The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald joins John and Steve to discuss her poltically incorrect (and therefore quite thought provoking) new piece in City Journal titled, “The Decriminalization Delusion.” Heather describes the “phantom bias” that the press and academics are trying to root out, because, as she notes in her article,

“At the state and city levels, hardly a single criminal-justice practice exists that is not under fire for oppressing blacks. Traffic monitoring, antitheft statutes, drug patrols, public-order policing, trespass arrests, pedestrian stops, bail, warrant enforcement, fines for absconding from court, parole revocations, probation oversight, sentences for repeat felony offenders—all have been criticized as part of a de facto system for locking away black men and destroying black communities.”

The Barter System of Justice


shutterstock_167988596In a perfect world criminals would be punished appropriately and expediently, and the innocent would find vindication in our courts of law. We do not live in a perfect world. We have the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, our crime rates are low and lowering, but our system can hardly be described as just.

Justice Alex Kozinski of the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit wrote an article in the Georgetown Law Journal last summer that is bringing the injustice of our system to light. As George Will put it:

[Justice Kozinski] provides facts and judgments that should disturb everyone, but especially African Americans, whose encounters with the criminal justice system are dismayingly frequent and frequently dismaying.

(Some) Black Lives Matter


Keyshaun-MasonEveryone using social media has seen these names and hashtags countless times:

  • #TrayvonMartin
  • #MikeBrown
  • #FreddieGray
  • #EricGarner
  • #SandraBland

They, and others, have been the subjects of international news, were the reasons for countless riots and marches, and led to the new, controversial political movement Black Lives Matter.

On Monday, news broke out of Oxon Hill, MD (a suburb of Washington, DC) about a tragic murder:

Notes from the “Justice Reform” Bandwagon


shutterstock_245621518Yesterday, Mona Charen posted some skeptical thoughts on justice reform. I’ve been working on this subject for a few months now, so I thought I might offer some responses to her queries. The short of it is: she’s right that there are reasons to be cautious about reform, but there really are problems that need addressing. Furthermore, some reasonable answers have already been offered to many of her questions.

First of all, I should commend Mona for correctly debunking the oft-cited but highly misleading “two thirds of inmates are non-violent drug offenders” claim. As she reports, that is only true of Federal prisons, which represent a very small minority of America’s inmate population. The make-up of state prisons is quite different, and a majority of inmates have been convicted for violent crimes. So no, it isn’t the case that most of our nation’s inmates are basically harmless people who maybe used (or sold) a few drugs. The majority are there because they’ve hurt people, and it would be quite foolish just to release them en masse.

Republican presidential candidates should not be talking about “the new Jim Crow.” That phrase is pulled directly from Michelle Alexander’s foolish, irresponsible book (of the same name), and we shouldn’t lend it any credence. Incarceration is not the new Jim Crow, and approaching it that way will only precipitate a different kind of broken system.

Unlock ’Em Up?


shutterstock_167988596The Justice Department has announced that it will begin releasing 6,000 “non-violent” inmates from federal prisons starting at the end of this month. Welcome to the era of de-incarceration. At a conference named for former New York Mayor David Dinkins (who presided over the city at a time of runaway crime), Hillary Clinton decried the number of Americans behind bars and declared, “It’s time to change our approach. It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration.”

In this, she is joined by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats, and also by Charles Koch, who wrote recently that “Overcriminalization has led to the mass incarceration of those ensnared by our criminal justice system, even though such imprisonment does not always enhance public safety. Indeed, more than half of federal inmates are nonviolent drug offenders.” Senator Rand Paul has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” And Carly Fiorina suggested during the last debate that “We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug-related. It is clearly not working.”

Not exactly. The U.S. does have the highest incarceration rate in the world (that is, among nations that list these data honestly), but the assertion that most of the people incarcerated are there for non-violent crimes is false. Advocates for de-incarceration often cite the number of federal prisoners who committed non-violent drug offenses. This is highly misleading. Of the 1.6 million inmates in America, only about 200,000 are federal prisoners.

It’s Rude to Say, “I Told You So,” But …


In July of last year, I commented over at PJ Media on the matter of Marlene Pinnock, a homeless woman whose rough treatment at the hands of a California Highway Patrol officer was videotaped by a passing motorist and broadcast to the world. At the conclusion of my piece, I predicted that the officer would not be convicted of any crime and, so far at least, he’s had no charges filed against him. I also predicted that the state would settle with Pinnock rather than take the case to trial. And yes, Pinnock settled for a tidy $1.5 million, more than enough — one would imagine — to secure a place to lay her head for some time. I finished by saying that Pinnock “will in due course be homeless and living on the side of the freeway.”

I’m now three for three on the predictions. The Los Angeles Times reports: “A woman captured on video last year being punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol officer on the 10 Freeway was arrested Tuesday and taken in for a mental health evaluation after she ventured into traffic on the same stretch of roadway, CHP officials said.”

Stop It, Dad, You’re Embarrassing Me


Friday-Night-FightsI’ve long felt conflicted about Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. True, it’s one of the worst federal agencies, but that particular trio is my favorite weekend agenda — especially when football is added in. Leave it to the government to screw that up.

During the halftime of a high school football game, BATF Special Agent Marc Delpit allegedly beat up the dad of one of his son’s teammates and allegedly threatened an allegedly gathering crowd at gunpoint. Allegedly. According to multiple witnesses, Delpit punched the victim to the ground and kept on punching. When bystanders tried to step in, witnesses said the agent drew his pistol and brandished it at the crowd. (Actually they said he “waved” it, but how often do you get to use the word “brandished?”)

Both the alleged assaulter and the alleged assaultee have sons on the varsity team for Houston’s St. Thomas High. Meanwhile, the Catholic school (named for the patron saint of Caribbean vacations and fisticuffs) was beating rival Angleton High just as badly by a score of 31 to 14.

Good News: Cops Are Winning The War on Cops


shutterstock_134091965Heuristics are convenient mental rules-of-thumb we all use, often unconsciously, to evaluate information about the world around us. While incredibly useful in many circumstances, they can often lead us astray, especially in dealing with big numbers or concepts outside of our daily lives. One of the most prevalent is the Availability Heuristic, essentially defined as assuming that something that is easily remembered is important. The reason it often fails is that it gets the causality backward: it assumes that something is important because we can remember it, rather than vice versa.

It appears the Availability Heuristic is force when it comes to the War on Cops narrative that’s emerged in the last few months, as every officer tragically gunned down is thought to demonstrate an increasingly dangerous trend. But as Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, 2015 appears to be on-target to be one of the safest years ever for American police officers. More specifically, only 35 officers are expected to be murdered this year, just slightly up from 2013’s record low of 31. For comparison’s sake, roughly twice as many officers a year were gunned down as recently as 2000, about 100 a year were murdered during the late 1960s, and as many as 200 a were killed year during prohibition. Every one of their deaths deserves nothing but the roundest condemnation but this is, truly, wonderful news.

Balko’s statistics come largely from the American Enterprise Institute, which relies, in turn, on the Officer Down Memorial Page; hardly leftist sources. These statistics and others strongly suggest that we are not only very near the bottom of  a long, steady decline in the deaths of law enforcement officers at the hands of criminals, but also that this is taking place within a context of decreasing assaults on officers and during a general decline in violent crime in the United States.

Martin Milner, Pete Malloy of “Adam-12,” R.I.P.


Martin Milner, Kent McCord in Adam-12 1970” by Universal Television. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Actor Martin Milner died Sunday at the age of 83. According to his IMDB page, he had 112 acting credits in film and television, a notable accomplishment in a field where so many consider themselves fortunate to earn even one. If I may speak for a generation of police officers — especially those who, like me, joined the LAPD in the 1980s — Milner will always be best known for his portrayal of Officer Pete Malloy on the television series Adam-12.

When Adam-12 first aired in 1968, Pete Malloy was the seasoned LAPD training officer for rookie officer Jim Reed, played by Kent McCord. Malloy was the tutor every young cop yearns to work with and aspires to become: patient, wise, and resourceful. The show ran until 1975 and, unlike the way things actually work in the LAPD, the two remained partners for the entire run of the show. I quickly learned that, on the real streets of Los Angeles, things didn’t always turn out as neatly as they did on Adam-12. Still, the show presented an ideal that most of us tried to achieve even as we often fell short of it.

Retired Detective Russell Poole, R.I.P.


Wednesday brought the sad news that retired LAPD detective Russell Poole had died from an apparent heart attack. He and I worked together in South L.A. in the mid-1980s, and like everyone who worked with him, I very much admired his skills as a cop. He became a detective and worked homicide in South L.A. for almost 10 years before earning a coveted position at Robbery-Homicide Division, the most elite detective assignment in the department.

It was while at Robbery-Homicide that he was assigned to investigate a controversial incident in which Frank Lyga, an on-duty LAPD undercover detective, shot and killed Kevin Gaines, an off-duty LAPD patrol officer. (I discussed the incident last year at PJ Media.) In the course of that investigation, Poole discovered links between the deceased officer and various figures connected to rap music label Death Row records. As chronicled in Randall Sullivan’s book LAbyrinth, Poole wanted to follow up on leads that suggested other LAPD cops were working for or were otherwise inappropriately cozy with some unsavory characters in the rap music world. Poole was ordered not to pursue those lines of inquiry.

The L.A. Times Sticks to its Guns, and Sticks it to Ted Rall


TedRall_AFThe Los Angeles Times responded to cartoonist Ted Rall and his accusations of chicanery by terminating his services at the newspaper.  After further analysis of the evidence, the Times stands by its decision. As discussed in earlier posts on Ricochet (here and here), and in two columns at PJ Media (here and here), Times editors sacked Rall after determining he had invented details of his October 2001 encounter with an LAPD motorcycle officer in a May 2015 op-ed piece.

Rall claimed he had been handcuffed, thrown against a wall, and “roughed up,” though an audiotape of the incident recorded by the officer contains no suggestion any of it occurred. You can read the Times’s exposition of its case against Rall here, and you can find his response here.

The Ted Rall Affair, Revisited


In an idle moment on Tuesday, I was perusing various Twitter feeds when I came across Ted Rall’s. Recall that I had discussed Rall and his squabble with the Los Angeles Times in a previous post here on Ricochet, and in a longer one at PJ Media, which has led to Rall being stricken from the paper’s roster of freelancers. Since being shown the exit, Rall has undertaken a spirited defense, accusing the LAPD of lying, fabricating evidence, and all manner of underhanded behavior in the effort to besmirch his character and deny him his livelihood. Moreover, he;s accuses the L.A. Times of unethical behavior in acquiescing to what he perceives was the LAPD’s inistence that he be sacked.

Rall’s Twitter feed is full of such talk, but my attention was drawn to this tweet, where he wrote, “Far right blog that despises me agrees @LATimes firing was wrong!” Well, that certainly piqued my interest. “Which far-right blog could that be?” I wondered. So imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link and was taken to yet another piece I wrote on the subject for PJ Media, the one where I devoted more than 1,600 words to showing that Rall had lied about the circumstances of a 2001 traffic stop, and that his defense to the charge does not hold up to scrutiny.

#BlackLivesMatter’s Weekend with Bernie


Over the weekend, a handful of #BlackLivesMatter activists took over the podium at a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle and proceeded to berate the crowd with a litany of racial grievances while a frustrated Sanders stood aside. We’ve got a great discussion on the matter going on on the Member Feed (Not a member? There’s an easy way an easy way to fix that.) Warning: video contains some brief uses of language outside Ricochet’s Code of Conduct:

Book Review: Chasing The Scream


Johann Hari’s new book, Chasing The Scream,CTS provides a broad (but not deep) history of the War on Drugs. He offers not only a convincing case for why it is counterproductive and self-defeating (it’s been said before) but why everything we think we know about addiction is wrong and why — without addressing addiction and its causes — the the war is an exercise in futility.

The book engages with a variety of viewpoints from both sides: Not just the usual prohibitionist and harm reduction positions, but also the viewpoints of law enforcement officials as well as (unusually) those of a variety of drug users.

The book comes with endorsements (on the cover, no less) from Glenn Greenwald, Stephen Fry, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and — somewhat be musingly — Elton John. I know that one or more of these names is the mark of doom for many Ricochetti, but the book contains compelling arguments and statistics worth addressing nonetheless.

Does the DuBose Shooting Video Support Officer Tensing’s Account?


DuBoseWhen I first saw the body cam video of then-University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing shooting motorist Sam Dubose, I was taken aback. It made no sense for a relatively friendly, even jovial, conversation to devolve so quickly into a brutal shooting. Even after covering policing issues and violent crime for two decades, it was shocking. But something about it did not seem right.

It started with prosecutor Joe Deters’ statement that there was “no threat” to Tensing from DuBose. Yet it was obvious DuBose had pulled away from Tensing and started his car. A lethal threat, justifying deadly force? Perhaps not. But certainly he was an actively resisting suspect.

In fact, according to Deters and other self-appointed experts like the New York TimesCharles M. Blow, the video proves that Tensing’s account was a lie. Here is Blow’s expert analysis:

Donald Trump Visits Laredo, Texas


Earlier today, Donald Trump visited my birthplace of Laredo, Texas, a city which was founded by my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Tomás Sánchez de la Barrera y Garza in 1755.   Here is a video of Trump’s press conference in Laredo:

Prison Reform: A Non-Partisan Issue


mentally-ill-man-starved-to-death-in-washington-prisonI got an up close and unsettling look into the need for prison reform when a tragedy and a scandal rocked the little community in which I live. Keaton Farris, a young, mentally troubled man, died of dehydration in solitary confinement in our local county jail. His mental issues were not a surprise. When he was arrested, he clearly informed the officers he was off his medication. During the course of his incarceration, he mentioned he needed medical help.

The official investigation report reads as an increasingly tragic account wherein procedures in place for officer and inmate safety devolved into a formula for death when coupled with negligence and neglect. The peripheral officers in this tragedy seemed to have too much trust in the competence and compassion of their negligent peers.

To suggest the size of this community: I sold Girl Scout cookies with the deceased’s young sisters. I sold Girl Scout cookies to the corrections officer who found the deceased. Keaton Farris’s parents held a protest today. I went to early service and joined them as they walked quietly, carrying signs and handing out water bottles. Down Front Street, up Main Street, to the county jail and courthouse.

First Baltimore, Now Los Angeles?


shutterstock_140272873Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is as obtuse as ever. Addressing the sharp decline in arrest numbers from the Baltimore Police Department, Rawlings-Blake told a reporter for the Baltimore Sun she expects the officers to step it up. “We know there are some officers who we have some concerns about,” she said. “I’ve been very clear with the FOP that their officers, as long as they plan to cash their paycheck, my expectation is that they work.”

And the officers’ expectation is that if they perform their duties within the law, they won’t be arrested and charged with crimes so as to appease a riotous mob. Or at least this was their expectation. Now, since the arrest and indictment of the six officers implicated in the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore cops live with fear that they could be next and are conducting themselves accordingly.

The mayor claims the officers aren’t working. In fact, they are: they’re merely adjusting their work habits so as to bring them into alignment with the current political climate. They’re out on patrol in the same numbers and manning all the posts they were before Freddie Gray’s death, but they’re being far less proactive in their efforts to reduce crime. And who can blame them? Imagine yourself as a Baltimore cop. You are driving the streets in your patrol car when you see someone you know to have a violent history. You see him tug at his shirt or adjust his pants or change his gait in a certain way, any of which might indicate he is carrying a gun. Do you get out of your car and investigate with the knowledge that — if he doesn’t shoot you — he’ll run away and force you to chase him?

Member Post


One of the polls I keep an eye on is Gallup’s annual survey of confidence in American institutions.  It’s not a pretty picture.  In this year’s survey only three institutions enjoy the confidence of over 50% of Americans: the military (72%), small businesses (67%), and the police (52%). It goes downhill from there with Congress […]

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