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by Peter Moskos

November 18, 2016

The best of times, the worst of times

Ah, the ol' Tale of Two Cities trope. But the diverging homicidal paths of Chicago and New York City are striking. The New York Post has a surprisingly good (especially for the NY Post) article on homicide in Chicago and NYC.



These are raw numbers and not a rate. Chicago is roughly one-third the size of New York City. [Notwithstanding rumors to the contrary, the national increase in murder would still be large, even without Chicago.]

First observe NYC's unheralded murder drop from 2011 to 2013. Police weren't even willing to take credit! Why? Because it corresponded with the demise of stop and frisk. And then liberal Mayor de Blasio came on the scene in 2013. If you listened to cops, the city was going to immediately descend to some pre-Giuliani Orwellian hell. That did not happen.

It turns out that quota-inspired stops and misdemeanor marijuana arrests are not good policing. Now we knew that (though even I'll admit I was surprised that literally hundreds of thousands of stops didn't have some measurable deterrent effect on gun violence.)

In Chicago, stops also stopped, but unlike New York, it was not because cops stopped stopping people they didn't want to stop. Cops in Chicago got the message to stop being proactive lest controversy ensues. Bowing to political and legal pressure, police in Chicago (and also Baltimore) became less proactive in response to the bad shooting of Laquan McDonald, excessive stop-related paperwork, the threat of personal lawsuits based on these same forms, and a mayor in crisis mode.

Less proactive policing and less racially disparate policing is a stated goal of the ACLU and DOJ. See, if police legally stop and then frisk six guys loitering on a drug corner and (lucky day!) find a gun on one and drugs on another, the remaining four guys, at least according to some, are "innocent." I beg to differ. (Though I should point out that in the real world, the "hit rate" never comes close to 20 percent.)

And then there's my beloved foot patrol. Policing is the interaction of police with the public. But there are no stats I know of to determine how many cops, at any given moment, are out and about and not sitting inside a car waiting for a call. From the Post:
A high-ranking NYPD official credited the city’s increasing safety to the widespread, targeted deployment of cops on foot patrol.

“Most cities only place foot posts in business districts. We put our foot posts in the most violent areas of the city, as well as our business district,” the source said.

“It’s not a fun assignment, but it’s critical to keeping people safe.”
Meanwhile in Chicago:
Former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy — who was fired last year amid controversy over the police shooting of an unarmed teen — said criticism of policing methods by local officials there had left cops “hamstrung.”

“They’re not getting out of their cars and stopping people. That’s because of all the politics here,” said McCarthy, a former NYPD cop.

“In Chicago, performance is less important than politics. It’s called ‘The Chicago Way,’ and the results are horrific.”
My buddy Gene O'Donnell says:
“The harsh reality in Chicago is that you have the collapse of the criminal justice system,” O’Donnell said.

“The police aren’t even on the playing field anymore, and the police department is in a state of collapse.”

O’Donnell, who was an NYPD cop during the 1980s, said that although “New York had a similar dynamic” during the height of the crack epidemic, “we had a transformation, because people realized you don’t have to tolerate that.”
Guns are part of the mix:
Veteran Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf noted that Chicago “is much more porous to guns” than New York, with a “direct pipeline” leading there in “a straight line from Mississippi.”
But that is more of an excuse than an explanation. Newark, New Jersey, just a PATH-train subway ride away from Manhattan, has more of a gun problem than New York City. Hard to imagine a subway and a few bridges plugs the gun pipeline.

There are other differences between Chicago and New York in terms of poverty and segregation (greater in Chicago), commitment to public housing that actually works (greater in New York), and maybe even lower-crime foreign immigrants (greater in New York... but I say "maybe" because it's still substantial in Chicago, with 22% foreign born).

And then there's this:
Psychology professor Arthur Lurigio of Chicago’s Loyola University cited an “intergenerational” component to the mayhem, with sons following their fathers — and even grandfathers — into the city’s extensive and ingrained gang culture.

“Chicago’s problem wasn’t a day in the making — it’s 60 years in the making,” he said.

