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by Peter Moskos

March 31, 2012

Couldn't have said it better myself...

...on the attempts to justify the actions of Zimmerman because on Martin's appearance and social media posts. So I'll just quote Ta-Nehisi Coates. First there is the interesting case of The Daily Caller, one of the organizations leading the charge to defame Martin. Coates says:
The Daily Caller is published by Tucker Carlson. Tucker Carlson is a man who once informed us, on national television, that he'd assaulted a gay man for subjecting him to the sort of treatment which nearly all of women-kind experiences hourly. This is not the assumption of a violent handle, or the quotation of rap lyrics it is the admitted commission of actual violence. Moreover, it's the kind of violence that's routinely dismissed as pathological in black boys, as well as the kind that had it ever been committed by Trayvon Martin would immediately serve as irrefutable evidence that he deserved to slaughtered in the street.
Coates continues:
I would not withhold the life of Trayvon Martin from scrutiny and investigation. When someone claims a vicious assault upon their person--as George Zimmerman has--it is only intelligent to investigate the relevant background of the alleged assailant. It certainly is relevant to ask what, precisely, Martin was suspended for. It surely is important to ask if Martin had a history of violence. Whether or not Martin had a criminal record, most certainly is pertinent.

But what, precisely, is the relevance of wearing gold grills? What, specifically, is the pertinence of having once given an obscene gesture? Why, exactly, does it matter that Martin's imagination sometimes ranged into profane thoughts of sex and violence? How does any of this help us understand his killing at the hands of by George Zimmerman?
Excuse me, Ta-Nehisi, but I'd like to take that one.

See, some people think they know what Martin was really like, something MSNBC will never tell you: Trayvon was just another n****r. So this country, real America, is better off with him gone. Now normally, thanks to all us horrible politically correct un-American non-gun-loving liberals, "These assholes always get away." Well here's one who didn't.

Zimmerman's killing of Martin reflects paranoid racist America's Id. So there's a greater storyline here, a patriotic battle, a veritable Zoroastrian conflict between the forces of light and dark, good and evil. Martin represents the dark, thus Zimmerman must be on the side of light. And if you believe that, then your Id does contorted cartwheels of logic to justify Zimmerman's actions. "You see," blurts Id, "Martin was a thug. A criminal. An asshole. A bad egg. He might have even been looking for a house to break into. I mean, we've never found the skittles, have we?!" Id just knows this to be true. Maybe can't prove it, but believes it to the end.

But, I'm sorry to cut you off, Ta-Nehisi. You were saying?
It does not--unless you believe that the fact that Martin once gave a middle finger to a camera somehow proves that he is the sort of person who would saunter up to a man who outweighs by nearly 100 pounds, summon the powers of Thor, deck the man with one-shot, and stove him against concrete. We do not draw such conclusions from most teenagers, or even most people. That those who see nothing wrong with labeling a black man as a "Food Stamp President," would draw them in the case of young black boy cannot be dismissed as coincidental.
And Coates again:
I'm sorry that Trayvon Martin's actual appearance obstructs your inalienable right to scandalize children. That you are forced into cartwheels, and rendered ridiculous, all in the laudable quest to justify bias is the true tragedy, one which pales when compared to an actual death. If I have in any way, contributed to your travails, I hope that some day you will be wise enough, or simply human enough, to forgive.
To say Zimmerman's actions were reprehensible but perhaps legally covered by the horrible and deeply flawed Stand-Your-Ground law is one thing. But I find it deeply troubling when people want to see everything through a prism that somehow morally justifies the death of Trayvon Martin.

Murders Up 35% in Chicago

My man McCarthy not off to a good start.

The more things change... March 31, 1830

Failure to Obey, old school.
The Commissioners direct, that in future the Inspectors on Duty shall not take into custody any person brought in by a Police Constable on the vague charge of “obstructing the Constable in the execution of his duty.” If such a charge is to be made, it must be accompanied by a specification of particulars.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

[This is the last of these, which were a series of the very first police regulations ever, in real time, 182 years later. Thanks to the NPIA and the library staff at Bramshill, UK.]

March 30, 2012

Out in LA

Interesting case out in Pasadena:
Oscar Carrillo was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter after he told a 911 dispatcher that 19-year-old Kendrec McDade, whom police fatally shot, was armed.

The "Excutive" Inn

From Facebook, I learn that the Eastern's favorite (read: only) hotel is official off-limits to Air Force personnel. [Actually, as I write that, I realize there is another hotel on the western top of the Eastern... and it's OK, last I heard.]

Still from Facebook:
Sector 3 Eastern District at the top of the list. The Executive Inn on Pulaski Hwy. I've seen Pimps, Prostitutes, Drug Dealers, Junkies and degenerates of every stripe there. Two things you'll never find at The Executive Inn...an Executive, and a good nights sleep!

[thanks to LvT]

March 29, 2012

Don't say you were not warned

In Indiana, you can now "stand your ground" against police. It would be ironic if this marked the end of police busting down people's doors to find some drugs. Then the NRA might actually be defending liberty. But I suspect it's just going to escalate matters. Yes, at least in Indiana, you can kill a cop... but only as long as you reasonably believe you're in the right. Call me old fashioned, but I'm against this.

By the Force Science Institute and PoliceOne:
You may have heard of the bill passed recently by the Indiana General Assembly that gives citizens the right to physically resist — even with deadly force — any LEO they “reasonably believe” is unlawfully entering their dwelling or is about to cause them injury.

Last week, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill, meaning its now law in the state of Indiana.

“It will mean basically open season on police officers,” predicts Tim Downs, president of the state FOP, which campaigned vigorously although unsuccessfully against the bill. “Law enforcement officers are definitely going to be put in harm’s way.”
...
The bill specifies that even deadly force can be justified in resisting the police if a citizen “reasonably believes” an officer is “acting unlawfully” and “the force is reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person.” In other words, Downs states, “There is no limit on the resistance that can be used.”
...
Force Science News: Are there any subtleties in this law that make it less crazy than it seems?

Downs: No, it’s insane.
...
FSN: Who was the driving force behind this legislation?

Downs: Well, one group that sticks out and that surprised me was the National Rifle Assn.
Doesn't surprise me. The NRA always chooses guns over cops. I wish more cops would realize that.

Collins to NRA: "Leave Us Alone"

Gail Collin on gun control:
Personally, I’m worn down from arguing. Florida, follow your own star. Arizona, arm your kindergarteners. Just stop trying to impose your values on places where the thinking is dramatically different.

Really, just leave us alone. If you don’t like our rules, don’t come here. Is that too much to ask?
The problem, of course, is that gun advocates are trying to impose their permissive carry-laws on the rest of us.

Maybe if New Yorkers are made to accept their guns, they should be forced to accept our gay marriages.

Show me the blood?

Video of Zimmerman entered the police station has been released. I don't see any blood. I don't see any grass stains. I don't see anybody who looks faintly like they were on the loosing end of a fight. The clothes look neat and unripped and he's walking well. I don't see how it coincides with the police report.

All that said, Zimmerman's nose is a bloody (or not) distraction. Zimmerman's condition, though interesting, is irrelevant to the actually issues which matter. Namely that Martin, who was walking home and minding his own business, was shot and killed by a man who remains free. None of those facts, best I know, have ever been disputed.

Here's a link to a Sanford government website that offers some answers to many questions.

Update, April 21: There is some blood. And no, it's not life threatening. It's also still irrelevant. And I can't help but think that perhaps Zimmerman deserved a little ass-whupping for his incorrect pursuit of Martin.

March 27, 2012

March 26, 2012

Cures Malaria

There's a great picture of Baltimore' harbor from 1903 over at Shorpy.

Irving Louis Horowitz, Sociologist and Ideological Critic, Dies at 82

From the New York Times:
Irving Louis Horowitz, an eminent sociologist and prolific author who started a leading journal in his field but who came to fear that his discipline risked being captured by left-wing ideologues, died on Wednesday in Princeton, N.J. He was 82.
...
Though many considered him a neoconservative, he professed no political allegiance. In a 2007 article, he argued that Fidel Castro, the Communist Cuban leader, and Francisco Franco, the conservative leader of Spain, were equivalent tyrants.
...
In a journal article, he denounced leftist advocacy, writing, “You do not get good science by being politically correct.”

March 25, 2012

Conservatives on Trayvon

I'm a little shocked to see so many conservatives (on social media, mostly) not exactly defend the killing of Trayvon Marin, but try and turn the tables or say, "what's the big deal?"

I've heard or read all of the following:

1) Zimmerman had his nose broken before he shot.

2) Blacks kill whites all the time.

3) Holder is a racist.

4) We only care about this because the victim was black and the killer wasn't (see #2).

5) We shouldn't judge because we don't know all the facts.

6) Actually, the Stand Your Ground law shouldn't apply in this situation.

All this talk is insane. What people do not understand is that people are most upset not at the crime or the race of the victim, but because the killer of an innocent teenager hasn't been charged with a crime!

Why is this so hard to grasp?

Sure, some who don't understand the point are just racist. But most, I think, actually just have such a gut reaction to any perceived liberal issue that they just take the other side.

If, after all, you think the country is at war with liberals and white-hating Obama and socialists and the 2nd Amendment and national health care, you can't let your guard down just because one innocent kid was killed.

Why is it so hard to let your culture-war guard down and say, gosh, maybe the NRA and Republicans advocated a bad law and maybe Trayvon shouldn't have been followed, assaulted, and killed? And maybe the killer should be charged with a crime, to be settled in a court of law.

Update: If (like many liberals I know) you have no conservative friends, see this piece for an example of "not getting it" and to learn what the other side is saying:
Last weekend in the city of Chicago alone, gangbangers slaughtered ten people and wounded another forty. The youngest fatality is only six years old. The youngest person wounded is only one-year-old. Many of the victim were pedestrians sprayed with bullets in drive by shootings. The national news has said nothing about this.

So why does one shooting in Florida warrant weeks of national news? Why has there been thousands of articles a day, for the last four days, about one single shooting?

Almost all of the news items about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin contains a combination of false statements, opinions presented as facts, transparent distortions, and a complete absence of some of the most relevant details.
...
I think you will come to the conclusion that the "mainstream" clearly is pushing an agenda. Even when they have to grossly alter and adjust a story to fit that agenda.

March 24, 2012

Officer who shot first at Sean Bell is fired

The departmental wheels of justice turn very slowly, but they do indeed turn. It's been six years since Sean Bell was killed. Leaving aside the merits of the case against the officers (If I remember correctly, I think my position was that the officers indeed were not criminally guilty, except maybe the officer who fired first), note that Ray Kelly didn't have to do this. It's not like this is still much in the public's eye. It's not like he'll gain politically from this (unless, however, he runs for mayor). Maybe he just thought it was the right thing to do.

From the New York Times:
Law enforcement officials said word of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly’s decision came late Friday. Detective Isnora, an 11-year veteran, will not collect a pension, one official said. “He loses everything,” the official said.

March 21, 2012

Up With Chris Hayes

I'll be on my favorite intelligent TV show again this Saturday, 8-10AM (Eastern Time). MSNBC. Man oh man do I hate the idea of setting my alarm for 6:30AM. But it should be fun.

"There are police and there are police"

I received a very gracious and lengthy email from a very prominent professor (which in and of itself was thrilling). He read Cop in the Hood and wrote, in part:
There are police and there are police. They all look similar to the general public because they are all (most, at least) in similar uniforms, wear badges and carry firearms. But departments and even individual officers differ enormously. What is common practice in one police department may be unthinkable in another. I suppose it was natural for me to settle on the importance of this rather obvious point only after I moved into retirement as I had the opportunity to reflect on the thousands of officers I got to know individually over the years and the hundreds of agencies that I got to know in varying degrees both here in the U.S. and in other countries. Understandably, I found myself rebelling at some of your descriptions and analyses of policing in Baltimore and New York City because they were in such sharp contrast with what I've learned about policing elsewhere....

There in, it seems to me, is one of the major challenges for your generation. Why is it that we have such variations? Why are some departments so committed to prevention over apprehension or meaningless patrol? Why are some departments so committed to protecting the civil rights of everyone with whom they are in contact, and others so flagrant in their violation of them? Why are some individual police officers so thoughtless, and others so thoughtful? Why do some agencies handle protests in ways that protect the right of protesters, and others almost guaranteed to provoke conflict? I wish I had another fifty years in which to explore along these lines.
What do you think? Anyone have ideas? What are the answers? Bueller...?

March 20, 2012

Investigating Beheadings, 12 Officers Slain in Mexico

Ten beheadings in Mexico wasn't enough to make me post.... But then killing 12 police officers who came to investigate? That's hardcore. From the New York Times. Let me know when we start winning this war.

March 16, 2012

William Hackley, Baltimore police officer, Historian

Retired Baltimore Police Officer and amateur historian William Hackley passed away.

Were it not for Officer Hackley, so much of the history of the BPD would be lost to time.

I never met him, though I think I contributed a few pictures to his website. Give it a look (and get ready for some old-school website music or turn off the sound). There's a lot there.

While Officer Hackley will win no awards for website design, he more than made up for that with his knowledge of, dedication to, and love of the men and women, past and present, of the Baltimore City Police Department.

Rest in peace.

2014 update: The website moved. Now it's here: http://baltimorecitypolicehistory.com/citypolice.

The Ray Kelly Smackdown Hour

Except this time it was Ray Kelly who was doing the smacking down. He gave it back good to the New York City Council on the subject of stop and frisks and violence among minority youths. From the New York Times:
“What I haven’t heard is any solution to the violence problems in these communities — people are upset about being stopped, yet what is the answer?” Mr. Kelly asked Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who had been asking the commissioner to acknowledge that the department’s practice of street stops in minority communities left many people “feeling under siege.”

“What have you said about how do we stop this violence?” Mr. Kelly asked, asserting that violence among minority youth is “something that the government has an obligation to try to solve.”

Ms. Mark-Viverito, whose district includes East Harlem and part of the South Bronx, was now pressed for an answer.

“There needs to be prevention and deeper community-based tactics and strategy” she offered. “Yeah, what is that?” he asked in a dismissive manner.

Ms. Mark-Viverito spent the next few moments trying to exit the debate over police tactics that she had sought, eventually saying, “I think I’ve made my point.”

To that, Mr. Kelly shot back: “I’m not certain what your point is.”
Dammmmmmn.

Of course there is a better solution: smarter stop and frisks, based not on "productivity goals" but on actions of intelligent police officers who have discretion and can distinguish between criminal and non-criminal black man.

But Kelly has a point. It's too easy to criticize the police. It would also help if you actually had some ideas as to how to make police better. And it is the government's obligation to try and solve the problem of violence in minority neighborhoods. It's not that the police are without blame... but don't just blame the police.

Update: Some of the video can be seen here.

Procedural versus substantive justice

There's a great review of William Stuntz's book, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (which I have but have not read). Stuntz was conservative, just FYI. The review is by Leon Neyfakh in the Boston Globe. Stuntz's point is that procedural justice is not the same is real justice. And the trend towards the former, encouraged by liberals, has actually screwed everything up. It's quite convincing, at least in summary form. Neyfakh explains it well, particularly how well intentioned layers have helped screw everything up, with their misguided faith in the magic of procedure:
At the heart of the book is Stuntz’s surprising argument about how we reached this point: that well-intentioned Supreme Court rulings meant to protect defendants from unfair and discriminatory police practices combined with the harsh laws passed in response to the crime wave of the 1960s and ’70s to produce a system that is merciless, destructive, and above all, unjust.
...
Stuntz described it as a chain reaction, set off by the fact that the court had focused all its efforts on procedure, and had failed to impose any substantive limits on what legislators could criminalize and the punishments they could impose.
...
In effect, those rights that the Warren Court gave defendants have become bargaining chips, to be traded away by defense attorneys in exchange for shorter sentences.
...
The practical result, Stuntz writes, is that the criminal justice system is now anything but local, and mostly indifferent to the people whose lives are most directly affected by it. Poor minorities who live in the urban neighborhoods with the most crime are living under laws passed to please middle-class voters who live elsewhere, and processed by a system built to force a guilty plea rather than determine whether they actually deserve to go to prison.
...
“It is the lawyer’s conceit to believe, on some level, that if you can get the procedure to be perfect, that will ensure that the results will be perfect,” said Joseph Hoffmann, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who has known Stuntz since the two of them clerked together on the Supreme Court. “It’s the way most lawyers look at the world....They would say procedural justice is how you get to substantive justice.”
Alas, the real world doesn't work that way.

March 15, 2012

Police Apologize For Job Poorly Done

It doesn't happen often. But here it is. Oh, no, it's not a US police force. That would be a sign of weakness. Wouldn't be prudent. Might admit legal liability.

March 13, 2012

Tony Bennett Is Great

I didn't know that Tony Bennett came out for drug legalization.

Tony Bennett is a hometown hero here in Astoria, Queens. I mean, I've had more than a few debates with old timers about how great Tony Bennett is. And it's strange, because we'd both be on the same side.

Old man: "Tony Bennett is great."

Me: "Yes, he is."

Old man: "Did you know he's from Astoria?"

Me: "Yes, I did. He sure is great."

Old man: "I'm telling you, he's better than Frank."

Me: "I agree. He sure is. Frank is overrated. Tony, underrated."

Old man: "Tony Bennett is great, I tell you."

Me: "I couldn't agree more."

And then they'd start getting all huffy.

Tony Bennett, by the way way, returns the love (the video is worth watching, if you like Tony Bennett, and who doesn't?):
"The finest place to live," Mr. Bennett, 82, said as he showed a reporter his favorite haunts [in Astoria]. "I’ve been all over the world — Paris and Florence and Capri — and yet I come back here and I like this better than any place I’ve ever lived."
So you may wonder why the fancy new public arts school here in Astoria in named the "Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School. I mean, Frank Sinatra isn't from Astoria! And besides, as we all know, Tony Bennett is better than Frank.

Well, it turned out that Tony Bennett wanted it this way. The whole school was his idea, but he declined the honor of having it named after him. He asked that the school be named after his friend, Frank Sinatra. What a champ, Tony Bennett is. Did you know he's from Astoria?

In all that back and forth I almost missed this piece by my fellow members of LEAP, Niell Franklin and Katharine Celantano, about Tony Bennett.

I hear he's a great man.

You Can't Blame the Police

I wrote in the New York Times:
Much — though by no means all — of the disproportionate rate of blacks stopped, frisked, arrested, convicted and imprisoned is a simple reflection of violence in poor African-American communities. Like robbing banks because that’s where the money is, the obvious reason police focus so much of their attention on the young male black community is because that is where the murders are.

It’s not politically correct to say so, but reality isn't politically correct. Over 90 percent of New York City's 536 murder victims last year were black or Hispanic. Just 48 victims were white or Asian. The rate of white homicide in the city (1.18 per 100,000) is incredibly low, even by international standards.
This is from a greater "debate" titled "Young, Black and Male in the United States." What's odd about these New York Times's "debates" is that they're not debates. There are eight people contributing (for no pay) independently of each other, none of whom have any idea what the others are saying. This may or may not lead to good points being made, but it is a bit of shame it's not a real debate.

Update: And a few stats that didn't make it in my piece, for reasons of relevancy and style.

Leaving aside domestic violence, how many of the roughly 1.3 million white women in New York City were murdered last year by a stranger (ie: leaving out the 34 cases of domestic-related violence)?

Zero. Zero.

And 31% of domestic violence murder victims were male. Because compared to other locales, in terms of crime New York has a strangely broad definition of "domestic." In most places domestic violence means you are or have had sex with somebody. In New York it means living under the same roof.

March 11, 2012

A most fabulous correction

From Salon.com, regarding an interview they did with me:
The June 20, 2011, story “Could Flogging Solve Our Prison Crisis” initially stated that “the Corrections Corporation of America helped draft anti-immigration laws,” a reference to the draft legislation that later became Arizona SB 1070. CCA has brought it to our attention that although CCA did have a representative at the ALEC meeting where model legislation similar to 1070 was drafted, CCA was not involved in drafting the language. The story has been corrected. [Correction made 3/8/12]
Of course. Their man sat quietly the whole time playing solitaire. I regret the error.

"Moskos, your thoughts!"

There were many periods of silence in the police academy. The environment didn't exactly encourage free and independent thinking.

During these awkward moments, Agent Cassidy, when he was in the room, was fond of bellowing out, often apropos of nothing, "Moskos, your thoughts!" Thirteen years later, these might be most (only?) remembered words from the academy class of 99-5.

David Simon writes about Cassidy in the Sun (unfortunately, it seems, behind their new pay wall). You can't say "if it weren't for bad luck, Cassidy would have no luck at all." He's had his share of good luck. He's alive, right? But he's had more that many people's share of rotten luck as well.

Now Cassidy has end-state liver cirrhosis. Seems he got Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion after being shot. He needs a new liver. Cassidy was shot in 1987 trying to apprehend a man wanted for partially blinding an old man who had the gumption to tell the bastard to stop beating a girl. Cassidy pulled up on a corner and tried to take him in. There was a fight. Cassidy doesn't remember the rest, because he took a couple of bullets from a .357, one at point blank range to the forehead. But for some reason Cassidy didn't die, though he did lose 100 percent of his sight, smell, and taste.

Cassidy went on with life, had kids, learned to get by with a guide dog, went to work, got a masters degree, and began teaching law class in the police academy. (Then, outside of shooting and driving, the only well-taught class in the Baltimore police academy. He said he wanted his kids to see him go to work everyday.)

Cassidy's shooter was later arrested and (barely) convicted. Seems most of the fine city jury had no opinion and simply wanted to go home (I had forgotten these details):
A college student training to be a special education teacher, the young juror, allied with an older woman, fought a pitched battle to bring the rest of the jury around. It was a transforming experience, so much so that years later, that juror would be a Baltimore City prosecutor, her life changed by the experience in that jury room.
It would be another 12 years, during my time on the force, after the killing of Officer Kevon Malik Gavin, before a city jury would actually be stupid enough to let a cop-killer walk free.

Because of the Cassidy shooting, tactics in Baltimore changed. We wait for backup (right?) before putting the cuffs on a suspect. We don't put people against walls they can push off of and spin around on us. Also, we're inspired by Cassidy's life and more thankful for some abilities we are all too quick to take for granted.

"You know what I would have done differently?," Cassidy says in a video in his memorable staccato delivery, "Very simple. I would have taken that day off. Right?"

From the FOP Lodge #3:
Another 'Signal 13' goes out for Police Agent Gene Cassidy who was shot in 1987.

Baltimore City FOP Lodge 3 is holding a Blood Drive/Liver Donor Information at the FOP Hall on Monday, March 19th from 11:00am-6:00pm. This Blood Drive is in Honor of all Injured Police Officers, Firefighters, Medics and our Military Personnel serving the United States overseas. Come out and support one of our own heroes - Gene Cassidy of the Western District.
Here's me with Agent Cassidy and my parents, on the day of my graduation from the police academy, April 14, 2000.

America causes Christian Exodus

We did so in Iraq. Syria will probably be next. I'm not too confident about Egypt... but that wasn't our fault. Still, shouldn't we be more supporting of strong secular leaders?

I'm not generally one to comment on geo-political religious issues. I'm not really religious, myself. But I do think it's shame, and strange, that country by country, American presence seems to mark the end of religious communities, usually Christian, that have survived, literally, for millennia.

March 10, 2012

What Kind of Country?

A very good episode of This American Life. Specifically about Trenton, paying too much tax, paying too little tax, budget cuts, and policing. Notice (what is still denied by many academics) the basic link between cutting police, ineffective policing, and rising crime. Or course it could always be just coincidence. Except it isn't.

[thanks to Admiral de Ruiterweg]

No New News

I'm about to read the Village Voice's one-sided new "scoop" about Adrian Schoolcraft. I'm going to predict it says 1) there was pressure to reduce crime stats, 2) there was pressure to reduce crime stats, 3) the NYPD makes a surprisingly good faith effort to get to the bottom of the issue, and 4) keep in mind (this won't in the article) everything Schoolcraft has done has been motivated by his desire to sue the NYPD for a lot of money.

I'll be happy to be surprised and admit I was wrong....

Here's what I've written about Schoolcraft in the past.

Update: Well, not to brag, but I told you so. I'd like to emphasize #3, which of course the Voice holds against the NYPD. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

I wrote about juking the stats in February, 2010. And I mentioned this problem back as early as April 2009, when I even got on my soap box and warned young officers: don't do it.

A year later I wrote this, after Schoolcraft went public:
All [Schoolcraft] seems to show is something we all should already know. In the NYPD, everybody is under intense pressure to produce good "stats" (arrests and citations) and reduce bad stats (crime numbers).
Schoolcraft isn't the first to point this out. He's just the only one, in my humble opinion, who has tried to martyr himself and turn number fudging into a tidy personal $50 million profit for him. He and his father have tried twice before to sue police departments for money. Maybe the third time is the charm.

The more things change... March 10, 1830

When I was a cop, we got a memo stating the mayor's young daughter thought we had a dirty parking lot. The best response (from Gotti, naturally) implied something that would definitely be illegal, even with consent. Reminds me of this:
The Superintendents will take the greatest care that nothing is permitted, either by noise at relief hours, or by any irregularity or want of cleanliness in the Station house, or neighbourhood of it, which may justly give cause of complaint or annoyance of the inhabitants of the vicinity.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

March 9, 2012

Prohibition Corrupts Cops

Funny how a few illegal searches for drugs might cost your job and next thing you know, you, the "good guy," is in prison. Why did you do it, Sarge? Was it worth it? Did you really think you going to win the drug war? From the Times:
Mr. Eiseman, who lost his job as a result of his guilty plea, had supervised the Impact Response Team, made up mostly of recent Police Academy graduates like Officer Carsey, in Upper Manhattan. The unit patrols high-crime neighborhoods.

Mr. Eiseman, 39, and Officer Carsey, prosecutors said, said they had smelled marijuana coming from an illegally parked van. In seeking a search warrant for the driver’s home, both testified that the man had admitted to having contraband in his apartment, where drugs and a gun were later found. But the two had actually learned of the contraband when they found pictures on the man’s phone, prosecutors said. The case against the driver was eventually dismissed.

March 8, 2012

Trouble in the Eastern

Off-duty officer accused of some pretty bad stuff. From the Sun:
Law enforcement sources say the .22-caliber rifle believed to have been used in the shooting was found inside his personal vehicle. Two boys, ages 12 and 13, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter; the officer has not been charged with any crime.
So much bad going on here. I got no special insight. But if you do, let me know.

The more things change... March 8, 1830

In issuing to the Police Force the new badge to be worn when the men are on Duty, the Superintendents will fully explain that the object in view is to prevent the constant complaints that would be made by the public on seeing those of the Police Force who are not on Duty walking or talking together, which they will not be able to do without that unpleasant consequence; the badge will be worn on the left arm, just above the cuff.
Source: Metropolitan Police. Instructions Orders &c. &c. 1836. London: W. Clowes & Sons.

March 7, 2012

NYPD's Muslim surveillance

I haven't said anything about the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims because, well, I have nothing to say. If it's legal and good, I'm for it. If it's illegal and bad, I'm against it. If it's illegal and good, well then it better be damn good!

But I have no clue. So I've kept my mouth shut.

But what if it's legal and bad? That's a possibility raised by an FBI agent, writes Al Baker in the New York Times.

March 5, 2012

Six Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying

#6. "Well, $500,000 a Year Might Sound Like a Lot, but I'm Hardly Rich."

#5. "Hey, I Worked Hard to Get What I Have!"

#4. "If I Can Do It, So Can You!"

#3. "You're Just Jealous Because I Made It and You Didn't!"

#2. "You Shouldn't Be Punishing the Very People Who Make This Country Work!"

#1. "Stop Asking for Handouts! I Never Got Help from Anybody!"

For the long and thoughtful explanations of each, go to cracked.com.

[thanks to somebody for liking this on facebook]

Happy Pulaski Day!

Pulaski Day was our favorite day off from school, growing up in Illinois. Even then we knew it was special.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
But why is Casimir Pulaski honored here rather than any other Polish war hero from the Revolutionary War? Because Pulaski is easier to pronounce than Kosciuszko.
There you have it. Here in New York, Pulaski and Kosciuszko are just a couple of bridges between Queens and Brookyln. And we get Jewish holidays off.

March 3, 2012

James Q. Wilson

James Q. Wilson passed away yesterday. From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
James Q. Wilson's Practical Humanity

James Q. Wilson made me a cop, even though I never met the man. I think I heard him give a conference talk once. Many say that Wilson, who died Friday after a battle with leukemia, was a kind and nurturing soul. Indeed, I hope he was. But to me his compassionate nature was exemplified by his commitment to broader society. More so than any other academic, and over the course of many decades, Wilson influenced intelligent American public discourse inside and outside academia.

I cannot be the only one who finds it difficult to comprehend the intellectual world as I know it without Wilson's ideas. I knew him primarily through his contributions to policing, but his legacy spans political science, criminology, sociology, philosophy, and economics. Most impressively, that intellectual breadth did not limit his contributions to each field. Quite the contrary. Wilson was able to use the methods and nomenclature of various fields without succumbing to the intellectual blinders that so compartmentalize academic research. Compared to you and me, Wilson, who taught at Harvard, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University, simply had more tools in his toolbox. And boy did he know how to use them.

While many, myself included, may disagree with some of Wilson's more politically conservative leanings, one cannot question the intellectually honesty from which they came. Undoubtedly a few will be quick, too quick, to dismiss or embrace Wilson as some conservative warrior in the Great American Culture Wars. The label doesn't stick.
Click through for the rest.

Here's the NYT obit. And a better obit in the LA Times, in which George Kelling says, "[Jim and I] gave police a rationale to pay attention to the problems bothering citizens."

On Deadline. On Writing. On Editors. On Getting Paid.

In line with my last post, I got an email around noon yesterday from my favorite editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education. We worked together on my flogging piece.

He asked if I could write 1,000 words on James Q. Wilson. Quickly. For $500. Why, yes, I replied, I think I can. I've always been pretty good with the op-ed length. And $500 is pretty good pay for 1,000 words. On this blog, 1,000 words pays me $0.

So I went into my all-too-rare "on deadline" mode. It's just like those newspaper reporters you see in old movies. Writing a book, I average about 100 words a day. So I rather like writing on deadline. It helps me get shit done. So I turned off the internets and got cranking. Six hours and three drafts later, just before few friends rang my doorbell, I had 1,000 decent words. I ripped the paper out of my warm humming typewriter and yelled "Copy!" (Actually, I just sent an email.)

I got a reply pretty quickly saying it wasn't crap (every writer's fear). Actually, in the editor's words: "I think this reads really nicely and has a refreshingly different spin than most of the ink that will be spilled on Wilson this week." I'm happy with that. So I was able to go to bed happy that my time and effort were not wasted.

This morning I had a little coffee and my draft came back to me, magically improved. Wilson's bio had been filled in. Umpteen parenthetical phrases magically got pared down to three. Syntax improved. The opening line was better.

I do love me a good editor. Nothing better than going to bed, and while I was dreaming of microphones dispensing samples of tasty Asian beef broth (what can I say? That was my dream), it was like little elves--very literate and skilled elves--were hard at work, fixing my work. Just like those little scrubbing bubbles on the TV ad. And then, at the end, everything is all shiny and I get all the credit. Strange world, the writing world is. (So thanks again, Alex, all the other fine editors I've worked with.)

Today we clarified a few minor edits. For instance, my editor flagging "Wilson's co-authors spanned the political spectrum." We decided it would be better (ie: more true) to refer to the "authors in volumes Wilson edited."

I said that "somewhat intellectually dishonest" should be put back in a parenthetical phrase since I'm taking a step back from a more authoritarian author's voice to make what is, honestly, a snide little comment.

And I changed "practitioners who liked Wilson and Kelling got their hands dirty" to "practitioners who liked Broken Windows got their hand dirty." Why? Because Kelling actually did get his hands dirty. And by listing his name in that context, it makes it sound like he didn't. More accurately we could have said something like, "practitioners who liked Broken Windows, including co-author Kelling, got their hands dirty." But that didn't flow as well. And besides, this piece isn't about Kelling (a very good man). It's about Wilson.

Such edits may seem minor. But they're important. And parsing and manipulating phrases for meaning and clarity is the part of writing and editing I actually love. (It's creating the damn words on a blank screen that drives me bonkers!)

And then it's done. I'm pleased to write a piece about James Q. Wilson. He was a monumental figure in criminal justice. And besides, $500 for a day's work (plus a few hours) ain't bad. Mitt Romney makes $500 every 12 minutes and 7 seconds.

March 1, 2012

"Up With Chris Hayes" book sales bump?

You might wonder (I certainly do): Does being on national TV for half an hour and having your book plugged in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers actually help book sales?

Not really. Now my sales did triple for that week. Yes they did... but we're still only talking an additional 25 copies sold. Nationwide. For both my books.


These are absolute numbers (and no, the scale isn't "thousands"), and it probably represents about half the number of total sales.

At this feverish pace Flogging would sell about 500 copies a year. Keep it up and in about 22 years I'll have earned back my decent ($22,000) advance and would start getting royalties. Bookmark 2034 for a big party.

The good news is that Cop in the Hood is still selling pretty well, especially considering it's been out for a few years. This is due to professors (very smart professors, I might add) assigning the book in their classes. (#3Cheers4Indoctrination)

My meager advance ($3,150, if one subtracts the indexing fee) from the estimable Princeton University Press was paid off pretty quickly. So now I get about a buck for each copy sold. It comes out to about $1,000 a year. This money is my favorite kind: free money. But no, books do not let me quit my day job (luckily I like my day job) or live the high life (I can always buy a few six-packs of the High Life).

Give or take (off the top of my head), I think I've earned about $15,000 from Cop in the Hood. Nice for an academic book. Not so nice if you consider it took, on and off, from start to finish, nine years to research and write. Of course during that time I did work as a cop, get a PhD, and then the nice job I have now. So I can't complain. And as a professor, publishing serves purposes other than money, such as getting tenure, promotion, and respect in the field.

What I would like to do is tip my cap to writers who actually manage, against all odds, to earn a learning. As full-time job, it's tough, low-paid work without health insurance. (On the plus side, you can wear your bathrobe all day.)

As to my day job, the taxpayers of New York State pay me (an eighth-year tenured professor) $74,133 a year. That will go up just a bit with my recent promotion to associate professor. I tell you this not to gloat (I'd have to make a lot more if I wanted to gloat) or to thank the taxpayers (though I do), but because I believe it's good to be open about income. I've explained this rational before. Knowledge is power. And workers need more of both.

Besides, if releasing your tax returns is good enough for Mitt, it's good enough for me! If I can read my tax returns correctly (my wife does those, around here), we paid an income tax rate (federal, state, and local) of 20 percent (gross income) or 25 percent (taxable income).

In 2010, Mitt Romney was unemployed, but he did manage to make my annual salary each and every 30 hours of the year. His tax rate was 14 percent. Now that's the American way.

I'd prefer him to pay more rather than me pay less.