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by Peter Moskos

October 31, 2015

"Fruit and other food in season... seems to have been completely overlooked"!

The good ol' days...

I love spending time in John Jay College's great Lloyd Sealy Library browsing NYPD annual police reports from 100 years ago. Even older ones are available to the public online.

In 1912 the total force was 10,371 plus 268 civilian.
Three motor patrol wagons were installed during the year 1912 [making 4]. It is proposed to immediately purchase ten additional wagons of the same type. Each of these vehicles replaces three horse-drawn wagons. The savings in salaries of the drivers alone pay for the original cost of the vehicle [$2,840] in about six months.
There were the 25 motorcycles, 55 bicycles, and 679 horses (139 patrol wagon, 483 saddle service).

Crime and arrests: 300 homicides, 107,227 misdemeanor arrests (60,493 for intoxication and/or disorderly conduct), and 18,780 felony arrests (242 for cocaine, 2 for opium).

Pay was to be not less than $1,000 for a patrolmen. Pension was requested to be 2% per year after 25 years of service.

In 1919 NYC had 5.6 million people and 10,000 cops, the ratio of which was considered a big low compared to other cities.

In 1925, 453 children 16 and under were killed by cars and trolleys. That's a lot! By 1948 this number was brought down to 82. In 2015 there were 250 people of all ages killed by traffic. I guess the 1920s was the first time in human history when kids weren't supposed to play in the streets.

I love the category of "roller skating, etc."

From 1926 to 1933, an average of 7 officer a year "died in the heroic performance of duty." An additional 5.5 died "as the result of accidents while on duty." There were just under 19,000 uniformed personnel.

In 1933, at the end of prohibition, there were 431 murders: 6 homicides from bootleggers’ dispute (down from 16 in 1932), 3 narcotic disputes, 3 slot machine disputes, and 2 prostitution disputes. 997 traffic fatalities. Total arrests 460,484.

There were 12 motorcycles with side cars, armored. 64 2-passenger radio equipped coupes were purchased. There were 240 2 passengers, radio equipped "runabouts." 123 had no radio. Keep in mind there were one-way radios! "Standard equipment, seven tube super-heterodyne radio receivers have been installed in four hundred Department automobiles." Radio Motor patrol made 2,162 arrests.

Under the great Mayor LaGuardia, police re-entered the social welfare game:
The Unemployment Relief Bureau was established to function in connection with the work of obtaining aid and relief for the unemployed.

Members of the Force were assigned to investigate applications for the relief cases of distress, visit owners of property whose tenants were in arrears in payment of rent with a view of obtaining monetary relief from the Mayor's Official Committee.

Food checks were issued to families requiring assistance.
The nature of relief rendered through the Mayor’s Official Committee was as follows:
A) monetary assistance
B) distribution of food tickets
C) Distribution of fuel
D) distribution of clothing
E) Securing positions for unemployed
F) cases referred to other agencies.
1,780,600 lbs of coal distributed. 16,334 articles of clothing, 220,000 food tickets (redeemed at authorized stores) worth $684,814, $70,799 in cash.

31,094 (!) pistol licenses were issued (bringing in $286.50). 74 tear gas permits (?!) issued along with 418 religious permits (30 were disapproved). Other permits that the Pistol License Bureau could issue were: "auctioneers, bail bond agents, candidates for admission to the Bar, Hotel runners’ license, loud speaker permits, masque ball permits, massage operators, massage institute license, miscellaneous investigations, piston license, religious permits, tear gas permits, various investigations for the Department of License."

By 1939 homicides in the city dropped to 291 (78 shooting, 96 cutting, 85 assault). There were still 326 motorcycles and 375 horses in service.

In 1948 there were 315 murders. 93 were shootings and 59 were categorized as "marital or passion."

My favorite part goes comes from the 1913 report and the complaint about the lack of "fruit and other food in season" at the canteen, something "that seems to have been completely overlooked"! Well, I say, the Chef does need to up his game!

And here's the official chronology of the NYPD, up to 1900:

Terry v. Ohio

For such a Landmark Case, I was curious how Terry v Ohio (1968) was reported at the time. I was thinking it would have been hard to see its potential implications at the time (though William Douglas did so in his dissent).

Indeed, on June 11, 1968 the New York Times said:
Held, 8 to 1, that the police may constitutionally stop and frisk suspicious persons, even if the officers do not have probable cause to make an arrest.
That's it.

In July 1974, the Times gave Terry six paragraphs in a long obituary on Earl Warren:
One notable exception to this ["'anti police' pattern"] came in 1968, when a political backlash was building up against the Court's restrictions on the police, and even some liberals were beginning to wonder if the Court had not been too rigid in ruling out all evidence obtained in violation of the Supreme Court's procedural rules.
He then declared, with obvious reluctance, that weapons sized by "frisking" could be used in evidence -- a decision that civil libertarians lamented as a serious breach in the Fourth Amendment's shield against unreasonable searches and seizures.
One way to see the growing influence of Terry is to look at the increase in citations over time. Using ProQuest's newspaper search, there were only 3 references to "Terry v Ohio" in the entire decade of the 1970s. This grew to 7 in the 1980s, 11 from 1990 to 1999, 36 in the 2000s, and 56 in the 6 years since 2010.

It's interesting to me, listening to the oral argument (for the first time as I didn't know you could do that!) that a big part of the debate circles around the idea of whether Terry was "arrested" at the moment he was stopped and not free to leave. The answer now seems obvious, but this is where "stop" -- the idea of "temporary detaining" -- got put in "stop and frisk."

Brennen asks:
It's certainly not an arrest in the sense of taking him to the station house and booking him for a crime; but, if he's detained, isn't it in the nature of an arrest?
Lawyer Payne:
The first seizure of the person was at the time that he ordered them into the store.
Brennan, Jr.:
You mean when he took Terry and swung him around there was no seizure of the person?
I think there was a temporary detaining, or interference with his person.
Brennan, Jr.:
Well, he had his hands on him and he switched him around.
Surely -- there was no seizure of the person?
What is the difference between seizure and arrest?

You know, a seizure -- you don't seize a man -- I mean, you may seize him because you seize something tangible, but that's not what you are talking about in a seizure in the Fourth Amendment.

I thought it was an arrest?
...and some may term that as a seizure of the person himself; but I would not term that it as a seizure of the person himself unless he has the intention of taking that person into custody, even though he may lay hands on him at that particular time.
Payne won the day.

[As a refresher course, Terry was extended to allow drugs based on "plain feel" if "immediately obvious" in Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993). (People v. Diaz says this does not apply in New York State.)]

October 30, 2015

The truth will set you free

Another case where body cams help police officers avoid false accusations of brutality from a viral video.

Cops on Comey

I love thoughtful cops. Especially those who can write. He emailed me this and agreed to let me repost it, anonymously. I wish him well and am happy to see people like this still becoming police officers.
I'm a police recruit with a B.A. in the social sciences, and I read your blog a lot. Granted I am just a recruit and don't know anything at all, but I thought I'd send you some thoughts about your posts on Comey and his remarks.

I do not care at all about "scrutiny." I work for a large, liberal city. We all have dash cameras and are required to tape every call. Body cameras are coming shortly and everybody knows it, and I'm fully in favor of it. I don't care one bit if citizens film. We've talked about it in the academy, and it's part of our training.

What I do care about a lot more is the possibility of being the next Darren Wilson. Everybody in the academy watches every viral video and reads about every controversial police incident that happens in this country. Everybody knows about Ferguson. In Ferguson, a cop defended himself while trying to detain a robbery suspect. The Grand Jury agreed with it and the DoJ's own investigation proved it via forensics and witness interviews. And that cop lives every day of his life in hiding. Wilson has no job, no job prospects, a wife and kid he can't support, half the country thinks he's a murderer, and every news article about him states he is "the white police officer who shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown." His life is over.

So people are idiots if they think cops don't stand out there, see a black guy with some good warrants or who matches the description of a suspect, and think "this stop could cost me everything if he fights and dies - is it worth the risk?" To me, being fresh and new, I say it is. But I definitely understand it when the old guys sit around and say it isn't. Your data from Baltimore shows this quite clearly.

I think most cops recognize scrutiny is important and valid. But they also feel like this is a profession and we are entitled to some professional respect. Nobody tells nurses how to give medicine, or plumbers how to fix piping, but everybody feels the need to referee police use of force even if the extent of their expertise is watching NCIS reruns.

So while police need to be responsive to public opinion, the public also needs to defer at some point to people with technical expertise on use of force. Certain things cannot bend. If someone tries for my gun, I will kill or maim them until they quit, even if they're 18 and I originally stopped them for jaywalking. If the public refuses to accept that, police will pull back because the only other choices are to get fired or get hurt.

"Most people really do not return to prison"

This goes against common accepted wisdom, which refers to a recidivism rate (ending up behind bars again within three years) of about two-thirds .

Here's another good piece by Leon Neyfakh in Slate, an interview with William Rhodes.

The basic gist is this. Some people recidivate a lot while others do not at all. So if you look at everybody released from prison this year, indeed, two-thirds will be back (75 percent in five years). But if you look at individual people who have been to prison, most never come back! That's the interesting part, conceptually.

Here's the bottom line:
Two of every three offenders (68 percent) never return to prison. Another 20 percent return just once. The NCRP data are not definitive but it appears that most of these one-time returns are for violating the technical conditions governing community supervision rather than for new crimes. Importantly, only one in ten offenders (11 percent) returns to prison multiple times.

Bar the doors! Board the windows!

Halloween is coming! 6,000 inmates are about to be released from prison. Most got about 2 years cut from a 10 year drug sentence.

Think of it: 6,000 roving marauders. Pirates! Barbarians!! Thugs!!! They'll be Shanghaiing our youth, raping our maidens, and pillaging our homes! At least that's what I'm learning from some on the Right. (See me on Bill O'Reilly.)

Don't believe the hype.

6,000 is less than the number released from prison every goddamned week in the US.

You know what will happen when, during one week, that number of released prisoners goes from 12,000 to 18,000?

Absolutely nothing.

Update: I just heard on public radio that close to 2,000 of those 6,000 are going to be immediately deported to Mexico (Nothing like investing half a billion dollars on incarcerating people before kicking them out of the country). So the actually weekly increase of people getting out of prison will go from about 12,000 to 14,000.

Only semi-related: Here's a nice pie chart from PPI. It's rare to see things broken down by why you're there, and include immigrants and juveniles:

Funeral for Slain NYPD Detective Randolph Holder

Killed by police, Washington Post analysis

Washington Post reporters are doing what journalists are supposed to do. They're looking at those killed by police (like the Guardian, but a bit more fairly).

815 have been shot dead by police this year as of right now (the Guardian, just FYI, pushes that number to 948. That's a 15 increase based on people that really shouldn't be counted because it includes things like suicide and non-police custody).

Of the 815, 31 are labeled "undetermined" in terms of "threat level" and thus questionable as to their justification. Of those 10 each were white, black, and hispanic. But even among those 30, 11 had a deadly weapon.

76 of the 815 were "unarmed" (28 of 76 black). 29 of those 76 "unarmed" are labeled "attack in progress." 39 "other." 8 "undetermined."

Overall, 203 are determined to be mentally ill. That's one in four. And 40 percent of all whites. "Just" 15 percent of blacks are considered mentally ill. I assume there are labeling errors here. I suspect more mentally ill blacks are not labeled as mentally ill when killed by police. But hell if I know. Regardless, that difference jumps out at me.

Of the total number, 390 were white, 208 were black, 134 hispanic. 32 were women.

I keep harping on the state differences. And for good reason. The top ten states by rate (from the Guardian) of police-involved homicides (from the Post) have about 20 of the US population and 298 (36 percent) of police-involved homicides. The rate of police-involved killings in the ten worst states, (extrapolated from 10 to 12 months) about 5.4 per 100,000, is greater than the overall level of homicide in the United States. Period.


