The Nasty Little Secret of Progressive Statistics

Cristian Farias pointed out the twit to me:

Marshall Project

For the self-proclaimed messiah of criminal law reporting, I would have expected something a tad deeper than “research suggests” repeating the same phony stats that are being used to trivialize the risk of false rape accusations.  But then, when the self-proclaimed messiah of criminal law reporting stands for the finest in progressive values, why not?

This is why not. From Jack Chin at PrawfsBlawg: Continue reading

No Threat At All

The grand jury in Frederick County, Maryland returned no charges against Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris, the cops who killed Robert Saylor for not leaving a movie theatre.  Saylor had Downs Syndrome, but the cops claimed they couldn’t figure that out because they were too busy killing him.

At Cal State Monterey, a CSU Monterey Bay police officer was called to a dorm because a student was suicidal.  He handled it all wrong. The student lived.

A union official said the officer did not feel it was necessary to use a Taser on the unarmed 150-pound victim who was distraught.

“Our officer did not believe he was any threat at all,” said Jeff Solomon, the union’s president.

Instead, the unnamed officer spoke with the student calmly, de-escalated the situation. Continue reading

Focus: The Problem With Diffusion

Was the killing of Tamir Rice not enough?  What about Michael Brown?  Or Eric Garner. Or Akai Gurley. Or . . . wait a moment.  While each of these stories bear common threads of death at the hands of police, each is worthy of its own, individual, independent examination.  They may be similar, but each is different. Each involves one human being, its unique set of facts and circumstances, its specific cry for attention.

Too often, a post here about a specific case gives rise to someone who feels compelled to focus not on the content of the post, but all the others.  There are always others. So many others.

The thing is, Conor Friedersdorf posted a whole slew of videos of cases like this that were equally as bad, and all of which seemed not to result in police officers being indicted. I’m also confused as to exactly why Michael Brown became the cause celebre as opposed to these cases with clearcut video (yet still, as you note, defended by a disturbing percentage of the population). It’s not as though in these cases with the clearcut video justice was done.

It seems like the more ambiguous and disputed the evidence, the more likely it is to be the one that becomes national news. There’s a partial exception for Randall Kerrick shooting the FAMU football player Jonathan Ferrell who was knocking on someone’s door for directions, but even that one seemed to go away quickly. (Granted, in that case he was fired and arraigned for manslaughter quickly, thanks to NC having no collective bargaining for police, but then it totally dropped off the media radar.)

Continue reading

Tamir Rice: Did Rookie Cop Loehmann Have To Kill Him?

After the video of Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann went viral, many argued that the rookie, having been driven so close and left to deal with a gun, Airsoft though it may have been without its orange cap, had no choice but to shoot.  That was his story. That was his father’s story.  And that was how it looked to some former cops who commented here.

One commenter, JCC, turned out to have exceptional credentials to offer his opinion.

[A]s it happens, I’m retired from a large, urban U. S. police department, where I spent slightly less than 32 years. Part of the time (about 3 years), I commanded the homicide detectives and was in charge of all police-related shooting investigations (when someone was injured). Over the years, I have taught hundreds of detectives, at the local, state and Federal level, in multiple states in how to conduct (among other things) homicide investigations.

Shortly after the release of the video, it was learned that Loehmann was not merely a rookie with the Cleveland police, but a reject of the Independence Police Department. Continue reading

When There Are No Men To Blame (Update)

After the “shitstorm” hit, that the Rolling Stone article about the UVA gang rape wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, I checked the twitter feed of one of my favorite feminists, Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Slate’s XX Factor.  I actually felt bad for her, trying so desperately to salvage some tiny thread of dignity when her world view was shattered.

The problem was that she didn’t need to demean herself.  That one article turned out to be so poorly vetted as to raise substantial doubts as to its veracity, or the blind faith that replaced journalistic integrity in reporting it, proves nothing more than that this one instance isn’t what it purported to be.  Any thoughtful person realizes this, just as any thoughtful person realizes that one anecdote doesn’t prove the opposite.

The problem for Marcotte, of course, is that she, along with those who suffer from the same myopia, argue the opposite.  When a rape occurs, whether it’s what the law considers a rape or of the amorphous variety that appeals mostly to Jezebel readers, it doesn’t prove all men are rapists or that our society is built on rape culture (whatever that is) under the auspices of the patriarchy.  Live by the sword, get embarrassed by the sword.

But what salvages her honor, to the extent she believes it to be intact, is that she has the patriarchy to blame.  What if it was just among women?  Who then to blame? Continue reading

Worthy of Execution

Rarely have I said this, but I’m going to now: Yale law professor Stephen Carter’s opening sentence is profound:

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce.

Unsurprisingly, his 1Ls aren’t ready for a statement that deep, that real.

Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

The point isn’t that they will, or do, or even do so often that it’s a pervasive problem.  It seems that way sometimes, but it’s not. Given the number of police interactions daily, the number of people killed by police is a relatively small number. But for the person killed, the family and friends of the person killed, the number one is all that matters. Continue reading

The New Revenge Porn: Racism

Assuming every legislator, from Congress to state, decides to end the blight of revenge porn by criminalizing all expression that its advocates demand.  Problem solved, right?  Ah, have you forgotten the apocryphal story of Timmy and the rat?  Those who truly seek to do harm, when foreclosed from one avenue, will find another.

Via Gawker comes the next new thing.

It’s a well-known fact that unsourced, unverifiable, anonymous Tumblr posts are an agent of social progress and meaningful change. So it’s surprising that some prick used “Racists Getting Fired,” an enormously popular new web attraction, to smear his ex.

The premise of RGF is simple, and a perfectly representative product of 2014 Internet: send screenshots of people saying racist shit on Facebook or Twitter to their employers, get them canned, and thus end American racism, or something. This is foolproof until someone uses the formula to frame someone who didn’t actually say anything racist.

Continue reading

True Confessions: They Shoot Blacks, Don’t They?

Eric Adams has a singularly unique position in the controversy over the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and, well, every person of any color needlessly killed by a cop.  He’s the Brooklyn Borough President. He’s a former New York State Senator.  He’s a former NYPD captain.  He’s the epitome of the establishment guy.

He’s also the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

Adams offers an op-ed in the New York Times today that addresses issues that need addressing, that admits truths that need admitting.  Remember, this is a career cop turned career politician, and there can’t be background less suited to acknowledging the harsh reality on the streets than a guy in positions dedicated to making excuses and rationalizing harm. Yet, here’s Eric Adams:

As a 15-year-old, living in South Jamaica, Queens, I was arrested on a criminal trespass charge after unlawfully entering and remaining in the home of an acquaintance. Officers took me to the 103rd Precinct — the same precinct where an unarmed Sean Bell was later shot and killed by the police — and brought me into a room in the basement. They kicked me in the groin repeatedly. Out of every part of my body, that’s what they targeted. Then I spent the night in Spofford juvenile detention center.

Continue reading

But For Video: The Eric Garner Failure

It has been stressed, over and over, that video is not the panacea that many believe it will be.  Facile slogans, like “seeing is believing,” are contradicted by science, which has made clear in long and boring studies that what people see on videos is viewed through the lens of cultural bias.  The better slogan is believing is seeing, but that defies the simple understanding of people who see the world “clearly” and “obviously.”

The video of P.O. Daniel Pantaleo killing Eric Garner is, as such things go, quite clear.

As an aside, of only peripheral relevance at this point, I do not accept the “myth” of the case, that Garner was being arrested because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, “loosies,” as that claim arose the day after his killing.  At the time, and as the video provides, the police were called to the scene because of a fight, which Eric Garner broke up. Continue reading

Eric Garner’s Homicide Solved

The New York City Medical Examiner’s conclusion was clear:  Eric Garner, age 43, of Staten Island, was a homicide.  It’s the responsibility of the medical examiner to make the judgment call requiring medical expertise as to cause of death.  Garner’s asthma, obesity and high blood pressure contributed to his death, which is nothing extraordinary or unusual. People come in whatever condition they are; even fat asthmatics get to live.

Under New York Penal Law §125.00, homicide is defined as “conduct which causes the death of a person . . . under circumstances constituting murder, manslaughter in the first degree, manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, abortion in the first degree or self-abortion in the first degree.  This is not a matter of debate or discussion, not that people lacking either the knowledge or expertise won’t do so anyway, but a matter of law.

Staten Island, which in official New York City parlance is called Richmond County, is its smallest county and the home of many police officers. It’s an affordable suburban place, despite being considered little more than the place where New York City garbage was dumped. Driving through Staten Island required holding one’s nose for years, as the odor was noxious.  The courthouse is small and undistinguished, but it has its own District Attorney, Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., who has held the office since 2004. Continue reading

The Revolt of the Mags Lives!

Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal of the Northern District of California, also known as the District of Microsoft, Apple and Google, didn’t care for being shunted the reject from the District of Columbia when the Department of Justice got all pissy about being doubted.  “No manifest destiny for you,” Mag. Grewal replied.

But the Revolt of the Magistrates appeared to be harshly put down by Article III tyrants bent on making no assistant United States attorney cry.  It appeared that the glorious moment in time when the rubber stamp was thrown away, when the Constitution breathed fire, when the Magistrate Judges would no longer sign anything the DoJ put in front of them, was over.

NO!  No, it’s not dead yet.  In the thoughtfully captioned IN THE MATTER OF THE SEARCH WARRANT FOR: [REDACTED]@HOTMAIL.COM et al. Mag. Grewal shows that the fight lives on!

A typical federal magistrate judge’s courtroom calendar on criminal duty in 2014 looks much like it did in 1986, when Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Defendants make their initial appearances in the courtroom. Rights are read and detention decisions made. Perhaps an out-of-district case will require an identification and removal hearing. Every week or so, a grand jury foreperson or deputy appears bearing indictments in hand. A handful of agents, family members and others might look on, but no more than that. A 1986 magistrate, as we were simply called back then, would feel right at home. Continue reading

Welcome To The Police Body Cam Discussion

President Barack Obama, in the wake of Ferguson, announced that he’s discovered police body cams.

The Obama administration wants to set aside $263 million to improve law enforcement training and fund the purchase of 50,000 cameras that police officers can wear on their bodies.

The White House proposed the move in a review of local-law-enforcement funding, released on Monday. It arrives one week after a Grand Jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of teenager Michael Brown, a decision that has sparked widespread upheaval across the country.

The announcement suggested myriad initiatives, like the end of providing excessed weapons of mass destruction to local police “just in case,” but as Trevor Timm notes, it was just empty rhetoric to calm the natives, with no actual change intended.  But the body cams, 50,000 of them (maybe), raised the specter of the remarkably successful Rialto, California experiment. Continue reading