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by Peter Moskos

October 30, 2008

Stop Lying

Michael Mineo is lying. I've said it before and I'll say it again. That's what I think.

So why is a grand jury being started on the case? Does that mean there is truth behind Mineo's claim? No.

Here's what I think is the story. Michael Mineo won't release his medical records because they don't support his lies.

The grand jury is a way to subpoena his medical records to show that the cops, good honest cops, did nothing wrong.

Clever.

October 28, 2008

Prop. 5 and the Prison Guards' Union

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) is the union for prison guards. I'm all for unions for prison guards. They have a tough job, horrible working conditions (uh, prison), and I certain would not want their job.

I believe their union should have a loud and robust voice on such things as pay, working conditions, health-care benefits, and retirement pension.

But prison guards, or correctional officers, as the prefer to be called (even though they don't do much correcting), should have no voice on sentencing policy. Think of it like the maker of electric chairs giving big bucks to politicians that support the pro-death.

When it comes to locking people up, guess which side the union takes? They want more prisoners. For prison guards, prisoners are jobs. And the more prisoners the better. More prisoners means more guards and more union power to get more prisoners. Shame.

In 1994, the CCPOA "strongly backed" (that's their words) Prop 184, three strikes and you're out.

In 2004, the CCPOA strongly opposed Prop 66 which would have softened the state's three-strikes law by restricting the second and third strikes to violent felonies. The proposition was narrowly defeated.

Now they're against California's Prop 5. To be honest, the details of Prop 5 aren't important. Not to the union. All that matters is whether or not the proposition would increase or decrease the number of prisoners. Prop 5 would divert people away from the prison system (related to non-violent drug offenders). That's a good thing if you're a tax payer or a human being. But it's bad if you see the prison complex as one giant jobs program.

When it comes to government jobs programs, I'd much prefer to actually build roads and bridges and parks, WPA style. But that, I suppose, is socialist.

October 26, 2008

I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to f**kin' amuse you?

You know, for some reason I can't figure out, I kind of like Al Sharpton. Not for what he does or stands for. Not for the lies he has said. I just like listening to him. He amuses me. Think of him running for President in 2004. He kept the debates interesting, that's for sure. And I think he fills a predictable role that perhaps somebody should fill.

That being said--and I can say it because I've never been the target of his libel--many people have told me over the years, "Sharpton doesn't care about black-on-black crime." Or, "Sharpton would never do this if that victim was white!"

And it was true. Back in the days, he was only there for a white-on-black crime (or, in the Tawana case, non-crime). Then with Sean Bell he was there for a mixed-race-on-black crime. Now, sweet Jesus, he's there for a (supposed) mixed-race-on-white crime.

Who would have thunk it? I suppose that really is progress of sorts.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day a black man will rise to become the leader of this great nation and Al Sharpton will pray with a lying white man and say, "I don't care if the cops were blacks and he was white or vice versa."

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God almighty, we are free at last!

October 25, 2008

Dirt bikes in Baltimore

If you don't live in Baltimore, it's hard to understand just how big of a problem this is. If you do live in Baltimore, you may not realize that this problem doesn't really exist anywhere else.

The bikes themselves weren't illegal. But riding them is. It's a strange rite of Spring in Charm City.

You may remember a story last year about Baltimore Police (in the Eastern) locking up a 7-year-old black boy for "sitting on a dirt bike." Some had a field day talking about the racist abuses of zero-tolerance policing.

We're not talking peddle bikes. We're talking motorcycles and motorized 4-wheeled all terrain vehicles. And we're talking packs of them, doing wheelies, zooming on streets, sidewalks, and parks. They're loud and dangerous.

What proceeded the kid's detention was the kid's mother calling 911 to say her son had been assaulted by police... after police had the nerve to stop the 7-year-old from driving an A.T.V. down the street. He wasn't "riding," says the mom; the motor was off. He was just "rolling down the street." The kid was 7. So the police do their job and take the kid off the bike. She wins the bad parenting award for 2007.

So police go back and take the boy to the Eastern. What else can you do?



But we couldn't do anything about it because police aren't allowed to chase. If they crash, they die. And then the police and the city are in big trouble. And if you did catch a bike, the rider would run. If you took the bike, the owner would just come back and reclaim it.

From the Baltimore Sun:
A law took effect last month that allows police to seize any unlocked dirt bike - in an alley, driveway, front yard or street. A court can then order the bikes forfeited, and they are later destroyed.

"The fact of the matter is that these dirt bikes drive people in neighborhoods nuts," Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said. "We're not talking about filling jails full of dirt biker offenders. We'll seize the bike, and it is game over."

Stories of lawlessness jam e-mail inboxes of City Council members, who have struggled with the city's dirt-bike problem for at least a decade. Councilman William H. Cole IV recalls finding a website purporting to organize city rides. He skims YouTube for video clips of Baltimore riders showing off.

Councilwoman Belinda Conaway recalled a group repeatedly circling Lake Ashburton as if patrolling it.

The level of lawlessness can escalate. In April, a 19-year old man was sentenced to a 45 year prison term, with 10 suspended, for firing at city police officers who were trying to stop him from riding his dirt bike in the 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Read the whole story in the Sun.

There's a good chance this will work.

October 24, 2008

B.S.

There's a story in many New York City papers today about accusations that 5 members of the NYPD stuck something up a guy's ass ala Louima. Google any NY paper for the details. I'd just like to go on record as saying, "Bullshit. It ain't true." Do I know? No. You'll just have to trust me on this one. Complete B.S. It doesn't ring true.

Budget cutting? Take a hatchet to the war on drugs

Joe Conason has a good piece in Salon about the war on drugs. Want to cut waste and abuse? How about starting with the $50 billion we spend every year on the war on drugs. And why aren't either McCain or Obama talking it?

October 23, 2008

Shot cops and turnstile jumping

There's more about that here. Also interesting (if it weren't, would I post it?). "Officers Seeking Fare Evaders Often Find Worse Crimes."

And here's a first hand account of the shooting from the L.T.

Illegal immigration and arrest

There's more here. It's interesting.

October 22, 2008

Another Isolated Incident

"It’s not that SWAT tactics are always wrong. It’s that they’re frighteningly too often the first resort with the police departments that have them." That's from The Agitator. It's worth reading.

2 Officers Shot in Subway Station

The New York Times reports. The Queensbridge Homes are not too far from where I live.
A man who was being arrested for using a student MetroCard on Tuesday evening struggled with two plainclothes police officers in a Queens subway station and then shot them with the gun of one of the officers, the police said.

The gunman was then shot by the officers’ supervisor, the police said.

“The whole thing lasted probably 45 seconds,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who discussed the shooting after visiting with relatives of the wounded officers, Shane Farina and Jason Maass, at Elmhurst Hospital Center.

Officer Farina, 38, who had surgery late Tuesday night, was in critical but stable condition. Officer Maass, 28, was in stable condition and was expected to be released Wednesday morning. The suspect, identified by the police as Raul Nunez, 32, was in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital Center. He told detectives there that he had been afraid that he would be deported if he were arrested.

Taser use draws fire from Amnesty International

The Boston Herald reports:
The stunning rise in Taser use has drawn the fire of the local Amnesty International chapter, which says Tasers were supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to gunfire.

“Now it seems clear that police departments are using Tasers not as an alternative to lethal force but to get compliance.”

Amnesty International says that since 2001, 320 people have died after being tased.

October 20, 2008

Courthouse Confessions

Evidently I'm going to meet Steven Hirsch on Thursday at the Non-Motivational Speakers Series. His blog, Courthouse Confessions, is fascinating. Too much for me to read right now.... There's an interview with him here.

Cop in the Classroom

Gelf Magazine has an excellent interview with me in advance of me being part of the Non-Motivational Speakers Series this coming Thursday.

It's always a little scary to read what you said. Because sometimes you didn't say it. Other times you did say it, but it's not what you meant.

In this case, I said it, I meant it, and damn if I don't sound downright clever at times. My compliments to Michael Gluckstadt who interviewed me and wrote it up.

