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by Peter Moskos

December 29, 2011

Favorite Books of 2011

One of Mother Jones's favorite books of 2011 is In Defense of Flogging.

It makes a fabulous Christmas stocking stuffer, for all you Old Calendarists out there (just 10 shopping days left).

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope everybody goes gaga when they find a nice new Victrola under the tree!

[thanks to Bob]

December 23, 2011

A Christmas Message From America's Rich

From Rolling Stone:
The very rich on today's Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.

But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people [the very rich] live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line.
Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon -- the man the New York Times once called "Obama's favorite banker" -- ... orchestrated a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailout. Who needs to worry about good government, when you are the government?

Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who's complaining now about the unfair criticism. "Acting like everyone who's been successful is bad and because you're rich you're bad, I don't understand it," he recently said, at an investor's conference.

Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.

Most of us 99-percenters couldn't even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It's called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don't do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn't take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life's savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.
As someone from a middle-class public-school background who has rubbed shoulders with the 0.1% (that's what happen when you go to Princeton and Harvard), what bothered me about the uber-rich I met in Princeton (you don't meet so many uber-rich in grad school) wasn't that they were rich... It was their absolute sense of entitlement! They never counted their blessing. They didn't need to. They knew the game was rigged and that were going to win it.

Now I benefited from the same game, and by most of the world's standards I'm uber-rich (something mostly due to where and to whom I was born, for which I'm very thankful), so I can't complain too much.

No, what bothered me about these people--our current masters of finance and industry--is that they somehow believed that they had earned their privileged position. And I'm talking about 18-year-old prep-school kids who at that point had never worked a day in their lives!

They had convinced themselves that somehow, because their parents were rich and they went to Princeton, that they had won a meritocratic game. They thought they were better--not just richer, mind you, but better--than working people, especially the janitors and cooks and service workers (students and professional alike) who took care of them (and had made the best of their life's situation). I saw it all the time. The rich really are different than you and me: they have no clue.

[thanks to Alan for the link]

December 21, 2011

The more things change... December 21, 1829

The Constables are not, in any instance, to ask for a Christmas-box from any of the inhabitants upon their beats; if any money is offered to them as a Christmas-box they must report the circumstances to their superior officer, who will ask permission from the Commissioners for them to receive it as in other cases.
What? No Christmas box?! Somehow it makes me think of the "no fruit cup" line from "High Anxiety."

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Ron Smith, RIP

Ron Smith was a newspaper columnist and radio host on WBAL in Baltimore. He died two days ago.

Ron was a conservative and a libertarian. Suffice it to say, I'm not. We agreed on a few issues--like the stupidity of the war on Iraq and the war on drugs--but we disagreed on a lot more. And still he liked me; and I, him.

I was on his show maybe a half dozen times, sometimes by phone from New York, but whenever I was in Baltimore, it seemed like I could just drop by the studio for a chat. The discussions were simultaneously serious and lighthearted, and also much more intellectual than most anything found on commercial radio. His talk show was passionate (interrupted, unfortunately by far too many commercials) and based not on jingoism and ignorance, but on analysis, knowledge, and an keep understanding of history and current events.

I liked the repartee Ron and I developed during our time on air, and he seemed to take me under his wings. At the end of yet another appearance promoting Cop in the Hood, as the show came to a close, he looked at me with a big smile and said, "All right, kid, I've done everything I can for you. Now get out of here!" A true mensch.

December 16, 2011

Back to the Future

Back in 1829 London, Robert Peel and Company said that every police officer, "should be able to see every part of his beat, at least once in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour." That's a pretty good "response time." Craaazy, I thought. But is it?

I think there are 6,000 miles of streets in New York City. I know there are about 8 million people, and 35,000 police officers. Could we not just give every police officer 1,000 feet of street and 230 people to be responsible for? For some beats this would be less than one building. Any crime that happens on your 1,000 feet or to or by one of your 230 people would be your responsibility.

Sure, make it bigger or smaller for population density and crime rate and whatever else you want. And I understand that while on duty each officer would have to patrol six beats to make up for officers not on duty. But with beats that small, is it too much to ask for? Or if you prefer, just work with existing patrol officers and double the size of the beats. Still doesn't seem like too much.

I know it's crazy and would never work.... but why not?

Seriously, where have all the officers gone? And wouldn't it better to have a police officer take responsibility for me and my block rather than have two strangers show up 20 minutes after I call 911?

December 12, 2011

RIP Peter Figoski

From the New York Times:
Officer Figoski, a father of four daughters and the brother of a retired city police officer, was shot with an illegal semiautomatic weapon, Mr. Bloomberg said. He had made over 200 arrests, nearly half of them felony arrests, Mr. Kelly said. He worked out of the 75th Precinct, one of the city’s most crime-ridden, where has has spent most of his career.
[The murderer] has five prior arrests and was wanted in North Carolina on a warrant for aggravated assault.

December 11, 2011

The more things change... December 11, 1829

Sick days and line-of-duty injury.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department has directed that, in future when a Police Constable is certified sick by the surgeon, from that day till he is again certified by the surgeon fit for duty, “a deduction of 1s. shall be made from his pay each day.” In certain cases, however, of wounds received in the execution of their duty, and certified by the surgeon to that effect, orders will be given for the amount of stoppages to be returned when the man returns to his duty.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

December 5, 2011

More on UC Davis Pepper Spray

You can watch the 45 minute version here. This may not be the definitive version, but if you care about this issue, you owe it to yourself to at least take 45 minutes from your busy life and watch a version of the whole thing.

Some have said the cops are surrounded. That is after-the-fact rationalization (at best). Perhaps it was true in a technical sense, though I’m not even certain of that. The police seemed to be able to walk freely over the students. The police were certainly not acting as if there were surrounded; they made no effort, even after macing some of the students, of breaking out. I do not believe that police used force because of any perceived threat to their physical safety. And if there was a threat (I wasn't there), it wasn't coming from the people who were maced.

If you think police acted out of necessity here -- as opposed to legal, justified, or even acceptable behavior -- if you real believe it was tactically necessary for the safety of the officers to mace the people sitting down, you probably can’t ever conceive of a situation where police did the wrong thing. That’s your right, but... well... you've got nothing to add to any talk of bettering police.

Here’s my take:

Except for the use of mace, it all seemed to be handled pretty well. Seriously -- and I know it’s a bit like saying, “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?” -- most police officers and most protesters deserve a star for staying cool in a potentially hot situation. This includes the initial police arrests.

Now whether the students needed to be dispersed and/or arrested is an issue I’m going to pass over because it’s not relevant to analyzing the behavior of the officers on scene following lawful orders. There were no students being clubbed. There were no bottles lobbed at police. There was no vindictive pepper-spraying of students on the way out. There was no riot. This was not Kent State. All that is good.

Everything was just fine until somebody made a bad (not illegal, mind you) decision to use O.C. spray against passively resisting non-threatening students.

In the end, the police retreated and the students chanted “you can go.” And police did.

It gets me thinking, people have been upset about the militarization of police for years. Seems like nobody listens or cares until a few college students get maced by cops in riot gear. I guess better late than never. But the smell of mace in the morning is so minor compared to what is going on elsewhere in this country. For instance, innocent people continue to get killed in drug raids.

