Police Issues

Thought-provoking essays on crime, justice and policing

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Kids With Guns
(#449, 6/3/24)

Ready access
and permissive laws
create a daunting problem

What's That?

(#448, 4/27/24)

Philadelphia's D.A.
eased up on lawbreakers.
Did it increase crime?

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)

What should cops do when
miscreants refuse to comply?
Refuse to comply?

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...






6/15/24 Dominic Choi, LAPD’s interim chief, feels that traffic stops are a key tool in the fight against violent crime. Some transportation safety experts feel there’s a pressing need to “crack down” on reckless driving. But concerns about racially disparate policing have led the L.A. City Council to assess whether, and to what extent, civilians could take over traffic enforcement and accident investigation, and if stops should be altogether prohibited for minor infractions, such as expired license plates. Related posts 1   2

Pot is beset by bad news, and not just in the U.S. Thailand’s Prime Minister feels that its recreational use, which was authorized two years ago, has harmed children and made roads even more dangerous. He announced that non-medical applications would be banned by the end of the year. And in California, laboratory analysis discovered excessive or even outright dangerous concentrations of pesticides in “twenty-five of 42 legal cannabis products” that were legally purchased over the counter, including five vapes from “well known brands.” Drug legalization updates   Related post

6/14/24 Fifty million bucks. That’s what Chicago is paying the “Marquette Park Four”, who spent 21 years in prison for supposedly murdering two used car salesmen in 1995. LaShawn Ezell, Charles Johnson, Larod Styles and Troshawn McCoy were between 15 and 19 years old when police extorted their confessions. They were declared innocent and released in 2017 when fingerprint evidence exonerated them. This settlement follows on the $31 million paid that year to four other Black men, the “Englewood Four”, who were wrongfully convicted of a 1994 rape/murder. Both sets of youths had been railroaded by the same three (now, former) Chicago PD detectives. They’ve also been sued. Related post

Capping an inquiry that began in August 2021, DOJ has concluded that the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Dept. have engaged in “a pattern or practice” that violates the Constitution and Federal law. Officers are accused of using excessive force, including unjustified deadly force, of discriminating against the homeless, against persons in a mental health crisis, against Black, Hispanic and Native American citizens, and against individuals “engaged in protected speech and expression.” Negotiating a court-enforced settlement is the next step. Related post

Two years after the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, in which bump stock-equipped rifles were used to murder sixty, ATF ruled that the devices, which it previously permitted, were illegal machinegun conversion parts. But Federal law defines machineguns as firing repeatedly with a single trigger pull. Bump stocks use recoil to repeatedly pull the trigger while it’s depressed. That difference led the 5th. Circuit to strike down ATF’s ruling as inconsistent with the law. And in a 6-3 decision that aligns with its ideological split, the Supreme Court just agreed. To outlaw bump stocks, the law itself must change. States, though, appear free to outlaw bump stocks if they wish. Garland v. Cargill Related posts 1   2   3

6/13/24 Dashcam and body-camera recordings from two police departments were examined to assess the effects of patrol officer communications strategies on the outcomes of their interactions with crime suspects. According to the authors of “Finding the Path of Least Resistance,” compliance was enhanced through the use of “a positive tenor/ demeanor”. Verbal coercion did not improve compliance, and suspects who were rattled or otherwise impaired were also less likely to comply. Related post

Gun-packing evildoers, some armed with home-made “machineguns,” are besetting Naperville, a supposedly tony enclave an hour’s drive from Chicago. On June 11 Naperville police arrested a wanted parolee who was packing a loaded Glock that had been modified to fire fully automatically. A few days earlier officers seized a similar, illegally converted Glock from a 19-year old. And on that same day, they took two handguns from a 24-year old felon who had opened fire from his car. Related post

An amendment on November’s Florida ballot aims to legalize recreational pot. But former Governor (and now Senator) Rick Scott is strongly opposed. His brother, who passed away in April, was beset by a life-long problem with drugs and alcohol supposedly brought on by smoking pot as a teen. While the NIDA reports that most marijuana users don’t follow that path, it’s also warned that THC, pot’s psychoactive component, can make it more likely that someone might become a drug addict. Drug legalization updates   Related post

6/12/24 To help combat the purchase of firearms on behalf of felons and other prohibited possessors, and the distribution of guns to criminal groups, Congress created specific laws that define “straw purchase” (18 USC 932) and “firearms trafficking” (18 USC 933). Enacted in June 2022 under the umbrella of the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act”, these statutes have thus far led to more than five-hundred prosecutions. Each carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years. Related post

According to an Ohio police group, “as many as 25% [of police officers ] are told to produce certain numbers or there will be some sort of consequence.” Ticket and arrest quotas are apparently commonly imposed by police supervisors. To address this issue, Ohio House Bill 333 would prohibit using such numbers to evaluate, promote, transfer or discipline officers. It’s drawn support from both citizen and police groups, including the FOP. And so far, opponents, if any, have apparently held their fire. Related post

Gun shows are often held on California State fairgrounds. But while dealers will be free to continue displaying their wares, a 3-0 decision by a Ninth Circuit panel affirmed State law that prohibits gun sales from taking place on State property. That severely disappointed Crossroads of the West, which stages the shows, and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, which promotes gun ownership. But California’s A.G. said that prohibited persons have acquired guns at these shows, and the decision will help keep such things from taking place. Related post

6/11/24 After three hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Hunter Biden of falsely asserting on a gun purchase form that he was neither addicted to nor using illegal drugs. While Biden’s lawyer insisted there was no evidence of either when Biden bought the gun, former intimates testified about Biden’s drug use (which he detailed in an autobiography) during the period preceding and following the purchase. Biden still faces a Federal trial for falsifying tax returns and evading $1.4 million in taxes from 2016-2019. Related post

A “3rd. Straight Weekend With 30+ shootings.” With ten  killed and thirty-four wounded this past weekend, that’s how the Chicago Sun-Times described the Windy City’s unrelenting struggle with gun violence. So far there have been no arrests. In terms of lives lost, the most recent toll surpasses that of the sadly memorable Memorial Day weekend, when 42 were shot and nine were killed. According to DOJ’s Office of Justice Planning, as “co-producers” of safety, communities play a key role, and renewed attention is being made to assist and fund local organizations that seek to “interrupt” violence. Related post

6/10/24 Pasadena, Calif. is a prosperous L.A. suburb of 125,000 residents. But its police department is supposedly infested by officer gangs. Lawsuits by current and former officers assert that two cliques, the “Good Ole Boys Club” and the “Veteranos” control the department. Black officers allege that they’re targeted with derogatory comments, denied backup, wrongfully punished, and subjected to physical violence. A Muslim officer claims that he was called ‘Taliban” and was told to park “facing Mecca.” Related post

An academic study examined the effects of a new LAPD policy, announced in March 2022, that prohibits officers from using minor reasons such as equipment violations as a pretext for stopping vehicles whose occupants they suspect of criminal activity. According to the authors, the proportion of non-White persons stopped didn’t materially change. Fewer stops did lead to a decrease in arrests. Violent and property crime also increased. But only the latter is attributed to the reduction in stops. Related post

In 2017 New Jersey implemented rules that eliminated pre-trial detention simply because a defendant could not afford cash bail. Instead, decisions to detain would be based on risk assessments. Through 2019, the final year assessed, detentions dropped “dramatically,” but there was no evidence of a corresponding increase in firearms deaths or gun violence. New Jersey’s bail reform policies presently remain in effect. However, the numbers held pre-trial have also increased. Related post

COVID fraud is in the news. Seventy persons were charged with defrauding a COVID-related program of $250 million by submitting false vouchers for “millions of meals” that were supposedly provided to needy recipients. Five of the first seven to be tried were just convicted. During deliberations a juror got a bag with $120,000 cash. They reported the bribe attempt and were excused from the panel. In Chicago, Federal charges were levied against a man who defrauded Medicare of $60 million by falsely claiming to have provided “millions” of COVID test kits. And in Georgia, a lawyer (he was once a cop) drew seven years in prison for netting $15 million by submitting false applications for PPP loans. COVID updates

6/7/24 After a years-long investigation forty-seven members of the Sinaloa cartel face Federal charges for trafficking huge quantities of meth and fentanyl from Mexico into California’s Imperial Valley in exchange for cash and guns, including assault rifles and ghost guns. A sweep by hundreds of Federal, state and local officers led to the arrest of thirty-six of the accused and the execution of twenty-five search warrants in California, Arizona and Oregon. Related post

Hunter Biden’s crack use is no secret - after all, he wrote about it in his autobiography. But his lawyer insists that his client was not using drugs during the time period when he bought the gun whose purchase and possession are at issue. Thus, his assertion on the gun purchase form that he was not an illegal drug user was not a lie. But only two days after the purchase, he texted his sister-in-law, Hallie Biden, that he hadn’t promptly responded to her message because “I was sleeping on a car smoking crack on 4th street and Rodney.” President Biden has announced that he would not pardon his son should he be convicted. Related post

6/6/24 In Chicago an argument led “a known male” to pull a gun and shoot a 14- year old girl in the hand. And in Los Angeles a 10-year old fourth grader brought a loaded, reportedly stolen Glock pistol to school. Another student turned him in. L.A. schools endured a record 1,197 “weapon incidents” last year, and there have been 903 this year. Two L.A. middle-school students were arrested with loaded pistols on May 3, and one L.A. prep schooler shot and killed another on April 15. Parents have asked that campus police be brought back into schools. They’ve been banned from interior patrols since 2020. Related post

Border agents have begun using President Biden’s brand-new executive order to summarily turn back asylum-seekers who arrive without appointments. Problem is, Mexico only accepts the return of persons from Central America, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela. Large numbers of asylum-seekers come from China, India, Africa and other countries, and they must either be flown back, detained, or (as has been the practice) released into the U.S. to await further action. Authorities expect that the number of border arrivals, which are already at highly elevated levels, will continue to increase. Immigration updates Related post

6/5/24 On May 30 a police officer responding to a shots-fired call at a Minneapolis apartment complex approached a man sitting next to a car who seemed to need help. But Mustafa Mohamed, 35, was the shooter. He drew a gun and opened fire, killing officer Jamal Mitchell. Other officers exchanged fire with Mohamed. He was killed and an officer and bystander were wounded. A fatally wounded man and one with critical wounds were found inside an apartment. Mohamed, a convicted burglar, was released from Federal prison in 2020 after serving a term for felon with a gun. He was presently wanted for robbery. Related post

President Biden signed an executive order that promptly expels illegal migrants, without a court hearing, whenever the 7-day average of illegal crossings reaches 2,500 per day. This number is being presently exceeded, and enforcement should begin tomorrow. Migrants who schedule appointments with INS, unaccompanied minors, and victims of human trafficking are exempted. Unauthorized border crossings have been at near-historic levels, with “more than 3,500” in one recent day alone. President Biden said he was forced to take this step because Congress has failed to act on immigration reform. Immigration updates Related post

Against D.C. prosecutor’s wishes, a 20-year old Maryland man was released to home confinement pending trial for murder. Jayvon Thomas’ record prohibited him from having guns, but it turns out that he kept a “ghost” gun hidden under his bed. That’s how a girl “younger than 5” playing hide-and-seek came to accidentally shoot herself. Fortunately her injuries weren’t fatal. Neither were the wounds suffered by a three-year old who accidentally shot herself with a handgun in a nearby county. Both happened within a two-day span. Related posts 1   2

6/4/24 A probe by public media into the approx. 1,900 homicides committed in St. Louis between 2014- 2023 reveals that more than 1,000 are still unsolved. Although the clearance rate improved during 2022-2023, when it reached a record 56%, it remains disproportionately low in poor, crime-impacted neighborhoods, where “talking to police can be dangerous.” Murders of Black persons are also far less likely to be solved. Poor detective work, inadequate resources and a dearth of “community trust” each catch blame. Related post

A “Sixth Amendment nightmare.” That’s what a three-judge 9th. Circuit Court of Appeals panel called Oregon’s critical shortage of public defenders. More than 3,200 of the State’s criminal accused lack a lawyer, and more than one-hundred remain locked up. Endorsed by two of the three Justices, the ruling upheld a lower-court injunction ordering the release of all in-custody defendants who lack a lawyer after seven days. Decision   Related post

In January Minneapolis D.A Mary Moriarty charged State Trooper Ryan Londregan with murder for fatally shooting Ricky Cobb II as he tried to drive away from a July 2023 traffic stop. But “new evidence” just led her to drop all charges. Londregan, she said, would testify that he fired because Cobb reached for a handgun (Cobb’s criminal record prohibited him from having guns, and one was found). A trainer would also testify that Londregan was never instructed not to fire into a moving vehicle. Governor Tim Waltz, who had opposed charging the trooper, applauded the decision. But a lawyer for Cobb’s survivors (they have sued in Federal court) bitterly criticized the D.A.’s change of heart. Related post

