Morning Ed: Law & Order {2018.02.01.Th}

[LO1] One of my favorite things about this story is that rank-and-file probably complained to reporters expecting a sympathetic reaction. Meanwhile, on eBay

[LO2] What if convicting cops doesn’t reduce police shootings? Well, bummer, but there’s still the whole “justice” thing.

[LO3] The “11 school shootings already” figure being tossed about is, according to Becket Adams, kind of misleading.

[LO4] Outrageous! Of course, here in the US when police find a driver with a lot of money, they’ll take the money and his car.

[LO5] It turns out that crime-predicting algorithms are not good.

[LO6] Not to blame the victims, but at some point you have to start wondering if you just weren’t meant to have a lot of money on an ongoing basis.

[LO7] Tight budgets are forcing some suburban police departments to hire part-timers that they can’t easily fire, and that’s creating problems.

[LO8] A conspiracy theory about the Mattress Firm is, evidently, gaining steam.

[LO9] From Jericho to Jesus to the Cold War and beyond, Candida Moss writes about what prostitutes have given our culture.


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70 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Law & Order {2018.02.01.Th}

  1. Lo2: Well duh, if the only tool police have in their toolbox is a hammer… Convictions, aside from that whole ‘justice’ thing, is about giving officers, unions, and departments an incentive to be serious about putting some more tools in the toolbox, as well as an incentive to purge from the ranks those who just want to shoot someone.

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      • That’s something else we could do, have a credentialing agency, perhaps at the state level, that can pull officer credentials. No credentials, no badge and gun.

        Of course, the trick with that is similar to the Bar and Medical Licenses – getting the agency to actually pull credentials.

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  2. Lo7: If your budget is that tight, perhaps it is time to go to the community and tell them, the voters & the elected officials, to sh*t or get off the pot. There’s no requirement that a town have a PD, lots of places just contract with the Sheriff.

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      • It’s also partly, not entirely, an issue of scale. US population is more than 69X greater than US population. (This doesn’t excuse how a city like mine, 1/3 the size of Auckland, has 4 different levels of police moving around inside it, but it is PART of why.)

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        • US population is more than 69X greater than US population

          I think there is something hinky with your math here, but I only have a bakers dozen of collegiate math classes under my belt, perhaps someone else whose taken some of those higher level math theory classes could clear this up?

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        • The population difference explains some of it, and Federalism explains a bit more, I can certainly understand why the US has more than one police force, but. Would have thought on per state (plus one federal) would be sufficient in most cases.

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          • Oh, aren’t you precious ;)

            Within just the District of Columbia (where the feds technically have sole jurisdiction) there are, off the top of my head

            – the Metropolitan Police Department (the ‘real’ Washington police)
            – US Capitol Police for the Capitol building and grounds
            – Uniformed Secret Service for the White House grounds
            – US Park Police for federal park land (which is most of the parkland in DC)
            – WMATA (Metro) police for the transit system
            – Amtrak police for Union Station and the trains & tracks of that system
            – US Postal police for the USPS Headquarters
            – FBI police – not FBI, but a seperate police agency for the security of the FBI hq itself
            – military base police for Joint Base Anacostia/Bolling
            – Federal Protective Service police for federal installations that don’t otherwise have themselves

            And that’s not counting all the federal police with presence but no primary jurisdiction in the District (e.g. FBI, DEA, ATF, CBP, ICE, NCIS, etc)

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          • At least where I live, history. State early on didn’t want to build a large centralized bureaucracy, days/weeks away from where people were (people died trying to cross the mountain passes in the winter). So counties are created, and courts/jails were delegated. Then cities grew, created their own laws that the sheriffs weren’t interested in, so police depts. The biggest cities could afford forensics, but generally not the sheriffs, so the state added shared capabilities. At the same time, feds weren’t interested in (read, couldn’t get support across regions for anything consistent) a variety of criminal and/or civil laws — murder still isn’t a federal crime.

            As of today, New Zealand is slightly smaller than Colorado in area, more significantly smaller by population. If Colorado were doing everything from the top down, we’d have a much saner law enforcement structure.

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            • Note: In towns that have local laws they want enforced, but no local PD, those laws still get enforced. The city identifies the violator and can call in the county authorities (sheriff and courts) to enforce it. The county, however, will not enforce those laws without the city calling them in.

              This is how local PDs are formed, because city officials want their authoritah respected and are tired of relying on the county mounties to do it for them.

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      • You want to get even stranger? Find out how many of the federal government’s executive departments have sworn law enforcement agents within them. Hint: it’s easier to name the ones that don’t, which I believe are the Departments of Labor, of Education, and HUD. And even those three have Inspector General’s offices that have some investigative and enforcement authority.

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  3. LO5: This surprised me when I saw it a week or two ago, so I dug into it a bit, and a major caveat here is that the Compas system assigns risk scores on a ten-point scale, but the human volunteers were only asked to make a binary prediction regarding whether a convicted criminal would reoffend. The researchers who did this study mapped the Compas scores to a binary prediction, and then compared the outcomes to the predictions made by volunteers.

    Imagine that you do the following every day for a year:
    1. Ask a bunch of random people on the street whether it will be hot or cold tomorrow.
    2. Ask a meteorologist the expected high and low temperatures for tomorrow.
    3. Convert the meteorologist’s forecast from specific temperatures to “hot” or “cold.”

    Your average man on the street will be able to predict whether tomorrow will be hot or cold with a pretty high degree of accuracy just based on the season and today’s temperature. But it wouldn’t make sense to conclude from this that meteorologists are only slightly better at predicting the temperature than untrained volunteers. The meteorologist made a prediction with maybe 5-8 bits of information, and you’re stripping it down to one bit. You’re making the meteorologist compete with both legs and an arm tied behind his back.

    That’s basically what the researchers did here. A better test would have been asking the volunteers to assign a specific probability of recidivism to the offenders, and not just a binary yes-no prediction.

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    • That seems important given that despite the Wired’s articles conclusion, I don’t think judge’s are likely to turnover their judgement to a computer read-out. They have specific information about the accused in front of them, and I think the benefit of such a program would be to inject some objectivity before bail is set.

      I don’t understand from the link how they used Broward County data to identify false positives unless they are looking at post-sentencing conduct. Judges should set bail based upon the risk that the accused will not show-up for trial or commit crimes while waiting trial. Those that aren’t released don’t have those problems. Of those that are released, either on their own recognizance or bail, one-third will fail to appear or be arrested. (pdf) That’s a pretty large false-negative. My suspicion here is that the data is for post-sentencing conduct, which I’m not sure is apples to apples.

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    • How could you possibly tell from the article? I read it and there’s zero mention of the race of the young people being undressed. There’s a pure assertion: “But critics have attacked the idea saying it is a “slippery slope” towards racial profiling.

      I’ve reinserted the link because the link takes you to a topic page in the same newspaper called “Racial Profiling” and the top story there is the story from the link… the one that doesn’t talk about any sort of racial profiling.

      My point here is that not that there isn’t any racial profiling… but how would we possibly know? There’s nothing in the reporting about the people being stopped. No statistics, no raw data, not even a single (un)representative anecdote. Just a circular reference to itself that “critics” are concerned. Not even a listing of critics or their concerns. Even the “scare link” to “expensive clothing” is a link to an unrelated article about women selling things on ebay… recycled things…in Chicago.

      There is neither literal nor figurative journalism in this article… it is pure confirmation bias bait. We should undress everyone associated with this article and make them write their next 5 articles in their underwear. Then again, isn’t that what got Halperin and Rose into trouble?

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      • How could you possibly tell from the article?

        I could tell because of the part where it empowers police to take valuable property away from people based on their perception of how much those people should own.

        I assume that the police in Rotterdam are not such hapless clods that they would create policies that are incredibly ripe for racist abuse if they didn’t want to engage in racist abuse.

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        • Sure, then obvious stories have obvious support… that we put in the stories. Not frivolous links to nothing or circular links to self.

          Its not new, but I’m noticing that more and more journalist links are false leads… we read the link itself as evidence, but rarely bother to follow the link. That’s pretty cool for propaganda, but not that great as far as journalism is concerned.

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      • The behavior described concerns me. That’s because it entails officers on the street making judgement calls about how expensive clothing is, and whether the person wearing them “deserves” them.

        There are no operational criteria here for who to stop. People wear knockoffs all the time, for instance. How can you tell, looking at someone’s face, whether they deserve the clothes they are wearing?

        In the US, such language was used all the time to justify stops of black men driving nice cars. It was common to hear someone, in the 90’s say “black guy driving a Mercedes, must be a drug dealer”. And this is why the profiling concerns me. But do we know that’s a factor here? We do not. If there were statistics that show this sort of treatment by police fell disproportionately on people of color in Rotterdam, we would. But the article dances around it.

        So there’s a leap there, a presumption, that isn’t all that different from the leap the police are making when they decide someone on the street doesn’t deserve the clothes they are wearing.

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      • OK, so let’s assume for a moment that race would not be a characteristic that would be used as a judgement factor to visually assess whether a particular person could or could not possibly legitimately afford the nice clothes they’re wearing.

        What are some legitimate, not-at-all racist characteristics that you think the police might use for such an on-the-spot visual decision?

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        • Per the article? Age.

          Officers say the scheme will see them target younger men in designer clothes they seem unlikely to be able to afford legally – if it is not clear how the person paid for it, it will be confiscated.

          My point isn’t that the Netherlands have struck out on a great policing plan… its that you, the reader, are quite literally in these very comments are trying to provide all the arguments, data, and logic behind what might be a problematic approach to policing. My beef is with bad journalism; rampant.

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            • Age and gender, it seems.

              That’s not really what the sentence says.

              Officers say the scheme will see them target younger men in designer clothes they seem unlikely to be able to afford legally – if it is not clear how the person paid for it, it will be confiscated.

              I.e, of the existing set of population that is ‘younger men in designer clothes’, they will target the subset of that that ‘seem unlikely to be able to afford [the clothing] legally’.

              If ‘the target’ was ‘all younger men in designer clothes’, they would not have needed to clarify that the targeting depending on whether the person was ‘seemed likely’ to afford it.

              But, then again, that’s a paraphrase, and a bad one at that. (It’s two complete sentences that for some reason are dashed together.)

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          • Ah, right – so, if you can prove that your parents are rich, you get to keep your clothes; if you cannot, you get sent home in your undies.

            No problem at all there. Gotta make sure people don’t get ideas about rising above their stations.

            And of course, the police will not use any sort of heuristics for which kinds of young people tend to have rich parents and which don’t, in order to more efficiently target their enforcement of the new sumptuary laws. They’ll target young white men in neighbourhoods of mostly ethnically Dutch families just as much as young brown men in neighbourhoods of mostly first and second generation immigrant families. To assume otherwise would be deeply uncharitable…

            Honestly, I think that by now, in 2018, the onus ought to be on police to prove that they won’t use such a vast discretionary power to harass and humiliate in racist ways, not on us to prove that they will.

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    • [Lo4] Here in Edmonton, there was a cop who testified in court that for years he regularly stopped native people and took away their bikes, if in his judgement the bikes were “too nice” for a native person to be riding. He saw nothing at all wrong with this, or presumably he would not so guilelessly have testified to doing so.

      Note he did not stop them and look up the serial number in the stolen bike database, using the “too nice for a brown guy” factor as a basis for suspicion the bike might be stolen. He just stopped them and confiscated their bikes, purely for the crime of “having something too nice for a brown guy”.

      He testified to this in a case in which a guy was trying to get back his bike, that this cop had confiscated and that had been held in evidence for near a year. The bike had of course not been reported stolen.

      At the bike co-op where I volunteer, we sell lots of bikes. Usually we email receipts, or people just don’t ask for one. A few people ask for a paper receipt they can carry around to satisfy the reverse onus of proof they *didn’t* steal their bike when the police stop them. Our sales system doesn’t print receipts, so we write up paper bills of sale. I bet you can hazard a guess at some of the demographic differences between those who ask for a paper receipt and those who don’t.

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    • I suppose a cliff is a kind of slope.

      You start by calling a molehill a slope, and next you know, you are down the slippery slope where cliffs are called a a slope.

      Damn these slippery slopes. That’s why we can’t have anything pretty

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    • Mr. Kimmel demonstrates that limit of Disney Liberalism on television. I think this is a big fault in the more optimistic strains of liberalism, whether they be of the classical variety or the modern variety. There is an assumption that deep down everybody wants the same thing and that through dialog their can be a great understanding and peace will be achieved. People do not want the same thing. People and groups want mutually inconsistent things. Despite decades of light liberalism permeating pop culture in the developed world, the developed world still has plenty of sexists and racists. There are plenty of Muslims that really believe a global Muslim theocracy will be paradise on earth, etc.

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    • I didn’t see the Kimmel piece and so can’t comment specifically on that. (And to be clear, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Kimmel’s show at all.) I did swallow my distaste for Loomis and read his article.

      In his opening sentences, Loomis says something that’s tangential to his argument but that helps explains why a certain kind of dialogue doesn’t work:

      Perhaps nothing is more core to liberal beliefs than the idea that dialogue will bring people together. If only we can come together and talk out our problems and if only we can educate people about the world, they will make decisions based on tolerance.

      [bold added by me]
      There’s a difference between “educating” someone, or presuming to be able to “educate” someone, about an issue or problem, and engaging in true dialogue, where people get to know each other. Presuming to “educate’ someone is to presume they’re ignorant and that the would-be educator has the answers and just by sprinkling some of that educatory goodness onto the ignorant, the ignorant will see the error of their ways and embrace the educated enlightenment.

      Menawhile, what I call “true dialogue” is harder. It involves both sides being willing to suspend their egos long enough to listen to the other. And because both sides rarely, if ever, are willing to do so, it requires one side to take a leap and suspend their own ego long enough to consider the other’s side. The problem with the latter is that one gets situations that I imagine happened with the Kimmel piece: the other side doesn’t recognize how vulnerable the first person made themselves and goes in for the kill. (That, by the way, is a tactic Mr. Loomis used repeatedly back when I used to read LGM semi-regularly. I know ille quoque‘s are not valid arguments, but it would be nice if he looks at his own house.)

      Loomis suggests that “[o]nly power will defeat these [evil] ideas.” Maybe. But one problem with ideas we tend to call “evil” is that they’re mixed with some good. Few people who embrace evil ideas wake up and say, “I’m going to choose an evil idea today.” Instead, most–I posit a large majority–nurse petty resentments and larger fears and choose ideas that on some level they know lack compassion but that also have rationales that aren’t wholly wrongheaded. Sometimes it’s not even about resentments, or at least not primarily. It’s sometimes about choosing the lesser of many evils.

      Of course, Loomis is not saying dialogue and “education” never works. He ends with an example that shows how something like dialogue has taken place to redirect one person’s view of immigration in one particular case. And while that person does not change her mind about immigration or deportations wholesale, she has proven open to changing her mind about the application of her preferred policies in one personalized instant. And that’s a start, but I argue that it didn’t happen because someone “educated” her, but because she came to know an undocmented person and came to have empathy for him. That’s dialogue at its best.

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  4. LO1: The get of jail free cards are evidence that we really need a massive amount of police reform.

    LO2: We can always try the United Kingdom method and not give cops guns. Being a sanitary worker is more lethal than being a cop.

    LO4: In the age of globalization, bad policing tactics spread. I trust the Dutch political system to put a stop to outrageous abuses though. The American system, not so much,

    LO6: Depleting trust fund kids of their money is a type of wealth redistribution even if it is not a socially effective one because the wealth transfer is horizontal rather than vertically down.

    LO7: Americans want Swedish level government services without having to pay Swedish level taxes.

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  5. [LO1] Awww. Da poor police can’t give out as many favors to their “special” friends. So sad, to bad.

    [LO3] “Kinda misleading”. KINDA?!! It’s damn straight up fake news–and a very good example of it too.

    [LO6] This screams scam.

    [LO8] People will believe this but find it hard to believe that the FBI lied in the FISA warrant RE Trump?

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  6. [LO6] “The tempting emails all came from a Frank Tribble at NYC VIP Access.”

    Frank Tribble. I am somehow picturing a ball of fur with Ferengi ears…

    [LO8] I suppose it’s no more stupid or ridiculous than half the stuff on InfoWars

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    • [L08] I just finished watching Ozark, and while I’m disappointed that it wasn’t the droll comedy about big city guy with big heart who has to launder money to save a small rural town and his family that it should have been… I do feel as though I’m ready for Money Laundering 102.

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  7. LO2- There is a lot more there to that piece. For one in the long run lots more convictions of cops might turn cop culture. Convictions of cops have only been sporadic at best and the push for them is recent. But the bit about the PD who dealt with a dangerous person well is the kind of training and hard work that we should want. That is the kind of thing that needs to be rewarded and praised. That is the carrot to go along with telling cops that the Baltimore PD embarrasses all of them.

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