Cato’s Jonathan Blanks in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the problems with a Pennsylvania bill that would shield the identities of police officers who shoot civilians. More, Police Transparency; related Virginia proposal.
- Teacher killed in the crosswalk, with the light. NYPD: “The victim behaved recklessly by crossing the street.” [StreetsBlog]
- North Carolina not among the 13 states in which legal standards require prosecutors to turn over evidence of innocence that they learn of after a conviction [Radley Balko, AP]
- Fail to stop daughter’s 20 year old boyfriend from raiding beer in fridge, go to jail [Washington Post on Maryland lawmakers’ enactment of criminal penalties following car-crash injuries for parents who tolerated alcohol consumption]
- “First, only terrorists had to hand over their phones. Now it’s people involved in traffic accidents, too” [@reuvenim on the proposed New York law discussed here] “In a bid to get around the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the textalyzer allegedly would… ” [ArsTechnica] But see Scott Greenfield (law “not a particularly effective one” in helping to fix blame, but “just not that big a deal.”)
- Inmates’ contact with family is revenue source for prison, sky-high phone rates just the start [Scott Greenfield]
- Federal oversight of local departments enables weak, reform-averse local pols: “Washington Can’t Fix Broken Policing” [Tim Lynch, Cato]
To what extent can insurance companies, which seek to minimize payouts for official misconduct, play a constructive role in police reform? “One of the first things I found was this pamphlet from Travelers Insurance about how to do a strip search, and I just thought people in my world have no idea that this stuff is out there and it’s really fascinating,” says University of Chicago assistant law professor John Rappaport, who “says he spent years studying police reform before it dawned on him to ask” what role insurance companies might play. After-the-fact review of use-of-force incidents and training of officers are among existing roles for some insurers. One factor, according to Joanna Schwartz of UCLA: the private companies are relatively free from “the political counterforces that could prevent the city council or mayor from pushing hard on a law enforcement agency to reform.” [NPR] Much more: Radley Balko.
Last year I sharply criticized the idea of adding attacks on police to the list of offenses deemed hate crimes, an idea being floated in Minnesota and elsewhere. Now the idea is going national: “Recently, Representative Ken Buck [R-Colo.] introduced the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016, which would amend the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 to make any attack on a police officer a federal hate crime.” In addition to all the earlier reasons why it’s a terrible idea, this adds problems of federal overreach, including federal criminal law intrusion into categories of offense previously handled at the state level [Alison Somin, Federalist Society blog; Ilya Somin]
If not for government, who would defend our privacy? “Denver police officers performed searches on state and federal criminal justice databases that were not work-related and instead were made to help officers in the romance department and to assist friends, according to an independent department monitor.” Punishment was usually limited to a written reprimand. [ArsTechnica]
- Open-minded: liberal-leaning Marshall Project publishes Heather MacDonald, often found on other side of criminal justice debates, on why police shootings of “unarmed” persons are not as clear-cut a matter as one might think;
- “Report: Dashcam Equipment in Chicago Police Vehicles ‘Intentionally’ Destroyed” [Bryant Jackson-Green, Illinois Policy]
- Sure-footed SWAT response to San Bernardino terror attack proved value of police militarization, right? Not so fast [Anthony Fisher]
- In December Cato held a conference on “Policing America,” catch up with the videos here [Jonathan Blanks]
- “Head of multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task force says forfeiture reform may spell the end of these roving, self-funded teams of drug-fighting cops who aren’t answerable to any local authority. He makes a good argument, but not the argument he thinks he’s making.” [that’s Radley Balko summarizing Tim Helldorfer, Memphis Commercial Appeal]
- U.S. Department of Justice “Wants to Punish Abusive Ferguson Police with Massive Raises” [Scott Shackford, more on civil rights suit]
So that you will respect us more, we now insist on being anonymous: the Virginia Senate has approved legislation exempting the names of police officers from disclosure under the state public records law. Sponsor Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. (R-Chesapeake), noting “that he knew many police officers and their families — said: ‘The culture is not one of respect for law enforcement anymore. It’s really, “How, how can we get these guys? What can we do?” … Police officers are much more in jeopardy.’ … Although other states have made moves to shield the identities of some officers, none would go as far as the proposal in Virginia.” A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police union, defending the bill, said that it “is not about trying to keep information from the public, to have secret police.” The immediate controversy that prompted the bill arose when the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Hampton Roads filed a request for information on police employment, following up on tips that officers fired from one department would find work at another. [Washington Post]
Insta-update: Panel in Virginia House unanimously votes to kill the bill [WAMU, thanks commenter Matthew S.]
“A white Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old college student and accidentally killed a neighbor has filed a lawsuit against the teenager’s estate, arguing the shooting left him traumatized.” The lawsuit by Robert Rialmo is a countersuit against a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Antonio LeGrier, father of Quintonio LeGrier. [AP, Washington Post]
P.S. Ann Althouse on why reporters should not leave the counterclaim angle buried in paragraph 6:
Rialmo didn’t file the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against him. When someone sues you, you’re required to answer, and you are intensely motivated to think through whether you have any counterclaims. … I understand why the estate’s lawyer wants to portray this as outrageous, but it’s not as if the police officer reached out and dragged this family from its private condition of mourning into the brutality of litigation.
A big win for plaintiff’s lawyers: “Rewriting decades of established law in Illinois, the [state’] high court — by a 4-3 margin — repealed the public-duty doctrine that holds local government entities, including fire and police departments, owe their duty to protect to the general public, not individual citizens. The lawsuit opens the way for individuals to sue governmental entities based on some claim of harm caused to them as a result of the public entity’s negligence.” [Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Cook County Record, Municipal Minute; some related issues of government duty-to-protect exposure from the state of Washington]
In a previous round, Steve Lubet challenged Alice Goffman’s much-praised book on urban criminal justice, On the Run, on many grounds. Among them was Goffman’s portrayal of Philadelphia police as routinely arresting men with outstanding warrants who showed up at city hospitals to seek ordinary medical care or visit expectant mothers or other family members. Now, in the wake of coverage in the New York Times Magazine, Lubet is back with two more posts (so far) explaining why he sees no good evidence for the claim. Paul Campos contributes a pair of new posts skeptical toward other aspects of the book. Earlier here and, on the book more generally, here.