Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Civilian police commissioners

June 21, 2018

This column discusses the potential benefits of utilizing civilian police commissioners at the head of police departments, including current or past examples in New York, Baltimore, and a few other cities. The argument is that commissioners “maintain a level of objectivity and avoid much of the conflict that uniformed police chiefs often face in having to balance their allegiance between the elected officials who appointed them and the personnel who share the uniform that they wear.”


Policing the homeless

June 13, 2018

PERF has released a new report on the police response to homelessness, emphasizing problem solving, innovation, and partnerships as alternatives to either making arrests or doing nothing. Insights from police departments all over the country are included, as well as background information on how the problem overlaps with mental illness and substance abuse.

Policing addiction

June 10, 2018

This article reports the increasingly-popular development of non-arrest alternatives to drug cases, especially those that begin with overdoses. Gloucester, Massachusetts PD is credited with taking the first big step in 2015 when they announced that anyone coming to them would immediately be connected with treatment. Since then, some 390 police departments have joined a national network that has helped 12,000 people get into treatment. One chief agrees this shouldn’t be a police-run system, saying “I hope that at some point we put ourselves out of business, and health care and public health take the ball.”

Where killings go unsolved

June 7, 2018

This article analyzes over 50,000 homicides in U.S. cities, mapping neighborhoods with higher and lower clearance rates. There are variations between cities but also within, with fewer murders solved in low-income minority neighborhoods. Factors seem to include the challenge presented by drug- and gang-related cases, reluctant witnesses, lack of trust in police, and the resources devoted to homicide investigation.

Gun deaths of men by race & state

May 12, 2018

This article and video report an analysis of 9 years of U.S. death certificates, comparing non-Hispanic black and white men. Four findings stand out regarding men’s gun deaths: (1) nationally, black men were about 15 times more likely than white men to die of firearm homicides; (2) white men were almost 3 times more likely to die of gun suicides; (3) rates varied widely across the states; and (4) firearm homicides were higher in urban areas while gun suicides were higher in rural areas. Rhode Island had the lowest overall gun homicide rate, Missouri the highest. Massachusetts had the lowest firearm suicide rate, New Mexico the highest.

Chiefs on an island

April 28, 2018

Policing on an island has some unique features, according to the sheriff and several chiefs on Martha’s Vineyard, as reported in this column. As one noted, “We have to make do with what we have, because resources are not just 10, 20, 30 miles down the road.” Addiction and overdoses are a big problem for the police and in the jail — one chief commented “We all carry Narcan,” while another “reached into his pocket and pulled out a dose of the nasal spray that reverses drug overdoses.”

Mining social media

April 27, 2018

This article discusses legal and ethical issues connected to police mining of social media. Data from social media have the potential to solve and prevent crimes as well as terror attacks, but many 4th amendment and privacy questions have yet to be sorted out. Also, choices of search terms and phrases can reflect bias and result in police actions that have disproportionate impact on some groups. Among the suggestions is transparency so residents can understand and critique the algorithms and processes that police propose.

Gun death rates

March 26, 2018

This column compares the 50 states on gun death rates, noting that nationally, over half are suicides while 37% are homicides. Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have the highest gun death rates, all at least 5 times higher than Massachusetts, which has the lowest rate. Other states with the lowest rates are New York, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

OT scandal in Massachusetts

March 21, 2018

This article reports a Massachusetts State Police internal audit finding of overtime abuse by 21 troopers in 2016. The audit is being widened and results have been given to the state’s attorney general. This columnist notes that “collecting overtime for shifts not worked” is one of the commonwealth’s oldest tricks, and that it was no secret that troopers “were raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime,” yet it was a news organization that triggered the investigation, not the Massachusetts state auditor or inspector general.

Toronto police history

March 18, 2018

Three excerpts from a book chapter on Toronto police history 1834-1875 are posted here, here, and here. Early on the force was “partisan, corrupt, and inept.  There were no standards of recruitment and no training.” City politics were rancorous, with vote buying centered mainly in taverns, and riots were common, especially between Catholics and Protestants. Policing followed the London constabulary system for the first 25 years, but in 1859 switched to a more American-style police force modeled after Boston.