Morning Ed: Law & Order {2018.04.12.Th}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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65 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    LO9: Great Britain, the slippery slope gun rights activists love to point to.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Stupidest part of it is, there isn’t actually a lot of knife crime in the UK (not having guns seems to mostly go with not killing people, rather than with switching to the next most convenient weapon for one’s killings – another favourite pro-gun bogeyman argument).

      What they do have is tabloid newspapers that have found they can sell copies with lurid “knife crime” headlines.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

        We’ve even moved beyond knives. God as my witness I thought this was a joke – I mean it didn’t even occur to me that it was real until they got a blue checkmark – but it is not:


        • fillyjonk in reply to Will Truman says:

          As someone who sews, quilts, knits, and does other fiber crafts, I am mildly boggling at this. Was this someone who was known for violence?

          I’d be horrified if someone tried to confiscate my Ghingers.

          (I also cook, and I have big and I suppose, to some, scary-looking, knives stuck up on a magnetboard next to my stove. I’d also be horrified to lose those)Report

        • InMD in reply to Will Truman says:

          When household tools are outlawed, only outlaws will change their smoke detectors.Report

        • My highly speculative guess is they found these things in the dwellings of Muslim immigrants and made assumptions they might not have otherwise made about the intent of their use.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman says:

            In the dwellings or on the persons, very likely.

            There was a drug bust here recently where the cops seized, I think, some weed and shrooms, a couple BB guns, what might have been a cap gun, and half a dozen knives. They had the customary “scary weapons” table at their press conference – but only two or three of the knives were scary enough to make the display: a machete like anyone might keep in the garden shed, a bog-standard kitchen knife, and maybe some kind of folding knife such as any camping store carries. Makes you wonder just how piddly the other “seized” knives were that the cops would have been too embarassed to show them at their press conference.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

          “You better step off, mate, or I’m going to file you to death.”Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to pillsy says:

            I’m gonna stab you so bad as soon as I’m done making this shiv.

            Gosh, this is hard work.

            Hey, you wanna take a turn? My arm is getting sore. Aw thanks, that’s awful brotherly of you.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to dragonfrog says:

        London overtook New York in murders for the first time in modern history in February as the capital endured a dramatic surge in knife crime.

        Fifteen people were murdered in the capital, against 14 in New York. Both cities have almost exactly the same population.

        London murders for March are also likely to exceed or equal New York’s. By late last night there had been 22 killings in the capital, according to the Metropolitan police, against 21 in the US city.

        Eight Londoners were murdered between March 14 and March 20 alone and the total number of London murders, even excluding victims of terrorism, has risen by 38% since 2014.

        London murder rate beats New York as stabbings surgeReport

        • dragonfrog in reply to Aaron David says:

          Interesting. So, on one month in the history of the modern world, London (a city with a homicide rate considerably higher than its country’s as a whole, and a 28% poverty rate) had a higher homicide rate than NYC (a city with a homicide rate considerably lower than its country as a whole, a 20% poverty rate, and one of the lowest rates of gun ownership in its country).

          Yeah, we should probably disregard all the other statistics from all cities during the entirety of modern history when drawing conclusions about the effects of guns on homicide rates. They must be the exception, and London and NYC in February 2018 the rule.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to dragonfrog says:

            The point is that saying there isn’t a lot of knife crime is belied by the actual number of crimes. Statistically, no, it isn’t much (14 out of how many?) but neither is are school shootings.Report

  2. dragonfrog says:

    [LO2] Is there any possible non-abusive reason for allowing sheriffs to enrich themselves by scrimping on prisoners’ food? (And I fully agree, electing judges, sheriffs, prosecutors, etc. is insanity).

    [LO3] It’s almost like guns and homicides go together or something…

    • Aaron David in reply to dragonfrog says:

      And yet, here in the US, gun crime has dropped while ownership has increased…

      Maybe we have tabloids that can sell copies with lurid headlines?Report

      • pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

        I was under the impression that the number of guns owned had increased, but the number of people owning guns had decreased.

        Not suggesting anything about causality: it’s easy to believe that some people have decided to forego firearms as they feel safer because there’s less crime.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

          It could be many things, ie the sheer number of guns out there, the type of people who own guns, more women owning guns, people with concealed carry permits, and on and on. Without digging into it much, much more it really doesn’t tell me anything.

          Edit: one thing that the “number of gun owners has decreased” idea doesn’t convey is the actual number of gun owners. Being that many people don’t report gun ownership, I always got the impression that the numbers were “number of reported gun owners.” Considering that guns don’t really have a shelf life and that the reporting/record keeping is a fairly new thing, I am not sure how accurate it is. I would love to see something on the accuracy of this, but I don’t know of anything.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to Aaron David says:

            I expect there is a certain amount of gun concentration; but I’ll also note that the rifles I bought my children for hunting will leave my house when they start their own households. So in one sense, I’m collecting guns and skewing it that way…but then those guns will disperse. That might alarm you in a whole new way… but just pointing out that there’s likely a bad data issue with some of those stats.Report

            • Aaron David in reply to Marchmaine says:

              That was kind of my point, actually. If one person is the purchaser for statistical purposes, but they are disbursed (by legal or illegal methods) in ways that aren’t captured by our current reporting methods, that reporting is not as useful as its adherents think.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Aaron David says:

                Sorry, right, mine was a concurrence… the “you” was pillsy.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Aaron David says:

                Well, we know that most homicides in Chicago are the result of guns that originate out-of-state. I’ve been told by a chief circuit judge that a lot of the upswing in violent crime is related to the illegal gun trade. Things like train-robberies and breaking into gun stores in remote, rural areas.

                Not a lot of dispute seemingly. Gun-rights advocates point to the data to argue that homicides are the result of guns outside of the legal system. Gun-control advocates point to the need for federal regulations.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Although, one has to wonder, if Chicago is having such a gun violence problem because of all the guns coming in from other areas, do those ‘other areas’ also have significant issues with gun violence?

                If not, why not?Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I think a lot of guns are coming from Gary, Indiana, so part of the Chicago metro, but a disproportionate amount are coming from the Mississippi Delta, which I don’t think of as having high gun violence, but a place with historical migration connections.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to PD Shaw says:

                PD Shaw: which I don’t think of as having high gun violence

                Check LO3, though.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Alan Scott says:

                Historically, most of the homicides were in Jackson, MS, which is outside of the Delta. A quick glance at the some data, still has most of the murders are in the metropolitan areas, which makes sense because that’s where the most people are.

                But on a rate basis, it looks like two delta counties were ranked in the top ten in the the nation in 2017: (#2) Coahoma County (37 homicides per 100k; population 16,000) and (#9) Washington County (25 homicides per 100k; population 50,000).

                So that’s changed.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to PD Shaw says:

                The Delta area might not have very high gun violence rates by the standards of Mississippi (9th highest gun murder rate in the US), Arkansas (14th), and Louisiana (highest).

                That would still mean at least at median-high rates by US standards, or outrageous crazybad levels by first world standards.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to dragonfrog says:

                That would still mean at least at median-high rates by US standards, or outrageous crazybad levels by first world standards.

                The US doesn’t have one uniform murder rate. A state with a high murder rate almost assuredly has a “hot” spot which probably says very little about the rest of the state in general. We can’t judge the rest of Illinois by Chicago, we can’t even judge the rest of Chicago by Chicago’s worst areas.

                We’re multicultural, the bulk of the country has rates good-to-great by first world standards, there are small subsets which are more like Central American drug war zones. Some of that is the War on Drugs, some is children shooting each other over honor or shoes or whatever, presumably the later was created by the former.

                The Mississippi Delta is 437k people and 7000 square miles. I can’t tell if it’s murder rate is a uniformly high level or if it’s more like Chicago, i.e. it’s absurdly-bad for very small niches and great for everyone else.

                I’m also not sure why it matters.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                If not, why not?

                If I’m a manufacturer and make 10 million guns, odds are I’ll only keep a couple for myself and ship the rest to Chicago.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

          For what it’s worth, this is in a link in the queue in an article about black gun ownership:

          In the wake of mass shootings and police shootings, gun advocacy tends to be dominated by the voices of white men. But data show that the demographics of firearm ownership are in flux. In 2014, according to figures from the Pew Research Center, 19 percent of Black Americans were living with a firearm in their household. Three years later, that figure had risen to 32 percent. (The number of white Americans living with a gun in their house rose from 41 to 49 percent.)

          Those numbers are higher than I am used to hearing, but Pew is a respectable source and Scalawag is a leftward publication. So the trend you refer to may be reversing itself.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Aaron David says:

        Other factors exist too, it’s true – like the factors listed in that article, and doubtless some others. They seem to be outweighing the high rates of gun ownership at the moment (assuming gun ownership really is increasing). That’s good.

        Safer modern cars, widespread rejection of drunk driving, urban planning that lowers driving speeds – all these things tend to reduce traffic deaths and injuries. Higher rates of driving and automobile ownership tend to increase traffic deaths and injuries. It is even possible for the other factors listed to be so effective that some places might see safer traffic even as the number of miles driven increase.

        That doesn’t mean that traffic couldn’t be made even safer by getting people moving less by private car and more by other modes.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to dragonfrog says:

      It’s almost like guns and homicides go together or something…

      That’s questionable, as I’ll get to later, but more to the point it doesn’t explain why homicide is urban in the US and rural in Canada. What does explain this is racial demographics. In the US, homicide is highly disproportionately black, and the black population is heavily urbanized. In Canada, homicide is highly disproportionately aboriginal, and the aboriginal population is mostly rural.

      Note that much of the research (including my first link) steals a base by correlating firearm ownership with firearm homicide instead of overall homicide. The reason that this practice persists despite the obvious logical flaw is that you simply can’t get the desired results if you attempt to link firearm ownership to overall homicides. At a state level, gun ownership rate in the US is totally uncorrelated with overall homicide rates. Maybe if you control for demographics and aren’t so picky about that whole p < 0.05 thing you can get a very weak “guns cause homicide” effect, but the results are just so much sexier prior-confirming if you pretend that homicides that use guns are the only ones that count.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    LO1: I really can’t understand why so many grown men seem attracted to very young women and teenage girls. When I paid a visit to my college in early twenties, I thought that many of the students looked way too young. Now that I’m in my late thirties, they look much younger. I get that youth is attractive to many old people but the thought of being involved with them seems just weird. Yet, many older people don’t seem to have any qualms or second thought about it.

    It reminds of me of a conversation I had with a lawyer friend of mine. Many of his clients get in problems with the law because of sexual hijinks that include incidents like the above or relatively voluntary versions of it. I sometimes wonder why people would do things like this and why they can’t exercise some self-control and discipline because prison and deportation really don’t seem worth risking. His argument is always, what is there to think about, “its sex.” Many people just seem incapable of any sort of ethical thinking or risk-benefit analysis when it comes to wanting their pleasure.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Around here, it’s 20-something women high school teachers and the 15, 16, or 17 year old guys in their classes.

      And I am similarly boggling – even when I was a young thing (30) first teaching college and reasonably close to the age of my students (who were of age themselves), there was no way in heck I’d date one of the dudes in my class. (If there HAD been someone where there had been mutual attraction, I would have put him off with “Call me after you graduate”)

      Then again….I am far too good at seeing potential negative consequences of things.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to fillyjonk says:

        There is that to. I remember a few years ago that there was a story from Louisiana involving a thirty something female teacher, a twenty something female teacher, and a sixteen or seventeen year old boy. They got caught because the boy couldn’t help but boast about this to his fellow teen boys rather than keep his mouth shut.

        There is a small measure of justice in that. About the same time, there was an even wilder story involving a late twenty or early thirty something teacher and and female high school student. This story involved real obsession with the female teacher getting the name of the high school student tattooed on her body, making schedules when the student was free during the school day and putting the f-word in those schedule slots, and lots of filmed sessions that the police collected as evidence. I think the teacher’s male husband was also involved and got the female student’s named tattooed on him.

        This story was of professional annoyance to me as a lawyer. The school and the girl’s parents knew of the affair and told the teacher that they won’t inform the police if she just cools it off. The teacher committed enough felonies to put her in jail for decades and was given an out. The teacher failed to take the out because of her obsession. If I was her lawyer, I’d explode at her. Those types of deals are exceptional rare and the correct answer is always “yes please and Thank you God.”Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to fillyjonk says:

        I’m of a pessimistic disposition and also good at seeing potential negative consequences. When it comes to this area of life or many other areas, lots of people seem to have no impulse control. They want their temporary pleasure and damn the consequences.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yeah, I have avoided a lot of bad trouble by being a pessimist who can see the worst possible outcome.

          Then again, I may have missed out on some genuine pleasures in life. I wonder if sometimes my reticence in such manners is partly why I’m never-married at nearly 50.Report

  4. LeeEsq says:

    LO2: There are lots of government positions that Americans elect because of historical reasons that really shouldn’t be elected at all. Sheriffs, district attorneys, and judges are prime examples. Same with states with elected executive officials like the attorney-general. These are positions that should be held by professionals and should be as apolitical as possible. America is also one of the few democracies that uses plum diplomatic positions as a form of patronage.

    LO5: The political activism opportunities caused by the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting were too good for people to resist. I guess this is one thing that you can blame on identity politics. A mass shooting at an LGBT night club mainly populated by people of color is going to cause people in those communities to believe that they were targeted for their identities. The idea that that killer just wanted slaughter Americans for political reasons and selected Pulse by chance rather than because it was an LGBT nightclub is nearly unfathomable in this day and age.

    LO8: That really is a very awful story. The murderer is a text book case of toxic masculinity. Killing two people in cold blood because they were invited into your house against your wishes is just evil.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I go back and forth on attorneys general. On the one hand they’re usually glory-hounds either tough on crime or suing politically unpopular companies. On the other hand, they act as a check on governor which actually has uses. The same applies to comptroller/controller/treasurer jobs as it’s good that they can themselves act with a degree of independence when it comes to revenue estimates and spending. You can get that independence other ways, such as allowing them to be appointed but not fired, but elections there aren’t such a bad thing.

      I can’t think of any time I’ve seen elected sheriffs as a positive. The case for district attorneys is also a bit flimsy in that if there is corruption involved the whole thing should probably be handled at a different level of government, so they don’t really act as a “check” rather instead being strictly the glory hounds.

      But then you get to things like insurance commissioner, land commissioner, and a lot of the county jobs. Most of those can and should be dispensed with, I think, or handled differently.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        The only defense I can make for electing DAs is that it allows the community to set their sound standards. But this is a more for better and for worse defense. The current District Attorney of Philadelphia seems to be a true-blue reformer:

        Likewise the DAs in many blue cities where there is a death penalty refuse to go for it because it violates the values of the community.

        I am cautious about having the DA be appointed politically by anyone especially in deeply divided times. Can you imagine a Trump-esque governor wrecking havoc on blue cities via the appointment of the DAs and Sheriffs? I can.

        But I generally agree about grandstanding because being an ADA or DA is often a good stepping stone to higher office. Lots of politicians in both parties got their start as ADAs or DAs.

        The issue is there is no evidence that Americans would support the kind of beurocraticization that happens for these roles in much of the rest of the world.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Will Truman says:

        I disagree. I think that as many of these positions as possible should be elected. That or the whole idea of a position doing what they do should be abolished. The reason being is that the enforcement /enactment of the guiding principles of these positions is political by nature because they affect different parts of the population in different ways. Take for example the non-elected position of LAPD chief. Held at one time by Darryl Gates, I am sure that the various peoples of LA proper had vastly different opinions of his policing methods. Or J. Edgar Hoover reported having blackmailed every politician who could have dealt with his lawless, misdirected activities.

        I would say that the problem is twofold, One, we hate elected officials who don’t do as we feel they should, and Two, the white papering of society. By this I mean we try to remove from politics that which is essentially political by some childish idea of best practices.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The idea that that killer just wanted slaughter Americans for political reasons and selected Pulse by chance rather than because it was an LGBT nightclub is nearly unfathomable in this day and age.

      The truth doesn’t fit the desired narrative, probably happens a lot.

      This case had unlimited resources thrown at it so we learned exactly what he did and didn’t do, that doesn’t happen a lot.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    LO2 – I think electing sheriffs and DA’s is fine; I don’t think they’re particularly more corrupt and/or bad at their jobs than other elected leaders of their polity size are. And I don’t think they’re any worse or any different on average than appointed chiefs of police.

    There should be in fact, a whole bunch more elected positions at the local level for there to be more opportunities to get elected experience and a larger pool to draw from for state (and federal) level elected positions.

    I do agree with everyone about no elected judges. But more elected executive positions is a good thing.

    (Let me put it this way – wouldn’t it be better for the citizens of Ferguson, Baltimore, Sacremento (etc) to be able to hold the senior law enforcement officer in their cities accountable *independent* of the mayor’s/city council’s political fortunes?)Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe says:

      Elected DAs and law enforcement officials are part of the mass incarceration problem. There is tremendous political pressure to convict as many people as possible because voters want results. Its why prosecutors fight like hell to keep people in prison even when they turn out not to be guilty at all. That isn’t a good thing.

      If we want to increase the number of people involved in local politics to create a larger pool for state and federal elections than a more practical and safer way to do this is to increase the size of local legislatures. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors consists of ten people governing ten million people. There should be dozens or even a hundred people rather than ten. American city councils and county legislatures are very small by world standards. Even our state legislatures are small. Increase the number of legislative positions.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

      I’m fine with elected Sheriff’s, but I do agree that the office needs someone who can provide oversight. IIRC, in Illinois, the county coroner is the person who can investigate and arrest the sheriff and their office. That coroner has no other arrest power but that one.Report

      • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Lots of coroners aren’t even full time positions. They are side gigs for local docs. I’m not thrilled with elected sheriffs but if they have them there should be strong oversight at the state or federal level. Heck i’d say have the ATF lose the AT part and go hard on local cops/sheriffs/etc.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

          It doesn’t need to be the coroner, per se, just someone who has the power to check the sheriff, be it a different county official or a federal agency.

          I mean, most sheriffs could be handily kept in check by a treasurer/comptroller who has the responsibility and power to provide oversight and control to budgets. But it could be anyone with the requisite power.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

      Let me put it this way – wouldn’t it be better for the citizens of Ferguson, Baltimore, Sacremento (etc) to be able to hold the senior law enforcement officer in their cities accountable *independent* of the mayor’s/city council’s political fortunes?

      In theory that’s great.

      But in practice, two wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for dinner rather too often…Report

  6. Maribou says:

    L05 – I’m really really glad Noor Salman was acquitted. Blaming domestic violence victims for the actions of their abusers…. oy. The prosecution deserved to take a bath on that one. (The reporter is wrong that that story didn’t get told at the time though. I was telling it, harder than the now-proven-false homophobia narrative, based on my own experiences and expectations reading between the lines of what facts *were* available, many others were telling it, and multiple sources addressed it in the mainstream media. Still “no one but me understood” is better press than “most people didn’t care”.)

    You know, I’m honestly glad to be wrong about the homophobia of the shooter being a motivating factor too. A good reminder of something many people here like to point out – we really don’t know what’s true about backstory in the immediate aftermath of tragedies like this one.Report

  7. Alan Scott says:


    Lots of interesting in that map, but one of my favorite things is the sample size issues in the Canadian Territories. You can look at the map and be almost certain that the Northwest Territories had five murders in 2015, of which one was committed with a gun.Report

  8. DavidTC says:

    [LO2] Because we shouldn’t elect them to begin with.

    When you look at the sort of power sheriffs have and how they operate, at some point you start wondering why we should be putting that amount of power in the hands of a single person at all.

    Cities have, for a very long time, been evolving away from the concept of an all-powerful mayor, if they ever had it to start with. Sometimes they don’t even have mayors at all, or mostly ceremonial ones, and are run by city managers.

    So, yes, it sometimes seems reasonable to say ‘Counties should hire sheriffs’….but, let’s pause there and ask, why should the same person be in charge of law enforcement and the local jail, for example?

    Isn’t running a jail a full time job? Why, yes, it is, and in fact someone has been hired to run that jail. They just inexplicitly got hired by the sheriff and the sheriff is their boss. Likewise, why would LE get their own sources of money? It seems easy to assign them to be in charge of some permits, and collect and keep that money, but just because something is easy does not mean it makes _sense_.

    Sheriffs, in many communities, essentially operate a parallel government structure that is as big as, or possibly even bigger, than the actual county government. It’s really bad that voters tend to elect them based solely on ‘how tough they are’, or even not really based on anything at all, but if we’re trying to reevaluate that, we should probably step back another step and ask ‘Why have we consolidated everything that could possibly, vaguely, remotely, have to do with law enforcement (Which is something like half of what county governments do) under one person?’

    Why can’t the county hire someone to run the jail and then someone else to operate policing, both reporting to the county? Yes, those both require some amount of law enforcement officers, but that doesn’t mean a single person is needed to run both, and there’s of people at a jail that are not law enforcement.

    Why can’t the county collect pistol fees? Why can’t _the county_ receive the asset forfeiture money?Report