Wednesday, October 17, 2018

We don't talk anymore (police-public contacts down), DPS-TDCJ fingerprint spat, study finds Dallas cops with military backgrounds shoot more, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends of which Grits readers should be aware:

On the pitfalls of recruiting ex-military personnel as urban police
An academic study of shootings at Dallas PD found that police officers who'd served in the military are up to three times more likely to fire their weapons than those who have not. Yikes!

You can't use our fingerprints, get your own!
The Texas Department of Public Safety and Department of Criminal Justice are in a spat. DPS won't give the prison agency permission to include fingerprints for "pen packets" prosecutors prepare when a defendant is sent to prison.

'The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System'
Awesome long form historical perspective on Texas' prison litigation in the 1970-80s from Ethan Watters at Texas Monthly, told through the lens of a romance.

Studying state jail felonies
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition just issued a new report on state-jail felonies that goes on Grits' to-read list.

2/3 say don't arrest indigent Texans for nonpayment of fines/fees
A recent survey by the Texas Office of Court Administration found that 66% of Texans disapprove of jailing defendants over fines and fees when they cannot pay.  Both TX political parties called for ending such arrests in their 2018 platforms

Sweep 'em!
The Houston Chronicle editorial board called for a sweep of all but one Republican misdemeanor-court judges in Harris County after they fought bail reform tooth and nail in the federal courts instead of just fixing the problem. "These excuses are not enough to justify the perpetuation of a criminal justice system that [federal Judge Lee] Rosenthal says has resulted in 'thousands of constitutional violations' of both equal protection and due process." I thought this was a particularly clear-eyed view of the stakes of taking a throw-the-bums-out approach:
We do not make this recommendation lightly. There will be unfortunate consequences that weaken our misdemeanor courts in the short term. Harris County will lose experienced judges. Diversion courts will need new leadership if they are to continue. It’s possible that over the next four years we’ll face different sorts of challenges and scandals in pursuit of a new kind of judiciary. Our star ratings may seem off as we endorse challengers against incumbents with higher scores. But this is about something bigger than individual judges. This is about a criminal justice system in dire need of reform.
A commenter recently pointed out this report from July by the Texas Forensic Science Commission about non-standard-conforming work at the DNA lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center, and their the failure to solve problems with their processes after they became known. See also this site which publishes HFSC quality assurance documents. Recording these links here so I can look at them more closely, later.

We don't talk anymore: Police-public contacts down
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "The portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had experienced contact with the police in the preceding 12 months declined from 26 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015."

How federal justice reform happens in 2018
If the FIRST-Step Act and federal sentencing reform move anytime soon, it may be in the lame duck period after the election.

Now hear this!
Several podcasts I want to listen to soon may also interest Grits readers:
Off topic fun
Somehow, when the fan fiction, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality first came out in serial fashion, chapter by chapter, I got turned onto it and enjoyed it immensely. Eventually, though, thanks in large part to the length of time between installments, I lost track of it somewhere around Chapter 101. Then I ran across the complete, finished product recently on a slicker website and thought I'd share it for anyone looking for a fun diversion. Many of us who work in political realms could use one these days. Count Grits among those whose ready for election season to be over.


Nemo said...

Quick comment on the former military* folks on police forces, Grits. While I haven't read the piece (and so will have missed the mention of same), my first inclination is that the problem isn't military service, per se, but rather the types of formers who gravitate towards the career field.

Perhaps I'm wrong about everything, but I don't think I'm wrong to point out the (probably unintentional) broad-brush the terse language of a roundup post tends towards. Not that I find it very upsetting, mind you.

*Except Marines, since there are no former Marines. I say that having done my Basic at San Antonio, in pursuit of something "loftier", if you will. The temps there in late july and early Aug. were lofty enough, though. Wingnut all the way.

Steven Michael Seys said...

Another problem Nemo failed to mention is that military personnel, such as this Marine, are used to clearly delineated ROE (rules of engagement) upon entering a shoot/no-shoot scenario. Very few modern Law Enforcement agencies have been inclined to make the effort to identify and address these ideas. If you want fewer officer-related fatalities, lay out clear ROE.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm not sure I painted with too broad a brush, Nemo, I just gave the statistic. That doesn't imply that EVERY ex-military will fire their weapon, but the data say they're more likely to do so. Could be an issue of "types," but could also be that the training and approach is incompatible. As per SS, rules of engagement are quite different for the two groups. Transition appears to not be seamless.

Salty said...

Does that statistic take into account that there are likely more LEO with military experience, than not? And they're often preferred for such positions? Just curious and cops, in general, escalate too quickly anyway but I also wouldn't want to be in the position to have to make that decision in what could be life or death. Nothing easy or clear cut about any of it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's not true, Salty. LEO with military experience are 19% (compared with 6% of the population). Tis in the linked article

Anonymous said...

Grits, nt trying to pick a fight here, but "I just gave a statistic" is the sort of thing you have mentioned as being infuriating, when someone's quoting numbers w/o context.

As a basis for propensity of former military members WRT how they behave, regardless of their take on things like the Constitution, when they are employed as police, this reply does not, IMO conform with your usual high standards. It's much the same thinking as he standard reply PDs give, when asked about overpoliceing in certain neighborhoods.

Just because the percentage of police that are former service is higher than in the general population, it doesn't debunk the proposition that certain types of former military seek out police careers. In point of fact, it supports it. I read your stuff, you are smart and tough, including on yourself. I'm confident you will get what I'm saying.

Best regards,


BarkGrowlBite said...

Cops with military service experience shooting more than those who have never served is not necessarily bad. I read the Marshall Project story and it did not state what kind of situations the officers, both veterans and non-veterans, were confronted with. So you exclamation of "Yikes!" may very well be unfounded. Just some more anti-police crap on your part Grits.

Anonymous said...

Bark will always condone the shooting of citizens by lawenforcement in any situation....armed, unarmed, justified or unjustified regardless of the situation. No cop can do anything wrong in his sad.

Oprah, not her said...


Is it "anti-cop" or "pro-citizen" that Grits is in favor of?

"Cops with military service experience shooting more than those who have never served is not necessarily bad," but is it necessarily good?

As Grits stated at 6/29, he just pointed out a statistic. Is it important? Does it need to be addressed?

Maybe "Yikes?" what what you were looking for.

Anonymous said...

BGB Doesn't know what "pro-citizen" means, it's just cops, scum, dirtbags, and human waste in his world.