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by Peter Moskos

November 30, 2009

"This is the day I've been dreading for a long time"

And it's the fault of the Republicans!

Imagine the conservative anger if Maurice Clemmons--armed robber, child rapist, messianic apocalypse believer, bad neighbor, and now cop killer--had been been granted clemency by some Democratic governor! Some criminal-loving cop-hating commie Democrat politician.

Maybe with proper mental health care this never would have happened. Clemmons is clearly a guy who needed to be confined in a prison or mental hospital. And maybe if it weren't for some of the other 2.3 million people behind bars (like the drug offenders), Clemmons would still be incarcerated.

Regardless, I'm happy that the governor who commuted his lengthy prison sentence "over the protests of prosecutors" is a Republican. Do I think Mike Huckabee is personally at fault? No. At least no more than Michael Dukakis was to blame for Willie Horton.

Had Huckabee been a Democrat, Republicans would be having a field day going after him. Would a Democrat have done something differently and prevented many horrible crimes? No. But at least now I don't have to listen to some dumbass Republicans blaming Democrats for these cops' deaths.

[update: Huckabee is getting plenty of heat for this.]

November 29, 2009

Support for legal marijuana growing

Or so says the Washington Post.

"Seriously," said Bruce Merkin, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group based in the District, "there is a reason you don't have Mexican beer cartels planting fields of hops in the California forests."

Four Police Officers Killed in Ambush

Holy Sh*t! Talk about an unwelcome back to the ol' US of A.

Guns, folks. Guns matter. I wonder if four police officers have ever been shot and killed in England. Ever. There was one police funeral in England when I was there, just two days ago. An officer who was killed when a flood-weakened bridge collapsed on him.

November 28, 2009

Holiday (Criminal) Spirit

The Christmas crime season is the US begins. This story from the NY Daily News. [November 30 Update] And the Chicago Sun Times. Street crime really does up before Christmas. Keep that in mind.

I'm in a pub in York, UK, right now. Leeds, where I'm staying, and where David Simon said he might have set The Wire if he set it in the UK, has maybe 3 or 4 homicides a year (or so I was told). Population 440,000. Baltimore, population 630,000 has more than 200.

In answer to one burning question here in the UK: Are parts of the cities becoming "like The Wire"?


Baltimore (and most American cities) have more killings than the entire United Kingdom. Amazing how they manage to fend off all the anti-social drunks here without firearms. Somehow they manage.

November 26, 2009

'Ello Leeds!

Happy Thanksgiving.

No holiday here in England. I'm here in Leeds for a conference on The Wire. Good stuff. I gave a speech this morning. Now it's the evening and I'm hankering for a pint.

November 18, 2009

Just because you're paranoid...

...doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

The FBI spent 45 years keeping files on Chicago writer and journalist Studs Terkel. And to think this agent provocateur went unwatched for the last 18 years of his life!

More applicants, fewer jobs in the NYPD

The story by Michael Schmidt in the New York Times.

Police Officer Uses Taser On 10-Year-Old Girl

As a reader pointed out: "She was just too big and tough, I guess."

My point (again) isn't that cops violated their rules. It's that the rules are wrong!

Update November 19: The officer involved has been suspended for seven days (with pay, mind you). This is an example of the worst functionings in a police department.

If policy is policy, why punish the officer who executes the policy? Because the brass is trying to cover theirs by putting his out to dry. In this case they banged the officer not for using the taser but for not having a video camera attached when he did. Now I'm no taser expert, but that seems like a B.S. reason if I've ever heard one. But if they want to get you, they can.

November 14, 2009

Political Correctness Kills?


My buddy Ron Smith has a column with the headline: "Fort Hood massacre shows how political correctness can kill." (just for record, columnists don't write headlines.)

I'm not a fan of political correctness (though I like being polite) and don't consider myself very politically correct (though I try and be considerate). But I'm pretty certain that political correctness does not kill.

