Browsing the archives for the criminal justice category.

Is the NYPD Making Itself Superfluous?

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.


The NYPD Crisis Is Getting Worse

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.


Show Me the Rhetoric

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.


On Crime, Crazy and Culture

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?


The Drawing of the Lines

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.


How to Not Take Responsibility

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.


Another Non-Indictment

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.”


When Women Don’t Count

criminal justice, Republican Party, Women's Issues

A couple of unrelated stories saying the same thing — first, following up yesterday’s post on how gun rights “trump” everything else these days, here’s a story from South Carolina about prosecutors who say “stand your ground” laws don’t apply to domestic violence situations.

In November 2012, Whitlee Jones fatally stabbed her partner, Eric Lee. She has testified that she did not mean to kill Lee when she issued the fatal wound, but that she only meant to fend him off while he blocked her from exiting the house with her belongings, attempting to leave him for good. The incident occurred just hours after Lee had punched Jones repeatedly and dragged her down the street by her hair.

People had witnessed Lee brutalizing Jones and called the police. Naturally, when the police showed up they talked only to Lee, who told them there was no problem. So the cops left. Brilliant. Shortly after the police left Jones tried to get out of the house, and she says he attacked her again, so she stabbed him. And he died, and now she is facing homicide charges.

And why doesn’t “stand your ground” apply to this situation?

But prosecutors say the 2006 SYG law does not apply to housemates in episodes of domestic violence, as that was not the legislation’s original purpose.

“[The Legislature’s] intent … was to provide law-abiding citizens greater protections from external threats in the form of intruders and attackers,” Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd, the case’s lead prosecutor, told The Post and Courier. “We believe that applying the statute so that its reach into our homes and personal relationships is inconsistent with [its] wording and intent.”

So, in other words, stand your ground only applies if one is defending oneself from a stranger? On what planet does that make sense?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1980 to 2008, among all homicide victims—

  • Females were more likely than males to be the victim of intimate killings (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%) .
  • Males were more likely to be involved in drug- (90.5%) and gang-related homicides (94.6%).
  • Female murder victims (41.5%) were almost 6 times more likely than male murder victims (7.1%) to have been killed by an intimate.
  • More than half (56.4%) of male murder victims were killed by an acquaintance; another quarter (25.5%) were murdered by a stranger.

Self-defense laws that apply only to defending oneself from strangers are, therefore, self-evidently screwy even for men, but more so for women.  This same document says men represent 77 percent of homicide victims and 90 percent of perpetrators, but given that male homicides tend to be drug and gang related, it’s not clear to me what the stats are regarding men not involved in gangs and drugs, and that’s something I’d be curious to know.

Even so, it seems to me a lot of white Americans are obsessed with unreasonable fear of the “other,” whether of brown Guatemalan toddlers sneaking across the Rio Grande or drug-crazed black people breaking into their homes and killing them. I actually couldn’t find authoritative data on how common it is for armed criminals of any color to break into homes while the occupants were inside. Burglaries are common, of course, but burglars prefer it if the homeowners are not home.

A lot of men also have a hard time accepting the fact that most rapes are not, in fact, perpetrated by strangers lurking in dark alleys but by men the victim knows.  Conservative men in particular will denounce rape in the abstract but defend it in the particular, especially when the accused seems like such a regular guy. And they nearly always seem like such regular guys.

But the point is that, if the prosecutors are right, then South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law was written to address threats that probably don’t actually happen that often to real law-abiding citizens, but it doesn’t apply to the ways people really are threatened, especially women.  Again, brilliant.

The other story showing that women are still a variation from the default norm in America comes from the sharp-eyed Josh Marshall.

For years there was a constant refrain in American politics which would speak of two electorates, even two elections: election results among white people and then the results when you counted the votes of black people. There were more denigrating and racist versions of this talk. But the most revealing were the versions that weren’t consciously racist at all. They were at their peak of popularity in the 80s and 90s and went something like this: “Democrats haven’t won the white vote in decades. Without blacks, they’d barely be holding on as a national party.”

There were various permutations of this refrain. But, as I’ve discussed before, all carried with them the tacit assumption that black votes, while legal, were somehow a second-rate product in the grand economy of voting.

We’ve come a long way, baby, or not —

I raise this history because we seem to be seeing a similar trend in attacks upon or diminishment of single women. Last week long-shot New Jersey Senate candidate Jeff Bell noted that he’d actually be ahead if not for single women. He then went on to blame his opponent’s double digit margin on single women and single mothers who vote Democratic because they are “wed” to the social safety net and “need benefits to survive.”

