Archive for the ‘Police & Society’ Category

Growing threat of right-wing extremist violence

March 20, 2019

The mosque massacre in New Zealand has focused attention on right-wing and white-nationalist violence, as reported here. Last year in the U.S., 49 of 50 extremist-related killings were tied to far-right perpetrators, and the EU saw a doubling in 2017 of arrests for right-wing extremist offenses. Hate crimes in U.S. cities have increased in each of the last 5 years. One expert observes “white nationalism has emerged into a coalesced and growing socio-political force, with tentacles that extend into the mainstream. That’s something many other extremist movements do not have.”

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Details on NZ apprehension

March 18, 2019

This article provides information on the apprehension of the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attacker. Two officers from an outlying area, who happened to be in the city for a training session, went operational, spotted the fleeing vehicle, made the decision to ram it, and took the shooter into custody. The officers have not been identified by name, but have been praised by the police commissioner and others. Their sergeant commented, “I was surprised how calm and collected they were.”

Sheriffs living large

March 18, 2019

This article reports a 5-month media investigation into questionable spending and abuses of office by sheriffs in South Carolina. The power and relative independence of sheriffs creates opportunities for misconduct with minimal checks and balances. In principle, voters have the opportunity to impose accountability every election cycle, but in practice they aren’t well informed and incumbent sheriffs are rarely defeated. Term limits, regular outside audits, and more oversight from county governments are recommended steps for improving the situation.

An app named Citizen

March 17, 2019

Now available in New York and a few other cities, the Citizen app rebroadcasts and maps selected police, fire, and EMS calls, so a user can be aware of any dangerous activity in their proximity. As reported here, users are warned to stay safe, but also encouraged to submit photos, video, and commentary from the scenes of incidents. The company says more than 100,000 live videos have been recorded; an alert about a recent car fire in Times Square hit 31,000 phones. Currently the app is free with no advertising, but future commercialization seems inevitable.

Part-time police

March 15, 2019

Pennsylvania is one state that relies on part-time officers, particularly in smaller departments. This article reports one risky aspect of that practice — officers take as many shifts as they can get, from multiple departments, resulting in fatigue. One chief notes “there is no way to monitor the amount of hours a part-timer has worked in another municipality and whether that part-time officer is sufficiently rested.” Most chiefs would prefer full-time officers, while some also note increasing difficulty in finding and keeping qualified part-timers.

Effectiveness of stop & frisk

March 14, 2019

Over-reliance on stop & frisk in some U.S. cities has been criticized in recent years, while “stop & search” is currently hotly debated in the U.K. as a response to increased violence, especially knife crime. This new paper summarizes existing evidence on whether these practices reduce crime and adds analysis of police and crime data from London. The evidence indicates a marginal effect when stop & search is applied in conjunction with targeted “hot spots” interventions, but little if any impact when it is implemented more widely. Also noted is huge variation in usage of the practice between otherwise comparable forces, suggesting that politics and police culture are driving strategy more than scientific evidence.

2019 POP Conference

March 13, 2019

The 2019 POP Conference (problem-oriented policing) has been scheduled for November 11-13 in Santa Cruz, California. This annual event “is often described by attendees as the most substantive policing conference they’ve ever attended. Each year, police officers of all ranks, as well as crime consultants and crime researchers, come together to discuss what they’ve learned about trying to reduce different crime and safety problems.” Preliminary information about the 2019 conference is available here.

The tragedy of Baltimore

March 13, 2019

Baltimore has just confirmed the appointment of a new police commissioner, Michael Harrison, recently retired from New Orleans. This article reviews the last few years of crime and policing in the city, describing in detail the tension between residents’ critical need for more safety through engaged policing, and the social and economic factors fueling high levels of street crime. People attending recent community meetings “were not describing a trade-off between justice and order. They saw them as two parts of a whole and were daring to ask for both.”

Ask for Angela

March 11, 2019

Safer nightlife is the objective of “Ask for Angela,” a code-phrase for patrons to alert bar staff that they need assistance getting out of a situation or away from a person making them uncomfortable or afraid. The program was established several years ago in the UK and is described here. Police in Arlington, Virginia have adopted it as part of the “Arlington Restaurant Initiative,” intended to “raise the standards of restaurants that serve alcohol” making the county “a safe destination for nightlife and entertainment.”

Elder fraud

March 8, 2019

U.S. authorities announced a year-long “largest-ever” elder fraud crackdown resulting in criminal and civil charges against 260 defendants for defrauding more than 2 million victims out of $750 million, as reported here. The total annual loss to elder Americans is estimated at $3 billion. The investigation was aided by Europol and police in several individual countries, with “alleged fraudsters charged criminally and extradited from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Poland.” An additional 600 U.S.-based “money mules” who helped transfer funds were identified, most receiving warning letters rather than charges because they didn’t realize they were facilitating scams.