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by Peter Moskos

October 30, 2009

Ghetto Reading List

In a footnote (p. 215) in Cop in the Hood, I list what I consider essential books in urban sociology (they're not all about the "ghetto").

Somebody was nice enough to take the time to put this list on Amazon. It's nice to see all these books in one place.

A visit to the medical marijuana doctor

A story in the LA Times by Steve Lopez showing how easy it is to get medical marijuana.

October 26, 2009

Get Ready to Ruuuuuummmmmble!

NYPD cars are getting a low-frequency device to supplement their lights and siren.

Why do I have the feeling I'm not going to like this.

I think sirens should be quieter, not louder. We don't need to escalate noise in the city. The problem isn't that people don't notice lights and sirens, it's that they don't care. I don't see the Rumbler changing that.

Use of Force, eh?

A reader sent me this link:

Here's the news story. Abbotsford, by the way, has been labeled "the Murder Capital of Canada" [insert scary music here]. Abbotford, the Murder Captial of Canada," has a homicide rate of 4.7 per 100,000.

Abbotford, the Murder Captial of Canada, has a homicide rate lower than the U.S. homicide rate.

Think about that.

As Yakov Smirnoff used to say: "What a country!"

I have no problem with the force used in this video. In fact, I think it's a very good use of force (and I'm not saying that just to provoke anonymous insults). Every bit of force is justified, in response to actions the suspect takes, and stops when the suspect complies.

That guy on the ground had two things to do: 1) keep his head down, and 2) not move, especially his hands. Those are very fair requests. Mr. Brown Jacket complies and has no problem. Mr. Slow Learner keeps looking up and trying to move his hands to a place where 1) he could reach for a weapon or 2) get up. Neither is acceptable. The officer responds appropriately.

To me, the greater issue (outside the war on drugs) is the limitations of the gun. Once you're pointing a gun at somebody who doesn't do want you want, you kind of lose your power. I mean, if you can't shoot the guy, what can you do? So the gun, if you call its bluff, only serves to take the officer's hands out of the equations. That's not good. But as long as the gun is out (and yes, I'm assuming that officer has a good reasons to suspect the suspects may be armed), all you've got are your feet.

There was one time I got out of my car and drew down on two people fighting in the middle of the Monument Street (I had reason to believe, falsely it turned out, that one had a gun). I ordered them to stop fighting. I will never forget as they both, in unison, turned to look down the barrel of my gun, then turned back to each other and re-starting slugging each other again. All I could do was put my gun away. By this time I could see they were not armed.

I did end up macing one of them when the other, unilaterally, listened to my commands to stop fighting. At the request of their father, they both went to jail. Turned out they were brothers.

Everyone would have been happier had I never been there.

October 25, 2009

Why 911 is a Joke

I love any story about how f*cked up 911 is. This one at Pepper Spray Me is a good one.

And here he reminds you why grammar is important.

Taser risks

According to one study, which claims to be the only somewhat large-scale study, the risk of serious injury from a Taser is 0.25% Now mind you the sample size (1,201) isn't that large so there were only three cases of serious injury which makes the 0.25% figure a bit dodgy. But still. Let's assume that is the case. That means one in every 400 people of Taser is seriously injured.

Is that an acceptable risk?

And of course the study only looks at the near term effects. There was an interesting comment to this post:
Several years ago, my department received Tasers. During the training, we were given the option of receiving a Taser blow to the chest, a drive stun to the back of the leg, or none at all. Within the months that followed the training, among those officers who opted for the prongs to the chest, two died of heart attacks. They were 35 and 38 years old. As many as ten (aged late 20's to late 30's) sought emergency treatment for chest pain and heart palpitations.
Remember, the real reason police department brass likes the Taser is that they're seen to lower expenses related to line-of-duty injuries (since the Taser is an alternative to going hands-on). If lawsuits start eating away at P.D. money, they'll drop them in a flash.

Speaking for the Defense?

I don't talk much about the death penalty. It's not my passion.

On one hand I think it's wrong to kill. On the other I have very little sympathy for those put to death (except for the innocent ones, 'course).

But get a load of this (found here):

Regardless of what you think about the death penalty, regardless of whether his client was innocent or guilty, should any man be convicted, much less put to death, when this guy serving as his defense attorney?

I didn't go to law school, but isn't your defense attorney supposed to defend you?

