Thursday, August 20, 2020

Houston civiliain-review fail, docs vs. 'less-lethal' munitions, Ranger revisionism, and other stories

Let's clear a few browser tabs and share a few odds and ends that deserve Grits readers attention:

FBI called to investigate SAPD use of force: The San Antonio police chief requested the FBI investigate after a pair of excessive force incidents, including one where an officer placed his knee on an arrestee's neck while he was handcuffed and not resisting. Regular readers know that some 70 percent of SAPD officers fired by the chief end up back on the force thanks to the arbitration process under the Texas civil service code.

Civilian review board in Houston not working: The "Independent Police Oversight Board" in Houston is an abject failure, says a long-time member in his resignation letter. Not only is the board disempowered by its fundamental structure and limits on its authority, mayoral appointments to the body have also hindered oversight: "far too many Board members are uncritical boosters of the police and policing, sometimes shamelessly so, which hinders their ability to fairly evaluate officer conduct."

First case overturned based on corrupt narc's dubious testimony. A man named Otis Mallett has had his old drug conviction cleared because the sole testimony against him came from Gerald Goines, a corrupt Houston PD narcotics officer who may have set up scores of innocent defendants including, potentially, Houston native George Floyd, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis. His was the first of some 160 cases identified by District Attorney Kim Ogg that relied solely on Goines' testimony to secure a conviction.

Firing of deputy upheld for assisting with murder: "A Harris County law enforcement board on Wednesday upheld the firing of a former sheriff’s deputy who helped restrain a man as her husband choked him to death outside of a Houston-area Denny’s restaurant," reported the Houston Chronicle. Her husband was convicted of murder as a result of the off-duty incident, so she's definitely getting off light.

Docs say limit "less lethal" munitions use: Doctors from the Dell-Seton medical school in Austin warned in the New England Journal of Medicine against law enforcement's use of "less lethal" munitions against protesters, saying injuries they cause can be more severe than frequently portrayed. 

Ranger Revisionism: I'm glad the Texas Rangers' history of violent repression is now getting more attention thanks to the new book by former Dallas News reporter Doug Swanson. The Rangers are an odd lot. Often portrayed as the creme de la creme of Texas law enforcement, in practice they have long struggled to update their practices and culture to the modern era. Some 50 years ago, a state advisory commission to the US Commission on Civil Rights recommended they be disbanded "because they had engendered 'fear and bitterness' among Mexican‐Americans." I don't expect either the Legislature or the baseball team in Arlington to change their names in the wake of these renewed complaints. But the debates are a welcome antidote to often hagiographic histories of the Rangers in the past.

School cops unneeded for safety, worsen school-to-prison pipeline: A new study finds that school resource officers worsen the school-to-prison pipleline and that all the additional safety benefits from SROs may be had by calling in outside help in case of emergency. SROs failed to prevent mass shootings at schools, researchers found. 

Community based crime reduction: As we discuss alternative ways to promote public safety beyond police, it's worth mentioning that community-based nonprofits focused on violence prevention have a strong track record of reducing crime.

Video conferencing in courts lowers failure-to-appear rates: The flip side to arguments against holding trials and other criminal procedures on Zoom: Apparently courts using video proceedings have lower failure to appear rates.

Study finds MSM coverage absolves police violence: This blog has long argued that the mainstream media covers police violence in ways that absolve and abet the most  egregious police behaviors. A decade ago this study analyzed coverage from 23 outlets and found that "Newspaper coverage of police-perpetrated homicides may reflect and promote public and official tolerance for police violence." In particular, "Most articles, subtly drawing upon iconic images of police professionals and vigilantes, cast victims of police killings as physical and social threats and situate police actions within legitimate institutional roles." (I know a 10-year old study isn't "news," but flagging it here so I can find it again.)


JC said...

Doug Swanson’s book is factually inaccurate and fraudulent. But it sounds like I’m taking a side and I’m not.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Long before Swanson I've heard the same said of Walter Prescott Webb.

I haven't had time to read Swanson's book yet, but there's too much out there long before him to imagine it isn't grounded in actual history. Webb and Co. were the ones glossing over the ugly.

Anonymous said...

Out here in far west Texas, FTA rates have plummeted. It was very difficult and expensive for many people to get to court. Now, it's a 15 minute break from work, or having a neighbor watch the kids for a few minutes.