Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bail shenanigans, and other stories

Let's round up a few stories that merit Grits readers' attention and simultaneously will clear some of my browser tabs:

Bail shenanigans
Meagan Flynn's deep dive on the Harris County bail system is a must read. Between this and the Texas Tribune's coverage, the machinations by judges to undermine the federal court ruling, bordering on outright sabotage, become painfully apparent. Were it me, I would not choose to thumb my nose at a federal judge in quite that way. See coverage here, here, and here of a hearing this week calling Harris misdemeanor judges on the carpet.

Clear ruling from out of the fog
More on this soon, but see initial Statesman coverage of a Court of Criminal Appeals ruling holding that an officer conducted an illegal stop when the defendant was pulled over for his tire allegedly touching the "fog line" separating the right lane from the shoulder of the road.

Koch 💘 #cjreform
The Charles Koch Foundation is investing heavily in criminal justice reform, including in Texas.

New TX public defender emerging
Grits hadn't paid much attention to the creation of the Far West Texas Public Defender covering 10 rural counties. The Texas Indigent Defense Commission financed the project last fall, and it was just getting set up last fall.

Mental health, small jail grants
Another story I haven't been tracking closely is the dispersal of new mental health grant approved by the Lege last year. See a letter to counties by the bill authors, who also pitched to counties a new grant stream at the Commission on Jail Standards for jails with fewer than 96 beds to purchase tech.

Justifying more police in an era of declining crime
Recently, the New York Times pointed out that, despite crime plummeting in the last three decades, the number of police has not declined, wondering aloud, as if for the first time, whether they should. So it's in that context that Grits reads the Houston Chronicle headline, "As crime drops, police chief says HPD needs thousands more on the force." This is preventive excuse making. If crime goes down, Chief Acevedo will surely take credit. But if it goes up, he will say it's because he didn't get his officers, even though the number of index-crimes-per-officer is near its 30-year nadir.

Tarrant jail use study
For my own future reference, here's a link to a recent Tarrant County Jail Use study.


Gadfly said...

Dallas County is now also being sued for its bail system.

BarkGrowlBite said...

On "Justifying more police in an era of declining crime"

Scott, let's get real. The police can do little about reducing crime other than catching crooks and making sure they are kept locked up. A criminal in jail is one less criminal on the streets.

By having a heavy patrol presence in high crime areas, the police may be able to reduce burglaries somewhat. Most other crime, especially assaults and murders, cannot really be prevented by the police.

'Broken Windows' and stop-and-frisk operations in New York did help reduce crime, but because those operations impacted minority communities disproportionately, they are now verboten.

So the crime rate is going to go up and down regardless of a police presence.

And you are right about Arcevedo ..... If the crime rate goes down he'll brag about what a wonderful job HPD is doing and if it goes up he'll say it's because he doesn't have enough cops.

Having said that though, Arcevedo is right about needing more cops. With a growing population and countless requests for police services, HPD does not have enough cops to answer even some reported felonies. Asking for 1,000 more cops is not unreasonable for the city of Houston.

The bottom line is that crime rates should not determine the number of cops on the force! The ability to respond to all calls in a timely manner should be the determining factor.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Since they stopped stop and frisk in NYC, BGB, crime has fallen. You're just wrong about broken windows, empirically.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Sorry Scott, but you're the one that's wrong. Read:


Authors: John A. Eterno and Eli B. Silverman
Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2012. 282p.

That study and subsequent studies have shown NYPD manipulated its crime stats to show the city in a favorable light. Even after being exposed by Eterno and Silverman they continued to do so. For instance, rapes were reported as "illegal entry" and that's no joke.

A careful look at 'broken windows' and stop-and-frisk tactics shows they worked, but you liberals just refuse to believe that because the impacted minorities disproportionately.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

But they were manipulating the IN THE SAME WAYS before and after stop and frisk ended. Even if I grant your view on manipulating data (and I don't, in the past you've way overstated it) the evidence from the end of stop and frisk is that crime didn't increase.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Of course crime didn't increase what with the NYPD brass continuing to manipulate the crime statistics.

Scott, let's stop butting heads over this and get back to whether or not we should have fewer cops.

As I said earlier, the bottom line is that crime rates should not determine the number of cops on the force! The ability to respond to all calls in a timely manner should be the determining factor.

Anonymous said...

So, you think it's reasonable to stop and frisk 600,000 people, nearly all minorities, to arrest 50,000 on mostly ticky tack misdemeanors? How do you think the police are seen by young men who have been put up against a wall or on the ground for no real reason? Stop and frisk was, and is, bad policing.

Anonymous said...

More or fewer cops is largely a function of what people are willing to pay for versus the need to re-examine policies that force the need for more/less employees. Acevedo wants 2000 cops but the manpower report the city of Houston commissioned several years back that he uses never said the city needed any such amount. It merely pointed out given existing city policies, adding certain numbers of cops to particular tasks would help with bottlenecks.

Since that report came out, Houston largely stopped enforcing drug laws, at least the kind that comprised the bulk of arrests made for years, and the city is about to get out of the jail business altogether which saves 350 positions all by itself. If Acevedo merely wants more cops available to get lap dances from minors under the pretext that a trained individual with photographs and detailed descriptions can't identify a 16 year old girl when within an inch of her grinding on his lap, I don't think many will agree with the need for more. If the need is generated by the increasing number of administrative personnel that do nothing of substance except act as spin doctors for captains, assistant chiefs or their own PR department, maybe some reductions are needed. Houston has increasingly embraced a philosophy of de-policing so lets adjust the number downward until their arrests and reports reflect a greater need.

And if answering calls for help is the priority, stop letting massive numbers of cops dodge calls by going with other officers on mundane calls, many nowhere to be found where they claim to be, or taking far too long to finish with basic calls to milk them for longer dinner breaks or personal errands. In short, clean up all the existing problems before a penny more is going to be spent, a great many reforms should be considered given pay contract talks are about to start up. Like Austin, now is the time to demand needed reforms, some of them can address those longstanding policies that offer no benefit to the public.