People are actually fighting and dying for real freedom in other countries (Egypt comes to mind). I’m happy our standards are higher. But we should all be a bit thankful for the (mostly) civil society in which we Americans live. I can write this. You can disagree. And nobody is going to knock on our doors and arrest us. God bless America.

Finally, a few minor points:

Am I the only one, but chanting crowds always bug me. Something about the mindlessness of chanting always rugs me the wrong way. Is there not a certain dignity to silence?

And since when did college students start referring to themselves as “children”? What ever happened to “I am a man”?

And before some huffy cop corrects me, I know that police do not technically “mace” people. Police use O.C. (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, which is a related to hot peppers (hence the “capsicum” of O.C.). I think mace is actually another chemical. But many people, including myself, always use mace as a generic term for anything that comes out of spray can and hurts like hell. Besides “stop or I’ll administer a chemical O.C. spray” does not have the same ring to it.

Finally, on the lighter side of pepper spray, of course there’s a tumblr blog.

December 3, 2011

The war on drugs and your police career

There's an article in the New York Times about officers who question the drug war... and get fired for it. LEAP, an organization I've been part of almost for almost nine years, is well featured.

Hard to imagine a cop being fired for questioning the rationality of any other law. But the war on drugs has always been a bit of an odd crusade that tolerates no dissent. Did officers during Prohibition get fired for saying it didn't work?

Police are asked all the time to enforce laws they don't agree with. I did. I see no problem with wanting to end the war on drugs and being a good police officer. I arrested drug dealing while wanted to see drug legalized... in which case public drug dealers would still be arrested (there would just be a lot fewer of them).

December 2, 2011

In Defense of the Straight Baton

I think I'm fighting a lost cause here, but I still like the straight baton. Expandable batons are all the rage. But let me explain why I think the straight baton is better.

When I was a cop, I had a 29-inch straight baton (think big stick or small baseball bat). I also trained with the expandable baton, which most cops like more. Not me. Here's why (from least to most important):

1) The expandable baton is more expensive (not my problem, but somebody has to pay for it).

2) The expandable baton is less intimidating when extended. I know they try and sell it by talking about the intimidating effect of whipping it out. But that is no greater than simple taking the straight baton out of its belt-grommet. I also believe a straight baton has a air of authority -- not intimidation -- when holstered that then expandable baton lacks. I suspect, but do not know, that officers with expandable batons use them more. As the expression goes, "once you open that can of whup-ass, it's hard to put it back in the can."

3) The straight baton does not get in the way of anything (except, for some reason, climbing through a window) if worn properly, at the side. And it fits nicely in the space between car seat and door.

4) Yes, officers have to remember to take it with them. I never found that hard (but it can be an argument in favor of the expandable).

5) The straight baton has more stages of escalation (and deescalation). You can take it out, hold it flush with the arm, hold it in front, and so on. When you pull out the expandable, there's no middle ground. You can't "activate" the expandable without escalating the scene. You can access the straight baton and almost do it secret like. This is important. You can also put away the straight baton easily while it's a bit more of a show to holster up the expandable.

6) The straight baton has more uses defensively. It is better at parrying a blow.

7 and 8) The straight baton both looks better, in use, and is better. You strike two-handed with a straight baton. It is powerful. And you strike, generally, at the thigh. You strike one-handed with the expandable and you strike repeatedly in a downward motion. The head is too close. It will get hit. On video the expandable baton looks like Egyptian security repeatedly beating somebody in the head. It looks (and kind of is) brutal. Wack wack wack wack wack. And a cracked skull is not the goal.

With the straight baton you use it once and that is it. Threat is gone. In many ways the expandable is more about pain compliance, something best avoided both for tactical (it doesn't work that well) and PR (looks horrible) reasons. The straight baton better removes the threat. One good wack (I believe the technical term is "strike") in the leg and the person goes down. Game over. Time for coffee and paperwork.

I'd love to hear from those who disagree.

Christie speaks some sense

I know as a liberal Democrat I'm not supposed to like Chris Christie. But I do admire that he speaks honestly. [I say the same about Ron Paul on war and drug policy, but Paul is a little too extreme on everything else, being a through-and-through libertarian.]

I disagree with Christie on a lot of the issues, but the guy does seem to have a fair amount of common sense. Coming from a politician, it's incredible refreshing. (Even if I am setting the bar too low.)

Here's Christie on drug policy. Is it to much to ask for Republicans (and Democrats, but it seems to be a more of an issue now with the Republicans) not to be loony, ignorant, or completely flip-flop based on the political expediency?

November 29, 2011

Evanston Decriminalizes Marijuana

Evanston, Illinois, is where I'm from. Getting caught with less than 10 grams of weed will not be an arrestable offense and won't go on your criminal record.
"It does not say that it's okay to smoke pot, but it does say that they don't have to live in fear of having a record follow them the rest of their life if they are caught," [said] Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

"Beware of the Risen People"

In Dublin, these neighborhoods with their uniform rowhomes remind me of Baltimore.
The grittiness of Dublin was a bit of a refreshing shock after the pastoral beauty of rural Hampshire. Even though I have nothing but nice things to say about the English, in Ireland I felt like I was back on home ground. From where I'm from (Chicago, Boston...) England feels more like a foreign country.

My friend in Dublin lives next to Aubourn Prison.
"Holds pedophile priest," she assured me (but not, I should note, from the Greek church next door).

A short walk past leads to the old Kilmainham Jail. It closed in the 1920s and stands today as a museum, but less to prisons than to the "Heroes of 1918" and Irish independence. Suffice it to say my knowledge of Irish history is a bit thin up top. 1918? Revolution? Civil War? Indeeeeed...

But I was keen to go to this prison because it claims to feature a Panopticon.

Actually it's not a Panopticon because it's not, well, round with a centrally located guard post designed to provide constant potential surveillance inside each prison cell....

But Kilmainham Gaol was, with its multi-tiered layout, inspired by Bentham's evil concept. And the architecture is cool.
Typical of early prisons, starvation was used as a tool in place of corporal punishment. More humane, said the Progressive thinking of the time. In 1884 C.S. Parnell testified at the Royal Commission on Prisons in Ireland:
One thing that struck me in Kilmainham was the semi-starved aspect which all the convicted prisoners presented. They seemed to be utterly dejected and weak, and unable to undergo any amount of physical fatigue.... I do not think that we are entitled to enfeeble the bodies of prisoners in order to reform their minds, or with a view of maintaining discipline amongst them.
Unlike contemporaneous American penitentiaries like Auburn and Sing Sing (which, unlike Kilmainham, are still operational), Kilmainham's cells didn't have plumbing. So prisoners in Ireland had to "slop out." Even more amazing, today, in 2011, the practice of slopping out is still practiced in at least one Irish prison.

Meanwhile, from the museum at Kilmainham, I'm always a sucker for revolutionary propaganda.

Johnny-come-lately lately Republicans:
I didn't see ye out there fightin' in 1921, now did I?

And Irish Mothers, Do You Want Your Children Kidnapped?:
"Beware of the Police"The highlight of the trip, however, unrelated to prison, must have been hearing Travelers sing while we were "on the Batter."

