Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics in Law Enforcement

The DOJ has put forth a number of statistics about law enforcement and race in Ferguson, with the clear suggestion that the Ferguson police intentionally engage and racist policing. While that may well be true, it is important that these statistics, and the writing of the articles accompanying them, be viewed with a critical eye. Let’s start by looking at some of these stats, then their meanings.

Cops Are Mostly White Men
According to a recent New York Times article, the percentage of whites in law enforcement agencies is regularly upwards of 30% higher than the populations the agencies serve. This was apparently true even in heavily non-white populations.

Affirmative Action Hasn’t Changed the Whiteness of Policing
Despite the fact that the head of just about every police agency in the country is either an elected official or a political appointee, and they’ve been engaged in efforts to get their police demographics to mirror their population’s since the 70’s, even uber-liberal cities like San Francisco still have massive white majorities in their police agencies!

Arrestees Are Mostly Black Men
According to recent DOJ stats, when comparing the number of arrests for members of particular racial groups per 100,000 people of that racial group in the general population, in 2012 black juveniles were twice as likely as white juveniles to be arrested. This stat has remained solid for the last 30 years.

Force is Used More Against Blacks
While I’ve had difficulty finding stats from wider sources, we’ll assume Ferguson is normal for the sake of this argument. One of the touted statistics from the recent DOJ report on Ferguson was that while black people account for 67% of the population in Ferguson, 88% of the reported police uses of force were against black people.

But What Does This Mean?
Curious, why would there be such a disparity? Oh look! This headline says that the president “slammed” Ferguson PD. That one says the DOJ declared Ferguson engaging in racially biased policing! Thank you kind writer, for telling me how to interpret the statistics! So the argument goes, it’s all about white hoods and burning crosses.

Pay Attention To What Isn’t Being Said
So, our kind of writers have paired these statistics with the opinions of influential people, to help us understand the numbers. But wait, did that statistic about police demographics say anything about qualified non-whites being denied badges? Nope, didn’t say that. Did that stat about blacks being arrested at twice the rate of whites say that the arrests were false arrests, or that the whites not arrested should have been? Not that I could see. Did that stat on use of force say that those uses were unjustified, or that officers were needlessly kind to non-black people? No, it didn’t.

Statistics Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
While Ferguson PD may well be a Klan affiliate group, without a deeper analysis of the incidents underlying the statistics, to justify the interpretation of the statistic, the meaning ascribed to it is nothing more than speculation. That same statistic about uses of force could easily be coupled with a statement assuming the officers’ preference not to use force, and used as evidence that black people are much more violent than people of other races.

Imagine if an article wrote, “90% of those who physically resisted police were black, despite accounting for only 67% of the population.” With a simple tweak of the wording, the suggested responsibility is shifted. Same statistic, completely different interpretations. Neither one is good, but without more information, we can’t honestly say if either interpretation is right or wrong.

Sometimes Stats Don’t Fit The Narrative
While the majority of stories around these stats we’ve discussed assume a narrative of white racism, the stats don’t always support that interpretation. In fact that DOJ study I referred to earlier, that said blacks were twice as likely as whites to be arrested is one of them. That same study showed that Native American juveniles were 10% less likely, and Asians were 30% less likely than whites to be arrested.

Say what? If we assume the same motivations claimed to be evidenced by all of the anti-Ferguson PD stories, suddenly the stats make all those racist white cops look like head-dress-wearin’ chopstick usin’ self-hatin’ sell-outs!

It’s also important to note that the White-Native gap fluctuated to effectively zero-out over time, but like the White-Black disparity, the White-Asian gap was rock-solid for the entire 30 year period covered. So unless you’re ready to believe that white cops view Native Americans as their equals and Asians as their betters, you probably need to reassess your thoughts on the cause of the racial disparity in law enforcement stats.

What do you think? Is all of this racial debate much ado about nothing? Are more dramatic measures in order to address this issue? Should police departments have racial hiring quotas, or perhaps dispatch officers according to the race of reported suspects?

References
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html?_r=3

http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/JAR_Display.asp?ID=qa05260

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/03/ferguson-justice-report/24320987/

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Deal With Your Tickets Now!

The most common way people end up in jail is by failing to deal with traffic tickets in a timely manner. Whether you’ve got the money or not, call the court and start working with them NOW!

You Don’t Have to Pay the Fine
Most government agencies have alternative disposition options to just paying the fine. In many cases, it simply a matter of correction the violation and showing evidence of the correction, then paying a small administrative fee for the paperwork caused by your failure to take care of things on your own in the first place.

Win-Win Solutions
The agency issuing the citation actually has an interest in working with. Think about it. They can either receive all of the money in installments, call it even with a partial payment, have you do some sort of work for them, or they can spend money to house you in jail facility just because you didn’t have the money to pay. Which of these options sounds like the black sheep to you?

Once a Warrant, Always a Warrant
Alternative disposition options usually disappear once the citation (ticket) goes into warrant status, which usually happens somewhere between 15 – 30 days from the date of issuance, if you have not made alternative arrangements with the court. After that, it’s pay or go to jail. In some cases, you may be able to setup a payment plan on a warrant, but if you miss a payment, it’s back to warrant status.

Not All Agencies Are Rational
Now, don’t get me wrong, governments that are full of idiots, so there are those agencies that won’t work with you and will demand full payment or take you to jail. If that’s the case, give priority to that agency’s citations, so you don’t end-up in jail, but work with the ones that will work with you.

Get Deals in Writing
Remember, promises aren’t worth the paper they aren’t written on. So if you pay off your citations, or the court offers you a deal on taking care of them, make sure you get them to put it in writing. Sometimes court clerks lie or pocket your payments, and officers get lied to every day, so don’t get pissy if an officer takes you in on warrant you thought you dealt with. He’s just working with the info available to him. Keep your docs in your car, because that is the most likely place you will encounter on officer. If the court documents appear to match the warrant in question, then they will at least look into it. Otherwise it’s just another story.

Warrants are a Renewable Resource
Don’t confuse the citations you’re being arrested for with new citations the arresting officer writes you at the time of arrest. The two have nothing to do with each other, and you’ll need to address the new ones as soon as you get out, or you’ll soon find yourself visiting jail again, in what will feel like a bad remake of Groundhog Day.

Ever get arrested on something you thought you took care of? Ever forget about a citation until an officer told you you were going to jail? What other experiences have you had with citations or warrants?

The Problem With Cop Watch & Open Carry Activists

I am not opposed to citizen oversight of police, or the exercise of 2nd Amendment rights, but we have a problem when it comes to interactions between these activists and officers, and no one seems to be addressing it.

A Wise Man Knows His “Enemies”
Conflicts between the police and activist with cop watch & open carry groups (who are typically the same people) primarily stem from a lack of mutual understanding. Officers don’t know who is a decent citizen genuinly intent on political expression or concerned about police misconduct, and who is nutjob intent on exploiting the law to scare people or on trying to make officers look like stupid thugs. On the flip side, the activist don’t understand the reality of our work, and how reasonable it is for officers with no ill-intent to be frightened of them, and to treat them as a very real threat.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to imagine the worst, when it comes to the unknown, and it’s the job of our imagination to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. In the wild, it is always best to err on the side of caution, because being wrong usually means being dead. Likewise, an officer’s very job is to be the thin blue line between human civilization and human nature, so we have to assume the worst our survival.

The solution is simple. Get to know each other.

If the officers being filmed by cop watchers or responding to calls about open carry activists knew who they were dealing with, and what their goals were, they’d be naturally less nervous, and more understanding, because they’d have knowledge instead of immagination to assess the activists and their actions. Likewise, if the activists met the officers in a safe environment, they would see the person behind the badge, and understand just how normal and well-intended most officers are, and even see how most officers are on their side, when it comes to defending liberties and seeking justice. This act of replacing imagination with knowledge benefits everyone.

Walk A Mile In Our Jackboots
Since I’m talking from the perspective of one of the suspected jack-booted NWO thugs, let me illustrate what our interactions with activists are like.

Imagine for a moment you have a group of total strangers walk up to your place of business unannounced with assault rifle strapped to their backs… You’d probably run screaming for help just with that (unless you work in a war zone). Now imagine that they all whip out video cameras and start recording your every move and berating you about every detail of your work. They bring up obscure company policies you’ve never heard of before or had any reason to be familiar with in the first place, as if they were grilling you on the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, or they insist that you finish your company’s product way beyond the reasonable capabilities of your position in the process. To make matters worse, these people start loudly accusing you of trying to steal from your company or cheat your customers, in front of your customers and co-workers, and shouting about how they’re gonna splash your face all over the Internet. If you weren’t so scared of the heavily-armed angry mob killing you, you’d probably be hard-pressed not to punch one of them in the face, let alone have a few choice words for them!

This is basically what officers experience when they encounter cop watch and open carry activists on the street. Not exactly a recipie for a friendly interaction, let alone good relations down the line.

Activists Should Introduce Themselves
So how do we avoid this? If the activists are genuinely interested in political expression and legitimate oversight, as opposed to picking a fight with the police, then they should make a point of introducing themselves, and attempting to communicate their purpose and intentions, in a non-threatening environment, to the officers likely to interact with them on the street. This would give each side an opportunity to really hear and discuss the other’s points, and would humanize both sides of any potential confrontation. Likewise, it would also give each side an opportunity to request rules of engagement, and hear the reasoning behind the other’s methods.

This could easily be done by requesting an audience with the pre-shift briefing of patrol officers, who are scheduled to work the time and area of the activists’ planned activity. This wouldn’t have to happen every time the activists want to do something, but the more effort the activists put into making their members familiar to the officers and creating a dialogue with officers, before a confrontation on the street, the greater the chances that The outcome will be acceptable for both sides. And while it should go without saying by now, efforts should be made to introduce each activist member to each officer, to minimize the gaps left to immagination.

Equal Responsibilities but Unequal Burdens 
Obviously, police departments have as much responsibility as activist for working to create positive outcomes, and departments should extend invitations to meet with and attempt to start dialogues with activists, but it is simply not reasonable for the police to carry the burden of making these dialoges happen. There are often multiple groups or scattered unorganized activists in any given location, each with their own schedules and ideologies, and it’s hard to know which activists will still be around next week, and which will fade away. By contrast, police departments are eternal, highly regimented by their very nature, with the time & location of their activities and their rules of engagement pretty well set in stone.

Just imagine the citizen uproar if a police department attempted to coordinate the attendance of all of their officers to even one activist meeting, let alone multiple. Whereas almost no one would oppose allowing a few activist to speak at patrol briefings before an event likely to result in police contacts. Again, it’s not eaxctly fair, but it’s the only practical way to get the job done.

What do you think? Is there something important that I missed about the police-activist dynamic? If you’re an activist, or know one, let us know their side! Do you support open carry? Why or why not?

Motion-Sensing Lights Give a False Sense of Security

Most of us have motion sensor activated lights for security purposes. However, unless you’re talking about the crazy ex-boyfriend coming over in the late evening to kill your prized petunias, your sensor light will do little to deter crime.

Everybody Knows They’re Automated
When sensor lights first came onto the market, part of the appeal was that, to the uninitiated, it appeared as though someone had just turned on a light, and might be looking out, or about come outside. These days, everybody knows it’s just an automatic sensor, so that aspect of the deterrent effect is no longer there.

No One Is Awake To See The Light
The primary idea behind a sensor light is that criminals will be afraid of being seen. However, the primary crime that occurs in residential neighborhoods at night is vehicle burglaries, which typically occur between 12AM and 5AM, when the vast majority of people are fast asleep. With the exception of the rare person who’s quietly trying to sleep, but can’t, most of people awake during these hours will be out at a bar, watching TV, or playing video games. None of these people will hear or see anything going on outside your house.

Cameras Are A Better Deterrent
Given that the primary concern of a would-be burglar is being seen, an obvious solution to the problems I’ve mentioned is to combine your sensor lights with video cameras. In all honesty, most cameras have such poor resolution, that about all you can tell is the race and possibly sex of your unwanted visitor (which will be male 99% of the time anyway), but they don’t usually know that, and probably aren’t interested in finding out the hard way if yours are better.

