Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Limiting vehicle stops

January 16, 2023

San Francisco has become the latest city to prohibit police from making certain types of vehicle stops. According to this article, “Police will no longer be able to stop drivers for things like driving without registration tags or broken tail lights.” The Police Commission’s rationale is “it turns out these stops, which are not making anyone safer, are also disproportionately carried out against people of color.” Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, “officers have been instructed to resume enforcing minor traffic violations — like an expired registration sticker or a poorly secured license plate — despite a 2021 ordinance to prevent them from doing so in the absence of a larger infraction.” That city’s chief commented that officers felt the ordinance was preventing them from doing their jobs, as reported here.

2021 crime statistics a mess

June 13, 2022

2021 was the first year that the FBI required that crime data submitted by state and local agencies be in NIBRS format (National Incident Based Reporting System) instead of the old aggregate-style Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). NIBRS was launched back in 1988, and in 2015 the FBI announced the 2021 deadline. Unfortunately, 35% of U.S. law enforcement agencies missed the deadline, as reported here, including NYPD and LAPD and most agencies in populous California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida. As a result, “The data gap will make it harder to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims politicians make about crime, and we’ll likely have to live with greater uncertainty for at least a couple of years.”

Police departments lowering education requirements

March 25, 2022

Several police departments have stopped requiring some college as a minimum standard in the hiring process. This article focuses on Chicago, which had required 60 college credits. Officials there and elsewhere point to the downturn in applicants as the main justification. Chicago will now “waive a college credit requirement for recruits who have two years of military or peace officer experience, or three years in corrections, social services, health care, trades, or education.” Applications reportedly spiked as soon as the 60-credit mandate was relaxed. The article cites Philadelphia and New Orleans as two other police departments that have lowered their educational requirements, as well as New York’s mayor expressing interest in following suit.

Place-based policing & violent crime

March 14, 2022

Amid concerns about increases in violent crime, it is important to remember that “violence is highly concentrated in small sets of people and places,” and thus it makes sense to take a targeted approach to the problem. This column argues in particular for a strategy of place-based policing, an approach that doesn’t require “passing new legislation or adding enormous budget expenditures.” Examples of crime concentration from Boston, Minneapolis, and Oakland, California are cited, along with evidence of the effectiveness of problem-oriented and hot spot policing strategies.

Tracing guns involved in gun crime

November 9, 2021

Many cities have seen big increases in gun crime last year and this year. This article explains why tracing crime guns is so difficult and summarizes what’s known about the pathway of guns to crimes. The U.S. has about 100 million gun owners and 400 million guns, the vast majority of which are never involved in crime. But when a gun is involved in a crime, tracing its history can be nearly impossible, in part because only its original sale by a licensed dealer has to be reported. Subsequent private sales, swaps, and gun thefts are hardly ever documented. The article further explains the importance of straw purchases and the more recent phenomenon of ghost guns, which are assembled from purchased parts, lack serial numbers, and thus are effectively unregistered and untraceable. 

More on murders in 2020

November 1, 2021

CDC data indicate there was a 30% increase in U.S. murders in 2020, as reported here by the Pew Trust, consistent with UCR data published a few weeks ago. That one year increase was the largest since 1905, and possibly the biggest ever since reporting was less comprehensive 100+ years ago. Low-density states Montana and South Dakota had the sharpest increases at over 80%, but populous states spiked too, including New York (47%), Pennsylvania (39%), and California (36%). The proportion of murders involving firearms increased from 73% to 77%, while the clearance rate, according to FBI data, dropped from 61% to 54%. Despite the murder increase, the 2020 U.S. murder rate (7.8 per 100,000 people) remained well below the rates of suicide (13.5) and overdose (27.1). 

Uneven use of Brady lists

October 26, 2021

The Supreme Court’s 1963 Brady ruling requires prosecutors to “turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys, including information that could be used to question the officers’ credibility.” According to this article, prosecutors around the country vary substantially in how they adhere to Brady. One reason is that the court’s ruling did not specify either the procedures to be followed or precisely what information might implicate an officer’s credibility. As a result, some prosecutors and police agencies, but not all, maintain lists of officers whose testimony should be avoided. Also, some include complaints of unnecessary or excessive force among the criteria affecting an officer’s credibility, while others argue that use of force and honesty are separate and independent considerations.

COPS Guide on civilian oversight

August 6, 2021

The COPS Office has published a report on civilian oversight of law enforcement, available here. Prepared by the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), the report “combines survey data, case studies of oversight bodies nationwide, and a literature review to outline the history of civilian oversight and its spread; define three standard oversight models and discuss their implementation; propose 13 principles for effective oversight; and provide recommendations for each within an effective practices framework.” Links to an executive summary and case studies from 9 cities are available here.

Reflecting on federal civil rights investigations

May 3, 2021

With USDOJ again initiating federal civil rights investigations of police departments, the Attorney General has ordered a review of the monitoring process that is used to make sure PDs implement the changes they agree to in consent decrees. In the past, federal monitoring has lasted as long as 10-15 years for some cities. Also, monitoring has tended to be very expensive. This post from the PERF Trending series reviews the history of federal investigations and consent decrees, identifies benefits that have been achieved, and offers several suggestions for streamlining the process.

Police privilege

September 8, 2020

Some police labor groups give their members “courtesy cards” to distribute to family and friends, as reported here. Also called “get out of jail free cards,” they are meant to influence an officer’s decision making and use of discretion when the card-holder has been caught committing some kind of minor infraction. The New York officers’ union issues hundreds of thousands of the cards each year, but “PBA cards aren’t a normal part of life for most people in the U.S.” — though “collectible” versions are for sale on eBay. Observers differ on whether the cards are just a small curiosity or a reflection of “the biases, prejudices, and institutionally supported pecking order of policing on the whole.”