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by Peter Moskos

November 22, 2013

"Taxpayers" Riot in Nebraska after Cop Killed. South Omaha Greektown burned and looted!

What? It's true!

(Even if it is from 1909.)

Why do I mention this? Maybe because it all started when a Greek-American shot and killed South Omaha Police Officer Ed Lowery. Or maybe not.

Look, this has nothing to do with police (except for the aforementioned killing), but my third book is finally out. It's done. It's a Moskos and Moskos production. It has a dorky cover. And you can buy Greek Americans on Amazon.

Greek Americans makes a great Christmas present...

But let's be realistic: I know you're not going to buy this book for yourself. But you might buy it for that Greek guy or girl you know. And come on, you do know a Greek. We're everywhere. And Greek Americans are guaranteed to love a book on Greek Americans. Why? I don't know. We just do.

And just think... if give it to that Greek who runs that diner you like, you might get free baklava for life! Why? Because that's how we Greeks roll.

The killing of South Omaha Police Officer Edward Lowery

Excerpted from Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (3rd Edition):
On the outskirts of South Omaha, Nebraska, was a shantytown of perhaps 3,000 Greek laborers, a number swollen by unemployed railroad workers waiting out the winter. Anti-Greek feeling in South Omaha was already intense owing to the carousing and gambling of the Greeks and, possibly, because many of them were viewed as strikebreakers.

The precipitating incident occurred on February 19, 1909, when one immigrant, Irish-born Police Officer Ed Lowery, arrested fellow immigrant, the Greek-born John Masourides. Lowery was a family man with a labor background. He joined the police force after losing his job at a lard processing plant for refusing, in sympathy with striking workers, to cross a picket line. Thirty-six years old when he left a Peloponnesian village near Kalamata in 1906, Masourides was in many ways a typical Greek immigrant.

He was dark and of medium height, wore a mustache, could speak no English, but could read and write some Greek. He left behind a wife and four children and made his destination Sunrise, Wyoming, where he planned to join his brother Gust. In Wyoming, John worked as a miner for several months after his arrival. The brothers then decided to come to Omaha to start a grocery and confectionary. This they did in South Omaha.

Masourides was with seventeen-year-old Lillian Breese when Officer Lowery arrested him for vagrancy. Some claimed the policeman was drunk and enraged at seeing a Greek publicly walking with a “white” prostitute. Other accounts say Breese was an English teacher and Masourides her student. These two accounts, it should be noted, are not mutually exclusive. Regardless of Breese’s primary vocation, what isn’t in question is that Masourides shot and killed Officer Lowery on the way to the police station.

In court, Masourides said he was attempting to throw his pistol away to avoid being held for carrying a concealed weapon, and was forced to defend himself after the officer began firing. Other witnesses said Masourides fired first. After a failed attempt to lynch Masourides, a petition was circulated and published in two local newspapers:

The so-called quarters of the Greeks are infested by a vile bunch of filthy Greeks who have attacked our women, insulted pedestrians upon the street, openly maintained gambling dens and many other forms of viciousness.

More ominously it declared:

Therefore be it resolved:
That we, the undersigned citizens and taxpayers of the city, hereby believe that a mass meeting should be held on Sunday afternoon, February 21, 1909, at the city hall to take such steps and to adopt such measures as will effectually rid the city of the Greeks, and thereby remove the menacing conditions that threaten the very life and welfare of South Omaha.

During the meeting, the crowd was encouraged with anti-Greek speeches. One witness recounted hearing, “One drop of American blood is worth all the Greek blood in the world!”

Following the meeting, over the course of many hours, a mob rampaged through the Greek quarter, burning most of it to the ground. Some thirty-six Greek businesses were destroyed and all the Greeks—and many other immigrants who were mistaken for Greek—were driven by the mob from the city. Later, Mary Demos, the owner of Demos Brothers Confectionary, would testify that when she called the police station for help against the mob, the officer answering “laughed at [her] over the telephone.” Her shop was subsequently wrecked and looted by a group that Demos claimed included police officers.

Another newspaper, which was considered more moderate toward immigrants (and did not publish the anti-Greek petition), still managed to rationalize, if not justify, the rioters’ behavior:

The thing that sticks in the crow [sic] of the anti-Greek element is that they work cheap; live even more cheaply, in groups; are careless of many of the little details that Americans set much store by; once in a while are impudent, ignore the restrictions of American law that lay heavily on the true patriot—in short, do not mix, are not “good fellows” like the citizens we get from northern Europe, for instance.

The press coverage of the riots triggered copycat anti-Greek demonstrations, sometimes violent, in Kansas City, Kansas, and Dayton, Ohio. The irony of immigrant-on-immigrant xenophobia was not lost on at least one newspaper, the Shreveport Journal (Louisiana): “We note with interest that Mr. O’Shaughnessy of Omaha objects to the ‘Greeks taking America.’ As if the O’Shaughnessys and the O’Tooles and other Irish had not already grabbed it.”

One year later, Masourides was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He was furloughed by the governor after five and one-half years, deported, and emigrated, perhaps to Egypt.

The South Omaha riot was given wide coverage in the Greek American press and in Greece. The Greek government lost no time in protesting the acquiescence of the local authorities to the brutality of the mob. The Greek government, along with the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, lodged a formal demand for compensation. In 1918 the US Congress did indemnify the Greeks, but for just $40,000 (equivalent in 2012 to $618,000) and not the $288,000 claimed.

November 19, 2013

NYPD Aims Better in 2012

It's being reported that fatal NYPD police-involved shootings were way up in 2012. They are, but it's a non-story. Indeed, fatal police-involved shootings increased from 9 to 16, but better aim and luck were probably the reasons why. Police-involved shootings were only up by 2, to 30. (And this even though the average distance from which officers shot was further away in 2012.)

The real story (though you should always be leery basing a story on what might be a statistical one-year fluke) is that the number of NYPD officers shot went up from 4 in 2011 to 13 in 2012. Luckily none of those 13 was killed. 13 officers shot is the most since 1998. In 1997 27 officer were shot, 4 fatally.

30 police-involved shootings is an incredible low number for a city as big as New York. It is also part of a long-tern downward trend (that correlates, not surprisingly, with the crime rate). In 1990 there 111 police-involved shootings. Going back even further, in 1972 there were 211 people shot by cops!

To put this in comparison, Baltimore, with a fraction of New York's population and about 3,000 officers, had 22 police-involved shootings in 2009 (the last year I have numbers for).

Here's the NYPD report.

Houston police, with 5,300 officers has shot an average of 24 people a year (10 of them fatally) for the past five years. Many were unarmed.

“You can’t stop me! You can’t do that no more! There are new rules!” says gun-toting idiot

The Post reports (and some cops confirm) that word on the street is that cops can't stop anybody anymore. Of course that's not true. But it still make for some chilling anecdotes.
"You can’t be stopping me, yo! The cops can’t be harassing us!"

He was still frisked.
And yet there is still no apparent increase in violence.

[thanks to J.S.]

November 18, 2013

Crime is up no wait down: NCVS

There are two main clearinghouses for crime stats in this country, the UCR (The Uniform Crime Report) and the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey). The former is collected from police departments and thus only includes reported crime as recorded by the police. The latter is conducted by surveys and sampling and asks people (160,000 per year) if they were a victim of crime. They both can be useful in different situations, though I'm much more partial to the UCR.

Now here's the thing: The UCR says violent crime in 2012 is down 3% compared to 2010.

The NCVS says violent crime is up 39% in the past two years.

They can't both be right.

And I seriously suspect the NCVS is wrong.


I believe in 2015 the NCVS surveyed but a *total* of 260 black male crime victims. For a national sample. (From 20,837 "black only" sampled.) Just 100 black male victims 35 or under? That seems problematic. Weighting is about 2,700 per individual.

Also, blacks are 11% of respondents, undercounts population approx 17%. (whites are overcounted at +5%) And there's no reason to assume non-respondents/missing data are random. I would assume non-respondents have higher rates of being victims. 

November 15, 2013

Five charts Ray Kelly Doesn't want you to see!

(Can you guess I was just on buzzfeed? A better headline would be "Murders way down in NYC. And so are stop and frisks. And nobody seems to care." But what kind of clickbaite would that be?)

1) Breakdown of NYC stops by race.

Indeed, as often reported, 83% of stops have happened to black and hispanic people.

2) Breakdown of NYC homicide victims by race.

But ninety-one percent of homicide victims were black or hispanic. Wow. Actually, this is the chart Ray Kelly wants you to see. Critics of stop and frisk generally don't like talking about this issue (as if the racial disparity in violent crime will just go away if we ignore it). But it is relevant. It may not excuse the racial bias of stop and frisk, but it goes a long to explaining it. Cops are where the violent crime is. Cops stop people where cops are assigned. Ergo cops stop black and hispanics disproportionately. "Racism without racists," it's sometimes called. It's not that individual cops are racists in their day-to-day work, but the end result of a stop-and-frisk policy can still racist.

3) Hit rate for stops of black people.

(this and then next figure are taken from Mother Jones and the data from the Center for Constitutional Rights)

One in 143 stops of blacks yields guns, drugs, or other contraband. Compare this to the rate for whites who are stopped.

4) Hit rate for tops of white people.

One in 27 stops of white people yields guns, drugs, or other contraband. Same yield with 19 percent of the stops.


One way to interpret these data is that white people must be 5.4 times as likely as blacks to be packing heat or drugs! Of course that's unlikely. So why is contraband 5.4 times as likely to be found on white people? Because white people are more likely to be stopped based on actual suspicion (there is much less pressure to produce stats in low-crime neighborhoods). Black people are being stopped because Compstat and "productivity" pressure in high-crime neighborhoods mean some officers stop people simply because the feel they need to stop people to fill out the UF-250s (the stop, questions, and frisk form).

So how about this for a goal: get the "hit rate" for blacks up to the same level for whites. Not only would this be fair, it would be good policing. It would also go a long way to mitigating the problem of excessive stop and frisks. And it's not hard to do. Make smart stops, not more stops.

5) Stops and homicides are both down!

For years Bloomberg and Kelly were basically saying that every one of the five, six, and seven-hundred-thousand stops was necessary to keep the city from exploding in crime. An inevitable part of the crime drop in New York City.

And yet stops have plummeting in the past two years (2013 figures are estimated year-end totals based on latest available data). In part this is from pressure from the top and in more recent part instructions from the PBA.

And homicide? Must be way up, right? Because Bloomberg and Kelly have insisted we need all these stops to keep homicide down. And yet we're on track from just over 300 homicides for the year in NYC. (Again, estimated year end total).

What did I just say New York City is on track to have just 318 homicides this year?! That's amazing. Why is this not front-page news? This 22 percent reduction is not from a crack-fueled high of the late 1980s but from the record low year of 2012! The 2013 homicide numbers are an amazing accomplished. (I mean Baltimore City used to top 300 homicides with just 650,000 residents.)

Homicides in New York City are down 22 percent this year and nobody seems to want to take credit! Attackers of stop and frisk never like to highlight any evidence that might be used to imply stop and frisks are effective. But defenders of stop and frisk can't reconcile a huge crime drop that correlates with an even larger decline in stop and frisks. In two years stops have been cut in half and homicides are down by one-third. (Of course there might be a delayed link between the end of stop and frisk and a rise in crime, but I think the past year or two should be enough time to see such a lag effect).

So for crying out loud, give the NYPD some credit! Just last year academics, once again, were saying crime had bottomed out; crime won't go down; crime can't go down any more. And yet, once again, it did. This was not inevitable. This is not irreversible. But as Bill Bratton likes to say, "Cops count and police matter."

So give the NYPD credit for a record low number of murders, but remind them that this amazing reduction in homicide has happened without unnecessarily stopping and bothering another 350,000 innocent black and hispanic New Yorkers this year. That matters.

We now know that all these stops were not needed. Throw out that bathwater! But be careful, because there is baby somewhere in that murky water. Surely some of these stop are needed. You know, the stops based on officers' reasonable and honest suspicion.

The crime reduction can continue at the same time unnecessary stop and frisks and ended. One goal should be to raise the hit rate for blacks stopped to the same level as found for whites who are stopped. This alone could reduce the total number of stops (and misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests) more than 80% from the 2011 high. The good news is we're already half way there.

November 14, 2013

Defending Flogging Down Under

Waste an hour watching my dangerous idea at the Sydney Opera House's 2013 Festival of Dangerous Ideas:

There's also me on a panel "Getting Soft on Crime":

You can watch all the Dangerous Ideas here. What an amazing weekend and amazingly well run festival! Thanks to everybody at FODI.

November 9, 2013

Father calls cops who shoot son

The chase was well called out by the pursuing officer, I have to say. The shooting, in my humble opinion, justified. It's too bad police had to down two police cars because of this idiot.

Should the police have chased? No. They rarely should. And particularly not when you know the identity of the suspect and where he lives! (And it's odd to me as a former police officer that the the pursuing officer is never ordered to call the chase off. Instead the suggestion of calling off the chase is offered a few times. I know -- right or wrong -- that I would not have followed that "suggestion." Why? Because as a cop I want to catch the crook. And as a guy, car chases are fun.) What do you want to bet that police in Ames, Iowa will make a more restrictive pursuit policy very soon?

But the moral? I think it's rather simple: don't call police to teach your child a lesson. Seriously. That's not what police are for. Why, because your child might be a fool and end up getting shot. (Also, it wastes police time). [Update: to paraphrase a comment below: "You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes."]

From Salon: “He took off with my truck. I call the police, and they kill him,” James Comstock told The Des Moines Register. “It was over a damn pack of cigarettes. I wouldn’t buy him none.”

You wouldn't buy your son a pack of cigarettes and he got pissed off and so you called the police to report a stolen vehicle?!

The second link here gives you the full audio.

Right Wing Lies (IX)

Turns out Obama was a cross-dressing teenager who turned gay tricks for coke! This one must be true. Why? Because I read it on the interwebs!

Man, I wasted far too much time today responding to comments from people who still comment about what a shame it is that the government provided "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to a murdered two-bit drug-dealing father-of-many married-to-none black man, Larmondo "Flair" Allen. This single post got 4,000 hits yesterday (and all from google searches, which is the tough way to find something. Usually massive spikes are due to some prominent site posting a link). That's about 3,500 more than an average day.

The problem, of course, is it's not true. I mean the looser "Flair" existed, but he wasn't living large sucking the government's tit.

Call me crazy, but if people believe an email that says some loser with nine kids gets $13,500 per month in free government cash (the real figure is closer to $550), how much of a lie does something have to be before idiots might reconsider something that goes against their world view?

And how many people need to believe a lie before these people dictate social policy based on that lie?

[For a more a real conception of who receives welfare, read this.]

In many comments (and tens of thousands of page views) regarding "Flair," not one person -- not one -- said, "Gosh, I guess since my facts were wrong, I've got to reconsider what I believe." Not one. Turns out for some, the facts don't matter. As a professor who enjoys a good political debate, I find that very frustrating.

To hate something based on truth is one thing. But to hate based on lies? It's the foundation of fascism.