policies and strategies in communities and neighborhoods disproportionately affected by crime for deploying resources that aim to reduce crime by improving relationships, greater community engagement, and cooperation.
2.1.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should incentivize this collaboration through a variety of programs that focus on public health, education, mental health, and other programs not traditionally part of the criminal justice system.
2.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should have comprehensive policies on the use of force that include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing. These policies must be clear, concise, and openly available for public inspection.
2.2.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate.
2.2.2 ACTION ITEM: These policies should also mandate external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.
2.2.3 ACTION ITEM: The task force encourages policies that mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.
2.2.4 ACTION ITEM: Policies on use of force should also require agencies to collect, maintain, and report data to the Federal Government on all officer-involved shootings, whether fatal or nonfatal, as well as any in-custody death.
2.2.5 ACTION ITEM: Policies on use of force should clearly state what types of information will be released, when, and in what situation, to maintain transparency.
2.2.6 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should establish a Serious Incident Review Board comprising sworn staff and community members to review cases involving officer involved shootings and other serious incidents that have the potential to damage community trust or confidence in the agency. The purpose of this board should be to identify any administrative, supervisory, training, tactical, or policy issues that need to be addressed.
2.3 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to implement nonpunitive peer review of critical incidents separate from criminal and administrative investigations.
2.4 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to adopt identification procedures that implement scientifically supported practices that eliminate or minimize presenter bias or influence.
2.5 RECOMMENDATION: All federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies should report and make available to the public census data regarding the composition of their departments including race, gender, age, and other relevant demographic data.
2.5.1 ACTION ITEM: The Bureau of Justice Statistics should add additional demographic questions to the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey in order to meet the intent of this recommendation.
2.6 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to collect, maintain, and analyze demographic data on all detentions (stops, frisks, searches, summons, and arrests). This data should be disaggregated by school and non-school contacts.
2.6.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government could further incentivize universities and other organizations to partner with police departments to collect data and develop knowledge about analysis and benchmarks as well as to develop tools and templates that help departments manage data collection and analysis.
2.7 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should create policies and procedures for policing mass demonstrations that employ a continuum of managed tactical resources that are designed to minimize the appearance of a military operation and avoid using provocative tactics and equipment that undermine civilian trust.
2.7.1. ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agency policies should address procedures for implementing a layered response to mass demonstrations that prioritize de-escalation and a guardian mindset.
2.7.2 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a mechanism for investigating complaints and issuing sanctions regarding the inappropriate use of equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations.
2.8 RECOMMENDATION: Some form of civilian oversight of law enforcement is important in order to strengthen trust with the community. Every community should define the appropriate form and structure of civilian oversight to meet the needs of that community.
2.8.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice, through its research arm, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), should expand its research agenda to include civilian oversight.
2.8.2 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) should provide technical assistance and collect best practices from existing civilian oversight efforts and be prepared to help cities create this structure, potentially with some matching grants and funding.
2.9 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies and municipalities should refrain from practices requiring officers to issue a predetermined number of tickets, citations, arrests, or summonses, or to initiate investigative contacts with citizens for reasons not directly related to improving public safety, such as generating revenue.
2.10 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement officers should be required to seek consent before a search and explain that a person has the right to refuse consent when there is no warrant or probable cause. Furthermore, officers should ideally obtain written acknowledgement that they have sought consent to a search in these circumstances.
2.11 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should establish search and seizure procedures related to LGBTQ and transgender populations and adopt as policy the recommendation from the President’s HIV/AIDS Task Force to cease using the possession of condoms as the sole evidence of vice.
2.12 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should adopt and enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation, and/or language fluency.
2.12.1 ACTION ITEM: The Bureau of Justice Statistics should add questions concerning sexual harassment of and misconduct toward LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people by law enforcement officers to the Police Public Contact Survey.
2.12.2 ACTION ITEM: The Centers for Disease Control should add questions concerning sexual harassment of and misconduct toward LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people by law enforcement officers to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
2.12.3 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should promote and disseminate guidance to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on documenting, preventing, and addressing sexual harassment and misconduct by local law enforcement agents, consistent with the recommendations of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.47
2.13 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and Office of Justice Programs, should provide technical assistance and incentive funding to jurisdictions with small police agencies that take steps towards shared services, regional training, and consolidation.
2.14 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, should partner with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) to expand its National Decertification Index to serve as the National Register of Decertified Officers with the goal of covering all agencies within the United States and its territories.

