Browsing the archives for the criminal justice category.


I Love New York

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criminal justice

Today we learn that bombs intended to detonate in New York City and New Jersey were disabled by quick-thinking, patriotic bag-snatchers.

Several bombs planted in both Manhattan and New Jersey—among them one that detonated Saturday night, injuring dozens—were inadvertently disabled by thieves. A pressure cooker bomb was left in a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street in New York City, and according to DNAinfo, well-dressed men allegedly took the bomb out of the bag and then placed it in a garbage bag before stealing the suitcase. By removing it, officials say the unidentified thief accidentally disabled the device. Once disabled, authorities could look at the cellphone attached to the explosive and eventually trace it back to New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who is wanted for questioning in more than one explosion over the weekend. “Who in this world finds a pressure cooker with a phone and just takes the bag?” a law-enforcement source asked on Monday.

It’s New York, sweetums. Do you have to ask?

Also, per Wonkette: “Protip: Use a just-purchased burner phone for detonating your IEDs, kids. Don’t terrorists even watch The Wire?” I’d add to that, don’t stash your pressure cooker/IED in a nice rolling suitcase.

Earlier Monday morning, in New Jersey, another set of thieves took a backpack on a trash can that had five bombs, which has also been tied to Rahami. The would-be thieves dropped the bag and called 911, likely preventing it from detonating in a crowded train station later in the day. The bag detonated while police were handling it, but no injuries were reported.

I object to calling these patriotic and quick-thinking New Jerseyites “thieves.” Anything left on a trash can is finders keepers, IMO. Of course, it sounds as if Khan Rahami was not the sharpest bomb-maker on the planet, or the five pipe bombs might have gone off and killed our heroes when they dropped the bag. But all’s well that ends well.

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Senseless and Stupid

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criminal justice

Somebody must have locked The Donald in the basement this morning long enough to issue a statement in his name that sounds nothing like him. It was bland enough to not piss anybody off, in other words.

Except for one thing.

According to Aaron Blake, the statement included the line “The senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.” This outraged many wingnuts, who refuse to believe  Alton Sterling and Philando Castile didn’t deserve to die. “I thought Trump supported LE [law enforcement]” mourned one guy.

It is clear that the shooter(s) was not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. BLM has issued a statement disavowing the shootings, and also saying,

Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it. Yesterday’s attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us.

Some People literally didn’t get the memo. A lot of voices — coming entirely from the Right, from what I see — are calling for escalating violence. For example

Most notably, Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh went on a tweetstorm against the Black Lives Matter movement, and cryptically warned, “This now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives punks. Real America is coming for you.” Because apparently the president of the United States is not “real America.”…

… Naturally, self-proclaimed “Internet supervillain,” Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, also immediately leapt into the fray, declaring Thursday night, “Black Lives Matter now gunning down police officers. Time to classify it as a terrorist organization. We need President @realDonaldTrump.” Drudge Report, likewise, swiftly announced “Black Lives Kill.” And The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren tweeted, then deleted, “Meet the new KKK, they call themselves ‘Black Lives Matter’ but make no mistake, their goals are far from equality.”

And then there’s this:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called protesters who ran away from the hail of bullets that rained down on Downtown Dallas on Thursday night “hypocrites” during an interview Friday on Fox News.

“All those protesters last night, they turned around and ran the other way expecting the men and women in blue to protect them. What hypocrites!” an audibly emotional Patrick said.

If I believed in hell, I’d want there to be a special room where people like Lt. Gov. Patrick will be forced to write “I’m sorry I was such an idiot” on a blackboard for the rest of eternity. With bad chalk.

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More Spontaneous Public Executions

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criminal justice

Two more horrific murders of black men at the hands of police. Details are still coming to light, but it appears Alton Sterling, 37, was selling CDs on the street outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge. A homeless man called the police to tell them Sterling was “brandishing a gun,” but so far no one else who saw Sterling noticed this.  Police showed up, immobilized Sterling on the ground, and then shot and killed him while he was immobilized. I don’t see any other way to interpret the videos of the incident. Sterling may or may not have been carrying a gun, but we’re talking about Louisiana here — very lenient gun laws.

Philando Castile, 32, died in a Minneapolis hospital after being shot by police after being pulled over for driving with a broken tail light. My understanding is that Castile informed the police officer that he was carrying a concealed weapon, for which he had a permit. Then the officer told him to show some ID. Castile reached for his wallet and was shot.

Of course, Sterling and Castile were black. Meanwhile, some white yahoo in Raleigh actually shot at cops and was apprehended without injury.

But right now I want to talk about reactions. As of this writing I don’t believe Donald Trump has made any statement whatsoever about the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. He’s still whining that people called him an anti-Semite, for some reason.

After Alton Sterling’s death Hillary Clinton issued a fairly standard this-is-just-awful statement that says a lot and nothing at the same time. Here ’tis:

“The death of Alton Sterling is a tragedy, and my prayers are with his family, including his five children. From Staten Island to Baltimore, Ferguson to Baton Rouge, too many African American families mourn the loss of a loved one from a police-involved incident. Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin.

“I am glad the Department of Justice has agreed to a full and thorough review of this shooting. Incidents like this one have undermined the trust between police departments and the communities they serve. We need to rebuild that trust. We need to ensure justice is served. That begins with common sense reforms like ending racial profiling, providing better training on de-escalation and implicit bias, and supporting municipalities that refer the investigation and prosecution of police-involved deaths to independent bodies. All over America, there are police officers demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force. We need to learn from and build on those examples.

“Progress is possible if we stand together and never waver in our fight to secure the future that every American deserves.”

Can’t really argue with it, except I would have said “atrocity” instead of “tragedy.” But we don’t want to piss off police unions, I guess. And the statement has a kind of boilerplate quality to it that skims the surface too much, to my mind. And how’s about making DOJ reviews automatic after police shootings? Still, it’s something, when what we got from Trump was nothing.

What was it T. S. Eliot wrote — not with a bang, but a whimper? Instead we get lots of bangs, followed by whimpering.

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Is the NYPD Making Itself Superfluous?

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criminal justice

The New York Times reports that NYPD officers have more or less stopped policing, but there hasn’t been an uptick in crime. Maybe there will be now that the not-policing is in the papers; we’ll see.

In the week since two Brooklyn officers were killed by a man who singled them out for their police uniforms, the number of summonses for minor criminal offenses, as well as those for parking and traffic violations, has decreased by more than 90 percent versus the same week a year earlier, and felony arrests were nearly 40 percent lower, according to Police Department statistics.

The two precincts directly affected by the deaths – the 79th, where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed on Dec. 20, and the 84th, where they were usually assigned – saw a single criminal summons in the week. Officers wrote no parking or traffic tickets. By contrast, the combined tally of criminal summonses alone during the same week last year reached 130. …

… Yet reports of major crimes citywide continued their downward trajectory, falling to 1,813 from 2,127 for the week, a nearly 15 percent drop, according to Police Department statistics.

Which begs the question, is NYC being over-policed? Consider the killing of Eric Garner. Here was a guy selling untaxed cigarettes who was surrounded by, what, five law enforcement agents (?) and manhandled violently enough to result in his death. Couldn’t they have just taken his name and address and issued him a summons?

Maybe a large part of the NYPD should stay off the job a bit longer. We may learn we can do without a lot of them. As Zandar said,

So your brilliant, devious plan is this: you’re going to show the people who believe that the NYPD is full of power-hungry bullies and paramilitary goons what for by displaying to the country exactly how most of the collars you make are in fact wholly unnecessary exercises of petty microagression towards the citizenry you hold in open and rancorous contempt.

Okay then.  Go with that plan, guys.

See also “Crime Has Changed. The NYPD Should Change, Too.” The high crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s is long over. Maybe rigorous policing helped bring it down, and maybe it was getting the lead out. And maybe it was a combination of factors. But it’s time to stop treating NYC like some kind of war zone. It just plain isn’t.

New York Times editorial board:

The list of [police] grievances adds up to very little, unless you look at it through the magnifying lens of resentment fomented by union bosses and right-wing commentators. The falling murder rate, the increased resources for the department, the end of quota-based policing, which the police union despised, the mayor’s commitment to “broken-windows” policing — none of that matters, because many cops have latched on to the narrative that they are hated, with the mayor orchestrating the hate.

It’s a false narrative. Mr. de Blasio was elected by a wide margin on a promise to reform the policing excesses that were found unconstitutional by a federal court. He hired a proven reformer, Mr. Bratton, who had achieved with the Los Angeles Police Department what needs doing in New York. The furor that has gripped the city since the Garner killing has been a complicated mess. But what New Yorkers expect of the Police Department is simple:

1. Don’t violate the Constitution.

2. Don’t kill unarmed people.

To that we can add:

3. Do your jobs. The police are sworn public servants, and refusing to work violates their oath to serve and protect. Mr. Bratton should hold his commanders and supervisors responsible, and turn this insubordination around.

Do read the whole thing. The New York Times editorial board has been outdoing itself on this issue. See also: Police Respect Squandered in Attacks on de Blasio.

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The NYPD Crisis Is Getting Worse

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criminal justice

… and it’s the cops who are making it worse. The New York Post reports that Mayor de Blasio was booed and heckled at a police academy graduation by members of the audience.

Joan Walsh writes about New York’s white backlash. I don’t know what percentage of NYC’s white population is backlashing; most white people I know are liberals and are appalled at the way the patrolmen’s union has been behaving. My sense of things is that the city has moved on from the Crown Heights riots of 1991 or the Amadou Diallo shooting of 1999, when opinions tended to divide along racial lines. I think most New Yorkers were ready to end stop-and-frisk, for example.

The insubordination against the Mayor and the Chief of Police is utterly unnecessary and has gotten out of control, and is dangerous to the city and people of New York. The only interests it serves that I can tell are that of right-wing politicians trying to tear down Mayor de Blasio.

Walsh writes,

Although white New Yorkers may still be inclined to give the police the benefit of the doubt – as I saw on my Facebook page this year – the video of Eric Garner being killed has had an effect on their certainty that cops are always the good guys. The murders of officers Ramos and Liu may have changed that, at least temporarily.

But we should also remember that the officers killed were named Ramos and Liu. The NYPD has diversified enormously since my childhood, though its leadership has not. The families of the two dead officers haven’t joined in the denunciations of De Blasio, or the movement against police violence.

And Eric Garner’s family denounced the murders and expressed sympathy for the bereaved on the other side of the thin blue line. His daughter Emerald Garner laid a wreath at the site of the police murders two days later.

“I just had to come out and let their family know that we stand with them, and I’m going to send my prayers and condolences to all the families who are suffering through this tragedy,” she told ABC News. “I was never anti-police. Like I said before, I have family that’s in the NYPD that I’ve grown up around, family reunions and everything so my family you know, we’re not anti-police.”

Any group of people is going to include some hotheads, but as far as I can see the only people in positions of leadership or national prominence who are spouting inflammatory hate speech and stirring up enmity are on the Right.

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Show Me the Rhetoric

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criminal justice

A plane was spotted flying over NYC with a trailing message banner saying “De Blasio, Our Backs Have Turned to You.” Hundreds of NYPD officers turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio when he attended the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos earlier today.

Day before yesterday I encountered a fellow going on and on about how Mayor de Blasio had incited the murders, and I asked him to show me the actual words de Blasio had used to incite murder.  And of course he couldn’t; all I got back was a lot of attitude and bluster.

Per Gawker, according to a statement issued anonymously through the owner of the plane —

“It is our opinion that Mayor de Blasio’s dangerous and irresponsible comments about his and his wife’s concern for their son’s safety at the hands of the NYPD fueled the flames that led to civil unrest, and potentially to the deaths of PO Wenjian Liu and PO Rafael Ramos, as well as the continued threats against NYPD personnel. The Mayor shows us no respect, and encourages the public to follow his lead.”

I believe this is the statement by Mayor de Blasio that the officers found objectionable:

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

That’s it? That’s the “inflammatory speech” that went over the line? News flash — even black cops in the NYPD fear the white cops in the NYPD. As BooMan says, “You have to be submental not to understand that a police force that has made it its business to stop and frisk black people just because they are black is going to alarm the parents of a young black man. And that doesn’t even get into the history of using violence against black men and asking questions later.”

The police union started badmouthing Mayor de Blasio back when the city stopped supporting “stop and frisk,” which a  federal judge had ruled unconstitutional and arguably wasn’t reducing crime anyway. Stopping “stop and frisk” was one of the issues de Blasio ran on when he campaigned to be elected mayor, so arguably the people of New York supported stopping it (whether there is polling on this I do not know).

A few days ago Charles Pierce wrote about insubordination in the NYPD and CIA.

For the past two weeks, on two different fronts, we have been confronted with the unpleasant fact that there are people working in the institutions of our self-government who believe themselves not only beyond the control and sanctions of the civil power, but also beyond the control and sanctions of their direct superiors. We also have been confronted with the fact that there are too many people in our political elite who are encouraging this behavior for their own purposes, most of which are cheap and dangerous. In Washington, John Brennan, the head of the CIA, came right up to the edge of insubordination against the president who hired him in the wake of the Senate report on American torture. Meanwhile, in New York, in the aftermath of weeks of protests against the strangulation of Eric Garner by members of the New York Police Department, two patrolmen, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were murdered in their squad car by a career criminal and apparent maniac named Ismaaiyl Brinsley. In response, and at the encouragement of television hucksters like Joe Scarborough, police union blowhards like Patrick Lynch, political zombies like George Pataki, and comical fascists like Rudolph Giuliani, the NYPD is acting in open rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, and the civil power he represents over them. This is an incredibly perilous time for democracy at the most basic levels.

The NYPD need to remember who they work for, and it’s not the police union.

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On Crime, Crazy and Culture

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criminal justice

From the New York Times:

In a recent paper on gun violence and mental illness (also discussed at Op-Talk last week), Dr. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish write that in the 1960s and ’70s, “when the potential assailants of a crime were Black, U.S. psychiatric and popular culture frequently blamed ‘Black culture’ or Black activist politics — not individual, disordered brains — for the threats such men were imagined to pose.”

When crimes are committed by white shooters, Dr. Metzl told Op-Talk, “there is a prevailing cultural narrative that tries to localize the question of what caused this or what is to blame to the pathologies of an individual white brain.” After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “there was a push to talk about Adam Lanza’s brain and his DNA, and talk about it in terms of individual mental illness.” But in the case of a black shooter, some in America have shown a tendency toward “defining black crime more broadly in terms of black culture,” a tendency he sees in recent rhetoric “that links this individual and by all accounts senseless crime, and a crime that wasn’t supported by any of the main political protest movements, to those very protest movements.”

Remember the Isla Vista shootings? Remember how quickly the entire Right absolved male entitlement and pickup culture and chose to say Elliot Rodger was just mentally ill?

But when a violent black man with a long criminal record randomly murders two police officers, it’s the fault of protests. Or black culture. Or anything but the mental state of that one man.

The problem here is that it’s not an either-or. Someone driven to extreme actions probably is in some extreme mental state. But which state? The only “excuse” in my book is out-and-out psychosis. I realized last spring that the people claiming Elliot Rodger was just “mentally ill” had no grasp of what psychosis is. Psychotics don’t just believe things that are odd or not mainstream; they believe things that are utterly nonsensical — Algebra is a green octopus. Your aura is eating my head. That kind of thing.  Here’s a good description of what psychosis is like.

However, it’s also the case that people who are angry or agitated or spoiling to do something awful might seize on issues in the news and weave them into their personal myths. The NY Times article continues,

Mr. Brinsley did apparently make Instagram posts referring to Michael Brown and Eric Garner. However, said Dr. Metzl, “there is often some sort of political connection to senseless crimes, at least in the narratives of the people who try to justify their senseless acts.”

“People who might be at risk or imbalanced in some way certainly coopt these messages and take them on as their own personal rhetoric to commit violence,” he explained. “But to me it’s a mistake to take that connection literally and to say that that is a reflection of the protest movement itself, when clearly what’s happening is a very pathological use of that language for a very different set of means and ends.”

People who are not psychotic but who are prone to anger or fear and harbor a desire to harm others can be pushed into violent acts by inflammatory rhetoric or by soaking in a hateful culture. Such a person might be driven to kill women (and men who love them) or Jews or Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.  That’s why inflammatory and hateful rhetoric is irresponsible, especially coming from public officials or people in media. If someone like Bill O’Reilly goes on and on for years demonizing and reviling someone like Dr. George Tiller, it’s almost inevitable that someone will, sooner or later, act on that rhetoric and murder George Tiller. It’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner, in fact.

So, Mayor de Blasio has responsibly called for everyone to chill and to pause protests for a few days.

In his first extensive remarks since the killing, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday for a pause in protests over police conduct as he faced a widening rift with those in a grieving force who accuse him of creating a climate of mistrust that contributed to the execution of two officers. He called for “everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time.”

“We are working toward a day where we can achieve greater harmony toward policing and community,” he said later. De Blasio had earlier met with the officers’ families and later noted, “There’s a lot of pain.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the NYPD — the police union, in other words — has ramped up the hate speech. He has fanned resentment among the NYPD that they are being protested at all, blames City Hall for being against police, and has asked that the Mayor be banned from attending the funerals of slain officers. I don’t even want to know what’s going on on Fox News.

People are still posting obviously doctored videos that allegedly show recent protesters calling for the death of cops, because they so much want to believe that’s true. They want to make it an either-or. They want the cops to be blameless and all the fault placed elsewhere. It’s not that simple.

But, seriously, from what I can see there is not a proportional amount of hate speech coming from both sides, especially from officials and media figures. Individuals, no doubt. You’ll find people saying intemperate things across the spectrum, I’m sure. But among people in prominent positions or in media, it’s not equal at all. Is it?

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The Drawing of the Lines

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criminal justice

The degree to which the Right is hysterically attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio over the murder of two New York policemen is either the measure of knee-jerk right-wing racism or knee-jerk right-wing animus toward anything they label “Left,” or both.

For example, Bill O’Reilly is calling Mayor de Blasio a “villain” who must resign. Let us not forget that this is the same Bill O’Reilly who helped incite the murder of Dr. George Tiller. O’Reilly has never taken responsibility or expressed remorse about Dr. Tiller’s murder, I don’t believe.

Meanwhile, convicted felon Bernie Kerik says “war is being raged on our homeland.” He also says Eric Garner’s death was Garner’s own fault.

On the other hand, the New York Times has been supportive of the Mayor and the protesters.

I believe I’ve already written that the reactions to police violence have been somewhat different from what they might have been in years past. The wall of white obliviousness doesn’t seem quite so solid, anyway.

It’s still there, though. By now you’ve probably heard about the Fox News Affiliate that was so eager to blame protesters for the murder of the two officers that they doctored a video to claim the crowd was chanting to “kill a cop.” But it was not. And the claim that Mayor de Blasio somehow made inflammatory anti-police statements is just conjured out of thin air. As Michael Tomasky wrote,

I covered New York politics for 15 years, and I saw some awfully tense moments between the police and Democratic politicians. But there has never been anything remotely like the war the cops are waging right now against Mayor Bill de Blasio for the thought crime of saying something that was completely unremarkable and so obviously true that in other contexts we don’t even bat an eye when someone says it. And for that, the mayor has blood on his hands, as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Pat Lynch said Saturday evening after the hideous assassinations of two NYPD officers?

And what did Mayor de Blasio say?

This is profoundly personal for me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said, I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years, about the dangers he may face. A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face—we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

And this was bad, because … ? It reminds me of the outrage when the President remarked that if he’d had a son he would have looked like Trayvon Martin. Yes, possibly so. But the way the Right reacted to this innocuous remark was so out of proportion to anything, you’d have thought the President had called for a melanin deficiency tax.

Whatever goes on in rightie heads is utterly alien to me.

But here is where the real lines are drawn. It’s not really between whites and blacks. It’s between the sane and the crazy. And it’s between people who actually want peace and justice and those that just want to politicize and hate and refuse to take responsibility.

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How to Not Take Responsibility

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criminal justice

This past June, when two Las Vegas police officers were shot and killed by a couple of anti-government white supremacists, right-wing bloggers and media went into overdrive blaming just about everything but anti-government white supremacy. For example, The Dumbest Man on the Internet® blamed “meth-using neo-Nazi socialists.” (Note to the oblivious: fascism began as a reaction against liberalism and socialism; 20th century European fascism was emphatically and expressively anti-socialist. “Neo-Nazi socialists” is an oxymoron.) Many readers of this and other right-wing blogs blamed Attorney General Eric Holder for these murders, accusing Holder of staging a “false flag” operation to distract us from something, possibly the Bundy Ranch circus going on at the time.

Fast-forward to yesterday’s execution of two police officers in Brooklyn. The Right is blaming Mayor de Blasio, Al Sharpton, and … Islam? Seriously.

Before going any further, I want to second what Zandar wrote:

Supposedly the suspect also shot and killed his girlfriend and posted a picture of his blood-covered leg to Facebook, but at this point details are still coming in.  It’s completely rational to say that nobody here deserved to die, the cops, the suspect, his girlfriend, and neither did Tamir Rice or Eric Garner or Michael Brown.

But see also Steve M. It isn’t just right-wing bloggers casting blame on everyone on the Left, especially Mayor de Blasio; it’s the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association and former New York Governor George Pataki. Fox’s Eric Bolling also blamed Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and Samuel L. Jackson. Possibly the first black people who popped into his head?

Bernie Kerik — you do remember Bernie Kerik — stepped up and said Mayor de Blasio and Al Sharpton have “blood on their hands.” And (same source) former Mayor Rudy “Giuliani Time” Giuliani blamed “anti-police propaganda.” And several NYPD officers turned their backs when Mayor de Blasio entered a room to give a press conference.

I must’ve missed the memo where de Blasio advocated shooting police officers. Otherwise, Some People are behaving like spoiled children.

Just last week NYPD officers were filmed beating up a 12-year-old boy. And we’ve all seen the video of the death of Eric Garner. No, I don’t think all cops are bad. I certainly don’t think Police Officer Rafael Ramos and Police Officer Wenjian Liu, the two men murdered yesterday, deserved to die. But the NYPD needs to realize that it does have a massive problem, and that people have legitimate reasons to protest them.  It isn’t just “propaganda.” It isn’t just a few “socialists” or whatever black men whose names first popped into Eric Bolling’s head badmouthing them in public, assuming they even did.

One thing we know about yesterday’s murders is that the act appeared to be committed by one man, who then killed himself. One man who was not a New Yorker but whose last known residence was in Georgia and who had just arrived in NYC after shooting his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore. This was not a conspiracy. This was not an act carried out by political activists or protesters, but by a violent man with a long criminal record who appears to have been associated with a criminal gang of some sort (see Steve M for details). He appears to have had a beef with police, but most criminals do. A New York Post headline screamed Gunman executes 2 NYPD cops as ‘revenge’ for Garner, but his motivation is speculation.

Seems to me this likely was more about one man’s personal issues than about politics. Of course, we might be dealing with some borderline personality, and anti-police rhetoric sluicing around in media and the Internet may very well have pushed him in the direction of murdering police officers. Just as anti-government rhetoric no doubt incited Jarad and Amanda Miller to murder two police officers in Las Vegas. As I wrote in my original post on the Las Vegas shootings, I don’t blame the Bundy Ranch crowd specifically for what the Millers did, particularly since the Bundy Militia guys were all about hating the federal government but were willing to work with state and local government. But people with loose screws do sometimes scramble the messages they get. What the Millers did was no doubt founded on their personal issues, and they seized on anti-government rhetoric as a kind of permission slip to do what they wanted to do. The man identified as the Brooklyn shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, may have done likewise.

However, I am seriously tired of the way conservatives — or the Right, or whatever they want to call themselves — steadfastly refuse to take responsibility for anything, just as I fear the NYPD is not going to reform until it can honestly appreciate that there are legitimate reasons people are angry with them. And just once I’d like to see Bernie Kerik and Rudy Guiliani own up to their own role in creating a dysfunctional and violent NYPD. Yes, maybe we’re all at fault here, to some extent. Apparently many are blaming Mayor de Blasio because he met with protesters. They wanted him to ignore protesters? And the heads of the NYPD should have been meeting with them too, for that matter, instead of acting like spoiled children whining that people are either for them or against them.

And how much any of this really has to do with the murders of Ramos and Liu possibly will never be known, since the perp is dead. But I’m sure we can all look forward to the Right’s shameless politicizing of the deaths of these officers. Because that’s what they do.

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Another Non-Indictment

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criminal justice

I can’t say I’m surprised the Long Island Jury failed to bring an indictment in the death of Eric Garner, but I was hoping otherwise. Given that the chokehold was captured on video, nobody can claim the eyewitness testimony was ambiguous. The death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, the cause of death was choking, and we had a video of how it was done, and yet the grand jury couldn’t indict?

There’s no excuse for this. But I can’t say I’m surprised.

See Charles Blow, “The Perfect Victim Pitfall.”

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