October 23, 2009

From Amsterdam: Lessons on controlling drugs

Hot off the virtual presses, here's an article I wrote appearing in this coming Sunday's Washington Post. I talk about the difference in policy and police attitudes toward drugs in Amsterdam and in the U.S.:
In Amsterdam, the red-light district is the oldest and most notorious neighborhood. Two picturesque canals frame countless small pedestrian alleyways lined with legal prostitutes, bars, porn stores and coffee shops. In 2008, I visited the local police station and asked about the neighborhood's problems. I laughed when I heard that dealers of fake drugs were the biggest police issue -- but it's true. If fake-drug dealers are the worst problem in the red-light district, clearly somebody is doing something right.
History provides some lessons. The 21st Amendment ending Prohibition did not force anybody to drink or any city to license saloons. In 1933, after the failure to ban alcohol, the feds simply got out of the game. Today, they should do the same -- and last week the Justice Department took a very small step in the right direction.
Read all about it!

The Curious Case of Barry McCaffrey

General Barry McCaffrey was the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "Drug Czar") from 1996 to 2001.

I can't say much about his military career (1964-1996). I think it was just and honorable. He commanded a division in Operation Desert Storm and later the U.S. Southern Command. Wikipedia also says he created "the first Human Rights Council and Human Rights Code of Conduct for U.S. Military Joint Command." Seems damned decent.

But the Barry McCaffrey I know, the Clinton Drug Czar McCaffrey, is either a bald-faced liar or delusional. Until last night, I assumed the former. But when you talk to a man who steadfastly denies the truth with vigor, I wonder.

Exhibit A:
The "Unmitigated Disaster"

In 1998, McCaffrey told CNN's "Talkback Live" that the murder rate in Holland was twice that in the US. "The overall crime rate in Holland is probably 40 percent higher than the United States," said McCaffrey. That's drugs." He called Dutch drug policy, "an unmitigated disaster."
The Dutch government's Central Planning Bureau poured scorn on McCaffrey's figures. Official data put the Dutch murder rate at 1.8 per 100,000 people in 1996, up from 1.5 at the start of the decade. The Dutch say the U.S. rate is 9.3 per 100,000.

"The figure (McCaffrey is using) is not right. He is adding in attempted murders," a planning bureau spokesman said.
Confronted with reality, McCaffrey denied it.
Instead of apologizing for the error, McCaffrey's deputy, Jim McDonough, responded, "Let's say she's right. What you are left with is that they are a much more violent society and more inept [at murder], and that's not much to brag about."
A month later, McCaffrey defended himself:
There was a huge uproar (in Holland) over murder rates and crime stats, and was I right or wrong?... For an American to suggest that their crime rates were higher than the U.S. absolutely blew their mind
Actually, what blows their mind is that a man of such importance could lie. Though McCaffrey did finally admit that Dutch drug policy may just be a "mitigated disaster."

That whole bit is classic good ammo for the anti-drug-war cause. But it's 11 years ago now. And I don't like to hold grudges. So imagine my surprise last night.

Exhibit B: Conant v. McCaffrey

After being kind enough to tell me good things about my father (before we were on the air), McCaffrey whole-hoggedly denies what happened when he was Drug Czar. "Nonsense!" McCaffrey says. The Cato Institute's Tim Lynch sets him straight.

You can read more of Lynch's excellent take on McCaffrey here:
Whatever one’s view happens to be on drug policy, the historical record is there for any fair-minded person to see — and yet McCaffrey looked right into the camera and denied past actions by himself and other federal agents. And he didn’t say, “I think that’s wrong” or “I don’t remember it that way.” He baldly asserted that my recounting of the facts was “nonsense.” Now I suppose some will say that falsehoods are spoken on TV fairly often--maybe, I’m not sure--but it is distressing that this character held the posts that he did and that he continues to instruct cadets at West Point!
The court case, Conant v. McCaffrey was in McCaffrey's name, for crying out loud! [though the decision was renamed Conant v. Walters by the time it became law of the land in 2002.]

Does McCaffrey not remember it? Does he believe it never happened? I'm tempted to believe the general at his word. Which means... well... I'll leave you to decide. Here's what the court ruled in 2000:
On December 30, 1996, less than two months after the Compassionate Use Act [Medicinal Marijuana] took effect, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy [that's McCaffrey] ... stated “that a practitioner’s action of recommending or prescribing Schedule I controlled substances [that's marijuana] is not consistent with the ‘public interest’ ... and will lead to administrative action by the Drug Enforcement Administration to revoke the practitioner’s registration.”
The Administration’s Response stated that the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services would send a letter to national, state, and local practitioner associations and licensing boards, stating unequivocally that the DEA would seek to revoke the registrations of physicians who recommended or prescribed Schedule I controlled substances.
Now over time, the administration backed down a bit from the hard line. But that doesn't mean it never happened. The court ruled unequivocally against the government.