“Working at the jail as a staff psychologist, I’ve seen two, maybe three generations pass through.”
I don't mean to criticize an academic willing to highlight culture and the inter-generational transmission of violence, but I quibble with the line that Chicago's problems are 60 years in the making. I mean, yes, it's true.... But the explosion of homicide in the past two years is, well, a problem exactly two years in the making.

Chicago may always have a higher homicide rate than New York because of history and structural issues. But the short-term solution is getting more cops out of their cars, back on beats, and supported when they legally confront violent people we pay police to confront.

Violence-prevention depends, in part, on such confrontation. And since violence is racially disparate, this will mean racially disparate policing. Innocent people -- disproportionately innocent black people -- will get stopped. There's no way to square this circle (though we can help sand down the rougher corners).

The alternative to proactive policing is what is happening in Chicago. Police have responded to public and political (and legal) pressure: stops are down, arrests are down, and so are police-involved shootings and complaints against police. Police are staying out of trouble and letting society sort out the violence problem. How's that working out?

November 17, 2016

"Biggest Spike in 50 Years"

If only we cared about homicide victims as much as we did about traffic fatalities, we might see an article in the paper about the biggest homicide spike in 50 years. Instead, there is a Times article about distracted driving: "Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps."

The rise in traffic deaths -- the total number of highway deaths in America (35,000) is roughly twice the number homicide victims (16,000) -- has been reported by the Wall Street Journal, NBC, Newsweek, and Reuters. None of these stories talk about a "statistical blip," or "traffic deaths are still at historic lows," or "no need to worry, because certain high-speed roads account for most deaths." No. Nor should they. Because the rise in deaths is real and real people are dying. When it comes to traffic deaths, we take the data and try and figure what is happening and how to prevent it. Why aren't we doing that with homicide?

Violence begets violence. And the longer we stick our head in the sand, the worse this will be. I know the phrase "law and order" is right-wing, but the concept that people have a basic right to live is not. The left shouldn't cede law-and-order issues to the right. Ideological prisms need to be set aside for basic human decency. It's better to address the violence problem before thousands more are killed.

I understand, or at least I think I do, the motivations of those on the left who minimize the significance of the homicide increase. There's a very real concern that those on the right will use crime to push ineffective and even racist policies that hurt the very people most at risk. Or maybe it's difficult for some to objectively examine the homicide increase in light of everything that has happened, post-Ferguson, with demands that police be less racially disparate and proactive.

Murder victims are disproportionately poor young black male high-school drop-outs. This is politically awkward at best, certainly when it comes to the matter of black lives. But some on the left have gone so far to say that since "most Americans" aren't at greater risk of being killed, "warnings" are politically "provocative." Good God! I mean I know that you , dear reader, are much more likely to be killed in a car crash than be the victim of a homicide. But for many other people, the opposite is true. Because it affects others more than you is reason to care even more.

So I read this Times article about traffic deaths and notice how much it, word for word, could be applied to the nation's spike in murder, the one nobody is talking about. Even the graphic could basically be copied (though I made one for murder). I did change a few things in [brackets] -- eg: "transportation" to "justice" and "highway fatalities" to "homicides" -- to create the article I wish were getting as much press:
After steady declines over the last four decades, [homicides] last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, [homicide] deaths jumped [13.1] percent, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the [Brennan Center].

"This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” the head of the agency, said in an interview.

Alarmed by the statistics, the Department of [Justice] in October outlined a plan to work with the [police] and advocacy groups to devise a “Road to Zero” strategy, with the ambitious goal of eliminating [murder] within 30 years.

The Obama administration’s [Attorney General, Loretta Lynch,] said that the near-term effort would involve identifying changes in regulations, laws and standards that could help reduce fatalities.

“This is a serious public safety concern for the nation,” [she] said at a recent conference in Washington held by the National [Violence Prevention] Board. “We are all trying to figure out to what extent this is the new normal.”


Deadly [Murder] Rise
After decades of steady declines, the number of deaths stemming from [homicide] has risen in the last two years to its highest level since 2009.

November 15, 2016

Criminal Justice Reform in the Age of Trump

Over at the Cato Institute, Steven Teles wrote a piece about conservatives and how we can de-incarcerate. A group of people, myself included, are writing response pieces. Here is mine:
A few years back, for a brief while, it really did seem as if conservative Republicans were interested in reducing the number of prisoners in America. Teles argues that once conservatives get in a position of political omnipotence, they don’t have liberals to kick around anymore. Political control brings policy ownership. Without fear of political defeat or being labeled “soft on crime,” conservatives are free to judge prisons on cost, effectiveness, and even morality.
...
There are indeed some extremely low-hanging fruits of de-incarceration, some truly nonviolent offenders and others who may have been ignorant of the crime they committed. [But] to return to pre-1980 levels of incarceration in America, 80 percent of prisoners would have to be released. This will not happen.
...
On crime and police, the first steps in incarceration, Democrats in the past two years were eager to abandon 20 years of generally pro-police policy dating back to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Trump’s victory could allow the left (at least the moderate left) to shift from the #BlackLivesMatter police-are-the-problem mentality to one more focused on actually preventing crime.... Had Hillary Clinton won the election, an unprecedented two-year 25 percent increase in nationwide homicide since 2014 would certainly have revived crime as a wedge issue and placed Democrats on the defensive. It still may. The coming days could be dark indeed.

November 12, 2016

"I took an oath to protect all"

Once again an excellent Facebook post from my friend. The words are his. The idea he got from a San Fransico Police Officer:
Safety pins have become a symbol of solidarity with minority groups who feel threatened by events in this country. People are posting selfies with their pins, letting those minority groups know they have a friendly and safe face to look out for them.

Below is my pin. It's on the back of my badge. I started wearing it in 2003 after I took an oath to protect all - regardless of race, religion, creed or sexual orientation. Regardless of current popular belief, I promise to continue to protect and watch out for all and be there for anyone who needs my help, along with my 800,000 safety pin wearing brothers and sisters in blue.

Homicide is up, and it's not Trump's fault yet

Somehow, between the Cubs winning the World Series, the presidential election, friends and family visiting, and, you know, my job, I missed this.

The Brennen Center, which has been repeatedly telling us not to worry about rising homicide, predicts that this year's homicide increase will be even bigger than last year's increase (last year's was 10.4%, this year's is predicted by the Brennen Center to be 13.1%). The Brennan center says "Nationally, the murder rate is projected to increase 31.5 percent from 2014 to 2016."

[Update/correction: Their math, as has been pointed out to me, does not add up. By my math, a 13.1 percent increase after a 10.4 percent increase is a 24.9 percent 2-year increase. I've changed a few things in this post to reflect the correct number.]

Homicides up by 25 percent in just two years? This is the biggest two-year increase ever.

Their conclusion:
There is no evidence of a national murder wave.
What the f*ck? I'm getting these numbers from their report! It's like Bagdad Bob all over again. I wonder how long they can keep this up.

Oh, but they do go on:
Increases in these select cities [Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston] are indeed a serious problem.
You think? But...
most Americans will continue to experience low rates of crime. A few cities are seeing murders increase, causing the national murder rate to rise.
Apparently, goes their logic, as long as homicide goes up more in some cities than others, it's not really going up elsewhere, even though it is. To say the increase in homicide is due to a few "select cities" is simply not true.

Chicago, Baltimore, and Houston are not at all creating the national trend. They're just the leaders of the pack. One could remove "these select cities" -- not that you should, mind you, but I have -- and we're still left with a huge increase in homicide, nationwide.

[And the "most Americans" part really gets my goat. Like we didn't to worry abut minorities at risk? I'd like to hear the Brennan Center tell that to everybody afraid after Trump's victory.]

And mark my words: when the official UCR data on this year comes out next year, those on the Left will be quick to blame Trump and everybody and everything except what has happened since 2014, post-Ferguson, locally with policing and nationally with the DOJ. These past two years have been an unprecedented and unmitigated disaster in terms of rising murder, particularly among poor young under-educated African-American men with guns. And the only person who even pretended to care (and based on his record, I seriously doubt his sincerity) just won the presidential election.

Speaking of my words, a short while back I wrote this:
Here’s what scares me right now more than guns: the potential right-wing law-and-order backlash. ... It will be the largest [homicide] increase in decades. And yet the Left has been in denial about this (and/or discounts its significance). ... we’re virtually conceding law-and-order issues to Trump and the fascist Right. Politically and morally, this is bonkers.
And this:
Politically, I don't want to the only people responsive to rising crime to be Trump and the "law-and-order." They scare me.
And that's the world we live in. The Left wouldn't address this issue. Well, let's see what happens now.

November 10, 2016

"Because we are sworn to protect those that can't protect themselves"

The funeral for Sergeant Tuozzolo just happened. My friend Ari Maas posted this on facebook after his death:
For the second time this week, the law enforcement community suffered a great loss. NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo was shot in the head while attempting to arrest a very bad man. That bad man had 17 prior arrests and had just committed a home invasion in the Bronx at the home of his estranged wife.

That bad man had a gun, a gun he used to take Paul's life and attempted to take many others. Luckily a rookie officer, who was still in police academy field training, was able to put an end to that bad man's rampage. But not before that bad man destroyed Paul's family, leaving his wife a widow and his two children fatherless.

I didn't know Paul. We were both veterans of the 26th Precinct, but Paul was promoted just a few months before I was transferred from East Harlem to West Harlem. However, I see on my Facebook feed from my 26 family who worked with and were friends with Paul, that he was a great man, father, husband, and police officer. He had 19 years of service. 19 years of putting on that uniform every day to make New York City a better place. 19 years of working midnights, holidays, weekends and being away from his family. 19 years of selfless service.

And even if I didn't know Paul, I knew Paul. Paul was just like every one of us who puts on the uniform every day not knowing what to expect, but knowing we do what we do because we make a difference. Because we are sworn to protect those that can't protect themselves. Because we have given so much and far too many of us, have given our all, in order to make the world even a little better place.

Every time a cop gets killed, I change my profile picture to a badge with a mourning band on it, and I write a post. I do this not so much for myself or the other cops on my friends list, but rather, so that my friends from my other diverse groups can understand that we are human, we feel pain, and all we want is to do our job, make a difference, and go home to our families. And all of us are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to make this world better.

But, I have come to realize that the Michael Marks, a Marine Corps veteran quote, "And maybe just remind the few, if ill of us they speak,that we are all that stands between The Monsters And The Weak" isn't something we have to do. Because for anyone that has ever worn a uniform to work, not knowing what that day of work will bring (our Armed Forces, police, fire and EMS and others), it doesn't really matter if people understand the evil we protect them from. What matters is that we can look at ourselves in the mirror every day, honor our lost brothers and sisters, and continue on, in their memory, in making this world a better place.

Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, Blessed is the True Judge. May your family, friends, the NYPD and the entire City of New York find comfort during these trying times. We will carry on your watch from here.

Fidelis ad mortem. Faithful unto death.
Rest in peace, Sgt. Tuozzolo. Rest in peace.

November 5, 2016

RIP NYPD Sgt Paul Tuozzolo

NYPD Sergeant Tuozzolo was killed in the Bronx after confronting a domestic break-in suspect with a long history of criminal trouble:
Rosales' 50-year-old mother-in-law had called 911 when the man, who had 17 prior arrests in Suffolk County, forced his way into the apartment she shared with his estranged 29-year old wife and their 3-year-old son, minutes before the police chase ensued, O'Neill and sources said.
Sgt Kwo and a rookie, three days out of the academy, returned fire. Kwo was shot and wounded. The cop killer was killed.

Rest in Peace.

