Opinion | Three Futures for the Police – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

“American policing is going to emerge changed from this June of protest. The question is whether it will be altered for the better. So let’s consider three possible scenarios for change — one building on the current system, another more ambitious but also riskier, and a third to be avoided at all costs.

At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.

On the other hand, as Charles Fain Lehman of The Washington Free Beacon points out, police departments aren’t as awash in funding as the rhetoric of “defund the cops” — even in its milder or nonliteral interpretations — would suggest. As a share of budgets, state and local spending on the police increased in the 1990s but has been flat or falling for the last two decades. (Indeed, cities may be offering sweeping union protections to their cops as a way to avoid paying them more money.) Despite frequent suggestions that the United States overspends on policing, as a share of gross domestic product, the European Union spends 33 percent more on cops than the United States does — while spending far less than us on prisons.

There are good reasons to think that the Europeans know what they’re doing. A substantial body of research suggests that putting more cops on the beat meaningfully reduces crime. And even the American neighborhoods that suffer most from police misconduct and brutality are often still under-policed when it comes to actually solving murder cases.”

David Lindsay, comment in the NYT:

Thank you Ross Douthat. You wrote: “At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.” With such a clear opening statement, you could only add value to a most complicated debate. I would love to hear more about how the Europeans do better than us. I also, as a trained martial artist, would like to see all police officers required to work towards a black belt in Aikido, the modern Japanese martial art about controlling an opponent, while also knowing how not to hurt them, as well as how to hurt them if necessary.

Opinion | Abolishing Qualified Immunity Is Unlikely to Alter Police Behavior – By Daniel Epps – The New York Times

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Mr. Epps is an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Credit…Madison Carter/WKBW, via Associated Press

“The national movement galvanized by the killing of George Floyd has created the possibility of transformational change to policing. One reform that has generated broad discussion is eliminating “qualified immunity,” the court-created doctrine that makes it difficult for people whose civil rights are violated by police officers to obtain money damages in lawsuits. There are good arguments for getting rid of this immunity, or at least seriously restricting it. But abolishing it is unlikely to change police behavior all that much.

Qualified immunity shields government officials from personal liability in federal lawsuits unless they violate “clearly established” federal law. That means that even if a police officer violates someone’s constitutional rights, the victim can’t obtain damages from the officer unless he or she can show that the officer violated a right explicitly recognized by a prior court ruling.

In theory, this requirement protects government defendants from unexpected liability when law changes. In practice, courts apply the doctrine aggressively to shield officers from lawsuits unless plaintiffs can point to other cases declaring essentially identical conduct unconstitutional — a difficult hurdle, even when police conduct appears clearly wrong.

Indeed, even if the former police officer Derek Chauvin is convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd, it’s quite plausible that a court could refuse to hold him liable for violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights if his lawyers were unable to point to an earlier case making clear that the specific action Mr. Chauvin took — kneeling on a restrained person’s neck for more than eight minutes — was unconstitutional.”

Opinion | When It Works to ‘Defund the Police’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

““Defund the police” is a catchy phrase, but some Americans hear it and imagine a home invasion, a frantic call to 911 — and then no one answering the phone.

That’s not going to happen. Rather, here’s a reassuring example of how defunding has worked in practice.

In the 1990s, both the United States and Portugal were struggling with how to respond to illicit narcotics. The United States doubled down on the policing toolbox, while Portugal followed the advice of experts and decriminalized the possession even of hard drugs.

So in 2001, Portugal, to use today’s terminology, defunded the police for routine drug cases. Small-time users get help from social workers and access to free methadone from roving trucks.

This worked — not perfectly, but pretty well. As I found when I reported from Portugal a few years ago, the number of heroin users there fell by three-quarters and the overdose fatality rate was the lowest in Western Europe. Meanwhile, after decades of policing, the United States was losing about 70,000 Americans a year from overdoses. In effect, Portugal appeared to be winning the war on drugs by ending it.

