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by Peter Moskos

September 14, 2018

NYPD prostitution scandal

When ever corruption scandals breaks, I always notice two things:

1) The "blue was of silence" is more fiction than fact. Sure, cops in collusion won't talk, at first. But that's hardly a blue wall. I mean, given people's natural inclination not to snitch on their friends and family, cops snitch on other cops quite regularly. Probably more so than other occupations. Why? A) cops don't like bad cops, B) when push comes to shove, people CYA and say "I'm not going to risk my pension for that dirty cop I never liked anyway."

2) The dollar amount some cops are willing to screw up their lives, their reputations, and their valuable pension. It's chump change. Lazy cops retire. Bad cops retire. But dirty cops rarely retire because being able to rat out a dirty cop is a great get-out-of-jail-free card. And that card is something other crooks find very useful. I mean, just put in 20 to 25 years and they pay you for the rest of life! And you screw it all for $100 here and $200 there?

But here we go, as reported in the Times: "One detective was allowed to pay $20 for an encounter with a prostitute that would normally cost $40." A cop gave his all for $20 off a blow job.

This was a "multi-year NYPD investigation" started by a top from a cop. But a multi-year NYPD investigation means there are a lot of well crossed T's and beautifully dotted I's.

Last I heard, 7 cops and about 20 civilians were arrested.

It's also interesting when internal PD investigation brings down dirty cops. Cops are like, "Great, system finally worked! Stupid dirty cops got what they had coming." Cop-sceptics are like, "Blue Wall of Silence is proof police are irrevocable corrupt!"

Also, for police and sex-workers alike, prostitution should be regulated and legal.

Michael Wood Jr. took money from veterans

Michael Wood Jr, a former Baltimore cop, confessed many of his sins a few year ago. Because of that, he became a darling of the anti-cop left who mistook his confessing for whistle blowing. Pretty much everybody who ever worked with the guy has stories about him, and not favorable ones. I never met the guy, but I think he saw me as his nemesis. Anyway, he got his when he was shut down by the #MeToo movement and also by the fact he took a bunch of money from veterans. And pocketed the cash. He's not a force for good, no matter how much he says about how horrible police are. Mostly he just looks in the mirror.

I've written about him before. Pulled a few punches, honestly.

This story appeared a few months ago in High Country News.

August 9, 2018

Every four or five years...

Just a brief note to commemorate the semi-decennial NYPD drug sweep at the Queensbridge Houses.
I keep track of these things. (I live nearby.) 9 raids. 22 arrests. 4 handguns.

Last time this happened was 2013. And that was preceded by similar raids in 2009 and 2005. Sometimes police get disparaged for conducting wack-a-mole policing. (In fact, sometimes *I've* disparaged police for this reason.) But one of the reasons crime is so low in NYC is because police do wack those criminal moles (and have the resources to do so) when criminals pop their heads up. Illegal public drug-dealing, so linked to violence, is exactly what police need to focus on. And the residents of America's largest public housing complex can be a little less afraid.

There will be another similar raid in Queensbridge in 2023. Mark my words. But maybe that is exactly what is needed. Or maybe a little more continued presence now, rather than a few years, really could prevent the next crew from popping up.

June 14, 2018

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder

Over on our Quality Policing podcast, Nick Selby and I hit the road and interview Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder

Nassau County, if you don't know, is the closer of two counties on Long Island outside of New York City. It's largely a low-crime suburban community but has been in the news lately because of MS-13 and also a high number of drug overdose deaths. 1.3 million people live in Nassau County and the police department is (give or take) the nation's 15th largest.

We discuss information sharing, gangs, immigration, drugs, opioids, diversion court, the PC police, technology, relations with the Muslim community, and so much more.

June 12, 2018

Suddenly It Became His Job

Well done, Officer Rogers!

“An officer was actually on this block on another call and actually heard the shots being fired, said T.J. Smith, Baltimore City Police Spokesman. “That officer gave pursuit.” How often does that happen? And what exactly happened? An edited and shortened version of the bodycam footage had been acquired by WMAR, which made me go, "damn!" I asked T.J. Smith if I could view the entire footage, and he was kind enough to post it publicly.

