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by Peter Moskos

October 21, 2016

Don't sh*t where you live

The Villiage Voice reports on how, after much effort, a guy got data on where NYPD officers live (the zip codes). There's nothing too surprising here, but it is worth noting 1) the NYPD was reluctant to give it up, and 2) NYPD officers are forbidden to work in the precinct in which they live. This goes back to anti-corruption efforts, and it is at odds with community policing. (Not that many cops want to live where they work, but that's another matter.)

58 percent of cops live in the city, but just 45 percent of white compared with three-quarters of black and hispanic cops.

Just under 30 cops live in my zip code in Queens. 114 cops live in 10940, Middletown, NY. That's 70 miles to the city limits and a 2-hour drive to 1PP, police headquarters. Suffolk County to Western Queens can take just as long. A few cops live even further away. I don't think that's a healthy commute, especially for a job that requires flexibility and going to court. But what do I know?

"Number Two" at the range

Two days ago in the Bronx, an NYPD sergeant shot and killed Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old with schizophrenia armed with a baseball bat. Deborah Danner's death is a tragedy. It is a failure of the system. But almost immediately, the officer who shot was stripped of his badge and gun and denounced by the mayor and police commissioner. DeBlasio -- who according to the Times, "struggled to answer basic questions about the shooting" -- felt he knew enough to throw the cop under the bus:
The shooting of Deborah Danner was tragic, and it is unacceptable. It should never have happened. It is quite clear our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation. And it's very hard for any of us to see that that standard was met here.
Really? At NYPD target practice, there's a simple shoot/don't-shoot scenario. (This is something we did not have in Baltimore, which might help explain the NYPD's overall extremely low rate of using lethal force.)

The guy with a bat is known as "Number Two." When you hear, "Number Two," you're supposed to see the guy with a bat and shoot Mr. Number Two. (Also Three and Four, but not Numbers One or Five.)

I am not saying this was a good shooting. I am saying that if we don't want cops to shoot people with baseball bats, why do we train cops to do just that?

The mayor continued:
There was certainly a protocol that called for deferring to the Emergency Service Unit (ESU). That was not followed. There was obviously the option of using a taser. That was not employed. We will fully investigate this situation and we will cooperate fully with any prosecutorial agencies. We need to know why this officer did follow his training and did not follow those protocols.
[The New York State attorney general said he would not investigate the shooting.]

Protocol, so I hear, does say that officers confronted with an emotionally disturbed armed person (apparently initially naked and armed with scissors) should back off, close the door, and call for ESU and wait.

I'm not convinced the department really wants this to happen all the time. This protocol, let's call it Plan B, would tie up a few officers for a few hours in what would then be a barricade situation. It would also draw on the military-like resources of ESU.

Plan A is for two cops to simply handle the inncident quickly and professionally, and get back in service to handle the next call. When violating "protocol" is routine, even encouraged, it's not fair to only crack the whip when things go bad.

But one thing about these events is they can change police culture quite quickly. ESU is now going to have a lot more work, for better or for worse. But wouldn't be ironic if ESU responded to every call, especially in light of demands to de-militarize the police? And then what happens when ESU kills somebody? Then we blame ESU?

Then who do we call? The really issue is that police shouldn't be responding to this type of call at all.

Here's Alex Vitale (whom I'm actually agreeing with!) in the Gotham Gazette:
The fact that police had to even be dispatched in the first place is a sign that something went wrong.

Health officials knew about this woman's condition.... Why was she returned to her apartment without adequate ongoing supervision or care?
Yet thousands of profoundly disabled people continue to roam the streets and subways or idle away at home with little or no support, leaving police to deal with the crises that inevitably result.
The mayor was wrong when he said that current training is adequate and this was just the mistake of a single officer. Ultimately, police are the wrong people to be responding to a person experiencing a mental health crisis.

October 6, 2016

"Chicago cop murders unarmed man after fender bender"

That's the headline that wasn't.

Instead we have this headline: "Officer Didn't Shoot Attacker Because She Feared Backlash."

A 43-year-old female 17-year-veteran suffered this:
The man had punched her and "repeatedly smashed her face into the pavement" until she was knocked out, police said. She suffered head trauma and multiple cuts to her face and head.
When you're a cop losing a fight and a man is bashing your head on the ground trying to kill you, it's OK to shoot the guy. Can we agree on that?

Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times:
A “simple traffic accident” that turned ugly.

“A subject who was under the influence of PCP attacked a female officer. Viciously pounded her head into the street as her partner was trying to get him off of her. This attack went on for several minutes,” [Chicago Police Supt.] Johnson told the assembled dignitaries.

“As I was at the hospital last night visiting with her, she looked at me and said she thought she was gonna die. And she knew that she should shoot this guy. But, she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”
The superintendent said he plans to turn that around by “encouraging” his officers and assuring them he has their backs.

“But, at the same time, we know we have to change this national narrative that the cops are the bad guys. The cops are actually the good guys trying to do a difficult job,” Johnson said.
It took many cops to arrest this guy. And three of those cops were hurt. The female officer is still hospitalized.

Tribune Columnist (and fellow Greek American) John Kass:
She's alive, but what if she had pulled her gun and used it?

We'd be going through the old rituals we know by heart, angry activists, the dead re-created as the victim of state-sponsored racism, politicians cowering and turning their backs on her, the entire urban political liturgy we've seen so many times.
Cops are getting in trouble for shooting armed suspects. You think she's get a pass for killing an unarmed black man? (I'm not 100 percent certain the man is black, but the neighborhood is.)

"She murdered an innocent unarmed man!" "They should have helped him after his accident." "How could one man be a threat to multiple officers?" "They didn't have to kill him!" And indeed, they didn't. He was taken alive.

Of course the guy who beat the cop is a violent felon. But who would hold that against him after being victimized by police? I'm sure there's a nice picture of him and relatives willing to say how "he was turning his life around" and would "never hit a woman." Who would believe Chicago cops?

So this officer was willing to let herself be beat to unconsciousness in order to save her family and the department from the now inevitable "scrutiny" had she decided to use lethal force.

So what should have she done? Honestly, I don't know. I'm not convinced she made the wrong choice. The reality today is there would be hell to pay if she shot the guy. Her job and family might be ruined. There would be protests. Threats. She could lose her job or face criminal prosecution. She might have to move and take her family into hiding. She made her choice. But that is a choice no cop should ever have to make, especially at the moment when your face is smashed on concrete again and again and the world fades into darkness around you.

October 5, 2016

"Why'd you have to shoot that criminal with a gun?"

So much of the body-cam debate, releasing or not releasing videos, comes down not to police behavior but to this:
I know, as a lifelong police officer, that I see people on the worst day of their lives. People shouldn’t feel like when the police come to your house that what’s happened to you is going to be splashed all over the Internet.
But it will.

I've long advocated punting the releasing of video and privacy issue to the ACLU. If police take the lead on this, no matter what they choose, they will be faulted. There needs to be a policy based on something other than public outrage. And generally I'm all for erroring on the side of transparency. And that's probably the way it has to be as long as people are willing to say people are holding books when they're holding guns.

As my colleague says:
“What you’re seeing is basically a policy of appeasement,” said Jon Shane, a professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City and a former police captain in Newark, N.J.

Shane said state legislatures should decide the rules for making recordings public. In California, lawmakers have repeatedly failed to draw up statewide policies on the issue.
There's also this factor:
Beck acknowledged the anger surrounding the weekend’s shootings and said he believed some of the reaction has been compounded by other police killings around the country.

“We have all seen police-involved shootings that defy justification in other municipalities. I have seen them where I am at a loss to understand why,” he said. “I think that affects what happens on the streets of Los Angeles.”
This concerns the shooting of Carnell Snell Jr. in Los Angeles.

October 4, 2016

Dejuan Yourse Arrest

For the life of me, I can't figure what Yourse is going to be charged with. Even with the game rigged in cops' favor, I don't see a crime. Yourse is under arrest after 9:10 when the officer doesn't take kindly to Yourse invited his friends over. I can understand why the officer doesn't want a posse of friends showing up at the scene, but what's the crime? This was in Greensboro, NC.

I'd be curious to see how he'd be able to articulate reasonable suspicion at 8:13. I'm not saying he couldn't; it's a low standard. But I'd like to see how. That's when things go South. Before that moment, everybody is playing along and sticking to the script. Poking a guy rarely serves any tactical benefit. Alternative if you don't want him to leave? Hold your palm out. If you're going to make physical contact, let the suspect initiate it. Also then you're in a better position to push back or grab.

After that, it becomes your standard shit show of trying to get a guy's hands behind his back. First he is resisting arrest. But then even when he isn't, it would seem like that because he's so built that his arms don't physically move in a way that can be cuffed (without double cuffs). Anyway, resisting arrest is a charge, but first you actually to be arrested for a crime before you can be charged with resisting. The standard catch-alls -- loitering, failure to obey, disorderly -- none of those even seem to apply here.

Anyway, word on the street (ie: a journalist told me) is that the officers resigned. I'm not going to defend how the male officer handled this. He sure could have benefited from de-escalation or common sense. I mean, as long as he doesn't come back wanted, I'm pretty convinced he's not breaking into the house. Too bad she wasn't handling this with him running the warrant check. But why in the world would she resign? Unless the lied on her report or something.

Also, once again, you have cops serving as force multipliers, forced into a situation by a call from an ignorant and/or racist citizen. That happens a lot. But it may not be the case here.

My wife just told me that Yourse actually was wanted on some warrant, but the cops didn't know that yet when the arrested Yourse. According an attorney for the Greensboro Police Association:
Once Mr. Yourse was taken into custody, the officers were able to continue attempting to verify his identity. Upon doing so, it was learned that Mr. Yourse had two active warrants for his arrest, along with two additional orders for his arrest [?]. Additionally, they discovered that Mr. Yourse had been charged twice in the past for breaking into his mother's house, 2 Mistywood Ct.

October 2, 2016

When to call (and not call) 911

Interesting study by some prominent (and good) sociologists about the drop-off in 911 calls after there was publicity about a man severely beaten by off-duty Milwaukee cops in 2004. Calls dropped by about 17 percent for about a year.

But that's just a segue to this, which comes from a community listserve in Durham, NC. A friend of mine who lives there sent it to me. And I reprint it here with permission of the author, Durham Sergeant Dale Gunter. He's got a bit of whimsy about him (a good quality in a sane cop) and seems to be in the news a fair amount, in a good kind of way way. Also, this a question I still get asked a lot.
There seems to be some confusion and hesitation about when to call 911. Lots of people have emailed me recently to ask when or what constitutes a 911 call versus a non-emergency call. So in order to clear it all up and because I know you’re all wondering, I’m gonna give you the skinny on the whole deal. This is exciting stuff folks, so put a pillow on the floor just in case you fall off the edge of your seat.

Here we go: if you see something HAPPENING that you think needs Police attention NOW (or for that matter, anything that falls under "Emergency Services" such as Police, Fire or EMS) then 911 is appropriate. The basic idea is to ask yourself if what you're seeing is “In-Progress.” If it is in progress -- call 911.

Now -- if the situation is clearly NOT an emergency or the incident is not currently in progress, then dialing the Non-Emergency line is appropriate [The Durham number is given here, but yours might be 311]. That’s why it’s called the Non-Emergency line -- nifty huh?

Examples of 911 calls can include:
  • Car wrecks
  • Any medical emergency
  • A break-in to your home (and you don't know if anyone is inside)
  • A break-in to your home while YOU'RE inside!
  • Seeing someone stealing, about to steal, or break-in to something
  • Fights (doesn't apply to animals, does apply to Kung-Fu)
  • Bad guy with a gun
  • Any sighting of Chuck Norris (cause someone is about to get hurt)
  • Gunshots
  • Suspicious activity (make sure to tell 911 exactly what’s suspicious about what you see)
  • Your house is on fire
  • My house is on fire
  • Anybody’s house is on fire
  • Fire in general
  • If you've fallen and can't get up
  • If I've fallen and I can't get up!
  • On second thought, a Chuck Norris sighting? Nothing we can do. Best not to intervene. It is, after all, Chuck Norris.
Now this is not even a drop in the bucket. So don't limit yourself to any list out there, because there are so many situations that can and would apply. Use good judgment and if you still have doubt, call 911. You can’t go wrong -- we'll figure it out when we get there.

Now, for the non-emergency stuff. the Non-Emergency number for the Durham Police is [yours might be 311, if you live in a city].

Basically, anything that you might need the police for, but it's not a "ShaZaaam!" moment. It's NOT in progress, and it doesn’t endanger life or property. It's more of a “Well, the police should probably know what's going on here, but there's no rush.”
Some examples of non-emergencies are:
  • A dent to your car in the parking lot.
  • A stolen mower, weed wacker, whack-a-mole game, wilted weeping willow, or other property (something that might have gotten stolen out of your shed for example) and the bad guy is long gone
  • A minor crime that occurred days ago or even hours ago
  • A car break-in (not in progress)
  • Identity fraud (not in progress)
  • Police advice
When not to call us at all --
  • When your order at Mickey-D's is not really "Your way."
  • When you forget your anniversary -- again -- and you were married Christmas day, her birthday, or Halloween (You’re on your own fellas).
  • Cat in a tree (it will come down eventually. after all, who's ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree?)
  • Dog in a tree -- call me directly. Gotta see that.
  • Clowns -- your discretion -- they creep me out too.
  • Aliens -- when aliens from Mars, in possession of an Illudium PU 36 Explosive Space Modulator, lands in the city park and start vaporizing people into cosmic dust -- it may be an emergency, but trust me -- I ain't coming.
  • Just to say "Hi Police!"
  • When Victor finds out Adam is secretly conspiring against Ashley to make her think she’s losing her mind and to make her think she's pregnant, but we all know she's really not, except for Victor, who can't see the truth because he hates Jack, and Jack is worrying about Gloria scheming as usual and Jack and Victor are worrying about that crazy Mary Jane and kitty cat. Mary Jane wants to kill Jack and Victor and stuff the new cat, or marry Jack, depends on the moment. Now, Mary Jane ought to think about calling 911 for that spider bite, that might be appropriate, and she could if she hadn't have stomped on the cell phone. Not that I watch Y&R, it's just what I hear, honest, you know, word on the street and all.
  • To find out the weather or road conditions. Instead, just watch Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker on WTVD. If Big Weather says “TarNader is a comin,” grab Dorothy and the dog and get in the cellar, cause a TarNader is a comin!
  • You want directions
  • Lost cell phones (No need to report it to anyone but your insurance company. Also, how did you call?)
  • Lost wallet
  • Lost dogs
  • Lost cats
  • Lost love
  • Lost keys
  • Lost re-runs
  • Los Alamos
  • Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas -- stays in Vegas -- unless you put it on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.
Now, if you have something that comes up and are confused or wonder about or have ANY DOUBT at all, repeat after me: Call 911 -- you can't go wrong.