October 22, 2009

18-Year-Old Charged With Murder in Death of Woman, 92

“I don’t care about sob stories, bad background, poverty — none of that. As an adult, you know the difference between right and wrong. You have a choice and he made the wrong choice.”

Well said. Too bad it's from the daughter of an 82-year-old woman shot and killed.

Me and Lou Dobbs

I was on Lou Dobbs today.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I love immigrants.
You can read more (and see the video) here.

Five shot in Baltimore

Five shot during four-hour span.

And the mayor wants to cut police pay.

October 21, 2009

The Open Case

If you like my blog (and why would you be reading this if you don't?), you'll love The Open Case. Not only are all my posts mirrored there, but they have other good stuff as well. It's like Cop in the Hood, but more. Check it out.

Anonymous tips don't give police probable cause

Not to stop drivers. Nor to search pedestrians. David Savage reports in the L.A. Times.

But they told me it was safe!

The maker of Taser stun guns is advising police officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest with the 50,000-volt weapon, saying that it could pose an extremely low risk of an "adverse cardiac event."

The advisory, issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin, is the first time that Taser International has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the discharge of its stun gun.
Robert Anglen reports in the Arizona Republican.

Gunshots or Firecrackers

Justin Fenton writes about a gunshot detection system in the Eastern. An interesting concept. Mixed results at best.

Cops, after a little while, get pretty good at telling the difference between gunshots and firecrackers. They're very similar, but gunshots are kind of a shorter, tighter bang. It's kind of hard to describe. But you would think a computer could better tell the difference. They can't yet.

Hard Core in Brazil

Just a week or two after Jon Lee Anderson's excellent article in the New Yorker on drugs and favelas in Rio de Janeiro, drug gangs shoot down a police helicopter. That's hard core. I mean, I've thought about shooting down police helicopters, but luckily I lack the .30-caliber anti-aircraft gun used to bring that baby down. Three police officers were killed. All together, 21 or so died in related chaos.

I can't think of a worse combination than drugs being illegal and the government giving up to control to drug gangs in the ghettos. It's one thing to fight a war on drugs. It's another to start a war on drugs and then give up large parts of your city away to the criminal drug gangs.

There are close to 5,000 murders a year in Rio de Janeiro. That's a rate about twice as high as Baltimore and about 10 times as high as NYC.

“Rio is one of the very few cities in the world where you have whole areas controlled by armed forces that are not of the state.”

Here's Anderson's latest update. And his audio slide show. Good stuff.

October 20, 2009

Good news for states' rights...

...and stoners. The Feds say they'll lay off medicinal marijuana enforcement in states where it's legal. This seems like a no-brainer.

US Marshals: TV

I've got nothing against US Marshals. Or maybe I do.

I just got off a flight from San Francisco to New York on my favorite airline. Why do I like Jet Blue? Because they have TV. I love TV. And Satellite TV turns a 6-hour flight into a dream.

I mean, I love being in a seat with nothing to do but drink and watch Anthony Bourdain, the Dog Whisper, and whatever else is on all the pseudo-educational channels. Man lights fire in the wild after eating raw Zebra? Useful survival skills. Dan Zimmern eats bugs? Delicious! Fisherman pulling the ocean catch? Keep it real! Fox News is still pushing the Obama/Ayers connection? Hell yeah!

Today I didn't have as much time for all those gems because I could watch not one but two good baseball games. Yeah, I was the dork keeping score in seat 3F. But it makes me happy so I don't care what you think.

Between innings and pitching changes--I love baseball, but there's no reason for a game to be longer than two-and-a-half hours--I watched, among other things, US Marshals: Operation Falcon. The show bothered me.

It's a show that shows nothing but a bunch of heavily armed government agents coming out of military vehicles and busting into homes. There's always drugs involved. And the Marshals are mostly white and the criminals mostly black. But OK, reality isn't always politically correct. That's not what bothers me. But I notice it.

The show never asks the big question. Why? Who are we doing this for? How many of these warrants really need to be served by a SWAT team? Is this something that the local police can't do? Do the non-criminals in these neighborhoods really want the US Marshals busting down doors, throwing in flash grenades, and treating everybody like wanted criminals?

The questions certainly don't come from the deep-voiced narrator that treats such police actions as normal, standard, and necessary to protect "us" from "them." Maybe that's what bothers me most.

The militarization of police is something to be questioned, not glorified. Sometimes QRTs and SWAT teams are needed, no doubt. But the image (and the reality) of soldier-like-police busting down door after door simply to serve warrants? I don't like it.

I don't like the rationalization of the US Marshals talking about how good they are for the community. I don't like how they act and talk like they understand the way "they" work and the way "they" talk. I've assisted in some of the raids. Mostly by standing out back, using a telephone pole for cover, hoping the bad guy wouldn't make a run for it. But hell, if I were wanted and I saw them busting in the front door and me standing out back, I'd make a run for it.

No, the Marshals and the FBI don't know the neighborhood or the people. Hell, I didn't know the neighborhood of the people all that well. But I knew it a whole lot better than them. At least I was there eight hours every night. They just roll up, make jokes about how horrible it must be for poor fools like me to police there, do their thing, and leave.

Marshals are hard working men and women (mostly men) doing a dangerous job. As a former cop, I appreciate that probably more than most. But the overuse of military tactics shown in the show is one of main reasons non-criminals in crime-ridden communities hate the police. Sure, sometimes they catch the bad guy (and sometimes they don't), but in the grand scheme it doesn't work. I can't help but see the futility in all that effort to take one guy, one gun, or one kilo off the streets. Another man in prison; another criminal job opening in the hood.

I don't root for the bad buys. I'm happy when I see them in cuffs. But I also know that when the Marshals roll away, 20 deep, the neighborhood isn't suddenly going to be a better place. It's going to keep on being the same place, a dangerous place. But now with one more person in prison and more boarded up front door.

There has to be a better way.

October 15, 2009

No doctor without a police officer's note

I just heard on the radio that Nigeria has changed its law that required a police report from the victims of gunshot injuries before these same victims could be treated for their wounds in a hospital.

Apparently one of the factors leading to this change was a high level of gun deaths.

Imagine that.

October 13, 2009

Failing His Way to Higher Office

Radley Balko writes in Reason about P.G. County Sheriff Michael Jackson. He's the guy who, among other things, led and defended the police actions in the set up and raid of Mayor Calvo.

October 12, 2009

A strike against "zero tolerance"

Discretion is good. In schools. In society. And in policing.

Here's an example of why it doesn't work so well in school.
The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.
(Though something strikes me odd when a mother claims a six-year-old "wears a suit and tie some days to school by his own choice because he takes school so seriously." Really?)

October 14 Update.

Small-town values

Just so you don't get to thinking that cities and ghettos have a lock on stupid senseless crimes.

"The seeming senselessness of the killing of Kimberly Cates - hacked to death in her bed last week in Mont Vernon, N.H., allegedly by teenagers who chose her at random and didn’t know who she was."

The story by Sarah Schweitzer in the Boston Globe.

October 10, 2009

Prison for Old People

Should an 87-year-old go to prison?

John Eligon and Benjamin Weiser write about this in the New York Times.

I don't think so. What good does it serve? Punishment, of course. But aren't there better and cheaper ways to punish?

I certainly don't want to pay to keep people who are no threat to me behind bars. Can't we fine them for every cent they're worth and sentence them to home confinement? I don't want to pay one cent of taxpayer money to incarcerate rich people. Why is prison the only answer?

October 7, 2009

More Prison, Less Crime?

If you look at this chart, it's not hard to think that the great crime drop was caused by locking up all the criminals. A student brought this up in class. In the 1990s, it looks pretty convincing:

But just looking at the 1990s misses the big picture. Here's the same data going back to 1925. Crime went up and down and up and down, but the prison rate stayed more or less the same, and then skyrocketed after 1970.

And here's what happens it you look at each decade separately:

What it comes down to is this:

In three decades we've had more prison and more murders. In two decades we've had more prison and murders were basically unchanged. In one decade we had less prison and less murder. And in just one decade, the 1990s, we've had more prison and less murder.

Between 1947 and 1991, the prison population increased almost 500 percent. Meanwhile the homicide rate went up by more than a third. Did locking up more people increase the homicide rate? Probably not.

So what makes the 1990s the decade of choice that proves incarceration is the solution to crime? Was there some magic tipping point? Was there something special about the second million we incarcerated that didn't apply to the first million? Probably not.

I'll put it another way, in 1947, the homicide rate was 6.1 per 100,000 and we had 259,000 people behind bars. In 2007, we had the same murder rate of 6.1 and yet 2.3 million people are behind bars. What good have we gotten from locking up an extra two million people, spending something like $50 billion per year for the privilege?

You think there might be a better way?

Why Police Officers Hate the Department

People often fail to understand just how dysfunctional a big-city police department can be (and some have told me small town PDs are worse).

Justin "H.L." Fenton reports in the Sun:
Sgt. Carrie Everett... spoke to a reporter after she was administratively charged in connection with an incident in which a murder suspect committed suicide by jumping from a top-floor window while under police supervision at Mercy Medical Center. Everett said the department's policies governing patients in medical custody were flawed and put officers and the suspects at risk.

The department charged her internally with "conduct unbecoming a member of the Baltimore Police Department and speaking with the media without permission."
Nothing like blaming the messenger.
Police officers below the rank of commander are prohibited from speaking to members of the media. A spokesman said officers are trained to be police officers, not to talk to reporters, and said officers only have a "ground level" view of the department.
I was never "trained" to talk to reporters. And yet I seem to manage OK. Plus, I don't buy the the department can constitutionally limit free speech in such a manner. And sometimes, dare I say so myself, a "ground-level" view of the department can be most instructive. But let's get back to this incident.

When I had hospital detail (one of the least favorite details for police and all too frequent if you happened to have 324 post), I made sure a prisoner was chained to his or her bed. Then I sat outside the room. And you sit there. If you're lucky someone will come by and bring you coffee or food. Luckily, unlike a lot of police, I like reading.

Now let's say I'm sitting there reading the the paper or my book and a murder suspect quietly gets out of his cuffs and jumps out the window, killing himself. That's not good. But my second thought would probably be joy that he went out the window rather than out the door.

Did I do my job? No. Should I get in trouble? Yes. But does it say in the General Orders that I need to be in the room at all time? I don't think so. But I was responsible. So blame me, not my sergeant.

There's something strange about holding a supervisor responsible for officers working alone without direct supervision. Especially when the rules aren't clear. If you want to blame the sergeant, why not go higher and blame the command staff? Oh. yeah. It's never their fault.

Meanwhile the department will continue its practice of making "supervisors 'fall guys' for failures of procedure."

And the best part? This sergeant, for being right, gets rewarded with reassignment to... guess where. Yes, the lovely Eastern District. Officers in the jackpot often get reassigned to the Eastern or Western, depending on which would make a longer commute. Such is the nature of the jackpot (and one of the silver linings of already working in the Eastern or Western). So now, through no fault of their own, all the officers of the Eastern get punished with a disgruntled sergeant working over them. When shit does indeed roll downhill, why does it always seems to end up in the Eastern?

Shut yer mouth, dude!

Why is it so hard for some people to just shut up?

Some people are using this video as anti-cop propaganda. I see an officer acting in an incredibly professional and even patient manner. He's doing his job. He follows the rules. He tells his name and badge number when asked.

A little skateboarder calls him a dick. To his face. Twice. He gets locked up. Legally. Good. The kid could have done two things to not get locked up (and I'm purposefully ignoring the skateboarding is a crime issue): 1) carry ID, 2) don't call a police officer doing his job a dick.

If the San Francisco Chronicle is to be believed, the officer has been assigned station duty while the matter is being investigated?! That's a crime. The officer did nothing wrong. Now that could have been me.

Best Cookbook Ever

Seriously. My wife's cookbook is officially out today. Co-authored with Tamara Reynolds. Forking F-ing Fantastic! Go buy it. Seriously. Come on... I don't ask much of you.

"Running only leads to more running"

A Chicago Tribune piece on why the Fenger High School students fight. It doesn't really answer the question. But then again it's not like there is a good answer. What it comes down to seems to be the belief that kids from the projects are "invading" another neighborhood (with seemingly very similar socioeconomic characteristics) where the high school is.
"As far as I know, they don't like us," said Young, who dreams of playing professional football even though he's not on the school team, "and the way I feel, we don't like them."
The reporter can't actually determine any real difference between the groups (though I love dig "even though he's not on the school team"). Perhaps the only thing that might be considered profound is this line: "I'm not gonna run from it.... Why should I have to run from where I live? If I have to run from where I live, where else do I go?"

I guess no different than East Side versus West Side (Baltimore), Bloods versus Crips (LA), Jets versus Sharks (Broadway), or East Platform versus West Platform (L-going Cubs fans).

Prohibition Deaths vs. Prohibition Deaths

Pete Guither at Drug WarRant has an interesting post, here stolen in its entirety:
Robert Almonte, executive director, Texas Narcotic Officers Association and El Paso police deputy chief (retired), had a different view of the war on drugs than most of the learned participants in the recent conference in El Paso (surprise, surprise): ‘War on Drugs’ conference got the issue wrong.

It’s a pretty bad piece of dreck, full of standard stale prohibitionist misdirection, strawmen, and cherry-picked statistics. I particularly noted the ending:

Our children deserve better; El Paso deserves better. O’Rourke, in calling for the public to exert pressure on our elected officials to legalize marijuana, has stated: “As evidence, I point to the 3,200 people who have been killed in Juárez.”

I say to you, Mr. O’Rourke, as evidence against legalizing marijuana and other dangerous drugs, I point to the countless Americans and their families whose lives have been destroyed by drugs and the over 38,000 Americans who die from drug overdoses each year.

Let me get this straight. As a defense of prohibition, we should ignore the 3200 killed in Juárez under prohibition, and instead focus on the 38,000 Americans killed by overdoses under prohibition.


October 6, 2009

Personally Dissed by the Drug Czar

And by the President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police! Mr. Kerlinkowske, Mr Laine, nice to meet you.

At an October 3rd address at the 2009 International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference, Czar Kerlikowske said (via stop the drug war):
But I must underscore how important your help on this issue is – on the streets, within the criminal justice system, and in the court of public opinion. Recently, Peter Moskos and Stanford Franklin, members of a group called "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition," published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the legalization of drugs. They claimed that legalization would increase officer safety.

Chief Laine, as President of IACP, responded with a letter to the editor. The Washington Post did not print it. This letter, which I am holding in my hand, should have been printed. As Russ appropriately put it, "The simple truth is that legalizing narcotics will not make life better for our citizens, ease the level of crime and violence in our communities or reduce the threat faced by law enforcement officers. To suggest otherwise ignores reality."
From the Crime Report:
Kerlikowske criticized the Washington Post for not publishing a letter from IACP President Russell Laine in rebuttal to an op-ed article the newspaper had run asserting that drug legalization would make police officers safer. ... "We have to be smarter about drugs, which doesn’t mean softer or weaker."
Smarter? Is that the answer? Because the people that have been fighting the war on drugs for the past century have been... er, stupid? In the letter, Mr. Laine says we ignore reality and calls us "repulsive" for linking the war on drugs to officers' safety. No time to "retreat," he says. "It is not time to legalize drugs; it is time to get them off our streets."

I'd love to hear his plan to get drugs off our streets.

I bet it won't work.

Nor does Mr. Laine explain how regulating and controlling drug distribution would increase availability and use.

Mr. Laine is police chief of Algonquin, Illinois, a little rich white boom exurb outside of Chicago. Between 1999 and 2007 there was one homicide in Algonquin. One. In nine years. I'm just sayin'.... Mr. Laine and the 50 officers under his command must be doing a very good job.

You can read our op-ed in the Washington Post, the one that started this whole kerfuffle, here.

October 5, 2009

Got Milk

A unique form of assaulting a police officer. From the New York Times.

That's in Brussels ... Belgium ... between France and the Netherlands.

Mass. Decrim Has No Effect On Schools

So say some Massachusetts school officials--the same ones who say decriminalization "sends a terrible message to kids." The story by John Hilliard is here (via the Agitator).

This really is no surprise, but it's important for a few reasons. Prohibitionists seem to care more about "the message" than about actual drug use and drug harms. For too many, it's a moral issue and not a policy issue.

I like to ask those who support the war on drugs if they would support legalization if legalization and regulation decreased drug use. I'd say close to half say "no." Better, they tell me, to keep drugs illegal regardless of drug usage rates. Sometimes increased drug use and overdose deaths can be useful, some drug-warriors even say, for having people overdose in the ghetto sends a powerful “message” to others.

Hmmmmmmm. This sort of ends the debate. So it’s not about drugs. It’s about morals and the power and symbolism of the law.

Prohibition is about a conservative world view that sees drugs as evil. And evil needs to be outlawed. Prohibition is about big-government telling people what to do and how to live their lives.

Take Harry Asslinger (oops, honest typo but much too good to delete)--I mean Harry Anslinger. He was very happy, after failing to maintain alcohol Prohibition, to raise the false alarm about marijuana.

Perhaps Anslinger’s greatest accomplishment was to push marijuana from a fringe drug into the mainstream. That's what happens when you call it the evil weed and highlight the moral turpitude of minorities, immigrants, Catholics, liberals, and other city folk who, like Anslinger believed, were destroying the moral fiber of America.

Whatever. Good or bad, those cool cats sure knew how to party!

In my mind, the debate on drug decriminalization comes down to one main issue: in an era of legal and regulated drugs, would drug use increase or decrease? Of course we can't be sure because we haven't tried it. But the evidence strongly suggests the use would go up and might go down.

System of liberalization and/or decriminalization result in no increase in drug use. Marijuana usage rates in the Netherlands (where it is publicly sold and legally consumed) are lower than in the U.S. Decriminalization in Portugal has also been a success.

How does this work? Lot's of reasons. Forbidden fruit. Distrust of authority. And consider what Diego Gambetta recently pointed out to me: there’s a lot more pressure in social situations to conform and partake in illegal activities than for comparably legal activities.

If a joint is being passed around, you’re expected, especially in young crowds, to smoke a little. This serves two functions beyond social bonding.

1) It shows you're not a cop.

2) You can’t blackmail anybody with your knowledge of illegal behavior since you're guilty too.

There’s a lot more pressure (especially for teenagers) to smoke a joint being passed around than to smoke an offered cigarette. These days cigarettes, regulated and taxed, aren’t even being offered much.

Marijuana decriminalization in Massachusetts has not resulting in a bunch of school kids suddenly discovering the drug and firing up. Hell, the first time I ever saw marijuana was in school, watching a drug deal go down in the bathroom (regulated drugs aren’t sold in school bathrooms). And the best anti-drug lesson I ever got was from the guy who sat behind me in first-period German class. He would also come in late, stoned, and reeking of (tobacco) cigarettes. He never learned any German. But then neither did I.

The Murky World of CIs

Peter Hermann has a good story in the Sun. "It is a murky, secretive place where cops and crooks mingle and exchange information for money, a place where the line dividing law and disorder often blurs."

October 3, 2009

Baltimore Police Quarry

Anybody in Baltimore know why the major from the Southeast was suspended? An old buddy of mine from Eastern was asking if I knew why. Sheee-it... like I know anything. I didn't even know he was the major. But we both remember him a good guy.

If you know, I'd appreciate it if you could send me an email directly rather than spread rumors via the comments. Of course I will hold the source (and the substance, if you wish) of any emails in the strictest confidence.

October 2, 2009

Tasers Get Support

PERF says Tasers increase officer safety.

Of note:
Not all of the people who have died after being subjected to a CED activation were chemically dependent or had heart disease or mental illness; “some were normal healthy adults.”

October 1, 2009

He gave “all the money he had on him” - $23

An anonymous reader sent me this link by Rob Moore and Donald Fraser of the Franklin County Citizen & The News Leader. Thanks. It's an update on the shooting of Jonathan Ayers.
The woman who was in the Rev. Jonathan Ayers' car moments before he was shot by undercover drug agents in Toccoa on Sept. 1 is refuting reports that Ayers was involved in illegal activities.

“I'm an addict,” 26-year-old Kayla Barrett admitted Tuesday, saying that Ayers was ministering to her on the day of his death.
She said that, over time, Ayers had been lecturing her and trying to get her to straighten out her life and to get off drugs.
“He told me I was too young to be living like I was living,” she said. “He didn't want me to waste my life.”
Barrett said Ayers offered her a ride back to the motel.
Barrett said she asked Ayers if he could help her out with the back rent, and that he gave “all the money he had on him” - $23.

“His last words to me were I didn't owe him anything,” Barrett said. “Probably 15-20 minutes after that I could hear the shots.”

Responding to allegations she has heard, she said, “No, we did not have sex.”
“He [Ayers] doesn't have any part in any kind of drug activity,” Barrett insisted. “He's never solicited me for prostitution.”
Barrett, who is charged with two counts of sale of cocaine, doesn't deny that she sold drugs to an undercover agent.