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by Peter Moskos

June 28, 2014

Who made that? And when?

The mighty flex-cuff...

Anybody know when they first appeared? I do not. And I just get a query from MOMA asking me them and I'll be damned, I have no idea. I'd like to know the answer.
I write to you with the hope that you might help with our research. We are featuring Flexicuffs and Bite/Spit Masks (the plastic iterations of both) in an upcoming post and have run into a dead end regarding their provenance. With all design objects featured on the site, we do our best to include as much "museum caption" information as possible. Unfortunately, we have found very little information as to when these two objects came into being in their plastic forms. For example, the most specific date we have for the plastic handcuffs is "1960s."

By chance do you have any additional information that would help us fill in the gaps? We have been in contact with both the Police Museum as well as the NYPD (in addition to our own independent research) and continue to draw a blank.
Personally, I always liked using proper metal handcuffs because they're easier (and more fun) to put on, but then you had to take them off to trasnfer a prisoner to the wagon. So if you knew you were going to arrest somebody, you always brought the flex-cuffs. No fuss, no muss. (Except that one time when one dumbass "unarrested" somebody and decided to remove the flex-cuffs with his pocket knife. It was a minor cut, but still...)

June 27, 2014

"Just the world we live in"

A stun grenade exploded in a baby’s face. According to the BBC:
The Swat officers had used a stun grenade, called a flash bang, as they entered the residence. The device, which creates bright bursts of light and noise to temporarily disorient its targets, landed in 19-month-old Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh's playpen, where it burned the child's face and created a gash on his chest deep enough to expose his ribs.
OK. I mean it may be standard to use SWAT teams and flash grenades, but that isn't supposed to happen. But mistakes do happen. So I bet the chief is pretty apologetic.

But not in Habersham County, Georgia. According to Sheriff Joey Terrell:
Our team went by the book. Given the same scenario, we'll do the same thing again. I stand behind what our team did.... Bad things can happen. That's just the world we live in. Bad things happen to good people.... The baby didn't deserve this.
I'm sorry, but that's not good enough.

I mean look, I know this is just another example of our idiotic war on ourselves, I mean drugs. That's nothing new. And bad things do happen to good people. But that doesn't mean bad things should happen to good people at the hands of police. And when they do, as they inevitably will sometimes, you say you're sorry, figure out what you did wrong so it doesn't happen again, and probably shell out some dough to the victim.

When "the book" results in innocent babies being maimed by police, then rewrite the fucking book, you brainless fool! What you don't do is say no mistakes were made, and you would do the same thing again. See, if you did the same thing again in the same situation, then the same thing would happen again. And if you're OK with that, then you're a dick.

From the BBC:
Meanwhile, Bou Bou Phonesavanh is no longer in a coma, but he is still undergoing hospital-based rehabilitation. His long-term prognosis has yet to be determined.

Wanis Thonetheva, the original target of the raid, was eventually located and arrested for drug possession. As the Guardian's Pilkington notes, police officers knocked on his door, and he went with them without resistance.
That's worth repeating: "Police officers knocked on his door, and he went with them without resistance." Wow, so you mean the whole SWAT team / flash-grenade thing was unnecessary? Why... yes.

Anyhow... with Thonetheva off the streets, I'm sure it must now be impossible to get meth in Habersham County.

Update: It's worth noting, and it's taken me a while to realize this, that this is the same jurisdiction and sheriff that were involved with the killing of innocent Rev. Jonathan Ayers in 2009. It's amazing to me that such multiple instances of gross incompetence in law enforcement could come out of the same small place.

June 17, 2014

Thomas Frazier directs the Oakland Police Department to comply

I was just spell checking Thomas Frazier's last name for something I'm writing and learned, though the wonders of google, that Frazier is now running the Oakland Police Department. And he's running it in a way I've never heard of:
The former Baltimore police commissioner, who rose up the ranks in San Jose, is accountable only to the federal judge who last week appointed him to ram through reforms that Oakland police were supposed to have completed five years ago.

Despite the modest title of compliance director, Frazier, 68, will have authority to overrule top commanders, spend city funds and even oust Chief Howard Jordan and demote his deputies if he determines they are obstacles to the decade-old reform drive.

Frazier is the guy who originally approved my Baltimore research, though he was gone before I got there. He and Kurt Schmoke were universally disliked by the time I got to Baltimore in late 1999. Among the rank-and-file, Frazier was never able to live down his line about police being "social workers with guns."
"He won't be intimidated by any outcry from the rank-and-file or the public," said Gary McLhinney, the former head of Baltimore's police union and a staunch Frazier critic. "When he gets an idea in his head, he'll run with it. He doesn't care if it's popular."
"Academics loved Tom; rank-and-file cops despised him" McLhinney said. "Tom was into the community policing model really to the extreme. He wasn't really interested in locking up bad guys. That wasn't his focus."
Between 1995 and 2000, murders in Baltimore dropped from 325 to 261.

There's some irony that Frazier is now trying to clean up the mess in Oakland that Anthony Batts, now the Baltimore police commissioner, couldn't fix.

June 3, 2014

Number two, shooting for number one

The good people over at How-to-Become-a-Police-Officer.com have just informed me that by some fancy measures they use, I have the second most popular law enforcement blog. How 'bout that?

I wouldn't complete trust that list since it doesn't include Second City Cop which is quite good and has many more readers, judging from the number of comments. But hey, who can argue with numbers?
The problem with good cop blogs is they don't last long. I can keep going because I'm no longer a cop. But if you are on the job, no good can come from keeping a blog. And trouble is always just one click away. I just went through my blog role and eliminated far too many moribund links.


I just found this photoshopped file in an old folder on my computer. I honestly have no idea who made it or how I got it. (Needless to say, it is not a original comic and has nothing to do with creator of the comic.)

June 2, 2014

"Woman Not Guilty of Chemical Warfare; Constitution Saved"

Nice article by Garrett Epps in The Atlantic about Bond v. United States, prosecutorial overreach, and rare victory for the 10th Amendment:
There’s an established rule of construction called the avoidance doctrine: If there are two ways of reading a statute, and one way would cause a serious constitutional problem, a court should read it the other way. That’s what the majority in Bond did. It concluded that Congress did not intend its statute to extend to local disputes like the Bond-Hayes feud.
Prosecutorial overreach happens every day. It is to the Court’s credit that six of its justices contented themselves with addressing this real problem, leaving the terrifying specter of treaty abuse for a case that really presents it.

Bratton tweak Operation Impact...

...By putting rookie officers with more veteran officers. This should have been a no-brainer years ago. Partnering dumb with dumber -- both right out of the police academy, both sometimes clueless white boys from Long Island -- was never a brilliant idea (though even then it did help reduce crime). Rookie cops faced with quota pressure who could not distinguish class differences in the ghetto led to a lot of unwarranted stops, questionably legal marijuana arrests, and political backlash that hurt the NYPD. It also reinforcing the idea that foot patrol was just something to be endured before you got to become real police.

The story in the Daily News.

Law and Order, 1932

From Shorpy.com:
Washington, D.C., 1932. "Metropolitan police officer on motorcycle." Keeping the peace in the gashouse district. Harris & Ewing glass negative. Full size image.

June 1, 2014

Cops aren't shrinks

The headline in the Daily News says "Cops talked to Elliot Rodger three times before Santa Barbara killing spree, didn't know he owned guns"

So what? What if police did know he had three legally purchased guns and ammo? How would have that changed anything. There was no crime.

Anyone who wonders why cops didn't do more doesn't understand police. When police deal with an individual, the bottom line is only two things matter: 1) Has the person committed a felony crime? (A few states, like New York, but I don't know how many others, allow police to arrest for not-witnessed lesser crimes as well) 2) Is the person a threat to themselves or others?

Certainly owning your legal and constitutionally protected firearms doesn't qualify as a crime, so the latter issue is more relevant here. Far be it from me or any cop to say this guy was going to shoot a bunch of people. If you can remain calm and hold a half reasonable conversation with police, congrats: by police standards, you're officially sane enough! That's the way it works. (The standards are quite a bit stricter in domestic situations.)

So when cops have to judge someone's sanity, and I say this out of experience, all they can do is look for obvious signs of crazy. I'm not talking about zany, eccentric, or senile. I mean even walking around in your underwear because you say snakes were crawling up your legs probably does not qualify (cause that's a sign of a bad drug trip). By crazy I'm talking about loopy tin-foil hat wearing. I'm talking actively delusional. I'm talking no-awareness-of-reality insane. Cops look for crazy; cops look for insane. But crazy and insane aren't medical terms found in the DSM-V.

There's the problem: cops aren't shrinks; cops are not medical doctors. It is not and it should be the police officer's job to diagnose mental illness. If you haven't committed a crime and you're not clearly a threat to yourself or others, police shouldn't be able to detain and involuntarily commit you to the funny farm.

Take this case I handled during field training:
Dealt with the same mental patient in a high rise that I dealt with one or two days ago. Swearing, exposing himself, thinking the whole building was his, just being a big crazy problem. Obviously, he was a horrible person to have around. He also couldn't remember that we was in jail the past week and that he wasn't on his medication. The building management wanted him out with justification. Eventually, his mother and a "friend" talked him into going to the hospital. (The friend, an older black guy who lived in the building, was not actually a friend, but at least he was a good and caring man.)
What would have been the right thing if he hadn't gone voluntarily? Cops can't make somebody take their meds. Plan B could have been to provoke him into threatening us, thus giving us a reason to take him against his will. Otherwise, his mother would have had to go through a lengthy civil process to get him committed. Or we just leave him there till he does hurt somebody. He needs help, but, as is often the case, help police cannot give.

Cops do not like mental cases and generally don't handle them well. Though admittedly some cops handle them much better than others. In certain situations police need to focus on more goal-oriented tactics -- like what is the best way to get this person to do exactly what I want him or her to do -- rather than demanding deference to police authority as a starting point. Some of this could be taught with better training, but police will never be great handlers of the mentally ill. The power of police is to detain people; the tools of police can kill people. Neither is right for the job.

Luckily, there's actually an easy solution: psychiatrists and mental health professionals. Doctors on call with judgement and the power of involuntary detention. Of course it would cost some money upfront, but in the grand scheme it saves because their prisons don't house their mentally ill. When I did my police research in Amsterdam, there was this white car with some writing on the side and a yellow mars light on top. They were the shrink squad. We, as police, didn't deal have to deal too much with these professionals because, get this, they dealt with the crazies and we dealt with the criminals. Imagine that. Separate groups. Sometimes the two worlds would overlap, but not that often. Yes, this is another un-American socialist European concept: have a system to deal with the mentally ill. Now that is crazy.