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by Peter Moskos

October 30, 2010

2nd Amendment for Immigrants

It's not too often supporters of the 2nd Amendment and supporters of immigrant rights can find common political ground. But here's a case. Whatever happened to discretion?
Immigration officials are always on the lookout to deport “criminal aliens,” and it appears that last week, Mr. Valerio’s name came up.
He had been a legal permanent resident of the United States for nearly 30 years.
Mr. Valerio’s offense dated back more than 20 years to a conviction for possessing a gun without the proper license. He had bought the gun to protect the bodega he owned from burglars, his daughter said. He served three years’ probation in the mid-1980s and had never again been in trouble with the law.

October 29, 2010

Rapist Acquitted

Timothy "So I can't call you no more?" West was acquitted despite, best I can tell, admitting to it. According the Daily News:
Privately, several jurors interviewed after the verdict said they didn't buy the victim's story because there were no signs of forced entry into her home.

One juror said the panel believed the victim must have known West, and that she let him into her home.

West has a history of break-ins and was on parole for robbery when arrested, but the jury did not hear that evidence: Buchter ruled it could prejudice the jury against him.

October 28, 2010

The Dream

From Doonsbury.

Prisons seek prisoners

National Public Radio says an investigation revealed a "quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry." . . . The anti-immigration law amounted to "a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants."

Gruesome Pics...

...of the war in the drugs, mostly in Mexico.

While you lose you appetite looking at these, remember the US party line that violence in Mexico is a sign the drug gangs are on the run.

War is peace!

(I've never seen those evidence cones get to number 71... and we had some pretty big shootings in Baltimore.)

[thanks to Irish Pirate for the tip]

October 27, 2010

RIP Tommy Portz, Jr.

Portz is the first Baltimore City officer to be killed in the line of duty since 2007, and the third city officer killed in less than a month. His funeral is today.

You can read my account of a police funeral on the last two pages of this.

October 26, 2010

Feris Jones was Lucky

Officer (now Detective) Jones was lucky she wasn't killed. 19-year-old Winston Cox was robbing a store and Jones pulled her gun and announced her presence as a police officer. Cox fired and she returned fire, striking Cox.

Why did she say anything before firing? She should have just come out and "incapacitated" Cox (ie: shot center mass, likely killing Cox). Did she think he was going to drop his gun? His gun was bigger. Cox tried to kill her. Luckily, Cox missed. But what if he hadn't? What if he killed Jones? Then we'd all be going to her funeral. I wouldn't want to risk my life on Cox having bad aim. Jones shouldn't have either.

[But it all turned out well and I wish Jones the best of luck and repeat that she did great and she's a good shot and a bad-ass. (I'm really happy she's not dead.)]

Now here's my plan, at least in theory. In the next couple of days, I'm going to present a couple of hypothetical situations related to this scenario. I'm curious as to how you'd respond.

Still a joke, that 911 is

From The Detroit News:
The average response time for dangerous runs in Detroit is 24 minutes from the time a 911 call is received, according to statistics released in April.

Nationwide statistics are not available, but Atlanta, Ga., police have an 11-minute average response time and in Washington, D.C., police respond in an average of eight minutes.

Two Down in Sector Two

Four killed in 15 hours in Baltimore. Two, I believe, in the Sector Two of the Eastern District.

Good Shooting in Brookyn

From the Daily News:
The fearless off-duty cop who faced down an armed robber in a Brooklyn beauty parlor on Saturday managed to shoot the pistol right out of the crook's hands, cops said Monday.

And in a scene that would be over the top even for the most ridiculous Hollywood cop movie, one of Officer Feris Jones' bullets hit the front door - and locked it.
He escaped by kicking out the glass on the lower portion of the door and crawled out to the street on his hands and knees, leaving a trail of blood.

When Cox was arrested in a single-room-occupancy hotel on Pacific St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant early Monday, he answered the door meekly, his bloody hands wrapped in Bounty paper towels borrowed from his mother.
The suspected gunman's mom told the Daily News she was shocked her parolee son was mixed up in it.