Beware of the Risen People.

November 22, 2011

What day is it?

"I don't think we have the right to Monday-morning quarterback the police," said Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.

OK. But can't we at least Saturday-evening quarterback the police? See, the problem is that these police did not make bad split-second decisions in the heat of the moment. Technically, tactically, and legally they did nothing wrong (which doesn't make it right). (Of course had students rioted and attacked them, maybe it wouldn't have been such a tactically harmless maneuver.)

Using force against passive-resisters is a logical decision based on their training. It can, will, and shouldn't happen again.

And, uh, also, anybody who dismisses pepper mace as a "food product" is an idiot.

November 19, 2011

Dumb-ass Training and the U.C. Davis Pepper Spray Incident:

I'm in Dublin. I love Ireland (though England was great, too).

I received an email from the Washington Monthly (you may remember them as one of the first magazines to publish a Flogging piece) asking my opinion about the UC Davis pepper-spray incident. I hadn't heard of it. But ignorance is not bliss.

So now I've watched the video. I wasn't there, but here are my thoughts (best read at the Washington Monthly):
This UC Davis pepper-spray incident from yesterday, in which campus police sprayed a group of protesting “Occupy” students who were sitting on the ground, was just brought to my attention. I don’t know all the facts, but as a former cop-turned-academic, there’s one thing I can say.

In the police academy, I was taught to pepper-spray people for non-compliance. Ie: “Put your hands behind your back or I’ll… mace you.” It’s crazy. Of course we didn’t do it this way, the way were taught. Baltimore police officers are too smart to start urban race riots based on some dumb-ass training. So what did we do to gain compliance? We grabbed people. Hands on. Like real police. And we were good at it.

Some people, perhaps those who design training programs, think policing should be a hands-off job. It can’t be and shouldn’t be. And trying to make policing too hands-off means people get Tased and maced for non-compliance. It’s not right. But this is the way many police are trained. That’s a shame. (Mind you, I have no problem using such less-lethal weapons on actual physical threats, but peaceful non-compliance is different.)

When police need to remove protesters—whether that’s even the case here I don’t know—it needs to be crystal clear who gives the order, be it the president of the university or the ranking officer on scene. Officers on the scene shouldn’t be thrown under the bus because their superiors gave stupid (albeit lawful) orders. Accountability matters.

And if police need to remove these students, then the police can go in four officers to one protester and remove them. Lift them up and take them away. Maybe you need one or two more officers with a threatening baton to keep others from getting involved. It really can be that simple.

People don’t hate the police for fighting off aggressors or arresting law breakers. They do hate police for causing pain—be it by dog, fire house, Taser, or mace—to those who passively resist. And that’s what happened yesterday at U.C. Davis.

Right Wing Lies (V)

From the Washington Monthly (called out by them... not their lie):
President Obama told business leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that U.S. policymakers have been “a little bit lazy” when it comes to attracting businesses to American soil. Republicans have taken this line and said the president called Americans “lazy.”

The GOP attack is an unambiguous lie. It’s been independently fact checked repeatedly and exposed as a complete sham, caused by taking a comment completely out of context to change its meaning.

But the point behind the dishonest smear is important. What Republicans are desperate for voters to believe is that President Obama, put simply, doesn’t even like Americans.
Mitt Romney, who’s only too pleased to exploit the borderline-racism behind these attacks, went so far as to argue this week that Obama called Americans “lazy” — even though he didn’t — because the president “doesn’t understand Americans.”

There’s us, then there’s him.

The “lazy” smear matters because it’s a lie.

November 15, 2011

Occupy Updates

The best current/live account of what's going on is from a UK paper. (Why is that?) The Guardian.

Also, I wrote an update to my Slate article.

Egypt pics

I just added some picture from Egypt (to a previous post). Scroll down if you care.

November 14, 2011

Police vs. Occupy Wall Street

Turns out I do have a few thoughts about police and Occupy Wall Street. Read all about it on Slate.com:
If cops could wave a magic wand, the protesters would simply go away. But if cops could wave a magic wand, the whole damned city would probably disappear. Police relate to the demoralized employees in the film Clerks: “This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers.” Occupy protests are certainly seen as a nuisance, but this is more work-related than deep-rooted ideology.
I'm also quite pleased to get Lucky Pierre in the lede.

November 10, 2011

The Revolution Will Return After This Commercial Break

I'm back from a few days in Cairo. I'm not an Egypt expert. But I probably follow the country more than most people because I have Egyptian friends, my wife has spent a lot of time there, and I've been there a bunch of times.

First the good news: Egyptians are still friendly, holding up well, and there are taxis that actually run their meters and don't rip you off. Huzzah!

Now to the troublesome issues:

Cairo is a very dirty city (except for the metro, which is still clean and efficient). I knew this from previous visits, but it's worse now. Being surrounded by a desert probably doesn't help. But a big part of the problem is that a few years ago a surprisingly effective ancient (and green) system of trash-pickers and pigs and recycling was replaced with foreign companies and big trucks (read: corruption). To undercut the old system (or just because of ignorant fear and anti-Christian bias), they killed off all the pigs.

Evidently there were a few days after the revolution when everybody went out and scrubbed the streets. Those days are gone. I mean, I know they've got bigger things to worry about, but I've never a city with so much trash. And I've seen a lot of trashy cities.

Egypt is also unhygienic. This is also nothing new. But what good is a dictator is he doesn’t even teach basic concepts like germ theory? Even the commies were good with that. And I wouldn’t even mind everybody touching my food with their hands if there was a more steady supply of toilet paper and soap. And is it really too much to ask the popcorn vendors to use something other their hands to shovel popcorn in bags? Evidently, yes (though it didn’t stop me from eating popcorn).

Downtown Cairo is kind of beautiful, if your glasses are rose-tinted enough. But it's sad because what used to be a modern and progressive 2nd-world city in the 1950s is now a third-world mess. Don't get me wrong, there are still cultured and modern Egyptians. But to some extent, they’ve lost the good fight. Many of those with the means have fled to satellite suburbs. And because traffic is such a mess, you can’t get from here to there.

Also, Talaat Harb Street is filled with street vendors. Lot’s of them. Especially at night. This is new and not sustainable. But how it will work it remains to be seen.

Walking around Cairo is like being in New York at 3:30 pm on a weekday. School just got out, but in Cairo it’s all the time. Too many young kids (male kids) goofing off and hitting each other and holding hands and shouting and otherwise letting out their repressed frustrations. At least they’re not drunk.

Post-revolution (which is a misnomer, as I’ll explain) crime is a big problem. Well, at least they say it's a big problem. But honestly, Cairo is still a pretty safe city. And this says something good about a people living in a place without police patrol or even basic rule of law.

Despite the supposed breakdown in law and order, it’s actually easier than it used to be for a foreigner like me to walk around in peace. This is a strange problem somewhat unique to Egypt. The people are too friendly.

Despite being a major international world metropolis for going on three millennia 3,000 years, many Cairenes act like they’ve seen a foreigner. This can be charming, as when a gaggle of 10-year-old girls, each in turn, practices their English and asks my wife “What’s your name?!” It can all be very charming. (Alas, the “Welcome in Cairo!” generation seems to have passed and a new generation has better learned English prepositions). 95% percent of it honestly good natured. People are hospitable. But such friendliness can be very tiring if you just want to walk down the street in peace. But interestingly, as a man, the touting harassment is actually less than it used to be.

On my first trip to Egypt I remember amazing one-sided haggling as taxi drivers would lower their fare when I declined their services because I was already at my destination. Now there are fewer tourists (by far). And people still ask if you want to a taxi or to buy perfume. But by and large, and this is new, they take no for an answer! Perhaps, as my Egyptian suggested, with freedom comes dignity.

The revolution (referred to as "The 18 Days") is not finished. The details of the battles are amazing to here. And yes, it was a big deal to throw off a corrupt US-backed dictator. It’s hard to understand the level of theft and corruption that exists. We’re not talking millions. We’re talking billions. We're not talking baksheesh. We're talking institutionalized massive corruption right from the top on down. Perhaps one-quarter to one-half of the entire economy simply siphoned off. Mubarak’s sons alone have $340 million in Swiss bank accounts. Their top associate? $4 billion. And yes, this is literally the tip of the iceberg. I mean really, isn't there some point when you say, "I've stolen enough money"? But part of what makes the corruption so endemic is that most of this money was probably stolen “legally,” through government contracts in accordance with the rule of (bad ) law.

Also keep in mind this happened not just with US knowledge but with actual billions in US aid to keep this guy in power and reward him for keeping peace with Israel. I’m always amazed people are so nice to Americans after we’ve done so much to screw up their countries. I wish we could be so forgiving of others.

There’s also the minor problem of a potential impending pogrom against the Coptics. Don't know who the Copts are? Well, neither does your average Egyptian. Ten percent of the country is Coptic Christian and much of the other 90 percent has no clue who they are or where they're from--which is kind of ironic since they were there first. It’s as if schools in America never taught white Americans anything about the presence of blacks in America. Or Native Americans.

Ignorance is a big problem.

A few weeks ago a couple dozen Coptics were killed by the army and then, as my Egyptian friend so eloquently put it, “bearded motherfuckers” went on TV urging the people to save the army from the unbelievers. Thousands of sexual repressed young men, idiots all, converged on the main square, and beat the crap out of whomever they could find (they also attacked liquor stores, since they’re all Christian run). And in response the military leaders arrested some bloggers and extended decades of “emergency rule.”

Earlier the military shut down, by force, TV stations (including local Al Jazeera), for reporting the news.

It’s semi-controlled thuggery. The message--not just to the Christians minority but to everybody--is “don’t get uppity. Maybe Mubarak was too much of a pussy to use force—but we will have no such qualms.”

Maybe the military will turn over power after free and fair elections. But seeing how military leaders live isolated and pampered lives, are very conservative, and make millions from the status quo, why would they really want change?

In the end there are only two questions that matter:

1) Will ignorant Islamists win a majority in an election?

And 2) will the military give up power?

If I were a bookie, I’d place even odds on both. But if I were a betting man, I’d bet on a double ‘no.’ And I also would not be surprised if the military uses the Brotherhood--just like Mubarak did--as an excuse to refuse to cede power. But then what's the best we can hope for? A benevolent dictator and another revolution? Can we at least get the trash collected?

All this makes me say that “The 18 Days” was not the revolution but just Day One. So here’s to the good guys, those who want a modern and tolerant and civil and free Egypt: fight the good fight. It won't be easy.

Update: A few added pics now that my wife is back with my camera:The view from our hotel. And we like this hotel. But also notice how clean and tidy one woman keeps her balcony.

"What's your name?!" (times 12) At the Coptic Monistary

At the "eco lodg" [sic] near the monistaries. Since it wouldn't pass western standards of ecological, I figured it stood for "economy lodge." This was a very sweet dog I named, "gimpy whimper wags," for reasons that were all too obvious. He was very sweet, even I didn't want to pet him too much, also for obvious reasons. But at times, who could resist his debonaire charms and he politely limped after us, eager for a head scratch?

Manning the police barricade at the Giza train station.

Downtown Cairo, on a surprisingly clean and beautiful morning.

Anti-colonial leaflets to terrorize the British. From the early 1950s, I presume.

in the coming election, who could be against freedom and justice? Except this is propaganda for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Patrolman Kelly

Has Ray Kelly ever fixed a ticket? I'll take him at his word that he hasn't. But has Ray Kelly ever written a ticket? I mean, how long was Kelly on patrol?

What the F*ck?!

I'm just catching up on the news. Those riots at Penn State? Really?

There has been lots of intelligent discussion on this matter elsewhere. So I won't add to that. But I do feel the need to say what's on my mind: It's absolutely f*cking amazing what white people can sometimes get away with!

Or put it this way: Just imagine if this had happened at an H.B.C. like Howard University. The president himself would be blamed and asked to explain and apologize and condemn.

Or instead of race, think of religion: What if Catholics rioted in defense of priests covering up rape? Hard to imagine.

Drunk and entitled frat-boy college-sports culture is perhaps the worst strain of mainstream American society that isn't just tolerated but actually encouraged by otherwise intelligent people.

But what do I know? I never cared about my school's teams (except when I was playing).

How many strikes do you need?

You know, I'm against "three strikes and you're out." It's too expensive and doesn't deter. But the case could be made for "20 strikes and we'll lock you up till you're 50" (admittedly, it lacks a certain jingoistic ring). But seriously, at some point you do have to keep "them" (people certain to offend) away from "us" (everybody else).

The Times reports on a robbery and attempted murder: "Mr. Milton and Mr. Louree are both from Brooklyn and have previously been arrested more than 20 times each." They don't really need another chance.

Too Gentle a Slap

I've said before that Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna should be in trouble (but not fired). But this seems like too gentle a slap on the wrist. What worries me isn't his career (I couldn't care less), but the message it sends.

Clearly transferring this man to a precinct closer to home is a case of rewarding an officer for 30 years of (what I assume to be) dedicated service. But it also says that misuse of force (and to the detriment of other police officers, I want to point out) isn't a big deal, at least not when done to a ranking officer. That's not right. I think he should have been forced, by risk of server sanction, to retire.

Macing somebody is a bigger deal than fixing tickets. Because the officers in the latter situation are being criminally charged, the practice will change. But misuse of force against a screaming liberal woman protester is somehow OK? It's not right. And it sends a dangerous message to officers dealing with an ongoing delicate situation.

November 4, 2011


Somehow my wife convinced me to join her on her latest trip to Cairo. How did that happen? Regardless, here I am for a few days. A bit of culture shock, coming from rural England. And at first glance Cairo looks surprisingly the same as the last time I was here (which isn't really a compliment).

November 2, 2011

Five-oh on bike

What could be more fun than spending a few nights biking around the back alleys, roundabouts, and estates of Basingstoke with a bunch of cops? (One of whom tweets)

Seriously. This is my idea of a good time.

Word on the street (or at least in the station) is that I'm the first observer to ever go on bike patrol in these parts.

Actual word on the street, however, is more the sound of pesky youth laughing at my folding bike. Whatever. It did the job.

