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by Peter Moskos

August 19, 2016

John Timoney

A nice homage to John Timoney in the New York Times. Among other things:
In 1972, New York officers fired 2,510 bullets and killed 66 people. By 2014, there were 288 shots fired and eight people killed.

What happened? Mr. Timoney said that in 1972, the department put restrictions on when officers should shoot their weapons. Within a year, officers were firing about half as many shots.

August 17, 2016

“Imma start a riot like it’s Baltimore"

Turns out the cop who once rapped "Imma start a riot like it’s Baltimore" turns out to be prophetic!

But all joking aside, this cop who shot and killed an armed and dangerous man was from the community.
More than 1,000 people have circulated a 2014 image, shared by the Milwaukee Police Department, identifying and lauding Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown as the rookie cop who helped a homeless woman find a warm meal during frigid weather.
“I was aware that he was an officer like most people,” he added. “When we did have a chance to hang out it was pure kicking it, or he would pop up at some of my shows in support sometimes.”
Smith’s sister, Sherelle Smith, said the officer and her dead brother knew each other from their high school days.
And then some people started listed his home address. There were death threats. Officer Heaggan-Brown -- from the community he policed, doing his job, involved in a justified shooting -- is now in hiding.

"Policing is differentiated from other occupations by the use of coercion"

My colleague Eugene O'Donnell, former cop and prosecutor, writes in The Crime Report about "The 'Post-Policing Era' in America: How Will We Cope?" I don't actually think we are entering "a post-policing era," but it's certainly likely we're going to see police responding to forces asking them to do much, much less of the coercive actions that justify the need for police in the first place:
[Let us discount] the notion that if the police are nice to everyone the world will truly shine. In fact, when the police are doing the enforcement duties that differentiate them from other civilian occupations they are enmeshed in conflict, undertaking work that is adversarial and frequently leaves people smarting.
It's worth quoting this article by O'Donnell at length:
“The policeman is denounced by the public, criticized by the preachers, ridiculed in the movies, berated by the newspapers, and unsupported by prosecuting officers and judges. He is shunned by the respectable, hated by criminals, deceived by everyone, kicked around like a football by brainless or crooked politicians.”

---August Vollmer, police reformer and chief, Berkley, California, 1929.

This is the dawn of the post-policing era in America, and the nation needs to come to grips with how to maintain safety and secure order with cops playing a dramatically reduced role. From coast to coast there is an acute shortage of men and women seeking to be police officers.

Half a century ago, the Kerner Commission envisioned policing as a profession, with baccalaureate- carrying cops. But almost no police department in the county requires, or plans to require, a four-year degree for hiring. It is absurdly out of reach.

In fact, departments with even the most minimal requirements struggle to recruit new officers.
It is dawning on police officers and institutions that the police job is presently undoable in our far too violent and armed nation, and is rapidly becoming utterly impossible without a willingness to shoulder enormous physical and psychic risks and exposure to dire, possibly incarcerative consequences.

To discharge the duties of a job that involves using force, even lethal force, on others in unscripted situations, while a camera records one’s improvised, clumsy and sometimes terrified decision-making for dissection by battalions of armchair second guessers makes this a career choice easily shunned.

(Some reforms are overdue and necessary but cannot be reconciled with the need to find humans to do the work.)
Once individuals have identified their political persuasions, than all issues are framed, and solutions filtered, through those orthodoxies. In fact, political philosophies are pretty useless when trying to accurately identify what a community’s problems are, and fashioning solutions.

Thus, at present, an absurd partisan conversation about who is “pro-police” and who isn’t is a feature of this year’s presidential election. This team-police versus team-citizen approach avoids serious issues and the need to make choices. Only a political knave or a novice offers an affirmative blueprint for keeping the public safe from crime and terrorism: The rewards all flow to they who critique the best and express in the loudest voice the need for empathy and a view of humanity that is distinction free.
Policing’s Hard Truths

Policing is differentiated from other occupations by the use of coercion; thus it is fair to say policing is not infrequently lawfully brutal, but relatively rarely crosses the crime to criminally brutal. To say this in today’s environment is to utter words that are construed as almost hate speech, and subject the speaker to the loudest approbation.
Policing is expected to be the one and only profession that can achieve a fairness that is elusive in every aspect of a market economy. Thus far in Chicago out of nearly 300 homicide victims, almost all are black and a handful, nine, are white. No fairness there. Some construct arguments about the police that omit these shockingly disparate facts, ignoring that these numbers are potent weapons in the hands of the most divisive figures in public life. (And it is worth looking at the faces of the lives snuffed out by this long-running genocide)
The unstated idea that the police are no longer needed has become a mainstay, amongst many elites including those who pen editorials for the New York Times and the Washington Post. Enforcement and incarceration are regarded as evils per se. Last week’s Department of Justice report on the Baltimore police nowhere mentions the toxic implications of allowing shooters to shoot and remain free in their own communities.
Community policing---which is ill defined and amorphous--is once again being offered up as an ameliorative in the midst of our current crisis. It is never quite clear what it is or how it works in a poor or high-crime community, but it advances the notion that if the police are nice to everyone the world will truly shine. In fact, when the police are doing the enforcement duties that differentiate them from other civilian occupations they are enmeshed in conflict, undertaking work that is adversarial and frequently leaves people smarting.
The “police problem and criminal justice systems needs fixing” debate over the past few years has consumed a staggering amount of time, but precious little in the way of solutions that will take us forward into the future--a future where the police will play a much, much reduced role.

"The Light's Better Here"

A nice critique of quantitative data over at City Observatory. It's about transportation planning, but the lesson can be applied to anything, especially policing:
Reliance on data to solve complex problems is subject to what’s sometimes called the “drunk under the streetlamp” effect: An obviously intoxicated man is on his hands and knees on the sidewalk, under a streetlamp. A passing cop asks him what he’s doing. “Looking for my keys,” the man replies. “Well, where did you drop them?” the cop inquires. “About a block away, but the light’s better here.
If anything, we have too much data on arrests, response time, clearance, even (sometimes) use of force. These are easy things to count. That doesn't make them particularly useful or qualitatively significant. Things you can count won't lead us to solutions that involve foot patrol, discretion, and positive interactions with the public. In policing, a job well done is just too hard to count.

August 16, 2016

"Three Years of Nights"

Very good piece by Peter Nickeas in Chicago magazine. "Three Years of Nights: Violence convulses the city after dark. Reporting on it leaves its own scars." It sure does. Same for policing (though for some more than others). And just another 17 years of the same and he's have the career of a copper:
It was the beginning of a three-year stint working overnights at the Chicago Tribune, covering any violent event that happened in the city after dark. I’d wanted a job at the paper, and this was the one they had. I was 25 years old.
Earlier in the night, two guys had fired an AK-47 and a revolver into a park where people were hanging out and playing ball. They wounded 13, including a 3-year-old.... A park had been sprayed with bullets. Not in a war zone. In this city. Stretcher after stretcher was wheeled away. A rare bit of emotion in a dispatcher’s voice on hearing that a 3-year-old had been shot in the face: “Jesus Christ. Ten-four.”
Sometime that summer -- I have trouble recalling exactly when -- the bursts of exhilaration that had been keeping me going started to peter out. I had trouble staying awake and was stealing sleep in the car between shootings. I spent slow nights in a sort of tape delay, neither awake nor asleep, stirring only when I heard something on the scanner. My senses were dulled. The adrenaline valve wasn’t opening like it used to. I responded to intense scenes -- bystanders screaming at police, a paramedic wrestling an air mask onto a victim’s face -- with a weird calm. Jason felt it, too, and described it as the feeling you get just after you dive into a pool, your body weightless, your muscles relaxed, sounds muted, your mind focused. At ease.

And yet the shootings that followed that Fourth of July weekend were some of the most harrowing I’d ever covered. A kid killed at a slumber party. A 3-year-old shot on the block with his mom. Jason and I spent hours one August night in Englewood listening to relatives of a dead 16-year-old girl wail with grief. Hours of shrieking. A detective had confirmed the mother’s fear that it was her daughter lying dead down the street by walking up and starting the conversation with “So, uh, she has a tattoo on her left hand?”
I looked like shit. Few people told me, but I knew. I’d gained weight, and I’d taken on this gaze I couldn’t shake. My right eye twitched. I hadn’t been sleeping, and I looked mean when I was relaxing.

When my shift was done that morning, I went to the Billy Goat and drank Jameson with friends. We drank more at Rossi’s. I went home, ordered Mexican food, and passed out before I could eat it. It was a celebration for me.

I never really left overnights. I still work them here and there. More over the summer, when it’s busy.
For three years, I’d inhabited a world separate from the one my friends lived in. On the train into work on summer Fridays, the other passengers dressed up for a night out in Wicker Park or Lake View, I’d sit there preparing for my shift, checking Twitter to see where people were getting shot or where people were calling in gunfire. I’d vacillate between wishing I were out with my wife and just wanting to start working.

There’s not a relationship in my life that is stronger now than it was when I started covering violence. I don’t remember when I stopped giving honest answers when people at dinners or parties asked, “How’s work?” The truth is a conversation ender. I’d start a story, see things getting awkward, then power through it, apologizing at the end. It’s an isolating job. Part of leaving nights has been learning to move past that, or deciding whether to even try. Maybe it’s not healthy, but writing about violence feels like what I should be doing. It feels normal. It’s what I want to do. I want to help the city understand a little. That’s important to me.

The DOJ is Right (4): The actual department is a mess (3/3)

[Continued from previous posts 1 and 2.]

F) And then there's the problem of recruitment and retention:
It appears BPD’s staffing shortage will not be resolved in the short term. We heard from officers, supervisors, and command staff that many officers join BPD to gain experience in a high-activity environment, and after three to five years, leave the Department for less-demanding and higher-paid positions with neighboring agencies.... This is a significant drain on the Department’s resources, as these experienced officers, if they remained, would be the future leaders of the Department, and critical to the success of the Department’s law enforcement efforts. The Department also appears to be confronting challenges in recruiting qualified officers -- it has only met a fraction of its goals for the 2016 Academy class. At least one of the Department’s background check processes -- its psychological testing -- has been investigated for allegedly rushing those evaluations, sometimes conducting psychological evaluations for aspiring officers in as little as fifteen minutes.
I totally aced that test. I still remember my doctor's name was "Doctor Outlaw," which I still think is a cool name for a doctor interviewing cops.

G) And equipment issues are more key than outsiders may suspect:
Officers suffer from being supplied with outdated, broken, or in some cases, no equipment. As one officer noted to the Fraternal Order of Police in a focus group, “How am I supposed to pull someone over for having a taillight out when my car has two?”

Officers have no computers in their cars, forcing them to return to the district station to type reports, and even those computers are often not working.... Taking officers off the street to type reports at the district takes away from time that could be spent on law enforcement or community building activities. It also creates inefficiencies for officers who often must write reports on paper in the field while their memories of incidents are fresh, and then type the same information into computer databases after arriving at the district station at the end of their shift.
H) There's good news and bad news about how easily some of these things can be solved:
Despite its budgetary issues, the City of Baltimore will need to make an investment in its public safety facilities and resources to ensure that officers have the tools necessary to properly serve the residents and businesses of the City.
The answer is money. Baltimore doesn't have too much of it.

Here's the thing. Cops work in a shitty environment. They know that. But accountability ends above the civil-service ranks. Why is that? Where is the leadership and accountability on high? Nobody blames the bosses -- the mayor and police commissioner in particular -- for the dysfunction of the departmen they control. This does so much to lower morale. This matters. Low morale does so much to make cops burnt-out assholes on the street. Where does the buck stop? Certainly not with the lowly patrol officer.

Now if your job were that shitty, you'd walk off. But police can't. The show must go on. No matter how bad things get, police have to go out there and make the best of it. Radios die, car transmissions don't work, your car gets a flat and there's no spare, computers are down, your uniform splits at the seams, and now body cameras are another can of things that can break. Despite all of that, one thing is certain: cops will go and answer the next call.

You can't fight City Hall. Cops get blamed for bureaucratic nightmares that not only do they have no control over. This dysfunction screws good cops and there's nothing they can do about it. You think cops like working with (the very small minority of really) bad cops? Hell, no. But the system has no way to get rid of them. So you make do. You have to. And then you get pissed off when one bad cop who should have never made it out of the academy, should have been fired, should not have been promoted -- this guy? He actually admits his racist crimes, and somehow people consider him the good guy and blames everybody else who was forced to work through his misdeeds.

I defend most police officers because I've been there. I've had to drive shifts with a car that couldn't go faster than 20 MPH. I've had to fill out forms. I've had to deal with citizens calling 911 to lie about me, I've had to work with cops I wouldn't trust as far as I can throw.

So fix it, dammit. Good cops want to but can't. They're tools in this system. And yet every day they get up from their bad dreams and go to work. It doesn't matter how bad things get, police will do their job, most of them professionally. If one thing is true is for police, it's that cliche: "the show must go on."

Maybe this DOB report will improve the department despite itself. Though I might be wrong, I doubt it. I suspect people will ignore this key section and just focus on eliminating discretionary proactive policing that probably does save lives. If policing has taught me nothing else, it's taught me that things can always get worse. Or, as police say: "No situation is so bad that the cops can't make it worse."

The DOJ is Right (3): The actual department is a mess (2/3)

[See posts 1 and 3]

C) It's not like most police don't want to make things better. They can't. A lot this is systemic to any large bureaucracy in a poor city. But it's not like cops haven't tried to improve things. People care. But nothing seems to get better. The organization is dysfunctional:
Individuals throughout the Department have highlighted that the Department needs to significantly improve its training program. For example, in 2012, the Fraternal Order of Police’s Blueprint for Improved Policing in Baltimore includes an entire section focused on training issues and recommendations. See FOP Blueprint for Improved Policing (July 11, 2012), at 6–8. More recently, BPD’s July 2015 Training Academy Needs Assessment provides a program analysis, describing major issues in personnel, curriculum, equipment and structures, and budgeting. It also notes that the Academy has been working to address some of these issues.
And we don't know what is happening because:
Serious deficiencies in BPD’s supervision of its enforcement activities, including through data collection and analysis, contribute to the Department’s failure to identify and correct unconstitutional policing.
D) And then we get to a failed discipline process:
The system has several key deficiencies. First, BPD sets thresholds of activity that trigger “alerts” to supervisors about potentially problematic conduct that are too high. Because of these high thresholds, BPD supervisors often are not made aware of troubling behavioral patterns until after officers commit egregious misconduct. Second, even where alerts are triggered, we found that BPD supervisors do not consistently take appropriate action to counsel the officer, consider additional training, or otherwise intervene in a way that will correct the behavior before an adverse event occurs. Third, critical information is omitted or expunged from the EIS that could help address officer training or support needs or help prevent future misconduct.
It is clear that the Department has been unable to interrupt serious patterns of misconduct. Our investigation found that numerous officers had recurring patterns of misconduct that were not adequately addressed. Similarly, we note that, in the past five years, 25 BPD officers were separately sued four or more times for Fourth Amendment violations.
You might call that a red flag.

E) Officers feel and are unsupported:
BPD fails to support its officers through effective strategies for recruitment, retention, and staffing patterns, and does not provide them with appropriate technology and equipment.
First, BPD does not have a Department-wide plan to address staffing shortages in patrol; instead, each district deals with its own shortages independently. Districts address their staffing shortages by “drafting,” or requiring, officers to work additional hours after their regular ten-hour shift. Officers are “drafted” to work up to an additional ten hours after their regular shift, making for, potentially, a twenty-hour day.
Officers we spoke with consistently informed us of the serious negative impact that drafting has on their morale. Additionally, the potential negative impact that drafting has on officers’ decision-making skills after working for up to twenty hours is equally troubling.
This policy contributed to the death of my friend, who was killed in a traffic accident after many months of mandatory overtime and 12-hour shifts.

The DOJ is Right (2): The actual department is a mess (1/3)

Mixed in with questionable methology, intentions, and anecdotes, there's some of God's awful truth in this DOJ report. Yes, the department is a disfunctional organziaton that keeps going only because of the dedication of rank-and-file who do their best, despite it all. (pp.128-139)

A) Here's how they describe the rule book, policies, or the book of General Orders I've already tried to describe. To say G.O.'s doesn't follow "best practices" (pdf link) is an understatement:
We found systemic problems with BPD’s method of drafting, distributing, and implementing policies that has made it difficult for officers to understand proper procedures and adapt to changing rules.
This led the criminal prosecution (and acquittal) of officers.

And there's this (I know you might want to skim over this eye-numbing paragraph, but really read it to let it sink in):
The Department has historically developed and published policies and amendments in a manner that officers find to be confusing and opaque. As many officers told us, the numbering system alone is a source of confusion. Generally, BPD policies have been organized with titles that included letters and numbers. During one period, however, the letter-and-number system was replaced with a system that included numbers alone. The new system only applied to newly implemented policies, however, and the majority of policies were still classified by letter-and-number. Policies from different eras are written in different formats, and often modified by annexes, memoranda, amendments, and rescissions, instead of replacing the old policy completely, making it difficult for officers to be confident that they had the current, complete policy.
And this:
While the policy manual has a table of contents [ed note: with no friggin page numbers; there are no page numbers! (Stab self in eye)], there is no index, and new additions and revisions can quickly make older manuals difficult to navigate. In fact, during our investigation, BPD was unable to locate one of its own amendments to disclose to us.
And of course there's a lack of any input from the rank and file:
BPD likewise fails to provide officers the opportunity to provide input on the policy as it is developed. We spoke with many officers, including supervisors and others in positions of authority, who were frustrated by the lack of input they were able to have on policy development, including the policies developed in 2016. With nearly 3,000 sworn officers and another 1,000 personnel, BPD will likely receive conflicting input in addition to the helpful ideas generated if it seeks input from officers. Without seeking this input, however, BPD fails to learn critical lessons from the field, and, as importantly, it risks alienating its officers and undermining adherence to the policies it develops.
B) And then there's training:
Indeed, BPD’s former director of the Training Academy released a needs assessment in 2015 that highlighted an “internal culture of placing training second,” “expectations for ‘rushed’ training,” and “outside pressure to condense training programs” as threats to the current program. See Baltimore Police Department Training Academy Needs Assessment (July 2015), at 5. Unfortunately, after the training director sent the needs assessment to BPD leadership, he did not receive a response for months. He also organized three different meetings with patrol commanders to begin making changes based on the needs assessment, but no commanders attended the meetings.
Officers who had furthered their training did so because of their own personal interest or ambition, often using private funds and overcoming obstacles posed by supervisors or work schedules. Rather than encouraging additional training, supervisors view training as a peripheral activity that is consistently superseded by the need to keep officers on the street.
And consider this about the BPD academy:
The program lost about two-thirds of its staff over the past three years: training staff fell from approximately 60 in 2013 to 20 currently. During the course of our investigation, thirty classes had no primary instructor. Multiple training units, including the ones responsible for supervisor training for new sergeants and lieutenants, were entirely vacant with no personnel staffing them.
The Fraternal Order of Police has also highlighted this concern, noting that class sizes for new recruit training have averaged 35–50 officers.
BPD training facilities are in a similarly troubling state. During the course of our investigation, we were informed that BPD has only 17 computers available to train its nearly 4,000 personnel. The buildings themselves are in disrepair: water cannot be consumed from the faucets, and the buildings often lack workable air conditioning and heating. According to the Academy’s recent needs assessment:

"The decrepit state of the academy itself gives the impression of a lackadaisical and uncommitted attitude towards the necessities of training the modern police officer. Recruits, sworn personnel, visiting law-enforcement experts, and civilians get the impression that they are party to a fly-by-night, poverty-stricken department when they find themselves in a crumbling, drafty building."

[Ed Note: And this is the "new" academy! No different in the "old" academy I attended on Guilford St. But at least in the old days we could drink the water.]
You'd think the DOJ might have mentioned that a trainee was shot in the academy. I mean, it really doesn't get worse than that. At the time the academy was on its seventh head of training in the last 19 months.

[to be continued in posts 2 and 3]

August 15, 2016

The DOJ is Right (1): Too many illegal stop and searchs (though sometimes just without written articulation)

Too many officers in Baltimore conduct searches without being able to articulate probable cause. Too many people arrested for bullshit reasons illegally. This is wrong. It's been happening forever. It needs to change. Maybe this DOJ report will bring about this change.

That said, you can arrest someone for bullshit reasons legally. Bullshit means minor and perhaps to prove a point, but it's not illegal. And sometimes people need to spend the night in jail whether because they're threatened their mother, squatting on a stranger's stoop, or ignore an officer's lawful order to desist from criminal behavior (but behavior you don't have probable cause to arrest them for). The charge can be loitering (Baltimore's go-to), disorderly conduct (NYC's go-to), disturbing the peace, trespassing, failure to obey, open container. Or any even more minor violation (littering, jaywalking, spitting, cursing, it doesn't matter, as long as it's on the books) combined with "failure to provide identification." (It's much harder to arrest somebody who does carry ID, because you can't play the BS-ticket-you-don't-have-ID game.)

Such minor arrests do not and should not be prosecuted. The argument that arrests are bad because charges are dropped is absurd. As I wrote:
Along with bureaucratic BS (prosecutors march to a much different drummer than cops), the standard for conviction is "beyond a reasonable doubt." The standard for arrest is "probable cause" (which isn't even "more likely true than false." So of course good legal arrests will be dropped.

On top of that, most low-level offenses are abated by arrest. You don't actually prosecute people for loitering and trespassing on a stoop. A loitering arrest isn't bad because it's not prosecuted. It's never prosecuted. And for such minor offenses, officer have pretty low motivation to write a good report, since it really just doesn't matter.
What I don't get is so many illegal searches and arrests could be done legally, if the officer was clever and knew how to write. But where the report goes wrong is assuming that arrests and searches are evil because an officer didn't articulate good cause in the arrest report. Much of the DOJ describes is just bad writing. That or officers not giving a damn about wasting time on a report for some BS arrest that is, in fact, abated by arrest. Cops' inability to write is a major problem. But they some cops don't learn good writing skills in high-school. There's no language or writing test to become a police officer. Maybe there should be.

"I had to blame myself for a lot of things too"

This is not the usual message I'd expect from a man whose armed son was just killed by police, provoking a bit of burning in Milwaukee:
What are we gonna do now? Everyone playing their part in this city, blaming the white guy or whatever, and we know what they’re doing. Like, already I feel like they should have never OK'd guns in Wisconsin. They already know what our black youth was doing anyway. These young kids gotta realize this is all a game with them. Like they’re playing Monopoly. You young kids falling into their world, what they want you to do. Everything you do is programmed.

I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like 'he’s doing all these things.' I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to.

When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get. They got us killing each other and when they even OK'd them pistols and they OK'd a reason to kill us too. Now somebody got killed reaching for his wallet, but now they can say he got a gun on him and they reached for it. And that’s justifiable. When we allowed them to say guns is good and it’s legal, we can bear arms. This is not the wild, wild west y’all. But when you go down to 25th and center, you see guys with guns hanging out this long, that’s ridiculous, and they’re allowing them to do this and the police know half of them don’t have a license to carry a gun.

I don’t know when we’re gonna start moving. I’ve gotta start with my kids and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them. They targeting us, but we know about it so there’s no reason to keep saying it’s their fault. You play a part in it. If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand, don’t be going around with big guns, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it.

40 shooting victims and 672 arrests? "That's ridiculous!"

CBS reports:
At least 52 people were shot across [Chicago] over the weekend, including nine homicides.
("At least"? Has it got so bad that we can't even keep track?)

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, talking about the 40 victims known to police, is "sick of it":
672 arrests? That's ridiculous!
There's a certain segment of the community that is driving this violence. The police department is doing its job. We're arresting these individuals. Where we're missing the boat is we're not holding them accountable."
2,639 people have been shot in Chicago this year. That's an increase of more than 50 percent from last year. That really is ridiculous.

And it's even worse in Baltimore. Stephen Morgan, my Harvard squash mate -- I love saying that because, put together, those might be the four snootiest words in the English language! (That said, in grad school Steve and I did play squash once or twice, and I'm pretty sure I won.) -- anyway, Steve sent me these numbers for Baltimore:
28 days beginning Monday 6/27/16

Homicide 33
Shooting 63
Carjacking 32
Street robbery 283

28 days beginning Monday 6/29/15

Homicide 38
Shooting 84
Carjacking 31
Street robbery 327

Prior five-year average of equivalent four weeks (from 2010 through 2014)

Homicide 18.4
Shooting 38.2
Carjacking 13.6
Street robbery 210.6

If there was any doubt, murdres and shooting doubled after last year's April riot. There's a link to his updated report (and a few other things) here.

But when I bring up increased crime, I feel like half the world is gas-lighting me. First there's this inevitable rebuke: "Fear mongering! Crime isn't up. It's at all time low!". There's usually talk about the the "latest available data" as if time stopped in 2014. Yeah, back then crime was at a many-decades low. But now it's not. Who you gonna believe?

If history is any guide, liberals really should not concede crime fears to the Right. Yes, the public always thinks crime is getting worse. But now those fears just happen to reflect reality. So rather than say, "you were wrong for years" it behooves us to say, "OK, now you are right, and what are we going to do about it?"

Politically, I don't want to the only people responsive to rising crime to be Trump and the "law-and-order." They scare me. But every time anybody, myself included, dares think what has happened in the past two years that might impact crime, you get the inevitable "correlation isn't causation" mantra. Makes me bang my head against the wall! Even Steve agrees. (And Steve, unlike me, is a quantitative stats guy.)

Correlation actually can be indicative of causation. At the very least, it's a clue. I mean, what else has changed so dramatically except police and crime? And some point, if you get enough correlation and have taken other variables into account (and reach an all too arbitrary "there's less than a 1 in 20 chance it's random"), well, that's what qualitative social scientists call "proof." And then if you don't like the conclusion, you harp on measurement error or non-random missing data.

Morgan writes (he always has sounded more academic than me. How does he do that?):
I think it is undeniable that this is a downstream effect of the “unrest” last year, but there are still a lot of unanswered (and some probably unanswerable) questions on the particular mechanism that generated the effect.
I'm more rash than Steve, quicker to point at the mechanism of decreased discretionary proactive policing as indicated by, you know, by cops telling me their do less discretionary proactive policing. (If you prefer your data more dry and processed, you could look at reduced arrest numbers.)

Let's play the counterfactual game. Pretend crime went gone down in Baltimore after April of last year but everything else stayed the same. Well, what then would be some possible reasons? People would be pointing to less proactive policing as part of the solution. They might say crime went down because of the indictment of cops. Perhaps this increased police "legitimacy." Or maybe the presence of DOJ investigaters improved policing and lowered crime. Maybe City Council President Jack Young and State Sen. Catherine Pugh's celebrated gang truce" saved lives. But none of that is true. Becuause violence doubled. We'll never have definitive proof. There will always be "a lot of unanswered (and some probably unanswerable) questions on the particular mechanism that generated the effect." But until somebody can show me something else that makes sense, I'm quite happy to Occam's Razor this baby and focus on a massive decline in proactive and aggressive policing. It really is ridiculous.

August 13, 2016

Teach your children well

Just came across this gem, that happened back when I was on the street. It's community policing, with an Eastern District twist.
While going around the block and stopped at an intersection (321 Post), two boys, 10-to-13 years old, come up near the window of my car, and one says to another: "give me the money."

"How much?"I ask.


"How’d you get $50?" I asked.


"Whew, that’s a lot of money."

They come up to my window and one says, "lock me up!"

"What have you done?"

"Lock me up at take me to city hall!"

"If we take you to city hall, what would you tell the mayor?" I'm thinking this is a great opportunity for 'stop the violence' or 'we need more schools.'

"Tell the mayor I'll bomb his house and rape his wife!"
How does one respond to this? It's not easy to leave a cop speechless. I drove off.