Tag: Policing

The Randomness: On David French’s Quest to De-Risk Crime


As a fellow Iraq war vet, I deeply respect the service and perspective of National Review columnist David French. He volunteered out of a sense of obligation to serve in a war he had endorsed. The man put his rear end where his mouth had put others. That he was “inside the wire” as a legal advisor should be beside the point. He risked much more than any pundit. Oh, but that he would do the same with his punditry on policing. On this Mr. French is consistently, dangerously wrong.

I have spent much of three decades observing, reporting on, and training in police work. That study is further informed by my tours as an infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the lessons I’ve learned are clear: Mr. French’s ideas will get good people killed by shifting the risk of criminality off of the lawless. Sadly, his effort to de-risk criminality hit a nadir with his column on the death of Stephon Clark.

Radley Balko Finds a Good Cop. And He’s A, Well…


The folks among Black Lives Matter, radical Libertarians and “police reform activists” would have you that they don’t really want any harm to come to police officers. They simply want to prevent harm to people the police are dealing with.

They want you to believe they reject the idea that “The only good cop is dead cop.” But, the strange thing is they never quite seem to be able to say what a “good cop” is when it comes to actually dealing with dangerous people.

Nicole Gelinas joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss how New York City saved its subway system after decades of decay and rampant crime from the 1960s to the early-1990s.

This episode originally aired on October 20, 2016.

“Four Hours,” A Sermon


I have a question about the story we heard from Matthew 28 this morning. Why did the Chief Priests and elders bribe the soldiers to tell a lie? I mean, this may sound like I’m stating the obvious … but lying is wrong.

It wasn’t even a very good lie. Even a casual reading of the story brings a lot of questions to mind: Like: if the soldiers were asleep, how did they know that it was the disciples who had stolen the body? How could the disciples, or anyone else, roll a heavy stone away from the opening to the tomb without waking everyone up? And why would they do this, given that stealing a body was considered a downright sacrilegious offense and punishable by death in those days? Not to mention the punishment that awaited soldiers who conked out while on duty?

Victor Davis Hanson explores the tensions between technological progress and cultural vitality.

Member Post


I want to give a shout-out to Fred Cole and Jon Gabriel for including the death of Philando Castile in the Daily Shot. While the Facebook video begins after the shooting, and the public has no evidence right now of exactly what transpired in the seconds leading up to the shots being fired, the alleged […]

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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.

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.

The Happy Anachronism


Vintage Pocketwatch

It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men again dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth. — Whittaker Chambers

I don’t recall the exact age when my paternal grandfather stopped caring what the rest of the world thought of him, but I do remember the ebullient freedom with which he would announce whatever happened to be on his mind at any given moment, often to hilarious effect. I once brought a young lady over to meet him and at the conclusion of our visit, as we were leaving, he took her by the hand, smiled warmly and said, “You sure do talk a lot.” As with many things, his observation was absolutely spot-on, though it would have been nearly suicidal for me to agree with him at that particular moment. He winked, I winked, and she kept on talking.

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?

Toward a De-policed America


shutterstock_90734326I was asked by the folks over at National Review Online to submit my thoughts on the recent event in McKinney, Texas, in which a police officer was shown on video responding (poorly, in my opinion) to a teen pool party that had become unruly. You can read my piece over at The Corner, but I’ll summarize it here by saying it appeared to me that the officer lost his composure even as his fellow officers maintained theirs, a judgment in which the town’s police chief concurred.

The officer in question, Eric Casebolt, resigned today, and though I’m critical of his actions I’m not without sympathy for him nor do I believe he should have been hounded from his job. That a 10-year career should be lost over a momentary lapse in which no one was injured is an injustice. Casebolt is the latest victim of the mob, joining Darren Wilson, of Ferguson, Missouri, and, more recently, the Baltimore 6. Wilson was ultimately cleared by every investigative body that examined the case, but he still had to leave his job and live in hiding. The crucible only just begun by the Baltimore 6 will be even more grueling, but I’m confident that none of them will be convicted of a single charge, and that they will prevail in a civil case against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and everyone else who lent a hand to this travesty.

The incident in McKinney is but one more step on the way to a de-policed America, a condition that’s already on vivid display in Baltimore, where 128 people have been murdered so far this year and where there is no sign of political will to see this deadly trend reversed.

Small Town SWAT


policetanksI was on my way to church a few weeks ago when I noticed that several roads in my town had been blocked off. Turns out there was a 5K race to raise money for something called SRT. I had no idea what that was, but the logo — a gladiator helmet in front of crossed swords — looked pretty cool. When I looked it up, I discovered it stood for the police Special Response Team.

The SRT isn’t so much a team as some officers who volunteered to take extra training, sort of like a SWAT without snipers. They do, however, have all of the helmets, body armor, and assault rifles needed to play soldier. Some of these guys were soldiers once, but they’re not now. Now they are police officers.

All of the training and equipment for the SRT comes from fundraisers. As a taxpayer, I like that. Still, I have to wonder: Is this really needed?

Where’s the GOP Law-and-Order Candidate?

Where's the GOP's law-and-order candidate?

Where’s the GOP law-and-order candidate?