And to answer the first question US cops will have: 1) No, (most) police do not carry guns; 2) Most do not want to. More than one has told me he's consider quitting if he were ever ordered to patrol armed with a gun.

There are 140,000 British police officer. Not one has been killed on duty since 2007. That level of officer safety is kind of hard for me to fathom.

October 31, 2011

Happy Holloween

Brought to you by your local constabulary.

But what if I need to bake a last-minute cake for me mum?!

[I'm on blogging break. Regular posts will resume in February.]

Flog It

Neil Steinberg wrote a good review of In Defense of Flogging in my old home-town Chicago Sun-Times.

I'm particularly impressed that caught what I thought was obvious:
Moskos has brilliantly used the old PR trick of marrying a complex, off-putting topic to a fascinating one. If you want to trick people into reading about penal reform, brandish a whip. And be brief.
Steinberg goes on:
In Defense of Flogging is 154 pages long. I read it in less than a day, and it is an eloquent cry to address a problem that we spend billions of dollars trying to ignore. “We’ve run out of options,” Moskos writes. “What we have in America is a massive, terrifying and out-of-control experiment in incarceration.”

There’s no arguing about that.

October 26, 2011

Could it all be about margarine?

From a 1970s Readers Digest.

[I'm on blogging break. Regular posts will resume in February.]

October 20, 2011

The more things change... October 20, 1829

The Commissioners wish to remind the constables that, in every case when it is judged necessary to dismiss any man, the whole of his pay accruing from the last pay-day will be forfeited.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 17, 2011

The more things change... October 17, 1829

The paperwork begins.
Some instances of rudeness on the part of individuals of the Police towards persons asking them civil questions have been reported to the Commissioners of the Police. the Commissions therefore call upon the Superintendents to instruct their officers and men.

The Superintendents will receive a book of instructions for every man and officer of their respective Companies; each man’s name will be written , and it is to be produced to the Inspector at least once a week, and the Superintendent will take care that those books are taken from the men that are dismissed, and are given to the men that replace them.

The Police Constables are desired to pay attention to that part which immediately concerns their own Duty, and having made themselves well acquainted with it, they may, by studying the others, endeavour to fit themselves for promotion.

The Superintendents of divisions will take special care that all orders given out are carefully read from time to time, when it may appear necessary, to impress on the minds of the men the several subjects to which orders relate.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 14, 2011

The more things change... October 14, 1829

The Commissioners have again to express their great regret that the pay-day has not passed over without the occurrence of several cases of intoxication by members of the Police. The Commissioners have, in the execution of their duty, been compelled to dismiss the individuals guilty of a crime which renders them completely unfit for the Police service, and which cannot and will not be suffered. All the Police are, therefore, for their own sakes, again cautioned to be more on their guard against committing it.
Duly noted.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 13, 2011

The more things change... October 13, 1829

The Constables are not to go into public houses at night to order the landlord to close his house, or interfere in any other manner with the management or regulation of the house.

If public houses are disorderly, notice is to be given to the Serjeant, who will report the case to the proper authorities.
Sergeant: "What are you doing in that bar?!"
Officer: "I was [hic] just closing it down."

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons. And the picture from a pub near Bramshill, England.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 11, 2011

The more things change... October 11, 1829

Any man reported for endearvouring to conceal his number, or refusing to shew (sic) or tell it when properly asked, will be dismissed, as such concealment or denial can only be caused by having done something he is ashamed of.

Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Brave Thinkers of the Year

The Atlantic's annual list of Brave Thinkers just came out. I'm in it (and with some pretty impressive company)!

Mind you, this doesn't actually mean I'm a good thinker... just a brave one.

Scalia: Federal Drug Laws Were a Mistake

From the WSJ via the Atlantic:
"It was a great mistake to put routine drug offenses into the federal courts," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal went on to report Scalia's belief that the laws forced Congress to enlarge the federal court system, and diminished "the elite quality of the federal judiciary."
The federal War on Drugs is diminishing the quality of our federal justice system. As far as I can tell, no one contests that conclusion. It would be one thing to bear that cost in exchange for a policy victory. After decades of failure, however, no one even expects the drug war to be won.

Returning drug policy to the states would be a first step in the right direction.

October 9, 2011

How you say that?

Old Europe on the front:New Europe on the backside:

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Rugby For Dummies

I've made a small effort to understand Rugby, since I'm in the UK and Rugby World Cup is going on in New Zealand (who just beat Argentina).

Next weekend are the semi-finals. It will be late at night in America (it's far too early in the morning here in Europe). Here are my rugby rules for dummies (which may or may not be accurate), the few things I had to learn before I could figure out what the hell was going on beyond a massive game of Smear the Queer (why do I suspect there's now a more politically correct term for that charming game of childhood).

1) In rugby, you can only pass the ball backyards, but you probably already knew that. If you pass the ball forward (called a knock-on) with anything other than your feet, a scrum results (where all the players are linked and pushing each other). This is for possessions, but it's not equal odds because the other team tosses the ball into the scrum. Players in the scrum may not play the ball with their hands but try and push the other team back in relation to the ball. They can also kick the ball back out of the scrum.

2) Both offense and defense can be offsides. If you're on the wrong side of the ball you need to get on the right side of the ball before you do anything. But if you're packed together in a maul or ruck, the line that marks offsides in not the ball but where the players are mashed together (so as you push the other team back, you can kick the ball along and march up the field).

3) A tackle is not a turnover or even a stoppage in play. If tackled, you have to give up the ball (handed back, as always). If you're not tackled, your team can keep trying to push you forward (called either a maul or a ruck). The defense can only go after the guy with the ball. There is no blocking, which is called obstruction.

4) A "try" is like a touchdown and is worth 5 points. But you actually have to touch the ball to the ground for it to count. The two extra points (called a conversion) are kicked out from a line from where the try was touched down (so you want to score your tries in the middle of the field). After a score, the team that scores receives the resultant kick-off. Games between mismatched teams can become very one-sided.

5) You can always kick the ball. If you kick the ball out of bounds, the other team throws the ball in from where it went out of bounds. A drop-goal, like punting for a field-goal, is worth 3 points.

6) A penalty results in a kick (which can be place-set) and often a field-goal attempt. The team that “has” the penalty is the one that wasn't penalized.

7) There are two 40-minute halves. The clock rarely stops. After time is up, the game doesn’t end till the ball is dead. There are 15 players on a side with 7 replacements. Unless you’re bleeding, a player cannot return to play if taken out. The number of a player’s uniform relates to his position.

It's a fast and brutal game. World Cup Rugby plays Rugby Union rules. I have no idea what Rugby League is. Nor do I care.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 7, 2011

A few different eras

That's me in 2011, holding a 1950's radio and a 19th century lantern.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 6, 2011

The more things change... October 6, 1829

Looks like there may be a little problem with sergeants not keeping order.
The Police Serjeants (sic) are again cautioned, that the manner in which they make their patrol, and march their reliefs along the streets, is constantly observed by the Commissioners, and if the Duty is not done strictly according to order, in silence and regularity, the Serjeant will not long retain his situation.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

October 5, 2011

How to stop cars

Just flip up the red filter and press the button to stop cars at night!


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

'Ello Cario!

A shout-out to all my fans at the Pension Roma. Cairo Massive, make some noise!

[sound of car horns beeping, calls to prayer, and cooking gas tanks being banging upon]

October 3, 2011

The more things change... October 3, 1829

The attention of the Police is particularly to be directed to the areas and area gates, as person frequently conceal themselves in the area till the Constable on the beat passes, and then commence their operations.

The Police Constables on Duty are strictly cautioned not to stop or talk together when they meet on the their beats, but merely to exchange a word and pass on; any deviation from this order will be punished.

The moment a robbery of any kind comes to the knowledge of the Superintendents or Inspectors, a list of the articles stolen will be distributed amongst the men, and sent to all the neighbouring pawnbrokers’ shops, and a memorandum made of the hour at which the communication was made to the pawnbroker.
Source: Metropolitan police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

White Shirts

They're on my mind, but probably because I'm reading Melville's excellent White-Jacket: The World in a Man-of-War.

But with regards to the protests and the NYPD... I don't see the problem of the "white shirts." (And before you go there, Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna has been taken off the street.) This is one of the very rare times the military-like structure of a police department, usually so counter-productive, actually comes in handy.

Do we really want every cop at a protest making independent judgments about arrest and the first amendment willy-nilly? This kind of protest isn't an everyday occurrence. And the 1st Amendment is kind of important. Isn't it better to have experienced supervisors, in direct conference with experienced lawyers, making such decisions?

It's also smart of the NYPD to release some of their own videos. Eight times out of ten, their natural inclination to secrecy does not help their cause.

Truncheon Collection

Posted by Picasa

October 1, 2011

Burglary, Guns, and the UK

One of the thing 2nd-Amendment advocates love pointing out is the England has a much higher burglary rate than the US. Best I can tell this is due the mostly to the publications of one professor.

The subtext (or main text) of the more guns equals fewer burglaries argument, of course, is that if the government restricts guns (the U.K. has strict gun control laws) then burglars become fearless and break into our home, steal our property, and rape our children.

In the US, thanks to God and guns, we shoot our burglars. Ergo there are fewer burglaries. Hence our properties (and children) are safe.

Could be true... but I've always been skeptical of this line of thought. Mostly because I simply do not believe that any crime (except public drunkenness, hare coursing, and being pale and chinless) is more common in Britain than the U.S.

Well best I can figure (looking at those pesky figures we call "facts") burglary in the U.S. is much more common than burglary in the U.K.

So why the confusion? Over here in England and Wales (that's a statistical unit in the U.K., which is really what I'm refering to when I say the U.K.), if you're trying to get into a property with intent to "cause damage," that's burglary. "Attempted burglaries" are counted as burglaries in the U.K. Not in the U.S. In the U.K., you don't have to steal something to be a burglar. You don't even have to break in!

Now I'm not here to tell you which is a better definition of burglary. Frankly, I don't give a damn. But I do want to point out that the official stats for burglary in the U.K. are going to be much higher than the official stats for burglary in the U.S. because burglary in the U.K. is defined much more broadly.

In the U.S., a UCR-defined burglary means you broke into a place to commit theft. In the U.S., criminal trespassing as a seperate charge. In the U.K. it's burglary. In the U.K., even attempted criminal trespassing is burglary. That makes a big difference in the stats.

So what are the stats?

Each year, according the UCR, there are roughly 2.2 million reported burglaries in the U.S. With 311 million people, that's a U.S. burglary rate of about 700 (per 100,000).

According to NCVS (survey) data, there are 3 million burglaries in the US, or a rate of 960.

In England and Wales, the BCS is the equivalent of the NCVS (in that it's based on random survey). According to the BCS estimate, there were 745,000 domestic burglaries in the last fiscal year. But get this... and this matters:
[Just] three in five domestic burglaries involved entry (452,000, the remainder were attempted burglaries) and about two in five involved loss (298,000, the rest being accounted for by burglaries with no loss, including attempts).
So by U.S. definitions there would be 298,000 burglaries in England and Wales. Given 53-million people, this is a burglary rate of 560 per 100,000, lower than the equivalent U.S. rate of 960.

Now let's look at reported crime (the UCR equivalent): "The police [in England and Wales] recorded 258,148 domestic burglaries in 2010/11." Assuming that same ratio of "2-in-5 involved entry" holds true (and it may not), then by the UCR definition there would be about 100,000 police-recorded burglaries in England and Wales. This is a rate of 200, much lower than the equivalent U.S. rate of 700 per 100,000.

No matter how you slice it, there is more burglary in the U.S. than England and Wales. And we have more guns. Many more guns. Seems like this matters, especially if you believe that more guns equal fewer burglaries. You're not going to find supporting evidence in the U.K.

So what do gun lovers have to say? I don't know. But usually they comment pretty freely.

The view from my pub

I don't know why, but he looked kind of angry.

Lot's of gun shots around here in rural England. Reminded me of Baltimore, except they're shooting at pheasants. Pheasant hunting season started today. There are actually a lot of guns here, but they're for hunting, not "protection." There's a big hunting culture: "If it moves around here," I was told, "somebody will shoot it."

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]



[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Absurdly cute

It really is like this in rural Hampshire.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

Like no crab I've ever seen

"Can I take a picture?"

"No," said the old fish monger.

"But I've never seen a crab like this."

"What do you mean? You never seen a crab?"

"I've seen lots of crabs. But not like this."

"How can you not have seen a crab?"

"How do you cook them? Do you boil or steam them?"

"Yes, it's cooked through."

"But how do you cook them? Boiled or steamed?"

"I boil them!"

"Steamed crabs are better."

"Don't you tell me how to cook crabs! I've been cooking fish longer than you've been around.

"I've still never seen crabs like this. They're all big and round."

"You must be from the moon, then!" he harumphed. "But go ahead, take a picture."


[I'm in England. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

The old days

A nineteenth-century police rattle. Just twirl if you need backup. This was before the radio, before the callbox, and even before the police whistle.


[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

September 30, 2011

Cop Think

A pretty fabulous op-ed from a retired NYPD Captain on ticket fixing and police culture.
Like any other profession, police work is subject to evolution. This situation is just the latest in a never-ending world of transition.

I accept that. But let's not pretend we've suddenly discovered some major moral rot deep in the heart of the NYPD.

Fact is, recently introduced technology prevents summonses from being simply "pulled out of the box." Almost all of the incidents being investigated occurred prior to the computerization of summonses. So the culture was already in the process of changing.

Should these cops be punished? Yes, all extended courtesies are a calculated risk, and they lost. So be it.

Should they be arrested? Stripped of their pensions? If it's outright bribery, okay, no problem. If it's drug-related, goodbye, who needs you.

But most of these cases don't fit into those categories. And many of those who now stand in judgment of these cops, both internal and external to the NYPD, either did the same exact things or have been beneficiaries of similar "courtesies": That's where the hypocrisy is repulsive.
I never fixed any tickets as a cop. But it's not like the people I gave tickets to had any clout. The idea of fixing tickets is less in the Baltimore police culture than NYPD culture. I would have done what I could for a friend... but not for a "union card". And there was no "formal" system I knew of (ie: you could contact the individual officer, but it wasn't like the FOP had a formal system.).

