Recently in Policing Category

Back to Bedlam

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Heather MacDonald has this article in the City Journal:

Will the anti-cop Left please figure out what it wants? For more than a decade, activists have demanded the end of proactive policing, claiming that it was racist. Pedestrian stops--otherwise known as stop, question, and frisk--were attacked as a bigoted oppression of minority communities. In March 2015, for example, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago Police Department of "targeting" minorities because stops are "disproportionately concentrated in the black community."
And what happens when they win that battle?

And the Left is once again denouncing the police--this time for not doing enough policing. [Black Lives Matter activist Shaun] King now accuses police in Chicago of not "doing their job," as a result of which "people are dying." Stops in Chicago are down nearly 90 percent this year through the end of March, compared with the same period in 2015; shootings were up 78 percent and homicides up 62 percent through April 10.

Evidence Mounts on Crime Spikes

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Many people   -- including law enforcement officials, bloggers here, and Heather MacDonald at the Manhattan Institute -- have been raising alarms that increasing numbers of innocent people are being needlessly victimized due to ill-considered policy changes (e.g., California's "realignment" and Prop. 47) and the "Ferguson Effect" of police holding back as they come under hyper-scrutiny.  Soft-on-crime apologists have responded that the data are too tentative and too anecdotal to draw such conclusions.  That answer did have some validity initially, but it wears increasingly thin as data accumulate.

In Chicago, the local variant of the Ferguson Effect might be called the McDonald Effect.  The number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight (who definitely do not lean conservative) have concluded that the numbers have reached the threshold that they can't be brushed off like that any more.  Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher have this post.

Bill Clinton Gets It on Black Lives Matter

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Bill Clinton was the last President in this country widely viewed as successful.  I have my doubts, stemming largely from his failure to counteract the growth of the terrorist threat, but I understand the reasons for his popularity. For one thing, crime started its long, astonishing descent under some of the sentencing laws he supported and signed (and his wife now denounces).

Today, Mr. Clinton told his hecklers in the BLM movement what they need to hear but are certain to ignore:  "You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter."  He could have added that BLM is attacking the best friends preserving black lives ever had  --  more police, more aggressive policing, and more incarceration of the thugs and drug pushers who prey disproportionately on blacks.

The Weekly Standard has the story and the tape of Mr. Clinton's remarks.  Heather MacDonald's take on them is here.
Ilya Somin has this post with the above title at the Volokh Conspiracy on the WaPo site.

H.R. 4760, the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016," is a sweeping bill to make assaults on police officers a federal offense, adding to the list of federal "hate crimes."

Of course it is true that blue lives matter.  It is also true that the police are under attack and need the support of the law-abiding people of this country.  It is also true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Crimes against persons are generally matters of state law.  At times it has been necessary to stretch the boundaries of federal jurisdiction when states were failing in their constitutional obligation to provide equal protection of the laws, such as the murders of civil rights workers over half a century ago. 

Those dark times are long behind us.  State governments are perfectly capable of prosecuting crimes against police officers.  Federalizing the issue will not help.

The lines between state and federal jurisdiction are there for good reasons.  We should be restoring and fortifying them, not punching new holes in them.

Divisiveness, Hypocrisy and the Left

Heather Mac Donald has an insightful piece in the National Review in which she discusses the most recent liberal hypocrisy on the concept of divisiveness.  She notes that commentators in mainstream media "have been shedding crocodile tears" over Donald Trump's "divisive rhetoric" and "failure to unify the country," which is quite confounding coming from "the same worthies who have incessantly glorified the Black Lives Matter movement over the last year and a half."  The article is aptly titled, "Don't Blame Trump for Divisiveness When the Left Says Stuff Like This."  Some of that stuff:

  • A Black Lives Matter march last October featuring "F**k the Police," "Murderer Cops" and "Stop Police Terror" chants
  • A president who "routinely claims that police and the criminal-justice system treats blacks differently than whites" even in the absence of empirical data
  • A Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, who says it's a "reality" that cops see black lives as "cheap"
  • Another Democratic presidential contender, Bernie Sanders, who claims the killing of unarmed black people by police officers has been going on "decade after decade after decade"
  • Academic rhetoric and identity politics, which "immerses students in the counterfactual propaganda that the world is divided between people enjoying white-male-heteronormative privilege and everyone else"

Mac Donald concludes:

To the mainstream media, Black Lives Matter's claims and academic identity politics are not "divisive," they are simple truth. But if you don't accept those truth claims -- and the data refute them -- the vitriolic anti-cop rhetoric of the last year and a half, and its underpinning in academic victimology, easily match the alleged divisiveness of anything that Trump has said.

Politically Incorrect Posting

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Last week, a San Francisco police station was in the hot seat after an op-ed written by Heather Mac Donald, "The Myths of Black Lives Matter," in which she challenged the Black Lives Matter narrative that police officers are racists and pose the greatest threat to young black men today, was posted on a bulletin board in the station.  Soon after, this article published in the San Francisco Examiner questioned whether posting Mac Donald's piece in the police station was in violation of department and city rules that ban political activity in public buildings.

Here is Mac Donald's response to the controversy.

Stats Matter

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The Ferguson effect is undoubtedly being downplayed by the left.  Heather Mac Donald has this piece in the City Journal addressing the way researchers have tried to obscure its existence.  The subject of the piece is a recent paper published in the Journal of Criminal Justice and authored by four University of Colorado Boulder researchers and sociologist David Pyrooz, in which they "created a complex econometric model that analyzed monthly rates of change in crime rates in 81 U.S. cities with populations of 200,000 or more."  Some of the their findings:

The researchers found that in the 12 months before Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri--the event that catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement--major felony crime, averaged across all 81 cities, was going down. In the 12 months after Brown was shot, that aggregate drop in crime slowed down considerably. But that deceleration of the crime drop was not large enough to be deemed statistically significant, say the criminologists. Therefore, they conclude, "there is no systematic evidence of a Ferguson Effect on aggregate crime rates throughout the large U.S. cities . . . in this study."

Mac Donald clarifies:

[T]he existence of a Ferguson effect does not depend on its operating uniformly across the country in cities with very different demographics. When the researchers disaggregated crime trends by city, they found that the variance among those individual city trends had tripled after Ferguson. That is, before the Brown shooting, individual cities' crime rates tended to move downward together; after Ferguson, their crime rates were all over the map. Some cities had sharp increases in aggregate crime, while others continued their downward trajectory. The variance in homicide trends was even greater--nearly six times as large after Ferguson. And what cities had the largest post-Ferguson homicide surges? Precisely those that the Ferguson effect would predict: cities with high black populations, low white populations, and high preexisting rates of violent crime.
Heather Mac Donald is, as usual, here to set the record straight in a commentary featured by the Marshall Project titled Black and Unarmed: Behind the Numbers.  In it, she examines the Washington Post's data on fatal police shootings compiled over the last year, warning that some people are taking the Post's recently completed 2015 database as "evidence that the police are gunning down unarmed blacks out of implicit bias."  This assumption, based on data that is significantly lacking in facts and detail, doesn't tell the whole story.

Such misleading data is, no doubt, fueling the rage of the Black Lives Matter protest movement by omitting the many critical specifics behind the data that would surely silence its self-created pandemonium.  The WaPo's data fails to "convey highly-charged policing situations" and misinforms its readers by failing to recognize that many of the cases "are more complicated and morally ambiguous than a simple 'unarmed' classification would lead the reader to believe."

The facts speak for themselves:  All cops are not racists.  Fatal shooting incidents involving unarmed black men are very, very rarely the result of racial bias.  If one comes away from this piece continuing to maintain that belief, while persisting to ignore the routine civilian violence claiming black lives on a daily basis across the U.S., then they are not advocating for truth, but rather, a false narrative.

An Avoidable Tragedy

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"Activists," academics, and others in the "I'm-smarter-than-you-are" crowd tell us that when the cops are routinely denounced as thugs, when a big city mayor says that rioters throwing bricks and bottles at them  must be given "space to destroy," and when that same city's state's attorney holds a political rally news conference at which she lifts murder charges against the police like a head on a pole, there will be no effect on crime.

The "Ferguson Effect" Is Real

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For those of you who would rather watch Heather Mac Donald than read her, Mary Kissel of WSJ has this video interview.
...was the line handed out by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  And I suppose that's true, at least until one looks at the data, which USA Today did in this story, titled, "Providence one of many US police forces feeling Ferguson aftershocks."  It notes:

In the past 16 months, the so-called "Ferguson Effect" has become a staple in the American vernacular. Yet very few agree on what exactly that means and what it may portend for the future relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Actually, we have seen a relationship.  Murder is spiking across the country after more than two decades of sharp decline.  If people want to convince themselves that the incidence of murder has nothing to do with the frequency and aggressiveness of police work, they are free to do so  --  and, for political ends, they will.

In Chicago, now roiled by the police shooting of a black teenager, Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested earlier this year that the national backlash against allegations of police brutality following Ferguson had caused police to disengage, resulting in recent spikes in violent crime. FBI Director James Comey drew the ire of the White House in October when, like Emanuel, he proposed that recent surges in violence may be explained by "a chill wind that has blown through law enforcement.'' Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, meanwhile, recently lamented that local law enforcement had all but been abandoned by the federal government, which has mounted more than 20 investigations of local police operations since 2009, with the most critical examination prompted by the shooting of black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson.

My friend and former colleague Chuck Rosenberg, now head of the DEA, has said the same thing.

