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Police Murdered in 2011: How They Served

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Hat Tip to Lou . . .

2011 began with the murder of Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper in Ohio.  January 1, Deputy Hopper was shot while photographing a crime scene.  She left behind a husband and four children.  Another officer was shot but survived.

According to her boss, Sheriff Gene Kelly,

Hopper once went six straight years without calling in sick and often put on charity events for the Special Olympics and other causes . . . Her personnel file is filled with accolades and commendations and always service before self.

By the end of January, four police officers were murdered in Florida during a week in which at least fifteen officers were shot:

[1/24/2011] In just 24 hours, at least 11 officers were shot. The shootings included Sunday attacks at traffic stops in Indiana and Oregon, a Detroit police station shooting that wounded four officers, and a shootout at a Port Orchard, Wash., Wal-Mart that injured two deputies. On Monday morning, two officers were shot dead and a U.S. Marshal was wounded by a gunman in St. Petersburg, Fla.  On Thursday, two Miami-Dade, Fla., detectives were killed by a murder suspect they were trying to arrest.

Sgt. Thomas Batinger, St. Petersburg, Florida “just wanted to serve”

Two years ago, Sgt. Baitinger served as mentor for a student at Gibbs High School. Catherine Smith, the former family and community liaison at Gibbs, said he stood out among the 100 or so mentors who volunteer each year. “Some police officers, you know, seem to have like a hard exterior,” Smith said. “This man was just so nice.”  When the sergeant showed up, usually carrying a McDonald’s bag, the student’s face just glowed. “He loved him,” she said. “When that young man came down and saw the sergeant, oh my goodness, it was like he saw his father.”  His hobbies were golf and poker.

Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, St. Petersburg, Florida “one of the best people I ever met”

He is survived by his wife, Lorraine, 40, and his children: Caleb, 12; Haylie, 8; and Calen, 5.  He was on his way home after his night shift with his police dog Ace when he responded to a call for backup . . . It was like him to go. Just flip through his personnel file down at the police station. . . The night before he died, Yaslowitz helped his neighbor haul new furniture inside.  “He was a great guy, I’ll tell you,” said [Herbert] Kane, 77. “A great father, too, and a great husband. I never heard him even argue, ever. They were a great family and I’m just sick about it.”

Detective Roger Castillo, Miami-Dade, Florida “passionate about his job”

To the residents of his well-kept Davie street, fallen Miami-Dade police Detective Roger Castillo was the type of neighbor you wanted to have around. He was the dad you’d see on the front lawn, tossing around a football with his boys. The one who brightened up the cul-de-sac with Christmas lights and inflatables. A helping hand if you were struggling with a fix-it job. “If I’m fixing something, if he passes by, he will ask if I need help, do I need to borrow tools?” said Andre Jean-Louis, a real estate broker . . . On Thursday, as the tragedy unfolded in Liberty City, Castillo’s relatives and neighbors monitored the news and hoped he was safe. Slowly, through phone calls and text messages and hesitant knocks on the door, they learned that their friend was gone. “They stole him,” neighbor Lisa Tuffy said. “He made this world a better place.”

Detective Amanda Haworth, Miami-Dade, Florida “just a beautiful person”

Twenty-three years after she joined the Miami-Dade Police Department, Amanda Lynn Haworth, 44, was fatally wounded, along with another detective — both of them members of an elite team that served arrest warrants on violent suspects. Haworth, a single mother and police detective, loved her job, but was most devoted to her 13-year-old son, her stepmother said. “She took him everywhere she went,” said Diane Haworth, 66. She last spoke with her stepdaughter on Monday, she recalled. “She was just so sweet, so very sweet,” her stepmother said . . . she often played baseball with son, Austin, in their backyard, neighbors said. “Her son and her work were everything to her,” said neighbor Bernardo Gonazalez. She was a big fan of the Weston Red Hawks — the team her son played for — and attended all of his games. “She was just a beautiful, beautiful person,” Gonazalez said.

Why were Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo killed?  Because the justice system failed them.  Not once, but a dozen times.  Because every previous time police risked their lives capturing the thug who murdered them, some lazy judge or overwhelmed prosecutor let him go:

[Johnny] Simms, 22, had been in trouble since he was a teen. Officers first arrested him at 14, for larceny. In all, Simms was arrested 11 times before he was an adult on charges including burglary and auto theft, state records show. He received house arrest in some cases, while others were dropped. His tattoos mirrored his lifestyle: a gun, flames, and the words “savage” and “10-20 Life.” In October 2005 and December 2005, Simms was arrested for separate armed robberies, one with a pistol and the second with a rifle. Prosecutors did not file charges in either case. In 2007, Simms — who also goes by “Sims” — went to state prison for a different 2005 armed robbery and auto theft. He was released in February 2009 on probation. Simms violated his probation when he was again arrested in June 2010, this time for robbery with a deadly weapon and selling cocaine. He pleaded guilty and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Julio Jimenez sentenced him to one year in prison plus five years’ probation.But Simms served only one month because he had earned credit for time served earlier in a Miami-Dade jail. He was released in September 2010 on five years of court-mandated “administrative probation,” a low-level form of supervision that does not require regular check-ins with authorities. Simms hadn’t been out a month before he was again implicated in a violent act. According to Miami homicide detectives, Simms shot and killed Cornelious Larry, 27, on Oct. 16 in the parking lot of an Overtown apartment complex, 1535 NW First Pl. Miami police say Simms shot Larry to death after the man began yelling and cursing at Simms’ sister. Simms fled on a bicycle. Detectives searched for him for 12 days before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward signed an arrest warrant. The charges: first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Simms had been on the lam since.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  Shoot, rob, burglar, shoot, beat: get off free.  Our highest law enforcement officials in the Department of Justice grandstand about “alternatives to incarceration” and “emptying the prisons.”  Our sensitive academics whine endlessly about America the police state as if thugs like Johnny Simms aren’t getting away with murder after murder, abetted by lousy criminal fetishists festering in courtrooms until good cops end up in caskets.

February

Detective John Falcone

Detective John Falcone, Poughkeepsie, New York.  Wrestled a three-year old from a man repeatedly charged with domestic violence who had hunted down her mother and killed her moments earlier.  Thanks to Detective Falcone’s sacrifice, the infant survived.

Detective Falcone is survived by his parents.

March

Alain Schaberger

Alain Schaberger’s life began in Vietnam and ended when Officer Schaberger responded to a domestic violence call in Brooklyn, where a repeat felon with 28 prior arrests, mostly for robbery and burglary, pushed the young man over a railing to his death.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg referred to Schaberger as a “quiet, gentle soul” who dedicated his life to service.  “Alain knew a lot about grief,” Bloomberg said of the former Naval officer who joined the NYPD in July 2001. “One of his first assignments as a police officer while he was still in the academy in the days after 9/11 was to go to checkpoints around Ground Zero and help the families who came there to cope with their horrific losses. He brought a lot of comfort to those people.”  Addressing Schaberger’s family, including fiancée Shoshone Peguese, Bloomberg said, “I think he would tell you to remember not the last tragic moment of his life, but the many wonderful moments that came before it.”

 

Schaberger was a 10-year NYPD veteran who was born in Vietnam. He came to the U.S. when he was 5 years old with his father – an Army vet who worked as a civilian guard at the U.S. Embassy when Saigon fell in 1975 – and Vietnamese mother.  Raised in East Islip, L.I., Schaberger grew up on tidy block of single-family homes and played basketball at the local public school. . . Schaberger often returned to East Islip to visit with his parents and sister, Tracey, a nurse with two kids, neighbors said.  “It’s tragic. It’s unbelievable,” said neighbor Mitchell Greif. “He was a great guy from a good family. He was always pleasant and polite. His parents are devastated.” Schaberger’s mother – a hairdresser – and father were too distraught to speak with reporters.  “It’s a shame,” said Bill Conley, 59, an electrician who has lived next-door to the Schaberger family for 25 years. “It’s always the good ones that die young.”

April

Jonathan Schmidt

Officer Jonathan Schmidt

A policeman who died in the line of fire trying to save his sergeant’s life has been labelled a hero.  Officer Jonathan Schmidt, from Trumann, Arkansas, shoved his superior out of harms way when a gunman unexpectedly opened fire during a routine arrest.  He was able to return fire on Jerry Lard despite the fact he was shot in the neck and bleeding. The father-of-three then begged for his life. . . Schmidt worked as a night patrolman so he could spend days with his three children.  He had a 12-year-old daughter and sons aged ten and 18 months. Schmidt recently received a commendation for saving an infant’s life by giving the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Trumann School District Superintendent, Joe Waleszonia said: ‘He wanted to clean up this community. He wanted it to be as safe for the community as it could be.

May

Kenneth Gary Vann

Sergeant Vann was assassinated while stopped at a red light: his patrol car was struck multiple times.  A week later, the killer was caught by police.  He had randomly chosen to kill officer Vann.

Sergeant Kenneth Gary Vann

[During the investigation] Detective Louis Antu, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the mood was somber but dedicated at the command post Sunday. Many officers, including Antu and the sheriff, were out of town for the three-day Memorial Day weekend, when they were called back to Bexar County.  “We’re not robots; we’re all taking time to reflect,” said Antu, who joined the Sheriff’s Office with Vann. “But it was a terrible killing, and everybody wants answers. We’re working for the family, to bring them justice.”  Antu said the two men were “kids” when they joined the Sheriff’s Office. Vann was an excellent officer who loved his job and family, Antu said.  Vann was married to sheriff’s Sgt. Yvonne Vann and leaves behind two sons, ages 19 and 15, and a daughter, 25, from a previous marriage, officials said.  Ortiz was at his hunting lease in Rocksprings when he heard about Vann’s death.  “We’re real saddened by the randomness of this incident; there’s really no rhyme or reason,” Ortiz said. “It’s very difficult because we don’t have anything new, but we’re not going to rest until we find the guy who did it.”

June

Kurt Wyman, daughter born the day of his murder.

Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wyman

Whitestown, NY — Fresh out of high school in 2005, Kurt Wyman joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Activated in 2008, he served seven months in Iraq and won the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.  Wyman also became an Oneida County sheriff’s deputy in 2007. He rejoined the sheriff’s office when he returned from overseas. In 2010, he was rookie of the year. He twice was awarded the Sheriff’s Grand Cordon Medal, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a detail of officers.  “His commitment not only to his country but to his county is second to none,” Sheriff Robert Maciol said.  Wyman demonstrated his commitment to the ultimate degree Tuesday. The deputy, 24, was hit by a shotgun blast as he and two other officers tried to take an armed man into custody after a six-hour standoff in the rural town of Augusta. He died after being rushed to St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

Wyman left behind his pregnant wife, Lauren, their 18-month-old son, his parents and a sister.

His wife gave birth after hearing of Wyman’s murder.  That’s June.

July

Officer Brent Long

Officer Long and his canine partner Shadow were shot while serving a felony warrant.

Shadow survived.

A fallen police officer’s K-9 partner is now being honored. Fallen Terre Haute Police Officer Brent Long’s family cut the ribbon on Shadow’s Trail in Terre Haute. Shadow served alongside Officer Long on the force. The trail is beside Brent Long Memorial Way. It’s part of the expansion of the city’s trails and a way to honor the police dog’s service. “They did a good job for our department and to have Brent’s memorial way here and Shadow’s Trail right next to Brent, they’re partners even after Brent’s gone,” Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse said.

August

Jeremy Henwood, San Diego

Jeremy Henwood, a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves and police officer for the San Diego Police Department, was shot and killed, Aug. 7. He had walked into a fast food restaurant to buy something to eat and also buy a meal for a 10-year-old boy who happened to cross his path. Moments later, while sitting in his patrol car, a man drove up beside him and fired the fatal shot. Henwood was 36.

Officer Henwood, moments before he was shot

Henwood served as an enlisted infantryman before going on to Officer Candidate School to receive his commission with the Marine reserves. The Canadian-born hero became a United States citizen in order to receive his commission with the Marines.  He deployed twice to Iraq, and after his third deployment – this time to Afghanistan as a company commander with Combat Logistics Battalion 2 – Henwood returned to the U.S. in February to continue serving as a police officer with the SDPD.  During the memorial ceremony, Henwood was posthumously promoted to the rank of major.

September

Lt. Joseph Sczcerba

18-year veteran New Castle, Delaware Lt. Joseph Sczcerba was stabbed to death while attempting to subdue a rampaging offender.  Lt. Sczcerba and his wife performed volunteer work at a variety of places.  His service to the community was memorialized by seventy local culinary school students who baked 10,000 cookies in his honor and delivered them to police officers.  6,000 people attended his funeral.

October

Derek Kotecki: His loyal canine wouldn’t leave his side after he was shot.  He wanted a “noisy” funeral.

Patrolman Kotecki and K9 Benny
Lower Burrell, PA, Patrolman Derek Kotecki was shot and killed while investigating reports of a wanted man at a local fast food restaurant. The man was wanted for a shooting ten days earlier and for threatening police officers during the previous week.  As Patrolman Kotecki and his canine, Benny, approached, the man suddenly opened fire. Patrolman Kotecki suffered a fatal wound. The subject then fled but was approached by other officers as he attempted to climb a fence behind the restaurant. He was killed during an exchange of shots with the responding officers.  K9 Benny was uninjured but had to be muzzled after refusing to leave Patrolman Kotecki’s side.
Patrolman Kotecki had served with the Lower Burrell Police Department for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Officer Thomas Babinsack, one of five people to eulogize Kotecki, said they had talked about the aftermath of such a situation while driving to a memorial service in April 2009 for three Pittsburgh officers gunned down in a SWAT siege.  They discussed whether it was respectful to use their flashing lights and sirens in a funeral procession, and Babinsack said he’s since learned the protocol is to use lights but no sirens — which police vehicles observed on their way to Kotecki’s funeral. But Babinsack said Kotecki wanted something else.  “Tom, I want you to promise me something: If something ever happens to me, I want everybody to know I was here,” Babinsack remembered Kotecki saying. “I want the fire trucks and police and ambulances going with lights on and sirens.”  “He wanted a parade and he’s going to get one,” Babinsack said from the pulpit of the noisy funeral procession that was to follow.

 

November

James L. Capoot: a life lived very well.

Officer James Lowell Capoot, 45, of the Vallejo Police Department was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 17, 2011 in Vallejo, Calif. A loving and devoted father, husband, son, brother, uncle, officer, coach, neighbor and friend, Jim lived a full and extraordinary life.  Born Nov. 2, 1966 in Little Rock, Ark., Jim attended local schools in Little Rock and graduated from John L. McClellan High School in 1985, where he was a distance runner on the cross country and track teams. Jim enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at age 18 and was stationed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, where he met the love of his life, Jennifer Eileen DeCarlo. The two were married at St. Basil’s Catholic Church in Vallejo on Aug. 29, 1987.  Jim left the Marines in 1989 but remained on Active Reserve through 1993. In 1990, he joined the California Highway Patrol and began his career as a peace officer. And, in 1993, he joined the Vallejo Police Department.  For 19 years, Jim distinguished himself as a Vallejo police officer while endearing himself to the Vallejo community. He served as a motorcycle officer, motorcycle instructor, driving instructor and SWAT officer. He received two Vallejo PD Medals of Courage, one Life-Saving Medal and many other department commendations. And, in 2000, Jim received the Officer of the Year Award.  Jim coached the Vallejo High School varsity girls basketball team and in his second year led the Apaches to a 25-7 record and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championship. Jim left the Apache bench in March 2011 to bring into his home the two children of close friends who were killed in a motorcycle accident in January.

December 20

John David Dryer, tended horses, his son.  Shot during a routine traffic stop.

John David Dryer found his calling as a teenager when he nursed to health a horse that had become entangled in barbed wire.  He turned his grades around, earned his veterinary science degree from Ohio State University, opened his own successful practice — and then became a police officer. . . . At home, Officer Dryer was a doting father to his autistic son, Benjamin. In an interview with the Post-Gazette in 2000 about training bloodhounds, he said his son gave him motivation.  “My son Ben, who is 5, was very sick when he was born. In fact, a couple of times I thought I was going to lose him,” he said. “I think this is why I want to search for missing people, particularly children.”

December 21

Another Tampa Bay Cop in this bloody year: Arnulfo Crispin.

Since Crispin was shot the night of Dec. 18, [Carlos] Cortes and Officer Julio Ruiz have been by his family’s side, offering any assistance they could.  Both officers learned more about their friend and why he always had a big smile on his face.  “His family has been so humble and so giving,” Ruiz said. “They put people and family before themselves.” Cortes agreed.  “It’s a large family and they don’t have that much,” he said. “At one point, they asked my wife and I to come and eat with them. They didn’t have a lot of food, but they made sure we had something to eat. They don’t have much, but what they do have they will give to others.”  That mentality explained a lot about the officer they knew.

Crispin’s parents

Before leaving the family’s house Tuesday night, the officers gave the large family their phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.  Although Crispin can’t be replaced, Ruiz said, the Crispin family has “gained 235 brothers and sisters at the Lakeland Police Department.”

December 29  

Chicago Officer Clifton Lewis: “he took me in as his child”

The off-duty Chicago police officer slain in a West Side convenience store Thursday night had just gotten engaged on Christmas Day, family friends say.  Clifton Lewis, 41, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Austin District’s tactical team, was pronounced dead Thursday at Stroger Hospital, officials said. Two men had walked into the M & M Quick Foods about 8:30 p.m. at 1201 N. Austin Blvd. in the Austin neighborhood, shot the officer, and then grabbed his gun and star and fled, sources said. . . . Lewis . .  has received 81 commendations for his police work, had proposed to his girlfriend, Tamara Tucker, only after asking her 18-year-old son, Keyonta Thomas, for permission. On Christmas morning, Lewis pulled her son aside and asked for her “hand in marriage,” said Thomas, 18.  “I am just at a loss for words,” said Thomas, who said he saw Lewis as a father.  “He was just as a father (to me)… He took me in as his child.”

Addendum: Special Agent John Capano of the ATF was killed yesterday as I was writing this.  He was on his way to pick up prescriptions for his ill, 81-year old father when he encountered an armed robbery at the pharmacy.

James Capano had planned to celebrate New Year’s Eve at his son’s house.  The family is grieving the death of James Capano’s wife of 57 years, Helen Capano, mother of John Capano. She died of cancer on Dec. 18.  James Capano said his son had volunteered to share his explosives expertise with military personnel in Iraq.  “He knew what he was doing, and he was the best one they had,” James Capano proudly said.  A tearful Rep. Peter Kingconsoled the elder Capano on the blood-stained sidewalk outside the pharmacy New Year’s morning.  King’s wife was slain agent’s fourth grade teacher.  “I’ve known John Capano for years,” King said, recalling giving Capano an award for bravery during a four-month tour of Iraq and Afghanistan.  “He had a unique personality, a great personality,” King said. “Everybody loved him.”

James Capano, Agent Capano’s father.  His wife, Agent Capano’s mother, died two weeks ago

Capano was the last officer killed in the line of duty in 2011, bringing the total to 163, 66 of which were gun killings.  Thousands of other police were shot or attacked but survived.
Assassination-style killings — where assailants randomly shoot an officer or lie in wait for unsuspecting targets, are on the rise.  Is cultural anger directed at police — by idiotic Occupy protesters, among others — contributing to an atmosphere in which police are targets?  I think the vast majority of responsibility for the presence of dangerous offenders on our streets lies with the courts and civil rights activists who have succeeded in creating a consequence-free world for criminals.  But every little bit of scapegoating counts.  In 2012, it’s time to start speaking up for cops.

 

Chicago Weekend: Is Crime Down, Or Are Neighborhoods Emptying?

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Is crime really dropping in Chicago? Not long ago, the public would have been forced to rely on some pretty unreliable sources for an answer:

  • academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown‘ altar
  • mainstream reporters who worship at the “academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown’ altar” altar
  • Chicago politicians

From sources like that, you get contradictory numbers like this, in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Five men were killed and at least 19 other people — including two children — were hospitalized after violence in the city this weekend.

Despite the violent weekend, Chicago Police announced Sunday that violent crimes have decreased for the 30th consecutive month and there have been 31 fewer murders this year than through June of last year, a 14.4 percent decrease. The crime stats also indicate a decrease in aggravated batteries, aggravated assaults and criminal sexual assaults.

Five people blown away, 19 others shot or otherwise injured, in one unremarkable weekend that featured the sort of bad weather that tends to drive people off the streets, so that’s good news: crime is down!  (**Update: 11 more shot overnight Sunday, ten homicides total)

Sure, murders are down.  They don’t say how much agg. assaults and batteries dropped, nor do they offer what might be the most accurate measure of non-safety — the number of shootings, as oppose to the number of entirely successful gun murders.  Let’s not reward bad aim, or good doctoring.

At least the public has alternative sources of information, now that cops are blogging.  Second City Cop speculates about other possible explanations for the alleged “drop in crime”:

Are there any actuaries out there who can determine the per capita rate of homicides? We lost at least 200,000 people in the recent census, and since rates are measured in terms of crimes per 100,000, is this a real drop in crime or just a statistical equivalent? And are we still doing that thing with people shot during robberies? And the other thing that negates the FBI ever using Chicago numbers in their crime stats because they’re so hinky?

SCC’s commenters (also cops) knock a little more gild off the lily:

What about property crimes? Criminal damage reports? Thefts? And what of the clearance rates, esp. for violent crimes, like robberies? Oh, I forgot, robberies are property crimes, acc. to Cline.

Crime has gone down for over 30 straight months with the shortage of cops? We don’t need any more cops. In fact lets get rid of all of them and let the animals run the asylum.

With severe police shortages, crime reports fall through the cracks.  So is the public “over-reacting” or is crime under-reported?

It also appears from the cop blogs that Chicago authorities are camouflaging crime numbers by classifying gun robberies as “property crime” instead of violent crime.  I imagine this sort of free pass gets carried over to Chicago courtrooms, where felons who stick guns in peoples’ faces get off easy because it’s just a “property” offense.  And remember all the criminals robbing other criminals who aren’t about to call 911, and the residents intimidated into silence.

Remember too the nine-year olds and eight-year olds and 12-year olds caught in the crossfire.  I don’t even think that’s a complete list from the past week.

How many violent crimes go unreported in a city like Chicago?  This demoralizing Chicago Tribune must-read offers some insights:

Whatever you do, don’t use my name, said the 83-year-old widow, and the fear in her voice was palpable. . .

We [the reporters] met a lot of longtime residents on many blocks fighting to hang on to and regenerate their communities. We wanted to tell their stories, but more often than not they would not let us if we used their names. They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them. . . “It’s like young people are berserk around here,” said the elderly widow. “It’s like they’re destroying themselves. Practically every other night or so, we hear shooting just west or east of us, or in the alley. It sounds so close, it scares you.”  She has lived in her house for 54 years, one of the early black families to move into the community. . . After years of watching, [the elderly residents] know by sight most of the players in the nightly drama. The one they fear most is a soft-spoken boss of street crews selling drugs.  “He is just an ordinary-looking person,” said one of the block club’s men. “He doesn’t dress fancy or drive flashy cars. He is very quiet and usually very courteous with people on the street. But he is a vicious killer who is all business.

“Everybody knows who he is.”

If the drug boss knew people were reporting his activities to the police, club members agree he would strike back at them. It’s a frightening prospect because they say he calmly shot a man to death in front of witnesses near their block several years ago and walked away free. The fear of reprisal for reporting criminal activity seems well-founded. Police recognize that gangs and drug dealers plant their own people into community meetings as spies, taking notes on which residents speak out against illegal activity. Community policing experts tell residents to report crimes in strict privacy, not in public forums.

Does any of this sound like good news about the crime rate?  Is Chicago really getting safer, or is the opposite true, despite any temporary drop in murder stats?  The reporters here lay too much blame on the “subprime mortgage crisis,” instead of on the thugs or the justice system that allows them to get away with murder, empty houses or no empty houses.  But, otherwise, the story serves as a fierce corrective to the “crime is down” boosterism coming out of city hall.  For the senior citizens trying to hold their neighborhoods together for the uptenth time in fifty years, it’s horror show:

They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them . . . crime problems didn’t seem epidemic, block club members say, until the recent foreclosures as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.  According to the census, Englewood and West Englewood lost nearly 20,000 residents in the last decade. Now, 3,500 boarded-up houses and empty lots dot the communities

This actually confirms Second City Cop’s musing about population and statistics: high-crime areas experienced large population losses during the recent mortgage crisis.  So it might be that crime rates, adjusted for population, have not dropped at all.

Gee, you’d think some city statistician or publicly funded academic would have caught this.  No, they’re all far too busy denying the existence of crime and lobbying to empty the prisons.  Meanwhile, back on the block:

Because their street is quieter than nearby streets, the longtime residents say police don’t patrol their block as frequently as they do adjoining ones.  “The drug dealers and addicts know that,” said an 80-year-old woman who is also a longtime block club member. “The addicts buy their drugs around the corner and then park in their cars on our block to use their drugs and have their sexual encounters (to pay for drugs). At night, you know they are smoking crack from the blue flame that flares up.”

She talks despairingly of how the crime surge has changed her life.

“I don’t want shooting outside my house or out in the alley. I just want to go to the store and not be afraid, and to get on the bus without fear.”

Is crime really down? Or have the official statistics merely been pummeled by fear of reprisals and thinned by the cop shortage . . . then massaged by statisticians, pled down by attorneys, and shiatsu-ed again by academics, until that hard metal barrel pointed at someone’s face has metamorphosed into a property crime, or maybe just drug possession, if victims are too afraid, or too felonious, to come forward?

Then the anti-incarceration activists can claim that we need more “alternatives to prison” for all those “drug and non-violent offenders” who fill cells.  And the cycle starts over again.

Englewood Neighborhood, Chicago (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / July 10, 2011)

Remember Police on May 13: A Sister’s Eulogy

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May 13 is the Annual Candlelight Vigil for Fallen Police Officers in Washington D.C.

Last May, Chicago Police Officer and Army National Guard Lieutenant Thomas E. Wortham IV, 30, was gunned down outside his parents’ home just after returning from a trip to Washington to honor other fallen officers.  This year, it is his turn to be honored at the memorial along with the 157 other officers who died in the line of duty in 2010.

Thomas E. Wortham IV

There are no words to describe Sandra Wortham’s extraordinary eulogy for her brother.  Just listen.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and Marty Hittleman: California Teachers Endorse a Cop Killer, Get Caught, Blame Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

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Question: What’s worse than a teacher’s union voting to support a cold-blooded cop killer? Answer: A teacher’s union voting to support a cold-blooded cop killer, then making up all sorts of lame excuses to the cop’s widow before hanging up on her, then running to their membership to tell an entirely different story to justify their behavior . . . by pointing fingers at  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who, according to the California Federation of Teachers union, is forcing teachers 2000 miles away support a cop killer.

Marty Hittelman, President, California Federation of Teachers

You can’t see it in this photo, but his pants are on fire.

Two weeks ago, Kyle Olson at the site Big Government broke the troubling story about the California Teacher’s Union renewing their support for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Three decades ago, Abu-Jamal gunned down police officer Daniel Faulkner.  Although the courts have permitted Abu-Jamal scores of reviews, the conviction unambiguously stands.  For background on the Mumia case and factual information and myth debunking rarely reported anymore, go to DanielFaulkner.com, the website run by Faulkner’s widow.

Support for Mumia goes way back in academic circles. In 1995, 1998, and 2000, academics took out full-page pro-Mumia ads in the New York Times. Which academics?  All the usual suspects, including Frances Fox-Pivens, whose prominence in this and other causes gives the lie to her current complaint that she was merely an anonymous scholar toiling in the stacks until Glen Beck made her a household name.  Along with Pivens, academicians who put their names in the Times on the pro-cop-killing side of the ledger include: Howard Zinn (of course), Henry Louis Gates (of course), Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Kozol, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Herbert Aptheker, Peter Matthiessen, Patricia J. Williams and Sonia Sanchez (of course, of course, of course, of course).

And hundreds more.  The California Teacher’s Union has long been pro-Mumia — in certain like-minded circles, mind you.  But now that the internet is helping get this news to the public, and thus less sympathetic audiences, the union is crying foul . . . about people actually finding out about their prima facie public act of supporting Mumia.

Weird.  Isn’t the point of voting for a resolution or taking out an ad in a newspaper getting attention?  Apparently not for the CFT.  It’s one thing to grandstand in an echo chamber; it’s something quite different to have your controversial actions blazoned in the hard light of day.  And so, union president Marty Hittelman has been flailing around, accusing journalists of participating in some conspiracy against him for merely reporting on the CFT’s public policy platform.

Maureen Faulkner

Hittelman also lashed out at Daniel Faulkner’s widow, a pretty stupid move considering her proven (and tragically well-worn) capacity to defend herself.  Maureen Faulkner, a hero of mine, pulled no punches in her encounter with Hittelman last week:

Thursday, I called and spoke with Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, to inquire if I had the facts straight regarding its endorsement of the murderer of my husband.

During my brief conversation with Mr. Hittelman, I calmly asked him if he knew what happened the night my husband was murdered. He replied that he did not know and “he has not read any of the transcripts” yet, he believes “Abu-Mumia deserves a third trial.”

He told me that the resolution (by the teachers) only took one minute and he had not personally voted on it. I responded that it may have only taken one minute but the continuing trials, appeals and propaganda have resulted in many years of emotional distress for me and my family. He replied, “I’m sure it has.”

He also said this wasn’t supposed to get out into the press, asking, How did you find out about this?” I replied that I found out through the newspapers and told him, “You have no idea what victims go through when they lose a loved one to murder.” At this point, Hittelman hung up on me!

“How did you find out about this?”  What a buffoon.  You’d think Hittelman would have learned a few things since his last media wipeout, when he infamously compared the charter school movement to “lynch mobs,” then dug that hole even deeper by defending his choice of words using even less choice words.  Here is Hittelman quoted in Intercepts blog:

What’s a lynch mob? It’s when a bunch of angry citizens get together and without any study they decide to lynch somebody. And in this case (the measure), they’re going to lynch their school. If you want to call them a lynch mob, you can, but basically what they’re doing is lynching the school and all the teachers who will be fired and all the kids who will have to go to a different school.

Let me see if I can illustrate Hittelman’s thought processes:

school choice  =  lynch mob

media coverage = right-wing conspiracy

defending a cop-killer = educator union job

But, there’s more. The excellent Intercepts blog observes that Hittelman has long been deeply involved in pro-Mumia activities for at least a decade.  So he was feigning ignorance when he told Maureen Faulkner he knew little about the case.  From Intercepts:

It’s curious that Hittelman would claim to have not read “any of the transcripts” since he figures prominently in a May 2000 press release by the Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal attempting to raise funds for newspaper ads (like this one that appeared in the New York Times) advocating for a new trial. He was also a signatory to the ad. Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal [which] still exists, and Hittelman’s name still appears on the organization’s “list of supporters.”

Hittelman’s behavior places educators in California in a very difficult place.  If they don’t do something about their union president, his actions will continue to represent them.  Imagine being a student whose parent or sibling was killed by some violent thug like Mumia, knowing that the teacher sitting in the front of your classroom is officially supporting the release of a killer.  Imagine being a cop’s kid walking into a school where every single teacher is supporting people who kill cops.  That’s currently every classroom in California, a new definition of culture war.

The deception gets worse. Marty Hittleman downplayed the significance of the Mumia resolution when he spoke with Maureen Faulkner, but he took a very different stance when explaining the pro-Mumia resolution to teachers themselves.  On the CFT website, the official line on the Mumia resolution is that it is crucial for union members to support the resolution because any criticism of the union’s action on Mumia is part of a concerted attack on unions by people like Dick Cheney.  Yes, Dick Cheney is part of the conspiracy:

A few weeks after the CFT convention, a conservative activist noticed that among the CFT resolutions—posted on our website—was one supporting a new trial for Mumia Abu Jamal, a man convicted nearly three decades ago of killing a police officer in Philadelphia.  This resolution was shared with a right wing “news” website founded by Dick Cheney, which promptly created an uproar in the conservative media machine . . .

The CFT reiterates that they believe Mumia didn’t receive a fair trial, despite Hittelman’s claim that he had not even reviewed the record of the case:

The CFT does not believe he received a fair trial, and everyone who is accused of a crime deserves a fair trial.

Any criticism of anything the unions do is an attack on all workers:

Unions were built through solidarity. We would not have the 8 hour day or minimum wage laws or the weekend if working people hadn’t stood in solidarity with one another, across the country, and with other groups of citizens concerned about democratic rights—much like what is occurring today in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states where workers’ collective bargaining rights are under attack by billionaires and their right wing politician friends. If due process rights are violated anywhere it is a concern of citizens in a democracy everywhere.

You see, according to Marty Hittelman, teachers ARE Mumia.  The union is equating educators with a cop-killer, and also saying that’s a noble thing.  Demonstrations of such feelings reveal the deep pathology of the pro-criminal left, and the existence of a critical mass of people in academia who fantasize constantly about being oppressed by “lynch mobs” of  “evil Americans.”  Part of the fantasy is believing that killers in prison are the only real victims, and that crime victims are hateful mobs, and that cops are violent liars who deserve it when they get shot.

So how do California police feel about the California teachers supporting a cop-killer? Brotherhood may run deep among unions, but not so deep that police are going to overlook the CFT resolution.  So Hittelman goes on a hysterical offensive, arguing that the real issue isn’t his union’s support for Mumia but the nefarious actions of Monopoly-piece bankers and other assorted fat cats who are trying to use the teachers’ Mumia platform to drive a wedge in worker’s solidarity:

For weeks in Wisconsin, teachers and police stood side by side with other unionists and their friends in the community in demonstrations, marches, and the occupation [sic] of the Capitol in Madison, protesting the outrageous anti-worker attack . . . The story about the CFT resolution, and the way it was spun, is part of a strategy to undermine the solidarity of public sector workers, especially police and teachers.  It is also yet another attempt to distract the public from the central story of our historical moment:  the crashing of our economy by the wealthy and their Wall Street banks; their continuing successful efforts to fight paying their fair share of taxes to support the public education and services everyone needs . . .

So you see, being critical of California teachers for supporting a cop killer is oppression.  Meanwhile, according to Daniel Flynn, the (national) Fraternal Order of Police is pretty unhappy with the (national) Federation of Teachers over the California union’s actions:

On April 14, FOP National President Chuck Canterbury issued a scathing letter to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.  In part, it read:

I cannot understand why the CFT, which like us represents rank-and-file employees, would support a murderer.  In fact, Abu-Jamal’s victim was a rank-and-file law enforcement officer and a member of F.O.P. Local Lodge #5 in Philadelphia.  I can only assume that the membership did so out of ignorance of the facts or that they were misled by this killer’s propaganda machine.  I want to set the record straight and would respectively, yet urgently, request that you and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) publicly reject this repugnant resolution.

According to Flynn, the Federation of Teachers isn’t budging, and there are now plans to pass a national resolution supporting Mumia.  Soon, teachers in every state may be throwing their support behind a brutal, unrepentant cop-killer.  And they should be taken at their word when they do it, like everyone who makes this choice, no matter if they try to weasel out of it in settings where such attitudes are inconvenient.

War on Cops: It Takes a Village to Kill a Cop

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Last spring was a bloody time for police officers. Chicago buried three officers in fast succession.  Tampa/St. Pete, where I live, saw two officers gunned down and two more wounded (seven more police in Florida, three in Tampa/St. Pete alone, have been shot to death since then).  Nationwide, by the end of the year, 59 cops had been murdered in shootings.  The previous year, 2009, ended on a bloody note, too.  On November 29, in Lakewood, Washington, Maurice Clemmons gunned down four officers as they sat eating breakfast in a restaurant.

Maurice Clemmons

Despite a lifelong history of extreme violence and mental instability, Clemmons’ primary experience of the justice system was “catch and release,” that is, the police caught him, and everybody else let him go.  So when he went really off the deep end, is it any wonder that he picked cops — and not judges, or lawyers, or parole board members, or politicians — for his targets?  Then-Arkansas-Governor Mike Huckabee pardoned Clemmons in 1999 despite a disturbing and precocious record of violence on the streets and while in custody.

Mike Huckabee

Huckabee grandstanded about his Christian motives for releasing Clemmons and other predators, as Clemmons immediately began committing crimes again: aggravated robbery, theft, parole violation.  But Arkansas justice officials continued their pattern of leniency: he managed to get out of one ten-year sentence in only two years, and his parole violations were simply ignored.  A free man, Clemmons moved to Washington in 2004.

In 2009, he assaulted neighbors, passing cars, a police officer and jail employees.  Yet in the amnesiatic calculus of sentencing, he was only charged with a fraction of these assaults and was released on bail.  That week, he sexually assaulted two young nieces and held them captive.  Arrested again, he was evaluated by psychologists who said that he was dangerous, but another judge granted him bail.

Unsurprisingly, Clemmons also ignored the terms of that bail: he had been taught by “the system” that breaking the law after an arrest is frequently overlooked.  Arkansas authorities notified Washington state and said they didn’t care that he had violated parole in their state, so he was not extradited.  He purchased guns and showed them to several relatives and friends, telling them that he was going to kill policemen and schoolchildren.  He did this at a Thanksgiving dinner at which he was apparently welcomed despite the sexual assault of his child relatives.  He talked there about his plans to cut off his GPS monitor in order to lure police to his house to kill them.  Nobody called the police to warn them.  He cut the GPS monitor off his ankle, and nothing happened to him.  He even told people that he had tried to drive to a police station to start shooting people but had experienced car problems.  Nobody dialed 911.

The story of Maurice Clemmons is like a fable where people drift slowly towards a crisis, seemingly without the means to veer away.  Yet this is not true: anyone might have alerted police that Clemmons had purchased a weapon and was planning to use it to kill innocent police officers and schoolchildren.  On the other hand, what if someone did dial 911?  The police know that the Maurice Clemmons of the world are protected by many rules and just as many exceptions to rules.  What if they picked him up, and the incident turned into an ambush where others were hurt?  They would be blamed for framing an “innocent” man, a man who had “done nothing more than complain about police brutality in the past,” as the story would doubtlessly be told.  The child-rapes, threats, previous assaults on authorities, and Clemmons’ criminal past would all be erased in favor of an image of a persecuted minority man.  This is precisely the way the shameless Christian Science Monitor spun the story of another cop-killer in Georgia this week.   Thus are the flames of anti-police hatred fanned.

A fellow Arkansas felon who was also in violation of parole drove Clemmons to the town of Lakewood.  When the men saw a police car, Clemmons got out, walked into the restaurant where four officers were sharing breakfast, and shot them dead: Mark Renninger, 39; Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards, 42.  Clemmons’ friend drove him away, and other people, including his sister, helped him escape town. Someone phoned in a false tip to police, which delayed his capture and endangered innocent people.  Clemmons was finally caught two days later, when his car broke down.  Armed with a dead officer’s gun, he charged another police officer, who shot him.

It takes a village to kill four policemen. Mike Huckabee, judges and parole board members in two states, Clemmons’ relatives and friends, his wife, his aunt, and his sister: they all contributed to the murders.  High-ranking court officials in two states made decisions that released Clemmons back into society no matter what he did and no matter what he said he would do next.  Psychologists said he was dangerous; he held two little girls captive, one for days, and sexually assaulted them, and still there were no immediate consequences, and he was welcomed by family and friends.  Only police tried to remove him from the streets, and only police died.

This is the real war on cops: it involves hatred, and negligence by many authorities who aren’t policemen.  All through 2010, when one officer after another was gunned down in Chicago, and Memphis, and Tampa, and Los Angeles, Barack Obama said nothing.  Eric Holder, “the nation’s top cop,” remained silent.

It may be disturbing, but their silence shouldn’t be surprising.  Both men have credentials that place them, politically, in opposition to police.  Throughout Holder’s career, he has taken extreme positions against police safety, representing terrorists and even securing the release of murderers who targeted cops.  It was incongruous for Holder to remain silent as men and women under his command experienced rising levels of violence.  But it would have also been incongruous had he chosen to speak out, given his previous alliances with anti-cop social movements.

Was it incongruous for Obama to insist on staging a televised “beer summit,” allegedly designed to ease tensions between blacks and police, without once acknowledging the rising death toll of police officers of all races?  Between the time when Harvard Professor Henry Gates was arrested and briefly detained, and Obama’s famous “beer summit” with Gates and the publicly chastened officer, six cops were killed or succumbed to wounds received in the line of duty.  Six cops dead in a little more than a week, and in the Rose Garden, not one word was said about the public’s responsibility towards cops, or the sacrifices these cops made to keep people safe.

Thus Henry Gates’ temporary discomfort at the hands of an officer who was actually just trying to protect Professor Gates’ property was deemed more important that the murders of six cops, so much more important that the dead police were not even part of the conversation.  This is a calculus, too.

Deputy Sheriff Robbie Chase Whitebird, Seminole County, OK; Deputy Sheriff Marvin Gene Williams, Seminole County, OK; Sgt. David Joseph Kinterknecht, Montrose, CO; Border Patrol Agent Robert Wimer Rosas, Jr.; Sgt. Steven Edward May, Modesto, CA; Detective Marc Anthony DiNardo, Jersey City, NJ.  Oklahoma, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Texas.  Six cops who died while the President and the Attorney General grandstanded against the police.

The “Beer Summit”

A year later, Obama and Holder still had nothing to say when violence against police took a terrible toll in their hometown, Chicago.  Thomas E. Wortham IV, a young Chicago officer who had ironically just returned from the memorial for murdered police officers in D.C., was gunned down in front of his father, a retired police officer.  Two other Chicago cops were soon dead, to resounding silence from the White House and the Justice Department.  Imagine how powerful it would have been if Obama had travelled to Chicago and talked about those deaths.  He did return to Chicago for a vacation at that time.  But he said nothing in public about the loss of policemen’s lives.

Police Officer Thomas E. Wortham IV, Police Officer Thor Odin Soderberg, Police Officer Michael Ray Bailey Sr., all Chicago PD.

According to the Officer Down website, since 2009 there have been 128 officers killed by gunfire, nine fatal assaults, and 21 vehicle assaults — 159 officers murdered in 27 months.  This represents a steep rise which continues to grow steeper this year.  Last week, Eric Holder finally acknowledged the war on cops.  But he wasn’t exactly passionate about it, the way he is with pro-offender issues, like “prisoner re-entry.”

He did announce one promising initiative:

Ask local prosecutors to identify the “worst of the worst” – offenders with criminal histories who cycle in and out of local jails and state prisons – and discuss whether any of these repeat offenders may be prosecuted under federal law for offenses that make the offender eligible for a stiffer sentence.

Considering the careers of men like Maurice Clemmons, that makes sense.  But it is also in direct conflict with scores of programs and research studies Holder has been sponsoring that single-mindedly promote “alternatives to incarceration,” the types of programs that enabled Clemmons to be out on the streets in the first place and fed his paranoid, obsessive hatred.  Such studies — academic activism, really — always manage to prove what the researchers were seeking: that incarceration “doesn’t work,” or is “unfair” merely because there are higher percentages of blacks than whites in prison.  These claims become powerful instruments in the political movements to roll back effective sentencing in the states, including sentencing for prolific recidivists like Clemmons, who directly benefitted from efforts to reduce sentences for people convicted of crimes at a young age (one of Holder’s most passionate causes).

So why use federal law to target recidivists while you’re also quietly undercutting laws in the states that target recidivists?

Philosophically and politically, Obama and Holder side with those who oppose the best measures that tackle offenders who pose the biggest risks to police: amoral adolescents with guns and repeat offenders who ought to be serving long sentences.  More importantly, through relentless talk about perceived racial injustices, Eric Holder has fed the paranoid anger of those who believe that law enforcement is illegitimate — this is, after all, the man who put his own career on the line to free FALN terrorists who targeted police and innocent civilians.

That, he certainly believed in.

Holder has a great deal more work to do before he proves that he is no longer accommodating the village that sees nothing wrong, and a great deal to recommend, in killing cops.  I don’t think the nation’s so-called “top cop” is really all that interested in protecting policemen’s lives.  Somebody has to say it.

Annals of Social Justice: Anarchists Protest Police, Unkindness, Dudes Who Want to Start Protests on Time

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From a very funny Eric Lacitis of the Seattle Times, deadpan news coverage:

PROTEST AGAINST POLICE GETS PUSHY

An anti-police protest that started in downtown Seattle and went to Capitol Hill featured about 60 to 70 self-described anarchists, most looking to be in their 20s, and about 30 police officers on bicycles with an additional five on horse patrol. . . The demonstrators, many dressed anarchist style in black jeans and black hoodies with black bandannas covering their faces, shouted slogans such as, “Cops, pigs, murderers!” and kicked over a garbage can or two.

“Anarchist style.”  Because you don’t want to dress like just anyone if you’re a free spirit.

[A] young woman, who had a metal pin through the bridge of her nose, was handing out little cardboard cards that read, handwritten in pink, “I am an anarchist & I care about you!” The card included a peace sign.  “A lot of people see anarchists as angry and aggressive people,” she said. “That’s definitely not true. We’re not about violence.”

Unless you’re a garbage can.  It’s also really hard to drink soda through a bandanna:

She was with a young man who was complaining that wearing a bandanna covering his face interfered with drinking his Mountain Dew.

Unlike most of the protestors, the reporter showed up on time, a seemingly unchallenging six in the evening:

The protest didn’t start out promisingly.  It had a scheduled start time of 6 p.m. at Westlake Park, but by then only half a dozen people had shown up. . . By 6:30 p.m. the group of anarchists and supporters had grown to 70.  Herded by the police, they went around the block. As happens in demonstrations, a couple of individuals who seem to relish attention did a lot of shouting.

Ha.

The anarchists stood by the edge of Cal Anderson Park that’s near the precinct station, waving black flags and signs with messages like, “What we want begins with a no.”  They shouted slogans such as, “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, because the power of the people don’t stop.”  There was some more shouting, the cops stood impassively blocking the protesters from going into the street, and then eventually the anarchists straggled off.

Don’t miss the video.  The cops have much cooler, all-black outfits than the protestors.  Is it just me, but if the power of the people doesn’t stop, how does it also begin with a no?

The War on Cops: Blame the Courts, Not the Police.

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It is not yet August, and 94 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, 87 by the mid-year mark (June 30), and seven more in July.  That’s an increase of 43% since 2009.  But another fact emerging from the statistics is even more chilling: gun killings of officers have more than doubled in the last twenty-four months, rising 22% in 2008 – 2009, and a staggering 41% in 2009 – 2010.

That is an increase of 63% in just two years.

Those numbers are only fatalities.  Attempted murders — including nonfatal gunshots, stabbings, attacks with vehicles, and other aggravated assaults — aren’t counted.  In Tampa Bay, where I live, four police officers were actually shot last month, in two separate incidents in the last week of June.  Two officers survived serious gunshot wounds.  Two others, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, did not.  Kocab’s wife, Sara, who was nine months pregnant with their first child when her husband was gunned down, delivered a stillborn baby a few days ago.

Then she got up the next day and went from the hospital to court to face her husband’s killer:

Profile in Courage: Sara Kocab (on the right) in Court

Over the weekend, Chicago buried the third cop ambushed in that city in recent weeks. Also over the weekend, a policeman was shot dead in Detroit, bringing the year’s total there to three.  Warnings have appeared in the Chicago media alleging that more cops will be targeted.  This is especially troubling because all the recently murdered officers were felled in surprise attacks.

Just days after [Michael] Bailey’s death, there is a new warning. The police department has acknowledged that both District 3 and District 6 in Chatham, near Officer Bailey’s home, have received phone call threats against its officers. Text messages containing the gist of the threat and a warning have been circulating among officers there.  “More police officers will be shot&gang bangers in the area are passing the word&every night they will be ambushing police in the Chatham area. Please pass along this info and please be safe,” reads one of the text messages.

Imagine the response if “gang bangers” were targeting anyone other than police.  We have come to expect this and even accept it.  The nation’s top Justice Department official, Eric Holder, has said nothing about the slaughter of cops (he is, after all, a man with a history of pushing clemency for cop killers).  The President, who singled out individual police for public excoriation, somehow can’t seem to find the time to recognize these officers’ sacrifices, even when the murdered police hailed from his own hometown and lived lives steeped in the community volunteerism the President claims to value.

Other than covering crime scenes and funerals, the media has remained almost entirely silent about the war on cops — except when they’re pointing fingers at the police.  But what’s really driving this war?  Even the most cursory survey of cop killings offers a single, extremely obvious answer: courtroom-bred, free-range, grudge-bearing recidivism.  A culture of excessively lenient sentencing emboldens thugs and is papered over by opinion-makers who wouldn’t dream of criticizing the sentencing judges or even the “gang bangers” themselves.

After all, newspaper columnists and reporters wouldn’t want to lose their all-important insider status.  Invitations dry up when you ask the wrong questions, and who wants to blame poor youth when there’s a cop, any cop at all, to finger?

So, at best, you get schizophrenic reporting, like this seemingly promising article by the Chicago Sun-Times.   The reporters flirt with a few facts but end up defaulting to a blame the cops mantra:

This is the story of why they won’t stop shooting in Chicago.  It’s told by the wounded, the accused and the officers [not so much by the officers] who were on the street during a weekend in April 2008 when 40 people were shot, seven fatally.  Two years later, the grim reality is this: Nearly all of the shooters from that weekend have escaped charges. “You don’t go to jail for shooting people,” says Dontae Gamble, who took six bullets that weekend, only to see his alleged shooter walk free.  “That’s why m————- think they can get back on the streets and kill again. You feel me?”

OK, Dontae, so there are no consequences for shooting people.  Who do we blame for this?

So far, not one accused shooter has been convicted of pulling the trigger during those deadly 59 hours from April 18-20 of that year, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.  Only one suspected triggerman — a convicted armed robber caught with the AK-47 he allegedly used to blow away his boss — is in jail awaiting trial.

And why is that?  Why does it take two+ years to bring an accused killer to trial?  Might there be something wrong with the courts?

Oh goodness, no.  That couldn’t be. Or if there were, reporters couldn’t possibly investigate, because then they might not get invited to boozy lunches with important lawyers and politicians and judges.

It must be the police’s fault.  Cue, curtain left:

The Chicago Police Department’s batting average for catching shooters has fallen to an alarmingly low level. Detectives cleared 18 percent of the 1,812 non-fatal shootings last year. They were slightly better in catching killers — 30 percent of murders were cleared in 2009.  But here’s the catch: When police “clear” a case, that doesn’t always mean a suspect got convicted — or even charged.  Sometimes police seek charges against a suspect, but the state’s attorney won’t prosecute without more evidence. Other times, the shooter is dead, or the victim refuses to testify after identifying the shooter. Cops call those “exceptional” clearances.

Except . . . it’s not “cops” who make up this lingo, or this accounting system, or these statistics.  It’s not as if your front-line street cop wakes up in the morning and says, hey, here’s how I’m gonna enforce the law today.  Police brass and other political appointees, D.A.s, judges: they’re the ones who make the decisions.

But the Sun-Times reporters make it sound as if the only people with any agency, or any responsibility, in the entire justice system are the street cops.

This is the way the vast majority of reporters report crime: they simply don’t bother to look behind things like failed clearance numbers and ask why it’s so hard to satisfy the current status quo for removing known, armed, violent, recidivist felons from the streets.

They don’t bother to ask why evidence that would have sufficed for a conviction twenty years ago isn’t good enough today, or why prosecutors don’t try to bring every charge possible against known, dangerous offenders.  Reporters certainly don’t go to the guy in the black robe and ask why that convicted armed robber who “blew away his boss” with an AK-47 was out on the streets in the first place.

That type of question is considered off-limits, whereas no question about even the greenest police recruit is off-limits.

How many times do judges even have to say no-comment?  You don’t have to not comment if you don’t get asked anything in the first place.

Better to just criticize police.

The Sun-Times story continues with one “gang banger” shooting another “gang banger” who claims he’s too afraid to testify but isn’t too afraid to try to get money out of the government’s victim compensation fund.  Next, the reporter spends an inordinate amount of time following the victim around town as he pontificates against the police while bragging that he has forgiven (and refused to testify against) the thug who shot him.  After recovering from his wounds (doubtlessly on the public dime), then wasting months of police and courtroom resources, Willie Brown changed his testimony but suffered no consequences:

‘I could be Willie the Rat, but I don’t care about s— like that,” Willie Brown said while rolling a joint near Sheridan and Wilson in the Uptown neighborhood.  Brown is 28. He lives in a run-down high-rise and walks with a limp because he got shot in the leg.  He said he was a bad kid, a teenage Vice Lord and stickup man who did prison time for robbing a corner store with a toy pistol in 2003 while high on weed and angel dust. He had the munchies that day and was looking to steal “wam wams and zoom zooms” — prison talk for snacks — when a police officer saw the gun poking from Brown’s waistband and arrested him. He was paroled in 2007.

Did the reporter even bother to check Brown’s real record?  His arrest record?  Just took his word for it?

On April 18, 2008, Brown took a bullet in his upper right thigh outside 1012 W. Sunnyside. He was the 10th person to get shot on that bloody April 2008 weekend.  “That was a horrific moment,” Brown said.  He says he saw the guy who shot him.  Heck, he even talked to the alleged shooter, Darnell Robinson.  Brown was on his way to buy beer about 11:30 p.m. that Friday when Robinson and his brother stopped him in the street.  Robinson supposedly asked, “What is you?” — street slang for “What gang are you in?”  Brown said he told them about his past Vice Lords affiliation.  Robinson said he was in the “Taliban” before he started shooting, according to Brown.

Nice.  Every Chicago cop’s spouse knows that this is what their husband or wife is walking into, every day.

Police arrested Robinson, who was 31 at the time and had been behind bars for residential burglary and selling drugs. Brown identified Robinson as the shooter, and the case headed for a trial.  Robinson, who claimed he was innocent in jailhouse interviews with the Sun-Times, sat in Cook County jail for 13 months until prosecutors had to let him go because Brown changed his story several times.  Why did Brown’s story change? Because “my momma told me to,” he said.  “I did it so he could go home. I’m not no stool pigeon,” Brown said, recounting his story while scarfing down McNuggets at a McDonald’s in Uptown.  “I don’t have anything against him — it’s like he never shot me. I wouldn’t want to see the m———– sitting in jail because that [jail] is hell. I spared that dude. That’s all I did. I did it for my mom.”

How touching.  Our tax dollars support this behavior from beginning, to middle, to violent, bloody end.  This is how cops and other innocent people end up getting shot on the streets.  How about interviewing the judge or parole board officer who let Robinson go free the last time?  Brown?  How about reviewing their real records, step by expensive, bloody step through the courts?

But at least Brown screwed the system “for his mom.”  I wonder if Hallmark makes cards for that.

Brown said he sometimes bumps into Robinson on the street.  “I talked to the guy. He said he was sorry. I said, ‘Forget about it. Don’t worry about it.’ . . . I feel like I should have forgiven [him] for they know not what they do. He needs to be happy and thank God like I did. Everybody should go by that code.”  And in that moment — as Brown talked about forgiveness as his brand of nonviolent street justice — Robinson walked into the McDonald’s with two friends.  “There he is. That’s him right there!” Brown said.  The accused shooter and the victim awkwardly shook hands and hugged — each assuring the other, “We cool.”  Robinson nervously asked if reporters at the table were police officers. Robinson said repeatedly that he didn’t shoot Brown, but he wouldn’t talk more about it unless he was paid $30. Then he disappeared down Wilson Avenue, heading east toward the lake.  Brown said he and Robinson have a simple understanding: “Don’t f— with me. I won’t f— with you.”

Yes, until the next time.  Why didn’t the prosecutor go ahead with the trial anyway?  The public is sick of this.  Or throw Brown in jail alongside Robinson, for lying and changing his story, for false accusations?  How about making Brown pay for his hospital bills if he won’t cooperate with the prosecution?  Would anything short of zero tolerance guarantee that either of these felonious buffoons will live to old age, or at least not kill anyone besides themselves?  And: “forgiveness [is] his brand of nonviolent street justice”???

Among all the prayers this tableau summons, one can only pray that the reporter was attempting irony.

The newspaper article ends with another drug dealer (this one shot, self-admittedly, in a “deal gone bad”) who complains that the cops didn’t do a good enough job investigating his case (though it is a judge who dismisses the charges).  Funny how even the worst thugs know which side of the bread is buttered and kiss up to judges.

So, in the final analysis, courtroom failures don’t exist and the police are responsible for snitching, for the culture of no-snitching, for the lack of evidence, for the rejection of evidence, for being too tough, for being too weak, for responding to crimes, for not responding . . . for merely existing while some thug sits in McDonald’s stuffing his face, pontificating his views on police performance at a reporter who is hopefully just pretending to hang on his every word:

[Repeat felon and shooting victim Dontae] Gamble also said authorities should have done a better job of investigating, putting together a stronger case and getting their facts straight since a judge might not believe a guy like him.

This would be laughable if police weren’t dying.

It’s too bad the Sun-Times reporters spent all their time eliciting opinions from people like Dontae Gamble and Willie Brown instead of focusing on the one striking fact buried amidst all the street-gang high-fives and sentimentalist clap-trap, because this fact explains entirely why police are dying on Chicago’s streets and elsewhere.  It should have been the starting point for the article they should have written:

Shooting victims in Chicago are almost as likely to have a long rap sheet as the shooters. In 2008, 72 percent of murder victims and 91 percent of accused killers had arrest histories, according to police statistics.

Long rap sheets.  Recidivists all.  If 91% of accused killers in Chicago have long arrest histories, it is not the police who are to blame for their presence on the streets: it is the courts and corrections systems that repeatedly cut them breaks and cut them loose.  The recent killer of two police in Tampa had a long rap sheet, as did the man who shot the two other officers who survived, as did the man who shot another Tampa cop last year, as did all the known cop killers in Chicago, and Detroit, and in Oakland and Seattle and L.A.  And so on and on and on.

~~~

The media may have dropped the ball on the war on cops, but thanks to the internet there are other sources of information from police themselves and police-turned-bloggers.  This article, by Dave Smith at PoliceOne blog is worth a thousand afternoons with the likes of Dontae Gamble.  And this column, by Chicago Sun Times columnist Michael Sneed, counters several ill-times, ham-handed screeds by Sneed’s anti-cop colleagues at the paper.

Two Tampa-Area Police Dead, Two Others Wounded: It’s Time for a Citizen’s Review Panel . . . of the Courts

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The Tampa Bay area is reeling from four police shootings, two fatal, two non-fatal only because the officers were wearing bullet-proof vests.

This morning, Tampa officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were killed at a traffic stop.  David Curtis was the father of four young children.  He worked the overnight shift so he could spend more time with his children.  Jeffrey Kocab was about to become a father: he leaves behind a wife who is nine months pregnant.

Jeffrey Kocab                          David Curtis

Even in death, David Curtis is continuing to serve.  His organs are being harvested today to save the lives of people he never met.  In the next few weeks, Jeffrey Kocab’s wife will bury her young husband and give birth to his child.

~~~

Of course, the person being sought in these murders has a long record and should have been in prison:

Police said they are looking for Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, and Cortnee’ Nicole Brantley, 22, but have not named them as suspects.  Morris was released from state prison in April after serving two years on a drug conviction in Hillsborough County, records show.  In October 2005, he was arrested by Tampa police on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and robbery. He was found not guilty.

Morris spend nine months in prison, starting in 2004, for several cocaine charges.  Upon release, he was quickly re-arrested and charged with murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and robbery.  Some judge or jury acquitted him.  Why, I wonder.  Surely, with multiple gun charges, and an attempted murder, there was evidence.  Police did manage to put him away again after the murder acquittal — on yet more drug charges accumulated over two years.  He went back to prison in 2008 and got out two months ago.

Why didn’t the murder charges stick in 2005?  Why wasn’t Morris’ cumulative — and accumulating — record considered in sentencing him?  Now two police are dead, and while it is premature to draw any conclusions, I hope the question gets asked: What happened in the courts that enabled a repeat offender, a violent gun felon, a man charged with a previous murder, to be walking the streets of Tampa last night?

[The] incident began about 2:15 a.m. when [Officer David] Curtis pulled over the Toyota, which was missing a tag, near 50th Street and 23rd Avenue, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. The passenger was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant out of Jacksonville for a worthless check, so Curtis called for backup and Kocab came to the scene.  Both officers were shot in the head at close range as they approached the passenger side of the Toyota. . .

Somebody in the courts, or the prosecutor’s office, or the city council, or the state legislature, needs to step up and announce a top-to bottom review of the choices made that put this killer back on the streets, not once, not twice, but three times (not counting the inevitable juvenile record).  People crawl all over themselves to create citizen review boards whenever a police officer makes any kind of mistake.  Why shouldn’t the same be done with our courts, especially when officers get killed, but also whenever someone else gets killed by a predator who should have been in prison?

Meanwhile, in Lakeland, an hour outside Tampa, two other policemen are alive today thanks only to their bulletproof vests.

Deputy Paul Fairbanks

Deputy Michael Braswell

Deputies Paul Fairbanks and Mike Braswell were shot multiple times after stopping Matthew Tutt, who is described as a “21-year old . . . with a long criminal history.”  Another repeat offender who should have been in prison.  He was killed by police at the scene, but his presence on the streets that night ought to be the subject of another citizen’s review.  The fact that, by the grace of God, the officers were saved by their vests doesn’t change the fact that Tutt tried to murder them:

Tutt fired seven times, according to the sheriff’s office. Three of those bullets hit 58-year-old Deputy Paul Fairbanks III — in the stomach, left wrist and left elbow, Judd said. Deputy Mike Braswell, 32, was hit in the right hand, twice on the chest and once in the right thigh.

Ironically, there will probably be a review of the officers’ actions in shooting Tutt.  But there will be no review of the court’s decision to allow Tutt to be out on the streets, armed and dangerous, when he might have been in prison instead.  So long as we challenge and micromanage police actions while handing out free passes to the rest of the justice system, it’s the police who will continue to suffer and die.

Québécois Anarcho-Buffoons and the Tediousness of G-8 Rioting

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Remember when sticking daisies in riot policemen’s guns used to at least be, you know, original?

Vietnam War Protesters, 1967 (Bernie Boston)

Could all that “postmodern irony” actually just be “laziness”?

Toronto G8 Protests, 2010

And am I the only one who thinks this guy should be waving a rolled-up copy of Captain Marvel, instead?

~~~~

Of course, there isn’t anything particularly funny about forcing Canadian taxpayers to pony up 1.2 billion dollars so that super-hip anarchists in trendy riot-wear can make social statements like this one:

Anarchist Liberates Name-Brand Consumer Electronics

Or this:

Anarchist Teaches Chicken Fascists Who’s Boss

Just in case you’ve forgotten the unique funk of filthy hippies, here’s a picture that will bring it all back:

Dried Sweat, Old Patchouli, Dirty Toes, Clove Ciggies?

At least his mother doesn’t have to worry about him ending up in the hospital wearing dirty underwear.

~~~

Of course, the police in Toronto are taking heat from the Left for being, you know, fascist defenders of Starbucks, family-owned chicken places, phone sales kiosks, and the multinational leadership of the G8 (though I imagine not one in ten protesters could explain precisely why they pitch these G-8 tantrums).

And the cops are also taking heat from the Right for failing to prevent the torching of police cars and looting.

But what the heck are they supposed to do?  Nobody should be criticizing the police.  All responsibility lies with the Québécois anarcho-buffoons who planned and incited the violence, risking police lives — while the police struggled to protect the protesters’ safety.  Talk about insult to injury.  We’ve tied police hands with citizen’s reviews, and threats of lawsuits, and irresponsible media accusations, and this is the consequence: Mom and pop fried chicken, you’re out of luck.

~~~

I don’t know why they bother to hold G-8 events in cities with lots of vulnerable storefronts and lots of local anarcho-political types whose personal life choices demand hip shopping districts and vegan restaurants for chilling out in after a long day of showing up The Man.

Why encourage the protesters by making it easy to take to the streets and be home in time for lattes and clubbing?  Most “anarchists” who show up at these things don’t have the attention span to travel long distances, especially when the destination is extremely un-hip.

Remember when they held the G-8 on Sea Island, off the Georgia coast, near St. Simons Island and the sleepy shore town of Brunswick, GA?

Remember how 200,000 protesters were expected, and some 300 perplexed and sweaty anarchos actually woke up early enough to get there, only to be greeted by disinterested locals and crabby reporters who’d had to start the day without their Starbucks, because there are no Starbucks to loot in Brunswick?

Remember how the handful of protesters resorted to beating up a cameramen because there was literally nobody else around?

Brunswick, Georgia, 2004.  Behind This Tiny Meleé: Nothing.

I lived in St. Simons Island for a little more than a year.  So I can say with some authority that the protesters were absolutely correct when they whined that the G-8 organizers had outwitted them by holding the conference on an inaccessible island near a humongous federal law enforcement training center, surrounded by unbearably humid, mosquito-and-alligator infested marshes.

Yes, they did.  Outwit them.

So, for the sake of municipal budgeting and police sanity, why not pick similar places for future G-8s?  How about Crawford, Texas, where President Bush has his ranch and town-people are experienced in hosting the media while ignoring screeching loonies?

~~~

Meanwhile, nobody ought to waste a single breath critiquing police response at the G-8 riots in Toronto or the Lakers riots in Los Angeles last week.  Hands tied firmly behind their backs, the police did what they could do to minimize and contain hordes of violent thugs acting out with premeditated violence — while the protesters and the media shoot pictures of each other and point fingers at the police the moment anyone gets hurt.

G-8 Protests, 2009:  A Hundred Pictures Worth a Single Word

The Green Mile Syndrome: David Lee Powell Was Not Innocent. His Victims Are Not Hateful.

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Someone claiming to be cop-killer David Powell’s cousin has written me, accusing Powell’s victims and the justice system of various sins.  Unsupported allegations like these too often pass for debate over the death penalty in the mainstream media.  Therefore, it’s worth a look, though the slurs Powell’s cousin tosses at the victims ought to just be trash canned.  See here and here for my previous posts on Powell.

The writer, John Struve, makes several assertions about minutiae of the appeals process — assertions that should be taken with a very large grain of salt, for he offers no proof.  It’s not as if the courts didn’t revisit these cases in detail: that is why it took 30 years to execute Powell.  It’s not as if Struve lacks access to the court documents.  But he feels no need to back up his claims, and in this, the media has unfortunately trained him to need no proof as he says everything and anything about the case against Powell.

For, while a technical error or defense-biased evidentiary rules can blow a strong case for the prosecution, the defense suffers no consequences for repetitively and flagrantly lying.  Many activists and defense lawyers feel that such lies are an honorable act — a sort of noble rot that produces the always-desired outcome of avoiding consequences for crime.

If Mr. Struve would like to send actual documentation backing up any of his assertions here, I’ll post it.  But his claims sound like the type made loudly and repetitively — in cases like Troy Davis’ in Georgia — that lazy reporters reprint without looking into the original court records, or the prosecution arguments, or the trail of appeals.

John Struve’s letter:

You are all so short sighted. The fact still remains that the dying Ralph Ablanedo, when asked who did this, said, ” a girl” and “That damn girl.”

Powell’s female accomplice was the driver.  Powell opened fire not once, but twice on officers.  Ablenado’s dying words are being misrepresented, which is an awful thing to do.

Several officers testified at Sheila’s parole hearing in 1982 stating that she was a future danger to society and that she did all the shooting and threw the grenade. Unfortunately, this information was not released to us, the family, until 2002, and the prosecutors at that time thought it would be easier to get the death penalty for a man than a woman. He had already exhausted all of his appeals by this time.

Actually, the female accomplice testified that Powell thrust a grenade at her, but she wasn’t able to deploy it right.  I’m sure the officers testified that the she should never get out of prison.  I would be very surprised if they testified that she “did all the shooting.”  Struve appears to be accusing these police of lying in their original testimony in the Powell trial — a serious allegation.  Defamation of character is actionable.

Incidentally, if this case were tried today, changes in the law would make it easier to hold all offenders responsible for a crime in which someone is murdered.

Now a human being that had definite reasonable doubt of guilt has been murdered.

Not true.

Just like Cameron Todd Willingham.

The Powell case has nothing to do with the Willingham case.  The Willingham case, in which a man was executed for setting the fire which killed his three small children, is another cause celebré, thanks to wildly biased and strangely querulous reporting in the New Yorker.

Why is it that New Yorker editors seem to thrill at watching predators prey on the great unwashed?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, forensic scientists are revisiting the Willingham case.  But cherry-picked claims about the fire itself, which constitutes the much-publicized defense, ignores other forensic evidence and the actual testimony that put Willingham behind bars (and you can buy expert witnesses to say anything — they charge by the act, as do many professionals).

I’m not going to bother to link to anything regarding Willingham.  The local news reporting, read in total, explains the controversy.  Virtually everything else should be read with a highly critical eye.  Embarrassingly, even Wikipedia places the word “alleged” before prosecution testimony that passed courtroom muster while allowing defense testimony which failed to pass muster to be stated as fact.  Pretty unprofessional of them, but that’s typical of reporting in these cases.

It’s death by a thousand cuts for the truth. Back to John Struve:

I am 33 years old, so my cousin David had been in jail my entire life.

Officer Ablenado has been dead for the last 33 years of his sons’ lives.  Shame on Struve for attempting to insert himself into that tragedy.

Once it came to a point where justice had failed due to officer and political vengeance

Again, defamation?

that caused the truth to be buried, we realized that we needed to embrace that David was guilty of this single act.

And then there was the auto theft, petty theft, stockpiling weapons, drug dealing, over 100 bad checks — yeah, he was a boy scout carrying hand grenades and automatic rifles around in a car, serially ripping off innocent people by the scores.  Come on.

Maybe not the one who pulled the trigger, but definitely responsible as the law of parties would suggest. He took that responsibility, although up to his murder, always stated that he has no recollection of what happened that dreadfully fateful night. All we wanted was for his life to be spared. Please read his story at letdavidlive.org before jumping on the “eye for an eye” human written testament of justice bandwagon dated over 2000 years ago.

Crying “vengeance” is offensive.  Struve doesn’t know these people.

If killing 100 evil people means that even 1 is innocent, then that indicates that the entire system is dysfunctional. Just think if it were you or someone you loved that was truly innocent. Now, my only hope is that the Willingham and David’s cases serve as martyrs to help us move from the 18th century into the new world where people actually think instead of seek blood for blood. Since David was put to death, then you should

See, we are all vengeful.  Bloodthirsty.  If I had a dime for every time some bloated defense attorney wannabe accused me of wanting innocent people to suffer . . . I still wouldn’t have enough money to buy enough earplugs.

all believe that Officer Leonardo Quintana should be held to the same standards. [?]   The unredacted Key Point report specifically states that his reckless tactics were what caused the police sanctioned murder of a defenseless individual, Nathaniel Sanders III. And unlike David, he had a history of reported violations prior to committing his murder. I used to be a huge proponent of the death penalty, but as I go through life, as I probably would have felt during the Spanish Inquisition, I question the tactics that we, as a society, use to punish individuals for acts of behavior “outside” that of what is considered the norm.

Behavior “outside” that of what is considered to norm? Is Struve equating blowing away an innocent public servant and trying to murder several others (whom Powell shot at, and missed) with, say, changing radio stations or hairstyles?

My brother is a Texas State Trooper. If he were killed in the line of duty or otherwise, I would not want the death penalty for the accused. If he were to murder someone on the taxpayer’s dime or not, I would not want him to receive the death penalty. Now we mourn. Next we move forward with our efforts to abolish the death penalty 1st in Texas, then in the entire United States. NOTE: What do you do when it is later found out that someone WE executed is found to be innocent? Go to their grave and pour some Mickey’s on it?

Nice.  Struve places his feelings above the officer’s family’s, makes himself the center of attention, accuses the real victims of heinous, animalistic rage, defames scores of police officers, and then accuses society of failing to live up to his standards of morality.  So much of this activism is a sickness, parading around as morality.

I wonder if this John Struve is the same person who sent me an anonymous e-mail celebrating the recent murder of Chicago Officer Thomas Wortham?  The sentiment sounds similar.

I welcome any suggestions for identifying anonymous e-mails.

~~~

You don’t have to support the death penalty (I don’t) to be disgusted by what passes for activism and reporting on death row cases.  An enormous, fact-free myth system has been built up around allegations that innocent men fill our prisons and molder nobly on death row.  This “Green Mile” syndrome, indulged by politicians and priests and professors — and more journalists than you could shake a forest of redwoods at — well, it has consequences.  It abuses the real victims, because they are falsely accused of everything from ransacking the justice system to being simply evil.

Careless reporting gives careless people free reign.

Consider the Troy Davis case. It has also become a cause celebré.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported ceaselessly on the activism for Davis and editorially advocated for him.  Yet, nowhere in their reporting (unless there are articles that have never appeared on-line) have they bothered to mention the subject of forensic evidence withheld by the original trial court on a technicality, evidence that strongly supports Davis’ guilt.  Nor have they addressed the case made by prosecutors who were (quite unusually) freed up to discuss evidence against Davis after the Supreme Court made an unusual decision to revisit that evidence.

Nor have they mentioned efforts by Davis’ lawyers to keep physical evidence from being considered as the case gets revisited, thanks to the Supreme Court’s actions.  No, you couldn’t possibly trust the public with information about the real issues at stake in the Davis case, and other death row appeals.  Atlanta readers — by far the largest audience of Davis supporters — know nothing of any of this, unless they read Savannah papers:

Black shorts evidence:  After months of wrangling over evidence and legal issues, attorneys for the state’s attorney general’s office last week asked permission to submit Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports concerning “blood examination on pair of black shorts recovered from (Davis’) mother’s home on Aug. 19, 1989.”  They also asked to submit a report of DNA typing of the item.  Davis’ lawyers cried foul, urging Moore not to allow the evidence which they called “untimely” and “of questionable probative value.”  They argued it would “clearly prejudice” (Davis’) ability to rebut the contents of the report.  The jury hearing Davis’ 1991 trial never heard about the shorts after Chatham County Superior Court Judge James W. Head barred them from evidence because of what he found was police coercion of Davis’ mother, Virginia Davis, when she arrived near her Sylvester Drive home Aug. 19, 1989.  Police seized the shorts from a dryer while searching for the murder weapon.

And this must-read from the Chatham County D.A., published last year in the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County’s district attorney explains why he’s not concerned that an innocent man may be put to death.

Many people are concerned that an innocent man is about to be put to death. I know this, and I understand it. I am not likewise concerned, however, and I want to explain why.

The only information the public has had in the 17 years since Troy Davis’ conviction has been generated by people ideologically opposed to the death penalty, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

While they have shouted, we have been silent. The canons of legal ethics prohibit a lawyer – prosecutor and defense counsel alike – from commenting publicly, or engineering public comments, on the issue of guilt or innocence in a pending criminal case.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, the case is over, and I can try to tell our side.

First , Davis’ advocates have insisted that there was no physical evidence in the case. This is not true.

Crime lab tests proved that the shell casings recovered from the shooting of Michael Cooper at a party earlier in the evening were fired from the same weapon as the casings recovered from the scene of Officer Mark MacPhail’s murder. Davis was convicted of shooting Cooper.

And, while it isn’t physical evidence, consider the “testimony” of Officer MacPhail himself: When he comes to the rescue of a homeless man being harassed and pistol-whipped, the officer ran past Sylvester Coles on his way to catch Davis. This makes Davis the only one of those two with a motive to shoot Officer MacPhail. Yet Davis’ lawyers argue to condemn Coles for shooting MacPhail. Why would he?

In fact, Davis’ advocates are eager to condemn Coles based on evidence far weaker than their characterization of the evidence against Davis. Where is their sense of fairness? This is the same Sylvester Coles who promptly presented himself to police, and who was advised by counsel to tell all that he knew – with his lawyer not even present. Which he did. No lawyer who even faintly suspects a client of criminal conduct would let him talk to the police without counsel.

Second , they claim that seven of nine witnesses have recanted their trial testimony. This is not believable.

To be sure, they’ve produced affidavits; a few handwritten and apparently voluntarily and spontaneous, except for concluding with “further the affiant sayeth not.” Who wrote that stuff? The lawyers, perhaps?

The law is understandably skeptical of post-trial “newly-discovered evidence.”

Such evidence as these affidavits might, for example, be paid for, or coerced, or the product of fading memory.

If every verdict could be set aside by the casual acceptance of a witness’s changing his mind or suggesting uncertainty, decades after the event, it is easy to see how many cases would have to be tried at least twice (perhaps ad infinitum).

Thus the law sets strict standards for such “newly discovered” evidence.

For example, it cannot be for a lack of diligence that the new evidence was not discovered sooner, and the defendant is expected to present that evidence at the earliest possible time.

Yet these affidavits were not offered in a motion for new trial until eight days before the first scheduled execution in 2008 seventeen years after Davis’ conviction. If this affidavit evidence was so compelling, why didn’t they rush to seek a new trial in 2003 when they had most of the affidavits they now rely upon? Or collect those affidavits earlier?

Each of the now-“recanting” witnesses was closely questioned at trial by lawyers representing Davis, specifically on the question whether they were in any way pressured or coerced by police in giving their statements or testimony. All denied it.

And while an 80 percent recantation rate – the first in the history of the world ? – may seem to some as overwhelmingly persuasive, to others of us it invites a suggestion of uncanny coincidence, making it very difficult to believe.

Third , they claim that their “newly discovered evidence” (i.e., the recantations) hasn’t been adequately considered by the courts. This is not true.

The affidavits, in various combinations, had already been reviewed by 29 judges in seven different types of review, over the course of 17 years, before Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Parole Board halted the execution in 2007, saying they wouldn’t allow a possibly innocent man to be executed. Then, after more than a year of reviewing all of the evidence on both sides, and hearing from every witness Davis’ lawyers presented – including Davis – they refused to grant clemency.

The trial was fair. Davis was represented by superbly skilled criminal defense lawyers. He was convicted by a fair jury (seven black and five white). The post conviction stridency we’ve seen has been much about the death penalty and little about Troy Davis.

The jury found that Davis, after shooting another man earlier in the evening, murdered a police officer who came to the rescue of a homeless man Davis had beaten. Mark MacPhail had never even drawn his weapon.

A more complete discussion of these – and other – points can be found at Chathamcounty.org/vwap/html [link gone]
Spencer Lawton Jr. is Chatham County District Attorney.

Why would the AJC be so coy, essentially misleading an audience of millions on crucial elements of physical evidence in a controversial case?  Because what they are doing is not reporting: it is advocating for Davis.  Ditto Davis supporters like the Pope, Bob Barr, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu — none of whom, I’m sure, bothered to reach out to Officer MacPhail’s family.

As I’ve said before, oppose the death penalty on grounds of universal ethics, or opposition to state-administered death, but when you make a faux hero out of a murderous, worthless criminal like Troy Davis, you are doing so at the cost of the humanity and dignity of the real victims.

Slain Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Children

Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Website

Clockwork Riots, L.A. Lakers Style: These Are Not Sports Fans

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Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

You put on your Men’s Warehouse suit and drive to the office, dreading the inevitable outcome of the day.  Settling into your cubicle, you arrange the day’s work on the chipped laminate desk: a billy club, mace, and a copy of the quarterly budget figures for your division, awaiting approval from above.  In the next cubicle, Joey H. is already rocking back and forth in his mesh swivel knockoff, working the screws on one of the padded armrests.

The word comes from headquarters right before lunch: the budget numbers are good.

Joey lets out a guttural shriek, rips the loosened arm off his chair and kicks the front wall off his cubicle, still howling.  You grab the mace and billyclub and follow him as he tears a path of destruction to the break room, carefully avoiding getting too close, shouting at him to step down.

Joey ignores you and smacks out a fluorescent light fixture with his arm-rest, sending bits of glass and toxic powder all over accounting.  Then he pulls a wad of gasoline-soaked newspaper out of his pocket, lights it with a lighter, and throws the flaming mass in the paper recycling bin by the door.

Mike D. wearily rises from his desk, shouldering his fire extinguisher, and heads for the blaze.

You follow Joey into the break room.  He’s already used a folding chair to demolish the front of the snack machine, filling his pockets with KitKats while chanting “We’re Number One.”  You notice he’s been working out.

“Put the Kit Kats down, Joey,” you say.

“F*** You, Pig-Man,” he screams, winging a full Red Bull can at your face.  Luckily, you thought to wear your plexi face shied to work today.  Now that you’ve cornered him, Joey head-buts your belly.  That hurts.  You smack him a few times with the billy-club, always aware that the altercation is being recorded on security cameras for later review.  Finally, you manage to subdue him with the help of Kathy P., the new associate from sales.  She’s brought her handcuffs, and Joey’s taken off to the bathroom to wash up and get ready for Personnel to review the security tapes.

Later that day, the verdict comes back from Human Resources.  While you should have tried to stop Joey before he broke the front of the snack machine, you’re not going to get docked pay for using excessive force subduing him, like last quarter.  Kathy P. however, is going to have to go before the panel and explain why she bruised Joey H.’s wrist while snapping the handcuffs on.

Cop Injured By Lakers Enthusiasm

Joey H. gets assigned five hours of community service, which immediately gets suspended, as HR is testing a new program which will use positive messaging and self-esteem training to encourage him to stop setting the office on fire.  (Nancy W., still recovering from those lycra burns from the spring quarter numbers, stifles a bitter laugh).  Joey takes the rest of the afternoon off to meet his new esteem coach at the Starbucks.  The rest of the staff gets down to sweeping up broken glass and trying to scrub the scorch marks off the walls while running the numbers on the cost of replacing the carpet.

All except Kathy P., who is hiding in the bathroom to avoid those a-holes from PR who want to snap her picture and use it to illustrate a story they’re writing about the proper way to subdue a co-worker.  You settle into your smoke-fill cubicle and tug your rumpled necktie, wishing you could take it off as you start in on the stack of paperwork explaining your actions.

It’s going to be a long night.  There’s no way you’re going to catch that Lakers game.

~~~

That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

I think most police would be grateful if the media and political leaders would just drop the fiction that such premeditated and utterly predictable riots (oh, I’m sorry, University of Santa Cruz: “uprisings”) really have anything to do with uncontrollable fan excitement over sporting events.

For every honest person knows that certain sporting events are just used by criminals and criminal wannabes to justify — to schedule — their own main events: destroying property, setting fires, looting stores, and throwing heavy things at policemen who are damned if they do respond and damned if they don’t respond.  The Los Angeles Times described the mayhem this time as a “a sour note as Los Angeles Police Department officers clashed with rowdy fans.”  Clashed with?

Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:

Police were forced to prepare for weeks in advance, planning and deploying tactical forces at great personal risk, including risk of lawsuits, and all at taxpayer expense, to try to minimize the anticipated violent lawbreaking scheduled for the conclusion of the Lakers game.

Rowdy fans? Do these look like rowdy fans, or do they look like people who showed up knowing they’d have some consequence-free fun breaking things and attacking bystanders and cops?

Alas, there’s always an apologist in academia ready to argue against personal responsibility:

Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, said the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well.  Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.

See, they’re not responsible.  They’re just hormonal.

“When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way,” Cialdini said. “We’re likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven’t done anything.”