Of course, just having a cameras won’t deter anyone. You’ll need to make visitors aware of your cameras. The old flashing red LED probably won’t do it, and while placing your cameras where the sensor lights would illuminate them might work, it would probably blind the camera. Thankfully, there are cameras out there that are combined with motion sensing lights, which also trigger an audio announcement that it is recording the suspect. These are ideal, because they automatically draw attention to themselves day or night, and they let you (and us) see who your neighborhood vermin are! The best ones even track their subject across your property, eliminating the question in their mind of whether or not it’s actually filming them!

Chicago PD And Northern Courts Bastardizing Probable Cause Standard

I have heard of IAD witch hunts and judges excepting crappy evidence, but Seiser v. City of Chicago is the first case I’ve seen where IAD ordered the arrest of an officer without a shred of evidence approaching probable cause, and the courts upheld it!

Seiser was Guilty of Being Stupid
For those of you who don’t know, which is probably anyone outside of the field of criminal justice, Seiser v. City of Chicago is a case where the Chicago Police Department arrested one of their officers for DUI, because he was seen driving while drinking water out of a repurposed TGIFriday’s Mudslide bottle.

This Call Started Good, but Ended Really Bad
Based on the witness statements and the plain-view discovery of the apparent alcoholic beverage container in Officer Seiser’s vehicle, Sergeant Verta had ample suspicion to think that Seiser might be guilty of an open container violation, and possibly even DUI, and was clearly authorized to detain him during their investigation, and even had probable cause to enter his car to seize the bottle… And that’s the end of reason’s cameo in this one.

Drinking While Driving is Not DUI
Any reasonable suspicion that Seiser was DUI ended as soon as Verta contacted Sizer and noticed that there was NO indications of intoxication! The case brief doesn’t tell us how long it was between the call to 911 and Verta’s contact with Seiser, but since they finally arrested him about 2 1/2 hours after the call, following an apparently exhaustive investigation, it’s probably safe to say that Verta contacted Seiser within one hour from the time he was reportedly seen drinking from the container. Now, unless they invented some new form of alcohol, Verta should have observed at least some of the same indicators of intoxication that Anderson did, but he didn’t report directly observing ANY indicators of intoxication, only a lack of cooperation with his investigation! In fact NONE of the officers who contacted Seiser reported observing ANY indications of intoxication, despite the fact that they were all trained in spotting indicators, and they were all specifically searching for evidence intoxication!

Conclusion? Anderson was obviously a lying SOS, but CPD ignored that, because Seiser pissed them off by not rolling over on command. In fact, even if Seiser HAD been drinking vodka, there still wasn’t enough evidence to reach the level of probable cause for a DUI arrest, because there was no evidence that he was so intoxicated that he was unable to safely operated a motor vehicle.

Verta Did Have Probable Cause to Search Seiser’s Car
Even after Verta’s contact with Seiser decimated the credibility of Anderson and the reasonableness of any DUI arrest, Verta might still be able to argue that he had probable cause to to believe that the bottle he saw in Seiser’s car contained alcohol. After all, what reasonable person would refill an alcoholic beverage container with a non-alcoholic beverage, then consume it in public, while driving and wearing a police uniform on duty? Furthermore, if Seiser just had a small sip, there might not have been enough for Verta to smell. Therefore, Verta could enter Seiser’s vehicle despite his objections under the motor vehicle exception to the 4th amendment, to search for evidence of the apparent open container violation.

Disregarding the Intent of the Law
That said, even reasonable suspicion of the open container violation evaporated once they got the container. Let’s see, the label is for an opaque brown drink, but it’s filled with a clear liquid that smells nothing like alcohol, hmm… Oh well! Must be that new scentless hooch! Hook ‘im up boys! CPD was so hellbent on prosecuting Seiser that they even sent the bottle to a lab for testing, and the court wrote that there was NO way for them to know if it contain alcohol until it was analyzed at the lab! Seriously? These are our anointed arbiters of legal reasonableness? How about this? If you can’t smell it, there ain’t enough to say so, Stupid! Do they hook people up for open bottles of NyQuil in the car in Chicago?

Probable Cause Need Not be Reasonable in the 7th Circuit
Believe it or not, the court actually put into writing that not only were the verbal statements of “Aboveboard” Anderson and the other witnesses probable cause for the officers to believe that Seiser had been DUI, despite of the absolute lack of supporting observations by ANY officers, but that the officers had “NO REASON” to disregard the witnesses’ statements! Now that I think about it, given the breath-taking lack of reason possessed by the judges up there, I suppose it would be reasonable to assume that their officers are equally devoid of any reasoning capability, and that the local school security guard would be the most reliable perceptor of reality…

Seiser Probably Could Have Been Fired Without Bastardizing the Law
If Kirby wanted Seiser’s badge so bad, she should have just charged him with conduct unbecoming an officer, and sought his termination. No reasonable officer would refill an alcoholic beverage container with a non-alcoholic beverage, then consume it in public, while driving, wearing a police uniform, on duty, let alone stonewall the guy sent to investigate their poor choice of water bottle!

Of course, I’m saying all this from Texas, where (as far as I’ve seen) we know the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause, and if anything, we err on the side of caution. That said, this kind of unimaginable IAD witch-hunting and court stupidity is why I have to remain anonymous. These kind of shenanigans don’t exactly engender trust in our justice system either.

What do you think? Is it reasonable for officers to believe that someone probably was guilty of DUI or an open container violation, based on the reported observations of untrained citizen witnesses, which directly contradict the evidence in front of them? Is it reasonable for the court to seemingly ignore the officers’ observations, in one breath, then cannonize the citizens’ observations, while declaring the need to consider the totality of the circumstances? I, for one, am scared to death by this case, and I pray that the SCOTUS backhands these fools into next Tuesday! Or better yet, into Leavenworth.

Will the “Smart Clip” Make Kids Safer

Intel just announced a new tool for parents who love their kids, called the “smart clip,” which is designed to interact with your smart phone, to warn you if your child is unbuckled, overheating, or being left behind. Sounds very promising, and hopefully, the Smart Clip will live up to expectations, but never forget that ultimately, this should be a safety net, to catch those instances where we slip, not as a crutch, because our children’s very lives are on the line!

In case you haven’t read it, take a look at an article I did about child safety seats.

For more on the “smart clip” follow this link.

Tamir Rice was Killed by Reckless Tactics

The other day I heard about the shooting of Tamir Rice by Cleveland PD, and as soon as I saw the video, I had to write about it! I know it happened a while ago, but I haven’t seen much talk about the officers’ tactics.

Now, I don’t know what kind of tactics they teach officers up in Cleveland, but Loehmann and Garmback lucky Rice wasn’t actually an armed hostile, or it would have been they who’d be dead. If Cleveland PD actually trained officers to get that close, then they need a training overhaul, but if not at least one of those officers should have been fired long ago!

Distance Is Our Friend
When given a choice between confronting a suspect believed to be arm from a distance or close up, only an absolute idiot would choose to make the shot easy for the suspect. Unlike most people officers encounter, we are actually trained to shoot targets from a distance, giving officers an advantage at long range.

Plus, the psychological impact of that distance naturally makes everyone less jumpy, meaning that a suspect’s less likely to make sudden moves, and any confusion about what the officers want them to do is less likely to result in a shooting, justified or not. Hell, Even if Tamir did reach for his waistband, it he well have been thinking, “Oh crap! Here! Take this stupid thing!” And that sudden flurry of thought and action could have been completely avoided, if Loehmann and Garmback weren’t all but running him over!

The Better Part of Valor is Discretion
While we all hate to have a suspect run from us and get away, unless you’re chasing down a guy who you know just killed a bunch of people, and will likely kill more if you don’t take him down right then and there, sometimes you just gotta (cue the music) let it go. And if Loehmann and Garmback were that concerned about him running, then they should have called for more units and tried to set up a perimeter, before they made contact, or at least had another unit nearby to help chase him if he ran! You know what? There were two officers in that car. How about dropping Loehmann off one street over, then Garmback could attempt to make contact from the other side, so Garmback herds him towards Loehmann! Use that mushy gray thing in your head guys!

The best part about the defense of their extreme proximity to Rice was claim that the patrol car slid on the grass. Seriously??? Unless that car slid a few hundred feet, those officers planed on being WAAAAY too close in the first place, ESPECIALLY if the dispatcher didn’t relay the comments about the gun possibly being fake!

Officers Who Assume the Worst Survive
Speaking of the fake gun comment, what the general public doesn’t understand is that information provided to officers is often inaccurate. Sometimes it’s as simple and harmless as an “E” on a license plate being misread as an “F”, or a dark blue being called black, but sometimes the “fake” gun is real.

Add to that the daisychain game of police dispatch systems, and even with perfect information provided by the caller, by the time it gets to the officer, there may be substantial inaccuracies. I personally remember a call where two black men in a white car were described to me by dispatch as two white men in a black car. Thankfully, it was the only car in the area, and there was enough additional matching information to assure me that I was looking at the right car, which led me to stop them, and find that their car was loaded with freshly stolen electronics!

Even if we did get highly reliable information 99% of the time, it would still be in the officer’s best interest to assume that the info is unreliable, when it comes to potentially dangerous situations. While this approach naturally increases the chances of a non-threats being mistaken for threats and hurt, it greatly reduces the chances of the officer getting killed, and like it or not, when faced with the “which of us gets to go home tonight” choice, all but the most fanatical believers in the afterlife default to self preservation.

Orange Tips are for Parents
Many news stories harp on the claim that Rice’s gun was an airsoft without the orange tip, as if that was the key to the whole thing. Just run an image search for “Colored Handguns”, then see how reassued you’d be by an orange tip, when the gun is pointed at you! Like I said, our lives depend on our assumption of the worst. The only people reassured by orange gun tips are people who never genuinely consider that someone might try to kill them that day.

So Who’s to Blame for Rice’s Death?
There is no question that the actions of Rice created the scenario leading to his death, but it was the keystone tactics used by Cleveland PD that ultimately was the causative factor.

Cleveland PD
Cleveland PD is clearly responsible. If Cleveland taught Loehmann and Garmback that tactic, then they will most likely be granted qualified immunity from prosecution, and the department will be held solely responsible. However, even if Cleveland PD didn’t teach that tactic, they are still responsible for hiring the Loehmann without even checking his personnel records! I mean, what kind of an idiot do you have to be to hand somebody a gun and send him to a call about an armed suspect in the park pointing a gun at people, without even checking to see if he’s an idiot or a nut job! So, regardless of their defense, the city of Cleveland will definitely be funding the Rice family college & retirement funds.

Garmback
The veteran officer, Garmback, is also largely responsibile, because he was driving the car, which placed the Loehmann at point-blank range with a reportedly armed suspect. In fact, even if Cleveland taught them that stupidity, 10 years of experience in law-enforcement should have taught Garmback that such a tactic was basically asking for 40 cal lead crowns! The news reports claim that Garmback had a spotless personnel record, but if Cleveland PD didn’t even check the personnel records of Loehmann, when he applied to work there, I’m hard-pressed to believe that they have any serious disciplinary system in place, that would have recorded Garmback’s shenanigans in the first place! Again, Cleveland might have written the recipie, but Garmback’s the one directly responsible for putting the ingredients together for this tragedy.

Loehmann
As for the Loehmann, you may not like hearing this, but unless that strategy was his brain child, he was basically a helpless victim of circumstance. He was hired by a department that didn’t even bother to check his personnel records from the previous employer who apparently fired him for poor performance, he almost certainly got terribly tactical training, and he was stuck riding shotgun with a 10 year veteran who didn’t understand or didn’t care that he was basically shoving a rookie directly into an armed confrontation at point-blank range where the Loehmann’s only viable option for surviving was fight, not flight. And when you’re talking about a guy with a gun, standing a few feet in front of you the only viable option for fighting is quick use of your gun. Any talk about tasers or pepper spray is simply naïve over estimation of them by people who know nothing about them. When it comes down to it, Loehmann’s only real guilt here may be that he hired on with a crappy PD.

So there it is. What do you think? Any important info I appear to be missing? How do you think this could have been avoided?