Recently in Policing Category

The South Carolina Shooting

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On this blog we often choose not to comment on crime-related news stories when essential facts have yet to be established.  The news media are notorious for adopting a narrative that will propel what may be an unfortunate yet unremarkable local incident into an emotionally-charged national story.  This is particularly true with officer-involved shootings where the officer is white and the suspect is black.  In most such cases the media and a fraternity of recognized race-baiters have been proven totally wrong about what happened.  Sometimes, before the truth is known, there are riots, killings, and occasionally murders in retaliation for injustices later found to have not occurred.  There is no need to delay commenting on the April 4th shooting in North Charleston.
As the direct cost of video recording plummets to the insignificant, there is widespread support for more cameras in law enforcement, from interrogation rooms to dashboards to the cops themselves.  From the standpoint of those who generally support law enforcement, we are confident that in the vast majority of cases where police misconduct is alleged, a recording will refute the allegation.  The most powerful example of where a video could have done a world of good, of course, is the recent Ferguson, Missouri debacle.  We now know that "hands up" was a lie and this was a fully justified use of force, but that would have been known from the beginning and the story would never have been more than a local incident if there had been a video recording.

Where the video does indeed show that the cop is a bad apple, it will be valuable in weeding him out, leaving us with a better police force.

But what about other people inevitably captured on police video?  By the nature of police work, the videos will very often record people in the worst moments of their lives.  Should those videos be public?  Might a video of a college student being arrested while sloppy drunk be used in an attack ad 20 years later when the now-mature upstanding citizen runs for public office?  Could videos be used in extortion schemes similar to those we saw with "revenge porn," except that unlike the revenge porn the person shown had no choice in the making of the video in the first place?
Accusing the police of racially-motivated abuse has become a favorite indoor sport. As the title of this entry suggests, the most prominent recent episode by far was the malicious and fake accusation that white police officer Darren Wilson murdered a peaceful and compliant Michael Brown simply because Brown was a teenage African American.  It turns out that the accusation was concocted, but it got plenty of currency, including from the Attorney General (until his own Justice Department, months later, quietly debunked it).

As ever undeterred by the truth, the Cops-Are-Klansmen industry keeps right on going. The latest episode I've learned about was this case, in which a rich Hollywood actress accused the cops of  --  you'll never guess  --  racially profiling her son.

As it turns out, the son is a small-time druggie and made up the story.  The actress at least had the decency promptly to apologize to the police.  Would that some MSNBC hosts had the same scruples.

SF Deputy City Attorney Christine Van Aken began her argument in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan the traditional way: "Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court."  Evidently it didn't, because she was immediately grilled by the Justices one might expect to lean her way for arguing a position different and narrower than the one they thought they had taken the case to decide.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act have anything to do with the use of force by police to subdue a mentally ill and potentially dangerous person?  It shouldn't.  There is plenty of law governing use of force by police from other sources, and ADA is supposed to be about employment and public accommodations.

Lyle Denniston reports on the argument at SCOTUSblog.  I would not be surprised if the Court drops the case.  Technically, that's Dismissed as Improvidently Granted, or a DIG in SCOTUS practitioner parlance.
Heather MacDonald has this article in the Weekly Standard on the two USDoJ reports on Ferguson, Missouri.  She notes, as has previously been noted elsewhere, that the report on Officer Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown is much more than a "not enough evidence to prosecute" finding.  It is a clear exoneration of Wilson and a repudiation of the fabricated story that led to the protests and the riots.

The mainstream media, however, have now turned their attention exclusively to the second Justice Department report, the one on Ferguson's police department. The Brown report and its implications for the anticop crusade are out of sight and out of mind. The two reports were produced by different sections of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and it shows. The Brown report, written by the Criminal Section, in conjunction with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, displays a striking understanding of police work. It respects longstanding legal presumptions protecting police discretion from unjustified second-guessing. The Ferguson Police Department report came out of the Special Litigation Section, known for its hostility to the police and staffed almost exclusively by graduates of left-wing advocacy groups, as Hans von Spakovsky noted in the National Interest. No wonder that it strains so hard to cobble together a case of systemic intentional discrimination out of data that show only that law enforcement has a disparate impact on blacks.
Why were the two reports released on the same day?  The diminished media interest in the Wilson/Brown report may have been a completely intended consequence.