Meanwhile the best ten states (police in these states are least likely to kill people) have nearly the same population as the ten worst states just and 67 (8 percent) police-involved homicides. That's an annual rate of about 1.2 per 100,000.

That's a big difference.

The states where police kill the most are OK, NM, WY, AK, AZ, LA, WV, NV, CA, and CO.
The states with the least lethal cops are VT, ME, RI, CT, NY, ND, PA, MA, IL, and IA.

Is gun control a factor? Maybe. The top 10 average rank is 15 according to the Brady Campaign's rank of gun control. The bottom ten rank 31. But I suspect that is mutual causation or correlation without causation. Gun culture in general more than gun control in particular. There are outliers galore: California ranks 1 on gun control and cops killed 150 people; meanwhile Vermont (1/60th the size of California, mind you) ranks 44 on gun control, but police have killed nobody.

The biggest divider I can see is simply East/West. You can draw a sharp line between the top 10 and bottom 10 with the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Do you mind if I search your black car I mean car?

It's not so much that blacks are more likely to get stopped while driving, it's that blacks get searched much more than whites after a car stop. This has been documented for at least 20 years. I'm a bit surprised it's still happening at this level. It was a big issue after the bullshit "drug courier" profiling scandals in the late 1990s in Maryland and New Jersey. I sort of thought it faded away. Silly me

October 28, 2015

Liberals eating themselves

In the Comey story, in which a seemingly liberal FBI director discusses crime, police, race, and history and get pilloried by the left, the New York Times takes the cake. In some Bizarro World I'm not part of, The Grey Lady deemed Comey's comments "incendiary" and playing "into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public. ... His formulation implies that for the police to do their jobs, they need to have free rein to be abusive."

No, he doesn't say that or even imply it. Where do they get this from?! It seems like they first wrote an unfair headline about Comey, and then exploded in outrage over their own bad reporting. Classy.

From a liberal perspective, Comey shows an amazing understanding of the problem. Given what he is actually saying, Comey will have a much greater problem with maintaining credibility with the conservative right, ie: most cops.

Comey said so much. I know from personal experience that the Times might call someone, say, a "denier of reality" not because of anything actually said but because of a 2nd-hand out-of-context misquote they were pointed to in a conservative rag. So perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that because Comey said one thing -- something any cop will tell you -- because Comey veered ever so slightly from the Party Line by suggesting the possibility that viral videos might be [gasp] having some impact on policing, the Times concludes that Comey, "hasn’t begun to grasp the nature of the problem." Did they even listen to what he said? I kind of doubt it.

October 26, 2015

Three Cheers for FBI Director Comey

It's kind of funny to watch the Left completely freak out at the mere suggestion from Comey that viral videos might have an impact on police on crime. See this and this and this: And this:
Mr. Comey’s remarks caught officials by surprise at the Justice Department, where his views are not shared at the top levels. Holding the police accountable for civil rights violations has been a top priority at the department in recent years, and some senior officials do not believe that scrutiny of police officers has led to an increase in crime. While the department had no immediate comment on Friday, several officials privately fumed at Mr. Comey’s suggestion.
Here's a speech he gave on Oct 15. It's worth listening to (it's just 6 minutes).

This is a thoughtful and intelligent guy. And most of his comments are far too liberal for the police world. I mean, check out what he said yesterday: Cops can learn from #blacklivesmatter. Shocking, I tell you. Shocking.

More people are being killed. And Comey is thinking. And he's saying we need more and better data. And yeah, maybe viral videos and political fall-out have an effect on policing. Uh, of course they have an effect on policing. So let's talk.

You can read the text of his more recent speech here.

As no great person ever said, "The clairvoyance of injustice is dogmatic in its complexity." (Thanks to @AyeRishPirate)

"Nothing is uglier than a crab cake sandwich under tungsten lighting"

The third of three little remembrances of my policing days.

There's been a lot of talk recently about a so-called "Ferguson Effect." I don't know. It's certainly possible. Even probably, I would say. There's always been disincentives in the police world to actually doing any work, especially from those who see police as a force for bad. But you can't do the job without people complaining. And you can't get in trouble if you don't work.

Baltimore. December 10, 2000:
[T] and [L] are talking about [T's] loser brother in law who was trying to bum money from [T]. [L]: “It’s not like I can afford to eat at the Olive Grove, or Olive Garden, whatever that place is called.”

[L]: “Yeah, me and my wife went to Red Lobster and I looked at the menu and said, ‘let’s go honey.’”

J.W. pips up, [jokingly] “I say that in McDonalds!”

There was a B+E at the Market, a carjacking on 24 post, and a domestic assault. So sector two went down. And the major is driving around trying to get some of Sector Two 10-8 [in service]. Some damn initiative unit gets a DWI on our post and tries to pass it off. It’s not like we were humping out or anything. But the major wants people 10-8. God forbid we’re actually working.

The pressure is to have us driving around doing nothing. Gotta love that.

Nothing is uglier than a crab cake sandwich under tungsten lighting.

[L] sez: “Sarge says some people are just coming in here to get a paycheck. But is that wrong? I don’t want to lose my job and my retirement because some idiot doesn’t pull over and kills a pedestrian.” The department doesn’t want you to chase them, just let the go.

“Yeah, but what if I turn on my lights and he makes a right on Washington and slams into someone on the other side of the street. Who’s to say I wasn’t chasing them? Me!? [incredulously]. What’s wrong with wanting to avoid lawsuits? IID numbers? It’s not worth it. I want to retire.”

[L] told me how much worse things were in the old days: CC# for every call (some months in the 60,000s). Radios that didn’t work well. Long waits on 4 to 12 on citywide for traffic stops and 10-29s. Radio batteries that would just die with warning. When picking up a battery (no lights on the chargers), you would go for a hot one. People still say, “is the battery ‘hot’?” Cars with bench seats that you would slide around with and had to be propped up with milkcrates and 2X4s after being broken by fat people. And [L] has (only) 13 years on.

