Monday, September 16, 2019

Police shootings, jailhouse snitches, and debunking anti-bail-reform arguments

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

Federal judge debunks anti-bail reform arguments from Harris DA
Federal District Judge Lee Rosenthal, a George W. Bush appointee, approved the bail-reform settlement in Harris County over objections from District Attorney Kim Ogg. See coverage from The Appeal  and Houston Public Media. The judge's order address the DA's objections specifically, and IMO decisively.

Bail-reform injunction issued in Galveston
Another federal judge issued an injunction against Galveston County requiring reform of their bail system. The judge would  require the county to provide counsel for indigent felony defendants at their initial bail hearing. By contrast, the Harris County case only involved misdemeanor cases. See the Texas Tribune's coverage.

Speaking for the defense: The only time prosecution theories are excluded from crime stories is when police officers are accused
I have never seen a major newspaper run an article promoting ONLY defense-attorney theories prior to the trial of a murder defendant, except when the defendant is a police officer. Then, we get stories like this one from the Dallas Morning News explaining why a jury should acquit former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger for killing Botham Jean in his home.

'Excited delirium' is still not a real thing
Speaking of Big D cops, Dallas DA John Creuzot told an audience last week that his office chose not to indict the cops who killed Tony Timpa because one of them patted him on the back and tried to comfort him after kneeing him in the back and mocking him as he lay dying. Creuzot said Timpa died of "excited delirium," which he apparently thinks is a real condition that can be treated with Xanax. But regular readers know that's a fake diagnosis that is only ever assigned to people who die in police custody. The Washington Post has reported that the diagnosis appears in no medical textbooks outside of training materials for medical examiners.

Gap in TX jailhouse snitch reporting system cited
Texas' 2017 statute requiring Texas prosecutors to keep records on their use of jailhouse snitches and report snitch's history to the defense made an appearance in this Washington Post story on jailhouse informants. However, the article noted, "Although Texas and other states are now tracking the use of informants, county prosecutors are keeping the records and only Connecticut will be keeping a statewide system, Innocence Project lawyers said. One problem, they said, is prosecutors in one county may not know about an informant’s testimony in other counties." In addition to the 2017 statute, Texas in 2009 required corroboration to secure a conviction based on jailhouse informant testimony, and in 201 the Lege required corroboration for informants in drug cases.

Reminder: Lying snitches need prosecutor collaborators to do harm
Speaking of informants, prosecutors failing to disclose a deal with a snitch in George Powell's prosecution for armed robbery - along with flawed and unproven forensic evidence - contributed to his conviction being recently overturned. The informant lied on the stand and prosecutors failed to correct the misstatements, the courts found. Now, the Bell County DA wants to retry Powell, and defense attorneys want his office removed from the case because of the alleged misconduct.

Lessons on policing, poverty, and racial discrimination
This analysis of policing, poverty and racial discrimination at the Tulsa (OK) PD includes lessons applicable in virtually every American police department.


Anonymous said...

Excited delirium is a real thing, and the Washington Post's article claiming otherwise is more indicative of writer bias than facts.

EMS and emergency medical departments have protocols for dealing with it, which is a strong indication that many medical professionals recognize it is a serious and real issue, and law enforcement has been getting trained for years to recognize it and deal with.

While some narcotics can be a strong initiating factor, it can also occur from a prolonged excited mental state as well, and has been documented as far back as the 1800s. As explained to me by medical professionals, when someone gets into an excited state for several hours or days, whether it is from drugs, mental illness or a combination of both, the increased heart rate causes significant strain on the heart and causes electrolyte imbalances in the heart musculature that can lead to the heart stopping. This has nothing to do with what, if any, force or weapons police use on someone, although a protracted struggle with police makes death a more likely outcome.

I have personally seen it on a number of occasions; thankfully, nobody died, but that is most likely because the people responding to those incidents recognized it from their training and applied appropriate protocols.

In many of these incidents that I observed, there was also no use of force by police. So it isn't a "police issue," it's more of a "police have to deal with difficult things issue," which is true of so many things in life.

Even with better training and protocols, people will inevitably die from this, and it will usually not be the police officers' fault. Although sometimes it might be, and sometimes lack of training or failure to adhere to training may be a contributing factor.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dis the Post if you like, but whenever journalists investigate it, their findings are pretty consistent. It's a diagnosis only available to medical examiners, not doctors who attend the living.

If you have examples of an "excited delirium" case that did not involve police use of force, please provide one/some. I only ever see it from people trying to claim a death is "not ... the police officers' fault," as you do here. But if there are counter-examples that can be documented (beyond an anonymous commenter saying "I saw one") pls provide them.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Scott, as usual you are displaying your hatred of the police in your response to Anon 7:55. In your warped uber-left mind, the only good cops are dead cops. I try to keep an open mind, but there's no way you can convince me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Cognitive dissonance much?

Anonymous said...

Grow up bark...your problem is that you can't stand any kind of criticism against cops.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon 10:39, you are the one that needs to grow up. I have no problem with bad cops being criticized. I do have a big problem though with the constant hatred of the police that is expressed in many comments on GFB.

One of the most hideous comments about the police was the one 'Oil Lease' made recently when he wrote: "I've seen countless outright murders by them on people who hadn't even committed a crime but they took offense to. They have become a murderous lot."

While most comments are not that extreme, 'Oil Lease' does reflect the thinking of many Grits followers. Anon, it's the hatred of the police that I can't stand.

Anonymous said...

Actually bark I have seen videos of cops gunning down unarmed you recall the cell phone video of the cop shooting the black man in the back like 8 times as he was running away? I guess you inconveniently don't recall that one. Yes..I hate dirty cops..and idiots like you that won't call them out for what they are.

BarkGrowlBite said...

You call me an idiot, I call you an asshole! In my blogs, I severely condemned the shooting of Walter Scott that you described, the shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago cops, as well as other unjustified or unlawful acts by the police. So fuck off, Asshole!

Anonymous said...

Temper temper!

Anonymous said...

Except the condemnation of a retired cop doesn't do anything about the department culture that put anything else before "serve" and "protect."

You were in the service BGB, what would happen if every soldier showed up with the "get home safe," attitude that cops do now? The unfortunate fact is if a cop kills someone now we all wonder why but if a cop gets shot nobody wonders if the perpetrator shoots a cop nobody wonders if that person was bad. It's because a cops job isn't to make sure he goes home safe every night, it's to make sure everyone else goes home safe, even the suspects, because all of us are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law not a precinct locker room.

bob walsh said...

You know anonymous I would have a lot more respect for you if you had the guts to put your name on your screeds. There are something like 800,000 cops in this country and the huge majority of them are honest, competent and well-trained. Once in a while one turns out to be an outright criminal. More often, but still not very often all things considered, one screws up and we end up with either a dead cop or a dead private citizen who should not have gotten shot. I have read Professor Howie take departments and individual officers to task over bad training in general or bad shoots in particular. All I have seen you do is rant and rave about cops in general. There is plenty of real stuff to differ with the professor over. At least he does not paint with an overly broad brush and he has the courage to put his name on what he rights. Courage that you lack.

BarkGrowlBite said...

To all you police haters, here is something for you to get through your thick numbskulls.

If every day of the year 100 cops shot people, that would total 36,500 cops. Of course, there are not anywhere near 100 cops shooting people every day, but if there were, that would only amount to less than 5 percent of the nation's 800,000 law enforcement officers.

Anonymous said...

We actually don't know how many people are shot by the police every day because departments don't report those numbers and the director of the FBI says he wouldn't have a way to review that data if it was being reported.

But if we were placing bets I wouldn't put my money on there being only two police shootings per state in a day.

Anonymous said...

There is more to being a dirty cop than just shooting citizens, don't you agree bark and Bob? I mean really that is just the tip of the iceberg in the dirty cops culture. How about I ask the two of you this very simple question: have either of you witnessed another copy break the law while in the line of duty? I'm sure the answer is a resounding yes. Now the second questions is did you do anything about it. Again I would be willing to bet the bank that neither of you did anything. You can go ahead and shout out about the brotherly code of not ratting out a dirty cop..but in reality that just makes you a dirty cop as well. I look forward to your sorry reply.

Anonymous said...

Hell...I don't need the cops to protect me. Like if someone breaks into my house in the middle of the night..I can take care of myself. Calling the cops? So they can come over and make a damn report and clean up the mess maybe. I worry about the trigger happy cop pulling me over for a broken tail light..ready to shoot me. We need someone to cop the cops to speak.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon 5:30, yes, I've seen dirty cops. Lawlessness was the culture of Galveston County in the years after WW2. Did I turn in the dirty cops? No, because I would have had to turn in the whole Galveston Police Department and the Galveston County Sheriff's Department. I did go before the grand jury and told them about many of the crooked things the police commissioner did. A lot of good that did ... the judge ordered the grand jury records be sealed.

However, I spent most of my law enforcement career in California. My assignments led me to work not only for my agency, but also with officers from various law enforcement agencies in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties, For your information, never once did I see a dirty cop there. I know there are dirty cops out there, but other than in Galveston, I never worked with any.

So, there is my reply to your sorry ass crack about the "dirty cops culture."

And Anon 7:25, Damn right every cop wants to "get home safe," and they should be able to get home safe to their wives/husbands and children. But every day cops are risking their lives so that our citizens are safe. I've personally been shot at several times, and in each instance the perpetrator did not get shot by me and my fellow cops. Then there are the cop killers who, instead of being killed by the police, are subjected to hours of hostage negotiations in an effort to get them to surrender.

That's my last word in this matter because I can't get it through the thick heads of you police haters who comment on GFB, that most of you guys are dead wrong in your warped, unfounded and unwarranted attacks on those who protect you from the criminals in society.

Anonymous said...

Times are changing are just another dirty and your kind are coming to an end in the country.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BGB, just seeing all this. I don't know how you get "hatred of cops" from that comment or this post. The question I posed is whether excited delirium is really a medical issue or just a term medical examiners assign to exculpate officers when someone dies in their custody. The fact that doctors for the living don't use the term - only MEs - is not a subjective opinion, it's just something that's true that makes you angry.

Don't put words in my mouth. I say what I mean, and I didn't say that.

Anonymous said...

BGB suffers from excited delirium every day and he hasn't died :D

Donny said...

Really, BGB? I'm guessing those poor angels with LA's RAMPART unit were really innocent the whole time, right?

Anonymous said...

I was an officer for a very long time in Houston and I never saw another officer commit a crime. Sorry that people like Anon 5:30 are out there but their willingness to project a false idea is not uncommon these days. Those who are law enforcement insiders also know that police officers are second to none about gossiping with others, with plenty of speculation of what happened at events they weren't privy to so the belief that all or most police engage in criminal behavior comes across as projection or at least wishful thinking by some of these jokers.

As far as the belief by Barky that Grits and most of his regulars are cop haters, I am not as familiar with this website as Barky appears to be but it does seem that police are shown with a biased viewpoint most of the time, anecdotes pushed as though they were widespread events or beliefs compounded by the reformist attitudes displayed. Just as officers are expected by such people to not jump to conclusions, it'd be nice if the reformists weren't so quick to assume the worst of us though I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. In any case, it isn't about a single posting regarding excited delirium so much as the ongoing narrative.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ongoing narratives, Bark is the king (Chief? Commissioner?) of anecdotes pushed as though they were widespread events.

We all look like cop haters because our resident boy in blue is a hateful curmudgeon with a persecution complex. Bark, growl, bite as a slogan? Even Diogenes the Cynic had more depth, he nuzzled the kind, barked at the greedy, and bit scoundrels.

And another thing about the ongoing narrative: Grits doesn't write for our entertainment, he's a journalist and what he writes here is a personal thought pad. We the masses of the comment section come for the quality read, Barks hysterics, and the rest of the shit show. None of us are Grits contributors, it's just that the comments section on the local news site is too pedestrian.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Now, now, I'm happy for BGB to comment here. I sometimes find it odd that someone who thinks every counterfactual to his opinion is a smear resorts so quickly to ad hominem attacks. But I like it that cops and ex-cops comment here. Their opinions get injected into the policy making, so if we're going to discuss policy making, they should be included here.

Anonymous said...

Bark growl bite is the Antichrist!

Anonymous said...

This is Anon 8:07 again, I've read additional material here on topics of interest since the other day and think part of why BGB comes across as he does is that he is basing many/most of his comments on his own firsthand experiences while more than a few commentators here are basing what they write on personal grudges, 4th hand claims, or media accounts. I'm not suggesting he is omniscient or perfect by any means, nor am I claiming something silly like only police officers know the truth of things, but as much as many in my profession develop a bunker mentality or learn to adopt an us vs. them attitude, the only way sensible reform is going to happen is if all interests are represented.

That doesn't mean this website is the place where any of that happens, contract negotiations, city halls, and the state legislature would be the places for change to come about, but your stance in that regard suggests police unions are nearly all powerful or their PAC money is too influential and that has not been my experience. I understand why some have those beliefs, especially those who see changes they feel are "obviously needed", but we should all be able to agree to disagree without the snide comments, the ad hominem attacks, and the vilification of those we don't agree with.

Anonymous said...

What you call first-hand experience and bunker mentality I call an echo chamber.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@11:47, as far as ad hominems and snide, personal comments, my observation is that BGB tends to give as good as he gets and in general fires the first shots in that regard. That was true on this string. Read his comments and compare them to mine before and after.

Otherwise, you may be surprised to learn that this website engages in these issues at the level of "contract negotiations, city halls, and the state legislature," and that I am well aware police unions are not all powerful because I've been involved in efforts that defeated them.

By the same token, you understate the political influence of police unions. IMO that's understandable. That's bc they're not exercising their power for the most part any more on behalf of officers' compensation, benefits, working conditions, etc., so you don't see the results. Instead they increasingly focus on ideological, partisan and public policy positions that help officers either very little or not at all. At that, they're quite effective, probably more than you understand not being engaged in those political arenas. C'est la vie.

Finally, don't confuse the comment sections for the main posts. Just like on a newspaper site, anyone can comment here, and just as with you, I don't know who most of them are. You say you're a cop, but how can I know? By contrast, I write under my own name and am accountable for what I publicly say and do.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I don't claim to be an expert on Bark (yes, this is Anon 8:07/11:47) and it does seem that he has his better and worse days when it comes to being as much a part of the problem as some of the others; I addressed that in my last comment. But I think you misunderstood my belief that this website isn't where reform takes place. You may well contribute to the discussion and help inform various actors but reform takes place in the contract negotiations, city halls, and state legislature, not here. If that is splitting hairs too much, my apologies.

And while your exposure to union endeavors is better than some, at least with specific unions, I think you're wrong in claiming most of what they address has nothing to do with matters "on behalf of officers' compensation, benefits, working conditions, etc.", at least unless I'm reading your message incorrectly. I am most familiar with HPD and HCSO but a minimum of half of all union dues in HPD are directed toward the legal representation of officers, most of that in regards to policy violations.

Another large chunk of resources is in regards to insurance programs, either internal to the union or in helping union members and their families deal with city coverage. On a weekly basis, most of what the full time union leaders/employees deal with are nut and bolt things, not public policy issues that they can admittedly get very wrong, nor in drumming up political support by spending lots of time wheeling and dealing with politicians. Even when the legislature is in session, the bulk of time they spend in Austin concerns addressing legislation directly impacting compensation of workplace issues, or in helping many of those part time legislators with some context of how things apply to HPD/the city of Houston, or regarding claims made by others from the area. This being said, there are times when the leaders take public policy decisions on behalf of friendly legislators, but those are not typically time intensive or frequent.

As to the last part, I do not seek to influence due to my previous decades serving the community as a police officer so whether someone believes I was employed in the field or not is beside the point. I don't have degrees in criminal justice, nor am I a sociologist, much of what I know is either from direct experience or from having always been willing to spend time reading up on topics or taking additional continuing education in the field. I come here to get alternative points of view to consider, then researching them further so I can apply my personal biases and filters. Most of the people I worked with knew little about their pension benefits, just like most firefighters knew little about theirs compared to their own pension reports and/or city budgets. Some liked drinking, others liked fishing, and still others liked a wide variety of other hobbies but mine focused on reading and keeping abreast of information.

On certain subjects, your comment section is much stronger than others but as Barky points out, there is an awful lot of noise by those he calls "haters". As far as my desire to remain anonymous, the city has long arms, as do certain vested interests in the community that I'd rather not waste a great deal of time dealing with, my stance developed when I was gainfully employed and experienced plenty of backlash. So it doesn't hurt my feelings when a person won't take my word for something but given I lack the chip on the shoulder so many other people have, I contribute here and there in such a way that it behooves those interested in a balanced discussion may just benefit. ;)