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by Peter Moskos

June 30, 2010

Mineo gets what he deserves

Nada. Nichts. Zilch. Niks. Τίποτα!

That's what the lying Mineo gets for his $440 million B.S. lawsuit against the NYPD. Even better, he's got to pay court fees.

The jury was deadlocked (11-1, against Kern) on whether Officer Kern brutalized Mineo with a baton.

From the Daily News:
Jurors did find Kern liable for malicious prosecution for giving Mineo a summons for marijuana - but Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein tossed that.

The jury also cleared Officers Alex Cruz, Andrew Morales and Noel Jugraj of false arrest and excessive force, denial of medical treatment and malicious arrest.
Personally, I'd be happy if Kern got something for being a d*ck. But that will probably happen departmentally. I'm more happy that Mineo gets nothing.

And forgive a small bit of gloating, but I called this one back in 2008. Lucky for me, I just happened to right. At least this time.

Right Wing Lies (III)

Fox News says an ever-increasing number of people are losing their jobs. 15 million alone in a 3-month period in 2010!

That's patently absurd. But it's cited to the Bureau of Labor Statistics so it must be true.

They "corrected" their graph to read: "total unemployed."


Straight up, I guess ever since Obama started handing out all that "Obama money." And you know it must be true because this time they actually spelled out "Bureau of Labor Statistics"! The only problem is that unemployment is not going up. It's been steady at 15 million since August, 2009.

And then look closer at their chart. Now there's no law that says you have to write "not to scale" when your draw a graph that isn't to scale. But common courtesy and a sense of decency would implore you to mention that fact. Otherwise, you know, people could draw the wrong conclusions. Hmmmmm.... Looks like they already decided and didn't really report.

The line they draw is straight up and steady. But the numbers aren't. The first increase is two million. The second increase is 4.5 million. The last increase is 1.5 million. The actually numbers look like this:

But what are you going to be believe? The truth or Fox's lying eyes?

[Taken from Media Matters, which has more details. And discovered through Jay Livingston's always good Montclair SocioBlog (the best blog I bet you don't read).]

A technicality?

It's not easy to separate emotion from constitutional issues. Ronell Wilson killed two NYPD detectives in 2003 and was found guilty and sentence to death by a federal jury. Good.

Now, in 2010, an appeals court struck down the sentence (but not the conviction... the bastard did it).

It's easy for cops and conservatives to bitch about "liberal" courts letting cop killers go on a "technicality." But the court is right.

According to the Times, the "technicality" is that the prosecutors told the jury to consider Wilson's demand for a trial and failure to plead guilty as evidence of lack of remorse. The prosecutors had "argued to the jury that his statement of remorse should be discredited because he failed to testify."

Like it or not (myself, I'm rather fond of the Bill of Rights), we all have the constitutional right to a jury trial--Amendment 6--and the right not to testify against ourselves--Amendment 5. Period.

[Mind you, demanding your right to a jury trial is often held against you. That's why 90-some percent of convictions come from plea bargains -- but that doesn't make it right and that's another story.]

What kind of rights would these be if exercising these rights were held against you? What could be worse than a prosecutor implying, "Yes, the defendant had a right not to testify, and because he exercised that right, he should be put to death."

Call it a "technicality" if you want. I'd call it a fundamental right put in doubt by a serious and stupid error from prosecutors.

Gates Arrest was "Avoidable"

Ya think?

Here's the final report by the Cambridge Review Committee. I haven't read it yet, but this may be the key sentence: "But instead of de-escalting, both men continued to escalate the encounter."

And the key insight may be here: "To say that the arrest of Professor Gates was avoidable is not to say that it was unjustified from a legal standpoint.... [S]ome police actions that may be 'within policy' are not necessarily the best outcomes to a situation."

Like I said... ya think?

Meanwhile, according to the Boston Herald, "Professor Gates' Attorney Blasts New Report."

If you still care, you can all my posts related to Gates.

Checks and Balances

Wouldn't it be nice if the Senate said, "Liberal or conservative, we're not going to approve any Supreme Court justice that won't tell us his or her position on issues"?

The Senate is not supposed to be a rubber stamp.

The founding fathers had no stated opinions on many current issues. Semi-automatic handguns didn't exist when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. Police didn't exists. And on another subject I don't think it's a stretch to say the Founding Fathers did not write the Bill of Rights with for-profit corporations in mind.

So can we move beyond the incorrect liberal/conservative activist/originalist lie? The Supreme Court is politics. Always has been. Always will be. Maybe it should be. But when the court passes "conservative" decisions related to corporate rights and gun control--when the court overturns local law and extends the reach of the constitution--that is by definition an activist court.

The Constitution is and should be a living document. Of course justices have to interpret the Constitution. That is their job. I just want my side to win.

June 28, 2010

Brother, can you spare a dime?

So I'm in the grocery store, buying a few things, and decide to use the self-serve lane for a change. I realize I have just $15.25 in cash. So I start scanning things... careful not to go over. Then I go over.

An employee walks by and I tell the lady, a middle-aged black lady, that I need to take the last thing off (rubbing alcohol) because I don't have enough money. Now this wasn't the last of my items. There was a whole half hand-basket left behind: fresca, onions, pita bread. Meanwhile the "essentials" I could afford included pretzels, ketchup, vaseline, and beer. The lady says, "Be sure to take your receipt. I'll tell you why."

I finishing paying the machine. I realize I can't even do basic math right because I still have $2 left. The machine spits out a receipt. The lady takes my receipt, and writes a lot on it. She tells me to go up to the front desk. I tell her I will, thanks her, and apologize for my groceries left behind. She assures me it's no problem.

On the receipt, carefully written and circled, is the fact that I bought a four-pack of beer and the machine charged me bottle deposit on a six pack.

I was owned 10 cents.

So I went to the front desk, handed over my receipt, and was greeted with a puzzled glance. I explained I only bought a four-pack of beer and was charged deposit on a six-pack. I had a dime coming my way. But I got my dime. I would have been rude not to after all the lady had noted on my receipt.

If I only cared about a dime! But I thought of Barbara Ehrenreich and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. And I was very thankful to have a good job, and a wallet filled with cash left behind at home.

Granny Rap

Plenty to do in Amsterdam... thanks to GVB, Amsterdam public transportation. But I'm really posting this because it's starring... my mom! It's also produced by my brother (and he's the questionably hetero one in the video). This may be the slickest ad ever for public transportation (with the old Detroit People Mover song as a close second).

June 27, 2010

Heather MacDonald on NYPD Stop-and-Frisks

Heather MacDonald has an op-ed in the New York Times. You know, on police issues we probably agree 75-80% of the time. And yet I'm always left frustrated and strangely disappointed by her writings. She's too predictable. And her writing lacks depth as she simply sidesteps the main points of the opposition.

I generally agree with her, and yet still find myself unconvinced.

When it comes to police matters, I also want to learn something I didn't already know or think about something in a way I haven't considered. No such luck.

June 26, 2010

LEAP vs. Prohibition

LEAP has made a parody of the Mac vs. PC ads, but about the war on drugs.

Somebody Snitched

And Ronnie "Skinny Suge" Thomas get sentenced to 20 years in the Federal Pen.

Ronnie was the not-so-smooth talking star and co-producer of the 2004 "Stop Snitching" video which had its moment of fame when basketball player Carmelo Anthony was featured in the first DVD.

From the Sun: "Eight other people associated with the videos have been prosecuted in federal court, including a cameraman and other prominent stars, most of whom are now in prison for 10 or more years on drug and gun convictions."

June 25, 2010

Trial of Officer London

I don't really have a problem with the first two minutes. The suspect, Walter Harvin, was aggressive and uncooperative. Harvin pushes Officer London at 0:26 and has to go. I turns into a messy arrest, but that's sometimes how it is.

As much as I don't like tasers... tasing this guy sure would have saved both officer and suspect a lot of trouble. Neither mace nor baton worked (though I can't see the mace).

Yet again, this shows the problem with expandable batons. They don't really work. They cause pain but they don't have stopping power. And they sure look bad when in use, wacking people again and again. The unpopular straight baton, which is much more like a small baseball bat, is a much better tool. It's cheaper, too.

But after minute three? After the cuffs are on? You can't give a guy an ass whuppin' because he's yelling, "I'm going to kill you" and you think he deserves it. You can't beat a guy till he shuts up.

We'll see what the jury says.

[And the hits at minute 8, necessary at the time, should never have needed to happen because Harvin should not have been able to get up and charge the officer.]



Here's the story in the Times and the Post.

Schoolcraft Tapes

The more of these tapes I hear, the more I think how good these secretly recorded NYPD officers sound. And this is the best [read: worst] they could come up with? To me it shows what a good job most men and women in the NYPD do.

In the latest batch, particular kudos to Lt Rafael Mascol, who offers some pretty good suggestions as to how Officer Schoolcraft could get higher job evaluation rankings. He offers him other tours. And he says, "Go out there answer some more radio runs. Do some more summonses. Write more reports. Do more proactive work. If you're have trouble seeing activity, we can put you with a more active officer who can see the activity and maybe point it out to you."

It's that last part I really love. And he's not saying this sarcastically. He's trying to help.

Even if Schoolcraft's basic point may be correct (that crime is being downgraded), and despite an order to talk with his sergeant, he did leave an hour early saying he didn't feel well. You can't just walk away from work as a police office. It's called going AWOL. If he did something violent or had a heart attack, the NYPD would have been held responsible.

Even Chief Marino sounds reasonable. Schoolcraft certainly sounds sane, but it's understandable that he has to go to the hospital to get checked out. He was complaining of chest pains, for crying out loud!

He didn't have to get EDP'd (or EP'd, as we say in Baltimore, or, in normal lingo, declared crazy and getting taken to the hospital). It sounds like he could have gone on his own free will as a medical patient. Instead, he said was going to lie there until he felt better. So he went as a mental patient.

The idea of throwing a guy in a mental ward because he's got evidence against the brass sounds great, but it's not what you hear on the tapes. Did he need to be kept locked up for days? I don't know. But that's on those doctors and not the NYPD.

Of all these "secret recording," I couldn't find one of them that says anything that isn't common knowledge or makes the speaker look bad. Most of them make the speaker look good!

Here's Part 1, 2, 3, 4 in the Village Voice. And Lenny Levitt's most recent take. And my first post on the subject.

June 24, 2010

Baltimore Arrest Settlement

Seems like the city got off easy by having to pay $870,000 and promise to do the right thing.

About 100,000 people were arrested each year in first half of the 2000s. Last year the number was down to about 70,000, which is still a lot. By comparison, New York City had 341,000 arrests in 2009. That means the Baltimore arrest rate is about 2.5 times higher than the rate in New York City. Of course, Baltimore has a murder rate about six times higher and has a lot more public drug dealing. So it's not easy to conclude what that all means.

When I was a cop, I had a half-hour meeting in City Hall with a certain high-ranking elected official. At one point I remember telling him, "You know, you can't arrest your way out of this murder problem." He looked at me quizzically and said, "Why not?" Anyway...

Perhaps the days of locking people up for just standing around are over. But police need an "or-else" to get people to follow lawful orders. So if loitering arrests decline, I predict arrests for disorderly conduct (the catch-all charge in New York City) and failure to obey a lawful order will go up.

June 23, 2010

Cost of Booking

Here's another simple number we should know but really don't: What's it cost to arrest somebody? Seems like it matters (at least to the taxpayer) if the choice is between a citation and an arrest.

Part of the problem in figuring this out is that the expense is divided between different departments, jurisdictions, and budgets (police, courts, sheriff, jail, prosecutor, and public defender). Another problem is there's not a simple turnstile that you pay to go through. There is some economy of scale, I would presume. In other words, reducing arrests by 10 percent would not cost the cost by 10 percent.

An article in the Arizona Republic today mentions some dollar figures. I'm not sure where they're from or how they were come up with, but here they are: "Bookings cost $192 per suspect and the city must pay about $72 per day for each inmate housed in county jails."

Now keep in mind Maricopa County is Sheriff Joe land and spends very little on jail. Rikers Island in New York City, by contrast, costs $190 per day. Regardless, jail figures are pretty easy to come up with because, well, they have a budget.

It's the booking cost that is more interesting and much harder to determine. Same with the cost of a court appearance. Still, for someone who spends a night or two in jail, the cost of each arrest is at least a couple hundred of dollars. Throw in a court appearance and we're probable pushing a grand.

[Anybody know if these figures are out there somewhere and I just haven't found them?]

Prison Population Up

But just a bit, according to Heather C. West at the Bureau of Justice Statistics. At the end of 2009, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,613,656 prisoners, an increase of 0.2% (3,897 prisoners) from 2008.

Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.

Non-citizens (not all of whom are illegal) make up 4.1% of the prison population.

[And congrats to Jim Lynch, my colleague at John Jay College, who just got confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. He's a good man and up to the job.]

Breaking News!!!

From Kingston... Dudas in custody!

The New York Times story. (The New York Times apparently has no reporter in Jamaica, since the dateline is Mexico City. Though non-byline credit is given to stringer Ross Sheil). Here's the story in the Jamaica Observer. But The Gleaner reports: No End to Emergency.

[Now ask yourself if this was worth the lives of like a hundred people, including many police officers.]

Now the real question is whether or not Dudas will make it to the US alive or be killed like his father was.

[And if you just miss good ol' Jamaican dialect in print (nothing to do with Dudas), you can read this.]

Art Imitates Heroin Brand Names

An interesting art project. The story in the New York Times:
The origins of the show can be traced to 2001, when Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, a sociologist researching the relationship between H.I.V. and drug use, first glimpsed the packets in an empty building in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where addicts would shoot up. Immediately, he said, he was struck by the fact that the images on the glassine envelopes served as advertisements.
In New York, for some reason, heroin is sold in little glassine bags or envelopes. I found that strange coming from Baltimore where heroin is sold in gelcaps. In New York they also wait "on line" rather than "in line." And in New York they have no friggin' idea how to make a crab cake.

Regional differences... crazy.

June 19, 2010

2007 Vancouver Airport Taser Death "Not justified"

No it wasn't.

This is the story of poor 40-year-old Robert Dziekanski. He was flying first time, to visit his mother and emigrate to Canada. He didn't speak English. She told him to wait by the luggage carousels. He did. She couldn't get in there and waiting outside for hours, thought he missed his flight, and went home. He waited around for many hours. Then he went a little bonkers. Four officers confronted him and wanted to use their toy. Either that or they were too wimpy to confront one unarmed person. Regardless, they tased Dziekanski for non-compliance, killing him.

From the story in the National Post.
Dziekanski, who spoke no English and had never been on a plane before, was unable to find his mother upon arriving at the airport. He remained in a secure customs area for nearly 11 hours and then, appearing dazed and delirious, began throwing around furniture, prompting the 911 call.

June 17, 2010

Man vs Rat? "Man does not stand no chance"

My quote of the day comes from Solomon Peeples, 86, a former director of NYC's Bureau of Pest Control Services. He was talking about rats: "They jump two feet from a running start; they can fall 40 feet onto a concrete slab and keep running.... We’re no match for them, as far as I’m concerned. Man does not stand no chance."

The runner up is Esther Bark, 50, who has seven daughters and said, "To suddenly put them in an open-minded place is not good for them."

June 16, 2010

Cockfight raid in N.M.

Police in Deming, N.M. raided a cockfight. People ran away. Birds, live and dead, were recovered. How much you wanna bet the live birds will now be killed?

It's not like I get too worked up over it either way, but I think it's a shame that New Mexico banned cockfighting in 2007. It was something special about the state and there is a long tradition of cockfighting that predates New Mexico's entry into the United States. Hell, it predates the United States!

Here's the state's Q & A on banning cockfighting. It's actually a pretty good Q & A, but I'm not convinced by any of it.

Plus, there's not too much going on in Deming "Home of pure water and fast ducks" New Mexico. And fighting cocks is better the cooking meth. If guys want to raise beautiful birds and bet on them while they kill each other? Fine by me. Besides, I've bet at a cockfight. I didn't understand all of it. But clearly these people cared deeply about it. And it was kind of beautiful.

I'd prefer to be fighting cock than a Perdue Chicken.

Seattle officer not aggressive enough

This Seattle officer wasn't too aggressive. He was not aggressive enough. The officer says, "Stop resisting." The suspect says, "Get the fuck off of me." In this case, the officer is the correct and legal one. And he is lucky he didn't get jumped, beaten, or killed.

That woman needed be controlled. At some point (after the punch) I would have maced her, thrown her to the ground, and cuffed her. At least that's what I like to think I would have done.

And where the hell is the backup?

The story from KOMO News.



All for jaywalking. Designing urban space for cars and then ticketing people for jaywalking may be the only thing more idiotic than the war on drugs.

June 15, 2010

Numbers, please

I don't normally go around asking for stats. I'll take a good anecdote over a slippery statistics any day.

And yet... I feel like an old operator at times saying, "Number, please."

Last night I was writing and had a very simple question: how many US prisoners are in solitary confinement? Seems like a simple and important question since this a free country and solitary confinement has been proven to drive people crazy.

Get this... we don't know. How can we not know? I don't think you have to be a bleeding heart to think we should know how many people are locked up in solitary confinement. Isn't not knowing a sign of the gulag?

Then by chance there's a story in USA Today about solitary. At least from the Illinois figure we can extrapolate to the rest of the nation. So I would guess between 40,000 and 80,000.

Speaking of numbers, there's this story in The Wall Street Journal about, a 54-year-old librarian in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who "spends most mornings sifting reports in the Mexican press to create a tally of drug-cartel-related killings in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico."

Why? Because nobody else is keeping track. The paper points out, "There is no official count of the people killed in Mexico's escalating drug wars—whether the victims are drug traffickers, police or civilians."

In Juarez, the tally this year already (it's June) is over a thousand. "I don't think there's a phenomenon like that in the world unless it's a declared war," Ms. Molloy said, "Ten years from now, people are going to ask 'What happened in Juárez?'"

When I see fancy stats I'm always skeptical (especially when they're based on data of questionable validity). But a basic count? A simple population figure? Solitary confinement? Murders? People... these are numbers we need!

[Update: LEAP board member Walter McKay lives in Mexico and keeps track of the numbers. He posts on the LEAP Blog. He also maintains a Google map of the murders.]

June 13, 2010

Baltimore Officer Not-Guilty in 2008 Shooting

So finds a Baltimore City Jury. The story by Erica Green in the Sun.
Sanders testified that Hunt assaulted him during a drug arrest at Hamilton Park Shopping Center two years ago, and that if Hunt hadn't reached for his pocket while running away, the five-year veteran wouldn't have shot him twice in the back.

The jury began deliberating Friday afternoon and returned the not-guilty verdict a little more than three hours later.
...
At the time of the shooting, Hunt was on probation for assaulting and eluding a police officer. He faced two years in prison if arrested again.

Belsky [Sanders' laywer] emphasized that the case was all about whether his client acted reasonably.

"This is a good man who did nothing wrong," Belsky said after the verdict. "The state's attorney's office should spend its time trying to foster good relations with the Police Department instead of prosecuting good police officers. That's how we'll solve the crime problem in Baltimore."

June 11, 2010

Stupid People Attack Christians for Being Muslim

Of course I wouldn't be for stupid people attacking Muslims either. But there is something deliciously ironic in turning against people who flew across the country to join your hate-filled cause.

What else can you say about something so idiotic? (other than "Go back to Jersey, you friggin' yahoos!")

At least it shows the true color of these so-called patriots is more blackshirt than red white and blue.
At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

June 10, 2010

Cops Cuff Cop at Mets Game

Cops arrest an off-duty cop for being drunk and obnoxious at the ballpark.

This doesn't surprise me. But I mention it for those who talk too much of the Blue Wall of Silence and some secret code of brotherhood and that cops never arrest another cop unless they have to and somebody is hurt.

Now I'm sure (and would hope) that the drunk cop in this case was given a chance to behave maturely. And perhaps one extra chance that a non-cop wouldn't get. That is professional courtesy.

But then they slapped the cuffs on and arrested the schmuck. And they didn't let him go and all laugh and have a drink together as soon as they were out of public view.

The Parable of Prohibition

Daniel Okrent has a new book out, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. I haven't read it yet. But I'll be damned if Johann Hari in Slate hasn't written one of the better book review I've ever read.

It's not easy to keep writing about the absurdity of prohibition in a new way. But until we end drug prohibition, we got to. This whole this is worth a read. Here's a chunk of it:
The hunger for a chemical high, low, or pleasingly new shuffle sideways is universal.
...
And in every generation, there are moralists who try to douse this natural impulse in moral condemnation and burn it away. They believe that humans, stripped of their intoxicants, will become more rational or ethical or good.
...
The story of the War on Alcohol has never needed to be told more urgently—because its grandchild, the War on Drugs, shares the same DNA. Okrent alludes to the parallel only briefly, on his final page, but it hangs over the book like old booze-fumes—and proves yet again Mark Twain's dictum: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
...
When you ban a popular drug that millions of people want, it doesn't disappear. Instead, it is transferred from the legal economy into the hands of armed criminal gangs.
...
So if [Prohibition] didn't stop alcoholism, what did it achieve? The same as prohibition does today—a massive unleashing of criminality and violence. Gang wars broke out, with the members torturing and murdering one another first to gain control of and then to retain their patches. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire. The icon of the new criminal class was Al Capone.... But he was an eloquent exponent of his own case, saying simply, "I give to the public what the public wants. I never had to send out high pressure salesmen. Why, I could never meet the demand."
...
By 1926, he and his fellow gangsters were making $3.6 billion a year—in 1926 money! To give some perspective, that was more than the entire expenditure of the U.S. government. The criminals could outbid and outgun the state. So they crippled the institutions of a democratic state and ruled, just as drug gangs do today in Mexico, Afghanistan, and ghettos from South Central Los Angeles to the banlieues of Paris.
...
Who now defends alcohol prohibition? Is there a single person left? This echoing silence should suggest something to us. Ending drug prohibition seems like a huge heave, just as ending alcohol prohibition did. But when it is gone, when the drug gangs are a bankrupted memory, when drug addicts are treated not as immoral criminals but as ill people needing health care, who will grieve? American history is pocked by utopian movements that prefer glib wishful thinking over a hard scrutiny of reality, but they inevitably crest and crash in the end. Okrent's dazzling history leaves us with one whiskey-sharp insight above all others: The War on Alcohol and the War on Drugs failed because they were, beneath all the blather, a war on human nature.
Read the complete version in Slate.

June 9, 2010

On [Acadmic] Writing

I have an article in the current Political and Legal Anthropology Review, "Policing: A Sociologist’s Response to an Anthropological Account":
In order to be read (and who among us writes for sheer compositional joy alone?) writing needs to be good; people won’t read the other kind. The more jargon and sociobabble we anthropologists, sociologists, and ethnographers spew out, the more we strive to define ourselves as literate scribes in an academic temple, the more irrelevant we become.
...
I’m all for sound and progressive arguments, but style is the key to good writing. I just wish more academics would worry about the Elements of Style as much as they obsess over the whims of anonymous reviewers and straitjacket themselves with journal orthodoxy.
As an added bonus I've become a published poet in the same piece by reducing "Casey at the Bat" to haiku form:
mighty casey swings
oh two two on down by two
no joy in Mudville
Yes, folks, inspiration like that is why we professors always rake in the big bucks.

What Flags?

Off-duty Baltimore officer Gahiji Tshamba, the guy who seems to have emptied his glock at and into a man for touching his girlfriend seems to have a bit of a history. "Investigators found 13 bullet casings at the scene and the officer's gun was empty. Nine of those bullets ended up hitting the ex-Marine, which some say is excessive."

The problem is not drinking and carrying a gun in a bar. The problem is being drunk while having a gun, a temper, and really bad judgment!

Meanwhile another Baltimore officer is on trial for an on-duty shooting. This case is not so clear cut and knowing nothing, I'm not willing to comment. But he is the first officer to be put on trial for an on-duty shooting since the Lexington Market police-involved shooting of James "Don't Shoot that Boy!" Quarles (I saw that video in the police academy--one officer shot, many didn't).

[Update on the life and career of Officer Tshamba.]

Hispanics leave Arizona ahead of immigration law

So says USA Today.

The governor said, "If that means that fewer people are breaking the law, that is absolutely an accomplishment." The good news is that at least one of the criminals--I mean business owner--plans to move to New York City.

It would be nice if the aftermath of this law could to be analyzed rationally and people actually listened to the facts. But I doubt it.

If crime goes down (rate, not numbers) and the economy improved, I would certainly admit I was wrong about that. So let's see. But to me this isn't primarily about crime (though I think the crime rate will go up). It is about humanity and the economy (and in NYC, terrorism).

Let me gaze into my crystal ball... I look at Arizona and see crime going up and anti-immigrant people calling for even more stringent anti-immigrant laws. I see the local economy going down while those on the right change the subject, blame Obama, call for more prisons, and talk about the importance of sending a messages to these immigrant criminals.

This would not be the first time that the idea of "sending a message" outweighs common sense and good policy.

June 8, 2010

Communists Born in the USA and Dire Straits

I was in the hardware store the other day. The one where the business owner is a middle-aged, liberal, dog loving, some'er teeth, former punk kind of guy (only in New York).

Dire Straits "Walk of life" was on the radio and I mentioned how I loved that song when it came out... and how today he sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen wannabe.

Then we started talking about Springsteen. It took me years before I liked Springsteen (till hearing "Nebraska," to be precise). Right about then a very clean-cut older guy came in and overheard our conversation. I noticed, as he interrupted, that his belt holding up his shorts and tucked in shirt was perfectly straight around the circumference of his big belly:

"Springsteen, Born in the USA. You ever hear the lyrics?"

No, and, er, that's not what we were talking about.

"'Put a rifle in my hands/Sent me off to Vietnam/To go and kill the yellow man.' How about that? Yellow man!"

Silence. (though those are interesting lyrics)

"You know what it is about Vietnam?"

No. But I bet you're going to tell me.

"We could have won that war!"

Really?

"Yeah, we could have won that war if it weren't for... communists and their sympathizers. Sympathizers born right here in the USA!"

You know, I thought we lost 50,000 men over there because it was a fight we kept fighting even though we couldn't win. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you lose. Especially in another country's civil war.

But what do I know? I was barely alive. Maybe the problem wasn't conditions over there but people over here who were against the war. Maybe we just needed more troops and few more years to really beat those bastards.

Kind of like the war on drugs. Or Iraq. To think that liberal ol' me may be responsible for brave young soldiers running over IEDs and not the draft-dodging politicians who sent them there in the first place. (Don't judge patriotism by service! Judge it by flag pins in the lapel!]

It's always easier to blame others than admit you were wrong.

But I said nothing. This guy was already on mindless autopilot mode. Standing in front of an ACLU sticker shouting about communists and their sympathizers ruining this country.

I took my box of garbage bags and left.

Hyper-Alertness

I was listening to my all-time favorite interviewer, Milt Rosenberg, talk to a few Chicago cops. Like most cops talking in public, this interview starts out a bit stilted, but they open up by the end.

[I was on this show last year--my life's dream! I've been listening to Uncle Milt for about 30 years (and I'm only 38). He would come on after away Cubs games and I would just listen even though I was far too young to understand all the discussion. I think he's why I'm an intellectual. And just for the record, Milt is quite conservative (though I think he's become more conservative over the years). But, unlike, say, Rush, he's an intelligent conservative. Listen to this discussion about Obama to hear his show at its best.... Now if only I could figure out why my interview isn't on their archives.]

One of the cops, Martin Preib, wrote a wonderful book, The Wagon and Other Stories From the City. I keep meaning to write on it but haven't (his book is not the only thing I mean to write on but haven't). It's great. Buy it. Read it. If you're reading this, you'll like Preib's book. It's not super light reading (published by the University of Chicago) but I mean that in a good way. The guy can write. And it reads really really well. It will stand the test of time.

So these guys got me thinking. Brought me back to the old days (shocking to think it's been 9 years since I've walked the beat).

Here's one thing I don't miss about being a cop: Hyper-Alertness (I just made that term up).

What do I mean?

1) When you walk into a store, is your first thought, "Is the place being held up?"

2) When you're looking in the mini-mart fridge, are you looking in the reflection in the glass to see who enters the store?

3) When you enter a room of strangers, do your eyes move to people's hands?

4) When you sit in restaurant, do you always sit with your back to the entrance, ideally with your back to wall?

5) Do you assume that everybody is lying?

6) Is the thought of taking a nap in a public park completely insane?

7) Do you always carry a heavy badge and credentials?

8) Do you feel a bit naked without your gun?

9) When you're off duty, does the thought of hearing these words terrify you, "I know you!"

10) (...if you're a cop, feel free to add what I'm forgetting.)

If you're a cop, you'll say yes to all these things. These are the things that just come natural to cops. If you're a cop, you can't imagine doing otherwise.

I quit the P.D. in 2001. It took about two years before I could stop carrying my badge (though during that time I never pretended I was a cop). It took another two years and taking another job (my current job) before I could ignore the above rules and... relax.

And remember, I was only a cop for two years (and I'm a pretty relaxed person by nature).

Being hyper-alert is part of the job. It keeps cops alive. And if you start being hyper-alert, it's not something you can just turn off in public.

[If you're not a cop but happen to ride a bicycle in the city like I do, you can kind of understand hyper-alertness in a different way (at least if you're alive to read this). Now imagine that level of alertness 24/7.]

But being hyper-alert doesn't make life more fun. Ignorance can be bliss. Sometimes it's nice to tune out. Sometimes it's nice to put on headphones, blast techno music, and ignore everybody around you. Because if you're not a cop, there's a good chance that nobody will hurt you.