"I can't come to grips with it," said Cheryl Cox, whose 19-year-old son, Winston Cox, the youngest of her eight kids.
I was hoping for a better quote from him mom, though. But maybe she made those little air quotes with her fingers when she said the word, shocked. That would make it good.

[Update: Actually, in the mom's defense,she has filed eight charges of assault against her son and had good things to say about the police officer, "I'm just thankful to God the police officer is OK -- she did a good job." It's in the Post.]

Oh, please!

Here's a non-story: NYPD Commissioner Kelly didn't disclose that the Police Foundation paid his dues at the Harvard Club. My God, who cares? Good God, Lenny, I know you hate Kelly with a passion bordering on obsessive (and that's putting it mildly), but is this the best you got on the guy? If so, you should have skipped it and talked more about Jennifer Hunt's great book.

I wish the Police Foundation would pay my dues at the Harvard Club. I wouldn't mind being a member. And I did go to Harvard. I'm just too cheap to join.

Well, should Kelly have disclosed it? I guess if them's the rules, he should have. But they shouldn't be the rules. The rules are too strict. Nothing wrong with a free cup of coffee. And nothing wrong with the commissioner taking people out on the Police Foundation's dime. Assuming the police commission isn't a crook (what do Bernard Kerik and Ed Norris have in common?) can't we let him do his job? And no, I don't want to know who he was with.

October 25, 2010

"Excuse me, sir, do you know where I can find...

...Oh, never mind. I see it now. G2. Thanks anyway."

It's a sign from Athens send by the woman who runs this great bike tour company in Greece.

The weird part is that for the life of me I can't figure out what it's supposed to be (and I speak Greek!).

[Update: I think I figured it out. It's supposed to say fishing wharf.]

National Service

Mark Shields has a good column about a speech by Robert Gates, "the one memorable speech of the 2010 campaign":
Gates spoke directly of an avoided undemocratic reality — that most Americans have grown detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the great civilian majority has come to view military service as "something for other people to do."

Those "other people," as Gates reminded us, come overwhelmingly from a "tiny sliver of America" concentrated in the South and the Rocky Mountain West, in rural areas and small towns.

There is the distinct possibility that eventually the U.S. military and its leaders will be estranged — culturally and geographically — from the civilian population it is defending.
Then Shields quotes my father:
Nobody understood this as well as the late military scholar and ex-GI, Charles Moskos, who told me that the U.S. "national interest is determined not so much by the cause, itself, but instead by who is willing to die for that cause."

Moskos continued: "Only when the privileged do military service, only when the elite youth are under fire does the nation define the cause as worth the blood of our young people." He added that, in both World Wars, the British nobility had higher casualty rates than did the British working class.

A Dog That Barks

White dog... that's moonshine, hootch, likker. Who hasn't dreamed of distilling up a little batch in their basement (What? Is it just me?). It's also generally illegal. Max Watman, I nice guy I met once (what's how I learned about his book) has written a gem, Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine. I'm enjoying more than any other book I've read in a while. Well written, informative, and with a very lively and personal style. I'm about 55 pages from the end, but I wanted to post his guide to "How to Be a Criminal," scattered throughout the book, based on people who failed (interestingly and tellingly, the fourth commandment of crack, never get high on your own supply, does not make the list):
Item 1: Do not, while on probation or having recently come to the attention of the law, engage in large-scale felonies with strangers.

Item 2: Surprisingly, drugs and crime don't mix. Stoners will forget what they have to remember, crackheads are unreliable, meth heads are crazy. Even drunks--they'll either get pulled over for driving drunk or they'll get in a fight.

Item 3: Do not write down the keys to the code. If you can't count to ten, think of another code.

Item 4: Read up on the law you are breaking.

Item 5: It's important to understand that criminal justice attends no only to the crime committed but to every ancillary activity involved in the perpetration, and especially perpetuation and concealment, of illegal activity, and that those acts, because they suggest intent, because they are part of a scheme, often carry heavier sentences than what we would normally think of as the illegal act. If you view it in a forgiving light, the law could be seen to forgive reckless impulse ("I was lonely and drink and I picked up this hooker") and punish a pattern of concealment and manipulation ("I set up this bank account so that I could withdraw cash without my wife noticing and pay for hookers").

Item 6: Do not hire as underlings people whose next strike will be their third.

Item 7: Buy equipment at tiny mom-and-op hardware stores with no computer systems and no video.
You can buy the book here.

Smoke and Horrors

Charles Blow of the New York Times write about drugs (and yes, that is his real name), specifically about the racial disparity in marijuana arrests. Some people just don't seem to care, but it seems to be a fundamental issue about fairness in justice.

Whites and blacks smoke weed at nearly similar rates (actually whites smoke more), and yet blacks get arrested for it far more often. This report reflects more good work by Queens College professor Harry Levine:
From 2006 through 2008, police in 25 of California's major cities have ar­rested blacks for low-level marijuana possession at four, five, six, seven and even twelve times the rate of whites.

The City of Los Angeles, with ten percent of California's population, arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.

These racially-biased marijuana arrests were a system-wide phenomenon, occurring in every county and nearly every police department in California. They were not mainly the result of individual prejudice or racism. In making these arrests, patrol officers were doing what they were assigned to do.
Doesn't that matter?

October 24, 2010

Change is bad

Yeah. I changed the layout of my blog. Honestly, I should probably care more about how my blog looks, but I have other things to do.

So why'd I change anything when I, of all people, know damn well that change is bad?

Because I wanted to make the text column wider. It was (for me) annoyingly narrow. It didn't hold much text, and I had to manually re-size almost every video I embedded. But to make the text column wider, I had to pick a different template. I went with... simple.

"So, I can't call you no more?"

Says the rapist to his victim. It led to his arrest.

Timothy West, who broke into a stranger's house and raped a woman at knifepoint, wanted to continue this beautiful relationship. The 21-year-old victim wanted to get him confessing on tape.

Victim: "What do you mean, I'm mad at you? Of course, you know, I don't know you like that, and just over here, raping me and everything with a knife in your hand. Damn! What you gotta say about that?"

Timothy West: "Sorry. I apologize."
Victim: "You just broke into my house, yo. I've never seen you before .... You try to rob me, then you rape me,"

Timothy West: "I know, man, that s**t is crazy. I apologize, though."

Victim: "But do you understand what you did to me? Like, has it hit you what you've done to me? Like, how do you expect me to be cool with you, and just expect a simple apology. I've never seen you before, and you just walk up to my house with a pocket knife, and then you didn't find anything from me, no money, so you raped me! And then you expect me to be cool with that the next day? I mean, what's up with that?"

West: "So, I can't call you no more?"

Victim: "Wow, I don't even know what to tell you."

This happened in March, 2009. Why does justice take so long?

There's a bit more here and at the above link.

[Update: West was acquitted]

What Muslims Wear

My wife sent me this: Muslims Wearing Things. She would also like to point out if Muslims were going to crash Juan William's plane, they probably wouldn't be dressed in conservative Muslim garb. That should make Juan a little more relaxed next time he's in an airport.

Now don't get me wrong, I think it's crazy that NPR fired Williams for expressing his own irrational personal fears. But no, it's not OK to think terrorist every time you see a Muslim (or a Greek priest... I wonder what ever happened to that idiot who attacked a Greek priest because he thought he looked like a Muslim terrorist.)

Now you may also get the willies if you think there's a Muslims on your plane. I unfortunately suspect many if not most Americans share this fear. But that doesn't make it right. Thinking every Muslim is terrorist is just as wrong (and absurd) as thinking every black man is rapist, every Jew is money-grubbing shyster, every gypsy is a thief, every gay man is a pedophile, every cop is a bastard, or.... you get my point. I think I've said enough.

Update: In the case of the marine reservist who attached a priest for looking like a Muslim terrorist, all charges were dropped. The priest didn't stick around America to press charges. To rehash, this idiot chased a Greek priest for three blocks and beat him with a tire iron while telling a 911 operator (listen to the call here):
I got a guy who's trying to mug me. … He just grabbed my f------ b---- when I got out of my car. … I just hit him with a tire iron and he's trying to take off. He said he was going to f------ kill me. … This guy's not gonna come back. I wanna knock him out.
He looks like a Middle Eastern guy, a Taliban guy. … He straight up looks like he came from Afghanistan … knows where I live and knows what I drive and I'm not letting him come back. I'll kill him. I got a wife.
So let me get this straight. This priest, who says he was lost, looked like he was from Afghanistan, tried to rob the idiot, then grabbed his balls, and then yelled "Allahu Akbar."


The prosecuting lawyer called this 'roid rage noting the attacker is "a 220-pound pharmacy manager who blogs photos of himself flexing his muscles and had worked as a drug informant for police."

The attacker, after charges were dropped, says he forgives the priest. Gee, that's mighty Christian of him.

Here's a picture of the attacker.

He's not gay at all.

October 23, 2010

Stupid-mobiles (II)

The stupid mobile gets more press, this time in the Times, which has a few more details. The NYPD has ordered 30 and they cost 8,900 though that's retail and I'm sure the NYPD pays much much less, if anything.
For patrolling a big event or traversing big distances, T3 scooters seem like ideal tools, an energy-efficient mix of speed and agility. For navigating a semicrowded subway station, they can seem a little ridiculous.

Most people who need to get from the Seventh Avenue side of the 42nd Street station over to the shuttle platform just hop down the quarter-flight of stairs. Some take it in a single step.

But two officers on scooters last week had to detour to the wheelchair ramp, then daintily zigzag their way down like a fashion victim in too-high heels. Then, as they threaded their way through the commuters, going barely faster than they would on foot (but wearing tough plastic helmets just in case).

October 22, 2010

Back in the Days...

November 1922. Washington, D.C. "Woman's Bureau, Metropolitan Police Dep't. Telephone calls bring prompt attention."

From Shorpy.com.

October 21, 2010

134 Tons of Marijuana, Up in Smoke

That's a lot of weed.

And yet somehow I don't feel any safer.

Remember when bringing in weed from Mexico was all fun and laughs? Those were the days.

More later

I'm not posting much here because I'm finishing my book. But I'll be back in full force after November 8.

It's 5AM. Time for bed.

October 13, 2010

Trapped in a cold dark place

The human drama of survival in closed spaces, the utter boredom and brief moments of joy, the gathered crowd -- why, there's nothing like the minute-to-minute Twitter updates of my wife's jury duty.

Any moment now the doors of the metal lift will open and she'll be sprung into the open air of Queens County and Camp Jamaica. I hope there's no mistress waiting for her at the Sutphin Ave. subway stop. Maybe I should have gotten my hair done.

October 12, 2010

Abolish Drunk Driving Laws?

So says Radley Balko: "If lawmakers are serious about saving lives, they should focus on impairment, not alcohol." I'm not certain where I stand on this, but it does make some sense. Plus, I always appreciate counter-intuitive thinking.

October 7, 2010

On Writing

People sometimes think I don't work much (an opinion only reinforced when they see me having my morning coffee at 2pm and still in my bathrobe at dinner time). But I'm a night owl and I work from home.

So along with teaching four classes (a very heavy load for a college professor), I have to write. And writing is work. To those who think it's easy to write a book, I suggest they try it. To those who can churn out a book a year, I applaud them (and wonder how they do it). Writing is hard work. And it's not fun.

A friend and fellow academic author put it this way in an email:
There are days in writing (for me usually when I have a decent draft of something and am crafting) that it flows, but most of the time it's work, work, work, work.

People who don't understand writing or who use formulas or hire ghostwriters who use formulas think that a book is like having a baby, nine months and it's done. such total utter bullshit.
Now I've never had a baby, but I only wish writing was such a passive process that got pushed out after nine months (not to mention the fun that leads to babies in the first place).

I've been working on this book for a while and I'm still not done. When writing, I can produce about 1,500 words a night. But that's only some nights. Because I'm not productive most nights, my actually production is more like 100 words a night. And that's just the first draft.

Now that I have a (rough) first draft of my book, it's more work. Even after getting all the words on paper--and at 30,000 words it's a very short book--it's still a lot of slow painful work. Just to give you some idea of the editing process, here are a two pages of a draft of my forthcoming book, In Defense of Flogging.

So why do I do it? Sometimes I wonder. Every other job I've had has been easier, and yet still I choose this vocation. What did I create as a cop? Hopefully I helped some people, but Baltimore is no worse off without me there. And as a waiter I helped rich people enjoy their dinner, but waiters are just supporting cast to the food. And when I was a boat captain in Amsterdam I learned about boats and made a lot of tourists very happy. That was fun. But at some point I got tired of the same old tourist conversations (and rainy weather).

The work in those jobs created no lasting product. And none of it could be mistaken for art. Maybe I write because I can't draw and don't make sculpture. A book is, or at least should be, a little piece of art. Maybe I like that idea. I really don't know.

On any objective level, 99 percent of all writers don't get enough credit or money to make it all worthwhile, but still people write. I guess there's something satisfying about creating something from nothing, at least when you're done with it all.

But while doing it? Man, there's very little I wouldn't prefer to do than write. When I'm sitting at my computer at 4AM, sometimes I think about how nice it would be to have some other job where I could show up, do my job, and go home and watch TV guilt free.

And yet I wouldn't change my job for any other (except major league baseball player and Supreme Court Justice). Why is that?

Perhaps writing involves a deeper calling. I'd like to think I'm doing something that will last and might actually (in some small way) change the world for the better. And though the craft of writing is a tough, I'd like to think I'm good at it. Plus, publishing is, in theory, part of my job.

It's great to have written. Too bad it's not more fun to write.

Look for my new book, In Defense of Flogging, to be published by Basic Books, in 2011.

October 6, 2010

The Murderers of Mexico

How to write about Mexico’s drug war? There are only a limited number of ways that readers can be reminded of the desperate acts of human sacrifice that go on every day in this country, or of the by now calamitous statistics: the nearly 28,000 people who have been killed in drug-related battles or assassinations since President Felipe Calderón took power almost four years ago, the thousands of kidnappings, the wanton acts of rape and torture, the growing number of orphaned children.
It may not be easy, but Alma Guillermoprieto does a pretty good job of writing about Mexico's drug war in The New York Review of Books. I haven't read any of the books reviewed, but the review itself is well worth reading (as a good review always is).

Guillermoprieto ends with this:
There is little doubt that Calderón’s strategy of waging all-out war to solve a criminal problem has not worked. Whether any strategy at all can work, as long as global demand persists for a product that is illegal throughout the world, is a question that has been repeated ad nauseam. But it remains the indispensable question to consider.
There are the books reviewed:

Atentamente, El Chapo (Sincerely, El Chapo) by Héctor de Mauleón

La Ruta de Sangre de Beltrán Leyva (The Path of Blood of Beltrán Leyva) by Héctor de Mauleón

Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez by Howard Campbell

Mafia & Co.: The Criminal Networks in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia by Juan Carlos Garzón, translated from the Spanish by Kathy Ogle


Does anybody believe this is a good idea for subway patrol?

Granted with only 13 the NYPD isn't making a major investment, but it's still a big waste.

"Their biggest benefit is increased police visibility, as they put an officer heads and shoulders above the crowds, police said" in the Daily News. What? Actually, no. It puts police about six inches above their normal height. And if that were so important, hire taller cops. Or stand on a phone book. Or how about putting police in top hats? (personally, I would love to have an official NYPD top hat.)

The downsides of these overpriced toys are almost so obvious I feel dumb for even having to point them out--along with cops in bike helmets looking incredible dorky--what about stairs? What about turnstiles? What if the elevator to the street breaks? And God forbid an overweight cop is seen on one of these. I mean, really, cops are supposed to ride up and down one subway platform?

Once again, I'd like to point out there's nothing wrong with walking!

What do you expect?

"The longshoremen were paid $50,000 to $100,000 for unloading a single duffel bag of cocaine." I'm glad nobody has offered me that kind of money for that kind of work, because I don't know what I would do.

Meanwhile the tunnel from Mexico business is booming, which is an unfortunate but inevitable result (along with migrants dying in the desert) of building a big wall in a stupid attempt to "seal" the border. It may not sound ideal (hell, it's not) but we have to accept that we can't completely control our borders. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's the realty. Does that mean we shouldn't try to seal our borders? Well, actually, yes. Because attempts to "close our border" creates unintended consequences that are even worse.

So we need to figure out the best policies we can implement with porous borders. It actually is better to have people and contraband cross on land than underground. Sure, people could always have built tunnels, but they didn't. It's an scary development because we have almost no control over what goes through the tunnels. We actually had a bit more control over what came across on land.

And once again, I'd like to point out that these problems are not caused by drugs. They're caused by the war on drugs. It happens again and again.

October 5, 2010

Man tells cops coke in buttocks is not his

I'm telling you, you can't make this stuff up!

Seven Shots

I read this book by Jennifer Hunt. I loved this book. I'll tell you more about this book... but only when I'm done writing my book.

On July 31, 1997, a six-man Emergency Service team from the NYPD raided a terrorist cell in Brooklyn and narrowly prevented a suicide bombing of the New York subway that would have cost hundreds, possibly thousands of lives.
In the meantime I'll leave you with my breathless blurb they put on the back of the book (I had an advance copy):
Seven Shots uncovers the stories, rivalries, and human beings behind the New York City police officers who defused the subway bomb attack that foreshadowed September 11th. With unparalleled access, Hunt uncovers the never-before-told stories of heroism, September 11th, and petty rivalries that drive and destroy life in the NYPD. This is a true-life crime story that shows, warts and all, the unrequited love of good police officers toward an organization that doesn’t love them back. At times gripping, tragic, and theoretical, Seven Shots penetrates deep into the police world. Seven Shots vividly brings me back to my own policing days with laughs, tears, excitement, and adrenaline-filled moments of sheer terror. A groundbreaking, page-turning work.
[I just wish they had edited the redundancy out of the "unrequited love... toward an organization that doesn't love them back" part. There's no other kind of unrequited love. Things like that bother me more than they probably should.]

It's a great book and a wonderful ethnography with amazing insight into the police culture. Plus it tells a story about a big bomb that almost wan.

You can buy it here.

October 4, 2010

A well worn Maglite

"My God," I said on seeing this over the weekend, "how many people you hit with that thing?"

"A bunch!"

He reckoned he picked up this baby in 1985. It got twenty years of service after that. When I was police, this gentle and soft-spoken man had been a cop longer than I'd been alive.

And over it his home on the Eastern Shore this weekend, a few of us, including about half a dozen from my old squad got together and ate crabs, drank beer, and told stories. A good time was had by all.



And here's a shot from the pier at night. The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Delmarva.

October 1, 2010

Where your tax money goes

This has been making its rounds on blog (I got it from Ta-Nehisi but the original source is The Third Way.)

So if you want to balance the budget without raising taxes, where would you start? If wikipedia happens to be factually correct at this moment, we're spending more on mandatory programs than we get it total revenue. In other words, it is legally impossible to balance the budget without raising taxes.

A deficit of $1,500 billion is not going to be closed by cutting congressional pay and Amtrak, that's for sure.

And is case you're wondering, if TANF (aka: welfare) were put on this chart, it would fall (if my math is correct) at around $25, just below NASA (the TANF budget is about $16.5 billion).