Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Revenge porn from the DA? ... and other stories

Let's clear a few browser tabs with a quick roundup:

Just Liberty Platform Campaign Update
As results roll in from around the state, Just Liberty's platform project turned out to be even more successful than we thought. Resolutions to implement #cjreform were passed in 17 Republican senate districts and 16 Democratic ones. Most of the Democratic SDs approved all 16 Just Liberty resolutions. And on the Republican side, the Young Republican Federation of Texas endorsed our entire agenda and encouraged their members to champion #cjreform resolutions in their own local conventions. We even created a catchy little jingle to promote the campaign online. Now it's on to the state conventions, where the party platforms will be finally approved and hopefully include our proposals. The process of promoting the resolutions within these party processes has already helped identify new allies around the state, whom we hope in turn will add weight and credibility the legislative push on #cjreform issues in 2019.

Voting case against ex-felon a politicized disgrace
This Tarrant County case of a woman receiving a five year sentence for voting with a felony record is one of the most absurd and politicized abuses of justice I've seen in quite a while (perhaps going back to the roundup after the Twin Peaks Biker Massacre, if we're ranking episodes of prosecutorial overreach).

The DA, discovery, and 'revenge porn'
Speaking of the Twin Peaks Biker Massacre, DA Abel Reyna's office got dinged by a judge for releasing nude photos of a defendant's wife that he had on his phone to the other 176 defendants as part of discovery materials. Critics dubbed the episode a case of "revenge porn," which is a bit far-fetched, but a funny way to frame it. The defendants have all been ordered to delete the images.

'Confessions taken here'
All the high-profile murderers who pass through Williamson County appear to confess to this guy. Or maybe the confidential informant system incentivizes fabricated testimony. You make the call.

Might more ticket writing reduce traffic fatalities?
Corpus Christi has announced a plan to ramp up traffic ticket writing in response to traffic fatalities, although there's at best a tentative and unproven correlation between the two. For example, statewide, Texas has seen traffic fatalities decline during periods when police officers wrote fewer tickets. The correlation between writing more tickets and generating more revenue, by contrast, is much more firmly established.

Texas seeks shorter capital deadlines
Texas is seeking to opt-in to shortened timelines for death penalty appeals, reported Keri Blakinger at the Houston Chronicle, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested it last year. Given the often-poor quality of capital representation under current timelines, it can't be a great idea to squeeze those timelines even further.

14 comments:

Gadfly said...

Soon to be FORMER McLennan DA Reyna, thank doorknobs!

And, to square a circle, let's see some further lawsuits against him after Jan. 1, 2019 when he's a private citizen, please.

Officer Friendly said...

If anyone is interested in studies showing correlations between police traffic enforcement and reduced accidents and/or fatalities, the Texas Transportation Institute-Center for Transportation Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have enough of them to last you a life time or ten. There are other universities, state, and federal groups willing to provide extensive data as well. In fact, Austin PD, Houston PD, and Dallas PD all have free literature you can request that quotes some of the major studies, just be prepared to wait a long time if you ask Houston for it because they took forever.

You can take exception to individual studies or point out the differences between correlation and causation but the amount of quality data makes for a compelling argument. That doesn't mean all traffic enforcement efforts are equal or that they all have public safety in mind but when mayors, governors and the public all demand premium services on a shoe string budget, police chiefs and agency heads have shown to be all too willing to use such efforts as revenue generators. Speaking from the POV of a street officer, I have never once been told to write tickets to make my agency money, nor do we get any perks for writing such tickets. If you believe otherwise, please contact your local sheriffs and police chiefs so I can get my monthly toaster oven or whatever other fantasy prizes you think we are supposed to get. Most of us don't even write many tickets because we're too busy with everything else but when I was assigned to traffic duties, I obtained the department's list of high accident locations and started working them hard.

Steven Seys said...

RE: Confessions taken here.
The practice of using a jailhouse informant to bring testimony of a confession to trial is obviously flawed. If a prosecutor is interested in only justice for the victims he or she will avoid making a deal with a known criminal to get evidence against an alleged perp. But in the rush to get conviction at any cost, the risk of introducing perjury against an innocent person is deemed inconsequential. The only people who count to a DA are the ones who continue to reelect him.

Anonymous said...

So all the news articles about ticket quotas aren't true? You sounded so reasonable, just not truthful.

Officer Friendly said...

Anon 3:52, I can't speak to every news article or what every police agency does but I can speak for my experiences in a large agency. I have never been told to write a certain number of traffic tickets or even a minimum number. Every once in awhile, I'd hear how a single supervisor or commander would be accused of giving such an order by a union official or some officer caught doing nothing day after day. When the truth came out, we'd all be reminded that no quotas existed, the people involved in the matter were either corrected or trained in the law, and then the media would make a mountain out of a molehill.

A patrol officer or deputy are expected to work during their shift. Answering calls for service, checking by with other officers, and sometimes writing a ticket are some of the duties we're expected to engage in. We don't always write the ticket but pulling over drivers observed breaking the law is not a quota and if you drive in this region, you are going to see a lot of that.

Anonymous said...

Officer Friendly, So you have never been in a police agency that participated in the STEP program? If you have been then you're parsing the truth at best, if you haven't then good for you for working in a large agency that didn't have a quota, written or implied.

Officer Friendly said...

Anon 9:32, of course I've worked for a department that applied for and accepted STEP grants. I'm unaware of any large department unwilling to take freely offered money. This might seem like I'm trying to bust your chops but I've never been told, ordered, or threatened with removal from the program for lack of productivity. The numbers expected are so low, it is government work after all, that the supervisors don't even bother to tell us exactly how low they are. I've worked speed and seat belt programs where we're sent out to target rich areas, so rich that my fingers would bleed if I wrote all the violations I observed.

I don't even bother with cars until they are going at least 20 MPH over the limit when working STEP, nor do I write every seat belt violation on that version of the program. The real world would set numbers that I had to keep constantly busy but in these programs, a deputy could write enough in a single hour to cover a full shift. The DWI guys never seem to miss their unstated goals either, the experts telling us how common they are at night in this area. Very few of us working these programs are the hard charging rookies out to impress anyone so if someone told me he couldn't find enough to write in a shift, I'd ride with him for free just to see what he was doing with his time. So if you've been told otherwise, I'd be curious to hear what departments are so unproductive that they need to give illegal quota orders. Maybe their supervisors should look into what they're doing on a shift or the fed can just give my department the money instead.

Anonymous said...

Officer Friendly, again reasonable, but lacking in candor. The STEP program at one time required 4 interactions with the public per hour. That's called a quota, you can justify it by saying that there is no lack of people you can stop, but it's still a quota.

Anonymous said...

PS, Officer Friendly, the program added language in 2016 to say the program was not meant to set quotas. Wonder why.

Officer Friendly said...

Anon 8:19, and presumably all the other times), while most people accept the fact that a quota is generally referred to as writing a specific number of tickets, I'll point out one last time that it was never an issue with me or those I worked with. If other agencies or other divisions openly demanded specific numbers of tickets, interactions, or anything of the kind, I cannot speak to that. In the programs where I worked, I'd be embarrassed to come back at the end of a shift with that few encounters because it only takes five minutes to write a ticket and run someone for warrants, many times the person I stopped was also missing his insurance, had expired everything, etc. Perhaps those I work with had a better work ethic than whoever you dealt with, I can't speak to that since you've continued on the same refrain that we are all the same.

I'm guessing that the language that was added in 2016 was the result of the misunderstandings I spoke of previously, the kind that the media would blow way out of proportion but you can change the language on grants all you like, many of us in the trenches are just going to go out and do our job as expected well enough that the topic never comes up. There will always be lazy people looking for an excuse to stretch the truth but if you're being honest, you can't tell me you don't see a great many people speeding, refusing to wear a seat belt or make sure their kid is in a car seat, or whatever specific violation we've discussed. If you have a question I can answer, go ahead and ask so I can try to answer it but if you just want to keep repeating something that has never applied to me or my workplace, I'll let you have the last word.

Anonymous said...

Officer Friendly,

At no point did I ever say that all police "are all the same", I simple said that quotas did and may still exist. You are correct that a officer shouldn't have any problem getting 4 or more interactions per hour on most highways.....that doesn't change the fact that quotas have existed in many of Texas largest police departments (it's been documented and other police officers have gone on record that quotas existed).

I don't have any questions for you, I only wished to correct your assertion that quotas didn't exist, they have, probably still do.

Officer Friendly said...

Anon, you repeatedly stated that I was being untruthful, parsing, and otherwise was misleading people when all I claimed was how neither I nor those I worked with were given quotas. I further explained that this included a number of tickets or a number of stops when you kept pressing but I also made it crystal clear that I didn't work for every agency not under every supervisor so while the possibility exists, it just hasn't happened to me but you sound like you are equating all officers as being the same when you project a practice that clearly not all have engaged in. This is similar to the assertions my brother in law has made that "every cop is on the take" or "every cop has shot and killed people", I've never seen the former and the latter is impossible given the nationwide statistics. But I've even tried to explain that misunderstanding have been quickly fixed and that individuals can make claims of things that just aren't true or taken out of context, by all means change the wording of laws to prevent these rarities if it makes you feel better, much like the notion of voter fraud or bathroom assaults seems to set off some people despite having almost no cases on record. My career is almost over and I've seen plenty of things that need to be changed where I've worked, other agencies probably have different things in need of repair. It's the assertion that all or most of us do specific things that weakens the credibility of reformists but I made it clear that as long as I've been in the trenches, I cannot speak for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Not too long ago the Texas AG declined to prosecute Ft. Worth officers for false reports based upon the illegal quotas in place. So if you choose to believe quotas are "guidelines", I guess that's your choice.

So far as my believing you on this subject, it's never going to happen.

That's all for me on this subject.

Officer Friendly said...

Anon, the facts are the facts while our individual opinions will always vary. Have a good week, the weather's looking great.