6/3/24 Okaloosa County, Fla. deputy Eddie Duran, who shot and killed airman Roger Fortson during a disturbance call on May 3, has been fired. Sheriff Eric Arden determined that although airman Fortson was holding a pistol when he answered his apartment door, the gun was pointed at the ground and he “did not make any hostile, attacking movements.” Duran’s use of deadly force was therefore “not objectively reasonable.” But the former deputy states that the airman seemed aggressive. “I’m standing there thinking I’m about to get shot, I’m about to die.” Whether another resident of the complex directed the deputy to the wrong apartment is also in dispute. Bodycam video    Related post

“Some Antelope Valley deputies wear tattoos or share paraphernalia with an intimidating skull and snake symbol.” But the 2013 DOJ report about misconduct by L.A. Sheriff’s deputies in the Antelope Valley doesn’t mention the group’s name. A lawsuit just filed by the former girlfriend of ex-deputy Aaron Tanner (he was allegedly one of the “shot callers”) does. They’re the “Rattlesnakes.” Although they’ve received very little attention by agency reformers, her filing alleges that the group’s violent members (their symbol is a skull and snake) intimidate colleagues, frame citizens and make false arrests. Related post

In Akron, a noisy, fireworks-laden gathering brought two-hundred celebrants into a residential street late Sunday evening. Police broke things up, but the partying resumed. Gunfire soon broke out, killing a 37-year old man and wounding two dozen, ages 19 to 43, two critically. Two handguns and numerous spent cartridges were recovered, and police speculate that party goers had exchanged fire with a passing vehicle. Gang activity is suspected. Akron's 2022 poverty rate was 24.4%. Related post

Hunter Biden’s Federal trial for lying on a gun purchase form begins today. President Joe Biden’s son is accused of falsely denying that he was a drug addict. His brother Beau’s widow is expected to be a prosecution witness. She and Hunter were having a stormy relationship, and when she came across his newly-purchased gun she threw it in the trash. That set off a flurry of text messages, and their content supposedly confirms that Hunter Biden was indeed struggling with addiction. Related post

5/31/24 Last year seven Henrico County (VA) deputies and three hospital workers were charged with 2nd. degree murder for killing Mr. Irvo Otieno, whom they allegedly smothered to death when the deputies brought him into a mental hospital after his arrest for burglary. Charges were eventually dropped against all but two deputies and one hospital employee. Blaming her inability to reshuffle the order in which they will be tried, a new prosecutor has just reduced their charges to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a ten- year penalty. Related post

Ordinary folks send their saliva to genealogical databases to track their family histories. And in a reported first for NYPD, detectives used the same process to identify the killer in a brutal 2009 murder. Instead of saliva they sent in crime scene DNA to a private lab, which uploaded the profile to several consumer databases. A likely suspect was ultimately identified (he lived in Florida), and police there followed him until he dropped a plastic fork. Its DNA proved a match. He’s the son of the brother of the victim’s ex-wife. And he’s been extradited. Related post

5/30/24 Fentanyl can be injected or smoked. Injecting it can hurt veins and cause infections, and contaminated syringes can prove fatal. Syringe-exchange groups around the U.S. were established to provide clean needles. To steer users to smoking fentanyl, which is supposedly safer, many started  offering glass tubes and other supplies. But fears that this encourages drug use has led some jurisdictions to prohibit giving users tools for inhaling the drug. And whether smoking is safer is in dispute. According to a recent CDC study, overdose deaths attributed to smoking fentanyl have substantially increased. Drug legalization updates   Related post

On April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal trials were unconstitutional (Ramos v. Louisiana, no. 18-5924). These had been allowed in only two States: Louisiana and Oregon. Although D.A.’s warned about a rash of hung juries, Louisiana’s voters enacted a law requiring unanimity in late 2018. Studies comparing the ratio of hung juries before and after the law’s implementation found no substantial difference. Jury deliberations, though, are lengthier, possibly because it takes time to convince holdouts to change their minds. Related post

5/29/24 Drug-impaired driving may be far more common than what is normally assumed. An analysis of blood samples from 2,514 suspected impaired driving cases in Pennsylvania revealed that 40 percent were positive for alcohol. But a whopping 79 percent were positive for drugs, most frequently cannabinoids. Twenty-three percent were positive for both alcohol and drugs. Only 17 percent were positive for only alcohol; a measly four percent was negative for both. Drug legalization updates   Related post




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