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

by Peter Moskos

December 21, 2012

Understanding the NRA World View: The Media is the Problem.

I listened to the NRA press conference with interest. It was strangely moderate, by NRA standards. Your opinion of what was said probably comes down to whether you want to live in a more armed or less armed society. I prefer less. That said, I'm happy to have students with guns in my school. I feel safer (actually, I don't think it about it much at all, but I don't feel less safe) knowing there are some armed off-duty police officers in my class. Armed security does have a role in society. I'm just not convinced that place is every elementary school.

What many of my liberal friends may not grasp from the press conference is how the NRA reflects the Conservative World View. Conservatives who have internalized this world view may not fully understand it either. (Mind you there's a Liberal World View, too, but that's not the subject du jour.) I don't post this to fault the conservative world view, but to educate the clueless.

To me, the key that NRA vice-president LaPierre was preaching to his fans came when he said, buried in his speech: "With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget..." This is a conservative talking point that his little to do with guns. It's just there to press all the right [right's?] buttons. People believe that a huge chunk of their tax dollars are wasted on "foreign aid." In truth, such aid a tiny fraction (almost a rounding error) of the federal budget.

The conservative world view believes in good and evil. There is a strong dose of religion. There is a non-relativist idea of right of wrong. There is a strong defensive sense of people being out to get you. There's an attempt to place blame. There is a heavy does of fear. Much of the conservative world view can be reprised with, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Another idea is the concept of true evil. I tend to see this as religiously based. Liberals like to think of people needing help and support. Call it New Testament. Conservatives like to believe in Good and Evil. Call it Zarathustrian (though you can call it Old Testament if you don't want to google Zarathustra). Here's the NRA:
The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day.
It's almost zombie like. And when the zombies come get to get me, even I'm gonna want a semi-automatic by my side.

One of my first introductions to this world view was in the police academy. One thing (along with a nostalgic longing for corporal punishment in child rearing) really struck me: the demonization of the media. This surprised me, but it's part of the reason for the rise of the ideologically "anti-mainstream media" Fox News. There's a market there. (It was also why it was so fun to see their version of the truth collapse on election night.)

I'm pro-media. I grew up in a pro-newspaper household. In school I was taught the importance of freedom of the press. My uncle was the fine editor of many a-fine newspapers in Red and Blue states. I started writing for real -- in print and for the public to see -- for The Evanstonian, my high school newspaper.

I do not believe the media is the problem.

In the NRA press conference, the "media" was called out by name nine times. These shootings, according to this conservative world view, is the fault of the media.

Mind you we all love scapegoats. Because otherwise we'd have to blame ourselves for the our problems. And that's no fun.
How can we possibly even guess how many [copycat killers are waiting in the wings], given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?
This one may not reflect a conservative world view. Regardless, I would like to highlight this statement about the mentally ill and also that the NRA is calling for the creation of a national database on US citizens. This is both horrible and strange.
...address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country.
It's not that this criminal class doesn't exist. I don't deny it (though it's pretty small). But to say they "spread like cancer in every community." Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.
Again, the conspiratorial tone about the media. Them East Coast elites are all in cahoots, don't forget. This time they're marching hand-in-devil's-hand with [be afriad, be very afraid], "the vicious violent video game [industry]" [da dum]! It's their fault, along with the "media conglomerates [who] compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society."
And throughout it all, too many in our national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders, act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.... and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking.
He sounds like an Occupy person speaking here, doesn't he? Seriously.

The conservative part is believing that the media isn't just ignorant (like liberals are), but rather that they do actually know "the truth" and insist on purposefully feeding us lies.

[For instance, the media doesn't know their gun facts well and often confuse automatic and semi-automatic weaponry. This is true, by the way. But such ignorance is hardly to blame for the downfall of civilized society.]

Then LaPierre talks about 20,000 gun bans already in existence, which, alas, isn't true. But oh well.

[Reminds me of Animal House: “The Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” "Don’t stop him. He’s on a roll!”]
When you hear your glass breaking at 3am, and you call 911, you won’t be able to pray hard enough for a gun.
Conservatives always talk about "when" and not "if" someone breaks into your home, robs, or rapes you. It's the culture of fear. Be afraid. Be very afraid. If somebody does break into my home, I'll tell what I'm not going to do: waste time praying.

LaPierre also said this:
How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order. Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it.
At first glance this makes sense. I took me a bit longer to figure out what is wrong with this logic.

The president and flying are special events. They doesn't affect most of us on a day-to-day level. People who handle and transport large amounts of money are particularly at risk of robbery. They need to protect themselves and "target harden." And anytime you get tens of thousands of random people together, it's good to have a few cops around. Nobody argues with that.

And out of all of that, none of it affects our day-to-day lives unless you work in a bank, are a professional athletes, or the president. What the NRA is advocating -- what they have always advocated -- is that we bring guns into our day-to-day lives. What the NRA does not understand is the most people do not want to. And what's more, we do not have to.

Most Americans want to live in a society where their six year old is not protected with a gun. Why? Because then we've let the terrorists win. The world simply isn't that evil. America isn't so evil. At least not unless Americans are so much more intrinsically evil (or so much stupider and thus demonically influenced by the media, movies, and video game conglomerates) than the rest of the civilized world. It is possible to live without a ubiquitously armed society.

Let's remember that in large parts of the world -- England, Ireland, Japan, Scandinavia -- even police don't need to carry guns. Though I doubt we'll ever see a time when the majority of police in America are unarmed, the whole point of civilization remember that such a world is possible. If we forget that and abandon our ideals, we will have entered a true dark age.

What says the NRA?
Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing [to die at the hands of "evil monsters."]
Consumed with fear and hatred? Perhaps the NRA doth protest too much, methinks!

[My answer, not that you asked: ban guns that use magazines. Keep your six shooters. Keep your shotguns. No more glocks (in civilian hands). No more semi-automatic assault rifles. Regulate and ban guns to the limits of the 2nd Amendment. Also, just for the hell of it, I'll make a prediction and say all this brouhaha will create no real change in our gun laws or public safety. And we'll just keep having these things happen again and again.]

December 16, 2012

David Durk thought I was crazy...

...at least at first.

David Durk died last month. And I didn't even know it. That really would have pissed him off.

(My excuse for missing the obits was that I was en-route to a conference in Chicago. Here's one. And another. And a third.)

Let me take you back a bit. In October, 2009, there was this strange voice mail on my school office phone. Some gruff guy with no phones manners said, quite awkwardly: "Call me I want to talk about your book!"

Hmmmm... No, thank you.

But I did save the message because it was so strange.

A month later a similar message comes over the phone. But now I'm sitting in front of my computer. He did actually spell his name, David Durk, D.U.R.K., so I punched it into google. The David Durk? I called him back the next day.

He proceeded to talk my ear off for a good 40 minutes. He hadn't read my book, but he had heard something I said that pissed him off, which seemingly wasn't very hard top do. He thought I was crazy because I said something like, "the culture of police today isn't corrupt." What can I say? I call 'em like I see 'em. I didn't know what else to tell him (nor did I ever get the change to say much). But I did offer to send David Durk a copy of Cop in the Hood. And I did. 

A short time passes and he call me again saying, "I just finished reading the last footnote! Great stuff." That blurb from him has been on the right column of this blog for a while now. I'm rather proud of it. We got along better after he read my book. I like to think he respected my integrity. Or maybe he just had a soft spot for a college-educated cop. I don't know if I got in more than 50 words, edge-wise. Evidently, I later learned, I was not the first to experience this Durkian balance of conversation.

But I considered it an honor to listen to David Durk ramble on. I mean, he's David Durk for Christ's sake and my time isn't that precious. But I never did invite him to speak to my classes or the school, which (before his health issues became more serious) he was keen to do. We never met. I didn't really want to. We talked a few more times on the phone. These conversations each lasted about an hour. But over the phone, when push came to shove, I could simply hang up.

What David Durk told me, again and again, was that the world was corrupt, policing was corrupt, and he was forced out to retire on an officer's pension rather than the lieutenant's pension he deserved. I couldn't argue with any of that, because he would never give me the chance.

By many accounts, David Durk was a difficult personality. He struck me as not at peace with himself or the world. Mind you, had he achieved some zen-like state of nirvana, he never would have accomplished what he did. I mean, David Durk -- along with Frank Serpico -- changed the friggin' culture of modern police! I can't think of any other two individual with so much positive impact on policing in the 20th century.

Perhaps the most importantly change is that today (going back at least twenty years) an honest person can become an honest cop and lead a crime-free work-life for 20 years. No "pad"; no stealing from places already burglarized; no shaking down drug dealers; no shooting criminals just to teach them a lesson (not that Durk was opposed to a robbery squad that did just that, just FYI). It's not that none of this ever happens, it's that there's no longer institutionalized criminal corruption in rank-and-file policing. We have Durk and Serpico to thank for that. 

But something odd happens when you quit policing. In the following hears you assume nothing has changed. I know policing changed a lot from 1990 to 2001. And I suspect it's changed as much if not more between 2001 and 2012. But not in my mind, which will forever be a bit stuck in a bit of a time-warp from 2001. 

David Durk lived his life thinking policing hadn't changed much over the years. This was unfortunate, for a man not known for his humility. Durk couldn't appreciate what he himself had done do make policing less corrupt. He told me things were just as corrupt in 2012 as they were in 1985, or even 1970. "But it ain't so, David," I would tell him, "It just isn't." For Durk, the world was never clean enough. The man tired me out. But I'm happy he found the time to do so.

Rest in peace.

December 15, 2012

Gun Rights? "Your Side Won"

I've said it before: "Barring some seismic realignment in this country, the gun control debate is all but settled--and your side won. The occasional horrific civilian massacre is just the price the rest of us have to pay."

And then there's this gem of a cartoon.

December 11, 2012

Breaking the Taboo

The documentary is out: Breaking the Taboo. Directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and Fernando Grostein Andrade, it stars Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, leaders of Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland, Colombia, and an additional cast of dozens (including me):

My favorite parts? Other than the guy who appears before Bill Clinton at 17:15, it would be the former President of Brazil, Fernando Cardoso, who says, "When I was in office in Brazil of course I was aware of the situation of drugs. But I was convinced that true repression to be possible to stop the production of drugs. But I was wrong at the time." And then there's Jorge Casteneda, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs (2000-2003): "The war has created the situation. The situation did not create the war."

Rarely has the history of the drug war and the logic of ending the war on drugs been explained so well (or entertainingly).

[Update: Here's Richard Branson's take. And the Netflix link]

November 29, 2012

Cop Does Good, paper reports

An all too rare reporting of a cop doing a good deed.

Of course the cynic in me worries that he will get in trouble for 1) being off post, 2) shopping while on duty, and 3) accepting a police discount. That's they way cops think because that's the way the departments can f*ck you, when they want to. Only the good press might save him.

Why do we let police work in a system where they can get in trouble for buying shoes for a barefoot homeless guy?

[Update: The homeless guy was found barefoot again by the New York Times. He said the shoes were in a safe place because they were worth a lot of money.]

Incarceration numbers down

A BJS report reports the number of state and federal prisoners decreased last year by 17,264. This has been called a small step in the right direction (since there's no reason the US should lead the world in incarceration rate and numbers).

But what I haven't heard, and it seems relevant, is that this decrease can wholly be accounted for by the Supreme Court ordered reduction of prison overpopulation. This has resulted in a 25,000 inmate decrease in the California prison system. And it means that prisoner population in the non-court-ordered rest of the country actually increased by some 7,000. (Local jail numbers are down 30,000 nationwide, or 45,000 if one excludes California.)

So while I'm happy to see a reduction in unnecessary incarceration. This isn't actually a step in the right direction. Because a step implies some sort of trend, where the next step will be in the same direction. California prisons still have another 7,000 prisoners to rehouse. Meanwhile, back in the other 49 states, we're still walking in the wrong direction.

[The California jail population increased 15,000. By my math, that means that 10,000 California prisoners are now on the street, without any huge increase in crime. The cost savings of not incarcerating 10,000 California prisoners is roughly $472,000,000.]

November 13, 2012

Now Hiring: John Jay College Dept. of Law & Police Science

"Did you say tenured-track professor in New York City!?"

Why, yes I did.

My department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration) is hiring 3 (count 'em, three) tenure-track assistant-professor lines. Two are police-related; one a more general criminal-justice (or it might be the other way around, but that doesn't really matter).

You can read the job postings here (for police) and here (for criminal justice).

You need a PhD or have to be on track to get one in the spring.

Related, I and some of my colleagues will be at the ASC conference in Chicago this week (I'll be there Wed-Sat). We're looking for a few good men and women. Come find us and we can all tell each other nice things about ourselves.

November 9, 2012

Legal Marijuana

My friend, Neill Franklin of LEAP, spells it out (and does so far better than I could have).

October 31, 2012

How the iPhone Changed the Way We Do Ethnography: A Methodological Note

In my partial blog-writing absence (though in case you're worried, all is well here in Astoria, Queens, post storm -- we're high and dry and with electricity) I wanted to feature a few promising up-and-coming researchers I'm excited about.

The first of the young-upstart rising-star whipper-snappers is Jan Haldipur (his email). Jan, an ethnographer from upstate New York, is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He's researching how the NYPD's Stop, Question, and Frisk policies affect people in a South Bronx neighborhood.

I had a few beers with Jan the other week, and (when I wasn't trying to impress him with inferior Dutch-language skills) we got to talking about taking field notes. When I was a cop, being required to carry paper and pen makes initial note taking comparatively easy, at least during down-times. But if you're doing research with people who, to put it politely, are more questioning of authority, whipping out a notepad can be rather conspicuous in a head turning and even potentially dangerous kind of way. And yet, memory being what it is, a researcher needs to take notes. Jan discovered a great way around the dilemma. These are Jan Haldipur's words:
Perched on the top of a bench in a small courtyard nestled in the South Bronx’s Jackson Houses, I sat with "Chaz," one of my contacts in the neighborhood. It was my first month in the field. With temperatures nearing the triple digits, we clung to the shady side of the bench, nearest the trees. As I sat, wiping the sweat from my brow, he told me about a recent argument he had with his grandmother. Not wanting to miss some of the key details, I clumsily pulled a notepad out of my back pocket.

Chaz stopped mid-story and asked me what I was doing.

Jan: I have to write some of this stuff down…remember? Like we talked about.

Chaz: I know that much…but you looking like the Feds with that notebook [laughs]. You see everybody looking at us now?

Feeling as if time had just stopped, I looked up to see that we were on the receiving end of a set of glares from a group of teens sitting on an adjacent bench.

In an attempt to stay true to my ethnographic forefathers, I had been jotting down notes in shorthand. Deep in the recesses of countless seminal ethnographies, one can usually find a footnote or appendix detailing the experiences one has collecting data. Everyone from Whyte to Venkatesh [ed note: and Moskos], it seems, has shared personal anecdotes on finding odd moments to jot down notes of what they observed, heard and felt. What these texts seemed to gloss over, however, is just how conspicuous one can look with a pen and pad in 2012.

Not wanting to make the situation any more uncomfortable than it was already becoming, I fumbled around in my pocket and pulled out my iPhone, opened the "notes" section and began typing. In an age when most teens and 20-somethings remain glued to their i-devices, checking mail, or texting, I found that my fiddling with a phone while talking to Chaz was no longer "curious" behavior. In fact, it was seen as quite normal.

Over the next few weeks and months, meeting with Chaz and an assortment of other community members, I made a conscious decision to leave my pen and pad at home. Instead, I relied almost purely on my phone, and, situation permitting, a voice recorder. The core of the “ethnographic process” remains intact. The means to achieve change with the times.
The iPhone! It's the kind of brilliant yet simple observation I love. And hopefully it will help other researchers out there in the field.

[Update: In November, 2012, I was in Chicago for the ASC conference and was riding the Green Line on W. Lake Street toward the loop around 1AM (my, how Chicago has changed since I grew up there). There was one other person in the L car, an African-American man about my age at the other end of the car. I was standing up, in the middle of the car, checking out the fancy new L car. I was scribbling notes in my pad (as I am wont to do). The other guy got upset and told me to, "Stop doing that cop shit!" I told him I was a writer. We ended up on decent terms.]

October 26, 2012

What a news day!

If Cannibal Cop is a minus point or two (you just don't see headlines like this too often)... there's "hero cop" to counterbalance the bad (or, as one of my students said while watching the video of him holding his bullet wound while shooting the criminal: "Damn, he's going O.G.!")

I guess, for the NYPD, that makes the day kind of a wash.

October 9, 2012

We Got Another Kingpin! (10)

And this one is a big one. Heriberto Lazcano, the founder and the principal leader of the Zetas. Perhaps he's even the big one. The real kingpin. I guess we won. Ten times is the charm.

Let's savor our victory and bask in a new drug-free world.

Update: the body was stolen.

October 3, 2012

A police officer is...

Great description of a police officer, from a student's paper: "An individual that does things at his or her own pace while trying to make the job interesting for sanity's sake, all the while not getting killed by doing it."

September 27, 2012

We Got Another Kingpin! (9)

Since I'm still keeping track, I thought I'd share.

A Colombian woman known as “the queen of cocaine” was murdered earlier this month. But she was murdered, not killed or captured by the good guys. (Plus technically, she would be a Queenpin, which sounds kind of funny.) So I'm not counting her. So it's been awhile since the wheels of justice have crushed one of these evil-doer kingpins.

