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by Peter Moskos

December 30, 2013

A tale of two cities

Murder in Baltimore is at a four-year high.

Murder in New York City is at a record low.

Meanwhile, from Justin Fenton's Baltimore Sun article, in other cities:
Homicides across the country
Oakland, Calif. — down 25 percent (as of Dec. 12)
Philadelphia — down 24 percent (as of Dec. 16)
Flint, Mich. — down 22 percent (as of Dec. 18)
New Orleans — down 22 percent (as of Nov. 14)
Chicago — down 19 percent (as of Dec. 8)
Detroit — down 14.6 percent (as of Dec. 18)
Baltimore — up 8 percent (as of Dec. 24)
Newark, N.J. — up 19 percent (as of Dec. 1)
Washington — up 26 percent (as of Dec. 18)

December 28, 2013

Victory for Free Speech

From CNN: "'Duck Dynasty' resuming 'with the entire Robertson family,' including Phil."

It's only a victory for free speech if you don't like the speech. Seriously.

And now I really want to start watching the show.

A story about Obamaphones

Not they Obamaphones have anything to do with Obama. From the Times.

December 26, 2013

"Decreased Stop and Frisk Causes Crime to Skyrocket in NYC"

Well that's the headline I would have expected to see after listening to Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg (and almost all my police friends) over the past few years. They had me believe that each and every one of those more than 600,000 annual stops in 2011 was absolutely essential to prevent the city from descending into an Orwellian Escape from New York type chaos!

Well this year stop, question, and frisks are down 50 percent and homicides are down another 20 percent (which is really amazing).

Today the city released a press release touting this most recent crime drop (did I mention how amazing this is?!). Interestingly, nothing was said about stop and frisk. How odd.

So while some stop and frisks are needed -- you know, ones based police officers' actual reasonable suspicion that a suspect is armed -- it seem like the NYPD can do just fine, gosh, perhaps even better, while stopping 800 fewer people per day.

The problem when you try and quantify the "productivity" of police work (or almost any occupation) is that those being judged start to play to the stats. Means becomes ends. Ends be damned.

But now Bloomberg barely gives the police any credit at all! Here's the press release:
To: Interested Parties
From: Howard Wolfson
RE: T-Minus 5

Over the last 10 days, Mayor Bloomberg has been to each of the five boroughs, cutting ribbons, touring schools, riding on a new subway extension, visiting new parks, and discussing the incredible progress of the last twelve years.

Today and tomorrow the Mayor will highlight the Administration’s record fighting crime while reducing incarceration rates by visiting a Neighborhood Opportunity Network Center and by attending his final police graduation ceremony to swear in more than 1,100 police recruits.

Under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly crime has fallen in New York City to record lows:

Safest big city in the nation: New York City has fewer major felony crimes per 100,000 residents than any of the nation’s top 25 largest cities.

Total Crime: Down 32% compared to 2001, despite the added demand of counterterrorism, having fewer officers in the ranks, and adding 300,000 more people to the city’s population.

Murder: On pace to have a record low number of murders in 2013 following a record low established in 2012.
Murder is down 49% compared to 2001.

Shootings: On pace to have a record low number of shootings in 2013 following a record low established in 2012.

Terrorism: Since 9/11, there has not been a successful terror attack against New York City, despite the city remaining a top terror target.

At the same time that Ray Kelly and the NYPD have brought crime to record lows, the Bloomberg Administration has actually reduced incarceration rates in New York City by 36% over the last twelve years.

This drop occurred as the national incarceration rate rose by 3% during the same period.

So during the last twelve years, the United States also saw crime declines, but it was achieved by locking more people up. But New York City didn’t reduce crime by locking more people up: in fact the City actually put fewer and fewer of its citizens behind bars as crime fell to record lows.

How? The crime prevention strategies implemented by the NYPD, and under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Gibbs, Commissioners Vincent Schiraldi, Dora Schriro and others the City have expanded use of felony drug courts, alternative-to-incarceration programs for substance abusers, expanded alternatives to jail sentences for misdemeanants, created more effective probation programs and implemented the Young Men’s Initiative, which is reducing increasing opportunities for young black and Latino men and reducing the number of young black and Latino men who are entering the criminal justice system.

The result? New York City is the safest it has ever been.

December 24, 2013

Rolling Santa

And here's a song to put you in the Christmas spirit: Stuck in the Smoke Hole of our Tipi. Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2013

"Obama Care" Seized By Police

Gotta love it!

Are you with Phil Robertson? Or David Bahati?

Phil Robertson is the suspended star of Duck Dynasty.

David Bahati is the Ugandan parliament member sponsoring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill known as “Kill the Gays.”

Guess who said what (answers below):

1) “To me, this exposed the level of intolerance that is inconsistent with American values. But as you know it also strengthen my resolve to carry on a cause that I think is right and just. My resolve is still intact.”

2) “My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

3) Homosexuality “is un-[American/African] because it is inconsistent with [our] values, of procreation and of the belief in the continuity of family.”

4) “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

5) “When an anal organ is used for things it’s not supposed to be used for, it’s hazardous. I don’t need to be taught anything beyond that.”

6) “It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man’s anus,”

7) “We need to turn to God if we have sinned. That is the view of myself as a Christian. But that is not something that is agreed by others, but I hold that view that [homosexuality] is sin and written in the Bible. I cannot change the Bible. And I really want to encourage American Christians and God-fearing people to stand up for what they feel is right.”

8 ) “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

9) “I’m more convinced than I was so many years ago that this evil is real and needs to be fought. But we must say that we don’t hate them, we hate the sin in them.”

10) “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine.”

11) “I am a God fearing person…. We hope it is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.”

12) “If you simply put your faith in Jesus … dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So then we look at you totally different then.”

13) “We are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way.”

14) “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. … I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

15) “Don’t remind me that you took me as a slave. Don’t remind me that you took our resources to enrich your countries. Don’t tell me you’re more superior than I am. You have funded us for over 50 years – have you changed anything? These activists are agents of imperialism and we’re not going to take it easily. They are agents of colonialism. How can you continue to act like slave masters?

16) “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”

17) “Americans believe in freedom, human rights, in the freedom of expression and also tolerance.”

18) Our “family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

19) “There has been a lot of spin, a lot of negative propaganda... It is important that we tolerate one another, listen to on another, understand the background of on another, and respect one another.”

20) “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

21) “I do not hate gays. I love them.”

22) “Why don’t we go back to the old days?”


odd numbers (1, 3, 5, - 21): Ugandan MP David Bahati
even numbers (2, 4, 6, - 22): suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson

December 21, 2013

“Why are cops such assholes?”

This is a question I’ve been asked a surprising number of times (Once by a national TV host during a commercial break). Usually the tone is joking (ie: completely serious). A certain lazy and rude cop in Chicago got me thinking about it.

My answer: “Because they can.”

As a non-asshole (in my humble opinion) former police officer, this is a question I take quite seriously. I think rude policing is actually a bigger problem corrupt and/or brutal policing. The latter categories, quite honestly, are rare. Rude cops are more common and are probably more damaging to policing as a whole.

First let me say that most cops are not assholes. If you think all cops are assholes, there’s a good chance you are one.

But when you ask, “Why are some cops such assholes?” are you really asking, “why was this cop rude to me?” If it’s just the latter, consider A) you refused a lawful order, B) you incorrectly asserted “rights” you don't, in fact, have (often related to A) or C) you asked a really stupid question

But what if the answer is D) None of the above. Then read on.

But certainly we’ve all seen some cops act like dicks. But think about it: if you had to deal with the public at your job, and you could be rude, would you be? Maybe not all of the time... but some of the time?

Have you never been rude to another motorist? Your partner? Your kids? The TV? A minimum wage employee? Well if that’s your personality and you’re a cop, you’re going to be a rude cop. This is not unique to policing (I’ve also heard some rumors about DMV employees). Public servants can be rude because 1) they don’t like their job, 2) they have job security and 3) they have to deal with the public at the public’s discretion.

But it gets more complicated because there are cops being rude and there are rude cops.

Think of three situations of rudeness: sometimes cops should be rude; sometimes cops can be rude; and sometimes cops are just plain rude.

Yes, there are times when police should be rude. Sometimes a stern talking-down-to is needed. It can be an alternative to arrest. Other times something needs to be done quickly and yelling and cursing can sometimes quickly achieve a desired goal. Sometimes.

There are other times when police don’t have to be rude, but I’ll still cut them some slack. Sometimes people do, in fact, ask for it. If you treat police (or anybody) horribly, insert Golden Rule here. I’m not saying these instances represent the apex of police professionalism, but asking a cop “why?” or asserting your “rights” (especially incorrectly, which is usually the case) is not going to endear yourself to an officer of the law. This is John Van Maanen’s (1978) concept of “The Asshole.” Police have a "moral mandate" and need to “maintain their edge” against those who are “culpable and blameworthy for their affronting action.” And if you are not an “asshole” or a “suspicious person, then you are, in Van Maanen’s trichotomy, a “know nothing.” That's the best case scenario. So try and put yourself in the officer’s shoes. Or maybe they’re just having a bad day. Try not to make it worse.

But there’s still the third category of rudeness, the one people ask me about, when police are assholes “for no reason.” “Yes!” they say, “Why was the cop rude to me. For I am not an idiot!” Well, actually...

But let’s assume the officer was just a dick. Yes, even I have seen such instances. There were times when even I couldn’t help but say, why is Enser being such a dick? (just to pick a random but rhyming name)

Because he was a bitter man. Because he was not a better man.

Because he can.

How to prevent assholes who are cops from acting like the assholes they are is not an easy task. Pity the sergeant, but this is where both supervision and peer pressure come into play. And bad officers do not get promoted out of patrol. (And of course, unfortunately, nobody is ever promoted into patrol.)

Here’s my problem with asshole cops: it’s not so much that they’re being an asshole. I can often rationalize that away (see above). No, my problem is that the rude cop is a bad cops. I’m not saying this in a moral sense (“who am I to judge?”) but in a tactical sense.

Rude police are bad police because they don’t do their job efficiently. The witness was going to say something until the cop yelled at him for sticking around.

Rude police are bad police because they don’t do their job safely. The rude cop shows up at a scene, recently calmed, and immediately gets into a pissing contest with some drunkard idiot. The rude cop turns a routine arrest into full-on brawl.

I often half-jokingly (ie: completely seriously) propose that four of the six months of the police academy would be better spend waiting tables at a good restaurant. Restaurants are the perfect training ground: stressful, real world, but rarely life and death. I learned a lot working for tips: multitasking, prioritizing situations (triage), staying calm under pressure, dealing with idiots, communicating efficiently, standing up for a long hours, eating quickly, holding one’s pee, and washing hands as often as possible.

But the most important thing is dealing with obnoxious customers and maintain a professional cool. A lot of customers are assholes. A lot of customers are having bad days. So good waiters learn to achieve their goal while being polite to people they hate. A professional gets the job done and goes you home in one piece. And that’s police rule number one.

(I wrote a similar post 5 years ago)

Idiot walks through bus robbing people at gunpoint, gets beat down

The stories don't usually have happy endings. And it was caught on video.

He then kicked the window out of the police.

But the robber's mother said this was "not within his character." Oh, mom.

December 20, 2013

Why (some) good people don't like cops

Because (some) cops enforce non-existent laws and treat them like sh*t. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about a recent encounter with police on the streets of Chicago:
Catercorner to the volunteers of Safe Passage, two cops sat in an SUV, snug and warm. Our video team was shooting the conversation between our host and the kid. One of the cops rolled down his window and yelled, "Excuse me you need to take your cameras off this corner. It's Safe Passage."
When the officer wanted us to move, there was a very easy way to handle the situation. You step our your car. You introduce yourself. You ask questions about what we're doing. If we are breaking the law, you ask us to move. If we are not breaking the law and simply making your life hard, we are likely to move anyway. You are the power.

The cop did not speak to us as though he were human. He spoke to us like a gangster, like he was protecting his block. He was solving no crime. He was protecting no lives. He was holding down his corner. He didn't even bother with a change of uniform. An occupied SUV, parked at an intersection, announces its masters intentions.

December 19, 2013

Alcohol and drug use down among teens, despite what the headline says

Let's play a game called "write the headline." Here's the story from the New York Times:
According to the latest federal figures, which were part of an annual survey, Monitoring the Future.... The report looked at a wide variety of drugs and substances. It found, for example, that drinking was steadily declining, with roughly 40 percent of high school seniors reporting having used alcohol in the past month, down from a peak of 53 percent in 1997. Abuse of the prescription painkiller Vicodin is half what it was a decade ago among seniors; cocaine and heroin use are at historic lows in almost every grade.

Cigarette smoking has also fallen precipitously in recent years. For the first time since the survey began, the percentage of students who smoked a cigarette in the past month dropped below 10 percent. Roughly 8.5 percent of seniors smoke cigarettes on a daily basis, compared with 6.5 percent who smoke marijuana daily, a slight increase from 2010.

[Also] More than 12 percent of eighth graders and 36 percent of seniors at public and private schools around the country said they had smoked marijuana in the past year. About 60 percent of high school seniors said they did not view regular marijuana use as harmful, up from about 55 percent last year.
How would you summarize this story in one headline?

No matter what you pick, I bet you can beat what what the Times editor came up with: "Increasing Marijuana Use in High School Is Reported"! The exclamation point is mine.

December 6, 2013

14 years on, if I were still a cop

Today is my EOD, just FYI. The day before the day that will live in infamy. I'm thrilled I don't have another 9 to go.

Broken Windows does not equal Zero Tolerance

This article in Slate by Justin Peters is perhaps not the stupidest thing I've ever read on policing. But it is the stupidest thing I've read about Broken Windows since Bratton was announced as the next NYPD commissioner about 20 hours ago.

Peters writes, "Broken-windows strategies and zero-tolerance policing strategies go hand in hand." Well, no. They don't. Bill Bratton is not a defender of Zero Tolerance policing. He never has been. In fact, Broken Windows is the philosophical opposite of Zero Tolerance. Bill Bratton can tell you why this is so. George Kelling can tell you why this is so. Kelling is the guy who coined the phrase and write the "Broken Windows" article (coauthored with James Q. Wilson) in the March, 1982, issue of the Atlantic. (I took a class from Kelling back in the 1990s when I was a graduate student at Harvard.) And I can tell you how. This and why so many seemingly rational people oppose Broken Windows -- often on an ideological level -- is important. And I will tell you this, but not tonight. It's late and I'm going to bed. But I leave you with this:
The equation ... between police order-maintenance activities (“broken windows”) and “zero tolerance” for disorderly behavior raises issues that go beyond semantics. ... It is an equation that I have never made, find worrisome, and have argued against, considering the phrase “zero tolerance” not credible and smacking of zealotry.
--George Kelling "‘Broken Windows’ and Police Discretion." NIJ (1999).

December 5, 2013

Good news from Chicago

NBC Chicago Reports via Atlantic Cities:
Chicago closed out the first 11 months of 2013 with 380 murders, a drop from 474 in the same period of 2012, according to police data. That's the fewest for any year in Chicago since 1965, according to Adam Collins, the Chicago Police Department Director of News Affairs.

De Blasio Names Bratton as New York Police Commissioner

This is exciting news for policing (and police research) in NYC.