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by Peter Moskos

August 31, 2008

Guns 1. Criminals 0.

Robbery try at repair shop leaves man dead, police say
August 30, 2008
Baltimore Sun

The owner of a Northwest Baltimore auto repair shop fatally shot a man during an attempted robbery of his business yesterday evening, city police said.

Police spokesman Sterling Clifford said this was the second time that Joseph Goldman has shot someone trying to rob his business. Clifford said he did not know when the first incident occurred or whether the person died. Goldman declined to comment through a woman who answered his cell phone last night. In the most recent incident, two men entered Joe's Garage about 6:30 p.m. and showed a handgun, said Officer Troy Harris, a department spokesman. The owner grabbed his own handgun and fired shots at the men, hitting one. The injured man was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police did not release his name last night. The second man fled; police were searching for him, Harris said.

"I do miss working with people willing to risk their lives for me"

There's another profile of me, this time in the Financial Times of London.

Like the Wall Street Journal, this is another big conservative economic paper I don't read. Hopefully it will have some of the same impact as the Wall Street Journal review, which has been by far the best publicity to date.

It's funny to read an "as told to" when I know I didn't say things quite like that. I can't imagine I said I thought long and hard about joining, because I didn't. I thought it was a great opportunity and I didn’t have a choice, really. But who knows what I say? Sometime my mouth moves faster than my brain. While I may have said The Wire is a good show because "it doesn’t portray cops as always being good." What I meant is the that The Wire is good show "because it doesn't show cops and being always bad." But I'm not complaining. This is great publicity. And the feel of the interview is correct. But let it be known I have never in my life said "learnt."

I do like the picture. It's the "classic police shot." The photographer, Pascal Perich, called me and I recommended going to the Ditmars elevated subway stop here is Astoria. That's where where a good scene in the old movie Serpico was filmed. They didn't choose the shot from the alley of the shoot out, but this is from under the tracks. The photographer strongly requested I bring my old badge (it wasn't my idea), my book, and "look intimidating."

August 29, 2008

Formstone!

I love whatever makes a city unique. In Baltimore, that includes painted screen, marble stoops, and Formstone When I arrived in Baltimore, I said, "what is this stuff?" Well. It's Formstone. Turns out there's Formstone (or cheap imitations) in Queens and Brooklyn, too. But there's a lot of Formstone in Baltimore.

Baltimore brick is a very pretty red but isn't very strong (poor Baltimore). So people hammer it out to break into buildings. And it's porous. So people paint it. Along came Formstone. Put it on and it's maintenance free. Think of aluminum siding, but cooler. And there's actual hand-made artistry in Formstone.

I got good, as a drove around East Baltimore on slow nights, of picking out Formstone from Formstone imitators. Accept no substitutes, I say.

I just watched this great half-hour documentary, "Little Castles: A Formstone Phenomenon." Anybody interested in Baltimore of Formstone or Baltimore accents should buy it. And yes, of course John Waters is in it!

The only place selling is selling it as non-copyrighted material. That means no money is going to the film makers, Lillian Bowers and Skizz Cyzyk. But maybe if there's more demand, Formstone Films will start selling it.

I learned from it. And I already knew more about Formstone than most young Baltimoreans and 99.99% of the world. You get to see Formstone going up, and coming off.

I was told that Formstone was hand formed. I didn't believe it. I thought it was a mold. But it is made by hand. I was also told it was real stone. But it isn't. It's concrete.

Here's a little trailer I made of the documentary. If you like it, try and support Formstone Films, though it's not exactly clear how you can do that. I hope the makers don't mind me posting this without permission. But this documentary deserves publicity.

I also lived in "Hollandtown." That's Highlandtown, by the way, with a Baltimore accent.

Also, when you watch it, ask yourself what year you think this was filmed. It's far more recent than you think. That's the beauty of working-class Baltimore. It's like a time warp. It's still like this!

video

Here's the Baltimore City Paper's review.

The older women in the film make me think of my wonderful landlady, Miss Mary. Too bad our house had vinyl siding and not Formstone.

Also, as a cop I tried hard to pry one of the "Genuine Formstone" plaques off a vacant as a souvenir. I couldn't. Those things were built to last.

I want to finish my basement in Formstone. Too bad they don't make it anymore.

More guns = More deaths.

I don't like guns, but I'm not a gun control nut. I think there are a good many reasons that people can and should have guns. If I were a store owner in a dangerous neighborhood, I'd want a gun. If I were a resident in a dangerous neighborhood, I'd want a gun. If I were a hunter, I'd want a gun. If I lived in wilderness, I'd want a gun.

But guns, equal death, not freedom. At least in a democracy. To me, this is obvious. But maybe it's not. Here's a little picture to make the point. For European countries (and America)--what I like to call civilized nations, the kind of countries I want to be compared to--the correlation is strong: the higher the percentage of households with guns, the more people get killed by guns. Duh.

Of course the US tops the list. Switzerland is the only country listed with more guns, and their firearm death rate is lower than the US, because there's more going on in American homicides than just guns. We've got the war on the drugs. We're also rare in that we combine lots of guns and lots of poverty. One or the other is usually OK, but not both.
Sorry the graphic is hard to read. Clicking on it makes it much bigger.

There is no country with few guns and a lot of murder.

By the way, my favorite argument for central government and gun control isn't on the list. That's Somalia. Land of the free.

U.S. War on Drugs: Bolivia

George Washington, in his 1796 farwell address, warned about unnecessary foreign entanglements:
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
The U.S. messing up other countries to fight our failed war on drugs is nothing new. Here's the latest, in an article in the New York Times about the U.S. meddling unproductively in Boliva.

A few highlights:

"Two months ago a mob of 20,000 protesters marched to the gates of the American Embassy, clashing with the police and threatening to burn the building down." The president praised the demonstrators.

"[President] Morales, a former grower of coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, is both an antagonist and an active partner in American antidrug policy for the region. He often describes the United States as his leading adversary and has made the right to grow the coca leaf a top symbol of sovereignty and anti-imperialism.

"Yet he has also gone to unexpected lengths to restrain coca cultivation, and he accepts about $30 million a year from the United States — almost his entire antinarcotics budget — to fight cocaine."

"For now, Mr. Morales and the United States remain uneasy bedfellows. Mr. Morales has been hesitant to sever ties with the United States, especially since it provides Bolivia with about $100 million in development aid each year. It also grants duty-free access for Bolivian textiles, an economic lifeline for his country."

"The American-backed Anti-Narcotics Special Forces, known as the Leopards, go about their job. Each day at dawn, eight-man teams in camouflage snake out of a military base here in new Nissan Patrol sport utility vehicles, driving down dirt roads into the jungle. Then they get out and walk, chopping through brush with machetes, grasping M-16 rifles, in search of small mobile coca-mashing factories that have pushed Bolivian cocaine production to a 10-year high. When they find one, they set it ablaze."

The commander of the unit says, "We depend on the Americans for everything: our bonuses, our training, our vehicles, even our boots."

Meanwhile coca cultivation has increased, up 8 percent in 2006 and 5 percent in 2007.

"Mr. Morales, 48, spent his teenage years in the coca fields of the Chapare after his impoverished family migrated here from the high plains. He then rose through the ranks of the region’s coca growers unions in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when American-backed troops were aggressively trying to eradicate every illegal coca plant in Bolivia."

"In defiance, coca growers, or cocaleros, blockaded crucial roads and clashed with security forces. In a new biography of the president, the Argentine writer Martín Sivak describes one episode in which a group of Leopards beat Mr. Morales after he spoke at a rally, leaving him for dead. A photograph in the book shows the president as a wisp of a young man, lying beaten on a stretcher."

In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns

I don't see what the problem is. And I'm a liberal who supports gun control. I'm all for a assault riffle and handgun free America. But it's not going to happen.

Maybe as a cop I'm not afraid of guns (in the right hands). Maybe as a teacher I want one. But really, I don't.

But I do have students in my class with guns. I got no problem with that. And I wouldn't want guns in all school. But I don't see the problem here.
In Texas School, Teachers Carry Books and Guns

HARROLD, Tex. — Students in this tiny town of grain silos and ranch-style houses spent much of the first couple of days in school this week trying to guess which of their teachers were carrying pistols under their clothes.

“We made fun of them,” said Eric Howard, a 16-year-old high school junior. “Everybody knows everybody here. We will find out.”

The school board in this impoverished rural hamlet in North Texas has drawn national attention with its decision to let some teachers carry concealed weapons, a track no other school in the country has followed. The idea is to ward off a massacre along the lines of what happened at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

“Our people just don’t want their children to be fish in a bowl,” said David Thweatt, the schools superintendent and driving force behind the policy. “Country people are take-care-of-yourself people. They are not under the illusion that the police are there to protect them.”
Really. What's the problem?

The whole story in the New York Times is here.

August 28, 2008

Murders down in Eastern

Buried in a small story in the Sun: "Nineteen people have been killed in the Eastern District this year, half as many as at this point last year."

The poor mob

Sometimes I kind of feel sorry for these guys. From the Boston Globe.

The New England Mafia just is not what it used to be.
In what would be an unusual move for a man of his rank, the family's reputed underboss, Carmen "The Cheese Man" DiNunzio, is accused of personally delivering a $10,000 bribe to a near stranger, a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

Some of his underlings have supplemented their incomes by shoplifting, and one aging soldier was spotted peddling electric toothbrushes on a street in the North End, State Police said.

The big break against the mob happened when sentences shot way up. Guys were willing to serve 5 years for their crew. But the threat of 50 years made them sing like birds.

Legalized gambling also played a part. There's a lesson in that.

August 26, 2008

Prop Joe? He Dead.

That's a Wire reference, if you don't know. There's a short Q & A about me in Vanity Fair titled "The Ivy Leaguer Who Took on Prop Joe." The art cracks me up:
While ace writer Jordan "slugger" Heller's text makes me sound so rough and blue-collar, the art just captures my naturally effeminate and pompous persona perfectly.

Hmmm, yes, indeed, I remember arresting that ruffian. It sure felt mahvalous to get that rapscallion and his dirty scowl off the street! I always carried a sweater just in case it got chilly or I needed to pat my high brow. In this arrest, I was just so thrilled that the scoundrel didn’t make me perspire (or even put out my pipe)! It was so nice to have that sketch artist capture the moment! What a dah-ling!
When Harvard-trained sociologist Peter Moskos entered the Baltimore Police Academy, back in 1999, his objective was simple: observe up-close the methods and culture of an American police department. He never planned on actually becoming a cop. But one day after Moskos arrived, the police commissioner who’d approved his project left office, and the new regime was not so accommodating. “Why don’t you become a cop for real?” he was asked—or rather, dared—by the interim commissioner, who was threatening to throw him out on his Ivy League butt. Six months later, the Princeton/Harvard alum had a badge and a gun, and was patrolling the graveyard shift of Baltimore’s high-crime Eastern District, the same drug-riddled streets that served as a setting for HBO’s The Wire. The result: Cop In the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District, Moskos’s book recounting his year in the ranks of the thin blue line.

VF Daily: Your background is not typical for a police officer. Did you take much flak from your fellow cops?

Peter Moskos: Actually, I found that I got surprisingly little flak from fellow cops about being a Harvard student. I got more shit from Harvard professors about being a cop.

What were your professors worried about?

Originally I wasn’t going to become a cop; traditional academics aren’t supposed to do that. [They’re supposed to observe, not participate.] So I think they felt I was pulling the bait and switch. But some of it I think was just class snobbery: “You’re a Harvard student, you’re not supposed to become a cop. That’s a blue-collar job.”

The midnight shift in Baltimore’s Eastern District. That’s serious. Aside from the criminals you’d be dealing with, did you worry about encountering police corruption?

[The Eastern District] could be perceived as the heart of darkness of police culture, so yeah, I was worried about it, but I didn’t see any corruption. What I did find, however, is that the average cop has more integrity than the average professor.

There's more. The whole Q & A can be found here.

August 25, 2008

Oh Nos!

Rabid kitten discovered in North Baltimore
A stray kitten that wandered into a North Baltimore backyard this month had rabies, the first city cat or dog found to have the disease in more than 20 years, officials said yesterday.

Two people who tried to help the kitten are receiving medical treatment. Others who are concerned that they or their pets may have had contact with the kitten are asked to call the Bureau of Animal Control.

The whole story is here.

L.A. Police Shift Discipline Away From Automatic Punishments

I had no idea that any department could be so stupid to have a system of "automatic punishment."

"In a series of changes this year, direct supervisors are being encouraged to forgo suspensions of officers who they believe will change their behavior - or just made a one-time mistake - and instead opt for written warnings."

"Police officials believe the shift could turn around a department, forcing officers to think about their actions instead of automatically being suspended and often getting paid for those days by a union insurance policy."

You think?

The whole story is here.

Police departments don't enforce immigration laws

Good.

"Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement." The whole story is here.

In our nation's capital...

"My one beef with law enforcement in general is I hate the top-down approach, that only people with rank can think."

I think I've said that before. But that quote is from D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

"Lanier wants to convert the department from a conventional military-style hierarchical culture into one driven from the bottom up. That means accountability and leadership need to come from all ranks, particularly from those at the bottom who play the most important role for citizens."

Here's the whole story.

August 23, 2008

There used to be city here

It's sad to think about cities being abandonded. I hate to make the Eastern District stand for everything that's bad. It's bad in East Baltimore. But it's also bad in St. Louis, East St Louis, Detroit, Gary, Camden, Newark, the west side of Chicago. The list goes on and on.