October 19, 2008

War on Drugs in Mexico

Drug Killings Haunt Mexican Schoolchildren

See the New York Times for the whole terrible story.

Are drugs evil?

This is taken from the comments of a previous post.
Your comparison of a drug dealer to anyone who sells cigarettes and booze is interesting. I believe that even with the huge tobacco lobby at work, most tobacco products will be illegal within twenty years, and rightfully so. Booze is a different story because it is well tolerated by many who use it and not as addictive as amphetamines, opiates or nicotine.

I can't argue against legalization of marijuana because too many studies have suggested a low addiction and personal harm factor. The addiction and personal harm factors for cocaine, heroin and meth far surpass those for marijuana though, and I believe that if you are to make an argument for legalization it has to overcome the harm caused by using a substance.

Even with this academic B.S. aside, you have been to the streets where non-addicted dealers see what their product does to their customers, the desperation the ability to drop all semblance of humanity just to get high. Why do you defend those who lack the moral clarity to continue selling these substances when they see what it does to people? Or to put it another way, I have never seen a male heterosexual cigarette smoker offer to perform oral sex on a male 7-11 clerk just to get a pack of cigarettes. (Same goes for a marijuana user-It's not the price it’s the drug.)

I like your last point! And it's valid. I think the answer is quite simple: cigarettes are not as bad as crack and heroin. Yes, cigarettes kill a lot of people, but a nicotine addict is not like a crack addict.

But I don't believe there is a fundamental difference between one addictive drug and another. Alcohol does ruin lives. Cigarettes kill people. But heroin and crack can do it in a particularly ugly manner (not that throat cancer is pretty).

Here's the point: regulation does not equal approval. If regulation could lower drug use--and there's every reason to think it can--then we should regulate.

Plus I refuse to play the "moral clarity" game. There are recreational cocaine users just like there are recreational drinkers.

I don't believe drugs are evil. I think some drugs for some people are bad. I think heroin and crystal meth are very bad for almost all people. Many of my best friends regularly use alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and ecstasy without fucking up themselves, their families, or their jobs. They're not evil.

But my point isn't to encourage use. Quite the opposite: it's to discourage use. And since the U.S. has the highest usage rate in the world for pretty much every illegal drug, it's safe to say our current war on drugs doesn't work.

The idea of condemning the morality of drug dealers to me is a little silly. Unless you're willing to say capitalize is evil (and though it may be, I'm not), I'm not going to say drug dealing is evil. They used to say that about music, sports, and alcohol. Is it wrong to sell to drugs addict? Maybe. So what about methadone clinics?

And besides, condemn all you want, if we lock up one drug dealer, another will sell. That's the problem: we CAN'T STOP drug dealing. Repeat that. We can't stop drug dealing. Once we accept that, we can figure out the best way to deal bad substances. And if regulation can lower usage, lessen addiction, and raise money all at the same time, why not give it a try?

October 15, 2008

Abandon your child

Something strange is happening in Nebraska.

From the LA Times:
Nebraska's safe-haven law is unlike similar laws in that it allows anyone, not just a parent, to drop off a child, of any age, at any state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution for abandonment. The law doesn't absolve anyone of charges such as abuse or neglect.

But the fascinating part is that it's not infants getting dropped off... but teenagers!

The latest case, as reported in the Detroit Free Press:
The metro Detroit woman who drove 12 hours and about 725 miles to give her teenage son to the state of Nebraska under its safe haven law did so because she was stressed out and was trying to teach him a lesson, according to the youth's affidavit to authorities in Douglas County.
[...]
The youth is in Nebraska custody under the state's controversial safe haven law, which allows parents to relinquish children up to age 18 to the custody of the state, while most states, including Michigan, permit only the abandonment of newborns and infants.
[...]
The Michigan teen is the second child from out of state and one of 18 children relinquished in Nebraska since the law's inception. No newborns have been handed over, said Todd Landry, director of the division of children and family services in Nebraska.

I know deep down it's sad, but the cop in me finds the concept of abandoning teenagers hilarious. Sure I'm cynical. All cops are. It's the ultimate parent threat come true: "I warned you!"

I came across many parents and guardians in Baltimore who wanted to give up their children. And I'd say the bulk of them were not bad people. Bad parents, maybe. Certainly failed parents. But sometimes kids just don't turn out right. And before you blame these parents, ask yourself if you've ever tried raising a boy in East Baltimore. In poverty.

Many of these parents pointed out they raised other kids well. Others blamed laws limited their ability to discipline (ie: hit) misbehaving children. I'd say that the ones who told me they wanted to give up their teenagers were not the worst parents. The really bad parents simply didn't give a damn one way or the other. At least the parents who want to give up their children understand the child is going down the wrong path. The really bad parents don't see a problem with their 13-year-old drinking and whoring and slinging.

I think part of the problem is that we define "child" up to too high an age. A 17-year-old with 2 kids and a job (legal or otherwise) is not a child. I believe in the legal concept of "juveniles," I just think that 18 is too old. 15 is probably better. By the time an out-of-control kid reaches that age, they're no longer a kid. And by then, there isn't much a parent can do. What do you do when you just can't take it anymore? And after the parent gives up, it becomes the police officer's problem.

Justifiable homicides rise


The story in USA Today by Kevin Johnson.

October 14, 2008

New Yorkers:

Mark your calenders for next Thursday, October 23. I’ll be entertaining the crowd with discussions about policing, the war on drugs, and Cop in the Hood. All this at the wonderfully titled “Non-Motivational Speakers Series.” Tell your friends.

Best yet, this event is at a bar. No, none of that stuffy academic pretension (no pipes or tweed jackets with arm patches). And it’s free.

You’ll love it. And even if you don’t, what’s it matter? You can drink yourself silly. That’s certainly my plan.

Happy Ending Lounge
302 Broome St.
(between Forsyth and Eldridge)
212-334-9676
J/M/Z/F to Delancey
B/D to Grand Street
Look for the hot-pink awning with the words "Health Club" on it.
Doors open at 7:30.
Event starts at 8 sharp.
FREE!


Gelf Magazine

“This monthly event features an above-average lineup of decidedly non-motivating authorities, each presenting views alternative and overlooked on a veritable goody bag of topics. A different theme is tackled clothesline-style each month, including comedy, culture jamming, religion, amateur pornography, and other such matters of head-scratching import.”

More on guns and Florida crime

'Guns are everywhere,' Orlando police chief says

A surge in murder and gunfire locally since the end of the federal assault-weapons ban in 2004.
[...]
Florida law makes it easy for any adult without a criminal record to buy a gun. Yet many legally purchased guns end up being used by criminals. The state routinely turns up in law-enforcement surveys as one of the top three sources of firearms that turn up in crimes elsewhere.
[...]
The 9 mm pistol reigns as the state's most-popular crime weapon.
[...]
Drug dealing was the most common crime connected to assault weapons in Orange County.
[...]
Cops consider assault weapons the deadliest firearms on the street. ... One riddled a girlfriend's car for jilting him. Another robbed a gas station, leaving behind his home address on a receipt for the just-purchased assault weapon. A third, who went shooting near his home, simply described himself as angry.
[...]
Looking over the data, Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary said that Florida has become much more dangerous -- for residents and police officers -- since the end of the weapons ban.

"There should be a huge concern not just here locally but across the nation about the huge increases in the numbers of assault weapons and high-power semiautomatic pistols that our deputies and police officers are coming across," he said. "This shows that without the ban, the criminal element has definitely taken advantage of the market."

Henry Pierson Curtis writes more in the Orlando Sentinel. Read the whole story here. And my previous post on Florida, guns, and crime is here.

Homicides down in Baltimore

Good news from Charm City.

Justin Fenton of the Sun describes the impact of one police unit. If all this is police's doing, and it might be, note just how much 250 officers can accomplish (out of a police force of less than 3,000 in a city of 650,000 people).

October 13, 2008

Victory is Near!

The Agitator has a good post looking at how failure doesn't stop our drug warriors from claiming success. The news is always good in the Bizarro World of prohibitionists.

Prohibition

But the old-fashioned kind. Against alcohol. In Alaska. Of course it doesn't work. Prohibition never does.

Alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crime is a huge problem in small-town Alaska. After the drinking comes the sexual abuse and rape, often incestuous. A friend of mine is a public defender up there. Oh, the stories he can tell. You know, of good honest small-town values. It's all too common for a guy to get drunk and then stumble into the next trailer and diddle their sister/daughter/niece/old-lady neighbor.

Then the guy tells the cops everything that happened (that is to say, confesses) and can't understand why their lawyer can't get them off ("but eh, all I did was touch her."). Finally they ask for a new lawyer... ha, joke's on them! There are no other lawyers.

Here's the story about failed prohibition from the New York Times.

What do we think about "shame'"?

America is more of a "guilt" culture than a "shame" culture. What does that mean? Guilt is something you feel. Shame is what you feel based on what others feel toward you. We want our criminals to feel remorse. That's guilt. Ashamed to show your face in public because your grandma will think less of you? That's shame.

Culturally, if you want "shame," head to East Asia. Shame plays less a role in individualistic societies. We ask people not to commit crime because we hope that they (the criminals) think it's wrong. But it's easy to rationalize not feeling bad about your actions. Especially if, say you're involved in "victimless crime." It's easy to not feel guilty about dealing drugs to willing buyers. It's harder to not feel shame if your grandmother finds out.

I'm pro shame. I think. If it works as a deterrent. Public punishment is supposed to be shameful. I suspect that cultures that emphasize shame over guilt have less crime.

Should people arrested (for drunk driving, in this case) be posted online? Arrest records are public. So it doesn't seem to be a problem, legally. But officially, people are innocent until proven guilty, right? Posting arrests as a matter of fact is OK. But what about posting arrest for the purpose of shaming. Is shame punishment? Should it be? These are ideas I'm trying to articulate ideas on this for my next book. So I'd love to hear your thoughts.

But the cop in me knows that people arrested are guilty.

Here's the story in New York Newsday.

October 12, 2008

I was talking to Charles Rangel

I was. Last night. On the night train coming back from Boston. I met Charles Rangel in the cafe car. I was chatting with the cafe man and drinking a beer.

Here is one of the most powerful men in America. Taking the night train. Tired. No entourage. Willing to talk. We did. He knew my father a little bit. They were both proud draftees. Rangel was sad to hear of my father's death. "But he was young... well, younger than me!"

"I know," I said as I gripped his arm sympathetically.

Rangel got a cheeseburger. I offered to pay for it. I insisted because I knew my father would have loved any story that involved me paying for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's cheeseburger.

So there we are, Charles and I, each trying to get the cafe man to take our money. Because I already had an in with the cafe man, I won (it helped, as I later found out, that the cafe man didn't know who Rangel was). Rangel thanked me, said a few nice things, and returned to his seat.

At Penn Station I watched Rangel get off the train. There he was, gentleman, congressman, 78-years-old, carrying his own bags. I offered to carry them for him. But he politely declined. I figure in this day and age you could get in trouble for grabbing a congressman's suitcase, so all I could do was offer again. He declined again. We went up the escalator and said goodbye. I told him to keep up his good work. There he went, Charles Rangel, walking off alone into the night at 3am.

It made me proud to be an American.

It bothers me when people (politicians included) blame politicians and "Washington" for our nation's woes. Or when politicians encourage cynicism and promote the idea that running our country doesn't take any special skill set or intelligence.

Our system ain't perfect, but it's the best we got. And if we throw all the experienced bums out, we'll have mediocre bums leading a mediocre country. Churchill said democracy is the worst system except all other. And I wouldn't swap it for any other system in the world.

Two weeks ago I met Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes. He, a good and honorable man, told me not to be too cynical about politics. I'll try not to be.

The economy and crime

Does a tough economy mean more crime? Not necessarily. Good policing is more important, sez me. Here's the story in the New York Times.

Your consitutional rights

I have advocated that all drug defendants demand jury trials. It's a constitutional right. It would end the war on drugs.

That is kind of sort happening on a small scale. Here's the story in the Sun. Our system of justice is broken.

Crime or no Crime?

Peter Hermann of the Baltimore Sun has an interesting article about discharges... that is, shots fired but nobody hit. No harm, no foul.

Back on Leonard Lopate Monday

Apparently I'm going to be on the radio again Monday. But this time I can actually listen to what I say. It's a rerun.

October 8, 2008

Mass cops protest


Why not have road construction flagmen be cops? Yes, it's a bit of a scam. But police have to make overtime some way. And better to pay a cop than pay a union private construction employee.

Without this overtime, I wonder if arrests will increase.

Read about it in the Boston Herald.

October 7, 2008

Wrongfully Convicted Cop Freed

From John Kass and the Chicago Tribune:
What bothers the Mettes—and just about every other cop—is that there were no protests on Mike's behalf. Liberal university professors didn't write angry op-ed pieces demanding justice. The crowd that fights wrongful convictions wasn't interested, either, perhaps because Mike wasn't some violent gangbanger with a rap sheet as long as his leg.

He didn't have a rap sheet. Mike was a good cop, and he was ignored.

But soon, he'll be coming home.

The whole story is here.

October 4, 2008

Mexico's war on drugs

When we last visited Mexico, tens of thousands were protesting violence resulting from drug prohibition.

Now Mexican President Felipe Calderón has proposed decriminalized possession of small quantities of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine to those who agree to undergo drug treatment. This is similar to a bill he proposed two years ago. But that bill died after intense pressure (ie: foreign meddling) from the U.S.

Here's the story in the New York Times.

"The Mexican attorney general’s office has said that it is so overwhelmed with prosecuting organized crime that it cannot handle the large number of small-time drug cases."

"United States officials have heaped praise on Mr. Calderón for his crackdown on Mexico’s drug cartels. Since taking office in December 2006, he has sent some 30,000 troops into eight states and cities in an attempt to quell drug violence. But the violence has only increased. Almost 3,000 people have been killed in drug violence this year."

"Responding to Mr. Calderón’s plan, American officials said Thursday that United States policy opposed the legalization of even small amounts of drugs. “It rewards the drug traffickers and doesn’t make children’s lives safer,” said an American official, who asked not to be identified."

The problem with decriminalizing drug possession is it doesn't get at the harms of drug prohibition. The violence comes from dealers. Not users.

And addicts are a problem. It helps to have the power of arrest sometimes to keep them in line.

Still, there is the advantage of not wasting courts and prisons dealing with drug users.

Drugs in Afghanistan

Seems like the brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is a heroin kingpin operating under U.S.-tolerated immunity.

I'm shocked. Shocked.

October 3, 2008

60-day supply of weed

In Washington state, it's officially 24 ounces and 15 plants. That's a lot of marijuana.

In Holland, by the way, you're only allowed to have 6 plants. And a "coffee shop," the place that legally sells marijuana, is only supposed to hold 16 ounces at any given times (but for practical reasons, that limit is often ignored).

Here's the article in the Seattle Times about what is now the legal limits for a "60-day supply of medical marijuana."

October 2, 2008

Lieutenant in Taser incident commits suicide

I just heard on the radio that Lieutenant Pigott, the lieutenant who, one week ago, ordered the man on the awning in Brooklyn to be Tased, shot himself. That's very sad.

The lieutenant, I believe in good faith, made a bad decision that violated departmental rules. All police officers violate departmental rules. I know I did. And not always in good faith. But I was lucky; nobody died.

Mr. Morales should not have been tased. But had I been in the same situation, it was a decision I very likely could have made. Mr. Morales, a crazed 35-year-old man, died.

After 21 years on the force, the lieutenant's life came crashing down. He caused a man's death. He was stripped of his badge and gun. He was demoted from a specialized unit he loved to a desk job in motor pool. His future, as he probably saw it, consisted of lawsuits, disgrace, and no end in sight. The NYPD threw him under a bus.

On Wednesday, the Morales family held a wake. Lieutenant Pigott apologized for what happened, saying he was "truly sorry."

On Wednesday night, the eve of Lieutenant Pigott’s 46th birthday, he gained access to another officer's gun and shot himself. He leaves a wife and three children.

It's very sad.

There's more in Newsday and the New York Times.