Police Issues
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Despite redevelopment, South Bend's poverty and crime remain locked in an embrace
(#340, 9/13/19)

     In 2013, one year into his first term, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (yes, the Presidential candidate) released a plan to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods by tearing down or refurbishing 1,000 vacant and abandoned homes in 1,000 days. In the end, about sixty percent of these bedraggled properties fell to the wrecking ball. To be sure, many residents were pleased to have these drug dens and hangouts for ruffians and the homeless gone. A colorful brochure promised that “reuse strategies” would quickly transform these now-empty spaces into parks and community gardens.

     Years later, vacant lots still abound. Still, Mayor Pete recently launched a program to help residents fund home remodels, and the city probably does look a bit prettier.

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A Workplace Without Pity Doing right by the public might mean doing wrong to the cop (#339, 8/27/19)

Going Ballistic Stop with the tangential! Gun lethality is, first and foremost, about the projectile (#338, 8/12/19)

Repeat After Us: "City" is Meaningless When it comes to crime, it's neighborhoods that count (#337, 8/2/19)

Two Sides of the Same Coin Street gangs and officer cliques have a lot in common (#336, 7/20/19)

Can You Enforce Without Force? Decriminalizing illegal immigration would have serious consequences (#335, 7/1/19)

A Distinction Without a Difference An epidemic of officer suicide raises the question: do guns cause violence? (#334, 6/22/19)

Informed and Lethal Accurate information can provoke lethal errors (#333, 5/5/19)

Mission Impossible? Inner-city violence calls for a lot more than cops. Is America up to the task? (#332, 4/13/19)

Driven to Fail Numbers-driven policing can’t help but offend. What are the options? (#331, 3/27/19)

No Such Thing as "Friendly" Fire As good guys and bad ramp up their arsenals, the margin of error disappears (#330, 3/4/19)

A Not-So-Magnificent Obsession Lapses in policing lead to chronic rulemaking. Does it hit the mark? (#329, 2/15/19)

A Victim of Circumstance Building cases with circumstantial evidence calls for exquisite care (#328, 1/26/19)

When Walls Collide Ideological quarrels drown out straight talk about border security (#327, 1/14/19)

Cops Aren't Free Agents To improve police practices, look to the workplace (#326, 1/3/19)

Red Flag at Half-Mast II Preventing more than suicide may carry serious risks (#325, 12/5/18)

Red Flag at Half Mast California’s Guv nixes expanded authority to seize guns from their owners (#324, 11/21/18)

Preventing Mass Murder With gun control a no-go, early intervention is key. Might artificial intelligence help? (#323, 11/4/18)

Notching a "Win" A self-professed “sleeper agent” is (legally) flimflammed by the FBI
(#322, 10/21/18)

Is it Ever OK to Shoot Someone in the Back? Laws, policies and politics clash with the messiness of policing (#321, 10/8/18)

Speed Kills Acting swiftly can save lives. And take them, too. (#320, 9/23/18)

The Bail Conundrum Bail obviously disadvantages the poor. What are the alternatives? (#319, 9/4/18)

Make-Believe Surprise! A well-known terrorist winds up in the U.S. as a refugee (#318, 8/18/18)

Police Slowdowns (Part II) Cops can’t fix what ails America’s inner cities - and shouldn’t try (#317, 8/4/18)

Police Slowdowns (Part I) Bedeviled by scolding, cops hold back. What happens then? (#316, 7/22/18)

Should Every Town Field Its Own Cops? Recent tragedies bring into question the wisdom of small agencies (#315, 7/6/18)

No One Wants Ex-cons to Have Guns The New York Times affirms its liberal creds. And falls into a rabbit hole. (#314, 6/24/18)

Fewer Can Be Better Murder clearances have declined. Should we worry? (#313, 6/9/18)

The Blame Game Inmates are “realigned” from state to county supervision. Then a cop gets killed. (#312, 5/21/18)

Is Your Uncle a Serial Killer? Police scour DNA databanks for the kin of unidentified suspects (#311, 5/6/18)

There's no "Pretending" a Gun Sometimes split-second decisions are right, even when they're wrong (#310, 4/18/18)

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9/14/19 In July a New York City judge accused officers who found a gun in a car of lying when they justified their search by saying they had smelled pot. She also said the problem is widespread. Some officers agree. According to the Times, the practice increased after NYPD, under public pressure, cut back on stop-and-frisks. Related posts 1 2 3

9/13/19 A 60-year old Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney shot and killed his wife and teenage son at their home. He then shot himself dead. A daughter was also present but managed to flee. According to police “the recent loss of a loved one and ongoing health issues played a significant role.” Related posts 1 2

9/10/19 Seth Athor (see 9/6 post, below) was turned away by a gun store in 2014 because of a prior mental commitment. So he got the gun from a private seller. Related posts 1 2

9/7/19 A newly-released study reports an increase in suicide rates in the U.S. between 1999-2016. Among its key findings is that “the presence of more gun shops was associated with an increase in county-level suicide rates in all county types except the most rural.” (It’s believed that household firearms ownership in the latter has already maxed out.) Related post

9/6/19 Check out Jay's op-ed about assault weapons bans in today's Washington Post. Related post

9/6/19 Seth Ator, 36, who shot and killed seven and wounded twenty-two, including three officers, as he rampaged through Texas’ Odessa-Midland region on August 31, used an AR-15 type rifle that he reportedly bought from a Lubbock resident. Federal agents suspect that the seller may be dealing in guns without a license and searched his home. Related post

9/3/19 A 14-year old Alabama boy admitted he shot and killed his father, stepmother and three siblings, ages six months, five years and six years, while everyone was home. He used a 9mm. pistol that, according to police, had been “illegally” present at the residence. Related posts 1 2

9/1/19 A male in his 30s armed with a rifle hijacked a mail truck and went on a shooting rampage in the West Texas cities of Odessa and Midland. He killed seven and wounded nineteen, including three officers, before police shot him dead. Related posts 1 2 3 4

8/31/19: In Mobile, Alabama, a 17-year old opened fire after a fight broke out at a high school football game. Ten teens ages 15-18 were wounded, five critically. Deangelo Parnell, the alleged shooter, was arrested on multiple counts of attempted murder. Related post

8/30/19: Eleven St. Louis children have been murdered since April, including three last weekend. A 54- year old man - so far, he’s the only person arrested in any of the killings - shot a fifteen year old boy dead. An eight-year old girl was also killed by gunfire, and a ten-year old girl and her parents were found dead in their apartment with puncture wounds. Related posts 1 2

8/29/19 Two years after California legalized pot, illegal marijuana farms run by Mexican cartels besiege the state’s forests, causing major ecological damage and threatening wildlife with dangerous pesticides. Meanwhile a profusion of illegal pot shops in L.A.’s low income areas is blamed for worsening violence and decay (a deadly shooting took place in one this day). Advocates claim the fix lies in more legal shops, but “most cities” refuse to license them altogether. Related post

8/24/19 Guns recovered by police in California often come from Nevada, whose gun laws are far looser. California legislators are planning to ask their Nevada counterparts to prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity magazines such as used by Santino Legan, the 19-year old Nevada man who legally bought an AK-47 type weapon at a Nevada gun store on July 9, then used it to kill three and wound a dozen at the Gilroy (CA) Garlic Festival on July 28. Related posts 1 2 3

8/22/19 Long Beach (CA) police credit a coworker for informing them that his colleague planned to shoot up their workplace to retaliate over a recent job-related issue. Officers arrested the man and seized a small arsenal, including a state-banned assault rifle and high-capacity magazines. Related post

8/22/19 Camden police announced a comprehensive use-of-force policy that, among other things, requires officers to de-escalate, prohibits use of deadly force except as a last resort, and mandates reporting of any violations. Related posts 1 2

8/20/19 NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill fired officer Daniel Pantaleo after a department judge ruled that the veteran cop’s use of a forbidden chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death. Noting that Garner resisted arrest, Commissioner O’Neill conceded “he might have made similar mistakes” had he been in officer Pantaleo’s place but faulted him for not relaxing his grip. Related post

8/20/19 Most inner-city job-training programs haven’t proven out. But “Project Quest” may be different. According to a nine-year comparative study, its graduates had “the largest sustained earnings impacts we’ve ever seen in a work-force development program.” One of its advantages may be a “wraparound” component that has participants meet weekly to discuss their progress. Related post

8/20/19 None of twenty-one California residents whose guns were seized with Red Flag orders was found to have later committed gun violence. While not crediting Red Flag for the outcome, UC Davis researchers thought the results promising. California’s new Governor, Gavin Newsom, said he’s open to expanding the law; for example, by allowing teachers and employers to apply for an order. Related post

8/16/19 An older person living in rural California texted his sister that he was about to commit suicide and asked that police come claim his body. Frightened, she called the local sheriff. But the agency refused to respond because it could wind up a “suicide by cop.” That approach, to avoid aggravating non-criminal situations, has been gaining traction. And yes, the man killed himself. Related posts 1 2

8/15/19 A Philadelphia man who had done Federal prison time for being a felon with firearms fired repeated barrages at police serving a narcotics search warrant. Six officers sustained minor wounds. The suspect eventually surrendered. An AR-15 rifle and a handgun were recovered. Related posts 1 2 3 4

8/15/19 Authorities say that the gun used to kill CHP officer Moye (see 8/13/19 update) was a “ghost gun,” meaning untraceable. It was apparently built by completing a partially-machined lower receiver that can be legally bought without a serial number, then assembling it into a weapon using legally-available parts. Related posts 1 2

8/15/19 One day after its unfathomable eighth suicide this year, a 25-year veteran NYPD officer brought the toll to nine. Reportedly, it’s the worst in a decade. Related post

8/14/19 With the suicide by gun of a seven-year veteran, NYPD’s 2019 officer suicide toll now stands at eight. The officer’s best friend on the force was one of four who committed suicide in June. Related post

8/13/19 On August 12 veteran California Highway Patrol officer Andre Moye, 34, was shot and killed and two colleagues were injured when a convicted felon whom officer Moye pulled over for a traffic violation opened fire with an “AR-15 style” rifle. Their assailant was reportedly a gang member who had served prison time for an armed assault. Related posts 1 2 3 4

8/12/19 Dayton gunman Connor Betts assembled his gun from legally-bought parts. Its upper receiver came from a friend, Ethan Kollie, who legally acquired it online. Kollie also bought the drum magazine and ballistic vest used by Betts. Related post

8/12/19 Police say that, as manufactured, the .223 caliber weapon used in the Dayton massacre lacked a stock and was classified as a handgun. Connor Betts, the gunman, added a “shoulder brace” to help steady the weapon, transforming it into an illegal short-barreled rifle. He had purchased the weapon and brace separately, and legally. Related post

8/9/19 Weeks before the El Paso massacre, the gunman’s mother worried that he wasn’t “mature or experienced enough” for the assault-type rifle he had ordered. She called police but apparently didn’t convey that her son posed a lethal threat. He moved out and legally got his rifle. Related posts 1 2

8/8/19 Seven dead and fifty-two wounded, including seventeen shot in a two-hour period. That was the toll last weekend in Chicago’s infamous West Side, a gang-ridden area “devastated by drugs and violence.” Those words, incidentally, were the Mayor’s. Related posts 1 2

8/4/19 Known for its raw, unmoderated content, online board “8chan” has become a favored place for extremists to post violent rants. Among those who recently used it to announce their intentions were San-Diego area (Poway) synagogue shooter John Earnest, New Zealand mosque gunman Mark Domingo, and only yesterday, Patrick Crusius in El Paso. Related post

8/4/19 Early this morning an unidentified man wearing body armor and carrying a .223 rifle and multiple magazines opened fire in a Dayton (OH) nightclub area, killing nine and wounding more than two dozen. Police shot him dead. This was reportedly America’s 22nd. mass shooting this year (at least four dead excluding the gunman.) Related posts 1 2 3

8/3/19 Forty-six persons were shot in an El Paso (TX) shopping center by a twenty-one year old man wielding an assault-type rifle. Twenty have died. Police arrested the shooter, Patrick Crusius. He was dressed in a black t-shirt and was wearing earmuffs and dark glasses. Crusius’ online posts depicted him with a rifle, praised the New Zealand massacre and criticized America’s “invasion” by Latinos. Related posts 1 2 3

8/3/19 A rookie Texas cop responding to a person in distress call was confronted by a large dog. He drew his gun and repeatedly fired, wounding the dog and accidentally killing the subject of the call, a 30-year old homeless woman who had been passed out on the grass. Related post

8/2/19 The judge who presided over officer Pantaleo’s departmental hearing recommended he be fired. It’s now up to Commissioner James P. O’Neill to decide. Eric Garner’s survivors and Mayor de Blasio insist that only firing will do. But the police union feels that the officer was “scapegoated.” Related post

7/30/19 Santino Legan, the 19-year old Nevada man who used a California-banned rifle to kill three and wound a dozen at the Gilroy (CA) Garlic Festival on July 28, legally bought his AK-47 type weapon at a Fallon, Nevada gun store on July 9. Police shot him dead. In a recent Instagram post Legan praised a novel that glorifies white supremacism. Related posts 1 2

7/28/19 On July 27 an as-yet unnamed sergeant became the fifth NYPD officer to commit suicide this year. All four prior suicides occurred in June, leading the agency to declare “a mental health crisis.” Related post

7/27/19 Title 8, section 1325 (a)(1) makes it a Federal crime for an alien to “enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.” The next section, 1325 (a)(2), prohibits “elud[ing] examination or inspection.” According to the Ninth Circuit, many (a)(2) convictions in San Diego (the L.A. Times says “thousands”) are invalid because there was no “eluding,” so they should have been prosecuted under (a)(1). Justice Bybee concurred but noted that the Circuit’s prior decisions can make proving (a)(1) too complicated. Related post

7/26/19 Ruling that objectors (including the Sierra Cluib) lacked legal standing, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s decision to spend $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds on a border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona, where he said it’s needed to fight drug running. Related post

7/24/19 Worried that a “bunker mentality” threatens to bring back the long-troubled agency’s bad old days, L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman bemoaned Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s orders to deny him access to internal documents. With support from some members Huntsman has petitioned the Board of Supervisors to grant him subpoena power. A 2020 ballot measure also proposes to give that right to the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. Related post

7/23/19 A national study that compared levels of household firearms ownership with gun homicide reveals a significant relationship between more ownership and more domestic homicides but none between ownership level and non-domestic homicides. The recently released 2016 BJS survey of prison inmates reports that ninety percent of those who used a gun in their crime did not buy it at retail. Forty-three percent got it from a street source; six percent stole it. Related posts 1 2 3

7/22/19 On May 28 Rhett Nelson, a 28-yr. old Utah man with drug and mental issues left home saying that “he wanted to make it on his own or die.” Police were informed, but although Nelson had a gun, officers didn’t think him suicidal or a threat and closed the case. On July 22 Nelson, under arrest in Los Angeles, was charged with two murders, a murder attempt and two robberies. Related post

7/22/19 California authorities complain they’re besieged by unlicensed pot shops. That’s true despite vast increases in enforcement. Raids “tripled” during the past year, and $30 million worth of product was seized. But the Calif. Cannabis Industry Assoc. calls the efforts “severely inadequate.” Related post

7/20/19 Chicago police fired a Sergeant and three officers for lying about their observations during the encounter with Laquan McDonald. According to investigators, the officers “exaggerated the threat” posed by McDonald, who was armed with a knife but, according to video, was walking away when he was shot dead by officer Jason Van Dyke. Related post

7/17/19 Federal authorities indicted twenty-two Los Angeles-area members of the MS-13 gang, an ultra-violent group that originated in El Salvador. Among other things, the defendants  allegedly hacked to death seven “transgressors,” dismembering them with knives and machetes. Nineteen of the accused allegedly entered the U.S. illegally during the past four years. Related post

7/16/19 The Justice Department announced it will not charge officer Daniel Pantaleo with violating Eric Garner’s civil rights as it could not prove he acted “willfully,” meaning that he had intended to cause harm. Administrative action within NYPD is still pending. Related post

7/14/19 New Zealand began buying back semi-automatic weapons it banned in April, one month after the massacres at two mosques by Brendon Tarrant. Semi-auto rifles are now legal only in .22 caliber and with magazine capacities of less than ten rounds. Semi-auto shotguns have been restricted to five rounds. Related post

7/13/19 On July 5th. a distraught 17-year old girl was shot and killed after pointing a replica gun at a Fullerton (CA) police officer whose vehicle she apparently purposely struck. Her family said she borrowed a car without permission and apparently intended to harm herself. Related post

7/13/19 In connection with her Presidential campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren released a proposal that would, among other things, decriminalize illegal entry, making it a civil violation. Of the candidates, only Joe Biden has come out in favor of retaining illegal entry as a criminal offense. Related post

7/11/19 FBI agents are probing tattooed cliques of L.A. Sheriff's deputies, including the East L.A. station’s “Banditoes,” the Century station’s “Spartans” and “Regulators,” and the South L.A. station's “Reapers.” These gang-like factions allegedly encourage deputies to violate citizen rights and harass officers who don’t comply. Related posts 1 2

7/10/19 In 2008 Jeffrey Epstein, a hugely wealthy and politically influential financial whiz pled guilty in Florida state court to trafficking young girls to New York for his sexual gratification. Epstein’s money and connections allegedly led to an exceedingly lenient sentence and helped him avoid Federal prosecution. But a new Federal indictment in New York aims to change all that. Related post

7/9/19 Thanks to America’s switch to fentanyl, many Mexican farm families who cultivated opium poppies “ so that your kids could go to school, so you could buy clothes, so that you could get something extra” face potential ruin. For some, the fix is to illegally emigrate to America. Related post


Crime happens. To find out why, look to where.

     A few weeks ago we blogged about Chicago’s ongoing struggle with violent crime. And it’s not just the Windy City that’s been having a lousy year. Dat a gathered from sixty-three police departments and sheriff’s offices by the Major Chiefs Association reveals that half (31) experienced more homicides in the first quarter of 2016 than during the equivalent period in 2015.     Some of the increases were substantial. Murders in Las Vegas went from 22 to 40, an 82 percent gain. Other winners (or, more properly, losers) include Dallas (26 to 45, +73 percent), Jacksonville (18 to 30, +67 percent), Newark (15 to 24, +60 percent), Memphis (31 to 48, +55 percent), Nashville (13 to 20, +54 percent), San Antonio (23 to 34, +48 percent), and Los Angeles (55 to 73, +33 percent).

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There’s no “regulating” the threat posed by highly lethal firearms

     “We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating.” Broward County high school teacher Melissa Falkowski’s despairing words aptly convey the consequences of allowing highly lethal firearms to proliferate in civilian hands. With seventeen presently confirmed dead, the toll of the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, exceed s that of the Columbine high school shooting, where twelve died, but is considerably fewer than the twenty-seven who fell at Sandy Hook Elementary. And if we include non-school shootings, far less than the fifty-eight recently murdered in Las Vegas.

     Skim through the “Gun Control” section of this blog. Check out some of the posts linked below. It’s not that America didn’t anticipate what would most certainly happen again, nor, however futilely, try to get ready. Falkowski said that her school trained for such an event. “Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and still to have so many casualties, at least for me, it’s very emotional. Because I feel today like our government, our country has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.” When she and her students realized that this was no drill and that an “active shooter” was really about, simply following protocol (i.e., locking the classroom door and being quiet) clearly didn’t suffice. Improvising the best they could, the teacher and her nineteen frightened students huddled in a closet and nervously awaited SWAT.

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Numbers-driven policing can't help but offend. What are the options?

      It’s been a decade since DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance kicked off the “Smart Policing Initiative.” Designed to help police departments devise and implement “innovative and evidence-based solutions” to crime and violence, the collaborative effort, since redubbed “Strategies for Policing Innovation” (SPI) boasts seventy-two projects in fifty-seven jurisdictions.

     Eleven of these efforts have been assessed. Seven employed variants of “hot spots,” “focused deterrence” and “problem-oriented policing” strategies, which fight crime and violence by using crime and offender data to target places and individuals. The results seem uniformly positive:

  • Boston (2009) used specialized teams to address thirteen “chronic” crime locations. Their efforts reportedly reduced violent crime more than seventeen percent.
  • Glendale, AZ (2011) targeted prolific offenders and “micro” hot spots. Its approach reduced calls for service up to twenty-seven percent.
  • Kansas City (2012) applied a wide range of interventions against certain violence-prone groups (read: gangs). It reported a forty-percent drop in murder and a nineteen percent reduction in shootings.
  • New Haven, CT (2011) deployed foot patrols to crime-impacted areas. Affected neighborhoods reported a reduction in violent crime of forty-one percent.
  • Philadelphia (2009) also used foot patrols. In addition, it assigned intelligence officers to stay in touch with known offenders. Among the benefits: a thirty-one percent reduction in “violent street felonies.”
  • Savannah (2009) focused on violent offenders and hot spots with a mix of probation, parole and police. Their efforts yielded a sixteen percent reduction in violent crime.
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