Just because shooter Major Nidal Hasan expressed some things that are now seen as warnings and just because he's Muslim... does that mean these signs were ignored because of "political correctness"? I don't think so. More likely nobody did anything because, I don't know, how can you know and what are you going to do?

If you're a cop reading this, ask yourself this: how many of the cops that you work with are, to some kind of scary degree, crazy? I don't know how you define crazy, it's entirely up to you. But perhaps you can use this definition: If you heard that he flipped (and I'm assuming it's a guy) and shot somebody--maybe an ex girlfriend or complete stranger or themselves--if you heard this would you think, "I guess that wasn't a complete surprise." How many of these people do you know? I'll bet it's more than one.

So what have you done with that information? Called 911? Told internal affairs? Of course not. You talk to your friends to make sure you're not the only one who thinks this. I mean, you want to make sure he's crazy and you're not, right?

You talk about it. You laugh about it. And then you do nothing. You do nothing not because you're afraid of liberals and the ACLU or the politically correct police. Since when did you care about these groups? You don't do anything because, well, who the f*ck knows?! There are lots of crazy people. Some of cops and some are soldiers. But most take the their meds and even more manage just fine.

And every now and then one does flip. And in hindsight the "signs" often seem clear. But now, for the first time in America, one of these crazy mass-murdering shooters is Muslim. And now people think that if only we're weren't so worried about offending Muslim, this would have been stopped? Since when we were so worried about offending Muslim?

Did officers mishandle this call?


And Peter Hermaan, a very good reporter, should really learn his 10-codes.

Here's the story.

The dispatch said she was notifying the Eastern, where the car was headed. The Southeast cannot drive around and look for a car at a location long since gone.

Marine reservist attacks Greek priest

Why? Because marine reservist Jasen Bruce said he "looked like a terrorist." He doesn't. He looks like a Greek priest.

Why? Because Bruce said he tried to rob him. He didn't. He's a priest.

Why? Because the man yelled "Allahu Akbar." He didn't. He's a priest.

Why? Because the man grabbed Bruce's crotch and made sexual advances in perfect English. He didn't. [But feel free to insert priest joke here... they make the same jokes in Greece.]

The priest was lost.

The marine is an idiot and should be jailed. But the priest is forgiving.

Here's the story in the St. Petersburg Times by Alexandra Zayas and Demorris Lee:
A Greek Orthodox priest named Father Alexios Marakis, speaks little English and was lost, police said. He wanted directions.

What the priest got instead, police say, was a tire iron to the head. Then he was chased for three blocks and pinned to the ground — as the Marine kept a 911 operator on the phone, saying he had captured a terrorist.

Dude, do you really think a terrorist just walked down the street and happened to pick on you, the one patriotic American ready to defend himself and his country by beating a man of God with a tire iron?
Bruce is a sales manager for APS Pharmacy in Palm Harbor. His blog entries tout the benefits of increasing testosterone and human growth hormones. He was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2007...

Online photo galleries depict him flexing big muscles wearing little clothing.

An exterior surveillance video of Tuesday's chase captured the two men in motion, said Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Laura McElroy:

"You see a very short, small man running, and an enormous, large muscular man chasing after him."
What a f*cking idiot. It's sh*t like this that makes me a little more sympathetic to the Flying Imams.

Here's Bruce's mugshot:

And also reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. It ends like this: "For you it's a tragedy. For me it's a mistake!"

Update: In the case of the marine reservist who attached a priest for looking like a Muslim terrorist, all charges were dropped. The priest didn't stick around America to press charges. To rehash, this idiot chased a Greek priest for three blocks and beat him with a tire iron while telling a 911 operator (listen to the call here):
I got a guy who's trying to mug me. … He just grabbed my f------ b---- when I got out of my car. … I just hit him with a tire iron and he's trying to take off. He said he was going to f------ kill me. … This guy's not gonna come back. I wanna knock him out.
He looks like a Middle Eastern guy, a Taliban guy. … He straight up looks like he came from Afghanistan … knows where I live and knows what I drive and I'm not letting him come back. I'll kill him. I got a wife.
So let me get this straight. This priest, who says he was lost, looked like he was from Afghanistan, tried to rob the idiot, then grabbed his balls, and then yelled "Allahu Akbar."


The prosecuting lawyer called this 'roid rage noting the attacker is "a 220-pound pharmacy manager who blogs photos of himself flexing his muscles and had worked as a drug informant for police."

The attacker, after charges were dropped, says he forgives the priest. Gee, that's mighty Christian of him.

Here's a picture of the attacker.

He's not gay at all.

November 12, 2009

Eminent Domain

After winning one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime, Pfizer is pulling out of New London, Conn. They're leaving a vacant lot where they worked hard to destroy a neighborhood. Of course it's not just Pfizer's fault. Who knows what shady deals got the local city officials behind it?

The court decision, Kelo v. New London, said basically that the the government can take your property and give it to a private developer. It greatly expanded the right of eminent domain.

The good news is that in response to the court case many states have passed laws against such egregious abuse of government power. Too bad my state (NY) isn't one of them.

Here's the story in the New York Times.

Detective Accused of Providing Tips to Informers Is Acquitted

Drugs is a dirty world.

Too bad we put police into a battle they can't win.

November 6, 2009

Greek Police Attacked in Terrorist Attack

Six shot. The AP story by Derek Gatopoulos: "Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on a suburban Athens police station with automatic weapons late Tuesday, wounding six police officers."

Update from Seattle. Funeral of Officer Tim Brenton.

Seems like they got the guy! Right in the middle of the police funeral. "Largest regional response to a scene ever."

The story in the Seattle Times and from a comment left below:
Today, was a very long and emotional day starting at 9 AM with a 1500+ LE, fire, emergency vehicle procession from the UW to the Key Arena to memorialize Officer Tim Brenton.

It was probably the largest LE funeral procession in recent memory.

It took 3 hours for the entire procession to reach and fill the arena. The memorial service started at 1 PM, and ended at apprx. 3:15. The entire process was covered end-to-end by all 3 local news networks.

At 3:30 PM - all networks broke news that an officer-involved shooting had taken place. LE cars from throughout the region converged on that spot. Largest regional response to a scene ever.

Seattle detectives were following a citizen lead on a possible car linked to the officer's death. Person of interest encountered; fled, brandished a weapon and detectives responded, bringing down the person. Wounded but still alive, he was airlifted to the hospital.

It's an irony and providential occurrence if in fact this person turns out to be the main suspect - just in timing (funeral), LE presence and response, and the incredible pall this awful officer death has cast over the many hearts of this community.

We, the entire community, hold our collective breaths a little longer until more and final info is known and verified.

"3 George 13, Officer Timothy Brenton, 9:50. 'Gone but never forgotten'".

Thanks for posting this thread.

~A SPD officer's proud sister~

Lack of Gun Control

Nice to know that all those places with right-to-carry and relaxed gun laws, like military bases and the state of Florida, are safe from gun violence.

Florida, for some strange reason, is often held up by gun-righters as an example of a good state. Yet Florida is violent and has become more so since gun control was relaxed.

Here's my logic:

The problem with people who don't believe in gun control is that Cell #2 is impossible to achieve so they choose to live in Cell #1.

Gun haters believe that Cell #4 is theoretically possible (and desirable), but it isn't politically possible in this country.

So we're left with either Cell #1 or Cell #3. And either way we're left with some gun carnage.

And though it certainly may seem that Cell #1 the better of the two ("if criminals and crazies have guns, better for us to, too!" ...Assuming we're not crazy, of course).

The problem is that there is a correlation between the general availability of guns and the odds that a criminal or crazy carries a gun.

I'd prefer to live in Cell #3 than Cell #1 because they'll be less carnage and I'll be safer, even though I would have to give up some feeling of control over my environment. That's why we have police.

Speaking of which, can somebody tell me why it takes a civilian police officer on or near an army base to shoot somebody? Don't the soldiers have guns?

Three Cheers for Police Sergeant Kimberly Munley

She did her job. And then some. And more.

Update (November 12, 2009): Seems that Senior Sgt. Mark Todd did a lot of what was first credited to Munley. Oh, the fog of war.

Regardless, three cheers to both of them.

Oh, the stink!

If an adult is missing, there's little for a police officer to do. Adults are adults; they don't have to come home for bed time. And if they're drug addicts, they might just choose to "disappear" from prying family members. And besides, the last thing you want to do as a cop is serve as some stalker's private dick.

But 11 adults killed and decomposing in a house and backyard in Cleveland? This is a failure of the system.

Here's the story in the New York Times and the by Mark Puente in the Plain Dealer.

I'm more skeptical of officers who went to that house and smelled death. Officers know that smell and while the first reaction may be to get far away, the second reaction should be, "why does the house of a convicted sex offender smell like dead bodies?"

Probably every officer who took a call for a missing women did a minimally proper job. Each one got a 911 call for a missing adult drug addict. Each one had little sympathy and besides, what can you do? They're adults. What should you do?

But where was the neighborhood beat officer? Where was the officer on foot that neighbors could talk to? Where was an officer who was in a position to put two and two together? One missing adult addict is a non-event. A half-dozen might just make you go, hmmmmmm. Eleven missing addicts and house smelling like death? This seems like a puzzle that shouldn't have taken Sherlock Holmes to figure out.

But apparently nobody was ever in a position to see the big picture because the police department isn't set up that way. In a rush to handle incidents, nobody ever noticed the problem.

So the public saw an uncaring police department while police saw an uncooperative public. This is inevitable when a system wants cops in cars instead of on foot and favors rapid response over slow deduction.

Police can zoom to an incident (not that you would zoom to a missing-person call) but to see the big picture, to recognize the problem, you need the insight and community input you'll never find inside a patrol car.

November 4, 2009

Foot Patrol: The Colonel Speaks

Continuing my conversation with Colonel (Ret.) Margaret Patton of the Baltimore Police department, I recently received this email:
I read your added chapter [the new chapter in the paperback edition of Cop in the Hood]. You should be a police chief. The term "Policing Green" is very catchy and, more important, very smart.

Foot patrol is a key to addressing crime and working with the community in a positive manner. The idea of using a monetary carrot for the officer and linking it with the reduction of the use of gasoline was brilliant.

My husband, before he made sergeant, was a foot officer in south Baltimore before it was a trendy place to be but he loved his foot post. Cross Street Market was on his post and he still remained friends with many of the people he met during that time. I remember meeting the "Chicken Man" who sold chickens (of course) at the market soon after we married. Several of his friends from his foot post came to his funeral as well as his fellow foot officers from "way back when".

My husband always said that he was sorry that he ever took the sergeant's test because he enjoyed his foot post so much. He said that a foot post was one of the department's secret gems ("gems" may be my word but you understand).
We speak, but who listens?

CIA agents convicted in Italy of kidnapping

The story in the NYT.

November 3, 2009

The family that robs together...

Marc Perrusquia in the Memphis Commercial Appeal has a good story about the extensive criminal activities of one very criminal family.
Over seven decades, Porterfield and several members of his extended family have been a violent, drug-peddling, thieving scourge on Shelby County. They've been involved in at least 14 shootings, four murders and countless break-ins and assaults.

In all, 407 arrests.
Breaking the cycle is a daunting, and costly, proposition. Yet, given the alternative -- states are spending $50 billion a year to imprison offenders -- it's a challenge worth taking on, said Oregon social scientist J. Mark Eddy.

November 2, 2009

Officer Down: Seattle cops ambushed in car

It's amazing how defenseless you are sitting in a police car. I'm happy this doesn't happen more.

[update: seems like they got the guy]

Dorm Room Dealers

There's a great new academic book out by A. Rafik Mohamed and Erik D. Fritsvold: Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the privileges of race and class.

