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by Peter Moskos

February 29, 2016

My Book List

Not that you asked, but here's a list of (most of) the books I've read in the past two years. Seems like I average one every 20 days.

The best or at least most memorable of the list? In no particular order: One Righteous Man; The Warmth of Other Suns; A Curious Man; Longitude; Jacksonland; The Faithful Executioner; The Fall of the Ottomans; Boom, Bust, Exodus; The Moor's Account; History of the Jews; In the Kingdom of Ice; and The City & The City.

It's mostly history, I can't help but notice, and a bit sociological. And just two fiction books (and one of those was historical).

The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman

The Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford

New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in... by Jill Lepore

The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America by D. Watkins

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

Washington: A History of Our National City by Tom Lewis

Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads by Paul Theroux

One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the... by Arthur Browne

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the... by Amy Chua

Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier by Hampton Sides

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great... by Isabel Wilkerson

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and... by Thor Hanson

The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in... by Joel F. Harrington

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert... by Neal Thompson

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the... by Dava Sobel

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost... by Peter Stark

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution... by Joseph J. Ellis

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John... by Steve Inskeep

The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East by Eugene Rogan

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale... by Chad Broughton

Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King

No Way Out: Precarious Living in the Shadow of Poverty and Drug Dealing by Waverly Duck

The Moor's Account: A Novel by Laila Lalami

History of the Jews by Paul Johnson

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest... by Hampton Sides

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage... by Hampton Sides

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

The Global Pigeon (Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries) by Colin Jerolmack

The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels,

Tempered Zeal: A Columbia Law Professor's Year on the Streets With the New York City Police by H. Richard Uviller

Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society: A Visual Guide

Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman

The City & The City by China Miéville

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey

American Homicide by Randolph Roth

February 28, 2016

Stop paperwork (2)

An email from a Chicago Police Officer (emphasis added by me):
I wanted to go through our new "investigatory stop report (ISR)" training before I replied. By now you realize we have an extremely long form to fill out every time we do a street stop. The form is ridiculous and redundant but fortunately the department has created a shorter form that will we start using on March 1st. I think they missed the point with the gripes about low street stops. The form sucks, is burdensome, and redundant, but it's just paperwork.

The issue is that there is still heavy oversight by the ACLU and many private attorneys and their quick access to all information on ISRs. So now, instead of just your sergeant deciding if you have articulated enough reasonable suspicion, each ISR has to be approved by a sergeant, the integrity unit, and then combed over by an endless amount of lawyers looking for the slightest hiccup in the report. Private attorneys have started contacted people stopped about two weeks after each incident, by phone and/or mail and asking them how the police treated them while they were stopped. This is really unsettling.

All of this seems like a direct result from the McDonald shooting, even if it's not. Although no one is talking about it (the media has moved on to other police issues from where we park to the "thin blue line" code of silence). Immediately after the dashboard camera video came out, most cops were defending the shooting even after seeing the video. I get it. I would not have shot, but I understand why Van Dyke did. A crazed maniac on PCP with a knife is certainly dangerous and it doesn't morally bother me that he was shot. I do think it was a bad shooting, but not by much. Although, I come from a newer generation of policing with a different mindset I suppose.

After the protests and eventually when the ISR system came out, everyone started to vilify Van Dyke as the cause of all this oversight whether or not they believed it was a good shoot or not. Those that believed it was a good shot, no longer say anything about it, if that makes any sense. Basically, no one is supporting Van Dyke anymore, at least not openly. Meanwhile, street stops are down an astronomical percent and homicides are at at 12-year high through February. On the 11th, the superintendent sent out an email to the department reminding them that it's still okay to do street stops. No one took it seriously but the bosses have to do something to get numbers.
The idea that every report is being read by people looking to sue police officers is not a way to encourage productive proactive discretionary police activity.

The first two months of 2015 saw 51 homicides. 2016 has seen 101. That's double, for those slow in math. If you don't want to call this a "Ferguson Effect," fine. I've never liked the term. But perhaps we can agree that if police feel they can't do their job for fear of lawsuits and/or criminal prosecution and thus do their job differently and then crime goes up, something is going on?

So if you don't like "Ferguson Effect," how about we call it the "when police feel they might get in trouble for doing their job, so police -- mostly to satisfy critics on the left who seem not to care how many people die as long as police are not involved -- get out of their car less, stop fewer people, interact with fewer criminals, and then murders skyrocket" effect?

See part of the police job is to harass criminals. Maybe you can think of a better word than "harass," but I use that work intentionally. Because policing isn't all please-the-old-ladies-going-church. People don't like to talk about it, but there is an actual repressive part of the job -- legally and constitutionally repressive, but repressive all the same. When that doesn't happen, criminals commit more crime.

[What I also find interesting in that a change in police culture with regards to what constitutes a good shooting is happening in front of our very eyes in Chicago.]

And here's the email from the Acting Chief:
Good Evening Everyone,

I want to clarify concerns regarding the Investigatory Stop Report (ISR) and the Department's Agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU). I have heard your concerns and I am working toward a solution.