OK, why do people riot when their team loses, too?  Shouldn’t they be taking up needlepoint and thinking about changing their hairstyles instead?  And does this really look like joy over a championship season?

~~~

How about holding the rioters accountable, instead of the police? L.A.T. columnist Sandy Banks did acknowledge that the police presence was necessary, but even she couldn’t resist minimizing the actions of the criminals and reserving too much irritation for the cops putting their lives on the line . . . to protect people like her.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but why is it so difficult to look at images like this and just blame the guilty parties . . . full stop?

The antics of a bunch of losers shouldn’t obscure the patience, goodwill and high spirits of the thousands of fans who ventured downtown for a communal party and wound up being treated like pariahs. . .  The basketball game had barely begun when LAPD officers were summoned to dispatch growing crowds in the area.  “Keep moving, keep moving.” The command came over the loudspeaker as a phalanx of officers advanced, moving us off the paseo and onto crowded Figueroa Street. They pulled metal gates across the entrance to the complex to keep us out. . . . [The police] deserve a lot of credit for controlling the chaos. Everywhere you looked there were cops: on horseback, scooters, motorcycles and bikes, in buzzing helicopters and siren-blaring black-and-whites. If that set some nerves on edge, it also made clear who was in charge.  But it was hard not to feel unwanted. “If you don’t have a ticket, go home” was the officers’ message — explicitly delivered and universally ignored.

Throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads and trying to pull people out of their vehicles aren’t “antics.”  And what Banks labels a police message here is actually a message from the criminals, to people like her: they own the streets, and law abiding people don’t.  The police were merely stuck in the middle, trying to prevent innocent people from being injured by violent, lawless criminals.

I’d like to see Ms. Banks follow up by following the cases of fifty-or-so rioters arrested for violent “antics,” as they get serially dismissed by the courts.

Maybe then she’ll gain a better understanding of why it really is that L.A. — and other cities, like Atlanta — can’t host public events for decent people like her.  And the answer has nothing to do with whether your team wins, or how the police react to it.

Executing David Lee Powell: The Austin Statesman Hearts a Cop-Killer

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Media coverage of executions used to be shameless.  Reporters played advocate, inserting themselves and their inflamed sensibilities into the story, while victims’ families were ignored or accused of being “vengeful,” a crime apparently worse than murder itself.

Only victims’ families were thus demeaned: offenders, no matter the horror of their actual crimes, were depicted in only the most positive light.  They were deemed specially sensitive, or dignified, or talented, or at least pitiful, as if playing up to (or merely embodying) the reporter’s sensibilities magically erased the profound harm these men had visited on others.

Reporters filed bathetic stories detailing this killer’s last meal or that prisoner’s hobbies without mentioning the behavior that had placed the men on death row in the first place, unless, that is, extremely prurient details or a high body count made for interesting reading.

Victims were either ignored, or criticized, or their suffering was objectified.

Such overt expressions of contempt aimed at victims are no longer the status quo. But I don’t believe that what has replaced them in reporting is better.  Now, in the interest of allegedly telling “both sides of the story,” journalists dutifully mention the offender’s crime and say a few nice things about the victim’s life.  They let the victim’s family have their say — something that rarely happened in the past, though they’re often angling for the victims to say something angry, so they can make them sound “vengeful.”

Judith and Bruce Mills hold a picture of Officer Ralph Ablanedo

Then, “balance” accomplished, the reporters get back to the business of valorizing murderers.

David Lee Powell, who slaughtered Officer Ablanedo in 1978

This type of reporting depicts victims and killers as moral equals.  It denies that there is any difference between being an innocent murdered horribly by some sociopath thug or being the murdering sociopath thug (cleaned up for the cameras, of course, via years of taxpayer-subsidized advice from their lawyers).

When both victim and killer are presented as victims, then who, exactly, is the victimizer?

Obviously, the state, or “society,” or “all of us,” which is the reporter’s real point.

Ultimately, in journalism like this, the victim’s suffering, and the family’s expressions of pain, are merely put through the grinder in the service of the offender in a new way.  It’s just a different flavor of dehumanization.  And if this disturbing article and video and even more disturbing editorial in the Austin Statesman are any indication of what can be done to crime victims in the name of such moral leveling, family members of should probably just go back to refusing to speak to reporters at all.

David Lee Powell today, in the Austin Statesman’s Story Detailing His Good Qualities

In a long feature story this week, the Austin Statesman commits the act of moral equivalency in order to advocate against the execution of David Lee Powell.  I say “advocate” here because the reporters are clearly pleading Powell’s case.  How clearly?  The story is actually accompanied by an emotive video of Powell, his voice cracking and wavering, bestowing his jailhouse wisdom to the article’s reporters, who appear on the screen swaying like awed schoolboys to the rhythm of his words.

link to video through article here

The video is a perversion.  It’s porn, a pornographic display of Powell’s feigned remorse, which he utters in the carefully parsed syntax of legal dissembling.  In the video and on the page, the reporters allow Powell to explain away his failure to apologize to the family of his victim for nearly 30 years.  They don’t happen to mention that he spent those years denying responsibility throughout several appeals and re-trials, which is the real reason why he never previously expressed remorse, also why the remorse so exhibitionistically flashed here is unlikely to actually exist:

Saying he is horrified to have caused Ablanedo’s murder, Powell has tried to apologize to the officer’s family and to express regret for the pain he caused by “an act that was a betrayal of everything I believed in and aspired to be.”  “I had wanted to do it for decades,” Powell said of his December 2009 letter to Ablanedo’s family. “Although it was obviously too little too late, it seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a small, tentative first step towards healing the tear in the social fabric that was caused” by the murder.

He “tried,” you know.  Just never got around to doing it until the appeals ran out.  It’s clear that Powell doesn’t feel remorse.  He doesn’t even really speak of remorse — instead, he starts rambling about being a victim of a justice system that “humbled” and “bruised” him.  Throughout this performance, the camera pans to the reporters, making them part of Powell’s jailhouse drama.  If their article is any measure of the interactions in that room, it’s an exciting role for them.

The video is clearly edited to convey Powell’s humanity and fragility, and yet it fails to achieve that goal.  Raw contempt shines through his lawyerly demurrals despite all the close-ups of his shaking hands and a soundtrack featuring his breathing sounds, amplified for effect.

Powell spends more time talking about SAT scores and high school grades than the officer’s murder.  So, for that matter, do the reporters.  According to the killer, he “scored the highest score that had ever been scored” on the SAT, and this should define him, not the officer’s murder.  In other words, doing well on the SAT should excuse the killing of a human being.

The rest of the article is the usual jumble of schlock, lies, and omissions.  Impressively, reporters, Chuck Lindell and Tony Plohetski completely paper over Powell’s long history of appeals, quite an accomplishment in a long article about the long time it has taken to execute Powell because of his long history of appeals.

The result is an awful lot like watching a fixed dog hump the air.

Not that any of this is actually funny. It’s grotesque.  It’s grotesque that the Austin Statesman would demean the victims by weighing Powell’s high school grades against the brutal murder of a young cop and father.  It’s grotesque that they pose the pseudo-metaphysical question: Has Powell’s Execution Lost Its Meaning? and then paddle around haplessly answering “yes” for five pages, yet pretend that what they are doing is reporting on Powell’s impending execution.

It’s grotesque that they ambush the victims and exploit their losses, both in the article and in a Statesman editorial which intentionally misrepresents statements by the victim’s family (the family did an amazing job responding to the media).

I had trouble embedding the Powell video in the blog today.  But please go to the newspaper’s website and take a look.  The editorial is here, and the interview with Bruce and Judy Mills, from which their quotes are ripped out of context, is here.

That the editors would behave this way really does speak to a mindset in which victims’ deaths are deemed less significant than their killers’ report cards, or the hobbies they take up on death row, or the fact that they have lots of pen pals . . . all arguments promoted by the fine journalists at the Austin Statesman.  If this is what happens when reporters imagine they are inserting “balance” into their death row reporting, I’ll take the bad old days when they just pointed fingers and screamed “vigilante” at people who had lost their loved ones to violence.  It was a less dirty fight that way.

Police Killings are a National Emergency: Why No National Leadership?

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These are unbearably dangerous times for police, and their families. In the last week, in two different tragedies, older officers witnessed the murder of their police officer sons, one in Chicago, one in West Memphis.  The second officer killed in the Memphis shooting was the son and grandson of police officers as well.

Chicago:

Thomas Wortham IV, two-time Iraq War veteran, Chicago police officer, and community activist, was gunned down by four men outside his father’s house in a robbery attempt.  His father, retired police officer Thomas Wortham, managed to kill one of the assailants and wound another, but his son, shot in the head in front of his father’s house, did not survive.

The younger Wortham had driven to his parent’s home to show them pictures he had taken at the annual memorial service for slain police officers in Washington the previous week.  Next year, he will be among those memorialized there.

In an interview published in the Chicago Tribune the week before he was killed, Wortham spoke out about rising crime in Chicago.  Unlike naysayers who excuse such violence, downplay it, or try to exploit it for political gain, he was taking the threat seriously:

Chicago Tribune: Chatham residents fondly remember the fierce competition at Cole Park that at times drew some of the best local talent for pickup games.  The park, tucked among the neighborhood’s tidy streets, was also a place for local kids to shoot hoops — and maybe dream of one day being that good.  Then on a spring evening last month, a gunman fired into a crowd of teens playing on the court, wounding two young men. One was hit in the calf and hip; the other in the neck.  It was the second shooting on the courts in four weeks. By that night, the basketball rims at the celebrated courts had been disabled with locks or taken down altogether, on orders of Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th, who said it was simply too unsafe to play there. The loss of the courts has disappointed many residents who say kids need a place to play. At the same time, the shootings illustrate a deeper concern in Chatham — how this neighborhood that prides itself on its middle-class values will stem brewing violence.  “It’s starting to feel like it’s expected in this community,” Tom Wortham, 30, president of the Cole Park advisory council whose grandfather built a home across from the park 50 years ago, said of the violence. “When people think of the South Side of Chicago, they think violence. In Chatham, that’s not what we see. It’s happened, and we’re going to fix it, so it doesn’t happen again.”

Chicago Officer Thomas Wortham IV, speaking out against gang violence a week before his death

Wortham is the second police officer gunned down from Chicago’s Englewood Precinct in a year: last June, Officer Alejandro “Alex” Valadez, 27, was assassinated by two gang members who were free on “felony probation” for earlier violent crimes.  Wortham’s killers, too, were on probation from earlier gun crimes.

Like Officer Wortham, Officer Valadez was from a police family: his surviving brother, sister, and girlfriend are all police officers.  Why are we sacrificing our nation’s best families — by pandering to the worst?

Chicago Officer Alejandro Valadez, murdered June 1, 2009

Also in Chicago, police cars are being set on fire, and officers’ houses are being burglarized.

Memphis:

Two police officers in Memphis were murdered by a father and his sixteen year old son: the father was an anti-government-and-bank activist who, like the killers in Chicago, had been granted leniency for an earlier gun crime.  One of the murdered officers was the son of West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, who rushed to the scene:

The bloodiest day for area law enforcement officials began with routine-sounding radio broadcasts that West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert and his wife heard from their car.  One was from their son, Sgt. Brandon Paudert, reporting that he was providing backup for a traffic stop on Interstate 40.  Moments later, however, came a chilling transmission: “Officer down.”  The elder Paudert rushed to the scene to find his 39-year-old son, a seven-year veteran with the West Memphis force, lying dead on the pavement, shot in the head and neck, still gripping his service weapon.

Sgt. Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans were both young fathers.  Officer Evans’ father and grandfather had been police officers.  Their killer had a long history of criminal charges . . .

Since 1983, [Jerry] Kane was arrested or cited six times in Clark County, Ohio, on charges ranging from passing bad checks to criminal trespass, drunken driving and driving with expired tags.  Kane was charged with felonious assault in 2004 after allegedly shooting a 13-year-old boy in Springfield with a “handgun-style BB gun.”

. . . and increasing confrontations with the police:

Sheriff Gene Kelly in Clark County, Ohio, said he issued a warning to law enforcement about Kane in July 2004, after Kane said a judge tried to “enslave” him when he was sentenced to six days of community service for driving with an expired license plate and no seat belt. Kane claimed he was a “free man” and asked for $100,000 per day in gold or silver, Kelly said.  “After listening to this man for almost 30 minutes, I feel that he is expecting and prepared for confrontations with any law enforcement officer that may come in contact with him,” Kelly wrote in his warning to officers.  Kelly told The Associated Press on Friday that he had been “very concerned about a potential confrontation and about his resentment of authority.”

Sgt. Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans, murdered in cold blood in West Memphis

Seattle, Oakland:

Seattle and Oakland police forces are still recovering from two sets of quadruple murders of police officers by two different child rapists who had, of course, been granted serial leniency from the courts, previously threatened police, and received support from high places, even after they killed the innocent officers.

fallen

Seattle Police Sergeant Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens, and Greg Richards, murdered by Maurice Clemmons six months ago.  Clemmons had been granted leniency and made into a cause celebré by then-Arkansas Governor, now Fox News Anchor Mike Huckabee, who refuses to apologize for his special treatment of Clemmons.

4up

Sergeants Ervin Romans, Daniel Sakai, Mark Dunakin, and Officer John Hege, murdered in Oakland in March, 2009 by Lovelle Mixon, who was celebrated by activists from Oakland’s deeply anti-cop political culture — after the killings.

Detroit:

And in Detroit, five police officers were shot, one fatally at the beginning of this month.  The death toll easily could have been higher.  Veteran Police Officer Brian Huff leaves behind a wife and ten-year old son.  “The world has lost a wonderful man we can’t replace,” said one family friend.

Officer Brian Huff: four other officers were injured.

Officer Huff’s killer, like all the others, should have been behind bars, and he had committed acts of violence against officers in the past.  Here is a lengthy and staggering yet still incomplete list of his confrontations with police.  There is no way he should have been on the streets:

Gibson was charged in November with being a felon in possession of a firearm and a carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, according to police sources. The charge stems from a Nov. 13 arrest, during which officers conducting an investigation into a shooting patted Gibson down and allegedly found a gun . . . Gibson was released on bond.  Gibson was listed as failing to appear in March for a hearing.  In addition, he has been listed as an absconder from probation since 2008 in another case.  It is unclear why Gibson was given bond while classified as an absconder in that earlier case . . . Gibson served time in prison under the name James Everet, Michigan Department of Corrections records show. He remains on parole after pleading guilty to attempting to disarm a peace officer and possession of cocaine in October 2007.  He previously pleaded to two charges of third-degree fleeing and eluding police stemming from a 2005 arrest . . .  Last Nov. 13, Detroit Police were investigating a shooting when they spotted Gibson, whose features apparently matched the shooting suspect, walking along E. Jefferson. The police approached, patted him down and felt a gun. They said he then broke free and began to run. Once caught, Gibson struggled before finally being subdued and arrested on weapons charges, documents show. Gibson was charged in the case and released on bond.  In another incident, just after midnight on March 26, 2007, two Detroit cops were monitoring a Marathon gas station where there had been trouble at E. 7 Mile Road and Joann. Documents show that the police saw Gibson and another man walking nearby.  When the cops stopped to investigate, Gibson took off running south on Joann, zigzagging, according to documents. One of the officers ordered Gibson to stop and confronted him. Documents say Gibson resisted, shouting, “F— you! You all ain’t taking me to jail, get off me.” He swung twice at the cop with a closed fist.

One of the officers wounded while coming to Huff’s aid spoke out recently on the “life in prison” charges and “no bond status” now, finally, filed against Gibson.  Too little, too late:

“It does help,” Officer Brian Glover, who suffered a knee injury trying to help Huff, said Tuesday of the charges against Gibson. “But it doesn’t change the fact that he should have never been on the street in the first place.”  Glover, who said he’s barely sleeping at night since the shooting, added that “the Prosecutor’s Office has been pointing fingers at, ‘There’s not enough beds in the jail.’ But when someone has such a long history of gun charges, there is a bed for them.”

~~~

Anti-cop rhetoric greases the skids of serial lenience towards even the worst, most violent offenders, and police everywhere are paying the price for the anti-cop rhetoric surfacing in political speech and political activism across the political spectrum these days.  This anti-cop drumbeat is always the same, whether it comes from the White House or a fringe anti-government website, from libertarian hysterics on the right or criminal rights activists on the left.

The consequences are the same, too, despite the slickest efforts of exploitation artists like Mark Potok, who only speak out on certain instances of murderous anti-cop rage, those that serve some ulterior political, or fund-raising motive — and then spend the rest of their time and substantial resources attacking law enforcement.  Potok is an extreme case, but there is no shortage of elected officials and political pundits eager to blame police for the violence directed against them or remain silent when careless words escalate into another officer’s funeral (or hog the spotlight and act out unconscionably, as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley did in the wake of Wortham’s death).

Where is the sane, sober, respectful, national leadership on behalf of police officers?

One month before their own son, police officer Thomas Wortham IV, was killed, Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell interviewed Wortham’s parents at an anti-violence rally near their home.  The purpose of the rally was to re-direct funds from Chicago’s failed Olympic bid to provide resources for the police:

“The main thing is we need security and more supervision,” said [Thomas] Wortham [Sr.], who has lived across the street from the park for 20 years.  “The Park District hasn’t recognized that there has been an influx of people visiting this park. On any given night, you might have 100 people in the park watching basketball. This is the only neutral park between 71st and 95th Street.”  Before the three [other] people were shot, Wortham’s wife, Carolyn, said there hadn’t been a shooting in the park in the 20 years the couple have lived in their home.  “All we want to do is to preserve the quality of life that we had as children,” she said.

President Obama could create a sea change in attitudes towards police by recognizing Wortham’s service and sacrifice.  But he seems to have remained silent on the young officer’s tragic death, even though it occurred in a neighborhood near where he once raised his own children, even though Wortham’s commitment to community activism exemplifies so much of the President’s own rhetoric on service.

Why doesn’t he make Thomas Wortham IV a household name?

“Every Single Crime Can Be Prevented” — Garry McCarthy

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That’s Garry McCarthy, Police Director of Newark, New Jersey, where the city’s murder rate has declined 25% under a new police administration and a zero-tolerance attitude towards crime.  CBS News compares Newark’s success with Chicago’s failure to quell violent crime.

Why doesn’t every Chief of Police sound like McCarthy?  If you can’t count on the head of the police to insist that crime is unacceptable, who can you count on?

The Guilty Project, John Kalisz: Somebody Who Shoots Five People is not a “Saint”

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Sometimes, journalists should apologize.

Tony Holt of the Tampa Tribune is one.

Three days after John Kalisz went on a rampage, wounded two, and killed three, his sister, her friend, a young Police Captain — many more than five lives destroyed — Holt wrote an article highlighting Kalisz’s “better side”:

Sadness, guilt and disbelief have cost Melissa Williams a lot of tears during the past 72 hours.John Kalisz has been her friend for 14 years. He was the subject of a term paper she wrote while in college.

He helped pull her out of a dense fog following the collapse of her marriage, she said. . .

Judith Lavezzi is another long-time friend of Kalisz.

“He may have been a man of a blurry and difficult past, but the John that I knew, and knew pretty well by the way, is a man of compassion, strength and giving back,” she said.

And so on.  Unforgivably, the article is titled “The Saint and the Sinner: Friends Recall Two Sides of Kalisz.”  What does it mean to seek evidence of a man’s goodness in the week he has taken five innocent lives?  It places the killer’s alleged positive qualities, and his acquaintances’ grandiose and self-serving emotions, on one side of a scale and the victims’ lives, and their families’ real losses, on the other side.

It is a degrading act of leveling.

Just because there are stunted people weeping for John Kalisz — and Kalisz is not even dead; he will recover — doesn’t mean they merit notice.  Recently, I have been hearing from sex offenders and other offenders who feel enraged that society dares to judge them.  I have been hearing from their supporters, who are dismayed that I do not look at these men and feel pure empathy for their plight.  That anyone would dare to withhold consideration of their qualities, which seem to consist mainly of the fact that they are sex offenders and thus deserve pity, is viewed by these people as a crime far more unconscionable than the crimes they actually committed.  And even mentioning their crimes is far beyond the pale.

Like the sex offenders demanding empathy from me, John Kalisz appears to have seen himself as a victim of “the state,” an entity simultaneously faceless, fascist, and composed of millions of repugnant small-minded people who refuse to proffer the generosity of spirit they see as their due.  It is a strange thing to have people like this judge others as lacking compassion, when they have shown so much contempt towards the people they victimize, but the letters I’ve received are dripping with rage.

This rage is what John Kalisz acted upon when he told his friend he was going to kill a policeman, any policeman who came for him.  How dare we stop people from sexually abusing their nieces, or terrorizing their relatives, or shooting four women?

How dare we judge?

The Guilty Project. Death by Parole Board: Ankle Bracelet Didn’t Stop Ronald Robinson From Killing Officer Michael Crawshaw

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It’s too bad we don’t have CSI units slapping crime tape around our parole boards.  From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ronald Robinson, 32, of Homewood, who is charged with the slayings of Officer [Michael] Crawshaw and another man Dec. 6, has a long criminal history and a record of repeatedly violating terms of his parole . . . From 1998 to 2003, Mr. Robinson was repeatedly accused of wielding firearms on the streets of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. In a January 1998 criminal complaint, police said Mr. Robinson choked and punched a woman and then pointed a semi-automatic gun at her. In 2001, he was accused of shooting a man in the leg.  Two years later, according to court records, a pair of witnesses told police that Mr. Robinson fired a gun in the air at Hawkins Village in Rankin. In each case, many charges were withdrawn.

In other words, after each shooting, Robinson was permitted to plead down to lesser charges.  He apparently suffered no consequences for the 1998 semi-automatic attack.  He also apparently served less than two years for shooting a man in 2001, for he was out on the streets, firing a weapon, again by 2003.  He then repeatedly violated parole assigned for the 2001 and 2003 crimes.  How many times did Robinson violate parole and get caught?  The Post-Gazette doesn’t say, but they do note that, according to the Pennsylvania Board of  Probation and Parole, “Parolees are sanctioned an average of five times before being sent back to prison.”

Robinson was granted serial leniency.  Then he killed a police officer:

At the time of the Dec. 6 homicides, he was on parole following convictions in the 2001 and 2003 cases. He had been released from prison in 2007 after serving a minimum sentence; the maximum sentence would have kept him in jail until February of next year.  Mr. Robinson repeatedly was caught violating the conditions of his 2007 parole, according to court records. As punishment, he was jailed for two weeks in July and then released to a halfway house for felons. He was wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle at the time of the shootings.

