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by Peter Moskos

December 31, 2015

"Stop question and frisk" is dead

Welcome the NYPD's "PD 382-152" (06-15), née UF-250, AKA Stop Report, just FYI:
This new "UF-250" replaces the old "UF-250" from 2002 that made an unconstitutional mockery of reasonable suspicion as laid out in Terry v. Ohio. (Also FYI, the original form actually called a UF-250 is long dead; long live the UF-250!)

If the goal is fewer stops, add paperwork to each and every stop. Two things will be accomplished:

A) There will be fewer stops.

B) More stops will go unrecorded. (Who the hell has time or desire to fill out a form every time and tell a sergeant every time you stop somebody?)

And what's clever, is that in the supervisory action (must comment), you can't just swipe down the "yes" column. It throws a "no" in there just to slow you down.

More importantly, and correctly, there's an actual "narrative" section. Yes, police officers will actually have to "articulate" their "reasonable suspicion" rather than checking a box saying "furtive movement."

And the back:

And then you're supposed to give the person this card (fat chance):

Years or weeks from now, when past years' "stop question and frisk" controversy is but a footnote to NYPD history, this form will still exist. And then, every time an officer doesn't fill one out -- because, for instance, there's work to be done or there won't be any forms available -- he or she will be in violation of the patrol guide.

Business as usual will adopt to get things done in a organization designed to be dysfunctional. Because we don't really want an officer spending 5-15 minutes filling out a form and debriefing a sergeant every time they briefly stop somebody or pat a criminal down to make sure they're not armed. (Can you "frisk" a person without "stopping" them? I don't think so.) And then one day further in the future an officer will get in trouble for not following the absurd rules.

Footnote from 2000: "Completion of the UF-250 form has been required since 1986. In 1997, however, Commissioner Safir declared filing the UF-250's “a priority” that should be “rigorously enforced.” As a result, filings by the SCU, to cite one example, rose from 140 in 1996 to 18,000 in 1997.

December 30, 2015

There is absolutely NO NEED TO PANIC!

The latest Brennan Center report projects the 30 largest cities will see a 14.6 percent increase in homicide this year.

You know the last time the nation saw a 15 percent annual increase in the homicide rate?


Remain Calm. All is well.

But don't worry, they say in their best "you are getting sleepy" voice. There's no reason to concerned:
However, in absolute terms, murder rates are so low that a small numerical increase leads to a large percentage change. Even with the 2015 increase, murder rates are roughly the same as they were in 2012 — in fact, they are slightly lower. Since murder rates vary widely from year to year, one year’s increase is not evidence of a coming wave of violent crime.

A handful of cities have seen sharp rises in murder rates. Just two cities, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., account for almost 50 percent of the national increase in murders.

These serious increases seem to be localized, rather than part of a national pandemic, suggesting community conditions are a major factor. The preliminary report examined five cities with particularly high murder rates... and found these cities also had significantly lower incomes, higher poverty rates, higher unemployment, and falling populations than the national average.
Hmmmm, Statistical aberration are always a possibility and poverty and falling population makes me drowzzzzzzzzzzzy.

But when I snap out of it, I'm still concerned. Why do so many seem to be in denial about such a large increase in murder.

Can't we be politically correct and also ask what the heck is going on? When FBI director Comey said he was concerned, he received loud chiding from the political left and even a presidential rebuke.

If you think it doesn't matter, please let me know exactly what conditions need to be met, specifically how many more people have to die, before we are allowed to be concerned and move on from silly semantic debates. Shouldn't we better focus our efforts and, if you're so inclined, even your outrage?

No, don't panic. But frankly, I think it's OK to be a little concerned.

I have an idea! Instead of denying a dangerous increase in lethal crime, why don't we put on our thinking caps and ask what has changed this year with regards to policing and violent crime. But before you answer take a deep breath and then come back after a good night's sleep!

sources include:

(Correction: Originally I missed the the fact the Brennan Report was only talking about the rate in the 30 largest cities. This post has been changed to include that rather important detail.)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5.]

Bratton calls out Kelly for calling out Bratton! It's an NYPD smackdown!

This Kelly vs Bratton feud has been simmering in the background for a little while.

But then when Kelly accused Bratton of cooking the books (something Kelly should be familiar with, since book-cooking constantly flared up during his reign)? Well, I'll just sit back and enjoy the fight.

And here's an insiders' tip: the good money is on Bratton.

The NYPD took Kelly seriously enough to release an official rebuttal. And hell, Kelly is the former NYPD commissioner. He should be taken seriously.

Now I will admit my initial thought on Kelly's accusations: it sure is odd this year that shootings are down and homicides are up. How does that happen? What are the odds? So could Kelly be on to something?!

Turns out: No.

In the far corner, the former champion, the man who must be in charge, Raymond Kelly. He's the consummate micro manager, the marine, and the man would wouldn't let cops administer a heroin antidote (not on his watch). Kelly completely closed the department to outside researchers, transparency be damned! But he kept crime down and avoided a big scandal. (Stop, question, and frisk was not a scandal so much as a strategy.)

I don't think Kelly did a bad job. Not at all. But I was happy to see him go. At some level I just don't like him. Substantively his conservative micromanaging was insane. Everything transfer and shift of manpower had to go through him. His emphasis on stats led to a lot of problems.

The fact that below I use week-old data copied from a PDF file is entirely Kelly's fault. And the fact that he could be so closed, on idiotic principle, even with Mike "open data" Bloomberg as mayor? It was all amazing. Kelly ran the department like nobody has ever been allowed to run that department. For 12 years, he was the boss.

Murders did drop from a low 587 to an amazingly low 334. The last two years of his reign saw a 35 percent reduction in killings(!). And nobody took credit for it. Kelly didn't want to take credit for a crime drop at the exact moment it was coinciding with a massive drop in stops, since each and every one of those stops, so he said, was absolutely necessary to prevent a rise in homicides. And Kelly's opponents sure didn't want to give the big bad NYPD credit for anything at all. So we had the largest drop in homicides since the mid 1990s... and nobody noticed.

Kelly ran the NYPD, something Bloomberg didn't want to do. But Bratton is doing what De Blasio can't do. De Blasio needs Bratton a lot more than Bloomberg needed Kelly, and also much more than Bratton needs de Blasio.

So in this corner, the current champion, William Bratton. He's a bit more polished, a bit more educated, some might even say... smarter. Bratton is also conservative, mind you, but in a more intellectual way. Bratton understands the politics of policing. Bratton is also more open to transparency and sharing data. The fact that the same limited NYPD Compstat data is available in 2015 in spreadsheet form? Well, that's progress, I guess. (But there's no reason he couldn't have (Now can we please get open crime data like this.)

I like Bratton because of his track record, his intelligence, and his support and understanding of Broken Windows policing. Also Bratton, unlike Kelly, understands why, other things being equal, it's better if people don't hate the police. Kelly really didn't give a shit what people thought. He knew he was doing a good job. That was enough.

I'll give Kelly the benefit of the doubt and not doubt his motives. Kelly probably really believes what he's saying. Unlike some former commissioners, at least Kelly is not a crook. Now that he's not in charge, he knows things must be going to hell. Besides, people are constantly telling him things are going to hell.

Kelly always surrounded himself with yes-men. He wasn't a micromanager because he trusted others. And now you've got a bunch of old friends who remain loyal to him. Cops hate de Blasio and everything happening right now (the latter is a constant, by the way, no matter what is happening). And maybe there was actually a case of a shooting that was downgraded. It happens. So these old buddies get together with Kelly and, over a soda water, tell him all the bad that is happening. Kelly believes it to be God's truth, since it's coming from his people. His loyal people.

So why did Kelly do this? Probably not just to sell books. Though maybe Kelly found out he enjoys talking to the press. Those with big egos tend to like seeing themselves on the tee-vee.

But back to the issue at hand. How do you tell if shooting victims aren't been counted?

I thought I would look for smoke in the ratio of homicide to shooting victims. But to find out which of the NYC homicide victims were shot, you have to go the UCR data (the FBI's Uniform Crime Report). So I did that. After a fun couple of hours on SPSS, I got the answer. For the past 15 years, about 60 percent of homicide victims are shot. It hasn't changed much. No smoking gun.