Just two generation ago, this area was packed full with homes and families and people. Streets. Sewers. Water. Electricity. A roof over our head. Everything you need. Then the jobs left. Now, because of drugs, the war on drugs, and crime, it's literally abandoned.

If (like me) you're fascinated with urban decay, you should check out the work of photographer Camilo Jose Vergara. And some of later work shows before and after pictures of the re-habitation of Harlem. Good stuff.

And if you like Baltimore rowhouses, I recommend The Baltimore Rowhouse. It's not all decay. It's stained glass and marble stoops and Formstone! They may all look the same to outsiders, but you can pretty easily tell what part of Baltimore you're in just by the look of the rowhomes.


Above is a street, not an alley. Baltimore has a lot of narrow streets. I call them alley streets. But they're streets, with houses fronting them. Here the whole block just happens to be torn down.
This looks like west on E. North Ave. Can somebody please tell me what's up with people who roll themselves and their wheelchairs around with their legs? I associate it with the ghetto. And I just don't get it.




More Eastern Pictures

Thanks to Konrad for taking (and bringing me!) these.



There aren't too many streets with pretty trees. Alas, the trees don't stop bullets. But the streets with trees tend to be less abandoned.

The Eastern Today

Here are pictures from the Eastern District today.

I keep thinking that the Eastern hasn't changed since I left. But of course it has. On one hand, Hopkins took over a bunch of it. On the other, I'm sure it's even more abandoned than ever. The population dropped 30% between 1990 and 2000. There's no reason to think that trend hasn't continued up to 2008. That's a lot of empty buildings and vacant lots.




August 22, 2008

Durham and Eager: Stylish? Clean?

2008:I just got this pic of the corner from Durham and Eager in the Eastern. I love the new PR campaign: "My New East Side is Stylish." "Clean." "Innovative." "United." "Exciting." "The Future." "Family." I hope it works. It looked nothing like this when I was there. In 2000 the corner looked like the picture below, which is of Eager and Chapel, 2 very short blocks away. Basically, both pictures were taken from the same spot, looking in opposite directions.
Google Earth still has an imagine from before the demolition. It's interesting because the block of Durham south of Eager was still filled with homes. But you can see other blocks entirely vacant. Eager is the east/west street in the middle. The house above with the feather duster on the door is still visible center right. The last home before an otherwise empty city block.
In all fairness, I should show a similar shot of a nicer part of the Eastern. Below is part of Sector 3. The Eastern District police station is at the top right. Homes below are owner occupied and well kept up. It even looks neat. Street violence is rare. Of course... I didn't work in Sector 3.

'Wire' actress 'Snoop' released from jail

Read all about it.

CUNY Podcast

Enjoy CUNY radio's podcast interview of me. "Book Beat." What a good name for a show that features a book about police.

(CUNY, pronounced Quny, stands for the City University of New York, of which John Jay College is a part)

Police arrest 'Wire' actress

Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, the actress who played a cold-blooded killer of the same name on the HBO series The Wire, was arrested on minor drug charges yesterday after police picked her up for refusing to cooperate as a witness in a murder trial, records show.

The whole story in The Sun is here.

August 20, 2008

Me on KPFT right now

KPFT. About drugs.

No wonder people like him

I am proudly liberal. I am not an economic libertarian or social conservative.

With that, I heard Ron Paul interviewed on National Public Radio yesterday. Of course like any politician, he was playing to his audience. On NPR, he's talking about ending the war in Iraq and not, say, overturning Roe v. Wade. But with what I heard him say, he sure makes a lot of sense. I'd take him over George Bush any day. Of course, I'd take anybody over George Bush.

When it comes to the war on the drugs (he's against it) and U.S. foreign policy (on Georgia: "Who cares who started it?" "Why are our troops there in the first place?"), I like him. And unlike too many of his supporters (those that read and comment on this blog excepted, of course), he doesn't sound like the crackpot he probably is.

More bad news from the war on drugs

Thanks to the War on Drugs, submarines are slipping undetected into the U.S.
The Boston Globe has the latest story.

The Wire

I have a secret. Until a few days ago, I hadn't seen the last season of The Wire.

I love The Wire. But I don't have HBO. And I don't want to go somewhere to watch it in case I miss an episode.

So I wait until it's out on DVD. On DVD you can binge and watch the Wire in four hour stretches. Along with being satisfying, it makes the plot easier (not easy, easier) to understand.

So this was the week. In three nights (2 hours, 4 hours, 4.5 hours) my wife and I binged. We just finished.

It was good.

I won't spoil anything, but I don't believe for a second police officers would do the "big lie." So that's the 25%that isn't realistic. Like Hampsterdam. But somehow, the unrealistic parts only add to the show.

It was good, baby. Real good.

August 19, 2008

Colleges: Drinking age 'not working'

Top university officials in Maryland - including the chancellor of the state university system and the president of the Johns Hopkins University - say the current drinking age of 21 "is not working" and has led to dangerous binges in which students have harmed themselves and others.

"Kids are going to drink whether it's legal or illegal," said Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody, who supports lowering the drinking age to 18. "We'd at least be able to have a more open dialogue with students about drinking as opposed to this sham where people don't want to talk about it because it's a violation of the law."

"How many times must we relearn the lessons of prohibition?" the statement says. "Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer."

The whole story by Stephan Kiehl in the Baltimore Sun is here.

Police officer indicted for Taser death

This is rare: "A grand jury in a small Louisiana town last week took the rare step of indicting a police officer for repeatedly shocking a handcuffed suspect with a Taser."

Here's the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Race is involved. The tased guy was black. The officer, who was fired, was white.

Meanwhile, in Houston. It turns out that there was no wrongdoing in each and every of the 1,700 taser incidents. That includes the the guy who shocked his own stepson. Here's the story. Good job, H.P.D.!

Baltimore City juries less likely than suburban juries to convict, study says

No shit, sez I.

Here's the Baltimore Sun story by Julie Bykowicz.

People talk about how the criminal justice system is biased against blacks. And it is. If it weren't, nearly half the people in prison wouldn't be black.

But, dot dot dot, if you are going to be arrested for drugs, it's far better to be arrested in Baltimore City (where most people are black) than in the surrounding counties (where most people are white).

I talked about this in my book (which by now I hope you've read). This is from the Sun's story:
Among the findings: In the three counties, 45 percent of defendants were convicted and 27 percent acquitted. The remaining 28 percent were convicted of some charges and acquitted of other charges. Those numbers were different in Baltimore, where 23 percent were convicted, 43 percent acquitted and 34 percent given "combination verdicts."

