Recently in Policing Category

So Much for the FBI's Independence

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As Kent and I have noted, FBI Director Jim Comey has said that a "chill wind" of acerbic and visceral criticism of the police has very likely been a factor in less aggressive police work, coincident (to say the least) with a spike in murder and other violent crime over the last several months.

The White House, which is indebted up to its ears to Al Sharpton's and similar liberal get-out-the-vote organizations, was having none of it.  Mr. Comey is not toeing the party line. This will not do. Thus, as the New York Times reports, in a little noticed item (emphasis added):

White House officials were irritated as they saw it as an effort to undermine their criminal justice reform efforts. They later said publicly that there was no evidence to back up Mr. Comey's claim about the rise in violence. On Thursday, the president met with Mr. Comey in the Oval Office to discuss his views. The White House declined to describe the conversation.

Just as liberals used to believe in withholding judgment until due process had had its chance (compare, e.g., their presumptive conviction-in-the-press of Officer Darren Wilson for the supposed racist murder of Michael Brown), they also used to believe that the White House should keep hands off the FBI, lest political influence seep into areas where it has no place  --  and, indeed, where the whiff of tyranny is not far behind (compare, e.g., anything written about Richard Nixon).

Yes, well, that was then.

The WSJ has reprinted an excerpt from a speech by FBI Director James Comey on October 23.  The whole speech is on the FBI site and not copyrighted, so I will just copy the whole excerpt here.

Part of being clear-eyed about reality requires all of us to stare--and stare hard--at what is happening in this country this year. And to ask ourselves what's going on.

Because something deeply disturbing is happening all across America.

I have spoken of 2014 in this speech because something has changed in 2015. Far more people are being killed in America's cities this year than in many years. And let's be clear: far more people of color are being killed in America's cities this year.

And it's not the cops doing the killing.

I occasionally read liberal criminal law blogs to see which aspect of Amerika, a/k/a the Great Satan, deconstructionist legal thinking is criticizing at the moment.  A defense-oriented blog called Simple Justice recently had this entry to admonish FBI Director Comey for his "chill wind" remarks I blogged about here.

The point of the entry was that, as Comey of all people should know, the police should expect and receive thorough public scrutiny, since they are bound by the Constitution, law and basic notions of decency.  (Of course, if there is any fair-minded person who disagrees with that, I haven't heard about it).  

The more difficult question arises when scrutiny becomes bansheeism, and criticism of police behavior adopts an impenetrable presumption of malice, as it did, for example, in the Ferguson shooting.  It simply made no difference that, upon actual investigation, it became clear that Officer Darren Wilson defended himself with the same legal force almost anyone would have used in the same circumstances.  He was a cop, he was white, his assailant was black, and that was that.  The loudest reincarnation of the Cops-are-Nazis movement was hatched from a pack of lies.  But that's their story and they're sticking to it.  If you dissent, you're a racist.

I was thus interested in a comment to the Simple Justice entry which states (edited for diction):


[A]dditional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive.  If the cops have become hesitant to do their jobs in the wake of people being mad when they find out cops are being violent thugs, then that suggests, to me at least, that the cops don't think they can do their jobs without being violent thugs.

And if that is the case, maybe higher crime is the price we pay for cops not being violent thugs. Frankly, I'm OK with that.

What to make of this?

Thoroughly Justified Homicides by Police

 Amy Brittain has this story in the Washington Post.  It's bottom line should not be news -- everyone should know this.

To identify trends among fatal shootings by police, The Post studied whether the individuals killed were unarmed or armed with weapons and reviewed the actions they took in the immediate moments before police shot them. The Post has compiled a database of all fatal shootings nationwide by officers in the line of duty in 2015.

[The story describes the case of bank robber Steven Snyder and Trooper Trevor Casper, who shot and killed each other, Snyder firing first.]

But only a small number of the shootings -- roughly 5 percent -- occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were, like Snyder, armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, said The Post's findings confirm what police officers already know.
Why doesn't everyone already know that?

The Common Denominator in Crime Reduction

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Jeremy Gormer and Annie Sweeney have this article in the Chicago Tribune titled "A tale of 3 cities: LA and NYC outpace Chicago in curbing violence," showing the correlation between immersive policing strategies employed in New York City and Los Angeles -- both past and present -- and the reduction in violence the two cities have experienced and maintained despite national crime spikes.  While each city's criminal problems are uniquely their own and different tactics are utilized by their respective police departments to address those problems, one commonality is glaringly obvious among them all:  An involved, hands-on police presence in the community equates to less violence.  John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor David Kennedy confirms this:

Everything we know about procedural justice and legitimacy says that when communities -- including offenders and potential offenders -- respect the police more and trust the police more, violent crimes go down.

Crime and the Economy

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There has been much discussion lately of the direct costs of the criminal justice system.  Many people (too many, in my opinion) of conservative leanings have been sipping the soft-on-crime Kool-Aid because they are appalled by the high costs of locking up the very large number of criminals we have, and they have been too quick to accept the line that they aren't really that bad.

As long as we are talking dollars, we must not forget the economic costs of crime.  Crime causes people to spend time, effort, and money on unproductive self-defense measures that could be spent more productively.  Crime causes people to abandon or sell cheaply real estate that could be much more valuable.  Crime is a drag on the economy, like driving with one foot resting on the brake pedal while the other pushes the accelerator.

Stockton, California is a chronically depressed city.  Its government is just emerging from bankruptcy, and Forbes infamously branded it America's most miserable city a few years back.  Yet this weekend a developer actually got a group of people to come out from San Francisco, interested in possibly relocating to a building he is renovating downtown.  For those unfamiliar with intra-California regional attitudes, let me assure you that to get anyone in San Francisco interested in Stockton is huge.

A few hours later the developer was found dead in a downtown Stockton street, apparently murdered.  Joe Goldeen has this story in the Stockton Record.  What do the potential buyers think now?

America's Legal Order Begins to Fray

Heather MacDonald has this op-ed in the WSJ, subtitled "Amid the escalation of violent crime are signs of a breakdown of basic respect for law enforcement."

After two decades of the most remarkable crime drop in U.S. history, law enforcement has come to this: "I'm deliberately not getting involved in things I would have in the 1990s and 2000s," an emergency-services officer in New York City tells me. "I won't get out of my car for a reasonable-suspicion stop; I will if there's a violent felony committed in my presence."

A virulent antipolice campaign over the past year--initially fueled by a since-discredited narrative about a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo.--has made police officers reluctant to do their jobs. The Black Lives Matter movement proclaims that the police are a lethal threat to blacks and that the criminal-justice system is pervaded by racial bias. The media amplify that message on an almost daily basis. Officers now worry about becoming the latest racist cop of the week, losing their job or being indicted if a good-faith encounter with a suspect goes awry or is merely distorted by an incomplete cellphone video.

With police so discouraged, violent crime has surged in at least 35 American cities this year. The alarming murder increase prompted an emergency meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association last month. Homicides were up 76% in Milwaukee, 60% in St. Louis, and 56% in Baltimore through mid-August, compared with the same period in 2014; murder was up 47% in Minneapolis and 36% in Houston through mid-July.

"No Wonder You People Get Shot"

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No comment needed, or possible.

From the NBC affiliate in Boynton, Florida:

Police say a woman who was driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit pleaded with an officer to let her off with a warning.

When she was handed the ticket, she said: "No wonder you people get shot."

Police say 62-year-old Joy Feinberg, of Boynton Beach, was cited for speeding in a school zone Sept. 1. The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office released video of the traffic stop.

The $606 traffic citation says Feinberg was driving 51 mph in a 20 mph zone. She repeatedly asked for leniency, but the officer said he couldn't overlook speeding near a school.

I noticed this item on SL&P, from which I'm excerpting three paragraphs in the middle:

[C]onservatives have taken a harsh line on Black Lives Matter, a movement that includes calls for overhauling law enforcement and justice policies. Led by Fox News, conservatives have accused the protest movement, without basis, of inciting violence against police officers.  Trump accused Black Lives Matter this week of "looking for trouble" and suggested they were being "catered to" by Democrats.

The rhetoric has spread beyond Trump, which is of particular concern to criminal justice reform advocates. A few high-profile police deaths have prompted candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) to blame the Obama administration for, as Walker put it, "a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has called for the return of stop and frisk, vowed to crack down on marijuana legalization, and blamed "liberal-leaning mayors and cities" and their "lax criminal justice policies" for the stabbing death of a former intern in Washington, D.C.

"There are two things that are troubling," said Inimai Chettiar, director of Justice at the Brennan Center. "One, that people are saying that there is a crime wave now and they're implying that crime is going to be going up as a permanent trajectory -- which is wrong -- and that second people are blaming criminal justice policies and particularly policing policies for this."...

Where to start?

About two weeks ago, I asked whether black lives matter to "Black Lives Matter."  My thesis was that robust incarceration and proactive policing have done more to actually protect black lives than all the BLM protests from here to the dark side of the moon.  It's the movement to cut back on prison and policing, not their use, that is putting black lives at risk.

Jason Riley of the WSJ picks up the theme in his column last night.

The great lie of the summer has been the Black Lives Matter movement.  It was founded on one falsehood--that a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot a black suspect who was trying to surrender--and it is perpetuated by another: that trigger-happy cops are filling our morgues with young black men.

The reality is that Michael Brown is dead because he robbed a convenience store, assaulted a uniformed officer and then made a move for the officer's gun. The reality is that a cop is six times more likely to be killed by someone black than the reverse. The reality is that the Michael Browns are a much bigger threat to black lives than are the police. "Every year, the casualty count of black-on-black crime is twice that of the death toll of 9/11," wrote former New York City police detective Edward Conlon in a Journal essay on Saturday. "I don't understand how a movement called 'Black Lives Matter' can ignore the leading cause of death among young black men in the U.S., which is homicide by their peers."

Former NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly gives his answer in this New York Times story.  It begins:

Former Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said last week that Mayor Bill de Blasio's constraints on the stop-and-frisk strategy of the Bloomberg administration was to blame for the uptick in murders in New York City. Mr. Kelly also attributed the rise in homicides in other cities to a backlash to the killing last year of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

"Murders are up," he said in an interview in conjunction with the release of his memoir. "And if you have a propensity to carry a gun and there's a policy to de-emphasize stop and question and frisk, it's only common sense you'll see more people carrying guns and more crime."

Now all we have to do is wait for the Leftists who populate legal academia to tell us how much more they know about it than the former police commissioner.  Not to worry, though  --  I'll bet a goodly sum we won't have to wait long.

"Pigs in a Blanket, Fry 'em Like Bacon"

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The title of this post is the chant used by the Black Lives Matter contingent at the Minnesota State Fair this last weekend.  "Pigs" of course refers to the police; "fry 'em" is slightly more obscure, although I doubt it means "give them a box of candy."

BLM used this chant hours after the report of the execution-style murder of a white Houston policeman, Darren Goforth, by a black man, Shannon Miles.  Miles' motive is not clear; he and Goforth had not had any prior experience with each other that is known about.

The BLM spokesman, Rashad Turner, explained that the chant is nonviolent because  --  ready now?  --  those are only words

Well, why not?  When prize-winning NYT journalist Linda Greenhouse can proclaim that the country has adopted a death penalty "moratorium" while it is executing a killer an average of every twelve days or so, why would anyone think that words are supposed to mean anything?

But perhaps more troubling than the rigged solipsism is the fact the the BLM movement  --  with all its potential for good  --  seems increasingly rooted in hate.

Hat tip to PowerLine.

BLM, the New Fascism

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It's not like we've never seen shouting down opposing speakers.  We saw plenty of it, circa 1930's Germany.

We saw more today, courtesy of Black Lives Matter.  The person they shouted down was the black, female, liberal Democrat who is the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser (not that it was any better when they did it to two white men, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley).

The Washington Post has the story:

Dozens of protestors shouting "black lives matter" interrupted D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's address late Thursday morning on how to stem the rising number of homicides in the city.

Bowser (D) planned to announce a wide-ranging, $15 million plan to boost both community programs and police presence in response to a 36 percent spike in killings this year. But protesters linked to a nationwide movement that has mobilized over allegations of police misconduct erupted at her first mention of putting more officers on the streets. 

William Sousa has an article in the City Journal with the above title, subtitled, A response to Broken Windows critic Bernard Harcourt.  Sousa is the co-author, with George Kelling, of an NYPD research report on the efficacy of Broken Windows policing.

For the better part of two decades, Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt has been on a personal crusade against Broken Windows policing, criticizing both its theoretical underpinnings and its policy applications. A close look at Harcourt's work, however, reveals not only the weaknesses of his arguments but also his lack of attention to other research findings that conflict with his own. His portrayal of Broken Windows policing, it turns out, is fundamentally inaccurate and incomplete. In effect, Harcourt creates and then fights a paper tiger.

By way of background, Broken Windows is a policing tactic that emphasizes the police management of minor offenses. The authors of the Broken Windows hypothesis--George L. Kelling and the late James Q. Wilson--always maintained that Broken Windows policing should encourage proper discretion on the part of officers. Kelling in particular has discussed the importance of discretion when it comes to maintaining order, as in a recent article in Politico, where he indicates that arrest should be the last option when managing minor offenses.
The misrepresentation of Broken Windows policing as "zero tolerance" policing, encouraging arrests for minor offenses, is an important element of the campaign against it.  When you can't win with the truth, you have to make stuff up.
Along with Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md. has become an epicenter of the Black Lives Matter Movement.  It took root in Maryland in the Freddie Gray case, in which a black drug dealer died in police custody after having been transported  --  under still not clearly known but possibly negligent, or worse, conditions  --  in a police van.  Both black and white police officers have been charged in the death by States Attorney Marilyn Mosby. This was back in April.

Rioting immediately ensued.  The Mayor declared that there needed to be "space to destroy."  Baltimore's rate of violent crime took off.

Six days ago, in mid-August, the Baltimore Sun announced:  "Baltimore records 211th homicide, equalling total for 2014."

It's  not telling tales out of school to observe that the huge majority of Baltimore murder victims are black (it's possible that nearly all of them are, I don't know).  In the wake of the galvanizing of the BLM Movement, and the ensuing fusillade of criticism of the police, there are now dozens more black murder victims in that unhappy city than in decades. 

Is there a lesson here?

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