Pillar Three: Technology & Social Media
3.1 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice, in consultation with the law enforcement field, should broaden the efforts of the National Institute of Justice to establish national standards for the research and development of new technology. These standards should also address compatibility and interoperability needs both within law enforcement agencies and across agencies and jurisdictions and maintain civil and human rights protections.
3.1.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should support the development and delivery of training to help law enforcement agencies learn, acquire, and implement technology tools and tactics that are consistent with the best practices of 21st century policing.
3.1.2 ACTION ITEM: As part of national standards, the issue of technology’s impact on privacy concerns should be addressed in accordance with protections provided by constitutional law.
3.1.3 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should deploy smart technology that is designed to prevent the tampering with or manipulating of evidence in violation of policy.
3.2 RECOMMENDATION: The implementation of appropriate technology by law enforcement agencies should be designed considering local needs and aligned with national standards.
3.2.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should encourage public engagement and collaboration, including the use of community advisory bodies, when developing a policy for the use of a new technology.
3.2.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should include an evaluation or assessment process to gauge the effectiveness of any new technology, soliciting input from all levels of the agency, from line officer to leadership, as well as assessment from members of the community.61
3.2.3. ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should adopt the use of new technologies that will help them better serve people with special needs or disabilities.
3.3 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should develop best practices that can be adopted by state legislative bodies to govern the acquisition, use, retention, and dissemination of auditory, visual, and biometric data by law enforcement.
3.3.1 ACTION ITEM: As part of the process for developing best practices, the U.S. Department of Justice should consult with civil rights and civil liberties organizations, as well as law enforcement research groups and other experts, concerning the constitutional issues that can arise as a result of the use of new technologies.
3.3.2 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should create toolkits for the most effective and constitutional use of multiple forms of innovative technology that will provide state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with a one-stop clearinghouse of information and resources.
3.3.3. ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should review and consider the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Body Worn Camera Toolkit to assist in implementing BWCs.
3.4 RECOMMENDATION: Federal, state, local, and tribal legislative bodies should be encouraged to update public record laws.
3.5 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should adopt model policies and best practices for technology-based community engagement that increases community trust and access.
3.6 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should support the development of new “less than lethal” technology to help control combative suspects.
3.6.1 ACTION ITEM: Relevant federal agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Defense and Justice, should expand their efforts to study the development and use of new less than lethal technologies and evaluate their impact on public safety, reducing lethal violence against citizens, Constitutionality, and officer safety.
3.7 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should make the development and building of segregated radio spectrum and increased bandwidth by FirstNet for exclusive use by local, state, tribal, and federal public safety agencies a top priority.

Pillar Four: Community Policing & Crime Reduction
4.1 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should develop and adopt policies and strategies that reinforce the importance of community engagement in managing public safety.
4.1.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should consider adopting preferences for seeking “least harm” resolutions, such as diversion programs or warnings and citations in lieu of arrest for minor infractions.
4.2 RECOMMENDATION: Community policing should be infused throughout the culture and organizational structure of law enforcement agencies.
4.2.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should evaluate officers on their efforts to engage members of the community and the partnerships they build. Making this part of the performance evaluation process places an increased value on developing partnerships.
4.2.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should evaluate their patrol deployment practices to allow sufficient time for patrol officers to participate in problem solving and community engagement activities.
4.2.3 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice and other public and private entities should support research into the factors that have led to dramatic successes in crime reduction in some communities through the infusion of non-discriminatory policing and to determine replicable factors that could be used to guide law enforcement agencies in other communities.
4.3 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should engage in multidisciplinary, community team approaches for planning, implementing, and responding to crisis situations with complex causal factors.
4.3.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should collaborate with others to develop and disseminate baseline models of this crisis intervention team approach that can be adapted to local contexts.
4.3.3 ACTION ITEM: Communities should look to involve peer support counselors as part of multidisciplinary teams when appropriate. Persons who have experienced the same trauma can provide both insight to the first responders and immediate support to individuals in crisis.
4.3.4 ACTION ITEM: Communities should be encouraged to evaluate the efficacy of these crisis intervention team approaches and hold agency leaders accountable for outcomes.
4.4 RECOMMENDATION: Communities should support a culture and practice of policing that reflects the values of protection and promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable.
4.4.1 ACTION ITEM: Because offensive or harsh language can escalate a minor situation, law enforcement agencies should underscore the importance of language used and adopt policies directing officers to speak to individuals with respect.
4.4.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should develop programs that create opportunities for patrol officers to regularly interact with neighborhood residents, faith leaders, and business leaders.
4.5 RECOMMENDATION: Community policing emphasizes working with neighborhood residents to co-produce public safety. Law enforcement agencies should work with community residents to identify problems and collaborate on implementing solutions that produce meaningful results for the community.
4.5.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should schedule regular forums and meetings where all community members can interact with police and help influence programs and policy.
4.5.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should engage youth and communities in joint training with law enforcement, citizen academies, ride-alongs, problem solving teams, community action teams, and quality of life teams.
4.5.3. ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should establish formal community/citizen advisory committees to assist in developing crime prevention strategies and agency policies as well as provide input on policing issues.
4.5.4 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should adopt community policing strategies that support and work in concert with economic development efforts within communities.
4.6 RECOMMENDATION: Communities should adopt policies and programs that address the needs of children and youth most at risk for crime or violence and reduce aggressive law enforcement tactics that stigmatize youth and marginalize their participation in schools and communities.
4.6.1 ACTION ITEM: Education and criminal justice agencies at all levels of government should work together to reform policies and procedures that push children into the juvenile justice system.85
4.6.2 ACTION ITEM: In order to keep youth in school and to keep them from criminal and violent behavior, law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the creation of alternatives to student suspensions and expulsion through restorative justice, diversion, counseling, and family interventions.
4.6.3 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to encourage the use of alternative strategies that involve youth in decision making, such as restorative justice, youth courts, and peer interventions.
4.6.4 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to adopt an instructional approach to discipline that uses interventions or disciplinary consequences to help students develop new behavior skills and positive strategies to avoid conflict, redirect energy, and refocus on learning.
4.6.5 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to develop and monitor school discipline policies with input and collaboration from school personnel, students, families, and community members. These policies should prohibit the use of corporal punishment and electronic control devices.
4.6.6 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should work with schools to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences for addressing ongoing and escalating student misbehavior after all appropriate interventions have been attempted.
4.6.7 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should work with communities to play a role in programs and procedures to reintegrate juveniles back into their communities as they leave the juvenile justice system.
4.6.8 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies and schools should establish memoranda of agreement for the placement of School Resource Officers that limit police involvement in student discipline.
4.6.9 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should assess and evaluate zero tolerance strategies and examine the role of reasonable discretion when dealing with adolescents in consideration of their stages of maturation or development.
4.7 RECOMMENDATION: Communities need to affirm and recognize the voices of youth in community decision making, facilitate youth-led research and problem solving, and develop and fund youth leadership training and life skills through positive youth/police collaboration and interactions.
4.7.1 ACTION ITEM: Communities and law enforcement agencies should restore and build trust between youth and police by creating programs and projects for positive, consistent, and persistent interaction between youth and police.
4.7.2 ACTION ITEM: Communities should develop community- and school-based evidence-based programs that mitigate punitive and authoritarian solutions to teen problems.

Pillar Five: Training & Education
5.1 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should support the development of partnerships with training facilities across the country to promote consistent standards for high quality training and establish training innovation hubs.
5.1.1 ACTION ITEM: The training innovation hubs should develop replicable model programs that use adult-based learning and scenario based training in a training environment modeled less like boot camp. Through these programs the hubs would influence nationwide curricula, as well as instructional methodology.
5.1.2 ACTION ITEM: The training innovation hubs should establish partnerships with academic institutions to develop rigorous training practices, evaluation, and the development of curricula based on evidence-based practices.
5.1.3 ACTION ITEM: The Department of Justice should build a stronger relationship with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement (IADLEST) in order to leverage their network with state boards and commissions of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
5.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should engage community members in the training process.
5.2.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should conduct research to develop and disseminate a toolkit on how law enforcement agencies and training programs can integrate community members into this training process.
5.3 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should provide leadership training to all personnel throughout their careers.
5.3.1 ACTION ITEM: Recognizing that strong, capable leadership is required to create cultural transformation, the U.S. Department of Justice should invest in developing learning goals and model curricula/training for each level of leadership.
5.3.2 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should encourage and support partnerships between law enforcement and academic institutions to support a culture that values ongoing education and the integration of current research into the development of training, policies, and practices.
5.3.3 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should support and encourage cross-discipline leadership training.
5.4 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should develop, in partnership with institutions of higher education, a national postgraduate institute of policing for senior executives with a standardized curriculum preparing them to lead agencies in the 21st century.
5.5 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should instruct the Federal Bureau of Investigation to modify the curriculum of the National Academy at Quantico to include prominent coverage of the topical areas addressed in this report. In addition, the COPS Office and the Office of Justice Programs should work with law enforcement professional organizations to encourage modification of their curricula in a similar fashion.95
5.6 RECOMMENDATION: POSTs should make Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) a part of both basic recruit and in-service officer training.
5.6.1 ACTION ITEM: Because of the importance of this issue, Congress should appropriate funds to help support law enforcement crisis intervention training.
5.7 RECOMMENDATION: POSTs should ensure that basic officer training includes lessons to improve social interaction as well as tactical skills.
5.8 RECOMMENDATION: POSTs should ensure that basic recruit and in-service officer training include curriculum on the disease of addiction.
5.9 RECOMMENDATION: POSTs should ensure both basic recruit and in-service training incorporates content around recognizing and confronting implicit bias and cultural responsiveness.
5.9.1 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should implement ongoing, top down training for all officers in cultural diversity and related topics that can build trust and legitimacy in diverse communities. This should be accomplished with the assistance of advocacy groups that represent the viewpoints of communities that have traditionally had adversarial relationships with law enforcement.
5.9.2 ACTION ITEM: Law enforcement agencies should implement training for officers that covers policies for interactions with the LGBTQ population, including issues such as determining gender identity for arrest placement, the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, and immigrant or non-English speaking groups, as well as reinforcing policies for the prevention of sexual misconduct and harassment.
5.10 RECOMMENDATION: POSTs should require both basic recruit and in-service training on policing in a democratic society.
5.11 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government, as well as state and local agencies, should encourage and incentivize higher education for law enforcement officers.
5.11.1 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should create a loan repayment and forgiveness incentive program specifically for policing.
5.12 RECOMMENDATION: The Federal Government should support research into the development of technology that enhances scenario based training, social interaction skills, and enables the dissemination of interactive distance learning for law enforcement.
5.13 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should support the development and implementation of improved Field Training Officer programs.
5.13.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should support the development of broad Field Training Program standards and training strategies that address changing police culture and organizational procedural justice issues that agencies can adopt and customize to local needs.
5.13.2 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should provide funding to incentivize agencies to update their Field Training Programs in accordance with the new standards.

Pillar Six: Officer Wellness & Safety
6.1 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should enhance and further promote its multi-faceted officer safety and wellness initiative.
6.1.1 ACTION ITEM: Congress should establish and fund a national “Blue Alert” warning system.
6.1.2 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, should establish a task force to study mental health issues unique to officers and recommend tailored treatments.
6.1.3 ACTION ITEM: The Federal Government should support the continuing research into the efficacy of an annual mental health check for officers, as well as fitness, resilience, and nutrition.
6.1.4. ACTION ITEM: Pension plans should recognize fitness for duty examinations as definitive evidence of valid duty or non-duty related disability.
6.1.5 ACTION ITEM: Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) should be provided to survivors of officers killed while working, regardless of whether the officer used safety equipment (seatbelt or anti-ballistic vest) or if officer death was the result of suicide attributed to a current diagnosis of duty-related mental illness, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
6.2 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should promote safety and wellness at every level of the organization.
6.2.1 ACTION ITEM: Though the Federal Government can support many of the programs and best practices identified by the U.S. Department of Justice initiative described in recommendation 6.1, the ultimate responsibility lies with each agency.
6.3 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should encourage and assist departments in the implementation of scientifically supported shift lengths by law enforcement.
6.3.1 ACTION ITEM: The U.S. Department of Justice should fund additional research into the efficacy of limiting the total number of hours an officer should work within a 24–48 hour period, including special findings on the maximum number of hours an officer should work in a high risk or high stress environment (e.g., public demonstrations or emergency situations).
6.4 RECOMMENDATION: Every law enforcement officer should be provided with individual tactical first aid kits and training as well as anti-ballistic vests.
6.4.1 ACTION ITEM: Congress should authorize funding for the distribution of law enforcement individual tactical first-aid kits.
6.4.2 ACTION ITEM: Congress should reauthorize and expand the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program.
6.5 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should expand efforts to collect and analyze data not only on officer deaths but also on injuries and “near misses.”
6.6 RECOMMENDATION: Law enforcement agencies should adopt policies that require officers to wear seat belts and bullet-proof vests and provide training to raise awareness of the consequences of failure to do so.
6.7 RECOMMENDATION: Congress should develop and enact peer review error management legislation.
6.8 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Transportation should provide technical assistance opportunities for departments to explore the use of vehicles equipped with vehicle collision prevention “smart car” technology that will reduce the number of accidents.

Implementation
7.1 RECOMMENDATION: The President should direct all federal law enforcement agencies to review the recommendations made by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and, to the extent practicable, to adopt those that can be implemented at the federal level.
7.2 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should explore public-private partnership opportunities, starting by convening a meeting with local, regional, and national foundations to discuss the proposals for reform described in this report and seeking their engagement and support in advancing implementation of these recommendations.
7.3 RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Department of Justice should charge its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) with assisting the law enforcement field in addressing current and future challenges.

March 2, 2015

The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing

It's out. You can download the 115 page PDF here. I haven't read it yet. I'd be happy to hear any comments from those have about what in it is relevant/important/surprising.

If only our cities were more like Amsterdam!

This comes from the The Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C.:
Initiative 71 became law today, legalizing marijuana in Washington, D.C. under certain circumstances. Mayor Muriel Bowser said this week that the District will not become "like Amsterdam," as though being "like Amsterdam" would be a bad thing. City Hall even refers to Amsterdam in their official Q&A. To give the people of Washington, D.C. an educated view of how D.C. compares to Amsterdam, the Netherlands Embassy in Washington offers this Q&A about Dutch marijuana laws and policies and an infographic.
Click through for the Q & A. Here's the infographic. It's odd, our American tendency, to take something that works well enough in other countries -- be it drug policy or health care -- and simple assert that it's a horrible system best avoided.

Policing in California, post Prop. 47

Being in NYC, I miss a lot of what happens west of the Mississippi (and sometimes even west of the Hudson). So I haven’t really been following California’s Proposition 47.

Recently I posted about a minor increase in property crime in LA, which was both news to me and made intuitive sense. Sure, it sounds logical to focus law enforcement on drug dealers rather than drug addicts. And who can be against "treatment" (whatever that means). But a block full of east coast heroin junkies or west coast meth heads is not a good block.

Very much in the spirit of Broken Windows, police need to maintain order. And the threat of arrest is key. It's not that you can or should arrest every drug addict, but sometimes somebody needs to spend a night in jail. I couldn't easily build drug distribution cases for prosecution, but if I guy wouldn't close up shop when asked repeatedly, I could use my discretionary power to make a street-corner drug dealer spend a night in jail. On paper it was just a bullshit small-scale drug possession arrest. But the actual crime was more serious.

Or take stolen goods. One could argue, for instance, that possession of a few scavenged copper pipes or wires isn't that big of a deal. But that drug-addict "recycler" is systematically destroying the housing stock of an entire neighborhood. The odds that somebody in possession of stolen goods is doing it for the first and last time is pretty slim. So the hammer of punishment may need to be disproportionate to the individual crime.

In general, I support any attempt to reduce our prison population and also to move towards a more rational and less criminal drug policy. Prop 47 was supposed to do that. I probably would have voted for it. And it may work in the end. But there are problems now. And it certainly is in the best interests of those who advocate for drug and prison reform to follow through and fix what is broken. Without focusing on behavior and drug distribution, simply decriminalizing hard-drug possession can be the worst of all possible worlds. (I'm reminded of how Kurt Schmoke set the logical policy of "harm reduction" back by a decade with a failed attempt at "drug decriminalization" in 1990s Baltimore.)

So what's going on in California? I asked a cop friend out west about the impact of Prop. 47 on policing. His reply is very insightful:
I do think there has been a noticeable change in terms of diminished felony arrests, although the long-ranging impact of prop 47 may be more problematic. While it may have been structured to simply reduce penalties in order to alleviate prison crowding, I think there will be a negative outcome in terms of how low-level crimes affect communities.

Basically, I don’t think the public realized the full extent of property and theft crimes which they were voting to essentially decriminalize. For instance, felony "wobblers" such as forgery and fraud where the values don’t exceed $950 have been dropped to misdemeanors, as well as shoplifting or theft charges where the values of the stolen property don’t exceed $950.

If I’m not mistaken, possession of any controlled substance (for personal use) is now a misdemeanor. For me I see a problematic thread, in that where I work (and live) there is a distinct nexus between methamphetamine use, and theft, and particularly multiple incidents of forgery and check fraud. There is a distinct link between methamphetamine use and theft -- at least from what I have observed where I work.

And I deal with a lot of "speeders" (for lack of a better word) who, if taken into custody, typically have a ton of stolen property in their possession, a violation which has also been dropped down to a misdemeanor. There is a factual interrelation between methamphetamine and organized theft rings in the area I work, and I just don’t think these people are going to show up for court dates on citations. I think they will continue doing what they are doing, which is ripping people off over and over as opportunities arise.

I do not think that all drugs are the same, and I am a big believer in rehabilitation, but methamphetamine wreaks exponential havoc on people who use it. I haven’t seen too many meth users successfully "bounce back" from meth addiction -- and I have seen a lot of extremely damaged people, spiritually eviscerated by this drug, who are now zombies, lurching through town, resorting to scrappy thefts and break-ins and strange, convoluted schemes of identity theft (which are HARD to investigate and prove) and which often involve elements of forgery and fraud.

There are lots of victims of these property crimes who are very disheartened when they get ripped off -- it is a big deal for them. On a more practical note, Merchants (often small businesses) cannot believe I just "cite and release" the people who steal hundreds of dollars of worth of merchandise from their stores. I should also clarify that people who are arrested for most "misdemeanors" are typically issued a citation and are released at the scene (with proper ID), but it requires a felony charge or outstanding warrants for a suspect to go to jail. Receiving a paper citation and being released at the scene does not seem to have the same "heft" as sitting behind bars (usually for a few hours or a day or night) before you see a judge.

While this may seem simplistic, I do think that jail, in the most basic sense, can be an effective "time out" for folks who have actually been "bad." I don’t mean to sound reductive, but I do feel it’s beneficial for criminals to face an immediate consequence for some of the nasty stuff they do, so they will at least consider that they should stop doing it. At the very least, getting booked, losing some personal freedom, and spending some time behind bars is an immediate consequence for wrong-doing.

I do see that prop 47 does essentially "streamline" the process of arraignments and preliminary hearings, in that the DA usually drops a lot of felonies to misdemeanors anyway, BUT I still don’t think that voters realized what they were voting for.

I also feel if they are going to reduce penalties for all drugs, it would be beneficial to beef up various resources and rehab services for people who are struggling with their addictions. The transient population I deal with struggles with many substance issues, and I don’t judge them for their coping strategies, but I would posit that their addictions are not "helping" them out of despair, but further manifesting it. There are a LOT of people who go to jail, maybe for petty stuff, who spend a little time indoors and out of their routines of self-destruction, whose lives are actually saved and possibly extended because of the forced "time-outs."

I am not saying that jail time is a vacation or that it is a permanent corrective measure, but I do think it has some rehabilitative value. I am open-minded but I don’t think prop 47 is a good model.

February 27, 2015

We Got Another Kingpin! (15)

It's amazing there are any drug kingpins left since we've gotten so many of them.

It seems there was one last to get: "La Tuta." Now he's history. (I'm a bit disappointed in the monicker. "The teacher" is a pretty lame nickname by drug lord standards, I have to say. We may not be running out of kingpins, but they may be running out of good nicknames.)

