Police Issues

Thought-provoking essays on crime, justice and policing

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Ideology (Still)
Trumps Reason

(#447, 4/9/24)

When it comes to gun laws,
“Red” and “Blue” remain
in the driver’s seat

Shutting the Barn Door
(#446, 3/19/24)

Oregon moves to
re-criminalize hard drugs

Houston, We Have
(Another) Problem

(#445, 2/28/24)

Fueled by assault rifles, murders plague the land

Wrong Place, Wrong
Time, Wrong Cop

(#444, 2/8/24)

Recent exonerees set "records"
for wrongful imprisonment

America's Violence-
Beset Capital City

(#443, 1/20/24)

Our Nation's capital
is plagued by murder

Are Civilians Too Easy
on the Police? (II)

(#442, 12/18/23)

Exonerated of murder,
but not yet done

Warning: (Frail)
Humans at Work

(#441, 11/29/23)

The presence of a gun
can prove lethal

See No Evil - Hear No
Evil - Speak No Evil

(#440, 11/14/23)

Is the violent crime problem
really all in our heads?

Policing Can't Fix
What Really Ails

(#439, 10/18/23)

California's posturing
overlooks a chronic issue

Confirmation Bias
Can be Lethal

(#438, 9/21/23)

Why did a "routine" stop
cost a man's life?

When (Very) Hard
Heads Collide (II)

(#437, 9/5/23)

Why did a "routine" stop
cost a man's life?

What Cops Face
(#436, 8/24/23)

America’s violent atmosphere
can distort officer decisions

Punishment Isn't
a Cop's Job (III)

(#435, 8/1/23)

Some citizens misbehave;
some cops answer in kind

San Antonio

(#434, 7/20/23)

What poverty brings can
impair the quality of policing

Keep going...






4/12/24 A lawsuit against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. by eight deputies who allege they were mistreated by their agency after clashing with members of the Banditos “deputy gang” has been cleared for trial. Aside from the County, the suit names four former deputies who were in the gang; three were fired and one retired. Another lawsuit, filed by a former deputy, claims that his opposition to the “Regulators” deputy gang led his superior officer, a “tattooed” member of the gang, to unjustly fire him for misconduct. His then-boss is presently the agency’s acting chief of training and personnel. Related posts 1   2

According to the Attorney General, ATF’s “final rule”, which implements the language of the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, clarifies that no matter where guns are sold, “on the internet, at a gun show, or at a brick-and-mortar store,” if the motive is to profit, a Federal firearms dealer license is required, and a background check must be conducted. Final rule Related post

4/11/24 Homeless and troubled, William Woods gave up. In 2020 he pled guilty in Los Angeles to a  series of financial crimes. Woods was jailed, then placed under mental care. In fact, the crimes had been committed by Matthew Keirans. A long-ago coworker, he had stolen Woods’ identity and posed as him since 1988. Finally, in 2023, a detective at the Iowa college where the pretend Woods worked used DNA from Woods’ father’s birth certificate to confirm who the real  Woods was. Keirans recently pled guilty to Federal impersonation charges; he faces thirty years. Woods’ exoneration is pending. Related post

Twenty-five million. That’s what L.A. County has agreed to pay Isaias Cervantes, a seriously mentally-ill man who was shot and paralyzed during a 9-1-1 response. Family members called because Cervantes had become combative during a “mental health crisis”, and he tried to fight off deputies when they tried to handcuff him. One deputy repeatedly exclaimed “he's going for my gun,” and another opened fire. LASD declared the shooting “in policy,” and the D.A. declined to prosecute. Video   Related post

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill making it a crime for immigrants who have been deported or denied entry to the U.S. to be in Iowa. Those who fail to leave the U.S. would be subject to prosecution. It’s now the second State, after Texas, to make illegal immigration a State crime. But Des Moines police said they would not expend the resources to pro-actively enforce the measure. “Senate File 2340” will become effective July 1st. Bill   Immigration updates   Related post

4/10/24 Two and one-half years have passed since Ethan Crumbley’s parents were jailed for making a newly-bought pistol easily accessible to their deeply troubled 17-year old son. Ethan Crumbley promptly used the gun to murder four students and wound seven. He was convicted and got life without parole. Jennifer and James Crumbley were tried and convicted of manslaughter earlier this year. Both were just sentenced to fifteen years and will have to serve at least ten, with credit for time served. Related posts 1   2

In 2008 Missouri man Brian Dorsey pled guilty to gunning down his cousin and her husband, allegedly while high on cocaine. He was sentenced to death. During his 17 years in prison, Dorsey reportedly became a model of reform and drew great praise from his keepers. So much so, that more than seventy signed a letter asking that his life be spared. His victims’ families took both sides. But the Supreme Court turned away his plea, and Gov. Mike Parson insisted the execution be carried through. And on April 9, 2024, it was. Related post

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether the D.C. Court of Appeals was correct when it upheld the prosecution of January 6th. Capitol rioters for obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, a felony. Challengers argue that the statute only applies to the destruction of evidence in Government custody. In anticipation, some judges have granted a number of early releases. While a majority of serious Jan. 6th. sentences were based on other, violent felonies, more than 100 cases could be affected. Capitol updates   Related post

According to the Justice Department, since its establishment in May 2021 the COVID-19 task force has filed criminal charges against more than 3,500 persons for purposely misappropriating over $2 billion in pandemic relief funds. In addition, civil actions have led to over 400 settlements, and more than $1.4 billion has been recovered through seizure and forfeiture. Report   COVID-19 updates

Enacted in 2014, California Proposition 47 raised the threshold for felony theft to $950. That, say retailers, spurred on an epidemic of smash -and-grabs. A ballot initiative would address the issue by allowing felony charges for three-time repeaters and for strings of thefts where the total loss is at least $950. “The homelessness, drug addiction and theft reduction act” also targets the fentanyl crisis. Among (many) other things, drug treatment would be required for chronic users. Initiative 23-0017   Related post

4/9/24 A meta-review just published in Criminology examined seventeen studies of preventive police patrol in large urban areas. According to reviewers, increased preventive efforts led to statistically significant reductions in property and violent crime, but had no appreciable effect on drug offenses and disorder. It’s suggested that in addition to regular patrol, police adopt a “hot spots” approach that deploys officers to troubled areas during the periods when crime is most prevalent. Related post

4/8/24 More than thirteen-million bucks. That’s what New York City has set aside to recompense residents who were forced by police to remove religious head coverings. This settlement was brought on by a lawsuit from two Muslim women who had to remove their hijabs for booking photos after their arrests for violating protective orders. Those incidents took place in 2017, and the policy was discontinued four years later. By that time, “thousands” of persons of various religions had been affected. Related post

Caribbean nations are beset by arms smuggled from America. In 2021, nearly 85 percent of guns recovered in Haiti that were traced by ATF turned out to have come from the U.S. Haitian gangs are the primary consumers. Their guns are often acquired by straw buyers, then disassembled and packed aboard ships among legal cargo. Corrupt Haitian officials are often in the mix. Related post

Three LAPD Divisions have begun testing the use of trained, unarmed civilians to handle nonviolent mental health-related calls. Modeled on “Cahoots,” the program is presently handling twenty percent of situations that involve neither weapons nor threats. It’s hoped that using specialists can free up officers for emergencies and avoid the “spiraling” effects that often accompany police intervention. Related post

A New York City agency that operates independently of the police runs a program that includes “violence interrupters”, private citizens who monitor neighborhood youths to keep quarrels from turning violent. But many “interrupters” have criminal records and aren’t trusted by street cops. Two were recently arrested while trying to calm a citizen, and the officers’ forceful response was captured on video. Meetings between “interrupters” and police are planned to hopefully mend things. Related post

4/5/24 An ATF study of 230,000 trafficked guns recovered between 2017-2021 points to unlicensed persons illegally dealing in guns as the most frequent source, at 41 percent of recoveries. These transactions circumvent background checks; 60 percent of the guns wound up with felons, and 16 percent were used in shootings. Many of these guns had been purchased at retail stores by straw buyers who acquired them on behalf of an illegal dealer or unqualified end user. Homemade guns are being increasingly recovered, and illegal gun dealing through the Internet has become commonplace. Related post

Just published in Criminology, “When police pull back: Neighborhood-level effects of de-policing on violent and property crime” reports findings of a study about the effects of de-policing in Denver.  Compared with prior years, a major decrease in traffic and pedestrian stops (32,000 fewer) during 2020, when the post -Floyd era took hold, was significantly related to an increase in violent crime, and that a corresponding decrease in drug arrests was tied to an increase in property crime. Related post

4/4/24 Philadelphia’s struggles with crime led Cherelle Parker, its new Mayor, to declare “a public safety emergency” in January. Among other things, she supports “stop and frisk,” a practice that her police force reportedly abused in past years. Shootings involving ski-masked gunmen also recently led the city to ban wearing ski masks and balaclavas in public places. That, too, has brought on a great deal of criticism from civil libertarians. But it’s not simply a matter of race. Mayor Parker and Anthony Phillips, the councilmember who spearheaded the ski mask ban, are both Black. Related post

A nonprofit operates overdose prevention centers in New York City where users can smoke and inject hard drugs under watch. But a move to open centers in Philadelphia was opposed by the city council. It was also nixed by DOJ, which threatened prosecution, and its refusal was just seconded by a Federal judge. Federal lawyers have also suggested they might move against New York’s centers. Other cities have considered opening centers, but many citizens oppose them because of whom they would draw in. Drug legalization updates   Related post

California cops and prosecutors often question family members of persons killed by police without telling them that their loved ones had died. According to the L.A. Times, the purpose is to gather information about the deceased to counter lawsuits and allegations of police misconduct. A bill pending in the State legislature would outlaw the practice. But the Calif. Police Chiefs Assn. is opposed, as it could “undermine the ability of officers to gather critical information in certain high-stakes situations.” Related post

4/3/24 A graphic video of the pursuit of a man who murdered his wife shows San Bernardino County, Calif. deputies shooting and killing his daughter as she walks towards them, seemingly to surrender, at the end of the chase. Savannah Graziano, 15, was attired in a tactical vest and helmet but was unarmed. It’s not yet clear whether she was purposely shot or was caught in crossfire between deputies and her father, Anthony Graziano. He was shot dead. Sheriff Shannon Dicus previously suggested that the teen may have participated in her “abduction” and even fired on deputies during the chase.  Video   Related post

“Bumper stickers, billboards and advertisements on public buses” warning criminals that they will be severely treated are three of the eye-catching elements of a campaign by Orange County, Calif. authorities as they combat a claimed epidemic of home invasions, burglaries, and “smash- and-grab” thefts. D.A. Todd Spitzer blames outsiders for committing the crimes, and State authorities for enacting legal easings that have made the consequences of being caught “far less than the reward.” Related post

When he was thirteen, Orange County, Calif. resident Ike Souzer stabbed his mother to death. Convicted of manslaughter, he wound up in a juvenile institution. Released after a couple of years, he absconded from a halfway house and collected a series of arrests. And when returned to jail, he assaulted correctional officers and was charged with possessing a “shank”. Souzer was most recently jailed for vandalism. Promptly released, he again absconded. Authorities just arrested him... in Mexico. D.A. Todd Spitzer accuses judges of ignoring public safety and giving Souzer “break after break after break.” Related post

4/2/24 A study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concludes that cannabis users are at a significantly higher risk of “myocardial infarction and stroke,” and that this risk increases as use increases. Data was gathered from responses to a telephone survey of a large, representative sample of American adults conducted each year by the CDC. Cardiovascular issues are the major cause of death, but cannabis use has increased while perceptions of its harm have decreased. Drug legalization updates   Related post

Gov. Tina Kotek signed a bill that modifies the Oregon law which, among many other things, decriminalized the possession of personal-use quantities of hard drugs. Instead of being a civil infraction, possession becomes a misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to six months. But police are authorized and encouraged to divert offenders to treatment programs. Drug legalization updates   Related post

4/1/24 In the aftermath of Tyre Nichols’ brutal death, Memphis enacted a law that prohibits officers from using minor reasons, such as a broken taillight or expired license plate, to make traffic stops. Criticizing its effects on policing, Tennessee legislators introduced a bill that prohibits cities from enacting such measures. Despite concerted opposition from civil rights groups, it was just signed into law. The Federal trial of four ex-Memphis cops for violating Mr. Nichols’ civil rights is now set for September 2024. It will be followed by their State trial on murder charges. Related post

A scathing report by the L.A. County Inspector General accuses the Sheriff’s Department of failing to act against a newly-uncovered “deputy gang” at the agency’s Industry station. Dubbed the “Industry Indians,” its members sport tattoos depicting native Americans. But Sheriff Robert Luna, who promised to “eradicate” deputy gangs when he took the agency’s reins a year ago, reportedly refuses to cooperate with overseers or furnish information about the group. Related posts 1   2

California is funding the deployment of 480 specialized surveillance cameras in and around crime-beset Oakland. They can capture and store a host of information about vehicles beyond license plates, and are programmed to inform authorities, in “real time,” when a vehicle whose features resemble those of a wanted car is spotted. But civil rights advocates criticize the move as spending money that could be better used to help support needy residents. Related post

3/29/24 Pennsylvania inmates Samuel Grasty, Derrick Chappell and Morton Johnson have spent two decades in prison for the 1997 murder of Henrietta Nickens, 70. They denied involvement and DNA tests were negative, but police got a fourth accused to testify against them in exchange for a short sentence. It now turns out that a third party’s DNA was in fact present. A judge just vacated their conviction, but they remain in custody pending a decision by the D.A., who insists they’re guilty, whether to retry them. Innocence project   Related post

A 22-year old Rockford, Illinois man went on a stabbing rampage that left four persons, ages 16 to 53, dead and wounded seven others. Three remain hospitalized. Christian Soto’s first victim was a friend with whom he was smoking marijuana. Soto (he was arrested without incident) told police that his friend may have “laced” his smokes and turned him paranoid. So he stabbed his friend and his friend’s mother to death, and then proceeded to terrorize his neighborhood. Drug legalization updates   Related post

3/28/24 Fifty-one percent of Philadelphia’s police applicants now pass its physical fitness test, versus 36 percent before standards were relaxed. Fewer pushups and situps are required, and more time is allotted to complete the 1.5 mile run. After all, such things are addressed at the academy. With 836 vacancies and 470 injured officers off the streets, options seemed limited. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania no longer requires two years of college to be a state trooper. Applications have reportedly “surged”. Related post

An analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive reveals that gun violence besets the South. According to The Trace, thirteen of the twenty towns and cities with the highest rate of shootings between 2014-2023 are in that region. Selma, Alabama, for example, had a higher rate than infamous Chicago. Comparing States produced similar findings. While Illinois was one of the four States with the highest rate of fatal and injury-producing shootings, the other three were Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Related post

Although he reported being “profoundly troubled” by gun crime and mass shootings, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (a “Red”) vetoed, as expected, a bill to prohibit assault weapons. According to his message, the Constitution forbids outlawing a broad category of guns used for lawful purposes, including self-defense. In his view, the solution lies in stronger penalties and more money for mental health treatment. Gov. Youngkin also turned away a host of other proposed gun laws. But he signed a bill that outlaws devices which convert guns to fire fully automatically. Related post

A major inquiry led by the Associated Press probed 1,036 instances over ten years where deaths resulted after police officers used supposedly non-lethal methods of force, ranging from prone restraint and blows to Tasers and bean-bag shotguns. Over 800 police agencies were identified; sixteen percent of the deaths occurred in one of the nation’s 20 major cities.  Methodology   Cases   Related post

3/27/24 Illinois’ top parole official has resigned in connection with his board’s release of Crosetti Brand, who went on to fatally stab the 11-year old son of a woman he had chronically - and violently - stalked. Donald Shelton’s exit follows on the resignation of board member Lee Ann Miller, who favored the release. Her departure had been praised as “the correct decision” by Governor Pritzker, who said that Brand’s release “was not given the careful consideration that victims of domestic violence deserve.” Related post

Five Texas residents face Federal charges for illegally acquiring and smuggling more than 100 “high-powered” rifles to Mexico and selling them to a drug cartel. Their weapons, which included “FNH SCAR rifles, Barrett .50 caliber rifles, FNH M294S rifles, and M1919 rifles”, had been purchased by straw buyers from both licensed and unlicensed dealers in the U.S. Related post




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