Between 1999 and 2013 (but excluding 2006 and 2008, for UCR data quality reasons. And keep in mind, if you run the numbers, the UCR undercounts homicides by about 5 percent because it looks at incidents. Like everybody else, I ignored this and assumed a constant error rate) approximately 60 percent of homicide victims were shot. But I already told you that. But it's worth pointing out that this number remains pretty consistent over these years, which I was not expecting. And over these years, it turns out the odds of dying if you're shot in NYC is about 15 percent (which is substantially lower than I thought it was. Much lower).

In other words, in 2013 there were 334 people killed in NYC, about 195 of those were shot (188 incidents recorded by the UCR plus a few multiple homicides). There were 1,300 shooting victims, according to the NYPD, people with gunshot wounds.

Now we, the UCR, doesn't yet have gunshot deaths from 2014, much less 2015. (Though I'm sure the NYPD does, now about that openness...)

We do have shooting victims and total homicides recording by the NYPD (the former is surprisingly difficult to tease from the UCR, which is yet another UCR problem).

If the number of shooting victims were being artificially reduced, one would expect the ratio of shooting victims to total homicides to be way down this year. And it is. But just a bit: to 3.9:1 from 4.2:1 in 2014. But it turns out that 2014 is the odd year, not this year. 4.2 is the highest that ratio has ever been. It was 3.9 also in 2012 and 2013. The average over the past 15 years in 3.4. The ratio is steadily increasing, probably due to better medical care. Maybe hospital closings affect this rate. Or maybe it's just statistical variance (AKA: bad luck). But no, the numbers don't look funny this year.

Anybody still with me? One quick double-check: last year (2014) compared to the previous year (2013) the number of shootings should be down and homicides up (the opposite of this year). And yes, indeed, that is the case.

Look at the "year to date" columns for the two years and the rows "homicide" and "shooting vic."

I'm betting on Bratton.

Update: Gothamist jumps into the ring with a folding chair! And Bratton hits again in the Daily News. And the Inspector General, that's the new oversight department under the Department of Investigations that is still in search of institutional meaning, stays mum.)

December 26, 2015

Did anybody say "crime wave!"?

No. (Update: Actually, turns out a more people did than I thought. See the comments.)

But lot's of people are refuting the claim, nevertheless.

Fivethirtyeight.com says:
Scare Headlines Exaggerated The U.S. Crime Wave: If you’ve read reports of a U.S. crime wave this year and wondered how many cities it was really affecting, you’re not alone.
Which headlines are these?

In the Washington Post Radley Balko says:
At various times over the past 12 months, we heard dire predictions of a “nationwide crime wave”
Have we?

According to Law Enforcement Leaders: "Some cities have seen a rise in murder, but these are isolated incidents — not a new crime wave — which local leaders are taking steps to address." Glad we set the record straight.

Mother Jones reassures us: "No 'Crime Wave'". They link to much cited Brennan Center report (much cited among lefties trying to say "everything is fine!" with regards to crime):
One year's increase does not necessarily portend a coming wave of violent crime.

Ultimately, all the links about "crime wave" seem to go back to this one friggin' May headline for Heather Mac Donald piece in the Wall Street Journal. One. And Mac Donald never even said there was a "crime wave." She never uses the phrase. It's only in the headline.

[Headlines are weird things. They do become how a story is known. But do not judge an article (or the author) by a headline. Authors do not write the headlines; headline editors write headlines. Authors have no say in them. And sometimes -- and I speak from experience -- the headline does not begin to capture the point of your piece. Other times they get it right.]

This all came to mind because I was tweeted with my man, Andrew Papachristos, and the subject of "moral panic" came up with regards to the "crime wave":
Who is all this "they" hyping a "moral panic," I wondered.

So I googled "'crime wave' 2015" and found only people saying, "don't believe the hype about the crime wave!" It's a classic straw man argument, making up an false position in order to refute it.

Best I can tell, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Marshall Project, the Brennan Center, Mother Jones, NPR, even Fox News... they've all smugly refuted the "crime wave" claimed by nobody.

But in the meantime, let us ask why is crime sharply up in some cities and murders roughly 10 percent higher than 2014. That seems to be the touchy subject many are trying to avoid. Why? Some ideas in my previous post.

"The enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the 'root causes' theory of crime"

This op-ed by Heather Mac Donald is the one I wanted to write. But I didn't. And she did.

The point, one could say rather simply, is that police matter as a force for crime prevention. That simple concept is why I decided to study policing and then became a cop.

In the mid 1990s I got into this gig because an entire academic field said that the crime drop couldn't happen. Crime wouldn't go down until we improved "root causes" and fixed a racist society. By the time I entered graduate school in 1995, it was clear that crime was going down. Something was up. And it wasn't employment and equal opportunity.

This link to Mac Donald's op-ed is behind the Wall Street Journal paywall. To read it all, try googling the headline "Trying to Hide the Rise of Violent Crime" and click through. Excerpts:
An 11% one-year increase in any crime category is massive; an equivalent decrease in homicides would be greeted with high-fives by politicians and police chiefs. Yet the media have tried to repackage that 11% homicide increase as trivial.

Several strategies are employed to play down the jump in homicides. The simplest is to hide the actual figure. An Atlantic magazine article in November, “Debunking the Ferguson Effect,” reports: “Based on their data, the Brennan Center projects that homicides will rise slightly overall from 2014 to 2015.”
A second strategy for brushing off the homicide surge is to contextualize it over a long period. Because homicides haven’t returned to their appalling early 1990s or early 2000s levels, the current crime increase is insignificant.
The most desperate tactic for discounting the homicide increase is to disaggregate the average. ... The “numbers make clear that violent crime is up in some major U.S. cities and down in others.”

If there weren’t variation across the members of a set, no average would be needed. [Zing! Nice one. I always appreciate a snarky line about stats.]
To the Brennan Center and its cheerleaders, the nation’s law-enforcement officials are in the grip of a delusion that prevents them from seeing the halcyon crime picture before their eyes.
FBI Director James Comey noted “a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year,” and called it “deeply disturbing.”
Obama ... accused Mr. Comey of “cherry-picking data” and ignoring “the facts” on crime in pursuit of a “political agenda.”
Critics of the Ferguson-effect analysis ignore or deny the animosity that the police now face in urban areas.
The St. Louis area includes Ferguson.... The Justice Department later determined that the officer’s use of force was justified, but the damage to the social fabric had already been done.... The media and many politicians decry as racist law-enforcement tools like pedestrian stops and broken-windows policing—the proven method of stopping major crimes by going after minor ones.
Consider that background. Here's the point I've been trying to make:
The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.

The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the “root causes” theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates.... But those aspects of urban life haven’t dramatically worsened over the past year and a half.
To acknowledge the Ferguson effect would be tantamount to acknowledging that police matter, especially when the family and other informal social controls break down.
Many of those who are driving the "there is no Ferguson effect" bandwagon still believe that police are largely irrelevant to crime prevention and, rather than having anything to do with crime prevention, serve primarily as agents of racial oppression. That sentiment lies just under the surface of anti-police protests.

It's not just about "Justice For [fill in the blank of latest person shot by cops]." It's about an ideology that still won't accept that aggressive order-maintenance policing did any good. The "root cause" brigade never accepted that crime could decrease independent of structural changes. That's what I mean when I talk about an ideological opposition to Broken Windows.

So the next time you hear somebody say "crime isn't up" or "there is no Ferguson effect" or "Michael Brown had his hands up" consider that they're not just mistaken about one detail, however important. Instead, consider that they have a fundamentally different ideological view of who police are and what they can do.

The "Freddie Gray Era"

Justin Fenton on solving homicides in the Sun:
A couple of decades ago — the last time the city saw so much killing — Baltimore’s homicide unit closed more than 70 percent of its cases. Veterans talk of returning to the office from a crime scene to find a fistful of tips waiting for them. [Former Commissioner Thomas Frazier broke up that homicide squad to increase diversity in its ranks. He accomplished his goal; the homicide clearance rate plummeted.]

But the widening gulf between police and the community since then has made witness cooperation a rarity.

Forensic science has advanced, and surveillance cameras have grown common in the city. But detectives say witnesses remain the most important element in successfully bringing charges against a suspect.

The challenges are not exclusive to Baltimore, but are being felt here more acutely. Among similar-sized cities in 2014, the average for cases closed — through arrest or other means, such as the death of the suspect — was 56 percent.

In Baltimore, it was 45 percent. This year, it has fallen to 31 percent.
Detectives say they have suspects in as many as three-quarters of cases, but in many instances they lack the evidence to move forward or can’t convince prosecutors, who in recent years have wielded more authority over detectives’ ability to charge.
You want cause and effect between politicians' rhetoric, a narrative that says police can't be trusted, and less trust in police? There you go. And prosecutors are spending their precious resources putting six cops on trial. It's all just the perfect shit storm. And as a result people are literally getting away with murder. There is no justice and indeed, no peace.

December 23, 2015

"Law enforcement is instilled"

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State's Attorney, keep emphasizing that she comes from a family of cops:
To the rank-and-file officers of the Baltimore City Police Department, please know that these accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force. I come from five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer. My mother was an officer. Several of my aunts and uncles.
(I was never understood why she said "five generations" when she meant two.)

But five relatives who are cops is kind of rare. Impressive, even. What are the odds?

Well it turns out at least four of these "generations," including both of Mosby's parents, were bad cops. What are those odds?!

Her mom repeatedly tested dirty for coke and was suspended multiple times. She had a her gun taken away and nine disciplinary actions and drug rehab. Yowzas. But at least she didn't get fired. Mosby's dad, also a Boston cop, was fired in 1991 after being acquitted by a jury for assault and robbery. He got his job back on what cops would call "a technicality."

Her uncles? Two of her mom's brothers, both cops, were also fired, one in 1991 and the other in 2001. A third uncle successfully sued the Massachusetts state police for discrimination. On the plus side there's no evidence that her grandfather, a founder of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers in 1968, did anything illegal as a cop.

Hey, it's bad enough to have criminals parents, but it's worse to have criminal parents who are cops. But it happens, I suppose. Not the kid's fault. But to use these disgraceful cops as a badge of honor and distinction while prosecuting good cops? That's disgraceful.

Mosby says, "I come from five generations of police officers, so law enforcement is instilled."

God only knows what these clowns instilled in her.

[This is not new news, but first I've heard of it. I think I was in Greece when this news broke in July.]

December 21, 2015

Whose fault is this?

A good piece of journalism in the Sun:
In Baltimore, where there are an estimated 19,000 heroin users, including 9,500 chronic users, annual spending on the drug is estimated at least at $165 million.
When the brothers of one local kingpin were kidnapped, he came up with $500,000 for ransom. When investigators searched a stash house and home of another dealer, they found $464,283 and $74,980, respectively.
But as in the legitimate economy, such wealth is largely limited to those at the top levels of the heroin trade. At the bottom, the so-called "corner boys" who sell on the street can be making as little as minimum wage.
There seems to be an unending supply of mostly young men willing to do this entry-level work, however low-paying, illegal, and dangerous. Among them was Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old whose death in police custody in April triggered protests and rioting in Baltimore and led to criminal charges against six police officers.
It is an all-too-familiar cycle in Baltimore: Those with little education and thus few job prospects find their way to the lowest rungs of the drug trade, touting on the corner or serving as lookouts. At some point, they are arrested and end up with a criminal record that makes them even less attractive to the legitimate economy. And so they return to drug dealing, often in the neighborhoods they live in.

"They're basically unemployable."
And yet they're eminently arrestable. Not that that does any good.

December 20, 2015

Choose your own adventure! The sick prisoner.

You're a police officer in the big city. This was your life's dream. You like to help people. Once on the job, you realize it wasn't all you hoped, but you still do the best you can.

You have a prisoner in the back in your vehicle. It was a minor offense. But the law is the law.

You're driving to booking when the prisoner starts to act like he's sick. He moans and says he's not well.

What do you do?

Ignore him. You're almost at booking. Besides, he's probably faking it. If you keep driving, turn to page 8.

You took this job to help people. Sure he might be faking it, but what if he really needs help? If you stop immediately to check on his well being, turn to page 26.

Don't ask any questions. The man is in need of aid. You're only trained as a medical first responder. Best to see a real doctor. If you change course, put on the lights and siren, and head straight to the hospital, turn to page 4.

(You know the rules: no pressing the "back" button!)

December 19, 2015

Courage, not fear

I still can't believe this guy got shot down by a cop playing whack-a-mole with his service weapon. The D.A. said:
The evidence in this case shows the shooting to be accidental, and possibly negligent, but not criminally so. "This shooting is not justified, but also not criminal."
I don't know if I buy the stutter-step no-double-tap explanation. But at least the legal concept is sound. Something can be wrong and not criminal.

In fact, the only charges are against the paralyzed victim with the dead wife. [Update: Charges were dropped. He died.] This seems kind of mean. And there are no national politicians weighing in. Just a small local protest. Al Sharpton must be previously engaged. (As is often the case, this unnecessary shooting happened in California.)

Officer Feaster claims he didn't know he shot Thomas:
No, no. ... I don’t think I shot him. I wasn’t even pointing at him but the gun did go off.
"Did go off"? What are you saying? It just blew?

Let's leave aside whether Feaster is the world's best shot or the world's worst cop. Perhaps it doesn't matter. The question I have, the question any reasonable police officer might have, is why the hell did he draw his gun in the place. What made this cop so afraid that he felt the need to approach a crashed presumed drunk driver with his gun drawn and shot the man trying to get out of the wreck? The guy was going to run? What use is your gun in that case? A car just flipped. What exactly was the threat?

In the same vein, a reasonable police officer wonders, as did Levar Jones complying with orders, why he got shot. Why did cops feel that innocent Jonathan Ayers was a lethal threat while driving away? Why is a man not carrying a gun a lethal threat when he drops his hand?

Why did all these police officers see non-existent threats? Why were they so damn afraid? (I'm tempted to add "...these days," but maybe it's always been this way. I don't know.)

In the face of danger you need to act but not overreact. You need courage, not fear. There's a line I always liked in Birds Without Wings:
His courage was not the foolish kind of a young and silly man. It was the courage of a man who looks danger in the face, and forces himself not to flinch.
Hell, a little fear can be a good thing; you don't want to be blasé in the face of danger. It starts in the police academy. "Stay alert, stay alive!" It's a good lesson. Even "make a hole" isn't so bad when it's put in the context of situational awareness. But too much fear becomes paranoia. And that's not conducive to good policing (or a happy life).

Here are some of the videos cops watch in the police academy. Some I saw myself. Others are more recent. They're all on YouTube (which didn't even exist when I was a cop). I guarantee you that every last one one of these has been watched in some police academy somewhere. Every cop I know knows 1) Dinkheller.

And 2) here's that woman cop getting her ass kicked trying to arrest some big guy. His daughter is there. The cop kind of came back, but never recovered.

Go on. Watch them. Watch them all. It won't take but 10 or 15 minutes. I've cued them all up to the key moment. It's a parade of snuff films (though many of the cops do live, somehow). Can you watch all of these and not perceive threats and car stops a bit differently?

3) Here's a man who wouldn't stay in his car.

4) Here's a routine traffic stop.

5) Here's another routine traffic stop.

6) And other routine car stop.

7) This was a routine car stop but the guy drove away.

8) Here's a guy in cuffs and a girl. What could possible go wrong?

9) Three cops. One suspect. Everything under control?

10) This guy isn't wearing a shirt and doesn't seem hostile.

11) This guy is naked and unarmed. There are three cops, two of them with tasers. The guy is still a threat.

12) And sometimes this happens. Things can go from 0 to 100 really quickly.

13) This guy does a little jig. He must be just be an odd character.

14) And everything seems OK here. Except for that shot cop.

15) This is what happens when you don't put suspects on the ground.

16) We all know that when it comes to an armed man, it's easier to act than react.

17) And people who have done time can be especially dangerous.

18) Out-of-shape fathers with their 16-year-old sons? Could always be cop killers.

And to cops these aren't just abstract videos. There are people I know, friends, some taught in the academy, who were shot and lucky to live. Others, the pictures on the walls, weren't so lucky.

Certainly cops need some of this. Some people are willing, even eager, to kill police. You can't go on the job as a pacifist. But at some point fear isn't healthy. It isn't good for the job. It can even make the job less safe.

And I worked in a dangerous post. It made me less afraid. You face danger a few times, and you learn to respect it. Cops in the Eastern don't squeal every time somebody steps on a leaf. But you don't shoot at everything that moves.

But what if your work in some place without much danger? How do you stay awake, much less alert? (In my squad we could be alert and asleep!) And then, during some "routine" traffic stop or domestic -- blam -- something goes off script. Maybe you, the young cop who took the warrior mindset to heart, get a flashback to one of those videos in the academy where the cop got ambushed. And you think: "This is exactly how that cop got killed."

[Cue trippy flashback music and echo]
"This officer hesitated [tated] and it cost him his life [life, ife, f...]"

"Better to be judged by 12 [elve] than carried by six [six, ix, x...]."
So you misidentify a threat, overact, and pull the trigger. You've screwed up because you've gone through life in a constant state of "Condition Yellow" because you didn't want to slip into unaware "Condition White" in which:
You may very well die — unless you are lucky. I prefer to not depend on luck.
Some insist you cannot go through life using this system without becoming a hair-trigger paranoid person who is dangerous to ones self and others. I believe well-adjusted police officers can run through the color code dozens of times every day and be no worse for wear. Most experienced police officers who learn the color code realize they have been taking these steps on their own all along.
Maybe. For some. For me even. (This is why cops don't sit with their back toward the door.) But even if constant hypervigilance doesn't make you paranoid, it is very tiring. Exhausting, even. I don't miss it. And stress affects some people more than others. NYPD officers are much more likely to commit suicide with their service weapon than be killed by a criminal. Why?

I don't know the answer. I don't like the "warrior" or "guardian" dichotomy. I would certainly put the emphasis on the latter, but you need a bit of both. You can't let the warrior mindset take your soul.

Seth Stoughton writes in the Harvard Law Review:
Officers learn to be afraid. That isn’t the word used in law enforcement circles, of course. Vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, or observant are the terms that appear most often in police publications. But make no mistake, officers don’t learn to be vigilant, attentive, cautious, alert, and observant just because it’s fun. They do so because they are afraid. Fear is ubiquitous in law enforcement.
And to those who say police need to abandon this warrior mindset for guardian mindset. Well, they've got an answer for that, too. And it's not crazy. What do you do when it's time to fight?

At some basic level policing does involve confronting and fighting criminals intent on hurting you or others. I always notice that when people talk about police reform or improving community relations, the word "criminal" will never come up. It's as if the entire job of policing is nothing more than dancing with kids and smiling at church-going ladies in fancy hats.

See, just as the public needs to have a more realistic perspective about the "epidemic" of police killing innocent people (happens, but not too much), police need to get a realistic grip about being shot on the job (happens, including to friends of mine, but still less than cops think). Nationwide police get shot and killed about 3 times every month. That's an annual homicide rate (cops getting killed per 100,000 officers) of under 5, which just happens to be almost identical to the national homicide rate. Of course keep in mind cops are on-duty only a fraction of the time, so cops on the job have a homicide rate 5 times higher than the national average. But hell, it's still safer to be a cop than to live in Baltimore.

Stay alert. Stay alive. But for God's sake stop being so damn afraid all the time.

[In memory of the police officers killed in the above videos: Kyle Wayne Dinkheller, Jonathan Richard Schmidt, Edward Scott Richardson, Billy Colón-Crespo, Ramón Manuel Ramirez-Castro, Darrell Edward Lunsford, Sr., Thomas William Evans, and Robert Brandon Paudert. They gave their all.]

December 18, 2015

Perhaps the worst police-involved shooting ever

I don't say that lightly. There have been some bad ones.

Click on this link or you can jump to about 0:50 sec on this:

Andrew Thomas, the victim, a drunk driver, is paralyzed. He is white. So is Paradise, California.

1:35: "I got a male in the car refusing to get out."

Maybe, you think, just maybe, it's because you just shot the mother f*cker for no reason?!

And yet I hadn't even heard of this shooting until a Baltimore cop just brought it to my attention tonight. We were talking about Baltimore cops actually do their job pretty well, all things considered. A Baltimore cop would never do this; we can't imagine this happening in Baltimore. Apparently the officer in this shooting won't face charges.

And yet in Baltimore six cops are being tried for failure to seat belt and bring prompt medical care? Has the world gone mad?

It's not just that white people don't care about black lives. Honestly, most white people don't care about white lives, either.

[Update: he died]

[Further update: The officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 6 months in jail.]

Cause 911 is cheaper than a shrink

Here's a report with some numbers on the problem of untreated mental illness and police response.

Bottom line, according to these numbers:

About two percent of Americans have untreated severe mental illness.

Those two percent of people account for 10 percent of police responses, 20 percent of those behind bars, and 25 percent of fatal police encounters.

I was going to joke how it's easier to blame the police than treat mental illness. But I don't even know if that's true. We just choose to treat mental illness with police and incarceration. That's messed up.

[Thanks to a reader]

Page Croyder is mad as hell

She's the former prosecutor who has taken to writing about her former office and its overreaching prosecution of the six Baltimore cops who in the neighborhood when Freddie Gray died in police custody. Here's her latest:
I said in my first blog on Freddie Gray, days after Mosby sensationally announced her charges, that she was setting up the false expectation that a crime was committed and that convictions would follow. She showed only the weakest of evidence in her probable cause statement, and it got worse over time. When the autopsy report revealed that she could not prove her case, the Sun said nothing. NOTHING. It had been moralizing and pronouncing legal judgments all over the place (see below), but went silent when the autopsy report made clear that an accident had occurred. The editors never delved into, never elucidated for its readers, the difference between civil and criminal standards of conduct, but instead helped perpetuate the false belief that they were one and the same. All it wanted after the autopsy report was leaked was for the trials to stay in Baltimore, where it was most likely that citizens would also confuse the issues. Take a quote from a citizen in the same edition as the editorial: "The city gave the family all that money. They practically said [Porter] was guilty. How can the jury not find him guilty?" And nearly every other quote from Baltimore citizens expressed surprise at the failure to convict.
Wouldn't it have been refreshing had the editors said, "Our bad. We trusted that Mosby had the evidence, that she knew what she was doing, and we were wrong. Instead they wrote two pusillanimous editorials after the verdict defending themselves.

Snitching for Dollars

This is what the War on Drugs looks like. Just another day. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
One of Chicago’s most notorious informants — who provided drug tips to the police while secretly killing and robbing people and doing drug deals — was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his information with the approval of police supervisors who have since reached the highest levels of the department, records show.

Saul Rodriguez was a top snitch for the Chicago Police Department’s narcotics section between 1996 and 2001. Over that period, he received more than $800,000 from the department for his information.
During those years, Rodriguez was involved in two killings and other serious crimes like holdups, according to federal prosecutors.
Rodriguez, the informant, was a partner in crime with Lewellen, his police handler, federal authorities say. Both men went to prison in 2012 in a federal conspiracy case. Sanchez has never been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

December 16, 2015

Next up...

Porter's trial ended on Dec 16 with a hung jury.

The next trial, Caesar Goodson the wagon driver, is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2016. Goodson is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and misconduct in office.

Three officers, Porter, Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice face involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office charges. White's trial is schedule for Jan. 25. Rice's for March 9.

Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller are charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office. Miller's trial is scheduled for Feb. 9. Nero's on Feb. 22.

(Definitions of those charges.)

"What led to a mistrial"

Luke Broadwater and Ian Duncan summarize the issues in The Sun.

Hung Jury in Porter trial

Hung on all four counts. That is not what I expected. I expected acquittal on the major charges, and perhaps a hung jury on the minor charge of "misconduct." But no conviction is still a big setback to the prosecution.

What does this mean? Since I'm no legal expert, best to turn to those who understand these issues. Here's Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General, being interviewed by Ali G's:
Thornburgh: All bets are off. They have to try him again. Hung jury.

Ali G: But surely da size of their dongs, whether they is hung or not, won't affect their judgement.

Thornburgh: Well, uh, I don’t see the connection.

Ali G: You was saying dat if you was hung, you know, if all the jury members...

Thornburgh: No! That’s a figure of speech. A figure of speech. A hung jury is one that can't agree. It has nothing to do with the physical characteristics.

Ali G: So it ain't like 15 blokes that is like well packing down there?

Thornburgh: No, I’m sorry I should have make that clear.

December 14, 2015

Maryland Pattern Jury Instructions

The jury, which is currently in deliberation, will be given this (or something very similar to this) to help them decide if Officer Porter is guilty of these charges: involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, misconduct, and second degree manslaughter.

(thanks to a reader.]