Is there a GOP law-and-order candidate? Murders in Atlanta are up 32% since mid-May. Murders in Chicago are up 17%, and shootings 24%. In St. Louis, in the aftermath of Ferguson, shootings are up 39%, robberies 43%, and murders 25%. In Baltimore, scene of the worst urban riots in two generations, law and order is in extended meltdown, with 32 shootings over the Memorial Day weekend alone. As Heather Mac Donald’s disturbing column in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal makes clear:

The Tired Baltimore Narrative


BlackLivesWe know well from the media the tired Baltimore narrative: widespread prejudice and callous indifference, now and in the distant past, built the socio-economic bomb that racist police gratuitously set off, leading to regrettable — but in a sense also justifiable — “rebellions” and “uprisings” marked by cri de coeur looting and arson. “Riot” and “thug” are coded racist words, at least if not spoken by the mayor of Baltimore and the President of the United States. The narrative is usually punctuated by melodramatic warnings from elites of “more to come.” I suppose the subtext is that unless, in our era of $18 trillion in federal debt, more federal money is borrowed and redirected into Baltimore—or unless more resources are devoted to the often personal or careerist agendas of elite critics—then the violence of the underclass may well become endemic and perhaps hit the Upper West Side, Palo Alto or Chevy Chase (though perhaps not Utah, Montana or Texas).

What is startling about this now common story are its glaring self-contradictions. Most of the elite critics, from Marc Lamont Hill to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who blast American society for creating Baltimores never quite explain what it was about their own paths to their success—Intact family? Legitimacy? Mentors? Religion? No criminal record? Drug and handgun avoidance? Generous federal and state programs?—that separated them from the underclass in the street.

Statistics prove irrelevant or worse. It is racist to suggest that if less than 5% of the population, comprised of inner-city African-American males between 15-40 years of age, were not responsible for about half of American crime, then these tragically explosive confrontations with the overworked police might be less common. Nor is there any interest in exploring why Baltimore schools are among the highest-funded in the nation and yet serve their students so poorly. Do the hosts at MSNBC believe that should Baltimore exceed New York in per capita expenditures superb education would follow? Do they really think that stricter gun control of legal and licensed weapons in the suburbs will translate into fewer illegal and unlicensed handguns in the inner city?

Back to “Normal” in Baltimore


MosbyBaltimoreI have a new column up today over at PJ Media in which I maintain that the “return to normal” in Baltimore is not necessarily a thing to be celebrated. As is often the case, no sooner had I sent the piece off to my editor than I thought of something I should have added. In the column, I make the prediction that when the case has run its course none of the six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray will stand convicted of even a single charge, and that they will prevail in a civil lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Her case against the officers is feeble at best, but this does not mean the officers will have any easy time of things when they have their day in court. I have no doubt that in Baltimore there can be found any number of judges who, like Ms. Mosby, are more committed to the cause of “social justice” than to the impartial application of actual justice. Should the case come before one of these judges – and is there any doubt that Mosby will attempt to steer it that way? – the officers may find themselves in for a rough go. But, at some point along the way, the case will come before appellate judges at the state or federal level, men and women who, one must hope, will not abide Mosby’s campaign to use the courts as a vehicle for mob revenge.

As I say in the column, the riots in Baltimore haven’t ended, they’ve only been postponed.

Torture and Police Reparations


image_miniThis week, the city of Chicago has approved a reparations package that will supply money and benefits to men with credible claims to have been tortured by the “Midnight Crew” of Police Commander John Burge. Burge appears to have used suffocation, electrical shocks, and Russian roulette-style “fake executions” to force confessions out of more than 200 people in the ’70s and early ’80s.

The department fired him in 1993, and a 2002 investigation turned up serious evidence of abuse. Burge wasn’t charged because the statute of limitations had elapsed on his offenses. However, he did serve four and a half years for perjury and obstruction of justice (relating to a civil suit filed against him) and was only recently released. He’s currently drawing a police pension.

What do we think of all this? To me it seems pretty clear that Burge’s tactics were far beyond the range of acceptable police behavior. Whether or not you would classify his “Midnight Crew’s” activities as torture (which I think we plausibly should), using “extreme interrogation tactics” to coerce confessions is obviously unjust. It’s somewhat interesting that the settlement offered by the city is relatively small ($5.5 million) in comparison to the costs already incurred from related judgments and legal costs, and also that it also includes provisions for counseling, job training and other services for victims. (They’re also erecting a monument. Hmm.)

The Libertarian Podcast: Baltimore, Law Enforcement, and Race


You won’t want to miss this installment of The Libertarian podcast. Professor Epstein is on his A-game as we review the recent riots in Baltimore, discuss whether criminal charges were brought too hastily against the police involved in Freddie Gray’s death, work through Hillary Clinton’s critique of “the age of mass incarceration,” and ponder what both law enforcement and African-American political leaders can do to ratchet down the tensions. Listen in below or subscribe to The Libertarian through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

The DOJ Inflames Racial Tensions in Ferguson


FergusonThough it has scarcely garnered the attention it deserves, the U.S. Department of Justice has released a report exonerating Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Missouri. As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas, the Justice Department should, in the interest of civic harmony, be doing everything it can to call attention to the report’s findings:

What the DOJ now has to do is to acknowledge that the killing of Michael Brown was a justifiable homicide. It must abandon its contrived legalisms and defend Wilson, by condemning unequivocally the entire misguided campaign against him, which resulted in threats against his life and forced his resignation from the police force. Eric Holder owes Wilson an apology for the unnecessary anguish that Wilson has suffered. As the Attorney General for all Americans, he must tell the protestors once and for all that their campaign has been thoroughly misguided from start to finish, and that their continued protests should stop in the interests of civic peace and racial harmony. In light of the past vilification of Wilson, it is not enough for the DOJ to publish the report, and not trumpet its conclusions. It is necessary to put that report front and center in the public debate so that everyone now understands that Wilson behaved properly throughout the entire incident.

At the same time, however, the DOJ has issued a report claiming systemic prejudice in the Ferguson Police Department, an odd conclusion given that the investigation was surely undertaken to identify the “root causes” of Wilson’s misbehavior — misbehavior that they now admit did not occur. As I write: