The NYPD’s Record On Chokeholds

German Lopez voxplains a new set of findings:

The report, by the NYPD inspector general, looked at 10 cases involving chokeholds between 2009 and 2014. The Civilian Complaint Review Board recommended the most serious penalty in nine of 10 cases, but the NYPD reduced the punishment to lesser penalties — or none at all — in the cases that have been carried out to completion.

The NYPD’s guidelines explicitly ban the use of chokeholds no matter the circumstance. But the inspector general found police officers, in a practice called “particularly alarming” by the report, sometimes used chokeholds “as a first act of physical force in response to verbal resistance.”

Friedersdorf is troubled:

Consider one of those incidents:

In a Nov. 19, 2008, incident, a 15-year-old detained on robbery charges alleged he was choked by a sergeant while handcuffed to a rail inside a Bronx precinct house. CCRB substantiated the allegation based on another teenage witness in the station and the sergeant’s account.

Then-Commissioner Ray Kelly decided to impose the following punishment: no punishment at all.

New York City is policed on the theory that if small transgressions against law-and-order go unpunished, the ensuing disorder will result in a city where more serious crimes like homicide are more common. The NYPD flagrantly failed to police itself as officers engaged in violations of chokehold policy. Predictably, the tactic persisted. Yet later, when a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death, the cops disclaimed responsibility. They don’t want to be policed using the logic of their policing.

More incidents from the IG report highlighted here. The embattled mayor is downplaying the report, which, by the way, doesn’t include Garner’s fatal encounter. De Blasio’s nemesis, union boss Patrick Lynch, was true to form, calling the inspector general’s findings “anti-police bias”. And the police commissioner?

[Bill Bratton] believes better training can give cops better alternatives, and reduce not just the use of chokeholds but the chances of chokehold-related tragedies like the death of Eric Garner. … And Bratton is vehemently opposed to one step, proposed by the City Council — to make chokeholds illegal. “You cannot make it illegal because then it is really putting cops at risk,” Bratton told me in December. “Because there’s going to be times when they’re in one of these street fights, if they feel that they’re at risk of losing and they’re worried about themselves being overcome. Cops are authorized to use force appropriate to the threat.”

And this time cops should have no doubt about whose side Bill de Blasio is on. “Oh yeah, the mayor clearly understands that there are going to be instances where a cop is going to use a chokehold in a life-or-death situation,” Bratton says. “In that case, anything goes.”

Meanwhile, Caroline Bankoff checks in on the stoppage:

At the end of last week, Bill Bratton declared the NYPD work stoppage “over in the sense that the numbers are starting to go back up again.” “I anticipate by early next week that the numbers will return to their normalcy,” he added. The New York Times reports that the numbers do seem to be behaving as Bratton predicted: “In total, officers made 4,690 arrests in the week ending on Sunday, police statistics showed, according to a precinct commander who saw the numbers. The number is below the 7,508 in the same week in 2014, but above the 2,401 made between Dec.

Update from a reader:

The post regarding the recent report by NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board is quite misleading. A full report is available in this pdf. A crucial point that is being overlooked by many is as follows:

In its more comprehensive report on chokeholds issued in October 2014, CCRB reported that from 2009 through June 2014, CCRB received and disposed of 1,082 complaints alleging 1,128 chokehold allegations by NYPD officers. Of the 520 chokehold allegations that it investigated fully, CCRB substantiated ten chokehold allegations.

Thus, the CCRB was able to substantiate around 0.9% of the chokehold allegations during a 5-year period. I will grant you that a harder look should have been taken at those cases and perhaps some additional training might be helpful. But we all need to remain mindful of the big picture here and lay off of the sensationalism. Less than 1% is a microscopic number in a city the size of New York with a police force of over 30,000.

The NYPD Turns Its Back On Civilian Control, Ctd


George Packer fears that the rift between the NYPD and de Blasio is irreparable:

The Mayor is doing what he can to overcome ill will among police. It’s probably too late—in just a year he’s lost his department. This is a disaster for a city that elected de Blasio with seventy-three per cent of the vote, and that also—judging by the wide and deep sympathy expressed after the execution of two officers in Brooklyn—generally supports its police force. Patrick Lynch, the demagogue who leads the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is playing a very dangerous game by inflaming his rank and file, politicizing funerals, countenancing an unprofessional work stoppage (imagine aggrieved nurses refusing to treat patients), and laying the two officers’ murders at de Blasio’s feet. If New Yorkers are forced to choose between the Mayor and the police, the result—already showing up in polls and public discourse—will be a racially polarized city. If the police who turned their backs on the Mayor imagine that this confrontation will bring the city around to their side, they’re deluded.

Linker is pissed that the NYPD is disregarding its civilian leadership and getting away with it:

It is absolutely essential, in New York City but also in communities around the country, that citizens and public officials make it at all times unambiguously clear that the police work for us. … When police officers engage in acts of insubordination against civilian leadership, they should expect to be punished. Just like insubordinate soldiers. The principle of civilian control of the military and police depends on it.

It also depends on cops who kill unarmed citizens being tried in a court of law. And on cops respecting the right of citizens to protest anything they wish, including the failure of the judicial system to hold police officers accountable for their use of deadly force in ambiguous situations. All of this should be a no-brainer. That it apparently isn’t for many police officers and their apologists in the media is a troubling sign of decay in our civic institutions.

Noah Millman mulls over what NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton needs to do to heal the damage going forward:

Bratton does not need to turn against his own legacy – nor does he need to defend it aggressively. The consensus against allowing crime rates to go back up is overwhelming. What Bratton needs to demonstrate is that he has control over his department, and that he is committed both to keeping crime low and to reducing the perception that the police are an oppressive presence.

Which, however, genuinely represents a change of mission. It’s implicitly admitting that driving crime rates ever-lower is no longer the overwhelming priority – that the “change” goal is to lighten the police footprint. A change of that sort could very well be demoralizing – even threatening – to the NYPD. But Bratton surely remembers that CompStat itself was threatening when it was introduced – it meant telling beat officers that the computer knew better than they did how they should do their job.

Friedersdorf is exasperated at how many conservatives are quick to dismiss the outrage over police brutality as rabble-rousing racial politics when the evidence points to something much more concrete:

[T]he 90 percent of black voters who say that police brutality is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, the 59 percent of black New Yorkers who disapprove of the way the NYPD is doing its job, and the 81 percent of black New Yorkers who believe the NYPD is tougher on blacks than whites cannot be explained away by gesturing at a criminal mindset. Millions of law abiding people share these critiques. …

And despite the evidence of racial bias in New York City policing, the majority of people who disapprove of how the NYPD is doing its job don’t actually “hate” or “despise” the NYPD. They just desperately want it to be reformed so that bad policing is documented and punished rather than being ignored or covered up. Conservatives could argue that race isn’t actually the core of the problem, that the culture of unpunished misbehavior in the NYPD is driven by, say, the tribal mindset documented by Frank Serpico much more than any deliberate desire to disadvantage blacks. But too many NYPD defenders refuse to acknowledge widespread misbehavior of any kind.

The one bit of good news is that police violence in New York is far less prevalent than it was a few decades ago:

In 1971, NYPD officers shot and killed 93 people, which works out to 12 fatal shootings for every million residents. In 2013, by comparison, 8 people were fatally shot by the police, or one fatal shooting for every million residents—a decline of more than 90 percent. Also in 1971, 12 New York City cops were shot and killed—the same number as in all of the last fifteen years put together. Also, police-related violence in New York isn’t low just in relation to the city’s historical rates; it’s low compared to the rest of the country.

(Chart via YouGov)

Is “Broken Windows” Broken?

NYC police commissioner Bill Bratton and criminologist George Kelling, two of the earliest advocates of the “broken windows” theory, have published a lengthy piece defending it against fresh critics outraged by Eric Garner’s death:

Our experience suggests that, whatever the critics might say, the majority of New Yorkers, 9722024610_f768258614_kincluding minorities, approve of such police order-maintenance activities. After all, most of these activities come in response to residents’ demands, which are made to patrolling officers directly, to precinct operators by telephone, to precinct commanders at community meetings, and via the 311 and 911 call centers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, citizens almost invariably are more concerned about disorderly behavior than about major crimes, which they experience far less frequently. We have attended countless meetings with citizen groups in high-crime areas, and, almost without exception, disorderly behavior and conditions are the central concerns. …

[E]ven in this highly charged context [of Garner’s death], support for Broken Windows [in an August 2014 poll] remained high. African-Americans supported it by 56 to 37 percent, whites by 61 to 33 percent, and Hispanics by the largest margin of all—64 to 34 percent.

Emily Badger finds that Bratton and Kelling “make some fair points”:

Randomized experiments have supported the argument that “broken windows” can work. And crime has notably declined in New York since the philosophy was first embraced there. But in making this case, Bratton and Kelling overstate the role that “broken windows” has played in making New York a safer place — or, at least, they understate the very likely possibility that many factors far beyond the control of law enforcement have contributed to making it so. This is the weakest part of their argument.

She points to many of those other factors:

The Marshall Project recently rounded up 10 of the most popular theories for why urban crime has declined. So many exist — from the rise of legal abortion to the decline of lead-based fuel and paint — precisely because the phenomenon has proved so difficult to explain. Can we really dismiss, for instance, the fact that anti-theft technology in vehicles has grown much more sophisticated? Or the fact that the crack epidemic finally waned? Or that our increasingly cashless economy makes people harder targets for crime? We recently wrote about a Chicago summer-jobs program that appears to have cut down on violent arrests by at-risk teens.

Drum backs up Badger’s basic point with data:

blog_violent_crime_six_large_cities_3It’s true that crime in New York is down more than it is nationally, but that’s just because crime went up more in big cities vs. small cities during the crime wave of the 60s through the 80s, and it then went down more during the crime decline of the 90s and aughts. Kelling and Bratton can dismiss this as ivory tower nonsense, but they should know better. The statistics are plain enough, after all.

Take a look at the [two charts]. The top one shows crime declines in six of America’s biggest cities. As you can see, New York did well, but it did no better than Chicago or Dallas or Los Angeles, none of which implemented broken windows during the 90s.

The bottom chart is a summary of the crime decline in big cities vs. small cities. Again, the trend is clear: crime went up more during the 80s in big cities, but then declined more during blog_crime_big_small_cities_1985_2010the 90s and aughts. The fact that New York beat the national average is a matter of its size, not broken windows.

Now, none of this is evidence that broken windows doesn’t work. The evidence is foggy either way, and we simply don’t know. My own personal view is that it’s probably a net positive, but a fairly modest one.

Christina Sternbenz adds:

When University of Chicago professors Bernard Harcourt and Jens Ludwig revisited broken windows [in 2006 – pdf], they reported criminologists knew very little about the theory’s effectiveness. Their paper found no evidence outside of Kelling’s work to support the notion that cracking down on minor offenses leads to a decrease in more serious crime.

Much of the new research claiming to debunk broken windows has also found that targeting minor crimes harms poor people and minorities. For example, a later paper, again by Harcourt and Ludwig, found that the policy, albeit indirectly, led to a disproportionate number of drug arrests for blacks, the New Republic reported.

Charles F. Coleman Jr. chimes in:

As a former prosecutor, I found the most common reasons people committed crimes to be connected to their own finances and/or rooted in the economic constraints of their surrounding environment. The threat of a summons for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is hardly a deterrent for larger crimes when those crimes might help make ends meet for unemployed or underemployed people. This is the problem with broken-windows policing: The theory fails because it attributes the cause of crime to the “tolerance” and escalation of lesser crimes rather than acknowledging that crime rates are higher in poorer communities primarily because people do not like being poor.

But Matthew Hennessey defends Bratton and Kelling from such critics:

Broken Windows is a key part of the difference between a proactive police force and a reactive one. It’s the difference between cops that look for ways to stop criminals from victimizing neighborhoods and ones that sit in patrol cars drinking coffee and waiting for a 911 call to come in. That commitment to dynamic policing permeated the department, from the cop on the beat to the commissioner. Now, thanks to a year of official slander, public protests, and outright lies, the culture of results and accountability that made the NYPD the finest police force in the world could be at risk.

