About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

December 31, 2010

Word Frequency

I'm ran the latest draft of my book through a word-frequency count. 47 uses of "simply"?! That's simply too many, and I got that down to 11 (mostly just by deleting them--it's interesting how often "simply" simply isn't needed). Now I'm working on "certainly," "of course," and "actually." It's very easy to fall on such linguistic crutches when you're writing.

So the total number of different words in my new book is about 4,900 (out of 30,000 words).

I don't know why I find that interesting. I also wondered if it's a lot or a little.

Turns out I'm not the only one curious about such matter (oh, the world wide webs, how magic you are!).

Zachary Booth Simpson was all over this, ten years ago.

Compared to most books, I don't use many words at all (that's good news for my friend, Gotti).

Moby Dick uses 17,227 different words. But Moby Dick is long. And my book is short. It turns out that for books of my length, my vocabulary seems perfectly respectable.

Thanks, Zach!

NYPD Releases Misdemeanor Data

Sort of. And only in response to a lawsuit.

Here's the Times story.

Why not just give out the raw data so academics like me can actually use it? It might actually help the NYPD and the city. Just sayin'...

December 29, 2010

Rigid Feminine Pleasure Device

From the Chicago Sun Times: Sex toy defendant arrested for failing to show up to court.

Warning: there's a picture of Ms. Bildsten, 56, of Gurnee, Ill.

Here's how she first came to our attention.

People Who Touch Your Junk

I love Venn Diagrams. This is a good one:

It's from a site I need to visit more, Chartport.org.

Text-to-voice software

If you're not a writer or a computer nerd, just skip this. Really.

I'm editing my book (and being doing so for a long while). It's very near done and still a very slow process.

About six hours ago, I bought a text-to-speech program online for $50 (NaturalSoft, for what it's worth. I have no idea if there are better ones). Honestly, it doesn't work too well in Word, at least not when two word files are open at the same time, but it works just fine when you cut and paste text.

It took me two days to get through about 30 pages. Tonight, using this program and having my book read to me while I looked at it, I swear things went at least three times as fast. That number is an estimate, but it's not an exaggeration. I got through 50 pages tonight!

Not only that, but I know I did a better job catching things I would never have noticed from just reading the text.

And here's why: because the damn thing doesn't stop (unless you want it to, like when you have to make substantial changes). Slow and steady. It's like being on an assembly line of your own words. I felt like cross between John Henry and Laverne De Fazio.

But now it's almost 6am and I'm off to bed.

December 28, 2010

Portugal's Drug Policy

The headline says: "Portugal's drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons." Of course it should probably say, "US ignores lessons."

I like pseudo neutral editor's note: "This is part of an occasional series by The Associated Press examining the U.S. struggles in its war on drugs after four decades and $1 trillion."

The story is here. I haven't read it yet, but I suspect it's good.

[Thanks to Sgt. T.]

December 27, 2010

Then and Now: Jacksonville

This time from Jacksonville, Florida. It looks like the Hamrock Hotel is a pretty upscale place, with all them nice new Ford motorcars out front!

The only old building left is vacant, abandoned, and falling apart. And as usual, business and buildings have been replaced with parking lots and vacant lots. There's one big new building. But no reason to be on the city street anymore. Just four lanes of traffic to drive by quickly and lots of parking. One-hundred years of American progress.

December 26, 2010

In the Nation's Service?

Happy Boxing Day (if you're Canadian). Or Second Day of Christmas (if you're Dutch).

Why don't we have two-day holidays (especially the Friday after Thanksgiving)?

In the news:

People in jail recording themselves reading books for their kids to listen to.

The DEA is big and scary and still unable to stop world leaders from dealing drugs.

And the New York Times has an article about the pay of elties. A person born poor (bottom fifth of the income distribution) in "the Land Of Opportunity," is much more likely to die poor that a person born poor in, say, socialist Sweden or England (the chances are 42%, 25%, and 30%, respectively). Not to mention our poor are poorer.

