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by Peter Moskos

June 22, 2012

While I'm out...

Check out this lengthy piece (and well worth reading the whole thing) by David Simon about murders, stats, the BPD, the state's attorney's office, and the need for main-stream media. (And thanks to an anonymous comment for cluing me in.)
The Stat:

In 2011, the Baltimore Police Department charged 70 defendants with murder or manslaughter.
Yet in 2010, the department charged 130 defendants with such crimes.
What is happening?

Are Baltimore’s killers showing more cunning, are murders becoming harder to solve?  No indication of that from any quarter.  Did the homicide unit lose a ton of veteran talent?  Nope.  Not between 2010 and 2011 at any rate.  No, the dramatic collapse of the department’s investigative response to murder is the result of a quiet, backroom policy change that has created a bureaucratic disincentive to charge people in homicides.

Also, and unrelated, McCarthy in Chicago says police don't have to answer stupid 911 calls for service anymore. It might seem minor, but this could have a huge impact on policing (as Chapter Six of Cop in the Hood -- "911 is a Joke" -- describes in breath-taking page-turning detail). McCarthy is talking about "beat integrity" and says he's willing to face the political flack for fewer police responses. He also wants to give powers of where police go to police bosses (instead of giving all the power to the dispatcher). This is all good. (Maybe in Baltimore they'll actually bring a box back to put call in!) From the Sun-Times:
McCarthy replied that the change was already under way, with the goal of creating, what he called “beat integrity.” That means leaving police officers to patrol their assigned beats, instead of chasing their tails by running from one 911 call to another at the behest of dispatchers. ...
“Previously, the dispatcher would direct the resources, while the sergeants in the field would basically just be receiving them. [Now], sergeants in the field are in charge of dispatching resources if they don’t like the way [dispatch] is doing it. ...
[Dispatch] has also abandoned what McCarthy called the “clean screen concept” at the 911 center.
“They would dispatch a car from one end of the district to the other end of a district to simply get the job off the screen. That’s the clean screen concept,” he said.
“What we’re now doing is maintaining beat integrity. … If a job comes in in a neighboring beat and it’s not an emergency call for service, that job will actually get stacked until that beat is available to handle it. That’s what beat integrity is all about. Same officers in the same beat every single day. Those officers are not only accountable for what’s happening on the beat, they also know who the good kids are from the bad kids. They’re not stopping everybody. They’re stopping the right people because they know who they are.”
McCarthy said a more dramatic change is coming soon, when the Chicago Police Department determines “which jobs we’re not gonna respond to” anymore.
“That’s a call that I’m going to make — and there’s going to be some wrankling about that,” he said.
“We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My children are fighting over the remote control.’ We don’t need to respond to calls for service because, ‘My son won’t eat his dinner.’ Unfortunately, believe it or not, those are calls we actually respond to today.”
 And the political flack will come when one of the my children are fighting over the remote calls turns into a homicide. But you can't dedicate half the police department to every idiot who can pick up a phone.

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