Officer Crawshaw’s family has started a petition drive with a painfully obvious message: stop letting armed, recidivists plead to lesser charges, and we will need to bury fewer police officers.  Officer Crawshaw’s cousin, Sarah Kielar, has information about the family’s campaign on facebook, here:

On Sunday December 6, 2009, Penn Hills Police Officer Michael Crawshaw was shot and killed by Ronald Robinson, a career criminal who was on parole and wearing an electronic monitoring device at the time of this crime. We the family and friends of Officer Michael Crawshaw need your help. The system failed Michael and changes must be made.
During the past four years, 11 law enforcement officers have been shot and killed in Pennsylvania. In Allegheny County alone, in just 13 months, five law enforcement officers have been killed. In the most recent example of this senseless violence, Officer Michael Crawshaw was murdered by Ronald Robinson, who like the other offenders described below, exhibited a blatant disregard for human life, the police, and the rule of law. In Robinson’s case, he had multiple prior convictions and was serving a 2 ½ – 5 year sentence when the parole board reported that he was “misconduct free,” they had “a positive attitude toward this inmate” and had “no objection to parole.” Once released, Robinson repeatedly violated the conditions of his parole and was even jailed for 2 weeks due to these violations.
• Agent Sam Hicks: In November 2008 FBI Agent Sam Hicks was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant on Robert Korbe. Although Robert Korbe did not pull the trigger, had he not been a career criminal, law enforcement officers would not have entered the house and Agent Hicks would not be dead. Korbe had three previous felony convictions but had been sentenced only to probation. He had been arrested on additional violent felony charges just 6 months prior to Agent Hicks’ death.
• Cpl. Joseph Pokorny: In December of 2005, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Joseph Pokorny was shot and killed by Leslie Mollett during a traffic stop in Carnegie. Prior to this killing, Mollett had been arrested 8 times in 10 years, resulting in three felony convictions. Yet, he had received only a single 2-4 year prison sentence and had recently been paroled prior to murdering Cpl. Pokorny.
• Philadelphia Police Officers Charles Cassidy, John Pawloski, Sgt. Stephen Liczinski and Sgt. Patrick McDonald: During a 16 month period between November 2007 and February 2009 all four were shot and killed by violent repeat offenders with multiple felony convictions, one of whom was reportedly paroled just weeks prior to the killing.

How many times will this story repeat in 2010?

Turkey Seeking New Gravy Train, or Misunderstood Geek?

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“People may not like his style” begins the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s denouement of the Chief Pennington years.

As if the crime-weary public has been complaining all along about the cut of Chief Pennington’s jib, not the fact that he poo-poohed the rising crime wave, turned on his own officers, and stopped doing his job.

But implausible deniability has been the newspaper’s line on crime ever since the public started demanding, say, a chief of police who takes all home invasions equally seriously and doesn’t take his marching orders from two-bit activists, or pull a Houdini for months on end.

It’s not that writers Bill Rankin and Bill Torpy are particular fans of the Chief, or any cop — the paper’s biases run to offenders.  But when Pennington started parroting the paper’s “Crime? What crime, you stupid hysterics?” line, he became an occasional ally on the side of print journalists and against the public.

Consider this line his going-away gift from the fourth estate:

Pennington often comes across less as the chief of police and more as the CEO of the APD.

Really?  I always though he came across less as the chief of police because he gets into bed with Al Sharpton types, not because he’s some sort of Bill Gates in blue.

He brought in a data-driven system that gives a real-time count of the arrests and crimes taking place, enabling police to react quickly to emerging trends. Crime rates fell. Those numbers, Pennington said, are what count.

Yes, crime rates fell.  Before they started to rise precipitously, of course, a phenomenon the chief and his mayor blamed on public insensitivity to criminals, rather than criminals’ insensitivity to the public.

Murder rates indisputably did fall before and during Pennington’s time as chief.  But should Pennington claim credit for any part, let alone all, of that particular drop in that particular category of crime?  Important factors left unmentioned in the AJC article more than explain the drop in murder rates in Atlanta over the chief’s tenure.

  • First and foremost, a very specific subset of gentrification displaced violent crime outside the city limits, more or less entirely explaining the drop in murder rates.  Immediately prior to Pennington’s installation as chief, and concluding during the first years of his tenure, Atlanta’s Renee Glover literally razed the housing projects where and around which most murders and other gun crimes occurred.  They shut them down and moved the residents out — the most dysfunctional households going to Clayton County, where former Atlanta Chief of Police and current Clayton County Commissions Chairman Eldrin Bell must be wondering exactly what he did to deserve such magnetic fate.  Back in Atlanta, no more Grady Homes: no more murders at Grady Homes.  Want to know how extreme this change was?  Ask any cop old enough to remember the bad old days.  Or, conduct a longitudinal study mapping violent crime trends (murder, aggravated assaults, crime related-hospitalizations) against the relocation of public housing populations, and mention it in the newspaper when the chief tries to take credit for the drop in murders at Grady Homes.

Or don’t.

  • Another factor in the drop in murder rates was simple burn-out.  Crime was already dropping across the board when Pennington arrived in Atlanta.  Everyone rode that trend.  Atlanta was already poised to move into a lower tier of the city-by-city crime stats by the time Pennington arrived.
  • Then there’s investigation and punishment.  You know, incarcerating recidivists?  Sentencing enhancement?  This is an interesting subject and one that has not been researched enough.  Four specific trends in crime investigation and sentencing doubtlessly impacted the worst of the worst among the criminal classes just as Pennington took charge.  First, the (delayed) implementation of DNA testing and databasing finally lopped the top off rape rates by incarcerating some of the most prolific offenders for longer than the five minutes they used to spend cooling their heels in the can.  Second, sentencing reform for the most violent crimes raised the consequences for murder for everyone except juveniles.  Third, sentencing reform for gun crimes resulted in longer sentences for armed adults and even some juvenile offenders.  Fourth, technology — not just DNA, but vast improvements in crime scene processing and emergency room care, underwent a real mini-renaissance in the past ten years.  All of these factors slash the violent crime rate because small numbers of hard-core recidivists are responsible for a big percentage of all crimes.  When you remove just one of them from the streets for, say, armed robbery, you can prevent multiple future events.

So was Pennington a participant in these universal trends?  Sure.  Did he maximize the Atlanta Police Department’s ability to participate in them?

That’s the real question, and the answer is no, for reasons of personality, conduct, politics, and ethics — in other words, leadership.  Leadership was the real thing Pennington was supposed to bring to the table, leadership of his troops and leadership for the public that was paying him, and he failed both of those fundamental missions.  He even failed, according to many, at implementing the very “smart policing” techniques that were supposed to be his strength.  Data driven policing and computer crime mapping techniques are only as good as the people in charge.  If you don’t have a Bratton, or at least somebody who acts as a leader with his own women and men, then the very techniques that make policing more efficient can turn into sophisticated tools for hiding real crime statistics — or worse:

Critics say his focus on numbers created a quota system that led cops to cut corners. The police shooting of Kathryn Johnston, 92, in 2006 came about because narcotics officers were pumping up their warrants and arrests, critics say.

“The Atlanta Police Department does not have a quota system,” Pennington said after narcotics officers were arrested for the raid.

It was after the fatal narcotics raid that Pennington fundamentally betrayed his command.  He could have taken the high road, defending the performance of good cops, cooperating in the investigation of what went wrong, and taking responsibility for his own role in Johnson’s death, as any good leader would do.  But instead, he made political hay, denied any personal fault, threw good officers under the bus for political expediency, and, unforgivably for a chief of police, jumped into bed with the anti-cop activists.

At that moment, Shirley Franklin should have removed him from a job for which he was no longer even bothering to show up.  In fact, the best thing that might be said about Pennington after 2006 was that he wasn’t around very much, because when he was in Atlanta, he was just as likely to be doing something to undermine the force.  In a replay of Bill Campbell’s final days, the cop shop on Ponce de Leon took on that Colonel Kurtz vibe.

By 2008, Shirley Franklin was well on her way to Kurtzing out, too, and Pennington took an increasingly frenetic series of powders:

Pennington’s personal calendars, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act, show that the chief attended conferences in Honolulu; LasVegas; Sun Valley, Idaho; Philadelphia; Dallas; Washington; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Miami; Pasadena, Calif.; Boston; New Orleans; and other cities.

And the excuses he offered for failing to do his job grew as obscure as his travel schedule:

Pennington said he tried to connect with the rank and file early on. He held luncheons with groups of 30 officers to field their questions and gauge morale. Later, he went to roll call after hearing complaints about him not attending. But officers did not ask him questions, worried it would get back to their bosses.  “So I said, ‘Why am I going to roll call if they won’t talk, won’t say anything?’” he said.

Maybe he should have kept going to roll call, instead of going to Aruba, because it was his f*##!g  job, right?  Even if the mean kids wouldn’t sit next to him in the lunchroom.

Then the crime wave hit, and that’s when the mayor and the chief of police really lost their marbles.  Only they didn’t really lose anything: it is the public that lost.  They’re laughing all the way to the bank.

~~~

So, yes, people didn’t like Pennington’s style, but it was never a simple issue of taste, or emotions, as insinuated, unfortunately, by the AJC.  Voters aren’t children needing reassurance when serious crimes occur: people wanted Pennington to be in town because they were paying his salary and expected him to be doing his job:

Pennington said he left capable aides in charge and raced back in times of crisis.

“I don’t take a lot of vacation,” he said. “No, I don’t feel like I was out a whole lot because, you know, I took the required training opportunities I had.”

“[T]he required training opportunities I had.”  Well, isn’t that what it’s all about?  A chest-full of merit badges and holiday tan lines while the average cop had nobody in his corner as he faced down thirteen-year-olds armed to the teeth?

For every way that Pennington was bad for Atlanta, Atlanta was bad for Pennington.  Something about the toxic political culture of this town — the entitlement culture of its members-only ruling class — took a top cop with a decent reputation and dissipated his promise, like many before him.

In the final analysis, the job of the chief of police is very simple: he must lead his officers.  Not waste his time skipping around the country jockeying for political points in other arenas, nor paving a personal path to the next cushy payday.  Nor, it should go without saying but apparently must be said, hob-nobbing with anti-cop activists who make their green fomenting dangerous hatreds towards men and women in blue.

In that, Richard Pennington failed, atrociously.  And that’s all that really matters now.

“Inmates Rights” From the Left, Under-funding from the Right, Prison Guards Shanked in the Middle

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From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Inmates out of control
Former officers share tales of terror at Valdosta State Prison

Recent reports of violent incidents at Valdosta State Prison have triggered an uproar among former and present correctional officers who claim the inmates are out of control. . .

“The state of Georgia is running that prison with as little staff as possible …,” an anonymous officer told The Times. “One officer is on the floor dealing with 100 close-security inmates at a time, who are locked up for murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and so on. We are only one step away from a maximum security prison. Many of these offenders will never be released from prison and have nothing to lose …”

Another officer said that people are throwing drugs and cell phones over a back fence for the inmates.

“We are also finding several shanks,” the officer said. “And the administration won’t do anything about it.”

The officer added that at least 80 percent of the inmates have mental issues.

“We have no protection out there and we are scared.”

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, a story with a slightly happier ending, in the Tampa Tribune.

Criminal Apologetics and Bizarre Technicalities in St. Pete: Blaming Cops for Criminal Acts

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I didn’t have to look far to find today’s dreadful example of the media blaming anyone except criminals for criminal acts.  In the St. Pete Times today, Howard Troxler, a normally reasonable man, wanders far down an ugly path by questioning the recent conviction of a knife-wielding repeat offender on two grounds: the purported reputation of the officer who confronted him, and some trumped-up technicality about types of knives that should be considered weapons.

Troxler apparently feels that police officer Joe Ardolino is permanently tarnished because, in 2003, he was involved in a car chase (of a violent, prolific offender) that ended in the suspect’s death.  Never mind that Ardolino was cleared in the incident, as he should have been: once charged, always guilty, at least when it comes to the police.  Troxler crosses a troubling line when he impugns the officer in the subsequent murder of a fellow officer:

Ardolino was the deputy who made news in 2003 for a chasing a traffic violator through the Lacoochee area of Pasco County until the driver crashed into a palm tree and died. The resulting racial tension contributed, a month later, to the mistaken-revenge murder of Sheriff’s Lt. Bo Harrison.

Joe Ardolino is in no way responsible for the murder of Lt. Bo Harrison.  Ardolino was chasing a suspect; the suspect crashed his car and died; the suspect’s family swarmed the scene, practically started a riot, and accused the police of killing him.  Later, Lt. Harrison was assassinated outside a nightclub.  Calling it a “mistaken revenge murder” is unbelievably inappropriate.  When someone aims a semi-automatic at an officer’s head and pulls the trigger, where does “mistake” enter in, no matter what the defense argues in court?  The killer is responsible for murdering the officer.  Full stop.

After Reed crashed his car, Ardolino tried to revive the suspect while being threatened by a hostile crowd; he was cleared of wrongdoing, and yet, in the eyes of the St. Pete Times, he still must be guilty of something.  Here are some details from the 2003 incident:

[Michael] Reed’s family members said he leaves behind a girlfriend and a 11/2-year-old daughter, Mykeia. Friends said he was quiet and liked to visit Rumors nightclub.

The suspect’s family said he was “quiet.”  His criminal record, of course, tells a different story:

Records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show Reed was arrested at least eight times since 1994 on charges ranging from vehicle theft to burglary to cocaine possession with intent to sell. In 1996, when he was 17, he was one of two men who took part in the early morning robbery of R & J Foods that left three people hospitalized with gunshot wounds. A judge sentenced him to 41/2 years in prison in connection with the incident.

[And, once again, we have a criminal who might still be alive if a judge had taken seriously an armed robbery that left three people shot.]  Anyway, this is what Ardolino was doing as the suspect’s family threatened him:

The scene of the crash had turned tense as 75 to 100 people yelled threats, profanity, and racial insults at deputies, according to the Sheriff’s Office. . .

Reed had been hurled through the front windshield of his white Chevrolet and was hanging off the car’s hood. His left ankle was hooked on the car’s antenna. Ardolino put a handcuff on Reed’s left hand. After checking Reed for breathing and pulse and finding none, Ardolino began giving Reed chest compressions. After several compressions, Reed began trying to breathe.

Ardolino checked again for a pulse and found one. He unhooked Reed’s leg and laid him on the ground beside the car.

“I then heard Mr. Reed’s breathing become labored,” Ardolino’s report said. “His teeth were tightly clenched together, and he was sucking air through his teeth.”

Ardolino pried Reed’s mouth open and tilted his head so that fluid could drain from his mouth.

“He then continued to breathe while I held his mouth open,” Ardolino wrote.

The crash happened at 6:22 p.m. Ardolino arrived at the scene one minute later, and the chief of Tri-Community Volunteer Fire, Mike Morgan, arrived at 6:27 p.m., according to sheriff’s spokesman Powers.

Ardolino reported that when fire rescue arrived, he briefed an unspecified paramedic on Reed’s condition.

“He took over administering aid,” Ardolino wrote.

This is called a police officer doing his job in the face of extreme danger.  Witnesses said the officer was being intimidated and was outnumbered.  This is called a sacrifice.  Cops are put into dangerous situations all the time; they are forced to deal with dangerous people all of the time; they are investigated and accused and interrogated constantly, and yet they still show up and do their jobs: that’s the curiosity of it.

So, four years later, Ardolino gets called to a dangerous domestic violence scene.  The offender, Steven Miholics, who had already been to prison for child abuse (as I’ve said, you have to do a lot to a child to end up in prison), kicked his way into a house.  He armed himself with a knife.  His terrorized family managed to call the police.  Ardolino showed up and confronted the man, who lunged at him.  Ardolino shot him.  Miholics survived, was prosecuted, and was sentenced to 15 years.  As he should have been.  Now he wants that reduced to a one-year sentence because the knife he was holding was dull, and Troxler thinks he has a point.

Picture the scene of the domestic violence call, the knife, the split-second decision the officer must make.  Here is what Troxler thinks of it:

On appeal, Miholics’ new lawyer raised the issues both of allowing the deputy’s testimony and whether Miholics could have been legally convicted of a “deadly weapon” assault in the first place.  State law had been changed in 2006 to exempt a “blunt-bladed table knife” from the definition of a weapon. For Miholics, this could have meant the difference between a year in jail and 15 years in prison . . . This man Miholics has struck out in every way — his record, his choice to wield a knife and spatula as he met the Pasco deputies, his decision to fire his lawyer at a crucial juncture. I do not think many people will feel sympathy for him. And yet, as I said, these twists are worth noting.

“These twists are worth noting”?  Oh, don’t be shy.  By the lights of newspaper columnists, no offender should ever stop appealing any verdict, no matter the evidence, no matter the cost, no matter the ludicrousness of the grounds, no matter the disruption and danger and suffering of the victim.

Prisons should just be big bingo halls where every offender gets endless bites at the apple until they scamper out the door.

“Twists are worth noting”?  Justice be damned, more like.  Does Troxler believe that a police officer confronting a man with a violent record, at a very chaotic home invasion-domestic violence scene, should pause and say:

“Hey, wait a minute, that might be a blunt-bladed knife.  If I shoot the guy trying to stab me with it, I could get into trouble because some defense attorneys convinced the State of Florida to exclude blunt-bladed knives from the legal category of “deadly weapons.”  So since I can’t quite see from here how sharp that knife is in that crazed aggressor’s hand, I’ll just try to back out of the kitchen without getting killed so I can stay on the safe side with the courts.”

This is what we’re asking of officers, among a thousand other stupid, dangerous things.

Also stupid?  Suggesting that somebody who terrorizes his family, invades a house, and lunges at a cop with a knife should only get one year in prison.

Troxler manages to squeeze an impressive amount of responsibility-deflection into one column:

  • He brings up officially discredited claims against Officer Ardolino from 2003 to question his credibility in the 2007 case, rather than blaming Reed for his own criminal acts back then and the crowd for threatening the officer as he tried to save the offender’s life.
  • He claims that the judge should not have let Miholic represent himself (something Miholic had a right to do, and chose freely), suggesting that Miholic was incapable of bringing the defense that the officer “overreacted” to Miholic’s knife because its blade was dull (Here Troxler chomps at the bit to re-try the case on grounds that don’t even apply because there was no question that the shooting was justified — does no condemnation of police ever satisfy the appetite to condemn police?  Ever?).  Amazing.  And sloppy.
  • He blames the prosecutor and judge for the “deadly weapons” charge, rather than blaming Miholic for lunging at an officer with a knife.
  • He points a finger at Officer Ardolino for Lt. Bo Harrison’s murder, rather than blaming the murderer.  That’s disgraceful.

Quite a list.  Here are the people Troxler doesn’t hold accountable:

  • criminals who shoot people in robberies and flee from police
  • people who wrongfully accuse officers and threaten their safety
  • people who kills cops
  • people who lunge at cops with knives

Detect a pattern?

Tragically, the justice system reinforces this deflection of responsibility every time they permit defendants to make absurd arguments about things like the relative dullness of their knives.  Every cop responding to a call for help has to remember that the courts are stacked against them in this way, and a thousand others.

Imagine a world where, instead of advocating for the release of people like Miholic, Howard Troxler writes columns advocating for the legislature to change that dangerous and wrong-headed “blunt-bladed table knife” law.  No?  I didn’t think so.

“Lee County Deputy James Anderson remembered as devoted father, husband 500 officers attend service”

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From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

OPELIKA, Ala.    The barefoot body of Lee County Deputy James Anderson rested at the front of First Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon.

Read the rest here.

Why Police Morale Stays Low: Cop Killer Gregory Lance Henderson was Supposed to be in Prison. Twice Over. And, a Judge Responds.

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From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Gregory Lance Henderson’s adult life is on the record.

Police and court records. . .

The 31-year-old Columbus man is accused of striking with his car and killing James Anderson, a Lee County, Ala., sheriff’s deputy . . . Henderson was sentenced to 15 years and three to serve for a drug conviction in 2007.  If he had served the full three years, he would still be in a Georgia prison today.

Despite an extensive criminal record (16 bookings in Georgia alone, a felony conviction for aggravated assault, drug convictions), Henderson faced no consequences for most of his arrests.  He drew a 24 months to serve/10 years parole sentence for a violent felony in 2006 and yet somehow didn’t serve that time.  His next arrest came five months later — and even though he’d violated parole (if we can call it parole, since he was actually supposed to be in jail), someone let him walk again.  A few arrests later, he was in front of another judge who apparently did not consider the fact that he was still supposed to be in prison for the last offense and had also been arrested additional times since that conviction.

So, 11 months after he was sentenced to ten years, 24 months to serve, he was sentenced anew on other charges and given 15 years, three years to serve.

Why didn’t the judge revoke the parole, send him off for ten years, and then slap on the additional charges?

Of course, Henderson didn’t serve those three years, either.  He was released 15 months later, and now a Sheriff’s deputy over the Alabama border has been murdered.

Thank you, Muscogee County Superior Court.  Thank you, Georgia Pardons and Paroles.  Hope you send flowers:

Randy Robertson, vice president of the local Georgia Fraternal Order of Police chapter and a Columbus law enforcement officer, said this case illustrates the need for tougher mandatory sentencing laws from the Georgia General Assembly.

“The state of Georgia needs to write an apology to the Anderson family because this guy was not where he was supposed to be, which is incarcerated,” Robertson said Saturday.

Georgia’s recidivism laws are too narrow and its mandatory sentencing laws are utterly meaningless.  The recidivism law excludes all but a few crimes, and defendants can still plead out of the ones that count as “strikes.” (This, as I keep saying, is why we have so many people in prison for “just drug charges” that aren’t really just drug charges.) The mandatory sentencing laws create guidelines and then undermine them by allowing judges to suspend part or all of any sentence (then the Parole Board chops off the other end).  What’s mandatory about that?

Did legislators not read these bills before they passed them?  Were defense attorneys still in charge of the House Judiciary Committee when these bills were drafted with little poison pills attached?  Were publicly law-and-order types privately fudging the legislative intent in order to save the state some money?

Why does nobody ask questions like this?

~~~

Any road, the consequences remain the same: a police officer dead, his family mourning.

Remember this: when cops are dealing with out-of-control recidivists, every arrest, even for minor crimes, puts their lives in danger.  According to comments in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Henderson has a teardrop-tattoo on his face, universal nomenclature advertising intent of and propensity for unpredictable and extreme violence:

So even when he was just getting popped for traffic offenses, he was announcing to the world that it could end very badly for someone.  And finally, tragically, it did.  Nobody should deign to express surprise.

Here are merely the last four years of Henderson’s journey through  — or, mostly, not through — Georgia courts.  Between the rat tangle of lax prosecution protocols, plea deals, judicial discretion and parole, his feet barely touched the courthouse floor, let alone the jailhouse door:

Oct. 14, 2005: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on aggravated assault and armed robbery charges.

Oct. 6, 2006: Pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges in Superior Court; Judge Robert Johnston sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 24 months to serve.

March 1, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on possession of methamphetamine and traffic charges.

April 8, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on misdemeanor battery charges.

May 3, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on probation violation and aggravated assault charges.

Sept. 7, 2007: Pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine charge in Superior Court. Judge Bobby Peters sentenced him to 15 years, three years to serve.

Oct. 23, 2007: Began prison sentence.

Dec. 29, 2008: Released on parole from Hays State prison by Georgia Department of Corrections.

To revisit the math: while on probation (?) for an aggravated assault for which Henderson is actually supposed to be in prison, he’s busted in March, busted in April, busted in May, pleads to “just drug” charges for the March 1 charge in September and gets out of jail, early, 15 months later.  Then, this:

Sept. 24, 2009: Arrested in Lee County, Ala., on capital murder charges in connection with the death of Sheriff’s deputy James Anderson.

Someone claiming to be Judge Peters responds to criticisms in this comments thread.  Of course, there’s no way to know if it really is the judge, but he says the D.A. didn’t bring charges for the second aggravated assault before him, only a drugs charge.  He also seems to have not looked at Henderson’s prior record, because he apparently did not notice that Henderson was supposed to be in jail when he was in his courtroom.  If any of this is true, it simply means that the courts are in even more disarray, not less, frankly.

Scratch the surface of most “just drugs” cases, and you get someone with an arrest record like Henderson’s.  Judges should know that and want full disclosure of prior records, right?

My name is Judge Peters and I am posting this to correct the article. James Henderson did not come before me for aggravated assault. He was arrested for a possession of residue of meth in a straw when he was stopped for improper tag lights. A plea bargain agreement with the DA and his lawyer was an agreement where he pleaded guilty, gave up his 4th amendment rights, sentenced to 15 years, three in jail and 12 on supervised probation with drug testing and drug treatment.

OK, fine.  Blame the D.A. too.  But why would any judge allow a 15-year sentence for, as he modestly puts it, “residue in a straw” without asking why the D.A. wanted to throw the book?  Why would any judge not wish to ascertain the defendants’ criminal history to consider in sentencing, for that matter?

Why didn’t the judge revoke his parole, or whatever it was Henderson was serving or not serving for the 2006 aggravated assault charge?

Why didn’t the judge also see that Henderson had another outstanding aggravated assault charge, which would qualify him for recidivism status?  I’m willing to believe there are more people responsible than just Judge Peters.  But it is his courtroom, his responsibility.  The buck stops with him, and if all this is the prosecutor’s fault, then the judge has a serious responsibility to do something about such costly lack of communication.  Peters (if it his him) continues:

[Henderson] was paroled by the Pardon and Parole Board prior to his 2010 release date. Deputy [Anderson] was a fine man, all jurisdictions mourn his passing and pray for his family. No one could predict this would happen. the sentence received was a tough sentence for possession of residue of meth. the article was wrong when it listed the crime of aggravated assault as an additional charge at that time. Thank you. — Bobby Peters.

Nobody could predict this would happen?  Well, not if you don’t look at the guy’s record.  Or his face.  The writer claiming to be Judge Peters continues:

[O]nce an individual is sentenced, his fate rests with the Pardon and Parole Board. Victims or family members, DA, may appear before the board or send a letter. I dont contact the board to get a person out or to keep them in. The aggravated assault was a plea bargain in front of another judge in 06. I have asked for a transcript of both cases. The case I heard was a residue meth case where Henderson was on drugs and stopped for no tag light. 15 years with 3 years in prison,12 years on probation, drug treatment, drug testing, random searches, and 12 years to serve if he got in trouble again. No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road. This case is really a tragedy for the Anderson family. I dont know why Henderson got out early but the main one to blame is Henderson himself. I, like everyone, am so sorry this happened. Note says no more space. You can call me if you have more questions. — Bobby Peters.

“I have asked for a transcript of both cases”?  Now?  After a cop gets killed?  Why would any judge sentence somebody without knowing their record of violent crime, recidivism, prior leniency shown by the courts, and prior conduct during prior early releases, particularly parole violations?

“No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road”?

This one did precisely what he did the last time: got another drug charge, another aggravated assault charge, and then another free pass from another prosecutor, another judge and another pushover at Pardons and Paroles.  No mystery there.

~~~

Every police officer in the state should descend on the Georgia General Assembly this year in memory of Officer James Anderson, demanding real sentencing reform and judicial accountability.  This time.

Strategies to Disappear Crimes: Rape in New Orleans

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Hat tip to Lou: an article that examines the New Orleans Police Department’s strategy for cutting the official number of rapes they report to the FBI: they do not investigate 60% of reported rapes:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal “complaint.”

Police, who have been touting a decline in rapes, say the share of noncriminal complaints reflects the difficulty officers face in coaxing rape victims to push forward with their complaints.

But former Orleans Parish sex crime prosecutor Cate Bartholomew says the frequent use of the alternative category — referred to as a “Signal 21” in NOPD parlance — is a problem, arguing that some of the cases she saw should have been categorized as sex crimes. . .

In 2008, police say, there were 146 cases marked up by the sex crimes unit as a Signal 21, compared with 97 rapes and sexual batteries ultimately listed as criminal offenses by the Police Department. That means police classified 60 percent of rape calls as a Signal 21.

The usual debate revolves around arguments over whether women lie about rape.  And there are people (male and female) who lie about being victims.  But if you read this article carefully, it becomes clear that something else is going on in New Orleans.  Even the officers reclassifying or “unfounding” rape cases say that getting victims to cooperate, to trust the system, is a big problem.  They know that some people who won’t cooperate with them are victims of real rapes who don’t want to take their chances with an official investigation.  What is the role of the police, then?  If they create a dozen scenarios in which the outcome is “Signal 21,” or refusal to investigate, victims will eventually stop calling.  That is good for the Chamber of Commerce, as some say, good for the Police Chief, and bad for everyone else.

In New Orleans, the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to the FBI dropped from 114 to 72 between 2007 and 2008, but the number of victims seeking rape examinations at Interim L.S.U. Hospital rose from 149 in 2007 to 168 in 2008.

When victims must find a way to get past a checklist of questions that might end in a reported sex crime being labeled “Signal 21,” how likely are they going to be to come forward?

And if even one rape victim gets dismissed this way, it is a horrible injustice.  Unfortunately, it’s not the type of injustice that gets treated as such by activist lawyers and eager law students searching for a cause.  Victims, unlike offenders, are on their own.  How bad does it get?  Victim advocates do gut checks with their clients all the time: “Are you sure you can handle this?” “It’s OK to walk away from the investigation” — not because they don’t want to see justice done, but because they have seen what gets done to victims, and they know the real odds of an offender getting any prison time at all.

Mix in New Orleans’ “No Snitching” culture, a sleazy political system that extends to the (barely functioning) courts, a routinely corrupt police administration, and a community besotted with fantasies of wrongly accused men, and there seems to be little reason for anyone to come forward after they have been raped.

The Chief of Police in New Orleans could help clear up the mystery of the “Signal 21’s,” but he refuses to release the records:

To examine in more detail how the NOPD handled cases given something other than a criminal designation, The Times-Picayune asked to review the reports of the Signal 21 and “unfounded” sexual assaults for the past three years — as well as documents, called “morfs,” prepared when the sex crimes unit receives a call but no formal investigation is undertaken.

The information hasn’t been delivered, as city officials maintain that assembling such documents would be time-consuming and costly. A letter sent to The Times-Picayune last week from City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields, for example, said the Police Department believes an officer would need 30 minutes to review and redact the “name, address and identity,” as mandated by state law, in just one crime report at a cost of at least $20 an hour.

Gee, that would be all of $1460 to get all the 2008 “Signal 21” reports.  That’s got to be less than Mayor Nagin spends on lunch.  Who are they kidding?

And so, accountability remains elusive.  Meanwhile, others are also saying the city’s rape statistics are too low to be believable:

Tulane University criminologist Peter Scharf said the number of rapes doesn’t make sense when considered alongside New Orleans’ high rate of homicides. In comparison, Jackson, Miss., at a population of about 170,000 people, reported to the FBI last year 63 murders and 136 rapes. New Orleans, where the 2008 population estimates have topped 311,000, last year reported 179 murders and 65 rapes to the FBI. Police later changed the number of rapes that fit FBI guidelines to 72 in response to a newspaper request for statistics. [emphasis added]

A mere newspaper request resulted in the “officially reported” number of rapes rising by 10%.  So what happens when nobody’s looking?

I would like to see what is in those Signal 21 reports: are the dismissed victims young?  Do they know their alleged attackers?  Are they related to them?  Are they afraid of repercussions?  Is alcohol involved?  Homelessness, mental illness, prostitution?  Who does the reporting, if the victim isn’t cooperating?  What types of vulnerabilities keep them from trusting the police?  What types of characteristics keep the police from believing them?

A police chief who gave a damn would want to get to the bottom of this.

How many of the reports that get lodged in police’s minds, and the public mind, as false, are real rapes, disbelieved?  Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant and longtime sex crime investigator, has written a compelling study on the actual prevalence of false rape reports, titled “So How Many Rape Reports Are False?”  It is a quick and eye-opening read.  You can find the pdf here: www.ncdsv.org/images/HowManyRapeReportsareFalse.pdf

Post-Press Conference Fallout: Aphorisms Versus Platitudes

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I had not been watching Atlanta television news until I tried to watch the press conference yesterday morning.  They are sending people to bang on doors, looking for the Chief of Police, and challenging the Mayor on her unwillingness to address the issue.  My apologies.  The media is alive and kicking in Atlanta.

Yesterday morning, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Police Chief Richard Pennington held a press conference to talk about crime.  Here is some of what they said, culled from local news reports:

She asked business to take responsibility and put up cameras to catch crime.  She asked citizens to use Crimestoppers to report crime and to email specialenforcementsectiontips@atlantaga.gov to report crime.

In other words, she wants taxpayers to spend more of their own money doing the job they are paying the city to do.   Businesses should spend even more money taking more responsibility for doing the job law enforcement is supposed to do?  That’s a plan?  Citizens are supposed to busk up the street patrols they already must inappropriately, though responsibly, shoulder?  Enough platitudes about community action.  The community is already fully engaged.

She said she plans to add 139 more police officers to the city’s force in response to criticism that she and the police chief aren’t doing enough about crime.  She said Thursday that the initiative will begin Sept. 15 when 27 new officers hit the streets in areas where a recent string of carjackings have concerned residents.

These 27 guys were already in training, right?  So that’s not a new thing, and it won’t offset attrition through quitting or retiring, I imagine.  Anyway, do those 139 more officers include the 50 new federally funded officers being brought in to replace the 66 officer positions Franklin just cut in anticipation of receiving the federal funds for 50 cops, a move that actually reduced the city’s force by 16, as the erstwhile Stephanie Ramage notes here?  Or will the mayor be adding 139 new officers plus the fifty new federally-funded hires, thus bringing the total to 123 new officers, after her 66 cuts?  Does any of this factor in attrition, retirement, and unfilled posts?  Here are more precise observations from Ramage:

So far this year, according to local IBPO President Sgt. Scott Kreher, the APD has lost 77 officers total due to resignation, retirement, etc. from Jan 1st through June 30th. The department averaged eight resignations per month during that time period. There are 87 eligible to retire in the next 18 months.

Yet, Franklin had the gall to say today that 39 more officers hitting the streets in September will make a difference. And she went on to explain that she has 22 more cops funded under an old JAG grant, 28 new recruits coming out of the academy (they will be assigned to foot patrols in Zone 1) and 50 who will be funded by the Department of Justice’s COPS grant. Remember that COPS grant? That’s the one she counted on landing in order to fund 200 more police officers even as she cut 66 APD positions in June. She landed funding for only 50. . .

I asked Franklin today if she indeed knew she’d only get 50 cops when she cut those 66 positions and she said “We did not cut any filled positions,” which is a very convenient thing to say about a department that has not been fully staffed for at least 14 years.

Three Stooges resonances aside, there is nothing funny about the Mayor’s fudging on the crucial issue of police manpower.  What happened yesterday is that the Mayor stood up in front of a bunch of television cameras and lied about expanding the size of the police force.  She did not say, look, these 27 (or 39) new recruits will offset or fill some of the retiring or unfilled positions, and we are getting 100 more cops later.  She did not talk about or acknowledge the problem of attrition and unfilled jobs.  Instead, she said the opposite, claiming against all evidence that her policies, and Pennington’s leadership, were solving problems they actually created. This is Orwellian:


“We have more police officers and retained them than we have in decades”  [Franklin said.]

According to The List, a fascinating and obsessive book by Chet Dettlinger and Jeff Prugh — necessary reading for historical perspective on policing and politics in Atlanta — there were 1750 Atlanta police officers in the early 70’s.  How many are there today?  Are retention rates really up?  From when?

What happened yesterday was this: the Mayor held a press conference and said three indefensible, dishonest things:

  • She essentially blamed the public, and especially business owners, for not spending more of their own hard-earned money on video cameras to catch criminals committing crimes.  The public already is shouldering more than their fair share of crime-prevention, and it is not their commitment that is in question.
  • She claimed she has succeeded in expanding the police force and solved the retention problem.  Untrue, on both counts.
  • She claimed that Pennington’s reign as police chief is both uncontroversial and successful.

So where are the opinion writers?  Interestingly, Sunday Paper and Creative Loafing howled — Sunday Paper has been leading the charge against Pennington and Franklin on policing for more than a year — but I’ll be surprised if I see anything come out of the flaccid editorial department of the AJC.  And that has everything to do with the preconceptions and biases that rule the mainstream opinion-writers, who still can’t comprehend that the public long-ago wearied of their knee-jerk sympathy for criminals, contempt for cops, and denial of the crime problem at every turn.

So long as Atlanta continues down the path of electing the same, tiny cabal of connected politicians, the needs of city residents will never be the priority of City Hall.  Remember, Franklin came out of Maynard Jackson’s regime, was actually named “Mayor Shirley” by the press while her boss Andy Young jetted around the world lining his pockets instead of serving the City (sound familiar?), and then oversaw the bid-rigged Olympics debacle.  Pennington came to the city through the influence of Franklin’s ex-husband, a much-indicted insider who also chowed down at the vast set-aside well at the airport.

It’s all about money.

However, when you line your pockets instead of doing your job at the Parks and Recreation Department, all that happens is Fanplex.  The stakes are higher in public safety:

Franklin also touted what she has done as mayor over the last eight years and Pennington’s credentials.  “Let me be really clear. He has reformed this department,” said Franklin.
Franklin said she supports and stands by Pennington.  Pennington said he has not checked out. During the last three days he was attending a police leadership conference in Virginia.
Pennington stressed that he wasn’t going anywhere and he would leave when Franklin left.

Where to start?  How about with demands that Pennington account for his whereabouts and hours worked?  Which police leadership conference or training in Virginia?  If he is leaving so soon, was it really necessary for him to be out of the city, or could this “required training” have occurred at, say, the Georgia facility?  Was he really just out of town looking for a new job, on our dime?  Saying he “hasn’t checked out” simply is not good enough without facts.

Or is all of this already yesterday’s news?

Taxpayers should not tolerate five more months of this.  It is too much of a drain on police morale, at this crucial time.  Did anybody watching that press conference yesterday come away believing that the man they were seeing should remain in charge of the police?  What happens when they next crisis erupts — not a tragic crime committed against a high profile person, but a situation requiring leadership decisions and support for the cops risking their lives on the street?

Suggested Aphorism:  When it sounds like a threat to say that the Chief of Police “isn’t going anywhere,” it is time for the Chief of Police to go.

The Tragedy in Cambridge

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It must be pretty awful to be a police officer in Cambridge right now.  Looking at their faces on the news, I cannot help but wonder how much more of a burden they are going to be expected to carry, not just now, but weeks and months down the line.

Cops don’t have the luxury to play games, like politicians and pundits.  They are forced to confront treacherous social fault-lines every day on the job while less serious people sit by the sidelines and judge their efforts.  At times like these, powerful people seem to be rooting for the police to fail, and the unfairness of this, and the pressures it adds to their work, will not be acknowledged.

The media, of course, sprinted down the road alongside Professor Gates and seemed surprised later when the story turned out differently from what they anticipated.

Cops deserve more respect than they received throughout this incident.  The presumption of innocence should not be reserved for the criminal class.

What Works? D.C. Moves Forward on Fighting Crime

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As Atlanta prepares for the none-too-soon departure of the current mayor and police chief, it’s worth considering the example of cities where reasonable, engaged crime-fighting policies seem to be working:

Washington D.C. is experiencing the lowest murder rate in years.  Why? D.C.’s fairly new and interesting Police Chief, Cathy L. Lanier, attributes the drop in murder rates to intensive use of communication tools and intensive planning to anticipate trouble at certain events and between certain gangs:

She said police are able to target specific locations or types of crime and policing is so high-tech that investigators are analyzing crime minute-by-minute and have greater ability to attack crime before it happens. . .

In the District, the department creates a weekly “Go-Go report,” which details where and when home-grown bands are playing, because go-go concerts often bring together rival gangs, causing violence, Lanier said. There is also a weekly gang report that tells officers which gangs or crews are feuding that week.

Armed with that information, police can better predict where crimes might happen and take measures to prevent them.

Lanier also cited community policing and reward money for tips:

She pointed to a better relationship between the department and the community as a factor, saying it has helped get more violent repeat offenders off the streets. She said tips from the community have been flowing faster than ever, due in part to patrol officers knowing their beats and developing connections in the community.

Of course, what often goes unstated is that better communication with the police is a two-way street.  The community must do its part as well, instead of simply blaming cops for every ill, including those caused by criminals and by lenient courts.  Crime-fatigue plays a role in the numbers, too: even the most relentlessly dysfunctional communities reach a tipping point when residents tire of seeing young men killing each other and start cooperating with the authorities despite the presence of loud “community activists” who paint law enforcement as the enemy.

One such tipping point occurred in the mid-nineties, when crack cocaine had take such a profound toll that law-abiding citizens in high-crime neighborhoods were emboldened to demand harsher law enforcement and longer sentences for drug traffickers, dealers — and users.

I’ve had more than one former co-worker tell me that a prison term back in the 1990’s saved his life.  You won’t see lives saved that way now.

~~~~~~~~~~~

But a less-acknowledged factor in the drop in crime in formerly high-crime cities is population-shifting.  As Atlanta shut down their centralized housing projects, crime dispersed to the surrounding suburbs.  Counties outside Washington D.C. have also been dealing with influxes of criminal activity for more than a decade now.  Too much celebration of plummeting inner-city crime rates might not withstand a closer look at some suburban enclaves where crime has skyrocketed.  Nonetheless, according to the Washington Post, crime is even down in nearby Prince George’s County, which is (somewhat) to D.C. what Clayton County is to Atlanta — an outer suburb that saw crime rates explode as conditions in the inner city worsened or the population relocated:

In Prince George’s, violence had been steadily rising since the 1990s, when the county started absorbing spillover crime from the District. But this year, crime is at a 20-year low, and homicides are down almost 17 percent.

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said that since he took over the department in September, there has been a more defined mission about how to attack crime.

He identified car thefts as one of the county’s major problems and a “gateway” crime, meaning if criminals get away with stealing a car, they sometimes become emboldened and begin committing more daring acts. In 2004, about 18,500 cars were stolen in the county, more than in all of Virginia.

Since then, the department has focused on arresting car thieves and educating the public about protecting their cars, and the number of car thefts has shrunk by half.

There’s a thought.  Logistically, in metro Atlanta, a car is vital for committing many crimes.  Yet car thefts are still being downgraded by judges who view property crime as unimportant.  Perhaps if prosecutors and judges stepped up to the bat and began imposing real penalties for stealing cars, even when the offender is a juvenile, more of those juveniles might live to see 30, even if they spend a few years in jail in the interim.

Most analyses of crime trends still neglect the influential and negative role judges play by letting offenders off easy.  When cops and commanders, know that they’re not going to be able to get somebody off the streets, they are naturally less motivated to waste time and resources trying.  Then they have to single-handedly shoulder the public’s ire, as well.  As policing techniques grow more sophisticated, the courts have collapsed, and nobody notices.  The police do a lot, but they can only do so much.

Gary LaFree, a criminology professor at the University of Maryland, said it has taken police decades to figure out how to effectively target crime.

“In the ’60s, crime was like an act of God, like a tornado or earthquake,” LaFree said. “Where policing has changed is that we’ve gotten the idea this is a problem we created and there are human solutions to it. Obviously, crime is not randomly distributed. It is connected to hot spots in cities and other areas.”

LaFree is one of the most credible voices in criminology today (I am trying to say more positive things about criminologists).  Two of his books, out of print now, I think, are very much worth reading for their non-ideological efforts to understand crime:

The Post reporter notes that LaFree and others discount the theory that crime goes up during economic downturns:

LaFree and others agree that crime doesn’t automatically go up when the economy is poor. Property crime is also trending down in many jurisdictions, including the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery. The FBI reported last week that bank robberies across the country fell in the first quarter of the year, with 1,498 reported, compared with 1,604 in the first quarter of 2008.

Criminologists point to the Great Depression in the 1930s as a time of relatively low crime compared with the Roaring Twenties, when the country experienced more violence.

Atlanta’s next mayor could do worse than looking to Washington D.C. when filling the role of Chief of Police.  D.C. Chief Cathy L. Lanier likely isn’t going anywhere, but the example she sets — a homegrown cop who started in the District on foot patrol; sticks close to her troops and the streets; promotes open communication channels, and is known for her “tireless work ethic” — is the type of chief Atlanta needs:

She has created a Web site where cops can take their gripes and advice directly to her. She gives out her business card to everyone she meets, and often her private cell number as well. (She guesses at least a thousand D.C. citizens now have it.) She insists on being called every time there is a shooting in the city.  “A lot of people have criticized me a little for being too far down in the weeds,” Lanier admits. “But if you separate yourself from the people involved in and impacted by crime, you’re going to fail.”

Imagine that.

Sgt. Scott Kreher Update: Cops and Us

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Sgt. Scott Kreher of the Atlanta Police Department, has been returned to desk duties as Mayor Shirley Franklin continues down the path of using the D.A.’s office to “investigate” him for importune remarks made during a hearing on denying medical benefits to the city’s disabled officers.  Stephanie Ramage, at The Ramage Report, has issued another call to restore Sgt. Kreher to his full duties.  It’s an amazing plea for forgiveness and the respect the police deserve.

Along the lines of Stephanie’s blog, I’ve been having some interesting conversations with a young police officer at my gym.  What always strikes me when I’m talking to police is how they view their jobs as a calling, not just a place to punch the clock.  The young officer at my gym told me that he does not do overtime because he recognizes the need to be able to go home and have a life at the end of his shift, because the job is so intense and what is being asked of police officers is so emotionally challenging.

One of the biggest challenges that he sees is the constant pressure of going into situations where people feel comfortable expressing hatred for police officers — and not just on the streets, where it’s not so surprising that the guy you’re locking up is not responding with gracious consideration for the demands of your profession.  Almost every cop I’ve ever met talks about the pain of being automatically reviled by some media types and politicians and activists.

In some community groups I belong to or follow, contempt for cops seems like a default, and this is too bad.  Setting aside the small handful of people who don’t belong behind a badge, the police are continually reaching out to the public, so I’d like to propose an exercise in consciously reaching back.  There are some darn great police blogs out there.  Read a few.  You don’t need to hug a cop, just try listening to one.

Here are some of the cop blogs I’ve discovered.  If you have others, I’d love to know about them.

Second City Cop: A Chicago officer talks bluntly about both policing and the politics of policing in Chi-Town.  Brave guy.  Really brave guy.

The Johnny Law Chronicles: Johnny Law is not shy about the frustrations of the “bi-polar moments” that arise when “bohemian wanna-bes are afraid of the criminals in their area but aren’t exactly sure about what they want done about it.”  I wouldn’t exactly say that he is reaching out to the public in a warm and fuzzy manner, but his perspective on this extremely common dynamic is worth confronting.

The Roanoke Cop: Nobody does a better job of explaining what happens during a long, depressing shift.

Behind the Blue Line: One of the cop blogs that is not anonymous, Cst. Sandra Glendinning is a canine officer in Vancouver.  And seems to be a lovely person.  Canada, land of the polite and free.

Officer Smith:  Officer Smith is a cop who apparently does a lot of highway patrol in California.  For readers from Atlanta who have never heard of such a thing, Highway Patrol Cops are police officers who drive on the highways enforcing things like speed limits and other traffic laws.

British Cops, being from Britain and therefore completely unconflicted about being literary while armed, write some of the funniest and most insightful cop blogs.  And because they still have a publishing culture and a reading public over there, cops (and nurses, and paramedics, and dispatchers, and social workers) with blogs are getting book contracts left and right:

The Policeman’s Blog: Funny.  The author of Wasting Police Time.  Lots of the policing and political terms may seem unfamiliar at first, but there’s really nothing all that different under the sun.

P.C. Bloggs, A Twentieth-First Century Police Officer:  The author of Diary of an On-Call Girl, about her career as a female police officer.  Imagine a world where On-Call girls, rather than Call-Girls, were the feminist heroes of the day.  P.C. Bloggs is quite good at expressing the frustrations of officers dealing with an ungrateful, drunken, unruly, and astonishingly piggy public.  Many insightful observations about the central role of body fluids in policing.

The Thinking Policeman: My favorite cop blog.  Long, non-frivolous disquisitions on Hobbes and Locke, The Social Contract, and how to forget the first utterly blown-out arm you see on a junkie.  Posts like “The Mental Health Patient” are an education in policing for the rest of us.

Selective Outrage: What the Paralyzed Cop Scandal Says About Atlanta’s Politicians

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As elected officials in Atlanta crowd the microphone to denounce Sgt. Scott Kreher for saying something importune about Mayor Shirley Franklin, the list grows . . . of elected officials in Atlanta grandstanding on Kreher while refusing to comment on the city’s grotesque treatment of wounded police officers, the real issue.

Here is a video Kreher helped create that details the systematic abuse of the officers by the city.  And here is a petition supporting Kreher, a decent guy who lost his temper over real injustice.  Not fake injustice.  I urge you to read the text of the petition, if you want to know what really happened.

In recent months, Mayor Franklin and Police Chief Pennington have pointedly refused to speak out against the high toll of violent crime, accusing residents, instead, of merely “perceiving” the crime wave that has left people dead on the streets, and at their jobs, and in their homes.  I don’t know anyone in Atlanta who doesn’t either own an alarm system or live behind locks and bars, or both.  That’s normal for Atlanta, a normal that is growing worse.  Yet the mayor feels that people are exaggerating the effect of crime on their lives, while she simultaneously feels that there should be a federal investigation over a passing remark made about her in anger, in the midst of a City Council meeting about her outrageous treatment of wounded officers.

So if your back door gets kicked in by armed thugs, or your car gets stolen, or somebody holds a gun to your son’s head, then you should just shut up, sit down, and not complain.  But if somebody says something in passing about the Mayor while talking about something else, then there should be a federal investigation, with all the resources of the government brought to bear, punitively, on any citizen who deigns to express anger at her Highness.

She gets — to demand that free speech be investigated if it displeases her.  You get — to hope that a cop is available to show up when your life in endangered by a violent criminal.  The cops get — to stand between you and the criminals, risking a fate like that of their fellow, paralyzed officers who are treated with raw contempt by elected officials.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is calling the controversy over Kreher’s remarks a “debate.” Well, not really.  Debate implies that both parties have the right to speak freely, and that is not the case here, where Franklin may whip up hatred and demand federal government action under the guise of being frightened by what she is codedly pretending to be a racial remark, while Kreher and his supporters, and anyone else who deigns to be upset over the crime situation, or the paralyzed cop situation, must grovel and apologize while expressing their point of view.

It’s an ugly tactic that should be outdated, but is not.

Senator Vincent Fort, the crown prince of such double-standards, has, of course, weighed in for the Mayor.  This is Fort’s stomping grounds: he has spent most of his time in office trying to codify such double standards into law, simultaneously lobbying for leniency for violent criminals and harsher sentencing for so-called hate crimes, the system of selectively enforced, selective outrage that dictates that some people’s victimization is more important than others’.  The hate crimes code is also what underlies Franklin’s demand for a federal investigation of Kreher, a chilling threat.  If Kreher had said such a thing in Canada or Britain or any one of several European countries these days, he would doubtlessly be facing hate speech charges.  Luckily, our unique bill of rights largely protects us from prosecution for hate speech, though that would change in a heartbeat if Fort and others had their way.

Fort also, predictably, had bad things to say about the police, playing the police brutality card for the press:

“If I had said that to a police officer on the street, where do you think I’d be?” said State Sen. Vincent Fort.

Fort’s comment here is worth contemplating: he brings up non-existent police brutality but refuses to address the actually brutal treatment of the paralyzed police officers at the hands of Franklin’s administration.  Talk about a double standard.

And what a perfect expression of the realities of the hate crimes movement: some people get to have police protection against words.  Other people have to beg for any protection against crime.  Now that he has inserted himself into this debate, Fort should be called on the carpet, both for what he said about the police, and what he did not say.

Despite the fact that he believes that some people matter more than others.

Here is Shirley Franklin’s latest statement on Kreher, who has already apologized, grovelled before her:

“His threat cannot be tolerated or explained away,” she said on the city’s official Web site. “I believe his threat to be serious and an attempt to intimidate me and other city officials and my family.”

Here is what she said about the wounded officers:

”           “

Here is what she said about real crime victims in the city, in an op-ed scolding the public for demanding more police officers:

“The city is safer now than it has been in decades.”

In Atlanta these days, you had better know your place.

How Atlanta Treats its Wounded Police Officers on Memorial Day

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If the genius of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power through elections, the tragedy of democracy is the exploitation of this public goodwill by elected and appointed officials who treat their last year or so in office (sometimes, their entire time in office) like a tin pot dictatorship, holing up and divvying the spoils while behaving as if the needs of the people are beneath their concern.

There’s little the public can do about a lame duck elected official who treats them with contempt.  Little, that is, except doing their homework for the next election, noting who is aligned with whom, voting accordingly — and carefully counting the towels after each transfer of power is complete.

This last bit of business was sorely neglected when former Mayor Bill Campbell was hauled off in handcuffs — people should not wonder so much when current Mayor Shirley Franklin’s allegedly “reformist” administration feels like deja vu all over again.

Sunday Paper broke this story about the disgraceful treatment of injured Atlanta police officers last weekend. The Atlanta Journal Constitution offered an excellent update yesterday.

Paralyzed cops being denied needed medical services by city administrators: this is the type of injustice that cries out for public leadership.  Phone numbers are below.

And where is Atlanta Police Chief Pennington?  Vegas?  Disney World?  Mars?  These are police officers who were injured in the line of duty — who took a bullet protecting us.  In other cities, that unambiguously means something:

In Atlanta, injured cops are treated like wounded animals put out in the rain.  That Chief Pennington refuses to comment on this mistreatment, let alone oppose it, is extraordinary.  It is the type of thing that should create an outcry, but it has not.  Are people so afraid to speak up for the police who protect them?  Is an entire generation so utterly brainwashed by the type of virulent, anti-cop rhetoric that spews from lefty politics and liberal media that they are able to look at a cop who took a bullet to save innocent people and say: well, who cares?

This is the Vietnam of our age.

Meanwhile, Mayor Franklin and Chief Pennington have managed to find the time for a vendetta against the police officer who stood up for the injured officers.  Sgt. Scott Kreher lost his temper after months of trying to get the wounded officers appropriate medical care and after two hours of being grilled at a City Council hearing.  Kreher said something inappropriate about Mayor Franklin, and now the Mayor is falsely accusing Kreher of being a threat to her and her family.

As columnist Stephanie Ramage points out in her blog, The Ramage Report, Franklin expressed no such anxiety when her son-in-law the violent drug kingpin was terrorizing the city (you can’t make this stuff up).  Here is Ramage on the full statement made by Kreher, not reported in the AJC, which truncated the quote:

The indignities that these cops, all of them injured in the line of duty, have suffered at the hands of Mayor Franklin’s administration are simply unconscionable.

And that is what Kreher told the City Council: “These five officers were injured in the line of duty…I want to beat her [Mayor Franklin] in the head with a baseball bat sometimes when I think about it…I cannot believe Mayor Franklin’s administration would allow this to happen. This administration should be ashamed of itself.”

Mayor Franklin was not present. Kreher was not visibly incensed. . . .

Franklin has said “I think it’s [Kreher’s remark] intended to intimidate me, my family and city officials. I think it’s very dangerous language and when someone says they want to take a bat and hit you in the head, from my experience, they want to kill you.”

Her family is intimidated? Franklin’s daughter is, even this minute, on probation for money laundering for her now-ex-husband, a kingpin in one of the most violent drug rings in the history of Atlanta. Mayor Franklin must have had at least a few dinners with the thug, yet she expects us to believe that she is afraid of a cop who says that her treatment of paralyzed and brain-damaged police officers makes him want to take a baseball bat to her head when he thinks about it sometimes?

Kreher has been suspended, but the Mayor and Police Chief are still refusing to comment on their actually unconscionable treatment of the injured officers.

As if it is laughable — a paralyzed cop snapping a leg bone because he can’t get the city to fix his broken wheelchair.

The relationship between City Hall and Atlanta residents has descended into paroxysms of sado-masochism.  I wonder when folks will say “enough” and start demanding some respect, if not for themselves, then for the men and woman who sacrificed their ability to walk and talk and think for the public’s safety.

This is, after all, Memorial Day, when fallen officers are supposed to be honored, as is happening in ordinary places, places other than Atlanta.

City Council

Mayor

Chief of Police

How Many Gold Mercedes Are There Out There?

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THE average citizen hardly needs to be persuaded that crimes will be committed more frequently if, other things being equal, crime becomes more profitable than other ways of spending one’s time.

–James Q. Wilson, “Thinking About CrimeAtlantic Monthly, September, 1983

 

Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that police in Clayton County may have solved a whole lot of Metro Atlanta crimes when they arrested four men and charged them with “breaking into dozens of businesses,” and “stealing more than 200 flat-screen televisions” throughout the city.

The article announcing the arrests mentioned “50 investigators from 17 police agencies [who] joined forces last year after noticing a spike in burglaries and flat-screen TV thefts.”  Just last Wednesday, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington announced the formation of a presumably different multi-jurisdictional task-force to address flat-screen thefts.  

I imagine citizens weary of crime would say: “I don’t care who’s doing what, just get them off our streets.”  

Add to that, “this time.”  For, of course, at first glance, at least two of the men have faced previous charges in Clayton County alone (the current crime spree extends to Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Douglas Counties — a wide swath on the map — and I have not checked those yet).  Devon Sherman Anderson was charged in Clayton with simply battery, disrupting a public school, and disorderly conduct in 2004, the year he turned 18.  The first two charges were dropped, and he received six months probation on the third.  Schoolyard fight?  Maybe.  Or it could be the first adult charge after a lifetime of juvenile crimes, which are sealed. Bershan Lewis‘ record is more extensive.  It also begins the year he turned 18: it was a busy year for him.  He was charged with four counts of entering autos.  

Prior to the current charges, neither man’s records indicates a major crime wave (some of the charges that appear more than once are simply working their way through different courts).  But the crimes with which they have now been charged seem outlandishly prolific.  If they are guilty, they have been driving Anderson’s gold Mercedes all over the metro area for months, or years now, committing crime after crime after crime.  

That’s a lot of broken glass, insurance hikes, and security expenses for small businesses. It’s also a lot of employees of sports bars and laundromats who have the eerie task of opening or closing the doors when nobody else is around, hoping that whoever committed the last break-in isn’t coming back.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story reports that the men named themselves the “Hit Squad” and that an AK-47 was found in one of their homes.  Anderson’s new charges include armed robbery, and there are more charges to come.  

There were nearly 10,000 burglaries in the city precincts alone in 2008.  

People are scared, and tired.  They are sick of hearing that prisons are overcrowded and that judges are looking for alternatives to incarceration for people with records like Johnny Dennard’s.  Dennard had at least five burglary convictions when he was arrested on the most recent charge.  He was convicted a sixth time and released to an “outpatient treatment center” rather than being sent to serve the (apparently mandatory) minimum five years for the crime.

How many burglaries net you six convictions in our broken justice system?

The Case of the Missing Zero or 785 Officers

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WHAT a difference a month makes. Or does it?

A few short weeks ago, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and Mayor Shirley Franklin were working overtime to insist that residents’ concerns over crime were overblown. “The city is safer now than it has been in decades,” the Mayor callously announced when the brutal murder of bartender John Henderson mobilized residents to demand more police on the streets.

In another scolding published in the wake of that crime, Chief Pennington insisted that, “we have enough resources to deal with it,” “it” meaning crime (making him possibly the first Chief of Police in half a century to make such a claim). He suggested that citizens were simply “perceiving” crime more intensely now that the Internet enabled people to tell each other about crimes that were occurring in different parts of the city.

OOPS. The Internet certainly did that. It also enabled residents to compare notes on what they were seeing on the streets versus what the police department was posting on its website. It allowed them to ponder the often-craven ways the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing work with the Mayor to dismiss concerns about home invasions, like the schmaltzy two-step in which the AJC published a highly selective study of crime statistics one Sunday and Mayor Franklin, a mere four days later, published an editorial in the paper praising the study and using it to bludgeon residents’ concerns about home invasions.

The Internet interrupted this closed-loop system so abruptly that officials and reporters are now scrambling in its wake. Fourteen days after Chief Pennington told reporter Tim Eberly that the Atlanta Police Department didn’t need more resources to keep the city from “becoming less safe,” and one day after the AJC published its “study” showing select crimes in certain places were down, and three days before the mayor thanked the paper for showing the protesters that the city didn’t need more police officers, the AJC wedged in another article reporting that Chief Pennington also said “the city will soon need 2,400 officers.”

That is 785 more officers than the current number, 1,615. Or, to put it another way, a 48% increase in the number of police on the streets.

So according to Chief Pennington, Atlanta either has enough police on the streets right now to combat crime, or it needs to increase the size of its force by 48%. “Soon.”

PERHAPS in order to back away from this absurd and bizarre game of numbers, Pennington has now announced the formation of a task force to investigate burglaries of flat-screen televisions. Or perhaps he is really reaching out to the public.

(Shirley Franklin, who cannot run for mayor again and already has one foot out the door and firmly planted, no doubt, in some half dozen lucrative consulting contracts, doesn’t need to come up with plans to fight crime anymore and has thus said nothing.)

I sincerely applaud any effort Chief Pennington is willing to make to do something about burglary, or any other crime. And I personally think that most of the problem of not addressing criminal behavior lies with the courts, not in the police department. But there’s an element of minimizing the truly threatening nature of these home invasions by creating a “task force to investigate the burglaries of flat-screen televisions.” Why not a task force to investigate the invasions of homes?

This minimizing of crime is not incidental: it is of a piece with everything else that has been said to the citizens of Atlanta, and especially to crime victims and activists, by the Mayor and the Chief of Police since John Henderson was murdered.

So before anyone is permitted to shift the conversation to using DNA to protect television ownership, I think Chief Pennington needs to change the tone of the conversation itself. There needs to be unambiguous acknowledgment of the real problem. It’s not about “property”: it’s about the real danger created by numbly sociopathic or drug-crazed criminals who are kicking in the doors of people’s homes. It’s about never feeling safe because you know there are criminals stalking your neighborhood, waiting for you to leave for work in the morning, and wondering if your wife is going to be safe at home after the car’s not in the driveway at 9:05 a.m.

Chief Pennington needs to acknowledge this instead of playing it down by talking about property theft, even if that’s what the Mayor and many (not all) journalists seem to be trying to do.

I’M certain there are things I don’t know about Pennington, but he did have a reputation as a reformer, someone who did a great deal to clean up the force in New Orleans. I want to believe that he really wants 2,400 cops on the streets and that he believes that every home invasion (home invasion necessarily precedes ripping the flat-screen from the wall) is an intense, personal, violent crime.

Behind statistics there are always intentions. NYPD Chief William Bratton intended to lower crime, so he used crime statistics to solve crimes, not to deny their existence in the newspaper.

Bratton didn’t lecture people about the difference between “violent” and “non-violent” home break-ins or the “victimless” nature of turn-style jumping: he instituted CompStat, which, if you think about it, works precisely because it got the police thinking about property crimes as potential predictors of future violent crime.

Exactly the opposite is happening in Atlanta. But it’s not too late for Pennington to turn that message around.