And this is interesting: In my dad's Princeton class of 1956, 450 of 750 graduates served in the military. By comparison, a third of recent Princeton graduates who got jobs after graduation went into finance (one of the reasons I didn't like Princeton). Just eight went into the military.

Speaking of the military: The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service.

Other signs the times are a-changing, for the worse:
In 1977, an elite chief executive working at one of America’s top 100 companies earned about 50 times the wage of its average worker. Three decades later, the nation’s best-paid C.E.O.’s made about 1,100 times the pay of a worker on the production line.
No doubt because the American economy is so much stronger today. But seriously... Why do we let this happen? Why do people insist on believing that regulation is the problem, that unrestrained for-profit corporations have our best interests in mind, and the only thing federal government is good for is the military?

It just don't make sense.

December 23, 2010


First, as my wife sits near me working on a guidebook to the Yucatan (that's Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Mayan Riviera for you tourists in Mexico), I feel obliged to point out that the Yucatan has a lower homicide rate than Canada. And Canada is safer than America. So not going to Cancun because of violence in Tijuana is like not going to Disneyland because of crime in Detroit. It just doesn't make sense.

OK... not that I got out of the way... have you see how f*cked up the war on drugs in Mexico still is?! I mention this because one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, murder will go down in Mexico. And when it does, you'll hear about how great the latest get-tough police leader is. And how now we're really winning the drug war. Of course that will be B.S. But just like you (I'm certain) I was wondering, "gee, I haven't heard much about killings in Mexico recently. Maybe things are getting better.

Then I came across this diagram in the BBC:

No. Things are as bad as ever. And now police are shocking the balls of suspected corrupt cops (not all of whom are corrupt). But it doesn't work. Yet another bit of proof that "getting tough" usually fails. In fact, things are worse than ever. It turns out that things are twice as bad as when this stuff last seemed to be in the news. There are now more than 1,000 killings a month. To put that in some bit of (admittedly not quite fair) perspective, total US casualties in Afghanistan topped 1,000 this year.

In 2006, before Mexico got really tough in the war drugs, there were about 60 drug-war deaths a month in Mexico. Now those were the good old days.

The war on drug increases killing. We know this. People... STOP!

Pat Robertson for Legalized Pot Possession

Stranger things have happened. But I can't think of when.

I saw this the other day watching the 700 Club [not true].

"We've got to look at what we're considering crime." Robertson also comes out against mandatory sentences. "It's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people."

Preach on, Brother Robertson.

[Update: Robertson clarifies his perspective]

But seriously, it's about time so-called compassionate Christians started being a little less filled with Old-Testament vengeance and little more filled with Jesus-like New-Testament forgiving.

Besides... it's (almost) Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Like good New York City Jews [also not true] the wife and I will be eating Chinese food and perhaps seeing a movie.

But we're going to cook the Chinese food.

We happen to have a haunch of hunted Wyoming antelope in the freezer [this part is true, thanks to the Mighty Nimrod (Genesis 10: 8-9), Dan Baum]. And what says Christmas more than Chinese-style antelope? Any antelope-cooking suggestions are more than appreciated.

What you learn on the job

I compiled a little top ten lost of things police learn on the job. You can see it at Criminal Justice Programs.com.
Peter Moskos is a former police officer and author of the popular law enforcement blog, Cop in the Hood (www.copinthehood.com). He is currently a professor of law and police science at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he specializes in police culture, crime prevention and ending the war on drugs.

It should go without saying that policing isn’t like what you see on TV shows and in the movies. But it’s not so easy to learn what policing is like. Here are a few of things I learned policing the streets of Baltimore’s Eastern District.

1. Policing is really about the men and women you work with. People are willing to risk their lives for you—it’s a powerful feeling.

2. Despite what police say, officer safety is not the number one priority. If it were, you’d never leave the police station. Danger is part of the job.

