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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The LAPD and the Sad Future of Fingerprint Identification

     In 1901, Scotland Yard became the world's first law enforcement agency to routinely fingerprint its arrestees. Fingerprint identification came to America in 1904 when the St. Louis Police Department established its bureau. Before fingerprinting, arrestees in Europe and America, beginning in the late 1870s, were identified by sets of eleven body measurements, a system created by the Frenchman, Alphonse Bertillon. By 1914, the year of Bertillon's death, fingerprinting had replaced anthropometry in every county but the United States where, in several jurisdictions, the outdated, cumbersome identification system stuck around until the early 1920s. Until Alphonse Bertillon and the fingerprint pioneers came up with methods of scientifically identifying criminals, law enforcement remained in the dark ages. For this reason, Alphonse Bertillon is considered one of the founding fathers of modern policing.

     Beyond the use of fingerprint science to maintain and classify arrest records, and to identify arrestees who are wanted in other jurisdictions, crime scene fingermarks, so-called latent fingerprints--constitute one of the most common forensic techniques of linking suspects to the sites of their offenses. While latent prints can be made visible by various chemicals, iodine fuming, superglue, and laser technology, the most common method of bringing out and preserving this type of crime scene evidence, particularly on hard surfaces, involves the application of a fine powder and lifting tape. (This explains the phrase, the latent was lifted from the scene.)

     In 1911, a  Chicago judge, in a first of its kind case, allowed a latent fingerprint into evidence as proof of the defendant's guilt. Since then, forensic crime scene latent fingerprint identifications have sent tens of thousands of criminals to prison. The beauty of crime scene fingerprint examination involves the fact it doesn't take high technology, or great skill and education to recover this form of trace evidence. Moreover, the comparison of crime scene latents and known fingerprints does not require an advanced degree in science. Jurors can look at a courtroom exhibit in the form of side-by-side, enlarged photographs of the two prints depicting their points of joint identify. Unlike DNA identification which requires a leap of faith in science, the matching of a known and unknown fingerprint simply requires good eyesight, and faith in the integrity of the evidence. (Granted, there have been lapses in the fingerprint integrity aspect of latent fingerprint identification.)

     Today, crime scene latents can be fed into a supercomputer--the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)--and matched with single, rolled-on fingerprints stored in the computer's massive data base. Identifying unknown crime scene latents this way is one of the few instances where forensic scientists can solve and prove cases. When AFIS became operational in the late 1980s, crusaders for the professionalization of criminal investigation, and the increased use of forensic science in crime solving, envisioned the dawn of a new era in law enforcement much like the introduction of fingerprint science at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

     America's forensic science pioneers of the Twentieth Century hoped for a future in which the police would defeat crime through latent fingerprint identification and other forms of forensic science. These early crusaders for scientific crime investigation could not have foreseen how the massive war on drugs would drain law enforcement resources away from forensic science and criminal investigation. These men would have been shocked and dismayed by the low status of criminal investigation in modern law enforcement. Well-trained investigators and crime scene criminalists are being replaced by drug war SWAT tanks and M-16 carrying shock troops schooled in busting down doors.

The Los Angeles Police Department

     Recent events involving the LAPD's crime laboratory latent fingerprint unit exemplifies the rapid shift in law enforcement priorities. Since 2009, due to budget cuts, furloughs, and a hiring freeze, the latent fingerprint unit has lost 27 of its 97 fingerprint examiners. As a result, detectives in each of the department's 21 stations can only submit crime scene latents to the crime lab ten times a month. That means, in the investigation of property crimes such as auto theft, burglary, and forged check cases, the crime scene latent fingerprint is no longer a crime solution tool. Even with the current rationing of this vital crime fighting technique, the department has a backlog of 2,200 fingerprint examinations. In an era of advanced latent fingerprint technology, this is just hard to believe, and depressing as hell.

     While burglars, bad check passers, car thieves, and other property crime offenders are reaping the benefits of this skewed law enforcement priority, SWAT tanks keep rolling through the streets of LA and other cities. As the drug war rages on, criminal investigation is rapidly devolving into a lost art.    




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Triggerometry of Urban Gunplay

     Jeffrey Johnson, a quiet, 58-year-old loner without a wife or children, lived near Central Park where he bird-watched and photographed hawks. He left his Manhattan apartment at eight in the morning of August 24, 2012 dressed in a suit and tie, and carrying a briefcase. Johnson, a T-shirt designer, had been unemployed for a year after being laid off from his job in the garment district. Behind in his rent, he faced eviction, and on this Friday morning, left his apartment keys behind in an envelope for his landlord. In his briefcase he carried a .45-caliber pistol, and extra ammunition. Mr. Johnson had no intention of returning home that day, or ever.