Conviction rates also vary between the city to the counties depending on the charges. In the city, 57 percent of drug defendants and 57 of defendants charged with personal offenses (such as murder, assault or robbery) were convicted. Those numbers in the counties were 95 percent and 69 percent, respectively.
[...]
The "starkest difference," [...] was that jurors in nearby counties are 30 times more likely than their city counterparts to convict a defendant of the most serious charge against him. The probability of a conviction on the top count is 2 percent in the city and 63 percent in the counties, the report says.
Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy doesn't like the report. But I, like any Baltimore City Police Officer, don't like Patricia Jessamy.

Why won't Baltimore City juries convict criminals? There are three basic reasons:

1) People who make up Baltimore City juries don't like or trust police because they've had bad experiences with Baltimore City police.

2) People who make up Baltimore City juries have friends and/or relatives who have been accused of crimes and the jury members they simply refuse to believe are guilty. So they are quick to give the benefit of the doubt to the suspect. It's not "us" versus "them." It's us versus us.

3) Some members of Baltimore City juries are simply stupid.

August 18, 2008

Real Police

I just received this email. It's an interesting take on on the concept of being "real police." "Real police" is both a concept and a compliment. It's what in the NYPD they call a "cop's cop." Also, when you actually say "real police," you have to stress "real" and the first syllable of "police." Otherwise it doesn't make sense.
I find the resentment over your book interesting. I would like to focus on the retired Major from the city who refuses to read it. I am very much "real police," but I am not entirely sure my 4.5 years as a Baltimore City officer would qualify as "experience" according to this commander (I now have an additional 2 years in [***] police department). I guess you have to inefficiently manage a district and treat subordinates poorly in order to qualify for "real" experience in Baltimore City ... a little cynicism I had to add.

Experience, in my humble opinion, does not have a definitive time frame; rather, it’s how you use your time while you are there. An officer can lazily choose to sit in their patrol car for a year, answer calls for service, never act proactively and consider that experience. Or that officer can choose to commit to hard work, be aggressive and gain the experience sought after by many. However, whether aggressive or not, I think it is accurate to say the average officer has a certain level of comfort for the job after one year.

Personally, I worked hard for two years in patrol which opened up the door for two years in flex. I have great experience, particularly in the field of drug work. Do I know everything? No. But I was able to handle myself efficiently and safely on the street. But then again, according to certain police, experience is seemingly based solely upon your sequence number, not in what you do.

Finally, I'd like to address a quote from his letter. The Major writes, "... that is why your book upsets real police; ... when some opportunist such as yourself, exploits a mere year of service, converting it in some way to confer expertise on his puny observations, which were subsequently recorded for future use and gain!"

Again, I am "real police" and I am not upset. I thought the book was a great read. I felt your writings were fundamentally correct based upon YOUR observations and experiences in the city. If the Major would have read your book, he would understand your reason for coming to the city and for the book. From my perspective, it was research which turned into hands-on experience. What better way to do research than that? What is with the major's anger with officers (in general it seems) coming to the city and leaving after a short period, to better themselves or perhaps even, dare I say, write a book. Countless officer's come to Baltimore to gain experience and leave.

I cannot apologize for being unwilling to wallow in the disastrous Baltimore City Police Department and that complete hole of a city. Individuals like the Major are one reason (among the countless others) I cannot wait to leave law enforcement. When I am done with my graduate studies at [***], I am out the door not looking back!

I enjoy the blog. I'm sure I'll continue to comment on what I read from time to time.

Respectfully,
[***]

Drug Dealers vs. Business

A liquor store in Baltimore is being forced to close because a man was killed there and drug dealers congregate. Here's the story in the Sun. I'm of mixed feelings. Liquor stores in the ghetto are hardly the most sympathetic businesses. But if they were all shut down, it's not like the neighborhood's problems would suddenly disappear.

It's a shame there aren't more locally run business in the ghetto. In many ways, the Eastern District is typical. Here's a quick, perhaps inaccurate, and certainly unpolitically correct history of business life in the Eastern.

In the old days, or so I hear, many of the local businesses were run by Jewish people. At least that's how the story is told on the street. Were they exploitive? Some think so. But, no, I don't. Are all businesses exploitative? I don't think so. Many of these Jews had grownup in the neighborhood. Many had stayed in the neighborhood when other whites fled. Yes, they were there to make money. But they also spoke English and hired locals to work in their stores. In hindsight, these were the good old days.

After the riots in the late 1960s, many of these store owners felt betrayed by the anger, left broke by the destruction, and realized that a little profit wasn't worth their life. A lot of businesses packed up or closed for good.

Over the next 30 years, more businesses closed. And not an insignificant number of these after the owner got killed in a robbery.

Today there's not much left. Monument St is still filled with stores. And there's a excellent (black owned) produce store that deserves special mention (Leon's Produce, 1001 N. Washington St.).

Other stores include laundromats, bars, Chinese takeout (called "yakamee" in Baltimore), and corner stores. The corner stores are now mostly run by Koreans (who are still referred to as "Chinamen"). If the store owners can't afford a home in the suburbs, they may they live upstairs, in sort of a castle-like fortress setup.


I can see the causes for resentment on both sides. At it's worst, think L.A. riots and Koreans guarding their stores with guns. The store owners sit all day behind plexiglas selling overpriced crap. Many don't speak English. Most hate their customers. And because they're behind glass and won't come out, they can't control what goes on in the lobby of their own store. And unlike the old days, these store owners, by and large, couldn't care less about the well being of the neighborhood. Still, and this is important to remember, the bigger problem in the neighborhood is too few stores, not bad store owners. Besides it's not easy to run a business in the ghetto. That's why so few people do it. I wouldn't. If running a store in the ghetto were such an easy way to make money, why don't you do it?

Now I don't know Mr. Yim, the owner of the closed liquor store. But my guess is 1) he felt helpless to control what went on in and around his store, 2) he was helpless to control what went on in and around his store, and 3) he didn't really care as long as his 1,000 daily customers kept giving him money so he and his family could survive.

From the story: "More than 300 residents signed a petition in the spring asking the city liquor board not to renew the store's license.... "With those doors locked, [the drug dealers] don't have a place to hide anymore."

But here's the problem: with the doors locked, the drug dealers will still have places to hide. Drug dealers don't want stores. Business owners are a pain in their ass. Business don't want drug dealers scaring customers. Businesses call police... until eventually the business owner wins gives up.

For drug dealers, a vacant building is better for business than a store. Vacants don't attract who don't want to buy drugs. Vacants don't call police. Vacants are good places to hide your stash. You can run away from police through a vacant. You can fuck your girl in a vacant. Every time a store closes, the drug dealers win. And by and large, the drug dealers have won a lot.


I was friends with a local man man who ran a corner laundromat. From behind the glass we'd drink coffee and talk about politics and race and I'd chuckle at the junkies who came in and paid 50 cents for a cup of sugar with a little coffee. The owner believed he was doing good. He was. If he closed, how would the old people on the block do their laundry? He was right. He also closed around 2pm because it was too dangerous after that.


