Posted 11/23/20

FIX THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS!

Creating safe places calls for a comprehensive, organic approach

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. While campaigning in Charlotte four years ago, candidate Trump promised that he would place the nation’s impoverished communities on the path to prosperity with major investments in infrastructure, job development and education. He would also fight the disorder that bedevils poor areas and assure that justice was dispensed equally to all. While some Black voices were skeptical about the sincerity of Trump’s “New Deal for Black America,” others applauded his apparent enthusiasm for reform. Even after eight years of Democratic rule, poverty and crime still beset the inner cities. So give him a chance!

     And for a single term, America did. According to the Fed’s most recent (2019) survey, the economy performed well, with the gross domestic product going up unemployment going down. And until the ravages of the pandemic and urban disorder, violence was also on the way down. According to FBI figures, the violent crime rate dropped one percent during 2018-2019 and property crime fell four and one-half percent.

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     Yet not everyone benefited. As the Fed noted, income distribution has hardly budged in the last three decades, with the top one-third enjoying about a third of the nation’s wealth while the bottom half seems consigned to a measly two percent. Federal crime statistics demonstrate marked disparities as to place. Detroit closed out 2015 with 295 murders; New York City had 319. Once their populations are taken into account, the Motor City’s homicide rate – 43.8 per 100,000 pop. – was more than ten times the Big Apple’s measly 4.1. Four years later the results proved much the same, with Detroit’s 492 murders yielding a 41.4 rate while New York City’s 319 homicides delivered a far gentler 3.8, even better than the nation’s 5.0.

     Considering New York City’s seemingly benign crime numbers it seems to make perfect sense that Mayor Bill de Blasio calls it the “safest big city in America.” Only problem is, “New York City” is a place name. People live, work and play in neighborhoods. And during a career fighting crime, and another trying to figure out where it comes from, your blogger discovered that focusing on tangible places can prove illuminating in ways that yakking about wholes obscures.

     Politicians know that. Mayor de Blasio counts on a profusion of prosperous neighborhoods to produce low citywide crime numbers. Consider the Upper East Side. With a population of 220,000 and a poverty rate of only 7.2 percent (versus the city’s twenty), its police precinct, the 19th., posted zero murders in 2017, one in 2018, and zero again in 2019. And while 2020 has supposedly brought everyone major grief crime-wise, as of November 15 the 19th. has recorded just one killing.

     Contrast that with the Big Apple’s downtrodden Brownsville district. Burdened with a 29.4 percent poverty rate, its 86,000 residents have historically endured an abysmal level of violence. Brownsville’s police precinct, the 73rd., logged nine murders in 2017, thirteen in 2018 and eleven in 2019. That produced a murder rate (per 100,000 pop.) more than three times New York City’s overall rate and about thirteen times that of the Upper East Side. Then consider what happened this year. As of November 15 the poverty-stricken 73rd. logged an astounding 25 murders, more than twice its merely deplorable 2019 figure.


Upper East Siders managed to shake off the pandemic and George Floyd. Clearly not the Brownsvillians. Note to Hizzoner: they’re both your denizens.

     Switch shores. Los Angeles Police Department’s West Los Angeles station serves an affluent area of 228,000 inhabitants. Its primary ZIP, 90025, boasts a poverty rate of 11.25 percent. West L.A. Division reported two murders between January 1 and November 14, 2018, one between those dates in 2019, and four this year. In comparison, the 77th. Street station tends to a score of impoverished neighborhoods. Its primary Zip code, 90003, suffers from a poverty rate of 30.7 percent. Although the 77th. serves a substantially smaller population of about 175,000, it endured far, far more murders (39, 35 and 48) than West L.A. Division during the same periods. And while murder did increase in both areas between 2019 and 2020, check out the leap in the 77th.


Indeed, things in the poor parts of L.A. have deteriorated so markedly this year that four killings last night in South Los Angeles caused the city to reach that 300-murder milestone it successfully avoided for a decade. Shades of Brownsville!

     So, crime-wise, is there really a “New York City”? An “L.A.”? During the last decade posts in our “Neighborhoods” special section reported similar disparities within cities across the U.S. For example, consider Minneapolis, that usually tranquil place where the death at the hands of police of Mr. George Floyd set off national waves of protest that have yet to subside. Coding its eighty-five neighborhoods for violent crimes per 100,000 pop., we recently compared the four least violent (mean rate 0.7) with the four most brutish (mean rate 35.6). That exposed a huge disparity in mean family income: $106,347 for the calm areas, $45,678 in the not-so-peaceful.

     So is there only one Minneapolis? No more so than one Portland! Our national capital of dissent has at least 87 neighborhoods. Comparing the ten neighborhoods with the lowest violence rates (mean=1.5) against the ten with the highest (mean=9.0) revealed that only nine percent of the former were in poverty versus 21.4 percent of the latter. Ditto Baltimore, South Bend, Chicago and elsewhere. (Click here, here and here.)

     It’s hardly a secret that poverty and violence are locked in an embrace. Years ago your blogger and his ATF colleagues discreetly trailed along as traffickers hauled freshly-bought handguns into distressed neighborhoods for resale to local peddlers. Alas, a gun from one of the loads we missed was used to murder a police officer. That tragedy, which haunts me to this day, furnished the inspiration for “Sources of Crime Guns in Los Angeles, California,” a journal article I wrote while transitioning into academia.

     When yours truly arrived on campus he discovered that the criminal justice educational community was not much interested in neighborhoods. That lack of attention has apparently continued. But ignoring place can easily lead us astray. A recent study of Chicago’s move to facilitate pre-trial release approvingly notes that defendants let go after the relaxation were no more apt to reoffend (17 percent) than those released under the older guidelines. To be sure, more crimes did happen. (A news account estimated 200-300 more per year.) But as the authors emphasized, a six-month increase in releases from 8,700 under the old guidelines to 9,200 under the new (5.7 percent) didn’t significantly affect crime citywide. Given Chicagoland’s formidable crime problem, that’s hardly surprising. But set the whole aside. What about the poverty-stricken Chicago neighborhoods where most releasees inevitably wind up? Did their residents notice a change? Was it for the better or worse?

     Yet no matter how well it’s done, policing is clearly not the ultimate solution. Preventing violence is a task for society. As we’ve repeatedly pitched, a concerted effort to provide poverty-stricken individuals and families with child care, tutoring, educational opportunities, language skills, job training, summer jobs, apprenticeships, health services and – yes – adequate housing could yield vast benefits.

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     That notion, which the Urban Institute and others have long championed, is nothing new. And while there are some promising nonprofit initiatives – say, Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood revitalization program – most efforts at urban renewal focus on rehabilitating physical space and helping industries and businesses grow. In today’s Washington Post, mayors representing cities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky peddled a “Marshall Plan” for Middle America that would create jobs through major investments in renewable power. While that could ostensibly yield great benefits, it hardly addresses the needs of the scores of unskilled, under-educated, poorly-served denizens of our inner cities. That, however, is the goal of Jobs-Plus, a long-standing HUD program that offers employment and educational services to the residents of public housing in designated areas. Its budget? A measly $15 million. Nationwide.

     Meanwhile impoverished communities continue to reel from crime and disorder. So here’s a hint for Mr. Biden, who absent a coup, will assume the throne in January. Your predecessor talked up a good idea. Alas, it was just that: “talk.” America urgently needs to invest in its impoverished neighborhoods. A comprehensive “Marshall Plan” that would raise the educational and skill levels and improve the job prospects, lives and health of the inhabitants of these chronically distressed places seems the logical place to start.

UPDATES (scroll)

12/15/22  In late 2015 Hesperia, Calif. adopted a “crime-free” program that directed property owners to clear prospective tenants of rental homes and apartments with the Sheriff’s Dept. and deny housing to those deemed unsuitable because of present or past misdeeds. In July the Dept. of Justice sued to halt this practice for illegally discriminating against Blacks and Hispanics. Hesperia recently settled the suit by discontinuing the program and paying damages to those who were unlawfully displaced.

12/9/22  A study reveals that Chicago’s needy neighborhoods receive only a small fraction of investments. During 2010-2020 those whose inhabitants were more than 80 percent White received $32,707 per household, 3 1/2 times the amount ($9,372) allocated to neighborhoods where fewer than twenty percent were White. Public funds and charities can’t make up the difference. While they “poured” $9 billion into neighborhoods, private investors spent “nearly $200 billion” elsewhere. Urban Institute

11/22/22  “Reducing Racial Inequality in Crime and Justice,” a massive new report by the National Academy of Sciences, proposes that reducing the number of police stops and searches, cutting back on “jail detention, prison admission, and long sentences,” and improving the socioeconomic conditions of neighborhoods can ease the pronounced racial and ethnic disparities produced by America’s criminal justice system.

11/16/22  Thirty-two members of the rival WOOO and CHOO street gangs, which beset housing developments in New York City’s embattled Brownsville neighborhood, have been indicted for crimes ranging from weapons possession and reckless endangerment to murder. According to the Brooklyn D.A., these charges reflect twenty-seven episodes of inter-gang warfare over a two and-one-year period. And as they exchanged gunfire, innocent citizens also got hurt. “There’s no thinking about the terrible consequences that this behavior is causing in their community,” said D.A. Eric Gonzalez.

10/11/22  NIJ’s brand-new release, “Criminal Victimization, 2021,” reports a profound decline in the rate of violent victimization since the early nineties. However, urban areas experienced a significant uptick during 2020-2021. Persons in lower-income brackets were by far the most affected. For example, in 2021 residents at the bottom of the earnings scale suffered violent crime victimization rates of 29.6 per 1,000, while the rates for the wealthiest was a far lower 9.7.

10/6/22  DOJ is distributing nearly $100 million in grants to State, local and tribal governments and non-profits who provide housing, educational, employment and other services to formerly incarcerated persons to facilitate re-entry and prevent recidivism. In a related effort, DOJ has partnered with the Dept. of Education to fund post-secondary education for imprisoned persons through the Pell program.

9/17/22  In two beset Tulsa neighborhoods, a public-private partnership that enhanced the police presence, “shifted high-risk individuals away” through eviction and provided enhanced security and surveillance significantly reduced total crime. But there was no significant reduction of disorderliness, and assaults only fell significantly in one location.

2/26/22  A city-funded “basic income plan” that provides 500 low-income Chicago households with $500 each month for one year kicks off in April. Households must have been financially impacted by the pandemic and their income must be less than 250% of the poverty level. For example, a three-member household’s present yearly income cannot exceed $57,575. Chicago also offers one-time awards of $500 to domestic workers and to persons, including illegal immigrants, who cannot obtain Federal payments.

12/21/21  DOJ is awarding $1.6 billion in grants to police, prosecutors and community organizations to support violence reduction programs, including evidence-based law enforcement strategies, crisis intervention for drug abusers and the mentally ill, and assistance for releasees transitioning to society.

12/14/21  A new academic study that analyzed the effects of “racial and economic segregation” in thirteen cities during the pandemic concluded that in 2020 gun violence, aggravated assault and homicide were at significantly higher levels in “marginalized” ZIP codes, and that the disparity between privileged and unprivileged areas had increased since 2018.

11/11/21  To help the “more than 8,500 people who leave its prisons every year...with only a bus pass and a small sack of belongings,” Colorado is spending nearly a million dollars to develop a list of employers who will hire newly-released inmates. Smaller amounts are going to private organizations that assist new releasees.

10/30/21  While the details are still to be worked out, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to grant $500 monthly payments for a year to 5,000 households comprised of “very low-income residents who have been economically hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic” is in her city’s newly-passed budget. Critics worry that these “handouts” will remove the incentive to work and be misused. But a former Stockton, Calif. mayor says that a similar program in his city worked well (see 7/9/21 update.)

10/25/21  With $10 million in state subsidies and millions more from private donors, a charitable organization is erecting two single-family residences in Chicago’s impoverished North Lawndale neighborhood. Fifty more are planned. It’s intended that the homes be purchased by low-income families, who will hopefully benefit from zero-interest and other financial incentives that are in the works.

10/11/21  In Philadelphia, up to 29-percent reductions in violence were experienced in the poverty-stricken blocks surrounding vacant parcels that got either a thorough cleanup or a major “clean and green” intervention. In a second study, a “full remediation” of abandoned homes led to “a clear reduction in weapons violations, gun assaults and shootings” in nearby areas. According to the authors, such findings suggest that high-need locations “may benefit the most from place-based investment.”

10/4/21  Five Chicago neighborhoods beset by gangs and gun violence will be getting special attention. It’s a carryover from a summer program that selects up to six neighborhoods for a mix of concentrated policing and social services. Officers will focus on problematic persons and locations, while residents will be helped to “find jobs, fight drug addiction and connect with assistance programs.”

9/22/21  Organized as the “Watch Guard,” adult male residents of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood patrol their neighborhood in private vehicles each night, monitoring police radio traffic and using cell apps to communicate. “We watch anything that may be strange going on,” said its founder, a martial artist, “and do our best to de-escalate things, report and document. Their creed: “Black people are valuable and worthy of protection and compassion.” Their mission: “Rebuilding and reconnecting the village through service to our people.”

8/23/21  Police shot and killed Octavia Mitchell’s 18-year old son in 2010. Three years later, a street shooting took the life of Dedra Morris’s son. Both channeled their grief into “Warrior Moms,” a group that organizes events for children who live in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. On this occasion they were taking fifty youngsters by bus to Six Flags theme park. Mitchell is convinced that such experiences can make a difference. “To see their eyes light up and enjoy themselves in peace was priceless.”

8/20/21  Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood is getting the city’s first “Community Safety Coordination Center.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it would use a “whole-of-government approach” to combat violence by bringing residents and officials together to tackle “systemic inequities” including “quality housing, health care and social services.” Current initiatives that address “community safety, health and well-being, and violence interruption” will also be housed at the centers.

7/26/21  According to Washington D.C, police, over forty percent of gunfire occurs in a beset region that comprises only two percent of the District. Crime scene technicians found nearly 2,800 bullet casings within a square-mile stretch of that area in three years. Killings are so commonplace that a local mentor stopped going to funerals and now works with young people in Virginia: “I’m tired of praying over a person in a casket that I played pee-wee football with.” In 2020 murders in D.C. “reached a 16-year high,” leading its Democratic mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, to declare “a public health crisis.”

7/18/21  With 102 murders in Washington D.C. so far this year, same as in 2020 and a sixteen-year high, the Nation’s capital reels from the death of its latest victim, a six-year old girl who was gunned down in a drive-by that wounded five others, including her mother. Meanwhile the city announced a new program, Building Blocks DC, “that concentrates police and health programs on the 151 blocks where gun violence is most common.”

7/13/21  At a White House meeting with political leaders and police chiefs, President Biden urged a multi-pronged approach against crime. It would include a crackdown on rogue gun dealers, hiring more cops, and funding community policing, housing, mental health and job training programs. “Support young people to pick up a paycheck instead of a pistol,” he implored. Memphis police chief C.J. Davis agrees. Noting that “Black and Brown communities are being terrorized from gun violence,” he’s convinced that more than policing is needed. “We have to find balance. We can’t continue to arrest crime away.”

Similar  sentiments were voiced in a major Chicago Tribune editorial about the violence-beset city. Community members emphasized addressing “root causes” including “poverty and inequity, low employment opportunities in under-resourced neighborhoods, high dropout rates in education, and the long-standing tension between law enforcement and the community.” One, who warned that defunding police is “stupid,” urged that cops could best be helped by paying everyone who works “a living wage.”

7/9/21 Long Beach is planning to supplement the income of 500 of its poorest families with a monthly stipend of $500 for a year. Childcare, work training and transportation will also be furnished. Its effort follows on “universal basic income” successes elsewhere. For example, Stockton, whose program began in 2019, reports that recipients are “healthier, showing less depression and anxiety and enhanced well-being” and more likely to find a good job.

7/8/21  President Biden’s “American Families Plan” would offer a variety of benefits, and particularly to lower-income families. These would include universal pre-school, free childcare, paid family and medical leave, “healthy” home and school meals, special tax credits, and mentoring, free college education and direct monetary assistance to financially struggling students.

6/29/21  An outreach initiative aimed at “men most likely to experience gun violence,” READI Chicago offers intensive individualized services including cognitive therapy, job training and placement, education and health care. Proponents argue that its cost, $20,000 per year, is a lot cheaper than prison, and its results have impressed President Biden, who referred to the program in a recent speech.

6/23/21  California legislators have tentatively agreed to use Federal COVID funds to cover the full amount of unpaid rent accumulated by low-income persons during the pandemic. Assistance with utility bills would also be provided. Another program would be available to families with earnings less than eighty percent of the local median.

5/13/21  California Governor Gavin Newsom’s plate of education initiatives includes an initial $1 billion outlay, which would eventually increase five-fold, to fund after-school and summer enrichment and tutoring programs in “low-income communities.”

12/26/20  Court injunctions that forbid persons identified by police as gang members from congregating have been issued throughout California since the violence-wracked 1980s. About 8,600 residents of Los Angeles are included. But litigation by the ACLU has led to a settlement which forbids LAPD from arresting alleged violators of gang injunctions unless their membership has been proven in court.

12/23/20  L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti rejected the City Council’s proposal to use reallocated police funds for “park improvements, street and alley resurfacing, tree trimming” and other physical repairs. Instead, he wants to direct the funds for social purposes, including avoiding the layoff of city workers, “antiviolence initiatives,” and a program that has mental health specialists respond to nonviolent calls.



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Special topic: Neighborhoods

Watching the Watchers     Good News/Bad News     Punishment Isn’t a Cop’s Job (I) (II)

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RELATED ARTICLES AND REPORTS

Sources of Crime Guns in Los Angeles, California

Urban Institute: Exploring Capital Flows in Chicago (2022)

Tackling Persistent Poverty in Distressed Urban Neighborhoods (2014)

John Jay: Memo to Joe Biden: Focus on Neighborhood Safety (The Crime Report, Dec. 7, 2020)

Mayor’s Plan for Neighborhood Safety (2019)     Reducing Violence Without Police (2020)

HUD: Jobs-Plus     Neighborhoods and Violent Crime (2016)



Posted 11/11/20, edited 11/21/21

WHEN MUST COPS SHOOT? (PART II)

“An ounce of prevention…” (Ben Franklin, 1736)

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. Part I described four problematic encounters that officers ultimately resolved by gunning someone down. Each citizen had presented a substantial threat: two flaunted knives, one went for a gun, and another reportedly used a vehicle as a weapon. Yet no one had been hurt before authorities stepped in. Might better police work – or perhaps, none at all – have led to better outcomes?

     Let’s start with a brief recap:

  • Los Angeles: A 9-1-1 call led four officers to confront a “highly agitated” 34-year old man running around with a knife. A Taser shot apparently had no effect, and when he advanced on a cop the officer shot him dead.
     
  • Philadelphia: A knife-wielding “screaming man” whose outbursts led to repeated police visits to his mother’s residence chased two officers into the street. As in L.A., he refused to drop the weapon, and when he moved on a cop the officer fired.
     
  • San Bernardino, California: A lone officer confronted a large man who was reportedly waving a gun and jumping on parked cars. He refused to cooperate and a violent struggle ensued. During the fight the man reached for a gun. So the cop shot him dead.
     
  • Waukegan, Illinois: A woman suddenly drove off when a cop tried to arrest her passenger/boyfriend on a warrant. Another cop chased the car, and when it ran off the road the officer approached on foot. He quickly opened fire, supposedly because the car backed up at him. Its driver was wounded and her passenger was killed.

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     Consider the first two instances. Agitated, mentally disturbed men went at cops with knives. Might a Taser strike have stopped them in their tracks? A decade ago, when Tasers were an up-and-coming tool, their prospects seemed limitless. Don’t physically tangle with an evil-doer. Don’t beat them with a club. Zap them instead! But as we discussed in a two-parter (“Policing is a Contact Sport,” I and II) that enthusiasm was soon tempered. Some citizens proved highly vulnerable to being zapped, and a substantial number died.

     Other issues surfaced. A 2019 in-depth report, “When Tasers Fail,” paints a decidedly gloomy picture. Recounting a series of episodes in which Tasers failed to stop assailants, including some armed with knives, it concluded that Tasers – and particularly its newest versions – was far less reliable than what its manufacturer claimed. For the relatively clumsy and uncertain tool to be effective its pair of darts must pierce the skin (or come exceedingly close) and be separated by at least one foot. That requires an accurate shot from a moderate distance. Even then, darts can be pulled out, and officers usually get only two shots before having to replace the cartridges. Even when darts are accurately placed, some persons are unfazed when struck while others become even more violent. A use-of-force expert adept with Tasers conveyed his colleagues’ change of heart:

    When electronic defense weapons first came on the market, the idea was that they would be used to replace lethal force. I think that was sort of a misnomer.

     Tasers were never meant to keep cops from being killed. That’s always been a job for firearms. Even then, nothing’s guaranteed. When an angry someone armed with a knife is only a few feet away (supposedly, less than 21 feet) a cop may have insufficient time to unholster his weapon and shoot. Even with a gun in hand, firing under pressure often proves inaccurate. Bottom line: when facing a deadly threat, drawing one’s pistol well in advance, per the officers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, is essential.