November 3, 2016

Press release for journalists

From John Jay's Crime Report:
ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: The John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice, publisher of The Crime Report, is offering special reporting fellowships to attend the 12th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America in New York City on February 16-17, 2017. All U.S.-based media working on print, online and broadcast platforms are eligible to apply. Please circulate among your colleagues! For details and application forms, please visit the Center on Media, Crime and Justice.

October 21, 2016

Don't sh*t where you live

The Villiage Voice reports on how, after much effort, a guy got data on where NYPD officers live (the zip codes). There's nothing too surprising here, but it is worth noting 1) the NYPD was reluctant to give it up, and 2) NYPD officers are forbidden to work in the precinct in which they live. This goes back to anti-corruption efforts, and it is at odds with community policing. (Not that many cops want to live where they work, but that's another matter.)

58 percent of cops live in the city, but just 45 percent of white compared with three-quarters of black and hispanic cops.

Just under 30 cops live in my zip code in Queens. 114 cops live in 10940, Middletown, NY. That's 70 miles to the city limits and a 2-hour drive to 1PP, police headquarters. Suffolk County to Western Queens can take just as long. A few cops live even further away. I don't think that's a healthy commute, especially for a job that requires flexibility and going to court. But what do I know?

"Number Two" at the range

Two days ago in the Bronx, an NYPD sergeant shot and killed Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old with schizophrenia armed with a baseball bat. Deborah Danner's death is a tragedy. It is a failure of the system. But almost immediately, the officer who shot was stripped of his badge and gun and denounced by the mayor and police commissioner. DeBlasio -- who according to the Times, "struggled to answer basic questions about the shooting" -- felt he knew enough to throw the cop under the bus:
The shooting of Deborah Danner was tragic, and it is unacceptable. It should never have happened. It is quite clear our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation. And it's very hard for any of us to see that that standard was met here.
Really? At NYPD target practice, there's a simple shoot/don't-shoot scenario. (This is something we did not have in Baltimore, which might help explain the NYPD's overall extremely low rate of using lethal force.)

The guy with a bat is known as "Number Two." When you hear, "Number Two," you're supposed to see the guy with a bat and shoot Mr. Number Two. (Also Three and Four, but not Numbers One or Five.)


I am not saying this was a good shooting. I am saying that if we don't want cops to shoot people with baseball bats, why do we train cops to do just that?

The mayor continued:
There was certainly a protocol that called for deferring to the Emergency Service Unit (ESU). That was not followed. There was obviously the option of using a taser. That was not employed. We will fully investigate this situation and we will cooperate fully with any prosecutorial agencies. We need to know why this officer did follow his training and did not follow those protocols.
[The New York State attorney general said he would not investigate the shooting.]

Protocol, so I hear, does say that officers confronted with an emotionally disturbed armed person (apparently initially naked and armed with scissors) should back off, close the door, and call for ESU and wait.

I'm not convinced the department really wants this to happen all the time. This protocol, let's call it Plan B, would tie up a few officers for a few hours in what would then be a barricade situation. It would also draw on the military-like resources of ESU.

Plan A is for two cops to simply handle the inncident quickly and professionally, and get back in service to handle the next call. When violating "protocol" is routine, even encouraged, it's not fair to only crack the whip when things go bad.

But one thing about these events is they can change police culture quite quickly. ESU is now going to have a lot more work, for better or for worse. But wouldn't be ironic if ESU responded to every call, especially in light of demands to de-militarize the police? And then what happens when ESU kills somebody? Then we blame ESU?

Then who do we call? The really issue is that police shouldn't be responding to this type of call at all.

Here's Alex Vitale (whom I'm actually agreeing with!) in the Gotham Gazette:
The fact that police had to even be dispatched in the first place is a sign that something went wrong.

Health officials knew about this woman's condition.... Why was she returned to her apartment without adequate ongoing supervision or care?
...
Yet thousands of profoundly disabled people continue to roam the streets and subways or idle away at home with little or no support, leaving police to deal with the crises that inevitably result.
...
The mayor was wrong when he said that current training is adequate and this was just the mistake of a single officer. Ultimately, police are the wrong people to be responding to a person experiencing a mental health crisis.

October 6, 2016

"Chicago cop murders unarmed man after fender bender"

That's the headline that wasn't.

Instead we have this headline: "Officer Didn't Shoot Attacker Because She Feared Backlash."

A 43-year-old female 17-year-veteran suffered this:
The man had punched her and "repeatedly smashed her face into the pavement" until she was knocked out, police said. She suffered head trauma and multiple cuts to her face and head.
When you're a cop losing a fight and a man is bashing your head on the ground trying to kill you, it's OK to shoot the guy. Can we agree on that?

Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times:
A “simple traffic accident” that turned ugly.

“A subject who was under the influence of PCP attacked a female officer. Viciously pounded her head into the street as her partner was trying to get him off of her. This attack went on for several minutes,” [Chicago Police Supt.] Johnson told the assembled dignitaries.

“As I was at the hospital last night visiting with her, she looked at me and said she thought she was gonna die. And she knew that she should shoot this guy. But, she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”
...
The superintendent said he plans to turn that around by “encouraging” his officers and assuring them he has their backs.

“But, at the same time, we know we have to change this national narrative that the cops are the bad guys. The cops are actually the good guys trying to do a difficult job,” Johnson said.
It took many cops to arrest this guy. And three of those cops were hurt. The female officer is still hospitalized.

Tribune Columnist (and fellow Greek American) John Kass:
She's alive, but what if she had pulled her gun and used it?

We'd be going through the old rituals we know by heart, angry activists, the dead re-created as the victim of state-sponsored racism, politicians cowering and turning their backs on her, the entire urban political liturgy we've seen so many times.
Cops are getting in trouble for shooting armed suspects. You think she's get a pass for killing an unarmed black man? (I'm not 100 percent certain the man is black, but the neighborhood is.)

"She murdered an innocent unarmed man!" "They should have helped him after his accident." "How could one man be a threat to multiple officers?" "They didn't have to kill him!" And indeed, they didn't. He was taken alive.

Of course the guy who beat the cop is a violent felon. But who would hold that against him after being victimized by police? I'm sure there's a nice picture of him and relatives willing to say how "he was turning his life around" and would "never hit a woman." Who would believe Chicago cops?

So this officer was willing to let herself be beat to unconsciousness in order to save her family and the department from the now inevitable "scrutiny" had she decided to use lethal force.

So what should have she done? Honestly, I don't know. I'm not convinced she made the wrong choice. The reality today is there would be hell to pay if she shot the guy. Her job and family might be ruined. There would be protests. Threats. She could lose her job or face criminal prosecution. She might have to move and take her family into hiding. She made her choice. But that is a choice no cop should ever have to make, especially at the moment when your face is smashed on concrete again and again and the world fades into darkness around you.

October 5, 2016

"Why'd you have to shoot that criminal with a gun?"

So much of the body-cam debate, releasing or not releasing videos, comes down not to police behavior but to this:
I know, as a lifelong police officer, that I see people on the worst day of their lives. People shouldn’t feel like when the police come to your house that what’s happened to you is going to be splashed all over the Internet.
But it will.

I've long advocated punting the releasing of video and privacy issue to the ACLU. If police take the lead on this, no matter what they choose, they will be faulted. There needs to be a policy based on something other than public outrage. And generally I'm all for erroring on the side of transparency. And that's probably the way it has to be as long as people are willing to say people are holding books when they're holding guns.

As my colleague says:
“What you’re seeing is basically a policy of appeasement,” said Jon Shane, a professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City and a former police captain in Newark, N.J.

Shane said state legislatures should decide the rules for making recordings public. In California, lawmakers have repeatedly failed to draw up statewide policies on the issue.
There's also this factor:
Beck acknowledged the anger surrounding the weekend’s shootings and said he believed some of the reaction has been compounded by other police killings around the country.

“We have all seen police-involved shootings that defy justification in other municipalities. I have seen them where I am at a loss to understand why,” he said. “I think that affects what happens on the streets of Los Angeles.”
This concerns the shooting of Carnell Snell Jr. in Los Angeles.