That’s the idea behind “Defund the Police” as most conceive it — not to eliminate every police officer but to reimagine ways to make us safe that don’t necessarily involve traditional law enforcement”

Opinion | Good Riddance to One of America’s Strongest Police Secrecy Laws – By Mara Gay – The New York Times

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Ms. Gay is a member of the editorial board

Credit…Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

“Protest works.

The large street demonstrations in scores of cities and towns across the country are bringing sudden and sweeping changes to police practices and accountability.

Minneapolis is preparing to disband and rebuild its police department.

California is poised to ban the use of police chokeholds.

Dozens of cities are considering redirecting millions in taxpayer funds from America’s heavily militarized police departments to education, health care, housing and other needs of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that have been underinvested in for generations.

New York took a step toward reform with the repeal Tuesday evening of a state law known as 50-a, a decades-old measure that has allowed the police to keep the disciplinary and personnel records of officers secret. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.”

Thank you Mara Gay. I recently said, we should make police forces choose between being disbanded, or giving up their police union.  Here are two good comments which followed this op-ed, and one addresses the union issue. I didn’t know these corrupt and evil unions were created by something called the Taylor Law, which FDR opposed.

Unbelievable
Brooklyn, NY

As a retired NYC Assistant District Attorney I couldn’t agree more with this article. To many times we were forced to put bad cops on the witness stand without a jury knowing about their violent, racist, biased past conduct. All to often, a cops prior history was hidden from prosecutors and that impounded the problem. I wish the press would start investigating the courts and the histories of Judges in the process also. I believe that would show the public just how racist some judges were/are. Compare sentencing between white and minority defendants and show the public the truth. In 24 years as a prosecutor I caught cops: lying about an arrest, lying during testimony and falsifying paperwork about an arrest. I found cops lying together and shielded by the “blue wall do silence”. Every time I caught a cop doing any of the above, nothing happened to them. No perjury charges. No admonishment from the court or supervisors. Nothing! After 24 years of trying to fix the system from within, I was terminated. My only hope is that retired prosecutors and judges will come forward and tell their stories truthfully. Tell the public how as prosecutors we weren’t allowed to talk to cops for days after they were involved in a shooting. Cops spoke to their union lawyers before speaking to prosecutors. Can you imagine! 50 a needed to be repealed years ago as it just allowed dirty cops to stay on the force. And trust me, there are plenty of dirty cops. How may NYC police scandals took place?

1 Reply41 Recommended

doug commented 2 hours ago

doug
tomkins cove, ny

Thank you and agreed Mara. The next step should be the repeal of the Taylor law that granted police the right to unionize. I vaguely recall during 1967 the debate about this statute, it was far from universally praised. FDR felt it was inappropriate for the public sector to unionize and negotiate against the public interest. Another change should be the prohibition of any officer wearing a badge from concealing his badge number. As a taxpayer who funds the department I have the right to know who’s interacting with me. Patrick (the Jackal) Lynch, the head of the union,has for years been inciting his membership to view us as the enemy. His screeds have only increased recently. From this person’s perspective, the war was begun by the police decades ago and has only been enhanced with the militarization since 9-11. Its long past time we brought these renegades under control. If its only a few bad apples and not a diseased orchard then let the good apples stand up and be counted.

1 Reply35 Recommended

‘Newark’s Original Sin’: The Criminal Justice Education of Cory Booker – The New York Times

By Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul
March 27, 2019, 1 comment
“NEWARK — After football practice one summer evening in 2008, a Pop Warner league coach and two of his players were driving through the Clinton Hill section of Newark when a car swerved and blocked their path. Suddenly six police officers emerged from unmarked vehicles and forced them out of their car at gunpoint.

“I felt like this: Don’t kill me, just send me to jail. Please don’t kill me,” one of the boys, Tony Ivey Jr., then 13, would later say in a videotaped interview.

The officers, members of a narcotics squad, searched the car and found nothing but football equipment. The coach had been taking the boys to get hamburgers.

The episode became known as the case of the Pop Warner Three, and it was one of more than 400 misconduct allegations cited two years later when the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey asked the Justice Department to investigate the Newark police.

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Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, had swept into office in 2006 pledging a safer city through zero tolerance on crime. And while killings actually rose in his first year, over the next three they fell to historic lows. Yet grievances against the police were piling up in the city’s black wards, with allegations of racial profiling, unlawful stops and excessive force. The A.C.L.U. and local activists pressed for reforms, complaining about pushback from Mr. Booker, whose administration was promoting the plunging homicide rate.

And when the A.C.L.U. finally went public with its plea to the Justice Department, the mayor went on WNYC radio, telling an interviewer that the petition was “one of the worst ways” to bring about meaningful change. “We don’t need people who are going to frustrate, undermine and mischaracterize our agency,” he added.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comments.

This is a depressing, complicated story. Maybe Corey Booker wasn’t a total fraud, but he was a reckless coward, unleashing an out of control and over powerful police department on his city, and then claiming successes that weren’t base on accurate data. I can also find reasons to defend the young mayor. It is hard to go up against a police union that might make your life miserable, or even kill you. It is not his fault that there were and are too many guns on the street. I’m not sure I could have done a better job, and I certainly didn’t have the guts to even try.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT |
Part Two, On second reading, and with help from my partner, Corey Booker gets big points for admitting and owning his mistake, for hiring a good chief of staff, and then listening to him, and to go public about his conversion to supporting the ACLU of NJ bringing in the Justice Department to oversee an out of control police department.

California Has a High Rate of Police Shootings. Could a New Open-Records Law Change That? – The New York Times

By Tim Arango
Feb. 12, 2019

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“LOS ANGELES — After her son, Eric, was killed by the police in Los Angeles two years ago when officers mistook a water pistol he was holding for a real gun, Valerie Rivera channeled her grief into activism. She joined Black Lives Matter and lobbied the state legislature to open to the public California’s records on police shootings, which have long been hidden.

She wanted, she recently wrote in a court filing, to “understand what really happened, and to advocate for change so that officers do not kill civilians, and are held accountable when they do, so that other families do not have to suffer as mine has.”

Her efforts paid off. Under a new state law, Ms. Rivera and other members of the public can now request to see the investigative records, prying open for the first time California’s strict secrecy laws regarding police shootings and serious misconduct by officers.

But, just as activists and state lawmakers have sought to bring decades-old investigative records to light, police unions have tried to jam the door shut. While police departments have said they would comply, police unions up and down the state, including in Los Angeles, have filed lawsuits challenging the law, arguing that it shouldn’t be applied retroactively. The union lawsuits have succeeded in some jurisdictions in getting temporary stays from the court.”

An Innocent Man Who Imagined the World as It Should Be – by Jesse Wegman – NYT

“In the end, John Thompson got to live 14 years as a free man — the same number he spent on Louisiana’s death row, condemned for a 1984 murder he didn’t commit.Seven times the state set a date for his execution. Weeks before the seventh, in 1999, a private investigator hired by his lawyers discovered a crime-lab report that prosecutors had hidden from the defense, and that led eventually to Mr. Thompson’s exoneration in 2003.Some exonerees are so relieved to be out of prison that they never look back. That was not Mr. Thompson. After his release (the jury at his retrial acquitted him in 35 minutes), Mr. Thompson set out to hold to account the prosecutors and other officials who had fought for so long to kill him.”

Undercover Officers Ask Addicts to Buy Drugs, Snaring Them but Not Dealers – The New York Times


“The 55-year-old crack addict counted his change outside a Harlem liquor store. He had just over a dollar, leaving him 35 cents short of the cheapest mini-bottle.The 21-year-old heroin addict sat in a McDonald’s on the Lower East Side, wondering when his grandmother would next wire him money. He was homeless, had 84 cents in his pocket and was living out of two canvas bags.Each was approached by someone who asked the addict for help buying drugs. Using the stranger’s money, each addict went to see a nearby dealer, returned with drugs, handed them over and was promptly arrested on felony drug-dealing charges. The people who had asked for drugs were undercover narcotics officers with the New York Police Department.”

Source: Undercover Officers Ask Addicts to Buy Drugs, Snaring Them but Not Dealers – The New York Times

Many good comments clarify that the behavior of the New York City police here is despicable.