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by Peter Moskos

April 21, 2016

Who you gonna believe?

Who are you gonna believe: The Brennan Center for Justice or your lying eyes?

Crime is up. They and I have written about this before. Their conclusion:
Americans continue to experience low crime rates. The average person in a large urban area is safer walking down the street today than he or she would have been at almost any time in the past 30 years.
Nobody is doubting America is safer now than 30 years ago. The point is that America is becoming less safe, and we don't want to go back to the crime rates of 30 years ago! We want 2014 to be the normal, not 1986.

Although headlines suggesting a coming crime wave make good copy, a look at the available data shows there is no evidence to support that claim.
But... but... What about their data (looking at 25 of the top 30 cities) that shows a 14.5 percent increase in the number of murders? (13.2 percent by rate.)

How weird.

And also intellectually dishonest:
Final data confirm that three cities (Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) account for more than half of the national increase in murders.... These serious increases seem to be localized, rather than part of a national pandemic, suggesting that community conditions remain the major factor.
Nobody suggests the cause of more murders is some national criminogenic miasma "pandemic." Of course the reasons are local. But they can still be part of a greater national trend. That's why they call it a "trend."

Now if the increase were only in three cities, then yes, we could say the problem is localized only in those three cities. But you can't just remove the data points with the largest increases and then say the increase isn't so large!

But, hell, let's remove the three cities most responsible for the increase -- even though that makes no statistical sense -- and see what is going on without Chicago, Baltimore, and DC.

[Computer calculating sounds circa 1985. Flashing lights. Wait for punch card to spit out.... Wheeze:] An 8.8 percent increase. The Brennan Center is basically saying, "nothing to see here, move on." But even an 8.8 percent increase in murder would still be the largest increase in 30 years.

Does ideology really trump the tragedy of more dead (disproportionately black) men?

The Brennan Center puts on its investigative cap and posits: "It is possible that the weak economies of these cities are a contributing factor to their high murder rates." Yeah, no sh*t, Sherlock. We're informed that Baltimore has a high poverty rate and has lost 35 percent of its population since 1950.

Is that the best you can do? Perhaps it's not just the economy. The economy in Baltimore was just as bad on April 26, 2015, as it was on April 28, 2015.

Violence in Baltimore doubled overnight, on April 27, 2015. How can you talk about the increase in violence in Baltimore and not mention the riots, police, or the Gray Effect?

Let me put on my thinking cap. Perhaps the increase in crime has something to do with -- I don't know, just spitballing here -- the interactions between police and criminals? Or maybe not. It's not like anything has happened with public perception and police in the past couple years. So that can't be it. (Sarcasm doesn't travel well through the written word, so let me be clear: I'm dripping with it.)

Now reported violent crime isn't up as much as homicide. That is interesting. But violent crime and homicide are always correlated. So if homicide data says up and violence data says not-so-up, my good money is on the homicide data being more correct. (It's why my preference is to look just at homicide or shooting data when examining trends in violence, at least when the n is high enough, which it is in this case.) Perhaps homicide is up and violent crime is down. But if so, that would be the first time, ever.

My guess is that the apparent disparity reflects less reporting of crime, particularly in cities where crime is going up. Bodies get counted. Bruises less so. Also, just as proactive police can prevent crime, it can simultaneously increase the reporting of crimes. Fewer arrests mean less crime. Not in reality, of course, but in terms of crimes being counted. Some crimes are only recorded because police took the initiative and made an arrest.

I expect better from the left-leaning but usually respectable Brennan Institute for Justice. This is like Heritage Foundation bullshit, but coming from the Left.

Why deny an increase in violence? The point is to have a rational discussion as to why murder is up and what can be done to keep it down. Like global warming, we shouldn't be wasting time arguing about whether or not what the data show is really happening.

[Many of these concepts were thought of while talking to Stephen Loiaconi, for his excellent article on the subject.]

April 20, 2016

You can't make this sh*t up

Hours after posting about the police-involved killing of robber Robert Howard, I read Justin Fenton's amazing story about the robber: "Man fatally shot by off-duty officer was also shot by police 20 years earlier." Are you effing serious?! What are the odds? I don't think anybody in American history has ever been shot by cops in two separate incidents. I don't know what that amazes me, but it does. Oh, Baltimore.

But wait, there's more. It's deja vu all over again! Remember how in last week's shooting, witnesses reported Howard was unarmed and running from cops? And they said that cops shot him in the back? If it weren't for the video, many people (and a Baltimore City jury) would doubt the cops.

How many "witnesses" come forward when the shooter isn't a cop?

Well back in 1996 Howard was again busy robbing. He pulled a gun on cops, fired on cops, and cops shot back. Cops could have kept shooting. But the police didn't kill Howard because once Howard was no longer a threat, they stopped shooting. That's what cops are supposed to do. Police arrested Howard, without further incident, after Howard tried to kill them. Job well done, right?

Well in the 1996 shooting there was no video, and a jury acquitted Howard of all criminal charges. Howard's attorney said officers planted a "drop gun" on Howard. One witness adamantly testified Howard did not have a gun. (Boy, if cop did have drop guns to plant, why are so many "unarmed" people shot by cops? Think Sean Bell, Diallo, Zongo, and Michael Brown.)

As an outsider, this may seem like just a shame, understandable given years of oppression. Or maybe even true. But it's not. And it happens all the time. It what frames cops' worldview. And if you're the cop involved? It's life changing. And not for the better.

Howard then (unsuccessfully) sued the officers for $12 million. He claimed he was unarmed and had his arms raised.

When I was in Baltimore, Kevon Gavin was killed after his car was deliberately struck by a criminal being chased by other cops. The killer was doing 80mph and rammed Gavin's car, crushing it. The killer was arrested at the scene wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a semi-automatic handgun. Later, in the jury trial, the killer was acquitted of all criminal charges. He walked free. (Even his lawyer admitted he was surprised at the verdict.)

It's happened before and it will happen again.

So back in 1996, Stephen Cohen was one of the two cops that shot Howard:
The fallout prompted Cohen to leave the agency: He said he was accused at the civil trial of being corrupt and racist.

"The most upsetting thing about it was that he had the audacity to come after us, like we did something wrong," Cohen says in a phone interview.... He pulls a gun, we shoot him, and now he's accusing us, because he did nothing wrong and we're the bad people."

"I saw the writing on the wall. I decided, I can't live my life like this. This is not what I want for my life," he said.
Cohen said the civil case with Howard 20 years earlier caused him to lose faith in his role as a police officer.

"This was life-changing. You're a young white guy, being crucified by a whole community of black people saying the only reason you shot him is because he was black," Cohen said.

"At the end of the day, you can't help people who don't want your help, and can't help themselves," he said. "I was saying, 'What am I doing in this picture? I can't change anything. I'm going to end up miserable, bitter or dead in jail."
So he quit.

Right now people are getting away with robbery and murder. This year alone there have been 67 homicides and 1,219 reported robberies in Baltimore. And yet when the story is reported, the only questionable characters are the cops.

I wonder how many people Howard robbed in the past 20 years. You have to assume he didn't die with a lifetime robbery record of 0 - 2.

In case you forgot...

Civil forfeiture is still a problem. A man in Chicago has been trying for 13 years to get $101,000 is cash back from the those who stole it.
Last year, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago collected more than $19 million in asset forfeitures. The Justice and Treasury departments raked in more than $4.5 billion nationally in 2014.
Is this case there were no drugs, and, as often happens, the man whose money was taken was never charged with a crime. Take it from Yakov Smirnoff: "What a country!"

"Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants?"

Heather MacDonald in City Journal:
Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants? For more than a decade, activists have demanded the end of proactive policing, claiming that it was racist.
Equally vilified was Broken Windows policing, which responds to low-level offenses such as graffiti, disorderly conduct, and turnstile jumping. Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King launched a petition after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder “meet with local black and brown youth across the country who are dealing with ‘Zero Tolerance’ and ‘Broken Windows’ policing.”