Here's what happened. [There's a timeline, below.] On April 19, 2018, at approximately 15:00 hours, Officer Rogers responded to a 311 call for a landlord-tenant dispute at 1704 N Regester. Probably something like, "landlord says tenant refusing access to her building. Please see Miss Whomever." The 1700 block is a small block in my old sector. Six homes are boarded up.

Many calls are for disputes that are not or should not be a police matter. It's not his job. In civil matters, there's very little the police can or should do. In Baltimore, as in many places, the sheriff's office handles law enforcement related to housing issues. [This actually takes a great burden off police, who otherwise would have to be seen as taking take sides in evictions and like.]

The landlord tries to make it Officer Roger's matter by saying she has been threatened by the tenant. There's some debate about "street talk" at if "going all gangster" is a threat. But the officer wisely won't play this game. Presumably he's got other calls to answer. It appears he's already out of sector handling this kind of nonsense.

[My take: Apparently the furnace broke. That's a housing violation that needs fixing. Now there is something about hot water, too. The tenant reports this to the city so that he would have legal reason to stop paying rent. But, and here's the catch, the tenant doesn't want the violation fixed because as long as the status quo can be maintained, he's living rent free! So the tenant decides he won't let the landlord in. The tenant also says he's moving anyway, which is news to the landlord and no doubt will coincide with the problem being fixed. The landlord says he owes her money. She isn't going to get it. Yes, this is why people don't want to be landlords. And basically as a cop you just want to make sure everything is just calm enough -- basically that they won't start fighting -- so you can get out of there. Often the show to which police officers have a "front-row seat" is something not worth the price of admission. Again, this isn't his job.]

It's all very boring and typical. And it lasts for 7 minutes. Just as the officer is looking for a way out, boy does he find one. Gunshots ring out (7min:48sec). There are 15(?) shots in five seconds. Less than two seconds after the first shot rings out (and three seconds before the last shot) Officer Rogers takes off running, toward where the bullets are coming from. Yes, that is what most cops do.

Walter Baynes, a 30-year-old black male, had just been shot and killed, and George Evans, 69-years-old, reported to be Baynes grandfather, was shot and wounded. One of them, I presume Baynes, had a gun on him when he was shot (13:23). The gunshots sound like they come from one gun, at least to my ears. But given the number of shots fired, it's possible that Baynes also emptied his revolver at the man who shot and killed him with a semi-automatic. If so, Baynes missed.

In the video, notice how the people, except for the officer, barely react to gunshots. And just a minute later it's like things are back to normal. Traffic doesn't stop. People walk by like nothing happened. Not even a reason to interrupt your dog walk (9:44). People act like it's routine, because, unfortunately, it is. Sixteen of Baltimore 122 murders this year (to date) have been in the Eastern District. Many more get shot and live.

Such brave, good police work is also routine. An officer runs toward gunshots and single-handedly confronts a man whom he believes to be armed, a man who just killed a man. He does this by instinct and training. He does this not necessarily because he wants to, but because it is the right thing to do. Because running toward danger is his job. He did good, Officer Rogers did. Very good.

And then, after all this, all he wants to do is check his bodycam footage to see if the suspect is on it. If it were up to the ACLU and the police-are-the-problem set, police wouldn't be allowed to do so. That's crazy. Also, it takes 15 long minutes before somebody will watch the suspect so he can do so.

Good police work doesn't go viral like a video of bad policing or a cop doing something stupid. And if all people see are videos of cops shooting black men, they start believing that shooting black men is all cops do. So let's play the counterfactual game and imagine this went down differently. Let's say at 8:10 in the video the suspect made a move toward his waistband. Or maybe he didn't. Either way, let's say the officer shoots and kills the suspect. Would this be legally justifiable? Probably. Would it be correct? Well that depends if the suspect is armed. Can you tell if the suspect is? I cannot.

It turns out the suspect isn't armed, at least not at this moment when he's caught by police. So now you would have a scenario in which a bad cop has shot and killed an unarmed black man. In Baltimore, no less. Oh, that would go viral. Doesn't matter if the guy just killed somebody. The gun used to murder Mr. Baynes? Probably ditched in the alley and picked up by somebody else before it even bounced. Doesn't matter if the cop is African American (implicit bias and all). There would be protests and perhaps worse.

No matter what would happen now, the officer's life is ruined. Career over. Thrown under the bus by the department. He and his family will receive death threats. Perhaps they will have to go into hiding. A criminal prosecution would likely occur. Mosby has tried to convict cops for a lot less. All because this officer ran toward gunshots and misperceived a lethal threat. Harsh.

Should any single split-second decision really be the difference between a narrative of brave hero police officer and protests over an evil criminal cop who is now the only person from this incident on trial for murder? Perhaps we demand too much. We all make mistakes. What was the officer's intention? Well, to apprehend a shooter. It was not to kill the suspect, though he was prepared to do so.

Watch the video in real time, between 7:48 and 8:10. We're talking a total of 22 seconds. How would you react? Of course you might reasonably say, "I don't know. It's not my job to react. I'm not a cop." Ok. So let me ask this: how do you want police to react? Just as this cop did, right? Run towards gunshots, chase a suspect, and not shoot anybody, not even a bad guy. Job well done, right?

Nope. Not so fast.

See, the DOJ report on Baltimore Police, the one that opened the door to the consent decree, the one written by "progressive reformers" who have never let lack of police experience get in the way of telling police how to do their job, that report? Well it says Officer Rogers did it wrong. I mean, what if somebody got hurt?
If circumstances require that the suspect be immediately apprehended, officers should contain the suspect and establish a perimeter rather than engaging in a foot pursuit, particularly if officers believe the suspect may be armed.
You're kidding me, right? I don't even know what "containing" a suspect means, much less how you would go about setting up a "perimeter" to do so. This isn't idle talk. Last month in Seattle, because of a consent decree, an officer faced discipline for successfully subduing a man with a axe. If police get in trouble for making decisions and acting in the face of danger, there's really no point to having police at all. And that, of course, might be the "progressive" vision.

Luckily, back in the real world, we're left with the happy narrative of a brave officer who risked his life to apprehend a murder suspect. And luckily, in this case, no person-of-color was shot or killed at the hands of police. (Which seems to be just about the only thing reformers care about. The fact that two African-American men were shot, one fatally, doesn't seem to register much with the "woke" set.)

We have this happy narrative because, as is common, the officer did not shoot the suspect when he might have. We have a happy narrative because the suspect complied with the officer's orders. (The manner in which the suspect complied -- quickly and completely -- makes me seriously consider that the suspect isn't the actual shooter. But I don't know. He has been charged. Presumably gunshot residue on his hands answered this question.) But mostly we have a happy narrative because, despite all the haters, police in Baltimore and elsewhere are still out there, putting themselves in danger, trying to do the best they can in spite of it all.

As to the original call, the landlord-tenant dispute? It ain't going to close itself. At some point the dispatcher is going to need Officer Rogers to give it a code. I'm guessing it got a David-No, for "no police services needed."

0:34— Officer is on-scene at 1704 N Regester for a civil dispute.
7:48— 1st shot fired.
7:50— Officer starts running toward gunfire.
7:53— 15th shot is fired. shooting at 7:48-53 15 shots in 5 seconds
7:54— Officer gets on radio to report shots fired
8:00— Officer sees man in alley off to the left
8:08— Tell man to get drop the gun and get on the ground.
8:10— Suspect complies
8:18— Suspect is on ground in prone position
8:27— Officer: "My location..."
8:28— In all the excitement, the officer forgets his location. In his defense, he does appear to be out of sector (331 officer on 321 post). But still. Always know your 20. During the next 20 seconds, given he's out of breath and already said "shots fired," the dispatcher should be sending officers in the direction of 1700 N Regester, the location of his call. Little things like that matter. A good dispatcher can save an officer's life.
8:50— Officer gives his location.
9:26— Finally, the sweet savory sound of clicking handcuffs.
9:44— Man with dog walks by and says good job or something.
9:49— Backup arrives, one minute after location is announced.
10:35— Officer: "Check that alley.... This dude, I'm up there handling a landlord-tenant dispute. Then all the sudden people start shooting. Shooter's down right here. This dude I believe is the shooter. He just took his hoodie down. He might have dropped the gun in alley cause that's where he ran.
13:23— Radio: "One of the victims has a firearm in his waistband." We later learn (at 18:34) that this gun is a revolver. It's not clear if the revolver was fired at all. Either way, that leaves a semi-automatic belonging to the shooter who didn't get shot, and fired somewhere between 9 and 15 rounds.
13:30— Officer: "Why was you in the alley? And you just happened up here when the shooter came out, right?" Suspect: "Bro, I was walking up the alley to walk up North Avenue, bro, and I heard some shit. That's why I started running."
14:41— Officer tries to get somebody to watch the suspect so he can review his bodycam footage.
16:28— Shift commander: "What hundred block of Lafayette is Register at?" Uh, in the 1700 block, Baker-09. Where it's always been.
30:08— The suspect assures officer he wasn't doing nothing.
30:18— Finally, a kindly homicide detective agrees to watch the suspect the officer can return to his car to check his bodycam footage. "I'm not leaving till you do," she says.
30:20— Officer: "I swear. One simple thing. Ask one person to watch him so I can review the bodycam footage so we can close this. But nobody is listening to me. I'm only the one that chased the goddamn dude."

February 13, 2018

Baltimore police trial: guilty

Yesterday the verdict came out. I wrote this op-ed for the Washington Post:
This current scandal is more than a case of a few bad apples, though bad apples they were. These officers acted with impunity until the FBI caught wind of their actions through an unrelated criminal investigation in Pennsylvania. A specialized police unit cannot survive for years as a criminal enterprise without the implicit — or overt — acquiescence of higher-ups. Effective leadership could have prevented this. Bad leadership has consequences.
Corrupt units tend to be specialized and selective. Once murky rumors begin about a unit or officer, good cops stay away for fear of trouble. The corrupt and brutal cops work together, as I once heard, as if pulled together by some magnetic force. You don’t just randomly get assigned to a plainclothes “gun trace task force.” This unit segregation removes officers from the otherwise corrective influence of the honest rank and file. There is no formal colleague review in policing; perhaps there should be.

Honest cops — still the vast majority — avoid trouble, as any citizen should hope. The rank and file cannot be blamed for keeping their noses clean, especially when unresolved questions remain about the integrity of internal affairs and the prosecutor’s office. These officers in Baltimore were guilty, but the systemic problems represent a failure of leadership, the same leadership that absolved itself of responsibility by inviting the Justice Department to investigate after Freddie Gray’s death.
Until 2015, policing and Baltimore had been getting better. After an excess of zero-tolerance policing in the early 2000s, Baltimore saw a sustained decline in both murder and arrests. From 2004 to 2011, murders declined from 278 to 197 while arrests dropped from 42 percent. People even began to move back to the city. After six decades of decline, the population increased. These civic and public safety gains reversed in 2015. Last year 343 people were murdered in Baltimore City, and the population and tax base is falling once again.

This year the police scandal is yet another black eye for a bruised city. Mayor Catherine Pugh, in a statement she later walked back, said she was too busy to follow the trial. The acting and presumed next police commissioner, Darryl De Sousa, is well-respected but will have his hands full. Corrupt police officers deserve special blame for committing crimes while in the public’s trust. But for a wounded Baltimore to rise again, city leaders, both elected and appointed, must accept their responsibility and get things done.
Go on, click through for the whole article.

February 5, 2018

Qualily Policing #13: Baltimore, BWC, and more

The first Quality Policing Podcast of the new year is up. Peter and Nick begin in (where else?) Baltimore, discussing the trial of detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, from the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. The two are accused of a range of criminal activities, including robbing drug dealers, and carrying pellet guns as "drop guns," and using Donald Stepp of Double D bail bonds as a fence for stolen drugs. Also, if you must break into and steal from Kenny Bird Johnson's car, please do not be a "rat punk."

Also on tap is a discussion of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's new guide to the evils of body worn video, which Nick described with not a small amount of revulsion - listen to Nick's QPP Extra on Body Cameras and surveillance here.
This week a cop was shot in the face in Louisville (he will survive), and Peter and Nick discuss that, and the response to it, and Peter raised the story from San Francisco of cops getting run over by car thieves, and the officers not shooting at the moving car that ran over the cop and one of the suspects, not once but twice.

Finally, a story from Christmas-time, the continuation of the monumentally stupid practice of cops stopping people to hand out money donated by local businessmen. This started, we think, a few years ago (here's a USA Today story from 2015) but it's continuing now; here's a story from Ohio about cops stopping cars to hand out cash... And here's the story from Kansas City, KS Nick was discussing.

Handing out charity used to be function of police. While this is unprecedented in recent history, it is not without precedent. In New York City, for instance, under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, police handed out "relief." Who better to give to the needy than the neighborhood officers who knew the needy (and "worthy") residents of their beat. Peter forget to mention that in the podcast, so thanks for reading.

January 23, 2018

Cops and Robbers in Baltimore

Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun has tweeted a crazy account of testimony in today's trial of corrupt Baltimore cops.
Crazy testimony in federal court just now by former Detective Maurice Ward, outlining illegal tactics used by Gun Trace Task Force Officers ...

They’d regularly drive fast at a larger group of people, slam brakes and pop their doors to see who ran, then detain and search them. They had no reason other than trying to provoke someone. 10-20 times on slow nights, as many as 50 times others, he said.

Ward said Sgt Jenkins profiled vehicles - “dope boy cars” such as Honda Accords, Acuras, Honda Odysseys - for car stops and would falsely claim he saw people not wearing seat belts or their windows were too darkly tinted.

Jenkins also had a thing about men over age of 18 carrying a book bag - probably drugs, he guessed, so they would stop them, Ward said.

More outrageous testimony from Det Ward: they kept BB guns on hand in case they hit someone or got into a shootout and needed to plant it on someone.

When they stopped someone suspected of being in the drug game, Jenkins would ask, “If you could put your own crew together and rob the biggest drug dealer you know of, who would it be?” And then they’d go after the person they named, to rob them.

Prosecutors dumped out a giant black bag, like a hockey equipment bag, onto the floor that apparently belonged to Jenkins that had masks, black clothes, shoes, and tools such as a rope with a grappling hook.

One of the craziest stories involved a man who they stole $100,000 from. Ward says Jenkins listened to the man's jail calls after he was arrested, and heard him talking about the officers stealing money from him. /1

The man said he was going to hire a good lawyer and try to go after them. Jenkins learned that the man's wife was handling things for him on the outside, and he wanted to extract her so he'd have to hire a public defender and plead out, Ward said /2

So on one of the calls, Jenkins heard the man talking to another woman. Jenkins, Ward said, had an officer with good handwriting write up a note purporting to be from the other woman saying she was pregnant, and dropped it in the wife's front door /3

This is just the first of four officers who will testify during this trial, and he hasn’t even been cross-examined yet.
The story in the Sun.

This scandal is big. And it starts just as a new commissioner takes over the BPD. And that transition, from Davis to De Sousa, is just about the first good bit of policing news coming from Charm City in three years. Davis, you may remember, took over from Batts in 2015. Batts was the so called "progressive" who led the department into a riot and saw murder nearly double overnight in May, 2015. But rumor has it that Batts, to his credit, wouldn't go along with the futile (and failed) criminal prosecution of the six cops involved in the arrest and subsequent death in police custody of Freddie Gray. Davis, they say, got the job in part because he had so such qualms.

I don't know De Sousa, but I've only heard good things. At least now the possibility of change for the better.

I still can't get over the fact that the DOJ was investigating the Baltimore Police Department at the same time that all this was going on. What did they find? Poorly filled out "statements of probable cause," a few petty gray-area scandals from a decade ago, and, get this, black cops in Baltimore use the "n word." And yet they were totally clueless about all this happening under their nose. But we can't blame the investigators because, well, we don't know who they were since the report was anonymous and with the only the vaguest of "methods" section. But then the purpose of the DOJ report was not to find the truth, but rather show problem to legally trigger a consent decree.

Speaking of which... Keven Rector reports in the Sun:
The two highest-ranking Baltimore police officials in charge of instituting reforms, overhauling policies and ensuring compliance with the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice have both resigned following Mayor Catherine Pugh’s firing of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis last week.
Well, there you have it.