     Just before nine o'clock, Johnson took up a position between two parked cars near the offices of his former employer, the Hazan Import Company located just down the street from the Empire State Building. Johnson was lying in wait for Steve Eroclino, the company's vice president in charge of sales. It was no secret that Johnson believed that because Ercoline had not aggressively marketed his latest T-shirt line, he had lost his job at Hazan. In the wake of the job termination, the 41-year-old sales executive had accused Johnson of  harassment. There was clearly bad blood between these two men. Hard feelings are common in any business, and people are laid off all the time, but Mr. Johnson wasn't your ordinary disgruntled ex-employee. That Friday morning in the heart of New York City, Jeffrey Johnson was on a mission to kill Mr. Eroclino, and then force the police kill him. He probably didn't realize that several innocent bystanders would go down in the crossfire. Or maybe he did know and just didn't care.

     As Steve Eroclino approached the building housing the Hazan Import Company, Johnson came out from behind the parked cars, walked up to his target, and shot him in the head. Mr. Ercolino dropped to the pavement. At this point, people on the street were oblivious to the fact a man had just been shot to death in mid-Manhattan. Standing over the man he had just shot, Johnson pumped four more bullets into his body. After making certain that Mr. Eroclino was dead, Johnson calmly walked down the sidewalk toward the Empire State Building at 34th and Fifth Avenue.

     Two New York City patrol officers who had been standing a few yards from the shooting site, approached Johnson with their guns drawn as he moved along the sidewalk among panicked pedestrians. Johnson, aware he was being stalked by the officers, abruptly turned to them and raised his pistol. The police officers, just feet from the gunman, opened fire, sixteen shots in all. Three of their bullets found Johnson, nine of the slugs ricocheted into, or directly hit, nine pedestrians desperately trying to get out of the way.  Bleeding bystanders were scattered about the sidewalk and lying in the street. According to initial news reports, the gunman had killed one man, then had opened fire on innocent tourists. But Johnson and the nine pedestrians had been shot by the two officers. Of the ten people shot by the police that morning in the shadow of the Empire State Building, Jeffrey Johnson was the only one killed.

     One of the police officers had fired nine times, his partner had fired the other seven bullets. All of the bullets that came out of their pistols were hollow-points. Compared to full-jacketed projectiles, hollow-points, upon impact, expand. This makes this type of bullet especially damaging to human tissue and bone. The police prefer hollow-points because they are more lethal than regular slugs, and they do not pierce vehicles, walls, and other barriers. For that reason, hollow-points are considered appropriate for use in urban settings. But they do ricochet, and when they miss their targets and hit bystanders, they produce angry wounds.

     In the Empire State Building case, the fact these officers, while firing sixteen shots at an armed gunman at close range, fired thirteen stray bullets, reveals an important reality about police involved shootings. Formal firearms training, and hours and hours of police range target practice, does not prepare officers for real-life gunplay. The conditions in combat situations do not led themselves to firearms accuracy. Moreover, the use of semi-automatic pistols in an urban landscape where bullets ricochet amid a dense population, puts innocent bystanders at risk. Notwithstanding the best firearms training in the world, collateral damage is always a risk in police involved shootings. Fortunately, cases like the Empire State Building shootings are rare. If anyone was to blame for the shooting of the nine innocent bystanders, it was Jeffery Johnson.      



Friday, August 24, 2012

The Delaware Daycare Fight Club: Throwing Kids to the Wolves

     In recent days, a father, with his 20-month-old son in the car, led the police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Detroit after he refused to stop for a traffic offense. He ran a stop sign, lost control of the vehicle, crashed, then continued his flight from custody on foot carrying the uninjured child in his arms. Just before the police caught up to him, the father handed his son off to a woman on the street he didn't know. (Whether or not the police should have been chasing a man with a child in the car is another question.)

     Anyone who follows the news will come across, almost every day, a story featuring an irresponsible, clearly unfit parent. However, the fact there are probably thousands upon thousands of kids in this country being raised by drug addicts, child abusers, nut cases, and immature idiots, doesn't mitigate the problem that so many children are being raised in daycare centers by people who shouldn't be anywhere near a child.  

     Millions of children in the United States are being partially raised (or warehoused) in 400,000 or so licensed and regulated child care facilities. Forty-one percent of preschool children whose mothers are employed, find themselves in daycare 35 or more hours a week. In America, daycare has become a big business.

     Suzanne Venker, in an online National Review article entitled, "Will America Ever be Ready for the Truth About Daycare," points out that politicians and media journalists avoid talking about the harm daycare is doing to the nation's children. Politicians don't want to offend female voters, and women in the media rely on daycare services themselves, and are therefore not prone to publicly discuss the issue. Venker and others, consider daycare one of the greatest tragedies of modern America. They see the phenomena as a growing epidemic of parental abandonment.

     In her National Review piece, Venker discusses a recent e-book by May Saubiek called Doing Time: What it Really Means to Grow Up in Daycare. According to the author, daycare children receive very little individualized attention, and when they do, because of the high daycare employee turnover rates, it's often from a stranger. Because daycare is a business that relies on customers who believe their children are happy, and being cared for by people who care, parents aren't told how miserable their children really are. On the contrary, parents receive rose-colored reports of how well their kids are adapting and progressing. Parents are often told that the daycare experience helps "socialize" their children. According to Saubiek, daycare life fosters aggressive behavior by forcing kids into survival mode. If a child wants a toy, he or she learns to fight for it.

     Some child facilities are obviously better than others, and conditions might not be so bleak as Saubiek describes in her book. But it seems to me that, to some degree, a good number of working mothers' children are paying the price for the realities of modern society. Daycare workers are not highly paid, thoroughly investigated, or well trained. And they are being drawn from a society awash in alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction, pedophilia, and ignorance. Who are these rent-a-parents, and what are they doing to America's preschool population?

 The Delaware Daycare Fight Club

     On August 18, 2012, police officers in Dover, Delaware watched a video that showed two 3-year-old boys engaged in a fight organized and supervised by three workers at The Hands of Our Future Daycare Center. One of the Dover daycare workers recorded the combat on her cellphone. When one of the toddlers cried, "He's pinching me!" one of these fight organizers said, "No pinching, only punching."

     In speaking to a reporter, Dover police captain Tim Stump said, "It's difficult to watch. One of the kids involved ran over to one of the adults for protection, but she turned him around back into the fight. They were just wailing on each other, I mean slapping, pinching, throwing each other onto tables." (The fight viewed by the police had occurred back in March 2012.)

     On August 21, the police arrested 19-year-old Tianna Harris, Lisa Parker, 47, and 21-year-old Estefania Myers. Charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangering, and conspiracy, these daycare workers were placed into the county jail on $10,000 bond each. All three suspects posted bail and were released from custody shortly after their arrests. They are currently awaiting their preliminary hearings.

     One would think that this case, and the subject of daycare services in America, would be a topic of discussion in the national media. The fact it isn't proves Suzanne Venker's point. If politicians raise questions about the quality of daycare in the country, they will be accused by their opponents of waging a war on working women. And since more than half of the personalities featured on television news shows are women, the subject is off-limits. At least for now.

     Someone should be asking how one daycare center had three abusers working at the facility at the same time. Who are these people? Was this facility licensed? Who in Delaware is in charge of daycare oversight? And finally, is there anyway to protect daycare children from institutional abuse? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chavis Carter: An Unusual Police Custody Suicide

     On Saturday night, July 28, 2012, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town of 67,000 in the central part of the state, a home owner in a residential neighborhood called 911 to report a suspicious pickup truck driving up and down the street with its lights off. At 9:50 PM, police officers Keith Baggett and Ron Marsh pulled the truck over. When the driver of the vehicle, 21-year-old Chavis Carter and his two passengers alighted from the truck, the officers patted them down for weapons. The frisks suggested that the suspects were unarmed, but officers found, on Carter's person, a small amount of marijuana. The cops placed him, unrestrained, in the back of the patrol car while they questioned his associates. At this point the police learned that Carter had not given them his real name. When they radioed in for possible outstanding warrants, they discovered that Carter, from Mississippi, was wanted in his home state in connection with a drug case.

     The officers brought Carter out of the patrol car, placed him under arrest, searched him again, then handcuffed him behind his back. After finding an electronic scale in his pickup, they returned him to the back seat of the patrol car. The officers released his friends who drove off in the truck.

     A few minutes later, when a Jonesboro officer checked on Carter, he found him covered in blood and slumped over in the backseat of the police car. Someone called for an ambulance while an officer tried but failed, because of the position of the body, to remove the handcuffs. Later that night, Chavis Carter died from a bullet to his temple.

     In the backseat of the patrol car, officers found a stolen .380-caliber Cobra semi-automatic handgun, and a spent cartridge. The compact pistol was less than six inches long, and was light in weight. Witnesses at the scene said they did not see any of the officers pull their guns. Police video tapes of the arrest also exonerated the officers of any wrongdoing. The two officers were placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation of Carter's death. At this point in the case, all of the preliminary evidence pointed to a suicide.

     Members of the Chavis Carter's family, and the local chapter of the NAACP, called for an independent investigation of the shooting death. The decedent's mother, Teresa Carter, told a reporter that "My son was not suicidal." Russell Marlin, a Memphis lawyer retained by the family, said he was conducting his own investigation into the death. "There is no reason to believe," he said,  "that he [Carter] would have killed himself." (By the same token, there is no reason to believe that a police officer would shoot a handcuffed man in the backseat of a patrol car with his own gun.)

     On August 14, 2012, the Jonesboro Police Department released a video of their re-enactment of the suicide. An officer of Carter's stature--5 foot 8 and 160 pounds--was able, while handcuffed behind his back, to lift the pistol to his head and pull the trigger.

     Jonesboro Chief of Police, Michael Yates, in speaking to the media on the question of how a man frisked and searched still had access to a handgun, said: "It's obvious they did miss the weapon on the first search [frisk or pat down]. It is likely, since he [Carter] was placed into the [patrol] car unhandcuffed the first time, that he had an opportunity to stash the weapon in the car. The second search, which was more thorough and inclusive, did not disclose the weapon."

     Due to the unusual circumstances surrounding Chavis Carter's death, and the fact he was black and the officers are white, this case is racially charged. This means that civil rights activists will continue to accuse the police of murder. The city of Jonesboro, and the two police officers, will no doubt end up as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit. It is true that if the police had recovered Carter's stolen handgun pursuant to the initial frisk, he would be alive. But this is a long way from murder, or even negligent homicide. In the final analysis, it was Chavis Carter who pulled the trigger that ended his life.

     On Monday, August 20, 2012, a panel of three medical examiners officially ruled the manner of Carter's death a suicide. A report from the Arkansas State Crime Lab revealed that at the time of his death, Carter was under the influence of methamphetamine, anti-anxiety medicine, and other drugs.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are Pageant Moms Abusing Their Daughters on "Toddlers & Tiara" and "Honey Boo Boo?"

     About a year after a 5-year-old beauty pageant contestant on TLC's popular series "Toddlers & Tiaras" performed a Dolly Parton dance parody in padded boobs and a fake butt, her father, pursuant to a divorce action, petitioned a California judge for custody of the child. Citing a pair of psychologists who believe the child's pageant mom injuriously sexualized their daughter, the father is accusing the woman he is divorcing of child abuse.

     TLC's new reality pageant series called "Honey Boo Boo," a "Toddlers & Tiaras" spin-off featuring a 6-year-old "beauty" queen from McIntrye, Georgia, has created a child exploitation controversy of its own. Honey Boo Boo Child, the hyperactive star of the show, eats roadkill, guzzles a cocktail of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, and proudly squeezes her energy drink-gut into a mound of flab for the amusement (and disgust) of her TV audience. (If you think reality TV has hit rock bottom, watch this show.)

     As the pudgy "toddler" mugs for the camera, cuts on-air cheese, and generally acts the redneck fool, her hefty, low-class mother, sporting more chins than a Chinese phone book (sorry), looks on with clod-hopper pride. "Honey Boo Boo" is a pathetic portrayal of losers who think they are living the American dream. While millions of TV viewers obviously adore the show, its most severe critics are accusing this girl's pageant mom of child abuse. Others simply consider the spectacle a crime against taste.

     The art and science of parenting has sunk so low in this country, psychologists and psychiatrists have to tell people how to raise their children. It's gotten that bad. Since the dawn of the drug culture in the late 1960's, more and more children are being raised by prescription pill and alcohol abusers, emotional basket-cases, functional illiterates, and permanently immature idiots. How many times have you heard some narcissistic knucklehead say, "I'm doing this reality show for my children," or "My kids want me to be happy." What a load of crap. Children don't give a damn about your happiness. They are concerned about their wellbeing. Parents who refuse to grow up are producing neurotic, nasty kids who in turn populate the country with another generation of jerks. It's no wonder we are becoming a nation of nut cases, sociopaths, and drug addled losers.

     For the pageant moms on "Toddlers & Tiaras," these beauty contests are all about them. These mothers lose parental control of their daughters because the kids hold all of the cards. These moms need these pint-sized performers more than the pageant contestants need them. It's not surprising that these 5 to 9-year-old trash-talking narcissist are out of control mini-sociopaths desperately in search of parental control and guidance. To hell with the psychologists and psychiatrists, maybe we should bring in the TV dog whisperer to set these mothers straight.

     If you watch "Toddlers & Tiaras," you have to ask yourself why would a mother spend so much time, money, and emotional energy in pursuit of a five-foot tall, 4-ounce trophy representing one of those ridiculous pageant titles such as "ultra, grand, supreme." And what does it mean to win one of these big trophies? It means the judges liked the winner's fake hair, front-teeth, tan, eyelashes, and nails. The $2,000 dress also helped. Pageant losers and their distraught mothers, coaches, hairdressers, and make-up artists, slink out of the pageant site hotel with dazed kids carrying their puny trophies and demeaning titles like third runner-up queen. Pageant losers spend all of that money and effort to learn that their kids are untalented and not that beautiful. There has got to be something profoundly wrong with these people.

     I'm not a sociologist, criminologist or any other kind of ologist, but so-called glitz beauty pageants for little girls, and the popularity of this genre of reality TV, says something awful about our popular culture. These televised spectacles of humiliation, stupidity, and false hope reflects bad parenting, the increasing vulgarity of our society, and the nation's obsession with cheap, ill gotten fame.

     In an earlier era, these contests would have been widely viewed as a form of child abuse. Pageant moms would have been accused of turning their little girls into circus freaks. Today, in the context of bad parenting and criminality, this form of child exploitation by parents and pageant operators, while perhaps mildly deviant, does not rise to the legal or criminal definition of child abuse.

     If pandering politicians start passing laws banning child beauty pageants, what's next? Little league baseball? Criminalizing stupid behavior by neurotic and ignorant parents will not improve child raising in this country. If we start putting lousy parents behind bars, half of America's youngsters will be raised by the government. (A good percentage of them are currently being raised by day-care workers.) Since the government can't even properly educate our kids, this is not a good idea. Kiddie pageants will be around until they are stigmatized or shamed out of business. Unfortunately, we live in a culture in which the concept of shame is vanishing before our eyes.       


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Christopher Middleton's Street Rage, and Sudden Death

     On Saturday night, August 11, 2012, 26-year-old Christopher Middleton and his family--his pregnant fiancee Tanya, their 6-year-old son, and their 4-year-old daughter Taniyah--were gathered at a restaurant in Maywood, Illinois, a town of 27,000 ten miles west of downtown Chicago. At nine that evening, an eight year veteran of the Chicago Police Department was riding his motorcycle through Maywood on his way home after work. As the officer approached the restaurant, 4-year-old Taniyah darted out into the street. To avoid running over her, the 43-year-old officer laid the bike on the ground. It skidded, flipped, then brushed the girl and bumped her 18-year-cousin who had run into the street to fetch her. The 4-year-old, while receiving contusions and abrasions, was not seriously hurt. The officer fractured his ankle, dislocated his shoulder, and possibly broke a leg. The girl's cousin, John Passley, was not injured.

     The injured off-duty police officer was attending the girl when Christopher Middleton, her father, rushed out of the restaurant shouting and swearing. "You could have killed my daughter," he screamed.

     "Take it easy, I'm the police," the officer replied in an effort to calm Middleton down.

     "I don't care who the f---- you are!" shouted the father as he punched the officer in the face, knocking him to the street. Middleton continued to punch the officer who couldn't get up to protect himself. The girl's 18-year-old cousin, instead of pulling the out of control father off the fallen officer, decided to participate in the beating by kicking him. Before losing consciousness, the officer pulled his sidearm and shot Middleton. A hour later, at Loyola University Medical Center, a doctor pronounced Middleton dead.

     The Maywood police took John Passley into custody for questioning while Taniyah Middleton was kept in the hospital overnight for observation. Doctors treated the injuries the beaten police officer had received when he avoided running over the girl.

     The 4-year-old's mother, Tanya, told a reporter with the Chicago Tribune that Christopher Middleton "was a father trying to protect his daughter. He was never a violent person," she said. Who was this enraged father protecting his daughter from? The injured officer who was trying to help her? And if Christopher Middleton was not a violent person, what was he when he attacked an injured cop who had risked his own life to save the man's daughter? (In 2005, Middleton had been convicted of felony theft, and a year later, was charged in Elgin, Illinois with resisting arrest. I would argue that nonviolent men do not resist arrest.)

     On August 16, a Cook County prosecutor charged John Passley, a resident of Bellwood, Illinois, with aggravated assault. Investigation of this police involved shooting is being conducted by the Independent Police Review Authority.

     No doubt the family will be contacted by some ambulance chasing lawyer and a lawsuit will be filed against the officer, the Chicago Police Department, the city of Chicago, and who knows, the manufacturer of the motorcycle. But before all the legal BS hits the fan, someone should find out what the little girl was doing out in the street, and who was supposed to be watching her.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Darrius Kennedy: New York City Cops Kill the "Times Square Ninja"

     In October 2008, New York City police officers in the Times Square Section of midtown Manhattan, arrested 47-year-old Darrius H. Kennedy for knocking over garbage cans. Instead of hauling the homeless man to jail, they took him to the Bellevue Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation. A month later, police encountered Kennedy near the Lincoln Center. As he was being taken into custody for stopping traffic on Broadway, and harassing motorists for handouts, Kennedy waved a screwdriver at the arresting officers. Convicted of resisting arrest, a judge sentenced Kennedy to 40 days in jail.

     Over the next four years, Darrius Kennedy didn't have any more run-ins with the New York City Police that resulted in his arrest. By 2012, some of the street merchants in the Times Square area knew Kennedy as a guy who dressed up like a ninja and did back flips to earn tips from tourists. They referred to him as the "Times Square Ninja." (In the 1970s and 80s, many tourists, because Times Square had become so seedy, stayed out of the neighborhood. Since the mid 1990's the place has been as tourist friendly and safe as a Disneyland. Manhattan itself, including Central Park, is one of the safest urban areas in the country.)

       At three in the afternoon on Saturday, August 11, 2012, two police officers in Times Square approached a black man with long hair on the suspicion he was smoking marijuana. When the officers tried to take Darius Kennedy into custody, he backed-off, cursed at them, and pulled a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade. Police officers, with their guns drawn, followed Kennedy as he darted between cars, and weaved in and out of clusters of terrified tourists. As he avoided arrest, Kennedy waved his knife to keep people at bay. The officers trailed Kennedy south from West 44th Street and Seventh Avenue down to 37th Street. Along the way, in an effort to disarm and arrest him, officers pepper sprayed him six times. As is often the case with subjects who are either on drugs or mentally deranged, Kennedy was not affected by the officer's nonlethal force. Alarmed tourists and other bystanders scattered as the moving standoff proceeded south on Seventh Avenue.

     On 37th Street, police officers maneuvered Kennedy into an entrance of an office building. A patrol car pulled up on the sidewalk to hem him in. When two police officers jumped out of the cruiser and ordered Kennedy to drop his weapon, he came toward them wielding the knife. When the armed subject got within three feet of the officers, one of them fired nine shots, and his partner three. Kennedy collapsed to the pavement. Shot several times in the torso, he was pronounced dead a short time later at the Bellevue Hospital Center. The shooting was witnessed by a crowd of people who had followed the action down Seventh Avenue to the spot where Kennedy was shot. Many of the spectators had video-taped the deadly encounter on their cellphones.

     The two officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident. Neither officer had previously discharged his weapon in the line of duty.

     While there are individuals and groups with anti-law enforcement agendas who criticize the police every time they kill someone, police involved shootings have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Given the real possibility that Darrius Kennedy could have injured or killed a civilian, taken a hostage, or knifed a police officer, the cops were not, in my opinion, out of line in using deadly force on this out of control man.

     In 2010, officers with the New York City Police Department shot 24 people, killing 8. The following year, they only shot 16, killing 6. By comparison, the police in Chicago shot 46 people in 2011, killing 10. In Los Angeles that year, officers shot 22, killing 14. New York City police officers receive the best deadly force training in the country, and the department's shooting statistics reflect this schooling.  

Note: In 2011, according to date I collected, police officers in the United States shot 1,146 people, killing 607. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Problems at the St. Paul Crime Lab

     The crime lab in St. Paul, Minnesota is operated by the police department. Between 2007 and 2011, the laboratory has handled more than 16,000 cases involving 200,000 pieces of physical evidence. In the spring of 2011, a pair of Dakota County public defenders, Lauri Traub and Christine Funk, began raising questions regarding the reliability of results coming out of the lab's drug testing unit. Members of the Dakota County Drug Task Force had also expressed concerns over the quality of the lab's drug analysis.

     The lab in St. Paul is one of 18 in the state of Minnesota that has not been accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, a process of authentication that can take up to two years. After public defenders Traub and Funk visited the lab in March 2012, they asked a Dakota County judge to hold a special hearing to determine if the findings of the drug testing operation can be trusted.

     On July 17, at the special crime lab hearing, attorney Traub questioned Sergeant Jay Siegel, the director of the lab. Siegel, a former patrol officer who once worked as a latent fingerprint examiner, testified that he had no formal education in science. Attorney Traub presented the lab director with a list of 51 scientific protocols that must be adhered to before a crime lab meets the minimum standards of proficiency and credibility. Sergeant Siegel was forced to admit that the St. Paul Lab had been ignoring all but two of the 51 protocols. He testified that three of the criminalists who tested narcotics seized by the police had little formal training in drug analysis. The lab director also acknowledged that the facility had not been keeping proper records, and that personnel regularly misused the drug testing equipment. In Siegel's opinion, results coming out of this unit could not be trusted.

     At the conclusion of the forensic science court hearing, Police Chief Thomas Smith suspended the lab's drug testing operation, and appointed a police commander to take over the administration of the facility. The chief reassigned Sergeant Siegel to another police job. Chief Thomas also ordered an internal review of the beleaguered operation.

     This crime laboratory will never be credible as long as it's run by the police department, and remains unaccredited. Because almost all criminal justice resources are earmarked for uniformed policing, and crime labs are extremely expensive to operate, the future of the St. Paul facility looks bleak. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Looting Flash Mobs: Retail Theft or Race Riots?

     In the summers of 2011 and 2012, gangs of teenage black kids have invaded, for the purpose of retail theft, stores in downtown Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia. (These are not the only cities where this has happened.) Groups of 20 or more males and females overwhelm any security a store might have in order to steal expensive merchandise--usually clothing--for resale. These mobs can be assembled, mobilized, and coordinated through social media networking.

     These gangs of retail thieves commit a brand of unlawful taking that falls between team shoplifting and robbery (taking by force). It's essentially looting, and reflects a group entitlement mentality as well as total disrespect for the rule of law. This form of urban anarchy should not be taken lightly. If it's not brought under control, this civil disorder will drive retailers and other businesses out of downtown America.

     In Chicago, Luke Cho, the owner of a Wicker Park clothing store, became alarmed at 6:40 PM on Saturday, August 14, 2012. Twenty or more black teenagers entered his place of business as a coordinated group. Mr. Cho knew what this meant, he was about to be looted by a flash mob.

     The gang moved purposefully toward the section of the story that housed the display of Nudie brand jeans. At $200 a pair, these jeans have been in demand since some rap singer was seen wearing them on TV. Mr. Cho, to keep a second wave of looters out of his store, locked the front door, and asked an employee to call 911.

     As the thieves scooped up armloads of jeans in front of alarmed store employees and customers, members of the second wave of looters, who were locked out of the store, banged angrily on the glass. Once the inside thieves had gathered up all the jeans they could carry, they moved toward the front of the establishment, stopping along the way to put other stolen items into their backpacks. After fumbling with the door, one of the looters figured how to unlock it. The door opened, the pack rushed onto the street, and dispersed with more than $3,000 worth of Mr. Cho's merchandise. By the time the first police officer arrived at the scene, it was all over.

     Mr. Cho, when he reviewed the store's surveillance tape, recognized several of the looters as previous shoplifters. He posted the video online, and asked the public to help identify as many thieves as possible. (Victims of flash mobs, aware that the police are indifferent to crimes like this, essentially have to conduct their own investigations.)

     Scott Paulson, a CBS news commentator, has written an article on the network's website about these retail marauders. Paulson criticized the media, police administrators, and politicians for not calling these mob heists what they really are--race riots. According to Mr. Paulson, "The Media, the politicians, and the bulk of the commentators on social issues need to quit being afraid of people like Rev. Al Sharpton." Pointing out that these mobs are comprised of black kids, and that their victims are white, Paulson writes: "If a story is about race, it must be reported as a racial story for the good of the people who could easily be subjected to the next flash mob attack....Protecting a community's image or a segment of society's image should not override the public's need to know and be protected."

     While Scott Paulson makes a valid point, I'm sure he realizes that because of political correctness, and the abject cowardice of politicians and people in the media, no one will treat these raids as race riots. And the police will shy away from these cases as well. Politicians, cops, and media hacks are afraid of race hustlers like Al Sharpton, and will never characterize these alarming acts of anarchy as race riots. (And in Chicago, if a business person publicly expresses a political opinion the mayor doesn't like, the dictator of that corrupt city might order a boycott, or impose municipal sanctions.)

     While we all pay the price for this form of cowardice and political correctness bordering on corruption, the true victims are store owners who try to make a living in urban America. I would imagine these merchants are not thanking President Obama and the government for building their businesses for them.     


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Child Rapists Jerry Sandusky and Earl B. Bradley: Men Who Don't Deserve to Live

     Once they have been tried and convicted, and have exhausted their appeals, pedophiles should be executed. They don't deserve to live. We shouldn't have to feed them, dress them, provide them with health care, protect them from other inmates, or hear what they have to say about anything.

     These controlling, narcissistic, remorseless, and sadistic child abusers can not be rehabilitated. While they have learned to impersonate decent human beings, except for indignation and rage, these heartless criminals are as emotionally cold as machines. They are relentless in their obsession with child sex, and no pill or shot can stop them.

     Because many child rapists are intelligent, hardworking, successful, and superficially charming, we have to constantly remind ourselves of what is going on behind the pedophile's facade of respectability and decency. The fact that some of these perverts are excellent teachers, pediatricians, priests, or football coaches, is irrelevant. Moreover, our attention should not be diverted because a pedophile has friends in high places. Children most vulnerable to these sexual predators belong to parents who are either too naive, busy, stupid, or indifferent to keep an eye on adults who pay too much attention to their children.  Pedophiles also take advantage of co-workers who either protect them, or are afraid to stick their necks out and report their suspicions. Pedophiles also benefit from prosecutors who shy away from cases like this.

Jerry Sandusky

     Recently, convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky told a reporter with the Associated Press that he was "distraught" over the penalties the NCAA has issued to Penn State's football program. I have three questions about this: Why is a journalist even talking to this child molester? What relevance does Sandusky's opinion have to anything? And who cares? If Jerry Sandusky were a real human being--one with empathy, self-awareness, and a conscience--he wouldn't make such an outrageous statement because he'd realize how most people would react to it. If the former football coach is "distraught" about anything, it should be what he did all those years to children. Sandusky doesn't give a crap about the lives he ruined, and I don't give a crap about Penn State football. Will this pervert ever shut up? And will people ever stop wringing their hands over the economic effect of the scandal on central Pennsylvania. (Today, in The New York Times, there is an article entitled, "College Town Built on Football, Fears Fallout From a Scandal. Give me a break.)

Earl B. Bradley

     In June 2011, a 58-year-old pediatrician from Lewes, Delaware named Earl B. Bradley was found guilty of raping, over a ten year period, 85 girls and one boy. All of his victims were between two and five-years old. Not only did the physician molest these toddlers, he video-taped himself doing it. When investigators, in December 2009, searched his pediatrics office, the officers found dozens of these tapes.

     At his trial, presented before a judge instead of a jury, Bradley's attorneys did not argue that he was innocent. Instead, they raised a procedural defense questioning the constitutionality of the police search of his office. The judge ruled the search constitutional, found the defendant guilty, and sentenced him to 14 life sentences plus 164 years.

    In August 2012, after spending a year in the prison library, Bradley sent a 15-page letter to the Delaware Supreme Court in which he asked the justices to take up the issue of the constitutionality of the office search that uncovered his child molestation sex tapes. In his appeal, Bradley did not deny raping 86 of his patients.

     A normal person, under these circumstances, wouldn't be capable of mustering up outrage over a supposedly unconstitutional search. This doctor, a pedophile who raped his patents, then billed their parents, referred to the police search of his office as an "assault" on his "basic and core privacy rights." Can you imagine what the parents of his victims are thinking right now?

     This is what I'm thinking: Every breath Earl B. Bradley takes in his cell at the state prison near Smyrna, Delaware is an affront to humanity. One of the strongest arguments for the death penalty is how it spares victims this kind of salt being rubbed into their wounds. Is the death sentence cruel and unusual punishment? In cases involving people like Jerry Sandusky and Earl B. Bradley, I hope so.