Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do We Want Police to Stop Thinking

 I found both these comments very interesting, especially Ilya's.  Thoughts?
MinnPost US Too Many in Jail
"Police officers are taught to evaluate the risk (to them and community) and act accordingly. So they do use their prior knowledge, experience, and statistics to make a decision (which they often have to make quickly). Imagine yourself walking down the street and seeing a Golden Retriever running at you. Unless you are afraid of all dogs, most likely you will not feel fear. Now imagine a Rottweiler running at you… So basically you will be judging the situation based on your general knowledge and statistics of dog bites which is a very reasonable thing to do. The same with police officers – and the danger is higher. Obviously, all three things police officers are considering before making a decision involve noticing the race of people around them but that is not the same as racism. In other words, race is taken into account but most likely that is not due to racism (even though there are racists around in general and in police force in particular but not as many as some want to claim).

For example, George Zimmerman did take Trayvon Martin’s race into account when he made a decision to confront him even though his supporters may say that he did not. But it wasn’t racism that influenced him, as Martin’s supporters assert, but the knowledge that young black men had burglarized the neighborhood. Zimmerman acted rationally on the basis of very specific information he had because his goal was to prevent possible burglary in his area. If he were to confront a black teenager in this manner in, let’s say, Disneyland, it would have been much less reasonable and the possibility that he were acting this way because he was a racist would have been much higher.

Here is another example. Imagine police are called for a burglary in progress in a store. When a police officer arrives, she sees a person running out of the store; clearly she will try to stop that person because the behavior looks suspicions. Now imagine she sees two people running out of the store – a man in a suit and a man in dirty ragged clothing. If an officer may stop only one person, she will have to make an immediate decision and most likely she will go after a disheveled man based on experience even though in this case it may be wrong. Imagine now that there is a man and a woman running out of the store. Again, if she can stop only one, she will stop a man and not because she is sexist but because it is more likely that a burglar is a man. Same with the case if there is a black and white man running out of the store dressed about the same; again, it is more reasonable to go after a black man based on statistics, not bias. A police officer may be wrong in her judgments in all of the above cases but she is doing what is the most logical thing in each case which has nothing to do with racism or sexism or any other bias.

The fact that there are more black people in jails affects people’s perception in general and police officers’ perception in particular but not because they are racists. So while there may be some truth to saying that it may be more difficult to be a young black male, that is not because of racism (and obviously, I would tell my white son not to grab police officer’s gun and cooperate with them all the time, just the same as a black father should tell his son). But the only way out of this situation lies within black community, not white community. If blacks commit less crime (and now they do commit more crimes regardless of effect of perceptions) then perceptions will go away.

Sure, I can see people saying that this perception I am talking about is racism. But it is not –because racism is subconscious and this behavior is rational, just like fearing Rottweiler more than Golden Retriever.

Mr. Rovick, the question should be how many violent and repeated criminals on the street can a society support? I am sure my system will result in fewer people in prisons, less crime, and not so overworked court system." Ilya
  And Jon had an equally interesting comment.
"The dilemma is that street crime and crimes against other poor people occur where poor people live which tend to be disproportionately African-American. Poor people also are involved disproportionately in crime for survival, e.g. drug trade. Also, law enforcement has attempted to lower crime rates by so-called "broken window" policies that also has a tendency to target poor people for petty offenses, like jaywalking, turnstile jumping and shoplifting or possession. (It would be interesting to see some comparative statistics on level of arrest and prosecution for possession of firearms (conceal and carry) by race and class.).

The other side of "broken windows" policies is that poor people tend to be victims of more serious crimes which "broken window" law enforcement policies often ignore. I've read that many residents of poor communities feel unprotected by the police who are unresponsive to the serious crimes committed there against them while feeling and often being victimized by the police for committing these petty offenses. I personally know someone (white) who used to live in a racially mixed but poor section of Milwaukee whose home was burgled 20-30 times and who, when reporting one of the crimes while in progress to the Milwaukee police was asked to call back after the criminals had left the home. This person confirmed this perception for me.

I wonder of anyone has seen the HBO show "The Wire"? This show really grapples with the topic of Eric's post in a realistic way from a dramatic angle. It was written by a former Baltimore Sun reporter and a former Baltimore homicide detective and featured among its cast former members of the Baltimore police as well as former (and in some cases not completely reformed) criminals. I've read that many cops have confirmed the realism and authenticity of this show from a law enforcement standpoint. What this show dramatizes so effectively (and probably understates ), is just how law enforcement and law enforcement policies work (or really don't work) in the poor sections of our cities and how damaged and broken our cities are in this respect. (Caution: while I recommend this show, it's definitively in the "Rated R for violence, language and sexual conduct" territory.)." Jon

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

If someone makes decisions based on race, they are going to have learn to be comfortable withe charges of racism. Theses issues of racism, aren't necessarily relevant to the issues of the appropriate use of deadly force raised by the encounters mentioned. Generally, deadly force in defense of property is to say the least, legally problematic.

All episodes of "The Wire" can be seen on the HBO GO or the Amazon Prime streaming series. I highly recommend the show.

--Hiram

John said...

As me and RB are discussing in the same string. I don't think race is the primary factor, it is a combination of many things. If one chooses to look and skulk like a crook, they are more likely to be treated like a crook. Is this a bad thing?

"Since Race, Poverty, Culture and Education are so closely related in this country, I am not sure how these sources are certain that race is the key factor.

My belief is that people who are poor, academically challenged and have a "chip on their shoulder" end up questioned, arrested and in jail far more often than people who are middle class, academically capable and respectful.

Maybe the reason for their being low income and being pulled over are closely related. I know that my lower income friends have a very different attitude about life which has kept them getting ahead." G2A

"Race is pretty obvious to a law enforcement officer or person on the street. Poverty, culture, and education are not so visible.

Class is almost as uncomfortable for Americans to discuss as race, so I commend you for bringing it up. As far as the "chip on the shoulder" goes, in my sporadic practice as a criminal defense attorney, I found that bad attitude knew no class boundaries.

"I know that my lower income friends have a very different attitude about life which has kept them getting ahead." Cause and effect: Does the attitude cause the status, or the status cause the attitude (sorry, but hard work and persistence do not always lead to success in America)?" RB

"Personally I think poverty and culture (ie class) are as visible or more than race.

My lower income friends tend to get good jobs occasionally, and everything starts heading towards stability if not affluence. Then they get in an argument with the boss, tell some inappropriate joke at work, buy something they can not afford, get divorced, etc. Though I love them dearly, I believe it is the poor attitude and limited common sense that limit their success." G2A

John said...

Cool... I have Prime, I'll need to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I don't think race is the primary factor, it is a combination of many things

I am not sure primaryness is the main issue. At least in the police case, what they did was wrong on so many levels and in so many ways that the relative role of race was somewhat diminished hardly works to the benefit of the police. Or to the prosecutors who would not effectively prosecute.

--Hiram

John said...

That is where our opinions differ. I agree with the Grand Juries that the police committed no crime in the Michael Black and/or Eric Garner incidents.

Could they have done things differently? Yes. But did they commit a crime? No

Whereas you think they did.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Grand Juries that the police committed no crime in the Michael Black and/or Eric Garner incidents.

That's not what the grand jury said or did. The most that can be said is that the prosecution did not present evidence sufficient for probable cause to indict. They did not address the issue of whether a crime was committed and if it was whether the police may have committed it.

--Hiram

Anonymous said...

But did they commit a crime?

I don't know. I do know that there has been no determination in law one way or another. What I do know was the action of the prosecutor prevented that issue being decided in a court of law. Why the prosecutors made the decisions they did is, of course, a matter for speculation.

--Hiram

Laurie said...

"The U.S. figure of 716 per 100,000 is about five time higher than the world average and more than ten times higher than other wealthy nations.

But the U.S. incarceration rate breaks down to 400 out of every 100,000 white Americans and 2,000 per 100,000 for blacks, "

I think these incarceration rates are too high. What do others think?

and btw, it is Michael Brown. It is hard to imagine that after more than 100 comments there is much new to say on that topic, though we didn't as thoroughly discuss Eric Garner, in which case I would have charged the officer with some kind of crime such as involuntary manslaughter (I really don't know the law so maybe something else is more appropriate.)

Anonymous said...

the officer with some kind of crime such as involuntary manslaughter (I really don't know the law so maybe something else is more appropriate.)

Well, I don't think the officer used the chokehold involuntarily...

--Hiram

John said...

Yes. Michael Brown... I must have experienced some kind of subconscious brain fart...

Both Grand Juries agreed that an indictment was not justified after months of review and testimony. That means that they were certain that a crime was not commited. If they had been uncertain, they would have sent it to the courts... That is what Grand Juries do.

I actually watched the video and timed the "choke" hold. It was applied for <15 seconds. Definitely not long enough to kill anyone. The reason Eric Garner died was because he was resisting arrest and in terrile physical health.

Yet to be politically correct they had to remove the officer from duty...

John said...

Laurie,
I recommended that we execute lifers who were caught red handed much more quickly, that would reduce the incarceration rate...

Another comment I left regarding the rate was this one.

"We also have lots of money, free time and freedom. And our culture is fascinated with criminals, violence, guns, drugs, etc. Just look at the TV shows that are popular. It does not surprise me that our incarceration rate is high. We give people a lot of rope...

I can agree that people should be able to serve their time, then be given a second chance.

Of course, we could also reduce our incarceration rate if we executed known violent murderers more quickly.

Finally, why do we need to have far more police in poorer neighborhoods? People here continue to be concerned about more arrests in poorer areas. If you want to reduce the number of arrests in those areas, let's just reduce the number of police in those areas. I mean it seems you keep inferring that arrest rates should be similar across all income levels, races, etc... And if they aren't you accuse the criminal justice system of bias." G2A

John said...

So in summary, we have a society that is fascinated with crime, violence, fraud, drugs, enforcement, prosecution, guns, money, greed, etc.

Does it surprise us that so many Americans end up in prison?

Sean said...

It's interesting to note that NYC has essentially stopped "stop-and-frisk", which disproportionately impacted minorities -- and crime rates are still down.

Anonymous said...

Both Grand Juries agreed that an indictment was not justified after months of review and testimony. That means that they were certain that a crime was not commited.

Not at all. What the grand jury said, if anything, was that they were not presented with evidence sufficient for probably cause for an indictment. They could have been presented with such evidence, they just weren't. There is no requirement of certainty. Even to be convicted of a crime requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, a burden of proof that falls below the level of certainty.

For whatever reason, the prosecutors didnt't want indictments in these two cases, and so they didn't get them. Whether that's a just result is a guess for the rest of us to decide for ourselves. We know the prosecution didn't try to prove that a crime was committed, not whether a crime was actually committed.

--Hiram

Laurie said...

We could / should send fewer people who are convicted of crimes to prison.


"Between 2001 and 2013, more than half of prisoners serving sentences of more than a year in federal facilities were convicted of drug offenses "

Laurie said...

Here is a link on the topic I found interesting:

Six Charts that Explain Why Our Prison System Is So Insane

as the title indicates it supports my viewpoint that we imprison too many people.

John said...

"the prosecutors didn't want indictments"

Please prove this opinion, I disagree.

John said...

Sean, As we said long ago, more abortions and less lead work wonders. Now if we can just close the academic achievement gap, our crime rate may plummet further.

How do we get those kids to see Barack and Michelle as role models rather than Tupac and Lil Kim???

Even better yet, they could adopt these folks as role models.

John said...

Laurie,
No time to read the link, however do you want to just legalize drugs? And maybe we can stop jailing people for DUI...

That should reduce the number of people in prison.

Laurie said...

There are alternatives to prison time when sentencing. For example I believe most people convicted of DUI do not go to jail.

also, I forgot to mention that I think executing more people (or anyone) is a barbaric idea.

Anonymous said...


Please prove this opinion, I disagree.

Because they didn't get them. It's very easy to get indictments.

--Hiram

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way. Is it ok to choke people? Is that something people are allowed to do?

--Hiram

John said...

I like to think of execution as 100% effective, the barbarian who killed never never beccomes a repeat offender.

Laurie said...

As of December 10, 2014 there have been 150 exonerations in 26 different States. (that's since 1973)

Even if we were able to execute only guilty people why do we as society want to barbarians who kill.

John said...

Hiram,
He was taking down an agitated 350+ pound man who was actively resisting arrest... If he was trying to choke Eric, he would have not given him the option of falling to the ground within 8 seconds. And he would not have released his head lock within 15 seconds.

Sorry... But me and my friends used to wrestle much more aggressively than that and no one died.

John said...

Another opinion. "It is very easy to get indictments"

My guess is that it is not very easy to get an indictment if it is obvious that no one broke the law. Like in these 2 cases.

John said...

Laurie,
In the modern age of cameras everywhere, I am guessing we have thousands of incarcerated lifers who obviously killed others. No chance of error.

Now why would any enlightened society waste money, time, resources, etc trying, feeding and housing this guy?

James Eagen Holmes

Just let one of our other sociopaths take him out back and shoot him. Or maybe we need to construct some more gallows if they can't get the drugs to work humanely enough.

John said...

"Even if we were able to execute only guilty people why do we as society want to be barbarians who kill?"

"a person in a savage, primitive state; uncivilized person"

So it seems that you are saying that "civilized" people are not allowed to choose what punishment is appropriate. And that apparently executing people who violate our civilization's number one rule would be "uncivilized".

I of course have a different opinion, if the civilization makes it loud and clear that people who wantonly kill others will then be executed without hesitation or remorse.

And some one chooses to violate the rule, then there is absolutely nothing barbaric about enforcing the law efficiently and with minimal emotion.

Why do Liberals support the ending the lives of innocent fetuses? And fight ending the life of humans who murdered others? I will never understand...

Laurie said...

it annoys me to even respond to dumb arguements, but I will, an embryo is not the same as a person.

more on topic my brother and I just discussed the high rate of African American incarceration (which he happened to bring up.)I would describe him as a moderate democrat. Anyway, we agreed that liberals underestimate how much this is due to the much higher rate at which African Americans commit crimes and conservatives underestimate the effects of racism in law enforcement and criminal justice which contribute to the high rates of incarceration.

John said...

Abortion vs Execution

Both stop a human heart...
One pure and untainted.
One vile and disturbed.

Now who is the barbarian?

I agree there are bad / biased police officers. I agree there are bad / criminal citizens of all races and socio-economic groups.

Tying the hands of the good police officers and justice officials because of a few bad eggs can only lead to a dark place.

Laurie said...

I don't think you understand the concept of systemic racism.

The Effects of Ignoring Systemic Racism

John said...

I understand the concept of systemic racism, however you have got to be kidding...

We should stop referring to illegal aliens as illegal.

We should appreciate everything those who violate our borders bring to our country.

We should stop zero tolerance programs because apparently more minorities violate the rules.

Discontinue Stand Your Ground because of some reason.

Moving the Race Conversation

John said...

Regarding Sean's earlier comment.

"It's interesting to note that NYC has essentially stopped "stop-and-frisk", which disproportionately impacted minorities -- and crime rates are still down."

The Atlantic: Stop and Frisk
NY Daily Stops Drop Shootings Increase
WP Stop/Frisk Not Effective

John said...

It is interesting that the Police Officer's Union thinks "Stop and Frisk" is valuable enough to want to continue the appeal.

Maybe if the new mayor had to walk those dark streets at night, he wouldn't have given up the appeal so quickly.

Anonymous said...

me and my friends used to wrestle much more aggressively than that and no one died.

Someone did die here, a crucial factual difference when legal issues related to homicide are under consideration.

If we are going to remake the facts here because, it seems, the actual facts under consideration are uncongenial to your case, lets remake them in a way that brings them closer to what actually happened. What if someone had died? What if you went up to a stranger on the street and administered a choke hold, from which someone actually did die? Are you saying no crime was committed?

--Hiram

--Hiram

Anonymous said...

Why do Liberals support the ending the lives of innocent fetuses?

Not something I support. Generally my view is that that is something that should be left up to the individual. I oppose imprisoning women who have abortions. In states with the death penalty, I oppose executing them.

--Hiram

Anonymous said...

My guess is that it is not very easy to get an indictment if it is obvious that no one broke the law.

An unarmed man was assaulted on the street and died as a result. It is simply not reasonably possible to argue that legal issues of homicide were not raise, and that's all you need for an indictment. Now it is the case that not every time there is a homicide, and indictment ensues, but the reason for that is proprietorial discretion. There was no indictment here because the prosecutor chose not to effectively seek one. He owes the public an explanation for that.

--Hiram

John said...

Hiram,
Eric was not a random "man on the street", he was suspected criminal who was resisting arrest.

Michael was not a random "man on the street", he was a known criminal that attacked a police officer.

To keep our society "civilized" police are authorized by our laws to arrest people and use force while doing it. Sometimes bad things happen when people resist arrest. The Grand Juries reviewed the facts and the relevant laws and determined that the police were operating within the relevant laws.

You are correct though, if a man shot another "man on the street" or randomly threw a "man on the street" down via a headlock, there would likely be a trial.

Different laws apply for officers who are trying to do the difficult job that we tasked them with, therefore the Grand Juries determined that no laws were broken.

John said...

By the way, if one of my friends had died during our younger drunken crazy antics. I suppose the county attorney would need to determine if it was an unfortunate turn of events or if a law may have been broken.

If no law had been broken, then I am assuming there would be no charges / trial. Just like in these cases.

Or are you recommending that we have a trial every time someone dies?

Anonymous said...

"Eric was not a random "man on the street", he was suspected criminal who was resisting arrest."

Is it ok to kill people who are suspected criminals and who are resisting arrest? Are either one of those things capital offenses?

"To keep our society "civilized" police are authorized by our laws to arrest people and use force while doing it."

A very nice general sort of proposition. I am sure the police might have made that argument and trial, along with showing how it might be relevant to what happened. At that point, a jury would have had the opportunity to decide the issue. The prosecutor denied them that opportunity.

--Hiram

Laurie said...

Your response of ridiculing systemic racism and inability to acknowledge it as a factor in the criminal justice system is exactly what I was talking about with my brother. When my students don't understand something I do lots of reteaching, so here is some more information for you to consider:

NAACP - CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACT SHEET

that's probably it from me on the topic of racism as I (like most people) don't really like to discuss it

John said...

I am not ridiculing it, I am saying that if they commit the crime they should do the time. (or be expelled / suspended)

There is a very easy way to reduce the arrest rate for Blacks and Latinos to almost ZERO. They can choose to stop committing crimes. Or at least they can limit themselves to doing them in the privacy of their own homes.

Or are you saying that they are all as innocent and pure as a new born babe? And that someone is framing them?

John said...

Since you work with Somalis and they are Black. Do they have the same rate of arrest and time served?

Laurie said...

saying that "racism is a factor in the criminal justice system" does not mean that "they are all as innocent and pure as a new born babe"

in a previous comment I said "that liberals underestimate how much this (high incarceration rates for AA) is due to the much higher rate at which African Americans commit crimes."

I am not knowledgeable enough to estimate how big each factor is in the high rate of incarceration.

since you still seem very confused about my point I am going to provide another link for you to consider:

Frontline - Is the System Racially Biased ?

John said...

I thought these 2 quotes were humorous and telling.

This is how they describe the defendent...
"this black male has on baggy pants, has an attitude, may have a tattoo, "

This is their solution:
"One way is to increase the number of judges on the bench who are judges who look like the people who come before them."

I am waiting to see a judge in "baggy pants, has an attitude, may have a tattoo"...

John said...

Here is a twist on what we have been discussing, my daughters have told me that the "lucky" girls are often warned about the length of their shorts/skirts or appropriateness of their tops. And at times they need to call their parents to get a change of clothing.

Whereas the perception is that the "unlucky" girls are allowed to wear pretty much anything. One administrator noted that why would they bother to call the girls on it when there is no one at home that will do anything about it? Or worse, the home situation is so bad that the call could trigger bad things...

John said...

"Is it a good thing or a bad thing that this happens?

. . . I don't think that it is necessarily a bad thing for that white kid, but the problem is that it's a bad thing for that kid of color who doesn't have that access. And it's a bad thing for the system as a whole, because it creates the racial disparity. There's more to [the racial disparity] than that. We talked earlier about trying not to react with your gut . . . and I had mentioned that I try as best I can not to be subjective in my criteria. ... Subjectivity in prosecution, defense, and the courts, and frankly even out on the street with law enforcement, is another reason that there is racial inequity in our system."

This is a strange quote. The writer talks about subjectivity occurring. Even though most of the source described very objective reasons for the different rulings and disparity...

One person comes to court, shows respect, says they are sorry, has a support system, etc, etc, etc.

One person comes to court, shows attitude, shows no remorse, has no support system, etc, etc, etc.

Would you as a judge give them the same sentence? Or would you objectively decide that different punishments were appropriate?

Laurie said...

I have given up on trying to get you acknowledge racism as a factor in criminal justice as I think it is currently beyond your understanding.

but, I will still provide you links to joke about. Here is one on a police tactic that was new to me:

If You Thought Stop-And-Frisk Was Bad, You Should Know About Jump-Outs

Do the cops do jump-outs in your community?

John said...

What do you think they would find if they did a jump out in Plymouth? Maybe that is why they don't do jump outs...

I thought it was interesting that this racism is only focused on the young men, and not the young women...

Are the young black women less black than the young black men? Or is there more to this than just race?

Sorry we can not come to consensus on this one.

Sean said...

Let's not forget that the reason cops were called in the first place in the Garner situation was because there was a fight between two other individuals. Before the cops arrived, Garner broke up the fight, and then got hassled by the cops for his history of selling "loosies" when they arrived. And they never bothered to arrest or detain the two people who were fighting. That's why he was so agitated.

Sean said...

"Maybe if the new mayor had to walk those dark streets at night, he wouldn't have given up the appeal so quickly."

I love it when suburban Minnesota conservatives lecture a New York Mayor (who before working in politics spent 20 years working on housing and health care in the city's worst neighborhoods) on how to run his city.

John said...

Actually it is the NY Police Officers Union that is trying to tell him how to run his city.

I would think they have more "boots on the ground" knowledge of what works and keeps the officers safe than him. Thoughts?

Sean said...

The role of the police is to ensure the rights of the people in their city, not to secure their one safety at the expense of other's civil liberties.

John said...

"what works and keeps the officers safe"

Please note that there was an "and" in my statement...

Good thing we have the court and appeals court to help resolve the balance between civil liberties and community safety.