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by Peter Moskos

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.

October 4, 2016

Dejuan Yourse Arrest

For the life of me, I can't figure what Yourse is going to be charged with. Even with the game rigged in cops' favor, I don't see a crime. Yourse is under arrest after 9:10 when the officer doesn't take kindly to Yourse invited his friends over. I can understand why the officer doesn't want a posse of friends showing up at the scene, but what's the crime? This was in Greensboro, NC.

I'd be curious to see how he'd be able to articulate reasonable suspicion at 8:13. I'm not saying he couldn't; it's a low standard. But I'd like to see how. That's when things go South. Before that moment, everybody is playing along and sticking to the script. Poking a guy rarely serves any tactical benefit. Alternative if you don't want him to leave? Hold your palm out. If you're going to make physical contact, let the suspect initiate it. Also then you're in a better position to push back or grab.

After that, it becomes your standard shit show of trying to get a guy's hands behind his back. First he is resisting arrest. But then even when he isn't, it would seem like that because he's so built that his arms don't physically move in a way that can be cuffed (without double cuffs). Anyway, resisting arrest is a charge, but first you actually to be arrested for a crime before you can be charged with resisting. The standard catch-alls -- loitering, failure to obey, disorderly -- none of those even seem to apply here.

Anyway, word on the street (ie: a journalist told me) is that the officers resigned. I'm not going to defend how the male officer handled this. He sure could have benefited from de-escalation or common sense. I mean, as long as he doesn't come back wanted, I'm pretty convinced he's not breaking into the house. Too bad she wasn't handling this with him running the warrant check. But why in the world would she resign? Unless the lied on her report or something.

Also, once again, you have cops serving as force multipliers, forced into a situation by a call from an ignorant and/or racist citizen. That happens a lot. But it may not be the case here.

My wife just told me that Yourse actually was wanted on some warrant, but the cops didn't know that yet when the arrested Yourse. According an attorney for the Greensboro Police Association:
Once Mr. Yourse was taken into custody, the officers were able to continue attempting to verify his identity. Upon doing so, it was learned that Mr. Yourse had two active warrants for his arrest, along with two additional orders for his arrest [?]. Additionally, they discovered that Mr. Yourse had been charged twice in the past for breaking into his mother's house, 2 Mistywood Ct.

October 2, 2016

When to call (and not call) 911

Interesting study by some prominent (and good) sociologists about the drop-off in 911 calls after there was publicity about a man severely beaten by off-duty Milwaukee cops in 2004. Calls dropped by about 17 percent for about a year.

But that's just a segue to this, which comes from a community listserve in Durham, NC. A friend of mine who lives there sent it to me. And I reprint it here with permission of the author, Durham Sergeant Dale Gunter. He's got a bit of whimsy about him (a good quality in a sane cop) and seems to be in the news a fair amount, in a good kind of way way. Also, this a question I still get asked a lot.
There seems to be some confusion and hesitation about when to call 911. Lots of people have emailed me recently to ask when or what constitutes a 911 call versus a non-emergency call. So in order to clear it all up and because I know you’re all wondering, I’m gonna give you the skinny on the whole deal. This is exciting stuff folks, so put a pillow on the floor just in case you fall off the edge of your seat.

Here we go: if you see something HAPPENING that you think needs Police attention NOW (or for that matter, anything that falls under "Emergency Services" such as Police, Fire or EMS) then 911 is appropriate. The basic idea is to ask yourself if what you're seeing is “In-Progress.” If it is in progress -- call 911.

Now -- if the situation is clearly NOT an emergency or the incident is not currently in progress, then dialing the Non-Emergency line is appropriate [The Durham number is given here, but yours might be 311]. That’s why it’s called the Non-Emergency line -- nifty huh?

Examples of 911 calls can include:
  • Car wrecks
  • Any medical emergency
  • A break-in to your home (and you don't know if anyone is inside)
  • A break-in to your home while YOU'RE inside!
  • Seeing someone stealing, about to steal, or break-in to something
  • Fights (doesn't apply to animals, does apply to Kung-Fu)
  • Bad guy with a gun
  • Any sighting of Chuck Norris (cause someone is about to get hurt)
  • Gunshots
  • Suspicious activity (make sure to tell 911 exactly what’s suspicious about what you see)
  • Your house is on fire
  • My house is on fire
  • Anybody’s house is on fire
  • Fire in general
  • If you've fallen and can't get up
  • If I've fallen and I can't get up!
  • On second thought, a Chuck Norris sighting? Nothing we can do. Best not to intervene. It is, after all, Chuck Norris.
Now this is not even a drop in the bucket. So don't limit yourself to any list out there, because there are so many situations that can and would apply. Use good judgment and if you still have doubt, call 911. You can’t go wrong -- we'll figure it out when we get there.

Now, for the non-emergency stuff. the Non-Emergency number for the Durham Police is [yours might be 311, if you live in a city].

Basically, anything that you might need the police for, but it's not a "ShaZaaam!" moment. It's NOT in progress, and it doesn’t endanger life or property. It's more of a “Well, the police should probably know what's going on here, but there's no rush.”
Some examples of non-emergencies are:
  • A dent to your car in the parking lot.
  • A stolen mower, weed wacker, whack-a-mole game, wilted weeping willow, or other property (something that might have gotten stolen out of your shed for example) and the bad guy is long gone
  • A minor crime that occurred days ago or even hours ago
  • A car break-in (not in progress)
  • Identity fraud (not in progress)
  • Police advice
When not to call us at all --
  • When your order at Mickey-D's is not really "Your way."
  • When you forget your anniversary -- again -- and you were married Christmas day, her birthday, or Halloween (You’re on your own fellas).
  • Cat in a tree (it will come down eventually. after all, who's ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree?)
  • Dog in a tree -- call me directly. Gotta see that.
  • Clowns -- your discretion -- they creep me out too.
  • Aliens -- when aliens from Mars, in possession of an Illudium PU 36 Explosive Space Modulator, lands in the city park and start vaporizing people into cosmic dust -- it may be an emergency, but trust me -- I ain't coming.
  • Just to say "Hi Police!"
  • When Victor finds out Adam is secretly conspiring against Ashley to make her think she’s losing her mind and to make her think she's pregnant, but we all know she's really not, except for Victor, who can't see the truth because he hates Jack, and Jack is worrying about Gloria scheming as usual and Jack and Victor are worrying about that crazy Mary Jane and kitty cat. Mary Jane wants to kill Jack and Victor and stuff the new cat, or marry Jack, depends on the moment. Now, Mary Jane ought to think about calling 911 for that spider bite, that might be appropriate, and she could if she hadn't have stomped on the cell phone. Not that I watch Y&R, it's just what I hear, honest, you know, word on the street and all.
  • To find out the weather or road conditions. Instead, just watch Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker on WTVD. If Big Weather says “TarNader is a comin,” grab Dorothy and the dog and get in the cellar, cause a TarNader is a comin!
  • You want directions
  • Lost cell phones (No need to report it to anyone but your insurance company. Also, how did you call?)
  • Lost wallet
  • Lost dogs
  • Lost cats
  • Lost love
  • Lost keys
  • Lost re-runs
  • Los Alamos
  • Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas -- stays in Vegas -- unless you put it on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.
Now, if you have something that comes up and are confused or wonder about or have ANY DOUBT at all, repeat after me: Call 911 -- you can't go wrong.

September 26, 2016

Spin This: The biggest murder increase in 45 years

Murder is up. Who knew? (I've been saying so since last October.) Eventually, we're all going to have to accept this (not in a moral sense but in a statistical sense). The accepted liberal reaction to this increase seems to be "it's not a big deal" and "Don't freak out." Let's not get "hysterical." Let's talk about "gun control." (In the early 1990s, by the way, it was all about "drug treatment." That didn't happen either. And crime went down.)

What I really do not understand is why the Left is willing to concede crime prevention to the Right. (I bet Trump won't be downplaying this in tonight's debate.)

False argument #1: The best violence-reduction strategy is a job-production strategy.

It sounds nice, but I say bullsh*t. As if unemployed people just can't help but shoot each other.

Do not get me wrong: Poverty is bad. But it just so happens that 2015, the year with the big murder increase, also saw the biggest decrease in poverty since 1991. 3.5 million people rose out of poverty last year. That's great news. It really is. (Full report & summary in the NYT.)

But we still hear this from people like this St. Louis alderman:
How do we use that [crime] data to elevate the consciousness of our community? How do we use that data to provide the opportunity for people to get meaningful jobs, with livable wages?
No. I mean, yes! Please, work on that, too. But the question from these data is how the hell we get police back into policing and crime prevention. Sure, it sucks when dad loses his job, but consider how much worse it is for dad to get killed coming home from work. (I would even say that you can't have a real job-production strategy until you achieve violence reduction. Who the hell is going to open a business where you will get robbed and workers get mugged walking to their car?)

The Guardian goes on to summarize the Brennan Center's position:
Last year’s national murder increase was not a uniform trend, but a sum of contradictory changes in cities across the country. Early analyses of the 2015 murder increase suggested much of it might be driven by murder spikes in just 10 large cities.
(Now I see how clever the Brennan Center was to put out their paper last week, so it becomes cited immediately to put things "in context.")

False argument #2: It's just happening a few cities.

No. It's not.

Homicide (and almost all violent crime) is up in every grouping of towns and cities (such as "under 10,000" and "over 1,000,000"). Period. Now that doesn't mean it's up in every city. But what a weird and nonsensical standard. Sure, if we remove all the places where crime is up, crime wouldn't be up. But that's we have fancy statistical concepts like "overall," "in general," and "trend."

Even if we were to remove the 6 cities with the largest increase -- and I don't know why we would -- but just to see if the problem is isolated in a few cities, let's take out Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, Washington, Cleveland, and Houston (collectively those cities saw about 420 more murders in 2015) -- even without these cities the rest of America would still have 600 more murders and the biggest homicide increase in 25 years. That's how bad these just released numbers are.

Now we can say that violence in concentrated in certain neighborhoods. That's true. But we've long known this. Indeed, as you can tell from looking out your window, there aren't armed marauders outside your castle gates. What matters, or at least should matter, is that more American are being murdered. I find it distasteful (particularly when it comes from the Left) to say "most people" don't have to worry about crime because the "average person" is still safe. The fact that violence disproportionately affects a subset of Americans may indeed mean it's not a "national crime wave," but it is all the more reason to care.

False argument #3: It might just be a statistical blip.

But it's not. I mean, it could be a statistical blip.... If it were just one or two percent. But it's up 11 percent. The last time we saw an 11 percent one-year increase in murder was 1971. That's exactly my entire lifetime. And that was in the middle of eight-year run when homicides doubled from ten to twenty thousand. This "blip" was literally the deaths of 1,600 more Americans. The number of people killed went up from 14,164 in 2014 to 15,696 in 2015. That one-year increase negated 5 years of homicide decline.

If you think this increase in murder "no cause for alarm" and people who care are "overreacting," to you, I respectfully say "go to hell." We worked too hard to get to where we are (or were) with lower crime. And a "don't-overreact" reaction does not help. And it may lead exactly to the right-wing law-and-order backlash you so fear. (But on the flipside, to those who don't really care but will use these deaths to make some racist point about "black-on-black" crime and "those people," I say with all my heart, "no really, to hell with you, too!")

Why I care (and why you should, too):

Among academics, it's quite uncool to blame criminals for crime or give police credit for crime prevention. But then how many statisticians who use the UCR Homicide Supplement can point to a specific row and say, "Yeah, I handled that one."

Too many who say they're for "justice" never really have to think about the injustice of just even one real murder victim (one not shot by police). But then maybe I care because I was a Baltimore cop. Every single cop can tell you a story about a dead person. Why? Because they care. Granted, some cops do care more than others, but you can't police and not care.

I wasn't a cop for long (less than 2 years in total), and even I lost track of how many victims I dealt with. But a few do stand out. And this isn't even getting into my cop friends who were shot, killed, nearly killed, had to kill somebody, or carry physical and emotional wounds for life.

I remember the stare of a young black man at the same track we ran around while in the academy. His backpack made me think he was a good kid, on his way home from school. He was shot, perhaps after being robbed. We made long eye contact, even though he was dead.

I remember the guy with a gunshot to the head one 321 Post. He was still alive when I got to him. But he clearly a goner, with blood and brain dripping from the hole in his head. His sisters were wailing while he died.

How many Harvard PhD students have the intimate experience of sorted through a victims' clothes? Clothes that are literally dripping with blood and yet still reeking of body odor. You're trying to go through everything, looking for pockets, for any sign of identification of the life that used to be. And then there are the death notifications.

Think of all those deaths. Last year there were 133 more murders in Baltimore than there were in 2014. [This year the numbers are down slightly compared to 2015, and the chutzpah of some people to herald Baltimore's "crime drop" is shocking.] Take a moment and picture all those dead bodies, almost all shot young black men and teenagers. Visually stack them up like cordwood if you wish, or lay them all head-to-toe. It's real human carnage.

If you took all the Baltimore murder victims from just last year and laid them head-to-toe where the Ravens play football, that line of dead bloody bodies could score six endzone-to-endzone touchdowns. And the increase in violence last year happened all after April 27th. All it took was one man's in-custody death coupled with anti-police protests, bad leadership, a riot, and a politician's horrible choice to press criminal charges against six police officers in the matter of Freddie Gray's death. (All charges ended up being dropped after multiple trials without a single conviction on any charge.)

This is actually one time I don't care about the historical perspective. Less than the 1990's crack-crazy murder rate is not good enough. We got down to a homicide rate like Canada (about 1/4 of ours), and maybe I'll be satisfied. We can start caring now. Or we can start caring after a few more thousand people are needless killed. And if you think I'm over-reacting, consider that you might be under-reacting.

2015 UCR is out

The 2015 UCR is finally out. This means we have real numbers on last year. And the numbers are not good. Homicide is up 10.8 percent. That's biggest increase in 45 years. Don't downplay it.

I'll talk about that in my next post, but first the boring roundup:

Firearms were used in 71.5 percent, which is up from last year's 67.9 percent. That's 1,500 more murders by firearm.

52.3 percent of all victims are black. (Up ever-so-slightly from 51 percent in 2014.) 906 more black men were killed in 2015 compared to 2014 (6,115 vs. 5,209). That's a very big 17.4 percent increase (murder among white men when up 9.2 percent). To put those numbers in perspecdtive, police shot and killed 248 black men last year (and 10 black women). Most of those were justified.

21 percent of homicide victims are women, same as last year. And women are 7 percent of known offenders.

And though I don't like looking at other crime stats (because I don't trust their reliability) rape, robbery, and aggravated assult are all up as well. Reported property crimes are down a bit, but I suspect that's more due to people's decreasing desire to call the police or waiting for them to show up.

"Book Em Danno"

In minor but fun news, I got a call from the New Orleans Police Department regarding the burglary that happened to us in New Orleans in May. They IDd and arrested the guy who did it!

Turns out this very moment -- when crime lab took swabbed the energy drink the crook drunk half of and left on a counter -- was just the break needed to bust this case wide open.

Needless to say, the guy was in the system. The detective called me to make sure I hadn't invited said burglar over for an invigorating refreshment. Good work, ladies and gents of the New Orleans Police Department.

September 23, 2016

Brennan Center: No need for "most Americans" to worry about more murders

The good people at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law have assured us (pdf link to report):
Reports of a national crime wave were premature and unfounded, and that "the average person in a large urban area is safer walking on the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years."
The authors conclude there is no evidence of a national murder wave.... Most Americans will continue to experience low rates of crime.... There is not a nationwide crime wave, or rising violence across American cities.
Ah, yes.

Cause for a moment there, I was kinda worried that more people were getting killed. But it turns out, I guess, that it was illiberal of me to care about people who are particularly at risk of being killed. Also, did you know:
Homicides are concentrated in the most segregated and poorest areas of the city.
I hadn't thought of that. And since that's not where the "average person" lives, I guess we don't need to worry.

Maybe I should just jump on this illogic ideological bandwagon of denial to see where it goes:
By "historic standards," racism is pretty low in America. QED: Not a problem.

#BlackLivesMatter can close up shop because "most Americans" don't have to worry about being shot by police.

Enough with all those new letters, the "average American" doesn't face any LGBTQ discrimination.
Check, check, and check. Problems solved!

Oh, but while you're here. Not that it's any cause for concern. But there is this little issue...:
The murder rate is projected to rise 13.1 percent this year.... [and] 31.5 percent from 2014 to 2016.
Say what?!

[Update: 2015 stats are out. The rate, based on recorded homicide, increased from 4.26 to 4.75 per 100,000. The rate, based on estimated homicides, increased from 4.44 to 4.90. Recorded 13,594 homicides in 2014 (estimated 14,164). 15,192 in 2015 (estimated 15,696). 2014 estimated population 318,857,056. 2015: 320,090,857.]

If these numbers are correct -- and they may not be (there is some odd math in this report*; and keep in mind 2015's national UCR stats haven't yet come out) -- but if these Brennen Centers estimates are correct, that would mean 2015 saw a 16.3 percent increase in the homicide rate.

So all we've got is just your average 16.3 percent annual increase in murder. I mean, we had one of those, well, uh, actually, never. This would be the largest increase since the government has been keeping track. (An increase in 1921 might have been greater, but we don't really know.) The last time the UCR recorded a 31.5 percent increase in two years was, oh, never.

[In raw numbers the homicide increase is the greatest in 25 years. But it's standard industry practice to use rates and percentages.]

[Update: I've been informed over in the twitter world that when they say "nationwide" they don't mean "nationwide" but "in the top cities." I would expect the national increase to be less than what is found in the top cities. But I don't know. Anyway... the 2015 UCR data will be out this week. And then, at least when it comes to last year, we can all stop speculating and know how big the increase in homicide was.]

As to their overall point that homicide may be up but "crime" is little changed? I just call bullshit. Not on their analysis, per se. It's just that crime numbers are not as reliable as homicide numbers. Trust homicide. Crime numbers are heavily influenced A) by proactive police and arrests (which are both down) and B) non-reporting (probably up). I trust the strength of the correlation between homicide and other violent crimes more than I trust the data on other violent crimes. If homicide is up, violent crime is up. Trust me on that one.

*They've got some weird math here I can't figure out:
The national murder rate is projected to increase by 13.1 percent. Nearly half of the increase (234 out of 496 new homicides) will occur in Chicago. (page 1)
But if the national rate goes up 13 percent this year, we'd see something closer to 1,500 more homicides. (Based on 2014 rate of 4.5 and 13,472 homicides.) And Chicago's numbers will be up by about 200 this year. This is closer to 15 percent. What gives?
Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston are projected to account for 50 percent (517 of 1041) of new homicides between 2014 and 2016. (page 8)
But if the murder rate is up 30 percent, we'll have closer to 2,500 new murders. I do not understand.

Also, these semi-annual "crime isn't up" reports from the Brennan Center have this odd habit of saying, "if we remove the cities where the increase is the greatest, the increase really isn't so great. (An odd statistical proposition, to say the least.) But let's play along and "pull a Brennan." Let's remove Chicago, Houston, and Baltimore because (I think) in terms of raw numbers, those cities have the greatest increase in homicides, 2014 - 2016 (roughly 240, 165 and 115, respectively). After we "pull a Brennan" we lose about 520 murders. That's a lot, but we'd still have close to 15,500 homicides this year, which would be a 2-year increase of 15 percent. And even that should be cause for alarm.

September 22, 2016

State Variance in Police Use of Lethal Force

If we want to reduce police-involved shootings -- and we do -- why not focus on states where cops shoot the most and learn from states where cops shoot the least? These differences are huge. What is New Mexico doing wrong? What is New York doing right? The top twenty states (ignoring D.C.) are all west of the Mississippi. Arkansas is also noteworthy. I would expect it to be toward the top, but its rate of 2.2 is below the national average.

Take this chart with a grain of salt. The data are uncorrected and I can't promise it's error free. And the absolute number (n) for many states is low (18 have n < 20, for instance), so the data for a lot of these states are statistically dodgy. But the greater regional trends are pretty pronounced.

Here are the raw numbers, sorted small to large: RhodeIsland 3, NorthDakota 3, Vermont 4, NewHampshire 5, Delaware 8, Connecticut 9, Maine 9, Hawaii 10, SouthDakota 10, Wyoming 11, Alaska 12, DistrictofColumbia 12, Montana 14, Idaho 15, Iowa 18, Arkansas 18, Nebraska 19, Massachusetts 23, WestVirginia 24, Kansas 31, Minnesota 34, Mississippi 34, Utah 35, Indiana 38, Wisconsin 38, NewJersey 40, Oregon 41, Michigan 46, Maryland 46, Virginia 47, Pennsylvania 48, Kentucky 48, SouthCarolina 49, Nevada 52, Alabama 55, NewYork 59, NewMexico 59, Tennessee 62, Missouri 64, Louisiana 65, Washington 68, Colorado 75, Illinois 76, Ohio 76, NorthCarolina 76, Georgia 77, Oklahoma 77, Arizona 125, Florida 196, Texas 263, California 460, USA 2787

Trends in NYPD police-involved shootings

In relation to my previous post, it's not like the NYPD didn't used to shoot a lot of people.

There are two trends going on here. Police-involved shootings always reflect homicide numbers. (Cops are more likely to shoot a murder with a gun.) So there's a spike in 1990 the then a big drop after that, which reflects crime in NYC. But even taking that into account, there's a long-term downward trend. I have no idea what the long-terms trends in Oklahoma have been.

Source: NYPD