The debate about whether there is a Ferguson Effect is just so much politically-engineered hot air.  When important power centers like the White House, DOJ's Civil Rights Division, and Al Sharpton's National Action Network are relentlessly portraying cops as racist bullies, if not Nazis, the police are going to feel the intimidation that's intended for them.  This is not rocket science.

What To Do When Murder Is Spiking?

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The thing to do is reduce the police force to its smallest size in a decade.

This is the upside-down thinking of the nation's capital, Washington, DC.  The Washington Post has the story:

The number of D.C. police officers in the District has fallen below 3,800, its lowest level in a decade, breaking a threshold that top District officials once warned would be dangerously thin in a city that continues to grow.

This a perfect match to the other sort of thinking going on in DC, to wit, that the thing to do when heroin usage and overdose deaths are spiking is to reduce the penalties for heroin dealers.  That, however (plus reducing penalties for other wonderful drugs like meth), is the main thing sentencing reform, and particularly the SRCA, is about.

If there is some definition for this other than insanity, I'd love to hear it.

P.S.  As you will see in the Post story, the increase in the DC murder rate since 2012 has been shocking.  There were 13.9 murder victims per 100,000 population in 2012, compared to 23.7 today.  That is a 70% increase in three years.  As Kent has noted, perhaps the Brennan Center and other pro-criminal groups will be able to tell us why this just isn't all that bad.
Here's a follow-up on my Boxing Day post.  That big city murder increase dismissed as a mere 11% in a single year in the Brennan Center's preliminary figures turns out to be 14.6% in the final figures, according to this press release.  That is nearly one in seven.  And what could cause this?

The preliminary report examined five cities with particularly high murder rates -- Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and St. Louis -- and found these cities also had significantly lower incomes, higher poverty rates, higher unemployment, and falling populations than the national average.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see."  These are also cities where the police are under severe attack.

Spinning the Murder Surge

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Heather MacDonald has this op-ed in the WSJ exposing the Brennan Center's attempts to paper over the rise in murders and the "Ferguson effect."  An 11% rise in homicides in a single year is a horrifying spike, but MacDonald notes how the Brennan Center soft-pedals it, and several media outlets join in a subjective classification of the rise as "slight" etc. without giving their readers the benefit of the actual number.

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 in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven't dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.
The fact that spin from an ideologically driven organization like the Brennan Center has gotten as much credence as it has in the press is a symptom of a major problem in American society.  There is a gross imbalance in the number and funding of nonprofit organizations interested in crime issues.  The Manhattan Institute (where MacDonald works) and CJLF are outnumbered and outspent by the Brennan Center, the Marshall Project, the Urban Institute, the Pew organizations, the Death Penalty Information Center, and on and on.  [Hint:  If an organization is named for one of the two most pro-criminal Supreme Court Justices in American history, it is not a neutral source of information.]  The capacity of these organizations to pump out reports that seem to support the leftist agenda but do not hold up to examination exceeds the capacity of organizations of contrary viewpoints to make and publicize the examinations.

In addition, both the press and academia are populated by people whose spectrum of viewpoints is shifted at least one sigma left of the American median, if not two.  Assertions that fit with the general set of assumptions of the left simply do not get as much scrutiny as those that run contrary to those assumptions.

This combination of factors produces a dangerous situation where spin goes insufficiently challenged.  If such spin leads to wrong policies in matters of life and death, the potential consequences are grave indeed.

Minorities' Trust in Police Nearly Doubles

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I am not necessarily an optimist by nature, but news today from Gallup put a smile on my face.  For the same reason, it will doubtless bring frowns to those who've been insisting that, in order to gain the confidence of minorities, the police must bow their heads in shame and quit arresting crooks.  This is how today's Gallup story leads off:

After dipping to 48% in 2014 amid a national firestorm over police treatment of young black men, the rating Americans give the honesty and ethical standards of police has rebounded to 56%. This is more consistent with the 54% to 58% ratings Gallup found between 2010 and 2013....Four in 10 nonwhites now rate the ethical standards of police as very high or high -- a sharp increase from the 23% who held this view in 2014.

This is particularly encouraging because the anti-police propaganda has, if anything, accelerated in 2015 with, for example, the continuing, aggressive mendacity of the Black Lives Matter movement, as chronicled here.

I might add that trust in police is two and a half times the trust in lawyers, which, at 21%, might hopefully make attorneys more open to re-examining their "client-always-first, truth-always-second" ethos.  With that as their ethical "standard," how much trust do they think they deserve?

Finally, I am grateful that Gallup did not poll trust in law professors.

UPDATE: I wrote this before I saw Kent's post, but I'm leaving it up because it takes a slightly different slant. I also do not entirely agree with Kent's observation about trust in lawyers not being as bad as you might think.   When only one in five people thinks well of the legal profession, what you have is a profession that needs to change the way it does business. 

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