3. The job can be dangerous, but it’s the drudgery of routine that wears you down.

4. On the street, everybody lies. Some of the lies are more entertaining than others!

5. To cops, overtime is like a drug. It’s something you’ll crave, and something that influences far too much of what you do on and off duty.

6. Interactions with the public go much better when people show you their hands and sit still when asked.

7. Policing is a job like no other. But, when the day ends, it is just a job. Don’t take things personally. Even when other people want you to. Especially when other people want you to!

8. If they call for a doctor in the house, you might be the next best thing.

9. You’ll be amazed at the things you laugh at. Anything can be funny... at least to a cop. And if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. Laughing is much better.

10. You won’t save the world, but you might save somebody’s life. What other job can offer you that?

December 17, 2010

Change is Bad: Poughkeepsie

I like then-and-now shots of life in America. I posted two of Newburgh a while back and got some interest.

This one of downtown Poughkeepsie, NY, isn't as dramatic or depressing a change as was Newburgh, but is it really to much to ask for things to be better today than they were 99 years ago? Apparently, when it comes to our downtowns, the answer is yes.
Then there were businesses and streetcars and pretty brick streets with wide sidewalks (and people using them). Then they narrowed the sidewalk, removed the nice street lights, paved over the bricks and streetcar tracks, and replaced handsome buildings with ugly buildings. Now the street is wide and smooth enough to accommodate parked cars, parked right in front of vacant store fronts.

My point isn't that change is bad (though it often is), but that we can choose how we want our cities to look and live. And a lot of bad choices have been made. All in the name of "progress."

The old picture is nice enough that it's worth going to the Shorpy website to see the full-sized image.

Speaking of private justice

Halliburton pays Nigeria $250 million to drop their case against former CEO Dick Cheney... for paying Nigerian official $180 million between 1994 and 2004 to secure a $6 billion contract. So says the BBC.

Private Prisons in Maine

1) Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit prison operator, spends $25,000 for Maine Republican candidate Paul LePage. He wins the election. But state law prohibits private prisons. This kind of law is one of the few good things to come from prison guard union lobbying.

2) A few weeks before becoming governor, according to Lance Tapley in the Portland, Maine, Phoenix Lepage meets with CCA's reps

3) The governor-elect's spokesman says LePage "will try to get the law changed."

4) CCA says they will build a giant prison in remote, impoverished Piscataquis County.

5) The last step is to fill the prison by lobbying elected officials for more and longer prison sentences. To not do so wouldn't be in the best interest of your shareholders. It's nothing personal; it's just business.

6) Repeat. Since 1970, the US prison and jail population has gone from 338,000 to 2.3 million.

And check out CCA's creepy website which includes what seems like a parody video from one of those dystopic-future movies like Starship Troopers or Blade Runner.

Also of note from the Phoenix:
CCA officials have talked about a prison housing 2,000 to 2,400 inmates with 200 to 300 employees. If true, that would be an extraordinarily small number of staff for such a large number of prisoners. The Maine State Prison has just over 400 workers — most of them guards — to deal with just over 900 prisoners.
Remember the rule of thumb that you need roughly six employees to man one shift. So CCA would have approximately one guard for every 60 prisoners. Maine currently spends $41,000 per prisoner.

December 14, 2010

National Intelligence, hard at work

The Air Force is blocking its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of more than 25 news organizations and blogs that have posted Wikileaks. So says the Times (one of the blocked sites).

Phew. God forbid Air Force personnel would know what is free information to the rest of the world.

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority.”

Don't forget to close that barn door on the way out. U.S.A., baby!

December 13, 2010

Politics and the Courts and Health Care

It always bothers me when people bitch about court decisions because they don't agree with the politics. It's one thing to be pro-abortion (as I am) or pro illegal immigration (got me there, too) or anti-2nd Amendment (not too fond of how some people interpret it, personally). It's another to think that every Supreme-Court decision needs to be decided in favor of your particular belief rather than the greater issue on which the courts are supposed to make such decisions.

The Supreme Court doesn't (or shouldn't) decide if a specific law is good or bad; it decides if a given issue is constitutional. I think Roe v. Wade was a pretty weak Supreme Court decision. And yet I believe that every woman should have the right to have an abortion on demand.

Much of the Civil Rights Movement was helped by court cases that relied on greater moral issues more than strict constitutional interpretations. That's fine by me too. I also understand that every decision shouldn't be decided on technical grounds or original intent (see, for instance, the 7th Amendment).

Bush v. Gore? Now that was a terrible decision. But the court has always been political. And to some extent it should be.

Why do I mention this? Because I love Obamacare!

OK, actually, I'm just saying that to be provocative. I think Obamacare is too limited and health care should be single-payer, for everybody, and nationalized! But what do I care? I have health care.

I support health care as both a political and moral issue. The free market does not and cannot provide health care. That said, I could fully support a court decision that says that federal government shouldn't be able to tell citizens they have to buy anything. I'm a states' rights liberal! But not too many of us in this club, I can't help but notice.

I just wish more conservative so-called states' righters were equally supportive of states' rights when it came to issues they don't like, like drug legalization, or highway funds. The power of the federal government should not be a liberal versus conservative issue. But as long as it is, here's to health care surviving court challenges!

The Wet House

This is counter-intuitive thinking I love. The "Wet House." They drink more. You pay less. Just give addicts what they want.

You want to save their soul or protect the rest of us? Sometimes you have to pick between the two (and I'm picking the latter!).

If I remember correctly, there was an article (perhaps in the New York Times Magazine?) about some drunk house in some Scandinavian Country. Seemed like a horrible place... and an excellent use of tax-payer dollars.
Consider Marion Hagerman. In his 39 years of drinking, the 54-year-old has been arrested about 60 times. He has kept drinking despite six drunken-driving convictions and six 28-day treatment sessions.

His drinking has cost the public more than $450,000. And since he was admitted to St. Anthony's two years ago?

Nothing. Not a single arrest, detox stay or emergency-room visit.

It's not that he's turned his life around — he still drinks mouthwash, which he stashes in a nearby Dumpster. But he has drastically cut his cost to the public.

"I use to stumble around and make a fool of myself outside," said Hagerman, as he relit a day-old cigarette butt in his bare room. "But now I go home and do it here."

[Kudos to Pete Guither.]

Keeping Southie Real (...stupid)

The Boston Herald reports on "several random beatings on perceived outsiders by South Boston punks."

Years ago, late at night, I used to ride my bike through South Boston a lot (the Castle Island causeway was a great destination). But it just so happens that Southie was home to some of the stupidest must heroined-out white people you'll ever meet.

It's like a little bit of South Baltimore right in yuppie Boston, but more racist. I felt more ill-at-east in parts of Southie (and also the white parts of Dorchester) than I ever did in the ghetto. And I'm white!

Going through Southie I had to stay on our toes (inasmuch as you can, riding a bicycle). Local yahoos would occasionally drive by and shout things like, "get a car, you fag!" or maybe throw an empty beer can. It may not sound so bad until you realize how defenseless you are on a bicycle, and how their little "joke" could easily kill you. "Ya honor," they would later say in court, "We didn't mean him to die. We was just kiddin' around, ya know, havin' a good time. We didn't know he was going to fawl off his bike when we bumped him with ah caaah"

Sometimes I'd ride with my roommate after our job at the restaurant ended and the bars had closed. After 2AM the streets were empty. We had a routine--which we still joke about even though we never had to use it--if somebody wanted to run us down for being "bike-riding fags" or some other similar offense. Johnnie, cause he could put on a wicked-thick local accent, would say, "Naw, we ain't fags, this is for the Jimmy Fund! We're doin' it for the retaaaaded kids!"

