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How Militarizing Police Can Increase Violence

Does more military gear make cops more likely to act violent?

Long before the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which have brought with them countless images of heavily armored local authorities pointing guns at and firing tear gas and other nonlethal weapons at unarmed protesters, some were disturbed by what Washington Post journalist Radley Balko calls “the rise of the warrior cop” — that is, the increasing tendency of some local police forces to rely on military-style gear and tactics, even in situations that appear devoid of any real threat to officers’ safety.

The story of how this happened and the oftentimes tragic results have been well-told by Balko, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others. In short, there’s been a flood of drug-war and post-9/11 money that has helped outfit police departments, even towns where a single murder is an incredibly rare event, with gear that could help repel seasoned paramilitaries.

What’s less clear is how this gear changes the psychological dynamics of policing and crowd control. Is it true, as many people are arguing online, that “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” — that is, that simply having military gear will make police more likely to act in an aggressive manner toward civilians? How does this change the relationship between police and civilians?

At the most specific level, these questions haven’t been studied empirically. But a great deal of social-psychological research, as well as important anecdotal evidence from law-enforcement specialists themselves, suggests that militarized policing can greatly inflame situations that might otherwise end peacefully.

The so-called “weapons effect” can partly explain what’s going on in Ferguson and elsewhere. The mere presence of weapons, in short, appears to prime more aggressive behavior. This has been shown in a variety of experiments in different lab and real-world settings.

“Theory underlying the weapons effect or similar kinds of phenomena would suggest that the more you fill the environment with stimuli that are associated with violence, the more likely violence is to occur,” said Bruce Bartholow, a University of Missouri social psychologist who has studied the weapons effect. Brad Bushman, a psychologist at Ohio State, agreed. “I would expect a bigger effect if you see military weapons than if you see normal weapons,” he said.

This isn’t just about a link between visual stimuli like guns and violence, however. It also has to do with the roles people adopt, with how they respond to the presence of others who may — or may not — mean them harm. To a certain extent, if you dress and treat people like soldiers facing a deadly enemy, they’ll act like it.

“This process isn’t necessarily good or bad, but depends on the extent to which the more militaristic role fits the situation,” said Craig Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State, in an email. “When it doesn’t fit well, it is likely to lead to more judgment and behavior errors.” Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has studied how police departments outfit themselves, said the dynamic could be particularly dangerous in the context of nonviolent protests like Ferguson (there was rioting and looting earlier this week, but there have also been widespread reports of nonviolent protests being broken up by police aggression).

“Military equipment is used against an enemy,” said Haberfeld. “So if you give the same equipment to local police, by default you create an environment in which the public is perceived as an enemy.” On the other side of these confrontations, this could have a negative effect on protesters. “We live in a democratic country, and we believe that this is our right to go out and exercise the right to [free speech],” she said. “And when you go out there and exercise that right and suddenly you are faced with soldiers — even though these are not soldiers, but police officers looking like soldiers — then something is triggered, definitely.”

Bushman said that meeting nonviolent protests with a militarized response is “really a bad idea. I can’t believe they’re doing it.” “It’s just really bad for the officers because they feel more powerful, more invincible, more militaristic, ready to attack,” he said. “And also, I think it elicits a response from the observers that, hey, this is war, and people become defensive and they have a fight/flight response.” The adoption of masks themselves in a militarized setting, on the part of police or protesters, can also contribute to violence by triggering senses of anonymity and what psychologists call deindividuation. “There’s all kinds of evidence in social psychology that that will lead people to do things that they wouldn’t do if they could be identified,” said Bartholow.

All this militarization, said Bartholow, can be contrasted “against the old kind of beat-cop model where people in the neighborhood know the police officers’ name and he’s kind of everybody’s buddy in a sense.”

Less force, more service

How much of this is applicable in Saskatoon.  The vision for the future of Toronto Police.

“What I see is the traditional model, which has outlived its utility and relevance,” Mukherjee said of a system that has historically relied on uniformed police officers heavily equipped with hardware, where the bulk of training is in use of force.

“The need out there has changed,” he said, adding that 80 per cent of the work police are now called on to do isn’t crime fighting per se. Officers are instead dealing with the safety of young people, domestic violence issues, and people suffering mental health issues.

Mukherjee envisions organizational shifts that could involve hiring youth workers, domestic violence workers and social workers. And that could even include taking guns away from some (or many) police officers.

“My vision of the police organization is it is actually a network of many different services,” Mukherjee said. The human rights facilitator is keenly interested in the approach to policing in the United Kingdom, thought to be at the forefront of innovation.

These are not simple changes.

During Thursday’s interview, Mukherjee noted that two years ago he pushed for zero deaths in police interactions with the mentally ill and was told by top brass it was “impractical.” (In a report released last week, retired judge Frank Iacobucci also called for a goal of “zero deaths,” one of several recommendations Blair said would “gather momentum” and not dust.)

This would be a fascinating discussion to have because I see the Saskatoon Police force working in both ways.  While I am not sure how much value the SWAT assault vehicle they have is, they do have a lot more hardware now than they did before.  How much does a police force need?  How much social work should they be doing?  Interesting questions.

Keith Olbermann on Ray Rice and How the NFL Encourages Violence Against Women

Just watch this.  It doesn’t matter whether you like sports or not, you just need to watch it.  The bad news is that this kind of attitude goes beyond football, if you doubt me, read this sickening account of Floyd Mayweather that Deadspin published.

Sports reduce crime in Chicago

Criminals and police are distracted by sports

Researchers Ryan Copus and Hannah Laquer found that crime in Chicago — violent crime, drug arrests and property crime — all took a nosedive when there was a game on TV between 2001 and 2013.

The study, titled “Entertainment as Crime Prevention: Evidence from Chicago Sports Games,” was inspired by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who, during the 2011 NFL lockout issued this challenge: “Do this research. … If we don’t have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game … [People have] nothing else to do.”

Lewis was mocked by social scientists, police and sports columnists who said there was no data to support the linebacker’s hypothesis that sports games on TV make Americans safer.

But Copus and Laquer, doctoral candidates at the University of California Berkeley Law School, say their research shows Lewis was on to something.

“We think our paper is pretty good evidence that Ray Lewis was right. Lewis claimed that an NFL lockout would lead to higher crime, and we find large decreases in crime during games, and no evidence of short-term increases before or after the game,” Copus said.

The study compared city by-the-minute crime stats during televised NFL, NBA and MLB games and non-game days. (They didn’t include Blackhawks games, but we’ll get to that later.)

“In general, we find substantial declines during games across crime types — property, violent, drug and other — with the largest reductions for drug crime,” Copus said.

The main reason: both criminals and police love sports to distraction.

“Potential offenders are distracted by the game,” Copus said.

“We don’t think other explanations can account for that. So, for example, the fact that potential victims are inside watching the game could explain why we don’t see as much violent crime, but we don’t think it’s a very good explanation for the reductions in property crime.”

And when it comes to game-time declines in drug arrests, Copus said the research suggests that police are willing to wait until after the game to make arrests.

“Police officers might be more lax on a big game day, but it’s hard to rigorously test the theory,” Copus said. “We do see particularly large reductions in drug crime that we think are probably in part due to police officers taking it a little easy on drug crimes during games.”

The researchers didn’t pick Chicago as its test case due to our city’s reputation for shootings that earned the nickname “Chiraq.”

“We ended up using data from Chicago mostly because [police] make their by-the-minute criminal incident reports publicly available. Most cities don’t,” Copus said. “Plus, Chicago is a city known for caring about its sports teams.”

And the sports team Chicagoans collectively care about the most — Da Bears — had the biggest positive effect on crime, especially on Monday Night Football, the study found.

When the Bears won Monday night games, total crime citywide dropped 17 percent. That’s second only to the Super Bowl, which posted a 26 percent decrease in total crime, including a 63 percent dip in drug arrests, according to the analysis.

Has the Zodiac Killer Been Found

A Man Claims the Zodiac Killer Is His Father

For months, dozens of HarperCollins staff — sales, marketing, publicity, and legal — have managed to keep a potentially explosive new book almost entirely quiet. The Most Dangerous Animal of All, by Gary L. Stewart, is being published tomorrow but still has no cover art on the publisher’s website. It hasn’t gotten any press. As of 1:30 p.m. today, its Amazon sales rank was #140,113.

The book’s official plot summary is intriguing, but lacks specifics:

An explosive and historic book of true crime and an emotionally powerful and revelatory memoir of a man whose ten-year search for his biological father leads to a chilling discovery: His father is one of the most notorious-and still at large-serial killers in America.

Not mentioned in the summary: Stewart, a vice-president at a cleaning company in Baton Rouge, alleges that his father was the Zodiac Killer, who is believed to have killed at least five people in Northern California, and famously sent letters and cryptograms to Bay Area newspapers. The murders were never solved.

Stewart reached the conclusion that his father was the serial killer after twelve years of research, Tina Andreadis, a publicist at HarperCollins, told me today.

Approximately fifteen months ago, B.G. Dilworth Agency brought a proposal for the book to HarperCollins’s Michael Signorelli (an editor who has since left for Henry Holt). It was acquired within a week or two, for an amount HarperCollins declined to disclose. “It was a standard acquisition process,” another publicist told me, “except for the NDA.” Stewart was paired with writer Susan Mustafa, a veteran of the true crime genre.

The book — 367 pages, including the index — was vetted by HarperCollins lawyers, including Fabio Bertoni, who is now general counsel at The New Yorker. “Our lawyers felt it was legally sound,” said Andreadis.

I asked if HarperCollins had reached out to the San Francisco Police Department, which investigated the cases. Andreadis said they had not. According to the book, she said, the department “knew more than they’re willing to admit.”

The British do so much cocaine, it shows up in their drinking water

Oh those up tight Brits.

The Illuminati-sounding Drinking Water Inspectorate found traces of the drug’s metabolized form, benzoylecgonine, at four inspection sites, peed out by coked-up Brits and not completely removed during water plants’ “intensive purification treatments.” The scientists also found trace amounts of caffeine, epilepsy medication, and pain-killer ibuprofen.

Steve Rolles, from the drug policy think tank Transform, told The Sunday Times that the findings were an indication of the scale of the use of the drug in Britain today. “We have the near highest level of cocaine use in western Europe,” he said. “It has also been getting cheaper and cheaper at the same time as its use has been going up.”

According to the charity DrugScope, there are around 180,000 dependent users of crack cocaine in England, and nearly 700,000 people aged 16-59 are estimated to take cocaine every year in Britain.

Teen crews linked to 40 percent of NYC shootings

This is a staggering statistic

 There are more than 300 of them in New York — violent crews of dozens of 12- to 20-year-olds with names such as Very Crispy Gangsters, True Money Gang and Cash Bama Bullies.

Police say these groups, clustered around a particular block or housing project, are responsible for about 40 percent of the city’s shootings, with most of that violence stemming from the smallest of disses on the street, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

“It’s like belonging to an evil fraternity,” said Inspector Kevin Catalina, commander of the New York Police Department’s gang division. “A lot of it is driven by nothing: A dispute over a girl or a wrong look or a perceived slight.”

The trend of smaller, younger crews has also been seen in Chicago and Northeast cities over the last few years as police have cracked down on bigger, more traditional gangs, experts said. While the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings still exist, operating such money-making schemes as drug dealing, their members are usually older and understand the timeworn mantra of organized crime: violence is bad for business.

Not so for the crews, whose recklessness prompted former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in 2012 to launch an initiative to confront the crews dubbed Operation Crew Cut.
Investigators now focus on gathering intelligence about specific crews — understanding their activities, allegiances and feuds, which they glean through traditional street policing and trolling of social media sites, cellphone photos and even recorded jailhouse calls.

Police have also stepped up arrests of the most active crew members. In Manhattan, prosecutors set up an internal email alert system that notifies them when crew member are arrested, even on minor charges, and provides beyond-the-rap-sheet details for bail arguments. The prosecutor might mention that the person was a suspect in another crime or had made threats on Facebook, for instance.

In a recent case in Harlem, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. says a 2009 killing kindled years of vendetta attacks, including three killings and 30 shootings. Sixty-three people were rounded up, and at least 62 entered guilty pleas, including crew members so young that one told another to “mob up” after school.

“The evidence was very powerful,” said Robert Anesi, who represented a 19-year-old who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy charges in the case last week. “They had such access to social media and they knew who the players were.”

NYPD statistics show gang arrests are up citywide nearly 14 percent from 2013 — and more than 28 percent from two years ago. Shooting incidents citywide are about the same as they were last year, with 282 recorded so far, and are down by nearly 23 percent from two years ago.

Still, crew-related violence persists despite record dips in overall crime in New York City over the last few years. The most notable recent case came in March when investigators say a 14-year-old member of the Stack Money Goons shot a .357 revolver at a rival member of the Twan Family on a crowded bus in Brooklyn. The bullet instead killed an immigrant father who was working two jobs to support his family.

“When you ask young adults, ‘Why? Why did you shoot that young man?’ Probably 80 percent of the time the answer is: He disrespected me,” said Kai Smith, an ex-con-turned-businessman who runs a gang-diversion program in city high schools.

And in this version of reality

Saskatoon lawyer Morris Bodnar says that the Hells Angels are not a criminal organization

Morris Bodnar, who has represented Hells Angels in Saskatchewan, said the idea of such a blanket declaration is just “posturing” by the provincial government.

“This has nothing to do with justice; it has to do with politics,” Bodnar said in an interview Friday.

“They don’t have to protect the public from Hells Angels. Hells Angels are very seldom in trouble.”

Bodnar has repeatedly disputed that the Hells Angels are a criminal organization. He said a small number of members may be involved in drug dealing or violence, but they are acting as individuals and are often expelled from the organization if they are caught up in the law.

Manitoba sees it differently

Why the gang fits the bill as a criminal organization:

  • Evidence from numerous Canadian trials shows the Hells Angels are structured to ensure conformity to their rules, prevent infiltration by rivals and police and to maintain an effective criminal network. Courts have found that chapters are not independent entities but instead conform to rules and work collectively to meet the broader objectives.
  • Membership in the Hells Angels consists of full patch members, prospective members, hang-arounds, official friends, and associates.
  • Full-patch members seek to insulate themselves from police and rivals by using subordinate members and associate gangs to commit crimes and protect gang assets. Membership is an incremental process over years to test a recruit’s loyalty and prevent infiltration by police or rival gang members. Internal Hells Angels records show that photos and information about potential new members are distributed across the country to try to identify unwanted members.
  • The colours of the Hells Angels are formed by the term “Hells Angels,” the club’s death head logo and red and white lettering. These items have been trademarked in numerous countries. Only a full-patch member can wear the Hells Angels logo and vote on club issues and strategies. Courts have noted the “power of the patch” worn by the Hells Angels, since it has been used to intimidate and create fear from the public and gang rivals. As a result, some courts have declared items displaying these identifying colours to be forfeited as offence-related property.
  • Clubhouses are the base for each Hells Angels chapter. Courts have found they are generally fortified and equipped with security measures. Courts have ordered Hells Angels clubhouses forfeited as instruments or proceeds of crime in Ontario (Toronto, Thunder Bay and Oshawa), Halifax and Quebec. Several other clubhouses, including one in Winnipeg, have been seized pending criminal property forfeiture applications. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also used provincial laws to order the removal of fortifications from Hells Angels clubhouses as they are a public safety threat.
  • Hells Angels and their associate groups have been found with counter-surveillance equipment designed to detect police listening devices, sensitive justice documents on gang rivals and information about police investigators.
  • The Hells Angels use subordinate “puppet” criminal organizations to commit crimes and advance their interests. This also helps to identify potential new members of the Hells Angels. For example, several members of one of the Manitoba Hells Angels’ support clubs, the Zig Zag Crew, have moved up to become full members. Gang wars in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario have highlighted the roles played by these associate groups. Manitoba’s Zig Zag Crew and Redlined gangs have been convicted for drug and other crimes in support of the Hells Angels.
  • Courts in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have found the Hells Angels to be a criminal organization in dozens of individual criminal prosecutions. Hells Angels have a long record of violence in Canada including the murder of two justice officials in Quebec in 1997, a gang war with the Rock Machine in Quebec that resulted in an estimated 150 murders over the course of a decade, and extensive drug trafficking and related crimes in Manitoba.

Lord Conrad Black is stripped of his Order of Canada

Conrad Black is stripped of his Order of Canada

Conrad Black, who was convicted in the U.S. and served a prison sentence there, has been removed from the Order of Canada effective immediately, says the Governor General.

Black has also been stripped of his honorary position in the Privy Council of Canada, at the recommendation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The announcement came in a terse release by Gov. Gen. David Johnston late Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Governor General, Marie-Pierre Belanger, says an advisory council met Friday afternoon to make its recommendation to Johnston.

The council’s members include the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, and Wayne Wouters, the clerk of the Privy Council, Canada’s top public servant.

Friday’s announcement means Black can no longer attach the initials O.C., and P.C., to his name. Belanger also said Black must return the insignia of the order.

“The insignia of the Order of Canada remain the property of the Order at all times,” she said.

“They are presented in trust to members of the Order, as a visible sign of their appointment and a mark of esteem. When an appointment ends, whether through death or through an ordinance made by the Governor General, the insignia reverts to the Order.”

You know what upsets me.  After he lost his business empire, spent millions on lawyers, and was sued for whatever is left, Black still has a much higher net worth then yours truly.

10,912 gun deaths since Newtown

From Slate.  It’s a horrific info graphic.

In Kennedy’s Death, a Turning Point for a Nation Already Torn

From the New York Times

The New York Times

The best-selling nonfiction book when he was killed was Victor Lasky’s “J.F.K: The Man and the Myth,” a dubiously researched jumble of smears and innuendo, including the stale rumor that Kennedy, an observant Catholic, had suppressed a previous marriage to a Palm Beach socialite. The book was briefly removed from circulation by its publisher, Macmillan, after Kennedy’s death.

Kennedy hatred was deepest, perhaps, in the South, where civil rights battles had grown increasingly tense. “White violence was sort of considered the status quo,” Diane McWhorter, who grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and is the author of “Carry Me Home,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the racial unrest of 1963, said recently.

“There had been so many bombings that people had accepted it,” Ms. McWhorter said. But in May, the city’s blacks struck back, attacking the police and firefighters and setting several businesses on fire. In September, only two months before Dallas, white supremacists in Birmingham planted a bomb in a black church, killing four young girls.

Kennedy himself was a reluctant supporter of civil rights legislation, but when at last he called for it, many Southern whites were enraged.

“I was in my gym class at the Brooke Hill School for girls,” Ms. McWhorter recalled. “Someone came in and said the president had been shot, and people cheered.”

What it is like to buy heroin in Chicago

The ritual of buying is just as exciting as the shooting up.

The fact is, and I don’t care who tries to dispute this, that a majority of the people who make the daily migration to the West Side to cop blows are as addicted to the ritual of copping dope as they are to the dope itself. It is an adrenaline rush no different than those achieved by people who jump out of airplanes. And dope fiends get to experience it every day.

A neurologist named Marc Lewis recently wrote an excellent book about how the addicted brain functions, “Memoirs of an Addicted Brain.” Written by a former junkie, the book offers cutting-edge explanations of how drugs, and a subsequent lack of drugs, work on the brain. Dr. Lewis goes chapter by chapter telling stories such as how he used to have unrestricted access to huge jars of pure morphine as a young medical student in the days before modern controls on these chemicals. And just as he is getting to a really funny or interesting part about the time his girlfriend took so much LSD that she thought she was a kitten, he digresses into a fascinating explanation of how the external chemicals are causing the brain to release, or block the reuptake of, certain neurotransmitters. It makes for really good reading, especially if you’re a junkie.

I came to realize that every time I exited the West Side with drugs in hand and my body and freedom intact, a highly gratifying rush of dopamine flooded my brain. Now imagine this everyday occurrence: you are on West Monroe, a block you know to be highly volatile. You are there to buy, say, fifty bucks worth of dope. You turn the corner onto Monroe from Pulaski. A Crown Victoria—the classic police car—slowly glides up the street, turns and disappears. The block seems empty, although you know of one or two abandoned buildings that the shorties sometimes use. You also see a few of them standing at the corner of Monroe and Karlov. This is relevant for a white person like me, because the goal is to stay as close to Pulaski as possible, so you can cop your dope, and then melt back into the foot traffic on Pulaski, a main thoroughfare. But today you see that you’re going to have to walk all the way down to Karlov. You sigh and start walking. The same Crown Victoria suddenly glides from behind you again, and then slowly disappears again. This has you on edge. Shit, it has you downright petrified. And as you get closer to the shorties standing at Karlov, you can just sense that they are on edge too.

The Best Bike Lock

Eric Hanson of Outside Magazine took a look at the best bike lock that money can buy.

Kryptolock bundle

The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.

But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.

Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward. Known by many as the “Sheldon technique,” it involves placing a u-lock through the frame and rear wheel. When a bike is going to be left unattended for a long time or in a crime-ridden area, a cable lock can be added to grab the front wheel and seat, further discouraging a thief. If a person really wants to thumb his nose at the criminal set and doesn’t mind searching for smaller objects to lock to, then he can use the Sheldon technique with a small u-lock instead of the standard size. Small locks leave little room for thieves to insert crowbars or bottle jacks or any number of tools that can bust open a lock.

Hal Ruzal, the dreadlocked cofounder of the NYC bike shop Bicycle Habitat, uses the Sheldon technique to lock an $800 bike with a $100 lock. Using a lock that expensive on a bike that cheap is overkill, but his results are impressive. After putting some 350,000 miles under his tires, predominantly in New York City over the last 30 years, he has had only one bike stolen, when he used an un-hardened chain lock instead of a u-lock.

Indeed, just the sight of a properly used u-lock is usually enough to deter thieves, sending them down the street where they’ll find an equally-nice bike locked with nothing but a chintzy cable, or a bike with a wheel that’s not secured, or a bike locked to a piece of scaffolding that can be unbolted, etc. In the words of Brad Quartuccio, editor of Urban Velo magazine: “Locking technique is more important than how much you spend on a lock.”

If you are a cyclist, the entire article is worth reading.

How a Convicted Murderer Prepares for a Job Interview

The challenges those that have been incarcerated having in finding a job

In prison Angel thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to find a job once he got out. He believed he had come a long way. At eighteen he hadn’t been able to read or write. He wet his bed and suffered from uncontrollable outbursts of anger. At forty-seven he had studied at the college level. He told me he had read several thousand books. He earned numerous certificates while incarcerated—aVocational Appliance Repair Certificate, a Certificate of Proficiency of Computer Operator, a Certificate in Library Training, an IPA (Inmate Program Assistant) II Training Certificate, and several welding certifications—but in the outside world these credentials counted for little.

“Irrelevant,” Angel said. “They might as well be toilet paper.”

Saskatoon Afternoon’s 5:15 p.m. Roundtable

Broadcasting from 650 CKOM with David Kirton and Ian Goodwillie on the Saskatoon Afternoon show.  We talk Nigel Wright and a teen arrested for a ill-worded Facebook post.

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