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A Learnable Moment

Monday, January 19th, 2015

It used to be called “the Blue Flu.”

Cops, in the course of union negotiations, would deliberately slack on the job, or falsely call in sick (the “flu”) . . . just to get more moolah out of union contract negotiations.

Betraying a not wholly dissimilar epidemiology, New York’s finest have cut back on citations and arrests. According to a New York Times report, for “two consecutive weeks, New York City police officers have seemed to sit back, ignoring minor offenses and parking transgressions so completely that only 347 criminal summonses were written in the seven days through Sunday, down from 4,077 in the same period a year ago.”

This doesn’t seem union-directed, but a spontaneous result of the brutal police shootings that followed mass protests against police abuse . . . and seeming support for the protester’s critique from true-blue, left-leaning Mayor Bill de Blasio.

There is much apprehension about the police laggardness, of course.

But there is some jubilation, too, as folks receive fewer parking tickets. It’s mighty difficult to park in the Big Apple; a lot of folks appreciate the reprieve, however temporary.

The rap on the NYPD — and for that matter, police across the country — has regarded over-policing: enforcing the rulebook so aggressively that it becomes harassment. That sort of policing is counter-productive, leading to the current unrest, for instance.

Maybe we can learn something from this experiment in less policing.* We might discover that, in a lot of neighborhoods, less can be more.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* According to recent reports, city government and police officials are trying to crack down on the breakout of police restraint. Regardless of future efficacy of these efforts, inquiry into the results of the inadvertent experiment remain worthwhile.

Time to Drop Charges

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Annette Bosworth is a medical doctor. She’s also a political neophyte, last year having sought the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate in South Dakota.

She lost. Which is not surprising.

But the next day, she was arrested on twelve counts of election fraud and perjury. She awaits a Feb. 3 trial facing an incredible 24 years in the hoosegow — and, not insignificantly, the loss of her medical license if convicted.

Is Bosworth some sort of threat?

Here’s the story: She gathered ample signatures to earn a spot on the ballot, some at her medical office. During the petition drive, however, she went to the Philippines for two weeks to help victims of a typhoon.

According to dates on the petitions, 37 people signed when Dr. Bosworth was saving people and not in South Dakota. Yet, she signed as the circulator, stating she witnessed the signatures being affixed.

To the guillotine!

Bosworth had asked her campaign attorney if she needed to get those 37 folks — whom she knows, one being her sister — to re-sign. She was advised that she didn’t.

Attorney General Marty Jackley insists Bosworth’s crimes are “serious, deliberate and must be addressed in order to preserve the integrity of our elections.”

Calling such haphazard signature petitioning “commonplace” in South Dakota, former state senator Gordon Howie explains that “during the frenzy of political seasons, MANY (and I do mean MANY) South Dakota politicians circulate petitions and sign as circulators when they are not ‘in the room.’”

Let’s you and me ask* the AG to do the right thing: drop the felony charges.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


 

* Here is contact information for Attorney General Marty Jackley:

Ask him to do the right thing. Please drop all felony charges against Dr. Annette Bosworth.

Phone: (605) 773-3215

Email: atghelp@state.sd.us

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/MartyJackley

Official Contact page on AG’s website

Rand Paul Raises Banner

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Last weekend, 60 Minutes offered up a fascinating profile of outgoing Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma). Coburn has prostate cancer, and is leaving Washington for his home state before his term is up.

My trouble with the segment? It didn’t mention Coburn’s views on term limits, or make any point about him leaving early, other than, well, cancer. But it is worth mentioning that many, many politicians die in office. Coburn retains enough of his views to exit the political stage at an appropriate time.

He’s not clinging on to power as if he were Gollum at the Crack of Doom.

Thankfully, not all of Coburn’s projects will languish. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is planning to re-introduce a piece of legislation that Coburn had developed, a plan to halt the federal practice of sending “military-grade equipment to local police departments.”

It’s a typically Coburn-esque notion.

Though Occupier folks may have some trouble understanding where Coburn is coming from, or in what direction he wishes the country to go, Coburn’s Tea Party constituencies get the idea. And, if they had misunderstandings, Rand Paul made the limited-government perspective clear in August with his Time op-ed arguing against the militarization of America’s police forces.

The revived bill will still allow (too much) federal taxpayer money go to local departments. But it will (fortunately) stop the distribution of “vehicles and weapons used by the U.S. armed forces” to police.

No better tribute to Tom Coburn could be found than Rand Paul’s taking up his banner on this important issue.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Gun Nuts

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

“Gun violence is as serious as the Ebola virus is being represented in the media,” says Beloit, Wisconsin, Police Chief Norm Jacobs, “and we should fight it using the tools that we’ve learned from our health providers.”

Hmmmm, I immediately wondered what tools used against Ebola could possibly be used against “gun violence.” Will police don Hazmat suits? Should we quarantine criminals who shoot and kill people? (Well, more on that shortly.)

No, the Beloit Police Department is launching a new program asking city residents to voluntarily permit officers to search their homes for guns.

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, Chief Jacobs wants to “encourage people to think about gun violence as an infectious disease like Ebola, and a home inspection like a vaccine to help build up the city’s immune system.”

Yes. He actually said that.

Perhaps the chief is a little overwhelmed. More than 100 murders have been committed this year in Wisconsin using a gun. That’s a problem, for sure — whether a gun is involved or not, though. But searching the homes of law-abiding folks isn’t any sort of solution.

What seems most statistically significant is the fact that 93 percent of those accused of committing these murders have a prior arrest record, as do the 94 percent of Badger State victims of gun violence.

Pretending that the problem is not criminals, but, instead, firearms “hiding” in the homes of the law-abiding? A gross misdiagnosis.

And deadly . . . stupid.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Keep Your Money

Friday, December 5th, 2014

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

So says Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin to President Barack Obama.

In response to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and its aftermath, and then the non-indictment of the officer involved, and its aftermath, President Obama requested that Congress fund a new $263 million Justice Department spending package. Part of the spending, a total of $75 million, would put federal dollars toward outfitting 50,000 local policemen with body cameras.

Rep. Tom McMillin, a Rochester Hills Republican, has introduced House Bill 5970 to require all gun-toting state and local police in Michigan to wear body cameras. The legislation would mandate that video footage be destroyed within weeks except in cases where police use force, make an arrest, a complaint is filed or a request is made by a citizen.

McMillin thanks Obama for supporting the idea of body cameras, but the state rep argues that “providing body cameras to state and local police officers in Michigan isn’t a proper role of the federal government,” adding: “We could figure out how to pay for it here in Michigan.”

“Frankly, the feds have put me and my kids in enough debt,” he says, “I wouldn’t want them adding to it.”

Great point. Plus, the federal government really doesn’t have to pay for every single thing that happens in this world.

I’ve advocated the cameras, calling them “justice vision.” Where tried, the video system has served to protect citizens and police and improve public confidence.

But doing the right thing in our hometowns doesn’t require a Washington bribe.

That’s Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Against Protester Brutality

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Most people agree about the wrongness of police brutality, if not about whether a particular police action is an example of it.

But what about protester brutality? Again, most oppose it. Still, skeptics on this point have been particularly loud and insistent lately. Some even suggest (or scream) that violence against the innocent is fully justified if that’s what it takes to protest injustice.

But the existence of police brutality does not justify protester brutality, protester vandalism, protester indifference-to-evidence, or any other violence or irrationality.

The grand jurors in Ferguson were not dealing with injustice in the abstract, but with a particular incident and the relevant evidence. They were not asked to determine whether police ever wrongly shoot or kill, but whether there was evidence that a particular officer had done so, enough to justify a trial. Even assuming legitimate grounds to disagree with their conclusion, too many commenters declaim as if the evidence is irrelevant and the jurors’ motives not possibly honest. The man had to be indicted regardless.

Of course, had Officer Wilson been tried, on this assumed-guilty approach only one outcome would have then been deemed acceptable, regardless of evidence: conviction. Absent that conviction, violence against the innocent would still have been rationalized.

No injustice is properly fought by either sweeping aside facts or by attacking the innocent in the name of protecting the innocent. If we ignore the requirements of justice in order to advance a Cause, how can that Cause be justice?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Cause of Death in Utah

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Utah is the happiest state in the country — we’re told. Though the state does have high suicide rates, those might be explainable in biochemical terms, neatly enough. So what are we to make of the Beehive State’s disturbing pattern in other-person homicide?

Police shootings dominate the stats:

A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahns kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.

And, as the Tribune explains: “so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.”

The article goes on to talk about police training and other important issues surrounding police use of deadly force, but the long-term trends and are not clear.

We know that violent crime is going down in the country. Are police shootings going up, or have they merely remained stable against the rest of the violence?

Such issues were not addressed in the article. And over at Reason, Anthony L. Fisher brings up the fundamental problem: “This article serves as a useful reminder that there is no national database of shootings by police, and save for a few journalists, academics and sports websites, no efforts to create one.”

The issue is vital, for we give a lot of power to police personnel. And power can corrupt them as much as anyone else. But until we have better information, the big picture remains far too fuzzy.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.