Police Use Junk Science To Secure Convictions.

Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

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13 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Balko had a bunch of posts about this back when he was automatically assumed to be Team Evil by Good People and it was from him that I learned that you can make a breathalyzer’s numbers go up by shaking it.

    So if the cop doesn’t like you and you’re borderline (only had one beer for a 175 pound man, say), he can shake the breathalyzer behind his back for a few seconds before looking at it.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

      Balko was the first to turn me onto the fact that such technology was unreliable, and worse, prone to being gamed. But yep, being team Evil-Lib, no one really listened to him. Hopefully now that the NYT has said something, people will listen.

      Pollyanna-ish of me, I know.

      PS Speaking of the NYT publishing unexpected good.Report

      • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Im skeptical it will do anything. The facts have been out since the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report on the lack of scientific rigor underlying police forensics. I’m not aware of any significant changes in rules of evidence even a decade later.

        Lawyers and judges are bad at science and the system is overwhelmed. There’s also a real lack of political will. Conservatives fetishize law enforcement too much. Progressives are so up their own asses on demographic disparities they forget to actually do anything substantive, not to mention have their own carceral instincts.Report

      • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        No liberal ever listens to Balko? That is a newsflash. I guess i’ll have to wipe my memory and start tracking down all those libs who have talked him up for years.

        Slightly less snarkily. If people want less “Team X vs Team Y” bull squat then we need to stop acting like that describes the entire world.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

          Back when Balko was writing for Reason, I’d link to his stuff on FB, and a lot of my friends would give me the “ewwww, he writes for Reason!” response.

          As much as I enjoy Reason, I’m kinda glad he got picked up by WaPo, it eliminated a lot of the guilt by association.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            That’s what you get for linking political stuff on FB.

            OK, that’s one of the many bad things that you get for linking political stuff on FB.Report

          • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Oh i’m sure that has happened. Reason often is blinded by their ideology and can suck hard. But as pillsy said, that is FB and people do stupidly ignore stuff. However i think i first read balko many years ago from a link from mother jones or the nation. I’ve seen many liberals quote out his stuff.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Wouldn’t it be great to have the Swiss health care system, or something like it, where you had to buy private insurance and if you couldn’t afford it you’d be subsidized. Why does that sound familiar?Report

  2. Philip H says:

    i think a lot of the problem is that cops, like most humans – can’t handle uncertainty very well. So give them an instrument, and they get to duck the intellectual problems of someone who blows above 0.08 but actually is in full control and poses little threat. Its a common problem in translating actual science into mass use and effective policy.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Philip H says:

      The problem with that theory is that police don’t write laws. Legislatures do, and they do that in response to the public. The police use things like the breathalyzer machines in response to the public cry to get DUI’s off our streets. The efficacy of them has little to no meaning on the use of them. They are used simply to enforce social control.

      If the public agitates for a legal limit that has a number attached, then there has to be a method to determine that number. Actual drunkenness or ability to drive isn’t the point of the law, that number is. So, enforcement is geared to finding that number. Nothing more, and sadly, nothing less.Report