It’s too bad there are no stats for calls prevented. I like being around when clubs on 25 Post let out. But what does it get you?

Why have I heard nothing more about the guy shot by (non-city) police at the toll-plaza?

Good times...

Baltimore, December 9, 2000:
We get a call for disorderly on Somethingleaf Court. Turns into an armed person. Housing won’t take it. Man is there as promised. We get there and I frisk him. [Officer C] has his gun out. No gun. The guy said he gave this woman $20 for “you know, whatever”. He said he has "relations" to the woman. Vaughn warns him he could be locked up for solicitation. Advises the guy to walk away before he gets arrested. He leaves.

There is a call later that he came back, but housing does handle that call. “But officer,” I joke, “last time you just told me to tell the truth!” Of course I’m somewhat serious. If he lied to us he would have been told to tell the truth. But telling the truth about a crime? You can get locked up. Of course, as a cop will tell you, if he hadn’t been doing anything illegal... Still, this is why people think the police won’t do shit. Of course, even if he had been robbed of $20 unarmed, we would just tell him to go to the court commissioner.

I pull up next to [J.W.] at 4AM at 500 Caroline, next thing you know it’s 7AM! Looks like that "sleepy monster" got me, too.

B+E at 2210 Jefferson at 0722 hrs. I got 3.3 hours overtime, so that’s all right (that’s 7.5 for the week--didn’t get any at all last paycheck). Got in through the 2nd floor window. A nice couple, good home. Being on overtime and liking the couple, I decide to do a very thorough investigation.

I search the vacants nearby for property and don’t find any. One quote from [Mrs. Victim]: “The local yo-boys...” and about a neighbor “they’re part of the problem.” [Mr. Victim] says he saw one of his hoodlum neighbors standing outside when he left. I go to that home during my neighborhood canvass. He opens the door and I stand on the threshold, not really on the stoop by not in the home either. I mention that one of their neighbors had some property stolen and if they heard anything.

Not the guy who opened the door, but another comes up and says, “you got no right to be up in my house!” Strange cause I wasn’t in his house. (or: Like hell I don’t!). Now having articulable suspicion they were involved, and worried that any property could be moved from the home if I were to leave. I go in and give a quick visual inspection of their ground floor. Nothing in there. The guy is pretty pissed and I’m thinking of arresting him for assault (getting in my face), but I decide I don’t want that much overtime. [Nor am I 100% certain about the legality of my entry into the house] He says he wants to complain. I give him my card and tell him to go ahead. I write the above in my report. He didn't complain. [Given your card was always a disarming way to get people not to complain.]

[Two other officers] were there late, too. Made a 7AM lockup on 800 N. Madeira. About 12 vials [of crack]. [One of them] was pissed off that he had to stick around for his lockup. “Goddamn felony CDS lock-up.”

I backed up [V.] on Patterson Park. Some vacant we didn’t go into because of a big dog. [B.] mentioned that [L.] used to screw some 19-year-old in that house. [L.] later confirmed it by saying, “What a big mouth! Why’d he have to say anything. Yeah, I used to date a girl who lived there. A nice girl too.”

October 24, 2015

Just another day in the Eastern...

Sometimes it's fun to re-read my old field notes. I should write a book or something. This is from Jan 24, 2001 (and better than my average day's notes):
[Officer A] and I are walking our 4 miles at 5am: “People say this is a good neighborhood with a few bad people. But it’s not. I’d say that 50% are bad, and most of the rest, another 30% don’t care… The reason things are so bad here is because nobody does anything. If they gave us some information, like stayed on the line and told the dispatcher that it’s that guy in the red jacket and the stash is in that box over there. Then we could do something. But they don’t care... so they get what they deserve.”

This occurred while I was complaining about [Officer B] locking people up for riding bikes (I had a nice night riding with [Officer B] tonight). And I mentioned, “and that’s why you shouldn’t lock somebody up for riding a bike. Because someone will say I or my nephew got locked up for nothing and they’d be right. Of course they’re not going to like the police.” [Officer A] said, “well, they were doing something.” “I know, it’s a legal lock up. But it’s not a moral one.”

[Officer B] says regarding lock ups, “the major wants stats, I’m going to give him stats… And I may want to transfer somewhere else someday.” I tell him where he’s going to transfer couldn’t care less if he’s got 40 arrests or 400. It’s still more than they’ve ever got. What they do care about is if he’s got an open IID number. And he’s more likely to get one every time he arrests somebody. [Officer B] also says, “The only reason you don’t like bike lock-ups is because you ride a bike.”

“Damn right that’s why I don’t lock people for riding a bike. But also because I don’t think riding a bike is a crime.” “But if they don’t have a light, and they don’t have ID….” “Yes, but you’re just locking them up for not having ID. You let them go if they do.” “That’s not true! I’ve written many citations.” “If you’ve written one citation, I’ll give you credit. If you’ve written many, good for you.”

After walking with [Officer A] I got a newspaper and then hung out at the laundromat at 1900 E Eager. At one point a white women, looked like a junkie with straggly hair and bad skin, comes in honestly upset and says, “I was just robbed.” I’m barely with her, even now, but I need to hear more.

“What happened?”

I was leaving the store (she points across street) and a guy grabbed me by the throat and took $13.

“Where did he go?”

That way (points East).

“Where exactly did this happen?” I think she’s telling me right on the corner, though later she says on the next block. Maybe that’s what she meant all along, but I doubt it.

“OK, what did he look like?” She gives a brief description of a black guy.

“Where do you live?” On Eastern Ave. (I hate when I hear that, living on Eastern myself.)

“What are you doing here?” Going to court. (It’s 7AM and court ain’t for another two hours--but that didn’t occur to me till later.) My thought was, no way in hell are you walking through this neighborhood to go to court.

“For what?” (I ask because I suspect it’s CDS)? I’m on probation.

“For what originally?” Something to do with her husband (doesn’t mesh because what does that have to do with probation?). I’m sure it’s bullshit (meaning made up, or, given her upset nature, drug deal gone bad).

I walk to a guy sitting on the stoop two doors down East on Eager. I ask him if he saw anything across the street. No nothing.

“This woman... this white woman says she was robbed over there [on the corner at the bar]. But you didn’t see nothing?” No.

“How long have you been sitting here?”

“Since we was talking and I left the laundromat (I didn’t remember this guy, but I guess he was in the laundromat), must have been a half hour.”

“All right. Thanks. I appreciate it.”

So I go back and tell the woman nothing happened on that corner. Then she says it happened up the street, on Ashland. That she got robbed, came down Wolfe, and someone told her a cop was in the laundromat. I start walking towards Ashland and cross the street and tell her to come with me. After crossing the street she says, “where are you going?”

“To where it happened. To see if anybody saw this.”

“Nobody was around,” she insists, “and he ran that way [points East].” So I ask her her name (thinking I need this info if I do have to write a report. Always good to have the vital stats). The only thing she’s got going in her favor is that she is a little distraught (probably because she don’t know where she’s going to get her next fix).

“Aren’t you going to look for the guy?”

“Well we can take a walk around.”

“Well can’t you call for a car or something?”

“Ma’am, it’s been at least ten minutes, it’s not like he’s going to be standing on the corner waiting for us.”

“It just happened!”

“I need to know your name.”

“I can’t believe this! I was robbed and you’re wasting my time.” (Just the opportunity I was waiting for, and excuse to leave.)

“Well I’m very sorry to waste your time.” I turn and walk away.

She starts screaming, “PIG! Bastard!” and a few other things I can’t remember well enough to quote. But she wasn’t happy. I go back in the laundromat (so that she leaves) and she walks away.

I leave the mat to make sure she’s still not still yelling or calling 911 to file a complaint. At this point I’m also thinking: do I have to arrest her to make sure that it doesn’t look bad on me?

If she’s making a big fuss I could lock her up for making a false statement (my own little favorite cause) but then I’d really have to defend my actions or more likely just for disorderly. But she’s gone.

There’s a little discussion on the corner given her yellings as to what happened.

“She says she was grabbed by the throat.”

“Ain’t nothin’ happen here.”

“Naw, she says from the store up the street.”

“That store ain’t open.” A little discussion about that store, who owns it, and they all agree it ain’t open, so she wasn’t leaving it. Then the guy who said “nothin’ happen here” (same guy from sitting on the stoop). Says, “but she came from up this way [points East up Eager].”

“Won’t be the first time that somebody said they were robbed when they weren’t. What we have here is a business deal gone bad. What’s she doing lying to me and expecting me to do?” Heads nod in agreement.

This is interesting for many reasons. Most cops’ first thought would be, “I don’t want to write.” That was my second thought. My first was this girl in lying (she was probably about 30. Looked older from the drugs). But you can’t just tell her to piss off because not writing an armed robbery (strong armed in this case) report is a serious offence. So now I’ve got to get enough info out of her to contradict herself or convince me that’s it’s bullshit but also so that if she complains you can defend yourself based on the facts.

Once I’m convinced it’s bullshit, then it’s simply how to get rid of her. In this case her telling me I was wasting her time was enough. If she hadn’t said that, I probably would have had to confront her (like I’ve seen [Ofc A] do) with just why I thought it was bullshit and I think you’re a lying sack of shit, get her to admit more of the truth--like she gave a guy money for drugs, and then so where does that leave us?

I was also happy because when I went back into the laundomat Mr. [G] says, just from the beginning of the conversation that he saw, “she wasn’t robbed.”

All in all though, this was a typical example of the most bullshitty type call (or on-view in this case) you could get. This one there was no doubt that she was either making it all up or at least leaving out important details.

Reminds me of [Officer A’s] story where a women says she was robbed of $20. Finally the guy says “yeah, but it was only $10!” And the woman says she wants her money or drugs, and he locks them both up. I have to ask him again about this story, mind you he’s told me three times, you’d think I knew it.

But with drugs being illegal, what should happen when someone takes somebody’s drug money? Is it a crime? Should it be?

October 23, 2015

October 21, 2015

Officer Down

NYPD Housing Cop Randolph Holder was shot and killed a few hours ago around 120th and FDR Drive. This is about a mile from my house (but a world away in East Harlem). Rest in Peace.

Update: Apparently the killer was also a "non-violent drug offender." From the Times:
Last fall, the man suspected in the shooting, Tyrone Howard, was arrested along with 18 other members of a drug crew that had spread violence through a stretch of public housing along the East River and was ordered into a drug diversion program, which is meant to keep some drug offenders from further crowding already overcrowded jails.

In May, he stopped taking part in the program, the officials said.

“If ever there’s a candidate not to be diverted it would be this guy,” Mr. Bratton said. “He’s a poster boy for not being diverted.”

The police said Mr. Howard was believed to have been involved in the shooting of a 28-year-old man on Sept. 1 in East Harlem.

October 16, 2015

"Adrian Schoolcraft is no Frank Serpico"

Lenny Levitt on Adrian Schoolcraft:
Larry [his father], who appeared to be calling the shots, hired and fired half a dozen lawyers.
Over the years, their behavior became increasingly bizarre. For months at a time they would disappear. They continually changed their phone numbers. At one point, one of the lawyers asked Frank Serpico, who lived nearby and had befriended them, to track them down.
Serpico also struggled in dealing with Larry, who, it turned out, had been a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas and had sued that police department on grounds similar to Adrian’s in New York. His claims were dismissed in 2000 by a Texas Appeals court, records show.

Serpico is no longer in contact with him or Adrian.

So what to conclude? One thing we can say with certainty is that Adrian Schoolcraft is no Frank Serpico.
Levitt also critiques Ray Kelly's book. I'm probably never going to read it, so I'll take Levitt's word:
In the end what tarnished Kelly’s legacy was his own ego, his running the NYPD for 12 years as Management by Narcissism. He refused to listen to others, and took no responsibility for his misjudgments. His stated conviction of protecting the city was belied by his bitterness and vindictiveness. Like others before him, his tragedy was he had started to believe his own news clippings.

"Was the Shooting of Tamir Rice 'Reasonable'?"

Another good story by Leon Neyfakh in Slate. This one with some legal analysis on the two reports that judged the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland "reasonable."

Here's a link to the audio of the radio dispatch.

Baltimore in The Onion

I'm totally stealing this from the Baltimore Sun:

Baltimore Preparing For Hurricane Joaquin By Adding Second Layer Of Plywood To Shuttered Small Businesses

Camden Yards Concessions To Stop Selling Crack After Seventh Inning 

Baltimore Residents Urged To Stay Indoors Until Social Progress Naturally Takes Its Course Over Next Century

Final Police Report: Only 20,000 Killed During Ravens' Super Bowl Parade 

Real Estate Developers Push To Rebrand Murder Heights Neighborhood Of Baltimore

Buck Showalter Terrified To Walk Alone To Mound At Night

Ravens Warn Rookies To Save Some Extra Money For Bail

And last but not least:

Cal Ripken Jr. Moves Into 8 Billionth Place On Consecutive-Games-Not-Played List

October 12, 2015

Prop 47 in California

In the Washington Post.
In the 11 months since the passage of Prop 47, more than 4,300 state prisoners have been resentenced and then released. Drug arrests in Los Angeles County have dropped by a third. Jail bookings are down by a quarter.
Robberies up 23 percent in San Francisco. Property theft up 11 percent in Los Angeles. Certain categories of crime rising 20 percent in Lake Tahoe, 36 percent in La Mirada, 22 percent in Chico and 68percent in Desert Hot Springs.

It’s too early to know how much crime can be attributed to Prop 47, police chiefs caution, but what they do know is that instead of arresting criminals and removing them from the streets, their officers have been dealing with the same offenders again and again. Caught in possession of drugs? ... Caught stealing something worth less than $950? That means a ticket, too.
“Frustrating, frustrating,” said Zimmerman, the police chief.... “Just sending our officers to deal with problems that never get solved.”
“Aren’t we lulling him into a sense of security?” Goldsmith said. “How does it end? There’s no more incremental punishment. We let the behavior continue. We let the problems get worse. And all we can do is wait until he does something terrible, until he stabs somebody or kills somebody, and then we can finally take him off the street.”
Does America have problems? Yes. Is prison the answer? No. Seriously, if we can't figure out a better solution to mental illness, drug addiction, and vagrant crimes than -- at great expense -- locking losers in cages forever, we're pretty effing stupid!

October 11, 2015

Tamir Rice shooting "reasonable"

From when it happened I said the police shooting of Tamir Rice -- though tactically shameful and morally tragic -- was "reasonable." That didn't make me too many friends outside the police world. But "reasonableness" is judged from the perspective of a reasonable police officer. And now outside two reports have come to a similar conclusion. They "justify" the shooting (in a legal/constitutional sense, not in a moral or good policing sense).

From the Times:
The reports released Saturday night — one written by a retired supervisory special agent with the F.B.I., the other by a Colorado prosecutor — examined the shooting’s legality under the United States Constitution, not Ohio law. But each reviewer found that Officer Loehmann had been placed in a volatile situation with minimal information and had acted reasonably in shooting Tamir.
The decision to pull the cruiser so close to Tamir and the dispatcher’s failure to relay some of the caller’s caveats were worthy of further review and were potentially relevant in civil court, but should have no effect on the evaluation of whether Officer Loehmann was criminally culpable for shooting.

I wrote about it here, here, and here: "So this was bad policing. But that doesn't make it a bad shooting." Norm Stamper said pretty much the same thing: "A more mature, experienced, confident police officer would have better understood what he was facing.... [But] if you point a gun at a police officer, you have punched your ticket. I don’t care if it’s a toy gun."

I also said this:
Here's what you don't do: drive right up to that person on muddy slippery ground to put your partner in an unprotected and defenseless position a few feet from the suspect.
The problems here abound. The dispatcher didn't relay information that the caller said the gun was "probably fake." That could have have changed things. By my main problem with the police here is driving right up to an armed suspect. The only reason to do that is to drive into the armed suspect.

Why would you drive in a snowy park to put yourself on slippery turf within feet of an armed suspect?! It makes no sense. You should do everything you can so you do not put yourself in what James Fyfe called a "split-second decision." Because that is when mistakes are made.

So you park your friggin' car half a block away and approach on foot. Why? Because your aim is probably better than his. Why? Because you can suss the situation. Why? Because you can issue commands with distance on your side. Why? Because you might notice that it is a 12-year-old kid. And while that may mean nothing, it increases the chance you notice it's a fake gun. Why? Because you shouldn't be a lazy f*ck, you lazy f*ck!

October 10, 2015

"We can't walk away."

Baltimore's Acting Commissioner Kevin Davis speaks about this video where officers fight with a suspect:
The community doesn’t expect police officers to walk by that type of thing.
I’ve watched the video 5 or 6 times and think the officers showed remarkable restraint.
This is where the art form of policing is really best spoken about. What does the community, what does leadership expect police officers to do in that scenario?

We can’t walk away. I don’t expect those officers to walk away.
Well spoken, Commissioner Davis.

This made me think of the Blake takedown, the tennis player wrongly identified and cuffed in a fancy hotel lobby. In another post commented:
I'm certain the tactic [Frascatore] used to bring down and cuff Blake could have been just what was needed... in another situation.
You know what? This is that situation.

The CCRB just ruled against Officer Frascatore for the force he used against Blake. My guess is Bratton will throw Frascatore under the bus. (Not just because of the Blake incident, but for a pattern of earlier abuse.)

I am impressed with both cops in Baltimore for staying in the fight. Everybody has got a plan... till they get hit. She doesn't back down. She gets in there. He gets back up after being hit. But the officers were not able to get the guy under control. [They also, apparently, didn't get on the radio. You gotta call it in. Not a 10-16. Just a 10-23 or a 10-14 or an address so other cops know something is up and can point their cars in the right direction.]

Cops will be in fights. But cops should never be in a fair fight. Once an "unarmed" suspect gets the upper hand and stand pounding the shit out of an officer, you shoot him. So let it be said -- given the wonders of 20/20 hindsight not available the the cops at the time -- these officers were not physical aggressive enough. Either that or they needed to maintain until backup arrived.

This is exactly the situation where you want an Officer Frascatore to make a good aggressive takedown and keep the fight from happening. And then you need a department to back you when a video shows good physical tactics under the banner: "police brutality!" But then in a hotel lobby with a calm person suspected of a non-violent crime you need officers like Frascatore to have enough mental skills to not use their physical skills.

Like most of policing, it's complicated.

October 9, 2015

2015 NYPD firearms discharge report

From the NYPD firearms discharge report for 2014:

In adversarial conflict, 58 NYPD officers fired 201 rounds in 35 incidents.

In total, 104 NYPD officers fired 282 rounds shot in 79 incidents.
18 incidents involving animal attack.
There were 4 suicides.

In adversarial conflict:
41% of officers fired one round. No officer had to reload.
52% of those shootings were in Brooklyn.
14 suspects shot and injured.
8 shot and killed.
1 suspect was “unarmed.”

4.9 million “radio assignments involving weapons.”
4,779 gun arrests.
1,172 criminal shooting incidents.

2 officers injured.
2 officers killed.

To put the NYPD in perspective, according to the data from the Guardian's The Counted, 7 people have been killed in New York this year (2015). Compare that some other cities:

Miami and Indianapolis: 8 each.
Dallas and Oklahoma City: 7 each.
San Jose, San Francisco, Austin, Las Vegas (NV): 6 each.
Bakersfield, CA: 5.

Collectively those cities have fewer people than New York City. And those other cities have seen 53 people killed by police this year.

For the NYPD:

The Freddie Gray investigation

Haven't read this yet, but looks interesting. By Justin George in the Baltimore Sun:
In the days following Freddie Gray’s death, The Baltimore Sun had exclusive access to police investigators as they gathered evidence, debated legal issues and weathered public pressure.

Data on police-involved killings of unarmed civilians

The creators of StreetCred recently brought their work to my attention. They like data. So do I. They're trying to flesh out the situations when police kill an unarmed person. Unarmed does not automatically mean a person isn't a threat. It's interesting that the majority of these cases are not officer initiated but involve police response to a call for service for a crime in progress.

From their study:
Of the 125 incidents in which police killed an unarmed civilian, 25% (31) began on traffic stops, and 65% (81) began as a response to a 911-call about a violent crime (robber, E.g.,[i], carjacking[ii], domestic violence[iii] or assault[iv]) or property crime (burglary[v], car theft[vi] or vandalism[vii]) in progress.

In addition to those, there were nine people (7%) whom 911 callers described as being, “crazy[viii],” or, “on drugs[ix]”, “covered with blood[x]”, and “yelling[xi]”, or threatening people[xii]. Three (2%) were wanted[xiii] fugitives[xiv] in the act of escape[xv] — and one was unarmed when he died but was acting as part of a gang of three who were wanted in a recent homicide and were at the time of the incident in the progress of a kidnapping a woman[xvi].

In all, there were 26 incidents that involved an assault by the unarmed civilian against another civilian before police arrived, and in two cases, the murder of other civilians by the decedent.

October 8, 2015

Murder in Baltimore Post Riot

Here's the latest in terms of Baltimore homicides, pre and post riot. The downward slope is a slight silver lining in a homicide rate the doubled overnight.

Believe the hype: Murder is going up

A few months ago I warned people not to believe the hype (at least in NYC). But all signs do now indicate the murders are up. The numbers below come from "The Brainroom" at Fox News. They compiled publically released data from city police departments. There are some cities where murder isn't up, of course, but fewer and fewer. The list isn't a random sample, but it does includes all the biggies.
All stats are 2015 year-to-date % increases versus the same time period last year.
• Austin, TX: +83.3% (22 murders versus 12, through Aug. 31)
• Denver: +75% (28 murders versus 16, through July 31)
• Milwaukee, WI: +68.3% (101 murders versus 60, through Sept. 28)
• Baltimore, MD: +54.5% (255 murders versus 165, through Oct. 3)
• St. Louis: +51.5% (153 murders versus 101, through Aug. 31)
• Washington, DC: +46.3% (120 murders versus 82, through Oct. 6)
• Houston: +34.4% (168 murders versus 125, through July 31)
• Chicago: +21.3% (359 murders versus 296, Sept. 27)
• New Orleans: +13.8% (131 murders versus 115, through Oct. 6)
• Los Angeles: +12.2% (221 murders versus 197, through Oct. 3)
• Atlanta: +9.2% (71 murders versus 65, through Sept. 26)
• New York: +7.1% (257 murders versus 240, through Sept. 27)
• Philadelphia: +6.6% (209 murders versus 196, through Oct. 6)
The New York Times adds Kansas City, Mo and Dallas to the list:

KC is up from 45 to 54. Dallas from 71 to 83.

In these cities you have a total 25 percent increase in killings. It's hard to imagine decreases elsewhere that would compensate for this. A nationwide 10 percent increases needs an additional 1,400 murders. What we have here, extrapolating a bit, is a year end total of maybe 770 more killings in 15 cities.

Why is this? Who knows? Anti-police ideologues will insist on the same tried and failed theories of the past. Call me crazy, but it seems to me the only really relevant variable in the past year has been all the police-related events of the past year.

From the Washington Post (worth reading):
“We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told Lynch. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … they don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”

October 5, 2015

Butt dials 30% of mobile calls to 911 in S.F.