His corner was a bad drug corner. The worst we had in Sector 2. And that's saying a lot. For a while he called police because of drug dealing on his corner. When police pulled up, the dealers would run into his store (and cause trouble). After a while, police became convinced that he was a drug dealer. Because whenever police pulled up, there were drug dealers in his store. There's a certain logic to that, except it's wrong.

As much as I can guarantee anything, I can guarantee that this man was not dealing drugs. But what was he to do? He stopped calling police and continued to yell at dealers when they came in his store. There's nothing the dealers would have liked more than him closing for good. And that's why it's sad whenever a business closes. The bad guys have won.

Life for the American Brewery Building

Last time I was in town I noticed the scaffolding around the building from the train. That had to be good news. I think it might be the most beautiful building in the world. It just happens to be in the Eastern. It was a bad shape when I roamed around it in 2000. Now it's being fixed and saved.

I written about this building before.

Today the Sun has this story.

August 15, 2008

August 14, 2008

Teens Cite Ease of Access to Drugs

The Washington Post reports: "A growing number of teenagers say it's easier to illegally obtain prescription drugs than to buy beer or marijuana." 19 percent, to be exact (according to the survey from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University). 25% say marijuana is the easiest, with 43 percent saying they could buy the drug in less than an hour.

Arguably, regulation of beer and cigarettes is pretty effective. The problem may be, given our absurdly high legal drinking age, that teenagers too often have trouble getting beer. For many, pilfering prescription drugs or buying weed is the easier option.

If the choice is between a few beers and popping pills, we really should encourage responsible drinking.

Like it or not, most teenagers start drinking around 16. Cracking down too much on that either fails or encourages kids to try other, more dangerous drugs.

Besides does anybody really believe that college students shouldn't drink?

August 12, 2008

I love you, Baltimore!

You know what I love about Baltimore? When I’m there, very often I want to burst out singing, “I love you, Baltimore!” just like Tracy Turnblad from “Hairspray.”



Usually, I resist the urge.

These past two days in Charm City were no exception. I never felt so welcome moving to a city as I did when I moved to Baltimore. Now, years later, when I go back, I still feel at home. And there’s always a couch and a cold beer waiting for me.

I go back every year for a Crab Feast at my sergeant’s church. The past two years the crabs weren’t as good as they should be. This year, I’m proud to say, they’re back up to par!

Now if you live in Baltimore, you might wonder why New Yorkers would travel six hours to eat Maryland steamed crabs. There’s nothing like it here! (Nor do we have Bull and Oyster Roasts, for that matter.)

In truth, we can and do steam blue crabs here (from Louisiana). And it is about the crabs. But a church Crab Feast is so much more than just steamed crabs. And just $37 gets you all this.

First the wait to get in. The entry process always moves slowly, even though everybody already has their ticket. It’s like waiting for a roller coaster. But only if, when waiting for a roller coaster, you could smell Old Bay and got to laugh at the role of aluminum foil hidden in the bag of the people in front you to facilitate easy (and prohibited) take out.

When you get close to the basement doors, you can hear the tok-tok-tok of the raffle wheel. That’s usually when I realize where I am!

Given our large group, we had part of two tables. But there’s an old lady (with an amazing hairdo) in one of our seats. She doesn’t seem to like us so we get the priest to sort this out. She won't move, not even for man of God. First she said, “because my walker is here.” The priest offered to move her walker. “No,” she said, “I’m not moving!” How can you argue? And I’ll be damned if she didn’t move. Not for four hours. Not till she got up to go and sneak a few leftover tidbits in her purse

We went to Plan B and squeezed 12 of us around a table for 10 without any further problem.

And by the time my eyes get used to the florescent lights, everything has come together: the friends, the tok-tok-tok, the Old Bay, the music from the band. I navigate what I call the “decoy table” (I ain’t eating no celery sticks and macaroni salad at a crab fest! But I do like one sloppy-joe like BBQ beef sandwich and a cup of crab soup). When I get back, the buckets of beer are filled. And then, what we’ve all been waiting for: a 13-year-old boy dumps the first batch of steamed crabs on our craft-paper covered table.


This year, I even won 3 bottles of booze for a $5 raffle investment. It’s not just the booze I like, it’s also fun to take bottles and be able to say, “Thank you, father!”
Four hours after we came. I couldn’t eat another crab (and I did try). Thank you, ladies, for all your hard work. And see you next year! We went back to my sergeant's house for a bit and then my wife and New York friends went home. I stayed behind. We went to a bar or two. A few hours later, after nearly 10 straight hours of eating and drinking, I was ready for bed.

I was careful not to drink too much because I didn't want to be hungover for my radio interviews. I succeeded. The next day, Monday, I did two radio interviews in succession. One with Dan Rodricks. The other with Ron Smith. It was my third time on the Ron Smith show, but the first time in studio, which is always nicer. They went well.

After the second interview, I took the light rail from Television Hill down to Lexington Market. I got there at 4:45, 15 minutes before Faidleys closes. As last call goes out, I order two backfin crabcakes for there, 10 uncooked ones to go, and a Natty Bo. While standing and eating (there are no seats), I see a softshelled crab come out all golden and delicious. I say to no one in particular, “I forgot all about that!” The man asks if I want one. Yes! And with that, a few minutes after closing, the very last item goes in the deep fryer.

An female employee explains in wonder, “two backfin cakes and a softshell?! The last time I saw somebody eat like that, they were smoking the wacky weed!” I assured her there was no weed, just a homesick man from New York. Luckily, this woman was long gone and didn't see me by the time I hit the oyster stand on the way out for a little “desert" (in the form of 4 oysters, 3 clams, and another beer--together that last order cost less than $10, half of what it would cost in NYC).

The were 4 of us slurping our oysters and one shucker.

Somehow, the barbershop-like conversation of black men (and me) turned from smoked pigs feet to road rage:

“…But she got out of her car to knock on my window to tell me I was an asshole!”

“Was she white or black?”

“She was a white woman! Can you believe that?!” [this was not a small man]

She-it."

“Maybe you should have told her you cut her off just to meet a woman like her,” I said.

“Yeah, Tell her you’ve been waiting for a woman like her all your life!”

“Man, I ain’t waiting for that shit! With her lazy eye, I couldn’t even tell who she was looking at.”

“That’s so when you get out the car, she can say ‘I wasn't talking to you! I was just talking [pointing in opposite directions] to him and him!'"

Eventually the man next to me and I got back to talking about food and the proper heat and moisture needed to smoke meat and fish. He took a liking to me when I agreed with him and could tell him why cows are best grass fed ("...because they're not made to eat corn!").

I expressed skepticism that a standard pork chop could ever be good. "They're too lean to be good," I said.

“I know. That’s why you gotta put bacon-grease on a pork chop! All the good soul food places do that. They just won’t admit it.” Brilliant! He also recommended rubbing pork loin in red wine before smoking.

One pleasant terrorist fist jab, a run for the the light rail, and 30 minutes later, I was happily half-sleeping on a train back to NYC.

Baltimore, you mean well.

And yes, I love you, Baltimore!

August 8, 2008

Cop's gun "accidentally" fires

The Daily News reports that a cop's gun "accidentally" fired. No it di'int! If there's one thing I learned as a cop, it's that guns don't fire by themselves. You gotta pull the trigger.

Now there is a chance, if your finger is on the trigger, that you could get hit by something and accidentally squeeze the trigger. But if you did, the bullet wouldn't hit the driver. No way. With the luck of police, if would probably hit your best friend.

It was a good shooting. Here's the abridged version of what's in the Daily News:

Stolen car. Backup called. Four uniformed cops approached, guns drawn. 25-year-old driver repeatedly slams into a parked SUV, tearing off the vehicle's rear wheel and forcing its rear half onto the sidewalk.

One of the two passengers runs, is caught. The car jumps the curb and drives into a store gate. The driver spins the car about 270 degrees, striking the lieutenant. "As the car hit the cop, he accidentally fired his gun, sending a bullet through a rear window and striking the driver."

So why would the cop say the gun accidentally fired when he took a good shot that needed to be taken in a tough situation? Because it's against the rules to fire at or from a moving vehicle (I've always liked that "from" part).

Now it makes sense that you generally don't want to kill the man in control of a car. But sometimes you need to. And this one one of the cases. But the rules don't allow for that.

What's an officer to do? There are three choices (and you have 1/2 second to decide):

1) Do nothing, get hit by a car, and have the car zoom off before it crashes into someone or something?

2) Do the right thing, shoot, be honest, and potentially get in trouble for shooting at the driver of a moving car?

Or 3) do the right thing, shoot, tell a little white lie, and be called a hero?

It'd do the latter. So did the lieutenant.

So this accidental bullet just accidentally happened to fly through the car rear window and accidentally go right into the area of the driver's seat where the driver just happened to be sitting. He was accidentally killed. If this was an accident, what a lucky accident it was!

I wish departmental rules would allow cops to do their job, stay safe, tell the truth, and not get in trouble. But they don't. And since they don't, I say well done, L.T.!

Big bust in Australia

Australia police confiscated 15 million pills of ecstasy. That's a lot of dancing! The ecstasy was hidden in cans from Italy, supposedly of canned tomatoes.

What's amazing about hauls of these huge sizes is just how little they matter.

Why, what if all that ecstasy had gotten through?! I mean just think, every shipment before this did get through... and nobody was the worse for it. Ecstasy isn't really dangerous. If it were pure MDMA (the active ingredient) 15 million pills could have been swallowed and nobody would have died (unless, of course one person swallowed all 15 million).

But still, 15 million pills is a lot, almost enough one for every man, woman, and child in Australia.

You want to know how hard it is to stop drugs from coming in? Look at this picture from the BBC:
The article says 15 million pills were in 3,000 cans. That's 5,000 pills per can. I think that's doable. These are big cans.

Each layer in the pallet has 72 cans. That means you need only 42 layers of cans. I'm no expert with the fork lift, but I'm thinking maybe you could stack these 8 high(?). So with just maybe five pallets, you could enough E to supply all of Australia for, well, I have no idea for how long Australia needs to go through 15,000,000 pills.

How hard can it be to move a couple of pallets into an economy? Not hard at all. That's why we'll never get rid of drugs Not as long as people want to get high.

Hit it!

Ha!
"Apparently, McDonald's didn't realize something everyone else did, namely that the "I'd hit it" slogan adorning a banner ad means "I fancy it sexually" in the language of its target audience, and that the slogan sounds somewhat strange in the context of hamburger advertising."

August 7, 2008

More on NYPD vs. bicyclists

If you need more proof that something ain't right in how the NYPD handles Manhattan's Critical Mass bike ride, you should watch this video on the blog, The Agitator. There's an anti-police tone I don't like. And overproduction. And half-assed legal knowledge (there is no Constitutional right you "wave" when you identify yourself to police. Ask Dudley Hiibel. And if you really are concerned about bargaining away Constitutional rights, why not focus on our horrible system of legal plea bargains?)

Anyway... the juxtaposition of quotes from charging documents and video proof to the contrary is pretty bad.

In George Kelling and James Q. Wilson's classic "Broken Windows" piece, they talk about police being told to clean up a park because bums are harassing secretaries. So cops go in and bust heads and then, when the somebody like the ACLU inevitably complains, the brass throw those cops under the bus because they're shocked. Shocked(!) that police officers would behave that way. Besides, they say, they never gave orders to bust heads.

One of the great successes in applying Broken Windows in NYC was that the chiefs did everything legally and openly. Not always popularly. But they did get the bums out of the subway. And they did so legally.

Why is that important? Because if you put police in an impossible situation and don't tell them what to do, you shouldn't be surprised when cops start being stupid.

I didn't relish being filmed as police officer because things can be taken out of context and used against you. But filming police actions is legal and, especially if you're in the middle of Times Square, get used to it!

Police departments willing to open themselves to public scrutiny are a good litmus test for a free society (that's not my idea... but I can't remember whose line it is). Generally, police in the U.S. do OK on that front. You want to go on a ride-along at your local police station? Odds are you can do it. That's a good sign. Saying "no cameras" is a characteristic of repressive regimes. It's not a good sign.

I feel sorry for police officers placed in situations where they are duty bound to fail. But if you are a police officer placed in such a situation, remember that you don't have to join the mob. Nobody can force you to do anything illegal and nobody can force you to lie on a Statement of Probable Cause and sign your name to it. And if you do lie and get caught, you can be damn sure that whoever "made you" do it won't be protecting your ass!

So what if I were ordered to police Critical Mass and told to arrest anybody I legally could? Well, for starters I wouldn't walk too fast. And come to think of it, I think an important part of policing such a "dangerous" event is making sure tourists, especially the good looking female kind, are safe from danger. I would protect as many as possible.

If I felt I actually had to work because my sergeant was breathing down my neck? I would only arrest somebody doing something worse than just biking down the street. Open container? Scaring pedestrians? Yelling "fuck you" to police without ID? I might even grab somebody off their bike if they wouldn't stop (I'd look for a pale and thin looking hipster). I wouldn't knock anybody off.

Finally, no matter what happened, I wouldn't lie in my charging documents. As I write in my book, I may have violated the spirit of some laws (like loitering), but I never violated the letter of the law. Why risk your career to stop a person riding a bike through Times Square? It's not worth it!

Oh, and one last thing, I don't know what you should do if you're being arrested for no good reason. But screaming and screaming and screaming does not endear you to me, Ms. Lin. By the end of that video, even I was glad to see you go.

Yes to Free Coffee

I always accepted free coffee. And I'm proud of it. There's nothing wrong with that. The links I built over coffee helped me be a better patrolman.

Accepting free coffee or a free meal should not be against the rules. But it is. People say it's the start of corruption, but it's not.

I mention this because this Chicago police officer was going too far. The Chicago Tribune reports:
A Chicago police officer was suspended for 15 months and ordered to undergo counseling for demanding free coffee and pastries from six Starbucks Coffee houses over five years.

The Police Board of Chicago decided in May to suspend Officer Barbara Nevers, a 14-year veteran, after finding her guilty of using her job as a police officer to intimidate the employees of the coffeehouses to give her free coffee by flashing her badge, handcuffs or gun when they asked for payment.

"I don't pay for coffee, I am an officer, I get coffee for free," Nevers, 55, allegedly told employees who asked for payment.

I think there are two rules police should follow before accepting anything for free:

1) Always offer to pay. And I mean always. Just because your last sandwich was free doesn't mean this one is. If you always offer to pay, you'll never be in awkward position where somebody feel compelled do something they don't want to do (like give you something for free). And taking something without paying? That's theft.

2) Be open about any freebies to your fellow officers. I'm not saying you want to advertise your sources too much. Because we all know that nobody screws up a good thing like a bunch of cops. The reason people don't give freebies to cops is because then every cop in the city shows up. And at some point a line is crossed. A cup of coffee is OK. Even a meal is OK. A flat screen hi-def TV isn't (but I have no problem with the discounts cops get here from a large electronics store).

How do you know you've crossed a line? When you tell other officers and their eyes bug out and turn away saying, "I don't want to hear that shit!" Or alternatively, "How do I get me one!!!" If police are surprised, you've gone to far.

And it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) to not promise anything in return.

But, you may ask, if people don't expect anything in return, why would they give police freebies. One, because it's nice. Two, because they like having a cop around. Three, maybe because you speak Greek. And four, yeah, maybe they do expect something in return. That's nice. I don't care what they think. Besides, do you really think I'm so cheap that I can be bought for $1?!

Any blanket prohibition on freebies puts officers in a bad spot and forces them to break the rules. If you can't prohibit something successfully, it's better to regulate (where have I heard that before?).

Besides, sometimes it's rude to say no.

A place on Harford road had great chicken sandwiches. Other cops got a good price. Mine were free. But I always offered to pay. I once asked one of the Greeks who ran the carry-out joint why they didn't move to a safer location (that plexiglas ain't as bulletproof as you might think). He said, "Have you seen prices we charge? You can't get away with that in Greektown."

Ikarus was a block from home on Eastern Ave. The owners there are wonderful. Even before I was a cop, they were good to me. I found my apartment through them. And have have great crab cakes. They opened at 11. On the unfortunately days when I was still in uniform at 11am (normally I was off at 8am), I could eat for free. But if I were still in uniform at 11am, I probably wanted a drink. And I couldn't drink in uniform. So I would prefer to change and pay.

McDonald's give all cops free food. But I don't like McDonald's so I wouldn't go there.

7-11 had courtesy cups. Anything in one of those was free. It wasn't just for cops. Others got them, too (like delivery men and employees). Nothing wrong there. Plus 7-11 have decent private bathroom.

And Dunkin' Donuts, well, it depended on who was working there. I like their coffee. I would always offer to pay. Sometimes they took my money. Sometimes they didn't. Either way, I much preferred a good fresh pot of coffee to a bad free pot.

Yolande, the woman who made the best and freshest coffee (she always knew when our shift change was) never charged. And she remembered how each of us took our coffee. She was so on the ball, so mentally alert, so able to multitask (and yes, so sweet... and good looking, too). We tried to get her to become a dispatcher. But the pay wasn't good enough. I think she went to work for Coca-Cola or something. The coffee was never the same after that.

Special delivery


If you want to keep a bad drug raid from hitting the papers, I guess you shouldn't do it to prominent white folk (see picture).

Doug Donovan in the Baltimore Sun reports:
[The Mayor of Berwyn Hights, Prince George County, Maryland] Calvo's home was raided by the county Sheriff's Office SWAT team and narcotics officers after a package of marijuana addressed to the house was seized. Police obtained a search warrant and officers broke down their door and shot and killed the family's two black Labrador retrievers, Payton and Chase.

But arrests this week of two men involved in a marijuana smuggling ring that allegedly delivers packages of the drug to unsuspecting homes appears to indicate that Calvo was not involved in any illegal activity.

A while back I wrote: "Just because this guy is mayor, does not mean he is not a drug dealer. Maybe he is. Maybe not. Maybe his wife is. Maybe not. I don't know. I don't care!"

I've always told people that can't be illegal to receive drugs in the mail, because if it were, why not just send drugs to all your enemies. I made the mistake of applying logic to the war on drugs.

Now seems clear that this mayor is not a drug dealer. And you know what, despite what I wrote earlier, it does matter and I do care. It's wrong for police to bust down your front door when nobody's life is in danger. It's bad enough to do so if you do have drugs. But to do so when you don't have drugs is far worse.

Inform the public

I got this in a email from a Baltimore Police Officer. I couldn't say it better myself:
At the end of the day, I hope more officers will see your book as a vehicle to inform the academic community and public about the many challenges of policing in a poor urban environment. I think the average police officer will view the book more favorably if he understands he is not the book's target audience.

Apologies in flex squad case

Annie Linskey writes in the Sun. The full story is here.
City settles, calls supervisor a 'law-abiding officer'
Two and a half years after allegations surfaced that an elite Baltimore police unit had become a rogue operation, the city did an about-face, agreeing yesterday to pay the squad's supervisor a six-figure settlement and issuing a rare public apology, calling him "a law-abiding" and "dedicated" police officer.

The move was an extraordinary development in a probe into the Southwest District's "flex squad" that began when a woman accused an officer of raping her in a police district station in late 2005. The police commissioner disbanded the squad, launched annual audits of flex squads citywide and suspended six officers, including three who were indicted on criminal charges.

Ultimately, one officer was acquitted of rape, criminal charges against others were dropped and the city is now paying $290,000 to Sgt. Robert L. Smith, former Officer Vicki Mengel and their attorney to settle a $1.5 million civil suit the accused officers had filed against the police department.

August 5, 2008

A voice of reason

I was starting to think I was the only sane person in a crazy world. Then another email flew in over the transom:
I read the “real” first edition of your book, before the publisher recalled it for typographical errors. I mention this not because it confers upon me any particular credibility, but to highlight the point that I read the book quite some time ago and did not intend to share with you my critique of "Cop In the Hood." That all changed after reading your exchange with the retired Eastern District commander.

I’m a veteran and don’t resent the fact you used the department to write a more informed piece of field research than you would have otherwise been able. I don’t think I’m a minority in this opinion. I’ve spoken with several other officers who have read the book – including some with whom you worked – and they don’t hold your relative inexperience against you either.

As you rightly stress in your responses to the retired commander, what matters is the content and structure of the book: Is it factually accurate? Do you support your conclusions with quality evidence? Do you bring a perspective that is lacking in existing scholarship on the subject? I could quibble with a few points here and there, but overall I think your book meets these criteria.

Those who disagree with the content of your book have an opportunity to write their own. Perhaps the retired commander, with all his experience and infinite wisdom, will write one himself. I’m confident that if he does, you will write a critique that addresses the content of the book rather than the content of his alleged character.

Regards,
[name omitted on request]
Lieutenant, BPD

Thanks, Lieutenant!

More crusty outrage

I received an email from a former commander of the Eastern District (he retired before I was there). He too refuses to read my book [everything below is edited and cut for length from the original emails]:

Your apparent motivation for writing your book would indicate that it was successful, you have your new profession, that of college professor; but then again, you didn't really have law enforcement as your "old profession", did you? Your book was obviously matter of expediency! What "real police" find offensive, is when interlopers such as yourself, apparently believe that a year on the street grants them some kind of miraculous wisdom to analyze, and be critical of, probably the most complex area of public service that exists today!

You see professor, police are special, very much so; they have conferred upon them an awesome, and totally unique responsibility, by the public that they serve, and that is the power to take a life!

Oh, our military can kill people, but only after they have an identifiable enemy, and in today's military, after the legal advisor who is deployed with them, grants them the permission to do so! But our police, they make split-second decisions, decisions that may see them taking a human life, and there are no advisors deployed with them, nor is the "enemy" often readily identifiable! No one, and I mean no one, in our society, has that awesome power; not the well over paid Congress, the activist judges, nor the President himself!

And professor, that is why your book upsets real police; there is a sort of snobbish effrontery to every working police officer, when some opportunist such as yourself, exploits a mere year of service, converting it in some way to confer expertise on his puny observations, which were subsequently recorded for future use and gain!

In order to truly legitimize your book, you would have needed to spend much more time on those streets in the Eastern, but then, that would have interfered with your future employment schedule, wouldn't it? Do you still wonder why your book is resented?

[signed]
Major (retired) BCPD


Dear Major ,

I just composed an honest but rude email to you. Because you were a major, I respect you. I want to get your permission before sending it to you. It's nothing personal, but it's a bit rude. I think you can take it.

Here's my polite response:

I think you misunderstand me as some anti-cop academic. Nothing could be further from the truth (well, except the academic part). I respect and honor every police officer to ever wear the BPD uniform. Especially the patrol officer. My book is dedicated to those who have died in service! And you dare criticize?

I speak for the underappreciated patrol officer riding around right now in the Eastern District (and Western District, and other districts like it, if there are any). I never pretend or claim to know more than people with the experience of you. But really, how can a respond to criticism if you have no idea what I have to say?

I'll tell you what: can I send you a copy of my book? On me. You don't even have to buy it. Like a gift. That's right, you can make me spend my own money to buy my own damn book and mail the damn thing to you (I'll just have it shipped from Amazon——please don't think I get them for free). Just because you have the balls to write me.

But I'll tell you what: if you like my book or not, you have to write me and tell me what you honestly think. That's the deal. That's your duty. And I'll post it on my blog. And one more condition: if you actually enjoy reading my book, or think there's something of worth in it, then I want a check from you for the $25 cover price.

Peter

Dear Professor Moskos,

First of all, the question about the "reduction" in homicides while I commanded the Eastern; to be quite honest, since my retirement in 1995, which was several years after my assignment as the Eastern District Commander, I honestly do not recall that statistic; however, in deference to you, I must admit that there probably was no reduction!

There is very little that police can do to reduce the rate of occurrence of homicides: every minute of every day, presents an opportunity to commit these crimes, there simply are not enough police officers to significantly impact the opportunity to commit homicide! Most crimes of passion homicides are committed inside, and between people who know each other; there is very little likelihood that police officers will be present to prevent these!

Oh yes, good police officers know who "the bad guys" are where they patrol, and yes, they know which ones have a homicidal proclivity also, but that prevents nothing! I will wager, that if we would "allow" police to make preemptive arrests of known violent criminals, many homicides would be prevented, but that is not the case, is it? Police experience and intuition, and yes that "gut feeling" that goes with being a true professional, if unleashed, could prevent a lot of crime, including homicides, but that would be violative of someone's rights, wouldn't it?

Now for that "rude" response that you prepared for me; I say have at it, I have been called things that I would be willing to bet that you have never even heard, even during your extensive time on the streets of the Great Eastern District!


Dear [Major],

I just find it amazing that you think so much about me without having a clue as to who I am or what I stand for.

My book isn't about being a sergeant. Or a major. Or anything but being a lowly patrol officer of the midnight shift in the Eastern.

What does strike a nerve is when you imply or say I wasn't a real police officer. That does bother me. You wouldn't tell a soldier he wasn't a veteran because he "only" served 2 years, would you?

You can say I wasn't a police officer for long. True. Or that I would know a lot more had a stayed on the force for longer. Very True. But while I was there, I was a damn good police officer risking my life every damn night for my brothers and sisters in blue and also for the worthless scum of the Eastern District (and, oh yeah, the good citizens, too).

I'll be back in Baltimore this very weekend. Eating crabs at my sergeant's church with him a bunch of my former squadmates. You know what, they criticize me too. But I can take it from them because they know me. They also risked their lives for me and know I did the same.

My offer still stands, by the way. I'll buy you a book if you want. If you don't read my book, I don't have more to say. You can be a fool and criticize me for what you think I stand for, or we can have an intelligent discussion about what I wrote and what police can do, if anything, to prevent crime.

Anyway, here's what I wrote last night. The "rude" letter. Looking over it again, it's not so bad. So I call you an asshole and a fool and full of shit. I know you've been called far worse.

Dear [Major],

I don't wonder why my book is resented. Because in truth, it's not. No cop who was read the damn thing resents it. Only people who believe what they read in the "liberal media" (frankly, I'm surprised you read The Sun) have something against me. You're full of shit.

Why don't you just read the damn thing (my book, that is, not The Sun) and then bitch? A man who condemns something about which he knows nothing is at best ignorant. And also perhaps a great fool. Consider that.

I wasn't a cop for long. But at least I earned my chops the tough way.

Frankly, sir, and forgive my bluntness: I think you're an asshole. But you know what, I'll forgive you, because I can be an asshole myself. And hell, some of my best friends are assholes. But at least I had the common courtesy to read what you wrote.

What I give in my book is an honest portrayal of what it was like to be a patrol officer in the Eastern District for over a year. Nothing more. Nothing less. You got a problem with that? Write your own damn book.

Peter