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by Peter Moskos

May 27, 2009

Daughter Dearest

More police lore in the making. Not quite a turkey drumstick, but similar:
Police have arrested a 42-year-old woman who said a dispute over a dinner roll led to a fatal fight with her father.
The woman reportedly told investigators she ate a dinner roll her father had been saving for later, even though it had a note telling her not to. Police said she also fired a gun, but apparently didn't hit her father.
The story in Grand Haven (Michigan) Tribune.

Beyond Hope?

The glorious genre of Cop Lit has many notable contributors. The writing ranges from the driest academic tome to the cheesiest pulp fiction. There a pretty extensive list of police books at police-writers.com. A lot of them are crap. But many are good.

Two of the best older police books are Jonathan Rubinstein's City Police and Joe Poss and Joe Poss and Henry Schlesinger's Brooklyn Bounce. The former was an academic who went native (nobody knows whatever happened to Rubinstein--rumor was he retired and ran a liquor store in Philadelphia). Poss and Schlesinger are doing just fine, living in NYC.

Bad Cop and Badges, Bullets & Bars are two more good police books.

(And of course there's my book, soon to come out in paperback with a brand new chapter.)

Now add veteran police officer Michael East's Beyond Hope? to the list. It's good. Very good.

The best police books, whether academic or pop, have a few things in common: a confidence in the writing, a good voice, an awareness of one's surroundings, humility in knowing one's limitations, the ability to link the personal observation to greater truths, courage to face uncomfortable truths, and the ability to tell a good yarn. In other words, a good police book needs many of the same qualities of a good police officer. But most cops don't write good books.

Michael East has written a good book. Beyond Hope? is his story policing Saginaw, Michigan. I've never been to Saginaw, but it sounds grim. Kind of like a smaller, poorer, f**ked-up Baltimore.

Beyond Hope? is finally for sale. I was able to read an advanced copy so that's how I know it's good. Buy it today! If you like cop stories (and if you're reading this you do) or have a thing for cities in decline, this is a book for you.

May 22, 2009

It all goes back to the war on drugs

I'm supposed to grading papers so I'll keep this short. But what does the police beating in Birmingham and the foiled terrorist plot in New York have in common?

Neither would have happened were it not for the war on drugs.

Three of the four bad guys in New York were in prison... for drug offenses. In prison they "converted" and hatched their little plan.

And the guy who tried to kill a cop in Birmingham was fleeing... because of drugs.

We need to legalize drugs not because drugs are good, but because locking people up for drugs makes them worse.

May 20, 2009

Get tough on black-on-black crime

Bealefeld, Baltimore's police commish, says:
Those guys got fairly nominal sentences for some heinous stuff that they did to these kids, and if it happened in a white neighborhood in any other community in this state, we'd still be talking about it, and people would be talking about life sentences.... And these people get out essentially with a slap on the wrist. People need to be speaking out about this.
True dat.

The background and more in Justin Felton's story in the Sun.

May 15, 2009

Babies in the Big House

The story by Suzanne Smalley in Newsweek:
A prison may not seem like the best place to raise infants. But researchers are finding that it's better than the alternative. Joseph Carlson, a criminal-justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney who recently completed a 10-year study, says he thought such programs were "strange" when he began his research. Now he thinks they're "a win-win situation" for mothers and babies—and reduce crime by helping inmates to reform.

You've been warned, New Yorkers

New York City Police Department advises all Shield members regarding a military aircraft flyover that will occur on May 20, 2009 at 11:45 a.m. The flyover is part of the Fleet Week festivities and will include four military planes flying over New York City at a low altitude.

At approximately 11:45 a.m., four F-18 Hornets will pass over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at an altitude of 2000 feet. The aircrafts will then turn and follow the Hudson River north over the assembled fleet while decreasing their altitude to 1000 feet. When the F-18s reach Pier 90, they will climb to 2500 feet and higher, exiting New York City airspace over the George Washington Bridge.

May 13, 2009

Fallout from Oakland police killings

The Oakland police captain who runs the department's SWAT unit has asked to be reassigned because of the team's resentment over his decision to console the families of two officers slain by a parolee rather than lead what became an ill-fated raid for the killer.
Jaxon Van Derbeken reports in the San Francisco Chronicle.


Teen killed by dad was carrying his baby. The story in the NY Daily News.

Quota Busting: NYPD makes record number of stops

Christine Hauser reports in the New York Times that the NYPD made 171,094 stops in the first three months of 2009.

Unlike many, I don't think stop and frisks are inherently bad (not all that were stopped were frisked, though I'm sure many were). I'm willing to concede that aggressive stop and frisks most likely contributed to making New York a much less violent city.

BUT... there's a big difference between a smart officer with reasonable suspicion making a stop because he or she is suspicious and a lazy officer making a stop because he or she needs to meet an arrest quota and can kind of B.S. the reasonable suspicion needed to justify the stop. You stop enough people and one will eventually be wanted on a warrant.

We can (and should) debate if stop and frisks are necessary and effective. But I don't think that even the NYPD would argue that bad stop and frisks are good. If an officer can't naturally make an arrest and write a few citations a month in a high-crime district, it's probably better to have that officer do not much at all.

A quota doesn't teach officers to police smarter. Quotas don't make good officers work more. Quotas don't effect good police. Quotas make not-so-good police officers police more. They make lazy or bad officers do more lazy or bad things. And bad stop and frisks piss people off who should and otherwise would be supporting police.

Instead of worrying about the number of stop and frisks, we should worry about the quality of stop and frisks. That's harder to quantify. But deemphasizing "productivity stats" is a good place to start.

May 12, 2009

Guns don't always prevent crimes

It sounds like a gun-lover's crime-free dream world: an army of professional and well-trained armed men and women with extensive knowledge of firearms and firearm safety. Everybody has a gun. This will keep the crazy murders at bay!

Then on a military base in Iraq, a soldier shot and killed five other soldiers. If an army with guns can't prevent a crazy killer, what chance do the rest of us have? This, my gun-loving friends, illustrates the basic position of my gun-hating friends: guns don't keep you safe. An unarmed world is safer than an armed world.

May 11, 2009

Gun Control Discussion

If anybody wants to hear a civilized and somewhat intellectual discussion about gun control (outside of reading this blog, of course), check out my favorite radio show in the world: Extension 720. It's broadcast on WGN, AM 720 in Chicago.

I would love to be a guest on the show (if anybody has any connections, work them. My press failed at this simple request). Uncle Milt, as he's sometimes known, is a professor at the University of Chicago and has been doing this radio show for 36 years. I've been listening to him for probably 30 of those years. I started listening to the show as a little kid when it was way above my head. But it often came on right after many away Cubs games, so I would just listen. My father always said it's the highest-brow show on commercial radio. Probably public radio, too. Milt Rosenberg is probably the best radio interviewer I've ever heard (sorry Terry... but I'd love to be on your show, too).

The show I'm talking about is March 26, 2009. The link is here. But hell, they're all good.

The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs

Friday, May 22, 2009. 7pm to 8:45pm. Robert Wallace, co-author of Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to al-Qaeda, will be speaking at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

It should be interesting. I hear Bob is a great public speaker and the topic is naturally interesting. It's free and open to the public. More info here.

The book, which I haven't read yet, is "with" (ie: written by) Henry Robert Schlesinger. He also played a part in the writing of Brooklyn Bounce, the best police book you've never read.

May 10, 2009

Eastern District Commander Cleared

Justin Fenton reports in the Sun:
A city police commander has been reinstated for active duty after being cleared of wrongdoing in a probe into text messages he exchanged with a community activist who was being sought on a warrant and later allegedly stabbed his wife to death.
The Police Department intends to address "procedural issues" with how the warrant was handled. It did not go through normal channels; instead of sending it to a special domestic violence unit, Eastern District officers who knew Cleaven Williams tried to serve it themselves and gave him the chance to turn himself in.
If you have the guy's phone number and can get him to turn himself in, isn't that worth a try? Seems like a better way to handle a warrant than busting down a door at 5am. And no, it's not rare for community activists to have a direct line to the district commander.

The End of a Glorious Tradition?

Now I haven't witnessed this first hand, but it's no great secret in the police world that every now and then somebody very troublesome may be picked up and dropped off far from home. Alas, this glorious police tradition may be on the way out, at least in Baltimore. Such is the usual fate in the light of media publicity.

This gambit--I don't know what it's called, but there's got to be some good slang. I propose "going on a field trip. This gambit has probably been on the decline for a long time, and certainly at least since the spread of cell phones. But the basic concept, a long lost late-night walk home, is a classic.

Peter Hermann reports:
And we still have to figure out why two city officers on a violent crime task force drove a teen-ager to a park in Howard County and left him there without shoes and his cell phone. ... I'm hearing he was [a drug lookout and] warning friends the cops were coming.

Regardless, cops can't abduct citizens and leave them places.... If he's really obstructing, then arrest him.... Both officers are under investigation. It boggles the mind.

Not really. More mind boggling is how Hermann, a smart and savvy crime-beat reporter, could argue that arresting a lookout is a valid option. It's hard to imagine a lookout even being charged in CBIF (must less prosecuted). You think the state's attorney will take an obstruction-of-justice case based on a report that says a guy shouted "hootie-hoo" every time po-po rolled by? Have you not heard of the 1st Amendment? Not to mention tourette syndrome.

There's nothing police can do. Does that justify abduction? Not usually. But under extenuating circumstances, I'm willing to tolerate it and laugh about it later. I've been there. It's too easy to understand officers' frustration.

If abduction of lookouts isn't the answer--and admittedly is probably isn't--the only realistic alternative is to do nothing. Them's the facts in the war on drugs.

Another gun prevents another crime

This time in New York.

The fallacy of gun-control (and I say this as a supporter of gun control) is that it never answers the question: how do you get the gun out of the hands of the criminal? Passing more feel-good laws is not the answer. Laws don't make you safer. You need observance of laws. And criminals are not partial to observing laws.

That being said, anybody who thinks there is no possible good in any kind of law that restrict or regulates guns in any way is, well, crazy.

In the Weezee Heezee

Can I just say I can’t believe that we have a president of the United States who dares to say, even in jest:, “In the Heezee. Waz’ up!” I love it.

And if you think Obama is "unpresidential," go back and look at Bush looking under the table [at 5:10 and 5:55] for non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Still think Iraq was behind 9/11? Would hearing George W. Bush say otherwise convince you? Would anything? [1:19: "What did Iraq have to do with [the bombing of the World Trade Center]? Nothing! ... Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September 11 were ordered by Iraq."]

May 9, 2009

Gun Prevents Crime

Sometimes they do. Hey, I'm just trying to be fair and balanced. It's one of those nasty character flaws of liberals like me--the desire to see all sides of a issue even if it doesn't support their position. The story from WSBTV in College Park, Georgia:
Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.

“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’”
Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough.” ...

That’s when one [college] student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.

The student then ran to the room where the second gunman... was holding the women.

“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window.” ... [He was later] found dead near his apartment, only one building away.
One female student was shot several times during the crossfire. She is expected to make a full recovery.

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal

If you have an hour-plus to spare, listen to Glenn Greenwald talk about Portugal's experience with drug decriminalization since 2001. Here's a link to the video and also a downloadable audio podcast.

Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.
That's from an article in Time. And here's Greenwald writing in Salon.

First the facts: drug use has declined. Repeat: decriminalization does not increase drug use.

Greenwald addresses this and other points. For instance, the myth of American exceptionalism. This is tendency of some to discount any foreign case study simply because it's not here. "The U.S. isn't like the Netherlands." "The U.S. isn't like Portugal." OK... But this argument looks pretty feeble as more and more countries try decriminalization successfully. The onus should now be on the naysayers to explain just exactly what differences in these countries make their experiences so inapplicable to us here in the U.S.

Greenwald also addresses the logical difficulty many have in comprehending how decriminalization could possibly mean less drug use. Even though the facts consistently indicate that liberal drug policies reduce drug use, people just don't believe it. So Greenwalk talks about why. Only with decriminalization can the government and even health-care workers effectively reach drug users. Only with ending the war on drugs does the government have the money to offer treatment and educate the public.

So why decriminalization rather than legalization? Because of international treaties and pressure from the U.S. and other countries to keep up the war on drugs. In fact, in the Portuguese model, legalization was taken off the table from the very beginning. Given the political situation, it simply was not an option. The shame with not going all out and regulating the drug trade is that you are unlikely to get any decrease in prohibition-related violence.

Peter Reuter provides a counterpoint of sorts about half-way through, arguing that decriminalization wasn't so much a failure, but rather that it didn't actually matter that much. But he concludes that the study is, "One more piece of evidence which helps strengthen the argument that decriminalization would have minimal adverse consequences and very substantial desirable consequences."

Greenwald says his main take-home point that can transform the drug-policy debate is that decriminalization won't lead to an explosion of drug usage. "This shatters... the central myth that drives virtually even drug policy debate in this country."

Tasing Naked Man

A man at a concert, probably tripping, is naked. He ends of getting tased.

I'm generally against the use of tasers. And I particularly oppose the use of tasers as a compliance device. Especially when the suspect is unarmed. Even more so when the suspect is unarmed, naked, and there are three burly officers involved.

And yet, I think this taser situation was justified. Check out the video on Jennifer Lena's blog. Be sure to scroll down and read Corey's comments. He sums up my thoughts pretty well.

Once you accept that the guy needs to comply--either by putting on clothes or handcuffs--what are the police supposed to do? They can't just walk away.

May 8, 2009

Judge Rules L.A. Police Must Be Paid For Dressing Time

I think all employees should be paid to put on work clothes, if it's part of the job. Here's the story in the L.A. Times. I wonder if I'm eligible for back pay from my time in Baltimore?

Maximum Enjoyment

I just finished reading Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. Best book I've read in a while. Non-fiction book about the city of Bombay. Great arm-chair traveling. But some good deep insight, too (and a fair amount about the Mumbai police, too).

I loved it.

May 7, 2009

This Stephen Morgan is not a murderer!

This mild-mannered Stephen Morgan lives a quiet professorial life in Ithaca with his wife and kids (at least that is what he tells me). This Stephen Morgan is a grad-school friend of mine and was nice enough to invite me to speak at Cornell University last month. Some of his best friends are Jews. And I saw no homicidal tendencies. And that's even after a long winter in Ithaca.

Last night I read that a Stephen Morgan killed a Wesleyan University student. I sent my friend, Stephen Morgan, the story. He writes back with a story that feature his (my friend's) picture. Then today I get this: "It's worse: CNN broadcast the photo on air! The producer just called to say they will run a correction soon." I should hope so!

This is the killer:

This is not the killer:

This Stephen Morgan is a killer.Please note that both have similarly receding hairlines, but the resemblances really ends there.

If you run into a Stephen Morgan and you're not sure which one you're dealing with, try showing him this: This innocent Stephen Morgan will immediately start rambling on about advanced statistics. If you say "poissant regression" to the guilty Stephen Morgan, he might start talking about fish.

Actually, what's scary to me is that the guilty Stephen Morgan looks a lot like me when I was his age (29):

I am not a killer, either!

Guns for good or bad?

So I'm writing a comment about guns when this story pops up on my screen. It illustrates both the good and bad of gun ownership perfectly: "[Off duty] Officer John Castro, left his gray BMW running ... when the thief hopped in and sped off shortly after noon.... 'The man ran after the car and jumped on top of it.' ... The wild chase ended when Castro, who works at JFK Airport command, fired a round into his own car." The good is that, thanks to a gun, the guy stopped his car from getting jacked. The bad is he could easily have been killed doing so.

Let's leave aside the crime victim was a cop. I don't think that matters.

Had the victim died--been thrown off his own car and killed--it would have been a very stupid thing to do. But he didn't die. And the thief get's caught. All because the victim had a gun.

This man risked his life by jumping on his car (and also risked the life of a criminal by shooting at him). All this for a car that would have been covered by insurance. Was it worth it? Some will say yes; some will say no. So was it a good or bad action on the part of the victim? I bet your opinion depends on your attitude toward guns.

Balto Cops Bust Wrong Door, Leave it Hanging

My NYPD students tell me that New York does get the doors they bust down fixed. Not in Baltimore.

Police bust down your door in the course of duty? It's on you. Even if it turns out you're innocent.

Peter Hermann writes:
First city cops bust down the wrong door on a drug raid. Then, when Andrew Leonard tries to get the city to put his door back, the city tells him to forget about it -- Baltimore police may have the wrong house but they had the right address on the warrant. So the raid team didn't make the mistake; the person who wrote the warrant did. Makes no difference as far as city liability goes.

But Mr. Leonard's problems don't end there. After he tried but failed to get public works to pick up his broken door and throw it away, a city in


Schwarzenegger wants to debate marijuana legalization

This is huge. While I would like all drugs to be regulated, for now I'll settle for a real debate on the merits of legalizing marijuana.

To me it's a amazing that simply debating such an issue has been taboo. At least until now. Why? Because prohibitionists are going to lose this debate.

I'll give Schwarzenegger props for this one.

The story in the New York Times.

May 6, 2009

Yankee Pitcher's Mom Arrested for Selling Meth

Joba Cahmberlain's mother, Jacqueline Standley, was arrested in Lincoln, Nebraska. Read Tony Newman's take on the situation:
America likes to promote itself as the "home of the free" but, unfortunately, we have the embarrassing honor of being known as the incarceration nation. ... We lock up more people on drug charges than Western Europe locks up for EVERYTHING and they have 100 million more people than we do. ... The way our country deals with drug abuse is the driving force to our incarceration problem. ... By declaring a "war on drugs" we have declared a war on ourselves.
I can't help but wonder how the mother of any person making millions [correction (see comment below): hundreds of thousands] of dollars needs to be selling drugs. I mean, take drugs? Sure. But sell? Like for money? Shouldn't Joba be giving her an allowance, even if it does go for drugs?

My mom reads this blog. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a drug problem. But Mama, if you need money, I'll be happy to give you some. No questions asked.

No Shocker Here

States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of gun death: Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, and Nevada. Ranking last for gun deaths were Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.

If you want to argue that increased gun deaths are a small price to pay for freedom... well, I respectfully disagree. But let's at least all be on the same page and accept that fewer gun restrictions and more gun ownership means more gun deaths.

The report and the rankings from the Violence Policy Center.

Witness Intimidation

Witness intimidation is nothing new. But it usually doesn't happen from the defendant to the witness while the witness is on the stand.

Melissa Harris writes in the Sun:
On the 10th day of the 17-day trial, as the lawyers huddled at the bench with their backs turned, the jury watched the 29-year-old defendant lock eyes with the witness, hold up a legal document with one hand, pump a thumbs-down gesture with the other and warn, "I know your name. You're going down. You're going down."

Fear instantly gripped the face of the witness, who muttered in disbelief, and within earshot of jurors, "Did he just threaten me?"

37 Arrests, then a Killing

A witness identified Anderson, of the 4300 block of Seminole Ave., as one of the kidnappers....

Anderson has been arrested and charged at least 37 times, mostly with drug possession charges.... Most were dropped by prosecutors before they reached trial.

He was also charged three times with attempted murder and five times with handgun charges, dropped each time by prosecutors. He was found guilty of various charges in nine cases, never sentenced to more than two years in jail and typically receiving suspended sentences.

Waddell [the victim] had a long criminal record as well. He was indicted in January 2008 on five counts of drug possession, which were dropped March 31, three weeks before he was killed.
Seems like the Baltimore Police were doing their job. Can the State's Attorney's Office say the same?

Justin Fenton wrote the story in the Sun.

May 2, 2009

In Defense of Dutch Socialism

If you're a right-winger who wants to call the European social-welfare state "socialism," so be it. Use whatever word you want for a system that provides housing and health care and education, helps poor people, and keeps the streets safe. I'll take it.

Take the Netherlands, as Russell Shorto does in an excellent article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

In Holland there are still businesses and rich people. The Dutch are capitalists. Arguably, they invented the system. But they also believe that the collective power of the state has the ability, even the duty, to help those least able to help themselves. In the end, virtually everybody benefits. The Dutch system isn't perfect, but it's very good.

It’s not all good. In the Netherlands, like most of Europe, there's a problem with immigration. The issues of immigrants in Holland (and generally all of Europe) make me proud to be an American.

And then there's the Dutch weather. It's horrible. The brilliant Dutch light that inspired so much beautiful painting is real. And it comes as a result of clouds and being so far north. It can be cold and rainy at any time of year. And it never gets hot. One summer I was there, summer never came. I couldn't take the prospect of another dreary winter without a summer.

That’s the down side. But I imagine when Republicans complain about Obama being socialist, they’re not talking about the weather.

Along with doing police research in Amsterdam and working for time at my brother’s theater, I also started a non-profit boat club. It's still there and whenever I can get back, I take out a lot of tourists on the beautiful canals.

Americans are constantly amazed that a city could be so livable and so beautiful (and pedestrian and bicycle friendly). I am always quick to tell them we could do that too, if we wanted to... and were willing to pay half our income in taxes.

Their collective approach could be the result of much of the country being below sea level. It could also be some strain of Calvinist Protestantism. The Dutch, contrary to public opinion, aren't liberal. They're tolerant. If anything, they’re amoral. And since morality generally does not make good public policy, things in the Netherlands generally work. And if they don’t, they spend money and fix them till they do.

I've lived in Amsterdam. My brother still does. He was first attracted by their permissive attitude toward legal marijuana. While partaking in that, he and a friend had the brilliant idea to open a business, a comedy theater.

He did. Amsterdam is now home for him now. Seventeen years later Boom Chicago is the fruits of his labor. Now that my brother is a business man, he frequently complains about Dutch labor policy. Like the fact you really can't fire workers. Ever. Even bad ones. And then there's a tendency for these workers--in what has to be one of the least stressful countries on earth--to go out on employer subsidized sick leave because of, you guessed it: "stress."

And workers, and even the unemployed, get an extra month salary, “vacation money,” for their annual month of paid vacation. This is so hard for Americans to conceive of that I’ll say it again: Dutch workers get a month paid vacation and during that month, they get an extra month of salary. Otherwise, the thinking goes, how could you afford to go on vacation?

But because taxes in our country are considered socialist (or worse), we don’t. I lose close to 40 percent of my paycheck every other week. I would be happy to give up another 10 percent of my income for all the benefits the Dutch get from their taxes.

Anyway, read Shorto’s article. Especially if you've never been to Europe but instinctively nod in agreement whenever people criticize their economic policies.

Here's a sample:
Then there are the features of European life that grate on an American sensibility, like the three-inch leeway that drivers deign to grant you on the highway, or the cling film you get from the supermarket, which clings only to itself. But such annoyances pale in comparison to one other. For the first few months I was haunted by a number: 52. It reverberated in my head; I felt myself a prisoner trying to escape its bars. For it represents the rate at which the income I earn, as a writer and as the director of an institute, is to be taxed. To be plain: more than half of my modest haul, I learned on arrival, was to be swallowed by the Dutch welfare state. Nothing in my time here has made me feel so much like an American as my reaction to this number. I am politically left of center in most ways, but from the time 52 entered my brain, I felt a chorus of voices rise up within my soul, none of which I knew I had internalized, each a ghostly simulacrum of a right-wing, supply-side icon: Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Rush Limbaugh. The grim words this chorus chanted in defense of my hard-earned income I recognized as copied from Charlton Heston’s N.R.A. rallying cry about prying his gun from his cold, dead hands.

May 1, 2009

Balto Patrol Short Handed

Peter Hermann reports in the Baltimore Sun.

Top brass always says patrol is the backbone of the police department. They lie. Roughly half of the police department is assigned to the patrol. When you need officers, you take them from patrol. Backbone my ass! What kind of organization knocks out its own vertebrae?

When officers are taken from patrol, of course patrol suffers. Fully staffed patrol would be able to better respond to calls. No doubt. Without enough officers, response time increases and patrol officer simply don't have the time to do the job they could and want to do.

Poaching from patrol is bad in other ways, too. It kills morale. After the department is done poaching from patrol, you get a "temporary manpower shortage." A permanent temporary manpower shortages. That means you can't get a day off. Or days off get canceled. Then officers have to call in sick to reclaim the day off. You can get in serious trouble for that. But you can get in even more serious trouble if you can't take your planned wedding anniversary cruise you've paid for and for which you've had days-off approved for 11 months in advance.

I'm of the belief that car patrol simply doesn't serve much purpose at all. The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment proved it... but didn't change anything. Crime wouldn't go down even with fully staffed car patrol.

Better to get the police out of cars and end the charade of rapid response to every call to 911. The problem is most--not many--most calls to 911 and 311 are bullshit: calls to non-existent addresses, drug dealers reporting a shooting to force an officer to move away, kids playing on phones, and calls that absolutely should have nothing to do with police ("my daughter doesn't want to go to school" or "my boyfriend is putting his feet in my hair").

The majority of what's left is simply not time sensitive.

In the Eastern District, drug calls are a quarter of all calls. Add drug-related calls and you've got about half of the 113,000 calls for service per year. Clearly car patrol hasn't solved the drug problem. Calling 911 about yo-boys slinging on drug corner does not tell the post officer anything he or she doesn't know.

Serious crimes? Assaults by shooting are 0.3% of all calls for service. Same for assault by cutting. Rape calls (most of which do not involve rape) are 0.1% of all calls. Carjacking? 0.04% of all calls. Aggravated assaults? 1.4%

By comparison, kids calling 911 and hanging up is 6% of all calls. False alarms are 8% of all calls. I wrote about it here for the academic journal Law Enforcement Executive Forum. Chapter Five of Cop in the Hood says much the same thing but in a much more interesting way.

It would be better to get rid of 911 or at least the lie that every call for service will be dealt with promptly. As it is now, even for real issues, police normally arrive after the fact and are left to pick up the pieces and write a report. Better to have officers walking or biking the beat able but not required to answer every request for police service. This kind of patrol could actually prevent crime and increase public satisfaction.

Rapid Response should be a division separate from patrol. A few officers in cars could serve as backup and be assigned to those calls in which police really are actually needed right there and then. But these calls are few and far between. And if it's a bullshit call? Then take a number and we'll get to it when we can. The promise of car patrol and the illusion of rapid response is not worth the resources of half the police department.