The BBC:
When the researchers [in San Francisco] sat by the call handlers and noted down what was happening - they found 30% of calls coming in from mobiles were accidental butt-dials, also known as pocket-dials.

As well as being time-consuming taking the call, the impact of butt-dials doesn't stop there.

Each one requires further attention - after all, the 911 handler doesn't know if it was a mistake, or someone trying to call for help but unable to talk at that point.

And so, all butt-dials are followed up. In the sample period, it took an average of one minute and 14 seconds to get back to people and determine the call was a mistake.

In a survey of handlers at the San Francisco 911 centre, 80% said chasing these calls back was a time-consuming part of their already overstretched day.

About 39% said it was the single biggest "pain point" they had in the job.

October 4, 2015

It's more dangerous to be black than to be a cop

I heard this somewhere recently and it made me go, really? So I thought I would double check.

Indeed, one is more at risk to be murdered as a black person in America than as a police officer.

For 2013 and 2014 I get an average of about 80 officers killed on duty per year (this excludes correctional officers, traffic accidents, a few other categories.) That's a rate of 9.0 per 100,000 (based on 885,000 officers).

Meanwhile the homicide for blacks in 2013, men and women, is 15 per 100,000. (Based on a black population of 41.7 million and 6,261 homicides in 2013.) That's crazy. Blacks are three or four times more likely to be shot and killed as on-duty police officers.

[Now of course one could quibble that cops are only on duty 1/6 of the time and a good chunk of cops never see the street. Meanwhile being black is a 24/7 job. So hour by hour it might be more dangerous to be a cop. But stop quibbling. Even with a flawed comparison, sometimes you just need a stat just to smack you on the side of the head.]

October 2, 2015

"And they made a chart with no Y-axis!"

I'm a stickler for the honest presentation of data. Too many people, it seems me, just don't care. I mean, it is easier to just make numbers up and share a picture on facebook if it supports your ideological position.

When it comes to data analysis, I didn't expect to find an ally in late-night TV. So check this out.

If you don't have 7 minutes, watch from about 2:22 when Meyers (A Northwestern Alum) talks about a misleading slide presenting in a congressional hearing.

At 3:40 Meyers says, "Let's take a closer look at this graph." Let's. Because nothing says pure comic gold like data analysis. And Meyers nails it:

A) "There's a bigger number at bottom and a smaller number at the top."
B) "You can't have 2 million here and 300,000 there [in line with each other, horizontally]."
C) "And they made a chart with no Y-axis!"

Well played, Seth. If we ever made a bet about the words, "and they made a chart with no Y-axis" never being said on late-night TV, I guess I lose.

Update: Let's play with graphs a bit. Why not? It's fun.

Given the numbers above (which may be false), the chart should look like this:

What is "prevention services"? I don't know. Why pick one category that perhaps (probably) decreased a lot? Well, to mislead. And based on two minutes of online research, it seems more reasonable to look at the total number of patients and the number of abortions (the abortion numbers seem to be correct, by the way). Then the chart looks like this:

Of course this looks less dramatic. And that's exactly the point.

Now keep in mind the charts above don't have 2 y-axes. There's just one: the number. To use two different scales for the same measurement is weird and suspicious. But there are times when you do want to use 2 y-axes. But you can also do so to mislead. Take this:

The data are correct. But it's still intentionally misleading. Why? Because a reasonable interpretation would be that greater incarceration numbers correlate with fewer murders. Indeed, during this time period, they did. But why did I select this decade? Because it's the only decade where this is true. I cherry-picked the data. Not cool.

I mean, I could have picked any of these years:

Now homicide and incarceration are positively correlated now! The more people we lock up, the more people kill each other. The facts have changed. And all the data are correct. This is where it's important to repeat that popular phrase: correlation does not equal causation.

But along with cherry picking data, I've done another misleading thing. I've changed the scale of the left y-axis: From 2000-2007 it goes from just 5.4 to 6.2! That's just me trying to intentionally mislead (for educational purposes only).

Of course there are choices and selections you have to make in any chart. Here's the same data but going back to 1983:

Both axes go down to zero. That's not necessary, but other things being equal, it's good.

I mean look at this crime drop in NYC:

Compare it to this one:

Of course it's the same data. It's just that on the first one the y-axis doesn't go to zero. It makes the drop look bigger. Is that misleading? Potentially. Depending on what your point is. If your point is to highlight the actual numbers, then it's fine. If your point is that homicide plummeted during those years (which it did), it would be somewhere between odd and misleading to start the y-axis at the lowest data point, because that seems to imply that murder dropped to zero.

Here are homicide and incarceration going back to 1925:

Now this is legit. The y-axis goes to zero. Nothing funny there. But why is it homicide rate and incarceration number? It turns out it's just easier to get homicide rates and incarceration numbers. And it so happens, I happen to know, that in this case it doesn't matter. The chart looks basically the same. But that switcheroo should still be a red flag to the discerning statistical consumer.

In the end, I use this:

Both y-axes are rates. No funny stuff there. I've also bolded the numbers and thickened the lines for better clarity. (It might also be nice to make the chart readable for black-and-white reproduction, by making one line dotted or something. But I don't like the way that looks. And I know I'll be showing this in color.)

Also note the left y-axis does not go to zero. That's a choice I made. It's not to mislead but to create a better visual presentation. The point I'm trying to make, based on the data, is that there isn't any inherent correlation between crime and incarceration. Homicides go up and down for whatever reason; incarceration is a political choice related to the war on drugs.

But the discerning reader might observe, "how the hell do you know numbers from 2015 when they year isn't over?!" Good point. I don't. I basically made an educated guess for the sake of visual clarity. Can I do that? Sure. I'll update the info next year when I do know. It matters that the specific 2015 data point isn't really important here. This is a choice based on my needs for this chart. I want the x-axis labeled at nice intervals. And if the data ends in 2014, it looks funny (like in the chart immediately above).

And last but not least: