Archive for the ‘Police & Society’ Category

Data-driven policing for public trust

July 16, 2018

Most of the focus of data-driven and evidence-based policing has been on the goal of reducing crime. This article reports efforts in New York and several other PDs to collect real-time data on public sentiment toward police. Using short pop-up surveys on smartphones and other modern techniques, geo-based responses from thousands of people can be collected at fairly low cost. The question then becomes what to do with the data — police commanders are still working on that.

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Not a police matter

July 16, 2018

Police have been called recently to deal with a black guy wearing socks at a private pool (in Memphis), an 11-year-old black kid on his first day delivering newspapers (in Cincinnati), a 12-year-old black kid mowing a lawn who accidentally crossed into a neighbor’s yard (outside Cleveland), and a 9-year-old black girl selling water outside her apartment building (in San Francisco). This article discusses what police should do, including having call takers ask more specific questions and routing such calls through supervisors before assigning them to patrol officers.

Improving line-up procedures

July 16, 2018

This article reviews suggested modifications to police line-up procedures designed to reduce mistaken identifications by witnesses, which account for 29% of post-conviction exonerations. Better procedures have been well known for 20+ years and have been endorsed by professional organizations, but not all departments have adopted them. Louisiana recently enacted statewide requirements, with proposals also pending in California, Iowa, and New Mexico.

Dilemmas in crisis communication

July 14, 2018

This article from Toronto illustrates challenges involved in crisis communication. Police increased staffing in the city’s downtown area Thursday morning in response to a credible threat but were vague in their messages to the public, later explaining “Our goal is always to be as transparent as possible while protecting the integrity of our investigations.” A media expert said journalists have to be cautious in such situations, but also police should be as open as possible. “Unanswered questions about security often cause more harm than the truth. They might (result in) a loss of confidence in the police’s ability to do their job, or a loss of confidence that the police are going to tell me the truth.”

Inequality in feelings of safety

July 13, 2018

This column contrasts U.S. survey responses to those from other countries in Gallup’s recent Global Law and Order Report. Concerning walking alone at night in one’s own neighborhood, affluent white Americans “are as likely to say they feel safe as the average Finnish or Icelandic person (88%).” But only 53% of poor nonwhite Americans (earning $24,000 or less) say they feel safe, the same as the average person from Chad; for nonwhites earning $48,000 or less, the figure is 56%, equal to the average person living in Bulgaria, Nicaragua, or Zimbabwe.

Prevalence of police in schools varies

July 12, 2018

This article reviews data on police assigned to schools. Two-thirds of high school students attend a school that has an officer assigned, compared to 45% for middle school and 19% for elementary school. School officers are most common in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina, least common in New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, and Michigan. The evidence on the impact of officers in schools on arrests, offenses, and student behavior is mixed and inconclusive.

Protest/riot charges dropped

July 9, 2018

This article reports federal prosecutors dropping charges against 38 remaining defendants from the DC presidential inauguration protest 18 months ago. Over 200 protesters were initially charged with felonies related to conspiracy to riot. The end result was 1 felony guilty plea, 20 misdemeanor pleas, 6 acquittals, and the rest dropped charges. Officials cited over $100,000 in property damage caused by the protest/riot. One defendant said “it’s hard not to feel cynical about the enormous amount of power that prosecutors have to overcharge people, disrupt their lives, and then drop cases before having to face any consequences in court.”

Graffiti — vandalism or street art?

July 6, 2018

This column discusses evolving strategies used by cities to deal with graffiti, including rapid removal and designating locations for street art. “Art alleys” and wall murals, examples of “second-generation graffiti,” are increasingly popular. But one expert says “Most of the kids doing graffiti are not into artistic murals. The tagging motivation is to seek notoriety. The gang motivation is to instill fear.” Big cities continue to spend millions per year on graffiti eradication.

Houston chief recognized

July 5, 2018

Houston police chief Art Acevedo is among those recognized this year by the Carnegie Corporation in its annual “Great Immigrants” initiative, as reported here. Acevedo’s family came from Cuba when he was 4 years old. He came up through the ranks of the California Highway Patrol and then was police chief in Austin, Texas for 9 years before his Houston appointment in 2016.

His brother’s keeper

July 3, 2018

This article profiles T.J. Smith, spokesman for Baltimore PD since a few months after the 2015 riots. A Baltimore native but veteran of a neighboring county police department, he’s become the face and voice of a city that continues to experience nearly a murder a day, using “candid language to express his disgust, as if he were just an ordinary citizen angry about the news.” The article weaves together the story of the city’s violence and Smith’s personal journey, including his brother’s murder one year ago.