Josh goes on to quote other voices of the Right, including Rushbo, saying variations of the same thing. And of course the reason there is a gender gap is that there are women voters who, sensibly, vote according to their self-interests, whether for equal pay or reproduction rights or protection from domestic violence, and Democrats overwhelmingly support such things while Republicans overwhelmingly oppose them. And why might single mothers be more concerned about the social safety net, pray tell?

Every now and then I still run into men who actually cannot understand why gender and racial diversity is a good thing in a governing body. Why can’t a legislature or board of directors made up almost entirely by white men make perfectly sound and reasonable policies that apply to everybody?

Because so often they don’t, that’s why.


Ferguson Updates

criminal justice

Right-wing police brutality apologists, plus the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, have been trying to get Michael Brown’s juvenile police record released. The “apologists” were certain Brown had a substantial criminal record as a juvenile, and one conservative “journalist” had widely published a “confirmed report” that the record included an arrest related to second degree murder for which Brown was still facing charges when he was killed.

No record has been released — we don’t know for a fact there is one, actually — but yesterday an official of the St. Louis County Circuit Court released a statement saying that Brown had no convictions of either a Class-A or Class-B felony as a juvenile, nor was he facing any such charges at the time of his death. So no second degree murder charge.

Naturally that cesspool of moral depravity known as “Jim Hoft” turned this statement into an implication that Brown had a record of misdemeanors. One would expect nothing more from Hoft. Of course, in a place where one can be gunned down for jaywalking, misdemeanors might include unauthorized bird watching or the public consumption of toast.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced it has begun a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson police department.


Attitude Adjustments and Police

criminal justice

It’s a beautiful day in the Mahaneighborhood, and this morning I walked to the salon down the street for a long-overdue haircut.  And while I was there I listened to a salon full of middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies talk about an accident someone had had recently.  A speeding cop car, no siren, had struck the car of one of the ladies’ friends, shoving the car some distance and spinning it around. The friend was injured, although she will recover.

One woman in the salon saw the whole thing. And then she watched while the cops canvassed the neighborhood looking for people who would swear they heard the siren going, even though it wasn’t. They were building a case to exonerate the cop, not investigating what happened. And the interesting part of this, to me, was that all of these middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies agreed that the police were out of control and couldn’t be trusted.

I realize that a big chunk of the white middle class will still automatically side with cops. And I realize I have only anecdotal evidence that anything has changed. But I do think I’m seeing some shift in attitude toward the police around here on the part of white people, especially compared to the glory days of Mayor Giuliani back in the 1990s.

Not a day goes by I don’t see two or three fresh examples of police overreach from all around America. Today’s outrage, btw, is about the arrest of a black man sitting in a public space waiting for his children to be let out of school.

Of course, lots of people in social and news media are still trying to spin events in Ferguson to exonerate Officer Wilson. The standard trajectory of these arguments is that we shouldn’t rush to judgment regarding Wilson (agree) and, anyway, Michael Brown was a thug who had just robbed a convenience store and Wilson didn’t have a choice but to shoot him. Um, who’s rushing to judgment, again?

All kinds of stuff could have happened in Ferguson, but the only facts everyone seems to agree on is that two young and unarmed black men were walking in the street of their own residential neighborhood, had an encounter with Officer Wilson, and somehow this escalated into a shooting that killed one of the young men, which is self-evidently screwy. Beyond that, the police have one story and eyewitnesses have another.

Even if Wilson is exonerated of blame for the shooting, seems to me he’s still got some ‘splainin’ to do about why a jaywalking incident got  so out of control.  Whatever happened at the convenience store — which is not entirely clear —  is a red herring. The store owner made no complaint to police; Wilson could not have known about it.

The other part of this story that is beyond dispute is that since the shooting Ferguson and Saint Louis police have behaved horribly. They’ve put every possible foot wrong. See, for example, Michael Brown’s Body and Michael Brown’s Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot — and Police Crushed Them. Since justice will likely be determined by forensics I sincerely hope the Justice Department at least keeps an eye on this, because if the investigation and possible prosecution are left to the local crew, they might as well not bother. Yeah, okay, #notallcops but it’s sure as heck #alotofcops.

What a change camera phones have made, eh? U.S. police departments need to realize the days when they could get away with whatever are coming to a close. Time for an attitude adjustment, folks.

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