Anyway, Southie has gentrified quite a bit since the 1990s. But apparently, not enough.

December 12, 2010

Great Stocking Stuffers

Why it's that time of year again... you know, the time of year when I tell you to buy my book. It is a quick and easy present. Cop in the Hood, available from Amazon.com. And for all you cheapskate cops, it's less than $15. Just lock up one looser and you'll make more than that in overtime.

And if you don't want to give a police book for Christmas--or maybe last year you already did--I've got another book you should buy: a cookbook. And I just happen to know just the book: Forking Fantastic (it was supposed to be called F*cking Delicious, and probably would have sold better had it been). And nothing says "Christmas love" like a cookbook with lots of swear words. Of course I'm biased (one of the authors is my wife), but they are damn good cooks. Plus you can see a picture of me holding an entire lamb on a spit and also follow my very own ceasar salad recipe (which just happens to be f*cking delicious).

Plus Forking Fantastic is less than $8 on Amazon. Better yet, the cover price is $20, so you're friends will never know just how cheap you really are.

Brand Name: Fail

Last night I poured myself a big frosty mug of LECH.

I couldn't resist buying this the other day. (So maybe the name is actually a stroke of marketing genius.) It tasted just fine.

December 11, 2010


I can't help but think the release of all this information is somehow good. I certainly don't feel less safe. I do worry about informants being outed and killed. But are they? And other than that, wouldn't it be better if our government was more open? I mean, has anybody learned anything we didn't already know? If so, maybe this will lead to some diplomatic breakthroughs somewhere.

Or maybe, like Iran said, the leaks are all an American plot! I like that idea.

What are your thoughts?

December 10, 2010

Pssst... Wanna Plant a Bomb?

I'm not opposed to arresting people who are willing to detonate what they think is a bomb in public places. It's not easy to arrest a suicide bomber after an attack.

But consider Glenn Greenwald's article: "The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot" something does smell a little fishy:
Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts -- and an uncritical media amplifies -- its "success" to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government's vast surveillance powers -- current and future new ones -- are necessary.
Or take Ted Conover's (author of New Jack and other great books) excellent article about the Newburgh plot:
The case seems like a slam-dunk—until you learn more about him. [FBI informant] Hussain, driving a flashy Mercedes and using the alias Maqsood, began to frequent the Masjid al-Ikhlas in down-at-the-heels Newburgh in 2008. Mosque leaders say he would meet congregants in the parking lot afterward, offering gifts and telling them they could make a lot of money—$25,000—if they helped him pursue jihad. The assistant imam said the suspicion Hussain was an informant was so great "it was almost like he had a neon sign on him." A congregant told a reporter that, in retrospect, everyone wished they'd called him out or turned him in. "Maybe the mistake we made was that we didn't report him," the man said. "But how are we going to report the government agent to the government?"
At no single point during these government investigations is there a moment where I can say: entrapment! And yet there's little doubt that were it not for the FBI, none of these attacks would have happened (which is, of course, basically the definition of entrapment). Still, it doesn't seem too much to ask people not to kill others even when offered money and "bombs" by the government.

If you start dangling tens and hundred of thousands of dollars of poor people, you're going to find people willing to do anything. And I'd certainly like the FBI to find these suckers before a real terrorist does. Of course it all it takes is money to get people to become terrorists, we're in trouble. Because there's lots of money and lots of poor people.

Maybe, in the end, we're just safer than we think. Matt Yglasias writes:
If you assume the existence of a person willing to die for Osama bin Laden’s war on America, located within the United States of America, and in possession of a working explosive or firearm, there’s basically nothing stopping him from blowing up the 4/5/6 platform at Union Square or the 54 bus in DC or the Mall of America or even the security line at DFW airport. And yet it doesn’t happen.
The Economist concludes:
It's far more sensible to take this happy fact as evidence of the further happy fact that the supply of people ready, willing, and able to blow up America's crowded places is very small.

[update: Holder defends stings.]

December 8, 2010

College Drug Dealers Arrested

It's a headline you don't see much. These guys were Columbia University students.

Notice, if you will, the only real crime--the crime with a potential victim--is entirely the result of prohibition. So much of drug violence revolves around getting people to pay debts. That's what happens when the business is illegal.

And just one more plug for Dorm Room Dealers by A. Rafik Mohamed and Erik D. Fritsvold. In an academic (but readable) fashion, they explain how this all works.

December 6, 2010

You can't make this stuff up

One of the funnier (at least if you're a cop) police reports you will ever read. [I'm warning you, it's not suitable for kids] The report is here and a story about it is here. (By the way, despite what the story claims, I'm sure the actual line has been in many police reports.)

The Block Is Burning

Heard it on Facebook. That's all I know. But it's a big fire.

If I were still a cop...

...I'd have twelve years on today, with eight to go.

We are the addicts

Thomas Friedman in the Times:
Saudi donors today still constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide — not to mention the fundamentalist mosques, charities and schools that spawn the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So basically our oil payments are cycled through Saudi Arabia and end up funding the very militants whom our soldiers are fighting.
America lacks leverage in the Middle East because we are addicted to oil. We are the addicts and they are the pushers, and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers

December 5, 2010

Viva Cinco de Diciembre!

Happy Repeal Anniversary!

I just learned through a friend on Facebook that it's Prohibition Repeal Day. No better time to think about vice and the virtues of individual freedom. But remember that the end of Prohibition brought despair, crime, more drinking, and criminals. Oh no, wait, that's the wrong press release. That's what prohibitionists said would happen after we legalized a popular and dangerous drug. When we did regulated alcohol in 1933, murders went down, the mob lost a lot of power, people stopped violating drinking laws, and the government stopped wasting time and money arresting people for selling a drink.

If you support the war on drugs, at least be consistent and advocate for the return of alcohol prohibition, too. Think of the children. Prohibition isn't perfect, but it's better than the alcohol free-for-all we have now! Think of how much safer they'll be after we crack down on those grog shops and foreign liquor peddlers. Here's to an alcohol-free America!

But seriously, remember that ending drug war is not an answer to our drug problems. Ending the drug war is an answer to our prohibition problems. And with that out of the way, we could begin to focus on the actual drug problems.

¡Viva Cinco de Diciembre!

December 4, 2010

Drugged Driving! Lock the doors! Hide the Kids! Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

Drug Czar Kerlikowske said, “drugged driving is a much bigger public health threat than most Americans realize and unfortunately, it may be getting worse."

[Cue evil music!]

Except, of course, it's not.

Kerlikowske is talking about this, which estimates that one-third of those who die in motor vehicle fatalities test positive for drugs.

The problem, at least in context of the war on drugs, is how they define "drugs." Alcohol, nicotine, and aspirin are excluded. That's nice. But what about Acetominophen plus codeine? Ambien? Vicodin? Yep. Yep. And Yep. Ambien may be the ninth most prescribed drug in the US.

You might also test positive for the joint you smoked last month, which covers at least six percent of all Americans. And no, they don't break down which drugs people had in their system. Nor can they know if you're actually high or impaired on whatever drug you're taking.

You can see the complete list drugs tested for starting on page 547 of this big file.

Seeing how from 1999 to 2009, the number of prescriptions purchased in the United States increased 39%--we're talking more than 3 billion prescriptions a year (not all of these are tested for)--how could you not find more drugs in people's systems?

In truth, it's amazing that only one-third of drivers tested positive for one of these drugs. It's not amazing that drug prohibitionists twist, misuse, and sometimes just make up the numbers. They can't handle the truth.

Police Office Saves Life

This is a headline you don't see enough and should see more.

Here's a BBC video from Madrid that is pretty great.

Sure, everybody can wave all they want. But it takes a cop, an off-duty cop in this case, to jump on the tracks and actually do the right thing.

