Recently in Public Order Category

Breitbart v. Redstate on Sentencing Reform

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One of the interesting (and in my view, curious) aspects of the battle over sentencing reform is that conservatives are split (e.g., Sen. Grassley on one side and Sen. Sessions on the other).

The split has reflected itself in major conservative websites, with Breitbart opposing reform and Redstate supporting it.

I do not generally read either site (I look at more conventional sources like the WSJ, Commentary and the Weekly Standard, among other publications),  Nonetheless, when Breitbart called to interview me, I was happy to talk to them, as I will do with the great majority of media, liberal or conservative.  Breitbart's article is here, written by Ms. Katie McHugh.  The more libertarian-leaning Redstate responded, with a less than flattering assessment of my remarks as reported by Breitbart.

For conservatives who might be leaning Redstate's way, I want to provide at least the sketch of a reply.

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.

Underincarceration Kills

We are often lectured that our country overincarcerates.  But there's depressing and vivid evidence that the problem is underincarceration.

Specifically, Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King, discussing "DC's summer of blood," notes this (emphasis added):

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier's take on the current crime spree is that murder victims and suspects have in common previous run-ins with the law. Twenty-one of the homicide arrestees, she reported, were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime. Twenty-six of the murder victims were under court supervision. Ten individuals involved in homicides this year had previous homicide charges but were back on the streets. Six homicide victims had prior murder charges, she said. And almost half, or 45 percent, of the homicide arrestees had prior gun-related arrests.

So let's be clear about this.  Up to 31 human beings, most or all of them African American, are dead because their killers, who could have been in prison if we were more serious, were back on the street.

Do black lives matter?

As you might expect, the news doesn't get any better when we turn our attention to the city's juvenile justice system  --  a system whose intentional laxity certainly seems to promote violence.
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.

Community-based Chaos

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James Panero has this article in the City Journal with the above title.  It is subtitled "The de Blasio administration has all the wrong answers on the homeless mentally ill."

For New Yorkers who remember the bad old days, the recent reminders of an era when urban pathologies ruled the streets can be jarring. Back when times were tough, residents of my neighborhood on the Upper West Side passed by abandoned graffiti-covered lots, crunched red-capped crack vials under their feet, and worried about when Larry Hogue, the "Wild Man of 96th Street," would make his next appearance. Now some of this sense of foreboding seems to be coming back.

A Wall That Does WHAT Back?

When I saw this in my paper this morning, I thought at first that it was an Onion story mistakenly picked up as real.
The makings of a riot had come together Saturday night in light of the acquittal of a Cleveland policeman on charges of voluntary manslaughter.  Some violence had already begun, as I noted here.

But this time, there was a difference.  Because protection of citizens is apparently taken more seriously in Cleveland than in Baltimore, the police did not retreat. Instead, they were at the ready.  Paul Mirengoff has the story:

[T]he Cleveland police declined to tolerate lawlessness. Paula Bolyard of PJ Media reports:

Cleveland police were taking no chances in the wake of the acquittal of police officer Michael Brelo, going to great lengths to ensure that Saturday afternoon's peaceful protests didn't evolve into violent riots like Baltimore and Ferguson have experienced in recent months.

In addition to having the National Guard on standby, police followed protesters through the streets and arrested anyone who acted violently or refused to obey police orders to disperse. A total of 71 people were arrested. . . . 

It's a Civil Right to Live Peacefully

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Richard Brawn of Petaluma, California has a Letter to the Editor in today's WSJ, with the above caption, that I will simply copy in its entirety:

Regarding the article "Texas Housing Case Tests Civil-Rights Doctrine" (page one, Jan. 21), the mischief maker in this case is the same one that perpetuates misery in public housing: Congress. I spent 13 years working in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The two issues perpetually facing HUD were how to get the beneficiaries of public housing to accept personal and community responsibility, and how to convince the apologists and facilitators to stop putting their dogma ahead of getting the needy housed. While I was at HUD, a South African low-income-housing management firm presented to the San Francisco office how it had eliminated crime and misery in its buildings: Management strictly enforced rules and used video in the hallways and fingerprint security locks on building front doors, and required participation by the beneficiaries in maintaining the appearance of the building and surroundings. The firm reported that crime was virtually nonexistent and that residents viewed rules and security systems not as an invasion of human dignity but as critical to residents' well-being. In America, Congress has consistently prevented HUD from doing what it takes to get maximum housing for funds allocated and to get the misery makers out of public housing.

Race Relations Tank, Part II

Race is morally irrelevant and in a correctly functioning world would be legally irrelevant.  But that is not the world we live in, and discussing race on a criminal law blog has become, unfortunately from my point of view, inescapable.

President Obama says that race relations have improved.  This is simply false, as I noted in Race Relations Tank.

The reason they've tanked under the President's grievance-pumping Administration isn't hard to figure out. The flashpoint was the Ferguson riot.  To say the least, things have not improved since.  Here's a start on the explanation:

Obama "assured" NPR that the issue of mistrust between police and minority communities isn't new. He claimed, though, that it hasn't been widely discussed until now, and that the current discussion is "probably healthy."

But the problem that has surfaced under Obama isn't "discussion" of police-community relations. The problem is race rioting and violence against the police.

The Ferguson rioting; the chants calling for "dead cops" now; the assassination and attempted assassination of police officers; the reluctance, or even the refusal, of the police to respond promptly to calls for help -- these are phenomena we haven't witnessed since the 1970s.

These phenomena aren't "discussions,"and they certainly aren't "healthy." They are evidence of a deterioration in race relations and signs of a breakdown in society. 

Wars Have Casualties

On August 9 this last summer, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, a 6'4" 292 pound unarmed 18 year-old who had just forcibly robbed a convenience store of some trivial items.

From that day to this, there has been a media and cultural war on the police. They are, we are variously told, racist, thuggish, unaccountable and over-militarized. You will have missed it only if you've been living in a cave.  C&C has covered it extensively.

Wars have casualties.  Today we heard about some in the Washington Examiner.  Its story is headlined, "Police deaths soar 24% in 2014 with ambush attacks leading cause."  It starts:

Law enforcement fatalities in the United States rose 24 percent in 2014 to 126 and ambush-style attacks were the No. 1 cause of felonious officer deaths for the fifth straight year, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The NLEOMF report said 126 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year, compared to 102 in 2013. The number of officers killed by firearms in 2014 -- 50 -- is up 56 percent from the 32 killed last year.

Fifteen officers nationwide were killed in ambush assaults in 2014, and the recent shooting deaths of New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have attracted national attention and contributed to tension between police and the city's elected leaders.

The total of 15 ambush assaults matched 2012 for the highest total since 1995.

The hate war against the police is not directly responsible for most, or perhaps any, of this.  At the same time, those insisting that hate has no consequences are lying to themselves and to us.

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

Academic Robbery

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Eugene Volokh has this post at his eponymous conspiracy on a bizarre incident at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Dr. Mireille Miller-Young -- an associate professor with UCSB's Feminist Studies Department -- was offended by an anti-abortion demonstration with graphic images.  (CJLF takes no position on the underlying controversy, BTW.)

According to the police report,

Miller-Young said that she "just grabbed it [the sign] from this girl's hands." Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, "I'm stronger so I was able to take the poster."

Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a "safe space" described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was "mainly" responsible for the posters destruction because she was the only one with scissors.

The definition of robbery in California, unchanged since 1872, is "the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear." (Penal Code § 211.)

Miller-Young confessed to taking the property, and the "I'm stronger" statement effectively confesses the "force" element. (See 2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law, Crimes Against Property § 99.) This is not only a felony, but a "violent" one. (Penal Code § 667.5(c)(9).)

"Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal."

In my view, one of the greatest problems in our society today is the extent to which our young people are being taught by persons utterly devoid of common sense. Miller-Young should be convicted of robbery. Whatever direct consequences the court may impose, the collateral consequence should be that she is fired and never teaches in this state (or hopefully any other) again.

Eric Holder, at It Again

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Contrary to some other conservative/libertarian bloggers, I believe Eric Holder did not tell the truth about his supposedly not being "involved" in the "potential prosecution" of a Fox News reporter.  My view rested on the fact that Holder had previously told a court, inter alia, that the reporter was probably an aider, abettor or co-conspirator in a federal felony; might be a risk to flee; and (later, and with amazing candor) characterized his application to the court as having "branded" the reporter "a criminal."  That's not a "potential prosecution?"

But our Attorney General is irrepressible.  Although, as Kent noted yesterday, New York City has had tremendous success with its "stop-question-and frisk" policing  -- having reduced major felonies by an astonishing 75% over the last generation  --  Mr. Holder is having none of it.  His DOJ has filed papers in a suit challenging the program  --  not on the side of the city, but on the side of the city's opponents. Readers will not be surprised to hear that one of the main arguments DOJ is making is Old Reliable itself, racial profiling.

That's it!  Michael Bloomberg's police department is a bunch of Klansman.

Give it a rest, Mr. Holder.  The notion that the very liberal mayor of one of the country's most liberal cities is, in 2013, running a racist police department is so much Al Sharptonesque nonsense.

No serious person thinks that Mayor Bloomberg discriminates based on the color of your skin.  Now the color of your 20-ounce soft drink............

Realignment, Federal Version

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It's not just California.  Fox News carries this story, which begins:

Hundreds of illegal immigrants with criminal records were released earlier this year as the Obama administration prepared for budget cuts, according to newly released data that challenged claims the program involved "low-risk" individuals ****Of the 2,226 detainees that were released in February, the department revealed, "622 have been identified as having some type of criminal conviction."

Down the page, the story relates:

Nelson Peacock, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said ICE focused on [releasing]  those that "posed no significant threat to public safety."

What makes me think that no "significant" threat means that those released are thought to be likely to break into someone's house other than Mr. Peacock's? 

I've been blogging about a lot of serious and heart-wrenching stuff.  Time for something on the light side.  This headline should do:

Woman Calls 911, Asks Police for Help Getting
Refund from Her Drug Dealer

This is the story:

After handing over her last $50 to a drug dealer for cocaine and marijuana, a Florida woman suffering from buyer's remorse called 911 and asked cops for help in securing a refund.

Katrina Tisdale, 47, explained to St. Petersburg police that she would be penniless until her next Social Security disability check arrived. Hence the pressing need to recover her $50 from the unnamed narcotics salesman.

Despite Tisdale's explanation for her two calls to 911 Monday evening, officers arrested her for misusing the police emergency system...Tisdale was booked into the Pinellas County jail, where she is being held on $100 bond.

According to jail records, Tisdale has been arrested many times over the past several years, including six arrests for cocaine possession. Tisdale was convicted in mid-2011 of calling 911 to falsely report that she had been robbed by her drug dealer.   

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