Archive for the ‘Police & Society’ Category

NMSP chief urges more transparency

December 13, 2017

In New Mexico the Law Enforcement Academy Board has the authority to suspend or revoke officer certification. Its decisions are public but supporting documents are not posted, although they can be obtained through a public records request. According to this article, the state police chief has suggested posting the full record in the interest of transparency and to ensure that any agency considering hiring a previously fired officer has ready access to such information.


Coroner versus forensic pathologist

December 12, 2017

This article reports the resignation of the San Joaquin County, California forensic pathologist over disagreements with his sheriff/coroner. In 50 of the state’s counties a pathologist determines cause of death but then the sheriff/coroner has the final say on manner of death. The resigning pathologist had several deaths that he ruled homicide but which the sheriff labeled accidents, including death-in-custody cases.

Brady list blocked in LA County

December 11, 2017

This article reports that about 300 deputies are on a Brady list in Los Angeles County but the sheriff is blocked from providing the information to prosecutors by legal action initiated by the union that represents deputies. The union argues that the list contains unsubstantiated and trivial incidents due to a flawed internal discipline system. The California Supreme Court will decide next year whether state laws making police personnel records private preempt these Brady notifications.

Code of silence in Chicago

December 11, 2017

According to this article, Chicago city lawyers abruptly and surprisingly settled a “code of silence” lawsuit just before the case was going to the jury. The civil action against the city claimed that the police department had repeatedly covered up a sergeant’s misconduct, including bar fights and intoxicated driving. During the trial, additional disciplinary documents surfaced that had been withheld. The sergeant’s career ended in 2009 in a drunk driving crash causing two deaths.

Phantom debt scam

December 9, 2017

Estimates are that Americans are late on $600 billion in payments and 10% are on debt collectors’ lists. That’s a lot of real debt plus an opening for big-time fraud. Here’s an interesting story about a man who got harassed and threatened over a loan he had already repaid, leading him to unravel a huge fake debt scam, the head of which allegedly took in over $2 billion in a decade, bought a private jet, and started his own Ferrari racing team.

AI & big data in policing

December 7, 2017

As police departments get better at data, software, and computers, the risks associated with using algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to guide decision making also increase. This column highlights the consequences of targeting based on historical data. This article reports an example of detention based on faulty data. This post reviews an important 2017 book on the topic, The Rise of Big Data Policing, an excerpt from which is available here.

Bias vs. behavior

December 4, 2017

This article provides an in-depth discussion of the difficulty of measuring bias (an  attitude) and determining its connection to discrimination (behavior). Police and other institutions have implemented training in recent years aimed at helping individuals identify and understand “implicit bias.” Research isn’t clear on whether the training is effective at changing behavior or even whether bias is mainly unconscious or conscious.

Charlottesville protest review

December 4, 2017

A series of events last summer in Charlottesville, including a KKK demonstration and a torch-light march across the University of Virginia campus, culminated in a “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in which a protester drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person. This article summarizes the findings of an independent review of the events, which concluded that police were not prepared, police responses were not coordinated, and incident command protocols were not followed.

Use of force reporting

December 2, 2017

New Zealand Police released a very thorough report and analysis of “tactical options” used during 2016, available here. There was no use of force in 99.9% of 3.5 million public interactions and in over 99% of “offender proceedings.” Tasers were the 4th most commonly used tactical option, after empty hand, handcuffs/restraints, and OC spray. Only 15% of Taser incidents involved discharges — the remainder were solely presentation or “laser painting.” Subject injuries occurred in 18% of use of force incidents, officer injuries in 11%. No subjects were shot by police.

Humanities for police

November 29, 2017

This article describes a segment of in-service training in Baltimore that uses Plato, Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, and Baldwin to encourage officers to reflect on cynicism, respect, and other features of the human condition that they deal with in their work. The officer who teaches the course says “we are in the tradition of the western world. We’re kind of government on the ground. I mean, we have to represent democratic values. We have to represent those Enlightenment values in a very immediate way.”