Too many books (my own included) treat drug crimes like it's some black thing that whites wouldn't understand unless some kind-hearted interpreters explain to "us" those strange things "they" do.

Well it ain't like that. Most drug dealers are white. Most drug users are white. It just doesn't make the news (or get police attention).

And yet, you may be thinking... if most drug crimes are committed by white people, and whites are just as if not more likely than blacks to take and sell drugs, then why do I think of drug criminals as black and why are most people in prison for drug crimes black?

As they say: Ah-hxaaaaaa!

We don't fight the war on drugs against rich college-educated white folks.

Most prohibition violence in the drug trade happens in non-white neighborhoods. So there's a reason we focus on crime more on drug crimes in some neighborhoods than others. To me it's the public drug trade that is so brutal.

But what about all those college drug dealers? Why do we never hear about them? Well this book answers that. I might write a proper book review later, but for now let me say this: I mean, I went to college. Anybody who has gone to college knows you can buy drugs in college. It's like these college drug dealers have no fear of ever getting caught.


These dorm-room dealers sell drugs like they're dorm-room posters. Everybody can see them. They have no fear. You see, the rules are different for them. College drug dealers get in the game, make some cash (or support their habit), and then graduate and get a job, maybe in daddy's firm.

Am I oversimplifying? Of course. You should buy the book. If for no other reason than it makes a great ethnographic counterpart to Cop in the Hood. Here's how the other half deals drugs. There's a good lesson there for all us all.

A Tale of Two Cities

The Sun is starting a nice little feature where a reporter from London and Baltimore switch places.

Bratton and L.A.

Everywhere Bill Bratton goes, crime seems to go down. Since 2002, homicides in L.A. decreased by more than 50%. And yet so many professors are unwilling to accept that good policing has a major impact on crime. In the academic world, Bratton still seems to get little credit and respect. Why is that?

Here's an article by Scott Gold, Catherine Saillant, and Joe Mozingoin in the L.A. Times about Bratton's success.

There's a chance that Bratton will return to NYC. I hope so. Bratton is pro-cop and generally maintains good relations in high-crime communities. It's a tough act to balance.

November 1, 2009

‘Flying imams’ settlement

Seems to me a request for a not-needed seat-belt extension alone is grounds for suspicion. Here's an account in USA Today.

Police Bribes in Mexico?

Strange question, but have any of you ever paid a bribe to a Mexican police officer in, say, the past 10 years? If so, when, where, why, and how much?

There was an article in the New York Times the other day about Cancun police extorting people, in this case a Minnesota state senator. My wife, cookbook and travel writer extraordinaire, thinks this is yet another undeserved example of U.S. anti-Mexico propaganda.

Mexico is a lot less third-world than many Americans think. Sure we wear rose-colored glasses, but our experiences in Mexico have been pretty rosy. I've sped through thousands of miles in southern Mexico and my wife has been stopped for driving the wrong way done a one-way street (it's easier than you'd think) and been in a minor accident that was entirely her fault. And yet neither of us have ever been in a situation where we've been presented with any bribe possibility.

We think it happens very rarely. If it does happen to you, don't pay! Now of course there may be reasons you want to pay (like paying $10 is quicker and easier than going the legal route), but the Times article says they coughed up $300 when the maximum fine was $50. And it is a crime to bribe police officers. Some rental car companies even offer a voucher to pay any traffic fines. Clever!

It's also interesting what happen after word got out of this state senator's experience (especially compared to what might happen in the US). The police officers were fired, the mayor got involved, and the city of Cancun reimbursed the Americans for the amount of the bribe.

Here's the story in the Yucatan paper.

For non-Spanish speakers (like me), here's the gist: car rental agencies say they get an average of 50 tourist complaints a month about bribe attempts by cops in Cancun. Typical amounts are US$10 to $20. (Which, for the record, is cheaper than paying for the ticket, usually about US$50.)

It also says that this is about double the rate of complaints last year. Which the car-rental group rep attributes to the economic crisis. Although what isn't, these days?