And you know what? Most people can live all their lives oblivious and unarmed and die peacefully in bed surrounded by loved ones.

I don't miss being hyper-alert. I'm happy I'm no longer hyper alert. Though obsessionally something will trigger it.

Does not being hyper-alert make me less safe? No doubt. But not being hyper-alert makes me so much happier.

June 7, 2010

Goddamn pharmacist set me up!

Cops should not ask other people to commit crimes. Nor, legally, can they give you permission to do so. Certainly not for a felony. Seems pretty obvious to me.

Specifically this is about pharmacists filling out prescriptions they know to be bogus so drug addicts can then be arrested for the more serious crime of drug possession. To do so would be a crime.

Now if pharmacists really wanted to fight this fight for police, I suppose they could fill the prescription with sugar pills. Maybe that wouldn't be a crime (but might violate some professional code of ethics). But then police wouldn't get their drug possession charge.

And we wonder how the war on drugs corrupts society.

And then there's this numnut, a Florida professor "with more than 30 years of teaching future pharmacists." He says, "despite the fact it's technically illegal, the pharmacist's responsibility is to comply with the request of law enforcement."

"Technically illegal"? Could somebody please explain to me the difference between "technically illegal" and "illegal"?

At least we might get a good entrapment court case out of this. Those are my fav! Hopefully somebody will say, "Goddamn setup... I'll be goddamn... pharmacist set me up!"

Barry Gibbs speaks

Barry Gibbs was framed by the Mob Cops and spend more than 18 years behind bars. He was innocent.

This is the ten minute talk he gave at The Moth in 2006. After hearing him, I invited him to come to my classes and speak at John Jay College. He did.

He recently got a lot of money for what happened. I wish him the best. But I still wouldn't change places with him. It really isn't about the money.

Eighteen years.

Innocent.



I keep thinking there's some moral to his story. That some good can come from it. But I don't know.

I do always show it to my classes. Maybe some good can come out of that.

Mobile Marijuana Dispensaries

I enjoy watching California's marijuana laws evolve. That's the way we should be dealing with drugs. Delivery services are one way people are getting their weed in California (and in New York City, too, even though it's clearly illegal here).

I'm all for legal and regulated drugs. And yet I wouldn't want to live next to a marijuana dispensary. Nor for that matter would I want to live next to a bar, barking dogs, cigar smokers, a child daycare center, or an older Italian couple that puts our their TV in the summer and watches "Wheel of Fortune" at high volume. But sometimes you do (I put up the latter).

So now the anti-marijuana crowd and some police wants to crack down on the mobile weed dealers. Why? I'm not certain. Seems to me that a delivery service is the ideal way to deliver drugs. No congregating. No street dealers. Nobody gets hurt.

June 5, 2010

Time to Tell (IV)

I got another email from a somebody who worked with my father. He wrote:
Charlie took me to a book party where he introduced me to Colin Powell. On the way out Charley and I were speaking about DADT and I suddenly realized that he thought that it was going to a permanent solution to the issue. DADT was a godsend for Clinton, solving a problem that was threatening his presidency. But that is a political issue and DADT was a political solution and therefore subject to opinions, not permanent facts. I had the impression that he eventually agreed with me, but I took it as yet another sign of his eternal optimism.

Also, Charley and I once traveled to Ft Polk where he interviewed soldiers. This was Charlie as his best: he made the lowest rank soldier feel that his opinion was as important as any generals'. He did the same with me. He once called me and said, "I am meeting with Pres Clinton on affirmative action. What do you think I should tell him?". Wow, this was certainly elevating my rank. He also called a few weeks later to tell me about his discussion! ... It was just his nature to respect others.

I have tried to use that as a guide for dealing with others, but I am a poor imitation of your father.
Or, as my father liked to (jokingly) remind me of what his grandfather told him, "You'll never be half the man the old man is!"

June 4, 2010

Time to Tell (III)

Lady Gaga wants "don't ask don't tell" repealed. That should settle that once and for all!

I'm pretty sure my father (AKA: Charles "Who's James Brown?" Moskos) would have no idea who Lada Gaga is.

Time to Tell (II)

I received a very nice email from Rob Levinson, Lt Col, USAF (Ret). In 2007 he may have been the highest ranking active-duty officer to publicly come out against "don't ask don't tell." He had kind words about my father (it says something that so many of my father's opponents write me with kind words to say about him).

After mentioning his disagreement, Levinson writes:
But none of this should diminish the importance of your father's innovation. Not only a wise political compromise, it was indeed revolutionary thinking. Prior to DADT many asserted or believed that there was something innate about homosexuality that made gays unfit for service. No doubt rooted in religion, culture and traditional notions of "manliness." Your dad changed all that by saying it wasn't a problem with them, but a problem with us and our own discomfort. As society has changed and this discomfort has lessened, we can change the policy with I believe minimal disruption. Your dad's innovation was an important step along this path and one that did much to acknowledge the common humanity of all of us. This certainly extends far beyond the military sphere.

Dirt bike crashes into car. Car driver assulted.

This dirt bike thing in Baltimore continues to be out of control. I can't believe that 10 years after I first saw packs of these going around, they're still a problem.

I mean, other cities don't have this problem. What makes Baltimore so unique?

To ride an illegal dirt bike, especially on the sidewalk or through parks, needs to be an arrestable offense. Pursuit needs to be an option. And forfeiture laws need to be made so that people lose their bikes (and these bikes not auctioned back to city people).

Now these are three suggestion that go against what I normally believe in. But continued tolerance of this danger is more of a risk. Baltimore's dirt-bike culture needs to be stopped. And that will take one summer (maybe two) of aggressive enforcement.

This is a clip from 2007:

Gating Baltimore Alleys

My mom sent me this story. We were kind of talking about these alleys not too long ago.

Barry Gibbs gets millions

When I saw the headline, "City to Pay $9.9 Million Over Man’s Imprisonment," my first thought was, "I hope that's not my city." But it is. That means a few bucks straight out of my pocket. I hate that! Especially for bad policing.

But then I saw that the man getting the money is Barry Gibbs. I know Barry Gibbs. I like Barry Gibbs. Barry Gibbs has come and spoken to John Jay and to my classes... and for free (though I did slip him a $20 so the poor guy could at least take a taxi after talking to my classes).


Gibbs was framed by the f*cking mop cops, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. Gibbs was sentenced for a murder he didn't commit. A murder he had nothing to do with. He was sentenced to 20 to life. Eventually the cops were arrested and it was clear that Barry was framed. By that time he had served 18 years.

When the bastard cops were finally put on trial, Barry could be a bit of a showman: "Gibbs stood from his seat in the public spectator’s bench and shouted obscenities at Eppolito. As Gibbs was being ejected by Court Officers, Gibbs received the enthusiastic cheers of many of those in attendance." He was pissed off. Wouldn't you be? These cops had appeared in movies and made money off of books. All the while Barry sat in maximum security for nothing.

I'm happy for Barry. I called Barry just a few minutes ago and congratulated him (and told him to be very wary of people calling him right now!).

Now Barry isn't getting all that money. Lawyers get a third. Taxes will take another third. But that still leaves a pretty penny.

And I learned that Barry's health has not been great. Prison f*cked him up. And even if it didn't, I wouldn't exchange 18 years of my life for any amount of money. He's been shafted by cops and shafted by the criminal justice system. And nothing can make that better.

But at least on this day, we've got something to celebrate. Here's to you, Barry! Mazeltov!

[update: you can hear Gibbs tell his story.]

June 3, 2010

Deli workers fight off armed robbers

Bodega workers take a gun out of robber's hands. Beyond that nothing too eventful... except it's less than a mile from my home (though it is, you know, over there, on the other side of 21st St, near the projects... what I half-jokingly call Astoria's ghetto).

Time to Tell

I have an op-ed in today's Washington Post about my father and "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

It's got absolutely nothing to do with policing.
I was the first critic of "don't ask, don't tell." It was 1993, and I was home on break from college. My father, Charles Moskos, and I were watching TV and drinking ouzo.
...
My father ... came up with the concept and coined the phrase ["don't ask don't tell"]. He had lots of crazy ideas. But this one, I declared, was "the stupidest idea you've ever come up with."

A few months later ... "don't ask, don't tell" was the law of the land.
...
Today ... I am convinced that my father would support the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Read the whole thing here.

Of course I can't be 100% certain that my father would support repeal... but with 100% certainty I do know he would have loved that I got a Washington Post op-ed out of this!

June 1, 2010

Shut yo' mouth!

The Supreme Court ruled that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent or want a lawyer to invoke their Miranda protection during interrogations. I'm pretty liberal guy, but I'm all for this conservative decision by the court.

Look, if you don't want to be convicted, the smartest thing you can do is shut up. Period. Don't talk. Demand a lawyer. It really is that simple.

But if everybody did just that, a lot of criminals would get away murder.

The point of the 5th Amendment isn't so that people don't confess. The point of a ban on forced self-incrimination is so that we don't torture people--guilty and innocent alike--into confessing.

I don't want forced confessions. I don't want false confessions. But I'm all for confessions. I mean if we're so worried about the right to remain silent, we could ban all interrogation of suspects. But that would be crazy.

There's not a hood rat in Baltimore or a person in America who doesn't know his or "right to remain silent." If somebody doesn't want to exercise that right, good for the rest of us. It shouldn't be the job of police to tell people to shut up.

You've got a murderer in a room. Three hours later police invoke God and the bad guy fesses up.

Good job!

More Immigrants, Less Crime

I've said it before, but now there's yet more academic support, this study by Tim Wadsworth. You can't easily access the study and it's not light reading if you can. But Christopher Dickey wrote a very readable article about the study. Dickey is the author of a very good book: Securing the City.
Wadsworth’s research and the recent FBI data reinforce the judgment that the vast majority of immigrants make our cities safer, especially when police know how to work with them, not against them. To blame all immigrants for the crimes committed by a few, and give the cops the job of chasing them for immigration offenses instead of focusing resources on catching the real bad guys, is simply nuts.