Another defender of Broken Windows may surprise you:

“Because of the broken-windows approach, we are the safest we’ve ever been. I lived through the 1980s in this city and the early ’90s, and I don’t ever want to go back there,” de Blasio said. And: “If I said, ‘Do you want responsive policing?’ ‘Do you want the police to come when you call?’ ‘Do you want small problems addressed, or do you only want big problems addressed?’ I think the vast majority of New Yorkers would say, ‘Yes, we want the police to come when we call.’ ‘Yes, we want order kept.’ ‘Yes, we want small things addressed and big things addressed.’ ”

Recent Dish scrutinizing Broken Windows here.

(Photo by Nick Harris)

The NYPD Turns Its Back On Civilian Control

At Sunday’s funeral for slain police officer Wenjian Liu, hundreds of New York’s Finest turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio for a second time:

The silent protest against de Blasio came after a Friday memo from New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton specifically asking officers to refrain from turning their backs on the mayor at Liu’s funeral, as they had at the funeral of his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos. “A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” Bratton wrote. Urged by their unions, NYPD officers have also sharply reduced their law enforcement duties to protest what they view as de Blasio’s lack of support.

Calvin Wolf sympathizes with the NYPD’s sensitivity to the increased scrutiny and criticism it’s facing, but urges the cops to change tactics before their petulance comes back to bite them:

Police officers, I understand. But you must not turn your backs.

Though it is tempting to turn your back on a mayor who has insinuated that you are brutal racists, and may be trying to score cheap political points, you must use the power of your voice instead. Turning one’s back on the mayor may be mistaken as turning one’s back on the entire citizenry. Critics will use this gesture against you. You must show the people that you are not turning their back on them. You must step forward, not turn your back. You must use your words to explain, not to condemn. Do not let your critics have a monopoly on the heart-wrenching op-eds.

How TNC frames the NYPD’s recent actions:

If the public appetite for police reform can be soured by the mad acts of a man living on the edge of society, then the appetite was probably never really there to begin with. And the police, or at least their representatives, know this. In this piece, by Wesley Lowery, there are several amazing moments where police complain about things Barack Obama and Eric Holder have not actually said. There simply is no level of critique they would find tolerable.

Denis Hamill, meanwhile, rips the police union chief a new one for not speaking up against the department’s “virtual work stoppage“:

If you agree with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch that the blood of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is on Mayor de Blasio’s hands, then is the blood of Zbigniew Truszkowski, 37, stabbed to death protecting his teenage stepdaughter from a drunken stalker on Dupont St. in Brooklyn on Monday night, on the hands of Lynch? By not condemning an apparent police work slowdown, Lynch has essentially sanctioned a mass breach of the NYPD oath to protect and serve the public.

I think it’s completely unfair, of course, to smear Lynch with Truszkowski’s blood. But if you apply Lynch’s twisted logic of de Blasio’s culpability in the two police assassinations, you can make the case that in the police work slowdown, suggested by a reduced number of summonses and arrests, Lynch with his silence gave the killer the means and opportunity to commit the only murder in Greenpoint in 2014.

While others have noted that the “work stoppage” has had little noticeable effect on crime rates, and that lighter-touch policing might actually be beneficial, the fact that the police made this decision unilaterally makes Charles Ellison nervous:

[A]ctive work stoppages … add a whole new ugly dimension to the dispute and could create a slippery slope towards bad police practices in New York City and beyond. That ventures into a future no one would want and no one benefits from: a scenario where distressed and underserved communities are left to fend for themselves once police departments consider “quality of life” crimes as too much hassle and not worth the headache. Is that where we’re headed? A world where police, who already know the dangers and risks of their profession, suddenly want to skip out or provide lower levels of service because they feel under-appreciated and targeted? Not sure if it’s a good idea to get comfortable with that.

Anyone who grew up in a working class urban neighborhood can tell you how minor offenses and “broken windows” can quickly add up into crime-ridden nightmares for the residents. Policy makers should figure out a approach that’s less punitive on folks who can’t afford it. But allowing the dramatic slashing of local police presence out of police fear and arrogance is an insane proposition.

Do Cops Treat Blacks And Whites Equally?

There is a massive racial split on that question:

Only about two in 10 blacks say that police treat whites and blacks equally, compared to about six in 10 whites. Among white Republicans, the fraction is more than eight in 10. The poll revealed similar disparities in opinion on the use of force by police, relations between law enforcement and communities, and whether the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. were isolated cases.

Relatedly, Michelle Conlin recently spoke with African-American NYPD officers to get their perspective:

Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.

The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.

Drum comments on the story:

Thought #1: Police officers have an intrinsically tough and violent job. Split-second decisions about the use of force come with the territory. Ditto for decisions about who to stop and who to keep an eye on. This makes individual mistakes inevitable, but as a group, police officers deserve our support and respect regardless.

Thought #2: That support shouldn’t be blind. Conlin reports that in her group of 25 black police officers, 24 said they had received rough treatment from other cops.

The Ongoing Garner Tragedy: Your Thoughts

Readers push back on these two:

Your dissenter said, “…while Garner is still conscious and speaking, tries to restrain him by holding his head in place.” Yeah, he was speaking alright. He was speaking, “I can’t breathe!” What the part of that does this reader not understand?

Another also quotes that reader:

It is hard to tell from the video, but it does not appear to me that the officer continued to apply the “chokehold” (a label that may have been inaccurately applied to this case) after Garner said he could not breathe. It looks to me as if that officer grabs him around the neck for only a few seconds, and then, while Garner is still conscious and speaking, tries to restrain him by holding his head in place.

The autopsy report stated that the death was caused by “compression to the neck, compression to the body, and prone positioning”. It doesn’t matter that the officer stopped choking him, because he continued to hold him down.

An expert weighs in:

I’m coming from the viewpoint of being a retired paramedic with over 20 years experience, the last few in executive level management. I also have a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I am familiar with applying and receiving choke holds.

My impression of the takedown and restraint is that he was one big guy and that the choke hold was never fully applied. If it was, he would have been rendered unconscious in a matter of seconds.  I also noticed that before and after he was handcuffed, he did not receive any sucker punches or kicks.

On to the medical care, an area that I can speak about with some authority. The police have received plenty of criticism about letting him lay until the ambulance arrived. Well if you are someone with basic first aid training, there is nothing you can do for a person in respiratory distress except keep a eye on them. I counted two to four officers with him until EMS arrived, so they were doing that.

Why no CPR? Because he had a pulse and was breathing. CPR is only for pulseless and non-breathing patients. The female EMS worker is clearly shown checking for a pulse and we can safely assume breathing in the second video. Even though I see plenty to criticize about the EMS response, I would think they are competent enough to start CPR immediately if indicated.

My criticism of the EMS response shown in the video is the cursory initial examination, were they seemed to have missed how severe his distress was. I would have liked to seen at least oxygen being administer in the video. Perhaps his care improved once they got him into the ambulance, but it seems not as I have read that the EMS workers had been suspended.

Lastly, how they manhandled him onto the stretcher. It wasn’t pretty, but I have seen worse.  Picking up a limp human being of his size without manhandling him is very difficult without the right techniques and equipment. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin. My best case would have been to log-roll him onto a backboard and to lift him using the backboard onto the stretcher. My impression was that the EMS workers failed to properly control and supervise the lift of him from the ground to the stretcher. It happens sometimes. The firemen or in this case the policemen start moving the patient on their own.

Another reader:

I’ve been talking through the case with an acquaintance of mine in law enforcement, and he pointed out to me that, when the decision to arrest is made, you escalate force to whatever level is necessary to get the suspect into custody. You can’t just back out if you’re overmatched. You get backup, and you’re bound by procedure to continue to increase force until the cuffs are on. People who resist arrest can die; it’s a possible outcome. You can debate the chokehold versus the headlock, but the scenario could just as easily have resulted in a routine arrest.

So maybe the fault lies with Pantaleo’s decision to arrest on such a small misdemeanor, and/or the fault lies with Garner resisting. I keep thinking that there must’ve been an alternative to arrest for such a petty crime, but Garner had 31 priors, so it would seem a justifiable arrest. But they could have just told him to move along and revisited the scene later to see if that was sufficient.

If there is a racial issue here, it’s a systemic one. It’s just another example of black petty criminals being singled out. Garner was basically evading taxes in a city where tax evasion is a competitive sport in lower Manhattan among white collar criminals. Is that fair? No, but beat cops can’t arrest what they can’t witness. They had shop owner complaints about Garner, supposedly, so they were responding to that.

Another notes:

Garner wasn’t selling anything that day, and had no loosies on him. Did he have a record? Yes, but so did the officer:

Pantaleo was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused Pantaleo of falsely arresting them and abusing them. In one of the cases, Pantaleo and other officers ordered two black men to strip naked on the street for a search and the charges against the men were dismissed.

Another wrote just prior to this post showing similar polling to the ones he cites below:

I wrote on Friday to indicate I expected a slew of polling early this week backing up my assertion that the Eric Garner grand jury decision would polarize the electorate along more or less the same racial lines that the Ferguson case did. I predicted that the videotape would make little difference to whites who were using a popular racial narrative (thug vs. hero) as a lens through which to view this and other deadly encounters like the Ohio John Crawford and Tamir Rice shootings.

I stand corrected, at least at this juncture. Polling from Fox News and Bloomberg seems to indicate a much more lopsided view of the Garner killing, with less than half the number (Bloomberg) of Americans supporting the Garner decision as supported the Ferguson decision. It is true that a disturbing 32% of white Americans still, in the face of that video, support the grand jury in Staten Island. But 32% is close enough to South Park’s famous “a quarter of Americans are retards” trope to safely choose to draw no conclusions from that result.

It remains to be seen whether this is truly some kind of watershed moment, or if Eric Garner will join Sandy Hook in the annals of public tragedies that compel the spilling of much ink, and then no corrective action whatsoever. But if the polling had come out as I expected I would have been back here banging out a smug email regarding my prescient pessimism, so honesty demands I eat my portion of crow. Rarely have I been so happy to be so wrong. Thanks.

Another reader:

Regarding your take on the Washington Post poll of opinions towards each decision:

This suggests, does it not, that the gloomiest assessments of America’s ability to see through race are too dire. If we were truly racially polarized, we’d see similar responses to similar white-cop-black-victim scenarios. Which means we have some common ground to stand on.

You’re making a giant leap here, in my opinion.  You’re conflating peoples opinion on a decision regarding excessive force by law enforcement, not racial bias.  I would like to see the opinions on whether these people believe race played a part in either of these acts.  I’ve had several debates with conservative friends who strongly disagree with the Garner decision, but think race had absolutely nothing to do with it.  So I don’t think this speaks to your note about America’s ability to see through race.

One more:

I’ve been a NYC prosecutor for just under ten years. When I heard there was no indictment I was shocked, and I said at the time to a colleague that I certainly would have found something to charge those guys with based on those facts and with that video. The big story that I’m not seeing as widely reported as it should be is that it turned out that the Staten Island DA didn’t present any of the lesser charges. No one is saying that they tried to murder Garner, but I’d bet that even a Grand Jury in conservative Staten Island would vote for an indictment on Reckless Endangerment as a misdemeanor and probably as a felony. Just not presenting these counts is beyond not doing your job; it’s making sure that there is no indictment, and that seems very irresponsible to me.

Read all of our coverage of the Garner tragedy here.

How Do We Fix Our Police Departments?

Bouie confronts the challenge:

Changing the culture of policing to de-emphasize violence and leave room for ordinary human behavior won’t be easy, but it’s possible. And it doesn’t have to lead to more crime. In Philadelphia this year, police have shot and killed just three people, compared with 12 by this point in 2013 and 16 by this point in 2012. What changed? The culture, and specifically, the department’s approach to the use of force. After a local news story found a spike in officer-involved shootings despite a drop in crime, the police commissioner invited federal officials to examine the department’s practices as part of a “collaborative review.”

The full report isn’t public, but the recommendations included new directives involving the use of force—in which officers state that they “hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life” and the “application of deadly force is a measure to be employed only in the most extreme circumstances”—and intensive training designed to de-escalate confrontations before they turn deadly. “As the new policies have been phased in,” notes, “the total number of shootings to date—fatal and nonfatal—has plummeted from 48 in 2012 to 35 in 2013 and to 18 so far this year, according to the department.”

Rosemarie Ward highlights the successes of Camden, NJ:

As the administration casts about for ways to build trust between police departments and the public, they would do well to look at what is happening in Camden, New Jersey, a poor city that once had the reputation for being America’s most dangerous. Camden disbanded its police department about 18 months ago, installing a new county unit in its place. Crime has since fallen considerably. Murders dropped by 49% to 31 between 2012 and 2014 (January 1st through November 30th). Shootings have been halved, robberies and rape are down by a third, and other violent crimes are down by a fifth. In a population of around 77,000, 35 fewer mothers are now burying their sons each year.

What is Camden’s police force doing right? At the most basic level, the city has returned to old-style policing. Instead of using squad cars, officers now patrol their beats on their feet in pairs (or on bicycles). They knock on doors and introduce themselves, and learn the names of people in a neighbourhood. “Nothing builds trust like human contact,” says Scott Thomson, Camden’s police chief. Locals can be a great source of information about where the problems are, he adds, “but that’s not going to happen without trust.”’

Chart Of The Day

Grand Juries

Aaron Blake highlights a poll finding “that 60 percent of Americans disagree with the lack of an indictment against officer Daniel Pantaleo”:

Although 40 percent disagree “strongly” with there being no indictment in Garner’s case, just 24 percent say the same about the case in Ferguson. And in Ferguson, there’s majority support — 52 percent — for no indictment. So basically, Americans as a whole favor no indictment in Ferguson. In Garner’s case, they overwhelmingly think there should have been one. And in fact, just one-quarter of Americans agree with the grand jury’s decision not to indict.

This suggests, does it not, that the gloomiest assessments of America’s ability to see through race are too dire. If we were truly racially polarized, we’d see similar responses to similar white-cop-black-victim scenarios. Which means we have some common ground to stand on.

Quote For The Day

“I have known cops who haven’t had a racist bone in their bodies and in fact had adopted black children, they went to black churches on the weekend; and these are white cops. They really weren’t overtly racist. They weren’t consciously racist. But you know what they had in their minds that made them act out and beat a black suspect unwarrantedly? They had fear. They were afraid of black men. I know a lot of white cops who have told me. And I interviewed over 900 police officers in 18 months and they started talking to me, it was almost like a therapy session for them I didn’t realize that they needed an outlet to talk,” – Constance Rice, civil rights attorney.

Keeping Excessive Punishment In Check

Reihan sketches out a plan to do so:

What government routinely fails to do is account for the costs the criminal justice system imposes on the civilians who get caught in its web. Mark A.R. Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA and author of When Brute Force Fails, made this point vividly in a Democracy Journal essay published last spring. Instead of fixating on the dollar costs of running the criminal justice system, he asks that we also account for “the suffering inflicted by arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration, including all of the residual disabilities that go with the label ‘ex-convict,’ and the fear created by overaggressive policing.”

Imagine if, as Cardozo Law School professor Richard A. Bierschbach has suggested, we had in place a “punishment budget.”

Given such a budget, we would accept that the criminal justice system would cause some degree of suffering. At the same time, we’d insist that if you pass some measures that increase suffering in some way—say, by making more arrests—you’d have to reduce the sum total of suffering in some other way, for instance by reducing prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. This would impose a useful check on the creep of new laws, rules, and regulations that steadily increase the government’s coercive powers, as if on autopilot.

He also recommends getting “better, more reliable data on policing so that communities have a clear sense of what local law enforcement agencies are doing in their name.” Along the same lines, Josh Voorhees wants the president to “call for all law enforcement agencies to keep an accurate count of how many people the police kill each year”:

Without a formal and comprehensive reporting system, the president, lawmakers, and everyone else have no way of knowing the true scope of the problem. Even if the government is willing to believe that police officers are almost always justified when they kill suspects in the line of duty, Washington still owes the nation a full accounting of those killings that it has implicitly sanctioned. How can the president hope to limit the number of lives lost if he has no way of knowing how many lives are actually lost? How will Congress evaluate whether policies aimed at curbing police shootings are successful if it has no way of tracking the success or failure of those policies?