Luckily today I woke up today to see the amazing news that we've captured Ivan Velazquez Caballero. I mean this guy is known as El Taliban. It doesn't get much badder than that! So by my count he's the ninth "kingpin" we've put out of business in just the past two years. Of this guy, the BBC says: "He is believed to have controlled some of the most important drug routes into the United States and ruled them with cold brutality." Wowzahs! Mark those drug routes closed, shut, and done!

So... how's that drug war going?

In Mexico 50,000 have been killed. But perhaps more than 100,000. With so many bad guys being eliminated by friend and foe, soon the streets will be safe!

September 14, 2012

Keep on keeping on...

As you may (or may not) have noticed, this blog has been on long-term hiatus. For now, not writing blog posts is more fun than writing them. Besides, I have other things to write, some of which might actually get me paid. Speaking of which, Cop in the Hood is still selling (just topped 20,000 to date), and In Defense of Flogging will hopefully pick-up in the soon-to-be released paperback edition.

In the meantime, school has started, my wife and I are healthy and happy, and life is good. (Also, I'm thrilled to read today that my old academy instructor and friend, Agent Gene Cassidy, finally got a life-saving liver transplant!)

I suspect I'll post here again every now and then... but who knows?

In the meantime, stay safe and root for the O's!

July 13, 2012

Good Ideas from the Baltimore FOP

Maybe I've become a bit cynical after my time in New York, but I don't normally think of the police union as a good source for rational and cost-effective advice on better policing (though protecting workers' rights is an important part of the union).

But I've got to hand it to Robert Cherry, president of my old Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police for their Blueprint for Improving Policing. (But Bob, I'm still a bit peeved that my name is misspelled as "Moslos" on my FOP, Lodge #3 card! You can send a replacement to my school address.) [The FOP is one of the major police unions. The other, which represents the NYPD, is the PBA. In my mind the FOP is somewhat better about caring for the police and the public. The PBA has a bad history of stoking public fear, which isn't really in anybody's best long-term interests.)

From the FOP report:
Our police officers are appalled by those individuals who betrayed their oath and have now pled guilty in the Majestic Towing scandal, along with others which have come to light in recent years. Many now feel embarrassed to tell others they work for the BPD. The rank and file officers attribute this scandal directly to the lax hiring practices of the BPD. 
Specifically, maybe it wasn't a very bright idea to go poach officers from what an incredibly corrupt Puerto Rican police department.

The FOP report continues:
The approximate average number of officers suspended in the BPD is 80-100 at a time, which is more than half of the officers needed to staff an entire district.
Many officers took pride in being a police officer in one of the most challenging policing environments in America. This is simply not the reality anymore. Essentially, Baltimore city taxpayers are being duped. Their tax money is funding the training of Baltimore City police officers who, in turn, leave to work for other jurisdictions, including Baltimore County. The cost is more than just fiscal—taxpayers are losing protection and it’s a waste of resources in general. In addition to losing qualified police officers, according to in-service training surveys, not one Baltimore City police officer said he/she would recommend joining the BPD to potential applicants. At this moment, the Baltimore County Police Department has initiated a 50 member lateral class focusing on recruitment of Baltimore City officers with fewer that five years of experience.
A recent study shows that an increasing number of BPD officers live in Baltimore City. The BPD should make certain that the trend continues by offering incentives for police officers to live within the city limits. The greater the number of officers residing in the city, the more personally invested the police force as a whole will be in the welfare of the city.

The report also calls for getting rid of the "white shirts" (to be clear: just the shirts, not the people in them), a shockingly overdue redrawing of district and post boundaries, more patrol and more visible patrol, more focus on community focused policing and quality of life issues, a more productive (and less stat-and-blame) Comstat, and two years of college or military as a hiring requirement. It all makes a lot of sense. Kudos to the FOP.

Behave! (Big Brother is Watching)

I was interviewed by Videosurveillance.com about my thoughts on video surveillance's effect on crime. I'm skeptical. (But impressed that a company such as theirs is willing to print my unadulterated skepticism.)

Cameras are no substitute of cops. 

June 22, 2012

The Pearl of the Levant

Our home in Beirut (near the Greek Orthodox part of town, which my wife swears was just a coincidence).

If you look closely you can that our 4th floor landing was once a sniper's nest. The bullet pock marks on the wall are outgoing (incoming can be found if you lean over and look down). It's amazing (and sad) that there doesn't seem to be a single building that was around during the war (1975-1990) that wasn't the scene of a battle.

But why talk about war when we can talk about cheesy breakfast sandwiches across the street?

On Hamra Street, looking at the Starbucks. You forget just how many chain coffee shops there are until you see them all within three blocks.

The ever-romantic corniche.

And the fashionable (and up-scale mall-like boring) downtown.

With free concerts on five stages.

From our hike, between Jezzine and Barouk. In the mountains can be found the famous ceders of Lebanon, the oldest of which is about 3000 years old.

While I'm out...

Check out this lengthy piece (and well worth reading the whole thing) by David Simon about murders, stats, the BPD, the state's attorney's office, and the need for main-stream media. (And thanks to an anonymous comment for cluing me in.)
The Stat:

In 2011, the Baltimore Police Department charged 70 defendants with murder or manslaughter.
Yet in 2010, the department charged 130 defendants with such crimes.
What is happening?

Are Baltimore’s killers showing more cunning, are murders becoming harder to solve?  No indication of that from any quarter.  Did the homicide unit lose a ton of veteran talent?  Nope.  Not between 2010 and 2011 at any rate.  No, the dramatic collapse of the department’s investigative response to murder is the result of a quiet, backroom policy change that has created a bureaucratic disincentive to charge people in homicides.

Also, and unrelated, McCarthy in Chicago says police don't have to answer stupid 911 calls for service anymore. It might seem minor, but this could have a huge impact on policing (as Chapter Six of Cop in the Hood -- "911 is a Joke" -- describes in breath-taking page-turning detail). McCarthy is talking about "beat integrity" and says he's willing to face the political flack for fewer police responses. He also wants to give powers of where police go to police bosses (instead of giving all the power to the dispatcher). This is all good. (Maybe in Baltimore they'll actually bring a box back to put call in!) From the Sun-Times:
McCarthy replied that the change was already under way, with the goal of creating, what he called “beat integrity.” That means leaving police officers to patrol their assigned beats, instead of chasing their tails by running from one 911 call to another at the behest of dispatchers. ...
“Previously, the dispatcher would direct the resources, while the sergeants in the field would basically just be receiving them. [Now], sergeants in the field are in charge of dispatching resources if they don’t like the way [dispatch] is doing it. ...
[Dispatch] has also abandoned what McCarthy called the “clean screen concept” at the 911 center.
“They would dispatch a car from one end of the district to the other end of a district to simply get the job off the screen. That’s the clean screen concept,” he said.
“What we’re now doing is maintaining beat integrity. … If a job comes in in a neighboring beat and it’s not an emergency call for service, that job will actually get stacked until that beat is available to handle it. That’s what beat integrity is all about. Same officers in the same beat every single day. Those officers are not only accountable for what’s happening on the beat, they also know who the good kids are from the bad kids. They’re not stopping everybody. They’re stopping the right people because they know who they are.”
McCarthy said a more dramatic change is coming soon, when the Chicago Police Department determines “which jobs we’re not gonna respond to” anymore.
“That’s a call that I’m going to make — and there’s going to be some wrankling about that,” he said.
“We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My children are fighting over the remote control.’ We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My son won’t eat his dinner.’ Unfortunately, believe it or not, those are calls we actually respond to today.”
 And the political flack will come when one of the my children are fighting over the remote calls turns into a homicide. But you can't dedicate half the police department to every idiot who can pick up a phone.

June 11, 2012

Fourteen Evenings in Beirut

I'm off to Beirut to see the missus, who has been there for a month already. Yes, Beirut, the Pearl of the Levant, The Paris of the East, Chicago by the Sea. 

Except for rolling blackouts, a near civil-war next door (in the country that imposed peace in Lebanon, naturally), and some burning issues in the city of Tripoli in the north, I hear it's great this time of year. Wish me luck and an uneventful two weeks. We plan to do some hiking (seriously). Don't expect much here in the meantime.

I expect our average evening to unfold something like this:

I picked up this record from the $2 bin at a record store in Greenpoint the other night. Nothing has changed in Beirut since the 1960s, right?

Eliot, by Michael A. Wood Jr.

Need some good summer reading? Why not Eliot? It's fiction set very firmly in Baltimore's Eastern District. I know those streets well (even if the cameras are new to me). (and I love that he gives a shout out to Larry, the world's best dispatcher.)

I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say I enjoyed taking the turns around my old stomping grounds. And Michael swears there's no connection, but I could swear I went to the academy with the homicide detective. Here's the cover and you can read the back of the book:

You can get more info and buy a copy on Michael Wood's website. While you're there, if you're a cop, check out his promotion guide. I can't personally vouch for the promotion guide (I'm not up for Sergeant or Lieutenant) but I do have a copy and think it gives you the straight dope on what you need to know.

I can vouch for Eliot: good crime fiction.

Next on my list is Cop Stories: The Few, The Proud, The Ugly by Dick Ellwood. Ellwood's career goes back to 1965, so I look forward to what is now a bit of history.

And previously I wrote about Badges, Bullets, & Bars by Danny Shanahan.

Who would have though so many books would come out the ranks of the BPD?

And let's not forget Michael East's Beyond Hope. East isn't a Baltimore Cop, but he did write a very good book.

June 10, 2012

Ben Franklin and the first police force

In his autobiography Benjamin Franklin wrote:
On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual watch, the hiring of proper men to serve constantly in the at business; and as a more equitable way of supporting the charge the levying a tax than should be proportion'd to the property.... It paved the way for the law obtained a few years after.
And he said so in 1732, ninety-seven years before Robert Peel gets credit for London's Bobbies. What ever happened to the Benny's (as I will dub Franklin's police)? How long did they last? What did they do?

June 8, 2012

Christopher Coke sentenced to 23 years

Remember Dudas (AKA Christopher Coke), the Jamaican drug lord? He was sentenced in Manhattan (though most of his criminal acts were in Jamaica). When he was holding out in Tivoli Gardens, I did not think this he would ever be sentenced, much less by a US court.

I wonder if life today is better or worse in Tivoli Gardens without Dudas. Seriously. Seems like an important question to ask.

Judge Rules Against NYPD in Brooklyn Bridge Arrests

From the Times:
A federal judge ruled Thursday that the police did not sufficiently warn Occupy Wall Street protesters against walking on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge before arresting about 700 of them in October.
The ruling, by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, allows a class-action suit filed by protesters to proceed against police officers and other police officials involved in the arrests. But the ruling dismissed the mayor, the police commissioner and the City of New York as defendants in the suit, saying that there was insufficient evidence that those parties were responsible for any misconduct by the police.
This may be one of those cases were both sides are right: The police did warn; the protesters couldn't hear. The burden is (and should be) higher on the police.

Golden Schmucks, Violence, Immigrants, and Greece

And the report by Jerusalem Post reporter Gil Shefler, who got beat up by extremists on one end of the spectrum, but isn't sure which.

I'm amused that Gil asks the Greek Nazi party (Golden Dawn) how they differ at all from the German Nazi's of WWII. All the party member can come up with is: "The Nazi's didn't like Greece. We are nationalists who love Greece." That's the only difference?

It bothers me that this group is called, "extreme right" or, as the New York Times so inadequately put it, "Far Right." Well, yes, technically correct. But Golden Dawn is is actually a Nazi Party. Not like the Nazis, but actual Greek Nazis... with messed up swastika and all. 

And here's the Greek Nazi party leader -- an elected member of parliament -- throwing water at a person on a talk show and than slapping another woman. Class act. I hate Greek Nazis.

He is now wanted for arrest on assault charges.

When I lived in Greece, I was amused because the graffiti for "Golden Dawn" -- in Greek, by morphing an "η" into an "α" -- can very easily be changed into "Golden Eggs" (Χρυσή Αυγή becomes Χρυσή Αυγἀ). Good stuff.

June 5, 2012

"Peter Moskos doesn’t bullshit"

Check this out by Michael Corbin in Baltimore's City Paper: Better of Two Evils. Makes me sound like such a intellectual bad-ass. And potty mouth. Fuckin'-A!

Seriously though, it is very powerfully written. Makes me want to re-read my own books.

June 4, 2012

Summer Reading (1): My Father's Name

The end of the semester means I get caught up on some of my reading. I finished The Autobiography of Ben Frankin (good stuff) and David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again." (The footnote on the necessity of formal wear would have been very useful to read before we crossed the Atlantic on the QM2 last September).

But more relevant to this blog, I read Lawrence P. Jackson's excellent My Father's Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War. This is a historical ethnography about a man who decides to trace his family's Virginia roots back to ante-bellum days. Jackson tells us that blacks in America generally only have have their accounts recorded for posterity if they were very good, very bad (criminal records), or sold in slavery (and not always then). Jackson's family seems just about average for the time and place, which makes his ability to delve into the past and bring it to life all the more impressive.

It doesn't help that Jackson is a common name. It also doesn't help that Lawrence Jackson, an introverted academic, doesn't actually seem to be very good at talking to people. But Jackson is great in the library and the county records office. And he can write. Before you know it, you're tasting the red dust of unpaved roads and hoping the good guys win the war. My Father's Name is a bit detective novel, a bit Roots, a bit Fox Butterfield's All God's Children (but without the homicides), a bit Ta-Nehisi Coates (they're both self-reflective and perceptive men from Baltimore), and all with a pleasant meandering pace of Twain's Life on the Mississippi.

Jackson also writes with what I can only describe of a pleasant undercurrent of anger. This is not unjustified blind rage but rather controlled anger which is the inevitable result of unearthing the horrors of chattel slavery not in some abstract historical sense, but in the very real way of how it defined your kin and our country and continues to do so in the present day.

May 29, 2012

Less inhumane prisons

The massive overcrowding in California prisons has eased up a bit (thanks to court order). Of course much of the problem has just been kicked down to the county level, but the symbolic double- and triple-stacked bunks in gyms-turned-massive-dorm are empty, says the San Diego Union-Tribune.

May 23, 2012

The Ivy League Hustle

I rarely talk about college, except negatively. But this is the funniest thing to come out of Princeton since... I don't know, what ever funny comes out of Princeton?

I went to Princeton, Bitch! (And yes, all the cool kids were in Terrace. Food does indeed equal love.)

May 22, 2012

Good Policing in Chicago

Well done. I wasn't expecting things to go so well with the NATO summit. But they did. Kudos to Police Superintendent McCarthy and all the men and women of the Chicago Police Department. Lesson can be learned (particularly by West Coast police departments that don't seem to be so good at this) and proper preparation is key.

1) Don't tolerate minor disturbances. Because they will grow to big disturbances, especially when those disturbances are perpetrated by people intent on chaos and damage. And once you lob the tear gas, you've already lost control.

2) Intel.

3) Target individuals who are doing things and not the crowd en mass.

4) Have the top brass out there with the rank-and-file. This seemingly minor point is vitally important. And when a good word about McCarthy comes from the lips of Second City Cop, you know he's done something right.

May 19, 2012

“There’s a stigma with these situations"

Sad and yet strangely touching story about dementia and sociologist Irwin (not Erving) Goffman in the New York Times.

Once as a cop I remember spending hours with a very nice and well dressed elderly man. He knew all his info except where he lived. I drove him around the neighborhood. I walked with him around the Monument Street Market asking other people if they knew him. Nothing. Finally, as my shift was nearing its end, he saw a church and said he wanted to be dropped off. The church was closed, but he insisted he knew that church and everything would be OK there. So I let him go.

It felt good to try and help somebody, though I'm not certain if I actually did.

May 18, 2012

Help Wanted

My department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration) has three full-time assistant-professor tenure-track lines we'll be hiring for in the fall. Two are for general criminal justice and one is for police. If you know of anybody -- a promising PhD candidate or a professor who wants to move to what just might be the greatest city in the world -- get in touch with me.

May 16, 2012

Guardian Angels Stabbed In Chicago

I've always admired the Guardian Angels. They made me feel safe when in high school and riding the L alone, late at night. A man was being robbed, and they -- unarmed -- intervened. They got stabbed. From the Sun Times.

Meanwhile in Chicago, a group of 100 white out-of-towners take a stroll through the Southside.

May 11, 2012

The right to trial by jury

The Sixth Amendment states, in rather uncompromising terms: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury." But the system can't handle those rights. That's why but a very small fraction of cases is decided by a trial, much less a jury trial (the other option is a "bench trial," where the judge decides.

The problem is that if you choose to exercise this right, they'll throw the book at you. Because they want you to plead guilty. From the Houston Chronicle:
"Our criminal justice system is broke; it needs to be completely revamped," declared Terry Nelson, who was a federal agent for over 30 years and is on the executive board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "They have the power, and if you don't play the game, they'll throw the book at you."

Castillo maintains her innocence, saying she was tricked into unknowingly helping transport drugs and money for a big trafficker in Mexico. But she refused to plead guilty and went to trial.

In 2010, of 1,766 defendants prosecuted for federal drug offenses in the Southern District of Texas - a region that reaches from Houston to the border - 93.2 percent pleaded guilty rather than face trial, according to the U.S. government. Of the defendants who didn't plead not guilty, 10 defendants were acquitted at trial. Also, 82 saw their cases dismissed.

The statistics are similar nationwide.
Is this case a 56-year old grandmother and first-time offender was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle a ton of cocaine from Mexico. She maintains her innocence. Had she plead guilty, she would have got a few years behind bars. But because she demanded her constitutional right to jury trial, they sentenced her to life without parole.