Archive for the ‘Cops’ Category

More from the police beat.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Lawrence put up a post yesterday on Austin’s murder rate, which is “up nearly 80 percent from the same time last year”.

So what is the cause of Austin’s rising murder rate? Possibly just random statistical variation. Possibly the result of understaffing the police department.

I’m not totally convinced on the “understaffing the police department” argument. It kind of seems to me that the police basically come along and clean up after the murder’s already been done. Even with more cops on the street, what are the odds that one of those cops is going to run across the guy with the knife raised in time to stop him from stabbing a woman to death?

The flip side of this is the “broken windows” theory of policing: by concentrating on reducing disorder in neighborhoods, serious crime can be reduced. When disorder increases:

…many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. “Don’t get involved.” For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their “home” but “the place where they live.” Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

(Hattip to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy for the link.)

This probably isn’t news to most of you, but I bring it up here because of a second item, from yesterday’s Statesman:

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Obit watch: August 18, 2016.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Arthur Hiller, noted director. (“Love Story”, “Silver Streak”, “The In-Laws”, “The Americanization of Emily”, “National Lampoon’s Pucked”.) A/V Club.

For the record: John McLaughlin. Should have noted this yesterday, but the day got past me.

John F. Timoney, a blunt Irish-born cop who could outrun crooks and quote Yeats and who, as a ranking police official in New York, Philadelphia and Miami, plotted innovative strategies that reversed years of skyrocketing crime, died on Tuesday in Miami. He was 68.

Memo from the police beat.

Friday, August 12th, 2016

There are a couple of ongoing stories in the news, two of them locally. Both of those two had significant developments today (in other words, “Let’s break this news on Friday afternoon and see if it gets lost over the weekend.”)

First story: You may recall the controversy back in April where our city manager, Marc Ott, accused the police chief of insubordination and fined him five days of pay?

Looks like we know who won that battle.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott, the most powerful man at City Hall, is leaving his post for a prestigious job running a Washington, D.C., association.

Last month, the council gave him a $22,000 raise, bumping his pay and benefits to $361,000 annually. His predecessor at the management association made $478,000 in 2013, the group’s tax returns show.

At least, we know who won for the moment. It will be interesting to see how the replacement process plays out, and how much deference (if any) the incoming city manager will be expected to show to the APD and the chief.

Also worth pointing out is what may have been Ott’s final “F— you” to the APD. There was a recent report (the “Matrix Report”) that called for increasing the number of police officers.

Additionally, the report also calls for the department to create positions for 66 officers and eight corporals beyond what has already been authorized, and to add an average 17 new officer positions over the next four years. Finally, the report calls for adding four officers to the Motorcycle Unit.

So that’s 78 sworn officers over and above the current authorized staffing level, which APD is still about 100 officers short of. What did the City Manager and his team ask for in the current budget?

Currently, the city has taken a phased approach to increasing staffing at APD in FY 2017. Included in the City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget are 12 new sworn positions and 21 new civilian positions to transition existing sworn employees back to patrol activities.

Twelve. To quote our great and good friend RoadRich: “‘But first let me deny you most of the required staff to protect the city… and then I shall leave you to your fates. Suckahs.'”

(Another problem which I would like to get into, but the margins of this post are too small to contain: there’s also talk of converting the district representative positions, which are currently sworn officers, into civilian positions.)

Next:

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Obit watch: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Joaquin Jackson passed away June 15 of this year. I did not learn of his death until I flipped through this month’s Texas Monthly at the grocery store today, and I’m not sure how I missed that. Brief tribute from TM. Statesman.

For those folks unfamiliar with Mr. Jackson, he served for 27 years as a Texas Ranger, from 1966 to 1993. His time as a Ranger spanned what I’d call the end of the old Texas and the beginning of the new Texas; the evolution from horses and cattle to technology. He retired in 1993, ostensibly because of his discomfort at changes taking place in the Rangers organization. (However, he states in one of his books that his reasons were actually more complex and personal than that.)

In 1994, he appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly as part of an article on the changes taking place in the Rangers. The cover made him an icon. He went on to do some private investigation work, and appeared in several movies.

Jackson was a member of the governing board of the National Rifle Association, once getting into hot water over remarks he made about assault weapons.
“I personally believe a weapon should never have over, as far as a civilian, a five-round capacity,” he told then-Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith in 2005. “If you’re a hunter, if you’re going to go hunting with a weapon, you shouldn’t need over but one round. So five rounds would be plenty. … Personally, I think assault weapons basically … need to be in the hands of the military and in the hands of the police.”
He later backpedaled from the remarks, claiming that he was talking only about fully automatic weapons and not about semiautomatic rifles.

I remember that controversy, and I’m convinced Jackson knew exactly what he was saying at the time and was covering his butt later. (If you doubt he knew the difference between fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons, read Chapter 6 of One Ranger and then try to tell me otherwise.)

He also wrote two books. One Ranger is a damn fine book. I try to snap up firsts of this every time I find them, as I am convinced this will be seen as an important Texas book in the coming years. The sequel, One Ranger Returns, had a different co-author and is not quite as good, in my humble opinion. (There are some interesting things in it; mostly background from his family.)

In spite of my disagreement with him, I would have enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand. I missed the chance, sadly: he appeared a few times as the Texas Book Festival, but I was never able to get down there on those weekends.

His passing leaves a hole that can’t be filled.

Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#AA of a series)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Blogger, with occasional chief.

Blogger, with occasional chief.

This reminds me that I owe you guys a longer post on the Citizen’s Police Academy: thoughts on the academy itself, and the aftermath. I’ve had that stewing for a while now, but various things have gotten in the way.

Easier for a teenager…

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Mike the Musicologist and I found ourselves at a Barnes and Noble the other day. (Criterion Collection 50% off sale through August 1st. You’re welcome.)

For various reasons, we were flipping through the new Dana Loesch book, Flyover Nation: You Can’t Run a Country You’ve Never Been To. The jacket contains this rather pithy line:

Coastals think they understand firearms because they watched a TV movie about Columbine. Fly- overs get a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday.

Both of us got a chuckle out of that, since we couldn’t think of anyone we knew who got a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday. (I think I was 13 when I got my .22, but it was for Christmas. And for my readers who are not people of the gun, a .22 is way underpowered for deer. I want to say my sister’s boys were 16 and 14 when they got a deer rifle, but I’m not sure that technically qualifies as “theirs” as much as it is “Dad paid for it and loaned it to them so they could go on a youth hunting trip.”)

Anyway, I thought of that when I read this Statesman story:

Dylan Owens got his first gun when he was 12. It was a .30-30 deer rifle that cost $200, and his father taught him to shoot it. He said all the sights were “canted,” meaning the piece used to aim at targets was bent out of alignment.

Mr. Owens is now a deputy with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s office. And he just won a gold medal in the precision/sniper rifle category at the 2016 Texas Police Games.

Owens said he drove to San Angelo on a Tuesday after work, with his Mark 12 special-purpose rifle and no air conditioning. He slept about two hours the night before his competition, when he went in and shot at 1-inch laser points on a human silhouette, in a timed, 20-shot course aimed at precision. He was positioned 100 to 200 meters from his targets.
On a regular day at his ranch in La Grange, he can hit from 600 meters.
Owens also took home a third place prize in patrol rifle, a five-hour course where he ran from bay to bay shooting enemy targets and avoiding friendly fire.

Cool story. Cool guy. I’d love to meet him somewhere with air conditioning and buy him a couple/three frosty beverages of his choice.

Dallas.

Friday, July 8th, 2016

I went to bed pretty early last night (after a frustrating attempt to deal with Wells Fargo) and didn’t find out what was going on until 5 AM this morning. (Great and good friend of the blog RoadRich texted and emailed us, but we were sound asleep when things started breaking.)

I really haven’t even had a chance to look at the news yet, and don’t have any profound thoughts. But I wanted to get something up. Consider this an open thread for discussion and updates.

Dallas Morning News coverage.

Please keep in mind:

In a semi-related vein, this is an interesting thread from Reason’s “Hit and Run”. Part of my answer to this is: the author is asking this question less than 24 hours after the incident took place. All the facts were not in, and probably still are not in even now. Why should the NRA (or any other organization) be making public statements until we have all the facts?

Edited to add: Been tied up. Apologies. The reports I’m seeing now pretty much all state that the dead gunman was killed by a breaching charge attached to a police robot. The temptation is great to make Asimov jokes, but the situation is too serious, so I’ll just link to this Statesman article which quotes the “executive director of a nationally recognized police active-shooter training facility in San Marcos” as stating it was “unprecedented but perfectly legal.”

And an update.

Monday, June 27th, 2016

(Previously on WCD.)

Paul Tanaka was sentenced today.

Five years in federal prison.

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#31 in a series)

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the Bill de Blasio scandal continues to grow.

A while back, I wrote about the suspension of three NYPD deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector, apparently because of their links to two of Di Blasio’s fundraisers.

The other shoe dropped today:

Three New York Police Department commanders, including a deputy chief, were arrested early Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges stemming from one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to court papers.

The NYPD officers are:

  • Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington
  • Deputy Inspector James M. Grant
  • and Sgt. David Villanueva

This is a little confusing for me: the NYT consistently refers to “three commanders”, but one of these guys appears to be a sergeant. Is that a commander rank in the NYPD?

Of these three, Harrington and Grant were among the officers suspended in April. Also arrested: Jeremiah Reichberg, one of the “businessmen” who has been a “generous supporter” of the mayor. Jona Rechnitz, also a “businessman”, “generous supporter”, and apparently Reichberg’s partner in the deal, has taken a plea on corruption charges and now appears to be rolling on the others involved.

The court papers in the case detail lavish gifts the two senior police officials are accused of receiving in exchange for taking official action, including expensive meals, free overseas and domestic trips, and the referral of business to a security company associated with one of the officials. The deputy inspector was also accused of receiving a trip on a private jet to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl weekend in 2013, and was said to be accompanied by a prostitute.

Hookers. Always with the hookers.

The official action taken by the senior officers included closing a traffic lane in the Lincoln Tunnel to provide a police escort for a businessman visiting the United States, dispatching police officers to the area near a jewelry business run by associates of Mr. Reichberg to disperse people handing out fliers for a rival business, and sending officers to disperse protesters in front of the business of an associate of Mr. Reichberg, according to the court papers. One of the officials also helped the men with their applications to get Police Department pistol licenses.

I’m not sure which “official” is being referenced here, but it makes a nice segue anyway: Sgt. Villanueva’s arrest appears to be related to the pistol license scheme.

Court papers unsealed on Monday also disclosed that a police officer who was involved in that scheme had previously pleaded guilty to bribery charges and was cooperating with federal authorities. In that scheme, bribes — as much as $18,000 per gun license — factored into between 100 and 150 gun licenses in recent years, according to the court papers.

$18K for a gun license. Come to Texas, guys: here there’s no license required just to own one, and it’s $140 (plus about another $140 for the required training course) for a license to carry either open or concealed. Of course, it is hot as hell here, but the upside to that is never having to shovel snow.

Obit watch: June 20, 2016.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Donald Shea passed away last Friday at the age of 90.

Mr. Shea served for 36 years with the NYPD. He was perhaps most famous as one of the two patrol officers who captured Willie Sutton.

On that day in February 1952, he was a 26-year-old officer on patrol with a partner, Joseph J. McClellan. A 24-year-old clothing salesman, Arnold Schuster, had alerted the two officers after recognizing Mr. Sutton on the subway and following him out onto the street.

Both Mr. Shea and Mr. McClellan were promoted three ranks on the spot, to first-grade detectives, by Police Commissioner George P. Monaghan, who called the arrest the culmination of “one of the greatest manhunts in the history of the department.”

Mr. Schuster was famously gunned down in the street about a month after the arrest, allegedly on the orders of Albert Anastasia.

Adult supervision needed. Inquire within.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

This one got past me earlier in the week: I was sort of avoiding media because Orlando and stupids, and the Oakland/SF papers aren’t part of my usual daily media diet anyway. And as it turns out, Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man beat me to this as well…

So, followup, for the historical record and folks who don’t read BRM: remember the Oakland PD fired their chief, Sean Whent? So of course they appointed an interim chief.

The interim chief lasted five days.

“I have just received information that has caused me to lose confidence in Ben Fairow’s ability to lead the Oakland Police Department at this particular moment in time,” the mayor said in a statement on Wednesday, announcing Mr. Fairow’s departure. She did not elaborate on specific reasons for her decision.

I’m not trying to seem like Judgy McJudgerson here, but this might potentially be relevant to the mayor’s “loss of confidence”: Fairow apparently had “an affair with a consenting adult while married more than a decade ago”, according to the BART chief (who, by the way, has also “welcomed back” Fairow to the BART PD).

The interim chief was previously a deputy chief for BART. So they brought in a new interim chief, who was currently an Oakland PD assistant chief.

He lasted two days.

Mr. Figueroa said in a statement on Friday that he was taking leave and would return to the department as a captain.

More from SFGate:

In a move in which the mayor indicated she had lost faith in police leaders to run the department, she disclosed that she would not appoint another interim or acting chief to the top post. Instead, the department will have no chief, and for the time being command staff will report to City Administrator Sabrina Landreth as Oakland conducts a national search for a new chief.

“a national search for a new chief”. Hmmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmm. Gee, is there anyone we can think of that’s from California originally, has experience running a police department that’s even larger than Oakland’s, in a city much larger than Oakland, has been going through some friction with local politicians, and might be interested in a change?

Nope. Can’t think of anyone.

(Sarcasm aside, would Art, dammit, Art even be willing to take over this dumpster fire of a department?)

Followups.

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Lawrence’s backlink for my DNA lab post reminded me that I intended to link to this Grits For Breakfast post on the same subject.

More on MP Jo Cox: NYT. The Guardian (current live blog, historical live blog). Express.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr. Mair sent about $620 to the National Alliance for items from its publishing imprint, National Vanguard Books, including works that instructed readers on the chemistry of powder and explosives. Also purchased was a copy of “Ich Kampfe,” a book published by the Nazi Party in the early 1940s.
Heidi Beirich, the director of the center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks and produces reports on extremist groups, said in an interview that it had found the invoices in a database of records it maintains.
When Mr. Mair’s name surfaced on Thursday, Ms. Beirich said, the Intelligence Project matched it with invoices in its possession. She said those records were authentic because they had been leaked by members of the National Alliance. Further, she said, she was confident the records were linked to Mr. Mair because the address on the invoices matched his home address.

You know, I dislike Nazis as much as the next guy or gal, but: does this bother anyone else? The SLPC apparently has a database of people’s book orders that was “leaked” to them? And they, in turn, are providing those records to the press?

Setting aside our individual lack of love for the Nazis, isn’t it possible that there are people on that list – students of modern day extremism, university libraries with collections of extremist literature for reference purposes, etc. – that would object to having their purchases revealed to unrelated third parties?

And where does this stop? Anyone remember the Tattered Cover case?