     Yet Los Angeles, which deploys two-officer units, had four cops on hand. Couldn’t they have effectively deployed a Taser before the suspect closed in? Actually, during the chase one cop apparently tried, but the suspect was running, and there was no apparent effect. LAPD’s overseers at the Police Commission ultimately ruled that the shooting was appropriate. But they nonetheless criticized the officers for improperly staging the encounter. Police Chief Michel Moore agreed. In his view, the sergeant should have organized the response so that one officer was the “point,” another the “cover,” and another in charge of less-than-lethal weapons. Chief Moore was referring to a well-known strategy, “slowing down.” Instead of quickly intervening, cops are encouraged to take the time to organize their response and allow backup officers, supervisors and crisis intervention teams to arrive.

     Might “slowing down” have helped to defuse what happened in San Bernardino or Waukegan?

  • As San Bernardino’s 9-1-1 caller reported, the bad guy was indeed armed with a gun. He also vastly outsized the officer and the struggle could have easily gone the other way (click here for the bystander video.)
     
  • That the cop didn’t “slow down” probably reflected his worry about the persons in the liquor store where the suspect was headed. Waiting for backup would have risked their safety. So for that we commend him. Still, it’s concerning that he was left to fend for himself. Cities that deploy single-officer cars – and these are in the clear majority – normally dispatch multiple units on risky calls. Lacking San Bernardino’s log we assume that other officers were tied up. There’s no indication that the actual struggle was called in, so dispatch might have “assumed” that all was O.K. Really, for such circumstances there’s no ready tactical or management fix. Assuring officer and citizen safety may require more cops. And at times like the present, when taking money from the cops is all the rage, good luck with that.

  • Waukegan was different. Neither of the vehicle’s occupants posed a risk to innocent citizens. But the officer who originally encountered the couple tried to do everything, including arresting the passenger, on his own. That complete self-reliance was duplicated by the cop who chased down the car. His lone, foot approach was unfathomably risky. Additional units could have provided cover, a visible deterrent and a means of physical containment. After all, the first officer was apparently still available. But the second cop didn’t wait, and the consequences of that decision have resonated throughout the land. No doubt, “slowing down” would have been a good idea. [See 9/28/22 update]

     Could the L.A. and Philadelphia cops have waited things out? Watch the videos (click here for L.A. and here for Philly.) Both situations posed a clear, immediate risk to innocent persons. Agitated suspects who move quickly and impulsively can defeat even the best laid plans and create a situation where it’s indeed “every officer for themselves.” Worse yet, should a bad guy or girl advance on a cop before they can be “zapped,” other officers may have to hold their fire, as discharging guns or Tasers in close quarters can easily injure or kill a colleague. And such things do happen.

     So what about doing…nothing? In Waukegan there was really no rush. Waiting for another day might have easily prevented a lethal outcome and the rioting that followed. That, in effect, is the “solution” we peddled long ago in “First, Do no Harm.” Here’s how that post began:

    It’s noon on Martin Luther King day, January 17, 2011. While on routine patrol you observe a man sleeping on the sidewalk of a commercial park…in front of offices that are closed for the holiday. A Papa John’s pizza box is next to him. Do you: (a) wake him up, (b) call for backup, then wake him, (c) quietly check if there’s a slice left, or (d) take no action.

To be sure, that gentleman was threatening no one and seemed unarmed. So the medical tenet primum non nocere – first, do no harm – is the obvious approach. But police in Aurora, Colorado have substantially extended its application. Here’s how CBS News described what happened in the Denver suburb on two consecutive days in early September:

    …Aurora police officers twice walked away from arresting a 47-year-old man who was terrorizing residents of an apartment complex, even after the man allegedly exposed himself to kids, threw a rock through one resident’s sliding glass door, was delusional, was tasered by police and forced the rescue of two other residents from a second floor room in an apartment he had ransacked.

     According to a deputy chief, backing off was appropriate and prevented injuring the suspect or the cops. After all, officers ultimately went back and took the man into custody without incident. Yet as a Denver PD lieutenant/CJ professor pointed out, innocent citizens were twice abandoned and left at risk. “It was a serious call to begin with since it involved a child...I would not have left the guy two successive days, probably not even after the first call.”

     Aurora’s laid-back approach remained in effect. On September 24 a team of officers staked out the residence of a suspected child abuser who had a no-bail domestic violence warrant from Denver. He refused to come out and was thought to be well armed. So the cops eventually left. They later discovered that the man had an outstanding kidnapping warrant. But when they returned he was gone. And at last report he’s still on the lam.

     Check out the that post’s reader comments. Not all were complementary. Police undoubtedly feel torn. But the killing of George Floyd struck a chord and led to rioting in the city. You see, one year earlier, on  August 24, 2019, while Aurora’s cops were still operating under the old, more aggressive approach, they forcefully detained Elijah McClain, a 21-year old Black pedestrian whom a 9-1-1 caller reported was behaving oddly. McClain forcefully resisted, and during the struggle officers applied a carotid hold. On arrival paramedics diagnosed excited delirium syndrome (exDS) and injected a sedative (ketamine). McClain soon went into cardiac arrest and died days later at a hospital. On February 22, 2021 an official city report concluded that police did not have adequate cause to forcefully detain or restrain Mr. McClain and that officers and paramedics badly mishandled the situation. A wrongful death lawsuit was subsequently settled for $15 million (see 11/22/21 and 1/21/23 updates).

     Yet we’re reluctant to suggest doing nothing as a remedy. Imagine the reaction should an innocent person be injured or killed after cops back off. And while we’re fond of “de-escalation,” the circumstances in our four examples seem irreparably conflicted. Consider the suspects in San Bernardino and Waukegan. Both had substantial criminal records and faced certain arrest: one for carrying a gun and the other for a warrant. Yet officers nonetheless tried to be amiable. (Click here for the San Bernardino video and here for Waukegan.) In fact, being too casual may have been part of the problem. Our personal experience suggests that gaining voluntary compliance from persons who know they’re going to jail calls for a more forceful, commanding presence.

     Great. So is there any approach that might have averted a lethal ending? “A Stitch in Time” suggests acting preventively, preferably before someone runs around with a gun or brandishes a knife. Police departments around the country have been fielding crisis-intervention teams with some success (see, for example, our recent discussion of the “Cahoots” model.) New York City is presently implementing a mental health response that totally cuts out police; that is, unless “there is a weapon involved or ‘imminent risk of harm.’” As even Cahoot’s advocates concede, once behavior breaches a certain threshold even the most sophisticated talk-oriented approach may not suffice.

     And there’s another problem. While we’re fans of intervening before situations explode, in the real world of budgets and such there’s usually little substantial follow-through. We’re talking quality, post-incident treatment, monitoring and, when necessary, institutionalization. Such measures are intrusive and expensive, and that’s where things break down. That means many problematic citizens (e.g., L.A., Philly, San Berdoo, Waukegan) will keep misbehaving until that day when…

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     Full stop. Officers resolve highly conflicted situations every day as a matter of course. But unlike goofs, which get big press, favorable outcomes draw precious little attention and no respect. Yet knowing how these successes came to be could be very useful. (Check out the author’s recent article about that in Police Chief.)

     We’re not holding our breath. During this ideologically fraught era only one-hundred percent success will do. Consider this outtake from a newspaper account about the incident in San Bernardino:

    During a news conference Friday morning, the police sought to portray [the suspect] as physically intimidating, listing his height and weight — 6 feet 3 and 300 pounds — and cataloging what they called his “lengthy criminal past,” prompting one bystander to remark, “What does that have to do with him being murdered?

Alas, that attitude pervades the criminal justice educational community. Many well-meaning academics have been rolling their eyes for years at our admittedly feeble attempts to reach for explanations in the messy environment of policing. Their predominant P.O.V. – that poor outcomes must be attributed to purposeful wrongdoing – has apparently infected L.A. City Hall as well. At a time when “homicides and shootings soar to levels not seen in the city in a decade,” the City Council just decided to lop $150 million off LAPD’s budget and shrink its force by 350 sworn officers.

     Was that move well informed? Did it fully consider the imperatives and constraints of policing? And just what are those? If you’re willing to think, um, expansively, print out our collected essays in compliance and force and strategy and tactics. As long as you promise to give them away, they’re free!

UPDATES (PARTS I & II) (scroll)

9/18/23  Jury selection began in the trial of Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema, two of the three Aurora, Colorado police officers charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Elijah McClain, a Black man whom they detained during an August 2019 encounter.  McClain, who had been reportedly behaving oddly, was allegedly affected by the use of a neck restraint and paramedics’ application of a large dose of calming agent. A third officer and the paramedics will be tried separately.

9/6/23  Two weeks after suspending the officer who shot and killed a 27-year old man stopped for a traffic violation, Danielle Outlaw, Philadelphia’s top cop, announced her resignation. With her agency still under fire over the October 2020 killing of Walter Wallace, a mentally-ill man who had flaunted a knife, the shooting of Edward Irizarry, a 27-year old who apparently had two knives but never exited his car, apparently pushed the city’s first Black police commissioner to take a job with the Port Authority.

8/31/22  Last year a Ninth Circuit panel ruled that qualified immunity, which bars lawsuits against officers unless they violate “clearly established law”, didn't apply to the circumstances of a 2018 shooting by LAPD officer Edward Agdeppa. So the family of the deceased, Albert Ramon Dorsey, was free to sue. But another Ninth Circuit panel has just ruled the opposite - that the doctrine indeed applies. So unless the full Circuit or Supreme Court find otherwise, officer Agdeppa is protected from being sued. (See 12/31/22 update)

8/29/23  Two decades ago Jersey City, N.J. police officers who were called in by mental-health workers shot and wounded Andrew Jerome Washington when the mentally-ill man charged them with a knife. And on August 27, it happened again. Summoned by a mental health team that was on its sixth visit to Mr. Washington’s apartment this month, officers who opened the door fired with a Taser and a gun as the man rushed them with a long-bladed knife. This time, though, Mr. Washington was killed.

Ruling in a Federal lawsuit, jurors awarded a near record-breaking $23.6 million to the family of a Los Angeles man whom officers shot and killed in 2017 after mistaking a 16.5 inch metal pull bar for a machete. Officers responded after Jesse Murillo assaulted his sister and her fianc, and he allegedly advanced on them while wearing a gas mask and wielding the “machete” in one hand and a hammer in the other. Prosecutors declined to charge the officers, and their actions were cleared by LAPD.

6/26/23  An early morning 9-1-1 call brought San Antonio, Texas police officers to an apartment complex where a 46-year old woman in the throes of a “mental health crisis” was smashing things with a hammer. She struck one officer with a thrown object, smashed a glass patio window, and advanced on three officers with the hammer. They opened fire, shooting her dead. All three were promptly suspended and have been charged with murder. Officer bodycam video

6/5/23  According to the L.A. Coroner, Keenan Anderson, 31, who was repeatedly Tasered by LAPD officers during a January 3rd. encounter, died “hours” later from the “effects of cardiomyopathy [heart disease] and cocaine use”. Anderson, a D.C. high-school teacher, was visiting family in L.A. when he exhibited odd and aggressive behavior in a public area. A private autopsy confirmed there was cocaine in his system but blamed officers’ restraint and Taser use for causing his death. A lawsuit is pending. (See 1/12/23 update)

6/2/23  Paterson (N.J.) police have been long beset by accusations of misconduct, misuse of force and bias against minorities. But the killing of Najee Seabrooks, a mentally disturbed man on March 3, was the last straw for progressively-minded State Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. Three weeks later, using a law unique to his state, the AG took control of the police. But his move doesn’t satisfy a local Black Lives Matter organizer, who would prefer that a truly independent monitor step in (see 3/14/23 update).

4/24/23  A lawsuit against the Government has been settled in the death of Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot by two U.S. Park police officers as he tried to drive off after being stopped on a Virginia parkway. Ghaisar had fled the scene of an accident and was reportedly smoking pot (police found a pipe and marijuana in his vehicle). Neither of the officers was ultimately prosecuted but both remain on “administrative duty.” Ghaisar’s parents will receive $3.75 million; their lawyers will get $1.25 million. (See 6/25/22 update)

4/13/23  Felony assault charges were filed against former Whittier, Calif. police detectives Cynthia Lopez and Salvador Murillo for a 2020 shooting in which they crippled an unarmed man. Prosecutors say that the officers fired on Nicholas Carillo as he ran away from a car that was reportedly involved in a theft from a Walmart store weeks earlier. Carillo slowly backed into the officers’ car before trying to flee, but neither officer was injured. Carillo was also not the suspect in the theft.

3/24/23  One month ago two Fairfax County (Va.) police officers chased Timothy McCree Johnson, 37  after he allegedly shoplifted a pair of sunglasses from a mall. As Mr. Johnson entered a dark wooded area both officers fired their guns, killing him. Mr. Johnson turned out to be unarmed. Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, whose rounds prove fatal, is being fired. He and the other officer, who was taken off active duty, are under criminal investigation. Mr. Johnson was Black; both officers are White.

3/14/23  On March 3, after an “hours-long” negotiation, two officers from a special Paterson, NJ police team shot and killed Najee Seabrooks as the disturbed man allegedly advanced on them wielding knives. Their actions were criticized by community members who pointed out that the officers were wearing protective gear and had shields. His killing fanned calls to investigate the agency. Six of its officers were convicted in recent years for stealing from victims, and one was recently charged after shooting and paralyzing a man who supposedly had a gun. (See 6/2/23 update)

2/7/23  Huntington Park, Calif. released a dramatic video that depicts police opening fire on Anthony Lowe, arm raised high as he seemingly sets to hurl a long-bladed knife at an officer. On January 26, Lowe, a wheelchair user who could nonetheless move around quickly, stabbed a man in the chest, and he called 9-1-1. Arriving officers used a Taser but without results, and their gunfire killed Lowe. Activists complained that police lacked “justification or cover for the execution.” Lowe’s family is preparing a lawsuit. HPPD press conference   Interview with stabbing survivor

1/21/23   In August 2019 three Aurora police officers detained Elijah McClain, a 21-year old Black pedestrian whom a 9-1-1 caller said was behaving oddly. The encounter turned forceful. Two paramedics responded. They diagnosed excited delirium and injected McClain with ketamine. McClain later died, supposedly because the dose was excessive. City officials later ruled the stop unnecessary, and the five have now been charged with manslaughter and other crimes. Each has pled not guilty.

1/13/23  A decision by Calif. Attorney General to clear LAPD officer Toni McBride in the April 2020 shooting death of Daniel Hernandez is drawing criticism. McBride fired six rounds at Hernandez - the last two while he was on the gound - as he aggressively approached with a box cutter. LAPD’s Police Commission had ruled the last two rounds were unjustified, but Chief Michel Moore held all six were in policy. California’s A.G. relied in part on the opinion of William J. Lewinski, a psychologist who runs the Force Science Institute, which detractors accuse of chronic pro-police bias. LAPD video

1/12/23  In three separate incidents within one week LAPD officers shot and killed two persons, and a third died after multiple Taser strikes. LAPD released graphic bodycam videos of each incident. In one, Takar Smith, a 45-year old mental patient off his meds, was confronted in his estranged wife’s apartment by Rampart officers after she reported he had violated a restraining order and was acting violently. After a long encounter officers fired when he reached for a knife. They were criticized by Chief Michel Moore for not summoning a SMART mental evaluation team. LAPD account  Video  Other incidents: Newton area (Oscar Sanchez) text  video     Pacific area (Keenan Anderson) text  video (See 6/5/23 update)

12/31/22  LAPD Chief Michel Moore ruled that officer Edward Agdeppa was justified when he shot and killed Albert Ramon Dorsey as he and another officer struggled to handcuff the large, powerful man after he went beserk in a public gym four years ago. But the Police Commission had unanimously disagreed. Their view was just seconded in a 2-1 split decision by a Ninth Circuit panel that allows a lawsuit filed by Dorsey’s family to go forward. According to the majority, “discrepancies” in the officers’ accounts and their failure to warn Dorsey suggest that the officers may have “violated clearly established law” and are thus unprotected by qualified immunity. (See 8/31/23 update)

11/25/22  Clear Creek County, CO deputies Andrew Buen and Kyle Gould were charged with felonies ranging to 2nd. degree murder for shooting and killing a mentally disturbed man who refused to exit his car last June. Christian Glass, 22, called 9-1-1 after getting his vehicle stuck, then negotiated with deputies for an hour while flaunting a knife. Bean-bag rounds and a stun gun were deployed without effect, and when Mr. Glass made what deputies Buen and Gold thought was a threatening move they opened fire. Marijuana and amphetamines consisted with ADHD medication were found in his system.

11/23/22  Calling Ariel Roman’s testimony an “absurdity,” a judge acquitted Chicago police officer Melvina Bogard of aggravated battery and misconduct for shooting and severely wounding Roman two years ago. Bogard and another officer got into a physical struggle with Roman, a large man who was behaving suspiciously on a train. He resisted their attempts to detain him and grabbed her partner’s Taser and handcuffs. In a lawsuit, Roman claims he was having an “anxiety attack” when the officers encountered him. Police Superintendent David Brown has recommended that both officers be fired.

11/14/22  Originally charged with manslaughter, Former Sharon Hill (Phila. area) police officers Sean Dolan, Devon Smith and Brian Devaney pled guilty to ten counts of reckless endangerment for unleashing a barrage at a suspicious car after two quarreling teens exchanged fire at the end of a high school football game. The officers’ bullets killed eight-year old Fanta Bility and wounded three other spectators. Originally charged with murder because of the child’s death, the teens escaped punishment (see 1/19/22 update).

11/11/22  L..A. County deputy sheriff Remin Pineda has been criminally charged in the fatal 2021 shooting of David Ordaz, Jr., a mentally troubled man who threatened to kill himself with a knife. Called by family, deputies encountered Ordaz outside his residence and tried to get him to talk and drop the knife. When he didn’t they fired bean bags, and as he advanced they opened fire with guns. Pineda was allegedly not in harm’s way but kept firing even after Ordaz fell to the ground. (See 8/1/21 update)

11/7/22  A former Northern Calif. deputy was sentenced to six years imprisonment earlier this year for the needless 2018 shooting of a mentally ill man. But he wasn’t prosecuted until last year, after he shot and killed another mentally ill man who was throwing rocks from an overpass and threatened him with a knife. Prosecutors, though, have ruled that in this instance there was insufficient evidence that former cop Andrew Hall acted illegally. (See 3/12/22 update)

11/3/22  LAPD Chief Michel Moore and the Police Commission agree that the two officers who opened up with live fire as a colleague discharged bean-bag rounds at a distraught man last December were wrong to shoot. Family members called police because Margarito Lopez Jr. was threatening himself with a knife. Officers found him outside, with a knife to his neck, and two fatally shot him when he moved towards the officer with the bean-bag gun. A Times review found eight episodes of simultaneous live and projectile fire by LAPD in a two-year period. (See below update)

10/19/22  A lawsuit filed by his grieving family denies that Margarito Lopez Jr., 22, posed a threat as the disturbed youth sat outside his South Los Angeles home, holding a knife to his throat. Officers remained at a distance and tried to verbally calm the youth down. But when he got up and began walking, they promptly opened fire with live and non-lethal rounds. Lopez was killed. LAPD bodycam video

10/10/22  A San Antonio, Tx. police officer spotted a car that eluded him a day earlier parked at a MacDonald’s. So he walked up, opened the driver’s door and ordered its teen driver - he was munching a burger - to get out. But the youth promptly started the car and threw it into reverse. Its door bumped the cop, and he opened fire. Erik Cantu, 17, was badly wounded. And three days later, officer James Brennand, a rookie still on probation, was fired. Video

9/28/22  Two years ago Waukegan, Ill. officer Dante Salinas was on foot, approaching a car that had been pursued after fleeing from an investigative stop by a fellow cop. And when the vehicle began to reverse, he opened fire, killing its driver, Marcellis Stinnette, and wounding a passenger. Although Salinas insisted he had been at risk of being struck, his bodycam wasn’t on, and he was soon fired. Prosecutors have now charged him with second-degree murder, manslaughter and aggravated battery.

9/27/22  Jurors rejected murder charges against a White former Philadelphia cop who shot and killed an unarmed Black motorist after a high-speed December 2017 pursuit that ended in a crash. But they  convicted Eric Ruch, Jr., a ten-year veteran, of felony manslaughter for needlessly opening fire on Dennis Plowden Jr., 25, moments after the pursuit came to an end. Mr. Ruch testified that he thought Mr. Plowden, who was sitting on the sidewalk, was hiding a gun in his right hand. But it turned out to be heroin. Mr. Ruch was taken into custody and faces a 20-year maximum term.

9/24/22  During a 2019 encounter, Elijah McClain, a 21-year old Aurora (co) man whom a 9-1-1 caller said had been behaving oddly, was thought by officers to be suffering from ExDS. After a forceful struggle they injected him with ketamine, and McClain later died at a hospital. A new coroner’s report attributes McClain’s death to the use of force together with the effects of the drug. In 2021 three officers and two paramedics were charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide; their cases still pend.