First, since January 1, 2016, Illinois Law requires all law enforcement agencies in Illinois to document investigatory stops and protective pat downs. We are not alone in this endeavor; the entire state is tasked with documenting investigatory stops and protective pat downs. Neither the law nor the Department's Policy has changed as to when stops and pat-downs are appropriate; merely the documentation has changed.

Second, Officers will not be disciplined for honest mistakes. I know that the Department ISR Policy has been in effect since January 1, 2016. The Department is working tirelessly to train everyone on the ISR policy and procedures. I know there is a learning curve and I appreciate your understanding as we make this transition.

Third, I would like to clarify the agreement between the Chicago Police Department and the ACLU. The Department has not relinquished any control of our policies and procedures to the ACLU. The agreement does not provide the ACLU with any role whatsoever with respect to individual officers’ compliance with the Department’s policies. The Department alone is responsible for supervising compliance with policies and procedures. Rather, the Department’s agreement with the ACLU provides that a former federal judge, the Honorable Arlander Keys, will review CPD’s policies, practices, and data regarding investigatory stops and recommend any changes that are reasonable and necessary to comply with the law, and that the ACLU will have an opportunity to review and comment upon CPD’s policies, practices, and data.

Fourth, our Department is working to reduce the burden on officers. Remember, completing an ISR is in the best interests of Officers based on the Illinois State Law. A properly completed ISR helps protect the officer by documenting the basis for the stop and any resulting pat-down. Additionally, the transparency of the agreement with the ACLU and the ISR create a trust and mutual respect between our agency and the communities we serve.

Lastly, officer safety is one of my greatest concerns, and continues to be a valid basis for a protective pat down. Officers simply need to describe in the ISR why they believe their safety was at risk. To perform a stop, an officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion, based on the facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being or is about to be committed. And, before an officer conducts a protective pat-down, he or she must have reasonable articulable suspicion that a person stopped is armed and dangerous and therefore poses a threat to the officer's safety or the safety of others. Neither of these requirements are new policies.

I appreciate all of the hard work that each of you do on a daily basis. Additionally, thank you for your service and dedication to the people of Chicago. Take care and stay safe.

John J. Escalante
Interim Superintendent of Police
Chicago Police Department
Here's the long form in question and my previous post on "stop paperwork."

Maybe Chicago could learn from the Baltimore way of motivating cops: pull your weight; and no "submission experts" or "JV third stringers" need apply!

February 26, 2016

There goes: "You get what you pay for!"

Well Suffolk County certainly isn't a good case study for my point that if you pay cops enough, you'll avoid scandal. Though I'd still like to think that's true, WTF?

The former Chief of Police (how much did he make?) pled guilty:
to federal charges stemming from accusations that he beat a suspect in custody, threatened to kill him and then coerced his fellow officers into covering up the misconduct.
Two decades ago, as a sergeant, Mr. Burke had a sexual relationship with a prostitute, according to an internal affairs investigation that accused Mr. Burke of accidentally leaving his handgun with the woman, Newsday reported.
With some 2,700 sworn officers and over 600 civilian members, the department is one of the largest in the region.

Compared with those in other departments, officers in the Suffolk agency are well paid, making $125,000 in base pay. That is about $50,000 more than their counterparts in New York City, and it does not include overtime pay, which can be substantial, or the extra money officers receive for each year on the job.

Detectives and sergeants have been known to earn more than $200,000 a year. The police unions on Long Island are so wealthy they have formed a “super PAC” to flood local elections with campaign donations

February 24, 2016

Stop paperwork

In Chicago, as in New York City, police officers have been instructed to fill out a new an extremely burdensome form every time they stop somebody. This would be great if eliminating police stops were a worthy goal.

In Chicago, as reported in the Sun-Times:
Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante said Tuesday he hopes to counter a severe downturn in street stops by responding to cops’ complaints about the “burdensome” reports they’ve been filling out since the beginning of the year.

Escalante told the Chicago Sun-Times that officers will start using a new, streamlined form on March 1.
Street stops plummeted 79 percent in January compared with the same period of 2015. Meanwhile, murders and other crimes have skyrocketed this year in Chicago, which many cops have attributed to the slowdown in street stops.

The city and the ACLU agreed last week on the streamlined form.
Meanwhile, in New York, stops are down and reported crime this year to date is basically steady. Homicides are down 25 percent. Shootings down 30 percent.

Subway crime is reported up. Or so I hear. I'm not certain because I can't find any actual data on subway crime.

I did see this video of a guy been egged on to assault a Chinese food delivery guy. The delivery man decided to fight back, got in a few punches (hee), and lived to tell about it. But what's interesting is that this took place in the lobby of public housing, exactly where cops are patrolling less aggressively since they were accused of harassing poor innocent tenants hanging out in lobbies. While this is just one incident, it is exactly why police do need to patrol lobbies of public housing. And no, it's not just a matter of people who don't live there. It's about maintaining order.

According to one resident of public housing I spoke to, things are getting slightly worse in terms of people up to no blocking the way of people coming and going. But "it's not nearly as bad as it used to be [years ago]. But it's swinging in that direction."

February 23, 2016

One Righteous Man

I read pretty quickly. I'm always looking for new non-fiction. Particularly history. I've found Darkblue714 on twitter has never failed me with good book recommendations. He reminded me to read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. Being a best seller in 1994, I don't know how that bestseller managed to escape my classes in graduate school. [Turns out it came out in 2010, which explains why I didn't read it in graduate school.] Anyway, if you don't know what "The Great Migration" is, well, shame on you. But leaving that aside. It's a great book.

Darkblue's next recommendation was One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York. This is new book. And it's great history for anybody interested in police history, the NYPD, black history, American history, New York history, or for anybody who enjoys a good biography of a fascination man. You think you got it tough? Imagine being the first black cop in New York City. (Though Brooklyn had a few before Consolidation). Battle knew everybody who was anybody. The entirety of black America (and much of white America) passed through his watch. All the politicians, musicians, stars, and political leaders come to him. Talk about some weight on your shoulders. It's an amazing story.

That white guy? He's LaGuardia. If you don't know who he is... well, he's more than a crappy airport and great community college near my house.

February 17, 2016

Al Baker is one smart, journalist

I always like Al Baker's stories. He seems to get it. And I don't think he's Greek. But I do think his father was a cop. Maybe that matters. Or maybe he's just smart and works hard. Anyway, I'm happy to see him writing about police issues again. I trust that when I read his stories, I'm going to learn something.

On stop and frisk in the NYPD. As to the picture... why is that cop car on the sidewalk? It's just a Broken Window pet peeve of mine.
Since Mayor de Blasio took office in New York, the number of recorded street stops has continued to decline, to about 24,000 last year from 45,787 in 2014.... Those tallies represent a small fraction of the stop-and-frisk activity logged during the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a political independent, when recorded stops reached a height of 685,000 in 2011, and fell to about 192,000 in 2013, which was Mr. Bloomberg’s last year in office.
To ask cops to fill out a lengthy form and have another officer, the sergeant, review the form? It's too much to ask. Not when stops are discretionary. (There's also something rude about asking all this information from a person who just wants to go about his business, but nobody ever raises that point.) But if the goal is to end stops and all discretionary policing, well, this is one step to that goal.

All that said, keep in mind murders are down 38 percent this year! That stat doesn't mean much in mid-February, of course. But were shootings up, I'm sure you'd be hearing from the usual suspects saying the sky is falling... and it's Obama's fault... and don't black lives matter?

Anyway, I still have to read the whole report. Summaries and thoughts from those who have are more than welcome.

[Kind of sort of related, how much does the "independent monitor," Arnold & Porter LLP, get for writing this report? And does anybody know if anybody knows if consent decrees have any impact on crime? Something seems awfully fishy -- not about this report in particular, I have great respect for Anthony Braga -- but for the whole advice and consult and decree concept in general. Is there a ready list of police departments that have been under consent decrees and for which years?]

Dukakis is one smart Greek

It's too bad this man wasn't president. Oh, the economic and foreign policy horrors that could have been avoided. But I don't say that just because he's Greek. (Though that helps.) And I don't say that just because he was kind enough to write the introduction to my Greek Americans book. (Though that was very nice of him.)

Here's what Dukakis has to say about current political issues. In Slate.

I like his take down of Scalia's so-called "originalism," which masked little more than a hard-core conservative ideology:
What would I be doing? I’d be pointing out that if you are a constitutionalist, or an originalist, whatever those terms mean—because they really mean nothing. You know, Nino [Scalia] was a classmate of mine at law school. He was no more an originalist than the man on the moon.

What was originalist about Bush v. Gore? What was originalist about the Second Amendment decision? What was originalist about Citizens United for God’s sake, Isaac? We have been regulating campaign contributions since the late 19th century. Where in the Constitution does it say that money is speech? Originalism? Are you kidding me? But in any event, if you believe that, then the president has a solemn responsibility to make a nomination and the Senate has a solemn responsibility to consider it seriously, right?
A bright guy -- yeah. But he was to the right of Marie Antoinette for Christ’s sake. There was no consistency in his so-called philosophy. Money is corporate speech. This is all preposterous.
His take on foreign policy is also excellent and worth reading.

February 16, 2016

The right not to get shot

There's something ironic here, this Harlem bar owner discussing the fatal shooting in his bar and the need the need to buy a metal detector and hire a third security guard in order to pat-down customers so nobody gets shot:
He called the extra security measures, “horrible” and “insane” but unfortunately necessary to keep everyone safe.
Hoping there isn't retaliation, he's standing in front of a "know your rights" mural that urges people to observe and record -- but not cooperate with -- police.

(FYI, from google street view, the mural predates the bar.)