When I was new in Baltimore. Like the day I moved in, I got a ticket for parking in a normally legal place near the Greek church that was going to be the scene of the annual Greek Fest. It was an honest mistake. Miss Mary, my wonderful Greek-American landlady (I miss her, rest in peace), hailed the well known Greek-American cop who patrolled Greektown. I moved my car. She explained the situation to Nick. And he ripped up my ticket.

I thought that was good policing.

September 29, 2011

The more things change... September 29, 1829

Here’s the very first new rule, just a few months into London’s experiment with the New Police (and London probably didn’t really even have the first police department, either). Apparently, back in the good old days, officers were drinking, had a bit of a temper, carried umbrellas and other weapons, engaging in idle chit chat, and hide their identification numbers:
September 29, 1829.—Police Constables should take timely warning from the dismissals that have already taken place; for they may rest assured that no man will be suffered to remain a day on the Police Force who shall be found in the slightest degree intoxicated on Duty; they are also particularly cautioned not to pay attention to any ignorant or silly expressions of ridicule that may be made use of towards them personally, all which they must feel to be beneath their notice.

They are forbidden to carry sticks or umbrellas in their hands when on Duty.

They are also strictly forbidden to enter into conversation with any person whatever, except on matters relative to their Duty.

The Police Constables are particularly desired immediately to give their names, and the Division they belong to, to any person demanding it, until the whole have their clothing and numbered hat-covers for the night Duty.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[I'm on break. Regular blogging will resume in February.]

September 28, 2011

Bad Day at the Office

Come on, walking up to somebody you've penned up (for not moving?!), macing them, and walking away? Of course it's indefensible. And it's not fair to the officers trying to deal with the situation... the officers who were dealing with the situation, acting professionally in a stressful situation.

This guy had a very bad day at the office. But if that's the worst thing he's done in 30 years, it doesn't mean he should lose his job. Nobody died. Still, a little contrition, an apology, and a departmental reprimand are indeed in order! Maybe he should think about retiring; perhaps policing has changed a little faster than he's been able to keep up with.

I also find it funny that "blocking traffic" (except when it's done by the police) is somehow such a horrible offense and justification. It's not like traffic flows that well anyway. Causing a traffic jam? Not good. But so what? Traffic jams happens. Certainly in Manhattan. If it mattered so much, we should ban the president from visiting, police funerals, and the entire United Nations general assembly.

But what do I know? I'm thousands of miles away, in England, closer to deer and pheasants than protesters.

September 19, 2011

We're Going to Rock Down to, Electric Avenue...

...And then we'll take it higher.

I was in Brixton, London, today and stumbled across... Electric Avenue. There's a market there.

I had no idea Electric Avenue was a real place. Nor that the song was even "set" in London.

As a fan of 80's hip hop, I felt the same way I felt in my early days in New York City: Delancey Street; Hollis, Queens; Farmers Blvd; Sugar Hill; the South Bronx; Queensbridge; "next stop, 125th St."... it's all for real. (As is Brighton Beach, if you groove more with Neil Simon.)

I cannot, however, verify the Bristol Hotel (much less Room 515). But we all know where it's at: Jamaica, Queens!

September 15, 2011

The Principles That Never Were

It turns out the Peel’s famous "Principles of Policing" are a fraud. I kind of always suspected that... but not so much that I didn’t quote them at length in the afterward to the paperback edition of Cop in the Hood. I should have known better because Susan Lentz and Robert Chaires had already published an article stating as much in 2007: “The Invention of Peel’s Principles: A study of policing ‘textbook’ history.” Journal of Criminal Justice. Vol. 35, pp. 69-79. But I only became aware of this article two days ago, thanks entirely to the ace library staff here at the National Police Improvement Agency at Bramshill, UK.

I believed in Peel’s Principles. I still do. But I never was able to trace them earlier that Reith's (1948) A Short History of the British Police. Reith cites Lee's (1901) A History of Police in England, which I have (and the principles ain't in them). This made me suspicious. But it’s not easy to get one’s hands on the original 1829 Patrol Guide: Metropolitan Police—Instructions to Police Officers. It turns out these instructions are all of 60 pages, which puts contemporary Patrol Guides or General Orders to shame.

Well the original (or a copy of it) exists here at Bramshill, England, and I spend a day going through it. What does Peel say? Well, very little (and more likely Commissioner Rowan wrote it). It’s mostly nitty gritty details about what each rank (all four of them) is supposed to do. It's interesting, mind you. Constables were paid 3 shilling a day and were expected to work 12 hours-a-day, half on the beat and half in the station as a reserve force. But it says nothing about "the police being the public and public the police." There's a whole lot about the importance of following orders.

The guide does say, and I’ll quote at length because this is hard-to-fine source material:

The following General Instructions for the different ranks of the Police Force are not to be understood as containing rules of conduct applicable to every variety of circumstances may occur in the performance of their duty; something must necessarily be left to the intelligence and discretion of individuals; and according to the degree in which they shew [sic] themselves possessed of these qualities, and to their zeal, activity, and judgment, on all occasions, will be their claims to future promotion and reward.

It should be understood, at the outset, that the principal object to be attained is “the Prevention of Crime.”

To this great end every effort of the Police is to be directed. The security of person and property, the preservation of the public tranquility, and all the other objects of a Police Establishment, will thus be better effected, than by the detection and punishment of the offender, after he has succeeded in committing the crime. This should constantly be kept in mind by every member of the Police Force, as the guide for his own conduct. Officers and Police Constables should endeavour to distinguish themselves by such vigilance and activity as may render it extremely difficult for any one to commit a crime within that portion of the town under their charge. (pp. 1-2)


Every Police constable in the Force may hope to rise by activity, intelligence, and good conduct, to the superior stations. he must make it his study to recommend himself to notice by a diligent discharge of his duties, and strict obedience to the commands of his superiors, recollecting, that he who has been accustomed to submit to discipline, will be considered best qualified to command.
He must readily and punctually obey the orders and instructions of the Sergeants, inspectors, and Superintendents. if they appear to him either unlawful or improper, he may complain to the commissioners, who will pay due attention to him; but any refusal to perform the commands of his superiors, or negligence in doing so, will not be suffered.
[H]e is to be marched by his Serjeant to the Section. A particular portion of the Section is committed to his care: he will have previously received from his Serjeant a card with the name of the streets, &c. forming his Beat. he will be held responsible for the security of life and property, within his Beat, and for the preservation of the peace and general good order, during the time he is on duty.
It is indispensably necessary, that he should make himself perfectly acquainted with all the parts of his beat or section, with the streets, thoroughfares, courts, and houses.

He will be expected to possess such a knowledge of the inhabitants of each house, as will enable him to recognize their persons. He will thus prevent mistakes, and be enabled to render assistance to the inhabitants when called for.

He should be able to see every part of his beat, at least once in ten minutes or a quarter of an hours; and this he will be expected to do; so that any person requiring assistance, by remaining in the same spot for that length of time, may be able to meet a Constable.

