Following a series of episodes including the death of Freddie Gray in a Baltimore police van, sentiment seemed to run high for reconsidering at least some of Maryland’s “Law Enforcement Bill of Rights” law, which erects tenure-like obstacles to firing or disciplining police over suspected misconduct. But critics say by the time a commission’s recommendations made it to legislative consideration, they had been watered down to accomplish relatively little and even give the state’s police unions more power than before [WBAL, Jim Giza/Baltimore Sun]
- Malheur standoff: here come the self-styled “citizens’ grand jury” hobbyists [Oregonian, my two cents on this branch of folk law, earlier]
- Your egg-flipping, coffee-guzzling grandma was right all along about nutrition, federal government now seems gradually to be conceding [Washington Post]
- “Obama’s State of the Union pledge to push for bipartisan redistricting reform was a late add” [L.A. Times, Politico, American Prospect, Todd Eberly on Twitter, some earlier takes here and here]
- More Charlie Hebdo retrospectives after a year [Anthony Fisher, Reason] Another bad year for blasphemers [Sarah McLaughlin, more] The magazine’s false friends [Andrew Stuttaford; hadn’t realized that departing NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, who so curiously compared the magazine’s contents to “hate speech unprotected by the Constitution,” has lately held “the James Madison Visiting Professorship on First Amendment Issues” at the Columbia School of Journalism]
- “The Ten Most Significant Class Action Cases of 2015” [Andrew Trask]
- More from Cato on Obama’s “mishmash” of executive orders on guns [Adam Bates, Tim Lynch, Emily Ekins]
- The “worst and most counter-productive legal complaint that’s been filed in a long, long time” [Barry Rascovar, Maryland Reporter on move by ACLU of Maryland/NAACP Legal Defense Fund to challenge as racially discriminatory the decision to cancel construction of a new Baltimore subway line]
I’ve got a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post. An excerpt:
The Dec. 11 Metro article “Baltimore eviction rate among highest in nation” reported on advocates’ efforts to change eviction procedures to allow Baltimore tenants to stay longer in rental housing even when they fail to pay their rent. One effect, of course, would be to make it even less attractive to offer and maintain rental properties in the hard-hit city.
Before going farther down such a road, it would help to review failures of existing Maryland housing policies….
And then I talk about Maryland lawmakers’ having enacted various legal changes to slow down foreclosures, and the unpleasant aftermath, a story told here. Why would a state want to go through a very similar wasteful, blight-encouraging exercise for rental property? (cross-posted from Free State Notes)
Gothamist on why the Robicelli bakery of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, has decided to move to Baltimore, worn down by hassles with New York labor laws, utilities, rents, alternate side of the street parking enforcement, and more:
The culture of fining small businesses and attaching expensive requirements for permitting and other work can make owners feel as though they’re ATMs for the city, from what some call excessive policing of restaurants by the DOH to the installation of a hand sink that cost the couple $10,000 after acquiring and hiring the necessary permits and persons to get the work done up to city code. “If you see some guy having an ice cream cart in front of his shop? Huge permit! Outdoor seating? Huge permit! If you decide you just want to have a bench in front of your store but somebody decides to pull it out a little bit so it’s a little bit over 18-inches off the front? Fine! Massive fine!” …
“New York now is a city of no. You have this great idea? No, you can’t do it. You want to try this out? No. You go to Baltimore and it’s a city of, ‘Well why the f— not? Let’s try this!’ They really, really love their city and it’s exciting. It’s that energy I felt when I was growing up in New York.
- Police union files grievance to regain job for University of Cincinnati cop charged in Sam DuBose death [WXIX] Also Ohio: “Forget Criminal Charges. Disciplining Officers In Cleveland Is Hard Enough” [Carimah Townes, ThinkProgress] “How Police Unions Contribute to the Police Violence Problem” [Ed Krayewski]
- Profile of Fraternal Order of Police head [Politico via Radley Balko, who comments] When taking on public employee unions, GOP governors often sidestep police, firefighters [New York Times in March]
- FOP president says Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR/LEOBOR) laws don’t “afford police any greater rights than those possessed by other citizens” Reality check please [Scott Greenfield on NY Times “Room for Debate“, Marshall Project “Blue Shield” in-depth look, earlier on these laws]
- El Paso union contract “gives cops two days to get their stories straight after a shooting” [see “Responsive Documents,” p. 55, in public records request via @TimCushing] Frequent-flyer testifier in police shootings: “His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately.” [New York Times]
- Private sector unionism, public, what’s the difference? Now we’re finding out [Greenfield]
- Trying to picture a US politician talking back to organized constabulary the way the UK’s Theresa May did a few weeks back [BBC]
- “‘It seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,’ he said.” [Washington Post (“vacate the streets and see how the community likes it”)] “Baltimore killings soar to a level unseen in 43 years” [Juliet Linderman/AP “Big Story”; WBAL; earlier on NYPD’s “strike while still getting paid” tactics]
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cracks down on “rent-a-D.A.” scheme in which private debt collector acquired right to use prosecutor’s letterhead [Jeff Gelles, Philadelphia Inquirer, earlier here and here]
- What Santa Ana, Calif. cops did “after destroying –- or so they thought –- all the surveillance cameras inside the cannabis shop.” [Orange County Weekly via Radley Balko]
- Maryland reforms mandatory minimums [Scott Shackford/Reason, Sen. Michael Hough/Washington Times]
- Locking up past sex offenders for pre-crime: “Civil Commitment and Civil Liberties” [Cato Unbound with Galen Baughman, David Prescott, Eric Janus, Amanda Pustilnik; Jason Kuznicki, ed.]
- Two strikes and you’re out, Sen. Warren? Or is there some alternative to DPAs/NPAs (deferred prosecution agreements/non-prosecution agreements?) [Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice]
- Covert cellphone tracking: “Baltimore Police Admit Thousands of Stingray Uses” [Adam Bates, Cato, related on Erie County/Buffalo]
- “Citizens face consequences for breaking the law, but those with the power to administer those laws rarely face any.” [Ken White, Popehat] “61% of IRS Employees Who Cheated On Their Taxes Were Allowed To Keep Their Jobs” [Paul Caron, TaxProf]
- “To the public, a car’s status is binary: it is either broken or working, flawed or functional.” But to an engineer… [Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker; our coverage of autos and sudden acceleration]
- Canadian court awards special costs, akin to sanctions, for bad litigant conduct in “Real Housewives of Vancouver” divorce case [CBC]
- As IRS scandals grind on, lawyers defending agency meet with less than favorable reception before D.C. Circuit panel [Scott Johnson, Power Line, our earlier takes here, here, etc.]
- Gov. Larry Hogan signs Tesla bill, okay. But Maryland auto buyers should be demanding more freedom than that [my Free State Notes, related Peter Van Doren, Cato and Nick Zaiac, Maryland Public Policy Institute]
- Why one victim of Washington, D.C.’s peeping-Tom rabbi isn’t suing [Bethany S. Mandel]
- After Illinois Supreme Court rules that state constitution forbids lawmakers ever to cut public pensions for any reason, Moody’s slashes Chicago bond rating to junk status [Daniel Fisher; David Skeel, On Labor]
- Panel on Capitol Hill tomorrow (Fri., 5/22) on lessons of Baltimore with Cato’s Tim Lynch, Matthew Feeney, Michael Tanner, moderated by Peter Russo [register or watch online] Richard Epstein on Baltimore with a critique of both 1) police unions and 2) Ta-Nehisi Coates’s apologia for violence [Hoover “Defining Ideas”]
Caleb Brown interviewed me for the Cato Daily Podcast on the rise of union-backed legislation in more than 15 states throwing up procedural barriers to investigating or firing police officers charged with misconduct. Maryland was the first state to pass such a law, back in the 1970s, and it has now been debating proposals to trim it back, which have intensified in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray story in Baltimore. Earlier on LEOBR/LEOBoR laws here and, generally, here, and be sure to check out Ken White’s annihilating post on the concept at Popehat, with comment discussion.
P.S. Perhaps not unrelated: charged officer “had been accused of theft four previous times” but was still on the Baltimore force [AP after surveillance cameras in federal sting operation allegedly showed officer pocketing thousands of dollars in a hotel room]
What went wrong with police-community relations in Baltimore, and are there any hopes for improvement? I liked David Simon’s interview on this subject so well that I edited it down into a sort of highlights reel in a Cato at Liberty post.
P.S.: Flashback to this December post: “At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times] And I was a guest on the national Leslie Marshall show Monday, guest-hosted by Newsweek opinion editor Nicholas Wapshott, on the topic of Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights.
As surmised earlier, Maryland knife law has emerged as an issue in the Freddie Gray story; Gray’s death in police custody has now resulted in the filing of charges against six police officers, the most serious charge, “depraved heart murder,” being leveled against the driver of the police van from which Gray, unbelted, emerged with fatal injuries. [Washington Post] More links on “rough rides” here, here, and here. “The Baltimore police union defended the officers involved…. ‘none….are responsible'” [Baltimore Sun, The Hill, Ed Krayewski/Reason] Some obstacles for the prosecution [Associated Press]
Update, Colin Campbell, Baltimore Sun:
The separate investigations by police and prosecutors have some conflicting findings.
While Mosby said Friday that the officers had made an illegal arrest because a knife Gray was carrying was not a “switchblade,” a violation of state law, the police task force studied the knife and determined it was “spring-assisted,” which does violate a Baltimore code.
More from Twitchy link roundup (investigators have not yet released picture of knife or other information that could help identify model and resolve dispute), Andrew Branca (Baltimore code bans “spring-assisted” weapons not banned under Maryland law; also, reasonable mistake of law on illegality of weapon might still support probable cause finding).