Posts Tagged ‘police’

Ferguson: Maybe the other guy had a point

Courageous “I was wrong” column by Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post on having prejudged the Brown-Wilson confrontation in Ferguson, Mo.:

But this month, the Justice Department released two must-read investigations connected to the killing of Brown that filled in blanks, corrected the record and brought sunlight to dark places by revealing ugly practices that institutionalized racism and hardship. They have also forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. …

…it is imperative that we continue marching for and giving voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. But we must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That’s what I’ve done here.

Meanwhile, in recent days, writers at National Review and Red State have taken a look at DoJ’s Ferguson report (our earlier post on it) and say conservatives should be in the forefront of criticizing and calling for reform of the police and municipal-court abuses it exposes. [summarized by Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic; see also Charles Cooke, National Review, on race and conservatives]

Left and right admitting that the other side had a point on some aspects of Ferguson? It seems as unlikely yet welcome as the sun coming out to shine after this past Northeastern winter.

Police and community roundup

  • Noting statistical disparities, DoJ blames evils of Ferguson, Mo. policing on racism, conservatives push back [Dara Lind/Vox, Peter Kirsanow, IBD] Many of same trends in policing and incarceration found in cities where voters, elected officials and police forces are black-majority [Reihan Salam]
  • “Resisting arrest” when there are no other charges against you: an odd crime may soon get odder if New York lawmakers yield to demands that it be made a felony [Scott Greenfield]
  • Interview with former Virginia Attorney General and corrections reformer Mark Earley [Chase Madar, American Conservative]
  • “How to Address Anger Over Shootings By Police? Hide Cops’ Names, Of Course!” [J.D. Tuccille; New York Times (“In many jurisdictions, including New York State, simply determining the names of officers involved in fatal shootings can be a struggle.”), earlier Virginia]
  • Did Detroit really do itself a favor with its massive crackdown on noncompliant businesses? [Scott Beyer, Governing]
  • “Governors Highlight Criminal Justice Reform in State of State Addresses” [ALEC “American Legislator”]
  • Minnesota bill would bar police agencies from investigating own officer-involved shootings [KMSP via Radley Balko]

DoJ won’t charge Darren Wilson, excoriates Ferguson in report

Confirming expectations, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will not file federal civil rights charges against the police officer who shot Michael Brown following an altercation on the streets of Ferguson, Mo. [CBS] Contrary to a visual theme repeated before countless news cameras through weeks of protests, “no, Michael Brown’s hands probably were not up” at the time of the shooting [Wesley Lowery, Washington Post] In the end, “Hands Up — Don’t Shoot” 2014’s iconic protest gesture, was founded in the self-serving, oft-repeated eyewitness account of Brown chum/soon-established-robbery-accomplice Dorrian Johnson. And he was credible why?

At the same time, the report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice makes clear (AP, WaPo) that the Ferguson, Mo. police department was up to its hip in bad practices, ranging from the rights-violative (knowingly baseless arrests and stops, arresting persons for recording police actions) to the cynical (“revenue policing” aimed at squeezing money out of the populace over subjective/petty offenses that include “manner of walking.”)

Whether these bad local police practices are a suitable subject for federal oversight, and where the actually existing U.S. Department of Justice gets off complaining about high-handed and revenue-driven law enforcement given its own sorry track record, are other questions. But any view of Ferguson’s troubles in the back-view mirror should now acknowledge two things: 1) many people rushed to assume Officer Darren Wilson’s guilt who should have known better; 2) even so, there was much to protest in Ferguson law enforcement. (cross-posted, with a new concluding paragraph, at Cato at Liberty).

More links of interest: Don’t miss Conor Friedersdorf’s “parade of horrors” summary of the worst police abuses bared in the DoJ report [The Atlantic]; Alex Tabarrok on the Ferguson “kleptocracy” [Marginal Revolution] and Stephen Carter on “Ferguson and Its Money-Hungry Police” [Bloomberg View]; Scott Greenfield on whether or why to trust in the USDOJ.

Police unions roundup

  • Quite a story: “Las Vegas cop behind controversial killing now influential union leader” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
  • Strife betwen NYPD union and City Hall long predates current NYC mayor [David Firestone, Quartz; Guardian]
  • “Report: Massachusetts police grant ‘professional courtesy’ to other officers caught driving drunk” [Radley Balko; earlier on cops’ refusal to ticket cops]
  • “Cleveland police union defends fired cop, saying others did far worse” [Cleveland Plain Dealer, earlier]
  • After cartoon ire, did union chief tell police departments not to give information to Bucks County, Penn. paper? [Jim Romenesko via Balko]
  • Oldie but goodie: “hit it with a flashlight until we gain compliance” [Officer.com]
  • Miami FOP: chief’s view of the Eric Garner case isn’t ours [Washington Post via Amy Alkon]
  • And for a contrasting view, check out the generally pro-police-organization site of Ron DeLord;

Forensics and evidence roundup

  • Radley Balko begins a four-part series on the flawed science of bite mark analysis [parts one, two with Jim Hood angle]
  • Federal judge Jed Rakoff “quits commission to protest Justice Department forensic science policy” [Washington Post]
  • Disturbing, but, to those familiar with the false-memory literature, not all that surprising: “People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened” [Psychological Science on new research]
  • Exposure of faulty fire forensics leads to another release after long time served [WHP, Harrisburg; James Hugney Sr. “maintained his innocence throughout” nearly 36 years in prison following conviction in burning death of sleeping son]
  • Courts struggle with evidentiary significance of emoji [Julia Greenberg, Wired] Rap music as gang-tie evidence: “The only value it has is to scare the hell out of white juries, and it’s effective” [ABA Journal]
  • Supporters of Brian Peixoto say his Massachusetts conviction typifies problems of shaken baby forensics [Wrongful Conviction News]
  • “Allegations that NYPD cops may have planted evidence, perjured themselves and engaged in cover-ups while investigating gun cases.” [New York Times via Balko; NYDN 2011 flashback]

Police use of force roundup

This is your Fairfax County Police Department on forfeiture

“And for those who had cash seized from them — one player had more than $20,000, the regular player said — the police agreed to return 60 percent of the money, and keep 40 percent. … in Virginia state courts the local police agency may keep 100 percent of what they seize.” In a Fairfax SWAT raid on unlawful private gambling nine years ago, an officer shot and killed Sal Culosi, an optometrist who “had no criminal record and no known weapons.” [Washington Post, earlier (Radley Balko: Culosi incident in 2006 “wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid”)]

Law enforcement for profit roundup

The “equitable sharing” civil forfeiture program (see weekend post) being just one of the more visible corners of a whole scaffolding of bad incentives in law enforcement: