Posts Tagged ‘Crime’

Open Carry Follies

October 11, 2014

I happen to be a staunch supporter of the second amendment right to bear arms, and naturally I oppose strict gun control laws. This is not because I have a great love of guns. I have never owned a gun of any sort and I don’t have any plans to acquire any sort of firearm. I have never even shot a gun in my entire life. I am certain that if I did happen to have a gun, I would be more dangerous to myself than to any potential enemy. My support for the second amendment is entirely on libertarian grounds. If you want to own and carry a gun, that’s your right and I wouldn’t want to stop you. I have no use for guns, but I respect your right to have one.

Having said all that, I must confess that I find that the thinking of some of the more enthusiastic gun lovers to be a bit, well, dumb. What I mean is the idea some of them seem to have that they will happen upon the scene of a crime in progress or will be confronted by a mugger and they will whip out their trusty sidearm and take care of the situation. I think they must have a scene rather like this one playing in the theater of their minds.

I wish I could have found that clip without the commentary. Anyway, this story relates a somewhat more likely outcome.

A Gresham, Oregon open carry enthusiast was robbed of his weapon on Saturday by another man with a gun.

According to KOIN Channel 6, 21-year-old William Coleman III of Gresham was standing and talking to his cousin shortly after 2:00 a.m. on Saturday when another man approached him and asked for a cigarette.

The other man — described as a black male around 6 feet tall with a lean build and wavy hair — asked Coleman about his weapon, a Walther P22 pistol.

He then pulled a pistol from the waistband of his pants, pointed it at Coleman and said, “I like your gun. Give it to me.”

Coleman did as he was told and the man then fled on foot. He was reportedly wearing gray sweatpants, flip flop sandals and a white t-shirt and had a small patch of facial hair on his chin.

Coleman told police the suspect appeared to be between 19 and 23 years of age.

Now, concealed carry makes sense in that if the bad guy doesn’t know you are armed, you can give him a nasty surprise. That element of uncertainly whether a potential victim is armed may act as a deterrent to a criminal. Openly carrying a gun makes less sense, since a criminal can see that you are armed and take precautions, such as pointing his own weapon at you and disarming you, or even deciding to shoot first.

But the real lesson in this particular story is that it is easy to concoct fantasies about what you might do in a dangerous situation but the simple truth is that none of us can possibly know what we might do until the situation is actually occurring. Unless you are specially trained or have actual experience, chances are that you will not engage in a shootout with a criminal. You will not stop a madman shooting up a shopping mall. You will be running and hiding like all the other people. Carry a gun, either openly or concealed if you wish, but don’t take for granted that you will be a hero when the time comes.

I should say that I am likely to prove a bigger coward than most if I were confronted with an armed attacker. Since this is not something that occurs in my environment, I would have no idea how to react and would probably freeze and stand looking at the shooter stupidly, not even being able to panic. I say this in case anyone reading the previous paragraph might imagine that I am trying to make myself look braver or smarter than others. I know myself better than to imagine that would be the case. (Although, the one time I was robbed while working the night shift at a convenience store, I was not afraid but irritated. I do not know whether they were actually armed. One of them had his hand in his jacket pocket as if he were holding a hand gun, but I think he was bluffing. They tried to open the cash register but it locked and when they told me to open it, I told them I couldn’t because they had messed it up. A customer entered the store and they fled with nothing for their trouble. I cannot say I was especially brave, just irritated because they really had messed up the cash register.)

I should also say that looking over the comments of this story is a really depressing experience. I don’t know whether the ignorant and the vindictive are drawn to the comments section of stories like this, or commenting on such stories brings out the worst aspects of human nature. Either way it is depressing.

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Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

July 1, 2013

That’s Latin for “Who will watch the guardians themselves?” or maybe “who will watch the watchers?” An essential institution of any modern, civilized state are guardians or police who are charged with enforcing the laws of that state. Yet, how do you ensure that the guardians or law enforcers themselves will follow the laws and not abuse their position. I don’t doubt that a great many policemen want to serve their community, but the nature of the job of law enforcement naturally tends to attract the sort of people who like to push others around and think that a badge will allow them to get away with it. This tendency is aggravated when a police culture develops that sees the police not as public servants but as a separate and superior caste while the civilians they are charged to protect are seen as potential criminals.

Many years ago, when I was attending Indiana University at Bloomington, I found, while browsing a local book store, a book of humorous anecdotes written by a, I hope, retired police officer. These humorous anecdotes displayed an incredible contempt for civilians, or “tax-payers” as he humorously referred to them. In one such story, he related how he pulled over a woman who was speeding. The woman was somewhat irate and asked him why he wasn’t out catching criminals. He looked right at her and said, “That’s what I am doing now.” Hahahahahaha. No, he wasn’t. Speeding is an infraction, not a criminal offense. The woman might have been rude, but she was not a criminal, despite what the author of the book thought. With that kind of an attitude, I hope he is retired.

With all that in mind, consider this article about the kind of T-shirts favored by cops, written by Radley Balko on the Huffington Post. If the attitudes displayed are typical of police departments, then it is a rather disturbing trend.

Earlier this week, an anonymous public defender sent Gothamist this photo of an NYPD warrant squad officer wearing a t-shirt with a pretty disturbing quote from Ernest Hemingway:

There have been a number of other incidents over the years in which cops have donned t-shirts that reflect a mentality somewhat less lofty than “protect and serve.” Most recently, a Northern California union for school police officers came under fire for printing up and selling these shirts as a fundraiser:

See what I mean? It doesn’t help that there has been a trend towards more militarized police department, in large part due to the war on drugs. Here’s some more.

It’s no coincidence that the same departments and units caught wearing shirts displaying this sort of attitude tend to also get caught up in controversial beatings, shootings, and other allegations of misconduct and excessive force. The “us vs. them” mindset has become so common in U.S. police culture that we almost take it for granted. In my new book, I argue that this is the result of a generation of incessant rhetoric from politicians who treat cops as if they were soldiers, and policies that train and equip them as if they were fighting a war. The imagery and language depicted on the shirts in these stories are little different than the way pop culture, the military, and government propaganda have depicted the citizens of the countries we’ve fought in wars over the years.

Within the more militarized units of police departments, the imagery can be even stronger. Former San Jose, California police chief Joseph McNamara told National Journal in 2000 that he was alarmed when he attended a SWAT team conference the previous year and saw “officers . . . wearing these very disturbing shirts. On the front, there were pictures of SWAT officers dressed in dark uniforms, wearing helmets, and holding submachine guns. Below was written: ‘We don’t do drive-by shootings.’ On the back, there was a picture of a demolished house. Below was written: ‘We stop.’” In his 1999 ethnography on police culture, criminologist Peter Kraska writes that one SWAT team member he spent time with “wore a T-shirt that carried a picture of a burning city with gunship helicopters flying overhead and the caption Operation Ghetto Storm.”

Balko also quotes comments from a police forum.

– “In God we trust, all others get searched,”

— “A picture of an electric chair with the caption: JUSTICE: Regular or Crispy”

— “B.D.R.T Baby Daddy Removal Team on the back and the initials on front with handcuffs. You should see peoples faces when I wear it….HAHAHAHA”

— “Human trash collector. ( above a pair of handcuffs )”

— “Take No Guff, Cut No Slack, Hook’em, Book’em and Don’t Look Back!”

— “‘Boys on the Hood’ Pic had two gangbangers jacked up on the hood of a patrol car with two officers.”

— “SWAT T-shirt: ‘Happiness is getting the green light!'”

— “I have one that sates “SWAT SNIPER” on the front and on back it has a picure of a “terrorist” with a shell ripping through his skull and the “pink mist” spraying from the back of his head. Below the picture it reads, “Guerillas in the mist”.

— “Save the police time, beat yourself up”

— “An ounce of prevention is fine and dandy…….. But we prefer 168 grains of cure.”

— “Be good or you might get a visit from the bullet fairy.”

— “Sniper – When you only have 1 shot at an opportunity……We’ll make it count”

— “Law Enforcement……Helping perps slip down stairs since 1766”

— “Math for Cops………2 to the chest + 1 to the head = problem solved”

— “I had a couple of ’em a loooong time ago….1 showed a cop leaning on his rather long nightstick, saying “Police Brutality….the fun part of policework.”……obviously not very PC….another was a picture of a LEO with smoke coming from the muzzle of his pistol, with a badguy falling backwards (lookin’ like swiss cheese) with the caption…..The best action is OVERREACTION….also not very PC….”

— “Cops make good roommates…they’re used to taking out the trash.”

— “There was also one I saw where there was a big burly looking Sarge behind his desk and the cation read ‘It doesn’t say kindness and sympathy on the badge.'”

— “happiness is a confirmed kill”

— “Park Ranger T-shirt: One of funniest I ever saw: Picture of Smokey the Bear with Riot Gear and he’s just poked a protester in the chest with a riot baton. The Caption Reads: “Smokey Don’t Play That”. Funny!”

— “My Daddy can Taser your Daddy”

— “School Patrol – You fail em, we jail em”

— “Got one that says, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted and used against you.”

I don’t want to come across as anti-police. Obviously they do perform a vital job in any community. Law enforcement is a dangerous and stress-filled career and the police do not usually interact with the best and brightest among us. I can see how any cop could develop a rather jaundiced attitude toward his fellow human beings. As Mr. Balko concludes,

It’s worth noting that policing is a high-stress job, and one that often puts officers in contact with some pretty awful things, and in some dangerous situations. Like other high-stress professions, and professions that encounter difficult subject matter — defense attorneys, medical examiners, emergency room doctors and nurses — cops often develop a morbid sense of humor. It’s a coping mechanism. But it’s one thing to crack jokes inside the department, or at the bar after work. It’s quite another to openly advertise and promote a culture of abuse. As with most police abuse issues, the real failure here is on the part of the elected officials. They’re the ones who can’t resist the urge to incessantly declare “war” on things, who are responsible for setting the policies that have given rise to this culture, and who have done little to nothing to rein it in.

I do wish that politicians would stop declaring war on things. In war, there can be no compromises. You either defeat the enemy or they defeat you. In domestic issues, like drug abuse, you have to balance costs and benefits in a way you do not in war. Making every issue a war encourages extreme, irrational policies, and justifies abuse.

But as to the police attitudes and potential abuse, it all comes back to the question, quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

 

 

Some Are More Equal

May 26, 2013

In the wake of the brutal murder of a British soldier by Islamic fanatics in London, it is good to learn that British law enforcement agencies are cracking down, on “racist”, “anti-religious remark”s made on Facebook and Twitter. As the Daily Mail reports,

A 22-year-old man has been charged on suspicion of making malicious comments on Facebook following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby.

Benjamin Flatters, from Lincoln, was arrested last night after complaints were made to Lincolnshire Police about comments made on Facebook, which were allegedly of a racist or anti-religious nature.

He was charged with an offence of malicious communications this afternoon in relation to the comments, a Lincolnshire Police spokesman said.

A second man was visited by officers and warned about his activity on social media, the spokesman added.

It comes after 25-year-old Drummer Rigby was brutally murdered on a street in Woolwich, south east London, on Wednesday.

The father-of-one, from Manchester, had fought in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Flatters has been remanded in police custody and will appear before magistrates in Lincoln tomorrow.

The charge comes after two men were earlier released on bail following their arrest for making alleged offensive comments on Twitter about the murder.

Complaints were made to Avon and Somerset Police about remarks that appeared on the social networking website, which were allegedly of a racist or anti-religious nature.

A 23-year-old and a 22-year-old, both from Bristol, were held under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred.

Detective Inspector Ed Yaxley, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: ‘On Wednesday evening, we were contacted by people concerned about comments made on social media accounts.

‘We began inquiries into the comments and at around 3.20am two men, aged 23 and 22, were detained at two addresses in Bristol.

‘The men were arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred. Our inquiries into these comments continue.

‘These comments were directed against a section of our community. Comments such as these are completely unacceptable and only cause more harm to our community in Bristol.

‘People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious.’

Police confirmed the two men were later released on bail pending further inquiries.

 

If the British authorities are really interested in stopping the inciting of racial or religious hatred, perhaps they should begin monitoring what is being preached in British mosques. I am certain that the men who committed the atrocity against Lee Rigby did not just decide to commit murder for no particular reason, nor did they research Islamic scripture on their own and decide that killing infidels was the right thing to do. Someone with some religious authority taught them. In fact, according to the Telegraph, one of the men, Michael Adebowale was a convert to Islam. His mother feared that he was becoming too radical so she sent him to a mosque for religious instruction in his new faith.

Michael Adebowale, the 22-year-old son of a Christian probation officer and a member of staff at the Nigerian High Commission, was filmed holding a bloodied cleaver in his hand after Drummer Lee Rigby was butchered in a London street.

Friends said he had been a “lovely boy” but became involved in some “serious trouble” as a teenager and then turned to Islam. He started mixing with some “bad people” and became increasingly extreme in his views.

His mother Juliet Obasuyi, a 43-year-old probation officer, went to her friend and neighbour, a 62-year-old security officer, for help about nine months ago after her son dropped out of university.

She told him: “Michael is not listening any more. His older sister is a good Christian with a degree but Michael is rebelling as he has no father figure, dropping out of university and handing out leaflets in Woolwich town centre.

“He is from a strong Christian family but he is turning to Islam and turning against the family. He is preaching in the streets. He needs spiritual guidance before he radicalises himself.”

His mother was advised by a neighbour to take him to the head of the Woolwich mosque for spiritual guidance. He was converted to Islam by the head Imam, and taken for weeks of “further training” at a centre near Cambridge.

When he returned, however, he was even more “radicalised” and his mother could no longer “get through to him”. A spokesman for the mosque said they did not know if he attended or been converted there.

What exactly was Michael Adelbowale taught during those weeks of further training? Will there be any sort of investigation into whether or not imams at British mosques are preaching hatred against the infidel? Will the imams be arrested and the mosques closed if this proves to be the case? Or, do the laws against inciting hatred only apply to dhimmis and not to Muslims? Are all the people in the United Kingdom equal, but Muslims more equal than others?

 

 

 

The Conversation

December 18, 2012

The liberals have been demanding we have a conversation on the issue of gun control since the Newtown Connecticut shootings. I imagine that this conversation will be much like the conversation that Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to have about race, or the conversations about gay marriage, healthcare, or any of the other conversations liberals want to have. The liberal idea about what a conversation entails seems to be for the liberals, secure in their moral and intellectual superiority to the rest of us, telling us what to think and do, and the rest of us sitting still and listening. Anyone who disagrees is  a racist, sexist, homophobic bigoted hater. In the conversation about gun control, those who are against stricter gun control laws must like to see children mowed down by psychopaths.

But, if we are going to have a conversation about gun control, then let’s have a real conversation. We can use Glenn Reynold’s remarks yesterday as a starting point.

SO IF WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A “NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON GUNS,” HERE ARE SOME OPENERS:

Why do people who favor gun-control call people who disagree with them murderers or accomplices to murder? Is that constructive?

Would any of the various proposals have actually prevented the tragedy that is the supposed reason for them?

When you say you hope that this event will finally change the debate, do you really mean that you hope you can use emotionalism and blood-libel-bullying to get your way on political issues that were losers in the past?

If you’re a media member or politician, do you have armed security? Do you have a permit for a gun yourself? (I’m asking you Dianne Feinstein!) If so, what makes your life more valuable than other people’s?

Do you know the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon? Do your public statements reflect that difference?

If guns cause murder, why have murder rates fallen as gun sales have skyrocketed?

Have you talked about “Fast and Furious?” Do you even know what it is? Do you care less when brown people die?

When you say that “we” need to change, how are you planning to change? Does your change involve any actual sacrifice on your part?

Let me know when you’re ready to talk about these things. We’ll have a conversation.

We can move on by discussing John Fund’s recent column at National Review Online, in which he mentions some facts about recent mass shootings that somehow are not being discussed in the mainstream media.

Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.

Almost all of the public-policy discussion about Newtown has focused on a debate over the need for more gun control. In reality, gun control in a country that already has 200 million privately owned firearms is likely to do little to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. We would be better off debating two taboo subjects — the laws that make it difficult to control people with mental illness and the growing body of evidence that “gun-free” zones, which ban the carrying of firearms by law-abiding individuals, don’t work.

First, the mental-health issue. A lengthy study by Mother Jones magazine found that at least 38 of the 61 mass shooters in the past three decades “displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings.” New York Times columnist David Brooks and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson have both suggested that the ACLU-inspired laws that make it so difficult to intervene and identify potentially dangerous people should be loosened. “Will we address mental-health and educational-privacy laws, which instill fear of legal liability for reporting potentially violent mentally ill people to law enforcement?” asks Professor Jacobson. “I doubt it.”

Gun-free zones have been the most popular response to previous mass killings. But many law-enforcement officials say they are actually counterproductive. “Guns are already banned in schools. That is why the shootings happen in schools. A school is a ‘helpless-victim zone,’” says Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff. “Preventing any adult at a school from having access to a firearm eliminates any chance the killer can be stopped in time to prevent a rampage,” Jim Kouri, the public-information officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me earlier this year at the time of the Aurora, Colo., Batman-movie shooting. Indeed, there have been many instances — from the high-school shooting by Luke Woodham in Mississippi, to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. — where a killer has been stopped after someone got a gun from a parked car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

Now that we have dismissed the policies that will not work, like disarming the potential victims of crime and putting up signs that criminals will simply ignore, we can begin to have a conversation about what will work. I am looking forward to that conversation

The Lash

June 17, 2011

Here is an interesting idea in the Washington Post. Peter Moskos thinks that we should consider corporal punishment as an alternative to incarceration.

America has a prison problem. Never in the history of the world has a country locked up so many of its people. We have more prisons than China, and it has a billion more people than we do. Forty years ago America had 338,000 people behind bars. Today 2.3 million are incarcerated. We have more prisoners than soldiers. Something has gone terribly wrong.

The problem — mostly due to longer and mandatory sentences combined with an idiotic war on drugs — is so abysmal that the Supreme Court recently ordered 33,000 prisoners in California to be housed elsewhere or released. If California could simply return to its 1970 level of incarceration, the savings from its $9 billion prison budget would cut the state’s budget deficit in half. But doing so would require the release of 125,000 inmates, and not even the most progressive reformer has a plan to reduce the prison population by 85 percent.

Flogging seems barbaric to us but actually conditions in most prisons are far worse. if I had to choose between getting five or ten lashes or spending five years in prison getting beaten up and raped, it would be an easy choice for me.

Moskos seems to think that the root of the problem is the idea that prisons would rehabilitate the criminals housed in them. That has obviously not worked so well and instead they have become huge warehouses, which actually contribute to crime.

The idea was that penitentiaries would heal the criminally ill just as hospitals cured the physically sick. It didn’t work. Yet despite — or perhaps because of — the failures of the first prisons, states authorized more and larger prisons. With flogging banned and crime not cured, there was simply no alternative. We tried rehabilitation and ended up with supermax. We tried to be humane and ended up with more prisoners than Stalin had at the height of the Soviet Gulag. Somewhere in the process, we lost the concept of justice and punishment in a free society.

Today, the prison-industrial complex has become little more than a massive government-run make-work program that profits from human bondage. To oversimplify — just a bit — we pay poor, unemployed rural whites to guard poor, unemployed urban blacks.

Of course some people are simply too dangerous to release — pedophiles, terrorists and the truly psychopathic, for instance. But they’re relatively few in number. And we keep these people behind bars because we’re afraid of them.

As to the other 2 million common criminals, the 2 million more than we had in 1970, we can’t and won’t keep them locked up forever. Ninety-five percent of prisoners are eventually released. The question is not if but when and how.

Incarceration not only fails to deter crime but in many ways can increase it. For crime driven by economic demand, such as drug dealing, arresting one seller creates a job opening for others, who might fight over the vacant position.

Incarceration destroys families and jobs, exactly what people need to have in order to stay away from crime. Incarcerated criminals are more likely to reoffend than similar people given alternative sentences. To break the cycle of crime, people need help. And they would need less help if they were never incarcerated in the first place.

He forgets to mention that prisons can become schools of crime in which criminals are able to learn new techniques from each other.

Is Peter Moskos right? Should we reintroduce flogging? I don’t really know. I don’t think the lash will deter many potential criminals though. I could be wrong, but I get the impression that the reason many criminals are criminals is that they exhibit poor impulse control and do not think through the consequences of their actions.


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