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


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


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.”

Tasers: Are These Police Tools Effective and Are They Dangerous? – The New York Times

“The fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was found asleep in a car in a drive-through at a Wendy’s on Friday night in Atlanta, has reignited the debate over Tasers.

Mr. Brooks, 27, had fled from the police after failing a sobriety test, and grabbed a Taser from an officer during a struggle, the authorities said.

“During the chase, Mr. Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer,” the authorities said, adding that “the officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks.”

Kalfani N. Turè, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said the shooting of Mr. Brooks was what was known in police circles as “lawful but awful.”

That is, he said, officers are trained that they have the right to escalate their use of force if they believe someone is threatening to incapacitate them.

In the case of Mr. Brooks, Professor Turè said, other options were available to the officers: Identify Mr. Brooks through his car and track him down later, for instance, or call for backup to help apprehend him.”

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


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


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.

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

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

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

“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.”

The Mystery of the Crime Decline – David Leonhardt – NYT – Stop and Frisk Failed.

Stop and Frisk failed.

“As you probably know by now, I’m a fan of journalistic self-criticism, and Smith has engaged in some of it this week. His piece for National Review is called simply, “We Were Wrong About Stop-and-Frisk.” He notes that crime has continued to decline under de Blasio. “To compare today’s crime rate to even that of ten years ago is to observe a breathtaking decline,” Smith adds.”

Baltimore Drops Dozens of Cases After Video Casts Doubt on Officers – The New York Times

“State attorneys are dismissing dozens of cases in Baltimore after reviewing a video that appears to show a police officer planting evidence at a crime scene while two other officers look on.Over a hundred cases that would have relied on testimony from those three officers are now under review. As of Tuesday night, 41 had been dropped or were set to be dropped.

“The credibility of those officers has now been directly called into question,” Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, said at a news conference on Friday.The video, released last month and recorded in January, shows an officer who appears to place a bag of white capsules in an alleyway before walking toward the street, as the two other officers watch. He then appears to turn on his body camera and returns to the alley to retrieve the capsules.”

The Death of Deborah Danner – The New York Times

“Remember the name: Deborah Danner.She was killed by a New York police sergeant on Tuesday in her Bronx apartment. Neighbors had called 911, saying she was acting erratically. A team of officers arrived and, according to the police account, found an agitated Ms. Danner brandishing first a pair of scissors, and then a baseball bat. She took a swing at the sergeant, who shot her twice.The investigation has just begun, but the case looks bad for the department. Police Commissioner James O’Neill almost immediately placed the sergeant, Hugh Barry, on modified duty, stripped of his badge and gun. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference that the sergeant had not followed training or protocols for dealing with those with mental illness, and for some reason had neither used his Taser nor waited for specialized officers trained to deal with such situations. Mr. O’Neill said: “We failed.”

Ms. Danner, 66, now joins a tragic group of people whose mental illness leads them into a dangerous, often fatal, collision with the police. She would have been another cipher, another mental-health casualty, her inner struggles known only to her family and friends, but for a remarkable essay she wrote four years ago, “Living With Schizophrenia,” which her lawyer shared with The Times.”

Source: The Death of Deborah Danner – The New York Times

There was no comments section, so I sent in the following message to Letters@nytimes.com: re: The Death of Deborah Danner,By THE EDITORIAL BOARD OCT. 20, 2016

Thank you Editorial Board for an excellent, though disturbing story, The Death of Deborah Danner. Your points are well taken. I want to announce that I am aware of a training solution to these unnecessary shootings. I advocate as a serious student of the martial arts, that the NY PD look at the Japanese martial art of Aikido, as an extraordinary tool to help officers to control an armed assailant. A famous Japanese martial artist named Ueshiba, invented Aikido about 100 years ago, an amalgam of many other arts, to provide techniques to disarm an attacker without maiming or killing the attacker. At the core of the art, is a great deal of Judo and Ju Jitsu, the art of using the attacker’s force or energy to put them off balance, so you can safely disarm and control them. I recommend that anyone wanting more information, just go to Youtube, and ask to see Federation style Japanese Aikido, to see the main school that still answers to the descendants of Ueshiba.

To a trained Aikidoist, a crazed person with a baseball bat is dangerous, but completely manageable, and a great opportunity for practicing one’s art. The beauty of my suggestion, is that it would make even the taser unnecessary. The CD seller in Brooklyn would never have been choked to death, if those officers had been trained in Aikido and used it.:

Not One New York Police Officer Has a Body Camera – The New York Times

“The New York Police Department once seemed poised to be an early adopter of body cameras. A federal judge thought the technology could curb unwarranted stops and searches of black and Hispanic men. So in 2013, after finding the department’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional, the judge ordered that a pilot program be established in at least five precincts.Three years later, not one of the department’s approximately 35,800 officers is wearing a body camera, even as the devices have become a staple for officers elsewhere.

The Police Department says it is committed to outfitting officers with body cameras, and on Monday said that a company had been chosen to supply up to 5,000 over the next five years. But a contract has yet to be signed, and a rollout of the cameras would not begin for months.The halting pace of its effort is striking for an agency that has pledged to make itself a model of technology-driven policing and a leader in improving police-community relations.”

Source: Not One New York Police Officer Has a Body Camera – The New York Times

David Lindsay NYT Comment

I realize that good policing is hard, and a complex subject. I wish to propose that NYPD, and all police departments, consider training in the Japanese based art of self-defense called Aikido, which I studied for over 10 years.

This idea was reinforced by the video of the police officers who killed the large man in NYC who was selling CD’s. He was unprofessionally wrestled to the ground with a joke hold, and then accidentally? joked to death.

Aikido was invented by a famous samurai, Ueshiba, a master of ju-jitisu, karate and weapons, who wanted to come up with techniques for an unarmed warrior to disarm an armed warrior and not maim or kill him. He developed a complex series of dance or blending moves to use the attackers momentum to remove his balance, take him to the ground, and then use ancient wrist and arm techniques to stabilize the attacker without causing any serious harm. Leverage looks like magic.

One of my favorite Aikido teachers once said that the greatest form of Aikido was purely mental. You were the greatest Aikidoist, when you could talk an engraged assailant into quitting an attack, by changing his mind about it. This technique is more for the mentally disturbed, but it teaches Aikidoists to consider changing the channel of the attackers mind, much the way good parents try to change the focus of a child having a tantrum.

Aikido is good exercise, that involves tumbling and judo throws and falls. It is terrific exercise and practice.