PoliceIssues | Crime and Justice


Often, for the same reasons as their superiors (#304, 2/10/18)

     As a retired Fed who investigated gun trafficking, your blogger was dismayed to learn about the implosion of Baltimore PD’s Gun Trace Task Force. After pleading guilty to racketeering charges, three former members of that once-celebrated team were recently back in Federal court, testifying against colleagues who deny being involved in a years-long scheme that involved lying about probable cause, extorting suspects and stealing large sums of cash.

     Meanwhile a once-promising law enforcement career unraveled in a New York courtroom. In a stunning verdict, jurors unanimously agreed that NYPD Detective Kevin Desormeau lied to a grand jury when he testified that he and his partner observed someone selling drugs. That falsehood, which was used to justify a body search that did turn up contraband, was exposed by a surveillance camera that faithfully recorded how the cops really encountered the man. Desormeau and his colleague – she was convicted of a lesser crime but acquitted by the judge – aren’t done; both are pending trial for lying in a case about illegal gun possession.

     This isn’t the first time that NYPD’s finest have been accused of fudging. In its 1995 report on police corruption, the city’s Mollen Commission warned that police lying was leading judges and jurors to hold “skeptical views of police testimony, which potentially could result in the dismissal of those criminal cases where police officers were the sole prosecution witnesses.” (p. 68)

     Nearly two decades later, little had apparently changed. A New York judge who presided at the bench trial of a detective who allegedly planted drugs admitted he was unnerved by evidence of widespread police wrongdoing: “I thought I was not naÔve. But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

     Yes, he found the cop guilty. And that too seemed quickly forgotten. Three years later, a report by NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board concluded that false statements by police were on the increase. Their findings became gist for a major story by New York Public Radio. It was troublingly entitled “The Hard Truth About Cops Who Lie.”

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Crime happens. To find out why, look to where. (#270, 5/25/16)

      A few weeks ago we blogged about Chicago’s ongoing struggle with violent crime. And it’s not just the Windy City that’s been having a lousy year. Data gathered from sixty-three police departments and sheriff’s offices by the Major Chiefs Association reveals that half (31) experienced more homicides in the first quarter of 2016 than during the equivalent period in 2015.     Some of the increases were substantial. Murders in Las Vegas went from 22 to 40, an 82 percent gain. Other winners (or, more properly, losers) include Dallas (26 to 45, +73 percent), Jacksonville (18 to 30, +67 percent), Newark (15 to 24, +60 percent), Memphis (31 to 48, +55 percent), Nashville (13 to 20, +54 percent), San Antonio (23 to 34, +48 percent), and Los Angeles (55 to 73, +33 percent).

     Still, the trophy properly belongs to Chicago. Although its increase wasn’t the greatest percentage-wise – the Windy City came in third, at +70 – it dwarfed its competitors in raw numbers, going from 83 homicides during 1Q 2015 to a stunning 141 for 1Q 2016. Overall, more folks are meeting a violent demise in the City of Broad Shoulders (509 in 2012; 422 in 2013; 427 in 2014; 465 in 2015) than anywhere else in the U.S. (We’ll spare readers Chicago’s other nicknames. Perhaps these sobering facts might suggest one that’s more – um – contemporary.)

     On the other hand, if we’re interested in murder rates Chicago is a distant contender. This graph  uses data from the Brennan Center, S t. Louis police, U.S. census and the UCR to compare murders per 100,000 population for thirteen major cities since 2002. (Our focus is on murder because felonious assault data seems far less trustworthy. For more on this see “Cooking the Books” and “Liars Figure”.)

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Prior posts

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part II): Citywide crime statistics are ripe for misuse (#303, 1/25/18)

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part I): Is the Big Apple's extended crime drop all it seems to be? (#302, 1/15/18)

Accidentally on Purpose: A remarkable registry challenges conventional wisdom about the causes of wrongful conviction (#301, 12/24/17)

Massacre Control: What can be done to prevent mass shootings? (#300, 11/19/17)

"Bump Stocks" Aren't the (Real) Problem: Outlawing them is a good idea. But itís hardly the solution. (#299, 10/8/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part II): Should states legalize recreational pot? (#298, 9/5/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part I): What happens when communities turn their backs on immigration enforcement? (#297, 8/23/17)

Three (In?)explicable Shootings: Grievous police blunders keep costing citizen lives. Why? (#296, 8/1/17)

Silence Isn't Always Golden: A proposal to deregulate firearms silencers ignores the hazards of policing (#295, 7/14/17)

A Lost Cause: Legislators are ambushed. And a gun-numbed land shrugs and moves on. (#294, 6/24/17)

Are Civilians Too Easy on the Police?: When attempts are made to sanction cops, citizens often get in the way (#293, 6/3/17)

Ideology Trumps Reason: Clashing belief systems challenge criminal justice policymaking (#292, 5/16/17)

People do Forensics: Conflicts about oversight neglect a fundamental issue (#291, 4/30/17)

Why Do Cops Succeed?: Shifting resources from finding fault to studying success (#290, 4/13/17)

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Pressures to solve notorious crimes can lead to tragic miscarriages of justice (#289, 3/19/17)

Is Crime Up or Down? Well, it Depends: It depends on where one sits, when we compare, and on who counts (#288, 2/27/17)

An Illusory Consensus (Part II): Good intentions don't always translate into good policy (#287, 2/10/17)

An Illusory Consensus: America's police leaders agree on the use of force. Or do they? (#286, 1/29/17)

Do Gun Laws Work?: Are they doing any good? We crunch the numbers to find out (#285, 1/11/17)

Is Trump Right About the Nation's Inner Cities?: America's low-income communities desperately need a New Deal (#284, 12/17/16)

A Stitch in Time: Could early intervention save officer and citizen lives? (#283, 11/26/16)

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: To avoid anointing Trump, the FBI Director falls into a trap of his own making (#282, 11/2/16)

A Matter of Life and Death: In an era of highly lethal firearms, keeping patrol informed is job #1 (#281, 10/20/16)

Is it Always About Race?: Unruly citizens and streets brimming with guns make risk-tolerance a very hard sell (#280, 10/5/16)

Words Matter: In a conflicted, gun-saturated land, heated rhetoric threatens copsí effectiveness - and their lives (#279, 9/17/16)

Where Should Cops Live?: Officer-citizen conflicts stir renewed interest in residency requirements (#278, 9/2/16)

Getting Out of Dodge: For families caught in dangerous neighborhoods, there is one option (#277, 8/19/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part II): DOJ proposes rules for forensic testimony. Do they go far enough? (#276, 8/3/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part II): Aggressive crime-fighting strategies can exact an unintended toll (#275, 7/18/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part I): Do cops use race to decide who poses a threat? (#274, 7/18/16)

Intended or not, a Very Rough Ride: A hung jury and two acquittals mar Baltimore's crusade against police violence (#273, 7/3/16)

A Ban in Name Only: Pretending to regulate only makes things worse (#272, 6/21/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part I): A "hair-raising" forensic debacle forces DOJ's hand (#271, 6/10/16)

Location, Location, Location: Crime happens. To find out why, look to where (#270, 5/25/16)

Orange is the New Brown: L.A.'s past sheriff and undersheriff pack their bags for Hotel Fed. (#269, 5/7/16)

Role Reversal: Chicago's falling apart. Who can make the violence stop? (#268, 4/25/16)

Is a Case Ever too Cold?: Citing factual errors, an Illinois prosecutor successfully moves to free a convicted killer (#267, 4/16/16)

After the Fact: Ordinary policing strategies can't prevent terrorism (#266, 3/31/16)

More Rules, Less Force?: PERF promotes written guidelines to reduce the use of force. Cops aren't happy (#265, 3/18/16)

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