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by Peter Moskos

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.

Off to Charm City

I heading down to Baltimore for the weekend. It's been awhile. Watch out, because there's going to be a run on crab cakes and Natty Bo.

May 10, 2012

A Day at the Races

We in American don't know about "traveler" culture in Ireland and England.

Now I know it's wrong, but I can't help but have some respect for people who race horses, harness racing style, down major highways. The full youtube clip has been deleted (it was a long race). But here's the shortened BBC version.

When Cultures Clash

Thug challenges Mayor Bloomberg to a fight, mano-a-mano.

Nice to know the judge released him on his own recognizance since he seems like such a nice chap who will stay out of trouble.

May 7, 2012

Police layoffs in New Jersey

What is the relationship between (A) number of cops, (B) number of arrests, and (C) crime. When "A" goes down, "B" goes down, and "C" goes up. Sometimes it really is that simple. Here's the more nuanced story by James Queally in the Newark Star Ledger.

[Tip of the cap to Epichorus.]

May 5, 2012

911 is a very costly joke!

There's a much delayed and controversial report listing the flaws of New York's "new and improved" 911 phone system. There are many flaws I won't get into here, but I would like to point out just the cost. The project has cost $2 billion. The entire annual budget of the NYPD is about $4.5 billion (NYPD and NYFD is about $6.1 billion). It's bad enough that half the average police department is, in effect, sitting in a car waiting for the phone to ring. It's even worse when the system costs as much as the officer.

May 4, 2012

Baltimore's Bealefeld Calls It Quits

After 31 years on the force and 5 years at the top, Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld announced his resignation. I wish him well. Certainly Bealefeld was the best police commissioner Baltimore has seen in the past 18 years (I can't talk about the pre-Frazier era). Five years on top may not sound like a long time, but Bealefeld is the longest serving commission since Donald Pomerleau's epic reign ended in 1981.

If nothing else, Bealefeld provided some stability to the top of a department that had seen decades of quick-to-come and quick-to-go commissioners (one a felon) who produced little but a massive churning at the top ranks.

But Bealefeld's accomplishments are real. Homicides in Baltimore dropped to under 200 for the first time in three decades. Some dismiss this accomplished too quickly by saying crime is going down everywhere and pointing out that Baltimore's homicide rate is still horribly high. Sure, but crime didn't have to go down in Baltimore and hadn't gone down significantly before Bealefeld.

Equally important, this crime drop occurred while arrest numbers decreased (from 100,000 in 2005 to45,000 in 2011). Time and time again it's been shown that a policy of mass arrests does not reduce crime, and yet a takes a bold police leader to realize and implement strategies that change a police culture of zero-tolerance and making as many arrests as possible.

Also significant, Bealefeld partnered with the city's new State's Attorney, Gregg Bernstein. Bealefeld boldly (and received flack for) endorsed Bernstein by putting a campaign sign on his lawn. Bealefeld got flack for this, but the controversy gave Bernstein the boost needed to defeat his disastrous long-serving anti-police predecessor, Patricia Jessamy.

Peter Hermann, Julie Scharper, and Justin Fenton give a fuller story in the Baltimore Sun.

May 2, 2012

Happy May Day?

Destruction in Seattle. Destruction in Oakland. All pretty peaceful in New York, more or less. Kudos to all who kept the peace.

And I like the one cop in this video who doesn't even flinch when a guy kicks out the window of a squad car right next to him.

Bad ass.


May 1, 2012

Happy May Day

Happy May Day! Union Power! (And please don't attack your union police brothers.)

And appreciate the mad skills of my neighborhood Ironworkers Local 580 training facility. That logo is all hand-worked. Respect.

[thanks to Astoria Ugly]

Another Day at the Office (III) -- Pain Compliance

This is news that shouldn't be: officers arrest a resisting suspect and for their efforts get splashed on the news for alleged brutality. At least the B.P.D. didn't flinch.

I say eighty percent of videos that purport to show brutality involve people under arrest who won't put their hands behinds behind their back. If you're under arrest and so ordered, you need to put your hands behind your back.

Here's the thing -- and I want you to try this at home or work with someone you love -- lie on your belly with your arms under you. Now have that someone try and force yours arms apart. Resist. Those arms won't budge. Now make it a threesome and have two people pulling. Those arms still won't budge.

It's incredibly hard to get a resisting person's arms out from under them. It's just the way the human body is built. So when that happens, police police use what is called (strangely un-euphemistically), "pain compliance." It's a fancy term for old-school putting on the hurt.

Pain compliance is done with pressure points or mace. In a pinch, you could strike somebody, but this is not how it's supposed to be done because it looks bad and you might break something.

Pain compliance is not self-defense. And it's not normal use of force in which the force is directed toward the goal. Pain compliance is supposed to hurt. And it keeps hurting we keep hurting until you decide it's in your best interests to follow lawful orders. And as soon as you comply, we'll stop putting on the hurt. Because you see those hands... how are we going to get those hands behind your back? We've already tried asking and forcing.

[thanks to Gotti]