"The most wanted drug lord in the country," according to the NYT.

I guess Mexico is now safe. Surely this marks the end of the drug war. What a relief.

Fight Police Brutality

No point here. I just like old pictures. From Shorpy.com.

Caption:
Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "Protesters" is all it says on the caption card for this National Photo glass negative showing what seems to be a meeting of the "Communist Party Young Communist League."

Body Cams and the mean streats of Basingstoke

The BBC has a short (2 min) and surprisingly informative clip on body cameras. But the real reason I'm posting this is because this attack on a police officer took place in Basingstoke, England. Now you may know Basingstoke for its roundabouts (traffic circles)... actually you probably have never heard of Basingstoke. And that's OK. But I know Basingstoke because the wonderful people of the Hampshire Constabulary let me walk and bike around with them in the fall (autumn) of 2011. I was at Bramshill, the National Policing College. Good times. (Bramshill was recently and shamefully sold to save money.)

Sgt. Kerry Lawrence was attacked last July. According to the BBC, she has since resumed full duties. I wish her the best.

For what it's worth, I remember asking a police officer in Hampshire, "when was the last time a Hampshire officer was killed on duty?" Whomever I asked pondered for a moment (and asked if car crashes counted. I said no) and then, taking a sip from his cuppa, replied, "I don't think ever." That is pretty typical for over there. It's not that there's no crime or violence in Basingstoke, but on Halloween, one big worry is the illegal sale of flour or eggs to people under 16.

For what it's worth, the unprovoked and near fatal attack on Sgt Lawrence received a sentence of three years. That low (for America) sentence length is also pretty typical over there.

The quoted reaction by Hampshire police officers:
"I know it was an extremely traumatic experience for Sgt Lawrence and her family and it also had a significant impact on her team and others at Basingstoke Police Station.

"I am pleased that the courts have recognised the seriousness of this offence in the sentence passed today."

"Police officers accept that they perform a dangerous and unpredictable job.

"I am pleased that the judge has given an appropriate sentence for this vicious and unprovoked attack on PS Lawrence."
Things are different in foreign lands, I tell you.

Here are few pics I took back in 2011. Only the bikes are in Basingstoke. The others are in the surrounding rural area, which looks like a friggin' magical kids' story book!

February 23, 2015

Prop. 47's effect on jail time

From LA, where Proposition 47 reclassified many crimes as misdemeanors. Drug arrests are down by about one-third. Property crimes are up nearly 10 percent. The problem seems to be this: "The new law specifies that the financial savings on the incarceration side be reinvested in truancy, drug treatment and mental health programs. But that provision does not take effect until mid-2016."

I'd be curious how much and how they determine how much money is being saved by fewer arrests (in court, corrections, and police).

February 6, 2015

This is what rational drug policy looks like

The other day my wife and I visited a friend from way back who now works in a coffee shop. Actually a famous one, the Bulldog, which is soon to celebrate it's 40th anniversary.

Mostly I just love how a legal and regulated drug trade becomes, well, boring.

There actually is a worker on duty who is registered by the city as a drug dealer. Along with having to get a standard cafe operator's license, the city A) checked his criminal background and B) made sure his money is legit. That's it. They also gave tips in the standard cafe license class (along with, you know, the usual: keep hot, hot, and cold, cold, and don't cross-contaminate) on how to run a business and keep accounts and deal with labor issues. Here, as long as you play their game, they actually want you to succeed.

What's odd about the coffee shop business is that the business is legal, the drugs they sell are legal in all but name, but the store is only allowed to have 500 grams (1 lb) of weed in stock at any given time (that's strange, but whatever). So they constantly get re-upped. And at that point in the supply trade, from the guy supplying the coffee shop and up the wholesale ladder, the drugs are illegal. Odd. Also, I think, now there has to be a dedicated drug dealer. Years ago you could order coffee and a joint from the same guy. Now, or at least here, one employee makes the coffees and handles all the business except the drugs. The other sells the drugs. Whatev... It works for the Netherlands. And yes, no tobacco smoking inside a business. That's illegal.


This looks a lot better than prohibition, even Dutch prohibition.