Archive for the ‘Police & Society’ Category

Volunteers in Michigan

May 23, 2019

Many law enforcement agencies use volunteers to relieve officers of routine duties or complete tasks that otherwise wouldn’t get done. This article reports on the all-volunteer 13-member Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (Michigan) dive team, which is seeking a few more divers who love ice-cold water. The Grand Rapids PD uses volunteers for “duties unrelated to crime, such as abandoned vehicle tagging, parking violation enforcement, graffiti reporting, vacation house checks and senior resident visits” and is hoping to double its 16-member volunteer program, according to this article.


Ghost guns

May 23, 2019

Ghost guns — firearms without serial numbers — are becoming more common, now accounting for 30% of guns recovered by federal agents in California, as reported here. They include 3-D printed weapons but most are assembled with parts legally available from numerous companies — “If you can put Ikea furniture together, you can make one of these” according to an ATF official. Black market prices for the guns are typically 2-4 times higher than legitimate retail, catering to those who can’t pass the background check, plus “Even though you can buy an assault weapon in Minnesota or Texas — why not buy one that the government doesn’t know anything about?”

Teaching new officers difficult history

May 22, 2019

San Jose police recruits recently took a course on “Policing in the Current Social and Political Climate” during their academy training, as reported here. The course reviewed controversial contemporary incidents but also examined how, “historically, police officers have been used as instruments of government discrimination, tasked with enforcing shameful policies such as the Japanese internment and Jim Crow laws.” The chief emphasized that national and even world events affect how people view the police locally — “No one reads the city on the badge, you just see the badge. We have to understand why certain segments do not trust us. I hope this scratches the surface of that.”

Community policing (parking)

May 21, 2019

Washington, DC is considering empowering residents to issue parking tickets, as reported here. The current proposal would train 10 residents per ward to use an app to issue citations electronically. This form of policing by the community “follows the lead of other cities piloting similar initiatives, including New York, which created a program that gives 25% of the fines imposed on idling cars to residents who report them, and Los Angeles, which started a volunteer ticketing program that issued over 9,000 citations last year.”

Making discipline consistent and fair

May 20, 2019

Studies show that many police officers don’t think discipline is fair in their agencies. At the same time, a substantial portion of the public believes police are not held accountable for misconduct. In this paper, Darrel Stephens identifies 5 factors that can be used to make fair and consistent disciplinary decisions. Moreover, “Putting these factors in writing and sharing them with the department and community helps take some of the mystery out of the discipline decision making process and highlights the complexity of the job police officers are asked to do.”

Crime solving up after MJ legalization

May 18, 2019

Marijuana legalization initiatives went into effect in 2012 in Colorado and Washington. One hypothesized benefit of legalization was that police would have more time to devote to other responsibilities. This column reports a published study that found a post-legalization clearance rate uptick in the two states for several crime categories, plus positive trends compared to national averages. The study does not claim that legalization caused better clearance rates but it “undoubtedly resulted in the opportunity for agencies to reallocate resources.”

Making it easier to complain or compliment

May 17, 2019

Austin, Texas has revised the way the public can file complaints against the police, or provide compliments, implementing an online form that goes to the independent Office of Police Oversight, as reported here. The form can be submitted anonymously, but if the person provides contact information, a follow-up procedure is specified. The city’s Office of Design and Delivery helped craft the new user-friendly form and process. Although the police department emphasizes that every complaint always was investigated, this new filing system is intended to reassure complainants and increase transparency.

George Kelling passes away

May 16, 2019

Noted author and researcher George Kelling has passed away at age 83, as reported here. Born in Milwaukee, son of a firefighter, a social worker by training, he led pioneering studies of motorized patrol and foot patrol for the Police Foundation starting in the early 1970s and then authored the influential “broken windows” thesis in the 1980s with James Q. Wilson. He had an enormous impact on police thinking, police strategies, and multiple generations of police leaders. His work was an early example of evidence-based policing and his studies and writing were very influential in the development of community policing.

Transporting people for mental health treatment

May 14, 2019

Virginia will begin contracting with a private company to transport people who are being involuntarily hospitalized for mental health treatment, as reported here. The arrangement is expected to free up substantial law enforcement time and also be less traumatic and stigmatizing for patients. A recent national study, reported here, documented the burden on police and sheriffs, noting that “the unpredictability of psychiatric crises meant it was almost impossible to rationally allocate time and money in advance to cope with the challenge, particularly in small communities who are often left, as a result, without adequate law enforcement coverage.”

When Tasers fail

May 13, 2019

This article and accompanying public radio podcast review the evolution of the Taser over the last 20 years. Data from several large departments indicate device success rates in the 55%-80% range, below the manufacturer’s claims. Effectiveness also seemed to decline after 2009 when the electrical charge was reduced. The latest model, the Taser 7, has a revised launch angle for better results at close range, since about 75% of deployments occur within 7 feet of the subject.