9/17/22  On July 22 two plainclothes Chicago officers on their way to training pulled up to investigate persons “loitering” by a closed store. One, a 17-year old, allegedly pulled a pistol from a satchel and ran off. Who fired first isn’t clear, but in an exchange of shots the officers wounded two unarmed citizens, one seriously. Prosecutors charged Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct. Police video

9/12/22 Calling the shooting an “unnecessary tragedy” but citing a lack of proof of “wilfullness,” DOJ declined to charge former Overland Park, Kansas officer Clayton Jenison with civil rights violations in the 2018 killing of John Albers, 17. Then-officer Jenison repeatedly fired on a vehicle that the reportedly suicidal teen aggressively backed from a garage which the officer had approached on foot. Jenison, who said he fired for fear of being struck, was cleared by a local prosecutor but soon resigned from the force. Jenison’s family settled with the city for $2.3 million. Video

8/30/22  After a prolonged inquiry, a Pennsylvania D.A. cleared State Trooper Jay Splain in the fatal shooting of a motorist who dragged another trooper with his car last November while resisting service of a protection order. That was Trooper Splain’s fourth fatal shooting during his fifteen years on the force. The D.A., Pier Hess Graf, said that her decision - it’s her second clearance of the trooper - was not influenced by her marriage to one of his former supervisors (see 12/31/21 update).

8/29/22  Last October LAPD officers shot and killed two mentally-ill persons one day apart. Evelyn Del Real was shot by a police sniper who observed her swinging a knife at her child, whom she had already stabbed. One day later an officer killed Grisha Alaverdyan after he stabbed a woman on the street, then advanced on him. Del Real and Alaverdyan had been previously assessed by police mental health teams. L.A.P.D.’s civilian police commission cleared the officers, and Chief Michel Moore agreed. But he was troubled about the second incident, as the cop’s partner had simultaneously discharged a beanbag round.

7/14/22  Last month LAPD officers responding to a call of an assault by a man with a gun spotted the suspect, Marvin Cua, 23, on foot. He refused to stop and ran off, gun visibly in hand (click here.) An officer pursued on foot. He soon fired, mortally wounding Kua. According to the officer, Kua pointed the gun in his direction, and that’s what LAPD has released. But it’s not apparent on the bodycam video.

7/8/22  Five years ago, a pregnant mother of four threatened Seattle officers with a shear “and spoke of morphing into a wolf.” Two weeks later, when two other cops came to her home on a burglary call, Charleena Lyles “suddenly lunged at one with a knife.” And when they drew their guns, she yelled “do it!” and cursed. Officers shot and killed her. One cop, who didn’t have his Taser, was briefly suspended. But neither was fired, and in 2021 the city settled the family’s lawsuit for $3.5 million. A coroner’s jury just ruled that the shooting was justified. But prosecutors insist they are reviewing the matter.

7/3/22  Akron police released graphic footage depicting the pursuit and shooting death of Black motorist Jayland Walker during the early morning hours of June 27. Walker, who refused to pull over for a traffic violation, fled on foot after a long car chase. Officers fired Tasers, then opened up with their handguns when Walker reportedly turned on them. Walker allegedly fired a shot from his car, and a loaded pistol and an empty cartridge casing were found in the vehicle. But he was unarmed when killed. Edited video

6/25/22  Four and one-half years ago U.S. Park Police officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar when he came close to striking one with his car while trying to drive away from them for the third time. Ghaisar, who had fled the scene of an accident, was unarmed. Both officers were charged with manslaughter but a Federal judge called the shooting justified and dismissed the case. They remain on leave and their firing is pending. (Click here for a full video, here for the final encounter.) (See 4/24/23 update)

6/10/22  On April 4 Grand Rapids (MI) police officer Christopher Schurr pulled over a car driven by Patrick Lyoya because its license plate didn’t match the vehicle. Lyoya ran away; the officer chased him onto a front lawn and they wrestled on the ground. A bodycam recorded the officer yelling that Lyoya took his Taser. The officer then fired his gun into Mr. Lyoya’s head, killing him. Protests promptly rocked the city. On April 9 Officer Schurr, a seven-year veteran, was charged with 2nd. degree murder. His personnel file shows no demerits for use of force “but much praise for traffic stops and foot chases that led to arrests and the seizure of guns and drugs.” Police press conference and bodycam video

6/9/22  On April 6, five LAPD officers encountered Jesus Castellanos, who was reportedly threatening people with a knife. Four officers trained non-lethal devices at Castellanos, who indeed held a knife. But a fifth officer soon fired his gun, killing him. A lawsuit has been filed. According to the lawyer for the officer who fired, regulations precluded his colleagues from using their non-lethal weapons because Castellanos was too far away, thus not a threat. His client only fired because Castellanos suddenly moved in. Video

5/10/22  A Pulitzer Prize was awarded to the New York Times for its reporting on police traffic stops. Its research found that during a five-year period officers shot and killed “more than 400” unarmed vehicle occupants during stops that did not involve pursuits for violent crimes. According to the Times, officers reacted with “outsize aggression” because of training that led them to “presume danger.”

5/9/22  First-degree manslaughter charges were filed against former Lawton, Oklahoma police officers Nathan Ronan and Robert Hinkle for shooting and killing Quadry Sanders, an unarmed man, on December 5, 2021. They were called to a residence where Sanders was reportedly holding a person who had a protective order against him at gunpoint. But when Sanders stepped outside to deal with police he was unarmed. As he waved his arms officers opened fire, shooting him twelve times. Brief video clip

5/3/22  Twelve-year old Thomas Siderio was riding a bicycle when plainclothes Philadelphia officers tried to stop him and a 17-year old companion March 1. Siderio opened fire with a handgun, shattering the police car’s back window, and ran off. Officer Edsaul Mendoza chased Siderio on foot, and soon shot the boy dead. But according to investigators, Siderio had already tossed his gun, and the cop knew it. Officer Mendoza was fired and has been charged with murder. Meanwhile Siderio’s father is reportedly about to be imprisoned on gun charges that were reduced from murder.

4/22/22  Connecticut state trooper Brian North was charged with manslaughter in the fatal January 2020 shooting of Mubarak Soulemane, a violent, mentally-troubled 19-year old who stole a car and led police on a wild high-speed chase. Soulemane was boxed in after striking several vehicles but refused to exit. Other officers smashed a window and fired a stun gun, but without effect. Souleman then flaunted a knife. Trooper North said that Souleman was about to attack, so he fired seven rounds, killing him. But the State Inspector General ruled there was no imminent risk, and that thinking so was unreasonable.

4/16/22  A Los Angeles Times review of fifty LAPD shootings since 2020 reveals that in eight encounters officers fired less-than-lethal projectiles while their colleagues “simultaneously” fired real bullets. In each episode the citizens weren’t armed with firearms but with bladed weapons. In one instance, a man flaunting a sword “was simultaneously shot in the street with a projectile and a rifle round from 77 feet away.” Efforts are being made to get officers to “slow down” and give less-lethal options an opportunity to work.

4/7/22  Citing an unresolved backlog of more than two-thousand criminal investigations, Aurora’s city manager fired police chief Vanessa Wilson, a 25-year veteran of the force who was elevated to her position after the killing of Elijah McClain. A reform-minded chief who set out to discipline errant officers and repair relations with the minority community, she was reportedly thought of as being soft on criminals at a time when “crime became an increasing issue.”

3/12/22  A grand jury declined to indict Nicholas Reardon, the Columbus police officer who shot and killed 16-year old Ma’Khia Bryant when she threatened a woman with a steak knife. According to special prosecutors, an “imminent threat of serious harm” justifies the use of lethal force. Bryant’s family criticized the officer, for not turning to less-lethal means, and the welfare system, for needlessly removing the girl from her family. Officer Reardon now faces a departmental inquiry.

Former Contra Costa County (CA) deputy sheriff Andrew Hall was just sentenced to six years imprisonment for needlessly shooting and killing the driver of a vehicle that other deputies engaged in a “slow-speed car chase.” That incident, though, happened in 2018. It wasn’t prosecuted until last year, six weeks after Hall shot and killed a mentally ill homeless man who flaunted a knife. That episode remains under investigation. Families of both dead men have received multi-million dollar cash settlements.

2/23/22  Louisiana deputy sheriffs Johnaton Louis and Isaac Hughes have been charged with manslaughter for shooting a homeless man dead as he sat in his car. Danniel Vallee, 34 was surrounded by officers responding to a noise complaint about a crack house. After ignoring repeated commands to exit the vehicle he restarted the engine. Several deputies drew their guns. He then sounded the horn. That apparently startled deputies Louis and Hughes (one stood in front of the vehicle) into opening fire. Vallee was found to have drugs in his system but was unarmed.

2/22/22  Police gunfire that places innocents at risk is “under the gun” in Southern California. LAPD chief Michel Moore recently concurred with a finding by the Police Commission that an off-duty lieutenant violated policy by firing at a fleeing vehicle. Although one of its passengers had just shot a pedestrian, the officer was not considered in danger, and his bullets could have imperiled others. In another incident, a carjacking suspect pulled a gun as Sheriff’s deputies closed in to make an arrest. They fired as the man ran into a backyard, striking him multiple times. While he survived, deputies later discovered the body of a 67-year old man in the yard. He had apparently been shot dead, but by whom is as yet unknown. Per recent California law, State agents will investigate to determine if fault exists.

2/10/22  According to the FBI Crime Data Explorer (expanded homicide count, Table 14), police in the U.S. justifiably killed 440 persons in 2016, 445 in 2017, 425 in 2018, 362 in 2019, and 303 in 2020, virtually all by firearms. But in 2015 the Washington Post started keeping close track of persons shot and killed by on-duty cops. And its database reports a yearly toll more than twice as large: 958, 984, 990, 999, and 1,021 respectively. (For 2021 it’s 1,055.) Ergo, the numbers are going up - not down, as FBI data suggests. Supposedly the FBI (and CDC) admit they undercount, and they’re working to improve.

1/19/22  In the evening of August 27, 2021 gunfire broke out as spectators left a high school football game in a Philadelphia suburb. Two bullets reportedly came near three officers standing nearby. They unleashed a 25-round barrage at a car they thought was the source. Their rounds went into the crowd, killing eight-year old Fanta Bility and wounding three others. Sharon Hill police officers Devon Smith, Sean Dolan and Brian Devaney have been charged with manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Two teens also face charges for the original exchange. (Original Washington Post story.) (See 11/14/22 update)

1/10/22  In May 2020 San Diego park rangers were driving a mentally-ill man, Nicholas Bils, 36, to jail for physically resisting being expelled from a closed park. Mr. Bills slipped out of his handcuffs during the ride. Deputy Sheriff Aaron Russell, 25, saw him running off and shot him dead. A deputy for eighteen months, Mr. Russell has pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. And in March 2021, during a struggle between two L.A. County deputies and Isaias Cervantes, 25, one opened fire and seriously wounded the autistic man when his partner yelled that Cervantes was going for the deputy’s gun. An L.A. Times editorial complains that LASD is not using its “Mental Evaluation Teams” and backs a proposal to create a “9-8-8” hot line and civilian “mobile crisis teams” that deal with the mentally ill.

1/7/22  On New Year’s Eve, James Williams, 46, a father of six, was in his Canton (OH) home’s rear yard firing his wife’s AR-15 rifle into the air in celebration. Called to the scene by reports of gunfire, a Canton police officer arrived. He saw Williams, who was barely visible through a wooden fence, with the rifle. Moments later Williams fired a prolonged burst. The officer ran up to the fence and without warning repeatedly fired his weapon. His shots went through the fence and fatally wounded Williams. Bodycam

12/31/21  Pennsylvania trooper Jay Splain has shot and killed four persons, each mentally troubled, since he was hired in 2004: an armed, suicidal man in 2007; another suicidal man in 2017; a mentally ill woman who threatened with her car in 2020; and, last month, a distraught man who used his car as a weapon. All the shootings but the most recent, which is still being assessed, were deemed justified. On May 20, 2022 the New York Times reported that the D.A. who is deciding whether to prosecute Trooper Splain, and who decided in his favor in the 2020 shooting, is married to the trooper’s then-supervisor.

12/28/21  LAPD released a video compilation of the December 23 shooting in a Burlington clothing store where a man with a chain and bolt attacked shoppers and left a woman bleeding in an aisle. A group of officers entered the store. One, armed with an AR-15 style rifle, made his way to the front and encountered the assailant from a distance. The officer repeatedly fired, killing the suspect, Daniel Elena-Lopez, 24. Tragically, one of the bullets from the powerful weapon pierced an interior wall and killed a 14-year old girl, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was trying on dresses in a nearby changing room.

12/24/21  A Los Angeles police officer opened fire on a man who assaulted a woman inside a clothing store. One of his bullets pierced an interior wall and fatally wounded a 14-year old girl in an adjacent dressing room. LAPD officers have reportedly shot and killed seventeen persons so far this year, compared to seven in all of 2020 and twelve in 2019.

11/22/21  A lawsuit filed by the family of Elijah McClain, an unarmed man who died after a 2019 encounter with Aurora (CO) police, has been settled for $15 million. Alerted by a 9-1-1 caller who said that a pedestrian was acting oddly, officers tried to detain McClain, but he resisted. Officers applied a carotid hold, and paramedics injected him with ketamine. McClain never regained consciousness.

11/20/21  Anaheim (CA) police released a police video that depicts, in great detail, the extensive pursuit and fatal shooting of Brandon Lopez, 33, on September 28. Lopez, who was wanted on armed robbery charges and was driving a stolen car, was ultimately blocked in by police. After “several hours” chemical agents forced him from his car. An officer who apparently mistook a “black object” in Lopez’s hands for a handgun yelled “gun” and opened fire. A knife was found in the car, but Lopez was otherwise unarmed.

11/9/21  A major study of police stops by the New York Times reveals that despite a profusion of agency rules that prohibit the practice, officers have persisted in shooting at moving vehicles, often with fatal results. Many incidents involve cops who approach on foot, then fire as a car suddenly takes flight. While some officers were at risk of being struck, many fired although they were not in harm’s way.

11/2/21  Local prosecutors charged Chicago P.D. Sgt. Oneta Carney, 58 with “reckless discharge of a firearm” for firing a single shot at her own car as three thieves drove it away from a Sam’s Club parking lot. Sgt. Carney’s bullet fell short, striking the pavement in the proximity of a moving car and pedestrians. None of the suspects reportedly made threats or flaunted a weapon, and they remain at large.

11/1/21  Interviewed for a major article about stops with needlessly lethal endings, some police chiefs and criminologists attributed much of the problem to “alarmist training” that made officers “hypervigilant” and “too quick to shoot.” Indeed, officers often fired because motorists “appeared to reach for something” that could be a weapon. The “momentum of a chase” also seemed a factor. But many motorists were “resistant or evasive.” Some were hiding drugs or weapons; others had warrants.

10/28/21  Murder charges were filed against the Long Beach (CA) school officer who shot and killed an 18-year old female occupant of a vehicle on September 27 (see 10/1 update). Eddie F. Gonzalez, 51, has already been fired for violating policy, which prohibits shooting into a vehicle except as a “final means of defense.” According to a news report, the officer previously served two very brief stints with local police agencies, one of which “chose to separate” him from his job.

10/25/21  Police are typically instructed to aim their fire at “center mass,” meaning the upper torso, so that their bullets are more likely to incapacitate their target and less likely to strike others. But LaGrange (Ga.) police chief Louis Dekmar is training his officers to aim for the abdomen, pelvis or legs so that a lethal outcome is less likely. “Every time we avoid taking a life, we maintain trust.” One of his once-skeptical officers has turned into a convert, and an elaborate training program is now in place.

10/2/21  The CDC’s NVSS (vital stat. system) codes deaths by police in the “legal intervention” category. Our CDC data run (2018-2019) returned a .4 overall leg. interv. mortality rate/100,000 for Blacks and .2 for Latinos and Whites. But a new study in The Lancet reports that the NVSS captured only 56 percent (13,700) of 30,800 such deaths during 1980-2018. In fact, the mortality rate was .69 for Blacks and .35 for Hispanics. PLOS Medicine previously released a similar critique for 2015 that reported CDC’s undercount was largely caused by misclassifying gunshot wounds by police as assaults.

10/1/21  School police in Southern California are drawing attention over the use of lethal force. In Long Beach, a school cop walked up to a car to confront teens who participated in a fight about a block away from a high school. As he reached the passenger door the vehicle sped away, nearly knocking him down. He opened fire. His bullet struck and fatally wounded an 18-year old girl who participated in the fight. No guns were found in the car and the officer’s actions are drawing severe criticism. Click here for a video compilation. And in Los Angeles, school police summoned by campus officials about a threatening man  shot and wounded the suspect when he charged at them, firing pepper spray and holding a knife.

9/16/21  Prompted by the 2019 death of Elijah Mc Clain, a State investigation of Aurora (CO) police concluded that its officers “engaged in a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive force.” One key finding was that while Black persons constitute fifteen percent of the city’s population, during a recent three-year period Blacks were subject to nearly half of all uses of force. Aurora PD has been invited to voluntarily participate in State monitoring; if it does not, a Court order will be sought.

9/2/21  Three Aurora (CO) police officers and two paramedics were indicted for manslaughter, negligent homicide and other charges over their roles in the death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was wearing a ski mask and reportedly acting oddly. That 2019 encounter, in which officers applied a carotid hold and medics injected a sedative, drew little notice until the killing of George Floyd nine months later.

8/28/21  In March Austin (TX) police officer Christopher Taylor, who is White, was charged with murder for shooting and killing an unarmed Black/Hispanic man during an encounter in April 2020. He now faces another murder charge, for shooting and killing a mentally ill Black man in July 2019. That victim, who was threatening suicide with a knife, was well known to police from prior encounters. A second officer, who also fired, has also been charged.

8/21/21  On April 3, 2018 a middle-aged Huntsville (Ala.) man sat on his couch, holding a gun to his head and threatening to shoot. As the first officer on scene tried to talk Jeffrey Parker down, officer William Darby arrived. He ordered Mr. Parker to put down the gun, and when he didn’t, promptly shot him dead. While the chief and mayor backed up the act as a justified “split-second” decision, officer Darby was indicted for murder. He was tried and convicted in May 2021, and on August 20 was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Litigation against the city is underway.

8/1/21  On March 14 four L.A. sheriff’s deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call about a man intent on “suicide by cop.” They encountered David Ordaz  Jr., 34, on the street and tried to talk him into giving up. But Ordaz, who was wielding a large knife, refused. Bodycam videos depict Ordaz as he stumbles backwards when struck by a bean-bag, then recovers and moves forward. One or more deputies then open fire and shoot him dead. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has expressed “grave concerns” and suspended one deputy pending an investigation. Ordaz’s family, who watched the tragedy unfold, has filed a lawsuit.

6/21/21  During five years on the job, Wauwatosa (Wis.) police officer Joseph Mensah, a Black man, shot and killed three persons. Two were Black: Jay Anderson Jr., and Alvin Cole. Anderson had been sleeping in a car and allegedly reached for a gun; Alvin Cole fled from a disturbance and supposedly pointed a gun at Mensah during the chase. That incident, which happened last year, provoked large protests. Officer Mensah also killed a Hispanic man, Antonio Gonzalez, who had been flaunting a sword. Mensah voluntarily resigned and became a Sheriff’s Deputy. Although Mensah was cleared in each case, Anderson’s killing is back under judicial review and could lead to charges.

4/24/21  Sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve arrest and search warrants for drug offenses on a 42-year old North Carolina man opened fire as he drove away. Andrew Brown, Jr., was killed; according from an intercepted medical transmission, from a wound to the back. Seven deputies were placed on leave. Brown, allegedly a cocaine dealer, reportedly has a substantial criminal record for drug crimes.

4/20/21  Columbus, Ohio police responded to a 9-1-1 call about an attempted stabbing. On arrival they observe Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, apparently flaunting a knife. An officer’s bodycam video (click here for an outtake) depicts her pushing one girl to the ground, then rushing at another who is by a car. An officer opens fire and shoots Ms. Bryant dead. A knife was recovered. Coming just before the Chauvin jury returned its verdict, the killing led crowds to gather in protest. State agents are investigating.

4/16/21  Los Angeles police officers trailed a disturbed, agitated man who was aggressively wielding a hammer. The walking chase went on for blocks, with the pursuers firing Tasers and foam projectiles without effect. Once officers closed in, Samuel Ponce threw the hammer at them, then prepared to throw another object (it turned out to be a bicycle kickstand). That’s when one officer fired a Taser, and another fired his gun. Ponce fell dead.

Images from a parking lot surveillance camera suggest that Adam Toledo tossed his gun under a fence a moment before he turned towards the officer and was fatally shot (see update below.) For an inquiry into Adam Toledo’s background click here.

4/11/21  A 21-year old man on probation for a gun crime opened fire in a violence-beset Chicago neighborhood as a vehicle passed by. Shot-spotter devices alerted police, and officers quickly appeared. The suspect bolted but was promptly arrested. His companion, 13-year old Adam Toledo, also ran off. He now had the gun. Officers say that the youth turned at them with the weapon, and they shot him dead.

2/23/21  On August 24, 2019 Aurora (CO) police forcefully detained Elijah McClain, a 21-year old Black pedestrian whom a 9-1-1 caller reported was behaving oddly. During the struggle officers applied a carotid hold. On arrival paramedics diagnosed excited delirium syndrome (exDS) and injected a sedative (ketamine). McClain soon went into cardiac arrest and died days later at a hospital. On February 22, 2021 an official city report concluded that police did not have adequate cause to forcefully detain or restrain Mr. McClain and that officers and paramedics badly mishandled the situation.

12/3/20  On October 23 two San Bernardino (Calif.) deputies observed Joseph McLaughlin, 31 at a casino. They recognized him as a wanted parolee who did prison time for burglaries. McLaughlin ran off, and during a foot chase in hilly terrain he picked up a rock as to throw it at a deputy. The officer opened fire, striking McLaughlin him three times, in the shoulders and forearm. Questions have been raised as to whether deputies could have used other means and whether the shooting met the legal standard of “imminent threat of serious bodily injury” under P.C. section 835a.  Video depicting full encounter

11/17/20  Beset by troubling encounters between police and persons in mental distress, Chicago is considering deploying CIT teams that include two experts and one officer. But objections have been raised as to why cops should be included at all. “I think it’s an emergency to get police out of the mental health response” said an Alderman. A mother whose mentally ill daughter was recently Tasered agrees. But she also wants “a health care system that supports people before they are in crisis.”

11/15/20  An NPR report claims that “crisis intervention teams are failing.” Problems are attributed to response models that include clinical workers but are nonetheless managed by police, who consider persons in crisis as inherently dangerous. “Cahoots” is identified as an approach that helps debunk that notion. CIT’s are also “no replacement for an adequate mental health care system in a community.”



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San Antonio Blues  What Were They Thinking?  A Partner in Every Sense  When Must Cops Shoot? (I)

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Speed Kills     A Reason?     There’s No “Pretending” a Gun     De-Escalation     A Stitch in Time

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Why do Officers Succeed?



Posted 10/31/20

WHEN MUST COPS SHOOT? (PART I)

Four notorious incidents; four dead citizens. What did officers face?

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. Many of our readers teach in college and university criminology and criminal justice departments. (That, indeed, was your blogger’s last gig.) So for an instant, forget policing. Think about your last evaluation. Was the outcome fair and accurate? Did it fairly reflect – or even consider – the key issues you faced in the classroom and elsewhere?

     If your answers were emphatically “yes” consider yourself blessed. The academic workplace is a demanding beast, with a “clientele” whose abilities, attention span and willingness to comply vary widely. And we’re not even getting into administrative issues, say, pressures to graduate as many students as possible as quickly and cheaply as possible. Or the personalities, inclinations and career ambitions of department chairs. (If you’re one, no offense!) Bottom line: academia is a unique environment. Only practitioners who face it each day can truly understand the forces that affect what gets accomplished and how well things get done. Actually, that’s true for most any complex craft. Say, policing.

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     So what is it that cops face? Let’s dissect four recent, notorious examples. Two involved mentally troubled men with knives, one a rowdy ex-con packing a gun, and one a young, non-compliant couple whose male half had amassed a substantial criminal record and was apparently wanted by police.


Los Angeles, November 19, 2019

     Last November a citizen alerted an LAPD patrol sergeant that a man was running around with a knife (photos above.) Officers soon encountered a highly-agitated 34-year old male flaunting a “seven-inch kitchen knife.” Officers took off after him on foot (click here for the officer bodycam video).

     During the chase one cop reportedly fired a Taser but without apparent effect. Soon the man paused. As his pursuers tried to keep their distance, Alex Flores swiftly advanced on one. His knife was in his right hand, with the blade pointed in and tucked under his forearm. After Mr. Flores ignored repeated commands to stop the officer shot him dead.

     At a police commission hearing Mr. Flores’ grieving mother and sister argued that he wasn’t a criminal but a mentally ill man struggling with paranoia. “What type of system do you all serve?” his sister demanded to know. “Clearly this was a racist murder.”

Philadelphia, October 26, 2020

     During the early morning hours of October 26 two Philadelphia police officers responded to a call about a “screaming man” with a knife.
 


     Walter Wallace, Jr., 27, was flaunting his weapon on a second-floor porch, and when he spotted the officers he promptly came down the steps. Pursued by his mother, he briskly chased the cops into the street (left and center photos). Ignoring commands to drop the weapon, he kept on coming. So the officers shot him dead (right photo. For a bystander video click here.)

     Mr. Wallace’s parents said that their mentally-disturbed son had been acting up despite being on medication. Indeed, police had already been at their home three times that very day. Their final call, they insisted, was for an ambulance, not the police. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation. Why didn’t they use a Taser?” asked the father. “Why you have to gun him down?” According to the police commissioner neither officer had a Taser, but the agency has been trying to get funds so that they could be issued to everyone.

San Bernardino, California, October 22, 2020

     During the late evening hours of October 22 San Bernardino (CA) police were called about a large, heavyset man who was “waving around a gun” and “jumping on vehicles” in a liquor store parking lot.

     A lone cop arrived. Spotting the suspect, he drew his pistol and yelled “hey man, come here” (left photo). But the six-foot-three, three-hundred pound man would have none of it. Disparaging the cop for drawing the gun, Mark Bender, 35, announced “I’m going to the store” and kept walking (right photo). Although the officer was vastly outsized he tried to physically restrain Mr. Bender, and the fight was on (click here for the officer bodycam video and here for a bystander video.)

     As the pair struggled on the ground, Mr. Bender pulled a 9mm. pistol from his pockets with his right hand (left and center photos). The cop instantly jumped away (right photo) and opened fire. Mr. Bender died at the hospital. His gun was recovered.


     Police reported that Mr. Bender was a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record. According to the Superior Court portal he was pending trial on a variety of charges including burglary, resisting police and felony domestic violence.

Waukegan, Illinois, October 20, 2020

     About midnight, October 20th, a Waukegan (IL) officer interacted with the occupants of a parked car. According to the city’s initial version, an unidentified officer responded to a report of a suspicious car, but as he arrived the vehicle suddenly left. Another officer found it parked nearby. When he approached on foot the car went into reverse. Fearing he would be run over, the officer opened fire, badly wounding the driver, Tafara Williams, 20, and killing her passenger, Marcellis Stinnette, 19.

     Given from the hospital where she is recovering, Ms. Williams’ account was starkly different. She and Mr. Stinnette were sitting in her vehicle, in front of their residence, when a cop drove up. He knew her boyfriend’s name and said he recognized him “from jail.” She asked if they could leave, then slowly drove off when the officer stepped back. But when she turned into another street her car was met by gunfire. Bullets struck her and Mr. Stinnette and caused the vehicle to crash. An officer kept firing even though she yelled they had no gun. "My blood was gushing out of my body. The officer started yelling. They wouldn’t give us an ambulance till we got out the car.”

     Ms. Williams denied any wrongdoing. She doesn’t know what prompted the attack. “Why did you just flame up my car like that? Why did you shoot?” Once videos were released, however, what actually happened clearly varied from both accounts, and most dramatically from Ms. Williams’. Bodycam video from the officer who first encountered the couple reveals that he recognized Mr. Stinnette and announced that he was wanted on a warrant. But when the cop walked around to the passenger side (left photo shows his hand on the car) and told Mr. Stinnette that he was under arrest the vehicle abruptly sped away (right photo.)

     We now turn to dashcam video from the second police car (click here.) That officer took over the pursuit as the fleeing vehicle evaded the original responder. After running through a stop sign the vehicle turned right and ran off the road to the left (left photo). The officer abruptly stopped at the left curb alongside the vehicle (right photo) and exited his car. Gunfire soon erupted. His bodycam wasn’t on, so the officer’s claim that Ms. Williams backed up at him can’t be visually confirmed. But he accused her of that moments later once he had turned on his bodycam (click here for the clip.) This officer was promptly fired for not having the bodycam on and for other unspecified policy and procedural violations.

     Was Mr. Stinnette in fact a wanted person? We lack access to warrant information, but it seems likely. He had accumulated a substantial felony record in Waukegan during 2019, including separate prosecutions for “stolen vehicle,” “burglary” and “escape,” and the details we reviewed online suggest that he had failed to comply with conditions for release (click here for the basic case printout.) As for Ms. Williams, she was the sole defendant in a May 2019 “criminal trespass” that was ultimately not prosecuted (Lake Co. Circuit Court case #19CM00001381.) We know of no other record. But her “flame up my car” comment leaves us wondering.


     To be sure, retrospective vision is one-hundred percent. Things could always have been handled better. Yet from the perspectives of the craftspersons who were saddled with the initial burden – meaning, the cops – each encounter posed a substantial risk to themselves, their colleagues, and innocent citizens. Unruly folks running around with knives or guns is never a good thing. And although no weapon was involved, check out the Waukegan pursuit clip. Sixteen seconds in, Ms. Williams blew a stop sign. Consider what might have happened had there been an oncoming vehicle in the cross street.

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     Still, was deadly force necessary? Shooting someone dead is an inherently repulsive notion that seems acceptable only under the most pressing of circumstances, when innocent lives are at risk and no feasible alternatives are in hand. And even when a shooting seems justifiable, can we take steps to avoid a repeat? Over the years our Strategy and Tactics and Compliance and Force sections have discussed a wide variety of practices intended to keep cops and citizens (yes, the naughty and the nice) from hurting one another, or worse. Of course, special resources may be called for. And there will always be issues with human temperament and citizens’ disposition to comply.

     Our next post will bring such notions forward and apply them to each incident. In the meantime, please share your thoughts, and we’ll include them – anonymously, of course – in Part II. Until then, stay safe!

FOR UPDATES SEE PART II

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Posted 10/21/20

L.A. WANTS “CAHOOTS.” BUT WHICH “CAHOOTS”?

Some politicians demand that officers keep away from “minor, non-violent” crimes

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. “Ideology Trumps Reason” and “A Conflicted Mission” blamed ideological quarrels for hobbling America’s ability to regulate its borders and control the pandemic. Here we turn to ideology’s insidious effect on crime control, as politicians capitalize on the social movement inspired by the death of George Floyd to push half-baked plans that would replace police officers with civilians.

     For an example we turn to Los Angeles, where the City Council recently approved a proposal by its “Ad Hoc Committee on Police Reform” to establish “an unarmed model of crisis response.” As presently written, the measure would dispatch civilian teams instead of cops to “non-violent” 9-1-1 calls that “do not involve serious criminal activity” and have at least one of six “social services components”: mental health, substance abuse, suicide threats, behavioral distress, conflict resolution, and welfare checks.

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     Approved by unanimous vote on October 14, the move was endorsed the very next day by none other than…LAPD!

    The Los Angeles Police Department fully supports the City Council's actions today to establish responsible alternatives to respond to nonviolent calls that currently fall to the Department to handle. For far too long the men and women of the Department have been asked to respond to calls from our community that would be more effectively addressed by others.

     So how does George Floyd fit in? Although he’s not mentioned in the actual motion, Mr. Floyd is prominently featured in an extensive report prepared by the Council’s legislative analyst:

    Following the nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, calls for a reduced role of law enforcement in nonviolent calls has been reiterated. The need for alternative unarmed models of crisis response has grown out of concerns related to the increased rates of arrest and use of force by law enforcement against individuals dealing with mental illness, persons experiencing homelessness, or persons of color. Armed response has been noted to be incompatible with healthcare needs or the need for other services, including service for the unhoused community.

Analyst Andy Galan isn’t out on a limb. On the very day the motion passed, its most prominent signatory, former council president Herb Wesson, Jr. argued that George Floyd would still be alive and well had civilians handled the situation instead of cops:

    Calling the police on George Floyd about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill ended his life. If he had been met with unarmed, trained specialists for the nonviolent crime he was accused of, George Floyd would be turning 47 years old today. This plan will save lives.

     Is he right? Might non-cops have done better? Here’s a partial transcript of the 9-1-1 call:

    Caller:  Um someone comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car.  We tell them to give us their phone, put their (inaudible) thing back and everything and he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn’t want to do that, and he’s sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.

Mr. Wesson suggests that Mr. Floyd met all three conditions of the proposed model. His behavior was not (at first) violent. And assuming that stealing cigarettes is no big deal, neither was there any “serious criminal activity.” As for that “social service need,” the complainant reported that Mr. Floyd was “not in control of himself.” Check, check, check.

     Alas, it’s only after the fact that one often learns “the rest of the story.” As a chronic drug user with a criminal record that includes armed robbery, Mr. Floyd was hardly a good candidate for civilian intervention. Watch the video. His odd, unruly behavior led the first cop with whom he tangled to conclude, probably correctly, that the small-potatoes thief was in the throes of excited delirium. Really, had Mr. Floyd complied instead of fought, that hard-headed senior officer we criticized wouldn’t have entered the picture and things could have ended peaceably.

     No, guns and badges aren’t always necessary. Yet when a shopkeeper calls and complains they’ve just been swindled (Mr. Floyd copped some smokes with a fake twenty) and the suspect’s still around, dispatching civilians, and only civilians, seems a stretch. Gaining compliance from someone who’s been bad isn’t always easy. Even “minor” evildoers might have a substantial criminal record. Or maybe a warrant. Seemingly trivial, non-violent offending is potentially fraught with peril, and as your blogger has personally experienced, situations can morph from “minor” to potentially lethal in an instant. At the bottom of our list (though not necessarily in terms of its importance) 9-1-1 callers might feel slighted should they be denied a uniformed police presence.

     Considering the negatives, one can’t imagine that any law enforcement agency would endorse handing off response to “minor” crimes to civilians. That’s not to say that mental-health teams can’t be useful. LAPD has long fielded SMART teams that include specially-trained police officers and a mental health clinician. They’re used to supplement beat cops in select, highly-charged situations that could easily turn out poorly. Far more often, though, officers tangle with homeless and/or mentally ill persons who don’t require the intense, specialized services of a SMART team but whose shenanigans could tie things up for extended periods. It’s for such situations, we assume, that the chief would welcome a civilian response.

     That’s where Eugene’s “CAHOOTS” initiative comes in. It’s the model the city council recommended for adoption in L.A. Here’s another extract from the analyst’s report:

    CAHOOTS…teams consist of a medic (a nurse, paramedic, or EMT) and a crisis worker…Responders are able to provide aid related to crisis counseling, suicide prevention, assessment, intervention, conflict resolution and mediation, grief and loss counseling, substance abuse, housing crisis, first-aid and non-emergency medical care, resource connection and referrals, and transportation to services.

Sounds great, right? But there’s a Devil in the details. Read on (italics ours):

    The CAHOOTS response staff are not armed and do not perform any law enforcement duties. If a request for service involves a crime, potentially hostile individual, or potentially dangerous situation, the call is referred to the EPD.

Oops. Here’s how an Oregon CAHOOTS team member described its protocol (italics ours):

    The calls that come in to the police non-emergency number and/or through the 911 system, if they have a strong behavioral health component, if there are calls that do not seem to require law enforcement because they don't involve a legal issue or some kind of extreme threat of violence or risk to the person, the individual or others, then they will route those to our team….

     Police-citizen encounters have become grist for a mill of ideologically-driven solutions that overlook the complexities and uncertainties of the police workplace. George Floyd is but one example. Our Use of Force and Conduct and Ethics sections have many others. Say, the tragic case of Rayshard Brooks, the 27-year old Atlanta man who was shot dead after he fired at a cop with the Taser he grabbed from the officer’s partner. That incident, which happened in June, began with a call from a local Wendy’s complaining that a driver was asleep and blocking the drive-through lane. (Incidentally, that’s not even a crime.) The encounter began amicably. But when the seemingly pleasant man failed a field sobriety test and realized he was being arrested for drunk driving he went ballistic and a vicious struggle ensued. (Click here for the videos.)

     It turns out that just like Mr. Floyd, Mr. Brooks had a history of violence and was on felony probation. Oops.

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     Back to L.A., where the Council’s incarnation of CAHOOTS sits on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s desk. Hizzoner once opined that Mr. Floyd was “murdered in cold blood,” so one figures that he also hankers for change. But given the realities of the streets – and the need to keep retailers and 9-1-1 callers happy – we suspect that the mayor will artfully massage things so that cops continue to be dispatched to “minor, non-violent” crimes. That, in any event, was obviously what Police Chief Michel Moore expected when he endorsed Oregon’s version of Cahoots.

     Of course, the City Council would have to swallow its collective pride. Thing is, council members aren’t appointed – they’re elected. Los Angeles is a big place with a complex socioeconomic mix. Lots of residents have expressed a desire for change, and they hold the power of the vote. So we’ll see.

UPDATES (scroll)

3/2/23  This time it’s the cops who want others to step in. Chronic understaffing has led LAPD’s union to propose that calls about panhandling, illegal vending, peeing on the sidewalk and such be handed off to trained civilians. Ditto non-violent mental health episodes. But with traffic deaths up, police aren’t willing to give up traffic enforcement. L.A.’s City Council is reportedly taking the proposal seriously.

8/5/22  With crime and “quality of life” violations still higher than pre-pandemic, BART, San Francisco’s transit system, uses uniformed civilian “Transit Ambassadors” and “Crisis Intervention Specialists” to conduct “welfare contacts” with homeless persons, the mentally ill and riders suffering from drug overdoses. They work in teams and with transit police to tamp down “quality of life” issues. While they’re said to be effective, their numbers are few, and one rider says he hardly ever sees them. BART website

5/11/22  Four Illinois cities – Peoria, Springfield, East St. Louis and Waukegan – will be receiving State funds to implement “co-responder” programs that partner social workers with police, creating teams that respond to mental-health emergencies and offer solutions other than arrest. Peoria’s police chief praises the initiative as part of a “new era of policing.” Chicago began a similar program last year.

1/10/22  In May 2020 San Diego park rangers were driving a mentally-ill man, Nicholas Bils, 36, to jail for physically resisting being expelled from a closed park. Mr. Bills slipped out of his handcuffs during the ride. Deputy Sheriff Aaron Russell, 25, saw him running off and shot him dead. A deputy for eighteen months, Mr. Russell has pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. And in March 2021, during a struggle between two L.A. County deputies and Isaias Cervantes, 25, one opened fire and seriously wounded the autistic man when his partner yelled that Cervantes was going for the deputy’s gun. An L.A. Times editorial complains that LASD is not using its “Mental Evaluation Teams” and backs a proposal to create a “9-8-8” hot line and civilian “mobile crisis teams” that deal with the mentally ill.

11/15/21  Anaheim and Irvine become the third and fourth Southern California cities to utilize the services of Be Well OC, which uses the Cahoots model to dispatch teams of medical workers and mental health specialists to non-emergency calls involving persons who are in mental distress. Garden Grove and Huntington Beach, which are already using the service, praise its ability to properly tend to persons in crisis and allow police to focus on crime-related work.

10/11/21  Social service teams employed by Albuquerque’s new “Community Safety Department” have begun responding to situations involving mental health, homelessness and suicide. It’s hoped that these unarmed, civilian-only units will when fully staffed take on all of the 3,000 “nonmedical, nonviolent” calls received by 9-1-1 each month, freeing police to better handle matters requiring their presence.

8/26/21  Chicago has begun to implement a new Illinois State law that directs local governments to establish a 9-8-8 model (and phone number) that dispatches specially-trained mental health teams to assist persons in a “mental or behavioral health” crisis and operates “independently of police.” Once these teams are in place, police can only respond if a person is “involved in a suspected violation of the criminal laws of this State, or presents a threat of physical injury to self or others.”

6/17/21  When answering 911 calls about persons in mental distress, Montgomery County, Maryland presently teams mental health counselors with police. But it’s trying to “reimagine” things so that civilian teams respond alone. That’s making some experienced counselors nervous. “I’ve been in situations where things change in the course of 30 seconds,” said one. “And that’s why the police are there.”

3/16/21  In Tucson, civilian teams staffed with experts in mental health, drug abuse and homelessness will be taking over the response to non-criminal, non-violent calls including panhandling, complaints about “minor noise,” welfare checks and suicidal persons who don’t pose a threat to others. Calls that involve violence “or any immediate threat to public safety” will continue to be handled by police.

11/29/20  In response to objections by activists who demand police keep away from responses to mentally troubled persons, Chicago will be deploying two kinds of crisis intervention teams in 2021. One will, as previously planned, include two experts and one officer. But the city will also deploy teams of “clinicians and paramedics” modeled after “Cahoots” that do not include police. Both approaches will be implemented next year.

11/17/20  Beset by troubling encounters between police and persons in mental distress, Chicago is considering deploying CIT teams that include . But objections have been raised as to why cops should be included at all. “I think it’s an emergency to get police out of the mental health response” said an Alderman. A mother whose mentally ill daughter was recently Tasered agrees. But she also wants “a health care system that supports people before they are in crisis.”

11/15/20  An NPR report claims that “crisis intervention teams are failing.” Problems are attributed to response models that include clinical workers but are nonetheless managed by police, who consider persons in crisis as inherently dangerous. “Cahoots” is identified as an approach that helps debunk that notion. CIT’s are also “no replacement for an adequate mental health care system in a community.”

10/21/20  In a joint announcement with Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo DOJ unveiled a “National Response Center Initiative” intended to help Minneapolis and police across the U.S. “adapt to the wide range of challenges” posed by gangs, drugs and social problems such as homelessness and “enhance and reform policies and practices to prevent the use of excessive force.”



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Posted 10/10/20, edited 12/30/20

R.I.P. PROACTIVE POLICING?

Volatile situations and imperfect cops guarantee tragic outcomes

Apartment small

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel.

    Banged on the door, no response. Banged on it again no response. At that point we started announcing ourselves, police, please come to the door. So we kept banging and announcing. It seemed like an eternity.

     That, according to Louisville police sergeant Jonathon Mattingly, is how the infamous March encounter began.  In testimony before a Grand Jury, the supervisor whose bullet (according to the FBI) fatally wounded Breonna Taylor insisted that despite the search warrant’s “no-knock” provisions he and his companions, Detectives Myles Cosgrove and Michael Nobles and former Detective Brett Hankison,  loudly announced their presence and only smashed in because no one promptly came to the door.

     As soon as they entered chaos erupted. Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, whose presence the officers didn’t expect “was standing in the hallway firing through the door.” One of his bullets pierced Sergeant Mattingly in the leg. He and detectives Cosgrove and Hankison returned fire. Walker escaped injury, but bullets fired by Mattingly and Cosgrove fatally wounded Breonna Taylor, the apartment’s occupant of record. Meanwhile Hankison’s barrage went wildly off the mark, peppering another apartment but fortunately striking no one.

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     Kenneth Walker said he thought the officers were criminals breaking in. He was arrested for shooting Sergeant Mattingly but ultimately escaped prosecution. (He blames cops for firing the shot that struck the officer.) In June the police chief fired Detective Hankison, who was disciplined a year earlier for recklessly injuring a citizen. And on September 15 the city announced it was settling a claim filed by Ms. Taylor’s family for $12 million. That’s reportedly one of the largest payouts of its kind, ever.

     Grand jurors returned their findings one week later. Neither Mr. Walker nor the officers who unintentionally killed Ms. Taylor were charged. However, former cop Hankison was indicted for discharging the fusillade that endangered other tenants. He pled not guilty and awaits trial.


     It’s not surprising that Ms. Taylor’s killing has taken on such significance. Compare it with two other recent cases: Mr. George Floyd, who died after being roughly handled by a Minneapolis cop, and Mr. Rayshard Brooks, who was shot dead by an Atlanta police officer during a foot chase. Mr. Floyd and Mr. Brooks fought police; Mr. Brooks went so far as to fire at his pursuer with the Taser he grabbed from another cop. In contrast, Ms. Taylor did absolutely nothing to warrant rough handling. She was in her own apartment, just standing there when officers opened fire. Her killing was clearly a lethal error.

     Law enforcement officers serve search warrants and engage in other high-risk activities every day. Many of these episodes involve dangerous characters, yet most conclude peacefully. However, since most research of police use of force focuses on episodes with bad endings, we know little about the factors that underlie successful outcomes. (That gap, incidentally, is the subject of your writer’s recent essay, “Why Do Officers Succeed?” in Police Chief.)

     Given the extreme circumstances that the officers encountered at Ms. Taylor’s apartment, return fire by Sgt. Mattingly and detective Cosgrove might have been unavoidable. Tragically, their rushed response proved lethally inaccurate. In “Speed Kills” we mentioned that blunders are likely when officers act hastily or impulsively. Consider the July 2018 episode when, after shooting his grandmother, a Los Angeles man led police on a wild vehicular pursuit. It ended at a retail store where the suspect bolted from his car and ran inside as he fired at the officers. They shot back, missing him but fatally wounding an employee.

     Lethal foul-ups also happen when suspects don’t shoot. In February 2019 late-arriving New York cops unleashed a barrage at an armed suspect who was fleeing the store he just robbed. Two plainclothes officers who were already on scene got caught in the middle: one was wounded and the other was killed. The suspect’s handgun turned out to be fake. Seven months later an NYPD officer repeatedly fired at a felon with whom he had physically tangled. That led arriving officers to mistakenly conclude that they were being shot at. So they opened fire, killing both their colleague and the suspect. His unfired revolver lay nearby.

     Police behavior is unavoidably influenced by the well-known risks of the job. And those are indeed substantial. According to the LEOKA more than two-thousand law enforcement officers (2,116) were assaulted with firearms in 2018. About 129 were injured (6.1 percent) and 51 were killed. Unfortunately, the LEOKA doesn’t offer detailed information about the encounters, nor of the outcomes for civilians. Last year the FBI launched an effort to collect data about all police uses of force that either involve their discharge of firearms or which lead to a citizen’s death or serious injury. So far, nothing’s been released. However, the Washington Post has been collecting information about police killings of civilians since January 2, 2015. As of October 1, 2020, their database has 5673 entries, one for each death. We downloaded the dataset. This table lists some of the pertinent findings.

WaPo data


Citizens were “armed” with a wide assortment of items, including cars, shovels and (yes) even pens. We included only guns and cutting instruments. Six percent (358) of those killed were unarmed.

     In 2017 four academics analyzed the Post’s 2015 data. Published in Criminology & Public Policy (Feb. 2017) “A Bird's Eye View of Civilians Killed by Police in 2015 - Further Evidence of Implicit Bias” concluded that race affected officer threat perceptions. “Controlling” for citywide violent crime rates, the authors concluded that non-Whites, and especially Blacks, were nonetheless significantly more likely to be shot. But more specific “places” such as areas or neighborhoods were not taken into account. As we noted in “Scapegoat” Parts I and II proactive policing normally targets areas within cities that are beset by violence, usually poverty-stricken neighborhoods that are disproportionately populated by non-Whites. As our tables in Part II demonstrate, once we “controlled” for location the influence of race and ethnicity on LAPD stops virtually disappeared.

     Of course, one need not attribute outcomes such as Ms. Taylor’s death – or the killings of Dijon Kizzee in Compton, Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta or George Floyd in Minneapolis – to racial animus to brand them as tragic mishaps. Posts in our Compliance and Force and Strategy and Tactics sections have discussed the forces that drive policing astray and suggested correctives. “Working Scared” stressed the role of personality characteristics such as impulsivity and risk tolerance. “Speed Kills” emphasized the advantage of taking one’s time – preferably, from a position of cover. Chaos, a chronic fixture of the police workplace that often leads to poor decisions was the theme of “Routinely Chaotic.”  And when it comes to preventives there’s de-escalation, a promising approach that’s at the top of every chief’s list.


Trap house small

     Back to Ms. Taylor’s death. On March 13, 2020 Louisville police executed search warrants at 2424/5/6 Elliott Ave. (pictured here) and at her apartment, 3003 Springfield Dr. #4 (top photo). According to police, Jamarcus Glover, Ms. Taylor’s one-time boyfriend, and his associate Adrian Walker (no relation to Kenneth Walker) were using the Elliott Ave. locations as “trap houses” (places where drugs are stored and sold.) Both were convicted felons out on bond awaiting trial for drug trafficking and illegal gun possession charges levied in December 2019.

     Here’s a summary of the justification provided in the search warrant:

  • Mr. Glover and Mr. A. Walker were pending trial on gun and drug charges.
     
  • In January 2020 police stopped Mr. A. Walker as he left the “trap house” and found marijuana and cash in his vehicle. In the same month a pole camera depicted numerous vehicles visiting the trap house during a brief period. There were many recorded and physical observations of suspicious behavior by both suspects in and around the trap house and of visits to a nearby rock pile they apparently used to stash drugs.
     
  • In January 2020 the affiant observed Mr. Glover and Mr. A. Walker making “frequent trips” between the trap house and Ms. Taylor’s apartment. Mr. Glover had listed her apartment as his address and was using it to receive packages. [Note: see 12/30/20 update.] On one occasion Mr. Glover was observed taking a package from the residence to a “known drug house.” Ms. Taylor’s vehicle was observed parked at the trap house several times.
     
  • In conclusion, the affiant asserted that his training and experience indicated “that Mr. J. Glover may be keeping narcotics and/or proceeds from the sale of narcotics at 3003 Springfield Drive #4 for safe keeping.”

     In late August the Louisville Courier-Journal and Wave3 News published detailed accounts about the alleged connection between Ms. Taylor and Mr. Glover. This story drew from a leaked police report, prepared after Ms. Taylor’s death, that describes the evidence detectives gathered before and after executing the March search warrants. It indicates that drugs, cash, guns and paraphernalia were seized from the trap houses and the suspects’ vehicles. There are also surveillance photographs and detailed transcripts of intercepted jailhouse calls made by Mr. Glover after his arrests in December and March. Here’s an outtake from a January 3, 2020 (pre-warrant) phone call between Mr. Glover and Ms. Taylor:

    1123 – J. Glover calls ***-***-**** (Breonna Taylor) from booking:
    J. Glover: “Call Doug (Adrian Walker) on Facebook and see where the fuck Doug at. He’s got my fuckin money, riding around in my motherfucking car and he ain’t even where he’s supposed to be at.”
    B. Taylor: “You said Doug?”   J. Glover: “Yeah, Big Doug.”
    B. Taylor: “I’ll call him…Why can’t I find him on Facebook? What’s his name on here?”
    J. Glover: “Meechy Walker.”
    1318 – J. Glover calls ***-***-**** (Breonna Taylor) from booking:
    J. Glover: “You talk to Doug (Adrian Walker)?”
    B. Taylor: “Yeah I did. He said he was already back at the trap… then I talked to him again just a minute ago to see if you had contacted him. They couldn’t post bond till one.”
    J. Glover: “Just be on standby so you can come get me… Love you.”
    B. Taylor: “Love you too.”

Here’s part of a post-warrant phone conversation between Mr. Glover and a domestic partner who bore his child:

    1307 – J. Glover calls ***-***-**** (Kiera Bradley – child’s mother) from his dormitory:
    K. Bradley: “So where your money at?”
    J. Glover: “Where my money at? Bre had like $8 grand.”
    K. Bradley: “Bre had $8 grand of your money?”  J. Glover: “Yeah.”
    J. Glover says to an unknown male that joined the call, “Tell cuz, Bre got down like $15 (grand), she had the $8 (grand) I gave her the other day and she picked up another $6 (grand).”
    K. Bradley and J. Glover are arguing over him not being honest and him having money at other people’s house. J. Glover says to K. Bradley, “Why are you doing this?”
    K. Bradley: “Cuz my feelings are hurt.”
    J. Glover: “Why cuz the bread (money) was at her house?”
    J. Glover: “…This is what you got to understand, don’t take it wrong but Bre been handling all my money, she been handling my money... She been handling shit for me and cuz, it ain’t just me.”

In a post-warrant call to Mr. Walker, Mr. Glover explains why police searched Ms. Taylor’s residence and why, according to Kenneth Walker (Ms. Taylor’s live-in boyfriend) the officers didn’t find any cash:

    1720 – J. Glover calls ***-***-**** (Male – likely Adrian Walker per Accurint) from his dormitory:
    J. Glover: “Where you at?”  A. Walker: “You know the spot, “E”.”
    J. Glover: “I just watched the news nigga… They tryin act like they had a search warrant for Bre’s house too.”
    A. Walker: “I know… The only thing I can figure out is they check that license plate. They been putting an investigation on a motherfucker.”
    J. Glover: They checked Bre’s license plate?”
    A. Walker: “That’s the only thing I can think of… A motherfucker pull up on the block in the charger, that’s the only thing I can think of.”
    J. Glover: “Who at no haters running their mouth?...That nigga (Kenneth Walker) didn’t have no business doing that shit. That nigga got Bre killed nigga.”
    A. Walker: “You got to see like the bigger picture to it though you feel me, it’s more to it than what you feelin like right now.”
    J. Glover: “I know, I know she was feelin me. At the end of the day everything stolen from me though, I swear I know that.”
    J. Glover: “…That man tell me, I watched you leave your baby momma’s house. Alright if you watched me leave my baby momma’s house, why would you execute a warrant at Bre’s house… Bre got that charger and all this shit… Bre’s paper trail makes sense for everything she got though.”
    J. Glover: “…I don’t understand how they serve a warrant for Bre’s house when nothing ties me to Bre house at all except these bonds.”
    A. Walker: “Bonds and cars and 2016… It’s just ties though… Look at the ties since 2016, ever since Rambo (homicide victim)… and the camera right there, they see a motherfucker pull up.”
    J. Glover: “Yeah she (Breonna Taylor) was out there the top of the week before I went to court.”
    A. Walker: “They didn’t even have to see her pull up, all they had to do is see that license plate… They done put two and two together… Then on top of that they go over there and find money.”
    J. Glover: “No, Bre don’t, Bre don’t, Bre don’t…Bro you know how Bre do… They didn’t find nothing in her house.”
    A. Walker: “I thought you said they found some money over there?”
    J. Glover: “It was there, it was there, it was there...They didn’t do nothing though that’s the problem... Kenneth said ain’t none of that go on.”
    A. Walker: “So they didn’t take none of the money?”
    J. Glover: “Kenneth said that none of that go on. He said Homicide came straight on the scene and they went to packaging Bre and they left.”

Mr. A. Walker and Mr. Glover were released pending trial. Mr. Glover has reportedly absconded.

     Go through the report. If genuine – and it certainly seems to be – it depicts Ms. Taylor as a knowing participant of Mr. Glover’s drug-trafficking enterprise. There is really no gentle way to put it.


     As a Fed your blogger obtained and participated in serving many search warrants. In his opinion, the March 2020 search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s residence seems well supported by probable cause. [Note: see 12/30/20 update]. Yet neither this writer, nor anyone he knows, was ever shot at while on the job, let alone had a partner wounded. How would we have reacted under such circumstances? Would we have instantly realized that the shooter “didn’t really mean it?” Could we have safely “de-escalated”? And if not, would we have accurately placed return fire?

     Set warrants aside. Consider a far more common cause of innocent deaths: police pursuits. Instead of getting into specifics, California law requires that agencies establish detailed policies about when and how to chase and train their officers accordingly. (Click here for LAPD’s policy.) Yet pursuits still continue to end poorly.

     Really, when it comes to the more fraught aspects of policing such as pursuits or search warrants the usual preventives – rules, training, supervision – can’t always be counted on to prevent horrific outcomes. Yes, there are other ways. Police occasionally abandon chases. As for search warrants, officers sometimes elect to watch, wait and intercept occupants as they leave. Naturally, doing that is resource-intensive, and should surveillance be detected it could lead to the destruction of evidence. Detaining persons also carries risk.

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     About 17 percent of Louisville’s residents live in poverty. In Ms. Taylor’s ZIP code, 40214, the proportion is about twenty percent. In 40211, where the “trap houses” were located, it’s about thirty-four percent. Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker were taking advantage of a deeply troubled neighborhood for their selfish ends. Sadly, Breonna Taylor had apparently lent a hand.

     Search warrants aren’t the first proactive strategy to come under challenge. Most recently, “Should Police Treat the Whole Patient?” discussed the back-and-forth over stop-and-frisk and other geographically targeted enforcement campaigns, whose intrusiveness and tendency to generate “false positives” has badly disrupted police-minority community relations across the U.S.

     Search warrants, though, are supposedly different. They’re based on articulated evidence of criminal wrongdoing and must be approved by a judge before execution. As your blogger discovered while a Fed, they’re the stock-in-trade of serious criminal investigations. Without this tool officers would be hard-pressed to combat major sources of drugs or guns. They’ll undoubtedly play a key role in “Operation Legend,” that new Federal-local partnership we’ve heard so much about. Of course, it’s also essential that police avoid endangering the lives of innocent citizens. Perhaps it’s time to revisit some of our more cautionary essays; say, “First Do No Harm” and “A Delicate Balance.”

     Yet in our ideologically charged, perhaps irreparably fractured climate, turning to the usual remedies (i.e., training, tactics, supervision) may not do. Breonna Taylor’s characterization as an innocent victim of police overreach has added a bucketful of fuel to the fire. We’re talking “defund” on steroids. So by all means let’s quit pretending. Level with the inhabitants of our poorer, crime-stricken places about the risks of even the best-intentioned proactive policing. Give them an opportunity to opt out of, say, drug investigations and such. Of course, be sure to inform them of the likely consequences. Considering what our nation is going through, it seems to be the least we can do.

UPDATES (scroll)

6/19/23  In February 2019 Chicago police mistakenly got a no-knock search warrant for the wrong home. And while serving it they handled its sole occupant, social worker Anjanette Young, very roughly. Last year Chicago paid out $2.9 million for the blunder. And on June 15, 2023, by a 5-3 vote, the Chicago Police Board fired the most senior officer on scene, Sgt. Alex Wolinski, for lapses including inattention and maltreatment. A long appeals process now begins to run. (See 11/11/21 update)

4/25/23  Myles Cosgrove, the former Louisville detective whose return fire during the raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment missed her boyfriend but mortally wounded Ms. Taylor, was fired but avoided prosecution. He’s now been hired as a deputy by the Carroll County Sheriff’s office, a small agency in rural Kentucky. That spurred a small demonstration in the county seat, Carrolton.

3/9/23  Prompted by the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, DOJ’s civil rights inquiry into Louisville PD concludes that its officers engaged in a “pattern or practice” of First and Fourth Amendment violations, using excessive force, serving “invalid” warrants, and failing to properly announce their presence. Heavy criticism is levied on the deployment of aggressive “Viper” teams that made pretextual, often illegal stops in Black neighborhoods. Negotiations for a consent decree are reportedly in the works.

3/1/23  After seventeen years on the job, Col. Paul Humphrey, head of Louisville PD’s newly-formed “Accountability and Improvement Bureau,” struggles to help his agency overcome a legacy of misbehavior and lethal blunders that go far beyond the killing of Breonna Taylor. But record levels of crime and serious shortfalls in staffing get in the way. Ditto, the “daily realities” of the streets. One ex-cop, who is serving two years for beating a demonstrator during the 2020 protests, told a reporter that the urban disorder he contended with each day “began to take a toll and slowly changed who he was.”

1/31/22  Louisville P.D.’s killing of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 led to a wave of protests that summer. While helping break up a post-curfew gathering in June, then-cop Katie Crews fired pepperballs, striking a woman in a restaurant doorway. Her uncle, the proprietor, then shot at police and was killed by return fire from a National Guardsman. Crews, who left the force, was charged with Federal civil rights violations over the pepper-ball incident. She just drew two years probation. DOJ release

12/13/22  Louisville is paying Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, $2 million to settle lawsuits he filed after officers shot Ms. Taylor dead when they burst into their residence in March 2020. Mr. Walker says he didn’t know it was police when he fired a shot that struck an officer in the leg. Misaimed return fire from another officer killed Ms. Taylor. Her mother has already settled, for $12 million. Three officers were charged with Federal civil rights offenses for using false information to secure the warrant; one pled guilty and the other two await trial.

11/11/22  Under pressure from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s city council rejected a proposed ordnance that would have imposed stiff requirements on police seeking search warrants. Inspired by the mistaken 2019 raid on the residence of Anjanette Young, the measure would have prohibited informants from being the sole source of information for a warrant and require corroboration through surveillance and at least one “non-informant source.” (See 11/11/21 update)

8/24/22  Former Louisville PD Det. Kelly Goodlett pled guilty to conspiring to violate the Federal civil rights of Breonna Taylor by helping other officers secure a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s apartment using information she knew to be false. Former LPD Det. Joshua Jaynes, the officer who secured the warrant, and their supervisor, Sgt. Kyle Meany, are facing like charges (see 8/5/22, 12/30/20, 10/21/21 and 3/3/22 updates). DOJ press release

8/5/22  Federal authorities indicted former Louisville detective Joshua Jaynes, who obtained the search warrant for Breonna Taylor’s apartment. LMPD fired Jaynes for falsely asserting that Postal Inspectors confirmed Taylor was receiving packages for Jamarcus Glover, her drug-dealing former boyfriend. Current LMPD Sgt. Kyle Meany, Jayne’s supervisor, was indicted for approving the warrant and lying to investigators, and LMPD Det. Kelly Goodlett was charged with helping Jaynes falsify the warrant and lying to investigators. Also indicted was Det. Brett Hankinson, whose gunfire entered another apartment (he was recently acquitted in State court). (See 12/30/20, 10/21/21 and 3/3/22 updates.)

7/26/22  On Feb. 2 a Minneapolis officer executing a no-knock search warrant for a St. Paul murder shot and killed Amir Locke, who was startled awake from a couch and displayed a gun. But Locke was unconnected with the murder. Today his cousin, Mekhi C. Speed, 18, who had access to the unit where Locke was a guest, was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to 2nd. degree murder in that case.

4/16/22  According to the Washington Post, its database of fatal police shooting reveals that twenty-two citizens and one officer lost their lives in twenty-one police no-knock raids since 2015. Five of the citizens killed by police were not “a focus of the warrant.” Police reported that in all but two instances occupants turned out to be armed. Most of the raids were for drugs, which is by far the predominant reason for no-knocks across the U.S. But the Post says that no-knocks, which have become increasingly common, seldom turn up large quantities of drugs.

4/7/22  On Feb. 2 Minneapolis SWAT officer Mark Hanneman entered a residence while executing a no-knock search warrant on a St. Paul murder case. Amir Locke, a 22-year old Black youth who had been sleeping on the couch, suddenly woke up. Locke allegedly pointed a gun he had in the officer’s direction, and the officer shot him dead. Locke was not a suspect in the murder. On April 6 local and State prosecutors announced that viewed “from the perspective of a reasonable police officer,” there was insufficient evidence to charge the officer with a crime.

4/1/22  The officers who searched Breonna Taylor’s apartment were members of a team that was pioneering Louisville PD’s application of the “place network investigations” approach to combating crime in chronically beset areas. That strategy, which grew from academic research, is in use at a handful of cities, including Las Vegas, Dallas, Philadelphia and Tucson. A “holistic” version of “hot spots,” it also derives from the “PIVOT” approach developed and used in Cincinnati. But Louisville has dropped it.

3/7/22  On March 1st. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the “Amir Locke End Deadly No-Knock Warrants Act.” It would ban Federal no-knock warrants in drug cases. They could otherwise be issued only when their need is supported by “clear and convincing evidence” that giving notice “would substantially endanger the life or safety of the law enforcement officer or other persons.” Federal law enforcement funds could only go to State and local law enforcement agencies with equivalent policies.

3/3/22  After three hours of deliberation, jurors found former LPD detective Brett Hankison not guilty of “wanton endangerment.” During his testimony, he explained that his allegedly wild barrage, which he fired into a window and a sliding door, was meant to neutralize the shooter who had just wounded his colleague as they served a search warrant at Breonna Taylor’s residence. “I thought I could put rounds through that bedroom window and stop the threat,” he said. But his bullets penetrated into another apartment occupied by a couple and their small child. One of the parents testified about their near miss.

2/10/22  Protests over the killing of Amir Locke are helping propel a new move by the Minneapolis City Council to dismantle the police department and replace it with socially-focused public service agency. Banning no-knock warrants, which are frequently used by MPD’s SWAT team, is also high on the list. Crime worries led the city’s voters to reject a plan to abolish the police last year.

2/9/22  St. Paul (Minn.) police arrested Mekhi C. Speed, 17, for committing the murder whose investigation led an MPD SWAT team to serve a no-knock warrant on a Minneapolis apartment February 2nd. During the process, officers encountered Speed’s cousin, Amir Locke, who was sleeping on the couch with a gun that he was licensed to carry. He was startled awake. Mistaking his intent on rising, an officer shot him dead. Speed’s brother and girlfriend occupied the unit. A search turned up clothes that Speed may have been wearing on the evening of the murder (see 2/5/22 entry).

2/5/22  Minneapolis P.D. agreed to help when a St. Paul murder inquiry led into its area. But it insisted on a “no-knock” search warrant, which its SWAT team frequently serves. St. Paul, which has stopped using these, agreed. When MPD’s team entered the residence on February 2, it encountered 22-year old Amir Locke sleeping on a couch. On rising, the youth displayed his (licensed) pistol. An officer quickly fired, killing him. It turns out that Locke, an overnight guest, was apparently unconnected with the crime. MPD, which has secured 12 regular warrants and 13 no-knocks this year, suspended the latter’s use.

1/14/22  An academic study of de-escalation training implemented by Louisville police in 2019 concludes that it produced “statistically significant reductions in officer use of force and injury to citizens and officers.” However, the authors caution that the training, known as ICAT and developed by the Police Executive Research Forum, was intended to help officers peacefully resolve situations involving “persons in crisis...who may be behaving erratically, but are either unarmed or armed with less than a firearm.” It was not designed for forceful entries or persons armed with guns, and was thus inapplicable to Lousiville cops’ tragic March 2020 encounter at the residence of Breonna Taylor.

According to the FBI seventy-three U.S. law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 2021. LEOKA data indicates that’s 59 percent higher than in 2020, when the toll was forty-six, and 52 percent more than in 2019, when it was forty-eight.

12/23/21  Comprehensive simulations using live actors is considered by policing experts at PERF as the best way to teach officers to “safely defuse a range of critical incidents.” Virtual reality, though, is less expensive, and is reportedly effective when used during intensive exercises that have officers switch into citizens’ roles. Louisville, Newark and Camden report that trained officers perform better. But a professor cautions that such training, while very useful for routine encounters, “does not address higher-risk scenarios like the raid in Louisville that led to the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.”

11/22/21  Louisville will spend tens of millions in COVID relief funds on police reforms. Housing will get $100 million, and violence prevention and youth programs tens of millions more. But Feds in town conducting a pattern-and-practice review prompted by the killing of Breonna Taylor are digging into a recent police killing, in which officers say the man they shot while responding to a domestic call fired first. “You can’t control the timing of these things,” said Erika Shields, the new police chief. “...with so much violence and guns on the streets, you just know there’s a likelihood of this kind of thing happening.”

11/11/21  During a February, 2019 search of a Chicago residence that turned out to be based on faulty information, officers reportedly brutalized its occupant, Anjanette Young, whom they handcuffed while naked. A recently released report recommended that six officers be disciplined and that a sergeant be fired. Among the findings was that the participants had insufficient training in conducting search warrants, and that “meaningful and effective supervision” was lacking. Click here for bodycam video. (See 6/19/23 update)

10/21/21  Jamarcus Glover, Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, will plead guilty to drug charges in exchange for probation. Det. Joshua Jaynes obtained the search warrant for Taylor’s residence by alleging that Glover was receiving drug-related supplies at her home. That turned out to be untrue, and Glover denied that Taylor was involved. Det. Jaynes was fired (he is appealing.) Also fired were officer Miles Cosgrove, whose bullets struck Ms. Taylor, and Det. Brett Hankison, whose wild barrage entered another apartment (he awaits trial for endangerment.) Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot by Ms. Taylor’s companion and returned fire, accidentally striking Ms. Taylor, has retired.

9/25/21  Veteran D.C. police officer Terence Sutton was charged with murder and a colleague was accused of conspiracy and obstruction in the death of Karon Hylton, 20 on October 23, 2020. Hylton, who was riding an electric moped, was struck and killed by a vehicle as Officer Sutton and his colleagues in an anti-crime team pursued him, ostensibly for riding on the sidewalk and not wearing a helmet. However, D.C. police regulations prohibit pursuits for traffic violations. But Sutton’s lawyer insists that the officer knew Hylton and was chasing him because he thought Hylton was armed. Hylton had a record for marijuana sales and other offenses and was pending charges for assaulting a police officer.

8/6/21  Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron addressed the grand jury’s failure to charge any of the Louisville PD officers for killing Ms. Taylor. (One officer was indicted for endangering a neighbor by recklessly shooting into their apartment.) “The officers attempted to enter the home, they were fired upon and returned fire...it was a tragedy that in the return fire, Miss Taylor was hit and died...But again, our team had to look at the facts and apply that to the law as it exists.” He refused to comment on statements to the media by three disgruntled grand jurors who argued that they were misled.

4/28/21  With specific reference to Breonna Taylor, the Louisville resident who was accidentally shot and killed by officers executing a search warrant at her apartment, DOJ announced it will conduct a “pattern-or-practice” investigation to determine whether Louisville P.D. uses “unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful expressive activities,” performs “unconstitutional stops, searches, and seizures,” or “unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes.”

4/26/21  George Gascon, L.A.’s new, progressively-minded D.A., halved the size of his agency’s “hardcore gang” prosecutive team. Renamed the “Community Violence Reduction Division,” it will continue to deal with “the most prolific violent offenders.” But instead of following a “purely prosecutorial model,” its arsenal of tools will now include “prevention, intervention and community involvement efforts.” Prosecutors are objecting, and police are so far keeping mum.

3/14/21  A Jefferson County (Louisville) judge permanently barred the prosecution of Kenneth Walker for firing the round that struck Sgt. Mattingly. Walker, who legally possessed the weapon, insists that he did not know the intruders were police. “I am a legal gun owner and I would never knowingly shoot a police officer. Breonna and I did not know who was banging at the door, but police know what they did." Walker has filed a lawsuit against Louisville alleging “assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and negligence.”

3/12/21  Louisville settled the lawsuit filed by Breonna Taylor’s family for $12 million. It also pledged to make substantial changes in police practices and improve the quality of its force. To help accomplish the latter it is increasing rookie pay by 29 percent. That would raise it to $45,000, which is still relatively low. Former cop Brett Hankison, the only Louisville officer facing charges (three counts of wanton endangerment), had been suspended by a prior agency. Hankison went on to accumulate a serious number of demerits in Louisville, where he gained a reputation for being aggressive.

3/10/21  An online poll of 1,165 American voters disclosed “a stark divide” between Black and White opinions on race and policing. While a decided majority of Blacks (64 percent) felt that police had murdered George Floyd, only 28 percent of Whites agreed. “Fully funding” police was endorsed by 65 percent of Whites and 37 percent of Blacks. Similar Democratic/Republican splits were also evident.

2/24/21  Acting on complaints that the city’s police officers disproportionately stop Black motorists and pedestrians, the Berkeley (CA) City Council unanimously approved a measure that prohibits officers from making stops for minor infractions such as expired tags. “Transformative” changes, including slicing the police budget in half and tuning over traffic enforcement to civilians, are planned by summer. According to the police union president, officers will become “filing clerks.”

1/6/21  Louisville PD fired Detectives Cosgrove and Gentry. Sgt. Mattingly was exonerated for use-of-force violations, and three other officers connected with the case received reprimands or one-day suspensions. In a decision that has sparked controversy, Louisville selected Erika Shields as its new permanent chief. Ms. Shields resigned as Atlanta police chief after the shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

12/30/20  Louisville police chief Yvette Gentry has moved to fire Detective Cosgrove. According to ballistics, his bullet also proved fatal to Ms. Taylor. In addition, Chief Gentry is firing Detective Joshua Jaynes, who obtained the search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s residence. His affidavit stated that he was told by a postal inspector that Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, was currently receiving packages at her residence. Instead, that information allegedly came through other officers. (Click here, here and here for images of the termination letter, and here for the images’ source.)

11/26/20  Breonna Taylor’s death is leading to a tightening of no-knock policies elsewhere. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, new rules require that officers yell “police” and “search warrant” even when “no-knock” has been authorized. To go further requires approval of the police chief and an extreme situation, such as the rescue of a hostage.

10/28/20  Bodycam video reveals that the Waukegan (IL) officer who initially encountered Tafara Williams and Marcellis Stinnette in a parked vehicle recognized Mr. Stinnette and knew that he had a warrant (click here for the clip.) But when he tried to arrest Mr. Stinnette, Ms. Williams abruptly took off at a high rate of speed. Another officer pursued the car until it ran off the road. That officer did not immediately turn on his bodycam, so his claim that Ms. Williams backed her car at him can’t be visually confirmed. But he accused her of doing that moments after he shot the couple (click here for the clip.)

Under the authority of Presidential Executive Order 13929 (6/16/20) DOJ issued regulations today requiring that within ninety days all law enforcement agencies in the U.S. be certified by an authorized credentialing agency that their use of force policies (a) comply with all laws, and (b) prohibit chokeholds except when the use of deadly force is legal. These assessments should also include reviews of policies and procedures, including use of force training, de-escalation, duty to intervene when officers are acting improperly, shooting at moving vehicles, and recruitment and promotion.

10/23/20  Midnight Tuesday a Waukegan (IL) officer responded to a call about a suspicious parked vehicle. But the car, which was occupied by a man and a woman, drove away. Another officer found the vehicle parked nearby and approached on foot. That’s when its driver, Tafara Williams, 20, started backing up the car. Fearing he would be run over, the officer opened fire, badly wounding Ms. Williams and killing her passenger, Marcellis Stinnette, 19. Ms. Williams denied she was trying to hurt the officer. This shooting led to demonstrations and a comparison to other recent lethal police-citizen encounters. A criminal history check revealed that a defendant whose name and age matched Mr. Stinnette had a considerable record in Waukegan, including stolen vehicle and burglary. Click here for a case printout.

10/21/20  In his first media interview, Sgt. John Mattingly addressed Breonna Taylor’s mother: “There's no way I could ever tell you enough how much I wish that hadn't taken place.” And although Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend said he fired at the ground as a scare tactic, Mattingly said he “pushed out with two hands looking straight at me...Our postures were the same, looking at each other, when he fired that shot.” Sgt. Mattingly said that a quick, surprise entry might have avoided the bloodshed.

In a joint announcement with Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo DOJ unveiled a “National Response Center Initiative” intended to help Minneapolis and police across the U.S. “adapt to the wide range of challenges” posed by gangs, drugs and social problems such as homelessness and “enhance and reform policies and practices to prevent the use of excessive force.”



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Posted 9/21/20

EXPLAINING…OR IGNORING?

In a badly fractured land, the ambush of two deputies
unleashes a raft of excuses. And, as usual, no solutions.

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel.  Economically, Compton is in a lousy place. Nestled in a chronically poor area of Los Angeles, the incorporated community of about 95,000 suffers from a 21.9 percent poverty rate, about twice the national figure. As one might expect, Compton’s reputation crime-wise is also lousy. Its 2018 toll of 1,174 violent crimes and 22 murders yields rates of 1,200.7 and 22.5 per 100,000 pop., far higher than comparable figures for Los Angeles (747.6 and 6.4) and the U.S. overall (368.9 and 5.0).

     Compton’s travails are long-standing. So when killings and such happen, it’s mostly families, friends and sheriff’s deputies  who take notice (the city gave up its police department two decades ago). But when a still-unknown assailant snuck up on two deputies sitting in their patrol car, pulled a pistol and opened fire, the world paid attention. That attack, which took place on September 12, caused serious but thankfully non-fatal injuries and both officers are recovering (see 8/11/21 update).

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     Let’s place this event in context. LEOKA, the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted database, presently categorizes some assaults on officers as “unprovoked,” meaning they did nothing to prompt an armed exchange. Assaults on officers that involve “entrapment and premeditation” are coded as an “ambush.” This table sets out each category’s contribution to the felonious murder of law enforcement officers between 2007-2020 (this year’s data is thru 9/11):


We pored through the LEOKA for equivalent information about firearm assaults on officers, regardless of whether an injury occurred. Best we could do is this table, which breaks out gun “ambushes” since 2014 (we believe that in this dataset “ambush” includes unprovoked attacks):


     Bottom line: about five officers are assaulted with firearms in the U.S. each day. That’s a lot. While “only” four percent – about two per week – are attacked without warning, the threat of being surprised by a murderous gunslinger is real. That vulnerability led the FBI to warn that ambushes and unprovoked attacks had gone up about twenty percent during the course of a decade and urged that police adjust their protocols accordingly.

     Of course, in this gun-besotted, violence-ridden land officers well know they could face gunfire during most any encounter. Here are four examples of ambushes and unprovoked attacks from past posts in our Gun Control section:

    April 2009: A mentally disturbed twenty-two year old would-be “White supremacist” gunned down Philadelphia police officers Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul J. Sciullo and wounded two others. Police responded after his worried mother called 9-1-1 to complain about her son’s erratic behavior.

    October 2016: Palm Springs police officers Lesley Zerebny and Jose “Gil” Vega were shot and killed by a rifle-wielding twenty-six year old as they stood outside a home to which they were dispatched on a “simple family disturbance.”

    August 2019: California Highway Patrol officer Andre Moye was shot and killed while “filling out paperwork” to impound a traffic violator’s car. His murderer was slain during a wild, protracted shootout with responding officers.

    November 2016: Des Moines police Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale, Iowa officer Justin Martin were murdered by the same killer in ambushes a half-hour apart. Both were found behind the wheel of their cars, still strapped to their seats. Unlike the above examples, neither had been on a call. Their middle-aged assailant, a “loner” with a history of troubled behavior, ultimately surrendered.

     What distinguishes these attacks from the wounding of the L.A. County deputies? In part, their media coverage. The Los Angeles Times posted an initial account shortly after the ambush, then updated it after a news conference held the following morning. Its story mentioned that one of the deputies was thirty-one and was the mother of a six-year old, and that both she and her partner, a male in his early twenties, went through the academy together and had only been on the job slightly more than one year.  Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer were both quoted as calling the attack “cowardly.” Here’s what L.A.P.D. Chief Michel Moore had to say:

    Tonight we pray for these two guardians to survive. I recognize and acknowledge we live in troubled times. But we must as a community work thru our differences while loudly and resoundly condemn violence. Blessed are the Peacemakers.

     Compton was going through a particularly troubled time. Less than two weeks had passed since deputies had shot and killed Dijon Kizzee. An ex-con with convictions for illegally possessing guns, Mr. Kizzee was reportedly riding a bike on the wrong side of the street and fled on foot when deputies tried to stop him. When they closed in he allegedly punched one in the face, and as they scuffled supposedly dropped the handgun he was carrying. Deputies said they fired when he picked it up.

     Mr. Kizzee’s killing ignited raucous protests, which led to their own arrests. Police-citizen tensions were already at a high pitch, inflamed by the recent killing of a Latino youth, shot dead by deputies who said he was armed, and by deputies’ rough treatment of a suspected looter, an event that a bystander  captured on video. As one might expect, this context affected reporting. Only two days after the ambush an L.A. Times article featured an interview with a “long-time South L.A. activist” who questioned “why such swift calls for justice don’t come when it is the police who cause the injuries.” His comments were followed by a recap of recent alleged abuses, most notably the killing of Mr. Kizzee, and an interview with an academic psychiatrist who insisted that the link some made between “anti-police messaging” and the ambush (e.g., L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s “words have consequences”) was nothing more than “confirmation bias,” the tendency for people to believe what supports their pre-existing views:

    That’s a really, really important thing to point out, because you absolutely will get people who will spin this into meaning that these protests are causing problems.

     Well, we certainly don’t want to fall into that trap. After all, we could get ambushed by, say, Erika Smith! In an extended “opinion” piece published three days after the attack, Ms. Smith, a key member of the Times editorial staff, scorned L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s concern that excessive public criticism of the police may have played a role. Here is what Ms. Barger had said:

    I support peaceful protests. But what I don’t support are the type of comments, especially the ones made outside a hospital, blocking an emergency room, where two deputies were fighting for their lives, and you had individuals chanting what they were chanting. So I believe that we have slowly crossed that line. And what you’ve seen is what has manifested in the shooting of those two deputies. I do believe that.

Indeed, ABC News and other reputable sources had reported that protesters who marched for Mr. Kizzee gathered outside the hospital where the deputies were being treated and chanted “death to the police” and “kill the police.” While Ms. Smith agreed that this wasn’t a good idea and called the deputies’ wounding “a cruel and callous crime,” she vigorously objected to the “insinuation” that the attack was caused by anti-cop activism. Supporting “the broader movement for racial justice and police reform,” Ms. Smith then launched into a critique of local policing, from the shooting of Mr. Kizzee to the deputy cliques  we wrote about in “Two Sides of the Same Coin.”

     So what “causes” ambushes? Looking on prior examples, Richard Poplawski, the 22-year old white supremacist who murdered the Philadelphia police officers, was a deeply disturbed youth obsessed with guns and violence. John Felix, 26, who killed the Palm Springs officers, was a volatile, deeply troubled former gang member and had served prison time for armed assault. Aaron Luther, the middle-aged man who killed the CHP officer, was an ex-con with a history of violence. And Scott Green, the middle-aged man who killed the Iowa officers, was an emotionally disturbed spouse abuser “whose life was unraveling.” Still, none of these killings served an even remotely “functional” purpose. Our best guess is that they may have reflected a compulsion to assert oneself in the face of societal rejection. But we’re not psychologists.

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     While there was plenty of speculation about their “cause,” no one connected any of those murders to a greater social movement. No one suggested that officers were in effect bringing on their own demise. But times have changed. As the academic who shook off the connection between protests and the ambush well knew, “confirmation bias” can cut both ways. Maybe anti-police sentiment didn’t embolden the ambusher. Maybe it did. Perhaps he had been acquainted with Mr. Kizzee or another alleged victim of police brutality. Maybe he had himself been brutalized.

     Of course, we know nothing about the triggerman. But once we do, where would probing his reasons  take us? Even if we somehow divine the causes of the deputies’ ambush, Compton will remain saddled with the baggage that led City-data.com to place it among the most crime-ridden four percent of U.S. cities. That’s really, really lousy company. To climb out of that hole would take a lot more than protesting police mistreatment. It would call for a frontal assault on poverty and the socioeconomic deforestation that poverty invariably produces. That would require the massive infusion of social and financial capital (“Marshall Plan”) that we ceaselessly harp about in our “Neighborhoods” posts. Want to get started? Click on “But is it Really Satan?” Go to the Bogalusa Daily News and read what Washington Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff Randy Seal had to say.

     Then, get busy!

UPDATES (scroll)

6/5/23  Nevada-based Polymer80 is paying Los Angeles $5 million to settle a lawsuit that it sold unserialized parts kits from which guns could be assembled (i.e., “ghost guns”) without running criminal records checks. “More than seven-hundred” such guns were recovered by LAPD that year. Filed in 2020, the lawsuit actually predates an August, 2022 Federal rule that defines such kits such as “firearms”.  And ATF and San Diego police just announced the arrest of 29 persons for illegally assembling, making and possessing eighty-two “ghost guns”.

8/11/21  Deonte Lee Murray was arrested for the ambush shooting of L.A. Sheriff’s deputies Claudia Apolinar and Emmanuel Perez-Perez as they sat in their patrol car on Sept. 12, 2020. Murray used a “ghost” pistol, which was later recovered. Neither deputy has been able to return to duty. They have sued Polymer80, the maker of the gun kit, as it must have known that offering unserialized, untraceable guns enables felons such as Murray, who is prohibited from having guns, to acquire and misuse them.

7/8/21  In Chicago, five law enforcement officers were shot between Monday and Wednesday, none fatally. The toll includes a police sergeant and a police commander who were helping to break up a crowd, and a plainclothes officer and two ATF agents riding in an unmarked car. A “person of interest” was detained after the latter incident (update on arrest). According to Police Superintendent David Brown, “36 officers have been shot or shot at in Chicago this year.”

10/21/20  Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton, an incorporated community in South Los Angeles, points to her own mistreatment by deputies as she calls for reforms in how they patrol the poor, violence-stricken area. While some long-time residents praise the Sheriff’s Department for improving safety, a spate of shootings by deputies and the presence of lawless deputy cliques has marred the agcncy’s reputation.



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Posted 8/3/20

SHOULD POLICE TREAT THE WHOLE PATIENT?

Officers deal with the symptoms of social decay.
Can they go further? Should they?

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. “A boy walks to a corner store and is shot in the chest.” One can’t conceive of a more devastating headline. Shot dead in an alley, Otis Williams was only fourteen. Many victims of America’s urban violence are kids. They’re also disproportionately Black and, just like Otis, reside in poor areas long beset by crime and violence.

     Otis lived with his mother in Florence, a South Los Angeles neighborhood whose troubles we’ve repeatedly written about. When Los Angeles brags about its crime rate it doesn’t mention Florence. As we mentioned in “Repeat After Us,” aggregate statistics obscure disparities in violence within cities, such as Los Angeles and New York City, that enjoy large pockets of wealth and seem prosperous and safe “overall.” But the recent upswing in violence has drawn notice to both. Los Angeles’ 157 murders through July 18 mark a 13.8 percent increase over the 138 homicides it recorded during the equivalent period last year. Ditto New York City, whose count thru July 19, 212, reflects a 24 percent year-to-date jump. So there’s a lot less to brag about.

     While regrettable, L.A.’s and New York City’s numbers hardly compare to what’s befallen chronically violent places such as Chicago. As of July 19 the Windy City recorded an appalling 414 homicides. That’s fifty percent more than the relatively “measly” 275 murders it endured during the equivalent period last year. To compare, in 2019 New York City had about twice Chicago’s population but suffered about half as many homicides. Chicago also had thirty percent more murders than L.A., a city nearly half again its size in population.

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     We’ve become so inured to the mayhem that it might be useful to look beyond the U.S. In 2019 (the full year) 650 persons were murdered in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.) Its combined population of about 66,650,000 produced a homicide rate of 0.97 per/100,000, less than half New York City’s and a mere sliver of Chicago’s (look at the below graph. The UK’s bar would hardly show.) If that’s not shocking enough, “A Lost Cause” compared U.S. and U.K. police officer deaths during 2000-2015. While the U.S. has about five times the U.K.’s population, forty times as many U.S. law enforcement officers were feloniously killed. (Not-so-incidentally, the disproportion may have something to do with the means. In the U.K., knives and such were used in fourteen of the 21 officer murders, while in the U.S., guns figured in all but seventy of the 831 killings.)

     A new Federal initiative, “Operation Legend,” intends to deal with the slaughter. Named after LeGend Taliferro, a four-year old Kansas City boy who was shot and killed several weeks ago, the program commits Federal funds and law enforcement personnel from the FBI, Marshals Service, DEA and ATF to help Chicago Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City (Mo.) and Milwaukee battle gun and drug violence. This graph, which compares the homicide rates of “Operation Legend” cities during equivalent periods in 2019 and 2020, confirms that each could use some quality help. (L.A. and NYC are shown for comparison. Gathering the data was a bit tricky, but our numbers should be pretty accurate.)

     Who outside Albuquerque would have thought that it had a murder problem? Its mayor, the Hon. Tim Keller, bemoaned his city’s descent into crime and asked for State help last year. And with 37 homicides so far in 2020 (there were 33 during this period in 2019) the not-so-placid burg of 560,513 has been backsliding. Ditto Milwaukee, which suffered 63 murders through June compared with 51 in 2019. As for the others, their numbers are even more appalling. Cleveland had 60 killings thru July 7, 2019; this year the toll was 89. Detroit recorded 129 murders through June 18 compared with 99 last year. Kansas City went from 79 murders during the first half of 2019 to 107 so far this year.

     We mentioned that aggregate statistics can conceal disparities within communities. That’s why posts in our “Neighborhoods” special section often rely on neighborhood crime rates. We recently placed that magnifying glass on Portland and Minneapolis. As for Operation Legend cities, “Mission: Impossible?” looked within Chicago. So this time we picked on…Albuquerque! KOB Channel 4’s homicide map showed 37 murders in 2020 thru July 30. They took place in nine of the city’s seventeen regular Zip codes. Their population numbers and income figures were collected from United States Zip Codes.org. As expected, the economics of the murder v. no-murder ZIP’s proved starkly different. Mean MHI (median household income) for the nine ZIP’s with at least one murder (actual range was two to seven) was $39,969. Mean MHI for the eight murder-free ZIP’s was $62,668. Those means are clearly different and, statistically speaking, significantly so (p=.015). And check out that graph (“scattergram”). Note how the Zip codes (red dots) distribute along the income and murder rate/100,000 axes. Bottom line: more money: less murder! (That asterisk on the r correlation statistic - it maxes out at 1.0 - means that the association between income and homicide rate is statistically significant. It’s also “negative,” meaning that as one goes up the other goes down.)

     OK, point made. We’ve confirmed what social scientists have known for decades: poverty and crime go together like…well, you know. So back to “Operation Legend.” Feds have sponsored joint task forces for decades. According to DOJ, agents will apply Federal laws and resources to help local police address “offenses involving firearms and violent drug trafficking organizations.” It’s intended to assure that serious criminals who might otherwise escape justice get their day in court. Your blogger participated in similar task forces during his Federal career and his presence generated no controversy. But in this hyper-partisan era, with the brouhaha in Portland framing the moment, it was perhaps inevitable that “Legend” would be disparaged as yet another effort to distract attention from the hardships that have long beset America’s citizens of color. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who invited the Feds in, found it necessary to clarify that the outsiders wouldn’t be wearing fatigues or chase after rock-throwers:

    These are not troops. Troops are people who come from the military. That’s not what’s coming to Chicago. I’ve drawn a very firm line against that.

     Mayor Lightfoot isn’t simply waiting for “Legend.” Chicago’s explosive murder rate has led its new police chief, David Brown, to form “Community Safety Teams.” Modeled on the well-known “Hot Spots” approach, their officers will focus on the neighborhoods beset by violence, mostly in the city’s South and West. Agencies throughout the U.S. have used hot-spots, and often with supposedly good results. A recent academic finding that hot spots “is an effective crime prevention strategy” has even led NIJ to bestow its seal of approval. But sending in the cops can be tricky. “A Recipe for Disaster” and other posts in our “Stop-and-frisk” special section have cautioned that the bucketfuls of stops produced by get-tough campaigns inevitably generate “false positives,” and as these accumulate they can severely irritate the inhabitants of neighborhoods police are ostensibly trying to serve. Carelessness, pressures to produce “numbers” and out-and-out lying by cops striving to look good made things even worse. Blow-back from residents and civil libertarians had led Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles to shut down hot-spots programs. Now that unbearable violence is back, each city has dug out that bad old approach, renamed it (“Operation Legend”) and dressed it up in new finery. And so the cycle begins anew.

     Alas, even the most skillfully applied enforcement strategies can’t remedy the root causes of the crime and disorder that bedevil low-income neighborhoods. Getting there would require a skillful and exceedingly well-funded application of “social disorganization” theory. But there seems to be little interest in either Red or Blue political quarters for that “Marshall Plan” we’ve hollered about. Not that there haven’t been some promising moves. “Place Matters” mentioned Birmingham’s (Ala.) comprehensive program. One of its components, the “Promise Initiative,” provides apprenticeships to high-school juniors and seniors and offers tuition help to those bound for college.

     So wait a minute. Is there a role for police here, as well? Can cops help impoverished societies transform? LAPD says yes! Its decade-old “Community Safety Partnership” program (CSP) has placed teams of mostly minority officers in seven of the city’s low-income housing projects. CSP officers work in uniform but don’t typically conduct criminal investigations or make arrests. They interact with residents, participate in group activities, enable the “safe passage” of youths to and from school, and provide one-on-one counseling and referrals. An external evaluation by a UCLA researcher, CSP locations enjoy less crime. As one might expect, the constant presence of police “disrupts” gangs and enhances the ability of residents “to gather and enjoy public spaces, facilities, and programs.” However, another favorable but less glowing review cautioned that despite CSP, “residents generally do not trust the police and expressed concerns about mistreatment, including a lack of anonymity when reporting crimes.”

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    Seizing the moment, LAPD just transformed CSP into its own Bureau under the leadership of a Deputy Chief. But not everyone’s happy. Indeed, the notion that police should increase their sphere of influence has badly divided the Blues. Connie Rice, the well-known Black civil-rights lawyer who helped found CSP,  praised its expansion: “warrior enforcement culture needs to be replaced with this kind of guardian-style approach that rewards problem-solving engagement between officers and the communities they protect.” Her pointedly guarded language didn’t do the trick. No sale, said Paula Minor of “Black Lives Matter L.A.”: “This [CSP] is not a program that needs to be operated by armed, sworn police officers.” Her views were seconded by Hamid Khan. A well-regarded activist who leads the “Stop LAPD Spying Coalition,” he argued that funds should be redirected from the police to community programs such as youth development.

     It’s already happened. On July 1st. the L.A. City Council stripped $150 million from LAPD’s billion-plus budget, sharply cutting overtime and ultimately reducing officer staffing by 231 positions. These funds are now destined for minority communities; one proposed use is a youth summer jobs program. LAPD managers are caught square in the horns of a dilemma. Violence is up, and officers must continue to face the task of cleaning up the “symptoms” of the social disorganization that characterizes low-income neighborhoods. If attempts such as CSP to treat “the whole patient” are to expand, cops must come from somewhere. So far, CSP’s been funded by outside donors. Will that continue? And if so, would those who feel the cure (policing) is worse than the disease (violent crime) tolerate an increased police presence?

     That ending’s still being written.

UPDATES (scroll)

9/11/23  In response to gun violence, including the fatal shootings of children, New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham imposed an “emergency public health measure” that suspends the right of citizens to carry guns in public in Albuquerque and surrounding areas for thirty days. Offenders would be subject to civil fines up to $5,000. Monthly inspections of gun dealers were also ordered. But the capital city’s mayor, D.A. and police chief announced they would not enforce the ban, and a gun rights group is suing.

3/14/23  “Rampant” drug use and disorder in and around L.A.’s Metro subway system have driven many riders away. Fentanyl has become an overwhelming problem, and persons under its influence are everywhere. Overdoses - and deaths - are commonplace. “Sleepers” who take up seats also abound. But while police assigned to the trains have arrested dozens for drug use and possession, in the burdened justice system, criminal filings are exceedingly rare. But alternatives to policing have also proven futile.

9/16/22  Seven years ago DOJ placed Albuquerque police under Federal monitoring for a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force, including deadly force, on persons who “pose a minimal threat” and on the mentally ill. DOJ has now determined that significant improvements in recruitment, training and supervision allow the agency to self-monitor compliance for the remaining period of the consent decree.

9/10/22  LAPD gang unit officers took a teen to the ground as he used a cellphone to record the detention of two companions at a city park. Robert Cortez, 19, said he was there to help stage an event, and that neither he nor his friends did anything wrong. Police reported that they were going after guns and that Cortez was arrested because he, unlike the others, forcefully resisted. No guns were found, and the city attorney reportedly rejected filing charges. Videos of the encounter have gone viral.

8/8/22  Albuquerque has a severe homicide problem. And its Muslim community may be facing a special  threat. During the last nine months four Muslim men have been gunned down in ambushes. Two of the victims were Pakistanis and belonged to the same mosque. Police think the murders are linked hate crimes. Although they don’t yet have a suspect, a photo of a “vehicle of interest” has been released.

9/4/21  A Black couple arrested by Beverly Hills police last September for riding scooters on a sidewalk and resisting arrest is suing the city for engaging in a racially-motivated campaign. According to BHPD “street gambling, public intoxication, marijuana smoking and more” led it to create a specialized team. Its officers recovered many guns. Most of the arrestees were (like the couple) from other states and many allegedly had fraudulent debit cards loaded with state unemployment funds. Whether all of those arrested were indeed minorities (the couple claims 105 of 106 were Black) is yet to be confirmed.

7/28/21  William Briggs is a lawyer. And a Black man. And the new President of the Los Angeles City Police Commission. And despite criticism from activists, he opposes “defunding” the police. “Our communities of color that are most impacted by crime, many of which have seen the homicide rate rise above 30% this year, cannot afford to go without law enforcement.” He does want to see more “beat” cops - officers who work the same neighborhoods over time and get to know its inhabitants.

5/25/21  In 2020 murders in L.A. surged 36 percent, reaching a decade-high 305. Police Chief Michel Moore attributes the spike to gang violence, the “despair and dislocation” of COVID, and the elimination of cash bail, which quickly put violent persons back on the streets: “When those gun arrests are not going to court...zero bail, court trials being deferred...there’s a sense [of] a lack of consequences.” Defunding the police has been replaced by a drive to replenish the ranks. Stop-and-frisk, once abandoned, is back in South L.A., where an elite unit is waging a targeted campaign.

5/21/21  After taking a $150 million hit last year, LAPD’s funding was increased by three percent. With many more officers leaving than expected, its force has shrunk to 9,457, three-hundred below what city fathers intended. A surge in murder and violence, though, has worked against activist demands that large chunks of the police budget be redirected to alternatives to policing and social services. Meanwhile, cops in Chicago, facing a surge in violence and shootings, exhausted by twelve-hour shifts and angry at the elimination of specialized units and demands for intrusive reforms, voted a resounding “no confidence” in their mayor and police chief.

4/26/21  George Gascon, L.A.’s new, progressively-minded D.A., halved the size of his agency’s “hardcore gang” prosecutive team. Renamed the “Community Violence Reduction Division,” it will continue to deal with “the most prolific violent offenders.” But instead of following a “purely prosecutorial model,” its arsenal of tools will now include “prevention, intervention and community involvement efforts.” Prosecutors are objecting, and police are so far keeping mum.

2/24/21  Acting on complaints that the city’s police officers disproportionately stop Black motorists and pedestrians, the Berkeley (CA) City Council unanimously approved a measure that prohibits officers from making stops for minor infractions such as expired tags. “Transformative” changes, including slicing the police budget in half and tuning over traffic enforcement to civilians, are planned by summer. According to the police union president, officers will become “filing clerks.”

2/13/21  A surge in shootings and murders has led LAPD to redeploy uniformed “Metro” teams to conduct investigative stops in affected areas. According to Chief Michel Moore, officers are “held to a high standard” and only act when there is “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause.” So far officers have made 74 stops, arrested fifty and seized 38 guns.  But libertarians worry that abuses are inevitable.

11/14/20  Young non-violent arrestees who reside In Chicago’s poor, violence-stricken North Lawndale neighborhood can opt out of the criminal justice system and be processed, instead, by a “restorative justice” court comprised of area residents. “Repair of harm agreements” include assignment to job training, drug treatment and counseling. Since 2017, none of the 63 who successfully completed the full program have been rearrested.

11/8/20  LAPD will implement its $150 million budget cut by reducing its sworn force from 10,110 positions to 9,752 and shifting 234 officers from specialized units into patrol. Reductions will hit the Metropolitan division, other detective units and the air wing. In line with the agency’s reformist orientation, its newly-established “Community Safety Partnership” will not be affected. Concerns about violence remain, with murders up 25 percent and set to exceed 300 for the first time since 2009.

10/21/20  In a joint announcement with Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo DOJ unveiled a “National Response Center Initiative” intended to help Minneapolis and police across the U.S. “adapt to the wide range of challenges” posed by gangs, drugs and social problems such as homelessness and “enhance and reform policies and practices to prevent the use of excessive force.”

9/22/20  In a sharply worded memorandum, the Department of Justice threatened to withhold funds from New York City and Portland, which severely cut their police budgets despite sharp increases in violence, and Seattle, which established a month-long police-free “safe zone.” Each city was also criticized for rejecting assistance from Federal law enforcement agencies.

9/4/20  Cleveland police detective James Skernivitz, a 22-year veteran, was shot and killed while working with an Operation Legend task force. He was in a vehicle with an drug informant, who was also killed. Three suspects were detained.

8/19/20  A.G. William Barr cited examples of casework in eight Operation Legend cities. So far most of the Federal arrests are for felons illegally acquiring or possessing firearms, and for the possession or usie of firearms in furtherance of a Federal drug offense or crime of violence.

8/14/20  Indianapolis, where homicide has reportedly increased by 51 percent, joined DOJ’s “Operation Legend.” The roster now includes Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Memphis, Milwaukee and St. Louis. Operation Legend commits the ATF, FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service “to help state and local officials fight high levels of violent crime, particularly gun violence.”

8/13/20  A 22-year old man who allegedly harbored a grudge against the family of LeGend Tallifero and had made recent threats was arrested in the child’s killing. He faces murder and weapons charges.

8/12/20  Twenty major cities report a surge in homicides. Kansas City has been especially hard hit. Many of its killings are unexplainable. Some result from “random, angry” conflicts between citizens who aren’t believed to be currently involved in crime but may be struggling to accept the lockdowns.

8/6/20  DOJ announced that Memphis and St. Louis are joining Operation Legend. Among other grants, Memphis is getting $9.8 million to hire 50 officers, and $1 million is going to St. Louis to help with investigations and gunfire alert (“shot spotter”) technology.

8/5/20  Chicago police are quickly turning over felons caught with guns to ATF agents brought in under “Operation Legend.” Federal penalties feature longer terms, and release requires that at least 85 percent of a term be served, avoiding what some consider the state’s “revolving door.”



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Of Hot-Spots and Band-Aids



Posted 4/21/20

CAN THE URBAN SHIP BE STEERED?

Seasoned police leadership. Yet the violence continues.

     For Police Issues by Julius (Jay) Wachtel. One can empathize with Charlie Beck. On February 10, only two weeks after announcing a comprehensive reorganization of the perennially troubled agency, Chicago’s interim top cop faced two epidemics. Only one was new: coronavirus (the city’s first case was confirmed two weeks earlier). As for the other, it was really more of the same. According to the Sun-Times, the homicide-beset city had just experienced its “deadliest February weekend in 18 years,” with nine shot dead and fourteen wounded in less than two days.

     As one might expect, Mayor Lori Lightfoot wasn’t pleased. So Chief Beck devised an “intermediate strategy” to promptly “put more resources into the areas most affected.” In other words, more cops patrolling Chicago’s violence-prone inner-city neighborhoods. That, one supposes, is how police responded after that other weekend, August 2-4, 2019, when seven died and fifty-two were wounded in a staggering thirty-two separate shootings.

     Chief Beck can’t be blamed for those. That burden falls on the shoulders of then-chief Garry McCarthy. After rising through NYPD’s ranks, then spending five years as Newark’s chief, McCarthy became Chicago’s top cop in 2011. That’s the good news. The bad is that he was in charge on October 20, 2014. That’s the fateful day when officer Jason Van Dyke barged in on a situation that colleagues seemed to have under control and inexplicably shot and killed Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old youth who was reportedly trying to break into parked cars while waving a knife.

Click here for the complete collection of strategy and tactics essays

     McDonald’s killing set off waves of demonstrations. Nothing, though, happened to officer Van Dyke until late 2015, when a dash-cam video that sharply contradicted his and his colleagues’ accounts of the episode was ordered released by a judge. That stunning development led Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who  proudly hired McCarthy, to promptly fire him. It also led to the arrest of officer Van Dyke, who was ultimately convicted convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to nearly seven years imprisonment. And it opened the floodgates to Federal intervention. A damning DOJ report was followed by a consent decree and Federal monitoring, which continues through the present day.

     Former Chief McCarthy missed most of the blowback. That fell, instead, on the shoulders of his replacement, Eddie Johnson, whom Mayor Emanuel appointed in March 2016. A veteran Chicago cop who grew up in Cabrini-Green, widely considered the city’s “most notorious public housing project,” Johnson was considered to be someone who would be respected by cops and citizens alike.


     Chief Johnson knew he had a mountain to climb. His beloved city had reported 478 homicides in 2015. Although its murder rate of 17.5 per 100,000 pop. was far better than Baltimore’s abysmal 55.4 and Detroit’s merely awful 43.8, it was nonetheless more than twice L.A.’s (7.0) and five times the Big Apple’s (3.4). And during the new chief’s first year, things turned worse. Chicago closed out 2016 with an appalling 765 murders (rate 28.1), a one-year leap of sixty percent. (Dallas, a distant runner-up, went from 136 to 171 murders, a 26 percent increase.)

     Why the surge? Some observers attributed it to an officer “slowdown” supposedly spurred by the intense public criticism that followed McDonald’s killing. Thankfully, murder soon began a gratifying descent. By 2019 killings had receded to 492, a four-year plunge of thirty-six percent. Yet in both raw numbers and rate (18.2) Chicago’s homicide problem remained worse than in 2015. Bottom line: however “new and improved,” the Windy City remained much more a “killing field” than either Los Angeles (253 murders in 2019, rate 6.3) or New York City (318 murders, rate 3.8).

