Thursday, February 07, 2019

Re-evaluating SWAT, Corruption alleged in UT-Dallas policing courses, Was Dallas PD staffing shortage spoken into existence?, and other stories

Here are a few browser-clearing odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Corruption alleged in UT-Dallas policing courses
For years, reported the Dallas Morning News, UT-Dallas allowed police officers to enroll for a course, skip all their classes, and walk away with As. Wow. How did anybody ever think this was okay?

Growing critiques of routine use of SWAT tactics
Check out Jessica Pishko's coverage of a dubious Austin SWAT raid. Notably, a study last year found that "Militarization fails to enhance police safety or reduce crime, but may harm police reputation." That observation certainly applies to the recent, botched drug raid in Houston.

Hostility to hiring hundred Harris prosecutors heightened
The Harris County DA's request for 102 new prosecutors is meeting with spirited opposition from local reform groups. Grits opposes such an expansion unless 1) the county approves commensurate, new resources for indigent defense, and 2) the funding pays for caseload reduction, not filing new cases. MORE: Keri Blakinger elaborated on the story in her Twitter feed.

Was Dallas PD staff shortage spoken into existence?
The idea that Dallas needs more police has repeated so often it's now taken as fact, reported the Dallas Observer's Stephen Young, in his excellent lede to a story on DPD officer staffing. The police union in Dallas is touting an officer staffing rate of 3 officers per 1,000 residents, which is FAR higher than most Texas cities. "The national median police staffing level for cities with populations over 500,000 is about 2.1 per 1,000 residents. Houston has 2.22 officers per 1,000 residents; Austin has 1.89; and San Antonio has about 1.4." In Dallas, it's 2.25. There's some evidence that hiring more police officers reduces crime; in fact, it's more effective than a lot of other strategies. But it's also clear that crime has declined decidedly over the last three decades, for a variety of other reasons that have nothing to do with police staffing. We know that because crime continued to go down as police staffing levels stagnated. So any relationship is at best indirect, or crime would have risen as staffing ratios declined.

'How Baylor Happened'
Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon, writing in Deadspin, dissect the Baylor football rape scandals and the permissive culture toward athletes at the university and local law enforcement that tolerated it for too long.

On blaming state government for local decisions
After Grits dissected the Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley's critique of unfunded mandates in the criminal-justice system, showing that local costs rose because prosecutors had tripled prosecutions during an era of declining crime, the editor of the Gainesville Register asked if I'd submit my comments as an extended letter to the editor. I did and they ran here. You're welcome, Judge Brinkley. ;)

For the reading list
Here are links to a few academic articles on topics this blog covers that I'm posting here to read later:


Anonymous said...

Grits, on that Cooke County editorial, do you have any idea how many cases were filed with the district attorney's office by their law enforcement agencies back in 2001? Was the DA's office declining or rejecting a greater percentage of cases at that time than they are now? Before you lay the blame on prosecutors for prosecuting more cases today, it might be helpful to know the data in regard to how many cases they're actually receiving from law enforcement for prosecution. In my experience, very few cases actually originate from within the DA's office. And other than declining, rejecting or dismissing charges after the fact, it's kind of hard for the DA to dictate how the Sheriff, DPS and municipal law enforcement officers exercise their discretion in deciding who to file charges on and put in jail. To me, the only real solution to decreasing the number of criminal charges filed will have to originate with the legislature through decriminalization. Then, and only then, can policy makers really exercise control over the number of cases filed.

Gadfly said...

You know, Stephen Young is getting better and better.

At the same time, Grits, Jim Schutze, long the dean not only of the Observer, but of showing what a good alt-weekly could do with an unbeholden investigative reporter, has been pretty bad lately. Like with his piece on the Houston raid.

Anonymous said...

"How Baylor Happened" reads like a hit piece.

So Baylor generally chose to let the law enforcement investigate accusations of serious crimes instead of following "guidance" illegally promulgated by Obama's DOJ and that's a bad thing?

Surprised you'd link to such nonsense.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Gadfly, that IS bad. He doesn't seem to be aware that there's no evidence the people were heroin dealers. He also misstated the facts and timeline of what happened.

@2:31, that's a mischaracterization of the story. Debates over sexual assault responses in Waco have been heating up for several years, and I'd written last month about their frat president who was (barely) prosecuted. That's the context of giving the link.

@9:39, the Gainesville Register reported the uptick began when the DA began charging trace drug amounts scraped from paraphernalia as felony drug possession, the same way Harris County did for years. If there was an increase in arrests, it appears to have been in the context of the DA changing policy to facilitate them. Also, the DA can decline charges. Agreed on decrim, etc., but that doesn't absolve local officials of responsibility over the areas they control.

Anonymous said...

Mischaracterization? I think not.

The article cites Title IX about 20 times. It mentions the new 2011 Guidance requirements specifically when it claims Baylor slow walked putting a Title IX coordinator in place. It goes on to cite the Pepper Hamilton review and recommendations for compliance which would have been based on Obama's OCR rules.

There is no context provided about the controversy of these rules, that they were a radical departure from statutory requirements of Title IX and that they were promulgated illegally. It was a severe case of regulatory capture by radical activists. Colleges who adopted those rules are being sued in the federal courts and are loosing based on due process violations among others. Nary a mention of these facts is provided. It's a fucking hit piece.

You make a smoke fire claim about Baylor and "sexual assault" but fail to note that the State has specific statutory definition of these crimes.
In the Title IX context it's been redefined so broadly that damn near every adult whose been sexually active has a legitimate claim to both survivor and assaulter.

Yes you wrote about that frat president and you called him a rapist. He was not convicted of rape. I guess you justify that by claiming he was "(barely) prosecuted". Well you left out the part where the prosecutor noted that the accuser's story did not add up. That she had made claims about being drugged but no drugs were found in her system. So perhaps the case was not a good one to take to trial. If two drunk kids have sex are they rapists or survivors? Or does the answer that question simply turn to gender now?

You may want to take a breath and reflect on where you're going with this. I respect your work and that's why I come here. You are generally one of the first to call out well meaning activist and reformers and point to the dire consequences of following their ideas into the criminal justice system.

Eight out of ten Democratic States AGs just signed a letter stating that respondents do not have the right to presumption of innocence in regards to accusations under Title IX. Democratic senators and theirs allies in congress are saying we need to remove due process protections in order to provide "safe spaces" to protect the purity of women. We've seen this before. We know where it takes us. They are playing with fire. The last time they had the good sense to wear hoods.

Megan M. said...

Grits... just because the police don't respond to calls and make reports doesn't mean that crime is going down. Citizen frustration at the lack of a response and their decision to not bother with the police because they "won't respond anyway" does not indicate reduced crime. As someone who experienced 2 bike thefts in the space of 3 days and no police response in either case (and a subsequent recovery of one of the bikes with the help of a sharp eyed neighbor)... I can tell you that Dallas crime is NOT going down.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Megan, the statement that crime declined is based on reported crime. Your perceptions based on your bike theft anecdote don't change the fact that Big D is a FAR less violent place than a quarter century ago, or even a decade ago.

@11:04, I've read all the conservative talking points on Title IX, etc., I just think you're too dismissive of sexual-assault claims and more animated on the question than is justified. Here, I linked to an article with a one sentence referral and you're way too upset about it, making lots of assumptions based on me just providing a link. Maybe you're the one who should "take a breath," you seem a bit on the hypersensitive side.