Category Archives: Policing

Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead

“There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Joe Biden. (Which city is he looking at?)

7/22/2020. WSJ by Daniel Henninger

On Tuesday the New York City sky was clear, blue and filled with sunshine. That’s it for this week’s good news. We turn now to Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and all of America’s other seemingly Godforsaken cities.

President Trump watches a lot of television, so he’s seeing the same daily urban nightmares we’re seeing. It’s hard not to sympathize with his instinct to send in federal authorities to restore civil order to cities like Portland, as he proposed Wednesday with the expansion of an urban anticrime initiative called Operation Legend to Chicago and Albuquerque.

It’s equally hard to disagree that, other than protecting federal facilities, Mr. Trump should let all of these smug Portlandia American cities stew in their own juices.

I loved it when Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, said the federal presence “is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.” Where’s Groucho Marx when we need him to make sense of nonsense?

 

Still, no matter one’s politics, it is sickening to see this happening to any U.S. city—mobs hammering and burning buildings along Portland’s streets and then a carbon-copy mob battering Seattle.

Days before, we’d watched video of two groups of police beaten bloody on the Brooklyn Bridge. Days later 15 people were wounded in a gun battle at a Chicago funeral for the victim of a drive-by gang shooting.

There is a serious matter of civil order at issue here, but if you can look beyond the mayhem, something else quite sad is happening. The irrepressible vitality of these cities—their reason for being—is disappearing, undone by pandemic, lockdowns and a new culture of permanent protest.

For years, I’ve been on the email list of Spike Wilner, the owner-founder of two jewel-like jazz clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village—Small’s and Mezzrow. Mr. Wilner’s weekly paeans to jazz and the people who play it are always a good, diverting read. This week’s email was different. Here is a chunk of it, because he’s got the city exactly right:

 

“It’s hard to describe but the feeling is gone, the vibe absent. The thing that made New York, New York is missing. What’s it like now?

“It’s very tense. People are very anxious and angry. Everything is closed or, if open, listless. There is no nightlife. If you leave your apartment after 9 p.m. it’s a complete ghost town inhabited by wraiths and zombies, dangerous people. . . . In certain parts of town you have a mob of folks partying outside, like a street fair. Other folks keep their masks tightly on and live in fear. The only place I’ve found some civility and warmth is the city playgrounds where I take my daughter each day. The children are oblivious to the pandemic and just play and climb.”

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Outside wartime, with bombardments turning blocks into rubble, I’m hard put to think of any precedent for what is happening to these U.S. cities now. The enforced pandemic closures and isolation were bad enough. But the endless protests—with their instinct to violence and atmosphere of dread—have broken the spirit of many cities.

The political story of the 2016 presidential election was Donald Trump’s identification of overlooked lower-middle-class white voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. A new political division may be taking place now in big cities—between progressive elites and working-class residents, primarily the people who own or work for the storefront businesses that are the lifeblood of these cities.

A story recently in Crain’s New York Business described how the outdoor dining tables of restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen on Manhattan’s West Side are overrun by disturbed or half-dressed beggars, whom Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has housed in nearby hotels. Said one restaurant owner: “Every bit of progress this neighborhood has made over the years is stepping backwards.”

 

During New York’s 1970s financial crisis, the Daily News ran a famous headline about then-President Gerald Ford —“Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Here’s the update—“Progressives to Cities: Drop Dead.”

People living and working in these cities, most of whom consider themselves liberal, are being sold out by progressive politicians and activists blinded by politics to the quality of daily life.

Progressive prosecutors refuse to prosecute. Cops are holding back because progressive mayors and governors don’t have their backs.

Responding to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that no alcohol can be served without food, many bar owners say they won’t survive. The state’s Labor Department just reported an unemployment rate in the Bronx of 24.7%, Depression level.

The progressive ruin of major cities inhabited by liberals is a significant political event. Consequences that might have emerged over years have been compressed into months by the pandemic and protests.

It is doubtful many will check the box for Mr. Trump in November, but who knows? Their alternative is Joe Biden, whose contribution to the urban chaos this week was: “There is no reason for the president to send federal troops into a city where people are demanding change peacefully and respectfully.” Which city is he looking at?

Write henninger@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/progressives-to-cities-drop-dead-11595458490?mod=trending_now_pos5

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New York’s Cop Out

What a sorry state of liberal politicians. Yes, people (?) continue to vote them into office. As my father often says: “People get what they deserve.” mrossol

WSJ 7/2/2020.

For those wondering where the Defund the Police movement is going, look no further than New York City. On Tuesday the City Council endorsed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s bid to cut $1 billion from the police—roughly 17% of the department’s budget.

New York isn’t the only city moving to defund its police, but it bears particular significance as America’s commercial capital. And its funding cuts are especially striking because it comes in a place that implemented the policing revolution that transformed the Big Apple from a crime-ridden metropolis in the early 1990s into what it was in 2014 when Mr. de Blasio was sworn in: America’s safest big city. Thousands of New Yorkers are alive today because of this policing revolution’s success at reducing the murder rate.

No doubt the City Council was mindful of the protesters gathered outside their building who clashed with police. Far from being happy with the cut, the protesters complained the $1 billion wasn’t nearly enough. It never is.

 

When Mr. de Blasio first ran for mayor, he campaigned against the police and vowed to end a tactic called stop and frisk. Liberals claimed it wasn’t responsible for the reduction in crime, which they attributed to demographics. In 2013 federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, and eventually the city abandoned it.

 

Now the antipolicing efforts are accelerating. The City Council has eased the laws against such quality-of-life offenses as vagrancy and public urination, and Manhattan’s district attorney is no longer prosecuting them. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bail reform this year lets even repeat offenders back on the streets immediately. In recent weeks the police department dismantled its plainclothes anti-crime units under political pressure. The head of the police captains association has called for ending the highly successful CompStat system that tracks crimes across the city and helps police focus on high-crime neighborhoods. The union says it encourages too many police interactions with minorities that result in police being blamed.

The result is already more crime. For the first half of 2020, murders in New York City rose 21% over the same period a year ago, shootings are up 46% and shooting victims are up 53%. The victims include a 17-year-old high school basketball star, Brandon Hendricks, who was gunned down Sunday night in the Bronx while attending a barbecue.

“You have a criminal justice system that is imploding,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told reporters last week. “Imploding. That’s the kindest way to put it.” The New York Post reports that since the George Floyd protests began police retirements are spiking, with 272 cops choosing to leave the force—compared with 183 over the same period last year. They won’t be replaced as the city’s budget cuts will forgo two of the next four classes of NYPD recruits, reducing the headcount by 1,163 uniformed officers (out of some 36,000).

As police retreat from the anti-crime lessons of the last three decades, and even from active policing lest cops be put in the dock, the crime rate in New York will bear close watching. If violence and disorder continue to rise, the fault will lie with the rich liberals who empower criminals and then leave the consequences to be suffered by the most vulnerable.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/new-yorks-cop-out-11593731047?mod=opinion_lead_pos3

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106 shot, 14 dead, zero shot by police. Massive Protests planned

Zero shot by police.  Just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss that. Oh, not sure about the protests.

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6/23/2020. Chicago Tribule

New Chicago police Superintendent David Brown has been in his post for just two months, but his walk to a lectern at police headquarters had a familiar feel Monday.

Another weekend of stunning bloodshed in Chicago had given way to another round of police and city leaders grasping for explanations.

“On the heels of Father’s Day, I come to you again with obviously a high level of frustration and disappointment,” Brown said at a press briefing.

This time, on the first official summer weekend of the year, it was 106 people shot, 14 fatally — including a 3-year-old boy.

The tally marked the most people shot in one weekend here since at least 2012, and the violence took a particular toll on children. Twelve of those shot were younger than 18 years old. Five of them died, including two walking into their backyard after going to get candy at a corner shop.

Six shootings involved three or more victims. One drive-by shooting early Monday in the East Garfield Park neighborhood injured five, including a 16-year-old girl who was left in critical condition.

The Austin District, where 3-year-old Mekhi James was fatally shot Saturday afternoon, had the most shooting victims: 18.

And while shootings were seen across the city, those who work at the front lines of reducing violence also were left to consider what’s happening on blocks that have borne the brunt of the problem for decades. Chicago is an agitated place, they said, dealing with the stress of a global pandemic, recent civil unrest and the fallout from decades of neglect and abandonment in some neighborhoods.

“I think the main thing to understand is that tensions are high,” said David Stovall, a professor of African American studies and criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “You have the COVID situation, which is making it harder to get work. The same communities have been disenfranchised for an elongated period of time. They haven’t had access to quality education or quality health care. … In these situations, these stressors are often enacted on the people who are in proximity to you.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot often talks about long-term disenfranchisement as an underlying factor in the violence problem. But on Monday, Brown was left to handle the more immediate issues.

He appeared somber. Asked about the contributing factors to the escalation of violence, Brown replied, “Gangs, guns and drugs.”

As he took the helm earlier this year, Brown publicly stated he could envision a Chicago with fewer than 300 murders a year, a figure the city is already quickly approaching. For her part, Lightfoot has continued to support Brown, including on Monday, when she addressed his stated goal.

“I think what the superintendent said when he had this ambitious goal of 300, he called it a moon shot,” Lightfoot said. “And the idea was, not so much the number, but making sure that we rallied all the resources, both within the Police Department, but also with our various partners, to really focus on what each of us could to do more around public safety.”

But Brown seemed to blame at least some of those partners for this weekend’s mayhem.

Not enough violent offenders are locked up, and those who are jailed don’t stay there long enough, Brown said at his briefing. He also criticized the tracking of suspects who are arrested and placed on electronic monitoring by Cook County as they await trial.

“There are too many violent offenders not in jail, or on electronic monitoring, which no one is really monitoring,” Brown said. “We need violent felons to stay in jail longer and we need improvements to the home monitoring system.”

When asked how he knew this was to blame, Brown said only that it was his years in law enforcement. He also refused to be specific about what was not working about the electronic-monitoring system.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has long complained that system is stretched too thin.

Asked about Brown’s comments Monday, Dart spokeswoman Allison Peters noted it is judges who determine who is placed on monitoring. And the number of people on ankle bracelets has grown by about 1,000 people since the coronavirus pandemic began, further stressing the system, she said in a statement.

“This increase took place without any additional staff or funding allocated to (monitoring),” she wrote. “In the past, we have routinely made requests for additional funding for positions in EM, but budget restrictions did not allow for the increase.”

Whether that explanation from Brown gains traction remains to be seen, but some police sources who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity blamed other factors. Some blamed a lack of a cohesive crime-fighting plan as well as the warm weather that drew a lot of people outdoors, creating an opportunity for gang shooters to settle scores with rivals.

Anti-violence outreach teams reached by the Tribune agreed that the first warm, celebratory weekend brought a lot of people outside. The weekend opened with the Juneteenth holiday and ended with Father’s Day.

That recipe put more innocent people in harm’s way, they said. And having neighborhoods newly full perhaps sometimes brought those with disputes in contact with each other.

“We’re working with guys that (have) been into it all year round that probably didn’t see each other,” said Bennie Clark, a program manager for Target Area Development, a South Side anti-violence group that mediates street conflicts. “Now they get a chance to see each other. It just made (it) an opportunity to carry out these acts.”

Clark said he was sad to see so many people across the city get hurt, and that it reflects the difficultly of street outreach workers to stay ahead of so many conflicts to prevent shootings and retaliatory violence.

“We’re up against a lot,” Clark said. “We can tackle one thing, and then it’d be a whole other situation going on.

Some noted that the shootings this time happened against the backdrop of not only COVID-19 but also the sustained protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

At the pandemic’s start, deaths from the virus were happening in the same neighborhoods historically suffering from gun violence. Then, in late May and early June, Chicago, like many cities, experienced protests over Floyd’s death, some of which gave way to looting.

Brown, at the news conference, acknowledged that his officers have worked multiple 12-hour days and had much time off canceled in the last 20 days since the civil unrest that began during the last weekend of May.

“They’re human and they’re tired,” he said. “But they are very professional and I am so proud of the work that they’re putting in given the circumstances that they’re under.”

But whatever the immediate reasons for this weekend’s bloodshed were, UIC’s Stovall and others remarked that the real driver of violence is that so many neighborhoods have been left without access to adequate jobs, education or health care, and that is not a new situation.

Stovall said solutions such as having outreach teams of the kind Brown has sometimes mentioned could help, reaching people swept up in the violence to try and reduce tensions. But the city needs to consider wider, deeper solutions, including access to meaningful jobs, he said.

Asiaha Butler, a longtime community activist in the South Side’s Englewood neighborhood, said she also felt the weekend’s tension.

But on Monday, between her usual community meetings, Butler said the answers to ending Chicago’s violence are found in the long, hard work of demanding better conditions.

“Many of us hear these stories, and believe me, we are not happy to hear about the 3-year-old, but we just know that the work has to keep going,” Butler said.

“And it’s not a quick fix,” she said. “We can’t protest our way out of this. We really have to take some deep assessments. I will continue to go back to the economic stability of neighborhoods and the generational trauma that takes deeper work to address.”

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The Problem With Police Unions

The Democratic Party- a problem with unions?  Oh, say it ain’t so!!

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Remember the furor in 2011 when Republican governors tried to reform collective bargaining for government workers? Well, what do you know, suddenly Democrats say public-union labor agreements are frustrating police reform. We’re delighted to hear it—if they’re serious.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Sunday said police collective bargaining and arbitration have prevented the city from holding officers accountable for misconduct. Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with killing George Floyd, had at least 17 misconduct complaints against him in 18 years. His personnel file provides little detail about how these complaints were handled. But it appears he was disciplined only once—after a woman said he pulled her from a car and frisked her for exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles per hour. He received a letter of reprimand.

Minneapolis’s Office of Police Conduct Review has received 2,600 misconduct complaints since 2012. Only 12 have resulted in discipline, and the most severe punishment was a 40-hour suspension. “Unless we are willing to tackle the elephant in the room—which is the police union—there won’t be a culture shift in the department,” Mr. Frey said.

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago officer convicted of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, had been the subject of 20 complaints—ranking in the top 4% of Chicago’s police department—including 10 that alleged excessive use of force.

A jury awarded a man $350,000 after finding Mr. Van Dyke employed excessive force during a traffic stop. Yet Mr. Van Dyke was never disciplined. A task force on police reform after the McDonald murder found that “collective bargaining agreements create unnecessary barriers to identifying and addressing police misconduct” and “essentially turned the code of silence into official policy.”

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Police have a point that complaints against them are often dubious and they need an advocate to defend them. But collective-bargaining agreements go beyond due process and insulate officers from accountability for egregious and serial misconduct.

Some 40 states require or permit collective bargaining for police. A Duke Law Journal study in 2017 that analyzed 178 police union contracts concluded that a “lack of corrective action in cases of systemic officer misconduct is, in part, a consequence of public-employee labor law” that in most states permits unions “‘to bargain collectively with regard to policy matters directly affecting wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.’”

The authors found that about half of cities had collective-bargaining agreements that required the removal of police disciplinary records after a certain period of time. Cleveland’s contract mandated expunging disciplinary records from department databases after two years. This makes it difficult for supervisors to assess whether officer misconduct is habitual.

About two-thirds of police union contracts also allow or require the use of arbitration in disciplinary cases. Private employers often use arbitration to resolve complaints by and against employees, but cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis allow police unions essentially to select the arbitrator.

A University of Pennsylvania Law Review paper last year found that about half of all union contracts give officers or unions “significant power to select the identity of the arbitrator” as well as “provide this arbitrator with significant power to override earlier factual or legal decisions” and “make the arbitrator’s decision final and binding on the police department.”

The average police department, the paper notes, offers officers up to four layers of appellate review. A quarter of officers fired for misconduct between 2006 and 2017 were reinstated, usually by arbitrators. An Oakland police officer shot and killed two unarmed men within the span of six months, one of whom was fleeing. Oakland paid $650,000 to one of the deceased’s family and fired the officer, but an arbitrator ordered him reinstated a few years later with back pay.

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This lack of accountability is endemic to government collective bargaining. The AFL-CIO’s legendary chief George Meany once said “it is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” Collective bargaining in business is adversarial. But public unions sit on both sides of the bargaining table since they help elect the politicians with whom they negotiate.

Democratic lawmakers in particular depend on public unions for political support, and disciplinary protections are easy to give away in contract talks. Teachers unions are the most powerful example, as collective bargaining frustrates school reform and protects lousy teachers, relegating low-income and minority kids to failing schools.

If big-city Democrats really want to change police incentives, rather than merely pass reform gestures, they’ll have to address collective bargaining. Let’s see if their social-justice convictions overcome their desire for political backing from public unions.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-problem-with-police-unions-11591830984?mod=opinion_lead_pos1

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