     Yes, killing field. Here’s a news update we posted on August 8, 2019:

    Seven dead and fifty-two wounded, including seventeen shot in a two-hour period. That was the toll last weekend in Chicago’s infamous West Side, a gang-ridden area “devastated by drugs and violence.”

Chief Johnson was still in charge. Should we blame him? Well, no. As we’ve repeatedly emphasized (see, for example, “Place Matters,” “Repeat After Us” and “Location, Location, Location”) crime’s roots lie in poverty and the social disorganization that accompanies poverty, factors that are ultimately beyond the power of law enforcers to fix. To be sure, passive policing can encourage hooliganism, and forceful responses such as stop-and-frisk might for a time reduce violence. But the imprecision that inevitably accompanies aggressive crime-fighting measures often backfires. Just ask NYPD and LAPD.

     Mayor Lightfoot seems to be of like mind. Poverty was her focus some weeks ago, on February 14, when in a near-40 minute address she beseeched a “standing-room only crowd” at the City Club to help turn their community around. “Poverty is killing us,” she implored. “Literally and figuratively killing us. All of us.” While “epidemic” gun violence was mentioned, her highly detailed prescriptions focused on economic conditions. There were only a few substantive recommendations as to crime and justice, and all but one were economically centered. She touted an ongoing program to forgive unpaid fines and parking tickets so that poor persons didn’t needlessly lose their driver licenses. To help the formerly incarcerated find housing she suggested prohibiting landlords from running criminal checks on potential tenants until after they were otherwise approved. She also called for increased opportunities for the poor to land jobs in emergency services:

    When a graduate of one of our police or fire academies walks across the stage they are walking into a middle-class life. That life and all the benefits of middle-class life that those jobs bring must be open to all of us.

And in a passing mention of the opioid crisis, Mayor Lightfoot defined it as primarily a public health issue, not a law enforcement problem.

     In truth, the mayor was likely reluctant to revisit the chronically fraught area of policing. For one thing, only three days had passed since she upbraided Charlie Beck and his staff over that “deadliest February weekend” mentioned above. As for Chief Johnson, she had fired him a couple months earlier for lying about an October 2019 incident in which he apparently fell asleep, while drunk, at the wheel of his car.

     Two months later there was another kid on the block. On April 15 Charlie Beck passed the mantle to Chicago P.D.’s new permanent chief, David Brown. Dallas’ former top cop took the opportunity to praise his predecessor for implementing a massive restructuring that, among other things, supposedly gave patrol commanders additional resources: “The policing mind of Charlie Beck is deep, it’s wide and it’s quick, and I will ensure that what he’s begun to set in place, in motion, here in Chicago, flourishes and reaches its full potential.”

     That’s a tall order, and we hope that after thirty-three years as a Dallas cop, six as its chief, he’s the one to fulfill it. Chief Brown is perhaps best known for what Governing called his “masterful handling” of the murder of five Dallas police officers and the wounding of seven on July 7, 2016 by a sniper who was upset over police killings. Yet over the years his reformist zeal and alleged favoritism in promoting friends reportedly caused morale problems. So much so that in September 2015 a host of police groups including the National Black Police Association took the extraordinary step of publicly calling for his ouster. Well, that didn’t happen. But in late 2016, only weeks after his officers were murdered, Chief Brown retired. Why? Maybe it was the lousy morale. Maybe it was the surge in homicide: 2016 ended with 171 murders, a 26 percent increase over the 136 killings in 2015. Indeed, that depressing statistic drew skepticism over his abilities years later, when he applied for the job in Chicago.

     Who took over Dallas P.D. when Chief Brown left? That would be Rene Hall, a veteran Detroit officer. And yes, she still leads the Dallas force. As of late, though, her tenure’s proving a bit rocky. In what seems a re-run of what happened three years earlier, Dallas suffered 200 killings in 2019, twenty-nine percent more than the 155 murders recorded in 2018. Calling the surge “patently unacceptable,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson complained that Chief Hall’s approach, “increasing the number of investigators working for the Dallas Police Department, adding civilian analysts and establishing a 100-member violent crime reduction team” left him dissatisfied.

     Rene, meet David.

     It would be impolite to close without making some observations. Our first relates to Chicago Mayor Lightfoot’s desire to employ minorities in policing. We’re fully onboard with that. But her speech lacked suggestions for improving literacy in low-income areas, an essential element for positions such as with the police, where the ability to express oneself on paper is critical.

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     And we’re skeptical about Dallas Mayor Johnson’s wish for “data-driven solutions for communities disproportionately affected by violent crime.” Actually, that sounds like...Compstat! But as “Driven to Fail” and other posts in our “Quantity and Quality” section have pointed out, policing doesn’t happen on an assembly line. Cops and citizens are imperfect, and the environment of the streets can lead both to act in unpredictable, sometimes unfortunate ways. Using numbers, whether they’re from Compstat or old-fashioned pin maps, will inevitably lead to more police activity in high-crime areas. Mistakes (including “false positives”) will happen. And if there’s a lot of policing, there will be lots of mistakes. Perhaps Mayor Johnson could ask LAPD’s new chief, Michel Moore (he took over after Charlie Beck) about the consequences of his agency’s stop-and-frisk campaign. It was motivated by the best of intentions. But then “stuff” happened.

     So what can Chiefs do? Instead of falling prey to managerial rhetoric, why not transform a naughty obstacle – the imprecision of policing – into a positive? While the media, academics and other “outsiders” obsess over mistakes, officers soldier on, making miracles every day. How do they get unpredictable, occasionally hostile citizens to do the right thing without using force? In “Fair but Firm” we mentioned a way, but your writer is a couple decades removed from fieldwork. So, as he recently suggested to a national police organization (he’s waiting to see if they’ll publish his brilliant essay), why not ask cops about how they succeed? (They did! Click here.)

     Well, that’s enough for now. Stay healthy!

UPDATES (scroll)

6/19/23  In February 2019 Chicago police mistakenly got a no-knock search warrant for the wrong home. And while serving it they handled its sole occupant, social worker Anjanette Young, very roughly. Last year Chicago paid out $2.9 million for the blunder. And on June 15, 2023, by a 5-3 vote, the Chicago Police Board fired the most senior officer on scene, Sgt. Alex Wolinski, for lapses including inattention and maltreatment. A long appeals process now begins to run. (See 12/21/20 update)

4/11/23  In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area a fight during an evening gathering of more than two-hundred youths led to gunfire and the wounding of two, one critically. Police arrested two alleged shooters and seized two handguns. And that’s led Mayor Brandon Scott to declare he will impose a summertime 10 p.m. curfew for persons younger than 17, and a 9 p.m. curfew for those under 14. “I want everyone to hear me and hear me clearly. We are going back to the old days.”

3/20/23  Hordes of rowdy revelers and two shootings, leading to one death, led Miami Beach to declare a nighttime curfew in its trendy South Beach area for the third Spring Break in a row. Mayor Dan Gelber rejects the notion of Spring Break altogether. He doesn’t want a replay of three years ago, when there were about 1,000 arrests and “dozens of guns” were seized. (See 3/29/22 update)

9/16/22  Seven years ago DOJ placed Albuquerque police under Federal monitoring for a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force, including deadly force, on persons who “pose a minimal threat” and on the mentally ill. DOJ has now determined that significant improvements in recruitment, training and supervision allow the agency to self-monitor compliance for the remaining period of the consent decree.

8/10/22  In 2017 Chicago PD entered into DOJ Consent Decree to correct a “pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force.” To that end it established an “Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform (OCPR).” But violence and a shortage of cops have beset the city. That recently led Police Supt. David Brown to request that OCPR send 46 officers back to patrol. But Robert Boik, OCPR’s head, protested it would interfere with his cop-training efforts, including a gender-based violence course. So he was fired.

8/6/22  Beset by objections from the police union, which called it make-believe, and civil libertarians, who worry about its civil rights implications, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot’s plan to sue gang members and seize their assets is going nowhere. Instead of the “Victim’s Justice Ordinance,” one alderman suggested “expanding reach of violence prevention organizations and our summer youth employment program, increasing the number of detectives, and strengthening our area and regional carjacking task forces.”

large gatherings of teens are besetting downtown Chicago. “But when you think of hundreds, if not thousands of teens, as we had on Saturday, no matter how many officers we have down there, the situation is always going to be chaotic,” said the chief of CPD’s patrol division. That “chaos,” which led to the shooting death of a 16-year old, prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to order a 10:00 pm weekend curfew for minors. But that’s led to complaints, and its future is in doubt.

4/19/22  Former Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke was released from prison in February after serving about half his six-year term for the murder of Laquan McDonald. Federal authorities announced they would not file civil rights charges as proof is lacking that Van Dyke purposely sought to deprive Mr. McDonald of his Constitutional rights and didn’t act from “mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment.” Meanwhile the Federal consent decree that was imposed after the killing remains in effect. In the latest report, the monitor says that officer training and the foot chase policy have both improved, but warns that at CPD “quantity” still seems to override “quality” and that true community engagement remains lacking.

4/14/22  In what’s billed as the “first pattern or practice police investigation to be resolved through a settlement under the Biden Administration,” the Springfield, Massachusetts Police Department has entered into a consent decree that requires it to substantially reform use-of-force practices. Among other things, the agency must institute de-escalation training, insure that officers report each use of force and consistently punish violators. A DOJ investigation in 2020 found that officers in the agency’s narcotics bureau routinely “punched, kicked and otherwise used force that agents felt was not needed.”

3/29/22  Prompted by two (fortunately, non-fatal) shootings, Miami Beach invoked a midnight curfew in its South Beach neighborhood as it brimmed with hordes of boozed-up revelers during spring break. It’s the second year in a row for the emergency edict, disappointing visitors and angering the innkeepers for whom the yearly ritual is money in the bank. But Mayor Dan Gelber seems steadfast. “We don’t need an entertainment-only district,” he said. (See 3/20/23 update)

3/8/22  An in-depth look at “once-safe” Seattle reveals that a continuing surge in shootings has left citizens feeling chronically unsafe. After a three-hour stretch during which three persons were killed and five were wounded, Police Chief Adrian Diaz shook his head: “you’re trying to figure out what’s generating that level of violence.” He blamed the city’s lack of support, such as the month-long closure of a precinct besieged by protesters, for a loss of cops. That brought on major drops in stops and severe delays in call response. “When you don’t feel the city has your back, your proactive work goes down.”

1/12/22  An academic study of Seattle PD’s near-month-long withdrawal from the city’s Capitol Hill area during Floyd-inspired protests revealed that “crime significantly increased in the CHOP [Capitol Hill Occupation Protests] zone, the encompassing two-block area, and the overall East precinct service area.” (As reported in the NY Times, a increase in violence forced police to return. See 8/11/20 update.)

11/12/21  Chicago PD’s audit division helps oversee the agency’s compliance with the Federal consent decree. But its civilian commander, Chad Williams, despaired that the agency’s uniformed leaders failed  “to even feign interest in pursuing reform in a meaningful manner.” So he resigned. But despite criticism about foot pursuits, and the killing of Adam Toledo, police leaders insist that they are making progress.

3/26/21  Four Chicago P.D. officers have now been shot in two weeks. On March 25 a shoplifter gravely wounded a security officer outside a store, and during an exchange of gunfire a responding police officer  was wounded. He was treated at a hospital and released. His assailant is dead.

3/21/21  Three Chicago officers have been shot within a week, two more since our last update six days ago. One, seriously wounded in the stomach, was off duty, sitting in his car at a traffic light. Two suspects are being sought. The other officer suffered a hand wound while responding to a call about gunshots. Her assailant was arrested. Chicago’s also beset by carjackings, many by small groups of thugs. There have been 370 so far this year, the most in at least two decades.

3/15/21  On September 14 gunfire broke out at a “pop-up” party in Chicago’s bedraggled South Side. By the time it was done fifteen were wounded and a 30-year old woman and a 39-year old man lay dead. Officers found four pistols and attribute the incident to gangs. Hours later a gunman drove by a police station in the South Side and opened fire, wounding a sergeant who had just stepped outside.

2/3/21  To avoid laying off as many as 355 officers at a time of increasing violence, LAPD’s officer union has agreed - subject to officer approval - to delay a combined 4.5 percent pay raise for two years. A $150 million cut  propelled by the George Floyd riots has already taken effect.

12/21/20  Chicago PD detectives got a warrant to search the residence of a social worker for guns based on an informer’s tip. Anjanette Young was undressed when officers smashed in. They handcuffed her and turned things upside down until a superior realized the mistake. Actually, the suspect, who was wearing an ankle monitor, lived next door and was unconnected with Ms. Young. That error, which was one of a string of similar bloopers, happened in February 2019. And now there’s a lawsuit. (See 6/19/23 update)

11/10/20  LAPD’s union reported that “nearly 9 out of 10” of 2,700 officers who participated in a recent survey didn’t feel supported by Chief Michel Moore and “did not believe he or other commanders provided strong leadership during recent protests and unrest.” Nearly forty percent indicated they were considering resigning. Chief Moore, who reportedly enjoys strong support from the city’s leadership team, acknowledged their views and vowed to do better.

11/8/20  LAPD will implement its $150 million budget cut by reducing its sworn force from 10,110 positions to 9,752 and shifting 234 officers from specialized units into patrol. Reductions will hit the Metropolitan division, other detective units and the air wing. In line with the agency’s reformist orientation, its newly-established “Community Safety Partnership” will not be affected. Concerns about violence remain, with murders up 25 percent and set to exceed 300 for the first time since 2009.

10/23/20  Concerns that she mishandled police deployment and allowed rampant looting and vandalism during anti-police protests led more than 65,000 to sign a petition demanding the firing of Santa Monica (CA) police Chief Cynthia Renaud. So she’s retiring. Her new gig: presidency of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where the police veteran was serving as a vice-president.

10/21/20  In a joint announcement with Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo DOJ unveiled a “National Response Center Initiative” intended to help Minneapolis and police across the U.S. “adapt to the wide range of challenges” posed by gangs, drugs and social problems such as homelessness and “enhance and reform policies and practices to prevent the use of excessive force.”

9/22/20  In a sharply worded memorandum, the Department of Justice threatened to withhold funds from New York City and Portland, which severely cut their police budgets despite sharp increases in violence, and Seattle, which established a month-long police-free “safe zone.” Each city was also criticized for rejecting assistance from Federal law enforcement agencies.

8/12/20  Twenty major cities report a surge in homicides. Kansas City has been especially hard hit. Many of its killings are unexplainable. Some result from “random, angry” conflicts between citizens who aren’t believed to be currently involved in crime but may be struggling to accept the lockdowns.

8/11/20  Seattle police chief Carmen Best “abruptly” announced her retirement. Her decision, she said, was influenced by the City Council’s move, without her input, to promptly cut 100 officers from the agency. Staff salaries are also being slashed, and a fifty-percent reduction in funding is being considered. AG William Barr issued a statement regretting her departure: “In the face of mob violence, she drew the line in the sand and said, "Enough!", working tirelessly to save lives, protect her officers, and restore stability to Seattle.” He was apparently referring to the resumption of policing in the Capitol Hill area, where police coverage was discontinued at the Mayor’s direction until violence forced cops to return.

8/10/20  In Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood officers shot and wounded an armed man whom they say fired at them. That led to an overnight cascade of looting, broken windows, fires and shootings in the city’s downtown. Thirteen officers suffered injuries and more than one-hundred arrests were made. Merchants criticize authorities for lacking “an effective strategy” to counter the repeated unrest.

8/9/20  Twenty were wounded and a 17-year old was killed when disputants opened fire at a large social gathering in Washington D.C.’s poverty-stricken Greenway neighborhood. Among the wounded was an off-duty police officer, who was left in critical condition. As of 8/7 D.C has had 115 homicides, a 17 percent increase from last year, itself reportedly a decade high.

7/28/20  LAPD’s “Community Safety Partnership,” an intensive community-building effort that fields 100 officers in nine inner-city neighborhoods, is being expanded into an agency-wide bureau with its own deputy chief. Its move is being criticized by protest groups as insufficient and fundamentally misdirected:  “This is not a program that needs to be operated by armed, sworn police officers.”

7/24/20  “Operation Legend,” a DOJ initiative, is sending dozens of Federal investigators from various agencies to help police in violence-besieged Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque combat “gangs, narcotics traffickers, violent offenders, and firearms traffickers.” Funds are also being provided to hire  officers in Kansas City and Albuquerque and to compensate Chicago for police overtime and other costs.

In Chicago, fifteen persons gathered outside a youth’s funeral in the violence-stricken Gresham neighborhood were wounded in a gang drive-by. Some of those in attendance fired back.

7/13/20  President Trump sent a sneering letter to the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois criticizing their failure to bring down the violence despite the “millions” of Federal dollars spent each year to help police Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, he threatened during a White House session “to go in and take over” if the shootings, which he called “worse than a war zone,” continue.

It was “another violent weekend” in Chicago, with sixty shot, of whom “at least” ten died. Among those killed was a 15-year old boy who fell near the place where his brother was shot dead three months ago, and a woman attending an outdoor memorial for a man killed two years earlier. A special police unit was recently formed to deal with these “flareups.” Addressing concerns about past abuses, Chief Brown said it was modeled on a community-minded unit used in Dallas, where he was the chief.

Shootings in New York City are way up, with 585 as of July 5th. compared with 381 during the same period in 2019. Among the most recent victims are a one-year old, shot dead during a late-evening Brooklyn cookout by “two gunmen, dressed all in black.” Three adults were also left wounded.

7/9/20  Despite coronavirus, violence in crime-plagued Kansas City is up. As of July 7, there have been 100 murders, forty percent more than at this time last year. The Department of Justice is responding with “Operation Legend,” a multi-agency targeted approach.

7/6/20  Last year Chicago’s gun violence toll over the Fourth of July weekend was six dead and 63 wounded. This year “at least 80” were shot, of whom “at least” 17 died. One of the fatalities was a 7-year old girl who was celebrating the holiday with her family in the Austin neighborhood. Other victims include a 14-year old shot dead and an 11-year old and a 15-year old wounded, all in the Englewood area.

6/29/20  Through June 21 there have been 295 murders and 1,250 shootings in Chicago, compared with 235 and 902 in 2019. These incidents are mostly happening in the city’s crime-scarred districts, including Harrison, Austin, Ogden and Lawndale. A recent weekend’s toll was at least 106 shot and 14 killed. On “a bloody Saturday,” June 27, eight were shot and killed including three children. One, twenty months old, was struck by a bullet as his mother drove in the Englewood neighborhood.

6/21/20  During the late evening/early morning hours of June 19-20, shootings in Chicago left twenty-four wounded and two dead. That was followed by seven killings and “at least twenty” woundings during the next day and evening. Among the dead were four children, ages three to seventeen. The three-year old was shot while in a car being driven by his father, whom officers know and consider the target.

5/27/20  Twenty-eight additional Chicagoans were shot, including at least five killed, on the day after Memorial day. Gangs and drug sales again seemed to be involved, but the victims included a 5-year old girl who was struck in the leg while standing outside a home.

5/26/20  Fifty fell to gunfire in Chicago, ten fatally, during the Memorial Day weekend, considerably surpassing last year’s toll and nearly matching 2015’s appalling count, when twelve were shot dead. That led Mayor Lightfoot to “scold” her new chief, David Brown: “...what I said to the superintendent this morning is this was a fail...And whatever the strategy is, it didn’t work.” Chief Brown attributed the violence to gang rivalries and disputes over drug sales. He conceded that staffing levels had been lower than in 2019, when 1,000 extra officers were deployed.

5/16/20  Chicago has had 175 homicides this year compared with 156 during the same period in 2019. Shootings have increased from 596 to 717. Chief David Brown said a “summer mobile unit” will be dealing with violence in the city’s crime-besieged South and West areas. He is also considering a city-wide “community” unit. “They could work on a Habitat for Humanity home. They could deliver meals one day a week to the seniors in the city. They could do some work with young people in the schools.”

5/4/20  Recalling the 2002 gun killing of a 17-year old, and the rituals in its aftermath, Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton writes that for many of the city’s youths the coronavirus is no match for “the virus of violence, which has consumed their neighborhoods and threatens to wipe out their entire generation.”

5/3/20  Teens gathered for an early-morning outdoor party in Chicago’s violence-stricken Lawndale neighborhood. About 3:30 am a car drove by. According to a ShotSpotter, it sprayed “at least 14 rounds.” Five teens, ages 15-19, were wounded and are hospitalized in fair condition.

4/25/20  To combat persistently high levels of violence even during the pandemic, Chicago Chief Brown has reassigned “dozens” of officers to patrol the Harrison, Gresham, Englewood and Deering neighborhoods. Harrison, for example, has had 90 shootings this year, twenty more than at this time in 2019. COVID-19 dispersal orders have also been issued far more frequently in these predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods, stirring concerns about discriminatory policing.

4/21/20  LAPD Chief Michel Moore said that due to budgetary constraints brought on by the pandemic, the agency’s crime analysts were discontinuing use of PredPol software. Instead, their work will now be  driven by the community-oriented SARA approach. But agency critics championed the move as a victory in their battle against the unfair targeting of minority communities.



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