February 14, 2016

Continuing with the "Ferguson Effect"

The other week I wrote about the so-called "Ferguson Effect." Alex Elkins has some more thoughts on this issue, over on his blog:
The main “take-away,” the one the authors hope the media will pick up and run with, namely, that the Ferguson Effect, as construed by conservatives and certain media outlets, is “spurious.” This is too strident, in my opinion, in light of the available evidence that *something* did change over the past year. It’s not as if the change was in aggravated assault, a notoriously unreliable classification subject to manipulation by police command. No, the change was in murder, hardly a trivial matter.
Lastly, the authors were unable to link crime trends to the sense that police had backed off in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. They write: “It is important to note that the city-level crime data used in this analysis cannot establish whether loss of legitimacy or de-policing is at the root of an observed increase in crime, or whether contagion induced by social media was responsible for transmitting these changes.”

That, of course, is the argument that cops have made. Police have contended that after the deaths of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray, and the intense public criticism of over-policing, they have made fewer discretionary street stops and scaled back proactive Broken-Windows-style policing, and as a result, they say, opportunistic criminals have entered the void and committed more violent crimes, like murder.

In light of all the killing in 2015, I’m willing to entertain this idea. I don’t understand why some seem to think that conceding this premise — that protest has had some effect on police — threatens the Left and its agenda. Massive street protests and intense sustained media attention surely have affected cops — indeed, many have said as much. We can grant that and still maintain the legitimacy of protest and our concerns.
We have lots of work to do. Refuting the so-called Ferguson Effect — which essentially asks who’s to blame, which conservatives like Mac Donald use to undermine legitimate democratic protests against abusive state practices — when the evidence actually does indicate an increase in violent crime, should be the least of our concerns.

February 13, 2016

A Refresher on Regression Analysis

That's all. And not a bad refresher at that, by Amy Gallo in Harvard Business Review:
“You have to go out and see what’s happening in the real world. What’s the physical mechanism that’s causing the relationship? ... A lot of people skip this step and I think it’s because they’re lazy. The goal is not to figure out what is going on in the data but to figure out is what is going on in the world. You have to go out and pound the pavement,” Redman says.
“And if you see something that doesn’t make sense ask whether the data was right or whether there is indeed a large error term.... And, he says, never forget to look beyond the numbers to what’s happening outside your office: “You need to pair any analysis with study of real world. The best scientists — and managers — look at both.”

February 12, 2016

"Our Police Today... Frustrated, Bitter, Resentful"

Have you heard the news? There's nothing new under the sun.
"Today a policeman doesn't know where he stands. He has lost the ball. He has become defensive and he doesn't do a good job when he is on the defensive."
"A cop will give his life to catch a burglar, holdup man, or a purse snatcher, but he'll wait for it to happen before he reacts."
"So we don't look for guns anymore. Within the past year I've made one arrest. All I do now is issue tickets."
"It's a lousy job when you can't be a cop and do your work."
Police claim [black] groups are encouraging crime by offering blanket support to [black] felons who bring civil rights charges against arresting officers.
That the job does not have the attraction it once had is evident from the department's recruitment problems. For the last eight years the personnel department has been unable to fill recruitment quotas.
And Prof Caleb Foote of the Pennsylvania Law School makes the case that "constitutional law enforcement is effective law enforcement":
"There is little question that when police illegality becomes an accepted everyday practice, individual liberty is threatened and cynical contempt for law in engendered in the police, the law violator and the law abider alike."
Of course this isn't from today. It's from the Detroit Free Press of April 4, 1965.

(Of course, it's worth pointing out that crime really was skyrocketing, and Detroit never recovered. Who knows? Maybe judicial changes were partially to blame.)

[Thanks to Alex Elkins for the article, and also these Detroit murder numbers:]
Detroit murders by year:

1964 — 136
1965 — 201
1966 — 252
1967 — 331

Murder jumped by 47% between 1964 and 1965. Those numbers rival the increase in murder that some cities experienced in 2015; the national increase was around 15%.

NYPD Officer Liang found guilty

Do I think Peter Liang wanted to kill Akai Gurley? No. Do I think Liang messed up so bad that he should be found criminally guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct for failing to help Mr. Gurley as he lay dying in a public housing stairwell?


But, as a side note, Liang is right about this:
He felt unqualified to perform CPR, as is required of an officer under such circumstances, because he received poor training at the Police Academy.
And I certainly don't think he (or anybody) should be given a long sentence without mens rea.

It's been a bad week for cops

Eight cops have been shot and killed this month. And February, 2016, ain't even half over. Already, on my social media stream, I see my cop friends blaming Obama.

Well, you must remember December, 2003 when seven cops were shot and killed? Republican George W Bush was president. August of that year? Nine cops were shot and killed. April? Ten cops shot and killed.

Or maybe it was better when Reagan was president and this country "was great"? In July, 1982, eight cops were shot and killed. August: ten. September: eleven. October: eight.

Ronald Reagan? 37 cops shot and killed in four months!

Under the Obama administration, you have to go back to May of last year to get 37 cops shot and killed. (That's nine months, for those lacking in certain skills.)

Do I think the president is to be blamed for dead cops? No. And that's my point. But maybe you just hate Obama so much that you don't remember any of that. That's fine. Honestly, I had to look up those old figures. But you conservative Obama-hating motherf*ckers said you'd "never forget." But you have.

If you want to judge presidents by the number of cops shot and killed, Obama has been the most pro-cop president ever. And if your conservative ideology is more important to you than dead cops? Well, then, fuck you.

February 11, 2016

Greek Americans book review

My third book, Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (3rd edition), is probably the one you don't care about. But it's not often you come across a 12-page book review. Hell, for all I know, maybe you do care.

Former LA Sheriff Baca Pleads Guilty

I don't know much about LA county. The LA Sheriff's Department has 18,000 employees and 9,100 sworn officers. And running a huge jail system ain't easy. But Sheriff Baca and his cronies have been in trouble for a long while. His people tried to strong-arm an FBI agent investigating his department. Not cool. Perhaps we shouldn't be electing top law enforcement officials. From the NYT:
The plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office caps a stunning fall for Mr. Baca, who was among the most powerful men in Southern California during the 15 years that he led the sheriff’s department. Seventeen sheriff’s department employees have been convicted as part of the federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations in the Los Angeles County jails during his tenure. Inmates were routinely sexually humiliated and severely beaten by sheriff’s deputies at the jails, according to the Department of Justice.
The LA Times has more of the salacious details.

February 10, 2016

RIP Derek Geer and Jason Goodding

Does all the talk about cops being too quick to shoot people "for no reason" have an effect? (A "Ferguson Effect"?) I don't know. But it might have been in the back of the mind of 14-year police veteran Deputy Derek Geer. Just two days ago Geer tried to tase an armed 17-year-old boy. For his less-lethal efforts, Geer was killed. He leaves behind a wife and two children, ages 13 and 11.

Geer was the second cop this week to be shot and killed in a situation where police brought a taser to a gunfight. The first officer killed after using using leth-lethal force was Sergeant Jason Goodding. He and his partner recognized a man with an outstanding warrant. The wanted man resisted arrest, was tasered, and then shot Goodding three times. The other officer then shot and killed the subject. If only the cops had shot the wanted man a few seconds earlier.... Then people would be calling for "justice" for the criminal.

Update: While writing a post about two killed officers, two other officers were killed. Both were shot and killed by a 67-year-old wanted man. Together these Harford County Sheriff's deputies had 46 years experience.

"Justice 4 Whom"?!

Generally I couldn't care less what Beyonce's dancers think. But "Justice 4 Mario Woods" and a black power salute? Are you effing kidding me? Mario Woods was shot and killed by San Francisco police back in December. It was a good shooting.

Christ almighty there are plenty of bad police shootings. Not this one. Woods doesn't need justice. "Justice 4 Mario Woods" means there was an injustice done by police. But right there and then, Mario Woods was armed and dangerous and needed to be stopped.

Crazy Mario Woods had already stabbed a stranger. And now he's just walking down the street holding the bloody knife. Police tell him to drop the knife. He won't. Police knew Woods had knife, had just used it, and may have wanted to use it again. Police use less lethal force... one, two, three, four, and five times. Woods won't drop the knife even after being beanbagged and tased. It's like he's on a mission. (Based on what Woods said, I suspect this was suicide by cop.) If he gets closer to others and starts cutting, police might not be able to shoot. It's a crowded street. Woods needed to be stopped.

The Guardian, which since Coldbath Fields Riot of 1833 has published exactly one unbiased story about police, says, "Mario Woods was allegedly armed with a kitchen knife." No. He had just tried to kill somebody. He was armed with a kitchen knife.

One thing that bothers me about press accounts of this incident are journalists who still talk about the knife being "alleged" or the victim being "allegedly" stabbed. For legal reasons, I understand why you might throw in "alleged" when describing the suspect. But when the suspect is dead, you can drop the "alleged" crap. Dead men can't sue any more than than they can be convicted of crime.

The very first reporter who called me, the one who brought this shooting to my attention, mentioned almost in passing that Woods "allegedly stabbed somebody."

"What?" I said, "Well, that would really matters to police. He had just cut somebody? That would change everything."

"Allegedly," she insisted.

"Well, did he just cut somebody or not?!" To police, this detail would matter tremendously.

To the best of my memory, I swear the reporter said: "Yes, but he hadn't been convicted yet."

I felt like I was entering the Bizarro world of liberal media make-believe I've heard conservatives foam about. Did she really expect police to wait until conviction before deciding the victim was real and knife sharp? Go tell the stabbed dude he was only "allegedly" stabbed. Here's what the actual victim did say:
"I'm trying to get my life together. My life has been a shambles since this happened."... "I got stabbed by someone I don't even know and I don't have a beef with or anything like that."... Jacob says he is the forgotten victim, the one who was attacked and the victim protesters and city officials have ignored.
Woods, who according to his mom and lawyer was a gentle man (of course) who was turning his life around ("He was really kind and easy to deal with and really appreciative. Terrific. Never aggressive") had an extensive violent criminal history. He had spent nearly all his adult life in prison. Now Woods's record doesn't mean cops get to kill him for no reason, but it might shed some light on why Woods would do some crazy shit.

February 9, 2016

"They pursue not the truth"

In case you missed it (I did), here's some good deep legal analysis from Page Croyder regarding the trial of the six Baltimore cops:
They pursue not the truth, but in the words of Mosby, "justice for Freddie Gray." And they will trample over the law, the evidence, their ethical responsibilities and real justice to get there.
Croyder doesn't like Mosby, in case you can't tell. And for good reason.
If the published comments from one of the jurors in the first Freddie Gray trial are accurate, then I was right, wrong, and right again.

Right that the jurors were close to acquitting Officer William Porter on the most serious count, involuntary manslaughter.

Wrong that they were close to acquitting him on the other charges as well. In fact, they were very close to convicting him for misconduct in office, and leaned towards conviction for reckless endangerment.

And right that this trial should have been moved. This hung trial makes it all so clear that the six officers cannot get a fair trial in Baltimore city.

According to the Sun, Judge Barry Williams instructed the jury that to find Porter guilty of misconduct in office, he had to have acted with "evil motive and bad faith," that he could not have made a "mere error in judgment," and that he "corruptly failed to do an a act required by his duties."

There was zero evidence of evil motive, bad faith or corruption in performing his duties. Porter acted completely consistently with other police officers. Acting in conflict with a general order does not equate to misconduct, either. If one thinks the police, as a department, act unreasonably in how they transport prisoners, that's what civil suits are for. But not criminal charges.

Your Personal Ferguson Effect

There's an interesting comment in a previous post where an officer describes what he calls "my personal Ferguson Effect." Two similar cases. One cop shot and killed a non-compliant unarmed person. The other cop did not shoot a non compliant person and is now dead.
The knowledge after the fact of whether the suspect had a gun or not is certainly emotionally powerful in forming our judgements of these officers, but it is irrelevant legally to the officer on the scene attempting to effect an arrest of a non-compliant suspect.
The fact that the media and the masses apply this rule of hindsight to police use of force and are pressuring police agencies to do the same for internal investigations makes me fearful that the courts will soon start pushing to adopt this same rule of hindsight. That is my personal Ferguson Effect.
Leaving aside these specific cases, I'm curious if other officers have had specific moments in the past couple years -- their own Ferguson Effect -- that changed the way you do their job. Was there some discussions, protests, riots, news report, prosecutions, politician, Benghazi (I'm kidding about the last one, I hope) that changed the way you do your job?

February 6, 2016

Swamy Pete says...

Swamy Pete, the gypsy scryer, looks into his crystal ball.

With eerie music in the background and an echoey voice, Swamie Pete makes a bold prediction:
In the future, in fact tomorrow at exactly 19:00 hours eastern time, crime will not happen. The crystal ball says that for maybe three hours, somehow people will manage to have fewer problems. The root causes will remain constant, and yet fewer people will dial 911. Yes, I can see it now... for a few hours Sunday night, triggers on guns will be harder to pull and knives will be so dull they will not cut human skin....

But... at around 10:30pm everything will be back to normal.
I never liked that Swamie Pete and his voodoo nonsense, even if back in October he was right about the homicide increase of 2015. How did he know that? Witchcraft, I say!

But by the way, if we accept that blizzards reduce homicide. And the Super Bowl reduces homicide. Why is it so controversial that aggressive police presence focusing on maintaining order in high-crime communities can reduce homicide? I don't know. I'll ask Swamie Pete if I ever see him again.

Update (Feb 10): Surprisingly, call volume was only down a little during the Super Bowl. Not the huge dropoff I expected. Crime data isn't out yet.

Defining the Ferguson Effect

Denying the Ferguson Effect and any link between policing and crime has become almost a cottage industry in some circles. It's sort of the liberal equivalent of conservatives denying climate change and, er, on the small chance it is changing, any link between global warming and human activity. Sure, the world may be warmer. But God works in mysterious ways. Same with crime, if you listen to many of the Left.

Here's a new study :
There is no evidence to support a systematic Ferguson Effect on overall, violent, and property crime trends in large U.S. cities.
OK. But the author do admit:
The disaggregated analyses revealed that robbery rates, declining before Ferguson, increased in the months after Ferguson. Also, there was much greater variation in crime trends in the post-Ferguson era, and select cities did experience increases in homicide.
OK.... So doesn't that mean there is a Ferguson Effect? Apparently not:
Overall, any Ferguson Effect is constrained largely to cities with historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages.
"Constrained to"? Isn't "constrained to" synonymous with "present in"? Aren't cities with "historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantage" exactly where you'd expect to find a Ferguson Effect!? I mean, I wouldn't expect to find a Ferguson Effect in Winnetka, for crying out loud! (Winnetka, Illinois: median income $211,000; 0.3 percent black.)

Liberals, myself excluded, have long tried to discount the efficacy of policing vis-à-vis crime prevention. And now academics seem to want to deny any "Ferguson Effect" because... I don't know. Just guessing, but maybe it goes against a Progressive narrative that police are racist enforcers of bourgeois heteronormative values?

There's no reason the Ferguson Effect needs to be universal or even linked specifically to one event in August, 2014. The question shouldn't be if all cities haven't seen an increase in all crime but rather why why some cities -- most cities, in fact -- have.

What if, hypothetically to be sure, a laser-like focus on police-violence reduced police-involved killings but simultaneously allowed hundreds and even thousands of more murders to happen? If that were true, then what?

What if "hands up don't shoot" were built on a false narrative? What then? What if, just for the sake of debate, we assumed that most police-involved killings were actually justified (since most are) and even life saving? What if the goal of eliminating police-involved killings was, in part, counterproductive? Then what?

Different cities have had different "Ferguson Moments." It wasn't like something magically changed everywhere when Michael Brown was (justifiable) killed. All policing is local.

In New York City the Ferguson moment may have been protests after the death of Eric Garner. Cops were verbally attacked, physically attacked, and two were killed and another bludgeoned with a hatchet. If you think none of that matters... well then you haven't talked to any New York City cop.

In Baltimore, just thinking out loud here, perhaps it was the protests and riots after the death of Freddie Gray. And the misguided criminal prosecution of innocent cops. In Cleveland, not that I know much about Cleveland, I would assume policing changed related to the killing of Tamir Rice. In Nashville? Beats me. But maybe it was giving hot chocolate and coffee to protesters. I applauded that move. Liberals like me love that shit. But I bet it pissed off a lot of the rank and file.

So no, it's not Ferguson per se. Call it whatever you effing want. (I've never been a fan of the actual term "Ferguson Effect.) I'm talking about the real-world effect of an anti-police narrative, the fear cops have of getting in trouble for doing their job, and perhaps the first-hand experience of policing anti-police protests.

Meanwhile, in Chicago:
Cops say they have avoided making many of the stops they would have routinely done last year. They fear getting in trouble for stops later deemed to be illegal and say the new cards take too much time to complete.

Their reluctance to make stops was borne out by a police statistic released Sunday: Officers completed 79 percent fewer contact cards in January 2016 than over the same period last year.

January 2016 was the deadliest first month of the year since 2001
Just coincidence, of course. There's no way to prove any of this. But I sure haven't heard any good alternative explanation. (At some point, I am partial to Occam's Razor.)
The ACLU rejects any correlation between declining street stops and rising violence.... Other cities have scaled back their street stops without an explosion of shootings. The reduction of "invasive" street stops is actually a good thing.
Really? Well, yes, the NYPD scaled back its stops and crime did not increase. (Not only did crime not increase, between 2011 and 2013 homicides in New York City plummeted 35 percent!)But that doesn't mean that all police stops are bad and to be prevented.
The ACLU released a report in March that found blacks accounted for 72 percent of [Chicago] stops between May and August of 2014, but just 32 percent of the city's population.
Again?! Once again we have a denominator problem. Eighty percent of Chicago homicide victims are black. And presumably murderers, too, since most homicides are intra-racial. Should only 32 percent of those arrested for homicide be black? I don't think so. Are only 32 percent of public drug dealers black? No. So why would one expect only 32 percent of those stopped by police to be black?

Look, cops aren't always right. And cops will always complain. But if homicide is going up and cops are saying, "Uh, here's the problem: I can't do my job. And this is why...." Perhaps we should listen. What worries me is the goal to eliminate virtually all discretionary police activity couched int he language of social and racial justice. But if you want police to do less, there's no better way than mandating a two-page form for every stop.

We will see what happens. But crime already is up in many cities. And that -- not reducing the number of police stops -- should be our first concern.

[see also this]

February 3, 2016

The 1 percent

Out of 12,000 Chicago Cops, 124 are responsible for a third of misconduct lawsuits settled by the city since 2009, costing $34 million. The Tribune (behind a paywall unless you good for the article) reports that 82 percent of the department's officers were not named in any settlements. (Keep in mind that a good chunk of that 82 percent haven't interacted on-duty with a member of the public since Richard J. Daley. The proper denominator here would be the number of cops on the street.):
Of the more than 1,100 cases the city settled since 2009, just 5 percent were for more than $1 million.... [The rest still] cost the city millions of dollars.... A vast majority, 85 percent, were settled for $100,000 or less, which meant the deals did not require City Council approval. And Chicago officers accused of misconduct are rarely disciplined.
Of course there are many unfounded complaints. Just as there are many BS lawsuits filed for a quick monetary settlement. I know that. But just like a criminal arrest 20 times -- God only knows how many crimes he committed without getting caught -- a cop with 57 complaints? God only knows how much shit you really did. Not every mope complains.
While many officers as well as police union officials attribute claims of misconduct to the rough and tumble of working in crime-ridden neighborhoods, complaints against Campbell, Sautkus and their colleagues have often occurred while the group patrolled relatively low-crime areas, focused on quality-of-life issues.
The three officers have earned hundreds of awards and commendations from the department for their work. They've also racked up 16 lawsuit settlements since 2009 among them and two other officers who also live in the neighborhood... The city paid $1.5 million to settle those cases.
How the hell does one officer get sued (with payout) seven times in seven years and average about 6 complaints a year? Good God. Hundreds of awards. As long as he kept finding the drugs, he gets awards. Doesn't anybody look for red flags?

I can't help but think of my friend and squadmate who retired as a noble patrol officer after 33(!) years on the mean streets of Baltimore. He once confided in me, half gleefully and half sheepishly, that he hadn't received a single serious complaint in his entire career. Now mind you, in his 30th year, he wasn't exactly setting the curve in number of arrests. But he did his job and did it well. His secret? He was a good cop. He didn't take shit, but he also treated everybody with respect, even those who didn't deserve it.

The Denominator Problem: Throwing stones from glass houses

There's something bordering on the absurd when newspapers write stories about police racism based on claims like, "90 percent of those arrested are African-American while African Americans make up only 65 percent of the population." The assertion, sometimes explicit and sometimes implied, is that cops are racists hunting black men. Same thing with papers that assume that any arrest not prosecuted is a bad arrests. [That link is particularly great because it features a video from 3 days after the riot explaining, in a progressive wet dream, how "Gangs work together to restore peace in Baltimore." Aw, how sweet. How did that work out?]

The absurdity comes from the lack of consideration for the denominator. If you want to talk about race and arrest or traffic stops or use-of-force or anything, you need a relevant denominator. What percent of those with whom cops interact are black? What percent of those who commit violent crimes are black? Answering any one of these won't answer the question, but it does help complete the picture.

I mean, what if I told you that 40 percent of the people arrested for murder were black in a country that is 13 percent black. Knowing nothing else, it's a meaningless statement. Does that imply cops are disproportionately arresting black men for murder? Well, actually... yes. But whether that disproportion is a problem is something else. The arrest and incarceration rates should reflect the crime rate more than the population demographics, I would think. Without looking at the racial disparity in homicide, the racial disparity in the arrest rate for homicide (or incarceration rate or those killed by police) means almost nothing.

Police use of lethal force, I would posit, should reflect the demographics of armed violent criminals more than the US Census count of population.

And yet time and time again you see police blamed for racial disparities in society. I honestly don't know if reporters make these errors out of statistical ignorance or ideological conviction. But either way, college educated journalists should know better. In a similar manner, let me call out some of the same papers that make these claims. The American Society of News Editors calculates minority representation at newspapers. The Washington Post is 31 percent "minority" (and 14 percent black) in a city that is 60 percent minority! (And 51 percent black.) The New York Times is 19 percent "minority" (and 8 percent black) in a city that is 65 percent minority! (And 25 percent black.)

[I put minority in "quotes" because minority percentage is often used as a cover for just how few actual blacks are involved. As if, given America's legacy of slavery and racism, hiring a Chinese immigrant, a "person of color," is the same as hiring a born-in-Baltimore African American. (Fun fact: did you know that Italian-Americans are an officially recognized minority group at my school when it comes to hiring and promotion?)]

So should the workforce at a newspaper represent the demographics or the city? I don't know. Maybe. Or should it reflect the demographics of its readers? Or maybe the demographics of America (36 percent minority). Or maybe just the demographics of those who graduate from journalism school? I don't know. Sure, it's a good debate to have. Just like the debate about minority representation in police departments is good to have. But it seems odd for a newspaper that is 46(!) "percent points more white than the residents" to fault police departments that actually does a much better job and reflecting the diversity of the community it serves.

February 2, 2016

How much I make (III)

I received a courtesy call from John Jay's legal department about a FOIL (freedom of information law) request made for my records. One person, whom I won't name but I presume reads this, wanted A) my letter of appointment and B) to know how much I make. You'll have to trust me that I did get my job, but my salary is public record! Here, as they say, let me google that for you.

Of course it always is a bit creepy to know somebody cares enough about you to file a FOIL request. But dude, why waste your time? Just ask.

I've always been open about how much I make. People, workers in particular, should talk more about how much or little they make. Knowledge is power. Only your boss and rich people want everything hush-hush.

Here, this is better than what you got from John Jay. It's my W-2:

My base salary is $88,418 (I had to look that up). My pay check? My monthly take-home pay? About $4,000. My income was lower last year because I was on sabbatical for the academic year 2014-2015, which meant I was earning 80 percent.

Add to that a couple thousand dollars from Princeton Press royalties for Cop in the Hood, a few hundred for Greek Americans, $1,200 for my published op-eds, and $2,300 income from airbnb rentals. There were a couple "modest honoraria" in there as well, probably less than $1,000 total. With no kids, no car, an affordable mortgage, and a working wife, we are, as they say, comfortable.

If there's anything else I can help you with, just let me know.