December 13, 2015

Why the stops matter

These stops are confusing and the numbering system is never consistent, but they still matter. Here are some maps from WBAL:

The summary from WBAL:
Prosecutors contend Porter is criminally negligent for Gray's death, because he didn't call a medic when Gray requested one, and he didn't buckle Gray into a seat belt at the police van's fourth stop [labeled 5, above] at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street, the stop where Porter testified he helped Gray from the van floor onto the bench.

Porter said he didn't call a medic, because Gray wasn't specific about an injury, and he didn't see any signs of external distress. Porter told the jury, at this point, he assisted Gray, who used his legs and could support his own weight.
Officer Mark Gladhill testified for the defense Thursday and said at the van's fifth stop [I'm not clear if this is 5 or 6 above] he saw Gray leaning, but he was supporting his back and his head:
“You are positive that Mr. Gray was holding his own head up?” [Gladhill] was asked, to which he replied, “Yes. I’m positive.”
This wouldn't be possible if Gray had already broken his neck. If Gray wasn't seriously hurt when Porter dealt with Gray, Porter can't be neglectful for not taking care of an injury that hadn't yet happened. There's still the seat belt issue, but that's weak in relation to Porter. Prosecutors contend Gray got hurt earlier. (I'm not exactly certain how the prosecution asserts how they know that the injury happened earlier.) Gladhill's statement is important.

From the Washington Post:
Porter responded after the police van’s driver, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., put out a call for a welfare check on Gray. Porter testified this week that he helped Gray off the floor of the van, asked him if he needed a medic (but never called one) and told Goodson to take him to a hospital. Those actions, [Baltimore police Capt. Justin] Reynolds testified, go “beyond what many officers would have done.”
From WBAL:
Porter said he asked Gray at the fourth stop if he needed to go to the hospital and Gray said yes. Porter said he told van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, that Gray needed to go to a hospital. He said, "I could not order Goodson to do that."
Gray wasn't Porter's prisoner. That matters. Again from the Post:
At the fifth van stop, Gray again told Porter that he needed a medic, and Porter told his supervisor, Sgt. Alicia White, that Gray needed to go to a hospital. Reynolds said it was “absolutely reasonable” for Porter to expect the supervisor to get help. White has also been charged in Gray’s death.

Reynolds said that Goodson was ultimately responsible for Gray’s well-being and that the department’s general orders are “guidelines,” not strict requirements.

“There are parts of general orders you have to violate to do your job,” Reynolds said. He cited a much-ignored rule that officers be quiet and civil at all times as an example. He added: “Common sense prevails over everything else.”
If I were on the jury, I'd have more than reasonable doubt.

If Baltimore were a white-majority city with a white political power structure, the political Left would be screaming at the racism and injustice of prosecutors charging an innocent black man.

"When is failing to act a crime?"

Ian Duncan of the Sun explores the issue:
David Harris ... said American criminal laws are usually of the "thou shalt not" variety, rather than "thou shalt."

"We're pretty stingy in this country and this culture with obligating people to do stuff," Harris said.
Legal experts also said it's difficult to find criminal cases against police officers accused of inaction.
David Gray ... said the jury could decide to convict Porter of manslaughter — the most serious charge that carries a sentence of up to 10 years — based on one of two legal theories.

Under one, the jury could convict Porter if they find beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew his failure to act posed a "substantial and unjustified risk of death or severe bodily harm," the professor said.

Under another, they could convict Porter if they find that he should have known the risk and that "his failure to recognize that risk was so wanton as to represent a gross deviation from the standard of care that any reasonable officer" would have given.
Philip Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University who maintains a database of police misconduct cases, found just two incidents among thousands he has logged between 2005 and 2011 in which police were charged with negligent homicide in a death that didn't involve a gun or an automobile crash.
"The Maryland judiciary has, as far as I can tell, produced a surprisingly vague body of homicide law," [Serota] said.

Judges have called the state's laws "treacherously ambiguous," and "perplexing," Serota wrote in a recent law article. In Maryland, he noted, the criminal code doesn't define manslaughter other than to say it's a felony and to outline the penalties.
[In another case after a jury convicted a Maryland police officer of involuntary manslaughter], the Court of Appeals threw out the verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence. The judges ruled that reasonable officers would have acted the same way as [the cop], so he could not be found criminally responsible.
The judges instructions to the jury will be very important. Are those public?

December 12, 2015


Anybody know if ShotSpotter is good? From an NYPD press release:
This is one of more than 30 firearms that have been recovered since the inception of the ShotSpotter program, back in March of this year.
Three guns a month doesn't seem like so many. But then to get 30 guns off the streets, back in the old stop-and-frisk would have meant stopping 26,370 people!

How does ShotSpotter work in practice? Is a response mandatory or discretionary? What about false positives?

"There is no such crime as 'homicide by no seat belt'"

"Mosby is getting her rear end kicked in court. Not by a brilliant defense strategy, but by the facts. Facts that she could have discovered had she conducted herself professionally and ethically." So says Page Croyder, who retired in 2008 after 21 years with the State's Attorney's Office. My last post highlighted her insightful blog.

In police trials like this, people look for solutions to grand moral and historical issues. But criminal prosecution is about the guilt of an individual. If you're looking for answers to society's problems, or just someone to blame for all the wrongs in the world, a criminal trial isn't the right place.

Even among those who love the idea of prosecuting cops, ideologues who lap up and purr any time they hear "progressive" talk, I've yet to hear anybody actually defend Mosby's choices or competency. Even those who don't trust cops (sometimes for good reason) may have to accept that these cops are innocent.

Here is Croyder's take on the current trial of Officer Porter (the first of six officers to be tried). She wrote this op-ed in the Sun from back in May. But her similar blog piece throws some extra punches.

A later piece, also from May:
I already discussed Mosby's failure to use the important tools available to her that any competent prosecutor would have taken. I was willing to believe that this reckless failure stemmed from inexperience.

But her press conference was troubling in how far it strayed from a prosecutor's duty. She addressed herself to protesters across the country, embraced their cause, called for sociological change, promised justice for the young and for Freddie Gray.
These words, together with her demeanor, drew praise from newspaper editors, TV reviewers and many in the public. But they were the words of a politician, not a prosecutor. As a prosecutor her performance was awful, violating her ethical duty and generating suspicion that her charges were political.
Mosby is in the wrong office. Once elected as State's Attorney, she had to abide by ethical rules that she repeatedly ignores.... Politicians can lead wherever they choose. But unless prosecutors are bulwarks against politics in the criminal justice system, that system fails.
From June:
Death by no seat belt or medical delay would ordinarily be a case headed for civil court....

What to me remains most indicative of Mosby's mindset is her pursuit of the two arresting officers, who we now know for certain had nothing to do with Gray's death. On duty after Mosby's office urged greater crime suppression in that exact location, these officers justifiably pursued someone who fled from them on sight, and with ample legal precedent behind them, took him down and patted for weapons. By turning this into a crime, Mosby has told all police officers that they cannot do their jobs as they have been trained to do them.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and [now former] Police Commissioner Leonard Batts are taking all the heat for the crime spike since Mosby charged the six officers. No one locally wants to point the finger at Mosby. I will. It's mostly on her.
I said much the same thing. It's not just that cops were worried about making a terrible mistake and then being prosecuted. It's the legitimate fear Baltimore cops have of being criminal charged for doing their job correctly.

From October:
The decision of Judge Barry Williams to keep the trials of the six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore City demonstrates that judges, too, are human.
Legally speaking, Judge Williams should have moved the trials out of Baltimore.... If the top prosecutor, whose sole job it is to follow the facts and the evidence, was influenced by the unrest, wouldn’t the citizens of Baltimore be similarly influenced?
By deciding to keep the case in Baltimore, Judge Williams has created a substantial argument for reversal, something that trial judges try – or should try – to avoid for the sake of all parties.

Judge Williams has proved that he will work hard. A number of lazy Baltimore judges would have moved the case just to get out of the work this case entails. Nevertheless, those lazy judges would have been legally correct.
December 3:
In the first year of her administration, with a million issues to confront, Mosby is being paid over $238,000 to watch a trial. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why: she has staked her reputation on this case, and she wants the judge and jurors to know it, to influence them by her presence. Never in my two decades as a Baltimore prosecutor did I see the State's Attorney watch a trial. They had too much work to do.
December 10:
Mosby and her team lack the judgment, priorities and experience needed to run an effective prosecutor's office anyway. Mosby was a run-of-the-mill prosecutor who became a run-of-the-mill insurance attorney before election to the largest prosecutor's office in the state.
Here's her most recent post:
Her own probable cause statement did not support her sensational indictments. The autopsy report didn't either, despite it's legal conclusion (that was clearly influenced by Mosby.) And now the facts reveal that not only are the charges not provable beyond a reasonable doubt, but the officers are actually innocent.
In any event, there is no such crime as "homicide by no seat belt." If one wants to call it negligence -- despite other police departments (not to mention other transit vehicles, like buses) not using seat belts -- then fine. That's why the city paid the Gray family over $6 million. But there was no police brutality or a criminal disregard for Gray's safety.
When Mosby loses and the officer walk free, then what? Bad leadership has consequences.

"A small glimpse into the lazy, egotistical, dysfunctional world of key players in criminal justice system"

Page Croyder spent two decades with the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office. A few weeks ago I discovered her blog (thanks to a comment). The prosecutor's office -- the State's Attorney in Maryland -- and the court system in general is a big Skinner box of unknown for most people. Croyder offers insight.

People get arrested and somehow they end up in jail or prison. Even if the courts have the power, the prosecutors may be the puppet masters of the system. They shape police behavior and tactics. They determine who walks and who doesn't. And all this in an elected underfunded office not represented by any union. The courts have no constituency to fight for dollars. Most people don't really care what happens in the courts as long as they don't get called for jury duty.

Croyder was never the most prolific blogger, which makes it all the more readable as small glimpse, "a small glimpse into the lazy, egotistical, dysfunctional world of key players in criminal justice system."

I assume Croyder is to the right of me politically. Or maybe not. She's no fan of O'Malley, but then, who is?
Funny thing is, if liberals read my blog with open minds they would see that I am no Attila-the-Hun. I support improved prisoner re-entry programs, bail reform, effective alternatives to incarceration, a radically new approach to drug crimes, reducing the barrier of criminal records to employment, and so forth.

But I do believe that there are people who need to be locked up for the public's safety and well-being. Not forever (for most), but until the period of their greatest dangerousness passes. This makes liberals scream. They want more rehabilitation and prevention programs.

Fine. There's no conflict there. But the existing criminal justice system still needs to improve its focus, prioritization and performance right now with the resources at hand.
I see her writing as refreshingly untainted by ideology.

Here are some highlights in chronological order. From 2012:
And the city doesn't need such quick turnover. Having four different police commissioners in the O'Malley mayoral years wrecked the Police Department. We need stability... to conceive a plan, develop it, and achieve significant results with violent criminals over the past six and a half years.

We had plenty of stability at the top of the prosecutor's office before Bernstein [under Jessemy], but insufficient competence. Now we've got competence. Add stability, and we achieve long term success.
From 2013:
The problem between police officers and judges over warrants has been going on a long time and should have been resolved ages ago.
Baltimore city judges are supposed to take turns being "on duty" for one week at a time. Since there are about 60 of them, this means they should have this duty less frequently than once a year....

But judges and police have fussed about this ever since I can remember. Judges feel that police bother them after hours for non-emergencies.
To minimize their own inconvenience, individual judges often make their own rules for reviewing warrants. Many, for example, refuse to sign any "narcotics" warrants after hours, which they regard as routine.
To me the solution is simple: police officers should do their best to present their warrants during reasonable hours, while judges should resign themselves to the fact that for one week out of every 60 they will be reviewing warrants after they leave the courthouse. They should just go home and be mentally prepared for the police to come over, not whining about officers interrupting them while they are out at dinner or the mall.
From 2014:
Marilyn Mosby, who just defeated Bernstein in the primary election, lacks the experience to fully comprehend the enormity of the task in front of her, let alone be able to hit the ground running. And the state's attorney's office will hemorrhage experienced people these next six lame-duck months, making the task that much harder. It doesn't mean that Mosby, should she win in November, can't eventually succeed. But her learning curve will be very steep and at public expense.
That's some foreshadowing.

Next post I'll highlight Crowder's take on the current prosecutions related to Freddie Gray.

December 11, 2015

Useful lessons from Scotland on less-lethal policing

In the New York Times.

Longo testifies it's OK to violate the rules, if you can defend your actions

I don't personally remember Timothy Longo, but I do remember his name. Was he in the E&T chain of command in 2000?

Londo testified in Porter's trial today. Longo said that the van driver, Goodson:
was ultimately responsible for Gray's care, and that Porter had notified a supervisor that Gray needed help. He said Goodson and the supervisor, Sgt. Alicia D. White — not Porter — had the responsibility to take further action.

"I believe [Porter's] actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances he was confronted with."
Well said.

But what is more interesting to me is that Longo said officers can violate general orders, "with the understanding that they could face administrative scrutiny." Of course that is exactly the way the police world works, but I've never heard it expressed exactly that way: go ahead and violate the rules; just be able to defend you actions. Rules aren't laws.

Of course the average cop doesn't trust their boss enough to do the right thing. But it's still nice to hear such standards articulated by Longo.

Update: "Reynolds says general orders are acceptably violated all the time. Officers asked to use common sense and good judgment"

December 8, 2015

Porter trial: Dec 7.

The prosecution rested. Judgment of Acquittal did not happen, alas.

Judge Williams did rule that prosecutors failed to disclose that Freddie Gray had allegedly told a police officer the month before he died that he suffered from back problems. From the Sun:
Porter's attorneys asked that Williams dismiss the charges against Porter, grant a mistrial, or strike the testimony of the medical experts who had testified. Williams did not grant those requests but said the defense could use the information.

Backdated seatbelt memo?

The Sun on that BPD seat belt policy:
Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter showed a "callous indifference for life" when he deviated from department policies. Defense attorneys have said other police officers routinely break such policies, but Schatzow said those officers should not be considered "reasonable."
What's interesting is that the "new" policy, says the department, came out on April 3. Yet a source, a person I trust, says that policy didn't actually come out till after Freddie Gray's arrest, on April 12. The department backdated the memo. I wouldn't put that past them. According to reports, the April 3 memo "went out on April 9, just three days before Porter’s encounter with Gray in Sandtown-Winchester." Wouldn't that be convenient. But it was never read in roll call. Nobody seems to have seen it until after Freddie Gray died. There should at least be an email trail, that 80 page attachment. When did that arrive in the in-boxes?

Of course even if there were no 2015 update, the 1999 memo should still be in effect. Or maybe there was another update in policy between 1999 and 2015? I don't know. How could anybody know? The whole damn system is messed up. I suspect the department didn't know about the 1999 memo and assumed the 1997 policy was still valid. (Which I can't find but nobody seems to doubt.)

So it's possible that in 2015 somebody in the Baltimore City Police Department backdated a new policy to screw the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, unaware that the policy they were updating was actually identical to what the new memo said. (The 2015 memo might say the year of the policy it is updating, right? I'd be curious to see it.)

Either way, based on 1999 general orders or 2015 policy, all prisoners should be seatbelted. And also no police officer: "while riding gratis on any type of public conveyance, [is] permitted to be seated while other passengers are standing." One questions at hand (the other is about delayed medical care) is whether violating the seat belt policy can be a crime (because Freddie Grey died) It seems like a reasonable person might have doubts.

$700,000+ for 1 shooting

Ashley Luthern of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at the direct costs of a shooting . It adds up to more than $700,000. $400,000 on prison.

December 6, 2015


@PeterMoskos wins the "Most Profanity in One Quote" Award. https://t.co/Rt22OJRYjy
— Jeffrey Butts (@JeffreyButts) December 5, 2015
I'm humbled and honored to win the Golden Middle Finger award. I'd like to thank all the sailors and pirates who taught me everything I know, gosh darnit.

In all seriousness, this Guardian piece by Baynard Woods might be the first fair thing The Guardian has written about police since the Coldbath Fields Riot of 1833:
“I can imagine for Porter it’s difficult,” said Leon Taylor, an African American who served as a Baltimore City police officer for over a decade. “It’s more difficult when you feel that you’re part of the community and the community is willing to negate all of the positive things that you’ve done and all the greater things you could have accomplished because of this incident.”
“If he’s convicted then his lawyer is under an ethical duty to present Porter with other alternatives to being sentenced for the crime or crimes for which he was convicted,” Colbert [a professor of law at the University of Maryland] said. “That’s where he’ll be faced with being offered a negotiation that would likely require his testimony against other officers in exchange for leniency in his ultimate sentence.”
Peter Moskos, a former member of the Baltimore police department who is now an author and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, acknowledged that there is a blue wall but said it only goes so far.

“The general rule of thumb is: No, cops will not go out of their way to say bad things about another cop certainly,” he said. “But cops also aren’t willing to go to jail for the misdeeds of another cop. ‘Why am I going to risk my pension and my job for your fuck up’ is the general attitude … To some extent, when the shit hits the fan, all bets are off. You do have to cover your ass first.”

“It seems like they’ve adopted a divide and conquer strategy to get the desired outcome of the case,” Taylor said of the prosecution, but noted that ultimately it depends on the outcome.

Moskos was a bit more fatalistic.

“I mean the problem is, even in the best case scenario for cops, they’re still fucked because Freddie Gray went into the van alive and came out dead,” he said. “That can’t happen.”
Yeah, I got four bad boys and two f-bombs in there, thank you very much. Just for the record, we chatted for half an hour and there were long stretches without single a curse word.

As a side note, it always cracks me up when people who don't know policing talk confidently about the "Blue Wall of Silence": "There’s a very strong police culture that values and enforces a code of silence," Colbert says. How the hell would he know?

Cops testify against cops all the time. Cops are testifying against cops right now. And right now people will insist it never happens. I mean, I bet Colbert knows a few professors, maybe some lawyers, who haven't always been on the level. What has he said? How many of you would go out of their way to rat out a colleague? Do students tell on other students who cheats? Not in my experience. Hell I know of a married sociologist who slept with a student. Have I said anything? No. And this isn't out of some academic "wall of silence." I don't even like the guy. But what can I do? It's not a crime. And I can't prove it. Policing is no different.

But one thing Colbert said does make perfect sense. Mosby needs to get a conviction against Portor. She needs to. Because if she does, she can leverage the sentence over him. "Reckless endangerment" can get up to five years (though it's a misdemeanor... how is that possible?). Five years would mean three years with good time. Or, they tell him, you can walk free if you testify enough against Ceasar Goodson to get a felony conviction (Goodson is the only one of the six who might be found guilty of anything real). Such proscutorial games are standard practice, of course. But that doesn't make it right. Still, if Portor is acquitted of everything, which he will be if he does well on the stand (which is not a given), this whole "charge everybody who was there" is going to come crashing down on Mosby, as it should.

Looking forward in Baltimore

On a slightly more positive note (than the last post), Mark Puente has a good story on Baltimore Commissioner Kevin Davis and the US DOJ report due in 2016. This article is worth one of your monthly free Sun articles, assuming you don't subscribe:
In other cities, such investigations have exposed problems such as brutality and outdated training, leading to federal oversight that can last for years and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Davis said large groups of officers might attend a lecture at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture to learn about African-American history. Local experts will teach the courses for free, not out-of-state consultants.

"If we do that right, we will achieve cultural sensitivity, Davis said.
Ordering officers out of cars, Davis said, doesn't work if they aren't properly trained.
Johnson said the agency needs to improve record-keeping and the analysis of what leads to those arrests, adding: "That's a major problem."

Many of the arrests come from hard-charging, aggressive officers looking to clean up the streets, officials have said.

Baltimore is no different from other cities where police leaders identify "super cops" based on monthly arrests, Davis said. It's important to examine the outcomes of those arrests with prosecutors and public defenders, he added.

"If I'm a superstar cop in the Western District making 40 arrests a month, where did [the arrests] end up in court?" Davis said. "Did those arrests make society better, or did you just leave the community pissed off in the wake of your apprehension?"
Most patrol cars don't have computers, radar equipment or license-plate readers. Officers must wait to communicate with dispatchers for the information and complete nearly all paperwork by hand.

"The inside of Baltimore police car looks like mine from 1992," Davis said, noting that expected federal reforms will be costly — but mandatory.
That's all well and good, I suppose. Things can be made better. They need to be made better. Cops shouldn't hate the city and those who live in it. Too many do. Cops and church-goers should like each other. Maybe it is an essential first step. But meanwhile nothing is being said about the criminal class killing each other.

Dying in Baltimore? Blame the Police.

I saw a Tweet about something I already knew, and it still shocked me.

This year 1 in every 2,000 Baltimoreans will be murdered.

I know this number is true. I've done math. But I still needed to double check. And in many ways it's even worse. Because we know most people in Baltimore aren't going to get murdered. 86 percent of those killed in Baltimore are black men. Collectively, you can group together all whites, all black women, all hispanics, and all asians. Together they account for just 11 percent of Baltimore homicide victims. (Race is unknown 3 percent of time.)

Lethal violence doubled after riots.

I still want an apology from those idiots who went on national radio and TV with me saying police were the main problem and violence wasn't even up in Baltimore the riots (they used, "uprising"). Bet I'm not going to get one. I don't know if anybody still claims that, but nobody ever admitted they were wrong.

I spend my Saturday night playing with Excel and SPSS. I made three charts that all say the same thing in slightly different ways. I'm not certain which one is the best. Here they all are.

There are about 180,000 black men in Baltimore. To date 273 have been murdered. Yes. This year, one in every 660 black men in Baltimore has been murdered.

[Update: 304 black men were killed in Baltimore in 2015. One in every 600 black men was murdered in 2015.]

And it gets worse. There are only about 45,000 18- to 35-year-old black men in Baltimore. By year's end, more than 200 will have been killed and another 500 will be shot but live. 45,000 divided by 700 is 64. One in 64 black men 18 to 35 will be shot or killed. One in 225 will be murdered. One year. Think of those odds. Officer William Porter, a black guy from Baltimore who survived those odds, he was working to save lives. He was trying to make his city a safer place. Now Portor is on trial for basically doing his job. Who are the only people who see every bloody crime scene? Who do we send in to deal with this literal and figurative bloody mess? Police officers. "Do something!" we order them.

And the mayor and State's Attorney? They're using their precious resources to lock up the same exact cops they told to "do something" about the drug corner Freddie Gray was on when he ran from police. And poor Freddie Gray? The lead-poisoned drug-addicted barely-literate low-level habitual criminal? He's a victim, too. But he's not a hero. They've name a "Youth Empowerment Centers" after him? If you can't find a better role model for black youth in Baltimore, you're not looking hard enough.

Maybe if we can keep the focus on the police, nobody will ever get around to noticing the who real is to blame. No need to blame Freddie's mom, the drugs, lead paint, the schools, the city, the neighborhood, the corrupt politicians, the self-serving religious leaders, the violence, the racism, the criminals, the blight, the lack of jobs, or even Freddie himself. Nope. None of them's on trial. Only the PO-leece.


December 5, 2015

Chicago Cover Up

From the mayor on down to the officer on scene, the cover-up seems pretty big. Multiple false reports are very worrisome. Though a detective taking a statement from Van Dyke shouldn't qualify as another false report. But Van Dyke's partner, Walsh, is certainly culpable.

Update: The New York Times says "at least five other officers on the scene that night corroborated a version of events similar to the one Officer Van Dyke."

December 4, 2015

Jew for a Day

So I was in this 3 AM bar fight last night. More of a scuffle really. Technically I won, if such a thing is possible. (Does anybody really win a 3 AM bar fight?) Now those who know me know my fuse in long. I don't go looking for fights, because I don't want to lose a fight. Hell, I've never even been in a bar fight. But sometimes, well, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

I was minding my own business (of course) nursing a Smithwicks, and next thing you know, not far from me, a guy is getting choked out. Hmmmmm. The choker has the guy in a classic arm-bar choke hold. I'm looking at this thinking, is he choking him by the throat or carotid artery? While I'm processing the scene, the guy I was talking to, a cop (recently retired), starts shouting, "Don't choke him out. Let him go. Don't kill him. Don't choke him out." It was a carotid hold; the cop was thinking faster than me.

The choker lets up. He doesn't choke him out. The chokee stumbles to his feet. The choker gathers his belongings and high tails it on out of the bar. Word at the bar is that the chokee, a white guy maybe 30 years old, started the mess by accusing the the choker, a brown skinned guy, of being a terrorist. A Muslim terrorist.

The cop informs the loser that since he, the cop, just saved his life, he, the loser, needs to buy him a drink. The chokee slides the cop his Jägermeister. The cop turns it down and demands a real drink. The loser buys him a whiskey.

I'm thinking it doesn't seem right that the guy who got called a terrorist left (thought it a wise choice to do so) and the guy who thinks called a brown person a terrorist is still here. There's some side debate as to whether the choker even was Muslim. But whatever.

Maybe fifteen minutes later a few people go out to smoke or pee and now there's nobody between me and self-proclaimed patriot. I ask him, "Did you really call him a Muslim terrorist?" He hems and haws but does not deny. A press a bit and he he admits that yes, he thinks he is a terrorist.

I say: "You called a stranger in a bar a Muslim terrorist? Well, you deserved to get choked out."

In an ignorant way too common among fools, he boasts, "I'm an American!"

"We're all Americans here." I point out, "This is America."

He gets closer to me. I take note that he's drunker and slower than me as he points his finger at my chest and says, "Are you a Christian, or A JEW?"

No. Not in my city. Not in my bar. I figure if a first scuffle didn't get him kicked out, a second one sure will. I don't lose my temper. I'm not angry. In a calculated move I knock him from his bar stool and drag him to the ground and try and get my hands around his fleshy throat.

He resists, of course. My glasses go flying (which shows I'm a novice--an experienced fighter would know to remove any glasses before a scuffle). I end up on top. A patron rescues my glasses. No punches are thrown. We get separated. I don't even get an adrenaline rush.

I inform the bar, "He has to go." He bellies up and tries to order another drink. "No," I instruct him, "you have to go." The bartender says, "Not before he settles up." The bartender makes him pay (no buy-backs for him), and he leaves.

The cop buys me a drink.

The bartender (who actually isn't an American) sheepishly admits in his Slovak accent, "I'm not a fighter." Neither am I.

Coverage of the trial

There's good live twitter coverage of the Portor trial over at the Sun, if you're interested. I am.

December 3, 2015

[Not Following] General Orders

You want to know why cops are always bitching? You want to know how cops can feel like they're the victims? You want to know what it's like to be on trial for violating a General Order? (In the NYPD this in known as the Patrol Guide. Same thing.)

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks is unfairly dismissive of the ignorance defense when he writes:
Not knowing the law -- not noticing the speed limit on a street or stretch of highway, as a simple example -- is usually not an acceptable excuse. A police officer not knowing a policy (or missing the memo about one) isn't much of one, either.
In terms of breaking the law, it's important to point out that General Orders are not laws. Also, speed limits are posted.

And yet it seems reasonable to expect cops to know the rules of their organization. But it's not. It's impossible. If you want to point fingers, blame the organization. But the issue remains: what is well meaning cop supposed to do?

This is going to be boring, OK? But if you want to understand police, I'm going to take you into the weeds. Because the devil is down there in those weeds.

[Actually if you can figure out why cops are always bitching, let me know. Because I've never figured that one out.]

I wanted to look up the Baltimore City Police Department's General Order on seat belt regulations for prisoner transport. Why, because it seem like Officer Porter might go to jail for ignorance of this one.

First I had to go to my school office because that's where I keep my old binder of G.O.s. The binder is too big to carry with you. So as a cop you don't have it on you for reference. Mine was last updated in June of 2001. Fourteen years later it would be even thicker. Things go into the G.O.s; they never come out.

I easily found the binder and discovered with it a folder of loose things that I was given during my brief career that I couldn't or didn't file in the binder.

Now keep in mind, it's been awhile since I've done this. So I might be a bit slow. But hell, I do have a PhD from Harvard and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton. What I'm saying is that even though I'm not a rocket scientist, I'm not the dullest tool in the shed. And I'm a good researcher! Nevertheless, it took more than half an hour from the start of my quest to the start of writing this. And I got lucky. Almost unbelievably so.

So where does one start? [A professor just came to my office and told me students today don't even know what a table of contents is. Or an index. Whoa. That's mind blowing, but off subject...] Except the book of General Orders has no index. Hell, it doesn't even have page numbers! But there is a Table of Contents:

I'm going with Section K: Adult Arrests. Flipping forward a few pages my bet is on K14, persons in police custody. G.O. Number 06-92. So I flip open to K. My binder actually has tabs with writing on them. Because I'm nerdy and organized like that. Or maybe they made us do that in the police academy. I don't remember.

So I open to K and K-1 is something about Career Criminals Program of 1982. I couldn't care less. I assume it's long irrelevant even in 2000. But how would one know? It modifies the Career Criminals Program of 1976. Signed by Commissioner Battaglia? He doesn't even ring a bell. He must have not been in for long.

And then you just start flipping. After K-1 comes Annex A, Annex B, then K-2. The top of the page doesn't say which K you're on. And there are lots of "Annex." It's easy to get lost. Eventually I find K-14. Signed by Commissioner Edward Woods. He signed a lot of these.

Note the "Rescission" section to remove from the manual. How would you even find Memorandum 2-82? I have no idea.

Is this it? Annex A on Custodial Safety and Welfare of Persons in Custody.

It doesn't say anything about seat belts. Does that mean there is no G.O. on seat belts? In this case I know there is. But what if I didn't? How would you know? There is no index. But I think I need to find a section on prisoner transport.

Oh, here's a doosy from 1985, amending an order from 1977.

"Make the following pen changes to Annex D, Section I, page D-3: Paragraph 1, lines 3&4 -- Delete: [blah blah blah]." You know it's old because it's signed by Commissioner Bishop Robinson. First black commissioner. I always liked his name. Pomerleau is the oldest one finds in the G.O.s. But he was commissioner from the Mayflower till 1981.

There are 18 pages of K-14. I go through them. Nothing seems to concern seat belts.

I don't know what to do. So I go through my G.O. Supplement folder. Slim chance. But you never know.

I see the pages on ethical conduct.

These were my favorite. I used to check them off one-by-one when I violated them. I'm hilarious that way. But this matter because if they can't pin anything else on you, they can always get you for "conduct unbecoming."

I may have missed a few, but of the first 31 rules of conduct, I checked off all but 12 as violated. And I was a good cop, an honest cop. And yet in less than two years on the job I managed to violate the majority of good conduct rules. My favorite was "Section 7: Members of the department, while riding gratis on any type of public conveyance, are not permitted to be seated while other passengers are standing." This is off duty, mind you. And it doesn't say "give up your seat if the bus is full." Nope. If anybody is standing, you must stand.

Some of the rules, of course, you need to violate in order to do your job. (Section 2, for instance, prohibits use of slang while talking to the public. I never did violate Section 28 by playing cards, which I could have done.)

Now at this point I, like you, am distracted and have kind of given up. And right then... I'll be damned at what literally flutter from the folder. This very sheet: "The Police Commissioner's Memorandum 19-99, Subject: Seat Belts."
Like Mana from fucking heaven!

This came out before I was hired. So there's no reason it's not in the binder. But it's not and I have no idea where it should be filed. It's not like it says K-14 part 3 or anything. Is there a special section for "Memorandum"? I don't know. One can't know. And that's my point.

But there it is, halfway down (while on the back of the sheet is something unrelated about dog bites):
• Use a seat belt when operating or riding as a passenger in any departmental vehicle.

• Ensure that all other occupants of a departmental vehicle that you are operating use a seat belt or a federally approved child safety seat when applicable.

• [Don't use child safety seats in the rear of cage cars.]

• Ensure that prisoners transported in prisoner transportation vehicles are secured with a seat belt. [emphasis added]

• Use extreme caution when transporting anyone in departmental vehicles. [Thanks for nothing.]
This one is signed by much-hated Commissioner Thomas Frazier. He was just before my time but was the guy who initially approved my research! (The best thing that ever happened to Frazier's reputation was Commissioner Batts.)

So that is it, right? Buckle up prisoners. No exceptions. That's certainly what I thought the rule was. But maybe I was wrong. Supposedly there was a rule saying you didn't have for officer safety. But maybe that happened after 2001. And the new 2014 G.O. was going back to the old May 1999 G.O.

I don't know, and there's no way to find out!

And I still haven't found the section on prisoner transport, assuming there is one. But there must be. Unless there isn't. And then what if I did find it and there are two General Orders that conflict with each other? Then what?

When I quit the police department, one of the things I told myself was that if I could change the system of General Orders, I would be the unsung hero of police officers who had never heard my name. With this little change, I could make the world a better place and die a happier man. But how does one change the system? Better people than I have run police departments and yet General Orders and Patrol Guides get worse and worse. Can we blame it all on lawyers?