Saturday, October 26, 2019

State officials vs local pols on bail and policing, reinvigorating community service, why that weird brass-knuckles bill was really a thing, and other stories

Let's clear a few browser tabs with a roundup of stories that merit Grits readers' attention:

Texas AG insults federal judge's intelligence
Somewhat predictably, I suppose, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton weighed in against Harris County's proposed bail settlement, siding against the commissioners court and local judges who agreed to the compromise. Paxton's brief rehashes Houston Chief Art Acevedo's red herring arguments about the Brandon Bell case, engaging in the Willie-Horton-type tactics Judge Rosenthal already rejected from the bail bondsmen and the DA's office. And his brief states flat-out untrue things as facts, like claiming that people engaged in "Riot[ing]" or "Assault causing bodily injury" would automatically get out of jail on personal bonds. That's written for the sake of the media and the public: Judge Rosenthal already knows it's false.

Gov. Abbott's penchant for deploying troopers to patrol cities
Gov. Greg Abbott notoriously has threatened to send state troopers to Austin to roust homeless folks, or something. And earlier this year, at the Governor's command, DPS troopers patrolled the streets of Dallas, ostensibly to combat violent crime. They left in less than three months after complaints emerged from the city council. Grits had forgotten, however, that Abbott had done the same thing in Houston and San Antonio back in 2017. From the 2018 state Gang Threat Assessment:
In 2017, Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to assist local law enforcement agencies experiencing increases in violent crime in their jurisdictions. Operation North Star in Harris County began in April 2017 and the San Antonio Violent Crime Task Force (Operation Alamo) in San Antonio and Bexar County began in January 2017, with DPS joining the operation in May 2017. Both operations integrate intelligence, patrol and investigations to prevent crime in these high threat areas, including gang-related crimes and violence. 
With so many troopers either deployed at the border or patrolling cities which already have their own police departments, one wonders who's out looking for drunks on the highways? That used to be DPS's job.

Change to brass knuckles law prevents hundreds of convictions per year
Texas decriminalized brass knuckles in 2019. According to this chart, there were 509 convictions in Texas for possessing them in 2018, the year before the law changed. That's a lot more than I would have suspected!

Community service options suffer from spotty implementation
The Center for Court Innovation has identified a notable gap in best practices for use of community service to satisfy low-level citation offenses. They suggest courts should diversify community service offerings, including allowing defendants to suggest options, and expand its use beyond just young people and first-time offenders, as is common in some jurisdictions.

On the politics of data, and its absence
When available data isn't quite on point to inform policy decisions, it's always worth asking not just what additional data might be probative, but also why it's not now being gathered.

1 comment:

Steven Michael Seys said...

If the Texas government does not preserve good data on any specific topic that the legislature needs to research good laws, they should offer to pay the big tech firms for the data they need. No one can doubt that Facebook, Google, etc. has very complete data on all of us and the algorithms to sort it to extract the useful parts.