Police Officers Shot in Ferguson

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Two police officers from other jurisdictions were shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri police station yesterday.  Ben Kesling reports in the WSJ:

Two police officers were shot early Thursday morning outside the Ferguson, Mo., police department, according to a police spokesman.

A 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves was shot in the face and a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference early Thursday.

"The night was fairly uneventful until about midnight," Chief Belmar told reporters, adding that some officers had begun to leave the area. Then at least three shots were fired, hitting the policemen. The officers were taken to a nearby hospital. "They are conscious, however those are very serious gunshot injuries," Chief Belmar said.

"The police officers were standing there and they were shot, just because they're police officers," he said.

Police officers from adjacent cities and jurisdictions were in front of the Ferguson police headquarters at the time of the shooting, which occurred just after midnight, police said.

The uninhibited Investors Business Daily has this editorial with the above title regarding the USDoJ report on the Ferguson, MO PD, not to be confused with the report the same day on the Brown shooting, which we noted here.

I have not had time to review this report in detail myself, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the editorial, but I link it for those readers who are interested, and I have pasted part of it after the break.
The print and electronic media were falling all over themselves to tell the story of the Ferguson, MO shooting last summer:  The narrative, though not put in exactly these words, was simple:  A Klansman-wannabe whose day job was as a policeman shot an unarmed black teenager out of a particularly malignant form of "white privilege."  It was the latter day version of a Jim Crow  --  a quasi-slavery system of white oppression that had never really gone away, although it had (usually) been more cleverly disguised.

The story was made particularly horrible by what became its catchphrase:  "Hands up, don't shoot!"  Brown was portrayed as the compliant, non-threatening and promising black kid (complete in many pictures used at the time in cap-and-gown) gunned down for no reason but racial supremacy by a cop who had been brought up in a culture that told him there was no consequence for taking black lives.

The Ferguson story was leveraged big time to create commissions, both in Missouri and in the White House, to "study" ongoing racist attitudes  --  or, as the more cynical among us might think, to undermine confidence in and respect for law and the means sometimes needed to enforce it.  More broadly, it was used as the newest, biggest Guilt Cudgel in the culture war.

A good deal of time now having passed, and the shaming mission having been well-launched, Eric Holder's DOJ can now afford to tell the truth, as related in today's WSJ story, "US Won't Charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson."

The Underpolicing of Black America

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Jill Leovy has this essay in the WSJ:

In predominantly African-American neighborhoods of U.S. cities, far too many killers have gotten away with far too many crimes for far too long, fueling a disastrous murder epidemic. Solving these murders and other serious crimes of violence in black communities should be a top goal for law enforcement--and it deserves to take priority over much more widely discussed issues such as racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police in black neighborhoods, from Ferguson to Staten Island.
*                                                *                                            *

But instead of checking this wave of urban violence, America threw up its hands. Prison terms per unit of crime in the U.S. hit rock bottom in the 1960s and '70s, making the U.S. one of the world's most lenient countries, as William J. Stuntz of Harvard Law School and others have shown. Reformers focused on the rights of defendants, remaining blind to the ravages of under-enforcement.

In the 1980s, a get-tough backlash hit, ushering in the current era of mass incarceration and long sentences. But unsolved homicides still piled up in black neighborhoods. Even as convicts grew old in prison, detectives remained overwhelmed by exploding street violence.

The "Hands up, don't shoot" narrative that fueled the rioting in Ferguson and elsewhere, and the murders of two policemen in New York City, was fake.  Forensic evidence and reliable eyewitness testimony showed that Michael Brown's hands were not up, and he was not attempting to surrender, when he was shot.

Today, however, we saw on film a true version of "Hands up, don't shoot."  It is shown in a picture of a policeman in Paris, who was shot with a machine gun at pointblank range by an Islamic terrorist.  Eleven others (so far) were murdered in this incident. The story of the attack is carried by the Wall Street Journal.  Even those who are usually complacent and dismissive about terrorism, and who have less than no use for the police, are likely to be shocked by barbarity this grotesque.

The terror attack was on the staff or a weekly satirical magazine that had ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed.  The policeman pictured had apparently already been shot once, and was on the ground with his hands up.  

The Police and the NY Mayor

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Michael Howard Saul reports in the WSJ:

Hundreds of police officers again turned their backs as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke Sunday at a funeral for a slain officer, demonstrating the challenge the mayor faces in healing a rift with the nation's largest police force.
*                                *                              *
The officers' action reflected growing anger with a mayor who said he has counseled his biracial son to be careful during encounters with police, has allied himself with a police critic, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and has backed protesters rallying against grand-jury decisions not to indict officers in the 2014 deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri.

"Police officers feel like they were turned upon by City Hall, and we have a right to express our opinion as well, as they did respectfully," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the city's largest police union.

He said the back-turning was "an organic gesture that started on the streets of New York."
Commissioner Bratton asked but did not order the police officers to refrain this time, and an overwhelming majority ignored the request, as a picture in the article shows.

The War on the Police

To read the NYT, Eric Holder's latest musings, or practically any libertarian blog (Radley Balko's coming first to mind, although most anything in Reason magazine will do), one would think that there is no "war on the police," but only concerned citizens mindful of America's stained, racist past and yearning for less thuggish law enforcement and fairer treatment for minorities, particularly young black men.

Only there is a war on police.  It doesn't look like Obama's "Ferguson meeting" at the White House.  An article in the Alaska Dispatch News shows what it looks like, as pictured on the next page.

Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD

The New York Times's temper tantrum masquerading as an editorial  --  the one attacking police officers' right to dissent  --  is balanced by this more thoughtful view in Commentary.  One may see the officers' turning their backs to Mayor de Blasio as "inappropriate," as Rudy Giuliani and Commissioner William Bratton have said, and still think the First Amendment lives on, even, amazingly, for the police.  Liberals once understood that the right to speak freely is most essential when what gets said is least popular (or "appropriate").  Well, that was then.

I deconstructed the NYT editorial here.  The Commentary article elaborates a similar view, and fleshes out the context of the tension between de Blasio and his police force thusly:

After only a year in office, de Blasio finds himself in a crisis largely of his own making...Having antagonized the police by campaigning against stop and frisk policies, he went a bridge too far when he joined in the chorus of those treating law enforcement as the enemy after Ferguson and then the non-indictment of the officer accused of choking Garner. That rhetoric created the impression that de Blasio agreed with those who have come to view police officers as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of racism or violence against minorities.

The police are not perfect and can, like politicians, make terrible mistakes. But the problem with the post-Ferguson/Garner critique that was relentlessly plugged by racial inciters, the liberal media and prominent political leaders such as Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder is that it cherry picked two extraordinary and very different incidents and wove it seamlessly into a highly misleading narrative about racism that might have been applicable in Selma, Alabama in 1965 but doesn't reflect the reality of America in 2014. 

The entire article, which isn't that long, is worth the read.


Those Self-Pitying Cops

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The New York Times outdoes itself in this editorial.   While trying manfully not to snicker at the assassination of two policemen, it can't quite get there:

Mr. de Blasio isn't going to say it, but somebody has to: With [their] acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department's credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect.

This from the same NYT that's done everything in its power to destroy the department's credibility, sully its reputation and shred any respect a normal person might feel for it.

But wait!  There's more!

[N]one of [the officers'] grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood that seems to be motivating the anti-de Blasio campaign -- the belief that the department is never wrong, that it never needs redirection or reform, only reverence. This is the view peddled by union officials like Patrick Lynch... -- that cops are an ethically impeccable force with their own priorities and codes of behavior, accountable only to themselves, and whose reflexive defiance in the face of valid criticism is somehow normal.

You gotta love it when the grievance-mongering NYT, with no discernible sense of irony, writes about a "snarling sense of victimhood."  Talk about living in a bubble! And here I thought academia was bad.


The Number One News Story of 2014

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My friend John Hinderaker has a fascinating post up showing the most tweeted-about news stories of 2014.  In second place is the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  First place is held by the December decision of the grand jury not to indict the shooter, Officer Darren Wilson.  It's reasonably clear that the grand jury declined to bring charges because it believed Wilson acted in self-defense, an account supported by both forensic and eye-witness testimony.

What's unusual is that a crime story gets ranked first when crime is relatively low, as it is now.  Crime barely got a mention as an issue when pollsters were asking, in the run-up to the midterm elections, what the public was most concerned about. Indeed, crime, violence, drugs, law and the judicial system together barely scratched the surface, as Gallup reports

So why is a crime story Number One in a year that saw a partisan wave in the elections, the outbreak of Ebola, the (still) mysterious and spooky disappearance of a commercial airliner, the horrifying beheading of a captive journalist, Russian military aggression in Europe, and a cyberattack within the United States sponsored by a foreign country?

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