Sunday, September 27, 2020

Massive police response over anti-cop bumper stickers, public opinion and #BlackLivesMatter, deep policing history, and other stories

Let's clear a few browser tabs and run down a few links Grits wanted to record and other items that may interest Grits readers.

2-hour standoff  in middle of Austin after driver pulled over for anti-cop bumper stickers: Some 80 cops and 40 DPS vehicles swarmed the Congress Ave. bridge in Austin to surround a 24-year old headshop employee and her Chihuahua with anti-police bumper stickers on her car, reported the Intercept. Notably this episode - which lasted at least a couple of hours and ended with a bomb-squad robot breaking the window of her car and two Bearcats crushing her bumpers - happened within rock throwing distance of the Austin Statesman newsroom, which didn't report it. Thank heavens the Intercept reporter happened to be jogging by!

#MeToo @ Falls County Sheriff: The elected Falls County Sheriff was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a City of Marlin employee. Falls County is southeast of Waco, adjacent to McLennan County. Notably Sheriff Ricky Scaman, "was sued twice in the last two years by former employees who claimed he subjected them to unwanted sexual advances and harassment. Both lawsuits have since been settled, court documents state."

TX parole caseloads analyzed: This may get its own blog post soon, but I wanted to record the link for the new TDCJ parole officer caseload study. For more background on related topics, see state auditor reports from 2010 and 2008.

Competing hypotheses on why crime rises after protests: We misunderstood "the Ferguson effect," say researchers. Police weren't pulling back from communities, which some have blamed for the reported, recent crime spike. Rather, communities were pulling back from police. That makes sense, but I'd also add that perceived crime spikes after Ferguson, which some commentators tried to blame on the protesters, turned out to be overblown and overhyped. Grits won't be surprised if that turns out to be true for 2020 as well, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. MORE: Regarding the current, perceived crime spike: Murders are up this year; other violent crime as well as property crime are down, reported the New York Times. Moreover, "The F.B.I. on Monday reported a tiny decrease (0.2 percent) in the nation’s murder rate in 2019. The U.S. violent crime rate fell slightly for the fourth straight year in this official report, and the property crime rate fell for the 18th straight year, to the lowest level since 1963." There's your "law and order" crisis.

Trib shows it's possible to accurately describe Austin budget cuts; why can't other media pull it off? So much press coverage of the Austin police budget cuts has misrepresented them, repeating the Governor's spurious claim that they cut $150 million, or one-third of the budget, when the actual cuts were $20 million and the rest are duties being re-organized. In recent coverage of the Dallas City Council's budget vote, the Texas Tribune demonstrated that it's actually possible to describe the cuts accurately:

The movement gained traction in Austin, where city councilmembers in August voted to immediately cut about $20 million, or 5%, from its police department and redirect those funds to things like violence prevention, housing and mental health services. Another $130 million was put into transitional funds that will allow several of the department's traditional duties to remain funded while officials work out which responsibilities to keep under law enforcement and which to move out from under police oversight.

Now, was that so hard?

Minneapolis depolicing initiative falling apart: The Minneapolis city council's bold defund-the-police declaration is being clawed back in the face of real-world limitations, reported the New York Times. Reading this, I must say I feel like Austin is in a much better position to implement and sustain the reforms we've begun. Despite propaganda from change opponents, most of the reforms in Austin had been discussed for years and were fairly well developed when the opportunity for change finally came. Couple this with the fact that Austin groups were already mobilized before George Floyd died in a campaign to oust the local police chief, and the Texas capital was uniquely positioned to take advantage of the opportunity this budget cycle.

We certainly had folks in Austin, as in Minneapolis, telling the city council: Cut half the budget, it's your job to figure out where. But the reason change happened here was that advocates came forward with well-developed alternative plans that could be reasonably, pragmatically implemented. That appears not to have happened in the Twin Cities.

Public opinion and Black Lives Matter: BLM's popularity is down from its lofty peaks, with a majority of white folks now expressing disapproval. Here are the crosstabs for a NY Times/Sienna College poll from Texas (beginning p. 23 of the pdf). See especially the age breakdown on Q19 polling BLM - old people are driving disapproval. (Worth mentioning, though, BLM polled higher in Austin than the rest of the state.) Also notable was Q29 on whether COVID or "riots" were a bigger problem. The former has killed more than 15,000 people in Texas; the number killed in "riots" has been in the low single digits; yet 2/3 of white people thought "maintaining law and order" was a bigger priority than combating the virus (Q28). Wow. That said, Grits sees a lot of this as campaign driven, based on the Trumpian "American carnage" themes that Republican pols all down the food chain feel pressured to adopt. Whether that pressure continues after the election will depend on the outcome. If it doesn't work for the GOP, it could be abandoned as quickly as it was ginned up. 

Deep Policing History from the Windy City: Just to be able to find it again, I wanted to record a link to this remarkable 600+ page report on race riots in Chicago in 1919. Found it while researching historic public opinion on crime and now want to go back and read the whole thing. This is a remarkable document. Drop in anywhere and its findings seem relevant, almost current. Especially interesting to me were Chapter 9 on public opinion around race and crime and Chapter 7 regarding early efforts to analyze policing quantitatively. This document strikes me as impressive and important as the Kerner Commission report 5 decades hence. Certainly its central warnings and recommendations went just as unheeded.

Prof: Americans need 'universal education of the development of American policing'. Grits was pleased to see TSU Prof. Howard Henderson in the Texas Observer endorsing the sort of historical perspective Grits has been seeking in recent research on slave patrols and early Texas policing:

We just didn’t wake up here today and find ourselves in this disarray. This came out of centuries of degradation and oppression. The police are an offshoot of the overseer on the plantation and the slave patrols. The institution of slavery and its control of minorities directly parallels with early American policing. Right after slavery, they arrested Black people for petty crimes and then leased them back out to the plantation. This history of race and policing in America is deep, and we do ourselves a disservice by just glossing over it. A lot of the laws that we have today are derivatives of Jim Crow legislation. Look at the number of white police officers who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. It was just a common relationship at the time.

You’ve seen several policymakers say that they don’t see policing as racist, and yet you can rattle off probably 10 statistical points to prove otherwise. I think we’ve got to start with universal education of the development of American policing. We’ve also got to move beyond the point where the police are infallible. We’re taught from a very young age that they can do no wrong, that they’re the problem solvers of all social ills. And the reality is that they’re not. They’re human. They make mistakes. And they’ve created an institution that does not openly express their errors. It’s a system that is designed to support that misconduct.


Gadfly said...

Ricky Scaman was a bad cop as a TABC agent LONG before being elected as Falls County Sheriff ONLY because he has an "R" after his name. He also has past ties, indirectly, to Ty Clevenger of Seth Rich conspiracy theory lawyering infamy.

Phelps said...

Also notable was Q29 on whether COVID or "riots" were a bigger problem. The former has killed more than 15,000 people in Texas; the number killed in "riots" has been in the low single digits; yet 2/3 of white people thought "maintaining law and order" was a bigger priority than combating the virus (Q28). Wow.

If you want more action on the epidemic, then logically your cohort should stop rioting and distracting from the problem.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Overwhelmingly, most protests haven't involved "rioting", Phelps, and most of the actual rioting happened one weekend in May. I assume you're not a complete moron and know this, and thus must also assume you're focused on this small minority of episodes to mislead and thwart the larger, peaceful aims of the movement. May work in the short term; in the long term, the arc of history bends toward justice.

Phelps said...

Overwhelmingly, most police stops haven't involved shooting black men. What is your point? Riots are riots.

Anonymous said...

Ok then, define your limits: how many unarmed people are you willing to allow the police to kill, and how many riots will you tolerate?

"Riot" is a subjective appraisal, usually by whoever is on the receiving end of it's ire. Dead however is dead. I trust the coroner more than the Governor when it comes to determining the truth.

Phelps said...

I allow the police to kill ABSOLUTELY NO men without just cause (armed or unarmed is irrelevant, black or white is irrelevant) and I tolerate ABSOLUTELY NO riots.

Every single cop who unreasonably kills someone should be prosecuted for murder. Every single rioter should be prosecuted for rioting.

What part do you disagree with?

Anonymous said...

Dead is dead. Period Should be arrested and charged with murder. What's good for the goose is good for the gander

Anonymous said...

Most law enforcement interactions that end in use of force are a result of a call for service by another. Act like a fool, get treated like a fool is the unfortunate mentality. Compliance or lack thereof is a big part. Mental illness is a large part, but I often wonder: 1) what has the person done to seek treatment?, 2) what has the family done?, 3) and if a metal health expert with 4+ years of specialized training can’t get it right for that person - how does one expect an officer with 40hrs (or less) of training to get it right each and every time w/o direct knowledge of the mental illness? A scarlet “A” or other overt markings could help, but that is unreasonable.

“Dead is dead”, but there are elements and mental states for culpability that have to be met for criminal charges to be filed.

Gunny Thompson said...

From Unfiltered and Uncensored Minds of Independent Thinkers of the 3rd Grade Dropout Section:

"The Solutions To Our Condition is an In-House Matter!!"

Anon @ 05:43, you are not alone in your concept of a solution that cannot be in step with current public opinion. While you may be of the opinion that the solutions may lie with victim and/or his/her family, I would suggest to you that should consider this one person opinion. That is: Part of the problem may lie with the effort to conform students in grade schools to acceptable norms. That is: Sit Down and Be Quite, and here's is ADHD treatment to help you, which is a gateway to a lifetime of drug use.

The solution has never been one that could be resolved through the criminal justice system. The city of Austin realize that it has a serious problem and is taking steps to resolve part of its problem, "Over Policing"

Anonymous said...

I trust anything from CNN about as much as I trust the OAN to provide fair, balanced coverage so I looked into the details of the ACLED and the specific report, further examining their stated methodology. I've been to enough protests to know they don't all turn into "riots" as rightwing extremists seem to claim but the left's oft told version how riots are rare just isn't accurate either. The mischaracterizations made by the ACLED were enough to make me look closer at their methodology and that was lacking, the group dismissing criminal acts by a percentage of a protest all too quickly even though it falls under the definition of the term riot. I suspect the stated 9% of protests turned to riots is still likely closer to the real number, they state but this includes covid-19 demonstrations too, "Fewer than 570 — or approximately 5% — involve demonstrators engaging in violence." caught my eye while reading the report.

Minimizing the criminal activity happening at protests doesn't instill confidence in the report, nor does comparing all protests as equal in the quantitative analysis make much sense when rioting and other criminal activity generally take place in the larger events, a great many of the 10k+ protests were extremely limited in size. But ~570 riots and the kind of destruction we've seen across the country should be enough to merit concern, the need to resort to personal insults reminds me that some who claim to value discussion have very short fuses. That "most of the actual rioting happened one weekend in May" dismisses some of the largest, most destructive riots in the country which smacks of the denial some have toward the real violence still taking place.

Oh yeah, cull those police that can't control themselves while jailing rioters, if the actual numbers of each are small, so much the better.

Gadfly said...

Reminder that, per my link above, "bad cops" include MANY Ricky Scamans, especially on non-consensual sex with detainees.

Phelps said...

I don’t believe in the concept of consensual sex with a detainee. All sex with detainees should be considered non consensual.

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Anonymous said...

#MeToo @ Falls County Sheriff - Ricky Scaman arrest is an interesting event. Regardless of Ricky Scaman being a good or bad cop, there is much more to this story. Case filed by the local DA right before election day seems a bit like politics. I say this because this supposed incident happened a long time ago. IF any body in Falls County should be arrested it is the DA. The district Judge and DA don't like Ty Clevenger because he has brought to light some of their activities. Ricky Scaman must have scared the Judge and DA for them to come after him. If memory serves me right, the DA and Ricky had a thing going back in the day. Yep this is the DA that let her girl friend off for killing 2 old people in a head on collision a few years ago. Her best friend got off with Unadjudicated Probation for driving on dope and killing 2 local old people. This would not be the first time this DA used a woman to go after someone. Falls County is one super corrupt legal system in my opinion. Falls County is one place you want to avoid. I wonder who is the Marlin Chief of Police this week!