Eric Holder's departure as Attorney General poses challenges for an administration looking to push through new laws on...
Former President Bill Clinton told CNN this week, "I worked hard to put 100,000 police on the street and the crime rate went way down." The Washington Post asks, "Does one thing have much to do with the other? Leaving aside whether there were 100,000 new officers (it might be 88,000 "sworn officer-years"), when asked whether COPS had much of an impact on crime, the answer is “maybe—but only modestly.” For one thing, the Government Accountability Office has said that COPS spending amounted to 1 percent of total local expenditures for police services.
The Post says the reduction that could be attributed to COPS was just a tiny part of the overall reduction in crime. The strong economy under Clinton’s watch may have had more of impact than his much touted COPS program in reducing crime, as it kept people employed. Even cities such as Oklahoma City, which did not participate in COPS, saw a reduction in crime. John Worrall and Tomislav Kovandzic concluded that there may be a modest link between police levels and crime. The Post's fact checker gives Clinton "three Pinocchios," concluding that "he needs to be more careful about how he frames the impact."
Louisiana health leaders, policy makers and advocates are calling for an end to the practice of billing rape victims for forensic medical evaluations and care, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "I had no idea that was happening," said state Rep. Helena Moreno. "Talk about being traumatized twice." The Times-Picayune yesterday described the shock rape victims and their families experienced when they received bills ranging from $1,700 to $4,000 after going through the hours-long process of being medically evaluated following a sexual assault.
The state Department of Health and Hospitals vowed to work with the Legislature to address the issue, which they blamed on "disjointed local parish health policies" and "a poor legacy charity system that was run inefficiently for many years." "We take a strong stand against sexual violence," said departmen spokeswoman Olivia Watkins. "Our heart goes out to victims of these crimes. Though state and federal laws dictate that victims should bear no out-of-pocket costs for the exams, inconsistent practices from one parish to another and one hospital to another leaves Louisiana victims without the assurance that they will not be billed for evidence collection, hospital admittance and other related medical costs.
Just 10 U.S. counties—roughly 0.3 percent of the nation's total—account for more than a quarter of all the executions that have been carried out since 1976, reports the National Journal. Texas's Harris County, which includes Houston, is far and away the leader in executions during that period. That district has handed out 122 death sentences that were carried to completion, more than double the next highest. Harris County alone is responsible for more executions than any state besides Texas. Dallas County, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, comes in second at 53. While a tiny portion of counties are responsible for a large share of executions since 1976, 85 percent of counties—including a majority of those in Texas—have not been responsible for any executions in the last 40 years.
Death-penalty opponents note discrepancies that are uncorrelated with state laws or county sizes. "To take on a death-penalty case, that's a multiyear commitment of a million dollars or more," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "If you're in Houston, there are 200 attorneys in the D.A.'s office, at least. They can do a lot of death-penalty cases." At the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which defends capital punishment, Kent Scheidegger says, "The reason we elect our prosecutors locally is that we can have that sort of influence." He says those with disproportionately low, not high, numbers of executions are problematic. "There are places where the death penalty is not imposed enough."
"Journalists, judges, prosecutors and lawmakers ought to start putting much more emphasis at sentencing on the time that a convict is expected to serve, and downplaying the gaudy, higher number that leads to ... after-the-fact bleating," says Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn. The context is tragic: 9-year-old Antonio Smith, of Chicago, was shot to death allegedly by a man who'd just been released from prison after serving only half of a 42-month sentence for felony possession of a firearm by a gang member. Derrick Allmon, 19, was free because he'd received day-for-day credit for good behavior as an inmate, even though prison officials had written him up for 17 disciplinary violations during his stay.
Allmon "should not have been on the street to commit this murder," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. "It didn't have to happen." But Allmon did have to be out of prison, Zorn says. Good-time credit isn't the whim of softhearted wardens or lenient judges but a state law. Under that law, murderers serve 100 percent of their sentences, many violent criminals serve 85 percent of their sentences and all others serve 50 percent, assuming "good-time" credit. Allmon wasn't let out "early." He was let out exactly when the prosecutors and the courts expected he would be let out on the day he was sentenced.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told his bosses yesterday his department could have projected a better image in managing last month’s crisis in Ferguson, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He suggested that the body of Michael Brown should have been moved more quickly after he was shot Aug. 9 in a confrontation with police officer Darren Wilson. And after the riots that followed, officials realized that it was provocative for officers atop armored trucks to scan crowds through scopes mounted on rifles. “The optics made a difference,” Belmar told the St. Louis County Police Board of Commissioners, which questioned him in the first meeting since the controversy began. “But you should have seen it in person.” He made no apology for use of tear gas and other aggressive tactics against crowds that turned violent during nights of protests. “At the end of the day, we didn’t kill anyone because of our actions or seriously injure someone,” Belmar said.
Poice tactics have drawn condemnation from critics. Police board Chairman Roland Corvington, formerly in charge of the FBI office in St. Louis, asked Belmar to explain why snipers pointed rifles at the crowd from the roofs of vehicles. “There is a safety on the trigger,” Belmar replied, “and the scope serves as a really nice set of binoculars. But it didn’t look good, and we learned from that.” Separately, Ferguson Chief Thomas Jackson apologized todayto the parents of Michael Brown, as well as to any peaceful protesters who feel he didn't do "enough to protect their constitutional right to protest." He also apologized that it took investigating officers four hours to remove Brown's body from the street after Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him last month.
California voters this fall could approve big, some say "dangerous," changes to the state’s sentencing system, aimed partly at easing prison overcrowding, Fox News reports. On the ballot is a proposal that would dramatically change how the state treats certain “nonserious, nonviolent” drug and property crimes, by downgrading them from felonies to misdemeanors. The measure, Prop 47, would allow those currently serving time for such offenses to apply for a reduced sentence if they have no prior convictions for more serious crimes like murder, attempted murder or sexual offenses.
Businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to push the measure, said the changes would affect Californians who are “over-incarcerated and over-unpunished.” “I saw Prop 47 as common-sense reform,” he said. “I don’t see it as a radical reform.” The measure is being slammed as dangerous by law enforcers. San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said that "virtually the entire law enforcement community opposes Prop 47. It will require the release of thousands of dangerous inmates.” The proposition would reduce penalties for an array of crimes that can be prosecuted as either felonies or misdemeanors, including everything from drug possession to check fraud to petty theft to forgery. Prop 47 would treat them as misdemeanors, reducing average jail sentences. The state estimates that 40,000 people convicted each year would be affected.
New York City police officers are under investigation after a bystander used a smartphone to capture a particularly rough arrest of a Brooklyn woman five months pregnant, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The video shows the arrest of Sandra Amezquita, a Colombian immigrant and mother of four, who fell belly first onto the pavement as officers wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her hands behind her back. The incident occurred during an early morning melee Saturday in Sunset Park, a neighborhood sometimes called Brooklyn’s “Little Latin America.”
The video also shows another officer violently shoving an unidentified woman to the pavement as she stands near the arrest. Police issued Amezquita a summons for disorderly conduct, but the other woman, reported to be a friend, was neither arrested or accused of a crime. The disturbing video is a blow to the Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has made a priority of improving police relations with minority communities, after more than a decade of bitter contention over NYPD tactics. It created a fresh community-relations crisis for the NYPD, which this summer has endured criticism from minorities after Eric Garner suffocated as police wrestled him to the ground in July.
Mass shootings are happening more often, resulting in more deaths and usually ending before police get to the scene, says a new FBI report. The bureau identified 160 shootings from 2000 through 2013 that fit its definition of "active-shooter" events—"an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area," says the Wall Street Journal. There were an average of 16.4 active-shooter incidents a year between 2006 and 2013, up from an average of 6.4 a year from 2000 to 2006. A total of 486 people were killed and 557 wounded.
Many of the shootings ended in minutes. In 23, the violence was over in less than two minutes, and two-thirds ended before police arrived. The study didn't include gang-related violence, drug-related killings or individuals whose primary purpose was to commit suicide publicly. "Many active shooters have a real or perceived deeply held personal grievance, and the only remedy that they can perceive for that grievance is an act of catastrophic violence against a person or an institution,'' said FBI behavior analysis expert Andre Simons. He added that the shootings can bring a "moment of omnipotent control and domination." The bloodiest year for active- shooter incidents was 2012, with 90 people killed and 118 wounded in 21 incidents.
The FBI requires state and local police to keep quiet about the capabilities of controversial surveillance gear that allows law enforcement to eavesdrop on cellphone calls and track individual people based on the signals emitted by their mobile devices, says an FBI document released under a Freedom of Information Act request and reported by the Washington Post. The 2012 document is a heavily redacted letter between the FBI and police in Tacoma, Wa., which sought to acquire an "IMSI catcher," sometimes described as a “fake cellphone tower” because it tricks individual phones into routing their calls and other data through the surveillance equipment.
The Tacoma police were buying gear produced by Harris Corp., a Florida-based company that makes the StingRay and other IMSI catchers used by law enforcement agencies across the U.S. The FBI letter, designated as "law enforcement sensitive," told the Tacoma police chief that the Federal Communications Commission authorizes the sale of such surveillance equipment to state and local police departments on the condition that they first sign an FBI “non-disclosure agreement.” The details of the agreement are redacted from the letter as released. It was published first by MuckRock, a news site that helps journalists, researchers and others submit Freedom of Information Act requests and publishes the results.
TCR at a Glance
new & notable September 30, 2014
Lines between public and private policing are increasingly "messy and complex," according to a new paper released by the federal National...
new & notable September 29, 2014
More than half of the incarcerated in some regions are awaiting trial, according to a new report by the non-profit Open Society Foundations
new & notable September 26, 2014
Despite previous research showing a connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior, violent video games haven't impacted ...
September 25, 2014
The Attorney General will stay in office until his successor is confirmed, which might not happen until early next year, according to med...
September 25, 2014
Some two million children have parents or close relatives behind bars---with consequences that won’t become evident for a generation
September 24, 2014
The Attorney General says the decline in federal prisoners underlines the new ‘holistic’ approach to criminal justice
new & notable September 23, 2014
Most victims of serious violent crime experience emotional or physical symptoms for more than a month, according to the federal Bureau of...