[p.s. Why do trains in Madrid drive on the left?]

December 3, 2010

Lacking Bail Money, NYC Petty Cons Average 15 Days In Jail

Mosi Secret of the Times reports on nonfelony defendants arrested in the city in 2008:
In more than three-quarters of the 117,064 cases, defendants were released on their own recognizance.

In 19,137 cases from that year, bail was set at $1,000 or less. The report found that 87 percent of the defendants in those cases did not post bail and went to jail to await trial. They remained for an average of 15.7 days.

“Here we are locking people up for want of a couple of hundred dollars,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with the domestic program of the advocacy group.

“Pretrial liberty should not be conditioned on the size of your bank account,” Ms. Fellner said.

The report raised the possibility that many of the poorer defendants pleaded guilty at arraignment for sentences with no jail time, simply to avoid being behind bars while awaiting trial.
A fifteen day stay on Rikers costs the city about $3,000 per person.

December 2, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell

Moskos on Moskos. The old man would have loved this one!

Felon Who Fought 3-Strikes Law Kills

Well this is going to set back sentencing reform for a while!

I suspect this seventh strike will put him away for life.
A multiple felon who campaigned against California’s three-strikes law and was free after managing four times to escape its harsh sentencing guidelines has been charged with murdering four people in home-invasion robberies here this year.
Mr. Ewell was in courtrooms again this summer after three arrests, accused of switching price tags on a vacuum cleaner and other items at Home Depot stores. The judge postponed his 32-month prison sentence so Mr. Ewell could undergo “prescheduled eye and stomach surgery,” said Jacquelyn Lacey, an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said Mr. Ewell spent a month of that grace period — from late September to late October — robbing a string of homes in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County and killing four people he either strangled or beat to the point of a heart attack.

December 1, 2010

How we roll...

I know it's not in the spirit of Thanskgiving to brag, but I'll be damned if five hours later this bird wasn't deee-licious. And besides, "it ain't bragging if it's true."

The Boys of Summer

Or, more accurately, "The Baltimore City police men and women of late Fall 2009," but nobody ever wrote a book with that name.

I've also always wondered just how many of my class are still with the Baltimore Police Department. This seems a rather simple question, but such data, especially if it's police related, can be surprisingly hard to come by. I hear stories about this person leaving by choice and that person being asked to leave, but I really had no idea. I guessed about half of us were still there.

Today the Sun came out with with their searchable pay database for every city employee. Boo-ya!

And since I can can select for police department and sort by date of entry, it's very easy to get my academy class (and it's nice to see some of these names after all these years!).

So, after 11 years, how is the glorious class of 99-5 doing? I'd say fair to middling. When I was in the academy class, most of my fellow trainees assumed that our class was, how do I put this delicately, just slightly sub-par (hey, we can't all be above average). But who could say for sure?

There are 30 of the original 51 still left. That's a 59% retention rate (and similar for men and women). I'm not certain how that compares to other academy classes or police departments (that data is surprisingly hard to get), but I suspect it's a bit low.

More revealing is that just 2 of the 31 officers (6.5%) have been promoted (I hear a third is now number 10 on the list).

So I also looked at every other police officer hired in 2009 (excluding my class, n = 93). The overall promotion rate is 25% (including three lieutenants). Ouch.

And of course, here's what every police officer cares about: money. Are we making bank? I don't think so. I think police (and teachers) should make about $100,000 a year. The average base salary for those in my academy class (11 years experience) is $60,200 (and the city wants to cut it 10%). Those at the rank of officer are making $59,400. Overtime brings the average pre-tax take home up to $71,400. Three guys in my class pulled in more than $40,000 in overtime last year (about 20 hours/week).

[It seems only fair to tell my salary. As an assistant professor at CUNY with a PhD and 6 years I make $74,133. Plus I made about $2,500 in "overtime," a.k.a. book royalties. Best of all, nobody shot at me.]