Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Okay, I can’t stand it any more.  I HAVE to say something about Ferguson and the cop shootings that America is now FINALLY paying attention to.  The tipping point came for me yesterday when I finally watched the video of the Tamir Rice shooting and read an article on the audio evidence that proves Officer Darren Wilson was not telling the truth in his accounts of the Michael Brown shooting.

The U.S. is like a drug addict that refuses to acknowledge they have a problem.  All the signs are there.  The data is VERY clear.    Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about.

Some thoughts that are just pinging around in my brain that I have to get out.  Keep in mind, I’m not some uninformed liberal spouting off–I have a Masters in Criminal Justice and I’ve worked in the system.

  • The Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, in the Brown shooting did not WANT an indictment therefore there wasn’t one.  A typical prosecutor could indict a comatose 90-year old grandmother if he/she wanted to.
    • He dumped a ton of data on the jury without providing any guidance into what was exculpatory, degree of trustworthiness, interpreting (because the forensic stuff can be really tough to understand), etc.  To expect a lay person to be able to sort through, prioritize and understand all of that data is absurd and no real prosecutor would do that.
    • He engaged in victim blaming by telling them that Brown was on drugs when there was no evidence of that
    • He improperly instructed the jury on the law — this is HUGE and if this had been a trial, it would have been excellent grounds for an appeal
    • He should have recused himself.  His father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty by, you guessed it, a black man.
    • He failed to perform his duty as a Prosecutor–they are supposed to advocate for indictment. In fact the vast majority of grand juries in this country return with an indictment.

    According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. 

  • The audio from the Brown shooting proves that Wilson did not tell the truth.
  • White people riot all the fucking time for the stupidest shit and no one blames it on their “culture of lawlessness”.  But let some black people riot and the media and the majority of white people will shake their heads and question why.  Why would they riot when there’s no history of racial discrimination in policing in the U.S. (ht to Bob Cesca)? Why would they riot when they only have themselves to blame?  All of the Fox News coverage has been in this vein, but the best examples are interviews with Rudy Giulani.
  • The Tamir Rice video is horrifying.  The video shows the police lied about many crucial issues.  If you only listen to the police version (as is too often the case), then it sounds like Tamir was a serious threat .  If you watch the video you will be stunned.
    • They said there were multiple people in the park.  The video shows the 12 year old boy was alone.
    • They said they told him to  put his hands up three times.  The video shows less than 2 seconds passed between the car pulling up, the officers got out of the vehicle and when the shots occurred.  So either the officer gave the fastest and clearest commands in the history of human language (award that man a Guinness World Record!) or he didn’t give them at all.
    • Tamir was already down on the ground when they shot him…he reacted immediately to their presence by making himself non-threatening.
    • After they shot him and the boy was clearly no longer a threat they watched him suffer and provided no first aid until a detective and FBI agent showed up.   Although they’re under no obligation to provide first aid IF they felt the situation is unsafe.  But the boy was no longer a threat.  Actually he wasn’t even a threat when they shot him, but why quibble, amiright?  Ironic that the failure to render aid, made sure their version will be the only one we hear (other than the pure luck of the surveillance video from across the street which can’t really tell us the whole story).
  •  The Rice shooting is very scary to me personally.  My stepson is 12 years old, loves guns, and is very familiar with them.   He is also brown–decidedly not white.   We’ve taught him to be safe with them.  He knows not to handle real guns without an adult being present.  BUT he doesn’t know that it’s probably not a good idea to handle fake one’s either.    I am going to make damn sure he never has a fake gun in any public place and when his family is not with him.
  • There was a shooting just reported in AZ of a black man by a white cop.  I’m still waiting for more details to come in.  Cop thought the guy had a gun in his pocket–it was a bottle of pills.

If you listen to what is being said in the media (not just on Fox but on CNN and local stations too), there is a lot of victim blaming and officer excuse making.  White America’s attitude is coming across like this.

‘Don’t black folk know they should never ever carry anything in their pockets AND should always keep their hands in the air AND always have a pleasant or at least non-demonic look on their face.  AND they can’t be too large or physically intimidating because a big black many is very scary, even to really big white men, even when they’re 25+ feet away**.  So if you’re a big black guy, hunch your shoulders.  And whatever you do, don’t be sullen or angry.’

In other words, don’t give the white cops an excuse to kill you and this message is loud and clear to the black community.  Most of their parents have already told them not to do such things.  Not that doing any of that will actually keep black men safe in this country.  When an entire race of people in our society have to raise their sons to live in fear and act more passive and non-threatening with the police than white people do, then something is terribly, terribly wrong.  The sooner white people acknowledge this, the sooner we can address the problem.  But I don’t think white people in general are capable of acknowledging our complicity in this problem because that would mean acknowledging that we’re wrong about something.  As we’ve seen time and time again, too many Americans think that if we’re not exceptional and right all the time, we’re nothing at all.


*I totally understand why the police want bigger and better guns.  When I was a probation officer I always felt like I was outgunned.  I had a Speed 6 Ruger, a “brick” cell phone with a dead battery, no partner or back-up and my crappy little car (VW Fox).  I would go into the field armed with these items.  Here are just some examples of what I faced with those “weapons:

  • walking into crack houses where I was surrounded by dozens of male drug addicts and/or dealers
  • interviewing a probationers with serious anger control issues (child abuser/molester/wife beater) in their dark and dingy homes
  • explaining to VERY angry probationers and their family members why I had to talk to their boss at work about his/her probation and why they lost their job and would soon probably be homeless.  (I took no joy in this task.  I was legally obligated to verify employment with a supervisor a few times a year.  Talk about the system shooting itself in the foot.  The minute they lost their job their risk of recidivism would skyrocket)  

I guess if I couldn’t draw my weapon in time or if I lost it, I could have used the cell phone to brain them.

**Brown was 6 ft 5 in and 290 lbs and Wilson was 6 ft 4 in and 210 lbs.  Wilson isn’t small by any means.  He also had at least two deadly weapons–his pistol and his police car.  Who knows what he had in the trunk–one can safely assume a shotgun.  Plus he had a radio so he could call in reinforcements.  In regards to the distance, the audio article clearly proves Wilson was either lying about the distance or lying about Brown charging him or both.

ht to John Cole over at Balloon Juice for writing about the modern practice of punishing people for crimes they haven’t yet committed

From the source article they cite at the NY Times:

“…risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.”

In a way we’ve been doing this kind of things for decades but now they’re calling it “evidenced based sentencing”.  I’m gonna call BS on this and here’s why.

20+ years ago when I was a probation officer for the state of FL, I did both pre and post conviction sentencing reports–basically risk assessments. Back then the two biggest factors in recidivism for those on community supervision were known to be employment and positive family support. The inclusion of these things was actually a reform, meant to help offenders by putting them in the situation that would most likely lead to more positive results. Unfortunately, the “why” of it got lost in the implementation. It became a factor in how they were punished instead of how they were helped. And this came about during the Reagan and Clinton years with the resurgence of conservative politics and the “get tough on crime” wave of nonsense that swept the nation.

So judges would often sentence someone with a job and/or a stable home to live in to serve their sentence under community supervision and of course that meant that the poor would be more likely to go to jail. And the ability of a person who has been incarcerated to recover their lives was and still is infinitely more difficult than that of a person who was lucky enough to serve their sentence in the community. Basically it was always unfair.

It did get better over time in some jurisdictions but this was due only to 1) the progressive nature and quality of the judges 2) the quality and quantity of community resources (e.g., semi-independent living for the mentally ill, advocacy organizations that helped people coming out of the system to find jobs and homes, drug treatment programs with living spaces, etc) and 3) the progressive nature and quality of the officers doing the risk assessment. An officer could shade and characterize things to suit their own bias against the offender or they could choose to help.

For instance when we did a psi report one of the things we had to do was investigate the home address they proposed to live in.  We also had to interview family members.  If they didn’t have a home to live in or if the one they listed fell through, the officer was not required to but could contact family members–often people who cared about the offender but were not informed as to what was going on in their case would want to help. I don’t know how many times I was able to find a family member who was willing to take an offender into their homes but it was only because I put forth extra effort. Or if they were mentally ill and their family wouldn’t or couldn’t take them, I’d try to find a bed in a group home for them somewhere*. 99% of officers just left it at “they’ve got no place” so they aren’t suitable for community supervision.

That bias is now being given steroids by adding in things that the offender has no control over whatsoever. If their parents or siblings are assholes, how is that their fault? If you were born and raised in the ghetto and that’s where your family lives, how the hell are you supposed to be able to control that?  You’re in jail awaiting sentencing and you’re supposed to just pull a nice apartment in SoHo out of your ass?

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that these things should never have been a part of the sentencing equation in the first place. The ONLY thing they should have EVER been considered for was in how to treat and help offenders. Unfortunately this country is so wed to being “tough on crime” that they’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal which is not only equality before the law but also reducing recidivism not just for society’s sake but for the individual’s sake as well.

Add on to this trend of incarcerating the poor and disadvantaged for simply being so, the use of blatantly biased drug laws, three strikes laws and the push to incarcerate non-violent offenders and voila you have the clusterfuck that is the American Correctional System.  We incarcerate more people than China, which has a population four times larger than ours.  Next time you hear a stupid bumper sticker talking point from a politician about being tough on crime.  Tell him to STFU because you’re not buying it any more.  Tell them you want to hear a detailed plan for reducing prison overcrowding, increasing the fairness in our justice system AND reducing recidivism.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it–You can’t reduce recidivism without treating the underlying causes and treating the underlying causes does not mean throwing everyone in prison.



* Thanks again Ronnie Reagan for destroying the nation’s mental health institutions….you screwed the mentally ill for many generations……

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was FINALLY renewed today and it is the same version that was proposed a year ago–with the clauses to cover for Native Americans, LGBT and immigrants.  We shouldn’t have to fight so damn hard to protect women who are being assaulted.  This wasn’t a difficult choice the Republicans wasted an entire year on it when they could have been focused on fixing our economy and creating more jobs.  The bill is now on it’s way to President Obama for signature.

UPDATE 2:  Angry Black Lady says that the graphic is actually from Think Progress, just FYI.

UPDATE:  a nice little graphic added at bottom and a link here to the post that is its source from the audacious Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Not too long ago I wrote a post about how the House Republicans killed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because ‘them thar women injuns need ta stay on da resuhvashun an shouldna be awtherized to persecute da white man’ in spite of the fact that those white men are rapists scum.  I, and many other women, did not take kindly to this attitude.

Well the issue has come up AGAIN.  Senate Republicans put forward an amendment that would strip the provision of VAWA that focused on increasing protections for Native American Women. Their supposed reason? They say that provision was added by “special interests”. So the vulnerable, the rape victims, they’re a special interest group? Really? What of kind of piece of shit do you have to be to think that way? Seriously.

Thankfully, Senate Democrats defeated this odious amendment so that VAWA remained intact and then passed the Senate easily with some bipartisan support (as it should have).   Now VAWA will go to the House, where who knows what will happen.  I’m not optimistic considering what happened last time (repeating, see my earlier post).   By the way, Marco Rubio, the supposed savior of the GOP who gave the Republican rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union Speech, voted AGAINST VAWA for the second time in a year. So if you hear Rubio talking about how much he cares about women’s rights, he’s lying.   The only thing he cares about is how he can further restrict those rights, not protect them.

PS:  Here’s a great article on Rubio by Bob Cesca, it’s a nice early take on the man who will probably be the GOP Presidential candidate in 2016

Why is it always the same assholes, um, I mean faces, over and over again?


A list of some news items that caught my attention.

  • The DOJ issued an internal memo laying out the legal justification for killing American citizens using drones and NBC got a hold of it.  I’ve been ambivalent about drones (not a supporter, just ambivalent).  But this shows that the White House has established a policy that American citizens who are considered to be enemies of the U.S. because the aid and abet terrorists groups that are trying to harm the U.S. can be targeted because we are at war.  Unfortunately, the War on Terror is not a finite thing and therein lies the problem.  I support the President on most things but on this, I DO NOT.  Here’s a great article on the nuances of the policy and some recommendations for what should be done.
  • Baby Boomers, folks in their 50’s and early 60’s, were hit harder by the Recession than other age groups, so much so that their average life span has been reduced by three years. But hey, best health care system in the world…..NOT!
  • The Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery but do you know why?  Because the Republicans in Congress forced them to pay their retiree health care costs up front in 2006 (something no other agency in federal government has to do) and then later refused to actually fund that expenditure.  So it wasn’t anything the USPS did wrong.  Congress has been trying to kill the USPS for years now.
  • The little boy being held hostage in Alabama was freed by an FBI raid of the bunker.  What you might not know is that the Mother of the boy actually asked the police to do their best not to hurt the kidnapper.  Her reasoning, he was a sick man who needed help.  Now that is a truly empathetic person.
  • Republican factions have begun infighting because one wing is blaming the other for Romney’s loss.  The Karl Roves of the world are squaring up against Tea Party members.  Karl Rove and his supporters represent the Washington insider, the practical Republican who does whatever it takes to win and they expect party obedience.  Tea Party members don’t like to “fall in line” with the party and tend to support candidates that take principled stances (meaning stances that fit into their worldview).   It’s funny, both in an ironic and haha kind of way, that neither wing of the party is looking at their ideas as being rejected by voters, just the way in which they presented those ideas.   So they’re having conferences where consultants are telling Republicans things like never, ever to use the word “rape” again in a public setting.  From their viewpoint, it’s not that so many of them think rape is sometimes justified that turns off female voters, it’s the fact that they share that thought with the public.  Meanwhile liberals are making popcorn and sitting down to enjoy the show.
  • The President’s skeet shooting photo is being mocked.  I get this because the White House should have let the derision over the skeet shooting comment during an interview just fade into obscurity.  Putting out that picture was like putting Dukakis in the tank.  Now there are conservatives declaring that the photo is not legitimate and was  photoshopped.   I don’t get this.  Everything is not about fooling you.  Maybe this growing paranoid subculture in the U.S. is based on narcissism….that arguably the most powerful man in the world has the time to cater to some idjits who think that everything revolves around them and that they and they alone know the truth.   Riiiiiiiiiiight……..Sigh….
  • Since the President dominated among Hispanics in the last election, receiving 75% of their vote, the Republicans have taken notice.  Their answer?  Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) proposed yesterday that anyone whose illegal immigrant parents brought them to the U.S. as children be granted citizenship.  Wait, isn’t that the Dream Act?  Yep.  So why now?  Why didn’t you support it before?  Oh, they rejected you and now you’re hoping to tap into future Hispanic Voters.  It’s gonna take a lot more than this little morsel to make that happen, bub.