Recently in Policing Category

Confidence in the Police

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Kent's last post showed that the police are vastly more trusted than, among others, lawyers.  

Gallup also did a survey about confidence in the police in other wealthy countries around the world. The results demonstrate that the United States is slightly above the middle.  It's just below Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and just ahead of Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Specifically, 78% answered "yes" when asked, "In the city or area where you live, do you have confidence in the local police force, or not?" 

The survey is here.
Gallup does an annual survey asking, "Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, or very low?"

Police officers took a bit of a hit this year, dropping six points on their "very high or high" rating, but they didn't change rank, still fourth of eleven.  It would tempting to attribute the drop to the highly publicized cases of late, but pharmacists had a drop nearly as large with no obvious cause.

The public seems a bit more cynical overall, with every occupation surveyed but one moving in the negative direction.  The one, believe it or not, is lawyers, with a small (and statistically insignificant) uptick of 1%.  Lawyers are still pretty low, though, seventh of eleven and only 21% "very high or high."  Frankly, given what some members of my profession do, I can't blame the people for that opinion.

Car salespeople and members of Congress bring up the rear.

And the most trusted of the professions ... ?

Advance Directive

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How bad are relations between New York City's top officials and its police officers?  The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is distributing a unique advance directive for its members to sign:

Don't Insult My Sacrifice

I, _____________________, as a New York City police officer, request that Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refrain from attending my funeral services in the event that I am killed in the line of duty. Due to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito's consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve, I  believe that their attendance at the funeral of a fallen New York City police officer is an insult to that officer's memory and sacrifice.

Tara Palmeri had this story Dec. 12 in the New York Post.

A Tale of Two Grand Juries

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Aaron Blake notes at the Fix, WaPo's political blog, that views about the "no bill" in the New York case of Eric Garner are less favorable to the police and less polarized by race than in the Ferguson case. 

USDoJ and Racial Profiling

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Sari Horwitz reports in the WaPo:

The Obama administration on Monday will formally announce long-awaited curbs on racial profiling by federal law enforcement, but the new rules will not cover local police departments, which have come under criticism in recent months over allegations that their officers profile suspects.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has expanded Justice Department rules for racial profiling to prevent FBI agents from considering gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race and ethnicity, when opening cases. The department also will ban racial profiling from national security cases for the first time.

Hmmm.  If A beats up B, the FBI is not going to consider any of those things in deciding whether to charge a federal hate crime or leave it to the local authorities as a routine assault case?  Of course the FBI should not engage in "invidious discrimination," charging a person with a crime or a greater crime because of animus against that person based on some characteristic irrelevant to the situation.  But sometimes these factors are relevant.

Can the TSA consider the fact that a person is an adherent of a fanatical strain of Islam and comes from a hotbed of terrorism when deciding whether to screen him a bit more carefully before letting him on an airplane?  Yes, the TSA is exempt.  So is such consideration legitimate or not?  Sounds like DoJ is straddling the fence, and the fence is made or barbed wire.

Missing Data on Justifiable Homicides

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The quality of any study cannot be any better than the quality of its data.  Modern statistics computer programs can produce a dazzling array of colorful charts and graphs, but if the input data are faulty, it's all pretty nonsense.  As we used to say when I was an IT guy, "garbage in, garbage out."

The main source of data for people studying crime has long been the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the FBI.  These numbers are initially reported by local police agencies.  There are some known problems and some controversies.  Collection and submission of data by the agencies is voluntary.  There are even charges of intentional manipulation in some cities.

Then there are the Supplemental Homicide Reports.  These provide much more detail on homicides, but compliance is even more spotty.  Rob Barry and Coulter Jones report in the WSJ that there are yawning gaps in the data on justifiable homicides by police.  For example, Fairfax County, Virginia, did not report justifiable homicides at all because, well, these are crime reports and justifiable homicides are not crimes.  Of 105 large police agencies contacted by the reporters, justifiable homicides from 35 of them did not appear in the FBI records at all.

What's a researcher to do?  You must know the limitations of your data.  I once started a project using the SHR where a key data point was the circumstance of the homicide.  I had to shelve it because so many cases had that data point missing that the input data were essentially worthless.  Bad research producing very wrong results can be done by people unaware of the limitations of their data.  Of course, if the researcher is actually an advocate seeking to bolster the Politically Correct position on a controversy, then truth doesn't matter.  Damn the limitations, full speed ahead!

The Other Ferguson Tragedy

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Jason Riley has this column in the WSJ:

Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can't be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior--yet such discussion remains taboo. Blacks who bring it up are sell-outs. Whites who mention it are racists. (Mr. Dyson accused Mr. Giuliani of "white supremacy.") But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.

Yet? What's With the Yet?

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Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy have this story in the New York Daily News:

Arrests for minor crimes across the city have skyrocketed over the last three decades, a report conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice shows.

"Crime is down to historic lows," John Jay President Jeremy Travis said about the study. "Felony arrests have dropped in half, yet the rate of misdemeanor arrests has tripled."
Yet?  Would anyone say, "Major house fires have dropped sharply in newly constructed housing, yet building codes now require sprinkler systems."

It's speculated that many of the arrests are a product of the broken windows theory to policing, which was first mentioned in 1982.
That wins the Well, Duh! Award for the day.  Speculated?

Thomas Reppetto, a NYPD historian, said "broken windows" was "designed for a different era," when drug dealers controlled neighborhoods and violent crime was rampant.
It is indeed a different era, and "broken windows" policing is a major part of why.
Kimberly Kindy reports in the WaPo:

A forensic pathologist quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the shooting death of Michael Brown said some of her statements concerning the autopsy were taken out of context.

Judy Melinek was quoted about the volatile case in which Brown -- black, 18 and unarmed -- was fatally shot Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

Last week's Post-Dispatch report, which focused on St. Louis County's official autopsy of Brown and an accompanying toxicology report, relied on unidentified sources with knowledge of the county's investigation of the shooting, leaked autopsy documents, and quotes from Melinek and others. The Post-Dispatch has said it stands by its reporting, including Melinek's comments.

But Melinek said she did not assert that a gunshot wound on Brown's hand definitively showed that he was reaching for Wilson's gun during a struggle while the officer was in a police SUV and Brown was standing at the driver's widow, as the Post-Dispatch reported.

Michael Brown Autopsy Report

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Christine Byers reports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The official autopsy on Michael Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the findings by two experts not involved directly in the case.
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Kimberly Kindy and Sari Horwitz have this article in the WaPo with the above headline:

Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown fought for control of the officer's gun, and Wilson fatally shot the unarmed teenager after he moved toward the officer as they faced off in the street, according to interviews, news accounts and the full report of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown's body.

Because Wilson is white and Brown was black, the case has ignited intense debate over how police interact with African American men. But more than a half-dozen unnamed black witnesses have provided testimony to a St. Louis County grand jury that largely supports Wilson's account of events of Aug. 9, according to several people familiar with the investigation who spoke with The Washington Post.
Mary Kissel at the WSJ interviews "Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow George Kelling on his famous theory of policing and how it's fared in practice."

Despite the title and subhead, Kelling's first point is that "Broken Windows" is about more than policing.

Here's the theory in a nutshell.  If a window is broken in a neighborhood and no one fixes it, it's a sign to all that nobody cares.  People prone to vandalism become more bold, while people who would like to keep the neighborhood up become more likely to take a "why bother?" attitude.  Things spiral downward, ultimately increasing major problems, including crime.

Taking care of problems that some people regard as petty actually does matter a lot.

Dr. Kelling, BTW, is a long time friend and advisor of CJLF, as was his co-author, the late James Q. Wilson

About that Police "Militarization"....

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Those who want to lecture us about the "lessons of Ferguson" without waiting to find out what actually happened there have opened a related front calling for disarming demilitarizing the police.

This YouTube film of the London police in full fight from a mob of radical Muslims gives an eye-opening, if appalling, preview of what things will be like if the attack on the police succeeds.

Dealing with the Police

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The recent police shooting of an unarmed 18 year-old African-American in Ferguson, Mo. has the press thundering about the crypto-fascist, and as-ever racist, outlook policemen supposedly wear as the universal chip on the shoulder.

I don't know all the facts of that case, and neither does anyone else, including those in the press, and in libertarian circles, who are calling for the police to be "demilitarized" (which is their word for "disarmed," although they're not about to admit it).

It could be that the teenager, who was huge, attacked the cop without provocation, in which case the cop's response is almost certainly not a crime or any other kind of misconduct.  It could also be that the cop was not in significant danger, knew it, and shot the teenager out of spite or because he was feeling a heavy badge, in which case this episode is murder, and the cop is deserving of stern and unflinching punishment.  Anyone who at this point claims to know it's one or the other is just blowin' smoke.

The case has raised many of the same shopworn issues about the relationship between the police and black teenage boys that we saw in the Trayvon Martin case (even though the shooter there was a would-be, and not an actual, policeman).

It seems to me that there are easy ways to avoid this sort of thing in the future, none of which involves the appearance of Al Sharpton or the eight millionth lecture from Eric Holder.  They involve entirely normal manners on both sides.

De-policing New York

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Incredible as it seems, the people who want to undo the policing reforms that made New York City a much safer and more livable place than it used to be are gaining ground.  The current poster boy for this movement is Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold while resisting arrest.  Heather MacDonald has this article in the City Journal on the dire consequences of undoing New York's very successful policing efforts.  The article concludes:

The biggest threat facing minority New Yorkers now is not "over-policing," and certainly not brutal policing. The NYPD has one of the lowest rates of officer shootings and killings in the country; it is recognized internationally for its professionalism and training standards. Deaths such as Garner's are an aberration, which the department does everything it can to avoid. The biggest threat facing minority New Yorkers today is de-policing. After years of ungrounded criticism from the press and advocates, after highly publicized litigation and the passage of ill-considered laws--such as the one making officers financially liable for alleged "racial profiling"--NYPD officers have radically scaled back their discretionary activity. Pedestrian stops have dropped 80 percent citywide and almost 100 percent in some areas. The department is grappling with how to induce officers to use their lawful authority again to stop crime before it happens. Eric Garner's death was a heartbreaking tragedy, but if the unjustified backlash against misdemeanor enforcement takes root and finds a sympathetic audience in Mayor Bill De Blasio, the consequences for all New Yorkers will be even more dire.

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