Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hero Grandma prevents Midland cops from shooting grandson, Austin to end driver-license holds on traffic tickets, Joe Biden is a jackass, and other stories

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

Midland Grandma a hero for putting herself between black grandson and over-zealous cops
In Midland, bystander video caught police officers swarming a young black man with guns drawn after he allegedly rolled through a stop sign. They continued to point their guns and scream at him long after he'd laid down on the ground to give himself up, and from the video, it looked for all the world like he was about to be shot. The boy's 90-year old grandmother was a friggin' hero! She went out into the yard in her pink house dress with a cane and stood over her grandson. That forced the officers to finally step forward and end the confrontation, but not before knocking her to the ground as well. The man's lawyers allege he was assaulted afterward in the back of a police car. This was utterly unnecessary. Why are police officers trained to behave this way?

Qualified immunity remains intact despite TX Supreme Court ruling allowing lawsuit
The Texas Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit by the family of man shot at a traffic stop by a police officer employed by Incarnate Word college was not barred by qualified immunity. But the decision hinged on the fact that it was a private university. Reported the San Antonio Express News, "In an opinion written by Justice Jane Bland, the court ruled private universities with police departments are not arms of state government and giving the university sovereign immunity isn’t consistent with the doctrine’s purpose." In related news, the US Supreme Court recently declined to take up cases that would have let them confront qualified immunity directly. So the San Antonio case was an outlier, hinging on the private nature of the university's police force. The doctrine overall remains in effect.

Austin to end driver-license holds on traffic tickets
The City of Austin will end its contract with Omnibase, the state program that puts holds on people's driver licenses if they don't pay traffic tickets. For years, little attention was paid to the program because the number of licenses affected was dwarfed by the Driver Responsibility Program. But after the DRP was finally abolished in 2019, there's been a renewed push to de-fang the Omnibase program, doggedly led by Emily Gerrick at the Texas Fair Defense Project and Mary Mergler at Texas Appleseed. Other jurisdictions should follow suit, and the Legislature should simply eliminate the program when it meets again next year.

Coronavirus and corrections: a roundup
KSAT has the story of a man arrested for criminal mischief in San Antonio who qualified for a personal bond but was kept in jail because of Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order; he has now contracted the coronavirus. Abbott issued another executive order yesterday suspending visitation at Texas county jails in light of the coronavirus, though many had already done so. That doesn't change the fact, however, that jails don't keep people locked up forever nor prevent predictable problems when people leave. The Houston Chronicle's Gabrielle Banks and St. John Barned-Smith offered up a detailed blow by blow of the Harris County Jail's response to the coronavirus. Well worth a read. Meanwhile, in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Cory McCoy had an excellent story titled, "Plaguing Prisons" on the same topic, with a followup from Zak Wellerman focused on county jails. Our pal Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation weighed in with his own op ed in the Tyler paper suggesting decarceral approaches to mitigate those harms. East Texas has been getting especially good reporting on this front: The Palestine Herald Press has had excellent coverage of COVID in prisons and jails in its coverage area. Lastly, after armed protesters were arrested outside a bar opposing a governor's executive order in Ector County, open-carry advocates are now itching to confront the Sheriff directly, threatening non-compliance if he does it again. These debates are shifting from stupid to dangerous.

Criminal-justice reformers have no presidential candidate
Grits couldn't have been more disappointed at presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's criminal-justice comments in his interview with Charlemagne tha God. I'll leave it to others to parse his comments on who is and isn't black. But doubling down on his support of legislation that spawned mass incarceration in this country was dispiriting. Add to that his opposition to pot legalization - in an era when nine states have legalized recreational use, he thinks pot smokers should endure "mandatory rehabilitation" - and he comes off as a clueless codger, a throwback to the bad-old days. He had more positive things to say about Strom Thurmond, whom he eulogized at the old white supremacist's funeral, than he did criminal-justice reformers in that interview. I'm guessing Donald Trump could tip the election at this point just by coming out in support of ending federal marijuana prohibition. What an embarrassing moment for the nation that these two septuagenarian clowns are the best our political process can offer to lead the country. I'm not that interested in discussions of which one is "worse." (I'll personally never forgive DT for his role in the Central Park 5 case.) I was hoping to have someone to vote for in this election, and for criminal-justice reformers, we didn't get it.


Gadfly said...

Officers like this have been SOCIALIZED this way long before they hit police academies, Grits. They consciously or unconsciously see cop-ness as a way to have free rein on racism (and other authoritarian -isms).

Gadfly said...

And, contra your last post, of COURSE criminal justice reformers have presidential candidates. Just not duopoly party ones.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not candidates with any chance of winning, Gadfly, and in electoral politics, that's all that matters.

Gadfly said...

I'll remain an idealist, or else I won't vote, and to me, THAT's what matters. (And it's not just in electoral politics. I stopped giving money to the ACLU more than a decade ago; any civil liberties contributions go to Center for Constitutional Rights instead.)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

My "ideal" is for the policies I want enacted to actually be installed in the real world. Otherwise, what's the point? To me, in politics, as Sun Tzu said of military operations, the important thing is "victory, not persistence."

TXstatelegeanalysis said...

For me, voting for Biden will be easy. I'm a healthcare voter.

As far as criminal justice goes, I see Biden as a consensus Democrat and I trust his party more than I trust Trump's party to come out with some substantial legislation. The main thing I got from his interview is that the 1994 Crime Bill was not something with malicious intent, and it was done at a time when no one knew that crime rates were going to start falling continuously after they'd basically risen continuously from 1970 to 1990. He also pointed out he opposed some of the more punitive provisions.