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no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Detroit to Implement New York Style “Stop and Frisk”

August 20th, 2013

In Detroit, when you call the police because you actually need their assistance the average response time is something like 40 minutes; this is clearly a Department which needs to direct every available resource towards providing actual help and assistance to those in immediate need.

Instead, Detroit is moving forward with a stop-and-frisk policy, designed by the same consultants who implemented the controversial (and recently-ruled unconstitutional* program in New York City).

Defenders of these “stop-and-frisk” programs, like Detroit Police Assistant Chief Eric Ewing, are quick to argue about “reasonable suspicion”,

If we have reasonable suspicion someone is about to commit a crime, we’re allowed to stop that individual. If we have a good reason to believe they may be armed — say, if we see a holster, or a bulge that looks like a gun — then we’re allowed to search them. That’s just being proactive.

We’re not telling our officers they have to go out and stop X-number of people each day. But we are telling them to do police work.

But the basis of this “reasonable suspicion” is deference to the officer’s judgment, which statistical evidence — this is data coming from the NYPD — demonstrates to be laughably unreliable: About 90% of those stopped were completely innocent of any wrongdoing, i.e., the officer’s judgment was wrong, 90% of the time.

Let that sink in: Ninety percent of the time, they’re wrong. Yet we’re supposed to defer to their judgment?

The real issue is that stop-and-frisk, especially in light of the data, is essentially a fishing expedition. It’s NOT good policing, it’s an absolute and undeniable abrogation of people’s right to be secure in their person, and not to be harassed by the police at every corner..

While Ewing and other apologists may argue that their officers are stopping people “with a reason”, the statistics demonstrate otherwise. I suspect the reality is a combination of these three factors (hopefully more of 1 & 2 than of 3), among others:

  1. Officers are just not very good at determining whether there is a reason to make a stop in the first place.
  2. Or, Officers are being forced to make more stops than their judgment dictates, because of quotas imposed from their CO’s (this is fact in NY, and probably true in most other locales)
  3. Or, they are simply harassing people because they can.

To put this in some additional perspective: Detroit is literally bankrupt. It can’t afford streetlights, snow removal, garbage pick-up, etc. Further, there is a half-century (or more) of well-deserved mistrust and hostility towards law enforcement. Police response time is win-the-internet level of epic failure. Yet somehow, they think that randomly stopping people who are doing nothing wrong (and a 90% failure rate is akin to random stops) is a good use of what few resources they have?

No. It’s a waste of time, and it’s likely to be counterproductive. Every minute they spend harassing 90% of innocent people is a minute which could’ve been used doing actual police work, solving real crimes, doing community outreach, being available for real emergency calls and citizens in distress, etc., is a minute invested in fomenting even more distrust and hostility towards law enforcement.

Notes:

* The News spends a lot of time on the racial issue, and while this may be a concern for some, I think it’s a red herring, and “journalists” should be ashamed for playing this card in lieu of addressing the real, tangible problems. I take issue with Scheindlin’s ruling on similar grounds: it simply is not the right reason to oppose these tactics.

Where Are All the “Good” Cops?

June 6th, 2012

Carl D. Johnson suffered a diabetic attack when driving home from Bible study on May 27, 2010, causing him to crash his truck in to a guardrail. State Trooper Davon Parker responded to the scene, proceeded to pepper spray Johnson through the car’s open window.

At the hands of such fine public servants as Trooper Davon Parker, Carl D. Johnson was beaten, pepper-sprayed multiple times, punched in the face, thrown over a railing, and tasered at least 5 times by at least 6 police officers before losing consciousness, and ultimately dying from cardiac arrest.  But it would not be hyperbole to say that the agents of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore County Police murdered Carl D. Johnson that evening.

A common refrain among police apologists, in the wake of misconduct in the news, is that it was just a few “bad apples” and that most cops are “good cops”.  According to a complaint filed by Johnson’s widow, there were at least fourteen police officers among as many as fifty-two respondents to the accident scene.

Where were the good cops when Carl D. Johnson was being murdered? There were 14 representatives from at least two departments there, so, you do the math.

 

Note: the official version of the story has Johnson, a 48-year old architect with no criminal record, “resisting arrest“. I’ll believe it when I can see the dashcam footage that corroborates that version of the events, because “stop resisting!” is boilerplate language for “Imma beat the fuck outta you and it’ll be your word against mine” (Digby also notes, this “is obviously something  [cops] are taught to do for the dashboard camera so that it appears that they have reason to do what they’re doing”).

 

The question as it pertains to this event – as it pertains to other events where I have been critical of law enforcement – is this:

If these are allegedly the acts of “bad apples” then what about the other cops in that department? Do they know about the bad apples in their department? If not, why not? If so, why aren’t they doing anything about it? Are they afraid? Powerless? Strangled by bureaucracy? What about the good cops who occasionally witness these events and turn a blind eye to them?

 

My Country Went to War on Terror and All I Got Was this Lousy Police State

September 30th, 2011

Exactly two years ago yesterday I wrote that the threat of terrorism is essentially non-existent. This is not because the Alphabet Soup Agencies are doing a spectacular job keeping us safe, it’s because even despite all the Imperial meddling around the globe, there just aren’t very many would-be terrorists. If the terror threat was credible, we couldn’t stop it.

Not much has changed since then. In fact, there are so few actual terrorist threats (probably because there are so few actual terrorists) that the FBI has to manufacture its own terror plots, and then take credit for saving the day.

Let’s put things in perspective.

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist attack

 

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics