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Friday, August 14, 2015

Wrapping The Week With A Visit To The Crime Beat  

We wrap the blogging week with a visit to the crime beat. . .

With ABQ's APD under a Department of Justice consent decree to reform, this this NYT piece sent in by readers is of interest:

When the Justice Department surveyed police departments nationwide in 2013, officials included for the first time a series of questions about how often officers used force. . . Obama and his top law enforcement officials have bemoaned the lack of clear answers to such questions. Without them, the racially and politically charged debate quickly descends into the unknowable. The Justice Department survey had the potential to reveal whether officers were more likely to use force in diverse or homogeneous cities; in depressed areas or wealthy suburbs; and in cities or rural towns. Did the racial makeup of the police department matter? Did crime rates? 

If a cop on the street doesn't report he/she used force, it doesn't get counted. No technology or amount of "reform" will change this fact. But when the data was issued last month. . . the figures turned out to be almost useless. Nearly all departments said they kept track of their shootings, but in accounting for all uses of force, the figures varied widely.

Reader Chris comes with a follow-up:

Back when ABQ had a decent Independent Review Officer (meaning [sorta] independent of APD), in 2004, he asked APD to release data on the number of times officers used any kind of force in the line of duty. They sent him a report, that revealed APD cops used force 551 times during the 2004 calendar year. They tackled somebody to the ground nearly 200 times; they used mace or pepper spray nearly 150 times; they Tasered 85 suspects; they punched or kicked 63 people; they delivered 22 baton blows; they sicced dogs on 12 suspects; they killed three people. That's a lot of force. And it most definitely did not accurately reflect the actual number of times officers used force. If a cop on the street doesn't report he/she used force, it doesn't get counted.

Is the public court hearing being conducted this month to determine whether two ABQ police officers will stand trial on criminal charges in the fatal shooting of James Boyd going to become standard procedure? The news:

California this week became the first state to ban the use of secret grand juries when deciding whether to indict police officers in cases of deadly force. The bill, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, was a response to the unrest that followed the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Staten Island, New York, not to indict the officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

"The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system," state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who authored the bill, said in a statement.

The new California law leaves it up to the prosecutor to decide whether to charge a police officer with using deadly force, a change that many hope will lead to more transparency and accountability.

Thanks for stopping by this week.

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