Well, the police got the message. In response to the incessant accusations of racism and the heightened hostility in the streets that has followed the Michael Brown shooting, officers have pulled back from making investigatory stops and enforcing low-level offenses in many urban areas. As a result, violent crime in cities with large black populations has shot up -- homicides in the largest 50 cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015. And the Left is once again denouncing the police -- this time for not doing enough policing.
King scoffs at the suggestion that a new 70-question street-stop form imposed on the CPD by the ACLU is partly responsible for the drop-off in engagement. If American police “refuse to do their jobs [i.e., make stops] when more paperwork is required,” he retorts, “it’s symptomatic of an entirely broken system in need of an overhaul.” This is the same King who as recently as October fumed that “nothing happening in this country appears to be slowing [the police] down.”
The activists’ standard charge against cops in the post-Ferguson era is that they are peevishly refusing to do their jobs in childish protest against mere “public scrutiny.” This anodyne formulation whitewashes what has been going on in the streets as a result of the sometimes-violent agitation against them.
That officers would reduce their engagement under such a tsunami of hatred is both understandable and inevitable. Policing is political. If the press, the political elites, and media-amplified advocates are relentlessly sending the message that proactive policing is bigoted, the cops will eventually do less of it. This is not unprofessional conduct; it is how policing legitimacy is calibrated. The only puzzle is why the activists are so surprised and angered that officers are backing off; such a retreat is precisely what they have been demanding.

"New Orleans Police Officers Plead Guilty in Shooting of Civilians"

From the Times:
The guilty pleas, which drew prison terms from three to 12 years, were the latest development in a wrenching 10-year saga that began when police officers responding to a distress call on the Danziger Bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, opened fire on unarmed residents, killing two and injuring four.
Under the terms of Wednesday’s deal, the four officers involved in the shooting received sentences ranging from seven to 12 years, with credit for time served. The fifth man, Mr. Kaufman, who was accused in the cover-up, got three years.
The victims, in a city still without order and drowning in floodwaters, were crossing the bridge in search of food or relatives when police officers rushed to the scene in a rental truck. The officers opened fire with shotguns and AK-47s, leaving four people severely injured and two dead: 17-year-old James Brisette, and Mr. Madison, a 40-year-old developmentally disabled man who took a shotgun blast in the back.
But other officers who had pleaded guilty testified that defendants had fired without warning, stomped on the dying and immediately afterward began to construct what would become an extensive cover-up.
In 2010 I asked Dan Baum for his general thoughts and posted about New Orleans after the flood. He wrote, in part:
What I saw of the police during the storm were heroic officers operating with no leadership or resources whatsoever. The cops I was with were protecting and serving under incredibly trying conditions, and doing so with professionalism and compassion. That they were cut adrift from any command or support was obvious; Eddie Compass (and Ray Nagin) were ... criminally incompetent.
Everyplace I was, people were taking care of each other with unbelievable tenderness.... I never once saw a black man with a gun who was not in uniform.
I say all this because for the NOPD to say, "we had to do what we did because the city was in chaos" is patent bullshit and disgraces the majority of officers, who did their jobs without any support at all. There was no chaos. The structure of government disappeared, and the people behaved themselves admirably.
We now are learning about some of the things bad cops did. And it's certainly true that a small number of civilians did bad things during Katrina. But the vast majority, cop and civilian alike, behaved exactly as we would hope they would.

"He came in with a gun and announced a robbery!"

On April 15th, an off-duty Baltimore cop shot and killed a man. "Witnesses" said, according to WBAL:
The officer was having an argument with the man outside the store and the man ran away toward the store.

"As he was running in the store the police shot him, boom. When he got in the store, the police (officer) got over top of him, but once he seen us run up there, he tried to pause and say, 'Stay right there, don't move,' and then he called for the ambulance," a witness said.
It's a pretty detailed account. Yes, says this good citizen, who of course prefers to remain anonymous. A cop chased and shot another black man in the back. But luckily these good Samaritans -- and at great personal risk -- followed the cop in the store to make sure the cop didn't deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce. Is hero too strong a word?

This is how false narratives gain traction "Hands up, don't shoot!" (Which was also a lie.) After all, all cops wake up every morning thinking, "who can I shoot today?" and Baltimore cops in particular love killing innocent people.

This WBAL story does note, really an afterthought:
Police said witnesses inside the store, including clerks, told them that the suspect announced a robbery in the store.

Police are reviewing surveillance video.
But really, who you gonna believe? I mean, this wreaks of a police cover up, store owners cowering in the face of police pressure, and the bad word of police against the good word of criminals.

Luckily, in this case there was video. Good video.

Reporters, in their defense, can't verify that a witness was there. But they could try a bit harder. In places like Baltimore "witnesses" appear after every police-involved shooting. And the story is always that the cops killed a surrendering man. Hands-up-and-shot. It's nothing new. I've been keeping an eye on this for the past 17 years. And in Baltimore it's never happened. Not once. Sure, it could happen. But it hasn't. And you'd think that might matter. (When I was in the academy a housing cop was accused of this but luckily shot this criminal through the criminal's pants' pocket and the criminal's hand. But what if he hadn't been so luckily in missing center mass?) And during that time there have been 4,422 murders.

Eight times out of ten, the "witness" didn't see it; and nine times out of ten, they're lying. (And the 10th time? Well, I'm glad there's video.)

In this case it's not just the "witness" was wrong. Sometimes reasonable people can disagree on what they see. It's that the witness's story was 100 percent anti-police fiction and still reported as very possibly true.

A cop is in the store and a guy comes in a pulls a (turns out to be fake) gun and a knife. He tells the cop to kick it out (or whatever the kids are saying these days when robbing people). Presumably, after rubbing the customers, he would rob the store.

And yes, if you try and rob a cop, you get shot. Nothing wrong with that. And cops in Baltimore (unlike many cities) are required to carry a gun off duty while in the city (and permitted to in the rest of the state). When I took out my trash, I was packing.

And, as usual, the video showed exactly what police said happened. Of course you generally only hear about the exceptions. And you should hear about the exception. But you don't have to base your worldview on them.

Again, Commissioner Davis had the cop's back, as he should. From the Sun:
"He did the absolute right thing," Davis said of the officer.

Davis said the officer acted appropriately and courageously. He said a witness in the shop told him he felt his life would have been in danger if the officer had not acted.
Davis on Saturday also criticized some media outlets who quoted people at the scene who identified themselves as witnesses and gave what he said was false information.

Davis read an excerpt from a Baltimore Sun story in which a man said Howard "ran in the store for safety." A second man said the officer started "fussing" with the Howard, who cursed at the officer before the officer drew his weapon.

Davis said several other outlets spoke to the men, but that their accounts were false. He called the reports "absolutely erroneous and irresponsible," and said the two men "lied about what occurred."

The department released surveillance video outside the store that shows the officer walking into the shop, and Howard crossing the street just behind him, contradicting the witness accounts.
In their later story, after the video was released, WBAL dropped the "witness." Given everything that has happened in the past year in Baltimore, maybe the lying "witness" should have been mentioned.

[check out my next post on this!]

April 14, 2016

Chicago Police Report

It's kind of hilarious that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to present his cover-up-and-dictate style of management as concern for police misconduct. But leaving that aside, a task-force he appointed has released its report.

Some of what it says needs to be said: "From 2011-2015, 40% of complaints filed were not investigated by IPRA." And: "These events and others mark a long, sad history of death, false imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse and general discontent about police actions in neighborhoods of color."

And let's not forget the false (and consistently false) police reports and (mayoral?) cover-up related to the killing of Laquan McDonald:
Not until thirteen months later -- after a pitched legal battle doggedly pursued by local investigative journalists resulted in the court-ordered release of the dash-cam video of the shooting -- did the public learn the truth: McDonald made no movements toward any officers at the time Van Dyke fired the first shot, and McDonald certainly did not lunge or otherwise make any threatening movements. The truth is that at the time Van Dyke fired the first of 16 shots, Laquan McDonald posed no immediate threat to anyone.
They really should have added that McDonald didn't pose any threat when the last shots were fired.

There are the ignored red flags:
The enduring issue of CPD officers acquiring a large number of Complaint Registers (“CRs”) remains a problem that must be addressed immediately. From 2007-2015, over 1,500 CPD officers acquired 10 or more CRs, 65 of whom accumulated 30 or more CRs. It is important to note that these numbers do not reflect the entire disciplinary history (e.g., pre-2007) of these officers.
The inability to act on red flags:
Sadly, CPD collects a significant amount of data that it could readily use to address these very troubling trends. Unfortunately, there is no systemic approach to addressing these issues, data collection is siloed and individual stakeholders do virtually nothing with the data they possess.
And the perennial problem with "community policing":
Historically, CPD has relied on the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (“CAPS”) to fulfill its community-policing function. The CAPS brand is significantly damaged after years of neglect. Ultimately, community policing cannot be relegated to a small, underfunded program; it must be treated as a core philosophy infused
But here's where ideology begins to trump common sense. It's claptrap to advocate for "community policing" without defining community policing or offering any evidence to its effectiveness. Yes, police right now need better relations with the non-criminal public in minority neighborhoods. But the main job of police, lest we forget, is to deal with the criminal public.

And then there's the absurdity -- the dangerous and even racist absurdity -- of promoting racial balance in police activity and use of force.
Police Officers Shoot African-Americans At Alarming Rates: Of the 404 shootings between 2008-2015:

• 74% or 299 African Americans were hit or killed by police officers, as compared with
• 14% or 55 Hispanics;
• 8% or 33 Whites; and
• 0.25% Asians.

For perspective, citywide, Chicago is almost evenly split by race among whites (31.7%), blacks (32.9%) and Hispanics (28.9%).
Really? That's your perspective?

The idea that police should stop, arrest, and even shoot and Tase people in proportion to population demographics is nutty. For real perspective, consider that of 3,021 Chicagoans shot last year, just 25 were shot by police. 79 percent of murder victims were black; 4 percent were white. For known assailants (which is known just a shamefully low 26 percent of the time) the figures are comparable.

With this perspective, the use-of-force stats seem quite reasonable. To say this is not to deny a historically troubling legacy or even current problems. But if the benchmark for success in policing is racial parity in use of force, then Chicago and Chicagoans are in for more bloody years.

Chicago is 5.5 percent Asian. As a benchmark of success, will we not rest till more than 5 percent of those shot by police are Asian?

Overall, use of lethal force by the Chicago Police Department is on par with the national average (0.33 per 100,000 for the CPD, compared with 0.31 for the nation). Chicago is below LA, Houston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and most cities. The Chicago Police Department may have 99 problems, but an excessive use of lethal force and a racial disparity in that use of force doesn't seem to be one of them.

Still, there is a room for improvement. The NYPD kills people at an outlyingly-low rate of 0.08. Maybe, instead of suing police departments into institutional paralysis, folks could determine what the NYPD is doing right and advocate better -- rather than less - policing based on best practices. (But who on the Left wants to talk about what the NYPD is doing right?)

But I'll finish on a positive note:
The findings and recommendations in this report are not meant to disregard or undervalue the efforts of the many dedicated CPD officers who show up to work every day to serve and protect the community. The challenge is creating a partnership between the police and the community that is premised upon respect and recognizes that our collective fates are very much intertwined.

April 11, 2016

Null finding

Wouldn't it be great if I could show that video games decrease violence because young men, rather than hanging out and starting fights and shootings on the corner, stay inside and play "Call of Duty"?

I don't think people over 40 understand just how big video games are. Compare games to movies. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has grossed $935,500,000 to date. Grand Theft Auto V grossed more than that in three days.

Overall I still suspect that video games had something to do with the crime drop in the late 1990s. That was when video games got good enough that even cool kids stayed inside to play them. And if you're home, you're not on the street getting into trouble. More recently video game sales have leveled off. And social media has grown, which may contribute to a rise in crime. Who knows? And how would you prove it?

As preliminary research I thought I'd look some big games and try and link their release to a drop in nationwide homicide.

But -- and not for the first time -- I was stymied by the UCR. They don't break crimes down by days. Only months. And that's not good enough. Damn them!

But at least for starters I could go to Opendata Baltimore to see if anything was going on in Baltimore. I looked at all assaults and also homicides in the 7 days both before and after release day (excluding the day of release because of hassles with the early morning hours).

It looks like nothing is up. The data look random. Anyway, overall there's certainly no decrease. Homicides are up, but the n is low and it's probably just random fluctuation (and assaults are down).

Well, I tried.

Scandal in the NYPD

It's still hard to figure out what exactly is going on. But Banks seems to be toast. Banks never had money problems. Maybe the IRS is interested. Overall, the best summary to date is by Lenny Levitt in NYPD Confidential.

Along with connections to Da Mayor, the white elephant in the room is the "special consideration" given to the Hasidic community. It's an open secret in the NYPD that Hasids and some of the Orthodox community are treated very kindly. Why? Because they got, as they say in Chicago, clout.

In 2013 DeBlasio won the Democratic primary (and hence the general election) by 101,503 votes. He avoided a runoff by 5,623 votes. Fewer than 700,000 votes were cast. Yes, in a city of 8.5 million, local elections are decided in an off-year with less than 10 percent of total residents voting. Meanwhile, there are 15,000 Satmars whose leaders offer their votes as a block. Most voted for deBlasio.

April 8, 2016

"Everyone should experience the ‘fight or flight’ response when flight isn’t an option"

Unlike some the other guy who lied about being a Baltimore cop, this guy has a few thoughts worth hearing. From Humans Of New York:
I got an Ivy League education and then became a street cop for six years. I’d always been a knee jerk liberal. I was one of those kids screaming ‘off the pigs’ at protest marches. And then I ended up joining the force. I think it should be mandatory for everyone.... I think everyone should have to be a cop. It’s the ultimate social work. It’s the cop who has to step in when everything else has broken down. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where conflict bubbles to the point of needing resolution, and somebody has to step in and protect the group welfare.
Everyone should have to make an arrest. Everyone should have to feel the fear of trying to apprehend someone who doesn’t want to go to jail. It breaks my heart to see all the hate toward cops. Are there hateful, racist cops? Sure. And they should be punished. But I’ve worked in just about every industry. And I didn’t find any more racism in the police department than I’ve found in boardrooms and retail stores.

April 3, 2016

Bad Cop Good Movie: The Seven-Five

I'm finally getting around to watching The Seven Five, a documentary about the 75 Precinct in the 1980s and criminal cop Michael Dowd. Good stuff... the documentary, that is, not the cop.

I like how the movie is told through three perspectives: the dirty cops, the cops who caught them, and the criminal the cops worked for. And of course they're all really charismatic.

But what amazes me is the reputation for NYC being so crazy back then. I mean it was. Sort of. In 1990, the height of the crack epidemic (the Bronx was already burnt) New York City's homicide rate peaked at 30 per 100,000.

And the 75 Precinct was the highest homicide precinct in the city, with 126 murders in 1993. That's a rate of about 80 per 100,000.

Last year in New York City? The homicide rate was 4.

You know what Baltimore's homicide rate was last year? 55.

When I worked the Eastern District the homicide rate was 100.

Last year in the Western District, the homicide rate was 140.

Think of what that means, to residents and cops alike.

[Fun fact: The most ever homicides in any one Baltimore district? The Western in 1972. 87 homicides. (Though last year's rate was probably higher, given the population flight from the area.)]

April 2, 2016

Problems with Tasers

I had no idea TASER was an acronym standing for anything, much less "Thomas A. Swift's electric rifle"!

The LA Times reports:
LAPD officers fired Tasers just over 1,100 times last year.... The devices had the desired outcome — causing someone to submit to arrest — only 53% of the time.
Is half the time better than nothing or not nearly good enough? Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of bad police shootings are preceded by Tasers not doing what they're supposed to do. You press the magic button... and nothing happens. And you're not used to having to go hands-on, fighting, and physically dominating a suspect. So you're scared and reach for your gun.

And that's not the only problem with Tasers.

Special delivery

The hammer begins to fall on the officers who idiotically took offense and arrested a guy who had the nerve to criticize their reckless driving. Murray Weiss in DNAinfo:
The NYPD lieutenant involved in the questionable arrest of a Brooklyn mailman was stripped of his gun and badge Thursday and placed on desk duty.
The four are set to be harshly disciplined.... Machado, a former Marine who saw combat in Iraq, will take the heaviest hit because “the supervisor is the one who should dictate the situation,” a well-placed source explained.

“He is the boss and he is [the] one who controls what occurs,” the source said, predicting Machado, an 11-year veteran, could lose as much as a year’s vacation, but not his job, which was something even the mailman, Glenn Grays, said he did not want to occur.
You'd think, if the cops were in a legitimate rush rather than just driving like fools, they would have continued on to the emergency rather than having the time to stop and harass a mailman. I stand by my previous statement that this was "inexcusably shitty" police behavior.

56 Rounds: What it means to "have cops' backs"

Yesterday I was asked by a journalist what it means for politicians and police brass to "have cops' backs." It's a fair question. It doesn't mean not being critical of police. It doesn't mean defending cops when they make an unreasonable mistake. It does mean giving cops the benefit of the doubt and supporting officers when they do their job.

Take the recent police-involved killing of a father and son in Baltimore on the 400 block of E. Lanvale (314 Post, AKA Bodie's Corner.)

This is Baltimore City Police Commissioner Davis having the cops' backs (I transcribed from the video in this story):

We had three police officers who were in the right place at the right time.
The police came and did their job and did what they had to do.

And I would add to that if not for the Baltimore police department yesterday, we could have had a mass shooting on our hands where several innocent lives could easily have been taken. I'm very proud of the work of our police officers yesterday. Their bravery. We can't run from danger. We don't run from bad guys with guns. We engage them.

We fired 56 rounds yesterday, until this threat was eliminated. I want to put that right out there right now: 56 rounds. And you can see, and you can perhaps imagine confronting, in a neighborhood street in broad daylight, a father and son duo, with an intent to kill, that's what it took to eliminate that threat.

I'll add to that, the son, one of the two men that we shot and killed yesterday, the son was out on bail for a handgun offense and the father was out on probation for a handgun offense. And that's why I've personally spent so much time in Annapolis in this legislative session, in an effort to convince lawmakers, and we certainly have convinced the ones from Baltimore, about the necessity to do more with these laws and make these misdemeanors felonies. It's about time. But that message still isn't getting through.

But our police officers and our community knows [sic] that unfortunately there are violent repeat offenders among us, who live right here in our city, who think nothing about carrying two guns like that in broad daylight and popping out of a car. If it weren't for the bravery of the Baltimore City Police Department, we could be having an entirely different press conference right now.
Kudos to Davis. You couldn't ask for more. Now this is what one would expect from a good leader. But good leadership, especially in Baltimore, is not a given.

Davis didn't have to say what he said. He didn't have to say anything. Or he could have had a spokesperson say something neutral like "we're investigating the incident." Or he could have raised an eyebrow by mentioning the number of shots fired before emphasizing how the "officers guns were taken immediately after the shooting and they remain on modified duty, as is departmental policy."

But Commissioner Davis didn't do any of that. He went out of way to support his officers how bravely engaged with armed gunmen. This matters.

Contrast this with former commissioner Batts who, in the name of progress and reform, threatened cops and led the city into riots and violence.

But really contrast this with Baltimore City's elected State's Attorney, Marylyn Mosby, who pushes a cops-are-the-problem perspective. Her husband is running for mayor. She's wasting her precious prosecutorial resources by prosecute good cops who may or may not have made an honest mistake.

After this shooting, Mosby treated the officers like criminals. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, officers involved in a good shooting were read their Miranda Rights like common criminals. For shame. These cops aren't criminals; they aren't suspects in "custodial interrogation."

Were it not for Davis and his strong and passionate words at the press conference (and also good journalism by the Baltimore Sun from which Davis quoted), it's easy to imagine an anti-police narrative taking root. After all, this is Baltimore, where police are quick to gun down a father and son (with latter with junior-high-school graduation pictures at the ready) over a misdemeanor! (In Maryland and many states, illegal gun possession is just a misdemeanor).

I'm sure some non-present "witness" could be found saying, "The cops didn't have to fire all those shots. They had already given up." Academics would criticize Broken-Windows policing. Al Sharpton, able to get a few days off work, would appear to criticize racist policing. Protesters could chant "56 shots!" while the national media returned to Baltimore and ask if (ie: hope that) more violence would be forthcoming.

In that world, if Davis doesn't have the cops' backs, the next time a group of officers in an unmarked car see two guys getting out with guns? The cops could just keep on driving.

Eventually, after the shooting stops and bodies drop, somebody would call 911.

Would you engage armed gunmen? Why risk your life? Why face potential criminal prosecution? This is why having cops' backs matters.

Update: Regarding Mosby reading the cops their rights, here's the FOP's statement:

2nd Update: Also, homicides year-to-date are up 25 percent this year compared to last. But given the post-riot near doubling in violence last year, being up only 25 percent from pre-riot figures is actually a massive improvement of sorts.

3rd Update: Mosby's office denies it. (I wasn't there. But I don't believe her. It's not like she has a track record of telling the truth.) And the BPD decides not to engage. But the union will play:
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Saturday that the statement from the state's attorney's office was "so completely inaccurate that it should be labeled an outright lie."

How people get killed

Murders are usually thought of in the abstract. People "get killed." Homicides "rates" go up or down. But to each killing, there's a person who kills and a person killed. This isn't really understood by those who don't live or work in high crime areas. (Yes, while murder can happen anywhere... no, murder actually doesn't happen everywhere).

Not to glorify snuff films -- because, spoiler alert, this guy gets killed [update: or maybe just critically wounded] -- but I think it's important to understand the individual nature or homicides when talking about crime and police.

From the Daily News:
Police statistics said that as of Wednesday morning there had been 727 people shot and 135 homicides so far this year in the city of Chicago.

However, the Chicago Tribune reported at 9 p.m. that nine more people had been shot during the course of the day, including a 23-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman, who were both killed.

The incident is the latest in the city's most violent start to a year since 1999.

Earlier this week a young woman named Camiella Williams, 28, told The Trace that she has lost 23 loved ones to shootings, and is now an anti-gun violence advocate.

As the story was being edited another one of her friends, 27-year-old Cordero Mosley, was shot six times and died.

April 1, 2016

Why fewer police-involved shootings in Chicago might be bad

Police-involved shootings in Chicago are way down.
From heyjackass.com

This is great news for advocates of police reform.

Chicago in 2016 will probably see police shoot just 15 or so people (based quite sketchily on January through March figures). This compares to 45 people shot in 2014. The decrease is without doubt due in part to those who keep a laser-like focus on police misconduct. The number of those shot by Chicago Police has plummeted for two consecutive years.

But it's also very likely that Chicago will see close to 3,500 people shot this year. That would be 500 more than 2015. And that was 500 more than 2014. And that was 500 more than 2013. And for each 500-person increase in shootings, roughly 480 victims are black or hispanic.

What if -- hypothetically of course and absent any corresponding decrease in violence in general -- what if police-involved shootings served as a proxy (an indirect indicator) for police officers' engagement and interaction with violent criminals and the criminal class? It's not inconceivable. Another indicator is that police stops in Chicago have also plummeted.

In the police world we'd call these facts "clues." Of course in the academic world I'm "just guessing." But I'll have a lot of time to guess before "hard social science" (that's a joke, by the way) can prove what's going on.

But hey, why focus on the negative? Why focus on criminals and dead young black and hispanic men when we can just keep the heat on police? Let's assume heroic police behavior is criminal. Let's criminally prosecute innocent cops and drive other cops who defend themselves into hiding. Let's build a social movement on (what turns out to be) a lie and then pretend it doesn't matter because, well, it could have been true. And then, when police do less and crime goes up, deny it. And then, when you can't deny it any longer, say we don't know why crime is up. Or better yet, blame the police.

But police-involved shootings are way down!

Update: here's the same data but compiled on June 6:

"Prosecutors ordered officers in fatal shooting be read Miranda rights"

I'm surprised that I can still be surprised at Baltimore's State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's continued battle again Baltimore's police. I don't know, maybe she thinks all cops are bad because she grew up around so many bad cops. But Freudian analysis aside, imagine if the public prosecutor was out to get you and your colleagues. This concerns the latest police-involved shooting:
The Baltimore Police officers involved in Thursday's fatal shooting of a father and son armed with weapons were videotaped being read their Miranda rights at the direction of prosecutors after declining to give statements, a police union attorney said.

Michael Davey, the attorney, said it was the first time he could recall such a move by prosecutors in 16 years working with the police union.

"These guys should get a medal for what they did, instead of being treated like criminals by the State's Attorney's Office," Davey said.
It's almost charming, in that Baltimore criminal kind of way, that father and son were out doing something together. My dad used to take me to the beach.

Says retired deputy commissioner Anthony Barksdale:
If that guy could've let off with that rifle, all three of those cops would've been dead. That pink rifle might look silly, but it is highly lethal. You're goddam right they fired 56 shots.