This regularity of moving through his beat shall not, however, prevent his remaining at any particular place, if his presence there be necessary to observe the conduct of any suspected person, or for any other good reason; but he will be required to satisfy his Serjeant [sic], or superior Officers, that there was a sufficient cause for such apparent irregularity. He will also attend at the appointed times, to make a report to his Serjeant of any thing [sic] requiring notice.

He is not to call the hour; and if at any time he requires immediate assistance, and can-not in any other way obtain it, he must spring his rattle, but this is to be done as seldom as possible, for though he is provided with one, and may sometimes find it necessary to use it, such alarms often creates the inconvenience, which it is intended to prevent, by assembling a crowd; thus giving an opportunity of escape to the criminals. He will be required to report to the Serjeant of his party, every occasion of his using the rattle. (pp. 37-40)
On no pretence [sic] shall he enter any public house, except in the immediate execution of his Duty; such a breach of positive order will not excused: the publican himself is subject to a severe fine, for allowing him to remain in his house. No liquor of any sort, shall be taken from a publican, without paying for it at the time.

He will be civil and attentive to all persons, of every rank and class; insolence or incivility will not be passed over. (p. 41)
While on Duty, he must not enter into conversation with any one, except on matters relating to his Duty.

He must be particularly cautious, not to interfere idly or unnecessarily; when required to act, he will do so with decision and boldness; on all occasions he may expect to receive the fullest support in the proper exercise of his authority.

He must remember, that there is no qualification more indispensable to a Police Officer than a perfect command of temper, never suffering himself to be moved in the slightest degree, by any language or threats that may be used; if he do his Duty in a quiet and determined manner, such conduct will probably induce well-disposed by-standers to assist him, should he require it.” (p.42)
Certainly prevention of crime is at the core of Peel’s Principles. And the Instructions do mention treating all classes equally, keeping one's cool, and gaining knowledge of one's beat. But there's more emphasis on staying sober, quiet, and following orders. The nine ideals? They simply don’t exist in Peel’s time. They were invented in the 20th century and have since achieved a life of their own (Lentz and Chaires, 2007).

There are a ton of great documents here in the Bramshill library. For all you Broken Windows fans, one from 1901 specifically mentions “disorder” (Instructions for the Lancaster Borough Police Force. Leeds: McCorquodale & Co (p. B1): “The absence of crime and disorder will be considered the best proof of the complete efficiency of the Police.”

The book I found most interesting (and it was wonderful to spend a day poring through old books in a library housed in a 400-year-old mansion) was the 1836 update to the 1829 guide from Peel and Company: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. This lists all the new regulations implemented after 1829. Why is that important? Because we don’t have a good idea about what police actually did 200 years ago. But you can tell damn well what some of them did by the rules they made. Every time an officer messed up, they made a rule. Some things never change!

My next posts (mostly because I've already typed in the text, so this will be easy for me to do) will list these new rules, one by one, in real time, 182 years after the fact (the first was issued on September 29, 1829). Read between the lines and image being a police officer in the 1830s. Maybe it wasn't so different after all.

September 5, 2011

Bon Voyage!

It's September 5th, 2011. Today happens to be my 40th birthday. But unrelated, my wife will soon be boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Brooklyn for an Atlantic Ocean crossing. We are packing our steamer trunks and hat boxes.

Here's our view and where we are.

I just learned that when my mother came to America in 1958, she was on the MS Berlin. I wonder if the QM2 will be anything like this?

I'm going to England for two months of work and research with the police. After that, the current plan is to work our way east, far east, on the Trans-Siberian Express (I hear Siberia is beautiful in, er, December). We probably won't be back until January, 2012.

I don't expect to post much at all while I'm gone. So until then, take care and stay safe.

If you know any must-see sights in say, Perm or Yekaterinburg, let me know.

September 4, 2011


There's an interesting chart in New York Magazine that shows what the Patriot Act is used for.
Delayed-notice search warrants issued under the expanded powers of the Patriot Act, 2006–2009:

For drugs: 1,618
For fraud: 122
For Terrorism: 15

September 3, 2011

Irene Crime

One last bit on crime in New York City during Irene:
There were about 30 arrests citywide for crimes committed between midnight and 7:30 a.m. during a police tour of duty that roughly matched the duration of the storm’s approach and arrival. (An earlier estimate of 45 arrests — described by the mayor as proving the inherent goodness of New Yorkers — included crimes committed earlier.) Last year, in the same period, there were about 345 arrests.
The weather played a ... direct role in some: When an officer in the Bronx said he saw Davian McCarthy, 28, carrying a revolver in his waistband, he noted, while arresting the man, that the gun had been carefully wrapped in plastic.

September 1, 2011

Baltimore City's curfew center

To round up wandering kids in an effort to combat mobs of roving teens. From the Sun:
Baltimore's curfew center began four years ago — a collaborative effort among police, the school system and social services — to get kids off the street and away from potential harm.

Their work has taken on a new urgency as other cities grapple with so-called "flash robs," most notably Philadelphia, which moved up its curfew to 9 p.m. in hopes of combating large, roving groups of young people who caused mayhem there.
Now if only there were a center to pick up mobs of roaming parents.

NM officer having sex on car hood won't be charged

I just like the headline. And no, sex is not a crime... even on duty (though it should be an admin issue).

Update: He got fired.

Remember Dudas?

Jamaican Kingpin pleads guilty in New York.

I'm surprised he lived to see the day.

August 31, 2011

What a sucker a guy is to be a crook!

Flogging image of the day:

The Right to Film Police

A US Court of Appeals in Massachusetts has said that arresting someone for filming the police is a constitutional violation.

A guy, after we answered in the affirmative as to whether his phone was recording audio, was charged with violation of the wiretap statute, disturbing the peace, and aiding in the escape of a prisoner. The last charge was particularly absurd. But more importantly the court said that it's not a wiretap if it's not secret . The court also said the arrest violated the fourth amendment and did not give the officers qualified immunity.

People still get arrested for taking pictures and videos of police. But I suspect this will happen less and less, especially when cops lose their immunity after making bad arrests (of the guy taking pictures). Besides, given advances in technology, attempts to prevent people from taking pictures and videos is becoming more and more a Sisyphean task.

As a police officer, I did no not love being filmed. It's not that I had something to hide, it's that I don't want a video taken out of context. And sometimes police officers do have to use ugly force. Sometimes the public and the media really does not understand.

A lot of "brutality" videos you can see on youtube show completely justified force (especially when trying to get somebody's hands from under them to behind their back). So if I'm using justified force, I'd prefer not to see my tough arrest on the evening news used as an "example" of brutality.

I understand and even agree with all the reasons you don't want to be recorded. But... you can't always get what you want. I do not want a society in which unaccountable police arrest people for taking their picture. Recording police (if you're not interfering) should be considered a constitutional right.

Of course phones and cameras, especially when somebody is resisting arrest, can still be seized as evidence. If somebody is resisting arrest, a recording is good evidence. And having to say goodbye to your phone for months might serve as a bit of a deterrent to whipping it out and pressing record. But potential police use of this trick will be tempered by a natural desire to avoid extra paperwork.

What's interesting is that this debate makes some peoples' head explode as it highlights the conservative divide between lip-service to small government and an authoritarian impulse. It makes me think once again of George Orwell's precient line that the "real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians."