54th Mile Policing Project

June 28, 2022

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, three Black police executives, one each from California, Texas, and North Carolina, walked the historic 54-mile civil rights journey from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. Done by them for the purpose of self-reflection in troubled times, it has now been made into a short documentary film — the trailer is here. Expect to see the film used in police training and to facilitate police-community conversations.

Looking farther back at police history

June 22, 2022

In the U.S. we tend to cite the establishment of the London Metropolitan Police in 1829 as the start of police history. Of course that conveniently ignores sheriffs and slave patrols, so it’s really the start of organized, paid municipal policing. Or is it? This very interesting post summarizes some recent historical work looking at police in Bologna, Italy in the 1200s. These police, typically hired from outside the city, “received a salary, wore uniforms, and arrested lawbreakers. They sought wanted men and proactively investigated criminal activity, including via the use of informants.” The blogger suggests we should “do away with the idea of policing as a 19th-century invention.”

2021 crime statistics a mess

June 13, 2022

2021 was the first year that the FBI required that crime data submitted by state and local agencies be in NIBRS format (National Incident Based Reporting System) instead of the old aggregate-style Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). NIBRS was launched back in 1988, and in 2015 the FBI announced the 2021 deadline. Unfortunately, 35% of U.S. law enforcement agencies missed the deadline, as reported here, including NYPD and LAPD and most agencies in populous California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida. As a result, “The data gap will make it harder to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims politicians make about crime, and we’ll likely have to live with greater uncertainty for at least a couple of years.”

Driverless taxis in San Francisco

June 9, 2022

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved Cruise, a GM-owned company, to begin operating driverless taxis in San Francisco, as reported here. The authorization allows the company to “operate its self-driving cars at night, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., at a maximum speed of 30 mph, in weather that does not include heavy rain, heavy fog, heavy smoke, hail, sleet or snow.” No word yet on how the police department will handle any traffic enforcement issues. During testing one robot taxi was pulled over for not having its headlights on, but no ticket was issued.

Preventing mass attacks

June 7, 2022

The RAND Corporation has produced a toolkit for preventing, mitigating, and following up mass shootings and related attacks, based on “studying 600 mass attack events and plots, interviewing dozens of experts, and reviewing hundreds of references,” available here. The toolkit includes information and recommendations for Law enforcement, Fire and Emergency Medical Services responders, School officials, Agency and community service providers, Building and venue security personnel, Policymakers, and Community leaders. 

Big jump in traffic deaths in 2021

June 2, 2022

The U.S. had almost 43,000 traffic deaths in 2021, an increase of 10% over 2020 and the highest number since 2005, as reported here. Pedestrian fatalities increased 13% to the highest number since 1981, and almost 1,000 bicyclists died, the most since 1975. Among other factors, research indicates that speeding and failure to wear seatbelts increased during the pandemic. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, “An increase in dangerous driving – speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up – during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.”

Corporate investigators target organized retail crime

June 1, 2022

Large retailers like Target and CVS are undertaking their own investigations in an effort to solve organized theft cases, as reported here. Techniques include interviewing and trailing shoplifters to discover who they work for, and conducting surveillance of people and places involved in trafficking of stolen goods. According to a CVS official, “We only follow someone if we think they are part of a ring worth $1 million or more. We don’t do small cases.” When investigations are successful, the information is turned over to police and prosecutors. “They often give us evidence. They give us leads. We don’t ever use them as a surrogate for our own investigation. But they can be incredibly valuable partners,” said a U.S. Attorney.

Back to chasing cars in New Jersey

May 31, 2022

Last December New Jersey revised its statewide use of force policy to prohibit car chases for auto theft and most drug offenses, citing the harm caused by crashes during pursuits. However, as reported here, the state has reversed its decision pertaining to auto thefts in the face of a significant increase in stolen vehicles — a 37% increase so far in 2022 over 2021, with an even bigger increase of 53% since 2020. Besides re-instituting pursuits, the state will invest an additional $10 million in license plate reader technology.

Seattle — crime up, fear down

May 29, 2022

Since 2015, Seattle has completed an annual resident survey as part of its community policing strategy. As reported here, observers were surprised to see that fear of crime decreased in 2021, even though reported crime increased, including both violent and property crime. In fact, violent crime increased about 20% and, for the first time, was among the top five themes identified by survey respondents. One possible explanation for the mismatch between fear and reported crime is that perceived social and physical disorder improved — “things like disorderly conduct, public drug and alcohol consumption, graffiti, litter and so on.” The survey leader noted that “Much of the fear of crime is just a perception of how safe people feel about their environment.”

Reimagining transit policing

May 24, 2022

Public transit ridership declined significantly during the pandemic but is now returning to previous levels, bringing with it an increase in disorderly and sometimes violent behavior. Challenges include riders experiencing behavioral crises, homeless riders, and fare evaders. As reported here, some cities are looking to non-police responses, either because police are already stretched too thin or because they would prefer responses by social workers instead of police. As a bus driver in Seattle put it, “People who have been in and out of systems have intimidation issues with uniforms. We wanted to create something that was friendly and more inviting.”